“Introduction to Jeremiah,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Jeremiah,” Old Testament Study Guide
The book of Jeremiah contains the prophecies, warnings, and teachings that were part of the prophet Jeremiah’s ministry to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Because many of Jerusalem’s leaders and people rejected Jeremiah and other prophets and continued to sin, Jerusalem was destroyed and many Jews were taken captive to Babylon. This book illustrates that the covenant between God and the children of Israel does not make God’s people invincible. If they do not fulfill their part of the covenant and heed the Lord’s word, they withdraw themselves from God’s care and protection.
As you study the book of Jeremiah, you will deepen your understanding of the covenant between the Lord and His people. By studying the Lord’s work to restore His people and help them overcome the effects of their sins, you can learn of the Lord’s power to save and bless us. You can also learn from Jeremiah’s example that each of us has God-given responsibilities to accomplish in this life and that the Lord will help us fulfill these responsibilities as we turn to Him, regardless of how difficult those responsibilities may be.
Jeremiah is responsible for much of the content of this book, but he likely used scribes to record his words as he dictated them (see Jeremiah 36:4). Jeremiah was born into a family of priests and preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah for approximately 40 years, seeking to “stem … the tide of idolatry and immorality” (Bible Dictionary, “Jeremiah”). He was eventually imprisoned in Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 37:15; 1 Nephi 7:14), and “after the fall of Jerusalem [around 586 B.C.], the Jews who escaped into Egypt took Jeremiah with them (Jer. 43:5–6), where, according to tradition, they stoned him to death” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Jeremiah”; scriptures.lds.org).
Jeremiah began his ministry in 626 B.C., the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah (see Jeremiah 1:1–2), and continued to preach until after the downfall of Jerusalem in approximately 586 B.C. (see Bible Dictionary, “Jeremiah”). His preaching overlapped with the ministries of other prophets, including Lehi (see 1 Nephi 1:4, 18–20), Zephaniah (see Zephaniah 1:1), and Urijah (see Jeremiah 26:20–24). Some of Jeremiah’s words were recorded before the destruction of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 36:32).
Most prophetic books in the Old Testament focus primarily on the word of the Lord as revealed by the prophets but not on the lives of the prophets themselves. The book of Jeremiah is an exception. In addition to including Jeremiah’s prophecies, the book contains biographical information about Jeremiah and insights into the emotional and mental anguish he sometimes experienced as he ministered in the midst of so much opposition (see Jeremiah 8:18–9:2; 15:15–18; 20:7–9; 26; 32; 37–38).
The book of Jeremiah also addresses the doctrine of foreordination, which teaches that the Lord calls individuals to fulfill certain responsibilities and assignments in mortality. The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee … and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Knowing that the Lord had intended him to be a prophet in difficult times may have given Jeremiah the strength and faith he needed to preach the Lord’s word in the face of persecution.
A theme that runs throughout the book of Jeremiah is that just as the Lord had watched over His people as they experienced destruction, He would also gather, restore, and strengthen them (see Jeremiah 31:28). In one revelation recorded in the book of Jeremiah, the Lord said He would make “a new covenant” with His people, meaning the new and everlasting covenant of the gospel established by Jesus Christ during His ministry and restored in the latter days (see Jeremiah 31:31–33; see also D&C 22:1; 66:2). Jeremiah also prophesied that in the latter days, the Lord would send forth fishers and hunters to gather Israel to Him, an event that would be more impressive to those who witnessed it than the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14–16).
Jeremiah “dwells much on the inwardness of the Lord’s relation to the mind of His servants. External service is useless where there is no devotion of heart and life; superficial reforms were of no avail—a complete regeneration in the national life was required” (Bible Dictionary, “Jeremiah”).
Jeremiah 1–6. Jeremiah preaches during the reign of King Josiah and prophesies that Jerusalem will be destroyed by a great and merciless nation.
Jeremiah 7–20. Jeremiah preaches in various places in Jerusalem, including at the gate of the temple, using various metaphors to plead with the people to change their ways.
Jeremiah 21–38. Jeremiah preaches during the reign of King Zedekiah and prophesies that Babylon will conquer Jerusalem and that those who survive and are taken to Babylon will live in captivity there for 70 years. He also prophesies that in the last days, the Messiah will return, reign, and gather His people unto Him.
Jeremiah 39–44. Jerusalem is conquered, and many Jews are taken captive to Babylon. The Jews who remain in Judah reject Jeremiah’s warnings and trust in Egypt for protection.
Jeremiah 45. Jeremiah promises Baruch, his scribe, that the Lord will preserve Baruch’s life.
Jeremiah 46–52. Jeremiah prophesies concerning the destruction of the Philistines, Moabites, Babylonians, and other foreign peoples.