JEREMIAH (c. 640–580 bce), or, in Hebrew, Yirme-yah(u); biblical prophet. Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, was born in Anathoth, some 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Jerusalem. The English name Jeremiah is based on the Greek Hieremias from the Septuagint and not on the received Hebrew Masoretic text. The Septuagint reflects a correct original Hebrew Yarim-Yahu ("Yahveh grants"), a name type whose antecedents can be traced to the third millennium bce.
The Book of Jeremiah and the Biography of Jeremiah
Most of our knowledge about Jeremiah's life comes from the biblical Book of Jeremiah. The book is not arranged chronologically, with the result that contemporary scholarly reconstructions of the prophet's life are highly subjective. Important background information is found in the Hebrew scriptures, in 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Obadiah. Other important sources are the Hebrew letters from Lachish, primary documents from Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the histories of Herodotos and Josephus Flavius. However, 2 Kings, which describes in great detail events contemporary with Jeremiah, does not mention him.
Later generations regarded Jeremiah very highly. According to the Chronicler, the prophet was the author of a lament over Josiah, king of Judah (2 Chr. 35:25). His prophecies about the duration of the exile were cited in 2 Chronicles 36:15–21 and by the author of the ninth chapter of Daniel. Later writers composed pious fictions about Jeremiah. The apocryphal Letter of Jeremiah, allegedly written by Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in Babylonia, is styled in the manner of Jeremiah 29. According to the second chapter of 2 Maccabees, Jeremiah secreted the ark and Tabernacle, a tradition based on Jeremiah 3:16. In the New Testament, Jeremiah is named in Matthew 2:17, and his vision of the "new covenant" (Jer. 31:31–34; cf. Jer. 32:38–40) is quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12 and 10:16–17. Jewish Talmudic tradition (B.T., B.B. 15a) ascribes to the prophet the authorship of Jeremiah, Kings, and Lamentations (the last probably on the basis of 2 Chronicles 35:25).
Jeremiah was of priestly stock (Jer. 1:1) and probably of the Abiathar family, which had been banished to Anathoth by Solomon (c. 960) and had served at the Shiloh sanctuary before 1050. Yet there is no indication that Jeremiah ever functioned as a priest. Nonetheless, he generally had free access to the Temple and its chambers (Jer. 35:4). Apparently he was well off. He was able to spend seventeen shekels to buy a piece of property as a symbolic act (Jer. 32:9), and he was able to hire as a personal secretary one Baruch, son of Neriah, who thought the job would be lucrative and whose own brother was a high official (Jer. 45:2–5, 51:59). In addition, during the reigns of Jehoiakim (609–598) and Zedekiah (597-586), Jeremiah's counsel was regularly sought by the kings and their advisers. The powerful Shaphan family was particularly close to him (Jer. 26:24, 29:3, 36:10–12, 39:14, 40:5), and the Babylonian conquerors offered him special protection (Jer. 40:1–6). The high-ranking avengers of Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, sought him out as well, although they disregarded his counsel and forced him to accompany them to Egypt (Jer. 42). Perhaps a further indication of his affluence and influence is his relative lack of concern for the poor. Although he demanded justice for the oppressed (Jer. 7:6, 22:16), his denunciations of their suffering at the hands of the rich and powerful are not as frequent or as fervent as those of the prophets Amos and Isaiah. Josiah is praised as one who "ate and drank" at the same time as he dispensed justice and equity (Jer. 22:15). No particular class in society is singled out for condemnation (Jer. 5:1–5).
Among the details of his life, we hear that Jeremiah did not marry (Jer. 16:1–4), that he avoided social gatherings (Jer. 16:5–9), that he perceived himself as a man of strife and contention (Jer. 15:10), that he wished he had never been born (Jer. 20:15–17), and that his relatives had attempted to kill him (Jer. 10:21, 11:6), as had Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:26), the audience in the Temple court (Jer. 26:24), and some of Zedekiah's ministers (Jer. 38:4–6). Sometime after 586 Jeremiah and his amanuensis were forcibly taken to Egypt, which is probably where he died.
It is difficult to treat Jeremiah's thought systematically for a number of reasons. First, Israelite prophets did not write systematic treatises. Second, the textual history of the book is very complicated. The present book is found in two major recensions, the Masoretic text and the Septuagint, which is about one-eighth shorter. In addition to the divergence in size, the recensions differ in arrangement. The Masoretic text of Jeremiah consists of prophecies directed to Jeremiah's own people (Jer. 1–25), narratives about him (Jer. 26–45), prophecies directed to the Gentiles (Jer. 46–51), and a historical appendix (Jer. 52). The Septuagint, in contrast, places the oracles to the Gentiles in the middle of the book, following chapter 25, verse 13. The Hebrew fragments of Jeremiah from Qumran demonstrate that in the late pre-Christian era, the Hebrew text was circulating in shorter and longer forms. It is not always certain whether the longer is an expansion or the shorter an abridgment. In both recensions, there is material that can hardly be from the hand of the prophet. For example, the prophecy against Damascus (Jer. 49:23–27) dates from the eighth century bce. Other sections, such as Jeremiah 33:14–16 (not found in the Septuagint), are later additions. In this same category are Jeremiah 15:4b, which attempts to harmonize Jeremiah's theology with that of 2 Kings by blaming the fall on Manasseh, and the injunction to keep the Sabbath (Jer. 18:21–27), which recalls Nehemiah 10:15–21. Other suspicious prophecies are the Edomite oracle (Jer. 49:7–16; cf. Ob.) and the Moabite oracle (Jer. 48:45–46; cf. Nm. 21:28–29).
Some clues to the book's composition are provided in the text itself. In each case, a religious motivation is given. According to Jeremiah 30:2–3, which begins the section generally known as "The Little Book of Consolation," Jeremiah was told by Yahveh: "Commit to writing all the words I have spoken to you, for days are coming when I will restore the fortunes of my people … and bring them back to the land." The prophecies were to be written so that later generations would know that all had been foretold. Unfortunately, no date is given for this action. The prophecies themselves contain genuine Jeremianic utterances as well as later interpolations. More specific information is provided in Jeremiah 36, which is dated to the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, synchronized in Jeremiah 25:1 with 605 bce, the first regnal year of Nebuchadrezzar II, king of Babylon (605–562). In that year Yahveh commanded Jeremiah, "Get a scroll and write in it all the words concerning Israel, Judah and all the nations that I have spoken to you, from the days of Josiah until now. Perhaps when the house of Judah hear all the terrible designs I have on them they will turn away from their wicked ways so that I might pardon their wicked sins" (Jer. 36:2–3). The specific reason for writing the prophecies of twenty-three years was to demonstrate to the people that they had been warned early and frequently and that there was still time to avert disaster. Though Jeremiah knew how to write (Jer. 32:10), he found a secretary, Baruch. By the ninth month of Jehoiakim's fifth year, at the latest (Jer. 36:9), the scroll was complete. It was read three times on a public fast day. First Baruch read it to a crowd at the Temple (Jer. 36:10) and then to a group of royal officials (Jer. 36:15). Finally, it was read to King Jehoiakim, who destroyed it section by section (Jer. 36:22–23). The scroll probably contained no more than ten thousand words.
After the destruction of the original scroll, Jeremiah purchased a second, on which Baruch rewrote the destroyed prophecies. To this scroll were added prophecies similar in content to the original ones (Jer. 36:32). The text gives no information about the time period in which this second edition was produced. Our present book of Jeremiah most likely had its origin in this edition.
Historical Background and the Prophet's Position
It is impossible to understand the man Jeremiah or his prophecies apart from the turbulent historical period in which he lived. When Jeremiah was born, the Assyrian empire was the single most important political power in the Middle East and, consequently, in the life of the southern kingdom of Judah. By the time Jeremiah was in his early thirties, Assyria had disappeared as a political entity, and Judah's fate had become contingent on Egypt and on the Neo-Babylonian empire and its allies. Before Jeremiah turned sixty, Judah had lost its political independence entirely, and the prophet himself had become part of the Jewish Diaspora in Egypt.
Assyrian foreign policy had been important to Judah as early as the ninth century bce, but the fall of the closely related northern kingdom of Israel and the establishment of the Assyrian province of Samaria on Judah's northern border was momentous. Judah maintained nominal political autonomy by becoming an Assyrian vassal, an arrangement that required the regular payment of tribute and the provision of troops for Assyrian campaigns. Between 720 and 627, Judah's political policy was very much in the Assyrian shadow. King Hezekiah of Judah (715–686) had attempted a revolt in collaboration with the Babylonian king Merodachbaladan II (Marduk-apal-iddina, 721–710) and with Egypt and various Philistine and Phoenician cities. The forces of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (704–681) quashed the rebellion, although they failed to take Jerusalem and left Hezekiah on his throne with a smaller domain and a larger tribute obligation.
If Jerusalem's deliverance appeared miraculous to some (Is. 37:33–38), it had a different moral for Manasseh, son and successor of Hezekiah. For most, and perhaps all, of his long reign (c. 692–639), Manasseh was a loyal Assyrian vassal. According to 2 Kings 21:11, he was equally loyal in the service of foreign gods, outdoing everyone, the aboriginal Amorites included, in idolatry and wickedness. Some scholars have argued that Manasseh's religious and political policies were closely related, and have understood the worship of foreign gods as Assyrian vassal obligations. More recently, however, it has been noted that Assyria generally did not impose its forms of worship on its vassals. Even if we understand Manasseh's paganism as a somewhat voluntary attempt to curry favor with Assyria, we must keep in mind that the majority of the cults introduced or encouraged during his reign were not Assyrian (2 Kgs. 21:2–7). The bloodiness of his reign (2 Kgs. 21:16) surely reflects internal struggles, but we cannot tell what these concerned. Manasseh's death brought to the throne his son Amon, who was assassinated in a palace revolt of unknown motivation (2 Kgs. 21:23).
Amon's assassins were slain by ʿam ha-arets ("people of the land"), an influential body of Judahites who put on the throne his young son Josiah. The biblical books 2 Kings (22-23) and 2 Chronicles (34–35) have only praise for Josiah and devote much attention to his religious reforms, though each gives a different account. According to 2 Kings, Josiah's reforms were initiated by Hilkiah's discovery of "the book of the torah " in the Jerusalem Temple (2 Kgs. 22:8). When the book, which is generally considered to be some form of Deuteronomy, was given by the scribe Shaphan to Josiah, the king rent his garments in contrition. In keeping with the book's message, the king centralized all sacrificial worship in the country, restricting it to Jerusalem. That same year (622 bce), Josiah removed all traces of the foreign worship that Manasseh had encouraged. In addition, he abolished ancient rituals and institutions, which he considered antithetical to the cult of Yahveh.
In contrast, the Chronicler depicts a gradual reform in which important steps were taken in the king's eighth and twelfth years. Though chronologically more attractive, in this scheme the book is discovered in 622, by which time the major elements of the reform had been accomplished, with the exception of binding all the people of Judah by covenant to obey the book's provisions.
The wisest course is to combine elements from both our sources. The reforms must have been implemented gradually. At the same time, "the book of the torah [of the covenant]" must have been available at an early stage of the reform, when its reading would have had the greatest effect (cf. Jeremiah 36:24 with 2 Kings 23:11). This is likely because, in the opinion of most current scholarship, the kernel of Deuteronomy was a northern Israelite work that had been brought to Judah after 720 bce.
The political motivations for the Josianic reform have occasioned much debate. Some scholars have viewed the reform as a religious expression of anti-Assyrian nationalism; they have noted especially that Josiah destroyed the altar at Bethel, which was in Assyrian territory. Other scholars have remarked that neither 2 Kings nor 2 Chronicles imputes anti-Assyrian rebellion to Josiah, though both books describe revolts by "good" and "bad" kings of Israel and Judah (2 Kgs. 18:7, 24:1, 24:20; 2 Chr. 32:10–11, 36:13). It is likely that Josiah's destruction of the Bethel altar had the motive of consolidating Davidic rule, for its original construction had been with the opposite intent (1 Kgs. 12:26–29, 13:2), but this could have been done with Assyrian acquiescence.
