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Jul 8, 2013

Insidious to Sacriligious to Religious

Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel 2

Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel

Jeremiah

"An introduction to Jeremiah." (jer uh MIGH uh) (the Lord hurls)

Herewith follows an essay on introduction to Jeremiah with inclusion of a

discussion about authorship, literary character and theology.

"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or

obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that

we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What

have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace

of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

The major prophet during the decline and fall of the southern kingdom of

Judah and author of the Book of Jeremiah.  He prophesied during the reigns

of the last five kings of Judah.

Jeremiah was born in Anatoth, situated north of Jerusalem in the territory

of Benjamin (Jer. 1:1-2).  He was called to the prophetic ministry in the

thirteenth year of Josiah's reign, about 627 B.C.  He must have been a

young man at the time, since his ministry lasted for about 40 years -

through the very last days of the nations of Judah when the capital city

of Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.

Jeremiah's call is one of the most instructive passages in his book.  God

declared that he had sanctioned him as a prophet even before he was born

(Jer. 1:5)  But the young man responded with words of inadequacy: "Ah,

Lord God!" (Jer. 1:6)  These words actually mean "No, Lord God!"  Jeremiah

pleaded that he was a youth and that he lacked the ability to speak.  But

God replied tht he was being called not because of age or ability, but

because God has chosen him.

Immediately, Jeremiah saw the Hand of God reaching out and touching his

mouth.  "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth," God declared (Jer.

1:9).  From that moment, the words of the prophets were to be the word of

God.  And his ministry was to consist of tearing down and rebuilding,

uprooting and replanting:  "See, I have this day set you over the

kingdoms, to root down and pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to

build and to plant (Jer. 1:10).

Because of the negative nature of Jeremiah's ministry, judgmental texts

abound in his book.  Jeremiah was destinied from the very beginning to be

a prophet of doom.  He was even forbidden to marry so he could devote

himself fully to the task of preaching God's judgement (Jer. 16: 1-13).  A

prophet of doom cannot be a happy man.  All of Jeremiah's life was wrapped

up in the knowledge that God was about to bring an end to the Holy City

and cast off his covenant people.

Jeremiah is often called " the weeping prophet" because he wept openly

about the about the sins of his nation (Jer. 9:1).  He was also depressed

at times about the futility of his message.  As the years passed and his

words of judgment went unheeded, he lamented his unfortunate state:  "Oh.

Lord, you induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and

have prevailed.  I am in derision dailiy; everyone mocks me" (Jer. 20:7)

At times Jeremiah tried to hold back from his prophetic proclamation.  But

he found that the word of the Lord was "like a burning fire shut up in my

bones" (Jer. 20:9).  He had no choice but to proclaim the harsh message of

God's judgement.

Jeremiah did not weep and lament because of weakness, nor did he proclaim

evil because of a dark and gloomy personality.  He cried out because of

his love for his people and his God.  This characteristic of the prophet

is actually a tribute to his sensitivity  and deep concern.  Jeremiah's

laments remind us of the weeping of the Savior (Matt. 23:37-39)

As Jeremiah predicated, the nation of Judah was eventually punished by

God, because of its sin and disobedience.  In 586 B.C. Jerusalem was

destroyed and the leading citizens were deported to Babylonia.  Jeremiah

remained in Jerusalem with a group of his fellow citizens, under the

authority if a ruling governor appointed by the Babylonians.  But he was

forced to seek safety in Egypt after the people of Jerusalem revolted

against Babylonian rule.  He continued his preaching in Egypt (Jer. 43-44)

 This is the last we hear of Jeremiah.  There is no record of what

happened to the prophet during these years in his ministry.

In the New Testament (KJV), Jeremiah was referred to as Jeremy (Matt.

2:17);27:9) and Jeremiah (Matt. 16:14).

Jeremiah lived at the close of the seventh and in the first part of the

sixth century before Christ; a contemporary of Draco and Solon of Athens.

In the year 627, during the reign of Josias, he was called at a youthful

age to be a prophet, and for nearly half a century, at least from 627 to

585, he bore the burden of the prophetic office. He belonged to a priestly

(not a high-priestly) family of Anathoth, a small country town northeast

of Jerusalem now called Anatâ; but he seems never to have performed

priestly duties at the temple. The scenes of his prophetic activity were,

for a short time, his native town, for the greater part of his life, the

metropolis Jerusalem, and, for a time after the fall of Jerusalem,

Masphath (Jeremiah 40:6) and the Jewish colonies of the Dispersion in

Egypt (Jeremiah 43:6 sqq.). His name has received varying etymological

interpretations ("Lofty is Jahwah" or "Jahweh founds"); it appears also as

the name of other persons in the Old Testament. Sources for the history of

his life and times are, first, the book of prophecies bearing his name,

and, second, the Books of Kings and of Paralipomenon (Chronicles). It is

only when taken in connection with the history of his times that the

external course of his life, the individuality of his nature and the

ruling theme of his discourses can be understood.

The last years of the seventh century and the first decades of the sixth

brought with them a series of political catastrophes which completely

changed national conditions in Western Asia. The overthrow of the Assyrian

Empire, which was completed in 606 by the conquest of Ninive, induced

Nechao II of Egypt to attempt, with the aid of a large army, to strike a

crushing blow at the ancient enemy on the Euphrates. Palestine was in the

direct route between the great powers of the world of that era on the

Euphrates and the Nile, and the Jewish nation was roused to action by the

march of the Egyptian army through its territory. Josias, the last

descendent of David, had begun in Jerusalem a moral and religious

reformation "in the ways of David", the carrying out of which, however,

was frustrated by the lethargy of the people and the foreign policy of the

king. The attempt of Josias to check the advance of the Egyptians cost him

his life at the battle of Mageddo, 608. Four years later, Nechao, the

conqueror at Mageddo, was slain by Nabuchodonosor at Carchemish on the

Euphrates. From that time Nabuchodonosor's eyes were fixed on Jerusalem.

