John T. Willis

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jeremiah--Introduction--Historical Setting

For the next several months, we will be working through the Book of Jeremiah. This is a long book--52 chapters. There are several introductory matters which require some comment. In no case will we go into great scholarly research. But we will deal with fundamental matters. In this introductory blog on Jeremiah, we will deal briefly with the "historical setting" of the Book of Jeremiah.

1. There are two "parameters" specifically stated in the Book of Jeremiah historically.
a. Jeremiah received his prophetic call in 627 B. C. Jeremiah 1:2 says that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year of Josiah. A historical study of the rule of Josiah over Judah was 640-609 B. C. 2 Kings 22-23 and
2 Chronicles 34-35 supply the historical background of Josiah.
b. The last historical reference to an event in the Book of Jeremiah is the death of Jehoiachin after he was carried into Babylonian Exile and was in prison 37 years, and then was released for several years and died. Jeremiah 52:31-34 [which is essentially parallel to 2 Kings 25:27-30]. Since Jehoiachin became king over Judah in 598 B. C. at the age of 18, he was released from prison in 561 B. C. 37 years later, at age 55, so he probably died about 10 to 15 years later, which would take one down to 550 to 545 B. C.
c. Accordingly, the Book of Jeremiah contains references to historical events in the past dating from 627 to 545 B. C.--approximately 82 years. Jeremiah as probably about 17-20 years of age when God called him to be a prophet. Hence, he was probably born in approximately 645 B. C. Of course, the exact date is uncertain.

2. There are many references to specific dates throughout the Book of Jeremiah. These are obviously NOT in chronological order in the present Book of Jeremiah. Hence, the composer or author of the Book of Jeremiah did NOT arrange the material in this book historically chronologically. Here are ONLY a FEW examples.
a. Jeremiah 21 is dated between 589 to 587 B. C. when the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem under king Zedekiah.
b. Jeremiah 22:13-19 is dated during the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah--609-598 B. C.
c. Jeremiah 22:24-30 is dated during the reign of Jehoiachin king of Judah--598 B. C.
d. Jeremiah 24 is dated in the days of Zedekiah king of Judah--598-587 B. C.
e. Jeremiah 25:1-14 is dated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim king of Judah--605 B. C.
f. Jeremiah 27-28 are dated in the fourth year of Zedekiah king of Judah--594
B. C.
g. Jeremiah 32 is dated in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah--588 B. C.
h. Jeremiah 36 is dated in the fourth and fifth years of Jehoiakim king of Judah--605-604 B. C.
i. Jeremiah 29 and 51 are dated in the eleventh year of Zedekiah--587 B. C.
j. Jeremiah 40-44 are dated after the Fall of Jerusalem in 587 B. C. when Jeremiah and Baruch and many other Judeans fled to Egypt, so possibly between 586 and 580 B. C.
k. Jeremiah 46:1-12 is dated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim king of Judah--605 B. C.
Pay attention to the fact that these are NOT ALL the references to historical events in the Book of Jeremiah. Here there are ONLY several examples.

3. From all this, one should come away with several important conclusions.
a. God works in history. The historical events recorded in the Book of Jeremiah are important, but ONLY as a background to understand the message of God recorded here.
b. The Book of Jeremiah is NOT in chronological order. One must seek for a different organization of the Book of Jeremiah other than chronological order. It is contrary to biblical study to try to "reconstruct" the Bible in a chronological order. Some have done this, and have destroyed the message of the Bible in the process.
c. It is necessary FIRST to study a biblical text in the historical context, and THEN try to determine the "eternal" message in each text. This is hard work. It is often difficult to do this. Keep studying the Bible.
d. We will work through each chapter in the Book of Jeremiah to do into greater depth on the historical background, but especially the message of God.

Share YOUR insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis