corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.02.16
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Jeremiah

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

JEREMIAH. 1. A warrior of the tribe of Gad, fifth in reputation ( 1 Chronicles 12:10 ). 2. The tenth in reputation ( 1 Chronicles 12:13 ) of the same Gadite band. 3. A bowman and slinger of the tribe of Benjamin ( 1 Chronicles 12:4 ). 4. The head of a family in E.Manasseh ( 1 Chronicles 5:24 ). 5. A Jew of Libnah, whose daughter, Hamutal or Hamital, was one of the wives of Josiah, and mother of Jehoahaz ( 2 Kings 23:31 ) and Zedekiah ( 2 Kings 24:18 , Jeremiah 52:1 ). 6. The son of Habazziniah and father of Jaazaniah, the head of the Rechabites ( Jeremiah 35:3 ) in the time of the prophet Jeremiah 7:1-34 . A priest who returned with Zerubbabel ( Nehemiah 12:1 ). His name was given to one of the twenty-two courses of priests ( Ezra 2:38-39 , Nehemiah 7:39-42 ; Nehemiah 12:13 ). 8. A priest who sealed the covenant ( Nehemiah 10:2 ) and took part in the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 12:34 ). 9. The prophet. See next article.

JEREMIAH

1. The times . Jeremiah the prophet was born towards the close of Manasseh’s long and evil reign ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 696 641), the influence of which overshadowed his life ( Jeremiah 15:4 , 2 Kings 23:26 ). He prophesied under Josiah and his sons from the year 626 to the fall of Jerusalem in b.c. 586 ( 2 Kings 1:2 f.), and for some short time after this until he vanishes from sight amongst the fugitive Jews in Egypt (chs. 40 44).

Through Josiah’s minority (see Josiah) the ethnicizing régime of Manasseh continued; Jeremiah’s earliest preaching (chs. 2 6), and the prophecies of his contemporary Zephaniah (wh. see), reveal a medley of heathen worships in Jerusalem, gross oppression and profligacy, insolence and insensibility characterizing both court and people. Meanwhile an international crisis is approaching. The giant power of Asshur, which for a century had dominated Israel’s world, is in rapid decline, and is threatened by the new Median State on its eastern border; Nahum (wh. see) had already celebrated Nineveh’s downfall in his splendid verses. The Assyrian capital was saved for the time by the irruption of the Scythian nomads (Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog), who were swarming southwards from the Oxus plains and over the Caucasus passes. These hordes of wild horsemen overran Western Asia for a generation, leaving a lasting horror behind them. Nineveh avoided capture by the Medes in 625 only at the expense of seeing her lands wasted and her dependencies stripped from her. The war-cloud of the Scythian invasion overhangs the sky of Zephaniah, and of Jeremiah at the outset of his ministry. The territory of Judah seems, after all, to have escaped the Scythian deluge, which swept to the borders of Egypt. The nomad cavalry would reach with difficulty the Judæan highlands; and if Josiah, coming of age about this time, showed a bold front against them and saved his country from their ravages, we can account for the prestige that he enjoyed and used to such good purpose. At the same date, or even earlier, the Assyrian over-lordship had been renounced; for we find Josiah exercising independent sovereignty. It was not as the vassal of Nineveh, but in the assertion of his hereditary rights and as guardian of the old territory of Israel, that he challenged Pharaoh-necho, who was attempting to seize the lost western provinces of Assyria, to the fatal encounter of Megiddo in the year 608 ( 2 Kings 22:2 ; 2 Kings 23:15-20 , 2 Chronicles 35:20 ). The Pharaoh pointedly calls him ‘thou king of Judah,’ as if bidding him keep within his bounds ( 2 Chronicles 35:21 ). Jeremiah praises Josiah, in contrast to his son, as an upright and prosperous king, good to the poor and commending his religion by his rule ( Jeremiah 22:15-17 ).

The great event of Josiah’s reign was the reformation effected by him in its eighteenth year (b.c. 621), upon the discovery of ‘the book of the law’ in the Temple (2 Kings 22:8 to 2 Kings 23:25 ; see Deuteronomy). So far as concerned outward religion, this was a drastic and enduring revolution. Not merely the later idolatries imported from the East under the Assyrian supremacy, but also the indigenous rites of Molech and the Baalim were abolished. Above all, an end was put to the immemorial cultus of the local ‘high places,’ at which the service of Jehovah had been corrupted by mixture with that of the Canaanite divinities. Worship was centralized at the royal Temple of Jerusalem; and the ‘covenant’ with Jehovah made by king and people there in the terms of Deuteronomy, followed by the memorable Passover feast, was designed to inaugurate a new order of things in the life of the people; this proved, in fact, a turning-point in Israel’s history. However disappointing in its immediate spiritual effects, the work of Josiah and his band of reformers gave the people a written law-book and a definitely organized religious system, which they carried with them into the Exile to form the nucleus of the OT Scriptures and the basis of the later Judaism.

