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The Superscription

The following is a record of what Jeremiah son of Hilkiah prophesied.[a] He was one of the priests who lived at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. The Lord’s[b] message came to him[c] in the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon ruled over Judah. It also came in the days of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah, and continued until the eleventh year of Zedekiah, son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the people of Jerusalem were taken into exile in the fifth month of that year.[d]

Jeremiah’s Call and Commission

The Lord’s message came to me,

“Before I formed you in your mother’s womb[e] I chose you.[f]
Before you were born I set you apart.
I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.”

I answered, “Oh, Sovereign Lord,[g] Really[h] I do not know how to speak well enough for that,[i] for I am too young.”[j] The Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ But go[k] to whomever I send you and say whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of those to whom I send you,[l] for I will be with you to protect[m] you,” says the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I will most assuredly give you the words you are to speak for me.[n] 10 Know for certain that[o] I hereby give you the authority to announce to nations and kingdoms that they will be[p] uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted.”[q]

Visions Confirming Jeremiah’s Call and Commission

11 Later the Lord’s message came to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I answered, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12 Then the Lord said, “You have observed correctly. This means[r] I am watching to make sure my threats are carried out.”[s]

13 The Lord’s message came to me a second time, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a pot of boiling water; it is tipped away from the north.”[t] 14 Then the Lord said, “From the north[u] destruction will break out on all who live in the land. 15 For I will soon summon all the peoples of the kingdoms of the north,” says the Lord. “They will come and their kings will set up their thrones[v] near the entrances of the gates of Jerusalem. They will attack all the walls surrounding it and all the towns in Judah.[w] 16 In this way[x] I will pass sentence[y] on the people of Jerusalem and Judah[z] because of all their wickedness. For they rejected me and offered sacrifices to other gods, worshiping what they made with their own hands.[aa]

17 “But you, Jeremiah,[ab] get yourself ready![ac] Go and tell these people everything I instruct you to say. Do not be terrified of them, or I will give you good reason to be terrified of them.[ad] 18 I, the Lord,[ae] hereby promise to make you[af] as strong as a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. You will be able to stand up against all who live in[ag] the land, including the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and all the people of the land. 19 They will attack you but they will not be able to overcome you, for I will be with you to rescue you,” says the Lord.


