One of the most popular posts on the Bible Tales website is “Joseph: Timeline and family tree”, which presents a timeline of Joseph’s life, prepared as part of my research for the novel “Joseph, Rachel’s son”. Since it has been so popular, I decided to create a similar timeline of the prophet Jeremiah’s life.
This sounds easy, but so many things about Jeremiah we don’t know – at least, not exactly.
For starters, we know that he began to prophesy in the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign, but we don’t know what age he was then. In Jeremiah 1:6, he complains that he doesn’t know how to speak because he is only a youth. The Hebrew word translated “youth” is used for a wide age range, from childhood to adolescence, but the task God gave Jeremiah fits more with what could be expected of a young man rather than a young boy. Anyway, God told him that being young didn’t matter because God would be with him.
The series “Terror on Every Side!” assumes that he was 17 years old when this happened. I also use this assumption as the basis for the timeline of the prophet Jeremiah’s life shown below.
We know when quite a few of the events of Jeremiah’s life fit into history. However, we have to guess how old he was when God first spoke to him, and work from there.
I have not included any Bible references in the timeline of the prophet Jeremiah’s life above because there is too little room, but I will include many more details below (including references).
Jeremiah prophesied for 18 years during the reign of King Josiah. God spoke to Jeremiah for the first time in Josiah’s 13th year, but we only know of one other occasion when God spoke to him during Josiah’s reign (Jeremiah 3:6) – and we’re not told when in the 18 years it occurred.
God appointed Jeremiah a “prophet to the nations”, so he may have spent a lot of time outside Judah.
Quite a few events took place in the 4th year of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, after Jeremiah had been prophesying for 23 years. If Jeremiah started prophesying when he was 17, he would have been 39 or 40 years old at that time.
The following events happened in that year, which was also the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon:
Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, and we’re told of several incidents in the 4th year of his reign. This was just seven years before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the kingdom of Judah and in that year:
Towards the end of the reign of Zedekiah, the king and his men forced Jeremiah to stay in Jerusalem. While he was there, King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. We know of the following events during that siege and shortly afterwards:
We know of some events that happened to Jeremiah after he was taken to Egypt, although we don’t know how long he lived there. As a result, most of the following timeline is less certain than the one above.
The events in Jeremiah’s life that we know took place in Egypt are:
Note also that some events happen within 12 months of each other, and since we do not know Jeremiah’s birth date we cannot be sure what age he would be. The timeline above has separated such events for presentation purposes. The events treated in this way when Jeremiah was 57/58 years old
In the Bible, the large volume of historical detail presented is mostly incidental to the main purpose of presenting God to the world, but at least it is reliable. Once we look outside the Bible, however, there are many uncertainties in ancient history. Many accepted historical ‘facts’ were reported hundreds of years after the events by historians from geographically different locations. Furthermore, when there are contradictions between historians (which are very common), distinguishing between fact and error is even harder.
This timeline is constructed from a combination of sources: first and foremost, the Bible, but writings from other historians have also been consulted. Herodotus, Josephus and several unknown chroniclers who wrote on clay tablets which survived the rigours of time – some in better and some in worse condition.
A few articles on Wikipedia may be of interest:
Some previous articles about Jeremiah in Egypt are available elsewhere on the Bible Tales website:
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|↑11||2 Kings 25:1-2; Jeremiah 39:1; 52:4-5|
|↑12||Jeremiah 32:1, 6-15|
|↑13||Jeremiah 52:29 (see Jeremiah 32:1 for date synchronisation)|
|↑14||2 Kings 25:2-4; Jeremiah 39:2; 52:5-7|
|↑15||2 Kings 25:4-6; Jeremiah 39:4-5; 52:7-9|
|↑16||2 Kings 25:8-10; Jeremiah 39:8; 52:12-14|
|↑17||Jeremiah 40:1, 4-6; 39:7|
|↑18||2 Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:1-3|