Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah (Hebrew: ספר יִרְמְיָהוּ) is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve. (The order is somewhat different in the Christian Old Testament). It derives its name from, and records the visions of, Jeremiah, who lived in Jerusalem in the late 7th and early 6th centuries BC during the time of king Josiah and the fall of the Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians, and who subsequently went into exile in Egypt. The book is written in a complex and poetic Hebrew (apart from verse 10:11, curiously written in Biblical Aramaic).
Texts and manuscripts
Parts of the Book of Jeremiah have also been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in cave 4 in Qumran. These texts, in Hebrew, correspond both to the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint Text. This discovery has shed much light on the differences between the two versions; while it was previously maintained that the Greek Septuagint (the version used by the earliest Christians) was only a poor translation, professor Emanuel Tov, senior editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls' publication, wrote that the Masoretic edition either represents a substantial rewriting of the original Hebrew, or there had previously been two different versions of the text. Most scholars hold that the Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint version is older than the Masoretic text and that either the Masoretic evolved either from this vorlage or from a closely related version.
The book of Jeremiah was edited and influenced by the Deuteronomists, or the writers of the book of Deuteronomy, who advanced religious reform. This can be clearly viewed in the parallel use of language found in both Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. For example in comparing Jer 11.4 and Deut 4.20, both use the metaphor of an iron furnace. Also, the impetus for religious reform appears to be aligned between Jeremiah and the Deuteronomists in ending of infant child sacrifices (see Jer 7.31, 19.5, 32.35; Lev 18.21). However, considerable debate exists as to whether Jeremiah was actually a member of the Deuteronomistc school since he does not explicitly mention Deuteronomy or Josiah's religious reform. In fact, due to the repetitious nature of some of phrases or intertextuality with Jeremiah, an argument has been put forth that the “historical Jeremiah” is hard to validate and should be abandoned. By contrast, evidence based on the textual differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text has been used to argue that the context of the MT truly does depict a historical Jeremiah.
Sections of the Book
- Chapters 1-25 (The earliest and main core of Jeremiah's message)
- Chapters 26-29 (Biographic material and interaction with other prophets)
- Chapters 30-33 (God's promise of restoration including Jeremiah's "new covenant" which is interpreted differently in Judaism versus Christianity)
- Chapters 34-45 (Mostly interaction with Zedekiah and the fall of Jerusalem)
- Chapters 46-51 (Divine punishment to the nations surrounding Israel)
- Chapter 52 (Appendix that retells 2 Kings 24.18-25.30)
The Prophet Jeremiah
According to the book, the Prophet Jeremiah was a son of a priest from Anatot in the land of Benjamin, who lived in the last years of the Kingdom of Judah just prior to, during, and immediately after the siege of Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of Solomon's Temple and the raiding of the city by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. According to the book, for a quarter century prior to the destruction, Jeremiah repeatedly issued prophecies predicting God's forthcoming judgment; advocating the Israelites to put down their idols and repent in hopes of turning away God's judgment and fulfilling their destiny as His chosen people. Jeremiah's fellow Israelites refused to heed his warnings and did not repent. His efforts failed and he witnessed the destruction of everything he knew, the exile of the Israelite elite to Babylonia, and the fleeing of the remainder to Egypt.
The book of Jeremiah depicts a remarkably introspective prophet, a prophet who was impetuous and often angered by the role into which he has been thrust. Jeremiah alternates efforts to warn the people with pleas to God for mercy until he is ordered to "pray no more for this people." He engages in extensive performance art, walking about in the streets with a yoke about his neck and engaging in other efforts to attract attention. He is taunted and retaliates; he is thrown in jail as the result. At one point he is thrown into a pit to die.
