Why Is Jeremiah Known as ‘The Weeping Prophet’?

More than once, Jeremiah was tempted to hang up his prophet’s hat and go home. He wept over his nation’s self-destructive rebellion against God and cried out to the Lord. The Lord’s promise of protection didn’t exclude the possibility of having to endure great pain.

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Published Apr 05, 2021
Why Is Jeremiah Known as ‘The Weeping Prophet’?

Claims to fame: Jesus, some said, was Jeremiah back from the dead (Matthew 16:14). The Book of Jeremiah has more words than any other book of the Bible. Jeremiah described God’s inspiration of Scripture in far more detail than any other prophet.

Jeremiah spoke more about repentance (turning from sin back to God) than the other prophets. Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations and may have contributed other writings (2 Kings; Psalms).

He has often been called “the weeping prophet.” He frequently felt despondent, saw no visible fruit after decades of ministry, and (almost but) never quit.

Jeremiah never had the joy and comfort of being married. Jeremiah predicted the Babylonian captivity and its length, 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10).

Jeremiah’s Relevance

Like thousands of army recruits, Jeremiah was drafted into a vocation where ongoing enemy assaults were all but guaranteed. But unlike other soldiers, Jeremiah had the Lord’s assurance that he would survive.

The Lord enlisted young Jeremiah for life. His only mission? To proclaim the Lord’s message without fear.

Sure enough, those who did not want to hear God’s truth attacked Jeremiah repeatedly and from every angle. Over the years, his fellow citizens fanned rumors into flame and hoped to watch him burn.

Jeremiah’s enemies imprisoned him, flogged him, put him in stocks, and made preparations for his execution. Later, they threw him into a muddy cistern and left him to die. Even former friends sought to take their revenge against the man from Anathoth.

Each time, the Lord rescued Jeremiah — but not always before he was scarred. His foes definitely couldn’t kill him — but they could wound him. The Lord’s promise of protection didn’t exclude the possibility of having to endure great pain.

More than once, Jeremiah was tempted to hang up his prophet’s hat and go home. He agonized over the prosperity of the wicked while he suffered miserably.

He felt so miserable he wished he’d never been born. He wept over his nation’s self-destructive rebellion against God and cried out to the Lord because of his own incurable wound.

Like Jeremiah, we are promised persecution (John 15:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:12). Like him, we can also hold onto the promise of the Lord’s protecting presence (Matthew 28:20; John 16:33).

And we can rest assured that while pain and problems are inevitable, they cannot stop us from fulfilling God’s will in this generation (Romans 8:35-39).

The Book of Jeremiah

This second of four “major” Old Testament prophets urges readers to come back to the Lord.

The theme of returning or coming back recurs nearly 50 times in Jeremiah. The prophet urges his fellow citizens in the kingdom of Judah to repent and turn back to the Lord — before it’s too late.

The Lord calls Jeremiah to prophesy when he is still a very young man (chapter 1). More than a century has passed since Isaiah began prophesying. The kingdom of Israel had fallen three generations ago.

Now, the Lord says, it’s Judah’s turn because of its pride, idolatry, and oppression of the poor. For more than 40 years, Jeremiah warns of impending judgment against Judah (chapters 2-38), but virtually no one heeds his warnings to repent.

As predicted, the kingdom of Judah is finally crushed (chapter 39). The surviving remnant refuses to repent and continues to rebel against the Lord (chapters 40-44).

Toward the end of the book, Jeremiah includes a brief warning to his assistant, Baruch (chapter 45), and a series of prophecies against other nations (chapters 46-51).

A historical appendix (chapter 52) adds more details about the utter destruction of Judah’s capital, Jerusalem.

Scriptures about Jeremiah

If you’re going to read only three Bible chapters about Jeremiah’s calling and prophetic ministry, take 10 minutes and read Jeremiah 1 and Jeremiah 32-33. Or take three minutes and read the beginning of the story, Jeremiah 1.

Most of Jeremiah’s story is told in the Book of Jeremiah itself. His calling and persecutions were intense, memorable, and more autobiographical than any other prophet.

What’s more, his prophecies about the Babylonian captivity and its length, and about the New Covenant, continue to be cited daily 2,500 years later.

He’s also well known for buying a piece of property as a sign that the Jewish people would return and dwell in the land 70 years later.

That isn’t all that we read about Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s name appears in 2 Chronicles 35:25, which says, “Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the male and female singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments.”

His name also appears in 2 Chronicles 36:12, which says the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, “did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the Lord.”

His name appears yet again in 2 Chronicles 36:21, which says, “The land [of Judah] enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.”

What’s more, 2 Chronicles 36:22 and Ezra 1:1 both say, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing.”

Jeremiah’s name comes up again in Daniel 9:2, which says, “in the first year of his [Darius’s] reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.”

Quotations and allusions to Jeremiah’s writings appear repeatedly in the New Testament. Jeremiah 6:16 says, “And you will find rest for your souls,” which Jesus echoes in Matthew 11:29.

Jeremiah 7:11 says, “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers,” which Jesus echoes in Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, and Luke 19:46.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord.” Paul echoes these verses in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 1 Corinthians 10:17.

Jeremiah 31:15 says, “Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more,” which is quoted verbatim in Matthew 2:17-18.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 talks at length about the New Covenant, which is reiterated both in Hebrews 8:8-12 and Hebrews 10:16-17.

For further reading:

Book of Jeremiah Summary

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Have Meaning for Us Today?

What Are Prophets in the Bible? Do Prophets Still Exist Today?

Who Were the Major and Minor Prophets in the Bible?

What Did Jesus Mean That We Will Have Trouble in This World?

How Can I Identify Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament?

How Is Understanding the Bible Important (or even Possible)?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

headshot of David Sanford new 2020The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.


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