The last, shadowy kings upon the throne of David, the three sons of

Josias–Joachaz, Joakim, and Sedecias–hastened the destruction of the

kingdom by their unsuccessful foreign policy and their anti-religious or,

at least, weak internal policy. Both Joakim and Sedecias, in spite of the

warnings of the prophet Jeremias, allowed themselves to be misled by the

war party in the nation into refusing to pay the tribute to the King of

Babylon. The king's revenge followed quickly upon the rebellion. In the

second great expedition Jerusalem was conquered (586) and destroyed after

a siege of eighteen months, which was only interrupted by the battle with

the Egyptian army of relief. The Lord cast aside his footstool in the day

of his wrath and sent Juda into the Babylonian Captivity.

This is the historical background to the lifework of the Prophet Jeremiah:

in foreign policy an era of lost battles and other events preparatory to

the great catastrophe; in the inner life of the people an era of

unsuccessful attempts at reformation, and the appearance of fanatical

parties such as generally accompany the last days of a declining kingdom.

While the kings from the Nile and the Euphrates alternately laid the sword

on the neck of the Daughter of Sion, the leaders of the nation, the kings

and priests, became more and more involved in party schemes; a Sion party,

led by false prophets, deluded itself by the superstitious belief that the

temple of Jahweh was the unfailing talisman of the capital; a fanatically

foolhardy war party wanted to organize a resistance to the utmost against

the great powers of the world; a Nile party looked to the Egyptians for

the salvation of the country, and incited opposition to the Babylonian

lordship. Carried away by human politics, the people of Sion forgot its

religion, the national trust in God, and wished to fix the day and hour of

its redemption according to its own will. Over all these factions the cup

of the wine of wrath gradually grew full, to be finally poured from seven

vessels during the Babylonian Exile laid upon the nation of the Prophets.

In the midst of the confusion of a godless policy of despair at the

approach of destruction, the prophet of Anathoth stood as "a pillar of

iron, and a wall of brass". The prophet of the eleventh hour, he had the

hard mission, on the eve of the great catastrophe of Sion, of proclaiming

the decree of God that in the near future the city and temple should be

overthrown. From the time of his first calling in vision to the prophetic

office, he saw the rod of correction in the hand of God, he heard the word

that the Lord would watch over the execution of His decree. That Jerusalem

would be destroyed was the constant assertion, the ceterum censeo of the

Cato of Anathoth. He appeared before the people with chains about his neck

 in order to give a drastic illustration of the captivity and chains which

he foretold. The false prophets preached only of freedom and victory, but

the Lord said: A liberty for you to the sword, to the pestilence, and to

the famine. It was so clear to him that the next generation would be

involved in the overthrow of the kingdom that he renounced marriage and

the founding of a family for himself, because he did not wish to have

children who would surely be the victims of the sword or become the slaves

of the Babylonians. His celibacy was consequently a declaration of his

faith in the revelation granted him of the destruction of the city.

Jeremias is thus the Biblical and historical counterpart of Cassandra in

the Homeric poems, who foresaw the fall of Troy, but found no credence in

her own house, yet was so strong in her conviction that she renounced

marriage and all the joys of life.

Along with this first task, to prove the certainty of the catastrophe of

586, Jeremias had the second commission to declare that this catastrophe

was a moral necessity, to proclaim it in the ears of the people as the

inevitable result of the moral guilt since the days of Manasses (2 Kings

21:10-15); in a word, to set forth the Babylonian Captivity as a moral,

not merely a historical, fact. It was only because the stubborn nation had

thrown off the yoke of the Lord (Jeremiah 2:20) that it must bow its neck

under the yoke of the Babylonians. In order to arouse the nation from its

moral lethargy, and to make moral preparation for the day of the Lord, the

sermons of the preacher of repentance of Anathoth emphasized this causal

connection between punishment and guilt, until it became monotonous.

Although he failed to convert the people, and thus to turn aside entirely

the calamity from Jerusalem, nevertheless the word of the Lord in his

mouth became, for some, a hammer that broke their stony hearts to

repentance. Thus, Jeremiah had not only to root up, and to pull down, he

had also in the positive work of salvation to build, and to plant. These

latter aims of the penitential discourses of Jeremias make plain why the

religious and moral conditions of the time are all painted in the same

dark tone: the priests do not inquire after Jahweh; the leaders of the

people themselves wander in strange paths; the prophets prophesy in the

name of Baal; Juda has become the meeting-place of strange gods; the

people have forsaken the fountain of living water and have provoked the

Lord to anger by idolatry and the worship of high places, by the sacrifice

of children, desecration of the Sabbath, and by false weights. This

severity in the discourses of Jeremias makes them the most striking type

of prophetic declamation against sin. One well-known hypothesis ascribes

to Jeremias also the authorship of the Books of Kings. In reality the

thought forming the philosophical basis of the Books of Kings and the

conception underlying the speeches of Jeremias complement each other,

inasmuch as the fall of the kingdom is traced back in the one to the guilt

of the kings, and in the other to the people's participation in this

guilt.

A far more exact picture of the life of Jeremiah has been preserved than

of the life of any other seer of Sion. It was an unbroken chain of

steadily growing outward and inward difficulties, a genuine "Jeremiad". On

account of the prophecies, his life was no longer safe among his

fellow-citizens of Anathoth  and of no teacher did the saying prove truer

that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. When he transferred his

residence from Anathoth to Jerusalem his troubles increased, and in the

capital of the kingdom he was doomed to learn by corporal suffering that

veritas parit odium (truth draws hatred upon itself). King Joakim could

never forgive the prophet for threatening him with punishment on account

of his unscrupulous mania for building and for his judicial murders: He

shall be buried with the burial of an ass. When the prophecies of Jeremias

were read before the king, he fell into such a rage that he threw the roll

into the fire and commanded the arrest of the prophet. Then the word of

the Lord came to Jerermiah to let Baruch the scribe write again his words.

