Why Jeremiah had no children
Jeremiah prophesied during the final years of Judah’s independence and lived through its final conquest by Babylon. He suffered many hardships, one of which was being denied the pleasures of having a family.
The word of the LORD came to me: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth.”
The things that happened to him would have made it hard for him to fulfill his family responsibilities. His preaching was so unpopular that he sometimes spent time in prison or in hiding from the authorities and after the Babylonian victory he was forced to accompany some people who fled to Egypt for refuge. But even if the circumstance of his life had been different he would have been childless because of a curse placed on one of his ancestors.
When the prophet Samuel was born his mother dedicated him to God and a priest named Eli raised him. Eli did a good job bringing up Samuel but he had two sons and he failed miserably with them.
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.
The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.
Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.”
And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.”
Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt.
1 Samuel 2:12-17
God sent a man of God to announce God’s judgment on Eli for his failure to discipline his sons.
“I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?”
Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: “I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,” but now the LORD declares: “Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart.”
1 Samuel 2:28-33
Many years later Abiathar, a descendant of Eli, supported David when he was being persecuted by Saul and served him as priest after he became king. When David was old his son Adonijah tried to take over as king and Abiathar supported him. When Solomon became king he punished Abiathar for this act.
To Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate, for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before David my father, and because you shared in all my father’s affliction.” So Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.
1 Kings 2:26-27
Abiathar’s home was in Anathoth. This was also the home of Jeremiah.
The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.
The man of God said this when he was speaking to Eli, “The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart.” This description fits Jeremiah. He is sometimes called the Weeping Prophet.
Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jeremiah was a descendant of Eli and when he died the line of Eli ended and the curse was fulfilled. Yet Jeremiah himself was not cursed. He was chosen by God to be a prophet and he faithfully carried out the task God gave him. His weeping was not for his own suffering but for the sins of the people and the judgment they were bringing on themselves. He never had any biological children but God made his prophecies part of the Bible and through them has given him many spiritual offspring.