The fall of Josiah in battle concluded the interval of freedom and prosperity enjoyed by Judah under his vigorous rule. For three years the country was subject to the victorious Pharaoh, who deposed and deported Shalum-Jehoahaz, the national choice, replacing him on the throne of Judah by his brother Eliakim-Jehoiakim. The great battle of Carchemish (605), on the Euphrates, decided the fate of Syria and Palestine; the empire of Western Asia, quickly snatched from Egypt, passed into the strong hands of the Chaldæan king Nebuchadrezzar, the destined destroyer of Jerusalem. From this time ‘Babylon’ stands for the tyrannous and corrupting powers of the world; she becomes, for Scripture and the Church, the metropolis of the kingdom of Satan, as ‘Jerusalem’ of the kingdom of the saints. The Chaldæan empire was a revival of the Assyrian, less brutal and destructive, more advanced in civilization, but just as sensual and sordid, and exploiting the subject races as thoroughly as its predecessor. The prophecies of Habakkuk (chs. 1 and 2) reveal the intense hatred and fear excited by the approach of the Chaldæans; the ferocity of Nebuchadrezzar’s troops was probably aggravated by the incorporation with them of Scythian cavalry, large bodies of which still roamed south of the Caspian. The repeated and desperate revolts made by the Judæans are accounted for by the harshness of Nebuchadrezzar’s yoke, to escape which Tyre endured successfully a thirteen years’ siege. His enormous works of building (see Habakkuk 2:12-13 ) must have involved crushing exactions from the tributaries.

Jehoiakim, after Carchemish, transferred his allegiance to Babylon. For three years he kept faith with Nebuchadrezzar, and then apparently without allies or reasonable hope of support rebelled (2 Kings 24:1 ). Jehoiakim was a typical Eastern despot, self-willed, luxurious, unprincipled, oppressive towards his own people, treacherous and incompetent in foreign policy. Jeremiah denounces him vehemently; the wonder is that he did not fall a victim to the king’s anger, like his disciple Uriah ( Jeremiah 26:20-24 ; Jeremiah 36:26-30 ; Jeremiah 22:13-19 ). The revived national faith in Jehovah, which had rested on Josiah’s political success, was shaken by his fall; the character of the new king, and the events of his reign, furthered the reaction. A popular Jehovist party existed; but this was the most dangerous factor in the situation. Its leaders the prophet Hananiah amongst them ( Jeremiah 28:1-17 ) preached out of season Isaiah’s old doctrine of the inviolability of Zion; even after the capture of Jerusalem in 597 and the first exile, ‘the prophets’ promised in Jehovah’s name a speedy re-instatement. The possession of the Temple and the observance of the Law, they held, bound Jehovah to His people’s defence. The fanaticism thus excited, of which the Jewish race has given so many subsequent examples, brought about the second, and fatal, rupture with Babylon.

Nebuchadrezzar showed a certain forbearance towards Judah. On Jehoiakim’s first revolt, in 601, he let loose bands of raiders on the Judæan territory (2 Kings 24:2 ; cf. Jeremiah 12:9 ; Jeremiah 12:14 ); four years later be marched on the capital. Jehoiakim died just before this; his youthful son Jehoiachin (called also Jeconiah and Coniah ) surrendered the city, and was carried captive, with the queen-mother and the élite of the nobles and people, to Babylon, where he lived for many years, to be released upon Nebuchadrezzar’s death in 561 ( 2 Kings 24:6-17 ; 2 Kings 25:27-30 , Jeremiah 22:24-30 ).

