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  1. Summary of Jeremiah
  2. Outline of Jeremiah
  3. Background of Jeremiah
  4. Introductory Issues in Jeremiah
  5. Theological Themes in Jeremiah
  • View All Content Related to this Book

Lesson 3 of5
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Background of Jeremiah

The book has its beginnings in the preaching of Jeremiah to the people of Israel during the period from 627 B.C.E. to shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. This preaching is especially associated with the unfaithfulness of the people, which manifested itself in idolatry, social injustice, and other forms of disloyalty to their God. In view of this unfaithfulness, Israel was threatened by foreign enemies, particularly the Babylonians, who are understood as God’s agents of judgment on the people and are finally responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem and the exiling of many Israelites to Babylonia. The book is unusual in that it not only transmits Jeremiah’s preaching, but also describes many of the twists and turns of the life of the prophet during the course of his ministry.

The book itself comes into being over the course of some twenty years. The initial writing takes place at the command of God in 605 B.C.E., the fourth year of King Jehoiakim (36:1-3). The resultant scroll contains Jeremiah’s preaching from the period 627-605 B.C.E. and consists of a major portion of Jeremiah 2:1-25:13, much of which is poetry. This timing is associated with the emergence of Babylonian dominance in that region and the threat to Israel.

The timing of the writing of other portions of the book is uncertain. Some smaller written segments by Jeremiah are noted in Jeremiah 29:1, 30-32; 30:2; 51:60-63. Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch, who transcribed the initial scroll, is also thought to have written the major portion of Jeremiah 37-45. The final form of the book is the product of unknown editors sometime during the Babylonian exile. Their purpose was to recast the preaching and ministry of Jeremiah in such a way as to address the hardships that had been and continued to be experienced by the exiles in Babylon. A complicating factor regarding the origins of Jeremiah is that the Septuagint of Jeremiah (the Greek translation of the book) is one-seventh shorter than the Hebrew version. This may mean that the Hebrew book of Jeremiah continued to develop for some time after the Greek translation was made.