Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel 2

Jeremiah

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

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

discussion about authorship, literary character and theology.

“…if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or
obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that

we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What
have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace
of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

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

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

Jeremiah was born in Anatoth, situated north of Jerusalem in the territory
of Benjamin (Jer. 1:1-2). He was called to the prophetic ministry in the

thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign, about 627 B.C. He must have been a
young man at the time, since his ministry lasted for about 40 years –
through the very last days of the nations of Judah when the capital city

of Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.

Jeremiah’s call is one of the most instructive passages in his book. God
declared that he had sanctioned him as a prophet even before he was born
(Jer. 1:5) But the young man responded with words of inadequacy: “Ah,

Lord God!” (Jer. 1:6) These words actually mean “No, Lord God!” Jeremiah
pleaded that he was a youth and that he lacked the ability to speak. But
God replied tht he was being called not because of age or ability, but

because God has chosen him.

Immediately, Jeremiah saw the Hand of God reaching out and touching his
mouth. “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth,” God declared (Jer.
1:9). From that moment, the words of the prophets were to be the word of

God. And his ministry was to consist of tearing down and rebuilding,
uprooting and replanting: “See, I have this day set you over the
kingdoms, to root down and pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to

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

Because of the negative nature of Jeremiah’s ministry, judgmental texts
abound in his book. Jeremiah was destinied from the very beginning to be
a prophet of doom. He was even forbidden to marry so he could devote

himself fully to the task of preaching God’s judgement (Jer. 16: 1-13). A
prophet of doom cannot be a happy man. All of Jeremiah’s life was wrapped
up in the knowledge that God was about to bring an end to the Holy City

and cast off his covenant people.

Jeremiah is often called ” the weeping prophet” because he wept openly
about the about the sins of his nation (Jer. 9:1). He was also depressed
at times about the futility of his message. As the years passed and his

words of judgment went unheeded, he lamented his unfortunate state: “Oh.
Lord, you induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and
have prevailed. I am in derision dailiy; everyone mocks me” (Jer. 20:7)

At times Jeremiah tried to hold back from his prophetic proclamation. But
he found that the word of the Lord was “like a burning fire shut up in my
bones” (Jer. 20:9). He had no choice but to proclaim the harsh message of

God’s judgement.

Jeremiah did not weep and lament because of weakness, nor did he proclaim
evil because of a dark and gloomy personality. He cried out because of
his love for his people and his God. This characteristic of the prophet

is actually a tribute to his sensitivity and deep concern. Jeremiah’s
laments remind us of the weeping of the Savior (Matt. 23:37-39)

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

God, because of its sin and disobedience. In 586 B.C. Jerusalem was
destroyed and the leading citizens were deported to Babylonia. Jeremiah
remained in Jerusalem with a group of his fellow citizens, under the
authority if a ruling governor appointed by the Babylonians. But he was

forced to seek safety in Egypt after the people of Jerusalem revolted
against Babylonian rule. He continued his preaching in Egypt (Jer. 43-44)
This is the last we hear of Jeremiah. There is no record of what

happened to the prophet during these years in his ministry.

In the New Testament (KJV), Jeremiah was referred to as Jeremy (Matt.
2:17);27:9) and Jeremiah (Matt. 16:14).

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

sixth century before Christ; a contemporary of Draco and Solon of Athens.
In the year 627, during the reign of Josias, he was called at a youthful
age to be a prophet, and for nearly half a century, at least from 627 to

585, he bore the burden of the prophetic office. He belonged to a priestly
(not a high-priestly) family of Anathoth, a small country town northeast
of Jerusalem now called Anatâ; but he seems never to have performed

priestly duties at the temple. The scenes of his prophetic activity were,
for a short time, his native town, for the greater part of his life, the
metropolis Jerusalem, and, for a time after the fall of Jerusalem,

Masphath (Jeremiah 40:6) and the Jewish colonies of the Dispersion in
Egypt (Jeremiah 43:6 sqq.). His name has received varying etymological
interpretations (“Lofty is Jahwah” or “Jahweh founds”); it appears also as

the name of other persons in the Old Testament. Sources for the history of
his life and times are, first, the book of prophecies bearing his name,
and, second, the Books of Kings and of Paralipomenon (Chronicles). It is

only when taken in connection with the history of his times that the
external course of his life, the individuality of his nature and the
ruling theme of his discourses can be understood.

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

brought with them a series of political catastrophes which completely
changed national conditions in Western Asia. The overthrow of the Assyrian
Empire, which was completed in 606 by the conquest of Ninive, induced

Nechao II of Egypt to attempt, with the aid of a large army, to strike a
crushing blow at the ancient enemy on the Euphrates. Palestine was in the
direct route between the great powers of the world of that era on the

Euphrates and the Nile, and the Jewish nation was roused to action by the
march of the Egyptian army through its territory. Josias, the last
descendent of David, had begun in Jerusalem a moral and religious
reformation “in the ways of David”, the carrying out of which, however,

was frustrated by the lethargy of the people and the foreign policy of the
king. The attempt of Josias to check the advance of the Egyptians cost him
his life at the battle of Mageddo, 608. Four years later, Nechao, the

conqueror at Mageddo, was slain by Nabuchodonosor at Carchemish on the
Euphrates. From that time Nabuchodonosor’s eyes were fixed on Jerusalem.
The last, shadowy kings upon the throne of David, the three sons of

Josias–Joachaz, Joakim, and Sedecias–hastened the destruction of the
kingdom by their unsuccessful foreign policy and their anti-religious or,
at least, weak internal policy. Both Joakim and Sedecias, in spite of the

warnings of the prophet Jeremias, allowed themselves to be misled by the
war party in the nation into refusing to pay the tribute to the King of
Babylon. The king’s revenge followed quickly upon the rebellion. In the

second great expedition Jerusalem was conquered (586) and destroyed after
a siege of eighteen months, which was only interrupted by the battle with
the Egyptian army of relief. The Lord cast aside his footstool in the day

of his wrath and sent Juda into the Babylonian Captivity.

This is the historical background to the lifework of the Prophet Jeremiah:
in foreign policy an era of lost battles and other events preparatory to
the great catastrophe; in the inner life of the people an era of

unsuccessful attempts at reformation, and the appearance of fanatical
parties such as generally accompany the last days of a declining kingdom.
While the kings from the Nile and the Euphrates alternately laid the sword

on the neck of the Daughter of Sion, the leaders of the nation, the kings
and priests, became more and more involved in party schemes; a Sion party,
led by false prophets, deluded itself by the superstitious belief that the

temple of Jahweh was the unfailing talisman of the capital; a fanatically
foolhardy war party wanted to organize a resistance to the utmost against
the great powers of the world; a Nile party looked to the Egyptians for

the salvation of the country, and incited opposition to the Babylonian
lordship. Carried away by human politics, the people of Sion forgot its
religion, the national trust in God, and wished to fix the day and hour of

its redemption according to its own will. Over all these factions the cup
of the wine of wrath gradually grew full, to be finally poured from seven
vessels during the Babylonian Exile laid upon the nation of the Prophets.

