Jeremiah[lower-alpha 1] (probably after 650 - c. 570 BC),[2] also called the "weeping prophet",[3] was one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament of Christian Bible). According to Jewish tradition, Jeremiah authored the Book of Jeremiah, the Books of Kings and the Book of Lamentations,[4] with the assistance and under the editorship of Baruch ben Neriah, his scribe and disciple.

Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
Bornc. 650 BC
Diedc. 570 BC

In addition to detailing many statements attributed by Jeremiah to God, the book of Jeremiah goes into detail regarding physical actions taken by Jeremiah (e.g. the purchase of a field belonging to his uncle as a part of the right of redemption, Jer. 32:6-25) as well as actions which happen to him (e.g. imprisonment, Jer. 37:15-18, 38:6). Greater detail is known about Jeremiah's life than for that of any other prophet. In spite of such great detail, an opinion expressed is that no biography of him can be written, as there are few facts available.[5]

Judaism considers the Book of Jeremiah part of its canon, and regards Jeremiah as the second of the major prophets. Christianity and Islam also regard Jeremiah as a prophet, and he is respectively quoted in the New Testament[6] and his narrative is given in Islamic tradition.[7]


Jeremiah's ministry was active from the thirteenth year of Josiah, king of Judah (626 BC[8]), until after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon's Temple in 587 BC.[9] This period spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.[8]

Biblical narrative

Lineage and early life

Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a kohen (Jewish priest) from the Benjamite village of Anathoth.[10] The difficulties he encountered, as described in the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, have prompted scholars to refer to him as "the weeping prophet".[11]

Jeremiah was called to prophetic ministry c. 626 BC[12] by YHWH to give prophecy of Jerusalem's destruction[13] that would occur by invaders from the north.[14] This was because Israel had been unfaithful to the laws of the covenant and had forsaken God by worshiping Baal.[15] Jeremiah condemned people burning their children as offerings to Moloch.[16] This nation had deviated so far from God that they had broken the covenant, causing God to withdraw his blessings. Jeremiah was guided by God to proclaim that the nation of Judah would be faced with famine, plundered and taken captive by foreigners who would exile them to a foreign land.[17][18]

The prophetess Huldah was a relative and contemporary of Jeremiah while the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah were his mentors.[19]


According to Jeremiah 1:2–3, Yahweh called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC,[12] about five years before Josiah king of Judah turned the nation toward repentance from idolatrous practices (2 Kings 22:3-13). According to the Books of Kings, and Jeremiah, Josiah's reforms were insufficient to save Judah and Jerusalem from destruction, because of the sins of Manasseh, Josiah's grandfather,[20] and Judah's return to idolatry (Jeremiah 11:10ff.). Such was the lust of the nation for false gods that after Josiah's death, the nation would quickly return to the gods of the surrounding nations.[21] Jeremiah was said to have been appointed to reveal the sins of the people and the coming consequences.[22][23][23]

Jeremiah resisted the call by complaining that he was only a child and did not know how to speak.[24] However, the Lord insisted that Jeremiah go and speak, and he touched Jeremiah's mouth to place the word of the Lord there.[25] God told Jeremiah to "Get yourself ready!"[26] The character traits and practices Jeremiah was to acquire are specified in Jeremiah 1 and include not being afraid, standing up to speak, speaking as told, and going where sent.[27] Since Jeremiah is described as emerging well trained and fully literate from his earliest preaching, the relationship between him and the Shaphan family has been used to suggest that he may have trained at the scribal school in Jerusalem over which Shaphan presided.[28][29]

In his early ministry, Jeremiah was primarily a preaching prophet,[30] preaching throughout Israel.[29] He condemned idolatry,[31] the greed of priests, and false prophets.[32] Many years later, God instructed Jeremiah to write down these early oracles and his other messages.[33]


Jeremiah's ministry prompted plots against him (Jeremiah 11:21–23). Unhappy with Jeremiah's message, possibly for concern that it would shut down the Anathoth sanctuary, his priestly kin and the men of Anathoth conspired to kill him. However, the Lord revealed the conspiracy to Jeremiah, protected his life, and declared disaster for the men of Anathoth.[29][34] When Jeremiah complains to the Lord about this persecution, he is told that the attacks on him will become worse.[35]

A priest Pashur the son of ben Immer, a temple official in Jerusalem, had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin for a day. After this, Jeremiah expresses lament over the difficulty that speaking God's word has caused him and regrets becoming a laughingstock and the target of mockery.[36] He recounts how if he tries to shut the word of the Lord inside and not mention God's name, the word becomes like fire in his heart and he is unable to hold it in.[37]

Conflicts with false prophets

Whilst Jeremiah was prophesying the coming destruction, a number of other prophets were prophesying peace.[38] Jeremiah spoke against these other prophets.

