Jeremiah 1:1-3 – The Historical Setting of the Preaching and the Book


Jeremiah 1:1-3


The audience for the book of Jeremiah is different from the audience of the preaching of Jeremiah.


The opening verses of Jeremiah specify the historical context of the preaching of Jeremiah, giving the names of various Israelite kings. At the same time, the end of Jeremiah 1:3 indicates that Jerusalem had already fallen (587 B.C.E.), and the exile was a reality for many readers. Given this beginning, the entire book is intended to be read from the perspective of this exilic audience.

The readers in exile were very different from the hearers of the preaching, and hence, Jeremiah’s preaching now carried a different force for them. The exiles had experienced what Jeremiah had announced as Israel’s certain future–the raping and ravaging of the Babylonian armies and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. These experiences were still a lively memory for the readers. The judgment that had been announced by the prophet was no longer something to anticipate; it had been lived. The word of God spoken by Jeremiah is now seen from the perspective of the announced events actually having happened.

Hanging over the book of Jeremiah is a question of the exiles: “Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?” (5:19; 9:12; 13:22; 14:19; 16:10; 22:8; see also Deuteronomy 9:24; 1 Kings 9:8). The book proceeds to give a response to this question: it was because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God (see Jeremiah 5:19; 9:13).