In the midst of the confusion of a godless policy of despair at the
approach of destruction, the prophet of Anathoth stood as “a pillar of
iron, and a wall of brass”. The prophet of the eleventh hour, he had the

hard mission, on the eve of the great catastrophe of Sion, of proclaiming
the decree of God that in the near future the city and temple should be
overthrown. From the time of his first calling in vision to the prophetic

office, he saw the rod of correction in the hand of God, he heard the word
that the Lord would watch over the execution of His decree. That Jerusalem
would be destroyed was the constant assertion, the ceterum censeo of the

Cato of Anathoth. He appeared before the people with chains about his neck
in order to give a drastic illustration of the captivity and chains which
he foretold. The false prophets preached only of freedom and victory, but

the Lord said: A liberty for you to the sword, to the pestilence, and to
the famine. It was so clear to him that the next generation would be
involved in the overthrow of the kingdom that he renounced marriage and

the founding of a family for himself, because he did not wish to have
children who would surely be the victims of the sword or become the slaves
of the Babylonians. His celibacy was consequently a declaration of his

faith in the revelation granted him of the destruction of the city.
Jeremias is thus the Biblical and historical counterpart of Cassandra in
the Homeric poems, who foresaw the fall of Troy, but found no credence in

her own house, yet was so strong in her conviction that she renounced
marriage and all the joys of life.

Along with this first task, to prove the certainty of the catastrophe of
586, Jeremias had the second commission to declare that this catastrophe

was a moral necessity, to proclaim it in the ears of the people as the
inevitable result of the moral guilt since the days of Manasses (2 Kings
21:10-15); in a word, to set forth the Babylonian Captivity as a moral,

not merely a historical, fact. It was only because the stubborn nation had
thrown off the yoke of the Lord (Jeremiah 2:20) that it must bow its neck
under the yoke of the Babylonians. In order to arouse the nation from its

moral lethargy, and to make moral preparation for the day of the Lord, the
sermons of the preacher of repentance of Anathoth emphasized this causal
connection between punishment and guilt, until it became monotonous.

Although he failed to convert the people, and thus to turn aside entirely
the calamity from Jerusalem, nevertheless the word of the Lord in his
mouth became, for some, a hammer that broke their stony hearts to
repentance. Thus, Jeremiah had not only to root up, and to pull down, he

had also in the positive work of salvation to build, and to plant. These
latter aims of the penitential discourses of Jeremias make plain why the
religious and moral conditions of the time are all painted in the same

dark tone: the priests do not inquire after Jahweh; the leaders of the
people themselves wander in strange paths; the prophets prophesy in the
name of Baal; Juda has become the meeting-place of strange gods; the

people have forsaken the fountain of living water and have provoked the
Lord to anger by idolatry and the worship of high places, by the sacrifice
of children, desecration of the Sabbath, and by false weights. This

severity in the discourses of Jeremias makes them the most striking type
of prophetic declamation against sin. One well-known hypothesis ascribes
to Jeremias also the authorship of the Books of Kings. In reality the

thought forming the philosophical basis of the Books of Kings and the
conception underlying the speeches of Jeremias complement each other,
inasmuch as the fall of the kingdom is traced back in the one to the guilt

of the kings, and in the other to the people’s participation in this
guilt.

A far more exact picture of the life of Jeremiah has been preserved than
of the life of any other seer of Sion. It was an unbroken chain of

steadily growing outward and inward difficulties, a genuine “Jeremiad”. On
account of the prophecies, his life was no longer safe among his
fellow-citizens of Anathoth and of no teacher did the saying prove truer

that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. When he transferred his
residence from Anathoth to Jerusalem his troubles increased, and in the
capital of the kingdom he was doomed to learn by corporal suffering that

veritas parit odium (truth draws hatred upon itself). King Joakim could
never forgive the prophet for threatening him with punishment on account
of his unscrupulous mania for building and for his judicial murders: He

shall be buried with the burial of an ass. When the prophecies of Jeremias
were read before the king, he fell into such a rage that he threw the roll
into the fire and commanded the arrest of the prophet. Then the word of

the Lord came to Jerermiah to let Baruch the scribe write again his words.
More than once the prophet was in prison and in chains without the word of
the Lord being silenced; more than once he seemed, in human judgment,

doomed to death, but, like a wall of brass, the word of the Almighty was
the protection of his life: Be not afraid . . . they shall not prevail:
for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee. The religious opinion

he maintained, that only by a moral change could a catastrophe in outward
conditions prepare the way for improvement, brought him into bitter
conflict with the political parties of the nation. The Sion party, with

its superstitious confidence in the temple, incited the people to open
revolt against Jeremias, because, at the gate and in the outer court of
the temple, he prophesied the fate of the holy place in Silo for the house

of the Lord; and the prophet was in great danger of violent death at the
hands of the Sionists. The party friendly to Egypt cursed him because he
condemned the coalition with Egypt, and presented to the King of Egypt

also the cup of the wine of wrath; they also hated him because, during the
siege of Jerusalem, he declared, before the event, that the hopes placed
on an Egyptian army of relief were delusive. The party of noisy patriots

calumniated Jeremiah as a morose pessimist, because they had allowed
themselves to be deceived as to the seriousness of the crisis by the
flattering words of Hananias of Gabaon and his companions, and dreamed of

freedom and peace while exile and war were already approaching the gates
of the city. The exhortation of the prophet to accept the inevitable, and
to choose voluntary submission as a lesser evil than a hopeless struggle,

was interpreted by the war party as a lack of patriotism. Even at the
present day, some commentators wish to regard Jeremias as a traitor to his
country–Jeremias, who was the best friend of his brethren and of the

people of Israel, so deeply did he feel the weal and woe of his native
land. Thus was Jeremias loaded with the curses of all parties as the
scapegoat of the blinded nation. During the siege of Jerusalem he was once

more condemned to death and thrown into a miry dungeon; this time a
foreigner rescued him from certain death.

Still more violent than these outward battles were the conflicts in the
soul of the prophet. Being in full sympathy with the national sentiment,

he felt that his own fate was bound up with that of the nation; hence the
hard mission of announcing to the people the sentence of death affected
him deeply; hence his opposition to accepting this commission. With all

the resources of prophetic rhetoric he sought to bring back the people to
“the old paths”, but in this endeavour he felt as though he were trying to
effect that “the Ethopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots”. He

heard the sins of his people crying to heaven for vengeance, and forcibly
expresses his approval of the judgment pronounced upon the blood-stained
city. The next moment, however, he prays the Lord to let the cup pass from

Jerusalem, and wrestles like Jacob with God for a blessing upon Sion. The
grandeur of soul of the great sufferer appears most plainly in the fervid
prayers for his people, which were often offered directly after a fiery

declaration of coming punishment. He knows that with the fall of Jerusalem
the place that was the scene of revelation and salvation will be
destroyed. Nevertheless, at the grave of the religious hopes of Israel, he

still has the expectation that the Lord, notwithstanding all that has
happened, will bring His promises to pass for the sake of His name. The
Lord thinks “thoughts of peace, and not of affliction”, and will let

Himself be found of those who seek. As He watched to destroy, so will He
likewise watch to build up. The prophetic gift does not appear with equal
clearness in the life of any other prophet as alike a psychological

problem and a personal task. His bitter outward and inward experiences
give the speeches of Jeremias a strongly personal tone. More than once
this man of iron seems in danger of losing his spiritual balance. He calls

down punishment from heaven upon his enemies. Like a Job among the
prophets, he curses the day of his birth; he would like to arise, go
hence, and preach instead to the stones in the wilderness: Who will give
me in the wilderness a lodging place . . . and I will leave my people, and

depart from them. It is not improbable that the mourning prophet of
Anathoth was the author of many of the Psalms that are full of bitter
reproach.

