The Book of Jeremiah, second of the Major Prophets or longer books of the prophetic collection of the Old Testament of the Bible, derives its name from the prophet Jeremiah who lived in Anathoth, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. His prophetic career ranged from about 626 BC, during the reign of Josiah, at least to the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC) and the deportation of the population; at this time Jeremiah was taken by the remaining Jewish community to Egypt, where he died. The career of Jeremiah embraced the period of Josiah's reformation (626 - 622 BC); the years of resurgent Judaic nationalism (608 - 597 BC); the period leading to the final demise of Judah (597 - 586 BC); and the time in Egypt.
The message of Jeremiah was a call to moral reform to establish a personal relationship between God and humankind. He advocated resignation in the face of political and religious crisis and denounced sin as a perversion of creation. He called urgently for repentance so that turning to God might lead to a new creation; he thus prefigured the New Testament notion of the "new covenant."
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They reveal Jeremiah's dramatic inner conflict in his struggle to surrender himself to God. In addition, the book contains some royal sayings (21:13 - 14; 22:1 - 7, 10, 13 - 19, 24 - 27, 28, 29 - 30); a minor collection "concerning the prophets"; one of optimistic sayings; and a group of oracles against foreign nations (46 - 51).
George W Coats
S Blank, Jeremiah: Man and Prophet (1961); S M Fettke, Messages to a Nation in Crisis: An Introduction to the Prophecy of Jeremiah (1983); G Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (1968); W L Holladay, "Jeremiah the Prophet," in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible Supplement (1976), Jeremiah One (1986), Jeremiah Two (1989), and Jeremiah: A Fresh Reading (1990); J A Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament (1976).
Jeremiah, raised up or appointed by Jehovah.
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim he was commanded to write the predictions given to him, and to read them to the people on the fast-day. This was done by Baruch his servant in his stead, and produced much public excitement. The roll was read to the king. In his recklessness he seized the roll, and cut it to pieces, and cast it into the fire, and ordered both Baruch and Jeremiah to be apprehended. Jeremiah procured another roll, and wrote in it the words of the roll the king had destroyed, and "many like words" besides (Jer. 36:32). He remained in Jerusalem, uttering from time to time his words of warning, but without effect. He was there when Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city (Jer. 37:4, 5), B.C. 589. The rumour of the approach of the Egyptians to aid the Jews in this crisis induced the Chaldeans to withdraw and return to their own land.
This, however, was only for a time. The prophet, in answer to his prayer, received a message from God announcing that the Chaldeans would come again and take the city, and burn it with fire (37:7, 8). The princes, in their anger at such a message by Jeremiah, cast him into prison (37:15-38:13). He was still in confinement when the city was taken (B.C. 588). The Chaldeans released him, and showed him great kindness, allowing him to choose the place of his residence. He accordingly went to Mizpah with Gedaliah, who had been made governor of Judea. Johanan succeeded Gedaliah, and refusing to listen to Jeremiah's counsels, went down into Egypt, taking Jeremiah and Baruch with him (Jer. 43:6). There probably the prophet spent the remainder of his life, in vain seeking still to turn the people to the Lord, from whom they had so long revolted (44). He lived till the reign of Evil-Merodach, son of Nebuchadnezzar, and must have been about ninety years of age at his death.
We have no authentic record of his death. He may have died at Tahpanhes, or, according to a tradition, may have gone to Babylon with the army of Nebuchadnezzar; but of this there is nothing certain.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
The Book of Jeremiah consists of twenty-three separate and independent sections, arranged in five books. I. The introduction, ch. 1. II. Reproofs of the sins of the Jews, consisting of seven sections, (1.) ch. 2; (2.) ch. 3-6; (3.) ch. 7-10; (4.) ch. 11-13; (5.) ch. 14-17:18; (6.) ch. 17:19-ch. 20; (7.) ch. 21-24. III. A general review of all nations, in two sections, (1.) ch. 46-49; (2.) ch. 25; with an historical appendix of three sections, (1.) ch. 26; (2.) ch. 27; (3.) ch. 28, 29. IV. Two sections picturing the hopes of better times, (1.) ch. 30, 31; (2.) ch. 32,33; to which is added an historical appendix in three sections, (1.) ch. 34:1-7; (2.) ch. 34:8-22; (3.) ch. 35. V. The conclusion, in two sections, (1.) ch. 36; (2.) ch. 45. In Egypt, after an interval, Jeremiah is supposed to have added three sections, viz., ch. 37-39; 40-43; and 44. The principal Messianic prophecies are found in 23:1-8; 31:31-40; and 33:14-26. Jeremiah's prophecies are noted for the frequent repetitions found in them of the same words and phrases and imagery. They cover the period of about 30 years.
They are not recorded in the order of time. When and under what circumstances this book assumed its present form we know not. The LXX. Version of this book is, in its arrangement and in other particulars, singularly at variance with the original. The LXX. omits 10:6-8; 27:19-22; 29:16-20; 33:14-26; 39:4-13; 52:2, 3, 15, 28-30, etc. About 2,700 words in all of the original are omitted. These omissions, etc., are capricious and arbitrary, and render the version unreliable.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
Jeremias 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.
I. PERIOD OF JEREMIAS
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 Jeremias: 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.
II. MISSION OF JEREMIAS
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 (i, 11 sq.). 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 (cf. xxvii, xxviii) 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" (xxxiv, 17). 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 (xvi, 104), 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 (xxiii, 29). Thus, Jeremias had not only "to root up, and to pull down", he had also in the positive work of salvation "to build, and to plant" (i, 10). 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.
III. LIFE OF JEREMIAS
A far more exact picture of the life of Jeremias 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 (xi, 21 sqq.), 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" (xxii, 13-19). 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 (xxxvi, 21-26). Then the word of the Lord came to Jerermias to let Baruch the scribe write again his words (xxxvi, 27-32). More than once the prophet was in prison and in chains without the word of the Lord being silenced (xxxvi, 5 sqq.); 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" (i, 17-19). 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 (vii, 4), 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 (xxvi; cf. vii). 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 (xxv, 17-19); 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 (xxxvi, 5-9). The party of noisy patriots calumniated Jeremias as a morose pessimist (cf. xxvii, xxviii), 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 (II Mach. xv, 14), 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 (xxxvii-xxxix).
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 (i, 6). With all the resources of prophetic rhetoric he sought to bring back the people to "the old paths" (vi, 16), but in this endeavour he felt as though he were trying to effect that "the Ethopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots" (xiii, 23). 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 (cf. vi). 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 (cf. especially xiv, 7-9, 19-22), 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 (xxix, 10-14). As He watched to destroy, so will He likewise watch to build up (xxxi, 28). 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 (cf. xii, 3; xviii, 23). Like a Job among the prophets, he curses the day of his birth (xv, 10; xx, 14-18); 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?" (ix, 2; Heb. text, ix, 1). 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 (xi-xliv). According to a tradition first mentioned by Tertullian (Scorp., viii), 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. Jeremias 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). In the later books compare Ecclus., xlix, 8 sq.; 2 Maccabees 2:1-8; 15:12-16; Matthew 16:14.
IV. CHARACTERISTIC QUALITIES OF JEREMIAS
The delineation in II and III of the life and task of Jeremias has already made plain the peculiarity of his character. Jeremias 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 (xvi, 8 sq.).
Equally characteristic and idiosyncratic is the literary style of Jeremias. 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 Jeremias 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.
Jeremias 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, Jeremias 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 (xxiii, 1-5), or when he most beautifully, in chapters xxx-xxxiii, 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 (liii, 7) 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.
V. THE BOOK OF THE PROPHECIES OF JEREMIAS
A. Analysis of Contents
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 (vii-x), 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 (xi-xii). Jeremias 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 (xiii). The same stern symbolism is expressed later by the earthen bottle which is broken on the rocks before the Earthen Gate (xix, 1-11). 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 (xiv-xv). The troubles of the times demand from the prophet an unmarried and joyless life (xvi-xvii). 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 (xviii-xx). A condemnation of the political and ecclesiastical leaders of the people and, in connection with this, the promise of a better shepherd are uttered (xxi-xxiii). 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 (xxv). 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 (xxvi-xxix). Compare with this letter the "epistle of Jeremias" 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 (xxx-xxxiii). 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 Jeremias (xxxiv-xlv).
B. 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 2 Kings 24:18-25:30, 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.
C. 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.
In the Greek and Latin Bibles there are five songs of lament bearing the name of Jeremias, 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.
A. 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 (cf. xiii, 20-27, 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 Jeremias, may be explained as a poetic peculiarity of this poetic book. Descriptions such as those in i, 13-15, or iv, 10, seem to point to an eye witness of the catastrophe, and the literary impression made by the whole continually recalls Jeremias. 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–cf. iii, 19-21, 64-66, and chapter v, which, like a Miserere Psalm of Jeremias, 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 Keth&úhîm, 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.
