The Prophecies of Jeremiah
1. The Times of Jeremiah
It was in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, b.c. 629, that Jeremiah was called to be a prophet. At that time the kingdom of Judah enjoyed unbroken peace. Since the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's host before the gates of Jerusalem in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, b.c. 714, Judah had no longer had much to fear from the imperial power of Assyria. The reverse then sustained before Jerusalem, just eight years after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, had terribly crushed the might of the great empire. It was but a few years after that disaster till the Medes under Deןoces asserted their independence against Assyria; and the Babylonians too, though soon reduced to subjection again, rose in insurrection against Sennacherib. Sennacherib's energetic son and successor Esarhaddon did indeed succeed in re-establishing for a time the tottering throne. While holding Babylon, Elam, Susa, and Persia to their allegiance, he restored the ascendency of the empire in the western provinces, and brought lower Syria, the districts of Syria that lay on the sea coast, under the Assyrian yoke. But the rulers who succeeded him, Samuges and the second Sardanapalus, were wholly unable to offer any effective resistance to the growing power of the Medes, or to check the steady decline of the once so mighty empire. Cf. M. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth . i. S. 707ff. of 3 Aufl. Under Esarhaddon an Assyrian marauding army again made an inroad into Judah, and carried King Manasseh captive to Babylon; but, under what circumstances we know not, he soon regained his freedom, and was permitted to return to Jerusalem and remount his throne ( 2 Chronicles 33:11-13). From this time forward the Assyrians appeared no more in Judah. Nor did it seem as if Judah had any danger to apprehend from Egypt, the great southern empire; for the power of Egypt had been greatly weakened by intestine dissensions and civil wars. It is true that Psammetichus, after the overthrow of the dodecarchy, began to raise Egypt's head amongst the nations once more, and to extend his sway beyond the boundaries of the country; but we learn much as to his success in this direction from the statement of Herodotus (ii. 157), that the capture of the Philistine city of Ashdod was not accomplished until after a twenty-nine years' siege. Even if, with Duncker, we refer the length of time here mentioned to the total duration of the war against the Philistines, we are yet enabled clearly to see that Egypt had not then so far recovered her former might as to be able to menace the kingdom of Judah with destruction, had Judah but faithfully adhered to the Lord its God, and in Him sought its strength. This, unhappily, Judah utterly filed to do, notwithstanding all the zeal wherewith the godly King Josiah laboured to secure for his kingdom that foremost element of its strength.
In the eighth year of his reign, "while he was yet young," i.e., when but a lad of sixteen years of age, he began to seek the God of David his father; and in the twelfth year of his reign he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places and Astartes, and the carved and molten images (2 Chronicles 34:3). He carried on the work of reforming the public worship without intermission, until every public trace of idolatry was removed, and the lawful worship of Jahveh was re-established. In the eighteenth year of his reign, upon occasion of some repairs in the temple, the book of the law of Moses was discovered there, was brought and read before him. Deeply agitated by the curses with which the transgressors of the law were threatened, he then, together with the elders of Judah and the people itself, solemnly renewed the covenant with the Lord. To set a seal upon the renewal of the covenant, he instituted a passover, to which not only all Judah was invited, but also all remnants of the ten tribes that had been left behind in the land of Israel (2 Kings 22:3-23:24; 2 Chron 34:4-35:19). To Josiah there is given in 2 Kings 23:25 the testimony that like unto him there was no king before him, that turned to Jahveh with all his heart, all his soul, and all his might, according to all the law of Moses; yet this most godly of all the kings of Judah was unable to heal the mischief which his predecessors Manasseh and Amon had by their wicked government created, or to crush the germs of spiritual and moral corruption which could not fail to bring about the ruin of the kingdom. And so the account of Josiah's reign and of his efforts towards the revival of the worship of Jahveh, given in 2 Kings 23:26, is concluded: "Yet Jahveh ceased not from His great wrath wherewith He was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations wherewith Manasseh provoked Him; and Jahveh said: Judah also will I put away from my face as I have put away Israel, and will cast off this city which I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall dwell there."
The kingdom of Israel had come to utter ruin in consequence of its apostasy from the Lord its God, and on account of the calf-worship which had been established by Jeroboam, the founder of the kingdom, and to which, from political motives, all his successors adhered. The history of Judah too is summed up in a perpetual alternation of apostasy from the Lord and return to Him. As early as the time of heathen-hearted Ahaz idolatry had raised itself to all but unbounded ascendency; and through the untheocratic policy of this wicked king, Judah had sunk into a dependency of Assyria. It would have shared the fate of the sister kingdom even then, had not the accession of Hezekiah, Ahaz's godly son, brought about a return to the faithful covenant God. The reformation then inaugurated not only turned aside the impending ruin, but converted this very ruin into a glorious deliverance such as Israel had not seen since its exodus from Egypt. The marvellous overthrow of the vast Assyrian host at the very gates of Jerusalem, wrought by the angel of the Lord in one night by means of a sore pestilence, abundantly testified that Judah, despite its littleness and inconsiderable earthly strength, might have been able to hold its own against all the onsets of the great empire, if it had only kept true to the covenant God and looked for its support from His almighty hand alone. But the repentant loyalty to the faithful and almighty God of the covenant hardly lasted until Hezekiah's death. The heathen party amongst the people gained again the upper hand under Hezekiah's son Manasseh, who ascended the throne in his twelfth year; and idolatry, which had been only outwardly suppressed, broke out anew and, during the fifty-five years' reign of this most godless of all the kings of Israel, reached a pitch Judah had never yet known. Manasseh not only restored the high places and altars of Baal which is father had destroyed, he built altars to the whole host of heaven in both courts of the temple, and went so far as to erect an image of Asherah in the house of the Lord; he devoted his son to Moloch, practised witchcraft and soothsaying more than ever the Amorites had done, and by his idols seduced Israel to sin. Further, by putting to death such prophets and godly persons as resisted his impious courses, he shed very much innocent blood, until he had filled Jerusalem therewith from end to end (2 Kings 21:1-16; 2 Chronicles 33:1-10). His humbling himself before God when in captivity in Babylon, and his removal of the images out of the temple upon his return to Jerusalem and to his throne (2 Chronicles 33:11., 2 Chronicles 33:15.), passed by and left hardly a trace behind; and his godless son Amon did but continue his father's sins and multiply the guilt (2 Kings 21:19-23; 2 Chronicles 33:21-23). Thus Judah's spiritual and moral strength was so broken that a thorough-going conversion of the people at large to the Lord and His law was no longer to be looked for. Hence the godly Josiah accomplished by his reformation nothing more than the suppression of the grosser forms of idol-worship and the restoration of the formal temple-services; he could neither put an end to the people's estrangement at heart from God, nor check with any effect that moral corruption which was the result of the heart's forsaking the living God. And so, even after Josiah's reform of public worship, we find Jeremiah complaining: "As many as are thy cities, so many are thy gods, Judah; and as many as are the streets in Jerusalem, so many altars have ye made to shame, to burn incense to Baal" (Jeremiah 2:28; Jeremiah 11:13). And godlessness showed itself in all classes of the people. "Go about in the streets of Jerusalem," Jeremiah exclaims, "and look and search if there is one that doeth right and asks after honesty, and I will pardon her (saith the Lord). I thought, it is but the meaner sort that are foolish, for they know not the way of Jahveh, the judgment of their God. I will then get me to the great, and will speak with them, for they know the way of Jahveh, the right of their God. But they have all broken the yoke, burst the bonds" (Jeremiah 5:1-5). "Small and great are greedy for gain; prophet and priest use deceit" (Jeremiah 6:13). This being the spiritual condition of the people, we cannot wonder that immediately after the death of Josiah, unblushing apostasy appeared again as well in public idolatry as in injustice and sin of every kind. Jehoiakim did that which was evil in the eyes of Jahveh even as his fathers had done (2 Kings 23:37; 2 Chronicles 36:6). His eyes and his heart were set upon nothing but on gain and on innocent blood, to shed it, and on oppression and on violence, to do it, Jeremiah 22:17. And his successors on the throne, both his son Jehoiachin and his brother Zedekiah, walked in his footsteps (2 Kings 24:5, 2 Kings 24:19; 2 Chronicles 36:9, 2 Chronicles 36:12), although Zedekiah did not equal his brother Jehoiakim in energy for carrying out evil, but let himself be ruled by those who were about him. For Judah's persistence in rebellion against God and His law, the Lord ceased not from His great wrath; but carried out the threatening proclamation to king and people by the prophetess Hulda, when Josiah sent to consult her for himself, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of the newly found book of the law: "Behold, I bring evil in this place, and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because that they have forsaken me, and burnt incense to other gods, to provoke me with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath is kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched" (2 Kings 22:16.).