More than once the prophet was in prison and in chains without the word of

the Lord being silenced; more than once he seemed, in human judgment,

doomed to death, but, like a wall of brass, the word of the Almighty was

the protection of his life: Be not afraid . . . they shall not prevail:

for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee. The religious opinion

he maintained, that only by a moral change could a catastrophe in outward

conditions prepare the way for improvement, brought him into bitter

conflict with the political parties of the nation. The Sion party, with

its superstitious confidence in the temple, incited the people to open

revolt against Jeremias, because, at the gate and in the outer court of

the temple, he prophesied the fate of the holy place in Silo for the house

of the Lord; and the prophet was in great danger of violent death at the

hands of the Sionists. The party friendly to Egypt cursed him because he

condemned the coalition with Egypt, and presented to the King of Egypt

also the cup of the wine of wrath; they also hated him because, during the

siege of Jerusalem, he declared, before the event, that the hopes placed

on an Egyptian army of relief were delusive. The party of noisy patriots

calumniated Jeremiah as a morose pessimist, because they had allowed

themselves to be deceived as to the seriousness of the crisis by the

flattering words of Hananias of Gabaon and his companions, and dreamed of

freedom and peace while exile and war were already approaching the gates

of the city. The exhortation of the prophet to accept the inevitable, and

to choose voluntary submission as a lesser evil than a hopeless struggle,

was interpreted by the war party as a lack of patriotism. Even at the

present day, some commentators wish to regard Jeremias as a traitor to his

country–Jeremias, who was the best friend of his brethren and of the

people of Israel, so deeply did he feel the weal and woe of his native

land. Thus was Jeremias loaded with the curses of all parties as the

scapegoat of the blinded nation. During the siege of Jerusalem he was once

more condemned to death and thrown into a miry dungeon; this time a

foreigner rescued him from certain death.

Still more violent than these outward battles were the conflicts in the

soul of the prophet. Being in full sympathy with the national sentiment,

he felt that his own fate was bound up with that of the nation; hence the

hard mission of announcing to the people the sentence of death affected

him deeply; hence his opposition to accepting this commission. With all

the resources of prophetic rhetoric he sought to bring back the people to

"the old paths", but in this endeavour he felt as though he were trying to

effect that "the Ethopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots". He

heard the sins of his people crying to heaven for vengeance, and forcibly

expresses his approval of the judgment pronounced upon the blood-stained

city. The next moment, however, he prays the Lord to let the cup pass from

Jerusalem, and wrestles like Jacob with God for a blessing upon Sion. The

grandeur of soul of the great sufferer appears most plainly in the fervid

prayers for his people, which were often offered directly after a fiery

declaration of coming punishment. He knows that with the fall of Jerusalem

the place that was the scene of revelation and salvation will be

destroyed. Nevertheless, at the grave of the religious hopes of Israel, he

still has the expectation that the Lord, notwithstanding all that has

happened, will bring His promises to pass for the sake of His name. The

Lord thinks "thoughts of peace, and not of affliction", and will let

Himself be found of those who seek. As He watched to destroy, so will He

likewise watch to build up. The prophetic gift does not appear with equal

clearness in the life of any other prophet as alike a psychological

problem and a personal task. His bitter outward and inward experiences

give the speeches of Jeremias a strongly personal tone. More than once

this man of iron seems in danger of losing his spiritual balance. He calls

down punishment from heaven upon his enemies. Like a Job among the

prophets, he curses the day of his birth; he would like to arise, go

hence, and preach instead to the stones in the wilderness: Who will give

me in the wilderness a lodging place . . . and I will leave my people, and

depart from them. It is not improbable that the mourning prophet of

Anathoth was the author of many of the Psalms that are full of bitter

reproach.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremias was not carried away into the

Babylonian exile. He remained behind in Chanaan, in the wasted vineyard of

Jahweh, that he might continue his prophetic office. It was indeed a life

of martyrdom among the dregs of the nation that had been left in the land.

At a later date, he was dragged to Egypt by emigrating Jews. According to

a tradition first mentioned by Tertullian, Jeremias was stoned to death in

Egypt by his own countrymen on account of his discourses threatening the

coming punishment of God (cf. Hebrews 11:37), thus crowning with martyrdom

a life of steadily increasing trials and sorrows. Jeremiah would not have

died as Jeremias had he not died a martyr. The Roman Martyrology assigns

his name to 1 May. Posterity sought to atone for the sins his

contemporaries had committed against him. Even during the Babylonian

Captivity his prophecies seem to have been the favourite reading of the

exiles (2 Chronicles 36:21; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:2).

The delineation of the life and task of Jeremiah has already made plain

the peculiarity of his character. Jeremiah is the prophet of mourning and

of symbolical suffering. This distinguishes his personality from that of

Isaias, the prophet of ecstasy and the Messianic future, of Ezechiel, the

prophet of mystical (not typical) suffering, and of Daniel, the

cosmopolitan revealer of apocalyptic visions of the Old Covenant. No

prophet belonged so entirely to his age and his immediate surroundings,

and no prophet was so seldom transported by the Spirit of God from a

dreary present into a brighter future than the mourning prophet of

Anathoth. Consequently, the life of no other prophet reflects the history

of his times so vividly as the life of Jeremias reflects the time

immediately preceding the Babylonian Captivity. A sombre, depressed spirit

overshadows his life, just as a gloomy light overhangs the grotto of

Jeremias in the northern part of Jerusalem. In Michelangelo's frescoes on

the ceilings of the Sistine chapel there is a masterly delineation of

Jeremias as the prophet of myrrh, perhaps the most expressive and eloquent

figure among the prophets depicted by the great master. He is represented

bent over like a tottering pillar of the temple, the head supported by the

right hand, the disordered beard expressive of a time of intense sorrow,

and the forehead scored with wrinkles, the entire exterior a contrast to

the pure soul within. His eyes seem to see blood and ruins, and his lips

appear to murmur a lament. The whole picture strikingly portrays a man who

never in his life laughed, and who turned aside from scenes of joy,

because the Spirit told him that soon the voice of mirth should be

silenced.

