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Jeremiah (Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה, Yirmĭyahu, meaning “Yahweh exalts”;[1] Greek: Ιερεμιας; Latin: Jeremias; in English pronounced /dʒɛrɨˈmaɪ.ə/[2]) was one of the many prophets of the Hebrew Bible. His writings are put together in the Book of Jeremiah and traditionally, authorship of the Book of Lamentations is ascribed to him.[3] God appointed Jeremiah to Judah and Jerusalem for the worship of idols and other violations of the covenant described in Deuteronomy.[4] According to Jeremiah, the LORD declared that the covenant was broken and that God would bring upon Israel and Judah the curses of the covenant.[5] Jeremiah’s job was to explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity), “And when your people say, 'Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?' you shall say to them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.'"[6] The LORD said to Jeremiah:

Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:17-19 (NIV)

God’s personal prediction to Jeremiah, “Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t,”[7] was fulfilled many times in the Biblical narrative as Jeremiah warned of destruction of those who continued to refuse repentance and accept more moderate consequences. In return for his adherence to God’s disciplines and speaking God’s words, Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers,[8] beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet,[9] imprisoned by the king,[10] threatened with death,[11] thrown into a cistern by Judah’s officials,[12] and opposed by a false prophet.[13] Yet God was faithful to rescue Jeremiah from his enemies. For example, when his prophecies regarding the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem were fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 586 BC,[14] Nebuchadnezzar ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well.[15]

Judaism considers the Book of Jeremiah a part of its canon, and regards Jeremiah as the second of the major prophets. Christianity regards Jeremiah as a saint and as a prophet. The New Testament quotes Jeremiah,[16] and it has been interpreted that Jeremiah “spiritualized and individualized religion and insisted upon the primacy of the individual’s relationship with God.”[17]

The figure of Jeremiah on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, by Michelangelo.


Etymology and pronunciation

The Hebrew for Jeremiah is יִרְמְיָהוּ which is frequently misspelled יִרְמִיָהוּ. In modern Hebrew, the name is Yirməyāhū. The International Phonetic Alphabet renders the Hebrew as jirməˈjaːhu. The Tiberian vocalization is Yirmĭyahu. In the Greek of the Septuagint, Jeremiah is rendered as Ἰερεμίας. The English is pronounced /dʒɛrɨˈmaɪ.ə/.[18] The name Jeremiah means "Yahweh exalts."[19]

Biblical narrative

Timeline of the life and times of Jeremiah. There is slight disagreement (1-2 years) among scholars regarding the dating of many events.

Jeremiah’s ministry spanned the time period from the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah (626 BC) until sometime after the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of Solomon’s Temple (587 BC).[20] Consequently, Jeremiah’s prophetic work spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoichin, and Zedekiah.[21]


Jeremiah was born into a priestly family, the son of Hilkiah, a priest at Anathoth, a village 2-3 miles north of Jerusalem.[22][23] Jeremiah came from a landowning family,[24] and refers to a joyful early life,[25] although the words and difficulties recorded in the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations result in him being known as “the weeping prophet.”[26]

Call, training, and early ministry

The LORD called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC,[27] about one year after Josiah king of Judah had turned the nation toward repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices of his father and grandfather. Ultimately, Josiah’s reforms would not be enough to preserve Judah and Jerusalem from destruction, because the sins of Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather had gone too far.[28] Such was the lust of the nation for false gods that after Josiah’s death, the nation would quickly return to the gods of the surrounding nations.[29] Jeremiah was appointed to reveal the sins of the people and the coming consequences.[30][31]

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations…See, I appoint you this day Over nations and kingdoms: to uproot and pull down, To destroy and overthrow, To build and to plant.

Jeremiah 1:1-10 (JPS)

In contrast to Isaiah, who eagerly accepted his prophetic call,[32] and similar to Moses who was less than eager,[33] Jeremiah resisted the call by complaining that he was only a child and did not know how to speak.[34]

However, the LORD insisted that Jeremiah go and speak as commanded, and he touched Jeremiah’s mouth and put the word of the LORD into Jeremiah’s mouth.[35] God told Jeremiah to “Get yourself ready!”[36] The disciplines that are specified in Jeremiah 1 are not being afraid, standing up to speak, speaking as told, and going where sent.[37] Other disciplines that contributed to the training of the young prophet and confirmation of his message are described as not turning to the people,[38] not marrying or fathering children,[39] not going to weddings or funerals,[40] not sitting in a house with feasting,[41] and not sitting in the company of merrymakers.[42] Since Jeremiah emerges well trained and fully literate from his earliest preaching, the relationship between him and the Shaphan family has been used to suggest that he may have trained at the scribal school in Jerusalem over which Shaphan presided.[43][44]