This evil began to fall on the kingdom in Jehoiakim's days. Josiah was not to see the coming of it. Because, when he heard the curses of the law, he humbled himself before the Lord, rent his raiment and wept before Him, the Lord vouchsafed to him the promise that He would gather him to his fathers in peace, that his eyes should not look on the evil God would bring on Jerusalem (2 Kings 22:19.); and this pledge God fulfilled to him, although they that were to execute God's righteous justice were already equipped, and though towards the end of his reign the storm clouds of judgment were gathering ominously over Judah.
While Josiah was labouring in the reformation of public worship, there had taken place in Central Asia the events which brought about the fall of the Assyrian empire. the younger son of Esarhaddon, the second Sardanapalus, had been succeeded in the year 626 by his son Saracus. Since the victorious progress of the Medes under Cyaxares, his dominion had been limited to the cradle of the empire, Assyria, to Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Cilicia. To all appearance in the design of preserving Babylonia to the empire, Saracus appointed Nabopolassar, a Babylonian by birth and sprung from the Chaldean stock, to be governor of that province. This man found opportunity to aggrandize himself during a war between the Medes and the Lydians. An eclipse of the sun took place on the 30th September 610, while a battle was going on. Both armies in terror gave up the contest; and, seconded by Syennesis, who governed Cilicia under the Assyrian supremacy, Nabopolassar made use of the favourable temper which the omen had excited in both camps to negotiate a peace between the contending peoples, and to institute a coalition of Babylonia and Media against Assyria. To confirm this alliance, Amytis, the daughter of Cyaxares, was given in marriage to Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar; and the war against Assyria was opened without delay by the advance against Nineveh in the spring of 609 of the allied armies of Medes and Babylonians. But two years had been spent in the siege of that most impregnable city, and two battles had been lost, before they succeeded by a night attack in utterly routing the Assyrians, pursuing the fugitives to beneath the city walls. The fortification would long have defied their assaults, had not a prodigious spring flood of the Tigris, in the third year of the war, washed down a part of the walls lying next the river, and so made it possible for the besiegers to enter the city, to take it, and reduce it to ashes. The fall of Nineveh in the year 607 overthrew the Assyrian empire; and when the conquerors proceeded to distribute their rich booty, all the land lying on the western bank of the Tigris fell to the share of Nabopolassar of Babylon. But the occupation by the Babylonians of the provinces which lay west of the Euphrates was contested by the Egyptians. Before the campaign of the allied Medes and Babylonians against Nineveh, Pharaoh Necho, the warlike son of Psammetichus, had advanced with his army into Palestine, having landed apparently in the bay of Acco, on his way to war by the Euphrates with Assyria, Egypt's hereditary enemy. To oppose his progress King Josiah marched against the Egyptian; fearing as he did with good reason, that if Syria fell into Necho's power, the end had come to the independence of Judah as a kingdom. A battle was fought in the plain near Megiddo; the Jewish army was defeated, and Josiah mortally wounded, so that he died on the way to Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:29.; 2 Chronicles 35:20.). In his stead the people of the land raised his second son Jehoahaz to the throne; but Pharaoh came to Jerusalem, took Jehoahaz prisoner, and had him carried to Egypt, where he closed his life in captivity, imposed a fine on the country, and set up Eliakim, Josiah's eldest son, to be king as his vassal under the name of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:30-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4). Thereafter Necho pursued his march through Syria, and subject to himself the western provinces of the Assyrian empire; and he had penetrated to the fortified town of Carchemish ( Kirkesion ) on the Euphrates when Nineveh succumbed to the united Medes and Babylonians. - Immediately upon the dissolution of the Assyrian empire, Nabopolassar, now an old man no longer able to sustain the fatigues of a new campaign, entrusted the command of the army to his vigorous son Nebuchadnezzar, to the end that he might wage war against Pharaoh Necho and wrest from the Egyptians the provinces they had possessed themselves of (cf. Berosi fragm. in Joseph. Antt . x. 11. 1, and c. Ap . i. 19). In the year 607, the third year of Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar put the army entrusted to him in motion, and in the next year, the fourth of Jehoiakim's reign, b.c. 606, he crushed Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish on the Euphrates. Pursuing the fleeing enemy, he pressed irresistibly forwards into Syria and Palestine, took Jerusalem in the same year, made Jehoiakim his dependant, and carried off to Babel a number of the Jewish youths of highest rank, young Daniel amongst them, together with part of the temple furniture (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:6.; Daniel 1:1.). He had done as far on his march as the boundaries of Egypt when he heard of the death of his father Nabopolassar at Babylon. In consequence of this intelligence he hastened to Babylon the shortest way through the desert, with but few attendants, with the view of mounting the throne and seizing the reins of government, while he caused the army to follow slowly with the prisoners and the booty (Beros. l.c .).
This, the first taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, is the commencement of the seventy years of Judah's Chaldean bondage, foretold by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:11, shortly before the Chaldeans invaded Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and with the subjection of Judah to Nebuchadnezzar's supremacy the dissolution of the kingdom began. For three years Jehoiakim remained subject to the king of Babylon; in the fourth year he rebelled against him. Nebuchadnezzar, who with the main body of his army was engaged in the interior of Asia, lost no time in sending into the rebellious country such forces of Chaldeans as were about the frontiers, together with contingents of Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites; and these troops devastated Judah through out the remainder of Jehoiakim's reign (2 Kings 24:1-2). But immediately upon the death of Jehoiakim, just as his son had mounted the throne, Nebuchadnezzar's generals advanced against Jerusalem with a vast army and invested the city in retribution for Jehoiakim's defection. During the siege Nebuchadnezzar joined the army. Jehoiachin, seeing the impossibility of holding out any longer against the besiegers, resolved to go out to the king of Babylon, taking with him the queen-mother, the princes of the kingdom, and the officers of the court, and to make unconditional surrender of himself and the city. Nebuchadnezzar made the king and his train prisoners; and, after plundering the treasures of the royal palace and the temple, carried captive to Babylon the king, the leading men of the country, the soldiers, the smiths and artisans, and, in short, every man in Jerusalem who was capable of bearing arms. He left in the land only the poorest sort of the people, from whom no insurrectionary attempts were to be feared; and having taken an oath of fealty from Mattaniah, the uncle of the captive king, he installed him, under the name of Zedekiah, as vassal king over a land that had been robbed of all that was powerful or noble amongst its inhabitants (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Chronicles 36:10). Nor did Zedekiah either keep true to the oath of allegiance he had sworn and pledged to the king of Babylon. In the fourth year of his reign, ambassadors appeared from the neighbouring states of Edom, Ammon, Moab, Tyre, and Sidon, seeking to organize a vast coalition against the Chaldean supremacy (Jeremiah 27:3; Jeremiah 28:1). Their mission was indeed unsuccessful; for Jeremiah crushed the people's hope of a speedy return of the exiles in Babylon by repeated and emphatic declaration that the Babylonian bondage must last seventy years (Jer 27-29). In the same year Zedekiah visited Babylon, apparently in order to assure his liege lord of his loyalty and to deceive him as to his projects (Jeremiah 51:59). But in Zedekiah's ninth year Hophra (Apries), the grandson of Necho, succeeded to the crown of Egypt; and when he was arming for war against Babylon, Zedekiah, trusting in the help of Egypt (Ezekiel 17:15), broke the oath of fealty he had sworn (Ezekiel 17:16), and tried to shake off the Babylonian yoke. But straightway a mighty Chaldean army marched against Jerusalem, and in the tenth month of that same year established a blockade round Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1). The Egyptian army advanced to relieve the beleaguered city, and for a time compelled the Chaldeans to raise the siege; but it was in the end defeated by the Chaldeans in a pitched battle (Jeremiah 37:5.), and the siege was again resumed with all rigour. For long the Jews made stout resistance, and fought with the courage of despair, Zedekiah and his advisers being compelled to admit that this time Nebuchadnezzar would show no mercy. The Hebrew slaves were set free that they might do military service; the stone buildings were one after another torn down that their materials might serve to strengthen the walls; and in this way for about a year and a half all the enemy's efforts to master the strong city were in vain. Famine had reached its extremity when, in the fourth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the Chaldean battering rams made a breach in the northern wall, and through this the besiegers made their way into the lower city. The defenders withdrew to the temple hill and the city of Zion; and, when the Chaldeans began to storm these strongholds during the night, Zedekiah, under cover of darkness, fled with the rest of his soldiers by the door between the two walls by the king's garden. He was, however, overtaken in the steppes of Jericho by the pursuing Chaldeans, made prisoner, and carried to Riblah in Coele-Syria. Here Nebuchadnezzar had his headquarters during the siege of Jerusalem, and here he pronounced judgment on Zedekiah. His sons and the leading men of Judah were put to death before his eyes; he was then deprived of eyesight and carried in chains to Babylon, where he remained a prisoner till his death (2 Kings 25:3-7; Jeremiah 39:2-7; Jeremiah 52:6-11). A month later Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the king of Babylon's guard, came to Jerusalem to destroy the rebellious city. The principal priests and officers of the kingdom and sixty citizens were sent to the king at Riblah, and executed there. Everything of value to be found amongst the utensils of the temple was carried to Babylon, the city with the temple and palace was burnt to the ground, the walls were destroyed, and what able-bodied men were left amongst the people were carried into exile. Nothing was left in the land but a part of the poorer people to serve as vinedressers and husbandmen; and over this miserable remnant, increased a little in numbers by the return of some of those who had fled during the war into the neighbouring countries, Gedaliah the son of Ahikam was appointed governor in the Chaldean interest. Jeremiah chose to stay with him amidst his countrymen. But three months afterwards Gedaliah was murdered, at the instigation of Baalis the king of the Ammonites, by one Ishmael, who was sprung from the royal stock; and thereupon a great part of the remaining population, fearing the vengeance of the Chaldeans, fled, against the prophet's advice, into Egypt (Jer 40-43). And so the banishment of the people was now a total one, and throughout the whole period of the Chaldean domination the land was a wilderness.