Equally characteristic and idiosyncratic is the literary style of

Jeremiah. He does not use the classically elegant language of a

Deutero-Isaias or an Amos, nor does he possess the imagination shown in

the symbolism and elaborate detail of Ezechiel, neither does he follow the

lofty thought of a Daniel in his apocalyptic vision of the history of the

world. The style of Jeremiah is simple, without ornament and but little

polished. Jerome speaks of him as "in verbis simplex et facilis, in

majestate sensuum profundissimus" (simple and easy in words, most profound

in majesty of thought). Jeremias often speaks in jerky, disjointed

sentences, as if grief and excitement of spirit had stifled his voice. Nor

did he follow strictly the laws of poetic rhythm in the use of the Kînah,

or elegiac, verse, which had, moreover, an anacoluthic measure of its own.

Like these anacoluthæ so are also the many, at times even monotonous,

repetitions for which he has been blamed, the only individual expressions

of the mournful feeling of his soul that are correct in style. Sorrow

inclines to repetition, in the manner of the prayers on the Mount of

Olives. Just as grief in the East is expressed in the neglect of the

outward appearance, so the great representative of elegiac verse of the

Bible had neither time nor desire to adorn his thoughts with a carefully

chosen diction.

Jeremiah also stands by himself among the prophets by his manner of

carrying on and developing the Messianic idea. He was far from attaining

the fullness and clearness of the Messianic gospel of the Book of Isaias;

he does not contribute as much as the Book of Daniel to the terminology of

the gospel. Above all the other great prophets, Jeremiah was sent to his

age, and only in very isolated instances does he throw a prophetic light

in verbal prophecy on the fullness of time, as in his celebrated discourse

of the Good Shepherd of the House of David, or when he most beautifully,

proclaims the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity as the type and

pledge of the Messianic deliverance. This lack of actual Messianic

prophecies by Jeremias has its compensation; for his entire life became a

living personal prophecy of the suffering Messias, a living illustration

of the predictions of suffering made by the other prophets. The suffering

Lamb of God in the Book of Isaias  becomes in Jeremias a human being: "I

was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim" (Jeremiah 11:19). The

other seers were Messianic prophets; Jeremias was a Messianic prophecy

embodied in flesh and blood. It is, therefore, fortunate that the story of

his life has been more exactly preserved than that of the other prophets,

because his life had a prophetic significance. The various parallels

between the life of Jeremias and of the Messias are known: both one and

the other had at the eleventh hour to proclaim the overthrow of Jerusalem

and its temple by the Babylonians or Romans; both wept over the city which

stoned the prophets and did not recognize what was for its peace; the love

of both was repaid with hatred and ingratitude. Jeremias deepened the

conception of the Messias in another regard. From the time the prophet of

Anathoth, a man beloved of God, was obliged to live a life of suffering in

spite of his guiltlessness and holiness from birth, Israel was no longer

justified in judging its Messias by a mechanical theory of retribution and

doubting his sinlessness and acceptableness to God because of his outward

sorrows. Thus the life of Jeremias, a life as bitter as myrrh, was

gradually to accustom the eye of the people to the suffering figure of

Christ, and to make clear in advance the bitterness of the Cross.

Therefore it is with a profound right that the Offices of the Passion in

the Liturgy of the Church often use the language of Jeremias in an applied

sense.

The book in its present form has two main divisions: chapters i-xiv,

discourses threatening punishment which are aimed directly against Juda

and are intermingled with narratives of personal and national events, and

chapters xlvi-li, discourses containing threats against nine heathen

nations and intended to warn Juda indirectly against the polytheism and

policy of these peoples.

In chapter i is related the calling of the prophet, in order to prove to

his suspicious countrymen that he was the ambassador of God. Not he

himself had assumed the office of prophet, but Jahweh had conferred it

upon him notwithstanding his reluctance. Chapters ii-vi contain rhetorical

and weighty complaints and threats of judgment on account of the nation's

idolatry and foreign policy. The very first speech in ii-iii may be said

to present the scheme of the Jeremianic discourse. Here also appears at

once the conception of Osee which is typical as well of Jeremias: Israel,

the bride of the Lord, has degraded herself into becoming the paramour of

strange nations. Even the temple and sacrifice, without inward conversion

on the part of the people, cannot bring salvation; while other warnings

are united like mosaics with the main ones. The words of the covenant in

the Thorah recently found under Josias contain threatenings of judgment;

the enmity of the citizens of Anathoth against the herald of this Thorah

reveals the infatuation of the nation. Jeremiah is commanded to hide a

linen girdle, a symbol of the priestly nation of Sion, by the Euphrates

and to let it rot there, to typify the downfall of the nation in exile on

the Euphrates. The same stern symbolism is expressed later by the earthen

bottle which is broken on the rocks before the Earthen Gate. According to

the custom of the prophets (1 Kings 11:29-31; Isaiah 8:1-4; Ezekiel

5:1-12), his warnings are accompanied by forcible pantomimic action.

