Old Testament

The Weeping Prophet

An Analysis of the Book of Jeremiah

Nathan Eshelman


Name: The book of Jeremiah is named after the main prophet in the book. The Hebrew name is Why”m.r>yI meaning “The Lord will raise”.

Theme: The Book of Jeremiah does not have one single theme. Since the book was written over a number of years, there are many different themes that are presented. Dillard and Longman give these five major themes:

  1. Jeremiah’s God
  2. The People and the Covenant
  3. God’s Word in Jeremiah
  4. Jeremiah and Moses
  5. Hope for the future

Purpose: “If the work was completed during the Exile, the latest historical point reached in the book, the purpose would be to chasten the exiles by encouraging them to ponder the meaning of their exile. At the same time it seeks to engender hope, since the prophet who had pronounced judgment, and had been proven right, had also preached a message of Judah’s eventual restoration to the land and the nation’s privileged relationship with God.”[1]

Key Verses:

Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 3:12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

Jeremiah 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

Jeremiah 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Key Truths [2]:

  • The people of Judah and Jerusalem deserved their exile to Babylon because of continuing sin.
  • The temple in Jerusalem could not protect the Judahites from God’s judgment against them for their hypocrisy.
  • False prophets proclaiming peace and safety must be rejected in favor of the message of the true prophets.
  • The judgment of exile would be followed by a grand restoration under a new covenant.

Author: Jeremiah was written by Jeremiah with some degree of help from his amanuensis, Baruch (32.13, 36.5, 36.26, 36.32, and 45.1-2)

Date: 627-580 BC. Concerning time frame, the prophecies span from Judah being attacked by Assyria until past the exile (after which Jeremiah was in Egypt).

Historical Analysis [3]

Judah up to the time of Josiah

Josiah was the grandson of Manasseh. Under Manasseh, many of the reforms of Hezekiah were overthrown. There was a lot of pagan worship and idolatry that had come back into vogue in the land. The old Canaanite religions were reborn, Molech worship, and even human sacrifice came back into practice under Manasseh.

Josiah’s father only reigned two years and was assassinated. Josiah ascended the throne when he was 8 years-old. This time of political, social, and religious turmoil was the time frame into which Jeremiah was called to the Office of Prophet.

Nations in the days of the power of Assyria

At the time of the birth of Jeremiah, the power of Assyria had swollen to the point of an inevitable collapse. They had geographical sway from Egypt to the south to the Mediterranean on the east, all the way to the Tigris River.

The Medes and the Scythians were also becoming powerful nations in the time of Jeremiah. Some claim that the Scythians were the ‘foes from the north’ that Jeremiah speaks of in the book.

Babylonia and Egypt were also powers that were important during the time of Jeremiah. Egypt had seen a new Dynasty under an Ethiopian who helped to united those powers. Babylonia had much of its holdings taken over by Assyria at that time.

Josiah’s reign and the fall of Assyria

Josiah was king during part of Jeremiah’s ministry. Knowing that the Book of Jeremiah ends in exile, it is difficult to imagine that these reforms (I Kings 22,23) would not be lasting. Josiah turned his heart to the Lord and began a reformation in the land. He reclaimed some of the land lost to Assyria, cleansed much of the religious observances of the time, ran off much of the pagan worship and idolatry, and reinstituted much of the law upon the discovery of the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy?) in II Kings 22.3.

“We know virtually nothing concerning Judah during these dramatic years. What steps Josiah took to maintain the momentum of the reform we do not know. Presumably he preserved all his gains while he lived. But it was, of course, an imposed, and we may well wonder whether the great bulk of the people underwent any change in heart at all. To judge from Jeremiah’s later preaching many of them did not, and once Josiah passed from the scene they reverted to their old ways under Jehoiakim.”[4]

The Death of Josiah to the fall of Jerusalem

Upon the death of Josiah, Egypt had much rule in the land. Jehoahaz only reigned for 3 months before being taken away. Jehoiakim assumed the throne, but was a mere puppet of Egypt paying taxes and tributes to Egypt. Jehoiakim allowed for Josiah’s reforms to slip. Much of the same practices came back into vogue. He built a great palace for himself and lived with much excess.

At this time, many false prophets arose and began to preach peace in the land. We see this theme reoccurring in the Book of Jeremiah. Much of Jeremiah’s ministry was against these false prophets.