Judah was now, like the ten tribes, cast out amongst the heathen out of the land the Lord had given them for an inheritance, because they had forsaken Jahveh, their God, and had despised His statutes. Jerusalem, the city of the great King over all the earth, was in ruins, the house which the Lord had consecrated to His name was burnt with fire, and the people of His covenant had become a scorn and derision to all peoples. But God had not broken His covenant with Israel. Even in the law - Lev. 26 and Deut 30 - He had promised that even when Israel was an outcast from his land amongst the heathen, He would remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not utterly reject the exiles; but when they had borne the punishment of their sins, would turn again their captivity, and gather them together out of the nations.
2. The Person of the Prophet
Concerning the life and labours of the prophet Jeremiah, we have fuller information than we have as to those of many of the other prophets. The man is very clearly reflected in his prophecies, and his life is closely interwoven with the history of Judah. We consider first the outward circumstances of the prophet's life, and then his character and mental gifts.
a. His Outward Circumstances - Jeremiah ( ירמיהוּ, contracted ירמיה i, ̔Ιερεμίας, Jeremias) was the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests belonging to the priest-city Anathoth, situated about five miles north of Jerusalem, now a village called Anâta. This Hilkiah is not the high priest of that name, mentioned in 2 Kings 22:4. and 2 Chronicles 34:9, as has been supposed by some of the Fathers, Rabbins, and recent commentators. This view is shown to be untenable by the indefinite הכהנים a מן i, Jeremiah 1:1. Besides, it is hardly likely that the high priest could have lived with his household out of Jerusalem, as was the case in Jeremiah's family (Jeremiah 32:8; Jeremiah 37:12.); and we learn from 1 Kings 2:26 that it was priests of the house of Ithamar that lived in Anathoth, whereas the high priests belonged to the line of Eleazar and the house of Phinehas (1 Chronicles 24:3). Jeremiah, called to be prophet at an early age ( נער, Jeremiah 1:6), laboured in Jerusalem from the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign (b.c. 629) until the fall of the kingdom; and after the destruction of Jerusalem he continued his work for some years longer amidst the ruins of Judah, and in Egypt amongst those of his countrymen who had fled thither (Jeremiah 1:2., Jeremiah 25:3; Jeremiah 40:1). His prophetic ministry falls, consequently, into the period of the internal dissolution of the kingdom of Judah, and its destruction by the Chaldeans. He had himself received a mission from the Lord to peoples and kingdoms, as well to break down and destroy, as to build and plant (Jeremiah 1:10). He was to fulfil this mission, in the first place, in the case of Judah, and then to the heathen peoples, in so far forth as they came in contact with the kingdom of God in Judah. The scene of his labours was Jerusalem. Here he proclaimed the word of the Lord in the courts of the temple (e.g., Jeremiah 7:2; Jeremiah 26:1); at the gates of the city (Jeremiah 17:19); in the king's palace (Jeremiah 32:1; Jeremiah 37:17); in the prison (Jeremiah 32:1); and in other places (Jeremiah 18:1., Jeremiah 19:1., Jeremiah 27:2). Some commentators think that he first began as prophet in his native town of Anathoth, and that he wrought there for some time ere he visited Jerusalem; but this is in contradiction to the statement of Jeremiah 2:2, that he uttered almost his very first discourse "before the ears of Jerusalem." Nor does this assumption find any support from Jeremiah 11:21; Jeremiah 12:5. All that can be gathered from these passages is, that during his ministry he occasionally visited his native town, which lay so near Jerusalem, and preached the word of the Lord to his former fellow-citizens.
When he began his work as prophet, King Josiah had already taken in hand the extirpation of idolatry and the restoration of the worship of Jahveh in the temple; and Jeremiah was set apart by the Lord to be a prophet that he might support the godly king in this work. His task was to bring back the hearts of the people to the God of their fathers by preaching God's word, and to convert that outward return to the service of Jahveh into a thorough turning of the heart to Him, so as to rescue from destruction all who were willing to convert and be saved. Encouraged by Manasseh's sins, backsliding from the Lord, godlessness, and unrighteousness had reached in Judah such a pitch, that it was no longer possible to turn aside the judgment of rejection from the face of the Lord, to save the backsliding race from being delivered into the power of the heathen. Yet the faithful covenant God, in divine long-suffering, granted to His faithless people still another gracious opportunity for repentance and return to Him; He gave them Josiah's reformation, and sent the prophets, because, though resolved to punish the sinful people for its stiff-necked apostasy, He would not make an utter end of it. This gives us a view point from which to consider Jeremiah's mission, and looking hence, we cannot fail to find sufficient light to enable us to understand the whole course of his labours, and the contents of his discourses.
Immediately after his call, he was made to see, under the emblem of a seething caldron, the evil that was about to break from out of the north upon all the inhabitants of the land: the families of the kingdoms of the north are to come and set their thrones before the gates of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, and through them God is to utter judgment upon Judah for its idolatry (Jeremiah 1:13-16). Accordingly, from the beginning of his work in the days of Josiah onwards, the prophet can never be driven from the maintenance of his position, that Judah and Jerusalem will be laid waste by a hostile nation besetting them from the north, that the people of Judah will fall by the enemy's sword, and go forth into captivity; cf. Jeremiah 4:5, Jeremiah 4:13, Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:15, Jeremiah 6:22, etc. This nation, not particularly specified in the prophecies of the earlier period, is none other than that of the Chaldeans, the king of Babylon and his hosts. It is not the nation of the Scythians, as many commentators suppose; see the comm. on Jeremiah 4:5. Nevertheless he unremittingly calls upon all ranks of his people to repent, to do away with the abominable idols, and to cease from its wickedness; to plough up a new soil and not sow among thorns, lest the anger of the Lord break forth in fire and burn unquenchably (Jeremiah 4:1-4; cf. Jeremiah 6:8, Jeremiah 6:16; Jeremiah 7:3., etc.). He is never weary of holding up their sins to the view of the people and its leaders, the corrupt priests, the false prophets, the godless kings and princes; this, too, he does amidst much trial both from within and from without, and without seeing any fruit of his labours (cf. Jeremiah 25:3-8). After twenty-three years of indefatigable expostulation with the people, the judgment of which he had so long warned them burst upon the incorrigible race. The fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign (b.c. 606) forms a turning point not only in the history of the kingdom, but also in Jeremiah's work as prophet. In the year in which Jerusalem was taken for the first time, and Judah made tributary to the Chaldeans, those devastations began with which Jeremiah had so often threatened his hardened hearers; and together with it came the fulfilment of what Jeremiah had shortly before foretold, the seventy years' dominion of Babylon over Judah, and over Egypt and the neighbouring peoples (Jeremiah 25:19). For seventy years these nations are to serve the king of Babylon; but when these years are out, the king and land of the Chaldeans shall be visited, Judah shall be set free from its captivity, and shall return into its own land (Jeremiah 25:11., Jeremiah 37:6., Jeremiah 29:10).
