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By Edward Lipinski, S. David Sperling, Aaron Rothkoff, Haim Hirschberg, and Bathja Bayer

Jeremiah (Heb. והּ ָירִי ְמ) was the second of the major prophets, whose book is the second in the Latter Prophets section of the Bible.

    The Life and Message of Jeremiah
    The Composition of the Book
    Oracles Against Foreign Nations
    The Book of Consolation
    The Biography of Jeremiah
    Baruch's Scroll with Additions
    Oracles Concerning the House of David and the Prophets


The Book of Jeremiah is the largest among the Latter Prophets and comprises the oracles of the prophet Jeremiah from the 13th year of the reign of Josiah until after the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians. It also contains biographical and autobiographical narrative concerning the prophet and his activities, as well as historical records of the destruction of Jerusalem and of subsequent events which took place in Judah and Egypt. In the prevalent masoretic editions it is placed after the Book of Isaiah. According to an old order suggested by Bava Batra 14b–15a, it was placed at the beginning of the Latter Prophets, before Ezekiel and Isaiah. This arrangement was followed by many Ashkenazi manuscripts. In the Septuagint it usually appears third, after the Minor Prophets and Isaiah and before Ezekiel (see Bible, Canon). (See Table, Book of Jeremiah contents.)



Baruch’s scroll


The call of Jeremiah.


Indictment of the nation’s sin.


The coming disaster “from the north.”


First editorial addition to Baruch’s scroll


Temple sermons and appended sayings.


An incorrigible people and their tragic ruin.


Miscellaneous sayings.


An incorrigible people and their tragic ruin.


Second editorial addition to Baruch’s scroll


Preaching on the broken covenant.


Jeremiah’s persecution by his relatives and fellow townsmen.


God expresses His sorrow for the dereliction of His people.


Parabolic vision of the linen waistcloth and attached sayings.


The time of drought and national emergency.


Oracles and confessions in poetry and prose.




Jeremiah at the potter’s house and attached sayings.


Prophetic symbolism and the persecutions; further confessions.


Oracles concerning the House of David and the prophets.


Oracles against foreign nations


The biography of Jeremiah


The “Temple sermon”; Jeremiah narrowly escapes death.


Events of 594 B.C.E.; the incident of the ox-yoke.


594 B.C.E.: Jeremiah and the exile in Babylon.


The “Book of Consolation.”


The biography of Jeremiah.


Restoration of Judah and Jerusalem.


Words of Jeremiah as the Babylonian blockade tightens.


Incidents during lifting of siege.


Jeremiah and the Rechabites.


Incident of the scroll.


Incident during lifting of siege.


Jeremiah in prison.


Jeremiah’s release from prison.


Assassination of Gedaliah and the flight to Egypt.


Jeremiah in Egypt.




Oracles against foreign nations


The fall of Jerusalem

The Life and Message of Jeremiah

Despite the greater knowledge of Jeremiah’s life than of any other prophet’s, no biography of him can be written, for the available facts are too meager. Important background information is found in Scripture in II Kings, II Chronicles, Zephanaiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Obadiah. Other important sources on Jeremiah’s times are the Hebrew letters from Lachish, primary documents from Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the histories of Herodotus and Josephus. It is noteworthy that II Kings, which describes events contemporary with Jeremiah in great detail, does not mention the prophet. Inasmuch as there is no direct attestation of the prophet outside the book that bears his name, scholars differ widely in their estimations of the prophet’s historicity. At one extreme Holladay believes that allowing for small exceptions, the narratives and poetic sections in Jeremiah are contemporary with the prophet. They were written by Jeremiah or Baruch, and one may outline the details of Jeremiah’s personality and his life by drawing on these sources. At the other extreme Carroll believes that Jeremiah is merely a literary character and there is no way of knowing whether what is narrated of him is anchored at all in historical reality. Hoffman (27–9) demonstrates the flaws of both extremes and offers his own middle-of-the-road approach, which will be, in essentials, followed here. Later generations esteemed Jeremiah greatly. According to the Chronicler (II Chr. 35:25) Jeremiah composed a lament over Josiah. His prophecies about the duration of the exile are cited in II Chronicles 36:15–21 by the author of the ninth chapter of Daniel, and probably underlie Haggai 1:2. Later writers interpolated their own compositions into his prophecies. The apocryphal Epistle of Jeremy (see Jeremiah, Epistle of), a polemic against idolatry allegedly written by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylonia is styled after Jeremiah 29. According to the second chapter of II Maccabees, Jeremiah secreted the ark, the tabernacle, and the altar of incense. In the New Testament, Jeremiah 31:14 (15) is quoted directly in Matthew 2:17, and his vision of the New Covenant/Testament (Jer. 31:31–34; cf. Jer. 32:38–40) is quoted in Hebrews 8:8–12 and 10:16–17. Jewish tradition identifies Jeremiah as the author of his book, of Kings, and of Lamentations (this last probably on the basis of II Chronicles 35:25).

It is known that Jeremiah’s birthplace was Anathoth (Jer. 1:1; 11:21, 23; 29:27; 32:7–9), a Benjaminite village some 4 mi. (c. 7 km.) northeast of Jerusalem. Among its inhabitants were men of priestly lineage, as shown by the reference in Jeremiah 1:1 to “the priests in Anathoth,” and the appearance of Anathoth in an old list of levitical towns (Josh. 21:18). Jeremiah himself was of a priestly family of means and could spend 17 shekels on a symbolic action (cf. Jer. 32:9). He could afford to hire Baruch, son of Neriah, as a personal secretary. Jeremiah’s father was a certain Hilkiah (Jer. 1:1), not to be confused with the contemporary high priest bearing the same name (II Kings 22:4ff.). It is generally assumed that Jeremiah’s family was descended from David’s priest Abiathar, whom Solomon later banished to Anathoth (I Kings 2:26–27). There is much to recommend this opinion, since it is unlikely that so small a village could contain several unrelated priestly families. Jeremiah is never called a priest. He must have been born around 645 B.C.E., since he began his prophetic career in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (Jer. 1:2; 25:3), i.e., in 627 B.C.E., when he was still a very young man (1:6). He received a name whose antecedents go back to the early second millennium and, apparently quite common in biblical times, meaning “May the Lord lift up” (Heb. yerim-yahu), as reflected in the Greek transcription Ieremias as compared with the Hebrew ??? ????? ?? or ? ?????? ??. Nothing is known of Jeremiah’s childhood and youth, except that he did not marry (16:1–4), which he attributed to a divine command. According to chapter 16 the divine command was due to the fact that in the coming disaster parents and their children would all perish. Jeremiah lived to see the dramatic events from the dissolution of the Assyrian Empire to the fall of the Judahite kingdom in 587 B.C.E., when the Neo-Babylonian Empire, after an interval of Judahite national independence and a few years of Egyptian supremacy, put an end to the kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah was deeply concerned with the march of events in his time, and every act of that tragic drama is reflected in his book. His words and deeds can often therefore be related to known events to a degree unparalleled by other prophets. Jeremiah’s deeply personal poems, the so-called “confessions,” express his reactions toward his fate and reveal his temptations and his wrestling with God. The divine compulsion was laid upon him, overruling his objections (Jer. 20:7), and Jeremiah exercised his ministry unremittingly as long as he lived.