According to the book of Jeremiah, during the reign of King Zedekiah, The Lord instructed Jeremiah to make a yoke of the message that the nation would be subject to the king of Babylon. The prophet Hananiah opposed Jeremiah's message. He took the yoke off Jeremiah's neck, broke it, and prophesied to the priests and all the people that within two years the Lord would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, but the Lord spoke to Jeremiah saying "Go and speak to Hananiah saying, you have broken the yoke of wood, but you have made instead a yoke of iron." (see: Jeremiah 28:13)

Relationship with the Northern Kingdom (Samaria)

Jeremiah was sympathetic to, as well as descended from, the Northern Kingdom. Many of his first reported oracles are about, and addressed to, the Israelites at Samaria. He resembles the northern prophet Hosea, in his use of language, and examples of God's relationship to Israel. Hosea seems to have been the first prophet to describe the desired relationship as an example of ancient Israelite marriage, where a man might be polygynous, while a woman was only permitted one husband. Jeremiah often repeats Hosea's marital imagery (Jeremiah 2:2b–2:3; 3:1–5, 3:19–25; 4:1–2).[39]


The Biblical narrative portrays Jeremiah as being subject to additional persecutions. After Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be handed over to the Babylonian army, the king's officials, including Pashur the priest, tried to convince King Zedekiah that Jeremiah should be put to death because he was discouraging the soldiers as well as the people. Zedekiah answered that he would not oppose them. Consequently, the king's officials took Jeremiah and put him down into a cistern, where he sank down into the mud. The intent seemed to be to kill Jeremiah by allowing him to starve to death in a manner designed to allow the officials to claim to be innocent of his blood.[40] A Cushite rescued Jeremiah by pulling him out of the cistern, but Jeremiah remained imprisoned until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 BC.[41]

The Babylonians released Jeremiah, and showed him great kindness, allowing Jeremiah to choose the place of his residence, according to a Babylonian edict. Jeremiah accordingly went to Mizpah in Benjamin with Gedaliah, who had been made governor of Judea.[42]


Johanan succeeded Gedaliah, who had been assassinated by an Israelite prince in the pay of Ammon "for working with the Babylonians." Refusing to listen to Jeremiah's counsel, Johanan fled to Egypt, taking with him Jeremiah and Baruch, Jeremiah's faithful scribe and servant, and the king's daughters.[43] There, the prophet probably spent the remainder of his life, still seeking in vain to turn the people to God from whom they had so long revolted.[43] There is no authentic record of his death.

Religious views


In Jewish rabbinic literature, especially the aggadah, Jeremiah and Moses are often mentioned together;[44] their life and works being presented in parallel lines. The following ancient midrash is especially interesting, in connection with Deuteronomy 18:18, in which "a prophet like Moses" is promised: "As Moses was a prophet for forty years, so was Jeremiah; as Moses prophesied concerning Judah and Benjamin, so did Jeremiah; as Moses' own tribe [the Levites under Korah] rose up against him, so did Jeremiah's tribe revolt against him; Moses was cast into the water, Jeremiah into a pit; as Moses was saved by a slave (the slave of Pharaoh's daughter); so, Jeremiah was rescued by a slave (Ebed-melech); Moses reprimanded the people in discourses; so did Jeremiah."[45] The prophet Ezekiel was a son of Jeremiah according to rabbinic literature.[46]


The Book of Jeremiah plays a foundational role in Christian thought as it presages the inauguration of a new covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31ff.), to which the New Testament testifies. There are about forty direct quotations of the book in the New Testament, most in Revelation in connection with the destruction of Babylon (e.g., 50:8 in Revelation 18:4; 50:32 in Revelation 18:8; 51:49-50 in Revelation 18:24).[47] Of the Gospel writers, Matthew is especially mindful of how the events in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth fulfill Jeremianic prophecies (cf. Matthew 2:17, 27:9). The writer to the Hebrews also picks up the fulfilment of the prophetic expectation of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17).


