In This Article Jeremiah

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Annotated Translations and Brief Commentaries
  • History of Research
  • Collected Essays
  • History of Interpretation

Biblical Studies Jeremiah
by
Marvin A. Sweeney
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 September 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0060

Introduction

The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the major prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, although Rabbinic tradition sometimes places it first following Kings and prior to Ezekiel due to its thematic focus on destruction (b. Baba Batra 14b–15a). It presents the words of the prophet, Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, who lived in Jerusalem during the late-7th-century-BCE reigns of the Judean kings, Josiah (640–609 BCE), Jehoahaz (609 BCE), Jehoiakim (609–598 BCE), Jehoiachin (597 BCE), and Zedekiah (597–587/6 BCE). Jeremiah was a Levitical priest from Anathoth, who resided in Jerusalem during the last years of the kingdom of Judah. Major events during the period ascribed to Jeremiah include the outset of King Josiah’s reforms (c. 628 BCE), the death of Josiah (609 BCE), the Babylonian subjugation of Judah (605 BCE), Nebuchadnezzar’s first deportation of Jews to Babylon (597 BCE), the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (587–586 BCE), and assassination of Gedaliah (582 BCE). Jeremiah interpreted the Babylonian subjugation of Jerusalem in 605 BCE and the later destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 BCE as acts of punishment by YHWH, the G-d of Israel and Judah, for the people’s alleged failure to observe the divine will. Although the book of Jeremiah is largely concerned with destruction, it also holds out hope for the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem, especially in Jeremiah 30–33. The book appears in two very distinctive forms from antiquity. The Hebrew Masoretic text (MT) is the standard form of Jeremiah in Jewish Bibles, but the Greek Septuagint (LXX) form of the book is approximately one-eighth shorter and displays a very different arrangements of materials (e.g., the oracles concerning the nations in MT Jeremiah 46–51 appear following portions of Jeremiah 25 in the LXX form of the book). The Dead Sea Scrolls likewise include remnants of early Hebrew forms of both of these versions. Scholarship consensus maintains that both versions grew out of a common original text, although the issue is still debated.

Introductory Works

Literary-critical and historical-critical introductions to the study of Jeremiah appear in Blenkinsopp 1996 and Petersen 2002. Heschel 1962 and Rad 1965 provide theological assessments of the prophets’ works, and Sweeney 2005 provides literary-theological analyses of both versions of the book as a whole.

  • Blenkinsopp, Joseph. A History of Prophecy in Israel. Rev. and enl. ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996.

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    Foundational historical-critical introductions to Jeremiah in relation to the history of Israel/Judah and the ancient Near Eastern world. Especially valuable for bibliographies.

  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Prophets. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.

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    A phenomenological introduction to Jeremiah that focuses on the themes of human apprehension of G-d and divine pathos.

  • Petersen, David L. The Prophetic Literature: An Introduction. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002.

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    A standard historical-critical introduction to the book of Jeremiah, which addresses the formation of the book. Includes discussion of oracle types and social background.

  • Rad, Gerhard von. Old Testament Theology. Vol. 2, The Theology of Israel’s Prophetic Traditions. Translated by D. M. G. Stalker. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.

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    Provides a tradition-historical and theological assessment of Jeremiah that focuses on the Mosaic traditions that inform the theological message of the book.

  • Sweeney, Marvin A. The Prophetic Literature. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.

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    Contains a literary-critical and a theological assessment of the MT and the LXX versions of the book of Jeremiah. The study is attentive to its historical background but focuses on a reading of the final literary forms of the book to discern their distinctive theological viewpoints.

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