Jerusalem Old City
Jeremiah, a Great Prophet of Israel
The first chapter of the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament tells how the Lord called him to be a prophet during the reign of King Josiah. A prophet in those days was a person who proclaimed God's messages to His people and also warned them of what would happen if they disobeyed God. Jeremiah was then about 24 years of age and felt himself too young for such work, but the Lord told him, 'thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.' The Lord was angry with the people of Judah, for they had forsaken the true Jewish religion and had begun to worship idols. It does not seem as if Jeremiah started his preaching immediately, although he probably supported King Josiah's efforts to bring the people back to worship of the one true God. (What the King did is described in chapter 23 of the Second Book of Kings.) Later, however, when the people went back to the worship of idols under King Jehoiakim, Josiah's son, Jeremiah spoke out boldly. He prophesied that Jerusalem would be completely destroyed as a punishment for their sins. When the King heard this Jeremiah was arrested and narrowly escaped death.
By this time Judah had become part of the Babylonian Empire and the King, Zedekiah, plotted against his Babylonian masters in order to get rid of them. Jeremiah, on the other hand, believed that Judah ought to submit to them because it was not strong enough to resist them successfully. Even when Babylonian armies besieged Jerusalem in order to force the King into obedience, Jeremiah still preached submission. This seemed like the advice of a traitor and he was imprisoned and then thrown into a pit, but was rescued by an Ethiopian named Ebedmelech and survived. As he had prophesied, Jerusalem was completely destroyed, for in 586 B.C. the Babylonians broke through the city walls and plundered the city. Many of the Jews were carried off to captivity in Babylon but Jeremiah was left behind at Mizpah, near Jerusalem, with a little band of Jews. Later they escaped to Egypt and took Jeremiah with them. That is the last we hear of him.
It is almost certain that the Lamentations of Jeremiah, a short book that follows the Book of Jeremiah, were not written by the prophet. Jeremiah was one of the first men in pre-Christian times to lay stress on the importance of mankind living in close touch with God by prayer, and he also preached about the tremendous importance of each individual in the sight of God.