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Jeremiah (Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה, Yirmĭyahu, meaning “Yahweh exalts”, in English ) was one of the 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. God appointed Jeremiah to confront Judah and Jerusalem for the worship of idols and other violations of the covenant described in Deuteronomy. According to Jeremiah, the declared that the covenant was broken and that God would bring upon Israel and Judah the curses of the covenant. 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 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.'" The said to Jeremiah:

God’s personal prediction to Jeremiah, “Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t,” 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, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern by Judah’s officials, and opposed by a false prophet. 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, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well.

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, and it has been interpreted that Jeremiah “spiritualized and individualized religion and insisted upon the primacy of the individual’s relationship with God.”



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 . The name Jeremiah means "Yahweh exalts."

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 Templemarker (587 BC). Consequently, Jeremiah’s prophetic work spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoichin, and Zedekiah.

Background

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

Call, Training, and Early Ministry

The called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, 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. 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. Jeremiah was appointed to reveal the sins of the people and the coming consequences.

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

However, the insisted that Jeremiah go and speak as commanded, and he touched Jeremiah’s mouth and put the word of the into Jeremiah’s mouth. God told Jeremiah to “Get yourself ready!” The disciplines that are specified in Jeremiah 1 are not being afraid, standing up to speak, speaking as told, and going where sent. Other disciplines that contributed to the training of the young prophet and confirmation of his message are described as not turning to the people, not marrying or fathering children, not going to weddings or funerals, not sitting in a house with feasting, and not sitting in the company of merrymakers. 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.

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

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. He opposed the widespread trend among priests and prophets to minimize the problem and declare peace when the false practices should be considered abominations. Jeremiah declared that these widespread altars were sufficiently serious abominations that they yielded a broken covenant, 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.

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 revealed the conspiracy to Jeremiah, protected his life, and declared disaster for the men of Anathoth. When Jeremiah complains to the about this persecution, the explains that the attacks on him will become worse.

Conflicts with false prophets

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. The had Jeremiah speak against these false prophets.

For example, during the reign of king Zedekiah, The 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 would break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

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).

Into the stocks by priest Pashhur

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. 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. He recounts how if he tries to shut the word of the inside and not mention God’s name, the word becomes like fire in his heart and he is unable to hold it in. The experiences are so troubling for Jeremiah, that he expresses regret at ever being born.

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. 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.

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 Judeamarker.

Taken 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. There, the prophet probably spent the remainder of his life, still seeking in vain to turn the people to the , from whom they had so long revolted. There is no authentic record of his death.

Acting out 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; Moses intercedes for the people after their sin with the golden calf and after the people refuse God’s instruction to go take Canaan; Samuel promises to continue interceding for the people. In contrast, on several occasions, the commands Jeremiah not to intercede for the people.
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.


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

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 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 was making the point the nation would eventually be restored and that houses and fields would once again be bought in the land.

Rabbinic literature

In Jewish rabbinic literature, especially the aggadah, Jeremiah and Moses are often mentioned together ; 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."

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

Jewish

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.

Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet



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 Babylonmarker. Jursa hypothesized that this reference might be to the same individual as the Nebo-Sarsekim mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3.

Cultural influence

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

Jeremiah has periodically been a popular first name in the United Statesmarker, 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 Jeremiah

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

Notes

  1. Jeremiah, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL, USA 1987.
  2. ) 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. 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. John F. Hobbins (with details on Assyrian names by Charles Halton)


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