A Sample



Jeremiah 1:4-19

© 1989, 2001 by Laurie J. Braaten

last revised 10/16/03

THEOLOGICAL STATEMENT                                                                              Laurie J. Braaten
Jeremiah 1:4-19


4. The word of Yahweh came to me as follows:
5. "Before I formed you in the 'belly' I knew you,
†††† before you emerged from the womb I consecrated you.1
††† A prophet to the nations I have appointed you2"
6. But I said,
†† "Ah, my Lord Yahweh! Look here!3
†† I don't know how to speak, for I am only a youth!"
7. Then Yahweh said to me,
††† "Do not say, 'I am only a youth',
†† for to whomever I send you, you will go,
†† and everything I command you, you shall speak.
8. Do not fear because of them, for I am with you to deliver you."  (oracle of Yahweh)
9. Then Yahweh sent forth his hand and touched my mouth, and Yahweh said to me,
††† "Look, I have placed2 my words in your mouth.
10. See, I have appointed you today over nations and over kingdoms,
   to uproot and to demolish, to destroy and to tear down,
     to build and to plant."
11. The word of Yahweh came to me as follows:
†† "What do you see, Jeremiah?"
††† And I said, "I see the shoot of an almond tree (šaqed)."
12. Then Yahweh said to me,
†† "You see correctly, for I am watching (šoqed) over my word to accomplish it."
13. The word of Yahweh came to me a second time as follows:
†† "What do you see?"
†† And I said, "I see a fanned (napŻah) pot
 †† whose rim is tipped away from the north."
14. Yahweh said to me,
"From the north evil will be set free (tippatah)
  upon all the inhabitants of the land.
15. Now pay attention!4  I am summoning all {the clans of}5 the kingdoms of the

†††††† †††† north.  (Oracle of Yahweh)††
††† They shall come in and each place2 his throne at the entrance(s) (petah) of the gates

††††† ††††† of Jerusalem,
†††† and upon all its surrounding walls, and upon (those of) all the cities of Judah.
16. Then I shall pronounce my sentence6 against them, on account of all their evil by

which they have forsaken me;
††† by constantly burning sacrifices to other gods

and worshiping the works of their hands.

17. As for you—Gird up your loins,

†† and rise up and speak to them all that I command you.
†††† Do not tremble by their presence lest I make you tremble in their presence.7
18. As for me—Look here!  Today I appoint2 you as a fortified city,
††† and as a pillar of iron and a wall of bronze against all the land:8
†††† to the kings of Judah, to its officials, to its priests,8 and to the people of the land.
19. They shall fight against you and not prevail over you,

†††† for I am with you (oracle of Yahweh) to deliver you."


The above translation is the author's.  Unless otherwise indicated, the notes are based on the author's translation of the Hebrew text.

1. Hebrew hqdštyk literally "I made you holy,"  "I sanctified/dedicated you," or "I set you apart." The verb is from the root qdš, "to be holy."

2. The word is from the root ntn, "to give," often used as place, set."  This term is repeated with different meanings throughout the passage.  See comments below.  For the significance of this term as it pertains to Jeremiah being "a prophet like Moses" see Deut 18:18 and the writings of Holladay.

3. The Hebrew hinneh is difficult to translate in English.  Usually translated as "behold!" (="look at this, pay close attention"), it can also be translated as "here," and is sometimes used as the submissive response of one called by God "here I am" (e.g., Gen 22:1; Exod 3:4; Isa 6:8).  Here the person called is not responding submissively to the word of Yahweh, but is pointing out reasons why he cannot respond.

4. Literally "For behold, I . . ."  See note 3.

5. This phrase is omitted in the LXX, and does not good sense in the present context.  It is possible that Jeremiah adapted his oracles for different occasions, and that the Hebrew is a conflate text reflecting two such editions of this message; see Holladay, Jeremiah 1, pp. 23-24.

6. Literally "speak my judgments."

7. "by their presence . . . in their presence" is Hebrew mpnyhm . . . lpnyhm, see Holladay, Jeremiah 1, p. 22.

8. The words "against all the land" are missing in the LXX, and are awkward in the present context.  The LXX also lacks the phrase "to the priests."  Once again we may be dealing with different early versions of Jeremiah's message.