As with many other prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah is also regarded as a prophet in Islam. Although Jeremiah is not mentioned in the Quran, Muslim exegesis and literature narrates many instances from the life of Jeremiah and fleshes out his narrative, which closely corresponds with the account given in the Hebrew Bible. In Arabic, Jeremiah's name is usually vocalised Irmiyā, Armiyā or Ūrmiyā,[49]. Classical historians such as Wahb ibn Munabbih gave accounts of Jeremiah which turned "upon the main points of the Old Testament story of Jeremiah: his call to be a prophet, his mission to the king of Judah, his mission to the people and his reluctance, the announcement of a foreign tyrant who is to rule over Judah."[50] Moreover, some hadiths and tafsirs narrate that the Parable of the Hamlet in Ruins is about Jeremiah.[51] Also, in Sura 17(Al-Isra), Ayah 4–7, that is about the two corruptions of children of Israel on the earth, some hadith and tafsir cite that one of these corruptions is the imprisonment and persecution of Jeremiah.[52] According to Ahmadis the memorization of the Quran fulfills Jeremiah's prophecy, "I will put my Law within them and I will write it upon their hearts".[53]

Muslim literature narrates a detailed account of the destruction of Jerusalem, which parallels the account given in the Book of Jeremiah.[54]


Scholars differ widely in their views on the likelihood of there being an actual prophet named Jeremiah. There is no extra-biblical occurrence of his name. Views differ from the belief that the narratives and poetic sections in Jeremiah are contemporary with his life (W.L. Holladay), to the view that Jeremiah is no more than a fictional character (R. P. Carroll).[5]

Scholarly views

Scholars cannot prove the authorship of Jeremiah with any certainty, although consensus has gathered around a thesis of multiple sources, mainly because of the contrast between the poetic discourses and the prose narrative. Some modern scholars think the Deuteronomist edited Jeremiah because of the similarity of phrasing between the books of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy. For example, Egypt is referred to as an "iron furnace" in both Jeremiah 11:4 and Deuteronomy 4:20.[55] They also share a similar view of divine justice.[55]

Emanuel Tov believes that the Septuagint version of Jeremiah is earlier, and the Masoretic Text version is a later, longer version.[56]


Nebo-Sarsekim tablet

In July 2007, Assyrologist Michael Jursa translated a cuneiform tablet dated to 595 BC, as describing a Nabusharrussu-ukin as "the chief eunuch" of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Jursa hypothesized that this reference might be to the same individual as the Nebo-Sarsekim mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3.[57][58]


A 7th-century BCE seal of Jehucal, son of Shelemiah and another of Gedaliah, son of Pashhur (mentioned together in Jeremiah 38:1; Jehucal also mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3) were found during excavation by Eilat Mazar in the city of David, Jerusalem, in 2005 and 2008, respectively.[59]

Tel Arad ostraca

Pottery shards at Tel Arad were unearthed in the 1970s that mention Pashhur, and this reference may be the same individual mentioned in Jeremiah 20:1[60]

Cultural influence

Jeremiah inspired the French noun jérémiade, and subsequently the English jeremiad, meaning "a lamentation; mournful complaint,"[61] or further, "a cautionary or angry harangue."[62]

Jeremiah has periodically been a popular first name in the United States, beginning with the early Puritan settlers, who often took the names of biblical prophets and apostles. The names Jeremy and Dermot also derive from Jeremiah (the latter by way of Irish Diarmaid).


  1. /ɛrɪˈm.ə/;[1] Hebrew: יִרְמְיָהוּ, Modern: Yirmeyahu  [jiʁmeˈjahu], Tiberian: Yirmĭyāhū; Greek: Ἰερεμίας; Arabic: إرميا Irmiyā meaning "Yah Exalts"


