As I did with Nahum, I refer you to Chuck Swindoll’s overview of Jeremiah at this link. https://insight.org/resources/bible/the-major-prophets/jeremiah
Now, I will follow up with a few thoughts of my own after you have hopefully read that overview. Jeremiah began prophesying at the age of 20 in 627 BC and prophesied until 582 BC. His scribe Baruch would write down all his words (35:32; 45:1). He began while Assyria was still a world power and a threat to Judah, just as they had been in the days of Hezekiah in 701 BC although Nahum (652 BC) had predicted the fall of Ninevah (Ninevah would be destroyed in 612 BC by the Babylonians, Medes, and Persians). So he saw Ninevah destroyed, and Babylon took Assyria’s place as the world power. He began during the reign of the good king Josiah of Judah (640-610 BC). Josiah was the king who began to reign at the age of 8, the one who found the book of the Law that had been lost due to lack of use, and made many reforms.
The last 4 kings of Judah were either sons or grandsons of Josiah.
Josiah’s sons: 1 Chron. 3:15 lists Josiah’s four sons in this order:
- 1) Johanan (oldest, but mentioned only here in Scripture)
- Shallum = Jehoahaz
But the sons did not rule in their birth order. Here is the record, additional names included:
- Jehoahaz (Josiah’s #4) = Shallum; reigned 3 months (608)
- Jehoiakim (Josiah’s #2) = Eliakim; reigned 11 years (608-597)
- Jehoiachin (Josiah’s grandson, son of #2, Jehoiakim) = Joiachin = Jeconiah = Coniah; reigned 3 months (597). According to the Hebrew Massoretic text, he was 8 years old when he began to reign. But a comparison of 2 Kings 24:8 with the Septuagint (Greek) of 2 Chron. 36:9 indicates that he was 18 years old when he began to reign.
- Zedekiah (Josiah’s #3) = Mattaniah; reigned 11 years (not the brother of Jehoiachin as in 2 Chron. 36:10; cf. 1 Chron. 3:16 where it is stated that Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) had a son named Zedekiah; 2 Kings 24:17 rightly identifies Zedekiah as uncle to Jehoiachin. NOTE: Ezekiel dates his prophecies (8:1; 20:1, etc.) to the exile of Jehoiachin, not to the reign of Zedekiah. In 2 Kings 25:27 Jehoiachin is still referred to as king.
The book of Jeremiah is difficult to follow because it will skip back and forth between Jeremiah prophesying to Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin (Coniah), and Zedekiah (notice Jeremiah 21-22 all 3 kings are mentioned).
As you can see, things moved into the final stages for Judah after Josiah was killed in a battle against the Egyptians. Pharoah Neco did not want to fight him, but Josiah forced the fight and was killed at Megiddo. Josiah had made reforms but for Judah, it was “too little, too late”. The idolatry and sins of Judah were too far rooted to get out. God used Jeremiah to predict to the last kings of Judah that Judah was going into Babylonian captivity. He even encouraged Zedekiah to not rebel against Babylon, but he did anyway, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the carrying of Judah into Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.
So Jeremiah lived to see the fall of Assyria in 612 BC, but then he also saw the 1st deportation in 606 BC, the 2nd deportation in 596 BC, and the fall of Jerusalem and the 3rd deportation into Babylon in 586 BC. He would see King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon appoint Gedaliah as governor of Judea after Jerusalem fell, only to see some Jews assassinate Gedaliah. Fearing reprisal from Nebuchadnezzar, they fled to Egypt for safety, carrying Jeremiah with them, although he warned them not to flee. Most think Jeremiah died in Egypt around 582 BC.
In chapter 7, he condemns Judah for idolatry, immorality, and injustice (oppression of the poor), saying that Judah had broke their covenant with God (11:8). Even the intercession of Moses and Samuel, if they had been living and could approach God, would not avoid Judah’s fall to Babylon (15:1). He is told not to marry lest his wife and children perish at the hands of the cruel Babylonians (16:1). Passhur the priest had him beaten and put in stocks where he was mocked (ch 20). He mourned and cursed the day of his birth. He will come to be known as “the weeping prophet”. He makes it clear to Judah that Babylon will take them into captivity for 70 years because of their idolatry (ch 25), although in the same chapter he predicts that Babylon will be destroyed at the end of the 70 years.
In the reign of Jehoiakim, he says that Judah has refused to listen to the warnings of “My servants the prophets”. 26: 4 And you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, 5 to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you [q]again and again, but you have not listened”. Jeremiah was arrested and sentenced to death (ch 26), but was released. Instead, another prophet, Uriah, who had also prophesied against Judah, fled to Egypt but was brought back to Jehoiakim who killed him. In chapter 36, Jeremiah’s predictions against Jehoiakim were written on a scroll which Jehoiakim cut with a knife and burned, although Jeremiah had Baruch write them again on another scroll.
During Zedekiah’s reign, the false prophet Hananiah predicted that Judah would be freed from the yoke of Babylon within 2 years (ch 28). Jeremiah told him that would not be true, and that he would die within the current year, which he did. In the meantime, Jeremiah assures those Jews already in Babylon (taken during the 1st or 2nd deportations in 606 BC and 596 BC) that they would be safer in Babylon rather than joining in the rebellion against Babylon that was happening in Palestine (ch 29). Also in the reign of Zedekiah, Jeremiah is arrested and put in a dungeon, and then later thrown in to a cistern, but he is rescued at Zedekiah’s orders by an Ethiopian eunuch (ch 37,38). Zedekiah then has a private conversation with Jeremiah. Jeremiah gives him one last chance to surrender to the Babylonians and save Jerusalem from falling, but Zedekiah is afraid of his officials and does not surrender. After an 18 month siege of the city, Jerusalem fell and was destroyed by the Babylonians and the temple destroyed (ch 39; ch 52). Zedekiah flees the city, but is caught. He gets to see his sons killed before his very eyes, and then the Babylonians put out his eyes and carried him captive to Babylon. Jeremiah is treated kindly by the Babylonians and entrusted to the newly appointed governor Gedaliah.
