Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. He is one of the twelve Disciples of Christ and happens to be the only person to reference Jeremiah in the New Testament, calling him out by name. Within the book, Matthew mentions Jeremiah on three separate occasions. In Matthew 2:17, 16:4, and 27:9. Each reference is significant as Matthew and Jesus recognize Jeremiah as a prophet and the fulfillment of the coming of the Messiah.
The book of Matthew provides backstory of the Israelites and the coming of Christ. Throughout second chapter of Matthew, the narrative “appear to be arguments from the Torah that Jesus was the messiah and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants”, (Cambell 6). The passage Matthew 2:17 directly quote Jeremiah 31:15. It repeats the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children because they were not” (Jeremiah 31:15). Both passages refer to an important time in Jewish history. This is the conquest of the Babylonians over Jerusalem. It was a time of suffering for Jews after coming to the Promised Land. During this time, Jeremiah was called by God to prophesize to the Jewish people and the King, to follow and put their faith in God. However, Jeremiah’s words fell on deaf ears. The people continued to turn away from God and fell into a long period of misery. The passage is important not because of the weeping, however the events that unfold after. Rachael is symbolism for the people of Israel. After she wept, her tears were silenced and she was renewed. She was given a promise that “there is hope” and “they shall come again from the land of the enemy”, (Jeremiah 31: 16-17).
Because Matthew refers to Jeremiah 31:15 in his narrative, it indicates that Matthew acknowledged the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. He is also associating the story of Jeremiah to the story of Christ. Christ represents the fulfillment of the coming messiah. Through the coming of the messiah God is fulfilling his promise and ensures that Christ will save the people, delivery them, and bring them back into God’s mercy and kindness.
Jeremiah is also referenced by name in Matthew 16:14. Here, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them curiously what the people think of him. The disciples answer honestly that, “thou art John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias or one of the prophets”, (Matthew 16:14). Many scholars indicate that Jeremiah is referenced to help understand how Jesus was compared, believing that he may be a prophet and not the Son of God. However, one scholar indicates that Jesus and Jeremiah are compared “not for messianic verification but because Jeremiah spoke against the temple while standing within in” (Winkle 158). Jeremiah was a fearless prophet who continuously attempted to change the people and foretold their suffering. Doing this he spoke against the temple. He called it as a place for politics and false prophets and not with God. Jesus too did this. He preached against man and his idolatry within the temples. Due to this similarity, Winkle felt that this reference, like Jeremiah 31:15 indicates a messianic undertone.
Winkle, R. (1986). The Jeremiah Model for Jesus in the Temple. Andrews University Seminary Studies 24(2) 155-172. Andrews University Press. Retrieved from: http://www.auss.info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=730&journal=1&type=pdf
Campbell, L. (2000). Matthew’s Use of the Old Testement: A preliminary analysis. Zenos Online Journal. Issue 3, pp. 1-37. The Crossroads Project. Retrieved from: http://www.xenos.org/ministries/crossroads/onlinejournal/issue3/mtmain.htm