Prayers at the time of a great drought, statements which are of much value

for the understanding of the psychological condition of the prophet in his

spiritual struggles, follow. The troubles of the times demand from the

prophet an unmarried and joyless life. The creator can treat those he has

created with the same supreme authority that the potter has over clay and

earthen vessels. Jeremias is ill-treated. A condemnation of the political

and ecclesiastical leaders of the people and, in connection with this, the

promise of a better shepherd are uttered. The vision of the two baskets of

figs is narrated in chapter xxiv. The repeated declaration (ceterum

censeo) that the land will become a desolation follows. Struggles with the

false prophets, who take wooden chains off the people and lead them

instead with iron ones, are detailed. Both in a letter to the exiles in

Babylon, and by word of mouth, Jeremias exhorts the captives to conform to

the decrees of Jahweh. Compare with this letter the "epistle of Jeremiah"

in Baruch, vi. A prophecy of consolation and salvation in the style of a

Deutero-Isaias, concerning the return of God's favour to Israel and of the

new, eternal covenant, is then given. The chapters following are taken up

largely with narratives of the last days of the siege of Jerusalem and of

the period after the conquest with numerous biographical details

concerning Jeremiah.

With regards to literary criticism of the book much light is thrown on the

production and genuineness of the book by the testimony of chapter xxxvi;

Jeremias is directed to write down, either personally or by his scribe

Baruch, the discourses he had given up to the fourth year of Joakim (604

B.C.). In order to strengthen the impression made by the prophecies as a

whole, the individual predictions are to be united into a book, thereby

preserving documentary proof of these discourses until the time in which

the disasters threatened in them should actually come to pass. This first

authentic recension of the prophecies forms the basis of the present Book

of Jeremias. According to a law of literary transmission to which the

Biblical books are also subject–habent sua fata libelli (books have their

vicissitudes)–the first transcript was enlarged by various insertions and

additions from the pen of Baruch or of a later prophet. The attempts of

commentators to separate these secondary and tertiary additions in

different cases from the original Jeremianic subject-matter have not

always led to as convincing proof as in chapter lii. This chapter should

be regarded as an addition of the post-Jeremianic period based on IV

Kings, xxiv, 18-xxv, 30, on account of the concluding statement of li:

"Thus far are the words of Jeremias." Cautious literary criticism is

obliged to observe the principle of chronological arrangement which is

perceptible in the present composition of the book, notwithstanding the

additions: chapters i-vi belong apparently to the reign of King Josias

(cf. the date in iii, 6); vii-xx belong, at least largely, to the reign of

Joakim; xxi-xxxiii partly to the reign of Sedecias (cf. xxi, 1; xxvii, 1;

xxviii, 1; xxxii, 1), although other portions are expressly assigned to

the reigns of other kings: xxxiv-xxxix to the period of the siege of

Jerusalem; xl-xlv to the period after the destruction of that city.

Consequently, the chronology must have been considered in the arrangement

of the material. Modern critical analysis of the book distinguishes

between the portions narrated in the first person, regarded as directly

attributable to Jeremias, and those portions which speak of Jeremias in

the third person. According to Scholz, the book is arranged in "decades",

and each larger train of thought or series of speeches is closed with a

song or prayer. It is true that in the book parts classically perfect and

highly poetic in character are often suddenly followed by the most

commonplace prose, and matters given in the barest outline are not seldom

succeeded by prolix and monotonous details. After what has been said above

concerning elegiac verse, this difference in style can only be used with

the greatest caution as a criterion for literary criticism. In the same

way, investigation, of late very popular, as to whether a passage exhibits

a Jeremianic spirit or not, leads to vague subjective results. Since the

discovery (1904) of the Assuan texts, which strikingly confirm Jer., xliv,

1, has proved that Aramaic, as the koine (common dialect) of the Jewish

colony in Egypt, was spoken as early as the fifth and sixth centuries

B.C., the Aramaic expressions in the Book of Jeremias can no longer be

quoted as proof of a later origin of such passages. Also, the agreement,

verbal or conceptual, of texts in Jeremias with earlier books, perhaps

with Deuteronomy, is not in itself a conclusive argument against the

genuineness of these passages, for the prophet does not claim absolute

originality.

Notwithstanding the repetition of earlier passages in Jeremias, chapters

l-li are fundamentally genuine, although their genuineness has been

strongly doubted, because, in the series of discourses threatening

punishment to the heathen nations, it is impossible that there should not

be a prophecy against Babylon, then the most powerful representative of

paganism. These chapters are, indeed, filled with the Deutero-Isaian

spirit of consolation, somewhat after the manner of Is., xlvii, but they

do not therefore, as a matter of course, lack genuineness, as the same

spirit of consolation also inspires xxx-xxxiii.

In relation to textual conditions of the book the arrangement of the text

in the Septuagint varies from that of the Hebrew text and the Vulgate; the

discourses against the heathen nations, in the Hebrew text, xlvi-li, are,

in the Septuagint, inserted after xxv, 13, and partly in different order.

Great differences exist also as to the extent of the text of the Book of

Jeremias. The text of the Hebrew and Latin Bibles is about one-eighth

larger than that of the Septuagint. The question as to which text has

preserved the original form cannot be answered according to the theory of

Streane and Scholz, who declare at the outset that every addition of the

Hebrew version is a later enlargement of the original text in the

Septuagint. Just as little can the difficulty be settled by avowing, with

Kaulen, an a priori preference for the Masoretic text. In most cases the

Alexandrian translation has retained the better and original reading;

consequently, in most cases the Hebrew text is glossed. In a book as much

read as Jeremias the large number of glosses cannot appear strange. But in

other cases the shorter recension of the Septuagint, amounting to about

100 words, which can be opposed to its large lacunæ, as compared with the

Masorah, are sufficient proof that considerable liberty was taken in its

preparation. Consequently, it was not made by an Aquila, and it received

textual changes in the literary transmission. The dogmatic content of the

discourses of Jeremias is not affected by these variations in the text.

Lamentations: In the Greek and Latin Bibles there are five songs of lament

bearing the name of Jeremiah, which follow the Book of the Prophecy of

Jeremias. In the Hebrew these are entitled Kinôth. from their elegiac

character, or the 'Ekhah songs after the first word of the first, second,

and fourth elegies; in Greek they are called Threnoi, in Latin they are

known as Lamentationes.