In his early ministry, Jeremiah was primarily a preaching prophet,[45] going where the LORD sent him and preaching oracles in Jerusalem and Judah that supported the reform program of Josiah,[46] predicting consequences for past sins,[47] urging whole-hearted repentance from lusting after idols,[48] and condemning the greed of priests and prophets in supporting false religion for monetary gain.[49] Many years later, God instructed Jeremiah to write down these early oracles and other messages.[50]

Conspiracy of men of Anathoth and brothers (11:18-12:6)

Jeremiah opposed the multitude of altars and false worship that appeared throughout the land.[51] He opposed the widespread trend among priests and prophets to minimize the problem and declare peace when the false practices should be considered abominations.[52] Jeremiah declared that these widespread altars were sufficiently serious abominations that they yielded a broken covenant,[53] and that greed was the motive for the priests and prophets to proclaim peace and support worship of false gods in all the towns and on every street.[54]

Unhappy with Jeremiah’s message, possibly for concern that it would shut down the Anathoth sanctuary, his priestly kin and the men of Anathoth conspired to take his life. However, the LORD revealed the conspiracy to Jeremiah, protected his life, and declared disaster for the men of Anathoth.[55][56] When Jeremiah complains to the LORD about this persecution, the LORD explains that the attacks on him will become worse.[57]

If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?

Jeremiah 12:5 (NAS)

Conflicts with false prophets

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem" by Rembrandt van Rijn.

At the same time while Jeremiah was prophesying coming destruction because of the sins of the nation, a number of other prophets were prophesying peace.[58] The LORD had Jeremiah speak against these false prophets.

”From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD.

Jeremiah 6:13-15 (NIV)

For example, during the reign of king Zedekiah, The LORD instructed Jeremiah to make a yoke out of straps and wooden crossbars as a visual confirmation of the message that the nation would be subject to the king of Babylon and that listening to the false prophets would bring a much worse disaster. The prophet Hananiah opposed Jeremiah’s message. He took the yoke off of Jeremiah’s neck, broke it, and prophesied to the priests and all the people that within two years the LORD would break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Shortly after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "Go and tell Hananiah, 'This is what the LORD says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.' " Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, "Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies.”

Jeremiah 28:12-15 (NIV)

The failure of the false prophets to expose the people’s sin and prevent their captivity is lamented by the author of Lamentations (traditionally attributed to Jeremiah).

The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.

Lamentations 2:14 (NIV)


After Jeremiah had prophesied disaster for Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, Pashhur the priest, chief officer in the temple, beat Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks overnight.[59] After this, Jeremiah expresses lament over the difficulty that speaking God’s word has caused him and regrets becoming a laughingstock and the target of mockery.[60] He recounts how if he tries to shut the word of the LORD inside and not mention God’s name, the word becomes like fire in his heart and he is unable to hold it in.[61] The experiences are so troubling for Jeremiah, that he expresses regret at ever being born.

Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,"A son is born to you," making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the LORD overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?

Jeremiah 20:14-18(ESV)

Threat of death and imprisonment by Zedekiah’s officials

The Biblical narrative portrays Jeremiah as being subject to additional persecutions. After Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be handed over to the Babylonian army, the king’s officials, including Pashhur the priest, tried to convince King Zedekiah that Jeremiah should be put to death because he is discouraging the soldiers as well as the people. Zedekiah answered that he would not oppose them. Consequently, the king’s officials took Jeremiah and put him down into a cistern, where he sank down into the mud. The intent seemed to be to kill Jeremiah by allowing him to starve to death in a manner designed to allow the officials to claim to be innocent of his blood.[62] A Cushite rescued Jeremiah by pulling him out of the cistern, but Jeremiah remained imprisoned until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 BC.[63]

The Babylonians released Jeremiah, and showed him great kindness, allowing Jeremiah to choose the place of his residence, according to a Babylonian edict. Jeremiah accordingly went to Mizpah in Benjamin with Gedaliah, who had been made governor of Judea.[64]

Flight to Egypt

Johanan succeeded Gedaliah, who had been assassinated by an Israelite prince in the pay of Ammon "for working with the Babylonians." Refusing to listen to Jeremiah's counsels, Johanan fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah and Baruch, Jeremiah's faithful scribe and servant with him.[65] There, the prophet probably spent the remainder of his life, still seeking in vain to turn the people to the LORD, from whom they had so long revolted.[66] There is no authentic record of his death.

