Jeremiah, the Prophet

By the Rev. Jose Oliveira

Ebed-melech rescues Jeremiah from miry cisternThe Book of Jeremiah is one of the most read throughout the Old Testament. Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that few prophets in the Old Testament are shown as human as Jeremiah. The book of Jeremiah is one of the Major Prophets, along with Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, the title been given because of the size of these books. Jeremiah prophesied for over 40 years during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah, up to the exile of the people. Besides the book that bears his name, is also attributed to Jeremiah the authorship of the book of Lamentations, in which the prophet makes an elegy to the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem.


Jeremiah’s call exemplifies those cases in which God calls someone to ministry at a very young age. When God called Jeremiah he resisted at first, saying it was still a child and not knowing how to speak. But God insisted, and, through an angel, touched his tongue with a red coal, a symbol of empowerment for the preaching of God’s message. Belonging to a family of priests, Jeremiah was closely linked to religious traditions of his people. Due to the hardships suffered in his ministry, his complaints to God for leading a hard life, and for being the author of the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah is called "the weeping prophet," designation that may take away a little bit of the seriousness that devoted to his ministerial life, but, on another hand, reveals the sensitivity of a man with a real intimate communion with God. Add to the difficulties experienced by Jeremiah, the fact that he was forbidden by God to marry, and then you will understand that the life of this prophet was very hard.


God called Jeremiah to prophesy in 626 BC, in the beginning of the revival led by King Josiah of Judah. Jeremiah’s ministry was one of denunciation of the sins of the people, and this caused him much trouble, because neither the leaders nor the people were willing to accept the words of Jeremiah, especially at the end of his career. The people believed that being "chosen" of God, nothing would harm them; exactly the opposite of the message of Jeremiah. In his ministry, Jeremiah was tortured, thrown into a cistern, discredited, ridiculed, and who knows how much more, which was not recorded in his book. Jeremiah preached destruction, calamity, repentance, and so his message was not accepted. Those were extremely difficult times to be opposition in Judah, but he fulfilled his mission until the end, and today he enjoys presence in the roll of fame for the prophets, a place of special prominence to the people of God.


The message of Jeremiah was the cause of their sufferings. He resented this type of message, as in Jeremiah 20:8, we read "Forwhenever I speak, cry, cry, Violence and destruction because the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and a derision, daily."In fact, the message that God gave to Jeremiah was so tough that he once decided not to preach it more, but the experience of not preaching it was even more terrible than preach it: "If I say, ‘I make no mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, then there was in my heart one as a burning fire, shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing it, and I cannot any longer. "Jeremiah 20:9. As a prophet, Jeremiah’s mission was to reveal the will of God, calling people to repentance and announce hope. The people were not willing to repent, and even if they would repent, the hope was announced was that each repented soul would keep his or her life, but the destruction would come anyway – that was a limited hope that few wanted to accept.

Jeremiah, due the peculiarities of his calling, ministry and life, became one of the most interesting figures of the Bible, whose book and message have been instructive, century after century, both to Jews and Christians. If you want to know more about the book of Jeremiah, the life and ministry of this prophet, the Illinois Theological Seminary offers two classes that deal with these issues: Introduction to the Old Testament and the Major Prophets. For more information on this, follow the link below:

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