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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

- Jeremiah

by Editor - Joseph S. Exell

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic




Author of the Commentary on Leviticus

New York



MANY of the choicest hours of the past five years have been devoted to the production of this Homiletic Commentary on Jeremiah.

Judging from the surprisingly few sermons or outlines on texts in Jeremiah with which our search through homiletic literature for aid in compiling this volume was rewarded, it would seem that this inspired book has been to most preachers an untraversed, or at best an unfrequented, path. Owing to this notable scarcity of material, the task of preparing this Commentary has been proportionately greater; for there has been but slight opportunity, in this respect, “to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand” (2 Corinthians 10:16).

Notwithstanding this paucity of resources, this volume will be found to contain, in brief or fuller form, about eight hundred and fifty outlines for sermons. And, that it may be understood to what extent this Commentary is a creation rather than a compilation of homilies on Jeremiah, it may be added, that of these eight hundred and fifty outlines, it has been our personal part of the labour to construct no fewer than four hundred and seventy homiletic plans upon texts in Jeremiah, which appear, so far as literature affords evidence, to have been hitherto left by preachers unused.

Thus, in addition to nearly five hundred original outlines, this volume contains over three hundred which have either been condensed from printed sermons by renowned preachers, or supplied by ministers whose aid was sought in order to bring variety into the “Commentary.” The sources of help include the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Dr. Chalmers, James Sherman, C. H. Spurgeon, T. B. Power, M.A., W. Hay M. H. Aitken, Robert Hall, W. H. Murray M‘Cheyne, Samuel Martin, J. Kennedy, M.A., D.D., Bishop Reginald Heber, Dean Alford, Dr. Jabez Burns, Charles Simeon, M.A., Dr. Guthrie, “A. K. H. B.,” John Foster, Archbishop Tillotson, Payson, T. Gordon, B.D., Dr. South, Job Orton, D.D., Edward Dorr Griffin, D.D., Henry Ward Beecher, Stephen H. Tyng, De Witt Talmage, President Davies, Albert Barnes, S. Baker, D.D., E. Jarman, W. Whale, S. Thodey, J. Farren, W. Forsyth, Matthew Henry, Hannam’s “Pulpit Assistant,” “The Homilist,” Brooks “Plans,” and Origen’s “Homilies.” Where no name is found at the foot of an outline, it indicates that the work is original.
Reference to the Comments, which are interwoven with the outlines, will show that the most apt and helpful suggestions which English and foreign scholarship has afforded respecting the meaning of verses have been introduced; and the source of the comment, if borrowed, is in all cases acknowledged.
It may be hoped, without immodesty, that many a student and preacher may find encouragement and stimulus from this “Commentary” to preach more freely from themes in this suggestive and admonitory “book of prophecy;” for, indeed, many of the messages of Jeremiah—faithful, pensive, rousing—are scarcely less suited to our age than to his own.
In the production of the volume one hope and aim has ruled—that every text in
Jeremiah on which it seemed possible that a sermon could be based should be forced to give up its richest meaning and most practical hints; so that no preacher shall turn to the homilies in this “Commentary” for help on any verse in Jeremiah without finding here valuable aids to thought and sermon preparation.

The Critical and Exegetical Notes heading the chapters are intended to supply all needful information for the satisfactory exposition, during public reading, of each chapter. The Sectional treatment of whole paragraphs may help to a broader survey of the main themes contained in each prophetic message than can be gained by isolating every verse. The Homilies and Outlines on successive verses will offer hints for sermons on every single text which appeared to hold a homiletic theme. The Noticeable Topics which follow this verse-by-verse treatment of each chapter supply more lengthened outlines on texts of special significance. The Addenda Section to each chapter supplies “Illustrations and Suggestive Extracts” likely to be useful in illuminating or enforcing texts to which they apply.

The threefold index will render reference to any topic prompt and easy.
In sending out this volume to fellow-workers in the broad fields of Christian ministry and Scripture-teaching, the prayer is in our heart that the Divine “Lord of His servants” may condescend to use even this product of our patient studies as one channel along which to answer the cry addressed at times by all wearied or perplexed workers to Him:

“Lord, give me light to do Thy work,

For only, Lord, from Thee

Can come the light by which these eyes

The work of Truth can see.”



I. Parentage and calling. Hilkiah, his father, was a priest of the house of Ilhamar (Keil), (1 Kings 2:26), of Phinehas (Wordsworth), (1 Chronicles 6:13), residing in the sacerdotal city Anathoth (now called Anata), situate within easy distance of Jerusalem, “about three Roman miles north” (Jerome).