The reign of Mattaniah-Zedekiah, raised to the throne by Nebuchadrezzar, was in effect a repetition of that of his elder brother. Zedekiah failed through weakness more than through wickedness; he sought Jeremiah’s advice, but lacked decision to follow it. Early in his reign a conspiracy was on foot in Palestine against the Chaldæans, which he was tempted to join (Jeremiah 27:1-11 ; see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] on Jeremiah 27:1 ). The Judæans, instead of being cowed by the recent punishment, were eager for a rising; public opinion expressed itself in Hananiah’s contradiction to Jeremiah’s warnings (ch. 28). The same false hopes were exciting the exiles in Babylon (ch. 29). Nebuchadrezzar, aware of these movements, summoned Zedekiah to Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:59 ); the latter was able, however, to clear himself of complicity, and returned to Jerusalem. At last Zedekiah yielded to the tide; he broke his oaths of allegiance to Nebuchadrezzar conduct sternly condemned by Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 17:11-21 ) as well as by Jeremiah and the Jewish people were launched on a struggle almost as mad as that which it undertook with Rome 650 years later. The siege of Jerusalem was stubbornly prolonged for two years (588 586). The Egyptians under the new and ambitious Pharaohhophra (Apries, 588 569), effected a diversion of the Chaldæan troops ( Jeremiah 37:5-10 , Ezekiel 17:15 ); but, as often before, Pharaoh proved ‘a broken reed to those who trusted in him.’ Reduced by famine, Jerusalem was stormed, Zedekiah being captured in his attempt to escape, and meeting a pitiable death ( 2 Kings 25:1-7 ). This time Nebuchadrezzar made an end of the rebels. Jerusalem was razed to the ground; the survivors of the siege, and of the executions that followed, were carried into exile. A remnant, of no political importance, was left to till the ground; the bulk of these, after the tragic incidents related in Jeremiah 39:1-18 ; Jeremiah 40:1-16 ; Jeremiah 41:1-18 ; Jeremiah 42:1-22 ; Jeremiah 43:1-13 , fled to Egypt. Jeremiah, who had in vain resisted this migration, was carried with the runaways; he had the distress of seeing his companions relapse into open idolatry, protesting that they had fared better when worshipping ‘the queen of heaven’ than under the national Jehovah. Jewish tradition relates that he died at the hands of his incensed fellow-exiles. The prophet’s prediction that the sword of Nebuchadrezzar would follow the fugitives, was fulfilled by the Chaldæan invasion of Lower Egypt in the year 569, if not earlier than this. The Babylonian empire lasted from b.c. 605 to 538, a little short of the ‘70 years’ assigned to it, in round numbers, by Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 25:11 ; Jeremiah 29:10 ).

2. The man . The Book of Jeremiah is largely autobiographical. The author became, unconsciously, the hero of his work. This prophet’s temperament and experience have coloured his deliverances in a manner peculiar amongst OT writers. His teaching, moreover, marks an evolution in the Israelite religion, which acquires a more personal stamp as its national framework is broken up. In Jeremiah’s life we watch the spirit of revelation being driven inwards , taking refuge from the shipwreck of the State in the soul of the individual. Jeremiah is the prophet of that ‘church within the nation,’ traceable in its beginnings to Isaiah’s time, to which the future of revealed religion is henceforth committed. This inner community of heart-believers survived the Exile; it gave birth to the Bible and the synagogue.

Jeremiah was a native of Anathoth, a little town some 3 1 / 2 miles N. E.from Jerusalem, perched high on the mountain-ridge and commanding an extensive view over the hills of Ephraim and the Jordan valley, towards which his memory often turned (Jeremiah 4:15 ; Jeremiah 7:14-15 ; Jeremiah 12:5 ; Jeremiah 31:4-5 ; Jeremiah 31:18 ; Jeremiah 49:19 ). Jeremiah had no mere Judæan outlook; the larger Israel was constantly in his thoughts. His father was ‘Hilkiah [not the Hilkiah of 2 Kings 22:4 ], of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin’ ( 2 Kings 1:1 ); but he does not show, like the contemporary priest-prophet Ezekiel, the sacerdotal mind. Anathoth had been the settlement of Abiathar, the last high priest of Eli’s house, who was banished thither by Solomon ( 1 Kings 2:26 ); Jeremiah may have been a scion of this deposed line. His mission brought him, probably at an early period, into conflict with ‘the men of Anathoth,’ who sought his life ( 1 Kings 11:18-23 ). His attempt to visit Anathoth during the last siege of Jerusalem, and the transaction between himself and his cousin over the field at Anathoth ( Jeremiah 32:6 ff., Jeremiah 37:11-14 ), go to show that he was not entirely cut off from friendly relations with his kindred and native place.