He began to preach in 627 with the chastening conviction that his country was under judgment. Even if Josiah’s efforts for a cultic reform were already in motion, the evil legacy of Manasseh’s reign in Judah and of the Assyrian occupation in the Northern provinces still encumbered the land. As a member of a monolatrous or monotheistic minority, Jeremiah could not tolerate the worship of other gods alongside of Yahweh. He thundered against it, and warned of its dire consequences, as did Zephaniah, who was also active at the time. His precise attitude toward the reform, which reached its climax in 622 (cf. II Kings 22–23), five years after he had begun his ministry, is disputed. The most plausible supposition is that Jeremiah, though taking no direct part in its implementation, was in favor of its essential aim of reviving the ancient Mosaic covenant in which he had presumably been nurtured. Some of his oracles addressed to the Northern Kingdom even seem to indicate that he was favorable to the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem (cf. Jer. 3:14–15; 31:10–14; though some doubt these to be genuinely from Jeremiah), while others indicate a critical stance (Jer. 7:4). Jeremiah belonged by sympathy as well as by descent to the Northern Kingdom. Many of his first oracles are concerned with, and even addressed to, the remaining Israelites at Samaria. Accordingly, he is saturated with the thought and teaching of Hosea, the finest representative of northern Israelite prophetism. The resemblance between the two prophets appears not only in the use of language and figures: it extends itself to fundamental ideas on God and His relation to Israel. Hosea seems to have been the first prophet to describe the relation of Yahweh to Israel metaphorically in terms of ancient Israelite marriage, whereby a man might be polygynous, while a woman was required to limit herself to one husband. Thus Yahweh might have two wives, Israel and Judah (cf. Ezek. 23), but neither of these could have another husband, i.e., serve another god. Using Hosea’s marital image (Jer. 2:2b–3; 3:1–5, 19–25; 4:1–2), Jeremiah urges submission to the Yahweh on His own terms, expressed in the covenantal law. The Covenant required Israel to acknowledge no other god than Yahweh. Its leading principle was that Israel owed everything to the divine love which had brought it into being and without which it could not continue. The only worthy response to this free grace was a love involving submission and loyalty.

However, Israel was unfaithful to its God. Instead of repaying Him with due love, the people betrayed Him as an unfaithful wife betrays her husband for a lover (Jer. 3:20). Jeremiah therefore bids them to worship the Lord with repentance.


It is a widely held view that Jeremiah was silent for a long time after the reform had been completed. The point is difficult to settle, since there is no evidence save Jeremiah’s undated sayings and since almost nothing is known of Judah’s internal affairs during Josiah’s later years. In any case, his famous “Temple sermon” (7:2–15) is precisely dated (26:1) in Jehoiakim’s accession year, i.e., the autumn of 609 or the winter of 609/8. From this address, uttered a few months after Josiah’s death at Megiddo, it is clear that Jeremiah was disappointed by the results that followed the Josianic reform. Judah, by this reform, made the Temple with its sacrifices and its ritual essential to a correct relation to God. To maintain the true religion and the people’s access to God, the people must only come to the one sanctuary and worship through a legitimate priesthood. Jeremiah violently rejected that vision because it not only neglected the moral principles of the Covenant, but facilitated trust in the notion that the temple cult absolved all sins, even worship of Baal (Jer. 7: 9–11; cf. Lev. 16: 30–34). This developed into a religious controversy in which the parties were sharply divided, their differences concerning the question of what does or does not constitute the essential element of the religion. The “Temple sermon” was intended to be a solemn indictment, an appeal to the national conscience. By taking this public action Jeremiah ran counter both to popular belief and official doctrine; he boldly challenged the policy of the nation’s leaders, and in particular of the priests. He was also in strong antagonism with several of his fellow prophets, although he was not alone in his attitude of opposition. Another prophet, Uriah of Kiriath-Jearim, also appeared at the time, prophesying in the same terms as Jeremiah (Jer. 26:20–24). Efforts were made to silence Jeremiah and, indeed, his “Temple sermon” nearly cost him his life (Jer. 26). Authorities forbade his entrance to the Temple (36:5), and even inhabitants of his own village of Anathoth resolved to kill him if he persisted (11:18–23); members of his own family were implicated in this plot (12:6). Jeremiah’s life thus entered an extremely difficult phase at the end of 609, although this did not last until his death. Nevertheless, Jeremiah continued his denunciations, without sparing the king (21:11–22:9). His message increasingly became one of stern warning of impending disaster. It was natural that he should insist that his word was the ancient word which formed the basis of Judah’s religion, and that acceptance of it was essential to a correct relationship to God and, consequently, to the salvation of the nation from the impending calamity.


When the Babylonian danger appeared on the horizon after the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.E., the prophet realized that his early prophecy of the awful “Foe from the North” (Jer. 1:13–16) was being fulfilled in the person of Nebuchadnezzar and his army; God’s appointed agent of the judgment that would shortly fall upon the unrepentant people of Judah. He saw the task of announcing the imminent arrival of that danger as a leading feature of his mission to his nation and to the surrounding world. He then made a last effort to bring his country to its senses. As the priests had forbidden him to enter the Temple, he dictated to his friend and secretary Baruch a selection of his preachings, and directed him to read the scroll in the Temple (Jer. 36). A favorable opportunity presented itself in 604 (36:9). Some high officials heard Baruch and brought the fact to the king’s attention, as it also had a political bearing, the vision of the “Foe from the North” running like a red thread through the whole of Jeremiah’s message. (In the ancient Near Eastern world administrators were responsible for reporting prophecies to the king. See Mari.) Jehoiakim demanded to hear the scroll, but then snatched it from the reader’s hands and threw it into the fire. He sent three men including his son to seize Jeremiah and Baruch, “but the Lord hid them” (Jer. 36:26–27). Jeremiah subsequently dictated the scroll again, with additions (36:32). The surrender of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 597, and the deportation of King Jehoiachin and of the leading citizens seemed to confirm Jeremiah’s warnings. The prophet told of the sad fate of the young king, a victim of his father’s folly (Jer. 22:24–30; Cf. II Kings 23:36–24:16). At the same time, he saw in the exile of the national leaders the expression of the divine verdict. The messages he sent to the exiles reveal not only that fundamental conviction, but also his belief that the God worshiped in the Temple of Jerusalem was too great to be localized. The exiles were able to reach Him even in their new condition, far away from the soil of Israel and Judah (29:7). As well, Jeremiah told them to disregard the optimistic promises of their prophets (29:8–9). Such interventions of course brought Jeremiah into collision with the prophets who had been saying just the opposite (23:9–40; 28; 29:24–32), and with the contemporary national leaders who were making sacrifice at one shrine essential to the Judahite religion, thus tending dangerously to localize God and His grace in the sanctuary “which He chose out of all the tribes to set His name there.” The contrary conviction of Jeremiah does not mean, however, that the prophet attached no specific content to the national religion. He admitted a particular relationship between Israel and God: Israel was set apart for Him as His property, His bride. This idea is already expressed in the early utterances of Jeremiah, addressed to the Northern Kingdom. Jeremiah believed that God had revealed Himself to Israel and chosen it to be His servant. Therefore he affirmed to the men of his generation the unique character of the God in whom he and they alike believed, together with the resultant uniqueness of His demands and the consequent reality of His guidance, which was not at the mercy of outward conditions or circumstances (18:3–10). The worship of the God of Israel thus could not disappear, even if His shrine and the sacrificial system disappeared, for it needed no more than prayer and obedience to His word. According to Jeremiah, everything else was an accessory. It is understandable, therefore, that after the Babylonians had destroyed the Temple and carried away the sacred vessels, Jeremiah was vindicated as the true prophet and the defender of the right religion. Jeremiah himself did not need to see these events to understand that resistance to Babylon was resistance to the Divine Will. He regarded the Babylonian army as an instrument in the Divine hands for carrying out a well-merited punishment on the guilty nation and its leaders. This conviction had arisen after the Babylonian victory at Carchemish in 605 B.C.E., but it became still stronger after the deportation of 597 B.C.E. From these historical events Jeremiah fully recognized that the power of Babylonia was irresistible and that the petty kingdom of Judah could not hope to oppose it. He concluded, therefore, that submission to Nebuchadnezzar was the will of God, who so punished the unfaithfulness of His people. The king of Babylon was the divine servant (27:6) whom the Lord was to employ for His purposes. When various vassals of Nebuchadnezzar in the West began to toy with the idea of rebellion and sent ambassadors to Jerusalem to discuss plans with King Zedekiah, Jeremiah flatly opposed such talk, appearing before the conspirators with an ox yoke on his neck and exhorting them to wear the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 27). In the autumn of 589, when the Babylonians moved to attack Jerusalem, and later during the blockade of the city, Zedekiah sent more than once to Jeremiah asking for a word from the Lord. Yet Jeremiah gave the king no encouragement. On the contrary, he assured him that God Himself was fighting for the Babylonians (27:8). No wonder, therefore, that to Judah’s leaders Jeremiah was an enemy. He was arrested, probably in the summer of 588, and remained in custody as long as the city held out. The biographical chapters 37–38 provide a circumstantial account of Jeremiah’s fortunes during these tragic months. After the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E., the Babylonians allowed Jeremiah to remain with the new governor Gedaliah at Mizpah. When Gedaliah was murdered after only a few weeks of governorship (41:1–2), his followers, fearing Babylonian reprisals, fled to Egypt, taking the prophet with them against his will (Jer. 40–43). Jeremiah was reluctant to leave the country, since he attributed the value of a sign or symbol of hope perhaps to his presence in the land. He was indeed convinced that God’s purpose could not be exhausted in punishment. After 70 years of a human lifespan (Ps. 90:10; Isa. 23:15), nearly the entire sinful generation would be dead, and God, he believed, would then contract a new covenant with the new people (29:10–11; cf. 31:31–34). The refugees who had taken Jeremiah with them found asylum at Tahpanhes (Daphne), the present-day Tell Defneh, just within the Egyptian border, east of the Delta. There the last words recorded from Jeremiah were uttered (43:8–13; 44). After this, no more is heard of him. Presumably, he did not survive for long and died in his sixties. According to a later tradition recorded by Tertullian (Adversus Gnosticos, ch. 8, in Patrologia Latina, vol. 2, col. 137) and Jerome (Adversus Jovinianum, 2:37, ibid., 23, col. 335), he was stoned. Pseudo-Epiphanius (De vitis Prophetarium, in Patrologia Graeca, vol. 43, col. 400) and Isidorus Hispalensis (De Ortu et Obitu Patrorum, ch. 38, in Patrologia Latina, vol. 83, col. 142) even affirm that this happened in Tahpanhes. The unreliability of this tradition is evident from a passage of Jerome’s commentary on Isaiah, where he records another tradition according to which Jeremiah died in Egypt of a natural death.