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

Babylonian exile. He remained behind in Chanaan, in the wasted vineyard of
Jahweh, that he might continue his prophetic office. It was indeed a life
of martyrdom among the dregs of the nation that had been left in the land.

At a later date, he was dragged to Egypt by emigrating Jews. According to
a tradition first mentioned by Tertullian, Jeremias was stoned to death in
Egypt by his own countrymen on account of his discourses threatening the

coming punishment of God (cf. Hebrews 11:37), thus crowning with martyrdom
a life of steadily increasing trials and sorrows. Jeremiah would not have
died as Jeremias had he not died a martyr. The Roman Martyrology assigns

his name to 1 May. Posterity sought to atone for the sins his
contemporaries had committed against him. Even during the Babylonian
Captivity his prophecies seem to have been the favourite reading of the
exiles (2 Chronicles 36:21; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:2).

The delineation of the life and task of Jeremiah has already made plain
the peculiarity of his character. Jeremiah is the prophet of mourning and
of symbolical suffering. This distinguishes his personality from that of

Isaias, the prophet of ecstasy and the Messianic future, of Ezechiel, the
prophet of mystical (not typical) suffering, and of Daniel, the
cosmopolitan revealer of apocalyptic visions of the Old Covenant. No
prophet belonged so entirely to his age and his immediate surroundings,

and no prophet was so seldom transported by the Spirit of God from a
dreary present into a brighter future than the mourning prophet of
Anathoth. Consequently, the life of no other prophet reflects the history
of his times so vividly as the life of Jeremias reflects the time

immediately preceding the Babylonian Captivity. A sombre, depressed spirit
overshadows his life, just as a gloomy light overhangs the grotto of
Jeremias in the northern part of Jerusalem. In Michelangelo’s frescoes on

the ceilings of the Sistine chapel there is a masterly delineation of
Jeremias as the prophet of myrrh, perhaps the most expressive and eloquent
figure among the prophets depicted by the great master. He is represented

bent over like a tottering pillar of the temple, the head supported by the
right hand, the disordered beard expressive of a time of intense sorrow,
and the forehead scored with wrinkles, the entire exterior a contrast to

the pure soul within. His eyes seem to see blood and ruins, and his lips
appear to murmur a lament. The whole picture strikingly portrays a man who
never in his life laughed, and who turned aside from scenes of joy,

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

Equally characteristic and idiosyncratic is the literary style of
Jeremiah. He does not use the classically elegant language of a

Deutero-Isaias or an Amos, nor does he possess the imagination shown in
the symbolism and elaborate detail of Ezechiel, neither does he follow the
lofty thought of a Daniel in his apocalyptic vision of the history of the

world. The style of Jeremiah is simple, without ornament and but little
polished. Jerome speaks of him as “in verbis simplex et facilis, in
majestate sensuum profundissimus” (simple and easy in words, most profound

in majesty of thought). Jeremias often speaks in jerky, disjointed
sentences, as if grief and excitement of spirit had stifled his voice. Nor
did he follow strictly the laws of poetic rhythm in the use of the Kînah,

or elegiac, verse, which had, moreover, an anacoluthic measure of its own.
Like these anacoluthæ so are also the many, at times even monotonous,
repetitions for which he has been blamed, the only individual expressions

of the mournful feeling of his soul that are correct in style. Sorrow
inclines to repetition, in the manner of the prayers on the Mount of
Olives. Just as grief in the East is expressed in the neglect of the
outward appearance, so the great representative of elegiac verse of the

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

Jeremiah also stands by himself among the prophets by his manner of
carrying on and developing the Messianic idea. He was far from attaining

the fullness and clearness of the Messianic gospel of the Book of Isaias;
he does not contribute as much as the Book of Daniel to the terminology of
the gospel. Above all the other great prophets, Jeremiah was sent to his

age, and only in very isolated instances does he throw a prophetic light
in verbal prophecy on the fullness of time, as in his celebrated discourse
of the Good Shepherd of the House of David, or when he most beautifully,

proclaims the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity as the type and
pledge of the Messianic deliverance. This lack of actual Messianic
prophecies by Jeremias has its compensation; for his entire life became a

living personal prophecy of the suffering Messias, a living illustration
of the predictions of suffering made by the other prophets. The suffering
Lamb of God in the Book of Isaias becomes in Jeremias a human being: “I

was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim” (Jeremiah 11:19). The
other seers were Messianic prophets; Jeremias was a Messianic prophecy
embodied in flesh and blood. It is, therefore, fortunate that the story of

his life has been more exactly preserved than that of the other prophets,
because his life had a prophetic significance. The various parallels
between the life of Jeremias and of the Messias are known: both one and

the other had at the eleventh hour to proclaim the overthrow of Jerusalem
and its temple by the Babylonians or Romans; both wept over the city which
stoned the prophets and did not recognize what was for its peace; the love

of both was repaid with hatred and ingratitude. Jeremias deepened the
conception of the Messias in another regard. From the time the prophet of
Anathoth, a man beloved of God, was obliged to live a life of suffering in

spite of his guiltlessness and holiness from birth, Israel was no longer
justified in judging its Messias by a mechanical theory of retribution and
doubting his sinlessness and acceptableness to God because of his outward

sorrows. Thus the life of Jeremias, a life as bitter as myrrh, was
gradually to accustom the eye of the people to the suffering figure of
Christ, and to make clear in advance the bitterness of the Cross.
Therefore it is with a profound right that the Offices of the Passion in

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

The book in its present form has two main divisions: chapters i-xiv,
discourses threatening punishment which are aimed directly against Juda

and are intermingled with narratives of personal and national events, and
chapters xlvi-li, discourses containing threats against nine heathen
nations and intended to warn Juda indirectly against the polytheism and

policy of these peoples.

In chapter i is related the calling of the prophet, in order to prove to
his suspicious countrymen that he was the ambassador of God. Not he
himself had assumed the office of prophet, but Jahweh had conferred it

upon him notwithstanding his reluctance. Chapters ii-vi contain rhetorical
and weighty complaints and threats of judgment on account of the nation’s
idolatry and foreign policy. The very first speech in ii-iii may be said

to present the scheme of the Jeremianic discourse. Here also appears at
once the conception of Osee which is typical as well of Jeremias: Israel,
the bride of the Lord, has degraded herself into becoming the paramour of

strange nations. Even the temple and sacrifice, without inward conversion
on the part of the people, cannot bring salvation; while other warnings
are united like mosaics with the main ones. The words of the covenant in

the Thorah recently found under Josias contain threatenings of judgment;
the enmity of the citizens of Anathoth against the herald of this Thorah
reveals the infatuation of the nation. Jeremiah is commanded to hide a

linen girdle, a symbol of the priestly nation of Sion, by the Euphrates
and to let it rot there, to typify the downfall of the nation in exile on
the Euphrates. The same stern symbolism is expressed later by the earthen

bottle which is broken on the rocks before the Earthen Gate. According to
the custom of the prophets (1 Kings 11:29-31; Isaiah 8:1-4; Ezekiel
5:1-12), his warnings are accompanied by forcible pantomimic action.
Prayers at the time of a great drought, statements which are of much value