Jeremiah’s call (ch. 1) in b.c. 626 found him a diffident and reluctant young man, not wanting in devotion, but shrinking from publicity, and with no natural drawing towards the prophetic career; yet he is ‘set over the nations, to pluck up and to break down, and to build and to plant’! Already there begins the struggle between the implanted word of Jehovah and the nature of the man, on which turns Jeremiah’s inner history and the development of his heroic character, all things considered, the noblest in the OT. His ministry was to be a long martyrdom. He must stand as ‘a fenced city and an iron pillar and brazen walls against the whole land,’ a solitary and impregnable fortress for Jehovah. The manner of his call imports an intimacy with God, an identification of the man with his mission, more close and complete than in the case of any previous prophet (see Jeremiah 1:5 ; Jeremiah 1:9 ). No intermediary not even ‘the spirit of Jehovah,’ no special vehicle or means of prophetical incitement, is ever intimated in his case: simply ‘the word of Jehovah came to’ him. He conceives the true prophet as ‘standing in Jehovah’s council, to perceive and hear his word’ ( Jeremiah 23:18 ; cf. Isaiah 50:4 ). So that he may be in person, as well as in word, a prophet of the coming tribulation, marriage is forbidden him and all participation in domestic life ( Jeremiah 16:1-13 ), a sentence peculiarly bitter to his tender and affectionate nature. Jeremiah’s imagination was haunted by his lost home happiness ( Jeremiah 7:34 ; Jeremiah 16:9 ; Jeremiah 25:10 ; Jeremiah 33:11 ). Endowed with the finest sensibilities, in so evil a time he was bound to be a man of sorrows.

Behind the contest waged by Jeremiah with kings and people there lay an interior struggle, lasting more than twenty years. So long it took this great prophet to accept with full acquiescence the burden laid upon him. We may trace through a number of self-revealing passages, the general drift of which is plain notwithstanding the obscurity of some sentences and the chronological uncertainty, Jeremiah’s progress from youthful consecration and ardour, through moods of doubt and passionate repugnance, to a complete self-conquest and settled trust (see, besides chs. 1, 11, 16 already cited, Jeremiah 8:18 to Jeremiah 9:2 ; Jeremiah 15:10-11 and Jeremiah 15:15-21 ; Jeremiah 17:14-18 ; Jeremiah 18:18-23 ; Jeremiah 20:1-18 ; Jeremiah 26:1-24 ; Jeremiah 30:1-24 ; Jeremiah 31:1-40 ; Jeremiah 32:1-44 ). The discipline of Jeremiah may be divided into four stages, following on his supernatural call: ( a ) the youthful period of fierce denunciation, b.c. 626 621; ( b ) the time of disillusion and silence, subsequent to Josiah’s reforms, 621 608; ( c ) the critical epoch, 608 604, opened by the fall of Josiah at Megiddo and closing in the fourth year of Jehoiakim after the battle of Carchemish and the advent of Nebuchadrezzar, when the paroxysm of the prophet’s soul was past and his vision of the future grew clear; ( d ) the stage of full illumination, attained during the calamities of the last days of Jerusalem.

To ( a ) belongs the teaching recorded in chs. 2 6, subject to the modifications involved in condensing from memory discourses uttered 20 years before. Here Jeremiah is on the same ground as Zephaniah. He strongly recalls Hosea, whose love for ‘Ephraim’ he shares, and whose similitude of the marriage-union between Jehovah and Israel supplies the basis of his appeals. Judah, he insists, has proved a more faithless bride than her northern sister; a divorce is inevitable. Ch. 5 reflects the shocking impression made by Jeremiah’s first acquaintance with Jerusalem; in ch. 6 Jehovah’s scourge in the first instance the Scythians is held over the city. With rebukes mingle calls to repentance and, more rarely, hopes of a relenting on the people’s part ( Jeremiah 3:21-25 ; in other hopeful passages critics detect interpolation). Jeremiah’s powerful and pathetic preaching helped to prepare the reformation of 621. But as the danger from the northern hordes passed and Josiah’s rule brought new prosperity, the prophet’s vaticinations were discounted; his pessimism became an object of ridicule.