The Composition of the Book

The Book of Jeremiah exists in two versions, one in the masoretic text, and another in the Septuagint. The latter does not place the prophecies against foreign nations at the end of the book, but after Jeremiah 23:13a. Moreover, they are not arranged there in the same order as in the masoretic text. The Septuagint version is much shorter: about one-eighth of the masoretic text is missing, mostly single verses or parts of verses, but also entire sections such as 33:14–26; 39:4–13; 51:44b–49a; and 52:27b–30. In some cases the omissions may have been made intentionally, as, for instance, where the translators omitted doublets in their second occurrence or shortened a difficult text. Other lacunae may be explained by textual criticism, as in cases of homoioteleuton, when the scribe’s eye leaped over material between two sentences with similar endings (Jer. 39:4–13; 51:44b–49a). However, most of the omissions imply the existence of a shorter form of the Hebrew text. This is now clear from discoveries made at Qumran, where manuscript fragments representing both the longer and the shorter form of the text have been found (see Dead Sea Scrolls). Thus the masoretic text and the Greek translation are based on different versions of the Hebrew text of Jeremiah. In the last pre-Christian centuries there were at least two versions of the book of Jeremiah in circulation. Both versions seem to have a relatively long history of scribal transmission behind them. However, since the Septuagint does not reveal a tendency to abbreviate plain passages, while the masoretic text seems to be an expanded one, the Hebrew archetype of the Septuagint has been considered as representing a more nearly original form to the text, superior to the late masoretic text. Some changes, however, were made in the Septuagint in the same direction as in the accepted Hebrew text. The different arrangement of some parts of the Book of Jeremiah in the masoretic text and in the Septuagint, as well as the existence of doublets, show that the book is a collection of shorter “books” plus miscellaneous material. Such “books” are explicitly mentioned in chapter 36, which gives a valuable account of Jeremiah’s dictation of many of his oracles to his scribe Baruch, as well as in 25:13a; 30:2; 45:1; and 51:60. Tradition attributes the authorship of all of them to the prophet Jeremiah, but it is clear that not all the material can be derived from him. This is manifest in the case of chapter 52, which could only have been composed after 561 B.C.E. In other sections of the book, too, everything cannot come from the prophet himself (see tables in Hoffman, 62–66). This is certainly true for the narratives which use the third person in speaking of Jeremiah. In his commentary (1901), B. Duhm laid down the principle that only poetic passages can genuinely be attributed to the prophet. He held that the book consists of three types of material: Jeremiah’s own words, almost exclusively poetry in kinah meter, comprising 280 masoretic verses; Baruch’s life of Jeremiah, 220 verses; and later additions, 850 verses, which have much in common either with Deutero- and Trito- Isaiah, or with the Deuteronomistic parts of the Former Prophets. A monograph published by S. Mowinckel in 1914 distinguished four principal sources in the Book of Jeremiah, designated as A, B, C, and D. A was Baruch’s scroll, dictated by Jeremiah, with additions made by someone living in Egypt between 580 and 480 B.C.E. This collection is now contained within chapters 1–24, and is the most authentic part of the book. B was a biography of Jeremiah, based upon oral tradition written down by someone in Egypt in the same period as A; it is contained within chapters 19:1–20:6 and 26–45. C is the Deuteronomic source, composed in the fourth century B.C.E. and consisting mainly of 3:6–13; 7:1–8:3; 11:1–5, 9–14; 18:1–12; 21:1–10; 22:1–5; 25:1–11a; 29:1–23; 32:1–2, 6–16, 24–44; 34:1–22; 35:1–19; 39:15–18; 44:1–14; and ch. 45. D is the famous “Book of Comfort” or “Book of Consolation” in 30:1–31:40, dating from post-Exilic times. From the same period dates the complex of oracles concerning foreign nations (chs. 46–51), with some genuine Jeremianic elements. This collection was only later joined to Jeremiah 1–45. Mowinckel upholds the main lines of this view in his treatment of Jeremiah in the Norwegian translation issued in 1944, and, briefly, in Prophecy and Tradition (1946, pp. 61–65, 105–6). However, instead of sources he speaks of “traditionary circles,” obviously sharing the opinion of H. Birkeland, who in 1938 introduced the views of H.S. Nyberg into criticism of the prophets and stressed the influence of the oral tradition, even when a written tradition was already in existence. According to Birkeland, the poetic sections of Jeremiah were written down earlier than the prose sermons composed in the style of Deuteronomic preaching; he thus admitted the possibility a Jeremianic nucleus in those sermons. In contrast, R.H. Pfeiffer (Introduction to the Old Testament (1941), 504–5) considers that Baruch combined words dictated or written by the prophet himself with his own biography of Jeremiah, revising and rewriting many of his master’s sayings in his own Deuteronomistic style. Without admitting that Baruch was the author of the Deuteronomic sections (C), Mowinckel also shared this view, inasmuch as he considered Baruch to be responsible for the combination of the elements A and B. He held that around 580 B.C.E., Baruch concluded that large editorial unit with the words the prophet had addressed to him personally; this conclusion is found in Jeremiah 45, which therefore does not belong to C. Also according to Mowinckel, C was later incorporated into the “Book of Baruch” (A and B), probably when the Deuteronomistic tradition of Jeremiah was already fixed in writing. In regard to this tradition the opinion is widely held that these prose discourses represent the work of exilic authors who reconstructed the teachings of Jeremiah in terms of Deuteronomic theology, which provided an explanation of Judah’s tragedy in 587 B.C.E. A stylistic approach of those “Deuteronomistic” speeches, attempted mainly by J. Bright and W.L. Holladay, led to their conclusion that the style of C is characteristic of the rhetorical prose of the late seventh and early sixth century in Judah, and that many of its typical phrases are a reshaping in prose of expressions which either are original to the genuine poetry of Jeremiah or, though not specifically Jeremianic, were employed by the prophet in his poetic oracles in an original fashion. These conclusions, if correct, suggest that the nucleus and basic content of C were authentically Jeremianic. It has also appeared in recent years that