1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. 2 The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 3 and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
(Jeremiah 1:1-3 NIV)
As we begin our journey through the book of Jeremiah, the author introduces himself, his mission, and his timeline.
Jeremiah is from the town of Anathoth, a town reserved for Levite priests (Joshua 21:18). Anathoth was for the priests assigned to the tribe of Benjamin. The town was located about three miles north of Jerusalem. Being born into a family of priests, Jeremiah obviously had a rich history of the Lord’s work and was trained well in all things regarding his sacred roles and responsibilities.
Verse 2 identifies Jeremiah’s active ministry timeframe, from approximately 627 BC through 584 BC. The Lord used Jeremiah over 40 years to call His people back to Himself.
Jeremiah used the rulers of his day to mark time. This was a common practice in Jeremiah’s day and was used elsewhere in Scripture to identify when an event took place. Examples include Isaiah 6:1 (“In the year that King Uzziah died…”) and Luke 2:1-2 (references to Ceasar Augustus and Quirinius the Governor, when Jesus was born).
Jeremiah lived during a time when the whole world seemed to be at war. Jeremiah served with three primary Israelite leaders:
- Josiah, who brought major religious reforms to Judah
- Jehoiakim, the dictator who undid most of the religious reforms of his father Josiah
- Zedekiah, who had no moral foundation and turned whichever way the winds blew
To put Jeremiah’s ministry into a Biblical perspective and timeline, Jeremiah’s ministry was preceded by the likes of Elijah and Elisha, and the books of Isaiah, Amos, Micah, and Hosea. Jeremiah’s contemporaries (or whose ministries overlapped at some point) wrote the books of Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Nahum, and Ezekiel.
In verses 1 and 2, Jeremiah introduces us to Jeremiah’s forty-plus year ministry of his words (v. 1) and the Lord’s words (v. 2). This is the overview of Jeremiah’s book, and also the struggle and tension of his heart, as we shall see.
As Jeremiah introduces himself to us today, we see many parallels between his day and ours. Wars all over the world, spiritual reforms in some places and active persecution in others, all during a climate of constant political and power changes.
May we find divine wisdom in this ancient book that reflects God’s heart to draw people to Himself. May we sit at the feet of the Lord as He teaches us what is of primary importance for our lives and where He can use us for His divine purposes.