Jeremiah and his family are a major topic in the Book/prophecies of Jeremiah. Chapters 6 + 8 are directed at the “priest and prophets” which are Jeremiah’s uncles, cousins, and father/grandfather. Hilkiah is the High Priest for Israel. Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, introduces Jeremiah as the “son of Hilkiah” Jeremiah 1:1. This phrase puts Jeremiah as a family member, possibly a real son/child but at least a grandson. More importantly, it means that Jeremiah could have been the High Priest or at the very least been a part of the daily duties and sacrifices of the Temple. Ezra, who wrote the book, is also identified as a “son of Hilkiah” and so he was a relative of Hilkiah/Jeremiah. We can extend this relationship to Zachariah the father of John the Baptist, Luke 1: 5 because he was a priest.
Hilkiah and his family are mentioned in 2 Kings 18, 22, 23, 1 Chronicles 6:13, 2 Chronicles 34, and Isaiah 36. He was the priest that “found” the Book of the Law for King Josiah and helped in restoring the Temple. I called Jeremiah possibly a true child of Hilkiah because “the word of the Lord” came to him during the lifetime of Josiah. This could put Jeremiah’s birth early in the reign of Josiah. Many other brothers, cousins, and uncles are mentioned in the references I gave. All of these family members add to the drama/narrative in Jeremiah and make Jeremiah the misfit/standout of the family.
Some background – Jeremiah’s hometown was Anathoth of Benjamin, which is one of the towns given to the Levitical families by Moses/Joshua. The field that Jeremiah bought in chapter 32:7 was in Anathoth.
Hilkiah (#2518 in Strong’s) means “Portion of Jah”.
Jeremiah (#3414) means Jah will rise.
In case you are noticing that many names, especially in this family, have “iah” or “el” as a portion of the name. It is because “iah” and el refer to the Eternal or Jah/God. Israelites took the name of God very seriously and considered it holy and it was not used in common speech. Jah was one version that could be said out loud or pronounced.
Names within families were frequently “recycled” as part of the tradition and a way of honoring relatives. (That is why the name John was questioned in Luke.) See 1 Chronicles 6, especially 3 – 13, for details on the family tree of Levi and Aaron. Also 1 Chronicles 9:10 -13. Remember that there was a shift in the priesthood in the days of Samuel, David, and Solomon, which had to do with Eli and several other factors during those days. See Samuel and the Priest. From other studies about priests, I know that a High Priest may not serve long, just a few years.
It is not mentioned that Jeremiah ever married. (Jeremiah 16:2 the Lord told him not to marry.) If he had the bride would have been a member of the Levitical/priestly clan as it was required to keep the bloodline pure.
Mother – Jeremiah 15:10 is the end of a section that starts in verse eight. The section starts with widows, and goes to “mothers of young men”, and a mother of seven, and then to Jeremiah’s mother. Now, you could make an argument that the term “mother” is referring to Israel and that is possibly another level. But verse ten is referring to Jeremiah’s mother. It is a recurring idea that Jeremiah was not a “happy camper”, he has several complaints against God and this verse seems to edge on blaming his mother for his birth.
In Jeremiah 20:14 his mother is mentioned again. This is part of one of Jeremiah’s complaints, this one begins in verse 7 and goes to number 18. Once again Jeremiah is not directly blaming his mother for his problems, but if she was still alive this would have been a hard saying for her to hear. I choose to take Jeremiah’s statements as a lament for the pain that he is feeling and what it must have been doing to her. Remember, she was of Aaron’s linage. She should have been “important” in the sense that she was married to the High Priest. I could also believe that she was being blamed for Jeremiah and his not conforming to “family standards.”
Brother – Jeremiah 29 is best known for verse eleven and the prophecy that Daniel is praying about in Daniel 9, the one about seventy years. This chapter also introduces us to Gemariah. He was special and important enough to Jeremiah that Gemariah was entrusted with the letter to the Exiles in Babylon. Gemariah would have been a brother/half-brother to Jeremiah because he is also a “son of Hilkiah.” (That is taking for granted that Hilkiah may have been alive or just died.) So, it is possible that not “all of the world” was against Jeremiah.
Cousin/Uncle – This is a good time to remind us that names were frequently reused, refer to 1 Chronicles 6 + 9 for example. Jeremiah 32: 6 has Hanamel son of Shallum coming to sell a field to Jeremiah. Jeremiah does buy the field in Benjamin and seals up the deeds for future reference. (I THINK that Jeremiah was being taken advantage of by his uncle/cousin because of the imprisonment and the siege. But Jeremiah did this as a prophetic gesture so my opinion counts very little.) There are many Shallums in the Levitical family and the officials of the court and other officers of the Temple. It is very possible that the court officials were Levities.
Very interesting and thought provoking! A misfit or standout, maybe even the black sheep???
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