With regards to position and genuineness of Lamentations the

superscription to Lamentations in the Septuagint and other versions throws

light on the historical occasion of their production and on the author:

"And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity, and

Jerusalem was desolate, that Jeremias the prophet sat weeping, and mourned

with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and with a sorrowful mind, sighing

and moaning, he said". The inscription was not written by the author of

Lamentations, one proof of this being that it does not belong to the

alphabetical form of the elegies. It expresses, however, briefly, the

tradition of ancient times which is also confirmed both by the Targum and

the Talmud. To a man like Jeremias, the day on which Jerusalem became a

heap of ruins was not only a day of national misfortune, as was the day of

the fall of Troy to the Trojan, or that of the destruction of Carthage to

the Carthaginian, it was also a day of religious inanition. For, in a

religious sense, Jerusalem had a peculiar importance in the history of

salvation, as the footstool of Jahweh and as the scene of the revelation

of God and of the Messias. Consequently, the grief of Jeremias was

personal, not merely a sympathetic emotion over the sorrow of others, for

he had sought to prevent the disaster by his labours as a prophet in the

streets of the city. All the fibres of his heart were bound up with

Jerusalem; he was now himself crushed and desolate. Thus Jeremias more

than any other man was plainly called–it may be said, driven by an inner

force–to lament the ruined city as threnodist of the great penitential

period of the Old Covenant. He was already prepared by his lament upon the

death of King Josias (2 Chronicles 35:25) and by the elegiac songs in the

book of his prophecies, a lament over Jerusalem. The lack of variety in

the word-forms and in the construction of the sentences, which, it is

claimed, does not accord with the character of the style of Jeremiah, may

be explained as a poetic peculiarity of this poetic book.To this conduce

the elegiac tone of the Lamentations, which is only occasionally

interrupted by intermediate tones of hope; the complaints against false

prophets and against the striving after the favour of foreign nations; the

verbal agreements with the Book of Prophecy of Jeremias; finally the

predilection for closing a series of thoughts with a prayer warm from the

heart and chapter v, which, like a Miserere Psalm of Jeremiah, forms a

close to the five lamentations. The fact that in the Hebrew Bible the

Kinôth was removed, as a poetic work, from the collection of prophetic

books and placed among the Kethúhîm, or Hagiographa, cannot be quoted as a

decisive argument against its Jeremiac origin, as the testimony of the

Septuagint, the most important witness in the forum of Biblical criticism,

must in a hundred other cases correct the decision of the Masorah.

Moreover, the superscription of the Septuagint seems to presuppose a

Hebrew original.

Writing: Although the Lamentations do not bear any name of an author they

have been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah in the oldest tradition

already. The Lamentations in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT,

around 200 BC) begin with the following words: "And it happened after

Israel had been led captive and Jerusalem had been destroyed that Jeremiah

sat and lamented with the following lamentation and said: How doth the

city sit solitary, that was full of people!" Most researchers - included

the ones who refuse Jeremiah as author - would agree that the author must

have been an eyewitness of Jerusalem's destruction (compare with Jer. 39).

Jeremiah's authorship is underlined by a number of stylistic parallels in

the two consecutive books.

Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonians in the year 586 BC, which is

described in the Lamentations by Jeremiah as eyewitness, is decisive for

the date of writing. The time of writing therefore will have to be set

shortly after this incident and in Jeremiah's last years of life.

Jeremiah’s words are hard, for, taken seriously, they seem to deny our

ever seeing church as “sanctuary,” for we will never be worthy to be

“safe,” worthy to have God dwell among us. But, finally, we know as Isaiah

knew, that it is God and only God who can make us a crown of beauty and a

royal diadem.

Jeremiah bears witness to a truth that matters—a hard truth for

individuals and for nations. We too are addressed by God’s word of truth,

called to take up our own risky witness to Jesus in a world of conflicting

truths.

The complex and difficult book of Jeremiah has sometimes been deemed

unreadable. If, however, we see the book as a meditation on the abyss—into

it and out of it—then it becomes readable in a new and

compelling way.

Jeremiah’s most intense lament (Jer 20:7-18) is best read not as a crisis

of faith, but as a crisis of vocation. Jeremiah is caught between a

compelling word of God and a recalcitrant people that rejects that word.

This lament may prove helpful to pastoral leaders who face a comparable

crisis.

The book of Jeremiah introduces the prophet as a character consumed with

his message and passionate in language and action. The tools of literary

analysis produce a picture of Jeremiah as paradigm, not simply of a

prophet but of all who are called to ministry.

The stories and poetry of the book of Jeremiah create a world in which the

ancient people of God can imagine their own survival. The book provides

clues also to contemporary believers in their need to confront the rawness

of present reality and to find ways to survive.

Jeremiah provides one set of answers to the terrible questions that arise

in the face of extreme physical suffering and loss of meaning, leading the

reader from repentance, through mourning, to a vision of redemption. In

the aftermath of September 11, those answers are read by present believers

in a new light.

The book of Jeremiah is concerned with justice—to be exercised by

rulers, to be sure, but also by all people. Importantly, then and now,

survival in a time of crisis, according to the prophet, depends not on

wisdom, might, and wealth, but on doing justice for those on the social

margins.

The “release” of the Hebrew slaves during the time of the Babylonian siege

was a cynical affair, setting the slaves “free” from being provided food

and shelter by their owners in a time of scarcity. The passage raises

important questions about the nature of freedom: freedom from? freedom

unto? freedom for?

From Jeremiah we first hear Rachel’s lament, but her memory continues,

from Genesis to Matthew, in Jewish and Christian tradition, in theology

and church, in literature and culture. Ultimately none survives the

journey of the people of God on earth, save for the promise of God, who

heard and still hears Rachel’s lament.