  1. Jeremiah 1:1 tn Or “This is a record of what Jeremiah prophesied and did”; Heb “The words [or affairs] of Jeremiah.” The phrase could refer to either the messages of Jeremiah recorded in the book or to both his messages and the biographical (and autobiographical) narratives recorded about him in the book. Since the phrase is intended to serve as the title or superscription for the whole book and recurs again in 51:64 at the end of the book before the final appendix, it might refer to the latter. The expression “The words of [someone]” is a standard introductory formula (Deut 29:1 [28:69]; 2 Sam 23:1; Amos 1:1; Eccl 1:1; Neh 1:1).
  2. Jeremiah 1:2 sn The translation reflects the ancient Jewish tradition of substituting the word for “Lord” for the proper name for Israel’s God which is now generally agreed to have been Yahweh. Jewish scribes wrote the consonants YHWH but substituted the vowels for the word “Lord.” The practice of calling him “Lord” rather than using his proper name is also reflected in the Greek translation which is the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible. The meaning of the name Yahweh occurs in Exod 3:13-14 where God identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and tells Moses that his name is “I am” (אֶהְיֶה, ʾehyeh). However, he instructs the Israelites to refer to him as YHWH (“Yahweh” = “He is”); see further Exod 34:5-6.
  3. Jeremiah 1:2 tn Heb “that which was the Lord’s message to him,” also at 14:1: 46:1; 47:1; 49:34.
  4. Jeremiah 1:3 sn That is, August, 586 b.c.
  5. Jeremiah 1:5 tn Heb “the womb.” The words “your mother’s” are implicit and are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  6. Jeremiah 1:5 tn Heb “I knew you.” The parallelism here with “set you apart” and “appointed you” make clear that Jeremiah is speaking of his foreordination to be a prophet. For this same nuance of the Hebrew verb see Gen 18:19; Amos 3:2.
  7. Jeremiah 1:6 tn Heb “Lord Yahweh.”sn In Jewish tradition, instead of pronouncing the Lord’s name (Yahweh), they would substitute the word for “Lord” (אֲדוֹנַי, ʾadonay). But when the word אֲדוֹנַי (ʾadonay) preceded the Lord’s name, for Yahweh they would substitute the pronunciation of the word for “God” (אֱלֹהִים, ʾelohim). One translation convention is to use small caps for the Lord’s name, as in “Lord” or “Lord God.” The convention here is to translate אֲדוֹנַי (ʾadonay, “Lord”) as “Sovereign” and consistently use “Lord” for the Lord’s name. The English word “Jehovah” results from combining the consonants of the divine name and the vowels of the term אֲדוֹנַי (ʾadonay), resulting in Yehovah. The “J” of Jehovah comes from German convention, while the “e” instead of “a” has to do with the nature of the Hebrew consonant.
  8. Jeremiah 1:6 tn The Hebrew particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, commonly rendered “behold” in the KJV) often introduces a speech and calls special attention to a specific word or the statement as a whole (see IBHS 675-78 §40.2.1).
  9. Jeremiah 1:6 tn The words “well enough for that” are implicit and are supplied in the translation for clarity. Jeremiah is not claiming an absolute inability to speak.
  10. Jeremiah 1:6 tn Heb “I am a boy/youth.” The Hebrew word can refer to an infant (Exod 2:6), a young boy (1 Sam 2:11), a teenager (Gen 21:12), or a young man (2 Sam 18:5). The translation is deliberately ambiguous since it is unclear how old Jeremiah was when he was called to begin prophesying.
  11. Jeremiah 1:7 tn Or “For you must go and say.” The Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) is likely adversative here after a negative statement (cf. BDB 474 s.v. כִּי 3.e). The Lord is probably not giving a rationale for the denial of Jeremiah’s objection but redirecting his focus, i.e., “do not say…but go…and say.”
  12. Jeremiah 1:8 tn Heb “be afraid of them.” The antecedent is the “whomever” in v. 7.
  13. Jeremiah 1:8 tn Heb “rescue.”
  14. Jeremiah 1:9 tn Heb “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” This is an example of the Hebrew “scheduling” perfect or the “prophetic” perfect where a future event is viewed as so certain it is spoken of as past. The Hebrew particle rendered here “assuredly” (Heb הִנֵּה, hinneh) underlines the certitude of the promise for the future. See the translator’s note on v. The passage is reminiscent of Deut 18:18, which refers to the Lord’s promise of future revelation through a line of prophets who, like Moses, would speak God’s word.
  15. Jeremiah 1:10 tn Heb “See!” The Hebrew imperative of the verb used here (רָאָה, raʾah) functions the same as the particle in v. 9. See the translator’s note there.
  16. Jeremiah 1:10 tn Heb “I appoint you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot….” The phrase refers to the Lord giving Jeremiah authority as a prophet to declare what he, the Lord, will do; it does not mean that Jeremiah himself will do these things. The expression involves a figure of speech where the subject of a declaration is stated instead of the declaration about it. Compare a similar use of the same figure in Gen 41:13.
  17. Jeremiah 1:10 sn These three pairs represent the twofold nature of Jeremiah’s prophecies, prophecies of judgment and restoration. For the further programmatic use of these pairs for Jeremiah’s ministry see 18:7-10 and 31:27-28.