for the understanding of the psychological condition of the prophet in his
spiritual struggles, follow. The troubles of the times demand from the
prophet an unmarried and joyless life. The creator can treat those he has

created with the same supreme authority that the potter has over clay and
earthen vessels. Jeremias is ill-treated. A condemnation of the political
and ecclesiastical leaders of the people and, in connection with this, the

promise of a better shepherd are uttered. The vision of the two baskets of
figs is narrated in chapter xxiv. The repeated declaration (ceterum
censeo) that the land will become a desolation follows. Struggles with the

false prophets, who take wooden chains off the people and lead them
instead with iron ones, are detailed. Both in a letter to the exiles in
Babylon, and by word of mouth, Jeremias exhorts the captives to conform to

the decrees of Jahweh. Compare with this letter the “epistle of Jeremiah”
in Baruch, vi. A prophecy of consolation and salvation in the style of a
Deutero-Isaias, concerning the return of God’s favour to Israel and of the

new, eternal covenant, is then given. The chapters following are taken up
largely with narratives of the last days of the siege of Jerusalem and of
the period after the conquest with numerous biographical details

concerning Jeremiah.

With regards to literary criticism of the book much light is thrown on the
production and genuineness of the book by the testimony of chapter xxxvi;
Jeremias is directed to write down, either personally or by his scribe

Baruch, the discourses he had given up to the fourth year of Joakim (604
B.C.). In order to strengthen the impression made by the prophecies as a
whole, the individual predictions are to be united into a book, thereby

preserving documentary proof of these discourses until the time in which
the disasters threatened in them should actually come to pass. This first
authentic recension of the prophecies forms the basis of the present Book

of Jeremias. According to a law of literary transmission to which the
Biblical books are also subject–habent sua fata libelli (books have their
vicissitudes)–the first transcript was enlarged by various insertions and

additions from the pen of Baruch or of a later prophet. The attempts of
commentators to separate these secondary and tertiary additions in
different cases from the original Jeremianic subject-matter have not
always led to as convincing proof as in chapter lii. This chapter should

be regarded as an addition of the post-Jeremianic period based on IV
Kings, xxiv, 18-xxv, 30, on account of the concluding statement of li:
“Thus far are the words of Jeremias.” Cautious literary criticism is

obliged to observe the principle of chronological arrangement which is
perceptible in the present composition of the book, notwithstanding the
additions: chapters i-vi belong apparently to the reign of King Josias

(cf. the date in iii, 6); vii-xx belong, at least largely, to the reign of
Joakim; xxi-xxxiii partly to the reign of Sedecias (cf. xxi, 1; xxvii, 1;
xxviii, 1; xxxii, 1), although other portions are expressly assigned to

the reigns of other kings: xxxiv-xxxix to the period of the siege of
Jerusalem; xl-xlv to the period after the destruction of that city.
Consequently, the chronology must have been considered in the arrangement
of the material. Modern critical analysis of the book distinguishes

between the portions narrated in the first person, regarded as directly
attributable to Jeremias, and those portions which speak of Jeremias in
the third person. According to Scholz, the book is arranged in “decades”,

and each larger train of thought or series of speeches is closed with a
song or prayer. It is true that in the book parts classically perfect and
highly poetic in character are often suddenly followed by the most

commonplace prose, and matters given in the barest outline are not seldom
succeeded by prolix and monotonous details. After what has been said above
concerning elegiac verse, this difference in style can only be used with

the greatest caution as a criterion for literary criticism. In the same
way, investigation, of late very popular, as to whether a passage exhibits
a Jeremianic spirit or not, leads to vague subjective results. Since the

discovery (1904) of the Assuan texts, which strikingly confirm Jer., xliv,
1, has proved that Aramaic, as the koine (common dialect) of the Jewish
colony in Egypt, was spoken as early as the fifth and sixth centuries

B.C., the Aramaic expressions in the Book of Jeremias can no longer be
quoted as proof of a later origin of such passages. Also, the agreement,
verbal or conceptual, of texts in Jeremias with earlier books, perhaps

with Deuteronomy, is not in itself a conclusive argument against the
genuineness of these passages, for the prophet does not claim absolute
originality.

Notwithstanding the repetition of earlier passages in Jeremias, chapters

l-li are fundamentally genuine, although their genuineness has been
strongly doubted, because, in the series of discourses threatening
punishment to the heathen nations, it is impossible that there should not
be a prophecy against Babylon, then the most powerful representative of

paganism. These chapters are, indeed, filled with the Deutero-Isaian
spirit of consolation, somewhat after the manner of Is., xlvii, but they
do not therefore, as a matter of course, lack genuineness, as the same

spirit of consolation also inspires xxx-xxxiii.

In relation to textual conditions of the book the arrangement of the text
in the Septuagint varies from that of the Hebrew text and the Vulgate; the
discourses against the heathen nations, in the Hebrew text, xlvi-li, are,

in the Septuagint, inserted after xxv, 13, and partly in different order.
Great differences exist also as to the extent of the text of the Book of
Jeremias. The text of the Hebrew and Latin Bibles is about one-eighth

larger than that of the Septuagint. The question as to which text has
preserved the original form cannot be answered according to the theory of
Streane and Scholz, who declare at the outset that every addition of the

Hebrew version is a later enlargement of the original text in the
Septuagint. Just as little can the difficulty be settled by avowing, with
Kaulen, an a priori preference for the Masoretic text. In most cases the

Alexandrian translation has retained the better and original reading;
consequently, in most cases the Hebrew text is glossed. In a book as much
read as Jeremias the large number of glosses cannot appear strange. But in

other cases the shorter recension of the Septuagint, amounting to about
100 words, which can be opposed to its large lacunæ, as compared with the
Masorah, are sufficient proof that considerable liberty was taken in its

preparation. Consequently, it was not made by an Aquila, and it received
textual changes in the literary transmission. The dogmatic content of the
discourses of Jeremias is not affected by these variations in the text.

Lamentations: In the Greek and Latin Bibles there are five songs of lament
bearing the name of Jeremiah, which follow the Book of the Prophecy of
Jeremias. In the Hebrew these are entitled Kinôth. from their elegiac

character, or the ‘Ekhah songs after the first word of the first, second,
and fourth elegies; in Greek they are called Threnoi, in Latin they are
known as Lamentationes.