( b ) Jeremiah’s attitude towards Josiah’s reformation is the enigma of his history. The collection of his prophecies made in 604 (see chs. 1 12), apart from the doubtful allusion in Jeremiah 11:1-8 , ignores the subject; Josiah’s name is but once mentioned, by way of contrast to Jehoiakim, in Jeremiah 22:13-19 . From this silence we must not infer condemnation; and such passages as Jeremiah 7:22-23 and Jeremiah 8:8 do not signify that Jeremiah was radically opposed to the sacrificial system and to the use of a written law. We may fairly gather from Jeremiah 11:1-8 , if not from Jeremiah 17:19-27 (the authenticity of which is contested), that Jeremiah commended the Deuteronomic code. His writings in many passages show a Deuteronomic stamp. But, from this point of view, the reformation soon showed itself a failure. It came from the will of the king, not from the conscience of the people. It effected no ‘circumcision of the heart,’ no inward turning to Jehovah, no such ‘breaking up of the fallow ground’ as Jeremiah had called for; the good seed of the Deuteronomic teaching was ‘sown among thorns’ ( Jeremiah 4:3-4 ), which sprang up and choked it. The cant of religion was in the mouths of ungodly men; apostasy had given place, in the popular temper, to hypocrisy. Convinced of this, Jeremiah appears to have early withdrawn, and stood aloof for the rest of Josiah’s reign. Hence the years 621 608 are a blank in the record of his ministry. For the time the prophet was nonplussed; the evil he had foretold had not come; the good which had come was a doubtful good in his eyes. He could not support, he would not oppose, the work of the earnest and sanguine king. Those twelve years demonstrated the emptiness of a political religion. They burnt into the prophet’s soul the lesson of the worthlessness of everything without the law written on the heart .

( c ) Josiah’s death at Megiddo pricked the bubble of the national religiousness; this calamity recalled Jeremiah to his work. Soon afterwards he delivered the great discourse of Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3 , which nearly cost him his life (see ch. 26). He denounces the false reliance on the Temple that replaced the idolatrous superstitions of 20 years before, thereby making ‘the priests and the prophets,’ to whose ears the threat of Shiloh’s fate for Zion was rank treason, from this time his implacable enemies. The post-reformation conflict now opening was more deadly than the pre-reformation conflict shared with Zephaniah. A false Jehovism had entrenched itself within the forms of the Covenant, armed with the weapons of fanatical self-righteousness. To this phase of the struggle belong chs. 7 10 (subtracting the great interpolation of Jeremiah 9:23 to Jeremiah 10:16 , of which Jeremiah 10:1-16 is surely post-Jeremianic); so, probably, most of the matter of chs. 14 20, identified with the ‘many like words’ that were added to the volume of Jeremiah burnt by Jehoiakim in the winter of 604 ( Jeremiah 36:27-32 ).

The personal passages of chs. 15, 17, 18, 20 belong to this decisive epoch (608 605, between Megiddo and Carchemish). The climax of Jeremiah’s inward agony was brought about by the outrage inflicted on him by Pashhur, the Temple overseer (ch. 20), when, to stop his mouth, the prophet was scourged and put in the stocks. He breaks out,’ O Jehovah, thou hast befooled me, and I have been befooled!’ and ends by ‘cursing the day of his birth’ (Jeremiah 20:7-18 ). Jehovah has used His almighty power to play with a weak, simple man, and to make him a laughing-stock! Jehovah’s word is ‘a fire in his bones’; he is compelled to speak it, only to meet ridicule and insult! His warnings remain unfulfilled, and God leaves him in the lurch! He desires nothing but the people’s good; yet they count him a traitor, and put down his terrifying visions to malignity! This last reproach cut Jeremiah to the heart; again and again he had repelled it ( Jeremiah 15:10 ; Jeremiah 17:16 ; Jeremiah 18:20 ). The scene of ch. 20 was Jeremiah’s Gethsemane. It took place not long before the crisis of ‘the fourth year of Jehoiakim,’ the occasion when the roll of doom was prepared (ch. 36) which was read to the people and the king, and when, after the battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadrezzar was hailed as Jehovah’s servant and executioner (ch. 25). At this juncture the conclusive breach with Jehoiakim came about, when the faithless king, by running his knife through Jeremiah’s book, severed the ties which had bound prophecy to the secular throne of David since Samuel’s day. Recalling at this date his misgivings and inward fightings against God, the prophet virtually tells us that they are past. From the years 605 4 he marches with firm step to the goal; he sees the end of God’s kingdom, and the way. Jeremiah is at last equal to his office, ready ‘to pluck up and to break down the nations, and to build and to plant.’ Master of himself, he is master of the world.