Prophecies of Jeremiah
- Threats against the "unfaithful shepherds" (i.e., the false prophets), the promise of peace and of the real shepherd (after 597), and warnings against false prophets and godless priests (perhaps in the time of Jehoiakim; 23:1-8, 9-40);
- Vision of the two baskets of figs, illustrating the fate of the captives and of those who were left behind, from the period after the first deportation by Nebuchadnezzar, in 597 (chapter 24);
- Threats of punishments to be inflicted on Judah and the surrounding nations, the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., the year of the Battle of Carchemish (605; chapter 25);
- The first of the historical passages recounting Jeremiah's prophecy in the Temple (compare chapter 7), his arrest, his threatened death, and his rescue, in which connection the martyrdom of the prophet Uriah is briefly mentioned (chapter 26).
- Protection for Israel following the period of destruction and exile
- Utterances from the time of Zedekiah (see § II.), with an appendix, the last connected prophecy of any length, in chapter 35, treating of the fidelity of the Rechabites and of the unfaithfulness of Judah. This dates from a somewhat earlier period, that of Jehoiakim (because certainly before 597), and thus forms a transition to the first passages of the narrative sections.
- Babylon will fall to invaders from the North. 51.
Jeremiah's prophecies are noted for the frequent repetitions found in them of the same words, phrases, and imagery. They cover the period of about 50 years. They are not in chronological order.
The Septuagint (Greek or 'LXX') version of this book is, in its arrangement and in other particulars, different from the Masoretic Hebrew. The Septuagint does not include 10:6-8; 25:14; 27:19-22; 29:16-20; 33:14-26; 39:4-13; 52:2, 3, 15, 28-30, etc. In all, about 2,700 words found in the Masoretic text are not found in the Septuagint. Also, the 'Oracles against the Nations', that appear as chapters 46-51 in the Masoretic and most dependent versions, in the Septuagint are located right after 25:13, and in a different order.
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, "a comparison of the Masoretic text with the Septuagint throws some light on the last phase in the history of the origin of the Book of Jeremiah, inasmuch as the translation into Greek was already under way before the work on the Hebrew book had come to an end... The two texts differ above all in that the Septuagint is much shorter... Even if the text of the Septuagint is proved to be the older, it does not necessarily follow that all these variations first arose after the Greek translation had been made, because two different editions of the same text might have been in process of development side by side..."
The Septuagint version of Jeremiah also includes the Book of Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah. Jerome's Prologue to Jeremiah says he excluded them: "And the Book of Baruch, his scribe, which is neither read nor found among the Hebrews, we have omitted, standing ready, because of these things, for all the curses from the jealous, to whom it is necessary for me to respond through a separate short work. And I suffer because you think this. Otherwise, for the benefit of the wicked, it was more proper to set a limit for their rage by my silence, rather than any new things written to provoke daily the insanity of the envious." But the Canon of Trent included them as "Ieremias cum Baruch" (Jeremiah with Baruch), Baruch 6 being the Epistle or Letter of Jeremiah in the Vulgate.
The “Confessions” of Jeremiah
Scholars have identified several passages in Jeremiah that can be understood as “confessions;” they occur in the first section of the book (chapters 1-25) and are 11.18-12.6, 15.10-21, 17.14-18, 18.18-23, and 20.7-18. In these passages, Jeremiah expresses his discontent with the message he is to deliver, but also his steadfast commitment to the divine call despite the fact that he had not sought it out. Additionally, in several of these “confessions,” Jeremiah prays that the Lord will avenge his persecutors  (for example, see Jeremiah 12.3).
Jeremiah’s “confessions” are a type of individual lament. Such laments are found elsewhere in the psalms and the book of Job. Like Job, Jeremiah curses the day of his birth (Jer. 20.14-18 and Job 3.3-10). Likewise, Jeremiah’s exclamation “For I hear the whispering of many: Terror is all around!” (Jer. 20.10) matches Psalm 31.13 exactly. However, Jeremiah’s laments are made unique by his insistence that he has been called by Yahweh to deliver his messages. These laments that are attributed to Jeremiah “provide a unique look at the prophet's inner struggle with faith, persecution, and human suffering”.