B. Technical Form of the Poetry of Lamentations
(1) In the first four laments the Kînah measure is used in the construction of the lines. In this measure each line is divided into two unequal members having respectively three and two stresses, as for example in the introductory first three lines of the book.
(2) In all five elegies the construction of the verses follows an alphabetical arrangement. The first, second, fourth, and fifth laments are each composed of twenty-two verses, to correspond with the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet; the third lament is made up of three times twenty-two verses. In the first, second, and fourth elegies each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letters following in order, as the first verse begins with Aleph, the second with Beth, etc.; in the third elegy every fourth verse begins with a letter of the alphabet in due order. Thus, with a few exceptions and changes (Pê, the seventeenth, precedes Ayin the sixteenth letter), the Hebrew alphabet is formed from the initial letters of the separate verses. How easily this alphabetical method can curb the spirit and logic of a poem is most clearly shown in the third lament, which, besides, had probably in the beginning the same structure as the others, a different initial letter to each of the original verses; it was not until later that a less careful writer developed each verse into three by means of ideas taken from Job and other writers.
(3) As to the structure of the strophe, it is certain that the principle followed in some cases is the change of the person of the subject as speaker or one addressed. The first elegy is divided into a lament over Sion in the third person (verses 1-11), and a lament of Sion over itself (verses 12-22). In the first strophe Sion is the object, in the second, a strophe of equal length, the subject of the elegy. In 11c, according to the Septuagint, the third person should be used. In the second elegy, also, the intention seems to be, with the change of strophe, to change from the third person to the second, and from the second to the first person. In verses 1-8 there are twenty-four members in the third person; in 13-19 twenty-one in the second person, while in 20-22, a strophe in the first person, the lament closes in a monologue. In the third lament, as well, the speech of a single subject in the first person alternates with the speech of several persons represented by "we" and with colloquy; verses 40-47 are clearly distinguished by their subject "we" from the preceding strophe, in which the subject is one individual, and from the following strophe in the first person singular in verses 48-54, while the verses 55-66 represent a colloquy with Jahweh. The theory of the writer, that in the structure of Hebrew poetry the alternation of persons and subjects is a fixed principle in forming strophes, finds in Lamentations its strongest confirmation.
(4) In the structure of the five elegies regarded as a whole, Zenner has shown that they rise in a steady and exactly measured progression to a climax. In the first elegy there are two monologues from two different speakers. In the second elegy the monologue develops into an animated dialogue. In the third and fourth elegies the cry of lamentation is louder still, as more have joined in the lament, and the solitary voice has been replaced by a choir of voices. In the firth lament a third choir is added. Literary criticism finds in the dramatic construction of the book a strong argument for the literary unity of Lamentations.
C. Liturgical Use of Lamentations
The Lamentations have received a peculiar distinction in the Liturgy of the Church in the Office of Passion Week. If Christ Himself designated His death as the destruction of a temple, "he spoke of the temple of his body" (John 2:19-21), then the Church surely has a right to pour out her grief over His death in those Lamentations which were sung over the ruins of the temple destroyed by the sins of the nation.
Publication information Written by M. Faulhaber. Transcribed by WGKofron. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
For a general introduction to Jeremias and Lamentations see the Biblical Introduction of CORNELY, VIGOUROUX, GIROT, DRIVER, CORNILL, STRACK. For special questions of introduction: CHEYNE, Jeremiah (1888); MARTZ, Der Prophet Jeremias von Anatot (1889); ERBT, Jeremia und seine Zeit (Göttingen, 1902); GILLIES, Jeremiah, the Man and His Message (London, 1907); RAMSAY, Studies in Jeremiah (London, 1907); WORKMAN, The Text of Jeremiah (Edinburgh, 1889); STREANE, The Double Text of Jeremiah (Cambridge, 1896); SCHOLZ, Der masoretische Text und die Septuagintaübersetzung des B. Jeremias (Ratisbon, 1875); FRANKL, Studien über die LXX und Peschito zu Jeremia (1873); NETELER, Gliederung der B. Jeremias (Münster, 1870). Commentaries on Jeremias issued in the last decades.–Catholic: SCHOLZ (Würzburg, 1880); TROCHON (Paris, 1883); KNABENBAUER (Paris, 1889); SCHNEEDORFER (Vienna, 1903). Protestant: PAYNE SMITH in the Speaker's Commentary (London, 1875); CHEYNE in SPENCE, Commentary (London, 1883-85); BALL (New York, 1890); GIESEBRECHT in NOWACK, Handkommentar (Göttingen, 1894); DUHM in MARTI, Kurzer Hand-Commentar (Tübingen and Leipzig, 1901); DOUGLAS (London, 1903); ORELLI (Munich, 1905). Commentaries on Lamentations:–Catholic: SEISSENBERGER (Ratisbon, 1872); TROCHON (Paris, 1878); SCHÖNFELDER (Munich, 1887); KNABENBAUER (Paris, 1891); MINOCCHI (Rome, 1897); SCHNEEDORFER (Vienna, 1903); ZENNER, Beiträge zur Erklärung der Klagelieder (Freiburg im Br., 1905). Protestant: RAABE (Leipzig, 1880); OETTLI (Nördlingen, 1889); LÖHR (Göttingen, 1891); IDEM in NOWACK, Handkommentar (Göttingen, 1893); BUDDE in MARTI Kurzer Hand-Commentar (Freiburg im Br., 1898). For monographs see the latest commentaries and the bibliographies in the Biblical periodicals.
§ I. The Prophecies in Part I.:
§ II. Displaced, Disputed, and Non-Authentic Passages of Part I.:
Relations with Deutero-Isaiah.
Passage on Sabbath Not Genuine.
Ungenuine Passages in Later Sections.
§ III. The Historical Sections of Parts I. and II.:
Ch. xxvi. and xxxv.-xlv.
Work of Baruch.
§ IV. The Prophecies Against Foreign Peoples in Part III.:
Prophecy Not by Jeremiah.
Oracles Worked Over.
Not Before the End of the Exile.
§ V. Sources of the Book of Jeremiah, According to Duhm:
Parts Ascribed to Baruch.
§ VI. Relation of the Hebrew Text to the Septuagint:
Additions to the Septuagint.
§ VII. Origin of the Book of Jeremiah:
Contents: At the beginning of the book is a superscription (i. 1-3) 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, i. 4-xxxviii. 28a, 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, viz., ch. xxv. 13 et seq., containing Yhwh's command to Jeremiah, according to which the prophet was to proclaim God's judgment to foreign peoples. The second part of the book, xxxviii. 28b-xliv. 30, 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 of his writing down the words of Jeremiah. A third part, xlvi.-li., comprises prophecies against foreign peoples. At the end are given, by way of appendix, historical data (lii.) concerning Zedekiah, the deportation of the captives to Babylon, and the change in the fortunes of King Jehoiachin.
§ I. The Prophecies in Part I.:
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 (iii. 6b-18, fixed by the superscription as belonging to the time of Josiah, does not harmonize with the assumed historical background [see below, § II.]; 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 (see below, § II.). 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 (see below, § II.). Dated Prophecies.
(3) Speeches from various periods:
(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. (xxi. 1-10);
(b) menacing prophecies against the kings of Judah in the time of Jehoiakim (608;xxi. 11-xxii. 19), completed by the passage xxii. 20-30, descriptive of the leading away of Jehoiachin into captivity (597);
(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; xxiii. 1-8, 9-40);
(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 (xxiv.);
(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 (605; xxv.);
(f) the first of the historical passages recounting Jeremiah's prophecy in the Temple (comp. vii.), his arrest, his threatened death, and his rescue, in which connection the martyrdom of the prophet Uriah is briefly mentioned (xxvi.).
(4) Utterances from the time of Zedekiah (see § II.), with an appendix, 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, xxxvi.-xxxviii. 28a, and may be thus divided:
(a) account of the writing, destruction, and rewriting of the prophecies of Jeremiah under Jehoiakim (xxxvi.);
(b) narratives and sayings from the time of Zedekiah, who is introduced as a new ruler at the beginning of this historical account (xxxvii. 1), although often mentioned before in the prophecies (xxxvii.-xxxviii. 28a).
§ II. Displaced, Disputed, and Non-Authentic Passages of Part I.:
Relations with Deutero-Isaiah.
In group 2 the short admonition in ix. 22 et seq. 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, ix. 24 et seq., 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, x. 1-16, 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 (x. 11) 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. In xi.-xx., 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 (§ I.). 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 (comp. xxii. 26, xxix. 2) 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, xvii. 19-27. 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.