Modern readers of Jeremiah are invited by the book and by Yahweh to mourn

the destruction of God’s people (ancient and modern) produced by our own

failure. Weeping becomes the route that leads to restoration.

The book of Jeremiah offers the opportunity to preach on important

pastoral and theological issues, including some of the most difficult

ones: true and false prophecy, the character of God, suffering and

judgment, the anger of God. But, beyond all this, the book also offers

hope—the more profound because it has looked terror and despair in the

face.

"The Contents of Jeremiah":

At the beginning of the book is a superscription  which, after

giving the parentage of Jeremiah, fixes the period of his prophetical

activity as extending from the thirteenth year of Josiah to the eleventh

of Zedekiah (i.e., the year of the second deportation, 586 B.C.). This

period certainly does not cover the whole contents of the book; hence

probably the superscription was originally that of an older book of

smaller compass. This is followed by the first part containing prophecies

concerning the kingdom of Judah and incidents from the life of the prophet

up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second deportation. Only one

passage treats of a different subject containing Yahwh's command to

Jeremiah, according to which the prophet was to proclaim God's judgment to

foreign people. The second part of the book contains prophecies and

narrations from the period following the destruction of Jerusalem. As an

appendix to this, in ch. xlv., is a short warning to Baruch on the

occasion comprises prophecies against foreign peoples. At the end are

given, by way of appendix, historical data concerning Zedekiah, the

deportation of the captives to Babylon, and the change in the fortunes of

King Jehoiachin.

In he first part no consistent plan of arrangement, either chronological

or material can be traced. The speeches not being separated by

superscriptions, and data generally (though not always as to time and

occasion) being absent, it is very difficult to fix the date of

composition. In this first part, however, may be distinguished different

groups which, with a single exception, reflect substantially the

successive phases of the development of Jeremiah's prophetic activity.

These groups are five in number, as follows:

(1) Ch. i. 4-vi. 30, belonging to the reign of Josiah. Its first passage,

describing the calling of the prophet, is also chronologically the oldest

fixed by the superscription as belonging to the time of Josiah, does not

harmonize with the assumed historical background (the superscription is

undoubtedly a later addition).

(2) Ch. vii.-xx., in the main, of the time of Jehoiakim. This group

contains passages that belong to earlier and later dates respectively. For

instance, ch. xi. 1-8 is earlier: the mention of the "words of the

covenant" assigns it to the antecedent period (Josiah) and as having been

written soon after the discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy. Ch. xiii. is

certainly later, and probably belongs to the time of the young king

Jehoiachin. Other passages in this group should be excluded as not being

by Jeremiah, or at least as having been only partially written by him: ch.

ix. 22 et seq.; ch. ix. 24 et seq.; ch. x. 1-16; and the sermon on the

Sabbath, ch. xvii. 19-27.

(a)a proclamation of the certain fall of Jerusalem made, according to the

superscription to Zedekiah and the people, during the siege of Jerusalem,

i.e., about 588 B.C.;

(b) menacing prophecies against the kings of Judah in the time of

Jehoiakim completed by the passage xxii. 20-30, descriptive of the leading

away of Jehoiachin into captivity;

(c) threats against the "unfaithful shepherds" (i.e., the 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;

(d) the 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;

(e) threats of punishments to be inflicted on Judah and the surrounding

nations, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., the year of the battle of

Carchemish;

(f) the first of the historical passages recounting Jeremiah's prophecy in

the Temple, his arrest, his threatened death, and his rescue, in which

connection the martyrdom of the prophet Uriah is briefly mentioned.

(4) Utterances from the time of Zedekiah, the last connected prophecy of

any length, in ch. xxxv., 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.

(5) The fifth group of part I. consists of the first half of the

historical narrative concerning Jeremiah's life and work and may be thus

divided:

(a) account of the writing, destruction, and rewriting of the prophecies

of Jeremiah under Jehoiakim;

(b) narratives and sayings from the time of Zedekiah, who is introduced as

a new ruler at the beginning of this historical account, although often

mentioned before in the prophecies.

Displaced, Disputed, and Non-Authentic Passages of Part I:

Relations with Deutero-Isaiah: The short admonition is certainly not

genuine; it is a warning against self-glorification and an appeal to those

who would boast to glory in the knowledge of God instead. As its

sententious style indicates, it was probably taken from a collection of

wise sayings. The question as to the genuineness of the second short

utterance, which proclaims God's punishment upon the uncircumcised—the

heathen who are uncircumcised in the flesh, and the Israelites who are

uncircumcised in heart—can not be so easily decided, since the Biblical

conception of being uncircumcised in heart is found elsewhere in Jeremiah.

Again, the following section, is certainly not genuine. Here, in a style

wholly like that of Deutero-Isaiah, the speaker mocks at the unreality of

idols, which exist only as images and hence are not to be feared; this

recalls the time of Deutero-Isaiah and the idols of Babylon rather than

the period of Jeremiah and the tendency of his contemporaries to worship

other gods than Yhwh. The interpolated Aramaic verse is held by Duhm to be

a magic formula with which the later Jews, who did not know much Hebrew,

used to exorcise the various evil spirits in the air, shooting stars,

meteors, and comets. Besides various additions to Jeremiah's sayings which

can not be by the prophet himself, there are two passages which till now

have generally, and probably rightly, been held to be genuine, although

they do not belong to the time of Jehoiakim. That the passage xi. 1-8 is

earlier, and belongs to the time of Josiah, has been explained above. Ch.

xiii, however, must have been written later than Jehoiakim's time; after a

symbolic narrative of a girdle buried beside the Euphrates, and which, in

that it is soiled and unfit for use, represents Israel and Judah, the

passage treats of the king and "queen" — that is, the queen mother—to whom

it is announced that they must descend from their throne; and the

deportation of the whole of Judah is similarly foretold. The king in this

case, however, with whom his mother is mentioned on equal terms, is

certainly the youthful Jehoiachin, and the time is shortly before his

deportation to Babylon.