the principal literary types A, B, and C do not by themselves furnish an effective key for the study of the composition of Jeremiah. The latter is indeed not arranged according to the style of its various parts. C. Rietzschel therefore presented a new thesis regarding its composition (1966). He accepts the basic principles of classification of the literary material on the grounds of form and style, as developed mainly by S. Mowinckel, but denies that this can provide a sufficient indication of the way in which the book was composed. In particular, he holds that it cannot be assumed that poetic and prose material was handed down separately, although he links the C material with the homiletical speeches in Deuteronomistic parts of the Former Prophets. He proposes to reconstruct the process of the book’s composition by an agglomeration of tradition complexes. He distinguishes in the Book of Jeremiah four main tradition blocks: (1) oracles of doom against Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 1–24); (2) oracles of doom against foreign nations (Jer. 25; 46–51); (3) oracles of salvation for Israel and Judah (Jer. 26–35); and (4) cycle of narratives about the prophet (Jer. 36–44). He divides the first block into six complexes, namely Jeremiah 1–6, 7–10, 11–13, 14–17, 18–20, and 21–24, four of which are introduced by a Deuteronomic speech beginning with the words “the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord” (Jer. 7:1; 11:1; 18:1; 21:1). The oracle to Baruch in Jeremiah 45 originally stood just after 20:18, so that 21–24 is an appendix to the first tradition block. Rietzschel concludes that Baruch’s scroll is to be found in 1–6, and that 7–20 represents the “other words added,” which are referred to in 36:32. The approach of Rietzschel has earned its place alongside earlier attempts to solve the problems of the composition of the Book of Jeremiah. The recent Hebrew commentary of Y. Hoffman argues that a stylistic study shows that most of the poetic material comes from a single source. As such, claims that the same individual could not have written both laments and hymns and prophecies of destruction and restoration is purely arbitrary. Indeed, the similarities between the poetic rebukes and the oracles to the nations show that most of the oracles to the nations can be attributed to Jeremiah, although their present form shows substantial additions. As far as the prose contents are concerned, the biographical material on the prophet and the sermons are stylistically close enough to originate in a single stream of tradition, though not in the work of a single author. With most scholars, Hoffman identifies characteristic Deuteronomic language in these sections, but argues that they often employ terminology that diverges from that of the Deuteronomic school; an indication that these sections originated in circles of disciples of Jeremiah who were influenced by the Deuteronomists but distinct from them. Hoffman identifies five stages in the book’s composition: (1) the prophecies of Jeremiah before 604; (2) the prophecies both of rebuke and hope between 604 and 586; (3) post-586 psalms, narratives, and sermons with a Jeremianic core but mostly the work of transmitters of tradition who made use of the language of the Deuteronomists; (4) a second set of later additions; (5) the latest additions, which are found in the masoretic Jeremiah, but missing from the Hebrew text utilized by the Greek translators.

Whatever conclusions one reaches about the history of composition, it is plain that there were in existence oral and written sources previous to the actual blocks of material within the Book of Jeremiah. The following exposition deals first with the oracles against foreign nations (25; 46–51) and the so-called “Book of Consolation” (30–31). Then the narratives, both in the biographical and autobiographical styles, are examined. Finally, Baruch’s scroll (1–6) with its additions (7–20), and the oracles concerning the House of David and the prophets (21–24) are reviewed.

Oracles Against Foreign Nations

The introduction to this passage block is to be sought in 25:1–13a. This is more apparent in the Septuagint, which inserts the whole of chapters 46–51 between verses 13a and 13b, but in a different order (49:34–39; 46; 50–51; 47; 49:7–22; 49:1–6; 49:28–33; 49:23–27; 48). Jeremiah 25:13b–38 is the conclusion of that “book.” It corresponds to chapters 25–32 of the Septuagint and forms a collection of prophecies concerning foreign nations, grouped together as the similar prophecies in the Books of Isaiah (Isa. 13–23) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 25–32). The Jeremianic nucleus of that block included at least chapters 46–47, which seem to date from the years 605–604; the oracle on Kedar (49:28–33), probably to be connected with the Babylonian campaign against the Arabs in the winter of 599–598; and the oracle on Elam (49:34–39), which goes back to the year 596/5, when an Elamite king, on the eve of engaging in battle against Nebuchadnezzar on the bank of the Tigris, decided to return to his land. The authentically Jeremianic collection was later expanded by the addition of the complex of oracles against Moab (48), Ammon (49:1–6), and Edom (49:7–22), the three Transjordanian kingdoms which had been entirely taken over by Arab tribes toward the end of the sixth century B.C.E. The oracles may reflect an early phase of these events, unless they allude to a campaign of Nebuchadnezzar against Moab and Ammon, dated by Josephus (Ant., 10:180–181) in the fifth year after the fall of Jerusalem, i.e., in 582 B.C.E. The prophecies concerning Moab and Edom contain numerous prose comments and enlargements, and much of their material is to be found in a substantially identical form elsewhere in the Bible, above all in Isaiah 15–16 and Obadiah 1–10. It must be assumed, therefore, that Jeremiah 48:1–49:22 consists basically of anonymous passages, commented and expanded, probably with references to historical events in 582 or later in the sixth century. Another anonymous passage, concerning Damascus and dating probably from the eighth century, was subsequently added to this collection (49:23–27). The book was most likely finished at the beginning of the fifth century. Some glosses were later added to the archetype of the masoretic text. The disposition of the material in the Septuagint reflects, on the other hand, a secondary rearrangement of the oracles. Elam, probably identified with Persia, is mentioned first; then follow the two other empires, Egypt and Babylonia. After this, the small neighboring countries are mentioned: first Philistia and Edom in southern Palestine, then Ammon, Kedar, and Damascus in the east. The long oracle against Moab closes the series.