The role of Jeremiah in the Josianic reform has aroused much controversy. Some scholars depict the prophet as an early, ardent proponent of the reform who became disillusioned. At the other extreme, some scholars have revised the chronology of the prophet's life so that he begins to prophesy only after the death of Josiah in 609. If the Chronicler's chronology of the reform is accepted, then Jeremiah would have been an unlikely choice to consult about the book because of his tender age, and the prophetess Huldah a better candidate (2 Kgs. 22:14). It appears that sometime in the mid-twenties of the seventh century, during the reign of Josiah, whom he considered a just and righteous king (Jer. 22:12–15), Jeremiah preached "return" (repentance) to the northerners (Jer. 3:6, 3:11–18; cf. 31:2–23). If so, then he must have been enthusiastic at the outset, only to be disappointed later.
It is probably correct to say that for Jeremiah, the people's return could never be sufficient. He was too much of an idealist. He considers Judah's return to Yahveh "deceitful" (Jer. 3:10), whereas the people complain, "I have been cleansed. Surely his anger is turned away from me.… Will he be angry forever? Will he rage for all time?" (Jer. 2:35, 3:5). The author of 2 Kings 23 is in fundamental agreement with the people rather than with Jeremiah. According to 2 Kings, Josiah "returned to Yahveh with all his heart and soul and might, in complete accord with the teaching of Moses" (23:25). There is no indication that Josiah's contemporaries had not done enough or had been deceitful. Instead, the verse following says that although Josiah had repented (shav ), Yahveh had not repented of his anger, because of the sins of Manasseh. For the writer of 2 Kings, Manasseh's generation was so irredeemably wicked that the following generations were doomed no matter how they acted (2 Kgs. 21:1–16).
Some of Jeremiah's contemporaries expressed this same pessimistic attitude in the proverb "The ancestors ate sour grapes but the children's teeth are clean" (Jer. 31:29; cf. Ez. 18:1). That is, they believed that because the ancestors ate forbidden food, their children go hungry. But Jeremiah disagrees. He believes that his contemporaries are worse because they have returned (shavu ) to the ancestral sins after supposedly repudiating them, and thus have broken the ancient covenant that demanded Yahveh's exclusive worship (Jer. 11:9–10, 16:10–12). The notion that returning to sin after allegedly repenting is worse than sinning without repentance is characteristic of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 34, for example, the prophet rebukes the people who had first reinstated the provision for the release of Hebrew slaves under the leadership of Zedekiah, but then turned around (va-yashuvu ) and enslaved them a second time.
The sin of insincere repentance underlies Jeremiah's attitude toward the cult of his time. Josiah's reforms had made the Jerusalem Temple the only legitimate Yahvistic shrine in the country, so that it could truly be called "Yahveh's palace" (Jer. 7:4) by the people, echoing the prophecies of the eighth-century prophet Isaiah (Is. 2:1–4, 31:4-5, 37:32–35). In contrast, Jeremiah taught, as had others (Jer. 26:18–20), that the Temple was not inviolable, nor was it any more permanent than the anciently destroyed Shiloh sanctuary (Jer. 7:14). Probably at the same time, he made the statement, "Add your whole burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat. For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt I did not speak with them to command them about burnt offerings and sacrifices. This rather is what I commanded them: Hearken to my voice so that I can be your God and you can be my people" (Jer. 7:21–22).
It would be inaccurate to say that Jeremiah advocated a cultless religion. He did not disagree that the Temple is God's place. Indeed, if the people mend their ways, then Yahveh will dwell with them in the Jerusalem Temple (Jer. 7:3, 7:7). But, for a number of reasons, the people's offerings are not "pleasing" (Jer. 6:20); the word used, leratson, is a technical term for an acceptable sacrifice (see also Leviticus 1:3, 19:5, 22:29; Isaiah 56:7). Most important, the popular view had it that other gods might be worshiped by Israelites as long as their worship of Yahveh was in purity. As Jeremiah says in his indictment, "Will you steal and murder and commit adultery and swear falsely and sacrifice to Baal and follow other gods with whom you have no [rightful] relation and then come and stand before me in this house which is called by my name and say 'we are saved' and then continue to commit all these abominations?" (Jer. 7:9–10).
It is clear that the people believed the cult could purify them of all their sins. If such violations as theft, murder, adultery, and false oaths could succumb to purificatory rituals, why could not the worship of foreign gods? In fact, such temporary rejection of foreign gods is ascribed to Jacob (Gn. 35:4) and to Joshua (Jos. 24). According to Leviticus 16:30, the priesthood claimed that its atonement rituals could remove all impurity caused by sin. (A priesthood could hardly claim otherwise.) Jeremiah did not accept this view because he saw it as insincere. In his eyes, Israel had been faithful to Yahveh only in the wilderness (Jer. 2:1). The people strayed as soon as they entered the promised land and so profaned it (Jer. 2:8, 3:2). Borrowing an image from Hosea, Jeremiah depicts the people of Judah as a faithless wife who had pretended to mend her ways (Jer. 3:1ff.). She knows that Yahveh has divorced the northern kingdom of Israel for infidelity (Jer. 3:8), but her heart is still uncircumcised (Jer. 4:4, 9:25). The entire people is guilty, for none has practiced true repentance—neither priests, teachers, kings, nor prophets (Jer. 2:8, 21:11–23:5, 23:9–40, 27–29). Jeremiah's mission is to bring the people to true repentance (Jer. 3:14, 3:22, 4:1). If he fails, then destruction of the land is inevitable, and even the gentiles will know the cause (Jer. 22:8–9; cf. Dt. 29:21–29, 1 Kgs. 9:8–9).
Compared with sincere repentance, the obligations of the cult are secondary. Inasmuch as Jeremiah agrees with Amos that there was no organized sacrificial cult in Israel's forty-year wandering in the desert (Am. 5:25), the covenant between Yahveh and his people could not have been made through the cult. Conversely, the cult must be insufficient to sustain the bond.
In the tradition of those prophets who influenced him, notably Hosea, the political events of his time were to Jeremiah an indication of Yahveh's disfavor. In his early prophecies, Yahveh's judgment was described as being through the agency of an unnamed northern foe. The kings of the north would come "and set their thrones at Jerusalem's gates," where Yahveh would pronounce sentence against Judah for serving other gods (Jer. 1:14–16). It does not seem that Jeremiah actually identified the northern foe as Babylon until the Babylonian victory over the Egyptians at Carchemish in Syria in 605 (cf. Jer. 36:29). It is also likely that the description of the Babylonian officers sitting in the gate in Jerusalem (Jer. 39:3) is a "fulfillment" of the early prophecy.
At first Jeremiah teaches that Yahveh's punishment of the people at the hands of their foes can be averted by true repentance. The death of Josiah and the accession of Jehoiakim to the throne mark a turning point. Jeremiah does not accuse Jehoiakim of the worship of foreign gods but of social abuses. The king was unjustly impressing laborers into service so that he could build himself a lavish palace. He was shedding innocent blood and perpetrating fraud and violence (Jer. 22:13–17). In consequence, predicted Jeremiah, perhaps inaccurately (2 Kgs. 24:6), Jehoiakim would have a donkey's funeral rather than a king's.
During Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah first began to commit his prophecies to writing in order to bring the people to repentance. Baruch was sent to read the scroll publicly in the Temple on a fast day (Jer. 36:9). The reading did not have the desired effect: Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll and attempted to kill Jeremiah and Baruch (Jer. 36:26) just as he had slain Uriah, who preached a similar message (Jer. 26:23). The writer of Jeremiah 36 remarks pointedly that Jehoiakim and his courtiers "showed no fear and did not tear their garments," in order to contrast Jehoiakim with his pious father, Josiah, who had torn his garments upon hearing Yahveh's word from a book (2 Kgs. 22:11, 22:19). Jehoiakim's unjust behavior, coupled with the rise of Babylon, was proof enough to Jeremiah that the required change of heart had not taken place, that Jehoiakim was not the man to bring it about, and that Yahveh would use Babylon to punish Judah, just as he had used Assyria to punish northern Israel.
In consequence, Jeremiah began to preach submission to Babylonia as Yahveh's will. This was particularly offensive to Jehoiakim, who had rebelled against Nebuchadrezzar II after three years of vassalage (2 Kgs. 23:26). The counsel of submission of Babylonia intensified after the death of Jehoiakim, in 597. Jehoiakin, Jehoiakim's son and successor, was deposed after three months, following a siege of Jerusalem. He and many other Judahites were deported. Jeremiah thought little of Jehoiakin and predicted that he would die in exile (Jer. 22:24–30).
In the reign of Zedekiah, the last king to occupy the throne of Judah, Jeremiah articulated Yahveh's plan. Yahveh had given all the lands over to Nebuchadrezzar and would punish those people who would not submit to Babylonian rule. Nebuchadrezzar was Yahveh's servant (Jer. 27:6) whose rule had been ordained for three generations (Jer. 27:7), or seventy years (Jer. 25:11). Those people who submitted to Nebuchadrezzar and, consequently, to Yahveh's word would be permitted by Yahveh to remain on their own land, while those who resisted would be exiled (Jer. 27:10–11). For Jeremiah, people like the Yahveh prophet Hananiah, son of Azzur, who preached the speedy return of Jeconiah, son of Jehoiakim, and the Temple vessels (Jer. 28:3–4) and who counseled rebellion were no better than the pagan diviners who offered the same message (Jer. 27:9, 27:15). Just as false were those prophets from Judah in Babylonia who taught that the exile would be short (Jer. 29:8–9). Yahveh had not sent them. The exiled Judahites should consider themselves "good figs" and should do Yahveh's will by building homes and families in Babylonia (Jer. 24:5, 29:4–7). Those people of Judah who had not been captured and exiled in 597 and who continued to resist Nebuchadrezzar were "bad figs." Flight to Egypt in order to escape Babylonian rule was just as bad, as far as Jeremiah was concerned (Jer. 24:8, 42:10–16). Yahveh himself had turned against Judah (Jer. 21:4–8). This meant that the "way of life" was surrender and the "way of death" was resistance (Jer. 21:8–10). Jeremiah's insistence on surrender landed him in the stocks (Jer. 20:1–6), caused him to be accused of treason and subversion, and nearly cost him his life (Jer. 38:3–6).
Pessimism and Hope in Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah provides more information about its subject's inner life than does any other biblical book. Even if some elements, such as the disinclination to prophecy, are felt elsewhere, they are more articulate in Jeremiah. Jeremiah does not want to prophesy (Jer. 1:6), but he cannot contain himself with Yahveh's anger (Jer. 6:11, 20:9). Though a prophet is normally supposed to intercede (Gn. 20:7, 20:17), Jeremiah is told not to (Jer. 7:16, 15:1). At least once, Yahveh was about to remove him from his prophetic office (Jer. 15:19). In Jeremiah's eyes, Yahveh seduced and even raped him (Jer. 20:7). Jeremiah prayed for the death of his relatives (Jer. 12:3) and cursed the day of his own birth (Jer. 20:15–18). He depicted himself as a man of strife and contention (Jer. 15:10) who lacked the comfort of family and social gatherings (Jer. 16:1–13). Yahveh's word has been, he says ironically, his joyful wedding tune (Jer. 15:16).
Yet the moroseness of the man and the generally pessimistic tone of his prophecy give us only one side of his personality. For at least twenty-three years, he believed that Yahveh might avert disaster if the people would repent. Even afterward, he prophesied hope. Perhaps the most optimistic of his prophecies is that of the berit ḥadashah (new covenant or testament), which must be understood in terms of the sixth century bce.