In group 3, ch. xxv. is doubtful (see below, § IV., in connection with the prophecy against foreign peoples in xlvi.-li.). In group 4 (of the time of Zedekiah) certain parts of the promises in xxx.-xxxiii. have given rise to doubt in more than one respect. Of the three sections in this collection, xxx. et seq., xxxii., and xxxiii., the middle one may, however, be accepted without reserve. This section begins (xxxii. 9) 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 (comp. xxxii. 1 with lii. 5, in opposition to lii. 4), 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" (ib. verse 15), which, upon a question of the prophet's, is explained thus (ib. verses 26 et seq.): 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, xxx. et seq., 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. Inthis 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 (xxx. 10 et seq.; comp. Isa. xl. et seq.); the threat inserted among the words of promise (xxx. 23 et seq.; comp. xxiii. 19 et seq., where this threat occurs again, likewise in an inappropriate place); the description of Yhwh's power on the sea (xxxi. 35b, 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, ch. xxxiii., the conclusion (xxxiii. 14-26) 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" (ib.)-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.
§ III. The Historical Sections of Parts I. and II.:
Ch. xxvi. and xxxv.-xlv.
The historical passages contained in xxvi. and xxxvi.-xlv. 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. When Kuenen and other commentators object that in certain passages the single episodes are not properly arranged and that details necessary for a complete understanding of the situation are lacking, it must be remembered that it is just an eye-witness who would easily pass over what seemed to him as matter of course and likewise displace certain details. 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.
Work of Baruch.
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 (in xlv.), 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 (concerning xlvi. et seq. see § IV.) can only mean that Baruch placed it at the end of the book edited by him as a legitimation of his labor.
§ IV. The Prophecies Against Foreign Peoples in Part III.:
Prophecy Not by Jeremiah.
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 Yhwh 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 (comp. xxxvi. 2 and i. 5), 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 (in xxv.) can not have been written by him. The proclamation of the punishment of Babylon (ib. verses 12-14) interrupts the connection of the threatening of the nations by Babylon. Also the words "all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations" (verse 13) can not of course have originated with Jeremiah. Finally, the enumeration of the nations that must drink from the cup of wrath (verses 17-26) is not Jeremianic; indeed, some of the nations were located far from Jeremiah's horizon, and the concluding remark (verse 26), with the puzzling word "Sheshach" (i.e., Babylon), certainly dates from a much later period. This passage characteristically illustrates the fact that more than one hand worked on the amplification, and that such passages arosein several stages, as may be observed in detail by a comparison with the Septuagint text (see § VI.).
Oracles Worked Over.
The question next arises as to whether the prophecies against foreign nations contained in xlvi.-li. are really those which, according to xxv., were to be expected as the latter's amplification. This question seems all the more natural because in the text of the Septuagint those prophecies are actually incorporated in xxv. If l. et seq., a long oracle dealing with the sentence against Babylon, be left out of consideration, there can be no doubt that the section xlvi.-xlix. has in some way a Jeremianic basis. The single oracles of this section are in part expressly referred to Jeremiah in the heading, and the victory of Nebuchadnezzar is in part given as their occasion. At any rate the hypothesis that this section is a working over of original Jeremianic material is to be preferred to the difficulties attending the various other theories that have been suggested to explain the later origin of xlvi.-xlix. On the face of it, it is hardly probable that a later author would have written a whole series of oracles and have artificially made them seem to belong to the time of Nebuchadnezzar, merely for the sake of enriching the Book of Jeremiah. If it is suggested that some one else, perhaps Alexander the Great, was intended by the Nebuchadnezzar of these oracles, it must be objected that even to the last judgment, that against Elam (which, however, did not originally belong in this section; see below), which might be taken to mean Persia, no reference to post-Jeremianic events can be found. A detailed examination, however, shows that in most of these prophecies only a Jeremianic basis is possible. The prophecy concerning the Philistines in xlvii. (but without the heading) is the one that could most readily be accepted as belonging as a whole to Jeremiah.
On the other hand, it is to be supposed that all the other oracles underwent a more or less extensive revision, so that they do not give the impression of being real prophetic utterances, but seem rather to be compilations by later scholars, who also made use of the oracles of other prophets, especially of the exilic and post-exilic passages in Isaiah (comp. Jer. xlviii. 43 et seq. with Isa. xxiv. 17, 18a; Jer. xlix. 18 with Isa. xiii. 19 et seq.; Jer. xlix. 24 with Isa. xiii. 8). This working over of the material explains the lack of perspicuity and the non-adherence to the historical situation which frequently characterize these prophecies. The following oracles are contained in this section: (a) the oracle against Egypt, in two parts, xlvi. 1-12 and xlvi. 13-28 (comp. xlvi. 27-28[= xxx. 10 et seq.] with the consolations of Deutero-Isaiah); (b) that against the Philistines, xlvii.; (c) that against Moab, xlviii., which in parts recalls Isa. xv. et seq.; (d) that against Ammon, xlix. 1-6; (e) that against Edom, xlix. 7-22, which has much in common with that of Obadiah; (f) that against Damascus and other Aramaic cities, xlix. 23-27; (g) that against Kedar and other Arabic tribes, xlix. 28-33; and (h) that against Elam, xlix. 34-39. Whereas the other nations named all lay within Jeremiah's horizon, this was not the case with Elam, since Judah had no direct dealings with this country until after the Exile. This alone would not, however, be a sufficient reason for denying that Jeremiah wrote the oracle, especially since as early as Isa. xxii. 6 the Elamites were known as vassals of the kings of Assyria, and hence an interest in the history of Elam could not have been so far removed from a prophet of Israel as may now appear. By whom and at what time the supposed revision of Jeremiah's original stock of material was made, it is impossible to determine; but the large number of similar expressions connecting the separate oracles makes it probable that there was only one redaction.
Not Before the End of the Exile.
The oracle against Babylon, l.-li. 58, which follows the section xlvi.-xlix., and to which a historical addition is appended (li. 59-64), is very clearly seen to be non-Jeremianic in spite of the fact that individual passages recall very vividly Jeremiah's style. It is really no oracle at all, but a description in oracle form, dating from after the Exile, and originally written so as to appear as a production by Jeremiah, for which purpose the author assumes the standpoint of an older time. Since he is acquainted with Deutero-Isaiah (comp. li. 15-19 with Jer. x. 12-16, which is also taken from Deutero-Isaiah, and apparently furnishes the direct basis for the passage in question), and describes the upheaval in Babylon and the destruction of the city-making use of the exilic oracle in Isa. xiii. et seq. (Jer. l. 16, 39 et seq.; comp. l. 39; li. 40 with Isa. xxxiv. 14 and xxxiv. 6 et seq.), he can not have written it before the end of the Babylonian exile at the earliest. This also explains why the destroyers of Babylon are called "kings of Media" (li. 28). Moreover, the author of the oracle against Babylon made use of the Jeremianic oracle against Edom, at times quoting it literally (comp. l. 44-46 with xlix. 19-21; and the origin of l. 41-43 is found in vi. 22-24). That he lived in Jerusalem may be inferred not only from l. 5, in which, speaking of the returning exiles, he says that their faces were turned "hitherward," but also from the fact that he is much more concerned with the desecrated and destroyed Temple of Jerusalem than are the prophets of the Exile. The added passage, li. 59-64, proceeding probably from a historical record of a journey to Babylon made by Seraiah, was most likely written by the author of the oracle against Babylon, if not by some one later, who desired by his short narrative to authenticate the oracle which he took to be Jeremianic.
The section closes with the words: "Thus far [are] the words of Jeremiah," showing that the Book of Jeremiah once ended at this point, and that that which follows is a later addition. In fact, lii. is a historical account, concerning Zedekiah, the deportation to Babylon, and the turning-point in the fortunes of Jehoiachin, which was transferred from the Book of Kings to that of Jeremiah. This is shown by the fact that with slight variations and with the exception of two passages, the two accounts agree; one of the exceptions is presented by three verses giving a count of the exiles, which are found only in Jeremiah (lii. 28-30) and which were probably inserted later from some separate source, since they are lacking also in the text of the Septuagint; the other is the short passage recording the appointment of Gedaliah as governor, his murder, and the flight to Egypt of those who were left, which is lacking in Jeremiah (II Kings xxv. 22-26), and which doubtless was purposely omitted because the same facts had already been recorded elsewhere in the Book of Jeremiah (xl. et seq.). Moreover, the addition of ch. lii. was of itself not necessary, since the information given in it was already partially known from earlier statements of the Book of Jeremiah; and the last passage concerning the change in the fate of Jehoiachin is wholly superfluous, since the event recorded took place after Jeremiah's death.