"The Book of Consolation"

The introduction to this section appears in Jeremiah 30:1–3. It consists of the whole of chapters 30–31, which contain Jeremiah’s prophecies addressed to the Northern Kingdom during Josiah’s reign. These two chapters consist of a collection of originally separated passages, mostly poetic. Because they develop the theme of Israel’s comfort and restoration, some scholars dated them from the Exilic period and argued that relatively few of these passages can be genuinely attributed to Jeremiah. However, they overlooked the reference to the oppressed people as “Ephraim” (31:5[6], 8[9], 17[18], 19[20]), and the mention of Samaria in 31:4[5]. The names Israel and Jacob must therefore be understood as denoting the tribes of the former kingdom of Samaria, whose territories had been liberated by Josiah and united again to Judah (cf. II Kings 23:15–20; II Chron. 34:6–7). Stylistic similarities to Deutero-Isaiah in Jeremiah 30:10 or 31:6–8 can be explained on the supposition that both prophets made use of the same conventional forms of priestly oracles. The prose passages in 30:8–9 and 31:22–33, 38–40 were probably added to the collection, but at least 31:30–33 may contain a nucleus of Jeremianic words originally addressed to the Northern Kingdom. The entire “Book of Consolation” (30–31) stands as a separate block of material in the midst of a series of chapters, mostly biographical in character (Jer. 26–29; 32–44). It was inserted after 29:32, which quotes the Lord’s word alluding to “the good things that I am going to do for you.” Thus the place was well suited for the insertion of the “Book of Consolation.”

The "Biography" of Jeremiah

Chapters 26–29 and 32–44 are mostly biographical in character. The actual sequence of narratives reflects not only a secondary redistribution of the various episodes, but also points to a series of editors who successively handled materials from different sources. For instance, chapters 27–29 are sometimes considered as belonging to one source. The reason for deriving them from a common author is that they call the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, departing from the correct spelling Nebuchadrezzar of the rest of the Book of Jeremiah, and that they speak of “Jeremiah the prophet.” Yet it is noteworthy that chapters 27 and 28 differ in one cardinal point. Chapter 27 introduces Jeremiah in the first person. Chapter 28 begins in verse 1 with the first person, and then suddenly and unaccountably breaks off to speak of “Jeremiah the prophet” (verses 5ff.). This points to a combination of the chapters by a redactor, who imperfectly joined the first and third person narratives. The slight change involved in the spelling of Nebuchadnezzar’s name throughout may be due to him. The problem of the composition of the “biographical” chapters is thus rather complicated. The heterogeneous complex of chapters 27–35 has been inserted in the continuous narrative of Jeremiah 26; 36:1–37:10; 38; 39:3, with, as a conclusion, the oracle to Ebed-Melech in 39:15–18. The latter’s content and position at the end of the book can be compared with those of the oracles to Baruch in Jeremiah 45, which originally ended the block of Jeremiah 1–20. This whole narrative covers the period from 609 to the liberation of Jeremiah by the Babylonians in July 587, and might have been written at the request of Ebed-Melech by Baruch, known to have been an intimate of Jeremiah from 605 (36:4, 5) until after 587 (32:12, 43:3, 6). In any case, Baruch is the most likely candidate for the authorship of these sections, which seem to come from an eyewitness. The end of 39:14 suggests that this literary unit was completed between the fall of Jerusalem and the murder of Gedaliah, i.e., in 587. Another, shorter report of Jeremiah’s imprisonment and liberation in 37:11–21; 39:11; and 40:2a, 4–6, states that Jeremiah was chained in the court of the guard (37:21). This brief account must also have been composed prior to the assassination of Gedaliah. A third narrative in 39:1–2, 4–10; 40:7–41:18; and 43:5–6b, 7a concerns Jerusalem’s capture and Gedaliah’s murder, in which Jeremiah played no role. This composition, too, can safely be dated in the year 587. It was used somewhat later as an historical framework by another author, who intended to expand the narrative of 37:11–21; 39:11; and 40:2a, 4–6 by telling the end of Jeremiah’s career in Egypt. He composed at least all the sections of chapters 42–43, where the expression “Jeremiah the prophet” appears (42:2, 4; 43:6). The largest part of 42:1–4, 7–9a, 19; 43:2–4, and the additions in 40:2b–3 and 43:6, 7 are to be ascribed to him. This editorial unit thus included in Jeremiah 37:11–21; 39:12, 4–11; 40:2–41:18; 42:1–4, 7–9a, 19; 43:2–7a. The remaining parts of chapters 42–43 seem to reflect the same hand as chapter 44. Since the author already knew that Hophra, the king of Egypt (usually called Apries), had been given over to his enemies (44:30) and since it is known that he was overthrown and killed by Amasis in about 568 B.C.E., it can safely be concluded that this part of Jeremiah’s biography was completed, probably in Egypt, a short time after this event. This is confirmed by the allusion made in 42:8–13 to the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar in the year 568/7 (cf. Pritchard, Texts, 308). The author of that section could therefore be a somewhat younger contemporary of Jeremiah. It is uncertain whether he is also responsible for the assemblage of a larger part of the biographical chapters, and the consequent insertion of transitional verses, such as 39:13 or 40:1. These verses reveal a misunderstanding of the historical situation, since from 39:14 and 40:4 it is known that Jeremiah was not chained in order to be deported to Babylon. Several biographical passages in the tradition block inserted in Jeremiah 27–35 were originally redacted as first person narratives. To this group belong the incident of the ox yoke (27:2–22), Jeremiah’s purchase of land (32:6–44), and the example of the Rechabites (35:2–19). These episodes have as common features not only the autobiographical style but also a typical content consisting of a symbolic action, explained by the prophet. Similar narratives in autobiographical style are found in other parts of the book: the wine jars (13:12–14), the potter at his work (18:2–12), the breaking of the bottle (19:1–2, 10–11a, 12a). These three passages seem to constitute an editorial unit on the common theme of pottery. The last two episodes are even connected by the catchword yo?er (“potter”). They were inserted by a redactor in their actual place, probably as comments to 16:18 and 18:23. The exhortation on the observance of the Sabbath in 17:19–27 is most likely a still later insertion. All narratives of that type may have belonged to a single collection written or dictated by Jeremiah himself and reused later, with some additions, by the editors of the complexes of 11–20 and 27–35. The acted parables referred to above can be compared with the symbolic visions, also composed in autobiographical style: the almond rod (1:11–12), the bubbling pot (1:13–16), the linen waistcloth (13:1–11), the two baskets of figs (24:1–10), and the cup of wine (25:15, 17, 27–28).