(a.) His birth was an incident of great domestic joy (Jeremiah 20:15). (b.) Called to the prophetic office, according to Lange and Bishop Wordsworth, B.C. 627; Keil and Dr. William Smith use the more recently established chronology, and give the date as B.C. 629; but the “Speaker’s Commentary” points out that the discovery of the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions bearing upon the Assyrian period of Jewish history shows an entirely altered series of dates, which fix the year of Jeremiah’s call, “the thirteenth of Josiah,” as B.C. 608. (c.) Quite young when designated to his sacred work, “a child” (Jeremiah 1:6). (d.) His mission was defined as both destructive and constructive (Jeremiah 1:10); should be devoted to Judah yet extend to other nations. (e.) He was located at Jerusalem (Jeremiah 2:2), yet travelled through the provinces (Jeremiah 11:6), and frequented his native town in fulfilment of his prophetic ministry. (f.) His work was to follow up Josiah’s outward national reformation by calling Judah to true repentance and renewal of heart and life. But the crisis in which he lived involved him in all the political tumults and disasters which gathered upon his nation.

II. Temperament and character. Instinctively tender and retiring, shrinking from public life and political prominence (Jeremiah 9:2), keenly sensitive to misinterpretation and injustice, sympathetic with his nation’s sorrows, affected even to suffering by the criminality he witnessed and denounced, yet, with a patriotism glowing and inflexible, clinging to his doomed nation and land to the last (Jeremiah 40:4-6). So peaceful was his nature that antagonism dismayed him (Jeremiah 20:8-9); even at times inclining him to suppress the severer portions of his Divine message (Jeremiah 26:2). Nevertheless, amid all the hardships and sufferings of his work, he became evermore unremitting in his diligence, unswerving in his fidelity, and intrepid in the discharge of his prophetic functions—alike before kings and nobles, priests and populace. “More of a John than a Peter.”—Lange. “He was no second Elijah.”—Hengstenberg. “The most sympathetic of the prophets.”—Gregory Nazianz. “A kind of feminine tenderness and susceptibility.”—Maurice. “But his weakness, timidity, and impatience belong to the earlier stage of his career. As his sufferings became more intense he received more grace, gained fresh courage, and derived inspiration from difficulty and danger”—Word worth.

III. Scenes of his prophetic work. Called to his office in the thirteenth year of Josiah, he immediately delivered his first prophecy in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 2:2). In the eighteenth of Josiah the Book of the Law was found, and the king, eager for prophetic counsel, sent his state representatives to Huldah the prophetess. Jeremiah must therefore have been absent from Jerusalem, or he would have been sought; but as “the king’s business required haste,” and as Huldah was resident at Jerusalem, she was consulted. Yet Jeremiah was not far distant, for his second prophecy was now delivered before the assembly which the king summoned (2 Chronicles 34:29). Most probably he resided at Anathoth during the first five years, retiring thither immediately he had uttered his first prophecy in the hearing of Jerusalem. Being near, he could quickly appear on the scene when the Book of the Law was found; and he then came with his second message (Jeremiah 3:6). His naturally timid and retiring disposition might have rendered necessary that royal summons ere he would appear in Jerusalem again. For during that residence of five years at Anathoth he endured no little abuse and misjudgment from the “men of Anathoth” (Jeremiah 11:21), making him reluctant, unless constrained, to resume his prophetic functions.

After these five years at Anathoth, he seems to have received God’s command to travel through “the cities of Judah” (Jeremiah 11:6), and, returning on his way through Anathoth, his townsmen, exasperated by his bold reproofs of their guilt, conspired against his life (Jeremiah 11:21).

From this time he dwelt in Jerusalem, during a period of thirty-five or thirty-six years proclaiming the word of the Lord in the temple (Jeremiah 26:1 sq.), in the gates of the city (Jeremiah 17:19), in prison (Jeremiah 32:2), in the king’s house (Jeremiah 22:1, Jeremiah 37:17), in the potter’s house (Jeremiah 18:1), and the valley of Hinnom (Jeremiah 19:2), until the Chaldean captivity led him away to Egypt.

In Egypt he spent the concluding years of his prophetic life.