The progressive fulfilment of Jeremiah's warning prophecies vindicated his character as prophet of the Lord; yet, notwithstanding, it was now that the sorest days of trial in his calling were to come. At the first taking of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar had contented himself with reducing Jehoiakim under his sway and imposing a tribute on the land, and king and people but waited and plotted for a favourable opportunity to shake off the Babylonian yoke. In this course they were encouraged by the lying prophecies of the false prophets, and the work done by these men prepared for Jeremiah sore controversies and bitter trials. At the very beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, the priests, the prophets, and the people assembled in the temple, laid hands on Jeremiah, because he had declared that Zion should share the fate of Shiloh, and that Jerusalem should be destroyed. He was by them found worthy of death, and he escaped from the power of his enemies only by the mediation of the princes of Judah, who hastened to his rescue, and reminded the people that in Hezekiah's days the prophet Micah had uttered a like prophecy, and yet had suffered nothing at the hand of the king, because he feared God. At the same time, Uriah, who had foretold the same issue of affairs, and who had fled to Egypt to escape Jehoiakim's vengeance, was forced back thence by an envoy of the king and put to death (Jer 26). Now it was that Jeremiah, by command of God, caused his assistant Baruch to write all the discourses he had delivered into a roll-book, and to read it before the assembled people on the day of the fast, observed in the ninth month of the fifty year of Jehoiakim's reign. When the king had word of it, he caused the roll to be brought and read to him. But when two or three passages had been read, he cut the roll in pieces and cast the fragments into a brasier that was burning before him. He ordered Jeremiah and Baruch to be brought; but by the advice of the friendly princes they had concealed themselves, and God hid them so that they were not found (Jer 36). It does not appear that the prophet suffered any further persecution under Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. Two years after the fast above mentioned, Jehoiakim rose against Nebuchadnezzar. The result was, that Jerusalem was besieged and taken for the second time in the reign of the next king; Jehoiakim, the leading men, and the flower of the nation were carried into exile to Babylon; and so Jeremiah's prophecy was yet more strikingly affirmed. Jerusalem was saved from destruction this time again, and in Zedekiah, the uncle of the exiled king, who had, of course, to take the oath of fealty, the country had again a king of the old stock. Yet the heavy blow that had now fallen on the nation was not sufficient to bend the stiff neck of the infatuated people and its leaders. Even yet were found false prophets who foretold the speedy overthrow of Chaldean domination, and the return, ere long, of the exiles (Jer 28). In vain did Jeremiah lift up his voice in warning against putting reliance on these prophets, or on the soothsayers and sorcerers who speak like them (Jeremiah 27:9., Jeremiah 27:14). When, during the first years of Zedekiah's reign, ambassadors had come from the bordering nations, Jeremiah, in opposition to the false prophets, declares to the king that God has given all these countries into the hand of the king of Babylon, and that these peoples shall serve him and his son and his grandson. He cries to the king, "Put your necks into the yoke of the king of Babylon, and ye shall live; he that will not serve him shall perish by sword, famine, and pestilence" (Jeremiah 27:12.). This announcement had repeated before the people, the princes, and the king, during the siege by the Chaldeans, which followed on Zedekiah's treacherous insurrection against his liege lord, and he chose for it the particular time at which the Chaldeans had temporarily raised the siege, in order to meet the Egyptian king in the field, Pharaoh Hophra having advanced to the help of the Jews (Jeremiah 34:20.). It was then that, when going out by the city gate, Jeremiah was laid hold of, beaten by the magistrates, and thrown into prison, on the pretext that he wanted to desert to the Chaldeans. After he had spent a long time in prison, the king had him brought to him, and inquired of him secretly for a word of Jahveh; but Jeremiah had no other word from God to give him but, "Thou shalt be given into the hand of the king of Babylon." Favoured by this opportunity, he complained to the king about his imprisonment. Zedekiah gave order that he should not be taken back to the prison, but placed in the court of the prison, and that a loaf of bread should be given him daily until all the bread in Jerusalem was consumed (Jer 37). Shortly thereafter, however, some of the princes demanded of the king the death of the prophet, on the ground that he was paralysing the courage of soldiers and people by such speeches as, "He that remains in this city shall die by sword, famine, and pestilence; but he that goeth out to the Chaldeans shall carry off his life as a prey from them." They alleged he was seeking the hurt and not the weal of the city; and the feeble king yielded to their demands, with the words: "Behold, he is in your hand, for the king can do nothing against you." Upon this he was cast into a deep pit in the court of the prison, in the slime of which he sank deep, and would soon have perished but for the noble-minded Ethiopian Ebed-melech, a royal chamberlain, who made application to the king on his behalf, and procured his removal out of the dungeon of mire. When consulted privately by the king yet again, he had none other than his former answer to give him, and so he remained in the court of the prison until the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Jer 38). After this he was restored to freedom by Nebuzar-adan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard, at the command of the king; and being left free to choose his place of residence, he decided to remain at Mizpah with Gedaliah, appointed governor of the land, amongst his own people (Jeremiah 39:11-14, and Jeremiah 40:1-6). Now it was that he composed the Lamentations upon the fall of Jerusalem and Judah.
After the foul murder of Gedaliah, the people, fleeing through fear of Chaldean vengeance, compelled him to accompany them to Egypt, although he had expressly protested against the flight as a thing displeasing to God (Jer 41:17-43:7). In Egypt he foretold the conquest of the land by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 43:8-13); and, further on, the judgment of God on his countrymen, who had attached themselves to the worship of the Queen of Heaven (44). Beyond this we are told nothing else about him in Bible records. Neither the time, the place, nor the manner of his death is known. We cannot confidently assert from Jer 44 that he was still living in b.c. 570, for this last discourse of the prophet does not necessarily presume the death of King Hophra (b.c. 570). Only this much is certain, that he lived yet for some years in Egypt, till about 585 or 580; that his labours consequently extended over some fifty years, and so that, presuming he was called to be prophet when a youth of 20 to 25 years old, he must have attained an age of 70 to 75 years. As to his death, we are told in the fathers Jerome, Tertull, Epiph., that he was stoned by the people at Tahpanhes ( Daphne of Egypt), and accordingly his grave used to be pointed out near Cairo. But a Jewish tradition, in the Seder ol. rabb. c. 26, makes him out to have been carried off with Baruch to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar at the conquest of Egypt, in the 27th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Isidor Pelusiota, epist . i. 298, calls him πολυπαθέστατος τῶν προφητῶν ; but the greater were the ignominy and suffering endured by Jeremiah in life, the higher was the esteem in which he was held by posterity, chiefly, doubtless, because of the exact fulfilment of his prophecy as to the seventy years' duration of the Babylonian empire (cf. Dan 9; 2; 2 Chronicles 36:20., Ezra 1:1). Jesus Sirach, in his Praise of the Prophets, Ecclus. c. xlix. 7, does not go beyond what we already know from Jeremiah 1:10; but was early as the second book of the Maccabees, we have traditions and legends which leave no doubt of the profound veneration in which he was held, especially by the Alexandrian Jews.