Prophetic parables

The biblical narrative includes a number of cases of Jeremiah being given unusual instructions requiring him to act out parables or behave in ways contrary to expectations of prophetic office. For example, many prophets in scripture are found interceding with God on behalf of the people. Abraham intercedes with God regarding the destruction of Sodom;[67] Moses intercedes for the people after their sin with the golden calf[68] and after the people refuse God’s instruction to go take Canaan;[69] Samuel promises to continue interceding for the people.[70] In contrast, on several occasions, the LORD commands Jeremiah not to intercede for the people.[71]

So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.

Jeremiah 7:16-18(NIV)

God was so angry over their sins, that he says that even if Moses and Samuel were to intercede for the people, he would not relent.[72]

Much like the prophet Isaiah who had to walk stripped and barefoot for three years[73] and the prophet Ezekiel who had to lay on his side for 390 days and eat measured food,[74] Jeremiah is instructed to perform a number of prophetic parables[75] to illustrate the LORD’s message to his people. For example, the LORD commands Jeremiah to bury a linen belt so that it gets ruined to illustrate how the LORD intends to ruin Judah’s pride.[76] Likewise, Jeremiah buys a clay jar and smashes it in the Valley of Ben Hinnom in front of elders and priests to illustrate that the LORD will smash the nation of Judah and the city of Judah beyond repair.[77] The LORD instructs Jeremiah to make a yoke from wood and leather straps and to put it on his own neck to demonstrate how the LORD will put the nation under the yoke of the king of Babylon.[78] In order to contrast the people’s disobedience with the obedience of the Rechabites, the LORD has Jeremiah invite the Rechabites to drink wine, in disobedience to their ancestor’s command. The Rechabites refused, and God commended them.

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, “Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?” declares the LORD. “Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather's command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, ‘Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers.’ But you have not paid attention or listened to me. The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.”

Jeremiah 35:13-16(NIV)

During the siege of Jerusalem, when it was finally obvious that Jeremiah’s prophesies of disaster would be fulfilled and that destruction and exile were imminent, the LORD instructed Jeremiah to make a real-estate investment by purchasing a field at Anathoth from his cousin Hanamel. Jeremiah obeyed, weighed out the silver on scales, and had the deed witnessed and sealed. The LORD was making the point the nation would eventually be restored and that houses and fields would once again be bought in the land.[79]

Rabbinic literature

In Jewish rabbinic literature, especially the aggadah, Jeremiah and Moses are often mentioned together[citation needed]; their life and works being presented in parallel lines. The following ancient 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 slave (the slave of Pharaoh's daughter); so, Jeremiah was rescued by a slave (Ebed-melech); Moses reprimanded the people in discourses; so did Jeremiah."[citation needed]

Writings and authorship

Traditional perspectives

Jeremiah is traditionally credited with authoring the Book of Jeremiah, 1 Kings, 2 Kings and the Book of Lamentations with the assistance and under the editorship of Baruch ben Neriah, his scribe and disciple.

Contemporary commentary


Commentator Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the book is written as if Jeremiah not only heard as words but personally felt in his body and emotions the experience of what he prophesied, that the verse

Are not all my words as fire, sayeth the LORD, and a hammer that shatters rock

was a clue as to how difficult the overwhelming, personality-shattering experience of being a vehicle for Divine revelation was, on one of the most difficult tasks ever assigned, and how difficult it was to be able to see, in advance, one's own failure.[citation needed]

Nebo-Sarsekim tablet

The prophet Jeremiah (on the foreground) sculpted by Aleijadinho at the sanctuary of Bom Jesus of Matosinhos at Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

In July 2007, Assyrologist Michael Jursa translated a cuneiform tablet dated to 595 BC, as describing a Nabusharrussu-ukin as "the chief eunuch" of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Jursa hypothesized that this reference might be to the same individual as the Nebo-Sarsekim mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3. [80][81]

Cultural influence

The prophet Jeremiah inspired the French noun jérémiade, and subsequently the English jeremiad, meaning "a lamentation; mournful complaint,"[82] or further, "a cautionary or angry harangue."[83]

Jeremiah has periodically been a popular first name in the United States, beginning with the early Puritan settlers, who often took the names of Biblical prophets and apostles.

Austrian author Stefan Zweig wrote a pacifist play called Jeremiah during World War I.

Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 is also known as "Jeremiah." Its three movements are Prophecy, Profanation, and Lamentation.

Bertold Hummel named his Symphony No. 3 "Jeremiah". Its four movements are I. Anathot II. Babylon III. Lamentationes Jeremiae and IV. Hymnus-Lakén[84]

Sting made a reference to the prophet on his album The Soul Cages with his song "Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)".

