To Whom Did God Send Jeremiah?

God commissioned Jeremiah to his ministry in Jeremiah 1:1-16. But to whom did God commission Jeremiah?

In other words, was Jeremiah sent to the nations or to the nation — of Judah, that is? The answer is yes

Jeremiah 1:4-10: The Nations

The first part of Jeremiah’s commissioning is in Jeremiah 1:4-10. In this passage, God directs Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations — the non-Jews, the Gentiles.

Jeremiah 1:11-16: The Nation

Then later in Jeremiah 1:11-16 we have Jeremiah’s commissioning to the nation — Judah.


So, to summarize…

  • Jeremiah 1:4-10: Jeremiah and the Nations.
  • Jeremiah 1:11-16: Jeremiah and Judah.

Why Does Jeremiah Mention Only Three Kings in Jeremiah 1:2-3?

We’ve already studied the kings who ruled during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. But if you read that post you may have noticed something. In fact, I stated it pretty clearly. In Jeremiah 1:2-3 there are only three kings listed — Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.

Even if we allow for Gedaliah, Ishmael, and Jehohanan to be excluded because they weren’t real kings, we still have Shallum and Jehoiachin missing from the list of kings who ruled while Jeremiah was ministering.

In other words, Jeremiah 1:2-3 says that…

  1. Jeremiah received God’s word in the days of Josiah.
  2. He skips Shallum.
  3. The word came in the days of Jehoiakim.
  4. He skips Jeconiah.
  5. The word came in the days of Zedekiah.
  6. And then he skips Gedaliah — again, probably because he wasn’t a real king.

So, I wonder why does he skip mentioning these other kings?

Jeremiah Purposely Excluded Them

Here’s one possible reason for excluding Shallum and Jehoiachin. They both ruled for 3 months or less. They really were rather minor in terms of their tenure of ruling the Jews. Maybe since they were so minor in terms of the length of their ruling Jeremiah saw fit to leave them out of the list of kings.

Jeremiah Didn’t Prophesy When They Reigned

And here’s the second possibility. Maybe during the short 3-month reigns of Shallum and Jehoiachin – Jeremiah actually didn’t receive any message from the Lord at those times.

Jeremiah mentions Shallum once in Jeremiah 22:11. But there he seems to be speaking of him in the past tense as if Shallum had already been exiled by that point.

But it’s a little harder to see Jeremiah not prophesying during the reign of Jehoiachin. While there are a number of references in which Jehoiachin is spoken of as if he’s already been exiled (Jeremiah 24:1; 27:20; 28:4; 29:2; 37:1; 52:31-34) yet Jeremiah 22:24-30 is particularly difficult to interpret in this way. So, perhaps this second explanation for why these two kings aren’t mentioned in Jeremiah 1:2-3 is not as strong as the first.

Which Kings Reigned During Jeremiah’s Ministry?

Jeremiah 1:2-3 tells us the names of the kings who ruled during the time when Jeremiah was prophesying. They are:

  1. Josiah
  2. Jehoiakim
  3. Zedekiah

So, let’s go through a chronology of the kings of Judah during this time period.

First, Let’s Fill in the Blanks

We’ve just noticed three kings mentioned so far in Jeremiah 1:2-3 – Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.


But there’s also a king between Josiah and Jehoiakim. His name was Shallum (A.K.A. Jehoahaz).


And there’s a king between Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. That’s Jehoiachin (A.K.A. Jeconiah or Coniah).


And then there’s not a king after Zedekiah but a Babylonian-appointed governor named Gedaliah. A man named Ishmael follows and lastly we have a Johanan. These last three were not kings, but did have some form of ruling power over the Jews after the Babylonian exile.

The Longer List of Kings

So, the longer list of kings looks like this:

  1. Josiah
  2. Shallum
  3. Jehoiakim
  4. Jehoiachin
  5. Zedekiah
  6. (Maybe Gedaliah and Ishmael and Johanan)

Now that we have our complete list of kings, let’s remind ourselves of some facts about these six men.


First, Josiah was 8 years old when he assumed the throne (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:1). He was king for 31 years. He died battling Pharaoh of Egypt at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29).


Then Shallum or Jehoahaz his son was made king (2 Chronicles 36:1). He was 23 years old at that point (2 Chronicles 36:1). He reigned for only 3 months and was then exiled to Egypt by the Pharaoh (2 Chronicles 36:3).


