Old Testament Lesson 42 (Jeremiah 1-3; 7; 16-18; 20)

The Setting of Jeremiah

● Jeremiah ministered from the time of King Josiah till the Jewish captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 1:1–3).
— He was a Levite from Anathoth in Benjamin, northeast of Jerusalem.
— He was the son of Hilkiah from a priestly family.
— It is likely that this family descended from Abiathar—a descendant of Eli, the custodian of the ark of the covenant at Shiloh in the time of Samuel—who served as high priest in the last years of David’s reign.

— Jeremiah received his call as a youth in 627 BC, in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah.
— His ministry lasted through the reigns of Judah’s last five kings—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, and until the 11th year of the reign of Zedekiah (587 BC)—a period of forty years.
— He was the leading prophet in Jerusalem, serving with Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Lehi, Ezekiel and the younger Daniel.
— He was called to labor among a people for whom there was no hope
— He predicted and then lived through the Fall of Judah to Babylon.
— He is one of the few prophets who saw his major prophecies come to pass.


Foreordained in the Premortal World

● Jeremiah was foreordained to his calling (Jeremiah 1:4–5).

— “I knew thee” means more than a casual acquaintance (v. 5). The Hebrew word yada, which is translated “knew,” connotes a very personal, intimate relationship.

— Abraham was also chosen as a prophet before his birth upon the earth (Abr. 3:22–23).

— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand council.”1

Jeremiah’s Reaction to His Call

● The Lord prepared Jeremiah for his calling (Jeremiah 1:6–9).
— Jeremiah’s fears about his call (vv. 6–9).
— Enoch had similar fears (Moses 6:31).
— Moses had similar fears (Exodus 4:10).
— Gideon had similar fears (Judges 6:15).

The Nature of Jeremiah’s Mission

● “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to . . . root out, pull down, destroy, and throw down, build and plant (Jeremiah 1:10).

● Jeremiah may seem like a stern, harsh man as you read his scorching denunciations of the Jewish people, but he was not. His motivation was love and he mourned for his people.

● Arise and Speak (Jeremiah 1:17–19). Jeremiah was told to stand stout and strong, to brace himself, and to declare the Lord’s word without fear of man—to stand firm against the onslaught that would come upon him.
— The idiom “gird up your loins” means “gather up the long robe under the belt or sash and get ready for action” (v. 17).

Jeremiah’s Three Visions

● “What Seest Thou?” — Three metaphoric visions of what is coming to Judah (Jeremiah 1:11–16).

— First Vision — A branch of an almond tree. Aaron’s rod was also an almond branch. An almond branch was chosen because it is the first tree to bud in spring.

— Second Vision — A “seething pot.” This symbolizes the disaster and pain which, like the contents of a boiling cauldron, would overwhelm Judah.

— Third Vision — The burning of incense. Incense is a symbol of prayer (Revelation 5:8; 8:3). The people were seeking help and guidance from the false gods rather than from the Lord.


A Succession of Kings

● King Josiah attempted to reform Judah but was limited in his results.

● Jeremiah rejoiced in what the king was trying to accomplish and supported his reforms.

● He greatly mourned the death of Josiah in 609 BC when the king of Judah was unexpectedly killed while trying to stop the passage of Pharaoh Necho II at Meggido.

● King Jehoahaz was Josiah’s son, who reigned for only three months.

● Jeremiah predicted he would never return, and he didn’t (Jeremiah 22:10). He was deported to Egypt where he died. (2 Kings 23:34).

● King Jehoiakim was also Josiah’s son, and he was very wicked.

● The prophet said that he would go to his grave unmourned (Jeremiah 22:18–19). He also said he would be thrown beyond the gates of Jerusalem with about as much ceremony as “the burial of an ass.”

● He also said that the king’s son and his mother would be dragged off to another country and die there and that he would leave no heir (Jeremiah 22:24–30).

● All of these things came to pass with painful exactness.

Jeremiah’s Message to Judah

● Judah was warned to follow the living God and turn from worshiping idols made by men (Jeremiah 2; 10; JST Jeremiah 2:24).

● Judah and Israel had been defiled the land by their wickedness (Jeremiah 3:1–11).

● The Lord would defer his anger and bless them if they would return to him (Jeremiah 3:20–4:2; 4:14; 7:1–7).

● Jeremiah repeatedly rebuked the inhabitants of Judah for their sins, and prophesied that judgments, destruction, and captivity would come upon them if they did not repent (Jeremiah 4:3–6:30; 7:8—9:26; 11:1–17; see also Jeremiah 11:1–17; 12:7–13; 14:1–15:9; 16:1–13; 17:1–13 ).

The Sins of Judah

● Forsaking the waters of life (Jeremiah 2:1–19).

● The evils committed by Judah are told in figurative terms:
— They have forsaken the fountain of living water (Jehovah), and
— They have hewn out broken cisterns (gods) which can hold no water (life) (v. 13).