With regards to position and genuineness of Lamentations the

superscription to Lamentations in the Septuagint and other versions throws
light on the historical occasion of their production and on the author:
“And it came to pass, after Israel was carried into captivity, and

Jerusalem was desolate, that Jeremias the prophet sat weeping, and mourned
with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and with a sorrowful mind, sighing
and moaning, he said”. The inscription was not written by the author of

Lamentations, one proof of this being that it does not belong to the
alphabetical form of the elegies. It expresses, however, briefly, the
tradition of ancient times which is also confirmed both by the Targum and

the Talmud. To a man like Jeremias, the day on which Jerusalem became a
heap of ruins was not only a day of national misfortune, as was the day of
the fall of Troy to the Trojan, or that of the destruction of Carthage to

the Carthaginian, it was also a day of religious inanition. For, in a
religious sense, Jerusalem had a peculiar importance in the history of
salvation, as the footstool of Jahweh and as the scene of the revelation

of God and of the Messias. Consequently, the grief of Jeremias was
personal, not merely a sympathetic emotion over the sorrow of others, for
he had sought to prevent the disaster by his labours as a prophet in the

streets of the city. All the fibres of his heart were bound up with
Jerusalem; he was now himself crushed and desolate. Thus Jeremias more
than any other man was plainly called–it may be said, driven by an inner

force–to lament the ruined city as threnodist of the great penitential
period of the Old Covenant. He was already prepared by his lament upon the
death of King Josias (2 Chronicles 35:25) and by the elegiac songs in the

book of his prophecies, a lament over Jerusalem. The lack of variety in
the word-forms and in the construction of the sentences, which, it is
claimed, does not accord with the character of the style of Jeremiah, may

be explained as a poetic peculiarity of this poetic book.To this conduce
the elegiac tone of the Lamentations, which is only occasionally
interrupted by intermediate tones of hope; the complaints against false
prophets and against the striving after the favour of foreign nations; the

verbal agreements with the Book of Prophecy of Jeremias; finally the
predilection for closing a series of thoughts with a prayer warm from the
heart and chapter v, which, like a Miserere Psalm of Jeremiah, forms a

close to the five lamentations. The fact that in the Hebrew Bible the
Kinôth was removed, as a poetic work, from the collection of prophetic
books and placed among the Kethúhîm, or Hagiographa, cannot be quoted as a

decisive argument against its Jeremiac origin, as the testimony of the
Septuagint, the most important witness in the forum of Biblical criticism,
must in a hundred other cases correct the decision of the Masorah.

Moreover, the superscription of the Septuagint seems to presuppose a
Hebrew original.

Writing: Although the Lamentations do not bear any name of an author they
have been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah in the oldest tradition

already. The Lamentations in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT,
around 200 BC) begin with the following words: “And it happened after
Israel had been led captive and Jerusalem had been destroyed that Jeremiah

sat and lamented with the following lamentation and said: How doth the
city sit solitary, that was full of people!” Most researchers – included
the ones who refuse Jeremiah as author – would agree that the author must

have been an eyewitness of Jerusalem’s destruction (compare with Jer. 39).
Jeremiah’s authorship is underlined by a number of stylistic parallels in
the two consecutive books.

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

described in the Lamentations by Jeremiah as eyewitness, is decisive for
the date of writing. The time of writing therefore will have to be set
shortly after this incident and in Jeremiah’s last years of life.

Jeremiah’s words are hard, for, taken seriously, they seem to deny our
ever seeing church as “sanctuary,” for we will never be worthy to be
“safe,” worthy to have God dwell among us. But, finally, we know as Isaiah

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

Jeremiah bears witness to a truth that matters—a hard truth for
individuals and for nations. We too are addressed by God’s word of truth,

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

The complex and difficult book of Jeremiah has sometimes been deemed
unreadable. If, however, we see the book as a meditation on the abyss—into

it and out of it—then it becomes readable in a new and
compelling way.

Jeremiah’s most intense lament (Jer 20:7-18) is best read not as a crisis
of faith, but as a crisis of vocation. Jeremiah is caught between a

compelling word of God and a recalcitrant people that rejects that word.
This lament may prove helpful to pastoral leaders who face a comparable
crisis.

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

his message and passionate in language and action. The tools of literary
analysis produce a picture of Jeremiah as paradigm, not simply of a
prophet but of all who are called to ministry.

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

ancient people of God can imagine their own survival. The book provides
clues also to contemporary believers in their need to confront the rawness
of present reality and to find ways to survive.

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

in the face of extreme physical suffering and loss of meaning, leading the
reader from repentance, through mourning, to a vision of redemption. In
the aftermath of September 11, those answers are read by present believers

in a new light.

The book of Jeremiah is concerned with justice—to be exercised by
rulers, to be sure, but also by all people. Importantly, then and now,
survival in a time of crisis, according to the prophet, depends not on

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

The “release” of the Hebrew slaves during the time of the Babylonian siege
was a cynical affair, setting the slaves “free” from being provided food

and shelter by their owners in a time of scarcity. The passage raises
important questions about the nature of freedom: freedom from? freedom
unto? freedom for?

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

from Genesis to Matthew, in Jewish and Christian tradition, in theology
and church, in literature and culture. Ultimately none survives the
journey of the people of God on earth, save for the promise of God, who

heard and still hears Rachel’s lament.

Modern readers of Jeremiah are invited by the book and by Yahweh to mourn
the destruction of God’s people (ancient and modern) produced by our own
failure. Weeping becomes the route that leads to restoration.

The book of Jeremiah offers the opportunity to preach on important
pastoral and theological issues, including some of the most difficult
ones: true and false prophecy, the character of God, suffering and
judgment, the anger of God. But, beyond all this, the book also offers

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

“The Contents of Jeremiah”:

At the beginning of the book is a superscription which, after
giving the parentage of Jeremiah, fixes the period of his prophetical

activity as extending from the thirteenth year of Josiah to the eleventh
of Zedekiah (i.e., the year of the second deportation, 586 B.C.). This
period certainly does not cover the whole contents of the book; hence

probably the superscription was originally that of an older book of
smaller compass. This is followed by the first part containing prophecies
concerning the kingdom of Judah and incidents from the life of the prophet

up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second deportation. Only one
passage treats of a different subject containing Yahwh’s command to
Jeremiah, according to which the prophet was to proclaim God’s judgment to

foreign people. The second part of the book contains prophecies and
narrations from the period following the destruction of Jerusalem. As an
appendix to this, in ch. xlv., is a short warning to Baruch on the
occasion comprises prophecies against foreign peoples. At the end are

given, by way of appendix, historical data concerning Zedekiah, the
deportation of the captives to Babylon, and the change in the fortunes of
King Jehoiachin.

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

or material can be traced. The speeches not being separated by
superscriptions, and data generally (though not always as to time and
occasion) being absent, it is very difficult to fix the date of
composition. In this first part, however, may be distinguished different

groups which, with a single exception, reflect substantially the
successive phases of the development of Jeremiah’s prophetic activity.
These groups are five in number, as follows:

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

describing the calling of the prophet, is also chronologically the oldest
fixed by the superscription as belonging to the time of Josiah, does not
harmonize with the assumed historical background (the superscription is

undoubtedly a later addition).

(2) Ch. vii.-xx., in the main, of the time of Jehoiakim. This group
contains passages that belong to earlier and later dates respectively. For
instance, ch. xi. 1-8 is earlier: the mention of the “words of the

covenant” assigns it to the antecedent period (Josiah) and as having been
written soon after the discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy. Ch. xiii. is
certainly later, and probably belongs to the time of the young king

Jehoiachin. Other passages in this group should be excluded as not being
by Jeremiah, or at least as having been only partially written by him: ch.
ix. 22 et seq.; ch. ix. 24 et seq.; ch. x. 1-16; and the sermon on the

Sabbath, ch. xvii. 19-27.

