Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

"You" here refers to Jeremiah but in what configuration? It does not seem to be physical. Spiritual? Conceptual in the mind of God? Was it an existence? In what sense?

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In Isa 46:10 we read (NASB) -

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'

The fact that God is omniscient (= knows all things, Job 37:16, Ps 139:1-18, 147:5, 1 John 3:20, Isa 46:9-11) means that he also knows all things in advance. This omniscince and foreknowlege allow God to select/choose people in advance for special work and ministry.

David expressed a similar idea in Ps 139:4 -

Even before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, O LORD.

See also V16. The Cambridge commentary also suggests an element of choice about God's omniscience -

  1. I knew thee] meaning not mere acquaintance, but choice as a consequence of knowledge. The parallelism of contrast, frequent in the poetical books of the Bible, shews this to be the sense of the word in Psalm 1:6, “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish”; cp. Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord”; Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities.”

Barnes has something similar:

Rather, "Before I formed thee in the belly." I approved of thee (as one fit for the prophetic office)," and before thou camest forth from the womb" I made thee holy (dedicated thee to holy uses); I have appointed thee (now by this public call to be) "a prophet unto the nations."

  • I found Isaiah 49:1-7 - a call similar to that of the prophet Jeremiah and Paul, who said God set him apart from birth, and called him so that he might preach to the nations (Galatians 1:15). Interesting study.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 12:17

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