Baruch's Scroll with Additions

From chapter 36 it is known that Jeremiah’s utterances were first committed to writing in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign, i.e., in 605, when the prophet dictated them to his friend Baruch. After the scroll had been destroyed by the king, Jeremiah was directed to rewrite its contents in a second scroll, in which Baruch “wrote … under Jeremiah’s dictation everything that was in the book that Jehoiakim, king of Judah, had thrown into the fire. And, in addition to this, many further words of the same sort were added” (36:32). The conclusion of that scroll is to be found in Jeremiah 45, as shown by C. Rietzschel; “these sayings” in verse 1 refer directly to the content of the scroll. As verse 3 echoes 20:18, the catchword being yagon (“sorrow”), and since verse 4 alludes to Jeremiah 1:10, it can be concluded that Jeremiah 1–20 roughly corresponds to the final form of Baruch’s scroll. It can be safely assumed, following C. Rietzschel, that chapters 1–6 represent the original scroll rewritten by Baruch under the prophet’s dictation, while chapters 7–20 contain the successive additions to it. The scroll is introduced by the description of the prophet’s call (ch. 1), which follows the usual pattern of the “call” narratives, as established by N. Habel. The literary form for the call of a divine representative was taken over from the practice reflected in Genesis 24:34–38, according to which messengers entrusted with a special mission presented their “credentials” in a specific order and manner. In so doing they not only explained the reason for their coming, but also repeated their master’s commission ceremony, in which the precise words of the command were preserved, their own objections registered, and the assurance of the protective angel’s presence given. In addition to this, the agent of the overlord could adduce any further evidence, such as an omen or sign, which would give added weight to his claim. By utilizing this ancient pattern, later authors and prophets emphasized the primary function of the individual who was called. The genre concerns the commissioning of messengers to God’s service. Therefore, in employing its form, a prophet announces publicly that God commissioned him as His spokesman and representative. The “call” narrative of Jeremiah 1 thus provides the authentication of Jeremiah’s right to speak in God’s name. Since it does so in a form appropriate for public affirmation of the divine origin of his message, it was almost certainly the introduction to the scroll which Jeremiah dictated to Baruch in 605, and which he intended to be read publicly before the people in the Temple area. The “Foe from the North” constitutes a feature in which Jeremiah 4:5–6:30 advances beyond Jeremiah 2:1–4:4, so that it is reasonable to assume that 4:5–6:30 contains mostly oracles composed in 605, while 2:1–4:4 belongs to an earlier date. The Babylonian invader is mentioned, or alluded to, in 4:6–7, 13, 15–17, 21, 29; 5:6, 15–17; 6:1–6, 12, 22–25. He approached from the North to inflict on the people the judgment announced in the previous part of the scroll. The general theme of 2:1–4:4 is the nation’s sin. Chapter 2 is a series of passages dealing with a single theme, the bulk of which comes from an early period of Jeremiah’s ministry and was first addressed to the Northern Kingdom, but was most likely given its present form by the prophet himself in connection with the scroll of 605. The poetic material in chapters 3:1–5, 19–25; 4:1–2 forms a continuous unit which is a sample of Jeremiah’s preaching prior to 622, certainly before he was launched on the stormy currents of the political and religious life of Jerusalem. This is supported by the extent to which these oracles are saturated with the fundamental ideas of Hosea. These similarities to Hosea, characteristic of the young Jeremiah, are striking not only in the dominant theme of the adulterous wife, but even in particular expressions. The poem was initially an appeal to conversion directed to the Northern Kingdom, but the piece actually concludes with a formally separate oracle of solemn warning addressed to the people of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 4:3–4). It prepares the theme of the “Foe from the North,” developed in the following chapters, and most likely dates to the year 605. The material in 3:6–18 has a somewhat more complicated history. This section begins with a prose monologue addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord (verses 6–12a), in which the two adulterous, i.e., apostate, sisters – Israel and Judah – are compared to each other, to the immense disadvantage of the latter. The allusion in verse 8 to verses 1–5 shows that this monologue was composed in relation to the poem of 3:1–5, 19–25; 4:1–2, in order to emphasize that Judah’s sin was bigger than that of Israel’s. The passage probably goes back to the reign of Josiah, as verse 6 explicitly states, but dates after 622, as verse 10 brands Josiah’s reform as a failure. The monologue leads to a short lyric in which the prophet summons the Northern Kingdom to return to the Lord, to worship Him on Mount Zion, and to accept the guidance of his new rulers (verses 12b–15). These verses most likely allude to Josiah’s reform and to his expansionist activity in the territory of the defunct northern state; they probably date before 622. Verses 16–18, on the other hand, seem in their present form to presuppose the exile of Judah, and were in all likelihood written, or rewritten, after 587. Chapters 4:5–6:30 constitute a long editorial unit composed from a series of originally separate passages, all of which deal with the terrible disaster from the north that is about to overtake the nation (4:6; 6:1, 22; cf. 1:13–15; 10:22; 13:20; 25:9; 46:6, 24; 47:2). The entire section thus develops the theme sounded in 4:3–4. The poems are so graphic and vivid that it may be assumed, as noted above, that most of them were composed during the actual approach of Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 605/4. Chapters 7–10 constitute the first editorial addition to Baruch’s original scroll. The material is rather miscellaneous in character, but is dominated by two major themes: the stubborn sinfulness of the people, and the tragic fate that is about to overtake them. The section opens with the famous “Temple sermon” (7:2–15), delivered in Jehoiakim’s accession year, i.e., in the autumn of 609 or in the winter of 609/8. The text is in prose and preserves the gist of what he said. Also in prose are 7:16–20, 21–28, 29–34 and 8:1–3, which, in the main, may reflect Jeremiah’s preaching during Jehoiakim’s reign (609–598 B.C.E.). The complexes of poems in 8:4–17 and 9:1–8 probably date to the same period. Between these passages is Jeremiah’s lament over a national disaster (8:18–23), which can either refer to the defeat at Megiddo in 609 or the raids prior to the Babylonian attack in 598/7 (cf. II Kings 24:2). An oracle (Jer. 9:9–10, 16–21; 10:17–22) with dirges over the ruin of Jerusalem (9:18, 20–21; 10:19–20) follows; it was perhaps uttered on the eve of the siege and deportation of 598/7. Probably non-Jeremianic passages were later inserted, namely in 9:11–15 and 9:22–10:16. This first addition to Baruch’s scroll (chapters 7–10) ends with a prayer for mercy (10:23–25). The second added complex is perhaps to be found in chapters 11–20. This unit consists basically of a series of prose passages in autobiographical style and of several series of poems. The complex begins with Jeremiah’s preaching on the Covenant (11:1–17), for which he was persecuted by his own relatives and fellow townsmen (11:18–12:6). This piece is followed by a poem (12:7–13), in which God expresses His sorrow for the dereliction of His people, perhaps caused by the raids just prior to the Babylonian invasion of 598/7 (cf. II Kings 24:2). A brief prose passage seems to be a comment on that poem (Jer. 12:14–17). Chapter 13 begins with the parabolic vision of the linen waistcloth, followed by an oracle explaining its meaning (13:1–11). Connected with this, probably because it too involves a parable, is a brief passage inspired by a popular witticism concerning wine jars (13:12–14). Several short poems, apparently composed not long before the first deportation in 597, continue that section in 13:15–27; 14:5–9. One of them, addressed to Jehoiachin and the queen mother (13:18–19), was clearly uttered just prior to Jerusalem’s surrender in that year. This series of poems is interrupted by a national psalm of lamentation in time of drought (14:2–9, 19–22), which is divided in two by an oracle of doom (Jer. 14:10; cf. Hos. 8:13; 9:9) and by a prose commentary in autobiographical style (Jer. 14:11–16), that ends in 15:1–4. While the psalm may be an authentic liturgical text, the prose passage of 14:11–16; 15:1–4 may be Jeremiah’s genuine utterances. After one of Jeremiah’s “confessions” (15:10–11, 15–18) and a “private oracle” addressed to him (15:19–21) there is another passage in autobiographical style (16:1–13), in which Jeremiah relates how he had been forbidden to marry, or even to participate in the normal joys and sorrows of his people. Attached to this composition are eight brief heterogeneous passages (16:14–15, 16–18, 19–21; 17:1–4, 5–8, 9–10, 11, 12–13) and another “confession” (17:14–18). None of these pieces can be dated, but several may confidently be ascribed to him. A Jeremianic nucleus can also be found in the prose discourse of 17:19–27, which urges the keeping of the Sabbath and is redacted in autobiographical style. There follows the autobiographical narrative of Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house (18:1–12). Since the disaster announced by the prophet is described as still avoidable (18:11), the incident is probably not later than the first years of Jehoiakim’s reign. Four poetic pieces are attached to this narrative: an oracle (18:13–17) and three more “confessions” (18:18–23; 20:7–13, 14–18), separated by the complex episode of the broken bottle (19:1–2, 10–11a, 12a) and of Jeremiah’s arrest by Pashhur son of Immer (19:2, 3–9, 11b, 12b–15; 20:1–6). It is noteworthy that the so-called “confessions” are redacted in the style of the psalms of lamentation. It is doubtful whether they were ever publicly proclaimed by Jeremiah. The last “confession” is immediately followed by the conclusion of chapter 45.