According to the authors of the Pentateuch, especially Deuteronomy, Yahveh and Israel were joined by covenant, or treaty. Yahveh had taken Israel as his people, and they had accepted him as their god and had assumed the obligation to worship him alone. Violation of the covenant would bring all manner of curses on the people (Dt. 28; cf. Jer. 11). Modern research has shown that the covenant form employed by Jeremiah and Deuteronomy is based on ancient Near Eastern political documents whereby a minor king becomes a vassal of a greater one. In such treaties, the suzerain promises land and protection to the vassal in return for the vassal's exclusive and undivided loyalty. The biblical religious covenants conceive of Israel as the vassal of Yahveh, who is, therefore, entitled to exclusive worship. Israel was entitled to remain on the land given it by Yahveh only as long as it served Yahveh alone (Jer. 11:5). Jeremiah was certain that his people had broken their covenant with Yahveh by following other gods (Jer. 11:10) and were therefore doomed to suffer the expected consequences. In Jeremiah 31, however, inspired by Hosea's teaching, the prophet arrives at a new idea.
Hosea speaks of Israel as a faithless wife who was to be cast out and divorced. But Yahveh realized that her inability to be faithful was inherent in her constitutional lack of the qualities of justice, equity, loyalty, compassion, and steadfastness. Yahveh would remarry Israel and would give her these qualities as betrothal gifts so that she would be able to be truly intimate with Yahveh (Hos. 2:18–21). He would even make it inherently impossible for her to pronounce the name Baal.
Jeremiah follows the same line of thinking, but he employs a political rather than a marital metaphor:
In days to come I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant which I made with their ancestors … a covenant which they broke, so I rejected them.… I will put my teaching inside of them and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their god and they will be my people. No longer will they need to teach one another "heed Yahveh," for all of them … shall heed me. (Jer. 31:31–34)
A similar notion is found in Jeremiah 32:38–41: "They shall be my people and I will be their god. I will give them an undivided heart and nature to revere me for all time. I will make an everlasting covenant with them and put reverence fore me in their hearts so that they cannot turn away from me.…Then I will plant them permanently in this land."
The new covenant is necessary because Israel and Judah lacked the innate abililty to keep the old one. Yahveh's recognition of the deficiency of his people inspires him to remedy it by a change of their nature. Once Yahveh has effected the change, his people will be able to keep his covenant and remain permanently on his land.
The new covenant itself was designed for the salvation of Israel and Judah. Yet its implications that a radical change of human nature is possible became universal. In a great irony of religious history, the words of the prophet who spent much of his career prophesying doom became to his direct and indirect descendants a legacy of hope.
Bright, John, trans. and ed. Jeremiah. Anchor Bible, vol. 21. Garden City, N.Y., 1965. A readable translation with commentary, notes, historical introduction, and bibliography. A scholarly work but accessible to the nonspecialist.
Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia, 1979. Excellent bibliography and a succinct treatment of Jeremiah from the viewpoint of canon criticism.
Cogan, Morton. Imperialism and Religion: Assyria, Judah and Israel in the Eighth and Seventh Centuries b.c. Missoula, Mont., 1974. An examination of primary Assyrian sources to determine religious policy in Assyrian provinces and vassal states.
Ehrlich, Arnold B. Miqraʿ ki-feshuṭo. 3 vols. Berlin, 1899–1901. An excellent and erratic philological commentary.
Fohrer, Georg. History of Israelite Religion. Translated by David E. Green. Nashville, 1972.
Ginsberg, H. L. "Hosea, Book of." In Encyclopaedia Judaica. Jerusalem, 1971. An extremely important account of the background of northern Israelite prophetic thought and of Hosea's influence on Deuteronomy.
Kaufmann, Yeḥezkel. The Religion of Israel, from Its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile. Translated and abridged by Moshe Greenberg. Chicago, 1960. An attempt to demonstrate that there was no great gap between prophetic and popular religion. Kaufmann argues that prophetic polemics against idolatry are mostly rhetorical exaggerations by idealists.
Nelson, Richard. "Realpolitik in Judah, 687–609 b.c." In Scripture in Context, edited by William W. Hallo, James C. Moyer, and Leo G. Perdue, vol. 2, pp. 177–189. Winona Lake, Ind., 1982. A critique of the theory that Josiah's religious policies were part of his anti-Assyrian nationalism.
Rowley, H. H. "The Prophet Jeremiah and the Book of Deuteronomy." In his From Moses to Qumran, chap. 6. London, 1963. A good summary of the problems involved in the relation between the prophet and the book. Good bibliography to 1950.
Soden, Wolfram von. Akkadisches Handwörterbuch, vol. 2. Wiesbaden, 1972. See the index, s.v. rimu (m ).
Berrigan, Daniel J. Jeremiah: The World, the Wound of God. Minneapolis, 1999.
Brueggman, Walter. A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1998.
Hunter, Michael J. A Guide to Jeremiah. London, 1993.
Jones, Douglas Rawlinson. Jeremiah: Based on the Revised Standard Version. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1992.
King, Philip J. Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion. Louisville, Ky., 1993.
Lundbom, Jack R. The Early Career of the Prophet Jeremiah. Lewiston, N.Y., 1993.
Sharp, Carolyn J. Prophecy and Ideology in Jeremiah: Struggles for Authority in the Deutero-Jeremianic Prose. New York, 2003.
White, R.E.O. The Indomitable Prophet: A Biographical Commentary: The Man, the Time, the Book, the Tasks. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1992.
S. David Sperling (1987)
JEREMIAH (Heb. והּ ָירִי ְמ) second of the major prophets whose book is the second in the Latter Prophets section of the Bible.
This entry is arranged according to the following outline:IN THE BIBLE
The Life and Message of Jeremiah
beginnings of prophecy
after the death of josiah
the destruction of the temple and exile
The Composition of the Book
Oracles Against Foreign Nations
"The Book of Consolation"
The "Biography" of Jeremiah
Baruch's Scroll with Additions
Oracles Concerning the House of David and the Prophets
IN THE AGGADAH
IN THE ARTS
The Book of Jeremiah is the largest among the Latter Prophets and comprises the oracles of the prophet Jeremiah from the 13th year of the reign of Josiah until after the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians. It also contains biographical and autobiographical narrative concerning the prophet and his activities, as well as historical records of the destruction of Jerusalem and of subsequent events which took place in Judah and Egypt. In the prevalent masoretic editions it is placed after the Book of Isaiah. According to an old order suggested by Bava Batra 14b–15a, it was placed at the beginning of the Latter Prophets, before Ezekiel and Isaiah. This arrangement was followed by many Ashkenazi manuscripts. In the Septuagint it usually appears third, after the Minor Prophets and Isaiah and before Ezekiel (see *Bible, Canon). (See Table, Book of Jeremiah contents.)
|1:1–19||The call of Jeremiah.|
|2:1–4:4||Indictment of the nation's sin.|
|4:5–6:30||The coming disaster "from the north."|
|7:1–10:25||First editorial addition to Baruch's scroll|
|7:1–8:3||Temple sermons and appended sayings.|
|8:4–9:21||An incorrigible people and their tragic ruin.|
|10:17–25||An incorrigible people and their tragic ruin.|
|11:1–20:18||Second editorial addition to Baruch's scroll|
|11:1–17||Preaching on the broken covenant.|
|11:18–12:6||Jeremiah's persecution by his relatives and fellow townsmen.|
|12:7–17||God expresses His sorrow for the dereliction of His people.|
|13:1–27||Parabolic vision of the linen waistcloth and attached sayings.|
|14:1–15:4||The time of drought and national emergency.|
|15:5–16:21||Oracles and confessions in poetry and prose.|
|18:1–23||Jeremiah at the potter's house and attached sayings.|
|19:1–20:18||Prophetic symbolism and the persecutions; further confessions.|
|21:1–24:10||Oracles concerning the House of David and the prophets.|
|25:1–38||Oracles against foreign nations|
|26:1–29:32||The biography of Jeremiah|
|26:1–24||The "Temple sermon"; Jeremiah narrowly escapes death.|
|27:1–28:17||Events of 594 B.C.E.; the incident of the ox-yoke.|
|29:1–32||594 B.C.E.: Jeremiah and the exile in Babylon.|
|30:1–31:40||The "Book of Consolation."|
|32:1–44:30||The biography of Jeremiah.|
|32:1–33:26||Restoration of Judah and Jerusalem.|
|34:1–7||Words of Jeremiah as the Babylonian blockade tightens.|
|34:8–22||Incidents during lifting of siege.|
|35:1–19||Jeremiah and the Rechabites.|
|36:1–32||Incident of the scroll.|
|37:1–10||Incident during lifting of siege.|
|37:11–38:28||Jeremiah in prison.|
|39:1–40:6||Jeremiah's release from prison.|
|40:7–43:7||Assassination of Gedaliah and the flight to Egypt.|
|43:8–44:30||Jeremiah in Egypt.|
|46:1–51:64||Oracles against foreign nations|
|52:1–34||The fall of Jerusalem|
Despite the greater knowledge of Jeremiah's life than of any other prophet's, no biography of him can be written, for the available facts are too meager. Important background information is found in Scripture in ii Kings, ii Chronicles, Zephanaiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Obadiah. Other important sources on Jeremiah's times are the Hebrew letters from Lachish, primary documents from Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the histories of Herodotus and Josephus. It is noteworthy that ii Kings, which describes events contemporary with Jeremiah in great detail, does not mention the prophet. Inasmuch as there is no direct attestation of the prophet outside the book that bears his name, scholars differ widely in their estimations of the prophet's historicity. At one extreme Holladay believes that allowing for small exceptions, the narratives and poetic sections in Jeremiah are contemporary with the prophet. They were written by Jeremiah or Baruch, and one may outline the details of Jeremiah's personality and his life by drawing on these sources. At the other extreme Carroll believes that Jeremiah is merely a literary character and there is no way of knowing whether what is narrated of him is anchored at all in historical reality. Hoffman (27–9) demonstrates the flaws of both extremes and offers his own middle-of-the-road approach, which will be, in essentials, followed here. Later generations esteemed Jeremiah greatly. According to the Chronicler (ii Chr. 35:25) Jeremiah composed a lament over Josiah. His prophecies about the duration of the exile are cited in ii Chronicles 36:15–21 by the author of the ninth chapter of Daniel, and probably underlie Haggai 1:2. Later writers interpolated their own compositions into his prophecies. The apocryphal Epistle of Jeremy (see *Jeremiah, Epistle of), a polemic against idolatry allegedly written by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylonia is styled after Jeremiah 29. According to the second chapter of ii Maccabees, Jeremiah secreted the ark, the tabernacle, and the altar of incense. In the New Testament, Jeremiah 31:14 (15) is quoted directly in Matthew 2:17, and his vision of the New Covenant/Testament (Jer. 31:31–34; cf. Jer. 32:38–40) is quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12 and 10:16–17. Jewish tradition identifies Jeremiah as the author of his book, of Kings, and of Lamentations (this last probably on the basis of ii Chronicles 35:25).