Pharaoh then set up Eliakim or Jehoiakim a son of Josiah to be king at the age of 25 (2 Chronicles 36:4). He ruled 11 years (2 Chronicles 36:5). Then he was exiled to – not Egypt like what happened to Shallum/Jehoahaz – but to Babylon with some Temple things (2 Chronicles 36:6-7). His death is mysterious and we don’t seem to know how it happened.


Then Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim was made king. He was 18 years old at that point. And he reigned only 3 months and 10 days (2 Chronicles 36:9). He was then exiled to Babylon with some more Temple stuff, 10,000 people, 7,000 soldiers, 1,000 craftsmen, and all the best warriors. Only the poorest were left.

Jehoiachin surrendered to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighth year (2 Kings 24:12). We see him in the last chapter of the book of Jeremiah treated well by the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31-34).


In his place, with only losers left in Jerusalem, Mattaniah or Zedekiah was made king of Israel.

Now, in 2 Kings 24:17 it says that Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle. But 2 Chronicles 36:10 says he was Jehoiachin’s brother. How do we deal with this seeming contradiction?

It’s pretty simple. The term brother [אח or ach] in 2 Chronicles can be more general and refer to kinsman or countryman or relative. So then Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle – which makes him Josiah’s son.

Zedekiah was 21 years old when he becomes king. He reigns 11 years (2 Chronicles 36:11). Under his rule everything is exiled and destroyed.

And if you’re calculating the years – Jeremiah was probably about fifty-two years old when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC.


Then we have Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan.

Ahikam by the way is a man who delivered Jeremiah from Jehoiakim’s murderous intentions.

Gedaliah reignedif you can call it that – for two months. Then he was murdered by Ishmael who was from the royal family.


I don’t know that you can say that Ishmael reigned at all in any sort of way. But he was the next man to “rule” the Jews in a twisted sort of way. He ran away with the people to the neighboring nation of Ammon.


And lastly, the would-be hero Jehohanan rescues the Jews from Ishmael. But then he goes against God’s will and brings the Jews to Egypt.

And historically in the book of Jeremiah, that’s the last we know of the Jews and their rulers in the land of Israel.


So, that’s the list of kings who ruled during Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry from 641 BC to some time after the exile in 586 BC.

How Does God End His Commissioning of Jeremiah?

In light of God watching over his words of threatenings to perform them and in light of his promise to bring calamity from the north on his people in the form of a conquering kingdom  God tells Jeremiah to arise, speak, and not be terrified in Jeremiah 1:17.

God Called Jeremiah to Action

The Lord had already encouraged Jeremiah to not be afraid of the nations he would send him to. So, now I think this admonition is particularly in regard to Jeremiah’s own people the Jews and his attitude toward them.

And the admonition is to not be afraid of them. But if Jeremiah was minded to be afraid of them God threatens to really give him something to be afraid of.

What God wants Jeremiah to be mindful of is that he needs to fear God more than men.

But it’s not all fear.

God Promised to Deliver Jeremiah

God’s not just scaring Jeremiah into obeying him. He leaves Jeremiah in chapter one with a very assuring message of God’s presence with him and God’s promise to rescue him from all danger that he will face. (Jeremiah 1:18-19)

Jeremiah is promised conflict with the whole land of Judah – kings, princes, priests, people in general. We even see him later on battling his fellow prophets!

They’ll fight him but they won’t win. Why? Because the Lord is with him and will rescue him.

And like Jeremiah we too as Christians are promised conflict and trouble and persecution in this life. But we’re also promised the presence of Christ as we go and make disciples and baptize and teach.

What Do a Boiling Pot and a Northern Invasion Have in Common?

Jeremiah 1:11-12 records the first object lesson that God used to commission Jeremiah to go to his own people with his message of judgement.

The second object lesson that God gave to Jeremiah has to do with a boiling pot and a northern invasion in Jeremiah 1:13-16.

Here in this object lesson — just like in the first one involving an almond tree — there are a few word plays.

Boiling Pot and Northern Invasion

First, God shows Jeremiah a boiling (naphach in Hebrew) pot. God then says an evil shall break forth (pathach in Hebrew) from the north.

The message then is that an enemy is coming from the north.

But is the Enemy Really from the North?

And you need to remember that Babylon – whom we’ll later find out is this enemy – is not north of Israel. That nation was basically directly east of Israel.

So, why does God say that the enemy is from the north?

Here’s why. There’s an impassable desert between those two ancient nations. That’s why God describes Babylon as coming from the north. They’d have to go northwest a ways and then they could come down in a southwestern move from the north.

So, that’s the first word play – foretelling destruction from a northern enemy.

An Evil is Coming Because of Judah’s Evil

The second word play has to do with the reasons for this coming enemy to destroy Judah.