Prophetic gestures, also known as sign-acts or symbolic actions, was a form of communication in which a message was delivered by performing symbolic actions. These actions were often bizarre actions that violated the cultural norms of the time (e.g. Ezekiel 4:4-8). These actions served the purposes of both drawing audience and causing that audience to ask questions, giving a prophet the opportunity to explain the meaning of the behavior. Prophetic gestures are not unique to the book of Jeremiah.
The following is a list of noteworthy sign-acts found in Jeremiah.
- Jeremiah 13:1-11 The wearing, burial, and retrieval of a linen waistband.
- Jeremiah 16:1-9 The shunning of the expected customs of marriage, mourning, and general celebration.
- Jeremiah 19:1-13 the acquisition of a clay jug and the breaking of said jug in front of the religious leaders of Jerusalem 
- Jeremiah 27-28 The wearing of an oxen yoke and its subsequent breaking by a fellow prophet, Hananiah.
- Jeremiah 35:1-19 The offering of wine to the Rechabites, a tribe known for living in tents and refusing to drink wine. This was done in the Temple, which is an important part of the breaking of societal norms.
This is not an exhaustive list of the prophetic gestures found in the book of Jeremiah. It is important in one's reading of the text of Jeremiah that one remember that the recorder of these events (i.e. the author of the text) had neither the same audience nor, potentially, the same intent that Jeremiah had in performing these prophetic gestures. This is also true of most other texts containing prophetic gestures.
Online text, translations, and commentaries
- Original Hebrew text:
- Translations into English
- Jewish translations:
- Christian translations:
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Tov, Emanuel: "The Septuagint and Literary Criticism", The Folio: Bulletin of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, 22(2):1-6
- Williamson, H. G. M., "Do We Need A New Bible? Reflections on the Proposed Oxford Hebrew Bible", Biblia, vol. 90 (2009), p. 168.
- Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009. p.300.
- Hyatt, JP. Jeremiah and Deuteronomy. Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Vol. 1, No. 2 (Apr., 1942), pp. 156-173
- Holt, EK. The Chicken and the egg –or was Jeremiah a Member of the Deuteronomist Party? Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Vol.44. pp109-122. (1989)
- Carroll, RP. ``Intertextuality and the Book of Jeremiah: Adimadversions on text and theory. The New Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible. pp. 55-78. 1993. Sheffield Academic Press. - books.google.com.
- Diamond, A R Pete. 1990. "Jeremiah's confessions in the LXX and MT : a witness to developing canonical function?." Vetus Testamentum 40, no. 1: 33-50
- Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009. p299.
- Robert Davidson "Jeremiah, The Book of" The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. Oxford University Press Inc. 1993. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Northwestern University. 20 October 2010 
- An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, Henry Barclay Swete, Cambridge University Press, 1914, Part II, Chapter III, Section 6, , "Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah were regarded by the Church as adjuncts of Jeremiah, much in the same way as Susanna and Bel were attached to Daniel. Baruch and the Epistle occur in lists which rigorously exclude the non-canonical books; they are cited as 'Jeremiah' (Iren. v. 35. I, Tert. scorp. 8, Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus i. 10, Cyprian, Testimonia ii. 6); with Lamentations they form a kind of trilogy supplementary to the prophecy."
- Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context . Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009. pp.303.
- Perdue, Leo G. Harper Collins Study Bible, Revised Edition . HarperCollins: New York, 2006. pp.1021.
- Friebel, K.G. Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's Sign-Acts. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 1999. pp. 99-114
- Friebel, K.G. Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's Sign-Acts. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 1999. pp. 82-99
- Friebel, K.G. Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's Sign-Acts. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 1999. pp. 115-124
- Friebel, K.G. Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's Sign-Acts. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 1999. pp. 136-
- Friebel, K.G. Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's Sign-Acts. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 1999. pp. 124-136
- Friebel, K.G. Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's Sign-Acts. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 1999. p. 13
- (Jewish Encyclopedia) Book of Jeremiah article
- Encyclopædia Britannica: Jeremiah
- Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton's 1851 English translation of Septuagint Jeremiah
- Farrell Till (1990). "The Jeremiah Dilemma". The Skeptical Review (4).
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "article name needed". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
Book of Jeremiah
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