( d ) Chs. 30 33 ( Jeremiah 33:14-26 are wanting in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ; the remainder of 33, along with Jeremiah 32:16-44 , lies under grave critical suspicion) contain a distinct ‘word of Jehovah,’ committed to a separate ‘book.’ This is ‘the Book of the Future of Israel and Judah’ (Duhm), and the crown of Jeremiah’s life-work. Like the Christian prophet who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jeremiah fled to the ideal and eternal from the horrors of the national downfall; as the earthly Zion sinks, the image of God’s true city rises on his soul. The long foreseen catastrophe has arrived; Jeremiah meets it bravely, for ‘days are coming,’ Jehovah tells him, ‘when I will restore the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, and I will cause them to return to the land of their fathers’ ( Jeremiah 30:3 ff.). The prophet adds deeds to words: he takes the opportunity of buying, before witnesses, a field at Anathoth offered during the siege by his cousin Hanameel, in token that ‘houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land’ ( Jeremiah 32:15 ). But the restoration means something far better than recovery of the land; it will be a spiritual renovation, a change of heart going deeper than Josiah’s renewal of the old covenant. ‘They shall be my people,’ Jehovah promises, ‘and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever.… And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, and I will put my fear in their hearts ’ ( Jeremiah 32:38-39 ; Jeremiah 32:31-44 of this disputed chapter are full of Jeremianic traits). The announcement of the ‘new covenant’ in ch. Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the kernel of the ‘Book of the Future’; this is Jeremiah’s greatest contribution to the progress of the Kingdom of God. This passage touches the high-water mark of OT prophecy; it was appropriated by the Lord Jesus at the Last Supper, and supplied the basis of the NT doctrine of salvation (see Hebrews 10:14-18 ). To deprive Jeremiah of the New-Covenant oracle (as B. Duhm, e.g. , would do) is to remove the top-stone of his life’s edifice; it is to make his rôle one of ‘plucking up and breaking down,’ with no commensurate ‘building and planting’ ( Jeremiah 1:10 ) upon the desolated site. Jeremiah had read first in his own heart the secret thus conveyed to Israel. The mission which he had borne for long as a painful yoke, he learnt to rest in with entire contentment. He is able to say, ‘I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart’; and he prophesies that, under the new covenant, every man shall say this.

Jeremiah’s style and powers as a writer have been underestimated; better justice is done to them by recent scholars. The gloom overshadowing many of his pages has been repellent; and the mistaken attachment of his name to ‘Lamentations’ has brought on him the disparaging epithet of ‘the weeping prophet.’ Much of the book comes to us from other pens; in its narrative parts we recognize the hand of Baruch; and allowance should be made for editorial glosses and additions, here and there interrupting the flow and impairing the force of the original. Jeremiah’s language is touched with occasional Aramaisms, and shows some falling off from the perfection of the classical Hebrew of the 8th century. Jeremiah has neither the sublimity and sustained oratorical power of Isaiah, nor the pungency of Amos, nor the poignancy of Hosea, nor the fire and verve of Nahum, nor the subtlety of Habakkuk; but in richness of imagery, in fulness of human interest, in lucidity and naturalness, in his command of the various resources of poetry, eloquence, pathos, and practical appeal, by virtue of the combination of excellences he presents and the value of his total output, Jeremiah is the greatest of the writing prophets.

3. The Book . We owe the Book of Jeremiah to his collaborator Baruch (ch. 36). In fairness, this should be entitled ‘The Book of Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the scribe.’ With Baruch’s help Jeremiah issued in 604 ‘a roll of a book,’ containing the sum of his public teaching up to that date. This volume was not too large to be read to the assembled people, and read aloud twice more in the course of the same day. In size and contents it corresponded to chs. 2 12 of the existing book (the two fragments of Jeremiah 9:23-26 seem to be a later Jeremianic, and Jeremiah 10:1-16 a post-Jeremianic insertion; some would also refer Jeremiah 12:7-17 to a subsequent date). The destruction of the first roll by Jehoiakim called for a new edition, containing ‘many like words,’ which added to the bulk of the first publication: chs. 1 and 14 20, with (possibly) 25, may be taken to contain the supplementary matter referred to in Jeremiah 36:32 , extending and illustrating chs. 2 12 (ch. 13 is out of place, since it bears in the allusion of Jeremiah 36:18-19 manifest reference to the captivity of 597). With the exceptions named, and some others of less moment, chs. 1 20 may be read as the re-written roll of Jeremiah 36:32 , which dated from the winter of b.c. 604.

