1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:
2 To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
The introduction tells us that Jeremiah was a son of Hilkiah, inferring that he and his father were both priests in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. His prophetic ministry spanned 40 years starting in the thirteenth year of Josiah the king and lasted through the reign of Jehoiakim and until Josiah when Jerusalem was carried captive into Babylon.
4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
The prophet was known to YAHWEH before he was conceived and before he was born he was sanctified and ordained to be a prophet to the nations. His ministry would encompass the entire ancient near east or the known world at the time.
6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Jeremiah was concerned that he couldn't do what YAHWEH wanted. He was young. Inexperienced with public speaking and afraid of what others would think of him. But the LORD said to him, say not, I am a child. He was told to go wherever the LORD sent him and say whatever he was told to say.
He is told not to be afraid. That I am with you to deliver you. Then the LORD reaches out and touches Jeremiah's mouth. Now, this is not an allegory. This is a literal face to face interaction with God. After touching the newly appointed prophet's mouth the LORD says, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. God will from here on out be speaking through Jeremiah.
The prophet is set over the nations and over kingdoms to root out, and pull down, and to destroy, and throw down, to build, and to plant. The first part of his mission is not very nice language. Kingdoms will rise and fall during his ministry, people will die, but at the end of it all he will build and plant. So it's not all bad news.
11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
12 Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
Just as Jeremiah sees the almond tree so the LORD is watching to fulfill his words or perform them. There is a play on words that happens here in the Hebrew as the word almond, shaked, also translates, to watch.
13 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
Jeremiah hears YAHWEH and then sees a pot that is boiling over and spilling out towards the north. This is a symbolic representation of a pronouncement of evil against all nations.
14 Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.
Destruction from the North is a major theme in the book of Jeremiah. All the families of the kingdoms of the north are called and come and set up their authority over Jerusalem, lay siege to the holy city, and overrun all the cities of Judah.
16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
This verse is also a major theme. The forsaking of the LORD and worshiping other gods and the works of their own hands, is the wickedness the people have committed. The root of the problem.
17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.
The prophet is now officially commissioned to go and speak everything that YAHWEH tells him to say. He is warned not to worry about the reception of his words or how they are received, or else God will confound Jeremiah before the people.
In the Ancient Near East the kings and leaders of many of the worlds empires would refer to themselves in arrogance in symbolic terms such as an iron pillar or having feet made of brass, here, God is using this kind of language to give Jeremiah confidence. No one will be able to overcome YAHWEH's prophet. They will fight against him but will not prevail. Because God will deliver Jeremiah.