  18. Jeremiah 1:12 tn This represents the Hebrew particle (כִּי, ki) that is normally rendered “for” or “because.” The particle here is meant to give the significance of the vision, not the rationale for the statement “you have observed correctly.”
  19. Jeremiah 1:12 tn Heb “watching over my word to do it.”sn There is a play on the Hebrew word for “almond tree” (שָׁקֵד, shaqed) and the word “watching” (שֹׁקֵד, shoqed). The vision is not the prophecy but is simply the occasion for the prophecy. Getting Jeremiah to say shaqed (almond tree) becomes the occasion for God to announce he is shoqed (watching). The verb refers to someone watching over someone or something in preparation for action. Compare Jer 1:13-14 and Amos 7:7-8; 8:1-2, which each follow the formula of God asking the prophet what he sees and then giving a prophecy based on a sound play. Here the play on words announces the certainty and imminence of the Lord carrying out the covenant curses of Lev 26 and Deut 28 threatened by the earlier prophets.
  20. Jeremiah 1:13 tn Heb “its face is away from the north.”
  21. Jeremiah 1:14 sn This works like the sound play in 1:11-12 (see note at 1:12), although the word “north” is repeated with the same meaning both times. The boiling pot is only relevant as a scene that prompts Jeremiah to say “north,” which is the jumping off point for giving the prophecy.
  22. Jeremiah 1:15 tn Heb “they will each set up.” The pronoun “they” refers back to the “kingdoms” in the preceding sentence. However, kingdoms do not sit on thrones; their kings do. This is an example of a figure of speech called metonymy, where the kingdom is put for its king. For a similar use see 2 Chr 12:8.
  23. Jeremiah 1:15 tn Or “They will come and set up their thrones in the entrances of the gates of Jerusalem. They will destroy all the walls surrounding it and also destroy all the towns in Judah.” The text of v. 15b reads in Hebrew, “they will each set up his throne [near? in?] the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem and against all its walls…and against all the towns….” Commentators are divided over whether the passage refers to the kings setting up their thrones after victory in preparation for passing judgment on their defeated enemies in the city or whether it refers to setting up siege against it. There is no Hebrew preposition before the word for “the entrance” so that it could be “in” (which would imply victory) or “at/near” (which would imply siege), and the same verb + object (i.e., “they will set up their thrones”) governs all the locative statements. It is most often taken to refer to the aftermath of victory because of the supposed parallel in Jer 43:8-13 and the supposed fulfillment in Jer 39:3. Though this may fit well with the first part of the compound expression, it does not fit well with the latter part, which is most naturally taken to refer to hostile attacks against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah. The translation given in the text is intended to reflect the idea of an army setting up for siege. The alternate translation is intended to reflect the other view.
  24. Jeremiah 1:16 tn The Hebrew particle (the vav [ו] consecutive), which is often rendered in some English versions as “and” and in others is simply left untranslated, is rendered here epexegetically, reflecting a summary statement.
  25. Jeremiah 1:16 sn The Hebrew idiom (literally “I will speak my judgments against”) is found three other times in Jeremiah (4:12; 39:5; 52:9), where it is followed by the carrying out of the sentence. Here the carrying out of the sentence precedes in v. 15.
  26. Jeremiah 1:16 tn Heb “on them.” The antecedent goes back to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah (i.e., the people in them) in v. 15.
  27. Jeremiah 1:16 tn That is, idols.
  28. Jeremiah 1:17 tn The name “Jeremiah” is not in the text. The use of the personal pronoun followed by the proper name is an attempt to reflect the correlative emphasis between Jeremiah’s responsibility noted here and the Lord’s promise noted in the next verse. The emphasis in the Hebrew text is marked by the presence of the subject pronouns at the beginning of each of the two verses.
  29. Jeremiah 1:17 tn Heb “gird up your loins.” For the literal use of this idiom to refer to preparation for action see 2 Kgs 4:29; 9:1. For the idiomatic use to refer to spiritual and emotional preparation as here, see Job 38:3; 40:7, and 1 Pet 1:13 in the NT.
  30. Jeremiah 1:17 tn Heb “I will make you terrified in front of them.” There is a play on words here involving two different forms of the same Hebrew verb and two different but related prepositional phrases, “from before/of,” a preposition introducing the object of a verb of fearing, and “before, in front of,” a preposition introducing a spatial location.
  31. Jeremiah 1:18 tn See the note on “Jeremiah” at the beginning of v. 17.
  32. Jeremiah 1:18 tn Heb “today I have made you.” The Hebrew verb form here emphasizes the certainty of a yet future act; the Lord is promising to protect Jeremiah from any future attacks which may result from his faithfully carrying out his commission. See a similar use of the same Hebrew verb tense in v. 9, and see the translator’s note there.
  33. Jeremiah 1:18 tn Heb “I make you a fortified city…against all the land….” The words “as strong as,” “You will be able to stand,” “who live in,” and “all [before “the people”]” are given to clarify the meaning of the metaphor.