The American rock band Three Dog Night references Jeremiah in the opening line to Joy to the World: "Jeremiah was a bull frog was a good friend of mine. I never understood a single word he said, But I helped him a-drink his wine"

See also


  1. ^ Jeremiah, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL, USA 1987.
  2. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 383. ISBN 0582053838. ) entry "Jeremiah"
  3. ^ ’’Lamentations’’, The Anchor Bible, commentary by Delbert R. Hillers, 1972, pp.XIX-XXIV
  4. ^ Jeremiah, Lamentations, Tremper Longman, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, pp. 9-11
  5. ^ Jeremiah 11 ESV
  6. ^ Jeremiah 1:17-19 ESV
  7. ^ Jeremiah 1:19 The Anchor Bible
  8. ^ Jeremiah 12:6
  9. ^ Jeremiah 20:1-4, See also The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995, p. 1501
  10. ^ Jeremiah 37:18, Jeremiah 38:28
  11. ^ Jeremiah 38:4
  12. ^ Jeremiah 38:6
  13. ^ Jeremiah 28
  14. ^ ’’Jeremiah, Lamentations’’, F.B. Huey, Broadman Press, 1993 pp. 433-439
  15. ^ Jeremiah 39:11-40:5
  16. ^ Hebrews 8:8-12 ESV Hebrews 10:16-17 ESV
  17. ^ The New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, 1982 p. 563; See also Jeremiah 31
  18. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 383. ISBN 0582053838.  entry "Jeremiah"
  19. ^ New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL, USA 1987.
  20. ^ ’’Introduction to Jeremiah’’, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 917
  21. ^ ’’Jeremiah’’, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, 1987 pp. 559-560
  22. ^ Jeremiah 1:1
  23. ^ ’’Jeremiah (Prophet)’’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992 p.686
  24. ^ Jeremiah 32:9
  25. ^ Jeremiah 8:18
  26. ^ Who Weeps in Jeremiah VIII 23 (IX 1)? Identifying Dramatic Speakers in the Poetry of Jeremiah, Joseph M. Henderson, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 52, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 191-206
  27. ^ Jeremiah, Lamentations, Tremper Longman, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, p. 6
  28. ^ 2 Kings 23:26-27
  29. ^ 2 Kings 23:32
  30. ^ Jeremiah 1-2
  31. ^ Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, Philip Graham Ryken, R. Kent Hughes, 2001, pp.19-36
  32. ^ Isaiah 6
  33. ^ Exodus 4:10-17
  34. ^ ’’Jeremiah (Prophet)’’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992 p.686
  35. ^ Jeremiah 1:6-9
  36. ^ Jeremiah 1:17 NIV
  37. ^ Jeremiah 1
  38. ^ Jeremiah 15:19
  39. ^ Jeremiah 16:2
  40. ^ Jeremiah 16:5
  41. ^ Jeremiah 16:8
  42. ^ Jeremiah 15:17
  43. ^ 2 Kings 22:8-10
  44. ^ ’’Jeremiah (Prophet)’’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992 p.687
  45. ^ Jeremiah 1:7
  46. ^ ’’Jeremiah (Prophet)’’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992 p.687
  47. ^ Jeremiah 2:5, Jeremiah 2:11-13
  48. ^ Jeremiah 3:12-23, Jeremiah 4:1-4
  49. ^ Jeremiah 6:13-14
  50. ^ Jeremiah 36:1-10
  51. ^ Jeremiah 2:26-28
  52. ^ Jeremiah 6:13-14, Jeremiah 8:10-12
  53. ^ Jeremiah 11:1-13
  54. ^ Jeremiah 8:10
  55. ^ Jeremiah 11:18-2:6
  56. ^ ’’Jeremiah (Prophet)’’, The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 3, Doubleday, 1992 p.687
  57. ^ Commentary on Jeremiah, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 950
  58. ^ Jeremiah 6:13-15, Jeremiah 14:14-16, Jeremiah 23:9-40, Jeremiah 27-28, Lamentations 2:14
  59. ^ Jeremiah 19:14-20:6
  60. ^ Jeremiah 20:7
  61. ^ Jeremiah 20:9
  62. ^ Commentary of Jeremiah, The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995, p. 1544
  63. ^ Jeremiah 38
  64. ^ Jeremiah 40
  65. ^ Jeremiah 43
  66. ^ Jeremiah 44
  67. ^ Genesis 18
  68. ^ Exodus 32
  69. ^ Numbers 14
  70. ^ 1 Samuel 12
  71. ^ Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, 14:11
  72. ^ Jeremiah 15:1
  73. ^ Isaiah 20
  74. ^ Ezekiel 4
  75. ^ All the Parables of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Zondervan, 1963, pp. 51-61
  76. ^ Jeremiah 13
  77. ^ Jeremiah 19
  78. ^ Jeremiah 27-28
  79. ^ Jeremiah 32
  80. ^ "Ancient Document Confirms Existence Of Biblical Figure". Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  81. ^ John F. Hobbins (with details on Assyrian names by Charles Halton)
  82. ^ Webster's encyclopedic unabridged dictionary of the English language. New York: Portland House. 1989. pp. 766. ISBN 0-517-68781-X. 
  83. ^ "jeremiad - Definition". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc.. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  84. ^ Jeremiah


