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You will find an outline and introduction to Jeremiah here.

Here is a from the Book of Common Worship to use before reading.

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

An Outline of Jeremiah (based on Overholt)

I. 1:1-25:38 Confronting the People with Words and Deeds

A. 1:1-3 Superscription

B. 1:4-19 Jeremiah’s Call

C. 2:1-4:4 Accusations and Exhortations

D. 4:5-6:30 An Enemy from the North:This section focuses on the threat of invasion from the north. Oracles of judgment are mixed with descriptions of the attack. Most of the time the attacking nation is not named.

   5:1-9 No one is righteous. Jeremiah is told to search for one righteous person. What other biblical story does this remind you of? Notice that the poor are not expected to know “the way of the Lord” but the rich or great are. Notice the variety of images and metaphors used in chapter 5.

5:10-19 Destruction in spite of Israel’s misplaced self confidence. What is Israel’s mistake? In spite of the coming destruction, all will not be destroyed.

5:20-31 What things make Israel foolish? In verse 22 recall that the sea can also be a metaphor for chaos. In verse 24 the weeks appointed for harvest refers to the seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost, a time when rain could ruin the harvest.

6:1-9 The attack surrounds Jerusalem. The land of Benjamin was north of Jerusalem and Tekoa, the home of the prophet Amos was south of Jerusalem. There is a word play in verse 1. The verb “blow (the trumpet) in Hebrew is tiq’u and Tekoa is teqoa`. In verse 3 the shepherds are the enemy kings. Recall that kings are sometimes referred to as shepherds.

6:10-21. Israel does not listen to the prophet.

6:22-26 Israel is warned again and again does not listen until verse 24 but now it is too late and Israel is called to mourning.

6:27-30 The Conclusion of oracles from the time of Josiah. Jeremiah is the refiner and tester but Israel cannot be refined.

E. 7:1-15 The Temple Sermon:The story of the Temple sermon is told in chapter 26. The Temple was assumed to assure God’s protection. Jeremiah stood in the Temple and told those who entered that unless the changed their behavior Jerusalem would be destroyed. This occurred in 690 BCE after the death of King Josiah. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz was removed by the Egyptians and they replaced him with Jehoiakim. Egypt and Babylon were in a struggle over who would control Palestine. This message from Jeremiah resulted in some priests and prophets taking legal action against him for what he had prophesied. We will find out more about that in chapter 26.

Verse 4, the Temple was considered a place of sanctuary and people believed one’s presence in the Temple meant safety. Again notice what Jeremiah accuses the people of doing and not doing. Shilo (verse 10-12) was an earlier shrine which was destroyed during the time of Samuel, around 1050 bce. (I Samuel 4-6)

F. 7:16-8:3 Supplements to the Temple Sermon: This section is not part of the Temple sermon. It is made up of three sections which are oracle-like. Most likely these are from the time of the Exile. In verses 16-20 Jeremiah is prohibited from interceding on behalf of the people, which was one of the things prophets normally did. “cakes for the queen of heaven” was a ritual that involved Astarte, a fertility goddess. In verse 21, part of the sacrifices made at the Temple were eaten, but the burnt offering was to be completely offered to God. To eat the burnt offering was an abuse of sacrificial practices.  Recall that the exodus, God’s rescue of Israel occurred before Torah was given and the sacrificial system inaugurated.  Cutting off one’s hair was a sign of mourning. Exposing a corpse was a form of desecration. See 2 Samuel 21 on keeping animals and birds away from bodies. To exhume bones was also a way to shame the dead. Bones were ritually unclean and so placing them on the ground of sacred sites made the sacred sites unclean. Notice whose bones are subject to shaming.

G. 8:4-10:25 Coping with Catastrophe: This section has two oracles of judgment, 8:4-13 and 9:2-9. Also there is lament and mourning, 8:18-9:1;9:10,17-22;10:19-21. The attack from the north is mentioned and considered unstoppable. There are almost verbatim repetitions from earlier chapters. The main focus of this section is coping with disaster. This section is probably also from the time of the Exile as the destruction of the nation seems to have already occurred. But the later, more theologically complex explanations of why the disaster happened are not present here. In these passages, people are still wrestling with the reality of the disaster. Horses were associated with warfare ( v16ff).

Verses 8:18-9:3, God grieves. 8:22 is a rhetorical question. There was balm (medicine) in Gilead, but even with plenty of medicine available, Jerusalem is dying.

Verses 9:4-9 contains God’s warnings.  In verses 9:10-26 only the professional mourners are wise. The replacement of domestic animals with wild animals signifies the destruction of a city or land. Wormwood (v15) is a poisonous and bitter extract. Verse 25, other nations in addition to Israel practiced circumcision. But circumcision of the flesh does not guarantee a proper relationship with God.

 Verses 10:1-10 are a satire on idols. Verses 6-10 are a hymn of praise to God contrasting God with the idols. Verse 12-16 continue the hymn of praise using creation imagery. Verses 17-18, Jerusalem is carried off to exile. In 10:19-25 Israel accepts its punishment with verses 23-25 a prayer.Those persecuted are asking God to temper the punishment and to direct God’s attention away from Judah and to other lands.

 

Here are several good sources to aid your reading.

Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 7, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2001.

Hutton, Rodney R. “Jeremiah” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gold, Victor R., William Holladay, “Jeremiah” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Metzger,Bruce M.;Murphy,Roland E., eds. (New York:Oxford University Press) 1994.

Overholt,Thomas W. “Jeremiah” in  HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.

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