     This passage can be divided into three sections: Jeremiah's prophetic call, vv. 4-10; two vision reports, vv. 11-16; and a salvation oracle of reassurance, vv. 17-19.  The structure can also be divided according to the typical features of a prophetic call (or commissioning) narrative: Divine Confrontation, Address and Commission (vv. 4-5); Objection (v. 6); Reassurance (vv. 7-8); sign (v. 9).  The basic call is continued with an expansion or clarification of the commission (v. 10), two vision narratives depicting the nature of God's work (vv. 11-16), and further reassurance to the prophet (vv. 17-19; cf. Habel and Holladay, Jeremiah 1, pp. 26-32).
     These three sections are united by a common theme and purpose: they authenticate the prophetic word once spoken by Jeremiah and validate the ongoing significance of this word now found in the written collection of the oracles bearing his name.  The first chapter thus serves as an introduction to the book of Jeremiah.  (See Holladay, Jeremiah 1, for specific rhetorical connections between Jer 1 and the remainder of the book).  A linking theme in these sections can be found in the word of Yahweh.  The repeated use of the phrases “the word of Yahweh” and “Yahweh said” (vv. 4, 7, 11, 12 [twice], 13, 14, 15, 16, root dbr) emphasizes the commanding, empowering source of Jeremiah's word (vv. 7, 17) and prophetic activity. The use of the key term ntn, “to give, place, set, appoint” also underscores Yahweh's action through the prophet.  Yahweh has “placed” his word in the Jeremiah’s mouth and thus “appointed” him as a prophet to the nations (vv. 5, 9; cf. 10) and as a fortified city that will prevail against all opposition (v. 18).  When the nations are joined to Jerusalem and its cities by placing (ntn) their thrones there—an action which must be understood as orchestrated by God-- Yahweh will pronounce (dbr) sentence against the evil of his people.  And who will declare this judgment except for his commissioned representative, the prophet Jeremiah?


    When Yahweh calls his messenger for a task, he equips, empowers and reassures the messenger to carry out the divine commission.  Such had Moses, Gideon, Samuel and Isaiah learned, and so did Jeremiah and others after him. First, Yahweh's activity in Jeremiah's past had prepared him for his ministry. From before the birth of the prophet Yahweh had set him apart for the prophetic ministry among his own people, just as he had set apart Moses and Samuel from an early age.  And because Yahweh had been with Jeremiah since childhood, the prophet could be assured that "the endowments of his whole nature, his physical and moral environment, all the influences of heredity and education that had shaped his life and made him what he was, had worked together under the hand of God to prepare him for the task to which he was now summoned" (Skinner, p. 28).  Second, God will place in the messenger's mouth (vv. 7, 9) or hand (cf. Exod 3:2-9) all that is needed to carry out the task.  The called one will have all that it is necessary to complete the calling, but one must not then conclude that one's ministry is something that the messenger possesses to control, shape, or proclaim at will.  The messenger stands in the tradition of the normative message, that which has been accepted as authoritative and inspired in the past.  The message is measured against the words of Moses (see Deut 18), and then against the words and deeds of Jesus, the Apostles, and the church throughout the ages.  But it is not enough simply to select and proclaim the words of the past; the messenger must speak what Yahweh commands one to speak for the moment, even as Moses had done for an earlier age.  Therefore the messenger cannot adopt a "name it and claim it" model of ministry (which is a characteristic of the false prophets of all eras), but rather must be sensitive to God's message for his people in the present context.