External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

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Jeremiah is a book in the Bible. The following English translations may be available:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JEREMIAH, in the Bible, the last pre-exilic prophet (ft. 626586 B.C. ?), son of Hilkiah.

Table of contents

Early Days of Jeremiah

There must anciently have existed one or more prose works on Jeremiah and his times, written partly to do honour to the prophet, partly to propagate those views respecting Israel's past with which the name of Jeremiah was associated. Some fragments of this work (or these works) have come down to us; they greatly add to the popularity of the Book of Jeremiah. Strict historical truth we must not ask of them, but they do give us what was believed concerning Jeremiah in the following age, and we must believe that the personality so honoured was an extraordinary one. We have also a number of genuine prophecies which admit us into Jeremiah's inner nature. These are our best authorities, but they are deficient in concrete facts. By birth Jeremiah was a countryman; he came of a priestly family whose estate lay at Anathoth " in the land of Benjamin " (xxxii. 3; cf. i. I). He came forward as a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah (626 B.C.), still young but irresistibly impelled. Unfortunately the account of the call and of the object of the divine caller come to us from a later hand (ch. i.), but we can well believe that the concrete fact which the prophetic call illuminated was an impending blow to the state (i. 13-16; cf. ch. iv.). What the blow exactly was is disputed, but it is certain that Jeremiah saw the gathering storm and anticipated its result, while the statesmen were still wrapped in a false security. Five years later came the reform movement produced by the "finding" of the " book of the law " in the Temple in 621 B.C. (2 Kings xxii. 8), and some critics have gathered from Jer. xi. 1-8 that Jeremiah joined the ranks of those who publicly supported this book in Jerusalem and elsewhere. To others this view appears in itself improbable. How can a man like Jeremiah have advocated any such panacea? He was indeed not at first a complete pessimist, but to be a preacher of Deuteronomy required a sanguine temper which a prophet of the school of Isaiah could not possess. Besides, there is a famous passage (viii. 8, see R.V.) in which Jeremiah delivers a vehement attack upon the " scribes " (or, as we might render, " bookmen ") and their " false pen." If, as Wellhausen and Duhm suppose, this refers to Deuteronomy (i.e. the original Deuteronomy), the incorrectness of the theory referred to is proved. And even if we think that the phraseology of viii. 8 applies rather to a body of writings than to a single book, yet there is no good ground (xi. 1-8 and xxxiv. 12 being of doubtful origin) for supposing that Jeremiah would have excepted Deuteronomy from his condemnation.

Stages of his Development

At first our prophet was not altogether a pessimist. He aspired to convince the better minds that the only hope for Israelites, as well as for Israel, lay in " returning " to the true Yahweh, a deity who was no mere national god, and was not to be cajoled by the punctual offering of costly sacrifices. When Jeremiah wrote iv. 1-4 he evidently considered that the judgment could even then be averted. Afterwards he became less hopeful, and it was perhaps a closer acquaintance with the manners of the capital that served to disillusionize him. He began his work at Anathoth, but v. 1-5 (as Duhm points out) seems to come from one who has just now for the first time "run to and fro in the streets of Jerusalem," observing and observed. And what is the result of his expedition? That he cannot find a single just and honest man; that high and low, rich and poor, are all ignorant of the true method of worshipping God (" the way of Yahweh," v. 4). It would seem as if Anathoth were less corrupt than the capital, the moral state of which so shocked Jeremiah. And yet he does not really go beyond the great city-prophet Isaiah who calls the men of Jerusalem " a people of Gomorrah " (i. 10). With all reverence, an historical student has to deduct something from both these statements. It is true that commercial prosperity had put a severe strain on the old morality, and that contact with other 1 Davidson (Hast., D.B., ii. 570 b) mentions two views. (1) The foe might be " a creation of his moral presentiment and assigned to the north as the cloudy region of mystery." (2) The more usual view is that the Scythians (see Herod. i. 76, 103-106; iv. 1) are meant. Neither of these views is satisfactory. The passage v. 15-17 is too definite for (1), and as for (2), the idea of a threatened Scythian invasion lacks a sufficient basis. Those who hold (2) have to suppose that original references to the Scythians were retouched under the impression of Chaldean invasions. Hence Cheyne's theory of a north Arabian invasion from the land of Zaphon = Zibeon (Gen. xxxvi. 2, 14), i.e. Ishmael. Cf. N. Schmidt, Ency. Bib., Zibeon, " Scythians," § 8; Cheyne, Critica Biblica, part i. (Isaiah and Jeremiah).