§ V. Sources of the Book of Jeremiah, According to Duhm: What has here been said concerning the supposed origin of the Book of Jeremiah corresponds to the opinion held on the subject by most modern scholars, whose consensus, though they may differ in detail, has indorsed the view as a whole and in substance. The views of Duhm differ materially from this opinion, however many points of contact therewith it may show, because Duhm, in opposition to previous conceptions, has with an unparalleled boldness and confidence extended his critical investigation to the most minute details, for which reason his analysis is here given separately. Although it seems more plausible to suppose that the real prophecies of Jeremiah are contained in the versified portions, whereas in the prose utterances the thoughts of Jeremiah have been worked over, for the most part in the form of sermons, the question still arises whether one is justified in "ascribing, with the greatest detail, [the various parts of] writings which without doubt have passed through many hands before they received the form in which we know them, to their [respective] authors" (see Nöldeke in "Z. D. M. G." lvii. 412). Duhm distinguishes:
(1) Jeremiah's Poems. These, in all about sixty, date
(a) from the period when Jeremiah was still in Anathoth: the cycle ii. 2b, 3, 14-28; 29-37; iii. 1-5; 12b, 13, 19, 20; 21-25; iv. 1, 3, 4; the cycle xxxi. 2-6; 15-20; 21, 22, and perhaps xxx. 12-15; the oldest five poems concerning the Scythians, iv. 5-8; 11b, 12a, 13, 15-17a; 19-21, 23-26; 29-31;
(b) from the time of Josiah: v. 1-6a; 6b-9; 10-17; vi. 1-5; 6b-8, 9-14; 16, 17, 20; 22-26a; 27-30; vii. 28 et seq.; viii. 4-7a; 8, 9, 13, 14-17; 18-23; ix. 1-8; 9; 16-18; 19-21; x. 19, 20, 22;
(c) from the time of Joah: xxii. 10;
(d) from the time of Jehoiakim: xxii. 13-17, and probably xi. 15 et seq.; xii. 7-12 (from the first period); xxii. 18 et seq., and perhaps xxii. 6b, 7; 20-23; xiii. 15 et seq.; 17; 18, 19; 20, 21a, 22-25a, 26 et seq. (from the time after the burning of the book-roll);
(e) from the time of Jehoiachin: xxii. 24; 28;
(f) from a later period (a more exact definition is unnecessary): description of the great famine, xiv. 2-10; of the evil conditions in the country and their results, xv. 5-9; xvi. 5-7; xviii. 13-17; xxiii. 9-12; 13-15; impressive complaints of personal enmities, xi. 18-20; xv. 10-12, 15-19a, 20 et seq.; xvii. 9 et seq., 14, 16 et seq.; xviii. 18-20; xx. 7-11; xx. 14-18; from an earlier period, but first inserted after the restoration of the roll: xiv. 17 et seq.; xvii. 1-4;
(g) from the last period of Zedekiah (according to Baruch), xxxviii. 22.
Parts Ascribed to Baruch.
(2) The Book of Baruch. Besides single data and exhortations preserved in i.-xxv. (e.g., i. 1-3, 6; vii. 18; comp. xliv. 15 et seq., xi. 21, vii. 21 et seq.), the following passages are derived from this book (they are here arranged according to their original order of succession, the groups of verses which have been revised being marked with an asterisk):
(a) on the time of Jehoiakim: xxvi. 1-3, 4 (to ), 6-24 (early period); xxxvi. 1-26; 32 (fourth and fifth years of Jehoiakim); xxxv. 1-11* (a later year);
(b) on the time of Zedekiah: xxviii. 1a, xxvii. 2 et seq., xxviii. 2-13, 15-17 (fourth year of Zedekiah); xxix. 1 (to ), 3, 4a, 5-7, 11-15, 21-23, 24 et seq.,* 26-29 (probably the same period); xxxiv. 1-7* (ninth year); xxxiv. 8-11*; xxxvii. 5, 12-18, 20 et seq.; xxxii. 6-15; xxxviii. 1, 3-22, 24-28a (during the siege of Jerusalem);
(c) on the time after the conquest of Jerusalem, events in Mizpah and the emigration to Egypt: xxxviii. 28b, xxxix. 3, 14a, xl. 6; xl. 7-xlii. 9, 13a, 14, 19-21, xliii. 1-7;
(d) on an event in Egypt (comp. vii. 18): xliv. 15a, 16-19, 24 et seq.,* 28b; xlv. forms the conclusion.
(3) The Supplements to the Writings of Jeremiah and Baruch. These comprise about 800 verses, that is, more than the poems of Jeremiah (about 280 verses) and the sections from the Book of Baruch (about 200 verses). The process of amplification, by which the Book of Jeremiah grew to its present size, must have gone on for centuries. It is possible that single additions (which are difficult to identify) were incorporated in the roll of the Book of Jeremiah in the Persian period. The greatest number of additions was made in the third century, the age of "the most midrashic literature"; the most recent are in general the Messianic passages and their complement, the prophecy concerning the heathen. They are in part (as in i.-xxv.) inserted among older additions, in part placed together in a separate section (xxx. et seq., xlvi.-li.), which could not have originated before the end of the second century B.C., and which have received even later additions; single passages (e.g., xxxiii. 14-26) are so late as not even to have come into the Septuagint. These additions fall into separate categories according to their contents:
(a) amplifications in the nature of sermons in connection with verses of the Jeremianic text, to suit the needs of the post-exilic period;
(b) short narratives, in the form of the Midrash or of free versification, recording deeds and sayings of the prophet;
(c) consolatory passages which in part are appended to an admonitory sermon, and in part stand in a separate group in xxxii. et seq.;
(d) additions of various kinds having no connection with the contents of the book.
However justifiable it may be to separate the "songs" of Jeremiah, the question still arises whether much of that which Duhm excludes as a later addition may not still be Jeremianic, since it is easy to suppose that besides the versified portions there must also have been prose utterances of Jeremiah, to which these excluded passages may have belonged.
§ VI. Relation of the Hebrew Text to the Septuagint:
Additions to the Septuagint.
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. This is shown by the fact that a large part of the additions to the Hebrew text, which, absent in the Septuagint, are evidently secondary, are proved also by their contents to be later elaborations. The two texts differ above all in that the Septuagint is much shorter, containing about 2,700 words (that is, about one-eighth of the whole book) less than the Hebrew. On the other hand, headings in the Hebrew text are only comparatively rare. 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. Furthermore, the correspondence between the Septuagint and the Hebrew is too great, and their relationship too close, for one to be able to speak of two redactions. They are rather two editions of the same redaction.
§ VII. Origin of the Book of Jeremiah:
The different stages in the history of the growth of the book as they are shown in the two theories of its origin, that of Duhm and that of Ryssel, practically coincide. The book, dictated by Jeremiah himself under Jehoiakim, was first worked over by a pupil, probably Baruch, who added later utterances, which he wrote perhaps partly at the dictation of the prophet, but in the main independently, and to which he furthermore added narrative passages (at least for the time preceding the conquest of Jerusalem). This "Book of Baruch," the composition of which Kuenen without sufficient reason (see above, § III.) places first in the second half of the Babylonian exile, concludes with the passage addressed to that scribe. It contains oracles concerning foreign nations, which, however, stood immediately after the section referring to the cup of wrath for the nations, and had little to do with the group of oracles, now contained in xlvi.-li., concerning the nations conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. Besides the oracle concerning Babylon, which is without doubt not genuine, the one concerning Elam must also have been added later, since, according to its dating, it did not belong to the oracles of the fourth year of Jehoiakim. The Book of Jeremiah at a comparatively early date became subject to additions and revisions, which were made especially in the schools and from the material of Deutero-Isaiah; and the only question which suggests itself is whether this critical activity in reality must have continued until the end of the second century or even later. The book as a whole was first terminated by the addition of the oracle concerning Babylon, and again later by the addition of the account taken from the Book of Kings.
Commentaries: Hitzig, in Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch, Leipsic, 1841; 2d ed. 1866; Ewald, in Prophetische Bücher des Alten Testaments, 1842: 2d ed. 1868; Karl Heinrich Graf, 1862; C. W. E. Nägelsbach, in Theologisch-Homiletisches Bibelwerk, 1868; T. K. Cheyne, in Spence and Exell's Pulpit Commentary (3 vols., with Lamentations), 1883-85; C. von Orelli, in Kurzgefasster Kommentar, 1887; 2d ed. 1891 (together with Jeremiah); Friedrich Giesebrecht, in Handkommentar zum Alten Testament, 1894; B. Duhm, in Kurzer Handkommentar, 1901.
Treatises and Monographs:
(1) On single critical questions: K. Budde, Ueber die Kapitel 50 und 51 des Buches Jeremia, in Jahrbücher für Deutsche Theologie, xxiii. 428-470, 529-562; C. J. Cornill, Kapitel 52 des Buches Jeremia (in Stade's Zeitschrift, iv. 105-107); B. Stade, Jer. iii. 6-16 (ib. pp. 151-154), and Jer. xxxii. 11-14 (ib. v. 175-178); Das Vermeintliche Aramäisch-Assyrische Aequivalent für , Jer. xliv. 17 (ib. vi. 289-339); F. Schwally, Die Reden des Buches Jeremia Gegen die Heiden, xxv., xlvi-li. (ib. viii. 177-217); B. Stade, Bemerkungen zum Buche Jeremia (ib. xii. 276-308).