It is known that Jeremiah's birthplace was *Anathoth (Jer. 1:1; 11:21, 23; 29:27; 32:7–9), a Benjaminite village some 4 mi. (c. 7 km.) northeast of Jerusalem. Among its inhabitants were men of priestly lineage, as shown by the reference in Jeremiah 1:1 to "the priests in Anathoth," and the appearance of Anathoth in an old list of levitical towns (Josh. 21:18). Jeremiah himself was of a priestly family of means and could spend 17 shekels on a symbolic action (cf. Jer. 32:9). He could afford to hire Baruch, son of Neriah, as a personal secretary. Jeremiah's father was a certain Hilkiah (Jer. 1:1), not to be confused with the contemporary high priest bearing the same name (ii Kings 22:4ff.). It is generally assumed that Jeremiah's family was descended from David's priest *Abiathar, whom Solomon later banished to Anathoth (i Kings 2:26–27). There is much to recommend this opinion, since it is unlikely that so small a village could contain several unrelated priestly families. Jeremiah is never called a priest. He must have been born around 645 b.c.e., since he began his prophetic career in the 13th year of Josiah's reign (Jer. 1:2; 25:3), i.e., in 627 b.c.e., when he was still a very young man (1:6). He received a name whose antecedents go back to the early second millennium and, apparently quite common in biblical times, meaning "May the Lord lift up" (Heb. yerim-yahu), as reflected in the Greek transcription Ieremias as compared with the Hebrew והּ ָירִי ְמ or ְ הָירִי ְמ. Nothing is known of Jeremiah's childhood and youth, except that he did not marry (16:1–4), which he attributed to a divine command. According to chapter 16 the divine command was due to the fact that in the coming disaster parents and their children would all perish. Jeremiah lived to see the dramatic events from the dissolution of the Assyrian Empire to the fall of the Judahite kingdom in 587 b.c.e., when the Neo-Babylonian Empire, after an interval of Judahite national independence and a few years of Egyptian supremacy, put an end to the kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah was deeply concerned with the march of events in his time, and every act of that tragic drama is reflected in his book. His words and deeds can often therefore be related to known events to a degree unparalleled by other prophets. Jeremiah's deeply personal poems, the so-called "confessions," express his reactions toward his fate and reveal his temptations and his wrestling with God. The divine compulsion was laid upon him, overruling his objections (Jer. 20:7), and Jeremiah exercised his ministry unremittingly as long as he lived.
(See Table: Book of Jeremiah.) He began to preach in 627 with the chastening conviction that his country was under judgment. Even if Josiah's efforts for a cultic reform were already in motion, the evil legacy of Manasseh's reign in Judah and of the Assyrian occupation in the Northern provinces still encumbered the land. As a member of a monolatrous or monotheistic minority, Jeremiah could not tolerate the worship of other gods alongside of Yahweh. He thundered against it, and warned of its dire consequences, as did *Zephaniah, who was also active at the time. His precise attitude toward the reform, which reached its climax in 622 (cf. ii Kings 22–23), five years after he had begun his ministry, is disputed. The most plausible supposition is that Jeremiah, though taking no direct part in its implementation, was in favor of its essential aim of reviving the ancient Mosaic covenant in which he had presumably been nurtured. Some of his oracles addressed to the Northern Kingdom even seem to indicate that he was favorable to the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem (cf. Jer. 3:14–15; 31:10–14; though some doubt these to be genuinely from Jeremiah), while others indicate a critical stance (Jer. 7:4). Jeremiah belonged by sympathy as well as by descent to the Northern Kingdom. Many of his first oracles are concerned with, and even addressed to, the remaining Israelites at Samaria. Accordingly, he is saturated with the thought and teaching of *Hosea, the finest representative of northern Israelite prophetism. The resemblance between the two prophets appears not only in the use of language and figures: it extends itself to fundamental ideas on God and His relation to Israel. Hosea seems to have been the first prophet to describe the relation of Yahweh to Israel metaphorically in terms of ancient Israelite marriage, whereby a man might be polygynous, while a woman was required to limit herself to one husband. Thus Yahweh might have two wives, Israel and Judah (cf. Ezek. 23), but neither of these could have another husband, i.e., serve another god. Using Hosea's marital image (Jer. 2:2b–3; 3:1–5, 19–25; 4:1–2), Jeremiah urges submission to the Yahweh on His own terms, expressed in the covenantal law. The Covenant required Israel to acknowledge no other god than Yahweh. Its leading principle was that Israel owed everything to the divine love which had brought it into being and without which it could not continue. The only worthy response to this free grace was a love involving submission and loyalty.
However, Israel was unfaithful to its God. Instead of repaying Him with due love, the people betrayed Him as an unfaithful wife betrays her husband for a lover (Jer. 3:20). Jeremiah therefore bids them to worship the Lord with repentance.
It is a widely held view that Jeremiah was silent for a long time after the reform had been completed. The point is difficult to settle, since there is no evidence save Jeremiah's undated sayings and since almost nothing is known of Judah's internal affairs during Josiah's later years. In any case, his famous "Temple sermon" (7:2–15) is precisely dated (26:1) in Jehoiakim's accession year, i.e., the autumn of 609 or the winter of 609/8. From this address, uttered a few months after Josiah's death at Megiddo, it is clear that Jeremiah was disappointed by the results which followed the Josianic reform. Judah, by this reform, made the Temple with its sacrifices and its ritual essential to a correct relation to God. To maintain the true religion and the people's access to God, the people must only come to the one sanctuary and worship through a legitimate priesthood. Jeremiah violently rejected that vision because it not only neglected the moral principles of the Covenant, but facilitated trust in the notion that the temple cult absolved all sins, even worship of Baal (Jer. 7: 9–11; cf. Lev. 16: 30–34). This developed into a religious controversy in which the parties were sharply divided, their differences concerning the question of what does or does not constitute the essential element of the religion. The "Temple sermon" was intended to be a solemn indictment, an appeal to the national conscience. By taking this public action Jeremiah ran counter both to popular belief and official doctrine; he boldly challenged the policy of the nation's leaders, and in particular of the priests. He was also in strong antagonism with several of his fellow prophets, although he was not alone in his attitude of opposition. Another prophet, Uriah of Kiriath-Jearim, also appeared at the time, prophesying in the same terms as Jeremiah (Jer. 26:20–24). Efforts were made to silence Jeremiah and, indeed, his "Temple sermon" nearly cost him his life (Jer. 26). Authorities forbade his entrance to the Temple (36:5), and even inhabitants of his own village of Anathoth resolved to kill him if he persisted (11:18–23); members of his own family were implicated in this plot (12:6). Jeremiah's life thus entered an extremely difficult phase at the end of 609, although this did not last until his death. Nevertheless, Jeremiah continued his denunciations, without sparing the king (21:11–22:9). His message increasingly became one of stern warning of impending disaster. It was natural that he should insist that his word was the ancient word which formed the basis of Judah's religion, and that acceptance of it was essential to a correct relationship to God and, consequently, to the salvation of the nation from the impending calamity.
When the Babylonian danger appeared on the horizon after the battle of Carchemish in 605 b.c.e., the prophet realized that his early prophecy of the awful "Foe from the North" (Jer. 1:13–16) was being fulfilled in the person of Nebuchadnezzar and his army; God's appointed agent of the judgment that would shortly fall upon the unrepentant people of Judah. He saw the task of announcing the imminent arrival of that danger as a leading feature of his mission to his nation and to the surrounding world. He then made a last effort to bring his country to its senses. As the priests had forbidden him to enter the Temple, he dictated to his friend and secretary *Baruch a selection of his preachings, and directed him to read the scroll in the Temple (Jer. 36). A favorable opportunity presented itself in 604 (36:9). Some high officials heard Baruch and brought the fact to the king's attention, as it also had a political bearing, the vision of the "Foe from the North" running like a red thread through the whole of Jeremiah's message. (In the ancient Near Eastern world administrators were responsible for reporting prophecies to the king. See *Mari.) Jehoiakim demanded to hear the scroll, but then snatched it from the reader's hands and threw it into the fire. He sent three men including his son to seize Jeremiah and Baruch, "but the Lord hid them" (Jer. 36:26–27). Jeremiah subsequently dictated the scroll again, with additions (36:32). The surrender of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 597, and the deportation of King Jehoiachin and of the leading citizens seemed to confirm Jeremiah's warnings. The prophet told of the sad fate of the young king, a victim of his father's folly (Jer. 22:24–30; Cf. ii Kings 23:36–24:16). At the same time, he saw in the exile of the national leaders the expression of the divine verdict. The messages he sent to the exiles reveal not only that fundamental conviction, but also his belief that the God worshiped in the Temple of Jerusalem was too great to be localized. The exiles were able to reach Him even in their new condition, far away from the soil of Israel and Judah (29:7). As well, Jeremiah told them to disregard the optimistic promises of their prophets (29:8–9). Such interventions of course brought Jeremiah into collision with the prophets who had been saying just the opposite (23:9–40; 28; 29:24–32), and with the contemporary national leaders who were making sacrifice at one shrine essential to the Judahite religion, thus tending dangerously to localize God and His grace in the sanctuary "which He chose out of all the tribes to set His name there." The contrary conviction of Jeremiah does not mean, however, that the prophet attached no specific content to the national religion. He admitted a particular relationship between Israel and God: Israel was set apart for Him as His property, His bride. This idea is already expressed in the early utterances of Jeremiah, addressed to the Northern Kingdom. Jeremiah believed that God had revealed Himself to Israel and chosen it to be His servant. Therefore he affirmed to the men of his generation the unique character of the God in whom he and they alike believed, together with the resultant uniqueness of His demands and the consequent reality of His guidance, which was not at the mercy of outward conditions or circumstances (18:3–10). The worship of the God of Israel thus could not disappear, even if His shrine and the sacrificial system disappeared, for it needed no more than prayer and obedience to His word. According to Jeremiah, everything else was an accessory. It is understandable, therefore, that after the Babylonians had destroyed the Temple and carried away the sacred vessels, Jeremiah was vindicated as the true prophet and the defender of the right religion. Jeremiah himself did not need to see these events to understand that resistance to Babylon was resistance to the Divine Will. He regarded the Babylonian army as an instrument in the Divine hands for carrying out a well-merited punishment on the guilty nation and its leaders. This conviction had arisen after the Babylonian victory at Carchemish in 605 b.c.e., but it became still stronger after the deportation of 597 b.c.e. From these historical events Jeremiah fully recognized that the power of Babylonia was irresistible and that the petty kingdom of Judah could not hope to oppose it. He concluded, therefore, that submission to Nebuchadnezzar was the will of God, who so punished the unfaithfulness of His people. The king of Babylon was the divine servant (27:6) whom the Lord was to employ for His purposes. When various vassals of Nebuchadnezzar in the West began to toy with the idea of rebellion and sent ambassadors to Jerusalem to discuss plans with King Zedekiah, Jeremiah flatly opposed such talk, appearing before the conspirators with an ox yoke on his neck and exhorting them to wear the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 27). In the autumn of 589, when the Babylonians moved to attack Jerusalem, and later during the blockade of the city, Zedekiah sent more than once to Jeremiah asking for a word from the Lord. Yet Jeremiah gave the king no encouragement. On the contrary, he assured him that God Himself was fighting for the Babylonians (27:8). No wonder, therefore, that to Judah's leaders Jeremiah was an enemy. He was arrested, probably in the summer of 588, and remained in custody as long as the city held out. The biographical chapters 37–38 provide a circumstantial account of Jeremiah's fortunes during these tragic months. After the fall of Jerusalem in 587 b.c.e., the Babylonians allowed Jeremiah to remain with the new governor *Gedaliah at Mizpah. When Gedaliah was murdered after only a few weeks of governorship (41:1–2), his followers, fearing Babylonian reprisals, fled to Egypt, taking the prophet with them against his will (Jer. 40–43). Jeremiah was reluctant to leave the country, since he attributed the value of a sign or symbol of hope perhaps to his presence in the land. He was indeed convinced that God's purpose could not be exhausted in punishment. After 70 years of a human lifespan (Ps. 90:10; Isa. 23:15), nearly the entire sinful generation would be dead, and God, he believed, would then contract a new covenant with the new people (29:10–11; cf. 31:31–34). The refugees who had taken Jeremiah with them found asylum at Tahpanhes (Daphne), the present-day Tell Defneh, just within the Egyptian border, east of the Delta. There the last words recorded from Jeremiah were uttered (43:8–13; 44). After this, no more is heard of him. Presumably, he did not survive for long and died in his sixties. According to a later tradition recorded by Tertullian (Adversus Gnosticos, ch. 8, in Patrologia Latina, vol. 2, col. 137) and Jerome (Adversus Jovinianum, 2:37, ibid., 23, col. 335), he was stoned. Pseudo-Epiphanius (De vitis Prophetarium, in Patrologia Graeca, vol. 43, col. 400) and Isidorus Hispalensis (De Ortu et Obitu Patrorum, ch. 38, in Patrologia Latina, vol. 83, col. 142) even affirm that this happened in Tahpanhes. The unreliability of this tradition is evident from a passage of Jerome's commentary on Isaiah, where he records another tradition according to which Jeremiah died in Egypt of a natural death.