(Note: Thus the vision reported of Judas Maccabaeus in 2 Macc. 15:12ff., to the effect that in a dream a man appeared to him, standing beside the high priest Onias, while he prayed for his people-a man marked by his hoary hair and venerableness, engirded by wondrous and glorious majesty, and that Onias said: "This is the φιλάδελφος that has prayed so much fore the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God;" that Jeremiah held out to Judas a golden sword, with the words, "Take this holy sword as a gift from God; therewith thou shalt smite the adversaries." Further, we have in 2 Macc. 2:4ff., that at the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah hid the ark, the holy fire, the incense with its altar and the tabernacle, in a cave of the mountain from which Moses saw the promised land, and that this place will not be found again till the Lord gathers His people and is gracious to it. Hence arose the expectation which we find in Matthew 16:14, that Jeremiah will appear again as the forerunner of the Messiah.)
b. His Character and Mental Qualities - If we gather together in one the points of view that are discovered in a summary glance over Jeremiah's work as a prophet, we feel the truth of Ed. Vilmar's statement at p. 38 of his essay on the prophet Jeremiah in the periodical, Der Beweis des Glaubens . Bd. v. Gütersloh 1869. "When we consider the prophet's faith in the imperishableness of God's people, in spite of the inevitable ruin which is to overwhelm the race then living, and his conviction, firm as the rock, that the Chaldeans are invincible until the end of the period allotted to them by Providence, it is manifest that his work is grounded in something other and higher than mere political sharp-sightedness or human sagacity." Nor is the unintermitting stedfastness with which, amidst the sorest difficulties from without, he exercised his office to be explained by the native strength of his character. Naturally of a yielding disposition, sensitive and timid, it was with trembling that he bowed to God's call (Jeremiah 1:6); and afterwards, when borne down by the burden of them, he repeatedly entertained the wish to be relieved from his hard duties. "Thou hast persuaded me, Lord," he complains in Jeremiah 20:7., "and I let myself be persuaded; Thou hast laid hold on me and hast prevailed. I am become a laughing-stock all the day long: the word of Jahveh is become a reproach and a derision. And I thought: I will think no more of Him nor speak more in His name; and it was in my head as burning fire, shut up in my bones, and I become weary of bearing up, and cannot." Though filled with glowing love that sought the salvation of his people, he is compelled, while he beholds their moral corruptness, to cry out: "O that I had in my wilderness a lodging-place of wayfarers! then would I leave my people, and go from them; for they are all adulterers, a crew of faithless men" (Jeremiah 9:1). And his assurance that the judgment about to burst on the land and people could not be turned aside, draws from him the sigh: "O that mine head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears! then would I weep day and night for the slain of my people" (8:23). "He was no second Elijah," as Hgstbg. Christol . ii. p. 370 happily puts it. "He had a soft nature, a susceptible temperament; his tears flowed readily. And he who was so glad to live in peace and love with all men, must needs, because he has enlisted in the service of truth, become a second Ishmael, his hand against every man, and every man's hand against him; he whose love for his people was so glowing, was doomed to see that love misconstrued, to see himself branded as a traitor by those who were themselves the traitors to the people." Experiences like these raised bitter struggles in his soul, repeatedly set forth by him, especially in Jeremiah 12:1 and Jeremiah 20:1. Yet he stands immovably stedfast in the strife against all the powers of wickedness, like "a pillar of iron and a wall of brass against the whole land, the kings of Judah, its rulers and priests, and against the common people," so that all who strove against him could effect nothing, because the Lord, according to His promise, Jeremiah 1:18., was with him, stood by his side as a terrible warrior (Jeremiah 20:11), and showed His power mighty in the prophet's weakness.
This character of Jeremiah is also reflected in his writings. His speech is clear and simple, incisive and pithy, and, though generally speaking somewhat diffuse, yet ever rich in thought. If it lacks the lofty strain, the soaring flight of an Isaiah, yet it has beauties of its own. It is distinguished by a wealth of new imagery which is wrought out with great delicacy and deep feeling, and by "a versatility that easily adapts itself to the most various objects, and by artistic clearness" (Ewald). In the management of his thoughts Jeremiah has more recourse than other prophets to the law and the older sacred writings (cf. Koenig, das Deuteronom u. der Proph. Jeremia, Heft ii. of the Alttstl. Studien ; and A Küper, Jeremias librorum sacrr. interpres atque vindex ). And his style of expression is rich in repetitions and standing phrases. These peculiarities are not, however, to be regarded as signs of the progressive decline of the prophetic gift (Ew.), but are to be derived from deeper foundations, from positive and fundamental causes. The continual recurrence to the law, and the frequent application of the prophetic parts of Deuteronomy, was prompted by the circumstances of the time. The wider the people's apostasy from God's law extended itself, so much the greater became the need for a renewed preaching of the law, that should point to the sore judgments there threatened against hardened sinners, now about to come into fulfilment. And as against the guile of false prophets whose influence with the infatuated people became ever greater, the true witnesses of the Lord could have no more effective means of showing and proving the divineness of their mission and the truth of their testimony than by bringing strongly out their connection with the old prophets and their utterances. On this wise did Jeremiah put in small compass and preserve the spiritual inheritance which Israel had received from Moses a thousand years before, and thus he sent it with the people into exile as its better self (E. Vilm. as above). The numerous repetitions do unquestionably produce a certain monotony, but this monotony is nothing else than the expression of the bitter grief that penetrates the soul; the soul is full of the one thought which takes entire possession of its elastic powers, and is never weary of ever crying out anew the same truth to the people, so as to stagger their assurance by this importunate expostulation (cf. Haevern. Introd . p. 196). From the same cause comes the negligence in diction and style, on which Jerome in Prol. in Jer. passed this criticism: Jeremias propheta sermone apud Hebraeos Jesaia et Osea et quibusdam aliis prophetis videtur esse rusticior, sed sensibus par est ; and further in the Proaem. to lib. iv. of the Comment.: quantum in verbis simplex et facilis, tantum in majestate sensuum profundissimus . And unadorned style is the natural expression of a heart filled with grief and sadness. "He that is sad and downcast in heart, whose eyes run over with tears (Lamentations 2:2), is not the man to deck and trick himself out in frippery and fine speeches" (Hgstb. as above, p. 372). Finally, as to the language, the influence of the Aramaic upon the Hebrew tongue is already pretty evident.
3. The Book of the Prophecies of Jeremiah
a. Contents and Arrangement. - The prophecies of Jeremiah divide themselves, in accordance with their subjects, into those that concern Judah and the kingdom of God, and those regarding foreign nations. The former come first in the book, and extend from Jer 1-45; the latter are comprised in Jer 46-51. The former again fall into three groups, clearly distinguishable by their form and subjects. So that the whole book may be divided into four sections; while Jer 1 contains the account of the prophet's consecration, and Jer 52 furnishes an historical supplement.
The first section occupies Jer 2-20, and comprises six lengthy discourses which contain the substance of Jeremiah's oral preaching during the reign of Josiah. In these the people is brought face to face with its apostasy from the Lord into idolatry; its unrighteousness and moral corruption is set before it, the need of contrition and repentance is brought home, and a race of hardened sinners is threatened with the devastation of their land by a barbarous people coming from afar: while to the contrite the prospect of a better future is opened up. By means of headings, these discourses or compilations of discourses are marked off from one another and gathered into continuous wholes. The first discourse, Jer 2:1-3:5, sets forth, in general terms, the Lord's love and faithfulness towards Israel. The second, Jer 3:6-6:30, presents in the first half of it (3:6-4:2) the fate of the ten tribes, their dispersion for their backsliding, and the certainty of their being received again in the event of their repentance, all as a warning to faithless Judah; and in the second half (4:3-6:30), announces that if Judah holds on in its disloyalty, its land will be ravaged, Jerusalem will be destroyed, and its people cast out amongst the heathen. The third discourse, Jer 6-10, admonishes against a vain confidence in the temple and the sacrifices, and threatens the dispersion of Judah and the spoliation of the country (Jer 7:1-8:3); chides the people for being obstinately averse to all reformation (8:4-9:21); shows wherein true wisdom consists, and points out the folly of idolatry (9:22-10:25). The fourth discourse, Jer 11-13, exhibits the people's disloyalty to the covenant (11:1-17); shows by concrete examples their utter corruptness, and tells them that the doom pronounced is irrevocable (11:18-12:17); and closes with a symbolical action adumbrating the expulsion into exile of the incorrigible race (Jeremiah 13:1). The fifth, Jer 14-17, "the word concerning the droughts," gives illustrative evidence to show that the impending judgment cannot be turned aside by any entreaties; that Judah, for its sins, will be driven into exile, but will yet in the future be brought back again (14:1-17:4); and closes with general animadversions upon the root of the mischief, and the way by which punishment may be escaped (17:5-27). The sixth discourse, Jer 18-20, contains two oracles from God, set forth in symbolical actions, which signify the judgment about to burst on Judah for its continuance in sin, and which drew down persecution, blows, and harsh imprisonment on the prophet, so that he complains of his distress to the Lord, and curses the day of his birth. All these discourses have this in common, that threatening and promise are alike general in their terms. Most emphatically and repeatedly is threatening made of the devastation of the land by enemies, of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of Judah amongst the heathen; and yet nowhere is it indicated who are to execute this judgment. Not until the threatening addressed to Pashur in Jeremiah 20:4 are we told that it is the king of Babylon into whose hand all Judah is to be given, that he may lead them away to Babylon and smite them with the sword. And beyond the general indication, Jeremiah 3:6, "in the days of Josiah," not even the headings contain any hint as to the date of the several prophecies or of portions of them, or as to the circumstances that called them forth. The quite general character of the heading, Jeremiah 3:6, and the fact that the tone and subject remain identical throughout the whole series of chapters that open the collected prophecies of Jeremiah, are sufficient to justify Hgstbg. (as above, p. 373) in concluding that "we have here before us not so much a series of prophecies which were delivered precisely as we have them, each on a particular occasion during Josiah's reign, but rather a resumé of Jeremiah's entire public work as prophet during Josiah's reign; a summary of all that, taken apart from the special circumstances of the time, had at large the aim of giving deeper stability to the reformatory efforts Josiah was carrying on in outward affairs." This view is not just, only it is not to be limited to Jer 2-7, but is equally applicable to the whole of the first section of the collected prophecies.
