Day 219: Who Was Jeremiah’s Father? (Jeremiah 1)

Detail of Michelangelo’s Jeremiah, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, (Jeremiah 1:1)

Through the Bible: Jeremiah 1-3

The prophet Jeremiah is one of the towering figures of the Old Testament. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings. He was an eyewitness to the Babylonian captivity. He was responsible for two books of the Bible–Jeremiah and Lamentations. When it comes to the major prophets, only Isaiah was major-er.

But what gets missed by a lot of people, especially if they have never done a chronological read through of the Bible, is that Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, “one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin” (Jeremiah 1:1). We know that Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Josiah.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In 2 Kings 22, we read that in the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah commissioned the repair of the temple. And who did Josiah put in charge of making sure the workers got paid? The high priest, Hilkiah.

4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. (2 Kings 22:4-7).

It gets better. A few verses later, Hilkiah finds the Book of the Law in the temple. He and the Royal secretary Shaphan bring it to Josiah, and read it to the king. When Josiah hears the words of the law, he weeps, tears his clothes, and begins an incredible period of reform–tearing down high places, desecrating pagan altars, and reinstating the Passover (see 2 Kings 22:8-23:28).

It is not universally accepted that Hilkiah, Jeremiah’s father is the same Hilkiah that oversaw the repair of the temple, found the book of the Law, and presented it to Josiah. Matthew Henry, for example, says definitively that they were not the same person. Tremper Longman, another Old Testament scholar, is not quite as definitive as Matthew Henry, but still argues against it:

It is not impossible that this high priest was Jeremiah’s father, but if this Hilkiah were meant, it is likely that would have been specified. In addition, that Jeremiah was from Anathoth and not Jerusalem also mitigates against the identification of the Jeremiah’s father with the high priest.

“Remember Jeremiah’s Father,” sermon by Franklin L. Kirskey, at www.pastorlife.com

For a compelling argument that Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah the High Priest, check out this article.

Even though we can’t know for sure, I love the possibility that it was the same Hilkiah. We know from Jeremiah 1:1 that Jeremiah’s father was a priest, then he was a man who was okay with his son not going into the “family business,” choosing a career as a prophet instead of a priest. He was also apparently okay with his son criticizing the priesthood (see Jeremiah 23:11-32).

But if it was the same Hilkiah who was the high priest during Josiah’s reign, then we can draw some conclusions about the impact of a godly father’s example on his children. Jeremiah saw his father act with integrity toward the contractors in the temple. What’s more, he saw his father speak truth to power when he presented the book of the law to Josiah. Both of these would have had a profound effect on the man who would speak truth to the kings that followed Josiah.

Dads, your children may not pursue the same life calling that you did. And we need to be okay with that. Let’s just make sure that we are following Jesus, and modeling that for our kids. That way, even if they don’t follow in our footsteps, they will follow in His.

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