The Book of Jeremiah exists in two versions, one in the masoretic text, and another in the Septuagint. The latter does not place the prophecies against foreign nations at the end of the book, but after Jeremiah 23:13a. Moreover, they are not arranged there in the same order as in the masoretic text. The Septuagint version is much shorter: about one-eighth of the masoretic text is missing, mostly single verses or parts of verses, but also entire sections such as 33:14–26; 39:4–13; 51:44b–49a; and 52:27b–30. In some cases the omissions may have been made intentionally, as, for instance, where the translators omitted doublets in their second occurrence or shortened a difficult text. Other lacunae may be explained by textual criticism, as in cases of homoioteleuton, when the scribe's eye leaped over material between two sentences with similar endings (Jer. 39:4–13; 51:44b–49a). However, most of the omissions imply the existence of a shorter form of the Hebrew text. This is now clear from discoveries made at Qumran, where manuscript fragments representing both the longer and the shorter form of the text have been found (see Dead Sea *Scrolls). Thus the masoretic text and the Greek translation are based on different versions of the Hebrew text of Jeremiah. In the last pre-Christian centuries there were at least two versions of the book of Jeremiah in circulation. Both versions seem to have a relatively long history of scribal transmission behind them. However, since the Septuagint does not reveal a tendency to abbreviate plain passages, while the masoretic text seems to be an expanded one, the Hebrew archetype of the Septuagint has been considered as representing a more nearly original form to the text, superior to the late masoretic text. Some changes, however, were made in the Septuagint in the same direction as in the accepted Hebrew text. The different arrangement of some parts of the Book of Jeremiah in the masoretic text and in the Septuagint, as well as the existence of doublets, show that the book is a collection of shorter "books" plus miscellaneous material. Such "books" are explicitly mentioned in chapter 36, which gives a valuable account of Jeremiah's dictation of many of his oracles to his scribe Baruch, as well as in 25:13a; 30:2; 45:1; and 51:60. Tradition attributes the authorship of all of them to the prophet Jeremiah, but it is clear that not all the material can be derived from him. This is manifest in the case of chapter 52, which could only have been composed after 561 b.c.e. In other sections of the book, too, everything cannot come from the prophet himself (see tables in Hoffman, 62–66). This is certainly true for the narratives which use the third person in speaking of Jeremiah. In his commentary (1901), B. Duhm laid down the principle that only poetic passages can genuinely be attributed to the prophet. He held that the book consists of three types of material: Jeremiah's own words, almost exclusively poetry in kinah meter, comprising 280 masoretic verses; Baruch's life of Jeremiah, 220 verses; and later additions, 850 verses, which have much in common either with Deutero- and Trito- *Isaiah, or with the Deuteronomistic parts of the Former Prophets. A monograph published by S. Mowinckel in 1914 distinguished four principal sources in the Book of Jeremiah, designated as a, b, c, and d. a was Baruch's scroll, dictated by Jeremiah, with additions made by someone living in Egypt between 580 and 480 b.c.e. This collection is now contained within chapters 1–24, and is the most authentic part of the book. b was a biography of Jeremiah, based upon oral tradition written down by someone in Egypt in the same period as a; it is contained within chapters 19:1–20:6 and 26–45. c is the Deuteronomic source, composed in the fourth century b.c.e. and consisting mainly of 3:6–13; 7:1–8:3; 11:1–5, 9–14; 18:1–12; 21:1–10; 22:1–5; 25:1–11a; 29:1–23; 32:1–2, 6–16, 24–44; 34:1–22; 35:1–19; 39:15–18; 44:1–14; and ch. 45. d is the famous "Book of Comfort" or "Book of Consolation" in 30:1–31:40, dating from post-Exilic times. From the same period dates the complex of oracles concerning foreign nations (chs. 46–51), with some genuine Jeremianic elements. This collection was only later joined to Jeremiah 1–45. Mowinckel upholds the main lines of this view in his treatment of Jeremiah in the Norwegian translation issued in 1944, and, briefly, in Prophecy and Tradition (1946, pp. 61–65, 105–6). However, instead of sources he speaks of "traditionary circles," obviously sharing the opinion of H. Birkeland, who in 1938 introduced the views of H.S. Nyberg into criticism of the prophets and stressed the influence of the oral tradition, even when a written tradition was already in existence. According to Birkeland, the poetic sections of Jeremiah were written down earlier than the prose sermons composed in the style of Deuteronomic preaching; he thus admitted the possibility a Jeremianic nucleus in those sermons. In contrast, R.H. Pfeiffer (Introduction to the Old Testament (1941), 504–5) considers that Baruch combined words dictated or written by the prophet himself with his own biography of Jeremiah, revising and rewriting many of his master's sayings in his own Deuteronomistic style. Without admitting that Baruch was the author of the Deuteronomic sections (c), Mowinckel also shared this view, inasmuch as he considered Baruch to be responsible for the combination of the elements a and b. He held that around 580 b.c.e., Baruch concluded that large editorial unit with the words the prophet had addressed to him personally; this conclusion is found in Jeremiah 45, which therefore does not belong to c. Also according to Mowinckel, c was later incorporated into the "Book of Baruch" (a and b), probably when the Deuteronomistic tradition of Jeremiah was already fixed in writing. In regard to this tradition the opinion is widely held that these prose discourses represent the work of exilic authors who reconstructed the teachings of Jeremiah in terms of Deuteronomic theology, which provided an explanation of Judah's tragedy in 587 b.c.e. A stylistic approach of those "Deuteronomistic" speeches, attempted mainly by J. Bright and W.L. Holladay, led to their conclusion that the style of c is characteristic of the rhetorical prose of the late seventh and early sixth century in Judah, and that many of its typical phrases are a reshaping in prose of expressions which either are original to the genuine poetry of Jeremiah or, though not specifically Jeremianic, were employed by the prophet in his poetic oracles in an original fashion. These conclusions, if correct, suggest that the nucleus and basic content of c were authentically Jeremianic. It has also appeared in recent years that the principal literary types a, b, and c do not by themselves furnish an effective key for the study of the composition of Jeremiah. The latter is indeed not arranged according to the style of its various parts. C. Rietzschel therefore presented a new thesis regarding its composition (1966). He accepts the basic principles of classification of the literary material on the grounds of form and style, as developed mainly by S. Mowinckel, but denies that this can provide a sufficient indication of the way in which the book was composed. In particular, he holds that it cannot be assumed that poetic and prose material was handed down separately, although he links the c material with the homiletical speeches in Deuteronomistic parts of the Former Prophets. He proposes to reconstruct the process of the book's composition by an agglomeration of tradition complexes. He distinguishes in the Book of Jeremiah four main tradition blocks: (1) oracles of doom against Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 1–24); (2) oracles of doom against foreign nations (Jer. 25; 46–51); (3) oracles of salvation for Israel and Judah (Jer. 26–35); and (4) cycle of narratives about the prophet (Jer. 36–44). He divides the first block into six complexes, namely Jeremiah 1–6, 7–10, 11–13, 14–17, 18–20, and 21–24, four of which are introduced by a Deuteronomic speech beginning with the words "the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord" (Jer. 7:1; 11:1; 18:1; 21:1). The oracle to Baruch in Jeremiah 45 originally stood just after 20:18, so that 21–24 is an appendix to the first tradition block. Rietzschel concludes that Baruch's scroll is to be found in 1–6, and that 7–20 represents the "other words added," which are referred to in 36:32. The approach of Rietzschel has earned its place alongside earlier attempts to solve the problems of the composition of the Book of Jeremiah. The recent Hebrew commentary of Y. Hoffman argues that a stylistic study shows that most of the poetic material comes from a single source. As such, claims that the same individual could not have written both laments and hymns and prophecies of destruction and restoration is purely arbitrary. Indeed, the similarities between the poetic rebukes and the oracles to the nations show that most of the oracles to the nations can be attributed to Jeremiah, although their present form shows substantial additions. As far as the prose contents are concerned, the biographical material on the prophet and the sermons are stylistically close enough to originate in a single stream of tradition, though not in the work of a single author. With most scholars, Hoffman identifies characteristic Deuteronomic language in these sections, but argues that they often employ terminology that diverges from that of the Deuteronomic school; an indication that these sections originated in circles of disciples of Jeremiah who were influenced by the Deuteronomists but distinct from them. Hoffman identifies five stages in the book's composition: (1) the prophecies of Jeremiah before 604; (2) the prophecies both of rebuke and hope between 604 and 586; (3) post-586 psalms, narratives, and sermons with a Jeremianic core but mostly the work of transmitters of tradition who made use of the language of the Deuteronomists; (4) a second set of later additions; (5) the latest additions, which are found in the masoretic Jeremiah, but missing from the Hebrew text utilized by the Greek translators.
Whatever conclusions one reaches about the history of composition, it is plain that there were in existence oral and written sources previous to the actual blocks of material within the Book of Jeremiah. The following exposition deals first with the oracles against foreign nations (25; 46–51) and the so-called "Book of Consolation" (30–31). Then the narratives, both in the biographical and autobiographical styles, are examined. Finally Baruch's scroll (1–6) with its additions (7–20), and the oracles concerning the House of David and the prophets (21–24) are reviewed.
The introduction to this passage block is to be sought in 25:1–13a. This is more apparent in the Septuagint, which inserts the whole of chapters 46–51 between verses 13a and 13b, but in a different order (49:34–39; 46; 50–51; 47; 49:7–22; 49:1–6; 49:28–33; 49:23–27; 48). Jeremiah 25:13b–38 is the conclusion of that "book." It corresponds to chapters 25–32 of the Septuagint and forms a collection of prophecies concerning foreign nations, grouped together as the similar prophecies in the Books of Isaiah (Isa. 13–23) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 25–32). The Jeremianic nucleus of that block included at least chapters 46–47, which seem to date from the years 605–604; the oracle on Kedar (49:28–33), probably to be connected with the Babylonian campaign against the Arabs in the winter of 599–598; and the oracle on Elam (49:34–39), which goes back to the year 596/5, when an Elamite king, on the eve of engaging in battle against Nebuchadnezzar on the bank of the Tigris, decided to return to his land. The authentically Jeremianic collection was later expanded by the addition of the complex of oracles against Moab (48), Ammon (49:1–6), and Edom (49:7–22), the three Transjordanian kingdoms which had been entirely taken over by Arab tribes toward the end of the sixth century b.c.e. The oracles may reflect an early phase of these events, unless they allude to a campaign of Nebuchadnezzar against Moab and Ammon, dated by Josephus (Ant., 10:180–181) in the fifth year after the fall of Jerusalem, i.e., in 582 b.c.e. The prophecies concerning Moab and Edom contain numerous prose comments and enlargements, and much of their material is to be found in a substantially identical form elsewhere in the Bible, above all in Isaiah 15–16 and Obadiah 1–10. It must be assumed, therefore, that Jeremiah 48:1–49:22 consists basically of anonymous passages, commented and expanded, probably with references to historical events in 582 or later in the sixth century. Another anonymous passage, concerning Damascus and dating probably from the eighth century, was subsequently added to this collection (49:23–27). The book was most likely finished at the beginning of the fifth century. Some glosses were later added to the archetype of the masoretic text. The disposition of the material in the Septuagint reflects, on the other hand, a secondary rearrangement of the oracles. Elam, probably identified with Persia, is mentioned first; then follow the two other empires, Egypt and Babylonia. After this, the small neighboring countries are mentioned: first Philistia and Edom in southern Palestine, then Ammon, Kedar, and Damascus in the east. The long oracle against Moab closes the series.