(a)a proclamation of the certain fall of Jerusalem made, according to the
superscription to Zedekiah and the people, during the siege of Jerusalem,
i.e., about 588 B.C.;

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

Jehoiakim completed by the passage xxii. 20-30, descriptive of the leading
away of Jehoiachin into captivity;

(c) threats against the “unfaithful shepherds” (i.e., the prophets), the
promise of peace and of the real shepherd (after 597), and warnings

against false prophets and godless priests (perhaps in the time of
Jehoiakim;

(d) the vision of the two baskets of figs, illustrating the fate of the
captives and of those who were left behind, from the period after the

first deportation by Nebuchadnezzar, in 597;

(e) threats of punishments to be inflicted on Judah and the surrounding
nations, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., the year of the battle of
Carchemish;

(f) the first of the historical passages recounting Jeremiah’s prophecy in
the Temple, his arrest, his threatened death, and his rescue, in which
connection the martyrdom of the prophet Uriah is briefly mentioned.

(4) Utterances from the time of Zedekiah, the last connected prophecy of
any length, in ch. xxxv., treating of the fidelity of the Rechabites and
of the unfaithfulness of Judah. This dates from a somewhat earlier period,

that of Jehoiakim (because certainly before 597), and thus forms a
transition to the first passages of the narrative sections.

(5) The fifth group of part I. consists of the first half of the
historical narrative concerning Jeremiah’s life and work and may be thus

divided:

(a) account of the writing, destruction, and rewriting of the prophecies
of Jeremiah under Jehoiakim;

(b) narratives and sayings from the time of Zedekiah, who is introduced as
a new ruler at the beginning of this historical account, although often

mentioned before in the prophecies.

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

Relations with Deutero-Isaiah: The short admonition is certainly not
genuine; it is a warning against self-glorification and an appeal to those

who would boast to glory in the knowledge of God instead. As its
sententious style indicates, it was probably taken from a collection of
wise sayings. The question as to the genuineness of the second short
utterance, which proclaims God’s punishment upon the uncircumcised—the

heathen who are uncircumcised in the flesh, and the Israelites who are
uncircumcised in heart—can not be so easily decided, since the Biblical
conception of being uncircumcised in heart is found elsewhere in Jeremiah.

Again, the following section, is certainly not genuine. Here, in a style
wholly like that of Deutero-Isaiah, the speaker mocks at the unreality of
idols, which exist only as images and hence are not to be feared; this

recalls the time of Deutero-Isaiah and the idols of Babylon rather than
the period of Jeremiah and the tendency of his contemporaries to worship
other gods than Yhwh. The interpolated Aramaic verse is held by Duhm to be

a magic formula with which the later Jews, who did not know much Hebrew,
used to exorcise the various evil spirits in the air, shooting stars,
meteors, and comets. Besides various additions to Jeremiah’s sayings which

can not be by the prophet himself, there are two passages which till now
have generally, and probably rightly, been held to be genuine, although
they do not belong to the time of Jehoiakim. That the passage xi. 1-8 is

earlier, and belongs to the time of Josiah, has been explained above. Ch.
xiii, however, must have been written later than Jehoiakim’s time; after a
symbolic narrative of a girdle buried beside the Euphrates, and which, in

that it is soiled and unfit for use, represents Israel and Judah, the
passage treats of the king and “queen” — that is, the queen mother—to whom
it is announced that they must descend from their throne; and the

deportation of the whole of Judah is similarly foretold. The king in this
case, however, with whom his mother is mentioned on equal terms, is
certainly the youthful Jehoiachin, and the time is shortly before his

deportation to Babylon.

Passage on Sabbath Not Genuine: The one non-authentic passage incorporated
in group 2 is that concerning the Sabbath. The reason why the prophet can
not be credited with the authorship of this passage, though in form and

content it is not unlike Jeremiah, is the high value put upon the
observance of holy days, which is wholly foreign to the prophet. The
author of the passage not only recommends the keeping of the Sabbath day
holy as a day of rest ordained by God, but he even goes so far as to make

the possibility of future salvation, and even directly the destruction of
Jerusalem, depend upon the observance or non-observance of this day.

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

In the time of Zedekiah certain parts of the promises have given rise to
doubt in more than one respect. Of the three sections in this collection,
the middle one may, however, be accepted without reserve. This section

begins with a relation of Jeremiah’s purchase of a field in Anathoth in
accordance with ancient usage, at the time when the Babylonians were
already besieging Jerusalem and of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Zedekiah of the

conquest of the city and of the deportation to Babylon. The divine promise
is appended to this narration: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be
possessed again” which, upon a question of the prophet’s, is explained

thus Jerusalem will be burned by the Chaldeans on account of its sins, but
afterward Yhwh will collect His people, scattered in all lands. He will
make an everlasting covenant with them, and will cause them with rejoicing

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

Ungenuine Passages in Later Sections: The first of the three sections
foretells another day of terror for Jacob, but also promises liberation
from foreign rule, punishment of the enemy, the rebuilding of the

destroyed cities by the people (who will have begun to increase again and
whose numbers will have been swelled by the return of Ephraim), and the
making of a new covenant. In this section the following passages are

doubtful as regards a Jeremianic origin: the passage in which the servant
of God, Jacob, is comforted in his exile with words of Deutero-Isaiah; the
threat inserted among the words of promise; where this threat occurs

again, likewise in an inappropriate place); the description of Yahweh’s
power on the sea (similar to Isa. li. 15); and various other passages
which have many points of contact with Deutero-Isaiah. A considerable

portion of this section is shown to be secondary matter by the fact that
it is lacking in the text of the Septuagint. At any rate, examination
leads to the conclusion that this section, like so much else in the Book

of Jeremiah, was worked over afterward, although it is not justifiable to
deny to Jeremiah the authorship of the whole of the section, nor to assume
that it was written by a post-exilic author. Such a writer would have had

more interest in the hope that the Judeans, only a part of whom had come
back, would all return home, whereas for a prophet who wrote immediately
before the downfall of Judah it was more natural to recall the overthrow

of the Northern Kingdom, and to express the hope that with the return of
Ephraim Judah also would return, although its present downfall seemed
certain to him.

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

missing in the Septuagint, although no plausible reason for the omission
is apparent. Not to speak of smaller matters, the fact that the people
among whom (according to verse 24) the prophet was sojourning, and who

were wholly opposed to the compatriots of the prophet, can only have been
Babylonians—who indeed might have said insultingly of Israel that “it was
no more a nation before them” — does not seem to accord with Jeremiah’s

authorship. The passage must consequently have been written by one of the
exiles in Babylon and not by Jeremiah, in whose time such a taunt could
not have been uttered either in Palestine or later in Egypt.

The historical passages display such an exact knowledge of the events

described in the life of Jeremiah, and contain so many interesting
details, that as a matter of course they were formerly considered to have
been written by a pupil of Jeremiah in close touch with him. Moreover, a

comparison with the text of the Septuagint shows that in the historical as
in the prophetical passages many changes were made after composition. It
is therefore neither necessary nor advisable to set, with Kuenen, 550 B.C.

as the date of the first edition of the book; but even if that late date
be accepted one must still suppose that the notes of a pupil and
eye-witness had been used as material.

