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

Summary

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

Analysis

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).

Jeremiah 1:1-3

Jeremiah

1The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3It came also in the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

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10 February 2011

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