In Jeremiah 1:1, we are introduced to Jeremiah’s father, a priest of Anathoth named Hilkiah. A couple of chapters later in Jeremiah 15:10, Jeremiah makes mention of his mother, though he doesn’t call her by name. That passage reads:
Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me.
In Jeremiah 20:14; 17-18, Jeremiah again complains to the Lord about his being born due to the intense dislike that he was experiencing. That passage reads:
Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!…For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?
Jeremiah was one of the major prophets of the Bible, and while his name means “may Jehovah exalt” or “exalted of the Lord,” Jeremiah has been nicknamed the “weeping prophet.” No wonder most Biblical scholars ascribe the writing of the book of Lamentations to him. Even though Jeremiah was faithful in speaking the message God gave him, he received much contempt and trouble throughout all of his life. His God-ordained ministry made him very unpopular. Jeremiah writes that he was in derision daily, mocked by everyone, and had acquaintances who were watching for him to stumble so they could take their revenge on him. So great was Jeremiah’s grief that he laments to his mother of how he wishes she had never given birth to him. He wishes her womb had been his grave.
Was Jeremiah’s mother alive when he wrote this? Did she ever get to read his words? If she did, what did she think? We don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think it’s safe to assume that a loving, godly, faith-filled woman was responsible for producing so godly and faithful (albeit, sometimes miserable) a man.
1. Jeremiah’s mother was a godly woman who raised her son to serve the Lord. If Jeremiah’s mother did hear his lament, she probably grieved with him, because no good mother wants to see or hear about her child (grown or not) being bullied and hated on by everyone else, especially when that child is doing the right thing. Perhaps some of the hate that Jeremiah received also fell on his mother. Perhaps she too was slighted by others for giving birth to a son who relentlessly preached a message of repent or else.
Jeremiah’s mother may have grieved with him, but I doubt she ever regretted giving birth to him. Jeremiah’s mother understood that before he was formed in her womb, God knew him. She realized that before he came out of her womb, God had set him apart. She knew that God had appointed her son to be a prophet to the nations. No doubt she imparted this message on to Jeremiah who took it to heart. Even though he had moments when he cursed his birthday and wondered why God had allowed him to be born, Jeremiah never cursed God and he never refused to proclaim the messages of violence and destruction that God gave him to proclaim. Such fortitude can probably be attributed to the influence of his godly mother. Very rarely does a young child learn to walk with God and remain walking with God throughout his or her entire life without having received a good foundation from his or her mother and father.
Jeremiah’s mother realized and accepted that her son did not belong to her alone. If it was up to her, she would have chosen a future for him that had more joy and less tears, more happiness and less hate, more sunshine and no sorrow. But it was not to be. She placed her son in God’s sovereign hand, and trusted the plans that He had for Jeremiah. In doing so, she is remembered as the vessel that gave us one of the Bible’s most passionate voices who unashamedly exalted God.