peoples, as well as the course of political history, had appeared to lower the position of the God of Israel in relation to other gods. Still, some adherents of the old Israelitish moral and religious standards must have survived, only they were not to be found in the chief places of concourse, but as a rule in coteries which handed on the traditions of Amos and Isaiah in sorrowful retirement.

Danger of Book Religion

Probably, too, even in the highest class there were some who had a moral sympathy with Jeremiah; otherwise we can hardly account for the contents of Deuteronomy, at least if the book " found " in the Temple at all resembled the :.entral portion of our Deuteronomy. And the assumption seems to be confirmed by the respectful attitude of certain " elders of the land " in xxvi. 17 sqq., and of the " princes " in xxxvi. 19, 25, towards Jeremiah, which may, at any rate in part, have been due to the recent reform movement. If therefore Jeremiah aimed at Deuteronomy in the severe language of viii.8, he went too far. History shows that book religion has special dangers of its own. 1 Nevertheless the same incorruptible adviser also shows that book religion may be necessary as an educational instrument, and a compromise between the two types of religion is without historical precedent.

Reaction: Opposition to Jeremiah

This, however, could not as yet be recognized by the friends of prophecy, even though it seemed for a time as if the claims of book religion were rebuffed by facts. The death of the pious king Josiah at Megiddo in 608 B.C. dashed the high hopes of the "book-men," but meant no victory for Jeremiah. Its only result for the majority was a falling back on the earlier popular cultus of the Baals, and on the heathen customs introduced, or reintroduced, by Josiah's grandfather, Manasseh. Would that we possessed the section of the prophet's biography which described his attitude immediately after the news of the battle of Megiddo! Let us, however, be thankful for what we have, and notably for the detailed narratives in chs. xxvi. and xxxvi. The former is dated in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, though Wellhausen suspects that the date is a mistake, and that the real occasion was the death of Josiah. The one clear-sighted patriot saw the full meaning of the tragedy of Megiddo, and for " prophesying against this city " - secured, as men thought, by the Temple (vii. 4) - he was accused by " the priests, the prophets, and all the people" of high treason. But the divinity which hedged a prophet saved him. The " princes," supported by certain " elders " and by " the people " (quick to change their leaders), succeeded in quashing the accusation and setting the prophet free. No king, be it observed, is mentioned. The latter narrative is still more exciting. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim (= the first of Nebuchadrezzar, xxv. i) Jeremiah was bidden to write down " all the words that Yahweh had spoken to him against Jerusalem (so LXX.), Judah and all the nations from the days of Josiah onwards " (xxxvi. 2). So at least the authors of Jeremiah's biography tell us. They add that in the next year Jeremiah's scribe Baruch read the prophecies of Jeremiah first to the people assembled in the Temple, then to the " princes," and then to the king, who decided his own future policy by burning Baruch's roll in the brazier. We cannot, however, bind ourselves to this tradition. Much more probably the prophecy was virtually a new one (i.e. even if some old passages were repeated yet the setting was new), and the burden of the prophecy was " The king of Babylon shall come and destroy this land." 2 We cannot therefore assent to the judgment that " we have, at least as regards [the] oldest portions [of the book] information considerably more specific than is usual in the case of the writings of the prophets."3 Fall of the State. - Under Zedekiah the prophet was less fortunate. Such was the tension of feeling that the " princes," who 1 Cf. Ewald, The Prophets, Eng. trans., iii. 63, 64.

2 Cheyne, Ency. Brit. (9th ed.), " Jeremiah," suggests after Gratz that the roll simply contained ch. xxv., omitting the most obvious interpolations. Against this view see N. Schmidt, Ency. Bib., " Jeremiah (Book)," § 8, who, however, accepts the negative part of Cheyne's arguments.