(2) On the metrical form of the speeches: K. Budde, Ein Althebräisches Klagelied (in Stade's Zeitschrift, iii. 299-306); C. J. Cornill, Die Metrischen Stücke des Buches Jeremia, Leipsic, 1902.
(3) On Biblical-theological questions: H. Guthe, De Fœderis Notione Jeremiana Commentatio Theologica, 1877; A. von Bulmerincq, Das Zukunftsbild des Propheten Jeremia, 1894: H. G. Mitchell, The Theology of Jeremiah, in Jour. Bibl. Lit. xx. 56-76.
(4) For the life and personality of Jeremiah see the bibliography to Jeremiah (the prophet).
The Text and Translations:
(1) Edition of the text: C. J. Cornill, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (English transl. of the notes by C. Johnston), part xi. of P. Haupt's S. B. O. T. 1895.
(2) A collection of single conjectures in the appendixes to Kautzsch's translation of the Old Testament (2d ed. 1896) and to Het Oude Testament; much scattered material, e.g., on Jer. ii. 17, in Stade's Zeitschrift, xxi. 192.
(3) Relation of the Masoretic text to the Septuagint: F. K. Movers, De Utriusque Recensionis Vaticiniorum Jeremiœ, Grœcœ Alexandrinœ et Hebraicœ Masorethicœ, Indole et Origine, 1837; P. F. Frankl, Studien über die LXX. und Peschito zu Jeremia, 1873; G. C. Workman, The Text of Jeremiah, 1889; Ernst Kühl, Das Verhältniss der Massora zur Septuaginta im Jeremia, Halle, 1882; A. W. Streane, The Double Text of Jeremiah, 1896.
In general, comp. also the introduction to the Old Testament and articles on the Book of Jeremiah in the theological cyclopedias.E. G. H. V. Ry.
Emil G. Hirsch, Victor Ryssel
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.
Commemorated May 1The great Prophet of God, Jeremiah, who loved his brethren and lamented for them greatly, who prayed much for the people and the Holy City, was the son of Helkias of the tribe of Levi, from the city of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. He was sanctified from his mother's womb, as the Lord Himself said concerning him, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; and before you came forth from the womb, I sanctified you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jer 1:5). He prophesied for thirty years, from 613 to 583 BC. During the last captivity of the people in the reign of Sedekias, when only a few were left behind to cultivate the land, this Prophet remained with them by the permission of Nabuzardan, the captain of the guard under Nabuchodonosor. He wept and lamented inconsolably over the desolation of Jerusalem and the enslavement of his people. However, even the few that remained behind transgressed again, and fearing the vengeance of the Chaldeans, they fled into Egypt, forcibly taking with them Jeremiah and Baruch his disciple and scribe. There he prophesied concerning Egypt and other nations, and he was stoned to death in Taphnas by his own people about the year 583 BC, since they would not endure to hear the truth of his words and his just rebukes. His book of prophecy is divided into fifty-one chapters, and his book of lamentation into five; he is ranked second among the greater Prophets. His name means "Yah is exalted".
Dismissal Hymn (Second
As we celebrate the memory of Your Prophet Jeremiah, O Lord, through him we beseech You to save our souls.
Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
O blessed Jeremiah, being chosen of God from thy mother's womb, in your compassion, you sorely mourned for the falling away of Israel, and in Egypt, O Prophet, you were murdered by stoning for your most just rebukes by them that understood not to cry with you: Alleluia.
§ I. Life:
Attitude Toward Jerusalem Priesthood.
§ II. Prophetic Career:
Residence in Jerusalem.
Imprisonment and Release.
Reading of the Roll.
Advises Acceptance of Yoke.
Taken to Egypt.
§ III. Character:
Relieved by Consolation.
Universality of the Godhead.
-In Rabbinical Literature:
His Prophetic Activity.
During the Destruction of the Temple.
Vision of the Mourning Woman.
Son of Hilkiah; prophet in the days of Josiah and his sons.
§ I. Life:
In the case of no other Israelitish prophet is information so full as in that of Jeremiah. The historical portions of the Book of Jeremiah give detailed accounts of his external life evidently derived from an eye-witness-probably his pupil Baruch. Jeremiah's prophecies give an insight into his inner life, and by reason of their subjective quality explain his character and inward struggles. Of a gentle nature, he longed for the peace and happiness of his people, instead of which he was obliged to proclaim its destruction and also to witness that calamity. He longed for peace and rest for himself, but was obliged instead to announce to his people the coming of terrors, a task that could not but burden his heart with sorrow. He had also to fight against the refractory ones among them and against their councilors, false prophets, priests, and princes. His Family.
Jeremiah was born in the year 650 B.C. at Anathoth, a small town situated three miles north of Jerusalem, in the territory of Benjamin. He belonged to a priestly family, probably the same one as cared for the Ark of the Covenant after the return from Egypt, and the one to which the high priest Eli had belonged, but which had retreated to Anathoth when Abiathar, David's priest, was banished by Solomon (I Kings ii. 26). The family owned property in this place, so that Jeremiah was able to give himself up wholly to his prophetic calling. Devoted as he was exclusively to his high vocation, and realizing that it entailed vexation and involved the proclaiming of disaster, he did not marry (Jer. xvi. 2 et seq.). In the thirteenth year of King Josiah (626 B.C.) while still a young man Jeremiah was called to be a prophet. It was just at this time that the plundering Scythian hordes, which troubled Nearer Asia for decades in the second half of the seventh century, swept past the western boundary of Palestine on their swift horses, to capture rich booty in the ancient civilized land of Egypt (Herodotus, i. 164). Since he continued to prophesy until after the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (586 B.C.), Jeremiah's prophetic career covered a period of more than forty years. All the important events of this period are reflected in his prophecies: the publication of the Deuteronomic law (621 B.C.) and the religious reforms instituted by Josiah in consequence; the first deportation to Babylon, that of Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah (597); and the final catastrophe of the Jewish kingdom (586). Strange to say, of all these events the publication of the Deuteronomic law and the religious reforms of Josiah are the least prominently brought out in his writings.
Attitude Toward Jerusalem Priesthood.
It is not improbable that the opposition in which Jeremiah seems to have stood to the priesthood of the central sanctuary at Jerusalem was a continuation of the opposition which had existed from former times between that priesthood and his family and which is traceable to Zadok, the successful opponent of Abiathar. Jeremiah's attitude may also have been influenced by the fact that he considered Josiah's measures too superficial for the moral reformation which he declared to be necessary if the same fate were not to befall the Temple of Zion as had in days gone by befallen the Temple of Shiloh (I Sam. iv.). An inward opposition of Jeremiah to the Deuteronomic law is not to be thought of. This may be seen from the exhortation (ib. xi. 1-8) in which Jeremiah calls on his people to hear "the words of this covenant" (ib. v. 3) which God had given to their fathers when He brought them up out of Egypt. In this passage there is a plain reference to the newly found law.
Just as little justifiable is the theory, which has recently been suggested, that Jeremiah in his later years departed from the Deuteronomic law. "The false [lying] pen of the scribe," which, as Jeremiah says, "makes the Torah of Yhwh to falsehood" (Jer. viii. 8, Hebr.), could not have referred to the Deuteronomic law, nor to its falsification by copyists. Rather, Jeremiah is thinking here of another compilation of laws which was then in progress under the direction of his opponents, the priests of the central sanctuary at Jerusalem. Jeremiah probably expected from them no other conception of law than the narrow Levitical one, which actually is apparent in the legal portions of the so-called Priestly writings and results from the Priestly point of view.
§ II. Prophetic Career:
(a) During the Time of King Josiah: No further details of Jeremiah's life during the reign of Josiah are known. This is probably due to the fact, as has recently been suggested,that Jeremiah continued to live in his home at Anathoth during the opening years of his prophetic career. This theory is supported by the description of the prevailing religious rites which he gives in his first prophecies (Jer. iv. 4) and which applies better to the rough, simple, local cults than to the elaborate ritual of Yhwh in the central sanctuary. "On every hill and under every green tree" (ib. ii. 20) they honor the "strangers" (ib. v. 25), i.e., the Baalim (ib. ii. 23), who, introduced from abroad, had taken their place among the local deities. Israel had "acted wantonly" with them from the time when he first settled in the land of Canaan and had even burned his own children for them "in the valley" (ib. vii. 31).
Residence in Jerusalem.