In chs. Jeremiah 21:11 to Jeremiah 23:40 we find a distinct collection of oracles, relating to the kings (down to Jehoiachin) and prophets, associated under the designation of ‘shepherds’; it is prefaced by a story (in 3rd person: Jeremiah 21:1-10 ) about king Zedekiah, germane to the later collection of chs. 37 39. Chs. 13 and 24 and 27 29 are reminiscences of Jeremiah relative to the early years of Zedekiah’s reign, subsequent to the First Captivity (597) surely ch. 35, the story of the Rechabites (in 1st person), relating to Jehoiakim’s closing years, should come in here. This added matter may have gone to make up a third edition of Jeremiah-Baruch’s work, published about this date, extending over chs. 1 29, with the deductions and addition previously noted (ch. 26 is mentioned below).

Chs. 30 33 form a totally distinct work from the Book of Doom thus far analyzed; this is Jeremiah’s book of promise or consolation , recording the revelation of his people’s future given to him during the last slege of Jerusalem. Chs. 37 39, to which Jeremiah 21:1-10 should be attached, and 40 44, are two distinct memoirs, bearing on Jeremiah’s history ( a ) in the final siege, and ( b ) after the capture of Jerusalem; the authorship of his secretary is indicated by the fact that the short oracle concerning Baruch (ch. 45) is set at the end of these narratives, though the event related took place earlier, in 604. It is to be noted that the data of Jeremiah 1:1-3 do not cover the matter of chs. 40 44. It looks as though that superscription was drawn up when the book extended only from ch. 1 39, and as though we ought to recognize a fourth stage in the growth of Jeremiah’s book a redaction made soon after the fall of Jerusalem, which was supplemented afterwards when Baruch added chs. 40 45, making the fifth (enlarged) edition. To ( a ) is prefixed the supremely important Baruch story (ch. 36), of the same date as the above-mentioned (ch. 45) which concludes ( b ). Ch. 26 is a detached narrative piece, out of place where it stands; this appears to be Baruch’s account of the crisis in Jeremiah’s work to which Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3 relates (b.c. 608). Altogether, we may credit to Baruch’s memoirs of Jeremiah chs. 26, 36, 37 39 and 40 45; to some extent he probably worked over and edited the matter received by dictation from his master.

This leaves remaining only the collection of Foreign Oracles, which have been separately placed at the end of Jeremiah’s works, in chs. 46 51; and the Historical Appendix, ch. 52, borrowed by his editors from the Book of Kings (or by the compilers of Kings from this place). The great doom of the Chaldæans and Babylon in chs. Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58 , judged by internal evidence, was certainly a postscript to Jeremiah’s work and a product of the Exile; critical doubts, of less gravity, attach to other parts of the Foreign Oracles. In Jeremiah 38:28-39:10 we find already inserted, in shorter form, the first part of the narrative incorporated in ch. 52. Ch. Jeremiah 52:28-30 supplies a valuable bit of tradition about the Captivity wanting in Kings, missing also in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] text of Jeremiah. The final redaction of the canonical ‘Jeremiah’ (the sixth edition?) dates considerably posterior to the Exile; for Jeremiah 50:2 to Jeremiah 51:58 , if written by an exilic prophet, could hardly have been ascribed to Jeremiah until a late age. On the other hand, chs. 50 52 are found in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , which dated c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 200, and must therefore have been incorporated in the book before this time.

The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] departs from the Massoretic text in two main respects: (1) in arrangement , the Foreign Oracles (chs. 46 51) being let in between vv.13 and 14 of ch. 25, and running in a different order. It is not unlikely that the Dooms of the Nations were originally associated with ch. 25; but their Greek position cannot possibly be sustained. (2) Again, the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] text differs from the MT [Note: Massoretic Text.] in quantity , being shorter by some 2700 words, or one-eighth of the whole. The subtracted matter consists partly of omissions of paragraphs and sentences amongst the chief of these being Jeremiah 11:7-8 , Jeremiah 17:1-4 , Jeremiah 29:16-20 , Jeremiah 33:14-26 , Jeremiah 48:45-47 , Jeremiah 51:45-48 , Jeremiah 52:2-3 ; Jeremiah 52:28-30 ; partly of abbreviations , titles shortened, proper names dispensed with, synonyms dropped and descriptions curtailed. The former phenomena point, in a number of instances, to accretions gathered by the MT [Note: Massoretic Text.] subsequently to the date of translation; the abbreviations betray in the translator a studied attempt at conciseness. It has been supposed that the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] rested on an older and purer recension of the Hebrew text, preserved in Egypt; but this theory is abandoned. ‘Both texts’ of Jeremiah ‘have the same archetype; but this archetype underwent a gradual process of expansion, and the process is represented at an earlier stage in the MS or MSS underlying the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , and at a more advanced stage in those at the basis of the MT [Note: Massoretic Text.] .… Speaking generally, the MT [Note: Massoretic Text.] is qualitatively greatly superior to the Greek; but, on the other hand, quantitatively, the Greek is nearer the original text. This judgment is general, admitting many exceptions, that is, cases where the quality of the Greek text is better, and its readings more original than the Hebrew; and also cases where, in regard to quantity, the Hebrew is to be preferred, the omissions in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] being due to faults in the translator’s MS, to his own oversight, or to his tendency to scamp and abridge’ (A. B. Davidson).