The second section, Jer 21-32, contains special predictions; on the one hand, of the judgment to be executed by the Chaldeans (Jer 27-29); on the other, of Messianic salvation (Jer 30-33). The predictions of judgment fall into three groups. The central one of these, the announcement of the seventy years' dominion of the Chaldeans over Judah and all nations, passes into a description of judgment to come upon the whole world. As introductory to this, we have it announced in Jeremiah 21:1-14 that Judah and its royal family are to be given into the hands of the king of Babylon; we have in Jer 22 and Jeremiah 23:1 the word concerning the shepherds and leaders of the people; while in Jeremiah 24:1 comes the statement, illustrated by the emblem of two baskets of figs, as to the character and future fortunes of the Jewish people. The several parts of this group are of various dates. The intimation of the fate awaiting Judah in Jeremiah 21:1 is, according to the heading, taken from the answer given to Zedekiah by Jeremiah during the last siege of Jerusalem, when the king had inquired of him about the issue of the war; the denunciation of the people's corrupt rulers, the wicked kings and false prophets, together with the promise that a righteous branch is yet to be raised to David, belongs, if we may judge from what is therein said of the kings, to the times of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin; while the vision of the two baskets of figs in Jeremiah 24:1 dates from the first part of Zedekiah's reign, shortly after Jehoiachin and the best part of the nation had been carried off to Babylon. As this group of prophecies is a preparation for the central prediction of judgment in Jeremiah 25:1, so the group that follows, Jer 26-29, serves to show reason for the universal judgment, and to maintain it against the contradiction of the false prophets and of the people deluded by their vain expectations. To the same end we are told in Jeremiah 26:1 of the accusation and acquittal of Jeremiah on the charge of his having foretold the destruction of Jerusalem: this and the supplementary notice of the prophet Urijah fall within the reign of Jehoiakim. The same aim is yet more clearly to be traced in the oracle in Jeremiah 27:1, regarding the yoke of the king of Babylon, which God will lay on the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Phoenicia, on King Zedekiah, the priests and people of Judah; in the threatening against the lying prophet Hananiah in Jeremiah 28:1; and in Jeremiah's letter to the exiles in Babylon in Jeremiah 29:1, dating from the earlier years of Zedekiah's reign. From the dark background of these threatenings stands out in Jer 30-33 the comforting promise of the salvation of Israel. The prediction of grace and glory yet in store for Israel and Judah through the Messiah occupies two long discourses. The first is a complete whole, both in matter and in form. It begins with intimating the recovery of both houses of Israel from captivity and the certainty of their being received again as the people of God (Jer 30:1-22), while the wicked fall before God's wrath; then Jer 31 promises grace and salvation, first to the ten tribes (vv. 1-22), and then to Judah (Jeremiah 31:23-36); lastly, we have (Jeremiah 31:27-40) intimation that a new and everlasting covenant will be concluded with the whole covenant people. The second discourse in Jer 32 and Jeremiah 33:1 goes to support the first, and consists of two words of God communicated to Jeremiah in the tenth year of Zedekiah, i.e., in prospect of the destruction of Jerusalem; one being in emblematic shape (Jeremiah 32:1), the other is another explicit prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of blessings yet in store for the race of David and for the Levitical priesthood (23).
The third section of the book, Jer 34-44, has, in the first place, brief utterances of the prophet, dating from the times of Zedekiah and Jehoiachin, together with the circumstances that called them forth, in Jer 34-36; secondly, in Jer 37-39, notice of the prophet's experiences, and of the counsels given by him during the siege in Zedekiah's reign up till the taking of the city; finally, in Jer 40-45 are given events that happened and prophecies that were delivered after the siege. So that here there is gathered together by way of supplements all that was of cardinal importance in Jeremiah's efforts in behalf of the unhappy people, in so far as it had not found a place in the previous sections.
In the fourth section, Jer 46-51, follow prophecies against foreign nations, uttered partly in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, or rather later, partly in the first year of Zedekiah. And last of all, the conclusion of the whole collective book is formed by Jer 52, an historical supplement which is not the work of Jeremiah himself. In it are notices of the destruction of the city, of the number of the captives taken to Babylon, and of what befell King Jehoiachin there.
b. Origin of the Compilation or Book of the Prophecies of Jeremiah - Regarding the composition of the book, all sorts of ingenious and arbitrary hypotheses have been propounded. Almost all of them proceed on the assumption that the longer discourses of the first part of the book consist of a greater or less number of addresses delivered to the people at stated times, and have been arranged partly chronologically, but partly also without reference to any plan whatever. Hence the conclusion is drawn that in the book a hopeless confusion reigns. In proof of this, see the hypotheses of Movers and Hitzig. From the summary of contents just given, it is plain that in none of the four sections of the book has chronological succession been the principle of arrangement; this has been had regard to only in so far as it fell in with the plan chiefly kept in view, which was that of grouping the fragments according to their subject-matter. In the three sections of the prophecies concerning Israel, a general chronological order has to a certain extent been observed thus far, namely, that in the first section (Jer 2-20) are the discourses of the time of Josiah; in the second (Jer 21-33), the prophecies belonging to the period between the fourth year of Jehoiakim and the siege of Jerusalem under Zedekiah; in the third (Jer 34-45), events and oracles of the time before and after the siege and capture of the city. But even in those passages in the second and third sections which are furnished with historical references, order in time is so little regarded that discourses of the time of Zedekiah precede those of Jehoiakim's time. And in the first section the date of the several discourses is a matter of no secondary importance that, beyond the indefinite intimation in Jeremiah 3:6, there is not to be found in any of the headings any hint of the date; and here, upon the whole, we have not the individual discourses in the form in which they were under various circumstances delivered to the people, but only a resumé of his oral addresses arranged with reference to the subject-matter.
The first notice of a written collection of the prophecies occurs in Jer 36. Here we are told that in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah, by divine command, caused his assistant Baruch to write in a roll all the words he had spoken concerning Israel and Judah and all nations from the day he was called up till that time, intending them to be read by Baruch to the assembled people in the temple on the approaching fast. And after the king had cut up the roll and cast it into the fire, the prophet caused the words Baruch had taken down to his dictation to be written anew in a roll, with the addition of many words of like import. This fact suggests the idea that the second roll written by Baruch to Jeremiah's dictation formed the basis of the collected edition of all Jeremiah's prophecies. The history makes it clear that till then the prophet had not committed his prophecies to writing, and that in the roll written by Baruch they for the first time assumed a written form. The same account leads us also to suppose that in this roll the prophet's discourses and addresses were not transcribed in the precise words and in the exact order in which he had from time to time delivered them to the people, but that they were set down from memory, the substance only being preserved. The design with which they were committed to writing was to lead the people to humble themselves before the Lord and turn from their evil ways (Jeremiah 36:3, Jeremiah 36:7), by means of importunately forcing upon their attention all God's commands and warnings. And we may feel sure that this parenetic aim was foremost not only in the first document (burnt by the king), but in the second also; it was not proposed here either to give a complete and authoritative transcription of all the prophet's sayings and speeches. The assumption of recent critics seems justifiable, that the document composed in Jehoiakim's reign was the foundation of the book handed down to us, and that it was extended to the compass of the canonical book by the addition of revelations vouchsafed after that time, and of the historical notices that most illustrated Jeremiah's labours. But, however great be the probability of this view, we are no longer in a position to point out the original book in that which we have received, and as a constituent part of the same. At first sight, we might indeed be led to look on the first twenty chapters of our book as the original document, since the character of these chapters rather favours the hypothesis. For they are all lengthy compositions, condensed from oral addresses with the view of reporting mainly the substance of them;
(Note: As to the putting together of the seven pieces which occupy Jer 2-24, Ewald ( Proph . ii. S. 81, der 2 Ausg.) aptly remarks: "In tracing out these pieces from memory, the prophet manifestly started from a discourse, important in itself or its consequences, which he had delivered in some particular place; this remembrance then became the centre of the piece to be written, and to it he was easily able to attach much that was of kindred import.")