The oldest discourses concerning the Scythians (ib. iv. 5-31) seem also to have first been written in Anathoth. In them Jeremiah describes the irresistible advance of the people "from the north" which will bring terrible destruction upon the land of Israel on account of its apostasy. Another proof in favor of the theory that Jeremiah continued to live in Anathoth at the outset of his career is that the prophecies before ch. v. do not concern themselves with the doings of the capital, and that only with his supposed change of residence to Jerusalem begins the account of the external details of his life by his pupil, who was probably originally from Jerusalem and who first became associated with the prophet there. In the capital the simple local cults dwindled into comparative insignificance before the central sanctuary, but on the other hand immorality, frivolity, and deceit made themselves prominent, together with a disregard of the words of the prophet spoken by him to the people by Yhwh's order. Even the prophets took part in the general moral debasement; indeed they were worse than those who erstwhile had "prophesied in the name of Baal" (ib. ii. 8), i.e., the prophets of the Northern Kingdom. The people, moreover, which Jeremiah was to test for its inner worth, as an assayer (ib. vi. 27) tests the purity of metal, had lost all its preciousness and was only a generation of wrath.
Imprisonment and Release.
(b) During the Time of King Jehoiakim: Jeremiah's removal from Anathoth to Jerusalem seems to have taken place a little before the time of Jehoiakim's accession; at least he appears as a resident in Jerusalem under that king. Just as his sternness and his threat of impending punishments had already displeased his fellow citizens in Anathoth to such an extent that they sought his life (ib. xi. 19), so also in Jerusalem general anger was soon aroused against him. The first occasion therefor was an event in the reign of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah preached a sermon in the valley Ben-hinnom against idolatry, and in order to bring the utter and complete ruin of the kingdom of Judah more clearly before the minds of his hearers he broke an earthen pitcher. When immediately afterward he repeated the same sermon in the Temple court, he was put in prison by Pashur, the priest in charge, being liberated, however, on the next day. The following section (ib. xxvi.) gives more details. When the people at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, in spite of the terrible loss they had sustained by the death of Josiah in the unfortunate battle of Megiddo and the resultant establishment of the Egyptian domination, still took comfort in the thought of the Temple and of the protection which the sanctuary was believed to afford, Jeremiah stood in the Temple court and called on the people to improve morally; otherwise the Temple of Jerusalem would share the fate of that of Shiloh. In terrible excitement the priests and prophets cried out that Jeremiah was worthy of death. He, however, was acquitted by the priests and elders, who seem to have had great respect for the word of a prophet, especially in view of the fact that some of the most prominent persons rose up and called to mind the prophet Micah, who had prophesied the same fate for the Temple and for Jerusalem.
Reading of the Roll.
The following incidents in Jeremiah's life are most closely connected with public events as he was more and more drawn into political life by them. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the same in which the Babylonians conquered the Egyptians in the battle of Carchemish and thus became the ruling power in the whole of Nearer Asia for almost seventy years, Jeremiah dictated to Baruch the speeches he had composed from the beginning of his career till then, and caused his pupil to read them before the people in the Temple, on a feast-day in the fifth year of Jehoiakim. Upon hearing of this event the highest officers of the court caused Baruch to read the roll once more to them; and afterward, in their dismay at its contents, they informed the king of it. Jehoiakim next caused the roll to be brought and read to him, but scarcely had the reader Jehudi read three or four leaves when the king had the roll cut in pieces and thrown into the brazier by which he was warming himself. Jeremiah, however, who on the advice of the officials had hidden himself, dictated anew the contents of the burnt roll to Baruch, adding "many like words" (ib. xxxvi. 32). It was his secretary likewise who (later) wrote into the roll all the new prophecies which were delivered up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.
(c) During the Time of Zedekiah: In the original roll which was burned by Jehoiakim, and which probably included practically the prophecies contained in ch. ii.-xii., Jeremiah had not made any positive demands concerning the political attitude of the kingdom of Judah. He had merely, in accordance with the principle laid down by Hosea and Isaiah, declared that Judah should not take any political stand of her own, and should follow neither after Assyria nor after Egypt, but should wait and do what Yhwh commanded (ib. ii. 18, 36). But in the course of events he felt impelled to take active part in political affairs. This was during the time of Zedekiah, who had been placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar after the deportation of Jehoiachin (ib. xxvii., xxviii.).
Advises Acceptance of Yoke.
When, in the fourth year of Zedekiah, ambassadors from the surrounding nations came to deliberate with the King of Judah concerning a common uprising against the Babylonian king, a prophet by the name of Hananiahproclaimed in the Temple the speedy return of Jehoiachin and his fellow exiles as well as the bringing back of the Temple vessels which had been carried off by Nebuchadnezzar, supporting his prophecy by the announcement that the "word of Yhwh" was to the effect that he would "break the yoke of the king of Babylon" (ib. xxviii. 4). Jeremiah then appeared in the market-place with a yoke of wood and counseled the ambassadors, King Zedekiah, and his people to submit voluntarily to the Babylonian power. When Jeremiah appeared also at the Temple, Hananiah tore the yoke from his shoulders and repeated his prophecy of good tidings (ib. v. 10 et seq.). Jeremiah likewise advised the exiles in Babylon to settle there quietly (ib. xxix.), which caused one of them to write to the high priest in Jerusalem directing him to fulfil his duty, to watch over every mad man in the Temple and over every one that "maketh himself a prophet" and, consequently, to put Jeremiah "in prison and in the stocks" (ib. xxix. 26).
But destiny was soon fulfilled, and with it came new trials for Jeremiah. Zedekiah had been obliged to succumb to the insistence of the war party and to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians then marched against Judah to punish Zedekiah and quell the rebellion. When Jeremiah's prophecy was near its fulfilment, the king sent often for him to consult with him and to ascertain how it would go with the people and with himself and what he should do to save himself. Jeremiah told him plainly that the Babylonians would conquer and advised him to surrender before the beginning of hostilities, in order to ward off the worst. Zedekiah, however, did not dare follow this advice, and thus the catastrophe came to pass, not without Jeremiah having in the meantime to endure many hardships owing to the siege. Since he undoubtedly prophesied the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and warned against resisting them as well as against trusting in the Egyptians for help, he was regarded as a traitor to his country; and for that reason and because his openly expressed conviction robbed the besieged of their courage, he was placed in confinement. He was treated as a deserter also because he desired to go to his native city on a personal matter at a time when the Babylonians had temporarily raised the siege to march against Hophra, the Egyptian king (the "Apries" of Herodotus), who was advancing against them. Jeremiah was arrested and thrown into a dungeon, whence he was released by the king. He was then confined in the court of the guard in the royal castle, as his discouraging influence on the soldiers was feared. Although he was allowed a certain freedom there, since he continued to make no secret of his conviction as to the final downfall of Judah, the king's officers threw him into an empty cistern. From this also he was rescued by a eunuch with the king's permission, being saved at the same time from death by starvation (ib. xxxvii., xxxviii.). He then remained in the lighter captivity of the court prison until he was liberated at the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
(d) During the Time After the Fall of Jerusalem: The Babylonians handed Jeremiah over to the care and protection of the governor Gedaliah, with whom he lived at Mizpah. After the murder of the governor, Jeremiah seems to have been carried off by Ishmael, the murderer of Gedaliah, and to have been rescued by Johanan and his companions. This may be concluded from the fact that the prophet, with Baruch, was among the non-deported Jews who thought of going to Egypt through fear of the Babylonians. During a stay near Beth-lehem he was asked for God's will on the matter. When, after ten days, he received the answer that they should remain in the country, his warning voice was not heard, the cry being raised against him that Baruch had incited him to give this counsel. Accordingly the Jews dragged the prophet with them, as a hostage (Duhm ["Theologie der Propheten," p. 235]: "as an amulet")to Tahapanhes (i.e., Daphne, on the eastern branch of the Nile). Here Jeremiah continued to prophesy the destruction by the Babylonians of his fellow refugees as also of the Pharaohs and of the temples of Egypt (ib. xxxvii.-xliv.). Here also he must have experienced the anger of the women refugees, who could not be prevented by him from baking cakes and pouring out wine to the "queen of heaven" (ib. xliv. 15 et seq.).
Jeremiah probably died in Egypt. Whether his countrymen killed him, as tradition says, can, on account of the lack of historical data, be neither affirmed nor denied. But his assassination does not seem wholly impossible in view of the angry scene just mentioned. At any rate, his life, even as it had been a continual struggle, ended in suffering. And it was not the least of the tragic events in his life that his chief opponents belonged to the same two classes of which he himself was a member. The priests fought him because he declared sacrifice to be of little importance, and the prophets because he declared that it was self-interest which prompted them to prophesy good for the people.
