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Book of Jeremiah

(jair - uh - my' - uh)

General Information

The Book of Jeremiah, second of the Major Prophets or longer books of the prophetic collection of the Old Testament of the Bible, derives its name from the prophet Jeremiah who lived in Anathoth, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. His prophetic career ranged from about 626 BC, during the reign of Josiah, at least to the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC) and the deportation of the population; at this time Jeremiah was taken by the remaining Jewish community to Egypt, where he died. The career of Jeremiah embraced the period of Josiah's reformation (626 - 622 BC); the years of resurgent Judaic nationalism (608 - 597 BC); the period leading to the final demise of Judah (597 - 586 BC); and the time in Egypt.

The message of Jeremiah was a call to moral reform to establish a personal relationship between God and humankind. He advocated resignation in the face of political and religious crisis and denounced sin as a perversion of creation. He called urgently for repentance so that turning to God might lead to a new creation; he thus prefigured the New Testament notion of the "new covenant."

The Book of Jeremiah is composed of a collection of sayings, as well as autobiographical passages, the "confessions of Jeremiah." Considerable debate has developed over the designation of an original scroll containing Jeremiah's words in contrast to later rewriting of the scroll - both a rewriting engineered by Jeremiah and several successive editions of the book running through the Deuteronomistic period. To reconstruct the original scroll in detail does not seem possible. The "confessions," probably an original collection in its own right, includes the passages in 11:18 - 23; 12:1 - 6; 15:10; 17:14 - 18; 18:18 - 23; 20:7 - 13, 14 - 18, and perhaps also 15:15 - 20. The parallel for these "confessions" lies in the lamentation or complaint Psalms.

They reveal Jeremiah's dramatic inner conflict in his struggle to surrender himself to God. In addition, the book contains some royal sayings (21:13 - 14; 22:1 - 7, 10, 13 - 19, 24 - 27, 28, 29 - 30); a minor collection "concerning the prophets"; one of optimistic sayings; and a group of oracles against foreign nations (46 - 51).

George W Coats

S Blank, Jeremiah: Man and Prophet (1961); S M Fettke, Messages to a Nation in Crisis: An Introduction to the Prophecy of Jeremiah (1983); G Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (1968); W L Holladay, "Jeremiah the Prophet," in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible Supplement (1976), Jeremiah One (1986), Jeremiah Two (1989), and Jeremiah: A Fresh Reading (1990); J A Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament (1976).

Book of Jeremiah

Brief Outline

  1. Jeremiah's oracle against the theocracy (1:1-25:38)
  2. Events in the life of Jeremiah (26:1-45:5)
  3. Jeremiah's oracles against foreign nations, Egypt, Philistines, Moab, Ammonites, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, Elam, Babylon. (46:1-51:64)
  4. Appendix: The fall of Jerusalem and related events (52:1-34)


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