— President Brigham Young said: “Unless we believe the Gospel of Christ and obey its ordinances we have no promise of the life to come. If we ever attain to that it will be only by complying with the terms that Jesus has laid down. We cannot build and plan for ourselves; if we do we shall be like the Jews of old, who, as the prophet says, “have hewn out cisterns that will hold no water.” We must submit to the ordinances of the house of God.”2

— We are punished by as well as for our transgressions (v. 19).
— The rest of Judah’s sins are listed by Jeremiah, using figurative language (vv. 20–37).

● “I Am Weary with Repenting” (Jeremiah 15:1–9). The Lord rejects Jeremiah’s pleas for mercy upon Judah. Plainly, they had reached the point at which the Lord would no longer forgive them.

The Lord Promises to Protect Jeremiah

● Jeremiah then began to plead for himself (Jeremiah 15:10–21).
— Even Jeremiah himself would be carried “into a land which [he] knowest not” (v. 14).
— “For I Am Called By Thy Name”—Jeremiah’s testimony (v. 15).
— Jeremiah protests that he had been faithful, even if Judah had not (v. 17). “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers”.
— The Lord sustained his prophet: “I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked” (v. 21).

● He stood in the court of the temple, predicting destruction (Jeremiah 19:14–15).

● Jeremiah was then abused by Pashur, overseer of the temple (Jeremiah 20:1–6).
— Pashur had Jeremiah beaten and placed in stocks.
— Jeremiah used it as a further opportunity to teach.
— Jeremiah gave Pashur a new name.
— Pashur, in Hebrew, means “free.”
— Magormissabib means “fear on every side.”

● The great stress of Jeremiah’s calling (Jeremiah 20:7–9).
— “Deceived” means literally “enticed” or “persuaded” (v. 7).
— The power that helped the prophet to continue at such great personal cost was “as a burning fire shut up in [his] bones” (v. 9).

● Jeremiah’s despair over the lonely ministry he was given (Jeremiah 20:14–18).
— Note: Some scholars believe these verses originally were meant to precede verses 7–13 because the tenor of the lament changes in verses 11–13, in which Jeremiah began to praise the Lord.


Jeremiah Faces Much Opposition

● The people of Anathoth (his home town) sought to destroy him (Jeremiah 11:21–23).

● Even Jeremiah’s family dealt treacherously with him (Jeremiah 12:6).

● Wicked priests opposed Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:1–2).

● Mobs took Jeremiah and brought accusations against him (Jeremiah 26:8–9).

● The king sought to take Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch (Jeremiah 36:26).

● Princes cast Jeremiah into a dungeon (Jeremiah 38:4–6).

Jeremiah Complains to the Lord

● Jeremiah asks the Lord why the wicked prosper (Jeremiah 12:1–4).

● “How canst thou contend with horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5). The Lord gave a vivid answer that advises him to be thankful that things are not yet worse.

— “If the smallest evils to which thou art exposed cause thee to make so many bitter complaints, how wilt thou feel when, in the course 3of thy prophetic ministry, thou shalt be exposed to much greater, from enemies much more powerful? . . . If thou have sunk under small difficulties, what wilt thou do when great ones come?”

Jeremiah Pleads with the Lord for Judah

● The Lord brought a serious drought upon Judah (Jeremiah 14:1–9, 19–22). Not only mankind, but the land itself mourned and pined away, with all the creatures that live on it (v. 4), where the ground is said to be dismayed along with the tillers of it.4
— The Lord has power to cause rain, or to withhold rain from the earth, and he has given this power to his prophets (v. 22).

● “The . . . prophet [offered] urgent prayer on behalf of his people . . . But the Lord rejects all intercession, and gives the people notice, for their apostasy from Him, of their coming destruction by sword, famine, and pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:10–18).5

● “I Am Weary with Repenting” (Jeremiah 15:1–9). The Lord rejects Jeremiah’s pleas for mercy upon Judah. Plainly, they had reached the point at which the Lord would no longer forgive them.

● Things the Lord told Jeremiah NOT to do (Jeremiah 16:1–12). He was not to marry or father children He was not to lament those in Judah who died by the sword or famine He was not to feast or eat with friends in Jerusalem (v. 8), since feasting was a sign of celebration and eating together a symbol of fellowship. He was commanded to explain very clearly to the people the reasons for his actions as well as the reasons for their coming punishment.

● Jeremiah petitioned the Lord to overthrow his persecutors (Jeremiah 17:14–18; 18:18–23; 20:7–9).

● “Smite him” (Jeremiah 18:18). The people entered into a conspiracy to punish the prophet for the evil he had prophesied against them.
— The phrase “let us smite him with the tongue” is better rendered “smite him on the tongue.” Punishment for lying in some countries in the Middle East, even to this day, is administered by slapping the sinner on the mouth with a strong piece of leather, such as the sole of a shoe.

