The Israelites were not the only ones who did not eat or sacrifice pig flesh. The Assyrians found the pig to be equally offensive, as do some people groups today. However, many other people groups ate and sacrificed them to their gods (Is. 65:4).
The land of Javan was probably the Ionian region of Greece, which is the western coast of present-day Turkey. Isaiah says that even this far-off land would someday declare God’s glory among the nations (Is. 66:19).
Watching like an almond tree. The Hebrew words for “almond” and “watching” are very similar. Because the almond tree was the first tree to bud in spring, it was said to be “watching for spring.” God used the almond branch to teach Jeremiah that he is always watching over his word (Jer. 1:11–12), so Jeremiah can trust him.
Fresh water that flows from a spring or stream was known as living water in Palestine (Jer. 2:12–13). It was the best and purest water. Jesus says that he is the source of true living water (John 4:10–14; 7:38).
Jeremiah lived during troubled times. He became a prophet during the reign of Josiah, who was the last faithful king in Judah’s history. Josiah’s death marked the beginning of the end for the nation of Judah. It would fall within two short decades.
A sad but faithful servant.
Jeremiah was very open about the anguish he suffered as a prophet (Jer. 4:19–26). In addition to being devastated by the wickedness of his beloved people, he also suffered much abuse from them. Yet despite his struggles, Jeremiah trusted in the Lord.
Yokes are made of wooden bars tied to animals by leather thongs around their necks. This ensured that the two animals would work together to pull a plow. Jeremiah uses the yoke in 5:5 as a symbol of God’s rule in his people’s lives.
A faithful prophet.
Despite persistent rejection, Jeremiah proclaimed the word of God for at least 40 years. His ministry lasted from a time when Judah still had the opportunity to change its ways and avoid punishment, to the time when judgment finally came as Jerusalem was destroyed and the people went into exile (586 b.c.).
Judah considered their temple a guarantee of God’s favor, despite their idolatry and wickedness. They accused Jeremiah of blasphemy when he prophesied against Jerusalem. Sadly, Judah’s corrupt worship and failure to repent would eventually lead to the destruction of the temple.
The wailing women mentioned in Jer. 9:17 were probably professional mourners. In many ancient cultures, such people were paid to sing or deliver eulogies at funerals.
God’s storehouses. Just like around the world today, people in Bible times needed places to store things. The Lord also has “storehouses” (Jer. 10:13), for things like rain and lightning and wind!
Judah’s good king Josiah rediscovered the Book of the Law, reinstituted the Passover, and destroyed foreign idols. And yet Jeremiah had to declare that the end was coming for Judah (Jer. 11:11), just as it had for Israel a hundred years before.
The primary calling of the prophet was to serve as God’s spokesperson. There were many prophets, however, and they sometimes declared conflicting messages. The way to determine if a prophet was speaking God’s words was to see if the prophecy was actually fulfilled (see Deut. 18:18–22).
A noonday attack on a city (Jer. 15:8) was unusual. The heat would have been uncomfortable for soldiers in their armor, and the element of surprise would have been gone. Therefore most raids took place at night. An army probably wouldn’t attack at noon unless it was strong enough to be sure of victory.
Singleness for a prophetic purpose. The Lord told Jeremiah not to get married. This was probably intended as a symbolic warning that life would soon be very difficult for people with children (Jer. 16:1–4).
Repentance is mentioned more than a hundred times in Jeremiah. The Lord promised to forgive and heal the people if they turned from their sins (Jer. 18:5–11). Few responded to Jeremiah’s call for repentance, but the Lord promised that someday they would respond (Jer. 33:14–26).
The word translated “mind” in Jer. 20:12 is actually the Hebrew word for “kidneys”. Because the kidneys were hidden deep within the body, they were seen as the source of emotions and even wisdom.
The faithful remnant. In many places, the Bible speaks of a “remnant,” that is, a relatively small group of people, who will remain faithful to the Lord (Jer. 23:3; compare Ezra 9:8; Isa. 10:20; Rom. 11:5).
Seventy years in Babylon.
Jeremiah saw many of his fellow Judeans exiled to Babylon during his lifetime. He predicted that they would remain there for 70 years (Jer. 25:11–12), and Ezra 1:1 records the precise fulfillment of that prophecy.
When Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army at Carchemish in 605 b.c., it marked the beginning of Egypt’s decline as a power in the region and the beginning of Babylon’s rise (refer Jer. 46:2 and 25:19). Judah fell to Babylon in 586.