Post 587 BC

“In July 587 BC the walls of the city were breached just as the supply of food ran out. Zedekiah and his family with some Judean troops managed to flee by night toward the Jericho plains, but they were captured near Jericho and taken to Nebuchadrezzar’s headquarters at Riblah in central Syria. Zedekiah’s sons were slain before his eyes, and he was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon where he died. A month later Nebuchadrezzar’s orders, burned the city and broke down its walls. At the same time he rounded up many priests, military personnel, and state officials as well as some of the citizens. Some were taken to Nebuchadrezzar at Riblah and executed, and others were deported to Babylon.

Jerusalem and the walled cities of Judah were left in ruins. Modern archeological work demonstrates how complete the devastation was. Most of the towns were not rebuilt for a long time, and some never. Only in Negab and in the area north of Jerusalem were the towns spared.”[5]

Literary Analysis

Comparative Outlines:

J. A. Thompson[6]

Keil and Delitzsch[7]

Sproul and Matheson[8]

Chapter 1

Call of Jeremiah and the two visions

Chapter 2-25

Divine judgment on Judah and Jerusalem

Chapter 26-29

Jeremiah’s Controversy with false prophets

Chapter 30-33

The book of consolation

Chapter 34-39

Incidents from the days of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah

Chapter 40-45

Jeremiah’s experience after the fall of Jerusalem

Chapter 46-51

Oracles against the nations

Chapter 52

Appendix: The fall of Jerusalem

Chapter 1

Call and consecration of Jeremiah to be a prophet

Chapter 2-22

General admonitions and reproofs belonging to the time of Josiah.

Chapter 21-33

Special predictions of the judgments to be accomplished by the Chaldeans and of the Messianic salvation.

Chapter 34-45

The labor and suffering of the prophet before and after the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem.

Chapter 46-51

Prophecies directed against foreign nations

Chapter 52

Appendix: Historical account of the capture and destruction of Jerusalem, the fate of Zedekiah and the people, and the liberation of Jehoiachin from imprisonment.

Chapter 1

The call of the prophet.

Chapter 2-20

Oracles chiefly of judgment on Judah.

Chapter 21-24

The end of the Davidic dynasty: salvation through the exile.

Chapter 25-29

The necessity of Babylonian dominance over the nations.

Chapter 30-33

Promise of restoration.

Chapter 34-39

Jerusalem’s last days.

Chapter 40-45

Aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem.

Chapter 46-51

Oracles of judgment against the nations.

Chapter 52

Appendix: the fall of Jerusalem.

Original Audience and Message:

The original audience is two-fold: the sermons and the prophecies were originally given to the pre-exilic Judean people. In this context it served as a warning and a call to repentance. When the nation was taken into captivity, the message remained the same, but it was intended to both serve as a reminded of the justice of their exile as well as comfort that the exile would not last forever[9].

Genre: The Book of Jeremiah has a number of different genres, mostly prophecies and sermons. There are also a number of ‘object lessons’ in the prophecy as well. These are both historical and prophetic in written form, but were much like acting as a prophetic medium as they were ‘played out’.

Thematic Analysis[10]

  1. Jeremiah’s God

Jeremiah understood that God was an absolute sovereign and that nothing would happen apart from His desires and wishes. He knew that the captivity was in the hands of a loving God who would not allow His people and His promises to be destroyed.

It is reminiscent of the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism’s answer: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

  1. The People and the Covenant

Jeremiah reminded the people of their covenantal relationship with God which brought covenantal responsibilities, namely, their response to Him and the ways in which they interacted with each other. This had both a looking back and a looking ahead aspect to it. Jeremiah pointed the people back to the covenant made under Moses as well as the new covenant that God would make with them, through Jesus Christ.

  1. God’s Word in Jeremiah

Jeremiah was a man of The Book. He was not a prophet that spoke according to his own ideas or his own understanding of what God would have him to write or to preach. The Word of God was central as Jeremiah understood that he was teaching and preaching from seat of Moses. He knew the call to ‘eat this book’! [Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.]

  1. Hope for the future

Jeremiah preached repentance or else the wrath of God would fall upon the people. This was not merely a ‘doomsday’ message. Jeremiah gave the people hope that God had good plans for them, that the Messiah would come to restore them, and that Jehovah would make a New Covenant with them.