— “I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked” (Jeremiah 18:19–23).
— Jeremiah was not taken into Babylon.
— He went into Egypt and probably died there a few years later.


Jeremiah’s Suffering for the Lord’s Sake

● Jeremiah nearly loses his life (Jeremiah 26).
— The Lord commands Jeremiah to call Judah to repentance publicly (vv. 1–2).
— The people reacted with violence, accusing him of treason (vv. 8–11).
— Jeremiah’s response was brave—do with me what you will, but repent (vv. 12–14).

The Great Siege of Jerusalem

● By this time it should have been obvious that Jeremiah’s prophecies were coming to pass. Twice Nebuchadnezzar had come and with impunity had humbled Judah (Jeremiah 37–39).
— But Zedekiah was no wiser than his brother, Jehoiakim, or his nephew, Jehoiachin. He too began to look for ways to break the Babylonian yoke
— Ignoring the repeated warnings of Jeremiah, he rebelled, and once again the Babylonians came against Jerusalem.

● Zedekiah had ignored Jeremiah’s advice, but sought him when the siege started (Jeremiah 21:1–2).
— The Lord says, “I myself will fight against you” (Jeremiah 21:3–10).

● Jeremiah prophesied of the impending downfall of Judah (Jeremiah 21:11–14).

● Zedekiah will see Nebuchadnezzar with his eyes and be taken in Babylon (Jeremiah 34:1–3).

● The Lord denounced Zedekiah and Judah for re-enslaving freed servants (Jeremiah 34:8–22).

— This is the first time the word Jew appears in the Old Testament (v. 9). It is used here in the general sense of “being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess.”

● A temporary respite (Jeremiah 37:5–7). At this point an army of the pharaoh moved north to meet Nebuchadnezzar’s forces, and he temporarily pulled away from Jerusalem to meet the threat from the south.

— The hopes of the Jews soared, but again Jeremiah dashed them to pieces. He prophesied that the Egyptian army would return to Egypt and that the siege would be reimposed.

● Jerusalem will be burned with fire (Jeremiah 37:8–10). So helpless will Judah be, according to Jeremiah, that even if the entire Chaldean army were wounded in the battle with Egypt, they would still succeed in destroying Jerusalem.

● Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender was not welcome (Jeremiah 37:11–15). He was viewed as a traitor.

● Jeremiah is thrust into prison. During the time that the siege was lifted, Jeremiah decided to return to the land of Benjamin to visit his hometown. The Jewish leaders seized this opportunity to make their move. Accusing him of fleeing to join the Chaldeans, they had him arrested, beaten, and imprisoned.

● Zedekiah asked Jeremiah secretly if there were any further word from the Lord, showing his weak and vacillating character (Jeremiah 37:16–17; 37:18–21). Jeremiah remained in prison.

● Zedekiah resented Jeremiah’s negative prophesies (Jeremiah 32:1–5).
— This prophecy was given after the Babylonian siege had already started and just one year before the destruction of Jerusalem (v. 1).
— The fact that Jeremiah was imprisoned was verified by Nephi, who lived in Jerusalem at the same time as Jeremiah (vv. 2–3; 1 Nephi 7:14).

● Jeremiah was commanded to purchase a field in Anathoth as a sign that Judah would return from captivity (Jeremiah 32:6–44).
— Jeremiah purchased his cousin’s estate because he had the right as next of kin (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 4).
— He then sealed the evidence of the purchase in a jar (vv. 11–12).
— This was evidence of his faith in God’s promise that Judah would one day be restored and possessed (v. 15).
— Jeremiah prophesied of the return and redemption of Israel in the last days (v. 40).
— The rest of chapter 32 is the Lord’s reassurance to Jeremiah that men would truly return from Babylon to inhabit the land (vv. 26–44).

● Jewish leaders demanded Jeremiah’s death for preaching surrender; Zedekiah responded weakly, “Behold, he is in your hand,” and they cast him into a dungeon (Jeremiah 38:1–6).

● An Ethiopian servant secretly helped Jeremiah escape from the dungeon after Jeremiah’s friends pleaded for his life and Zedekiah relented (Jeremiah 38:7–13).

● When things continued to go bad, Zedekiah again asked Jeremiah for advice (Jeremiah 38:14–19). The advice was to surrender to the Babylonians.
— Zedekiah replied that he was afraid to surrender to Babylon.
— His reasons were ludicrous—the captives would mock him.

● Jeremiah remained in prison until the day of Jerusalem’s destruction (Jeremiah 37:24–28).


1.  History of the Church, 6:364.
2.  In Journal of Discourses, 13:213.
3.  Clarke, Commentary, 4:287.
4.  Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. [1996], 8:1:244.
5.  Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 8:1:242–243.