How to read Jeremiah
The book of Jeremiah has 52 chapters. You should first read the entire 52 chapters quite quickly without trying to understand every verse the first time. Try to get a feel of the book, jot down impressions and also verses which resonate in your heart. Then make a plan of study for yourself, perhaps to study one to five chapters every day, or more, if you have the time. Get a notebook and write down every day what you have learned. Write down the date you are starting, and your plan of study and how many chapters you want to complete every week.
The writings of Jeremiah are narrative, poetry and prophecy. If you are able to differentiate this writings while you read, it will help you to understand the book better. What helped me while I was reading Jeremiah was, to listen to Bible mp3. Listening to the WORD helps me to listen better and appreciate the book. Jeremiah’s methods of delivering God’s message to the people are also intriguing. He speaks, writes (Barukh helped Jeremiah to write), and acts. These methods left a powerful impression on me. It shows the creativity of God in speaking to his people.
Lastly, while reading through and writing down what you have learn, try ask questions then seek the answers in bible dictionary, commentaries and other books about Jeremiah.
Backgrounds and Outline of Jeremiah
Date of Writing: The Book of Jeremiah was written between 630 and 580 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: The Book of Jeremiah records the final prophecies to Judah, warning of oncoming destruction if the nation does not repent. Jeremiah calls out for the nation to turn back to God. At the same time, Jeremiah recognizes the inevitability of Judah’s destruction due to its unrepentant idolatry and immorality.
Brief Summary: The Book of Jeremiah is primarily a message of judgment on Judah for rampant idolatry. After the death of King Josiah, the last righteous king, the nation of Judah had almost completely abandoned God and His commandments. Jeremiah compares Judah to a prostitute. God had promised that He would judge idolatry and Jeremiah was warning Judah that God’s judgment was at hand. God had delivered Judah from destruction on countless occasions, but His mercy was at its end. Jeremiah records King Nebuchadnezzar conquering Judah and making it subject to him. After further rebellion, God brought Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian armies back to destroy and desolate Judah and Jerusalem. Even in this most severe judgment, God promises the restoration of Judah back into the land God has given them.
I. Early Prophecies -- Under Josiah and Jehoiakim (Chapter 1-20)
A. The commission of Jeremiah 1
B. Judah, Yahweh's unfaithful wife 2-6
C. Judah, the hypocrite 7-10
D. Judah, breaker of the covenant 11-12
E. Five parables of judgment 13-20
II. Later Prophecies -- Under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (Chapter 21-39)
A. Captivity in Babylon predicted 21-29
B. Restoration predicted 30-33
C. Captivity anticipated 34-39
III. Prophecies after the fall of Jerusalem (Chapter 40-45)
A. Gedaliah as governor 40-41
B. Johanan's rebellion 41-43
C. Jeremiah's prophecies in Egypt 43-44
D. Jeremiah's prophesy for Baruch 45
IV. Prophecies concerning foreign nations (Chapter 46-51)
A. Southwest 46-47
B. Southeast 48-49:22
C. North 49:23-33
D. East 49:34-51:64
V. The Fall of Jerusalem (Chapter 52)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Alas, Sovereign Lord, “I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young,’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.”
Jeremiah 1:5-8 (NIV)
Jeremiah is no ordinary prophet. Called at a young age, he displayed a mature sense of obedience. He spoke against Judah and Israel. Even in the midst of a God chosen nation, God no longer takes the highest place. Idols worship was winning over the hearts of His people. Hence, the people were living as they pleased; with injustice, corruptions, sins, giving false prophecy becoming a part of a daily life. Jeremiah was nicknames the weeping prophet. He was dubbed so because he was grieving at the state decay the nations have allowed themselves to be. He was grieving too, upon seeing how crush and broken God’s heart for His people. As a young man, God has chosen and set Jeremiah apart to be His mouthpiece.
Do we see our nation decaying?
Have we played our part as God chosen people?
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
As I dig deeper into Jeremiah, I discovered a big portion of it is written in poetry form. Poetry potrays expression of feelings, emotions and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm. Therefore, when we allow this poetry speaks to us, allowing it to be heard as though it was spoken, it reveals God’s heart.
But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deed. “Am I only a God nearby, “declares the Lord,” and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.
Let us ponder on this verse above. What is God asking of us today?
The Prophet Jeremiah had a most difficult message to deliver. As painful as it was for Jeremiah to deliver a consistent message of judgment to his own people, Jeremiah was obedient to what God told him to do and say. The important ingredient here is that Jeremiah is a person who stood in God’s council. He lives right in the eyes of God and act righteously on behalf of Him. That gave Jeremiah the power to proclaimed God’s word. Jeremiah presented God message to people in different forms. He spoke to the people with His voice. With the help of Barukh, the Word of God was also written for the people. However, the most dramatic of all, is that he obediently obey as He acted some of message that God has given him that people may see, feel and grasp God’s message.