God says that an evil (rangah in Hebrew) is coming. That’s referring of course to an enemy and the destruction they will bring.

But why is God sending a destroying enemy from the north? Jeremiah 1:16 – God needs to judge his people in this way – touching or concerning or because of – all their wickedness (rangah in Hebrew). Their moral evil, that is.

What moral evil of theirs is bringing God’s judgement on his own people? Well, they forsook their God. They then took other and false gods and burned incense to them. They worshiped what their own hands had made rather than worshiping the one who made their hands in the womb – going back to the beginning of Jeremiah’s commissioning.

So, God will bring evil upon Judah because of the evil they’ve committed against him.

What Do an Almond Tree and a Watching God Have In Common?

In Jeremiah 1:4-10 we saw Jeremiah’s commissioning to the nations. But God’s not done with his commissioning of Jeremiah at that point. Because Jeremiah 1:11-16 seems to focus on Jeremiah’s ministry to his own people – the Jews.

Jeremiah Commissioned to Judah

God commissions Jeremiah to the people of Judah in the form of two object lessons.

It’s hard to tell if these object lessons are visions that are outside of the bounds of normal reality or if God just somehow points out to Jeremiah two common ordinary objects and makes a statement about each one.

But whether in a vision or in the realm of reality, God shows these things to Jeremiah to communicate a message.

The Almond Tree & the Watching God

Let’s look at the first object lesson — the lesson of the almond tree and the watching God in Jeremiah 1:11-12.

Why does God show Jeremiah an almond tree of all things? You won’t be able to make sense of this if all you have access to is an English Bible – unless it has good study notes.

What’s happening here is this. God makes a play on words here. He shows Jeremiah an almond tree (shaqed in Hebrew). Then he says that he will hasten or watch over (shoqed in Hebrew) his word to perform it.

In other words, God shows Jeremiah a shaqed and then follows that up with a promise to shoqed his word to do it.

So, God tells Jeremiah that he is watching over and hastening his word or his threats against his rebellious people, Judah.

This is indeed an ominous start to Jeremiah’s commissioning to the nation of Judah.

How Did God Respond to Jeremiah’s Doubts?

Jeremiah 1:7-10 relates God’s response to Jeremiah’s doubts regarding his call to be a prophet to the nations.

It’s a threefold response. First, God assure Jeremiah that he will tell the prophet where to go and what to say. Second, God promises to deliver Jeremiah from all danger. And third, God reminds Jeremiah that he’s given him the authority to carry out his ministry.

So, let’s explore each of those statements…

God Will Tell Jeremiah Where to Go and What to Say

In other words, God is saying in Jeremiah 1:7 that he has it all planned out.

Jeremiah doesn’t need to fear. All he needs to do is to go where God tells him to go and say what God wants him to say.

Even a child — which Jeremiah claimed to be and probably was — can do that!

God Promises To Deliver Jeremiah

In Jeremiah 1:8, God tells Jeremiah to not fear “their faces” in the Hebrew.

Whose faces is God talking about? Well, it could be the nations that God spoke of earlier. And in the more immediate context in Jeremiah 1:7 it’s all those people to whom God will send Jeremiah.

So, Jeremiah is to not be afraid of them – why? Because God is with Jeremiah to deliver or protect him.

That’s encouraging. You can withstand a lot as long as you know there’s divine protection on your side.

So, with that assurance given to Jeremiah, responding to his age-based doubt, the Lord continues his commissioning of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:9-10.

God Gave Jeremiah Authority

So, in Jeremiah 1:9-10 God makes a symbolic gesture and touches Jeremiah’s mouth. By this, the Lord is signifying that he has put and will continue to put his words in Jeremiah’s mouth.

Is This a Vision or Reality?

By the way, we’re not told if this is a vision or not.

So, did God come to Jeremiah in bodily form somewhere and speak to him and touch him?

Or is this indeed a vision and we just weren’t told that it was?

Either way, it really happened. But if God actually physically came to Jeremiah then it’s very likely that this was a pre-incarnate Christ that came to Jeremiah!

Six Authoritative Actions

So, Jeremiah is given God’s authority. He has God’s very words in his mouth. And with those words, Jeremiah will perform the actions listed in Jeremiah 1:10. And he’ll do so on the global scene.

The first two actions seem to focus on the initial stages of destruction – rooting out and pulling down.

The next two seem to speak of utter and final and complete destruction – destroy and throw down.

And then the last two are positive – build and plant.

All these actions Jeremiah will perform with his God-given words.


And with that, God has finished his commissioning of Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations.