Passage on Sabbath Not Genuine: The one non-authentic passage incorporated

in group 2 is that concerning the Sabbath. The reason why the prophet can

not be credited with the authorship of this passage, though in form and

content it is not unlike Jeremiah, is the high value put upon the

observance of holy days, which is wholly foreign to the prophet. The

author of the passage not only recommends the keeping of the Sabbath day

holy as a day of rest ordained by God, but he even goes so far as to make

the possibility of future salvation, and even directly the destruction of

Jerusalem, depend upon the observance or non-observance of this day.

Ch. xxv. is doubtful (in connection with the prophecy against foreign people.

In the time of Zedekiah certain parts of the promises have given rise to

doubt in more than one respect. Of the three sections in this collection,

the middle one may, however, be accepted without reserve. This section

begins with a relation of Jeremiah's purchase of a field in Anathoth in

accordance with ancient usage, at the time when the Babylonians were

already besieging Jerusalem and of Jeremiah's prophecy to Zedekiah of the

conquest of the city and of the deportation to Babylon. The divine promise

is appended to this narration: "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be

possessed again" which, upon a question of the prophet's, is explained

thus Jerusalem will be burned by the Chaldeans on account of its sins, but

afterward Yhwh will collect His people, scattered in all lands. He will

make an everlasting covenant with them, and will cause them with rejoicing

to settle again in this land (ib. verse 41).

Ungenuine Passages in Later Sections: The first of the three sections

foretells another day of terror for Jacob, but also promises liberation

from foreign rule, punishment of the enemy, the rebuilding of the

destroyed cities by the people (who will have begun to increase again and

whose numbers will have been swelled by the return of Ephraim), and the

making of a new covenant. In this section the following passages are

doubtful as regards a Jeremianic origin: the passage in which the servant

of God, Jacob, is comforted in his exile with words of Deutero-Isaiah; the

threat inserted among the words of promise; where this threat occurs

again, likewise in an inappropriate place); the description of Yahweh's

power on the sea (similar to Isa. li. 15); and various other passages

which have many points of contact with Deutero-Isaiah. A considerable

portion of this section is shown to be secondary matter by the fact that

it is lacking in the text of the Septuagint. At any rate, examination

leads to the conclusion that this section, like so much else in the Book

of Jeremiah, was worked over afterward, although it is not justifiable to

deny to Jeremiah the authorship of the whole of the section, nor to assume

that it was written by a post-exilic author. Such a writer would have had

more interest in the hope that the Judeans, only a part of whom had come

back, would all return home, whereas for a prophet who wrote immediately

before the downfall of Judah it was more natural to recall the overthrow

of the Northern Kingdom, and to express the hope that with the return of

Ephraim Judah also would return, although its present downfall seemed

certain to him.

In the third of these sections, the conclusion is suspicious. It is

missing in the Septuagint, although no plausible reason for the omission

is apparent. Not to speak of smaller matters, the fact that the people

among whom (according to verse 24) the prophet was sojourning, and who

were wholly opposed to the compatriots of the prophet, can only have been

Babylonians—who indeed might have said insultingly of Israel that "it was

no more a nation before them" — does not seem to accord with Jeremiah's

authorship. The passage must consequently have been written by one of the

exiles in Babylon and not by Jeremiah, in whose time such a taunt could

not have been uttered either in Palestine or later in Egypt.

The historical passages display such an exact knowledge of the events

described in the life of Jeremiah, and contain so many interesting

details, that as a matter of course they were formerly considered to have

been written by a pupil of Jeremiah in close touch with him. Moreover, a

comparison with the text of the Septuagint shows that in the historical as

in the prophetical passages many changes were made after composition. It

is therefore neither necessary nor advisable to set, with Kuenen, 550 B.C.

as the date of the first edition of the book; but even if that late date

be accepted one must still suppose that the notes of a pupil and

eye-witness had been used as material.

If, however, the former and generally prevalent opinion is maintained

(which has been readopted also by Duhm), namely, that the historical

passages were written by a pupil of Jeremiah, there can be no doubt that

this pupil was Baruch. Since it is known that it was Baruch and not

Jeremiah who first wrote down the prophecies, and since in all cases the

speeches in the historical portions can not be taken out of their setting,

it seems the most natural thing to suppose that Baruch was also directly

concerned in the composition of the historical passages. But this does not

at all exclude the possibility of the insertion, shortly after the

passages had been written and put together, of various details and

episodes. This theory is supported by Jeremiah's admonition to Baruch

which, although addressed to him by the prophet on the occasion of

Jeremiah dictating the prophecies in the time of Jehoiakim, yet stands at

the end of the section containing prophecies against Judah. The fact that

this admonition occurs at the end of the original Book of Jeremiah can

only mean that Baruch placed it at the end of the book edited by him as a

legitimation of his labor.

Ch. xxv. speaks of the direction received by Jeremiah from God to proclaim

His anger to foreign peoples. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim—that is, the

year of the battle of Carchemish and of Nebuchadnezzar's victory and

accession to the throne—Jeremiah proclaims that Yhwh, in revenge for

Judah's sins, will bring His servant Nebuchadnezzar and the peoples of the

north against Judah and the surrounding peoples; that they will serve the

King of Babylon for seventy years; and that at the end of this time Yahweh

will punish the King of Babylon and the Chaldeans. In connection with

this, Jeremiah is further told to pass the wine-cup of divine wrath to all

the nations to whom he is sent, and all the nations who must drink of the

cup are enumerated. But however appropriate it may have been for Jeremiah

to announce the downfall of foreign nations and however much the

expression "cup of wrath" may sound like one of Jeremiah's, since this

illustration occurs often after him and accordingly probably goes back to

him, yet this prophecy as it now stands can not have been written by him.

The proclamation of the punishment of Babylon ( v

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