Jeremiah’s family and genealogy

By Mark Morgan | Family trees

Oct 25
Jeremiah's family and genealogy: ”A special breastplate was made for the high priest“ by Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleImages.org http://freebibleimages.org/illustrations/moses-tabernacle/ Slide 29 Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0 Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleImages.org (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Jeremiah’s family

Jeremiah was a prophet, but he was also a priest.[1] Was he the son of the High Priest? What was Jeremiah’s genealogy? At the start of his book, Jeremiah is described as the son of Hilkiah,[2] and we know that there was a High Priest called Hilkiah in the time of Jeremiah. In references to him, he is called Hilkiah the priest[3] or Hilkiah the High Priest[4] rather than mentioning what his father’s name was, as was a common way of distinguishing between people with the same name. Only in the genealogy of the high priests do we find that his father’s name was Shallum. This consistent use of the name Hilkiah without saying who he was the son of suggests that saying he was a priest was enough to uniquely identify him.

Who was Hilkiah?

When Jeremiah is identified as the son of Hilkiah, a priest from Anathoth, this suggests that the Hilkiah referred to was the only priest called Hilkiah at the time – who was also the High Priest. This is not absolute proof, but it does allow us to say that the prophet Jeremiah was probably a son of Hilkiah who was the High Priest in the time of Josiah.  So the genealogy of the High Priests is likely to be Jeremiah’s genealogy.

Azariah replaced Hilkiah as High Priest, so it is likely that Jeremiah was not the oldest son – although it is possible that despite being the oldest son, he was not made High Priest because he was causing trouble as a prophet! However, there is no reference to this in Jeremiah or anywhere else, so the idea of him being a younger son seems more likely to be correct.

We are also told of another son of Hilkiah – a man called Gemariah – who carried an important message to Babylon.[5] This was probably likewise a younger son.

The genealogies of the High Priests

Lists of the genealogy of the High Priests are given in three places, with the list in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15 being the most complete. Genealogies in Hebrew can sometimes leave out generations without mentioning it because the word for “son” can equally mean “grandson” or simply “descendant”. The names in these lists are shown in the table below, with blanks shown where names are missing. Note that Eli and his family seem to have been High Priests although they are said to be descended from Aaron’s youngest son Ithamar rather than Eleazar, but it reverted to the “correct” line in the time of Solomon.[6]

1 Chronicles 6:3-15 1 Chronicles 6:50-53 Ezra 7:1-5 Comments
Aaron Aaron Aaron
Eleazar Eleazar Eleazar
Phinehas Phinehas Phinehas
Abishua Abishua Abishua
Bukki Bukki Bukki
Uzzi Uzzi Uzzi
Zerahiah Zerahiah Zerahiah
Meraioth Meraioth Meraioth
Amariah Amariah
Ahitub Ahitub
Zadok Zadok David’s time (2 Samuel 8:17) & Solomon’s time (1 Kings 4:4).
Ahimaaz (HP?) Ahimaaz
Azariah 1 Kings 4:2 says son of Zadok.
Johanan Another name for Jehoiada? (2 Kings 11 & 12 (12:10 probably refers to him)).
Azariah Azariah King Uzziah/Azariah’s time (2 Chronicles 26:17)? Hezekiah’s time (2 Chronicles 31:10)?
King Solomon’s temple is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:10.
Amariah Amariah Repeated names from the time of David over three generations.
Ahitub Ahitub
Zadok Zadok
Shallum Shallum
Hilkiah Hilkiah Josiah’s time (2 Kings 22:4, 8; 23:4; 2 Chronicles 34:9).
Azariah Azariah Probably Jeremiah’s brother.
Seraiah Seraiah Probably Jeremiah’s nephew. Killed by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:24-27).
Jehozadak Ezra Jehozadak (also called Jozadak) probably well under 30 and too young for Nebuchadnezzar to worry about. Went into exile (1 Chronicles 6:15). Jehozadak and Ezra were probably brothers, with Ezra being younger. Probably Jeremiah’s great nephews.

 

While writing a Bible-based novel on the life of Jeremiah (Terror on Every Side!) I found it helpful to try to place him in the genealogy of God’s priests and to see how he fitted into a family of priests from Anathoth.

 


Notes

[1] Jeremiah 1:1
[2] Jeremiah 1:1
[3] 2 Kings 22:10, 12, 14; 23:24
[4] 2 Kings 22:4, 8; 23:4
[5] Jeremiah 29:3
[6] Possible support for this is through connecting 1 Chronicles 24:6 with 1 Chronicles 18:16 and 2 Samuel 15:24

See also:

Bible Tales article: Jeremiah: Family trees
Bible Tales article: What did God think of his priests?
Bible Tales article: Priest or prophet?
Bible Tales article: Family Friendships

List of High Priests of Israel (Wikipedia)

 

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This article is one of a series of articles on Jeremiah published as back-up material for the Bible-based fiction series Terror on Every Side!
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