§ III. Character:
(a) Character of Personality: The tragic element in Jeremiah's life has already been mentioned. It was heightened by the subjective trait which is peculiar to Jeremiah more than to other prophets, even the older ones. This personal suffering over the hard fate which he is obliged to proclaim to his people as God's changeless will is so strong that he even makes the attempt in earnest intercession to move God to a milder attitude toward the guilty. "Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them and to turn away thy wrath from them" (ib. xviii. 20). He would undoubtedly like to keep silence and yet must speak: "I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay"-i.e., "I struggled to keep it within me and I could not" (ib. xx. 9). Yhwh even has to forbid his intercession for the sinners (ib. vii. 16, xi. 14, xiv. 11), and to forbid the people to seek his intercession (ib. xlii. 2, 4). Jeremiah's sympathy for his countrymen who have been punished by God is so great that at one time the prophetical declaration to the people is changed into the people's petition: "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing" (ib. x. 24). In moving terms he describes the pain which he feels within him, in his "very heart," when he hears the sound of war and must announce it to the people (ib. iv. 19, viii. 18-22); and in despair over his sad life he curses the day of his birth (ib. xx. 14-18).
With this intense sensitiveness on the part of the prophet, it should not cause surprise that, on the other hand, his anger breaks forth against his persecutors and he desires a day of destruction to come upon them (ib. xvii. 18).
(b) Character of His Writing: It is doubtless due to this despondent and often despairing frame of mind that his words frequently make a dull and lifeless impression which is not remedied by a heaping up of synonymous terms; and this is all the more noticeable because the rhythm of the speeches is very feeble and frequently almost disappears. Although this may have been due in part to the fact that Jeremiah did not write his book himself, it is still undeniable that there is a monotony in the contents of his speeches. This may be traced to the conditions of his age. The prophet is always complaining of the sins of the people, particularly of their idolatry, or else describing the catastrophe which is to burst upon them through the hordes from the north. Seldom is there a brighter outlook into a better future.
Relieved by Consolation.
The hope which he had at the beginning, that the people would recognize the evils of idolatry and would turn again to God with inward repentance (ib. ii.-iv. 4), entirely disappears later in face of the utter perverseness of the people; as does the other hope that Ephraim, the lost favorite of Yhwh, that child of Rachel who had been lost sight of for 100 years, would return from "out of the desert." But when Jeremiah speaks from the depths of his soul the monotony of the content is relieved by the charm of the language in which he, as no other prophet, is able to relate God's words of love to his faithless wife Judah.
From his choice of words it may be concluded that Jeremiah, like Isaiah, was an educated man. The pictures which he paints of outdoor life show a deep, delicate appreciation of nature. The voices of the desert sound in his poems; he speaks of the swift-footed dromedary running to and fro, of the cattle grown wild on the plains, of the thirsty wild ass gasping for breath with dim eyes, and of the bird of prey which the fowler has tied to a stake in order to attract his victim. Even in the description of chaos (ib. iv. 25) "Jeremiah does not forget the birds" (Duhm, in the introduction to his translation of Jeremiah, p. xxii.). His is, indeed, rather a lyrical nature, since even without a picture he tarries sometimes in an appreciative contemplation of nature, which corresponds to his sensitive comprehension of the human heart. God's greatness is manifested to him in the sand on the shore, which is placed as an eternal boundary for the sea; "andthough the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it" (ib. v. 22). He observes the lengthening shadows as the day is sinking (ib. vi. 4), or the dry wind of the high places which comes in from the wilderness and is too strong to serve either for fanning or for cleansing (ib. iv. 11). Now and then with a special touch he raises his pictures of human life above the vagueness which on account of the suppression of details is common to the Old Testament illustrations and examples. He furnishes the "smelter" (), who has been a stereotyped example since the oldest prophets, with bellows (ib. vi. 29); as symbols of the joyful existence which his prophecies foretelling punishment will drive away, he mentions, besides the voices of the bridegroom and of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the candle (ib. xxv. 10; comp. ib. vii. 34, xvi. 9). He also observes how the shepherd counts the sheep of his flock (ib. xxxiii. 13).
The symbolic acts of which he makes frequent use, whether he actually carries them out, as in breaking the earthen pitcher, in putting on the cords, and in placing the yoke on his neck, or merely imagines them, as in the allegories in Jer. xiii. 1 et seq., are simple and easily intelligible (Baudissin, "Einleitung," pp. 420 et seq.).
Universality of the Godhead.
(c) Character of His Religious Views: In conformity with the subjectivity of his nature, Jeremiah raised the conception of the bond between God and His people far above the conception of a physical relation, and transferred piety from mere objective ceremonies into the human heart (comp. ib. iv. 4, xvii. 9, xxix. 13, and, if Jeremianic, also xxxi. 31 et seq.). Through this conception of man's relation to the divinity, the idea of the divine universality, if not created by him, was yet (if Amos ix. 2-4, 5 et seq. be excluded) very clearly demonstrated. Although a large part of the passages in which the universality of God is most clearly expressed (Jer. xxvii. 5, 11; xxxii. 19; xlix. 11) are doubtful as regards their authorship, there are nevertheless undoubted passages (ib. xii. 14 et seq., and xviii. 7 et seq.) in which Jeremiah, although from the standpoint that Yhwh is the special God of Israel, expresses his conviction that He can reject nations other than Israel and afterward take them again into His favor. If in these passages the particularistic conception of God is not completely abandoned, nevertheless His universality is the direct consequence of the portrayal, which was first given by Jeremiah, of His omnipresence and omnipotence, filling heaven and earth (ib. xxiii. 23; comp. ii. 16). Thus Jeremiah, starting out from his conception of God, can characterize the gods of the heathen as "no gods," and can express his conviction that "among the idols of the heathen there is not one which can cause rain," whereas Yhwh has made all (ib. xiv. 22; comp. xvi. 19 et seq.). But in spite of this tendency toward a universalistic conception of God, which later became a firm article of belief, the barriers of the national religion had not yet fallen in Jeremiah's mind. This is shown most clearly by the fact that even he conceives of a final restoration of the tribe of Israel.
C. W. E. Nägelsbach, Der Prophet Jeremia und Babylon, Erlangen, 1850; C. H. Cornill, Jeremia und Seine Zeit, 1880; T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah: His Life and Times, 1888; Lazarus, Der Prophet Jeremia; K. Marti, Der Prophet Jeremia von Anatot, 1889; W. Erbt, Jeremia und Seine Zeit, 1902; Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jeremia, Uebersetzt, 1903 (comp. Introduction, pp. v.-xxxiv.);
bibliography under Jeremiah, Book of.E. G. H. V. Ry.
-In Rabbinical Literature:
Jeremiah, a descendant of Rahab by her marriage with Joshua (Sifre, Num. 78; Meg. 14b, below), was born during the persecution of the prophets under Jezebel (Gen. R. lxiv. 6; Rashi on Jer. xx. 14 reads, probably correctly, "Manasseh" instead of "Jezebel"). The lofty mission for which Jeremiah was destined was evident even at his birth; for he not only came into the world circumcised (Ab. R. N. ii. [ed. Schechter, p. 12]; Midr. Teh. ix. [ed. Buber, p. 84]), but as soon as he beheld the light of day he broke out into loud cries, exclaiming with the voice of a youth: "My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me," etc. (Jer. iv. 20). He continued by accusing his mother of unfaithfulness; and as the latter was greatly astonished to hear this unbecoming speech of her new-born infant, he said: "I do not mean you, my mother. My prophecy does not refer to you; I am speaking of Zion and Jerusalem. They deck out their daughters, and clothe them in purple, and put golden crowns on their heads; but the robbers shall come and take these things away."
Jeremiah refused God's call to the prophethood, and referred to Moses, Aaron, Elijah, and Elisha, all of whom, on account of their calling, were subjected to sorrows and to the mockery of the Jews; and he excused his refusal with the plea that he was still too young. God, however, replied: "I love youth because it is innocent; it was for this reason that when I led Israel out of Egypt I called him 'my son' [comp. Hosea xi. 1], and when I think lovingly of Israel, I speak of it as of a boy [Jer. ii. 2]; hence do not say 'I am a boy.'" Then God handed to Jeremiah the "cup of wrath," from which he was to let the nations drink; and when Jeremiah asked which nation should drink first, the answer was "Israel." Then Jeremiah began to lament his fate, comparing himself with the high priest who was about to perform in the Temple the ceremonies prescribed in the case of a woman suspected of adultery (Num. v. 12 et seq.), and who, when he approached her with the "cup of the bitter water," beheld his own mother (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 129a, b]).
His Prophetic Activity.