The introduction to this section appears in Jeremiah 30:1–3. It consists of the whole of chapters 30–31, which contain Jeremiah's prophecies addressed to the Northern Kingdom during Josiah's reign. These two chapters consist of a collection of originally separated passages, mostly poetic. Because they develop the theme of Israel's comfort and restoration, some scholars dated them from the Exilic period and argued that relatively few of these passages can be genuinely attributed to Jeremiah. However, they overlooked the reference to the oppressed people as "Ephraim" (31:5, 8, 17, 19), and the mention of Samaria in 31:4. The names Israel and Jacob must therefore be understood as denoting the tribes of the former kingdom of Samaria, whose territories had been liberated by Josiah and united again to Judah (cf. ii Kings 23:15–20; ii Chron. 34:6–7). Stylistic similarities to Deutero-Isaiah in Jeremiah 30:10 or 31:6–8 can be explained on the supposition that both prophets made use of the same conventional forms of priestly oracles. The prose passages in 30:8–9 and 31:22–33, 38–40 were probably added to the collection, but at least 31:30–33 may contain a nucleus of Jeremianic words originally addressed to the Northern Kingdom. The entire "Book of Consolation" (30–31) stands as a separate block of material in the midst of a series of chapters, mostly biographical in character (Jer. 26–29; 32–44). It was inserted after 29:32, which quotes the Lord's word alluding to "the good things that I am going to do for you." Thus the place was well suited for the insertion of the "Book of Consolation."
Chapters 26–29 and 32–44 are mostly biographical in character. The actual sequence of narratives reflects not only a secondary redistribution of the various episodes, but also points to a series of editors who successively handled materials from different sources. For instance, chapters 27–29 are sometimes considered as belonging to one source. The reason for deriving them from a common author is that they call the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, departing from the correct spelling Nebuchadrezzar of the rest of the Book of Jeremiah, and that they speak of "Jeremiah the prophet." Yet it is noteworthy that chapters 27 and 28 differ in one cardinal point. Chapter 27 introduces Jeremiah in the first person. Chapter 28 begins in verse 1 with the first person, and then suddenly and unaccountably breaks off to speak of "Jeremiah the prophet" (verses 5ff.). This points to a combination of the chapters by a redactor, who imperfectly joined the first and third person narratives. The slight change involved in the spelling of Nebuchadnezzar's name throughout may be due to him. The problem of the composition of the "biographical" chapters is thus rather complicated. The heterogeneous complex of chapters 27–35 has been inserted in the continuous narrative of Jeremiah 26; 36:1–37:10; 38; 39:3, with, as a conclusion, the oracle to Ebed-Melech in 39:15–18. The latter's content and position at the end of the book can be compared with those of the oracles to Baruch in Jeremiah 45, which originally ended the block of Jeremiah 1–20. This whole narrative covers the period from 609 to the liberation of Jeremiah by the Babylonians in July 587, and might have been written at the request of Ebed-Melech by Baruch, known to have been an intimate of Jeremiah from 605 (36:4, 5) until after 587 (32:12, 43:3, 6). In any case, Baruch is the most likely candidate for the authorship of these sections, which seem to come from an eyewitness. The end of 39:14 suggests that this literary unit was completed between the fall of Jerusalem and the murder of Gedaliah, i.e., in 587. Another, shorter report of Jeremiah's imprisonment and liberation in 37:11–21; 39:11; and 40:2a, 4–6, states that Jeremiah was chained in the court of the guard (37:21). This brief account must also have been composed prior to the assassination of Gedaliah. A third narrative in 39:1–2, 4–10; 40:7–41:18; and 43:5–6b, 7a concerns Jerusalem's capture and Gedaliah's murder, in which Jeremiah played no role. This composition, too, can safely be dated in the year 587. It was used somewhat later as an historical framework by another author, who intended to expand the narrative of 37:11–21; 39:11; and 40:2a, 4–6 by telling the end of Jeremiah's career in Egypt. He composed at least all the sections of chapters 42–43, where the expression "Jeremiah the prophet" appears (42:2, 4; 43:6). The largest part of 42:1–4, 7–9a, 19; 43:2–4, and the additions in 40:2b–3 and 43:6, 7 are to be ascribed to him. This editorial unit thus included in Jeremiah 37:11–21; 39:12, 4–11; 40:2–41:18; 42:1–4, 7–9a, 19; 43:2–7a. The remaining parts of chapters 42–43 seem to reflect the same hand as chapter 44. Since the author already knew that Hophra, the king of Egypt (usually called Apries), had been given over to his enemies (44:30) and since it is known that he was overthrown and killed by Amasis in about 568 b.c.e., it can safely be concluded that this part of Jeremiah's biography was completed, probably in Egypt, a short time after this event. This is confirmed by the allusion made in 42:8–13 to the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar in the year 568/7 (cf. Pritchard, Texts, 308). The author of that section could therefore be a somewhat younger contemporary of Jeremiah. It is uncertain whether he is also responsible for the assemblage of a larger part of the biographical chapters, and the consequent insertion of transitional verses, such as 39:13 or 40:1. These verses reveal a misunderstanding of the historical situation, since from 39:14 and 40:4 it is known that Jeremiah was not chained in order to be deported to Babylon. Several biographical passages in the tradition block inserted in Jeremiah 27–35 were originally redacted as first person narratives. To this group belong the incident of the ox yoke (27:2–22), Jeremiah's purchase of land (32:6–44), and the example of the Rechabites (35:2–19). These episodes have as common features not only the autobiographical style but also a typical content consisting of a symbolic action, explained by the prophet. Similar narratives in autobiographical style are found in other parts of the book: the wine jars (13:12–14), the potter at his work (18:2–12), the breaking of the bottle (19:1–2, 10–11a, 12a). These three passages seem to constitute an editorial unit on the common theme of pottery. The last two episodes are even connected by the catchword yoẓer ("potter"). They were inserted by a redactor in their actual place, probably as comments to 16:18 and 18:23. The exhortation on the observance of the Sabbath in 17:19–27 is most likely a still later insertion. All narratives of that type may have belonged to a single collection written or dictated by Jeremiah himself and reused later, with some additions, by the editors of the complexes of 11–20 and 27–35. The acted parables referred to above can be compared with the symbolic visions, also composed in autobiographical style: the almond rod (1:11–12), the bubbling pot (1:13–16), the linen waistcloth (13:1–11), the two baskets of figs (24:1–10), and the cup of wine (25:15, 17, 27–28).
From chapter 36 it is known that Jeremiah's utterances were first committed to writing in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, i.e., in 605, when the prophet dictated them to his friend Baruch. After the scroll had been destroyed by the king, Jeremiah was directed to rewrite its contents in a second scroll, in which Baruch "wrote … under Jeremiah's dictation everything that was in the book that Jehoiakim, king of Judah, had thrown into the fire. And, in addition to this, many further words of the same sort were added" (36:32). The conclusion of that scroll is to be found in Jeremiah 45, as shown by C. Rietzschel; "these sayings" in verse 1 refer directly to the content of the scroll. As verse 3 echoes 20:18, the catchword being yagon ("sorrow"), and since verse 4 alludes to Jeremiah 1:10, it can be concluded that Jeremiah 1–20 roughly corresponds to the final form of Baruch's scroll. It can be safely assumed, following C. Rietzschel, that chapters 1–6 represent the original scroll rewritten by Baruch under the prophet's dictation, while chapters 7–20 contain the successive additions to it. The scroll is introduced by the description of the prophet's call (ch. 1), which follows the usual pattern of the "call" narratives, as established by N. Habel. The literary form for the call of a divine representative was taken over from the practice reflected in Genesis 24:34–38, according to which messengers entrusted with a special mission presented their "credentials" in a specific order and manner. In so doing they not only explained the reason for their coming, but also repeated their master's commission ceremony, in which the precise words of the command were preserved, their own objections registered, and the assurance of the protective angel's presence given. In addition to this, the agent of the overlord could adduce any further evidence, such as an omen or sign, which would give added weight to his claim. By utilizing this ancient pattern, later authors and prophets emphasized the primary function of the individual who was called. The genre concerns the commissioning of messengers to God's service. Therefore, in employing its form, a prophet announces publicly that God commissioned him as His spokesman and representative. The "call" narrative of Jeremiah 1 thus provides the authentication of Jeremiah's right to speak in God's name. Since it does so in a form appropriate for public affirmation of the divine origin of his message, it was almost certainly the introduction to the scroll which Jeremiah dictated to Baruch in 605, and which he intended to be read publicly before the people in the Temple area. The "Foe from the North" constitutes a feature in which Jeremiah 4:5–6:30 advances beyond Jeremiah 2:1–4:4, so that it is reasonable to assume that 4:5–6:30 contains mostly oracles composed in 605, while 2:1–4:4 belongs to an earlier date. The Babylonian invader is mentioned, or alluded to, in 4:6–7, 13, 15–17, 21, 29; 5:6, 15–17; 6:1–6, 12, 22–25. He approached from the North to inflict on the people the judgment announced in the previous part of the scroll. The general theme of 2:1–4:4 is the nation's sin. Chapter 2 is a series of passages dealing with a single theme, the bulk of which comes from an early period of Jeremiah's ministry and was first addressed to the Northern Kingdom, but was most likely given its present form by the prophet himself in connection with the scroll of 605. The poetic material in chapters 3:1–5, 19–25; 4:1–2 forms a continuous unit which is a sample of Jeremiah's preaching prior to 622, certainly before he was launched on the stormy currents of the political and religious life of Jerusalem. This is supported by the extent to which these oracles are saturated with the fundamental ideas of Hosea. These similarities to Hosea, characteristic of the young Jeremiah, are striking not only in the dominant theme of the adulterous wife, but even in particular expressions. The poem was initially an appeal to conversion directed to the Northern Kingdom, but the piece actually concludes with a formally separate oracle of solemn warning addressed to the people of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 4:3–4). It prepares the theme of the "Foe from the North," developed in the following chapters, and most likely dates to the year 605. The material in 3:6–18 has a somewhat more complicated history. This section begins with a prose monologue addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord (verses 6–12a), in which the two adulterous, i.e., apostate, sisters – Israel and Judah – are compared to each other, to the immense disadvantage of the latter. The allusion in verse 8 to verses 1–5 shows that this monologue was composed in relation to the poem of 3:1–5, 19–25; 4:1–2, in order to emphasize that Judah's sin was bigger than that of Israel's. The passage probably goes back to the reign of Josiah, as verse 6 explicitly states, but dates after 622, as verse 10 brands Josiah's reform as a failure. The monologue leads to a short lyric in which the prophet summons the Northern Kingdom to return to the Lord, to worship Him on Mount Zion, and to accept the guidance of his new rulers (verses 12b–15). These verses most likely allude to Josiah's reform and to his expansionist activity in the territory of the defunct northern state; they probably date before 622. Verses 16–18, on the other hand, seem in their present form to presuppose the exile of Judah, and were in all likelihood written, or rewritten, after 587. Chapters 4:5–6:30 constitute a long editorial unit composed from a series of originally separate passages, all of which deal with the terrible disaster from the north that is about to overtake the nation (4:6; 6:1, 22; cf. 1:13–15; 10:22; 13:20; 25:9; 46:6, 24; 47:2). The entire section thus develops the theme sounded in 4:3–4. The poems are so graphic and vivid that it may be assumed, as noted above, that most of them were composed during the actual approach of Nebuchadnezzar's army in 605/4. Chapters 7–10 constitute the first editorial addition to Baruch's original scroll. The material is rather miscellaneous in character, but is dominated by two major themes: the stubborn sinfulness of the people, and the tragic fate that is about to overtake them. The section opens with the famous "Temple sermon" (7:2–15), delivered in Jehoiakim's accession year, i.e., in the autumn of 609 or in the winter of 609/8. The text is in prose and preserves the gist of what he said. Also in prose are 7:16–20, 21–28, 29–34 and 8:1–3, which, in the main, may reflect Jeremiah's preaching during Jehoiakim's reign (609–598 b.c.e.). The complexes of poems in 8:4–17 and 9:1–8 probably date to the same period. Between these passages is Jeremiah's lament over a national disaster (8:18–23), which can either refer to the defeat at Megiddo in 609 or the raids prior to the Babylonian attack in 598/7 (cf. ii Kings 24:2). An oracle (Jer. 9:9–10, 16–21; 10:17–22) with dirges over the ruin of Jerusalem (9:18, 20–21; 10:19–20) follows; it was perhaps uttered on the eve of the siege and deportation of 598/7. Probably non-Jeremianic passages were later inserted, namely in 9:11–15 and 9:22–10:16. This first addition to Baruch's scroll (chapters 7–10) ends with a prayer for mercy (10:23–25). The second added complex is perhaps to be found in chapters 11–20. This unit consists basically of a series of prose passages in autobiographical style and of several series of poems. The complex begins with Jeremiah's preaching on the Covenant (11:1–17), for which he was persecuted by his own relatives and fellow townsmen (11:18–12:6). This piece is followed by a poem (12:7–13), in which God expresses His sorrow for the dereliction of His people, perhaps caused by the raids just prior to the Babylonian invasion of 598/7 (cf. ii Kings 24:2). A brief prose passage seems to be a comment on that poem (Jer. 12:14–17). Chapter 13 begins with the parabolic vision of the linen waistcloth, followed by an oracle explaining its meaning (13:1–11). Connected with this, probably because it too involves a parable, is a brief passage inspired by a popular witticism concerning wine jars (13:12–14). Several short poems, apparently composed not long before the first deportation in 597, continue that section in 13:15–27; 14:5–9. One of them, addressed to Jehoiachin and the queen mother (13:18–19), was clearly uttered just prior to Jerusalem's surrender in that year. This series of poems is interrupted by a national psalm of lamentation in time of drought (14:2–9, 19–22), which is divided in two by an oracle of doom (Jer. 14:10; cf. Hos. 8:13; 9:9) and by a prose commentary in autobiographical style (Jer. 14:11–16), that ends in 15:1–4. While the psalm may be an authentic liturgical text, the prose passage of 14:11–16; 15:1–4 may be Jeremiah's genuine utterances. After one of Jeremiah's "confessions" (15:10–11, 15–18) and a "private oracle" addressed to him (15:19–21) there is another passage in autobiographical style (16:1–13), in which Jeremiah relates how he had been forbidden to marry, or even to participate in the normal joys and sorrows of his people. Attached to this composition are eight brief heterogeneous passages (16:14–15, 16–18, 19–21; 17:1–4, 5–8, 9–10, 11, 12–13) and another "confession" (17:14–18). None of these pieces can be dated, but several may confidently be ascribed to him. A Jeremianic nucleus can also be found in the prose discourse of 17:19–27, which urges the keeping of the Sabbath and is redacted in autobiographical style. There follows the autobiographical narrative of Jeremiah's visit to the potter's house (18:1–12). Since the disaster announced by the prophet is described as still avoidable (18:11), the incident is probably not later than the first years of Jehoiakim's reign. Four poetic pieces are attached to this narrative: an oracle (18:13–17) and three more "confessions" (18:18–23; 20:7–13, 14–18), separated by the complex episode of the broken bottle (19:1–2, 10–11a, 12a) and of Jeremiah's arrest by Pashhur son of Immer (19:2, 3–9, 11b, 12b–15; 20:1–6). It is noteworthy that the so-called "confessions" are redacted in the style of the psalms of lamentation. It is doubtful whether they were ever publicly proclaimed by Jeremiah. The last "confession" is immediately followed by the conclusion of chapter 45.
