Jeremiah's oracles concerning the nations. An example of the prophetic word formula introduces the oracles concerning the nations, including Egypt (
), Philistia (
), Moab (
), the Ammonites (
), Edom (
), Damascus (
), Kedar and Hazor (
), Elam (
), and Babylonia (
). Similar collections of oracles concerning the nations appear in other prophetic books, including Isa. chs 13–23; Ezek. chs 25–32; Amos 1.2–2.16; Zeph. 2.4–15
; Obadiah; and Nahum. The oracles concerning the nations do not address universally all the nations of the earth, but include
nations selectively, e.g., Isa. chs 13–23
includes nations that were a part of the Persian empire, Ezek. chs 25–32
includes nations that were attacked by the Babylonians, and Amos 1.2–2.16
includes nations of the Syro‐Israelite region that were incorporated into the Assyrian empire. Like Isa. chs 13–23
, the oracles in Jer. chs 46–51
include nations that were conquered by the Persian empire beginning in 539 BCE in an effort to claim that God's judgment against Babylonia was carried out by the Persians. These oracles concern the nations (
) but are not addressed to the nations. They emphasize a point already made at the beginning of classical prophecy (Amos),
that the God of Israel is a universal God who controls the destiny of all the nations of the world. In some cases, there are
significant similarities between oracles against the nations recited by different prophets (see esp. Jer. 49.9–16; Obad. vv. 1–6
), suggesting that prophets or editors of prophetic books borrowed these prophecies from one another.
21.11 and 33.9
, prophetic oracles on the same topic are joined together and introduced with a thematic title, a method of organization which
is confined to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah's early oracles. The first major unit of the book contains the superscription or introduction to the book as a whole (
), Jeremiah's account of his commissioning as a prophet by God (
), his account of the two visions that confirmed his prophetic role and characterized his message (
), and a lengthy selection of oracles concerning Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel, most of which announced punishment in an effort
to persuade them to return to God. Jer. 1.1–2.3
) serve as the first two of the three haftarot of rebuke prior to the 9th of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the
Temple. In addition, Sephardi synagogues read
as the haftarah for Shemot (Exod. 1.1–6.1
) because of the parallels between the life of Moses and the life of Jeremiah; they are the two prophets who attempt to refuse
the divine call.
The introduction to the book of Jeremiah. Prophetic books normally begin with a superscription that identifies the prophet and provides historical background (see Isa. 1.1; Ezek. 1.1–3
Hilkiah is one of the priests at Anathoth, which would make him a descendant of the Elide priest Abiathar. King Solomon expelled Abiathar from Jerusalem to Anathoth
so that Zadok would serve as the sole high priest in Jerusalem (1 Kings 2.26–27; see also 1 Sam. chs 22–23; 2 Sam. 8.17; 1 Kings ch 1
). Jeremiah is therefore descended from the high priest Eli of the Temple at Shiloh (1 Sam. chs 1–4
). Rabbinic tradition maintains that Jeremiah is also the descendant of the proselyte Rahab from Jericho (see Josh. chs 2; 6
) and Joshua (Sifre Numbers
; b. Meg.
). Anathoth is often identified with the modern village Anata, about 5 km (3 mi) northeast of Jerusalem, although the biblical site is
actually about a kilometer (half mile) to the southwest. Josh. 21.18
and 1 Chron. 6.60
identify it as a Levitical town in the territory of Benjamin.
Jeremiah prophesied for forty years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah (627 BCE) until the eleventh year of Zedekiah (586) when the Temple was destroyed (see 2 Kings ch 25; Jer. ch 52
). Rabbinic tradition compares Jeremiah to Moses, a prophet and Levitical priest who led Israel in the wilderness for forty
years (Pesik. Rab. xiii.
The prophet's commission. Prophets often relate the way they were commissioned by God (see Exod. ch 3; Isa. ch 6; Ezek. chs 1–3
). The accounts of commissioning share certain commonalities, such as the prophet being “sent” as a divine messenger. Yet
each account is different, reflecting the particular role and personality of the individual prophet. The commissioning of
Jeremiah is most similar to that of Moses in Exod. ch 3
in that he is reluctant to accept his commission and receives encouragement from God.
Jeremiah employs a typical prophetic word formula to introduce statements by God (see 1 Sam. 15.10; 1 Kings 6.11; Jer. 7.1; 11.1; Ezek. 6.1; 7.1; Hos. 1.1; Joel 1.1; Mic. 1.1; Zeph. 1.1
). The formula serves as an important marker for the literary subdivisions in prophetic books.
Because the book of Jeremiah contains little material attributed to the reign of Josiah (see 3.6; cf. 22.11–17
), some suppose that Jeremiah was commissioned as a prophet at his birth in the thirteenth year of Josiah, making him eighteen
years old at Josiah's death in 609 BCE.
Like Moses, Jeremiah contends that he is inadequate to the task of prophecy, but God overcomes his objections with the assurance,
I am with you (see Exod. 3.11–12; 4.10–17; cf. Isaiah's statement in Isa. 6.5–6
As with Isaiah, a divine touch of the mouth prepares Jeremiah for prophecy (cf. Isa. 6.6–7; Ezek. 3.1–3
). The prophet's commission to speak includes four verbs of destruction and two of restoration to signify that in terms of
the major themes of his message, destruction would predominate (cf. 12.14–17; 18.5–10; 24.6; 31.28, 40; 42.10; 45.4
Two symbolic visions. Symbolic visions frequently accompany the commissioning of a prophet (see Exod. ch 3; Isa. ch 6; Ezek. chs 1–3
) and illustrate aspects of the prophet's message (see 1 Kings ch 19; Ezek. chs 4–5; 8–11; 37; 40–48; Amos chs 7–9; Zech. 1.7–6.15
). Jeremiah's visions are formulated like those of the chronologically earlier Amos 7.7–9; 8.1–14
and the later Zech. chs 4–5
A pun upon the word “shaked,” almond tree, and “shoked,” “watching.” The almond tree is one of the first trees to blossom in the spring, signifying God's resolve to
bring about the divine word concerning Jerusalem and Judah. A recently discovered ivory pomegranate blossom, believed to have
come from the excavation of biblical Jerusalem, apparently was formed to fit on the end of a staff. The inscription on the
pomegranate, “belonging to the Temple of the Lord, holy to the priests,” indicates that it probably served as the cap for
a priest's or Levite's staff in the Jerusalem Temple. The image also appears in Num. ch 17
, where the sprouting of almond blossoms on Aaron's and the Levites' staffs marks them as the divinely chosen priests of Israel.
It seems likely that Jeremiah's vision was based upon the image of a Levitical staff (cf. Zech. ch 11
, in which the priest and prophet Zechariah employs a staff for a prophetic vision).
Another pun: a steaming pot that is tipped and emptied from the north to portray the enemy that will bring judgment to Jerusalem from the north. Perhaps another Levitical image: a pot used in the preparation of sacrificial meat (cf. 1 Sam. 2.12–17; Ezek. 24.1–14
). Because biblical Jerusalem was protected by valleys to the east, south, and west, it was most vulnerable to attack from
the north where the Temple stood. Since the Arabian desert makes an approach against the land of Israel from the east very
difficult, ancient Mesopotamian invaders typically traveled through Aram (modern Syria) to attack Israel from the north. So
the north would be the expected direction of attack for any enemy; in the early chs in Jeremiah, this enemy from the north
is not yet identified, and takes on near‐mythological connotations. The prophet's task is to condemn his own kings, officials,
and people for wrongdoing, but God promises to stand by him (cf. 1.8
) throughout the ordeal.
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