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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Audience and Dating.

1.

Various passages and blocks of material in the book addressed many different audiences in the process of its composition. The audience of the book's final form, however, was probably survivors of the Babylonian invasion, particularly exiles in Babylon (Seitz 1989a ; Overholt 1988; but see Carroll 1986 and Goldman 1992 ). To propose the exilic community as the primary audience does not preclude later additions, nor does it deny the likelihood of an earlier audience in pre-exilic Judah. Although the historical setting of the book's final form cannot be established with certainty, a number of elements point to an exilic provenance. These include overriding concern with the nation's fall and with survival, reserve regarding restoration, vague promises of return (chs. 30–3 ), the absence of Cyrus and the Persians who were historical agents of the return, and the limited attention given to temple rebuilding.

2.

In addition to thematic elements pointing to an exilic audience, reader-response analysis provides tools for examining the ‘implied audience’ dramatized in the text. The text itself provides clues about the audience it wishes to influence (Suleiman and Crosman 1980; Thompson 1980 ). The book's early chapters ( 2:1–4:2 ) address the children of YHWH's unfaithful wife and invite them to repent ( 3:14–25 ). With liturgical praises they confess their sins and return to YHWH in fidelity ( 3:21–15; Diamond and O'Connor 1996 ). This same first-person plural liturgical voice reappears in a number of places ( 10:1–25; 14:7–9; 31:18–20 ), suggesting that the text brings its audience in by dramatizing them in the voice of the children. The children are the survivors of YHWH's cast-aside wife (Jer 2:1–4:2 ). The book artfully constructs imaginative symbolic worlds that seek to elicit response and to create new worlds for the exiles. It invites them to repent by presenting models of repentance; it provides theological and political explanations of the nation's collapse; and it assures their survival and a future, if they do repent.

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