New Testament Analysis

  • The New Testament has 40 references to the Book of Jeremiah.
  • “Jeremiah was a man who knew great sorrow of heart as he saw the divine judgment about to overtake Jerusalem; in tradition he has become known as ‘the weeping prophet’. One cannot but wonder if Luke does not have the image of Jeremiah in mind when he writes that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, lamenting that the city would not experience peace, but rather a siege and destruction.”[11]
  • The certainty of restoration that Jeremiah predicts is made clear in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The New Covenant that Jeremiah speaks of is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • In Acts 6 Stephen would preach of the hardness of the leaders’ hearts.
  • The restoration of the Jews that the Apostle Paul preached, in partiality comes from this prophet.

Original Message

The Ancient Church needs to repent and return unto Jehovah to avoid exile. This is to be done primarily by refusing to listen to the false teachers that are preaching the messages of peace. There is comfort that Jehovah would make a New Covenant with his people, thus restoring the people to a position of love and care by God.

Message for Today

The Church needs to return unto Jesus Christ as the mediator of the New Covenant. The Church is not immune to God sending the church into captivity[12] as punishment for turning from Him. The Church needs to pray that Her heart of stone be replaced, afresh, with the heart of flesh promised in this book.

[1] R.C. Sproul and Keith Matheson, general editors, Reformation Study Bible, (Orlando: Ligonier, 2005), 1049.

[2] Richard Pratt, general editor, Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 1192.

[3] These sub-categories are adapted from the NICOT section, “Jeremiah in His Historical Setting”.

[4] J.A. Thompson, NICOT: The Book of Jeremiah, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 21.

[5] J.A. Thompson, NICOT: The Book of Jeremiah, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 26.

[6] J.A. Thompson, NICOT: The Book of Jeremiah, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 125-130.

[7] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Jeremiah and Lamentations, (Peabody: Hendriksen, 2006), v- vii.

[8] R.C. Sproul and Keith Matheson, general editors, Reformation Study Bible, (Orlando: Ligonier, 2005), 1049-51.

[9] Jeremiah 25:12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.

[10] Thematic Analysis adapted from Dillard and Longman.

[11] Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). 300-301.

[12] Hence the famous Martin Luther treatise entitled, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church.


For my Preaching Practicum class I have been assigned Joshua 241.14-15 (and my pastor is the one who assigns the texts). While meditating on the text the issue of social covenanting came up quite a bit. Through-out Scripture we see the people of God covenanting back to him in response to his love and redemption.

Joshua 24:14-15 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

I have talked about this ordinance with a number of friends (even at the Sabbath evening discussions at my house, the issue was brought up.) One of my friends pointed me to the famous Associate Presbyterian, Fisher’s Catechism, which speaks of the issue. Here is what Fisher said:

Q. 61. What is a social vow?

A. It is the joint concurrence of several individuals in the same exercise as in a personal one, openly avouching the Lord to be their God, Deut. 26:17; where Moses, speaking of all Israel, says, “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, to walk in his ways,” &c.

Q. 62. When doth such a social vow commonly get the name of a NATIONAL COVENANT?

A. When the representatives of a nation, or the better part of them, concur in a covenant of duties, as ingrafted upon the covenant of grace, Jer. 50:4, 5 — “The children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, — saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.” See also Neh. 9:33, and 10:1, 30.

Q. 63. How do you prove that national covenanting is a warrantable duty under the New Testament?

A. From its being promised in the Old Testament that this shall be a duty performed under the New, Isa. 19:21 — “The Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and — they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and shall perform it.” Besides, if it was a moral duty upon special occasions, under the Old Testament (as appears from 2 Chron 15:12, and 34:31, 32; Neh. 9:38), it must remain to be the same, upon the like occasions, still; because Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them, Matt 5:17.

Q. 64. Is our obligation to moral duties increased, by our vowing or engaging to perform them?

A. Although it is impossible that our obligation to moral duty can he increased by any deed of ours, beyond what it is already by the law of God, which is of the highest authority; yet by reason of our own voluntary and superadded engagement, this obligation from the law may make a deeper impression than before, Psalm 44:17, 18, and our sins receive a higher aggravation, if we either omit the duty engaged to, or commit the evil opposite to it, Deut. 23:21, 22.

What are your thoughts on the idea of a nation being covenanted to God? What would be an equivalent in the Dutch Reformed tradition? Is there a way that the people of God could covenant to God in a country that does not allow for an established church?