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

(which has been readopted also by Duhm), namely, that the historical
passages were written by a pupil of Jeremiah, there can be no doubt that
this pupil was Baruch. Since it is known that it was Baruch and not
Jeremiah who first wrote down the prophecies, and since in all cases the

speeches in the historical portions can not be taken out of their setting,
it seems the most natural thing to suppose that Baruch was also directly
concerned in the composition of the historical passages. But this does not

at all exclude the possibility of the insertion, shortly after the
passages had been written and put together, of various details and
episodes. This theory is supported by Jeremiah’s admonition to Baruch
which, although addressed to him by the prophet on the occasion of

Jeremiah dictating the prophecies in the time of Jehoiakim, yet stands at
the end of the section containing prophecies against Judah. The fact that
this admonition occurs at the end of the original Book of Jeremiah can

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

Ch. xxv. speaks of the direction received by Jeremiah from God to proclaim
His anger to foreign peoples. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim—that is, the

year of the battle of Carchemish and of Nebuchadnezzar’s victory and
accession to the throne—Jeremiah proclaims that Yhwh, in revenge for
Judah’s sins, will bring His servant Nebuchadnezzar and the peoples of the

north against Judah and the surrounding peoples; that they will serve the
King of Babylon for seventy years; and that at the end of this time Yahweh
will punish the King of Babylon and the Chaldeans. In connection with

this, Jeremiah is further told to pass the wine-cup of divine wrath to all
the nations to whom he is sent, and all the nations who must drink of the
cup are enumerated. But however appropriate it may have been for Jeremiah

to announce the downfall of foreign nations and however much the
expression “cup of wrath” may sound like one of Jeremiah’s, since this
illustration occurs often after him and accordingly probably goes back to

him, yet this prophecy as it now stands can not have been written by him.
The proclamation of the punishment of Babylon ( 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.

Oracles Worked Over: The question next arises as to whether the prophecies
against foreign nations are really those which 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.
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 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. 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), 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
(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.
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 (with the consolations of

Deutero-Isaiah); (b) that against the Philistines(c) that against Moab,
which in parts recalls Isa.; (d) that against Ammon; (e) that against
Edom, which has much in common with that of Obadiah; (f) that against

Damascus and other Aramaic cities; (g) that against Kedar and other Arabic
tribes, xlix. 28-33; and (h) that against Elam. 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 to which a
historical addition is appended, 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. 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. He cannot 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”.

Moreover, the author of the oracle against Babylon made use of the
Jeremianic oracle against Edom, at times quoting it literally. 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, 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 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 recordingthe 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. 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.

Sources of the Book of Jeremiah: 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.

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, writings which without
doubt have passed through many hands before they received the form in

which we know them, to their respective authors

Final Redaction: 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 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, 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.

The central figure is Jeremiah the prophet. Some refer to him as the
weeping prophet because of his book of Lamentations. Starting with his

name, it is his name that speaks of his calling and work: Jeremiah,
meaning “justice that saves”.

As a prophet commissioned by God, one day Jeremiah received instructions
that were indeed strange. He was told to purchase for himself a loincloth

of the finest white linen. The prophet obeyed the divine command, but it
was not long before he was told to put on the loincloth. Then came a new
directive: “Take the loincloth that you bought and are wearing and go now

to the Euphrates, and hide it there”. So Jeremiah hid the loincloth by the
River Euphrates, just as the Lord had directed him. After many days,
Jeremiah received a new message that completed the strange instructions:

“Go now to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I
commanded you to hide there”. Jeremiah did as he was told, and dug out the
loincloth from the place where he had buried it. But, as could not have

been otherwise, the loincloth was ruined; it was good for nothing.

Behind this strange and unusual story, there is an entire divine pedagogy.
The loincloth had not been made to be buried, but to be worn. It had been

fashioned to adorn and support the body. The episode dramatized the
message that the prophet should deliver to the people: even as had been
done with the white loincloth of fine linen, so also the people had buried

the fundamental values that confer beauty and dignity upon a people –
among those values, especially that of justice. This is the heart of
Jeremiah’s prophetic message: the God of saving justice.

Is this not, perhaps, a living parable for our own times? For we also have

buried the white linen loincloth of justice. We have buried it, not at the
edge but in the very currents of the rivers, in the depths of the seas, in
the earth’s abysses and in the extremities of outer space, we have buried

justice in the cities and in the fields, in the deserts and in the
forests; we have buried justice in the valleys and in the mountains. It is
no wonder that our world is being changed more and more into a world
without dignity, without grace and without beauty.

The beneficial impact of the spiritual message of the The Potter And The
Clay is yet to be appreciated by natural men.

The Bible is an excellent key to unlock and uncover the precious message
of truth from the potter’s house. The Word of God takes a high profile

role in man’s search for the truth. Man’s high regard toward God’s will
serves as an essential vehicle in bringing him to where God wants him to
be.

In Jeremiah 18:2, it is written, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house,

and there I will cause thee to hear my words. (KJV) This important passage
from the Scriptures entails an exciting means of spiritual learning from
our Creator who shaped the first man out of the dust.

Jeremiah 18:3 gives us an idea concerning Jeremiah’s willingness to learn

from God’s expressive and unique way of teaching His children. Undeniably,
spiritual wisdom is being offered to an interested person who is willing
to take heed to the Word of God.

God’s Noteworthy Message To Men

Jeremiah 18:1-4
-A relevant message
-A message not to be ignored
-A message to be understood

Truly, God’s noteworthy messages through the Scriptures are always
relevant at all times. For this reason, the spiritual lesson we could

learn from the potter’s house should not be taken lightly or intentionally
ignored, but heartily embraced and carefully understood.

Our adversary, the devil, keeps his sharp eyes on people whose lives he
aims to destroy through his deceitful and destructive ways, but through

this God-given lesson, we could become more sensitive to the working of
God and gain more wisdom on how to subdue Satan’s crushing mallet.

God: The Potter
Jeremiah 18:5-6
-Mankind: The Clay

In Isaiah 64:8, it is written, But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we

are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
(KJV) God is our Creator and He has the power to mold us according to His
plan. We are nothing but clay relying on the Potter’s wonderful working

and the more we submit to His molding process, the more we will come out
pleasing before Him.

A careful study on Jeremiah 18:4-6 leads to realization and awareness on
how our Heavenly Father puts us on His wheels to shape us as seems good to

Him.

Important Things To Be Considered
Jeremiah 18:6
-The authority and blessed will of God

In verse six, the LORD said, “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as
this potter?” (KJV) By this emphatic question, God reminded the Israelites

concerning His authority, lest they become unmindful of His blessed will
for the nation Israel and overlook His infinite power over His creation.
Then the LORD said, “Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are

ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” (KJV)

The required obedience of man: The importance of total obedience and its
God-glorifying results are worthy to be pondered as the Lord continues to
form believers through His skillful, caring hands.

In Isaiah 45:9, it is written, Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!
Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay
say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? Or thy work, He hath no

hands? (KJV) Justly, as the clay has no power over the potter, so is a
believer on his Maker, which is the Lord.

Total obedience to The Word of God and humble attitude toward His
life-changing process of shaping lives leads a believer to

Christ-likeness.

The sensitive emotion of God: The potter’s emotion during working hours
plays a sensitive role in making a beautiful and durable earthen vessel.
Every time a joyful potter puts clay on the potter’s wheels, spinning and

forming it according to his will, the result is always superb and
delightful beyond degree. On the other hand if grief floods the potter’s
soul, no remarkable vessel is made by his grief-troubled hands. The
product always reveals the potter’s emotion.

In Ephesians 4:30, it is written, And grieve not the holy Spirit of God,
whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (KJV) It is so
interesting to note that the Spirit of God is not merely an active force

as some ignorant people claim but a God with a sensitive emotion.

We are the clay and The Lord is our potter. We should be aware that giving
grief to the Lord puts us in a risky place where we could possibly lose

our God-given opportunity to display His greatness and power through our
lives.

The molding process of God: Its spiritual significance helps every
believer to gain more knowledge and understanding concerning God’s

creative way of shaping the lives of His precious children.

Every believer is in the hands of God and being shaped according to His
perfect will. As the potter pats the clay for a purpose, so is the Lord in
shaping us through chastisement, not to destroy us, but to teach,

discipline and strengthen us. It is also a wonderful manifestation of His
great love for His children.

In Hebrews 12:5-6, it is written, And ye have forgotten the exhortation
which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the

chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom
the Lord loveth he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
(KJV)

Furthermore, the Bible explains the benefits of the Lord’s chastening. In

Hebrews 12:10, it is written, For they verily for a few days chastened us
after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be
partakers of his holiness. (KJV) Truly, God is the Potter, we are the
clay.

The attitude of man toward a fiery test: How wonderful is the message of
God through The Potter And The Clay. Knowing the truth that a newly formed
jar is a very weak vessel and cannot be used yet unless it passes through

the fire is a special knowledge to be considered and to be treasured.

God permits fiery trials to come across our paths of life because these
are great help in giving us an opportunity to be strengthened and become

more usable for the Master’s use. We really need a good attitude toward
the working of God in our lives. Job is a classic example of that kind of
attitude when he said, “but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath

tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 (KJV)

During the process of strengthening the earthen vessels through the fire,
some vessels become deformed because of the charring heat. Like the
deformed vessels, so are Christians that are greatly affected by fiery

trials of life because of their negative attitude during trying moments.

In I Peter 1:6-7, it is written, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now
for a season, if need be, ye are in manifold temptations: That the trial

of your faith, being much precious than gold that perisheth, though it be
tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the
appearing of Jesus Christ: (KJV)

May the Word of God be always in our hearts to help us when our faith is

tested beyond measure. In I Thessalonians 5:18, it is written, In every
thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning
you. (KJV)

The wonderful result: The result is so amazing to the point that we could

be led to sing “How Great Thou Art.”

In the potter’s place one could see and appreciate the striking beauty and
unquestionable durability of the earthen vessels. The variation of the
vessels’ sizes and designs add to the credibility and authority of the

potter. So true to believers in Christ, as we are in the Master’s hands,
we go through a progressive process and time will come when the greatness
of our Maker will be displayed through our lives in an awesome way.

But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our
potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8 (KJV)

Conversely, broken pieces of vessels set aside and seem useless and
trodden of men, surprisingly are not counted useless, but still have a

wonderful purpose. What an encouragement for a believer who is considered
a failure and useless vessel in our society. As the saying goes, “The best
is yet to come.”

No matter how insignificant our lives may seem to be, still, our God has

always a way to use every blood-bought and blood-washed sinners saved by
His “Amazing Grace.”

To God be the glory; great things He has done.

The word “fig” is mentioned in the Scriptures sixty-four times. THUS SAITH

THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL; LIKE THESE GOOD FIGS, SO WILL I ACKNOWLEDGE
THEM THAT ARE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVE OF JUDAH, WHOM I HAVE SENT OUT OF THIS
PLACE INTO THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS FOR THEIR GOOD-Jere 24:5. We see the

word “figs,” being used to represent the Jews that are carried away.

THE LORD SHOWED ME, AND, BEHOLD, TWO BASKETS OF FIGS…ONE BASKET HAD
VERY GOOD FIGS, EVEN LIKE THE FIGS THAT ARE FIRST RIPE: AND THE OTHER

BASKET HAD VERY NAUGHTY FIGS, WHICH COULD NOT BE EATEN, THEY WERE SO BAD.
THEN SAID THE LORD UNTO ME, WHAT SEEST THOU, JEREMIAH? AND I SAID, FIGS;
THE GOOD FIGS, VERY GOOD; AND THE EVIL, VERY EVIL, THAT CANNOT BE EATEN,

THEY ARE SO EVIL. AGAIN THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME UNTO ME, SAYING, THUS
SAITH THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL; LIKE THESE GOOD FIGS, SO WILL I
ACKNOWLEDGE THEM THAT ARE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVE OF JUDAH, WHOM I HAVE SENT

OUT OF THIS PLACE INTO THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS FOR THEIR GOOD. FOR I
WILL SET MINE EYES UPON THEM FOR GOOD, AND I WILL BRING THEM AGAIN TO THIS
LAND: AND I WILL BUILD THEM, AND NOT PULL THEM DOWN; AND I WILL PLANT

THEM, AND NOT PLUCK THEM UP. AND I WILL GIVE THEM A HEART TO KNOW ME, THAT
I AM THE LORD: AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD: FOR
THEY SHALL RETURN UNTO ME WITH THEIR WHOLE HEART. AND AS THE EVIL FIGS,

WHICH CANNOT BE EATEN, THEY ARE SO EVIL-Jere 24:1-8. The word “figs” is
used here eight times denoting the Jews.

NOW IN THE MORNING AS HE RETURNED INTO THE CITY, HE HUNGERED. AND WHEN HE
SAW A FIG TREE IN THE WAY, HE CAME TO IT, AND FOUND NOTHING

THEREON, BUT LEAVES ONLY, AND SAID UNTO IT, LET NO FRUIT GROW ON THEE
HENCEFORWARD FOR EVER. AND PRESENTLY THE FIG TREE WITHERED AWAY-Mt
21:18,19; ref Mk 11:12-14,20,21. The fig tree withered away, as it was
producing no fruit. It may be noted that the word “fig” here represents

Israel, and the word “tree” represents nation.

The nation of Israel did wither and was destroyed. Nevertheless, the
nation of Israel was reborn and will fulfill God’s mission during the
Tribulation.

THEREFORE HIS HEIGHT WAS EXALTED ABOVE ALL THE TREES OF THE FIELD (or
nations)…THE CEDARS IN THE GARDEN OF GOD COULD NOT HIDE HIM: THE FIR TREES
WERE NOT LIKE HIS BOUGHS, AND THE CHESTNUT TREES WERE NOT LIKE HIS

BRANCHES; NOR ANY TREE IN THE GARDEN OF GOD WAS LIKE UNTO HIM IN HIS
BEAUTY. I HAVE MADE HIM FAIR BY THE MULTITUDE OF HIS BRANCHES: SO THAT ALL
THE TREES OF EDEN, THAT WERE IN THE GARDEN OF GOD, ENVIED HIM. AND
STRANGERS, THE TERRIBLE OF THE NATIONS, HAVE CUT HIM OFF, AND HAVE LEFT

HIM…TO THE END THAT NONE OF ALL THE TREES (or nations) BY THE WATERS EXALT
THEMSELVES FOR THEIR HEIGHT…AND I CAUSED LEBANON TO MOURN FOR HIM, AND ALL
THE TREES OF THE FIELD FAINTED FOR HIM. I MADE THE NATIONS TO SHAKE AT THE

SOUND OF HIS FALL-Ezek 31:5,8,9,12,14-16. It may be noted, the word “tree”
is often used as a symbol for a nation.

The story ends. What can we say
Of Jeremiah’s place today?
Our pulpits do not tend to feature

One who’s such a doleful preacher.
But can we say it is his fate
To be completely out of date?

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