Chapters 40-45 occur after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Gedaliah is assassinated by some Jews, and they flee to Egypt. Jeremiah warns them not to go, but they go anyway and taken Jeremiah with them. As already stated, we don’t know their fate but can only assume that they and Jeremiah perished in Egypt. At some point before his death, he predicted that Babylon would fall to the Medes at the end of the 70 years in captivity (ch 51). The Medes and Persians did destroy Babylon in 539 BC, which allowed the Jews to make 3 returns from captivity to rebuild the temple, reform the Law keeping, and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In the 37th year of King Jehoiachin’s exile to Babylon, he was released from prison there and treated kindly till his death.
Jeremiah not only promises a return from Babylonian captivity, but he also predicts the time when God will make a new covenant with Judah.
31:31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
We know this has a Messianic fulfillment because the Hebrews writer quotes this entire section in Hebrews 8:8-13. He says the old covenant with the Jews was “obsolete, growing old, and ready to disappear”. He wrote around 60 AD, and predicted the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD). He predicted that 70 AD would be the time when the old covenant with the Jews would finally be completely replaced by the new covenant. There would be a change of the priesthood, a change of the Law, a change of the sacrifices (from animals to the blood of Jesus), etc. In this new covenant, a person would not be born into the covenant like in the old covenant, but would only be in the new covenant if they “know the Lord”, i.e. a personal relationship through faith in Jesus, the Son of God, who died for their sins. Jesus’ death would be “once for all time”, unlike the high priest going into the Holy of Holies every year on the Day of Atonement to get the sins of Israel remembered for another year.
Jeremiah makes another Messianic prediction in ch 33: 14 ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘[ak]David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 [al]and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices [am]continually.’” This prediction is really interesting. He predicts that the righter Branch of David will come one day (that always refers to Jesus in the OT), that the Davidic line of kings would continue forever after Jesus comes, and that the Levitical priesthool would continue to offer sacrifices after Jesus comes. Now, if you understand the figurative language Messianic predictions of the OT prophets, this passage is easy to understand. Jesus, the Branch of David, would sit on the throne of David (as God promised David in 2 Samuel 7) forever (as Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would do in Luke 1). The continuous Levitical priesthood prediction is also fulfilled in Jesus, who is the high priest in the new covenant (Hebrews 7), a high priest who reigns forever because he does not die like the Levitical priests did. If this was interpreted literally, the Levitical priesthood would continue after Jesus came. Instead, the Hebrew writer says that the Levitical priesthood was completely done away with and replaced by the eternal priesthood of Jesus, who was of the tribe of Judah, not Levi. It is amazing to me that most look for such Messianic predictions to be fulfilled literally instead of figuratively. They usually say that most of the Messianic kingdom predictions have not even been fulfilled yet because they expect them to be fulfilled literally. For instance, 33: For I will restore the [ai]fortunes of the land as they were at first,’ says the Lord.” Such predictions to restore Israel to their Holy Land in Palestine are taken by most to be fulfilled literally by Israel being restored to Palestine, which they usually say was fulfilled in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 AD. The promises of restoration to the land were made to the remnant of Israel who would believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and not made to the entire unbelieving nation of Israel. Those promises were fulfilled for the 1st century AD remnant of the Jewish Christians, and had nothing to do with physical land. They, like the other Messianic predictions, were written in figurative language using OT covenant terminology. In Romans 9-11, Paul says that God kept His promises to Israel, but that those promises were made to the believing remnant and not to the entire nation. There are no prophecies that predict anything for the nation of Israel after 70 AD.
As did most of the prophets, Jeremiah gave a distant future promise of hope for the few righteous in Judah who grieved with him over the sinfulness of the nation. They would not even live to see the predictions in chapter 31 and 33 come true (700 years later), but it would still give them a bit of comfort to know that God was preparing something better for the remnant of Judah. I doubt they understood the “new covenant” promise at all. They also probably mistakenly thought the continuance of the Levitical priesthood would be fulfilled literally, as did the Jews when Jesus came (which caused them to reject Jesus and His teaching about the new covenant). But at least they had hope. The apostles and NT writers would by the Holy Spirit explain the spiritual fulfillment of all these predictions, and the believing remnant would accept a spiritual fulfillment. The rest of the Jews would reject Jesus because they wanted a physical fulfillment and restoration of the nation to its power under the reign of David.
One last thought that Swindoll emphasized. “The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book includes numerous personal statements of emotional engagement, painting Jeremiah not merely as a prophet brought on the scene to deliver God’s message but also as a red-blooded human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well.” How does that apply to us? Well, if you are concerned about the sin around us and in the world, if you have compassion for the righteous who are being persecuted all over the world, if you desire judgment against the wicked of the world, then you can at least appreciate Jeremiah. If you are persecuted as he was, then you can appreciate him even more. Most of us are not persecuted, but many Christians are persecuted in foreign countries. They can not only sympathize with Jeremiah, but can empathize with him. They have wept under the pain of persecution. They have been mocked by their fellow countrymen because of their conversion to Christianity. They have been imprisoned like Jeremiah. They have been maligned by their national leaders. The Voice of the Martyrs continually sends out requests for prayer and help for persecuted Christians all over the world. I urge you to request a free subscription to their magazine. They will ask for donations, but it is free and it is both sad but heart worming to see the plight of fellow believers and yet how they remain strong and how VOM helps them.