Chapters 21–24 constitute a complex of two series of oracles, one concerning the royal house (21:11–23:8) and the other the cultic prophets (23:9–40). The actual unit is introduced by two prose passages (21:1–7, 8–10), whose Jeremianic nucleus goes back to the year 589/8. Its actual form, however, dates to after the fall of Jerusalem in 587. The reason for the choice of this passage as an introduction to the oracles concerning the royal house is given by the fact that it contains an oracle of doom directed to the king Zedekiah. Chapter 24, which closes the "book," is also a prose passage from Zedekiah's time, with another oracle of doom concerning that king (verses 8–10). This pattern of inclusion shows that chapters 21–24 constitute an editorial unit. The superscriptions in 21:11 and 23:9 prove that this unit groups two older passage complexes. The first one is an important collection of prophecies containing Jeremiah's judgments on the successive rulers in his day who occupied the throne of David. The opening passage of the section (21:11–22:9), almost equally divided between poetry and prose, sets forth the principle that the Davidic monarchy is under obligation to God to establish justice in the kingdom. The sayings regarding Jehoahaz-Shallum (22:10–12) and Jehoiakim (22:13–19) follow in chronological order, and after a poem lamenting the fate of Jerusalem (22:20–23) there are two oracles concerning the young king Jehoiachin (22:24–27, 28–30). The original conclusion of the section is to be found in 23:1–2. It is followed by three brief oracles, of which the first (23:3–4) and the third (23:7–8) are in prose and presuppose the Exile. The second oracle (23:5–6) is an extract from 33:14–16, originally a solemn announcement of the enthronement of Zedekiah, here called Yozedek, according to the Septuagint. The second collection deals mainly with cultic prophets (23:9–40). The poem in verses 9–12, which consists of a soliloquy of Jeremiah, concerns them only insofar as they, like the priests, share in the general corruption (verse 11). However, the two poems in verses 13–15 and 16–22, and the piece in verses 23–32, basically in prose, deal directly with the prophets who lull the people with fallacious promises. The final passage (verses 33–40), also in prose, mentions the prophets only in passing. Since the tension between Jeremiah and the cultic prophets reached its pitch in the days of Zedekiah, most of these passages probably date to that king's reign.
[Edward Lipinski /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
Jeremiah was descended from Joshua and Rahab (Meg. 14b). He was born circumcised (arn1 2, 12), and already showed signs of his future calling when as a newborn infant he spoke in the voice of a youth and rebuked his mother for her unfaithfulness. He explained to his astonished mother that he was really rebuking the inhabitants of Zion and Jerusalem (pr 26:129). He was related to the prophetess *Huldah. She preached to the women while Zephaniah, another contemporary prophet, was active in the synagogue and Jeremiah preached to the men in the street (pr 26:129). When the pious King *Josiah restored the worship of God, Jeremiah brought back the ten exiled tribes (Ar. 33a). Although Josiah later warred with Egypt against the prophet's advice, Jeremiah knew that the king acted out of error since he was misinformed about the piety of his generation. The fourth chapter of *Lamentations, traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah, begins with a dirge for Josiah (Lam. R. 1:18, no. 53; 4:1, no. 1). The prophet suffered under Jehoiakim and even more during the reign of Zedekiah when both the populace and the monarch opposed him. The people mocked his rebukes claiming that as a descendant of the proselyte Rahab he had no right to reprimand them (pdrk 115), and maliciously accused him of illicit relations (bk 16b). His purpose in leaving Jerusalem for Anathoth was so that he could partake of his priestly portion. The watchman who arrested him on that occasion was a grandson of the false prophet *Hananiah b. Azur. In prison, his jailer, a friend of Hananiah b. Azur called Jonathan, constantly mocked him (pr 26:130).
Jeremiah was commanded by God to go to Anathoth because his merits were so great that God could not destroy Jerusalem as long as Jeremiah was in the city. In the prophet's absence the city was conquered and the Temple set on fire. When, on his return, Jeremiah saw smoke rising from the Temple, he rejoiced, thinking that the Jews had repented and that the smoke was that of the sacrifice which they were offering. He wept bitterly when he realized his error, grieving that he had left Jerusalem to be destroyed. Jeremiah accompanied the captives as far as the Euphrates, and only then returned to comfort those who had been left behind (Jer. 40:6; pr 26:131). On the way back, he tenderly gathered together limbs of the bodies of massacred Jews, lamenting that his warnings had not been heeded by the unfortunate victims (Lam. R., Proem 34). As he approached the ruins of Jerusalem, he had a vision of a woman, clad in black, sitting on top of a mountain, weeping and exclaiming, "Who will comfort me?" After explaining that she was mother Zion, Jeremiah comforted her with the promise that God would rebuild and restore Zion (pr 26:131–132). Jeremiah remained in Egypt until Nebuchadnezzar conquered that country. He was then taken to Babylon where he rejoined his exiled brethren (sor 26).
Jeremiah (Ar. Irmiyā; also Armiyā and Ūrmiyā) is not mentioned in the *Koran. Some of the commentators on the Koran, however, attribute to Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah the priest, the words of *Muhammad concerning the man who passed by a city in ruins and wondered how Allah would rebuild it. Allah then put this man to death and resuscitated him one hundred years later. To the man's astonishment, it became apparent to him that he had been dead for one hundred years, but that the food and drink which were with him were nevertheless unspoiled, while the bones of his ass had been covered with skin and veins and it had been revived. He was then convinced that Allah was omnipotent (Sura 2:261). The legendary tale of *Ḥoni ha-Meʿaggel (tb, Ta'an. 23a) has been interpreted by Wahb ibn Munabbih, the celebrated traditionalist, who feels that Ḥoni was Jeremiah. Some scholars identify Jeremiah with al-Khaḍir, but other commentators believe that he was ʿUzayr (Ezra). The town which Jeremiah passed by was *Jerusalem (Beit al-Maqdis (i.e., Beit ha-Mikdash), known as Aelia Capitolina in the Byzantine period); he was comforted that it would be rebuilt.
[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]
Apart from an early appearance in the medieval Ordo Prophetarum, where he is made to foretell the coming of the Messiah, Jeremiah was a rare figure in literary works until the 19th century. Even then, the Hungarian Protestant writer and patriot Ferenc Kölcsey was inspired more by the Book of Jeremiah than by the prophet, basing his Hymnus (1823), which later became the Hungarian national anthem, on the text of Jeremiah 32:21–29. The first modern author to turn to Jeremiah was Ludwig *Philippson, who wrote the tragedies Jojachin (1858) and Die Entthronten (1868), in the latter of which Gedaliah makes a rare literary appearance. Jeremiah was later also the subject of Il profeta o La passione di un popolo (1866–84), an Italian allegorical drama by Graziadio David *Levi. The theme has attracted much more attention in the 20th century, with works headed by Stefan *Zweig's remarkable pacifist drama Jeremias (1917; Eng., 1922), first staged in Zurich during World War i. Another Jeremias, a play by the Danish writer Knud Gjørup, appeared in 1916. These were followed by Wacław Niezabitowski's Polish tragedy Jeremiasz (1926), Ajzyk Ruskolękier's Yiddish drama Yirmiyohu Hanovi (1936), and Joseph *Kastein's biographical Jeremias; der Bericht vom Schicksal einer Idee (1937). The subject also attracted another leading German Jewish writer, Franz *Werfel, whose novel Hoeret die Stimme (1937; Hearken unto the Voice, 1938) was republished years later as Jeremias (1956). During World War ii the Czech writer Jiří *Orten published a collection of poems under the title Jeremiášův plác ("Jeremiah's Lament," 1941).
In premedieval Christian art, Jeremiah was regarded as a prophet of the Passion, and was thus sometimes shown holding a cross. The biblical episode in which he is cast into a pit on account of his demoralizing prophecies (Jer. 38) led to his being sometimes given the symbol of the manticore – a legendary animal living in the depths of the earth which was depicted in the bestiaries. Jeremiah is represented in ninth-century manuscripts, including the Kosmas Indikopleustes (Vatican Library), and in early medieval frescoes, mosaics, and sculpture. Various episodes of his life are illustrated. There is a 12th-century illumination of the calling of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:9) in the Winchester Bible (Winchester Cathedral).