Driver, Introd. to the Lit. of the O.T. (6), p. 249.

were formerly friendly to Jeremiah, now took up an attitude of decided hostility to him. At last they had him consigned to a miry dungeon, and it was the king who (at the instance of the Cushite Ebed-melech) intervened for his relief, though he remained a prisoner in other quarters till the fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.). Nebuchadrezzar, who is assumed to have heard of Jeremiah's constant recommendations of submission, gave him the choice either of going to Babylon or of remaining in the country (chs. xxxviii. seq.). He chose the latter and resided with Gedaliah, the native governor, at Mizpah. On the murder of Gedaliah he was carried to Mizraim or Egypt, or perhaps to the land of Mizrim in north Arabia - against his will (chs. xl.-xliii.). How far all this is correct we know not. The graphic style of a narrative is no sufficient proof of its truth. Conceivably enough the story of Jeremiah's journey to Egypt (or Mizrim) may have been imagined to supply a background for the artificial prophecies ascribed to Jeremiah in chs. xlvi.-li. A legend in Jerome and Epiphanius states that he was stoned to death at Daphnae, but the biography, though not averse from horrors, does not mention this.

A Patriot;

Was Jeremiah really a patriot? The question has been variously answered. He was not a Phocion, for he never became the tool of a foreign power. To say with Winckler 4 that he was " a decided adherent of the Chaldean party " is to go beyond the evidence. He did indeed counsel submission, but only because his detachment from party gave him a clearness of vision (cf. xxxviii. 17, 18) which the politicians lacked. How he suffered in his uphill course he has told us himself (xv. 10-21). In after ages the oppressed people saw in his love for Israel and his patient resignation their own realized ideal. " And Onias said, This is the lover of the brethren, he who prayeth much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah the prophet of God " (2 Macc. xv. 14). And in proportion as the popular belief in Jeremiah rose,. fresh prophecies were added to the book (notably those of the new covenant and of the restoration of the people after seventy years) to justify it. Professor N. Schmidt has gone further into the character of this sympathetic prophet, Ency. Bib. " Jeremiah," § 5. Jeremiah's Prophecies. - It has been said above that our best authorities are Jeremiah's own prophecies. Which may these be? Before answering we must again point out (see also IsAIAH) that the records of the pre-exilic prophets came down in a fragmentary form, and that these fragments needed much supplementing to adapt them to the use of post-exilic readers. In Jeremiah, as in Isaiah, we must constantly ask to what age do the phraseology, the ideas and the implied circumstances most naturally point? According to Duhm there are many passages in which metre (see also Amos) may also be a factor in our critical conclusions. Jeremiah, he thinks, always uses the same metre. Giesebrecht, on the other hand, maintains that there are passages which are certainly Jeremiah's, but which are not in what Duhm calls Jeremiah's metre; Giesebrecht also, himself rather conservative, considers Duhm remarkably free with his emendations. There has also to be considered whether the text of the poetical passages has not often become corrupt, not only from ordinary causes but through the misunderstanding and misreading of north Arabian names on the part of late scribes and editors, the danger to Judah from north Arabia being (it is held) not less in pre-exilic times than the danger from Assyria and Babylonia, so that references to north Arabia are only to be expected. To bring educated readers into touch with critical workers it is needful to acquaint them with these various points, the neglect of any one of which may to some extent injure the results of criticism.

It is a new stage of criticism on which we have entered, so that no single critic can be reckoned as the authority on Jeremiah. But since the results of the higher criticism depend on the soundness and thoroughness of the criticism called " lower," and since Duhm has the advantage of being exceptionally free from that exaggerated respect for the letters of the traditional text which has survived the destruction of the old superstitious veneration for the vowel-points, it may be best to give the student his " higher critical " results, dated 1901. Let us premise, however, that the portions mentioned in the 9th edition of the Ency. Brit. as having been " entirely or in part denied," to Jeremiah, viz. x. 1-16; xxx.; xxxiii.; 1.-li. and lii., are still regarded in their present form as non-Jeremianic. The question which next awaits decision is whether any part of the booklet on foreign nations (xxv., xlvi.-li.) can safely be regarded as Jeremianic. Giesebrecht still asserts theenuineness of xxv. 15-24 (apart from glosses), xlvii. (in the main) and xlix. 7, 8, io, 11. Against these views see N. Schmidt, Ency. Bib., col. 2384.

' In Helmolt's Weltgeschichte, iii. 211.