Synopsis of the Book

I. The great Book of Doom , dictated by Jeremiah in b.c. 604: chs. 1 20, 25, with parts (probably) of 46 51, corresponding to the original volume read by Baruch ( Jeremiah 36:2 ; Jeremiah 36:10 ) and the ‘many like words’ added on re-writing ( Jeremiah 36:32 ).

( a ) The book burnt by Jehoiakim: chs. 2 12 ( minus Jeremiah 9:23 to Jeremiah 10:16 etc.). This included

1. The Judgment upon Judah’s treachery towards Jehovah: chs. 2 6, embodying Jeremiah’s pre-reformation teaching [ Jeremiah 3:6-18 has slipped out of its place; this oracle should come either before (Cornill), or after (Bruston), the rest of chs. 2, 3].

2. The Judgment upon Judah’s hypocrisy . chs. 7 12 (? Jeremiah 12:7-17 ; minus Jeremiah 9:23 to Jeremiah 10:15 ); belonging to the post-reformation preaching of 608 and onwards.

( b ) The ‘many like words,’ illustrating ( a ): chs. Jeremiah 1:14-19 , and probably 25, etc.; consisting of scenes and reminiscences from Jeremiah’s earlier ministry , up to b.c. 604 [ch. 13 was later; it has been displaced; see § V.].

II. The Judgment on the Shepherds (kings, priests, and prophets): chs. 21 23 [ Jeremiah 21:1-10 has been transferred from § V.: the remainder of this section need not have been later than c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 597].

III. Later memoranda of Jeremiah , extending from c [Note: circa, about.] . 600 to 593: chs. Jeremiah 12:7-17 (?) 13, 24, 27 29 and 35. §§ II. and III. may have been added to § I. to form a third (enlarged) edition of the great Book of Doom, issued in the middle of Zedekiah’s reign and before the final struggle with Nebuchadrezzar.

IV. The little Book of Consolation : chs. 30 33, dating from the second siege.

V. Baruch’s Memoirs of Jeremiah :

( a ) Before the Fall of Jerusalem (covered by the title in Jeremiah 1:1-3 ): chs. 26, 36, 34, 37 39, with Jeremiah 21:1-10 .

( b ) After the Fall of Jerusalem: chs. 40 44.

( c ) Baruch’s personal note: ch. 45.

Whether the above memoirs were introduced by Barocbor extracted later by other editors from a separate work of his, cannot be determined with certainty. The position of ch. 45 speaks for his editing up to this point; but if so, some later hand has disturbed his arrangement of the matter. In some instances the displacements we have noted may be due to accidents of transcription.

VI. The Collection of Foreign Oracles : chs. 46 49 [ Jeremiah 50:2 to Jeremiah 51:58 ] Jeremiah 51:59-64 against Egypt (2), Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam [Babylon]. In the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] the Dooms are differently arranged, attached to Jeremiah 25:13 , and slightly shorter. The Babylon Doom admittedly betrays the hand of a late compiler; additions to Jeremiah’s work are suspected in other parts of the section, particularly in the Dooms of Egypt and Moab .

VII. The Historical Appendix : ch. 52, nearly identical, by general admission, with 2 Kings 24:18 to 2 Kings 25:30 .

The above must be taken as a general outline and sketch of the growth of the work. There are a number of detached fragments, such as Jeremiah 9:23-26 , the true connexion of which is lost. And post-Jeremianic interpolations and annotations, relatively numerous, must be recognized; the most conspicuous of these, besides the last three chapters, are Jeremiah 10:1-16 and Jeremiah 33:14-26 .

G. G. Findlay.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Jeremiah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/j/jeremiah.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, February 16th, 2019
the Fifth Week after Epiphany
ADVERTISEMENT
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
Prev Entry
Jeremai
Next Entry
Jeremias
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology