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Online Text for Jeremiah

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Information on Jeremiah

Guy P. Couturier writes:

E. Podechard (RB 37 [1928] 181-97) separated three different collections, which have been simply joined to one another. First is the scroll of 605; Podechard thinks that it is now included, for the most part, in chs. 1-17, where the oracles are set in their chronological order, as far as we know. Then chs. 18-20 were joined, being a separate collection of symbolic actions, and still later, chs. 21-23, the booklets on kings and prophets. Finally, the book of the confessions was inserted at different places in this first section.

The second collection, chs. 26-35, is Baruch's redactional work; the theme is the restoration of Yahweh's people. Here also Podechard believes that the compiler used already existing smaller units: chs. 26-29 are a collection of Jeremiah's altercations with the false prophets, thus forming a kind of apology of true prophecy; chs. 30-31 preserve the Prophet's early prophecies on the restoration of Israel; chs. 32-33 unite the similar oracles under Zedekiah; chs. 34-35 are an appendix on diverse matters.

The third and last section, chs. 36-45, is easily recognized as Jeremiah's biography by Baruch. The latter prefaced his work with the story of the scroll of 605, which introduces him as Jeremiah's chief collaborator, and he closed it by the short oracle of hope, which e deserved for his collaboration. Finally, Podechard holds that the collection of oracles against the nations (chs. 46-51) has been set at two different places—after 25:13b and in ch. 45—by very old traditions and that we cannot know exactly the true reasons. The present form of Jer can be dated at the end of the Exile or soon after. Eissfeldt presents a similar explanation, although he would count a greater number of independent small collections, according to literary forms (Eissfeldt, Einl.).

Thomas W. Overholt writes: "But chap. 36 also illustrates the difficulty that attends any attempt to construct a series of steps in the composition of the book of Jeremiah as we have it. The narrative itself is clear enough: during the years 605-604 B.C. the prophet is said to have twice dictated to Baruch a collection of his utterances spanning the whole period of his activity. The second scroll was dictated after the king destroyed the first. It contained 'all the words' of the first scroll, as well as 'many words like them' (36:32). If we assume that the second edition of the scroll formed the nucleus of the subsequent collection of materials associated with Jeremiah, then we should be able to find that scroll in the present book, as well as evidence of the contents of its predecessor. But we cannot, at least not with any certainty. Over the years a variety of hypotheses about the contents of the scroll have been offered, some of them quite complicated. Even a brief sampling of opinion—it has been claimed that the scroll is to be found in chaps. 1-6, or in 1:4-9 plus chaps. 46-47 plus 4:5-6:26 plus 14:1-15:3, or in chaps. 1-11, or in the 'prose sermons'—indicates both the variety of hypotheses that have been proposed and the lack of consensus on the matter." (Harper's Bible Commentary, pp. 599-600)

James King West writes: "We possess more biographical data on Jeremiah than on any other prophet. Included are a number of personal laments or 'confessions' which allow us a view of the inner life of a prophet as do no other prophetic materials in the Old Testament. According to the superscription to the book, his career began in the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign (627 B.C.) and extended through the destruction of Jerusalem (587 B.C.), a total of forty years. Born into a priestly family of the village of Anathoth, just two miles northeast of Jerusalem, he was at home within the city itself and was imprisoned there during the Babylonian siege. Similar to Isaiah, he had intermittent and predominantly unhappy encounters with the reigning moncarchs. A devoted follower and secretary named Baruch recorded his prophecies and, most probably, wrote his memoirs. Following a long, turbulent, and faithful career, the prophet was at last taken against his will into Egypt by a group of Judeans fleeing Nebuchadnezzar's reprisals for the assassination of Gedeliah." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 305)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Jeremiah expands on the theme, common also to Amos, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, that Yahve controls history. The historian would say, very simply, that the Babylonians conquered Judah and transported the leading citizens to Babylonia. The prophet, however, expresses this differently: because of Israel's sins, Yahve caused the Babylonians to invade in order to punish Judah. Through the Babylonians, Yahve sent Judah into exile. Jeremiah's contribution to the theme was the idea that Yahve did not bring about these events merely to punish, but to effect moral regeneration. The Babylonian incident was not doom, nor, as Jeremiah interpreted matters, would Yahve fix doom as the climax of history. Rather, Yahve was accompanying the means for moral regeneration with a new relationship, that is, with a new covenant. Jeremiah, then, continued the tradition of intepreting the events of history as the revelation of Yahve's will and plan. Prior to the Babylonian conquest, he said that Yahve's doom was inevitable. But once the events had happened, Jeremiah said that this was not doom, but Yahve's plan to refine and purify the Judeans." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 148)

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