nor is there in them anything that certainly carries us beyond the time of Josiah and the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, except indeed the heading of the book, Jeremiah 1:1-3, and this was certainly prefixed only when the book was given forth as a whole. But according to the statement in Jeremiah 36:2, the original manuscript prepared by Baruch contained not only the words of the prophet which he had up to that time spoken concerning Israel and Judah, but also his words concerning all nations, that is, doubtless, all the prophecies concerning the heathen he had till now uttered, viz., Jer 25:15-31; 46:1-49:33. Nor can the most important discourse, Jer 25, belonging to the beginning of the fourth year of Jehoiakim, have been omitted from the original manuscript; certainly not from the second roll, increased by many words, which was put together after the first was burnt. For of the second manuscript we may say with perfect confidence what Ewald says of the first, that nothing of importance would be omitted from it. If then we may take for granted that the discourse of Jer 25 was included in the book put together by Baruch, it follows that upon the subsequent expansion of the work that chapter must have been displaced from its original position by the intercalation of Jeremiah 21:1-14 and Jeremiah 24:1-10, which are both of the time of Zedekiah. But the displacement of Jer 25 by prophecies of Zedekiah's time, and the arrangement of the several fragments which compose the central sections of the book now in our hands, show conclusively that the method and nature of this book are incompatible with the hypothesis that the existing book arose from the work written down by Baruch to Jeremiah's dictation by the addition and interpolation of later prophetic utterances and historical facts (Ew., Graf). The contents of Jer 21-45 were unmistakeably disposed according to a definite uniform plan which had regard chiefly to the subject-matter of those chapters, even though we are no longer in a position confidently to discriminate the several constituent parts, or point out the reason for the place assigned to them. The same plan may be traced in the arrangement of the longer compositions in Jer 2-20.
The consistency of the plan goes to show that the entire collection of the prophecies was executed by one editor at one time. Ew., Umbr., and Graf conclude that the original book attained its final form by a process of completion immediately after the destruction of the city and the deportation of the people; but it is impossible to admit their conclusion on the grounds they give, namely, the heading at Jeremiah 1:3 : "until the carrying away of Jerusalem in the fifth month;" and the fact that what befell the prophet, and what was spoken by him after the city was destroyed, have found a place immediately after Jer 39 in Jer 40-44. Both circumstances are sufficiently explained by the fact that with the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah's work as a prophet, though not absolutely finished, had yet anticipatively come to an end. His later labours at Mizpah and in Egypt were but a continuation of secondary importance, which might consequently be passed over in the heading of the book. See the Comment. on Jeremiah 1:3. We are not sure that the period between the fifth and seventh months, Jeremiah 41:1, during which Jeremiah and Baruch remained with the governor Gedaliah at Mizpah, was more suitable than any other for looking back over his work which had now extended over more than forty-one years, and by expanding the book he had at an earlier period written, for leaving behind him a monument for posterity in the record of his most memorable utterances and experiences - a monument that might serve to warn and instruct, as well as to comfort in present suffering means of the treasure of hopes and promises which he has thus laid up (Graf). But, judging from Jeremiah's habit of mind, we imagine that at that time Jeremiah would be disposed rather to indite the Lamentations than to edit his prophecies.
Arguments for repeated editings and transformations of particular chapters have been founded partly on the subject-matter, partly on peculiarities in the form of certain passages, e.g., the alternation, in the headings, of the formulas ויהי דבר יהוה אלי or ויּאמר אלי and ; ויהי דבר יהוה אל ירמיהוּ לאמר and the title, which occurs only in certain chapters, Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 25:2; Jeremiah 28:5-6, and often, Jeremiah 29:1, Jeremiah 29:29; Jeremiah 32:2. But on deeper investigation these arguments appear inconclusive. If we are desirous not to add by new and uncertain conjectures to the already large number of arbitrary hypotheses as to the compilation and origin of the book before us, we must abide by what, after a careful scrutiny of its subject-matter and form, proves to be certainly established. And the result of our examination may be epitomized in the following propositions: - 1. The book in its canonical form has been arranged according to a distinct, self-consistent plan, in virtue of which the preservation of chronological order has been made secondary to the principle of grouping together cognate subjects. 2. The book written by Baruch in the fifth year of Jehoiakim's reign, which contained the oracles spoken by Jeremiah up till that time, is doubtless the basis of the book as finally handed down, without being incorporated with it as a distinct work; but, in accordance with the plan laid down for the compilation of the entire series, was so disposed that the several portions of it were interspersed with later portions, handed down, some orally, some in writing, so that the result was a uniform whole. For that prophecies other than those in Baruch's roll were straightway written down (if they were not first composed in writing), is expressly testified by Jeremiah 30:2; Jeremiah 29:1, and Jeremiah 51:60. 3. The complete edition of the whole was not executed till after the close of Jeremiah's labours, probably immediately after his death. This work, together with the supplying of the historical notice in Jer 52, was probably the work of Jeremiah's colleague Baruch, who may have survived the last event mentioned in the book, Jeremiah 52:31., the restoration of Jehoiakim to freedom after Nebuchadnezzar's death, b.c. 563.
4. The Genuineness of the Book and the Integrity of the Masoretic Text
Jeremiah's prophecies bear everywhere so plainly upon the face of them the impress of this prophet's strongly marked individuality, that their genuineness, taken as a whole, remains unimpugned even by recent criticism. Hitzig, e.g., holds it to be so undoubted that in the prolegomena to his commentary he simply takes the matter for granted. And Ewald, after expounding this view of the contents and origin of the book, observes that so striking a similarity in expression, attitude, and colouring obtains throughout every portion that from end to end we hear the same prophet speak. Ewald excepts, indeed, the oracle against Babylon in Jer 50 and 51, which he attributes to an anonymous disciple who had not confidence to write in his own name, towards the end of the Babylonian captivity. He admits that he wrote after the manner of Jeremiah, but with this marked difference, that he gave an entirely new reference to words which he copied from Jeremiah; for example, according to Ewald, the description of the northern enemies, who were in Jeremiah's view first the Scythians and then the Chaldeans, is applied by him to the Medes and Persians, who were then at war with the Chaldeans. But with Ewald, as with his predecessors Eichh., Maur., Knobel, etc., the chief motive for denying the genuineness of this prophecy is to be found in the dogmatic prejudice which leads them to suppose it impossible for Jeremiah to have spoken of the Chaldeans as he does in Jeremiah 50f., since his expectation was that the Chaldeans were to be the divine instruments of carrying out the judgment near at hand upon Judah and the other nations. Others, such as Movers, de Wette, Hitz., have, on the contrary, proposed to get rid of what seemed to them out of order in this prediction by assuming interpolations. These critics believe themselves further able to make out interpolations, on a greater or less scale, in other passages, such as Jer 10; 25; 27; 29; 30; 33, yet without throwing doubt on the genuineness of the book at large. See details on this head in my Manual of Introduction, 75; and the proof of the assertions in the commentary upon the passages in question.