    It is Yahweh and not the messenger whose power will bring to fulfillment the prophetic word. When Yahweh calls his messenger or worker for God's task, one's inadequacies usually come to the surface: "How can I do such a thing?  No one will listen!"  Everything in Jeremiah's culture told him that his youthful inexperience was a strike against him.  Like Jeremiah, the messenger is right to object: there are reasons why one is incapable of doing the job, there are reasons why one will fail to gain the attention or respect of one's peers. But the messenger is also wrong, for it is Yahweh's message and ministry that is being carried out, and it is Yahweh who will empower the messenger and the message. So in the face of God's activity in the life of Jeremiah since birth, the objection that he was "only a youth," while ringing true, is at the same time not only a bit ironic, but also does not take into account how Yahweh will continue to equip the called one.
 In response to the messenger's feelings of inadequacy, Yahweh calms the fears of the called one, and assures him (/her) that he will be with him (/her).   So in the empowering presence of Yahweh's call, all continued claims of insufficiency, although initially legitimate from a human view, finally must be abandoned as useless excuses. Furthermore, God promises to give the messenger the ability to withstand all opposition (vv. 17-19). When Jeremiah later encountered outer trouble and inner doubts, and the feeling that that God had not been faithful (see Jer 12-20), God continued to make it clear that he would see his word through until it completed its goal.  Yahweh is faithful, he will constantly give the called one the message, skills, and endurance needed to complete the task.
      When Yahweh begins a work, Yahweh will stand by it to guarantee the ultimate outcome of the message or work. Yahweh called Jeremiah to speak an unpopular message to an unsympathetic audience.    It is Yahweh's message, and not the prophet's (see above), so its success was not dependent upon its acceptance or popularity, but on the God who is "watching over" his word to accomplish it (v. 12; cf. Isa 40:8 and 50:10-11).
     The messenger's call is much more significant than one's private relationship with God, it involves taking part in service which will affect both God's people and the world. As a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah was called to participate in God's creation purposes.  The called one is  just one of the many agents of God's worldwide work (even the claim that God had set one apart for a vocation since one's mother's womb was made by many kings of the ancient world!). Therefore the one called can be certain that Yahweh has been working in the world before one's calling, and elsewhere in and through many agents — whether they were aware if it or not!  The scope of God's work is more comprehensive in scope than limited human vision can comprehend.  


INTRO: In the past couple of months we have looked at from time to time passages which deal with God's call to service.  We have seen how God called Abraham to a special task, and how God led Abraham who responded by faith.  When the Faders were here we saw how God choose Moses, and how Moses resisted and wrestled with his call.  When we looked at these passages, we saw how God still calls each one of us to service today.  That does not mean we are all to be pastors, but each of us has been given a spiritual gift, and a place of service in the Church, the body of Christ.  As we look at the calls of some of the great biblical personalities, we can find examples of how God calls each of us for service in his kingdom.  Today we will look at the call of one of the great prophets of God, Jeremiah.


  1. (We See) Jer Appointed Prophet before birth.
    a. God had thoroughly prepared Jer for his prophetic task.
      1) Four verbs describe preparation: Formed, Knew, set apart, appointed
      2) God telling Jer that he was well prepared for job.
    b. But what was this preparation? How?
      1) I think it easy to get wrong idea about biblical people.
        a) Easy to think always perfect. Never problem. carried Bible.
        b) Never complained about church, fought with siblings.
      2) These ideas are wrong! Jer a normal person, normal childhood. Except P.K.
        a) Just like everyone else. fought w/siblings, s.t.s misbehaved.
        b) At times he would much rather have been playing than reading Bible, Church.
      3) So How did God prepare Jer? What does it mean that he chose him from womb?
        a) Best commentary on call is Rom 8:28. In everything God Works good...
        b) God was assuring Jer that always there, in all exps, good/bad, choices, rt/wrong.
        c) God used the past of Jer, pos & neg, to give Jer the skills he needed for task.

And that's how God equips his people for service today.

  2. God Uses OUR experiences, Good and Bad, to shape us for his service
    a. There is probably not a person here today who does not have some regrets about past.
      1) We have all made mistakes, made wrong choices, wasted opportunities, said things regret
      2) I would guess that many here wish you could go back, change, undo, new chance.
      3) Occasionally you may even think: "How much better I could serve, if only ..."
    b. But instead of focusing on the neg, we should instead see that God was there in past.
      1) God uses all our experiences to mold us into his servants.
      2) God can even take our mistakes and use them in our ministry, if only to sympathize.
      3) When God calls us to do st, he knows we ready, he has prepared us!
      4) Many times it may not be clear to us how we can do what God wants, but he knows!

Instead of being a hindrance to us, God overcomes the obstacles of our past to prepare us for service. But there are other things which we see as hindrances to our service, present situation.