IV. Treatment he received from his nation. For twenty-two years during Josiah’s reign, and under his royal protection, his mission was free from special hardship, excepting the Anathoth antagonism. Jehoahaz seems to have allowed him to prophesy unopposed, but heeded him not. Throughout the eleven years of Jehoiakim’s reign he was maltreated and imperilled (26.) The next king, Jehoiakin, received his admonitory denunciations without resentment or molestation. Indignity and abuse reached their culmination under Zedekiah. With implacable hostility the princes and priests persecuted him (Jeremiah 38:4), and the king could not restrain them. He was imprisoned on a fictitious charge (Jeremiah 37:11 sq.), “endured all sorts of torments and tortures” (Josephus), nor regained his liberty during the entire period, eleven years, of Zedekiah’s reign. Ultimately, it is believed, he fell a martyr at the hands of his own countrymen in Egypt.

V. Length of his official ministry.

a. It began when he was very young, “a child” (Jeremiah 1:6). The word נַצַר, “a boy,” is used for infant (Exodus 2:2), and also of Joseph when he was seventeen years old (comp. Genesis 37:2 with Jeremiah 41:12). Maurice accepts the word as denoting “almost a child;” “young enough to make the most literal sense of the text reasonable.” Lange suggests twenty years; Thornley Smith eighteen to twenty; Bagster fourteen, so also the Rabbins.

b. It continued among his people before the Captivity for forty and a half years (Jeremiah 1:2-3); i.e., under Josiah eighteen years, Jehoahaz three months, Jehoiakim eleven years, Jehoiakin three months, and Zedekiah eleven years.

c. It was carried on in Egypt, first at Tahpanhes (Jeremiah 43:8), and “ten years later Pathros (Jeremiah 44:1), in Upper Egypt, where, at a festival of the Moabitish goddess, Astarte, Jeremiah for the last time raised his prophetic voice in warning and rebuke.”—Lange. It is certain that he lived some years in Egypt, till about B.C. 580 (Dr. Smith), 570 (Lange). His labours therefore must have extended over fifty years, thus showing that

d. His prophetic ministry was prolonged till he was about probably over seventy years of age [Lange computes it as seventy-seven]. According to Jerome, Tertullian, and Pseudo-Epiphanius, he was stoned to death at Tahpanhes (Daphne of Egypt); and his sepulchre used to be pointed out near Cairo.

VI. Contemporaneous prophets. Nahum (cir. B.C. 625, onwards). Zephaniah “in the days of Josiah” (Zephaniah 1:1; from B.C. 642–611). Huldah, also in Josiah’s time (2 Kings 22:14). Habakkuk, probably about the twelfth or thirteenth year of Josiah (cir. B.C. 630, Dr. Smith: Lange suggests Jehoiakim’s reign). Daniel, carried to Babylon “in the third year of Jehoiakim” (Daniel 1:1, B.C. 604). Urijah, during Jehoiakim’s reign (B.C. 608–597), and slain by the king (Jeremiah 26:20-23). Ezekiel, “in the fifth year of King Jehoiakim’s captivity” (Ezekiel 1:2; B.C. 595).


I. Leading topics. (a.) His prophetic programme was simple; its central theme, the coming supremacy of the Chaldean nation: and this at a time when nothing was feared from Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was unknown, when Egypt was ascendant and Pharaoh-necho the terror of Judah. He foretold the overthrow of the Jewish nation by this power from “the North;” defined the term of the Chaldean ascendancy and Judah’s captivity, and predicted the emancipation of Judah and restoration of Jerusalem when the seventy years had expired. (b.) The design of his prophecies was threefold:

α. To forewarn the Jews of impending doom on account of national pollution and apostasy.

β. To invite them to repentance, promising immediate Divine forgiveness and ultimate redemption from Babylon.

γ. To assure the godly among them by predictions of Messiah’s gracious advent, and the spiritual blessings incident to His reign.

II. Literary style. The book is an admixture of prosaic narrative of events, and poetic utterances of prophecy. While his style in the narrative parts may sometimes appear unpolished [“rusticior,” Jerome], the poetic portions are often distinguished by an eloquence at once vigorous and sublime. His writings throughout are characterised by a reiteration of imagery and phrase, and a ruggedness of form natural to impassioned sorrow and indignant remonstrance. Though there are marks of “negligence in diction” (Keil), and while “not disregarding art altogether, he has far less polish than Isaiah” (Lange); yet “his thought is ever rich, and his speech incisive and clear” (Keil); whilst “of all the prophets his genius is the most poetical” (Umbriet).