How Did Jeremiah Respond to God’s Call?

In Jeremiah 1:6 we see how Jeremiah responds to God’s call to be a prophet to the nations. I would label his response as age-based doubt.

We Can Sympathize With Jeremiah’s Doubts

Now, again if Jeremiah is about thirteen to sixteen years old – which I argue is likely the case – then this protest is a little more understandable than if he were – say – forty years old.

But Excuses Are Inexcusable

And yet, we need to recognize that this kind of excuse is ultimately inexcusable.

So what if you’re thirteen? If God has prepared you for something – what does age matter?

To Paraphrase Jeremiah’s Doubts

You might remember that in Jeremiah 1:5 God says that he knew Jeremiah before he was born.

It’s ironic then that Jeremiah responds back to the Lord here – “I don’t know how to speak”. “You may have known me before I was born, Lord, but I don’t even know how to speak!” “You knew me before I was a baby. Well, I still feel like one!

When Did Jeremiah Begin His Ministry?

Jeremiah 1:2 says that God’s word started coming to Jeremiah — A.K.A. he began his ministry — in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign.

The Start of Jeremiah’s Ministry

The thirteenth year of Josiah was 627 BC. Josiah’s reign started in about 641 BC.

The Start of Jeremiah’s Life

Some say that the year when Josiah began his reign was also the year in which Jeremiah was born.

Dr. Thomas Constable says that Jeremiah was born in 643 BC, but allows for a few years of flexibility.

Jeremiah’s Age When He Started His Ministry

If that is the case, and Jeremiah was born somewhere between 641 and 643 BC, then Jeremiah was somewhere around thirteen to sixteen years old when the Lord started giving him his word.

Jeremiah’s Youth in Relation to His Call

If you haven’t realized before how young Jeremiah really was when he started his ministry, you might have just gained some new insight into the excuse that Jeremiah makes in Jeremiah 1:6.

Remember? God calls him to be a prophet to the nations . How does Jeremiah reply? “But Lord I’m just a kid!

If Jeremiah is forty years old when he says that, that’s a lot different than if he’s thirteen. That’s my point.

If Jeremiah is in his early-to-middle teens then that might explain why God doesn’t seem to chide Jeremiah about his response to the call.


So, I’m going on the assumption that Jeremiah was born in the year that Josiah began to reign. And that was 641 BC.

And by the way, Josiah himself was really young when he began to reign. Remember — he was eight years old when he was made king. So thirteen or sixteen is a ripe old age compared to eight!

Alright, so that’s when Jeremiah began his ministry – in the thirteenth year of Josiah. 627 BC.

Was Jeremiah a Prophet or a Priest?

The answer to the question “was Jeremiah a prophet or a priest” is yes! Jeremiah was both a prophet and a priest.

Jeremiah was a Prophet

We tend to think of Jeremiah more for his prophecies – and we should.

We know of Jeremiah primarily through his book of prophecies in the Old Testament.

But even outside of the book which bears his name, Jeremiah is known throughout the Old Testament as a prophet who delivered God’s message to his people (2 Chronicles 35:25; 36:12,21,22; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:2).

And even in the New Testament, Jeremiah is known as Jeremiah the prophet (Matthew 2:17; 16:14; 27:9).

So, nobody’s doubting Jeremiah’s credentials as a prophet. It’s his identity as a priest that might surprise some.

Jeremiah was a Priest

Jeremiah 1:1 states that Jeremiah was a priest from Anathoth. We discussed that city before, but basically Anathoth was a city in Benjamin which had been given to the Levitical priests. So, Jeremiah comes from a city of priests.

Going along with that, Jeremiah’s father was named Hilkiah. And while it’s not certain that this is the Hilkiah who was the high priest in Josiah’s day (2 Kings 22:8) he certainly could be that same Hilkiah. And if Jeremiah’s father is a priest, he would be a priest, too.

So, Jeremiah is from the priestly city of Anathoth. His father is possibly the famous high priest of Josiah’s day. Jeremiah 1:1 states that Jeremiah is a priest. So, yes, Jeremiah is a priest!

So, he’s a prophet and priest, but is he a king too?

Jeremiah Was Not a King

Now, I don’t want to go too far afield, but Jeremiah did not hold the office of king in addition to that of prophet and priest.

In the Old Testament there were at least a few prophets who were priests and vice versa. There were even kings who prophesied (King Saul’s unusual circumstance comes to mind).

But never until Jesus Christ has there been a prophet who is a priest who is a king.


So, in conclusion, Jeremiah the Prophet is also a priest. But not a king.