The prophetic activity of Jeremiah began in the reign of Josiah; he was a contemporary of his relative the prophetess Hulda and of his teacher Zephaniah (comp. Maimonides in the introduction to "Yad"; in Lam. R. i. 18 Isaiah is mentioned as Jeremiah's teacher). These three prophets divided their activity in such wise that Hulda spoke to the women and Jeremiah to the men in the street, while Zephaniah preached in the synagogue (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.). When Josiah restored the true worship, Jeremiah went to the exiled ten tribes, whom he brought to Palestine under the rule of the pious king ('Ar. 33a). Although Josiah went towar with Egypt against the prophet's advice, yet the latter knew that the pious king did so only in error (Lam. R. l.c.); and in his dirges he bitterly laments the king's death, the fourth chapter of the Lamentations beginning with a dirge on Josiah (Lam. R. iv. 1; Targ. II Chron. xxxv. 25).
Under Jehoiakim the prophet's life was a hard one; not only did the wicked king burn the early chapters of Lamentations, but the prophet was even in danger of his life (M. Ḳ. 26a; Lam. R., Introduction, p. 28). He fared still worse, however, under Zedekiah, when he had to withstand many attacks both upon his teachings and upon his life. On account of his descent from the proselyte Rahab he was scorned by his contemporaries as one who had no right to reproach the Jews for their sins (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xiii. 115b), and they furthermore accused him of unchastity (B. Ḳ. 16b). The hatred of the priests and of the war party against Jeremiah brought about his imprisonment on a false accusation by one of them, Jeriah, a grandson of Hananiah, an old enemy of Jeremiah. His jailer Jonathan, a relative of Hananiah, mocked him with the words: "Behold, what honors your friend has brought upon you! How fine is this prison in which you now are; truly it is like a palace!" Yet the prophet remained steadfast; and when the king asked whether Jeremiah had a prophecy for him, the prophet fearlessly answered: "Yes: the King of Babel will lead you into exile." When he saw how angry the king grew on hearing this, he tried to change the subject, saying: "Lo, even the wicked seek a pretext when they revenge themselves on their enemies! How much greater right has one to expect that a just man will have sufficient reason for bringing evil upon any one! Your name is 'Zedekiah,' indicating that you are a just 'ẓaddiḳ'; I therefore pray you not to send me back to prison." The king granted this request; but he was unable to withstand for long the clamorings of the nobles, and Jeremiah was cast into a muddy pit, the intention being that he should perish therein. As there was enough water in the pit to drown a man, the design of his enemies would have been carried out had not God miraculously caused the water to sink to the bottom and the dirt to float, so that Jeremiah escaped death. Even then his former keeper, Jonathan, mocked the prophet, calling to him: "Why do you not rest your head on the mud so that you may be able to sleep a while?" At the instance of Ebed-melech, the king permitted Jeremiah to be rescued from the pit. Jeremiah at first did not answer Ebed-melech when he called to him, because he thought it was Jonathan. Ebed-melech, who thought that the prophet was dead, then began to weep, and it was only after he had heard the weeping that Jeremiah answered; thereupon he was drawn up from the mire (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 130a, b]; comp. Ebed-melech in Rabbinical Literature).
During the Destruction of the Temple.
The enemies and adversaries of the prophet were not aware that to him alone they owed the preservation of the city and the Temple, since his merits were so great in the eyes of God that He would not bring punishment upon Jerusalem so long as the prophet was in the city (Pesiḳ. R. l.c. [ed. Friedmann, p. 131a]; somewhat different in the Syriac Apoc. Baruch, ii.). The prophet was therefore commanded by God to go to Anathoth; and in his absence the city was taken and the Temple destroyed. When Jeremiah on his return beheld smoke rising from the Temple, he rejoiced because he thought that the Jews had reformed and were again bringing burnt offerings to the sanctuary. Soon, however, he discovered his error, and began to weep bitterly, lamenting that he had left Jerusalem to be destroyed. He now followed the road to Babylon, which was strewn with corpses, until he overtook the captives being led away by Nebuzar-adan, whom he accompanied as far as the Euphrates (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.; comp. Syriac Apoc. Baruch, l.c.). Although Jeremiah, by the express command of Nebuchadnezzar, was allowed to come and go as he pleased (Jer. xxxix. 12), yet when he saw captives he voluntarily caused himself to be chained or otherwise bound to them, notwithstanding Nebuzar-adan, who, anxious to carry out the orders of his master, always unchained him. At last Nebuzar-adan said to Jeremiah: "You are one of these three: a false prophet, one who despises suffering, or a murderer. For years you have prophesied the downfall of Jerusalem, and now when the prophecy has been fulfilled, you are sorry, which shows that you yourself do not believe in your prophecies. Or you are one who voluntarily seeks suffering; for I take care that nothing shall happen to you, yet you yourself seek pain. Or perhaps you are hoping that the king will kill me when he hears that you have suffered so much, and he will think that I have not obeyed his commands" (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xiv. 113; Lam. R., Introduction, p. 34).
After the prophet had marched with the captives as far as the Euphrates, he decided to return to Palestine in order to counsel and comfort those that had remained behind. When the exiles saw that the prophet was about to leave them, they began to cry bitterly, saying: "O father Jeremiah, you too are abandoning us!" But he answered: "I call heaven and earth to witness, had you shed a single tear at Jerusalem for your sins you would not now be in exile" (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 131b]; according to Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, and Lam. R. l.c. God commanded Jeremiah to return to Palestine). On the way back to Jerusalem he found portions of the bodies of the massacred Jews, which he picked up lovingly one after another and placed in various parts of his garments, all the while lamenting that his warnings had been heeded so little by these unfortunates (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, and Lam. R. l.c.).
Vision of the Mourning Woman.
It was on this journey that Jeremiah had the curious vision which he relates in the following words: "When I went up to Jerusalem, I saw a woman, clad in black, with her hair unbound, sitting on the top of the [holy] mountain, weeping and sighing, and crying with a loud voice, 'Who will comfort me?' I approached her and said, 'If you are a woman, then speak; but if you are a spirit, then depart from me.' She answered, 'Do you not know me? I am the woman with the seven children whose father went far oversea,and while I was weeping over his absence, word was brought to me that a house had fallen in and buried my children in its ruins; and now I no longer know for whom I weep or for whom my hair is unbound.' Then said I to her, 'You are no better than my mother Zion, who became a pasture for the beasts of the field.' She answered, 'I am your mother Zion: I am the mother of the seven.' I said, 'Your misfortune is like that of Job. He was deprived of his sons and daughters, and so were you; but as fortune again smiled upon him, so it will likewise smile upon you'" (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.; in IV Esd. there is mentioned a similar vision of Ezra; comp. Lévi in "R. E. J." xxiv. 281-285).
On his return to Jerusalem it was the chief task of the prophet to protect the holy vessels of the Temple from profanation; he therefore had the holy tent and the Ark of the Covenant taken [by angels ?] to the mountain from which God showed the Holy Land to Moses shortly before his death (II Macc. ii. 5 et seq.; comp. Ark in Rabbinical Literature). From the mountain Jeremiah went to Egypt, where he remained until that country was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and he was carried to Babylon (Seder 'Olam R. xxvi.; comp. Ratner's remark on the passage, according to which Jeremiah went to Palestine again).
The Christian legend (pseudo-Epiphanius, "De Vitis Prophetarum"; Basset, "Apocryphen Ethiopiens," i. 25-29), according to which Jeremiah was stoned by his compatriots in Egypt because he reproached them with their evil deeds, became known to the Jews through Ibn Yaḥya ("Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," ed. princeps, p. 99b); this account of Jeremiah's martyrdom, however, may have come originally from Jewish sources. Another Christian legend narrates that Jeremiah by prayer freed Egypt from a plague of crocodiles and mice, for which reason his name was for a long time honored by the Egyptians (pseudo-Epiphanius and Yaḥya, l.c.). The assertion-made by Yaḥya (l.c. p. 101a) and by Abravanel (to Jer. i. 5), but not by Isserles, as Yaḥya erroneously states-that Jeremiah held a conversation with Plato, is also of Christian origin.
In haggadic literature Jeremiah and Moses are often mentioned together, their life and works being presented in parallel lines. The following old midrash is especially interesting in connection with Deut. xviii. 18, in which a prophet like Moses is promised: "As Moses was a prophet for forty years, so was Jeremiah; as Moses prophesied concerning Judah and Benjamin, so did Jeremiah; as Moses' own tribe [the Levites under Korah] rose up against him, so did Jeremiah's tribe revolt against him; Moses was cast into the water, Jeremiah into a pit; as Moses was saved by a female slave (the slave of Pharaoh's daughter), so Jeremiah was rescued by a male slave [Ebed-melech]; Moses reprimanded the people in discourses, so did Jeremiah" (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xiii. 112a; comp. Matt. xvi. 14). Compare the rabbinical section of the following articles: Ebed-melech; Manna; Temple.S. S. L. G.
Emil G. Hirsch, Victor Ryssel, Solomon Schechter, Louis Ginzberg
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.
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