Let us now listen to Duhm, who analyses the book into six groups of passages. These are (a) i.-xxv., the " words of Jeremiah." (i. I); (b) xxvi.-xxix., passages from Baruch's biography of Jeremiah; (c) xxx.-xxxi., the book of the future of Israel and Judah; (d) xxxii.-xlv., from Baruch; (e) xlvi.-li., the prophecies " concerning the nations"; i (f) lii., historical appendix. Upon examining these groups we find that besides a prose letter (ch. xxix.), about sixty poetical pieces may be Jeremiah's. A: Anathoth passages before 621, (a) ii. 2b, 3, 14-28; ii. 29-37; iii. 1-5; iii. 12b, 13, 19, 20; iii. 21-25; iv. I, 3, 4; these form a cycle. (b) xxxi. 2-6; 15 -20; 21, 22; another cycle. (c) iv. 5-8; I lb, 12a, 13, 15-17a; 19-21; 23-26; 29-31; visions and " auditions " of the impending invasion. B: Jerusalem passages. (d) v. I-6a; 6b-9; 10-17; vi. 1-5; 6b-8; 9-14; 16: 17, 20; 22-26a; 27-30; vii. 28, 29; viii. 4-7a; 8, 9, 13 14-17; viii. 18-23; ix. 1-8; 9 (short song); 16-18; 19-21; x. 19, 20, 22; reign of Josiah, strong personal element. (e) xxii. 10 (Jehoahaz). xxii. 13-17; probably too xi. 15, 16; xii. 7-12 (Jehoiakim). xxii. 18, 19, perhaps too xxii. 6b, 7; 20-23; and the cycle xiii. 15, 16; 17; 18, 19; 20, 21a, 22-25a, 26, 27 (later, Jehoiakim). xxii. 24; xxii. 28 (Jehoiachin). (f) Later poems. xiv. 2-10; xv. 5-9; xvi. 5-7; xviii. 13-17; xxiii. 9-12; 13-15; xi. 18-20; XV. 10-12; 15-19a, and 20, 21; XVii. 9, I O, 14, 16, 17; XViti. 18-20; XX. 7-11; Xx. 14-18; xiv. 17, 18; xvii. 1-4; xxxviii. 24; assigned to the close of Zedekiah's time.

Two Recensions of the Text.-It has often been said that we have virtually two recensions of the text, that represented by the Septuagint and the Massoretic text, and critics have taken different sides, some for one and some for the other. " Recension," however, is a bad term; it implies that the two texts which undeniably exist were the result of revising and editing according to definite critical principles. Such, however, is not the case. It is true that " there are (in the LXX.) many omissions of words, sentences, verses and whole passages, in fact, that altogether about 2700 words are wanting, or the eighth part of the Massoretic text " (Bleek). It may also be admitted that the scribes who produced the Hebrew basis of the Septuagint version, conscious of the unsettled state of the text, did not shrink from what they considered a justifiable simplification. But we must also grant that those from whom the " written " Hebrew text proceeds allowed themselves to fill up and to repeat without any sufficient warrant. In each case in which there is a genuine difference of reading between the two texts, it is for the critic to decide; often, however, he will have to seek to go behind what both the texts present in order to constitute a truer text than either. Here is the great difficulty of the future. We may add to the credit of the Septuagint that the position given to the prophecies on " the nations " (chs. xlvi.-li. in our Bible) in the Septuagint is probably more original than that in the Massoretic text. On this point see especially Schmidt, Ency. Bib. " Jeremiah (Book) " §§ 6 and 21; Davidson, Hastings's Dict. Bible, ii. 573 b -575; Driver, Introduction (8th ed.), pp. 269, 270.

The best German commentary is that of Cornill (1905). A skilful translation by Driver, with notes intended for ordinary students (1906) should also be mentioned. (T. K. C.)

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From Hebrew ירמיה (yeermia), Yahweh exalt).

Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) An ancient prophet, the author of the Book of Jeremiah, and of the Lamentations.
  2. (Biblical) A book of the Old Testament of Bible, and of the Tanakh.
  3. A male given name.





Jeremiah (plural Jeremiahs)

  1. A person who is pessimistic about the present and foresees a calamitous future; a prophet of doom.

Derived terms

Related terms

See also



  1. (British) Expression of surprise, contempt, outrage, disgust, boredom, frustration, etc.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: raised up or appointed by Jehovah.

  1. A Gadite who joined David in the wilderness (1Chr 12:10).
  2. A Gadite warrior (1Chr 12:13).
  3. A Benjamite slinger who joined David at Ziklag (1Chr 12:4).
  4. One of the chiefs of the tribe of Manasseh on the east of Jordan (1Chr 5:24).
  5. The father of Hamutal (2Kg 23:31), the wife of Josiah.
  6. Jeremiah the prophet.
  7. father of Jaazaniah (Jer 35:3).
This article needs to be merged with JEREMIAH (Jewish Encyclopedia).
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Parent of Hamutal  +, and Jaazaniah  +

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