Gleanings in Jeremiah : 1 : Welcome to the world of Jeremiah
Jer 1:1-3 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
Jeremiah is an interesting character and so to ponder on what we find in the book that carries his name should be an interesting and a very varied experience. As far as is possible I would like to approach what we find there as simply as possible without making many references to details further on in the book, i.e. we will take it as we find it but some basics might be helpful. As we read in these three opening verses he prophesied through the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. However if we consider the short table below, we will note that there were in fact five kings of Judah in that period but perhaps the recorder doesn’t bother to mention Jehoahaz and Jehoiahin because they both only reigned for such short periods.
|2 Kings 22:1 – 23:30 / 2Chr 34:1 – 35:27||Josiah 640BC (31yrs)|
|2 Kings 23:31-33 / 2Chron 36:1-4||Jehoahaz 609BC (3 months)|
|2 Kings 23:34 – 24:6 / 2Chr 36:5-8||Jehoiakim 609BC (11yrs)|
|2 Kings 24:8-15, 25:27-30 / 2Chr 36:9-10||Jehoiachin 598BC (3 months)|
|2 Kings 24:17 – 25:7 / 2Chr 36:11-14||Zedekiah 597BC (11yrs)|
|2 Kings 25:8-26 / 2Chr 36:15-23||END 587BC then EXILE|
Dates in the Old Testament are sometimes difficult to tie down and make exact and so those given above are likely to be within a year either side. Perhaps we should also note that Jeremiah was one of God’s three reporters (to be more exact mouthpieces) who reveal to us so much of what was going on around that time – Jeremiah in Judah at the heart of it, Ezekiel carried to Babylon living with the deported Jews there, and Daniel actually in the court of Babylon. It was a critical time for Israel before what we now call the Exile following the destruction of Jerusalem. Going by the figures in the table and those in the verses above, he started prophesying somewhere about 627BC and carried on until about 587, or maybe even a bit later, which seems a forty year period.
Josiah, having come to the throne at the age of eight (2 Kings 22:1) would have been about 21 when Jeremiah started getting words from the Lord and from what follows, we might guess that Jeremiah might have been a few years younger than him. The description of Josiah said, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2) but he didn’t get under way in repairing the temple until his eighteen year of his reign, i.e. some five years after Jeremiah first starting getting words from the Lord.
When the book of the Law was discovered and Josiah found what was in it, his response was that “he tore his robes. He gave these orders ….Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” (2 Kings 22:11,12,13)
Now the interesting thing was that there was living in Jerusalem a prophetess, Huldah (v.14,15) who when messengers came to enquire of her declared, “Tell the man who sent you to me, `This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, `This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’ ” (v.16-20)
Now that was remarkable for it was the Lord declaring disaster for Jerusalem, but not in Josiah’s time. As a result of it Josiah set about a massive programme of cleaning up both the Temple and the land. Nevertheless, perhaps because the Lord saw that sin was ingrained in the nation following the reign of Manasseh (see 2 Kings 23:26,27, 24:3,4), He determined to bring an end to Jerusalem. In the thirty or so years following this, Jeremiah would be speaking into the heart of the nation at Jerusalem and they would have opportunity after opportunity to repent, but never did. Josiah died when years later he unwisely joined in a war to the south that was not his battle.
In some senses today, with well over 90% of the population of the UK ignoring God and in unbelief, we might feel that we are in a similar position, living in the midst of a largely ungodly nation. For us the message has to be ‘repent and believe the Gospel’ for that has clearly been displayed and many in our nation in the past have known it. Just as we note that Jeremiah was not the only voice from God in his day, we can be encouraged by the fact that something like 5% of the population of the UK (perhaps 30% in the USA) are Christians and in the midst of this number are many fine ministries. The call for us as individuals is to remain faithful despite what the majority do, We may consider as we go along, what more we can do.