Oracles Concerning the House of David and the Prophets

Chapters 21–24 constitute a complex of two series of oracles, one concerning the royal house (21:11–23:8) and the other the cultic prophets (23:9–40). The actual unit is introduced by two prose passages (21:1–7, 8–10), whose Jeremianic nucleus goes back to the year 589/8. Its actual form, however, dates to after the fall of Jerusalem in 587. The reason for the choice of this passage as an introduction to the oracles concerning the royal house is given by the fact that it contains an oracle of doom directed to the king Zedekiah. Chapter 24, which closes the “book,” is also a prose passage from Zedekiah’s time, with another oracle of doom concerning that king (verses 8–10). This pattern of inclusion shows that chapters 21–24 constitute an editorial unit. The superscriptions in 21:11 and 23:9 prove that this unit groups two older passage complexes. The first one is an important collection of prophecies containing Jeremiah’s judgments on the successive rulers in his day who occupied the throne of David. The opening passage of the section (21:11–22:9), almost equally divided between poetry and prose, sets forth the principle that the Davidic monarchy is under obligation to God to establish justice in the kingdom. The sayings regarding Jehoahaz-Shallum (22:10–12) and Jehoiakim (22:13–19) follow in chronological order, and after a poem lamenting the fate of Jerusalem (22:20–23) there are two oracles concerning the young king Jehoiachin (22:24–27, 28–30). The original conclusion of the section is to be found in 23:1–2. It is followed by three brief oracles, of which the first (23:3–4) and the third (23:7–8) are in prose and presuppose the Exile. The second oracle (23:5–6) is an extract from 33:14–16, originally a solemn announcement of the enthronement of Zedekiah, here called Yozedek, according to the Septuagint. The second collection deals mainly with cultic prophets (23:9–40). The poem in verses 9–12, which consists of a soliloquy of Jeremiah, concerns them only insofar as they, like the priests, share in the general corruption (verse 11). However, the two poems in verses 13–15 and 16–22, and the piece in verses 23–32, basically in prose, deal directly with the prophets who lull the people with fallacious promises. The final passage (verses 33–40), also in prose, mentions the prophets only in passing. Since the tension between Jeremiah and the cultic prophets reached its pitch in the days of Zedekiah, most of these passages probably date to that king’s reign.

[Edward Lipinski / S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]


Jeremiah was descended from Joshua and Rahab (Meg. 14b). He was born circumcised (ARN1 2, 12), and already showed signs of his future calling when as a newborn infant he spoke in the voice of a youth and rebuked his mother for her unfaithfulness. He explained to his astonished mother that he was really rebuking the inhabitants of Zion and Jerusalem (PR 26:129). He was related to the prophetess Huldah. She preached to the women while Zephaniah, another contemporary prophet, was active in the synagogue and Jeremiah preached to the men in the street (PR 26:129). When the pious King Josiah restored the worship of God, Jeremiah brought back the ten exiled tribes (Ar. 33a). Although Josiah later warred with Egypt against the prophet’s advice, Jeremiah knew that the king acted out of error since he was misinformed about the piety of his generation. The fourth chapter of Lamentations, traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah, begins with a dirge for Josiah (Lam. R. 1:18, no. 53; 4:1, no. 1). The prophet suffered under Jehoiakim and even more during the reign of Zedekiah when both the populace and the monarch opposed him. The people mocked his rebukes claiming that as a descendant of the proselyte Rahab he had no right to reprimand them (PdRK 115), and maliciously accused him of illicit relations (BK 16b). His purpose in leaving Jerusalem for Anathoth was so that he could partake of his priestly portion. The watchman who arrested him on that occasion was a grandson of the false prophet Hananiah b. Azur. In prison, his jailer, a friend of Hananiah b. Azur called Jonathan, constantly mocked him (PR 26:130).

Jeremiah was commanded by God to go to Anathoth because his merits were so great that God could not destroy Jerusalem as long as Jeremiah was in the city. In the prophet’s absence the city was conquered and the Temple set on fire. When, on his return, Jeremiah saw smoke rising from the Temple, he rejoiced, thinking that the Jews had repented and that the smoke was that of the sacrifice which they were offering. He wept bitterly when he realized his error, grieving that he had left Jerusalem to be destroyed. Jeremiah accompanied the captives as far as the Euphrates, and only then returned to comfort those who had been left behind (Jer. 40:6; PR 26:131). On the way back, he tenderly gathered together limbs of the bodies of massacred Jews, lamenting that his warnings had not been heeded by the unfortunate victims (Lam. R., Proem 34). As he approached the ruins of Jerusalem, he had a vision of a woman, clad in black, sitting on top of a mountain, weeping and exclaiming, “Who will comfort me?” After explaining that she was mother Zion, Jeremiah comforted her with the promise that God would rebuild and restore Zion (PR 26:131–132). Jeremiah remained in Egypt until Nebuchadnezzar conquered that country. He was then taken to Babylon where he rejoined his exiled brethren (SOR 26).

[Aaron Rothkoff]


Jeremiah (Ar. Irmiya; also Armiya and Urmiya) is not mentioned in the Koran. Some of the commentators on the Koran, however, attribute to Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah the priest, the words of Muhammad concerning the man who passed by a city in ruins and wondered how Allah would rebuild it. Allah then put this man to death and resuscitated him one hundred years later. To the man’s astonishment, it became apparent to him that he had been dead for one hundred years, but that the food and drink which were with him were nevertheless unspoiled, while the bones of his ass had been covered with skin and veins and it had been revived. He was then convinced that Allah was omnipotent (Sura 2:261). The legendary tale of ?oni ha-Me?aggel (TB, Ta’an. 23a) has been interpreted by Wahb ibn Munabbih, the celebrated traditionalist, who feels that ?oni was Jeremiah. Some scholars identify Jeremiah with al-Kha?ir, but other commentators believe that he was ?Uzayr (Ezra). The town which Jeremiah passed by was Jerusalem (Beit al-Maqdis (i.e., Beit ha-Mikdash), known as Aelia Capitolina in the Byzantine period); he was comforted that it would be rebuilt.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]


Apart from an early appearance in the medieval Ordo Prophetarum, where he is made to foretell the coming of the Messiah, Jeremiah was a rare figure in literary works until the 19th century. Even then, the Hungarian Protestant writer and patriot Ferenc Kölcsey was inspired more by the Book of Jeremiah than by the prophet, basing his Hymnus (1823), which later became the Hungarian national anthem, on the text of Jeremiah 32:21–29. The first modern author to turn to Jeremiah was Ludwig Philippson, who wrote the tragedies Jojachin (1858) and Die Entthronten (1868), in the latter of which Gedaliah makes a rare literary appearance. Jeremiah was later also the subject of Il profeta o La passione di un popolo (1866–84), an Italian allegorical drama by Graziadio David Levi. The theme has attracted much more attention in the 20th century, with works headed by Stefan Zweig‘s remarkable pacifist drama Jeremias (1917; Eng., 1922), first staged in Zurich during World War I. Another Jeremias, a play by the Danish writer Knud Gjørup, appeared in 1916. These were followed by Waclaw Niezabitowski’s Polish tragedy Jeremiasz (1926), Ajzyk Ruskolekier’s Yiddish drama Yirmiyohu Hanovi (1936), and Joseph Kastein‘s biographical Jeremias; der Bericht vom Schicksal einer Idee (1937). The subject also attracted another leading German Jewish writer, Franz Werfel, whose novel Hoeret die Stimme (1937; Hearken unto the Voice, 1938) was republished years later as Jeremias (1956). During World War II the Czech writer Jirí Orten published a collection of poems under the title Jeremiášuv plác (“Jeremiah’s Lament,” 1941).