Besides this, several critics have denied the integrity of the Hebrew text, in consideration of the numerous divergencies from it which are to be found in the Alexandrine translation; and they have proposed to explain the discrepancies between the Greek and the Hebrew text by the hypothesis of two recensions, an Alexandrine Greek recension and a Babylonian Jewish. J. D. Mich., in the notes to his translation of the New Testament, i. p. 285, declared the text of the lxx to be the original, and purer than the existing Hebrew text; and Eichh., Jahn, Berthdolt, Dahler, and, most confident of all, Movers ( de utriusque recensionis vaticiniorum Jer. graecae Alexandr. et hebraicae Masor., indole et origine ), have done what they could to establish this position; while de Wette, Hitz., and Bleek (in his Introd.) have adopted the same view in so far that they propose in many places to correct the Masoretic text from the Alexandrine. But, on the other hand, Küper ( Jerem. librorum ss. interpres ), Haevern. ( Introd .), J. Wichelhaus ( de Jeremiae versione Alexandr. ), and finally, and most thoroughly, Graf, in his Comment . p. 40, have made comparison of the two texts throughout, and have set the character of the Alexandrine text in a clear light; and their united contention is, that almost all the divergencies of this text from the Hebrew have arisen from the Greek translator's free and arbitrary way of treating the Hebrew original. The text given by the Alexandrine is very much shorter. Graf says that about 2700 words or the Masoretic text, or somewhere about the eighth part of the whole, have not been expressed at all in the Greek, while the few additions that occur there are of very trifling importance. The Greek text very frequently omits certain standing phrases, forms, and expressions often repeated throughout the book: e.g., נאם יהוה is dropped sixty-four times; instead of the frequently recurring יהוה צבאות or יהוה צ ' אלהי ישׂראל there is usually found but יהוה . In the historical portions the name of the father of the principal person, regularly added in the Hebrew, is often not given; so with the title הנביא, when Jeremiah is mentioned; in speaking of the king of Babylon, the name Nebuchadnezzar, which we find thirty-six times in the Hebrew text, appears only thirteen times. Such expressions and clauses as seemed synonymous or pleonastic are often left out, frequently to the destruction of the parallelism of the clauses, occasionally to the marring of the sense; so, too, longer passages which had been given before, either literally or in substance. Still greater are the discrepancies in detail; and they are of such a sort as to bring plainly out on all hands the translator's arbitrariness, carelessness, and want of apprehension. All but innumerable are the cases in which gender, number, person, and tense are altered, synonymous expressions interchanged, metaphors destroyed, words transposed; we find frequently inexact and false translations, erroneous reading of the unpointed text, and occasionally, when the Hebrew word was not understood, we have it simply transcribed in Greek letters, etc. See copious illustration of this in Küper, Wichelh., and Graf, il. cc., and in my Manual of Introd. 175, N. 14. Such being the character of the Alexandrine version, it is clearly out of the question to talk of the special recension on which it has been based. As Hgstb. Christol . ii. p. 461 justly says: "Where it is notorious that the rule is carelessness, ignorance, arbitrariness, and utterly defective notions as to what the translator's province is, then surely those conclusions are beside the mark that take the contrary of all this for granted." None of those who maintain the theory that the Alexandrine translation has been made from a special recension of the Hebrew text, has taken the trouble to investigate the character of that translation with any minuteness, not even Ewald, though he ventures to assert that the mass of slight discrepancies between the lxx and the existing text shows how far the MSS of this book diverged from one another at the time the lxx originated. He also holds that not infrequently the original reading has been preserved in the lxx, though he adds the caveat: "but in very many, or indeed most of these places, the translator has but read and translated too hastily, or again, has simply abbreviated the text arbitrarily." Hence we can only subscribe the judgment passed by Graf at the end of his examination of the Alexandr. translation of the present book: "The proofs of self-confidence and arbitrariness on the part of the Alexandrian translator being innumerable, it is impossible to concede any critical authority to his version - or it can hardly be called a translation - or to draw from it conclusions as to a Hebrew text differing in form from that which has been handed down to us."
We must maintain this position against Nägelsbach's attempt to explain, by means of discrepancies amongst the original Hebrew authorities, the different arrangement of the prophecies against foreign nations adopted in the lxx, these being here introduced in Jer 25 between Jeremiah 25:12 and Jeremiah 25:14. For the arguments on which Näg., like Movers and Hitz., lays stress in his dissertations on Jeremiah in Lange's Bibelwerk, p. 13, and in the exposition of Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 27:1; Jeremiah 49:34, and in the introduction to Jer 46-51, are not conclusive, and rest on assumptions that are erroneous and quite illegitimate. In the first place, he finds in Jeremiah 25:12-14, which, like Mov., Hitz., etc., he takes to be a later interpolation (see table below), a proof that the Book against the Nations must have stood in the immediate neighbourhood of Jer 25. To avoid anticipating the exposition, we must here confine ourselves to remarking that the verses adduced give no such proof: for the grounds for this assertion we must refer to the comment. on Jeremiah 25:12-14. But besides, it is proved, he says, that the prophecies against the nations must once have come after Jer 25 and before Jer 27, by the peculiar expression τὰ Αἰλάμ at the end of Jeremiah 25:13 (Septuag.), by the omission of Jeremiah 27:1 in the Sept., and by the somewhat unexpected date given at Jeremiah 49:34. Now the date, "in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah," in the heading of the prophecy against Elam, Jeremiah 49:34, found not only in the Masoretic text, but also in the Alexandr. version (where, however, it occurs as a postscript at the end of the prophecy in Jeremiah 26:1), creates a difficulty only if the prophecy be wrongly taken to refer to a conquest of Elam by Nebuchadnezzar. The other two arguments, founded on the τὰ Αἰλαμ of Jeremiah 25:13, and the omission of the heading at Jeremiah 27:1 (Heb.) in the lxx, stand
Differences Between lxx and MT Versification Septuagint Prophecy against Masoretic Text Chapter Jeremiah 25:15. Elam Chapter Jeremiah 49:34 Chapter Jeremiah 26:1 Egypt Chapter Jeremiah 46:1 Chapter Jeremiah 27:1 & Jeremiah 28:1 Babylon Chapter Jeremiah 50:1 & Jeremiah 51:1 Chapter Jeremiah 29:1-7 Philistines Chapter Jeremiah 47:1-7 Chapter 29:7-29 Edom Chapter 49:7-22 Chapter Jeremiah 30:1-5 Ammon Chapter Jeremiah 49:1-6 Chapter Jeremiah 30:6-11 Kedar Chapter Jeremiah 49:28-33 Chapter Jeremiah 30:12-16 Damascus Chapter Jeremiah 49:23-27 Chapter Jeremiah 31:1 Moab Chapter Jeremiah 48:1 Chapter Jeremiah 32:1 Nations Chapter 25:15-38 After which Jeremiah 33-51 of the lxx run parallel with Jeremiah 26-45 of the Masoretic text.
and fall with the assumption that the Greek translator adhered closely to the Hebrew text and rendered it with literal accuracy, the very reverse of which is betrayed from one end of the translation to the other. The heading at Jeremiah 27:1, "In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying," coincides word for word with the heading of Jeremiah 26:1, save that in the latter the words "to Jeremiah" do not occur; and this former heading the Greek translator has simply omitted - holding it to be incorrect, since the prophecy belongs to the time of Zedekiah, and is addressed to him. On the other hand, he has appended τὰ Αἰλάμ to the last clause of Jeremiah 25:13, "which Jeremiah prophesied against the nations," taking this clause to be the heading of Jeremiah's prophecies against the nations; this appears from the τὰ Αἰλάμ, manifestly imitated from the ἐπὶ τὰ ἔθνη . His purpose was to make out the following oracle as against Elam; but he omitted from its place the full title of the prophecy against Elam, because it seemed to him unsuitable to have it come immediately after the (in his view) general heading, ἅ ἐπροφήτευσε ̔Ιερεμίας ἐπὶ τὰ ἔθνη, while, however, he introduced it at the end of the prophecy. It is wholly wrong to suppose that the heading at Jeremiah 27:1 of the Hebrew text, omitted in the lxx, is nothing but the postscript to the prophecy against Elam (Jeremiah 26:1 in the lxx and Jeremiah 49:34 in the Heb.); for this postscript runs thus: ἐν ἀρχῇ βασιλεύοντος Σεδεκίου βασιλέως ἐγένετο κ.τ.λ., and is a literal translation of the heading at Jeremiah 49:34 of the Heb. It is from this, and not from Jeremiah 27:1 of the Heb., that the translator has manifestly taken his postscript to the prophecy against Elam; and if so, the postscript is, of course, no kind of proof that in the original text used by the Greek translator of the prophecies against the nations stood before Jer 27. The notion we are combating is vitiated, finally, by the fact that it does not in the least explain why these prophecies are in the lxx placed after Jeremiah 25:13, but rather suggests for them a wholly unsuitable position between Jer 26 and Jeremiah 27:1, where they certainly never stood, nor by any possibility ever could have stood. From what has been said it will be seen that we can seek the cause for the transposition of the prophecies against the nations only in the Alexandrian translator's arbitrary mode of handling the Hebrew text.
For the exegetical literature on the subject of Jeremiah's prophecies, see my Introduction to Old Testament, vol. i. p. 332, English translation (Foreign Theological Library). Besides the commentaries there mentioned, there have since appeared: K. H. Graf, der Proph. Jeremia erklärt , Leipz. 1862; and C. W. E. Naegelsbach, der Proph. Jeremia, Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet , in J. P. Lange's Bibelwerk , Bielefeld and Leipz. 1868; translated in Dr. Schaff's edition of Lange's Bibelwerk , and published by Messrs. Clark.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah". https://www.studylight.org/
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