  1. By the Standards of the day, Jer. Was Not Adequate for the Task.
    a. Jer protested: "I am only a Youth."
      1) We don't know age. 12? 18+? In any case, Jer felt not ready for these adult responsibilities
      2) "Youth" implies lack of experience, "green."
        a) In Jer's day, Older is better. Hard for us to understand, market youth. Models, Pepsi comerc.
        b) But Jer's would lack credibility because he so young. Real problem.
      3) Jer said could not speak, ie: no one will listen to a greenhorn like me.
    b. But God had other ideas: It is MY words which make difference, not your shortcomings.
      1) God said: "Don't fear," don't let that bother you.  I am in charge, call you.
      2) Matter of fact, God just told him how called from womb, directing him. Don't Hear?
      3) One writer: "Jeremiah's self-image is irrelevant to LORD's intention."
      4) God touched Jer's mouth, equipped him with the right words
      5) We look at Jer, think should have trusted. God can do anything. But don't we
        have the same problem when God asks us to do something?

  2. Where we feel Inadequate for the task, yet God can Overcome our Insecurities.
    a. When God calls to serve, sts we feel the task before is impossible.
      1) We may feel that according to today's standards we lack what it takes
        a) We may feel People won't listen to us because we too old.
        b) May feel that from wrong family, wrong side of town.
        c) May feel lack training, Bible knowledge, or just plain not a quick learner.
        d) May Fear to speak in public, or be too shy.
        e) Poor body image, feel too heavy, too thin, too short or too tall, you name it.
      2) And we may be partially right
        a) We may lack many of the things which our culture says we need for success.
        b) We may feel very awkward, self conscious and uncomfortable about what doing.

    b. But we can rephrase quote: "Our self-image is irrelevant to the LORD's intention."
      1) When God Calls us, he gives us the ability we need, when we need it.
        a) God doesn't lay st on our heart, and then abandon us, let us fail. Gives ability
        b) We may not feel any better, smarter, or braver; but God will help us w/task.

      2) When God calls us, we trust in his Supernatural help, not our own Skill
        a) Sometimes God calls us just because we don't have all the answers.
          1\ Matter fact, God doesn't need people w/all answers.
          2\ God can't use s.o. who has it all figured out.
            a\ God doesn't need AT&T Christians. ("You've made the right choice!")
            b\ God doesn't need people who say "TY God, you made right choice, sit back"

        b) Perhaps God can prepare us better for the task than would the world.
          1\ God can give us his power, and direct us in the way we should go.
          2\ God can train and mold us into the type of servant that he wants us to be.

CONCLUSION: When God calls us to some area of service, God knows exactly what he is doing.  We may think that we are not adequately prepared, and that our past is against us.  We may feel that we lack all of the qualifications that seem so important to our culture, and perhaps even to the church.  Yet God knows us and our past better than we know ourselves.  God can use our past, even the negative things of our past, to serve him in ways that we cannot even imagine.  God can take us with our shortcomings, our feelings of failure and inadequacy, and use us to advance his kingdom.  That's because we rely not on our own skill and resources, but we let God put his words in our mouth, and place his strength within us, thru the Holy Spirit.  In closing I would like to read the words of the apostle Paul, in 1 Cor 1:26-31.


1. Commentaries

Bright, John. Jeremiah. Anchor Bible, 21. Garden City: Doubleday, 1965.

Brueggemann, Walter. To Pluck Up, to Tear Down. ITC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Prophet Jeremiah and Lamentations, vol. 1. Calvin's Commentaries, vol. IX., 1589 (reprinted by Baker, 1979).

Carroll, Robert. Jeremiah. OTL. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.

Clements, R. E. Jeremiah. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox, 1988.

Holladay, William.  Jeremiah 1. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986.

Hyatt, James P. "The Book of Jeremiah," in The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 5. Nashville: Abingdon, 1956.

Thompson, J.A. The Book of Jeremiah. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.

2. Special Studies.

Habel, Norman C. "The Form and Significance of the Call Narratives." ZAW 77(1965): 297-323.

Holladay, William.  Jeremiah: A Fresh Reading. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1990.

Rad, Gerhard von. Old Testament Theology, vol 2 (=Message of the Prophets). San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1965.

Skinner, John.  Prophecy and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922.

Smith, George Adam. Jeremiah. New York: Harper Bros., 1929.