In premedieval Christian art, Jeremiah was regarded as a prophet of the Passion, and was thus sometimes shown holding a cross. The biblical episode in which he is cast into a pit on account of his demoralizing prophecies (Jer. 38) led to his being sometimes given the symbol of the manticore – a legendary animal living in the depths of the earth which was depicted in the bestiaries. Jeremiah is represented in ninth-century manuscripts, including the Kosmas Indikopleustes (Vatican Library), and in early medieval frescoes, mosaics, and sculpture. Various episodes of his life are illustrated. There is a 12th-century illumination of the calling of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:9) in the Winchester Bible (Winchester Cathedral).

Thirteenth-century sculptures of the prophet are found in the cathedrals of Amiens and Chartres. At Chartres he is shown holding a circular disc enclosing a cross. A more naturalistic representation is the sculpture by Claus Sluter (Chartreuse de Champmol, Dijon), made at the beginning of the 15th century, where the nose was originally surmounted by a pair of spectacles in gilded leather. Some outstanding works of the Renaissance were a striking sculpture by Donatello (1386–1466; Campanile, Florence); a round painting by Perugino (Nantes Museum), as well as one of Isaiah; and Michelangelo’s brooding, seated figure surmounted by nude youths (Sistine Chapel, Rome). Rembrandt painted a picture of Jeremiah mourning over Jerusalem (painting formerly in the Stroganov collection, St. Petersburg). The same subject was treated by the German academician Eduard Bendemann in a crowded composition (National Gallery, Berlin), while another German painter, Lesser Ury, showed Jeremiah brooding under the night sky. There is also a sculpture of Jeremiah by Enrico Glicenstein.

The original stage music for Stefan Zweig’s Jeremias was written by Arno Nadel. For the Ohel Theater’s performance of the play in Palestine, the music was composed by Yedidiah Admon. Oratorios on the theme include G.M. Schiassi’s Geremia in Egitto (1727) and Ernst Hess’s Jeremia (1953). Verses and sections have been set for choir, such as Heinrich Isaac’s Oratio Hieremiae (1538), and Samuel Scheidt’s Ist nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn. The lament Quis dabit oculis meis (Jer. 8:23), which is included in the Good Friday liturgy, also occurs in settings by many composers of the 16th century. In the Jewish musical tradition, Ha-Ben Yakir Li Efrayim has become a showpiece of the “artistic” ?azzanut of Eastern Europe; it also appears as the text of several folk songs and ?asidic niggunim. For Rachel’s lament (the “voice heard in Ramah …”), see Rachel, In the Arts. Among modern works is Leonard Bernstein‘s Jeremiah Symphony (1944).

See also: Lamentations, In the Arts; Zedekiah, In the Arts.

[Bathja Bayer]


BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REVIEWS: G. Fohrer, in: Theologische Rundschau, 19 (1951), 277–346; 20 (1952), 193–271, 295–361; 28 (1962), 1–75, 235–97, 301–74; E. Vogt, in: Biblica, 35 (1954), 357–65. WORKS ON JEREMIAH IN GENERAL: G.A. Smith, Jeremiah (19294); R. Calkins, Jeremiah the Prophet (1930); A. Gelin, Jérémie (1952); J.P. Hyatt, Jeremiah, Prophet of Courage and Hope (1958); A. Néher, Jérémie (1960); C. Westermann, Jeremia (1967). COMMENTARIES: B. Duhm, Das Buch Jeremia (1901); S.R. Driver, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (1906); P. Volz, Der Prophet Jeremia (1922); A. Weiser, Das Buch des Propheten Jeremia (19665); F. Nötscher, Das Buch Jeremias (1930); W. Rudolph, Jeremia (19683). FORMS OF THE TEXT: J.G. Janzen, "Studies in the Text of Jeremiah" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard, 1966); idem, in: HTR, 60 (1967), 433–47. THE COMPOSITION OF THE BOOK: S. Mowinckel, Zur Komposition des Buches Jeremia (1914); E. Podechard, in: RB, 37 (1928), 181–97; J. Bright, in: JBL, 70 (1951), 15–35; J.P. Hyatt, in: Vanderbilt Studies in the Humanities, 1 (1951), 71–95; W.L. Holladay, in: JBL, 85 (1966), 401–35; M. Kessler, in: JNES, 27 (1968), 81–88. ON STYLISTIC FORMS AND LITERARY GENRES: W. Baumgartner, Die Klagengedichte des Jeremia (1917); W.L. Holladay, in: JBL, 81 (1962), 44–54; N. Habel, in: ZAW, 77 (1965), 297–323. PARTICULAR QUESTIONS: J.P. Hyatt, in: JBL, 60 (1941), 381–96; idem, in: JNES, 1 (1942), 156–73; H.H. Rowley, in: Studies in the Old Testament Prophecy (1950), 157–74; idem, in: Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 45 (1962–63), 198–234; H. Cazelles, in: Recherches de Science Religieuse, 38 (1951), 5–36; F. Horst, in: ZAW, 41 (1923), 94–153; J. Milgrom, in: JNES, 14 (1955), 65–69; C.F. Whitley, in: VT, 14 (1964), 467–83; G. von Rad, in: Evangelische Theologie, 3 (1936), 265–76; S.H. Blank, in: HUCA, 21 (1948), 331–54; J.L. Mihelic, in: Interpretation, 14 (1960), 45–50; H.J. Krauss, in: Biblische Studien, 43 (1964); O. Eissfeldt, Kleine Schriften, 4 (1968); M. Diman (Haran), in: BJPES, 13 (1946), 7–15; M.Z. Segal, Be-Masoret u-Vikkoret (1957), 145–49; Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 3 (19675), 393–474. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Carroll, Jeremiah (1986); W. McKane, Jeremiah 12 (1986–95); idem, in DBI I, 570–74; H. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah. An Annotated Bibliography (1996); C. Rabin et al. (eds.), The Book of Jeremiah (critical edition; 1997); W. Brueggmann, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Exile and Homecoming (1998); W. Holladay, Jeremiah 12 (1986–99); J. Lundbom, in: ABD, 3:706–21; idem, Jeremiah 120 (AB; 1999); idem, Jeremiah 2136 (AB; 2004); Y. Hoffman, Jeremiah 12 (2001); B. Sommer, in: CBQ, 66 (2004), 126–27 (review of Hoffman). IN THE AGGADAH: Ginsberg, Legends, 4 (19475), 294–313; 6 (19463), 384–404. IN ISLAM: ?abari, Tafsir, 3 (1324 A.H.), 19–20; Tha?labi, Qi?a? (1356 A.H.), 188, 290–2; G. Vajda, "Irmiya," in: EIS2, 4 (1978), 79 (incl. bibl.).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: The Prophet Jeremiah (1511), from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.