  1. Wells, John C. (1990). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-582-05383-0. entry "Jeremiah"
  2. "Jeremiah". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. Hillers, Delbert R. (1993). "Lamentations of Jeremiah, The". In Bruce M. Metzger; Michael David Coogan (eds.). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-19-974391-9.
  4. "Lamentations", The Anchor Bible, commentary by Delbert R. Hillers, 1972, pp. xix–xxiv.
  5. Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition, volume 11, p. 125.
  6. Matthew 2:18, Hebrews 8:8–12 ESV Hebrews 10:16–17 ESV.
  7. Wensinck, A. J. (1913–1936). "Jeremiah". In M. Th. Houtsma; T.W. Arnold; R. Basset; R. Hartmann (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (First ed.).
  8. Jeremiah, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, 1987 pp. 559–60.
  9. Introduction to Jeremiah, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 917.
  10. Jeremiah 1:1
  11. "Who Weeps in Jeremiah VIII 23 (IX 1)? Identifying Dramatic Speakers in the Poetry of Jeremiah," Joseph M. Henderson, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 52, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 191–206.
  12. Jeremiah, Lamentations, Tremper Longman, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, p. 6.
  13. Jeremiah 1:14-16
  14. Jeremiah 4
  15. Jeremiah 2, Jeremiah 3, Jeremiah 5, Jeremiah 9
  16. Jeremiah 19:4–5
  17. Jeremiah 10
  18. Jeremiah 11
  19. Emil G. Hirsch, Joseph Jacobs, Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., Julius H. Greenstone. (1904). "Jeremiah". Jewish Encyclopaedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. v. 7, New York: Funk & Wagnall, p. 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  20. 2 Kings 23:26–27 - KJV
  21. 2 Kings 23:32 - KJV
  22. Jeremiah 1–2.
  23. Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, Philip Graham Ryken, R. Kent Hughes, 2001, pp. 19–36.
  24. Jeremiah (Prophet), The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992 p. 686.
  25. Jeremiah 1:6–9 - KJV
  26. Jeremiah 1:17 - NIV.
  27. Jeremiah 1:4–10; Jeremiah 1:17–19
  28. 2 Kings 22:8–10 - KJV
  29. "Jeremiah (Prophet)", The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992, p. 687.
  30. Jeremiah 1:7
  31. Jeremiah 3:12–23, Jeremiah 4:1–4.
  32. Jeremiah 6:13–14.
  33. Jeremiah 36:1–10.
  34. Jeremiah 11:18–2:6.
  35. "Commentary on Jeremiah", The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 950.
  36. Jeremiah 20:7.
  37. Jeremiah 20:9.
  38. Jeremiah 6:13–15, Jeremiah 14:14–16, Jeremiah 23:9–40, Jeremiah 27–28, Lamentations 2:14.
  39. Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition, volume 11, p. 126.
  40. "Commentary of Jeremiah", The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995, p. 1544.
  41. Jeremiah 38
  42. Jeremiah 40:5-6
  43. Jeremiah 43:1-13
  44. This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.
  45. Pesiqta, ed. Buber, xiii. 112a.
  46. Jewish Encyclopedia Ezekiel
  47. Longman, T., & Dillard, R. (2007). An Introduction to the Old Testament (2nd ed.). Nottingham: Apollos, p. 339
  48. G’nsel Renda (1978). "The Miniatures of the Zubdat Al- Tawarikh". Turkish Treasures Culture /Art / Tourism Magazine.
  49. see Tād̲j̲ al-ʿArūs, x. 157.
  50. Wensinck, A. J., "Jeremiah", in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913–1936), Edited by M. Th. Houtsma, T.W. Arnold, R. Basset, R. Hartmann.
  51. Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol. 3, p. 188; Tafsir al-Qummi, vol. 1, p. 117.
  52. Tafsir al-Kashaf, vol .2, p. 649; Jawami' al-Jami', vol. 2, p. 360.
  53. Arif Humayun. Islam: The Summit of Religious Evolution (PDF). Islam International Publications. p. 67. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  54. Tabari, i, 646ff.
  55. Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament (New York: Oxford, 2009), p. 300.
  56. The Oxford Handbook of the Prophets, Oxford University Press, 2016, edited Carolyn Sharp, author Marvin A Sweeney, p. 456.
  57. "Ancient Document Confirms Existence Of Biblical Figure". Retrieved 2007-07-16.
  58. John Hobbins (2007). "Jeremiah 39:3 and History: A New Find Clarifies a Mess of a Text – Ancient Hebrew Poetry".
  59. Kantrowitz, Jonathan (3 January 2012). "Archaeology News Report: Seals of Jeremiah's Captors Discovered!". Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  60. "Arad-Canaanite city and Israelite citadel in the Negev - Site No. 6". Israeli Foreign Ministry. 20 Nov 2000. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  61. Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Portland House. 1989. p. 766. ISBN 978-0-517-68781-9.
  62. "jeremiad". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-23.

Works cited

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "Jeremiah" . Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.

  • Bright, John (1953). The Kingdom of God. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • Bright, John (1959). A History of Israel. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • Friedman, Richard E. (1987). Who Wrote the Bible? New York: Harper and Row.
  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua (1975). The Prophets. HarperCollins Paperback. ISBN 978-0-06-131421-6.

Further reading

  • Ackroyd, Peter R. (1968). Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought in the Sixth Century BC. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  • Bright, John (1965). The Anchor Bible: Jeremiah (2nd ed.). New York: Doubleday.
  • Howard, Reggie (2019). Indomitable Spokesperson for Deity - Prophet Jeremiah. Wewak, Papua New Guinea. ISBN 978-1-54395-739-6.
  • Meyer, F.B. (1980). Jeremiah, Priest and Prophet (Revised ed.). Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade. ISBN 0-87508-355-2.
  • Perdue, Leo G.; Kovacs, Brian W., eds. (1984). A Prophet to the Nations: Essays in Jeremiah Studies. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 0-931464-20-X.
  • Rosenberg, Joel (1987). "Jeremiah and Ezekiel". In Alter, Robert; Kermode, Frank (eds.). The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-87530-3.
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