III. Composition and compilation. His prophetic utterances were first committed to writing at the command of Jehovah “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim” (Jeremiah 36:1), for the purpose of their being read in the Temple by Baruch the scribe at the approaching national fast. The king, incensed by their contents, destroyed the roll. They were immediately rewritten; Jeremiah dictating them afresh to Baruch, with important additions (Jeremiah 36:32). Other portions, subsequent to this date (4th of Jehoiakim—11th of Zedekiah, over eighteen years) were written at different intervals in separate parts (Jeremiah 30:2; Jeremiah 29:1; Jeremiah 51:60). The entire book, therefore, includes the roll written by Baruch, the various fragments penned by Jeremiah, with subsequent additions by the prophet, either while he lingered in Palestine under Gedaliah, or while in Egypt among his exiled people. The complete prophecies would speak with accumulated emphasis to the heedless captives of the steadfastness of God’s word and the consequences of disregarding His voice.

IV. Order and arrangement. (a.) Chronologically the book is in disorder and confusion: e.g., 21. and Jeremiah 24:8-10, belong to Zedekiah’s time, the latest king; while Jeremiah 22:11-12, refer to Jehoahaz, the second king; and 25 deals with Jehoiakim, the third king. Distinct prophecies are mingled together regardless of date of delivery. (b.) Topically, there is arrangement: the book divides itself into two sections according to the reference of the prophecies. Thus, 1 to 45 relate to the prophet’s own country; 46 to 51 to foreign nations; while 52 is a historic account of the captivity appended after the whole book, 1–51, was put together, and the inscription, Jeremiah 1:1-3, written. This might have been the latest act of Jeremiah himself.

V. Genuineness and canonicity. (a.) The prophet’s individuality is so impressed on his writings as to disarm suspicion of their authenticity. “His prophecies are his autobiography.”—Wordsworth. The expression, attitude, and colouring of the whole book (Ewald) show the same author. [For critical comparison of the discrepancies between the LXX. and Hebrew text, see Keil, Lange, Henderson, and Dr. Smith.] (b.) The canonicity is vindicated by New Testatment allusions to Jeremiah and his writings (Matthew 2:17; Matthew 16:14; Hebrews 8:8-12), and by the list of canonical books in Melito, Origen, Jerome, and the Talmud. Ecclesiasticus (Jeremiah 49:7) quotes Jeremiah 1:10, and Philo affirms that the prophet was an “oracle.”

VI. Verification of the prophecies.

a. During Jeremiah’s life, his predictions were fulfilled in—

(α) The captivity of Jehoiakin and his queen-mother (Jeremiah 22:24-26; cf. 2 Kings 24:12).

(β) The death of Hananiah, the deceitful prophet, at the time foretold (Jeremiah 28:15-17).

(γ) The inglorious end and shameful burial of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:18-19; Jeremiah 36:30).

(δ) The fate of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 32:2-3; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:19, and Jeremiah 52:11).

(ε) The invasion of Judah by the king of Babylon, and Jewish captivity (Jeremiah 20:4, &c.).

(θ) The rifling of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27:19-22).

(η) The destruction of Jerusalem by fire (Jeremiah 21:10; Jeremiah 32:29; Jeremiah 37:8-10).

(ι) The Chaldean subjugation of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:10-12; Jeremiah 44:29-30); and supremacy over surrounding nations (Jeremiah 27:1-8).

b. After the prophet’s decease:

(α) The termination of the Babylonish captivity after seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11; see Daniel 9:2).

(β) The return of the Jews to their own country (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

(γ) The downfall and desolation of Babylon, and date of the event (Jeremiah 25:12).

(δ) The advent of Messiah (Jeremiah 23:3-8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 33:6-9; Jeremiah 50:4-5).

Those prophecies, seen by exiled Judah fulfilled in their most literal form, effected a complete revolution in the esteem with which Jeremiah became cherished. His predictions of their deliverance and restoration, and his promises of Messiah, upheld their most patriotic and ardent hopes; and he, whom they had molested as the herald of their national doom, became revered as the evangel of their redemption. Legends gathered around his name investing him with an ideal glory. The Jews who returned from their captivity regarded him as “ὁ προφήτης” even in the sense and as the fulfilment of Deuteronomy 18:18, and believed he would reappear as the forerunner of Messiah—a belief which survived the interval, and of which we have traces in New Testament times (Matthew 16:14; John 1:21; John 6:14; John 7:40).

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