Thirteenth-century sculptures of the prophet are found in the cathedrals of Amiens and Chartres. At Chartres he is shown holding a circular disc enclosing a cross. A more naturalistic representation is the sculpture by Claus Sluter (Chartreuse de Champmol, Dijon), made at the beginning of the 15th century, where the nose was originally surmounted by a pair of spectacles in gilded leather. Some outstanding works of the Renaissance were a striking sculpture by Donatello (1386–1466; Campanile, Florence); a round painting by Perugino (Nantes Museum), as well as one of *Isaiah; and Michelangelo's brooding, seated figure surmounted by nude youths (Sistine Chapel, Rome). *Rembrandt painted a picture of Jeremiah mourning over Jerusalem (painting formerly in the Stroganov collection, St. Petersburg). The same subject was treated by the German academician Eduard *Bendemann in a crowded composition (National Gallery, Berlin), while another German painter, Lesser *Ury, showed Jeremiah brooding under the night sky. There is also a sculpture of Jeremiah by Enrico *Glicenstein.
The original stage music for Stefan Zweig's Jeremias was written by Arno *Nadel. For the Ohel Theater's performance of the play in Palestine, the music was composed by Yedidiah *Admon. Oratorios on the theme include G.M. Schiassi's Geremia in Egitto (1727) and Ernst Hess's Jeremia (1953). Verses and sections have been set for choir, such as Heinrich Isaac's Oratio Hieremiae (1538), and Samuel Scheidt's Ist nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn. The lament Quis dabit oculis meis (Jer. 8:23), which is included in the Good Friday liturgy, also occurs in settings by many composers of the 16th century. In the Jewish musical tradition, Ha-Ben Yakir Li Efrayim has become a showpiece of the "artistic" ḥazzanut of Eastern Europe; it also appears as the text of several folk songs and ḥasidic niggunim. For Rachel's lament (the "voice heard in Ramah …"), see *Rachel, In the Arts. Among modern works is Leonard *Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony (1944).
bibliographical reviews: G. Fohrer, in: Theologische Rundschau, 19 (1951), 277–346; 20 (1952), 193–271, 295–361; 28 (1962), 1–75, 235–97, 301–74; E. Vogt, in: Biblica, 35 (1954), 357–65. works on jeremiah in general: G.A. Smith, Jeremiah (19294); R. Calkins, Jeremiah the Prophet (1930); A. Gelin, Jérémie (1952); J.P. Hyatt, Jeremiah, Prophet of Courage and Hope (1958); A. Néher, Jérémie (1960); C. Westermann, Jeremia (1967). commentaries: B. Duhm, Das Buch Jeremia (1901); S.R. Driver, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (1906); P. Volz, Der Prophet Jeremia (1922); A. Weiser, Das Buch des Propheten Jeremia (19665); F. Nötscher, Das Buch Jeremias (1930); W. Rudolph, Jeremia (19683). forms of the text: J.G. Janzen, "Studies in the Text of Jeremiah" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard, 1966); idem, in: htr, 60 (1967), 433–47. the composition of the book: S. Mowinckel, Zur Komposition des Buches Jeremia (1914); E. Podechard, in: rb, 37 (1928), 181–97; J. Bright, in: jbl, 70 (1951), 15–35; J.P. Hyatt, in: Vanderbilt Studies in the Humanities, 1 (1951), 71–95; W.L. Holladay, in: jbl, 85 (1966), 401–35; M. Kessler, in: jnes, 27 (1968), 81–88. on stylistic forms and literary genres: W. Baumgartner, Die Klagengedichte des Jeremia (1917); W.L. Holladay, in: jbl, 81 (1962), 44–54; N. Habel, in: zaw, 77 (1965), 297–323. particular questions: J.P. Hyatt, in: jbl, 60 (1941), 381–96; idem, in: jnes, 1 (1942), 156–73; H.H. Rowley, in: Studies in the Old Testament Prophecy (1950), 157–74; idem, in: Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 45 (1962–63), 198–234; H. Cazelles, in: Recherches de Science Religieuse, 38 (1951), 5–36; F. Horst, in: zaw, 41 (1923), 94–153; J. Milgrom, in: jnes, 14 (1955), 65–69; C.F. Whitley, in: vt, 14 (1964), 467–83; G. von Rad, in: Evangelische Theologie, 3 (1936), 265–76; S.H. Blank, in: huca, 21 (1948), 331–54; J.L. Mihelic, in: Interpretation, 14 (1960), 45–50; H.J. Krauss, in: Biblische Studien, 43 (1964); O. Eissfeldt, Kleine Schriften, 4 (1968); M. Diman (Haran), in: bjpes, 13 (1946), 7–15; M.Z. Segal, Be-Masoret u-Vikkoret (1957), 145–49; Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 3 (19675), 393–474. add. bibliography: R. Carroll, Jeremiah (1986); W. McKane, Jeremiah 1 – 2 (1986–95); idem, in dbi I, 570–74; H. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah. An Annotated Bibliography (1996); C. Rabin et al. (eds.), The Book of Jeremiah (critical edition; 1997); W. Brueggmann, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Exile and Homecoming (1998); W. Holladay, Jeremiah 1–2 (1986–99); J. Lundbom, in: abd, 3:706–21; idem, Jeremiah 1–20 (ab; 1999); idem, Jeremiah 21–36 (ab; 2004); Y. Hoffman, Jeremiah 1–2 (2001); B. Sommer, in: cbq, 66 (2004), 126–27 (review of Hoffman). in the aggadah: Ginsberg, Legends, 4 (19475), 294–313; 6 (19463), 384–404. in islam: Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, 3 (1324 a.h.), 19–20; Thaʿlabī, Qiṣaṣ (1356 a.h.), 188, 290–2; G. Vajda, "Irmiyā," in: EIS2, 4 (1978), 79 (incl. bibl.).
Jeremiah was born at Anathoth, a few miles northeast of Jerusalem, c. 650 b.c. At the time of his vocation in 627, he was a young man of a priestly class that had been excluded from the Temple cult (1 Kgs 2.26–35). During his ministry that lasted until after 587, he was a witness to one of the most troubled periods in the Near East.
When Ashurbanipal died c. 633, Assyria's power declined, leaving Josiah free to begin c. 621 a religious reform of judah that also extended to the land once ruled by the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kgs 22–23). Jeremiah, who had already severely attacked the Judeans' crimes (Jer 2–6), must have approved of this reform for he seems not to have preached again until Josiah's death in 609.
In Jehoiakim's reign idolatry revived and Jeremiah again began to condemn infidelity to God and hypocritical worship, at the same time opposing any alliance with Egypt against Babylon. His preaching caused him repeated persecution, but his warnings proved accurate when Joakim's policy led to the first capture of Jerusalem in 597. Judah's last king, Zedekiah, powerless before the political forces at work, followed the priests and false prophets in affirming the Egyptian alliance. Jeremiah strongly objected, proclaiming that Judah must be subjected to Babylon, but to no avail. As a result Jerusalem was destroyed completely in 587 and the Prophet was persecuted anew (Jer 37–38). After his release from detention, he joined the governor, Gedaliah, at Mizpah until Gedaliah's assassination. He then was forced by fugitives to go to Egypt, and witnessed the people's new apostasy before he died there. Thus, his whole life was one of suffering and frustration (Jer 40–44).
By attributing lamentations to him, tradition has wrongly classified him as a lachrymose prophet, whereas his faith in God and his own mission strengthened his sensitive nature and made him "a fortified city" (Jer1.18). Although he loved his people, he did not fail in his duty as God's spokesman but condemned them again and again. The conflict between his love and the harshness of his vocation caused the interior crises described in his "Confessions." He was the only prophet to reveal his interior life.
The summation of his message is that the covenant promises will be realized only if people and leaders are faithful to the covenant's moral force. The new modality Jeremiah gives to this fidelity is found in each one's personal commitment and man's interior validation of external religion. Cult is vain when not inspired by the heart's religion that comes from love, justice, and faith (Jer7.1–28).
In early Christian art Jeremiah was practically ignored compared to the three other major Prophets, especially Daniel. In the 6th century his images began to appear in basilicas—St. Ambrose, Milan, and St. Vitalis, Ravenna—and later in miniatures of manuscripts—Syriac codex 341 (National Library, Paris; 7th or 8th century) and a Greek manuscript of Cosmas Indicopleustes (Vatican 699; 8th or 9th century). Henceforth, his images proliferated in all media. Michelangelo's painting of him in the Sistine Chapel is the most famous.
Bibliography: j. skinner, Prophecy and Religion (Cambridge, Eng. 1922). a. c. welch, Jeremiah, His Time and His Work (Oxford 1928; reprint 1951). j. muilenburg, The Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible, ed. g. a. buttrick (Nashville 1962) 2:823–835. l. g. perdue, et al., A Prophet to the Nations (Winona Lake, 1984).
Jeremiah (active late 7th-early 6th century B.C.) was one of the four major Jewish prophets. A priest from Anathoth, Israel, he is the reputed author of the Book of Jeremiah.
The dates of Jeremiah's birth and death are not known. It is known that he began his preaching either in the thirteenth year of King Josiah of Judah (626 B.C.) or at the accession of King Jehoiakim of Judah (608). He preached and taught for over 40 years, so his death must have taken place sometime in the first half of the 6th century B.C., probably between 580 and 560 B.C.
The entire background of Jeremiah's life and the words ascribed to him are permeated with the sense of disaster and disintegration which Judaism and Jews underwent in the 6th century B.C. The northern portion of Palestine, the kingdom of Israel, fell to the Assyrians in 622 B.C. A similar fate threatened the south, the kingdom of Judah, with its capital city of Jerusalem. The Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonians. The latter invaded Judea and captured Jerusalem in 587 B.C. A year later the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, ended the kingdom of Judah, and deported the Jews (the Babylonian Captivity). Many Jews, among them Jeremiah, fled to Egypt for safety. As far as is known, however, Jeremiah died violently, perhaps by crucifixion, perhaps by the sword.
Not all of the writings ascribed to Jeremiah are considered by modern scholars to be really his. In fact, it is not certain that he ever actually wrote a line. It seems more likely that he dictated much of his material to an assistant or secretary called Baruch. Baruch made two collections of Jeremiah's words, one toward the end of the 7th century B.C. (605-600) and one toward the end of the prophet's life. Baruch added some materials of his own, and there were some later additions. Jewish tradition also ascribes the Book of Lamentations and the Book of Kings to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah's words and pronouncements are directly concerned with the febrile political maneuvering between 605 and 586 B.C. and with the Babylonian Captivity. His early message was simple: unless both king and people reformed their morals and returned to the true worship of God as taught by Moses, Jerusalem would be destroyed and its people killed or exiled. Jeremiah's general message was that temple and priesthood and kingship were of no avail if the heart of man was not clean from idolatry, from lies, and from deception of all kinds. His novel contribution as a prophet was his claim that God would replace the Old Covenant with the Israelites by a new covenant. Peculiarly, this new covenant was not to be restricted to Jews but was to include all the world. Jeremiah taught a universalist creed which would embrace all people.
Useful works on Jeremiah include Terrot R. Glover, The Pilgrim: Essays on Religion (1921); John Skinner, Prophecy and Religion: Studies in the Life of Jeremiah (1922); Adam C. Welch, Jeremiah, His Time and His Work (1928); James P. Hyatt and S. R. Hopper, eds., "The Book of Jeremiah," in George A. Battrick, gen. ed., The Interpreter's Bible (1956); and James P. Hyatt, Jeremiah: Prophet of Courage and Hope (1958). □
In extended usage, a Jeremiah is a person who complains continually or foretells disaster. A jeremiad is a long, mournful complaint or lamentation, a list of woes, as uttered by the prophet.
Jeremiah ★★½ 1998
The prophet Jeremiah abandons his family and the woman he loves in order to proclaim God's message that the people of Judah must change their ways or be overcome by the Babylonians. He's deemed a traitor but the prophecy is fulfilled when Jerusalem is destroyed. 96m/C VHS, DVD . Patrick Dempsey, Oliver Reed, Klaus Maria Brandauer; D: Harry Winer. CABLE