Jeremiah was a prophet, but he was also a priest. Was he the son of the High Priest? At the start of his book, Jeremiah is described as the son of Hilkiah, 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 or Hilkiah the High Priest 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.
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.
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. This was probably likewise a younger son.
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.
|1 Chronicles 6:3-15||1 Chronicles 6:50-53||Ezra 7:1-5||Comments|
|Zadok||Zadok||David’s time (2 Samuel 8:17) & Solomon’s time (1 Kings 4:4).|
|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.|
|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.
List of High Priests of Israel (Wikipedia)
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