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Jeremiah

[jer-uh-mahy-uh]

Jeremiah ; Septuagint Greek: Ἰερεμίας) was one of the 'greater prophets' of the Hebrew Bible. He was the son of Hilkiah, a priest of Anathoth.

His writings are collected in the Book of Jeremiah and, according to tradition, the Book of Lamentations. Jeremiah is also famous as "the broken-hearted prophet" (who wrote or dictated a "broken-hearted book", which has been difficult for scholars to put into chronological order), whose heart-rending life, and true prophecies of dire warning went largely unheeded by the people of Israel. God told Jeremiah, "You will go to them; but for their part, they will not listen to you".

Biblical narrative

Jeremiah was a Kohen (member of the priestly family) called to the prophetical office when still young; in the thirteenth year of Josiah (628 BC). He left his native place, Anathoth, to reside in Jerusalem, where he assisted Josiah in his work of reformation. Jeremiah wrote a lamentation upon the death of this pious king (2 Chr. 35:25).

There is no reference to Jeremiah during the six month reign of Jehoahaz. But in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, the enmity of the people against the prophet was expressed with persecution.

In his various exhortations, Jeremiah made extensive use of performance art, using props or demonstrations to illustrate points and engage the public. He walked around wearing a wooden yoke about his neck. He served wine to a family with a vow of temperance. He bought his family estate in Anathoth while in prison and while the Babylonians were occupying it.

He remained in Jerusalem, uttering from time to time his words of warning, but without much effect. He was there when Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon besieged the city (Jer. 37:4, 5), 588 BC, as Jeremiah had prophesied beforehand. The rumour of the approach of the Egyptians to aid the Jews in this crisis induced the Babylonians to withdraw, and to return to their own land. However, this siege was raised for only a short time. The prophet, in answer to his prayer, received a message from God, stating that "the Babylonians would come again, and take the city, and burn it with fire" (37:7, 8). The princes, in their anger at such a message by Jeremiah, cast him into prison (37:15-38:13). He was still in confinement when the city was taken (586 BC). The Babylonians released him, 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 Judea.

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 ben Neriah, Jeremiah's faithful scribe and servant with him (Jer. 43:6). There, the prophet probably spent the remainder of his life, still seeking in vain to turn the people to the Lord, from whom they had so long revolted (44). Some believe he was murdered in Egypt by those angered by his prophecies. It is known that he lived into the reign of Evil-merodach, son of Nebuchadnezzar, and may have been about ninety years of age at his death. There is no authentic record of his death. He may have died at Tahpanhes, or, according to a tradition, may have gone to Babylon with the army of Nebuchadnezzar.

Introspection

The book of Jeremiah depicts a remarkably introspective prophet, a prophet struggling with and often overwhelmed by the role into which he has been thrust. Jeremiah interspersed efforts to warn the people with pleas for mercy until he is ordered to "pray no more for this people" -- and then sneaks in a few extra pleas between the lines. He engages in what may seem like strange behaviour, but which might be described as 'acted parables', such as walking about in the streets with a yoke about his neck and engaging in other efforts to attract attention. Others engage in rival acts that parody and critique his. He is taunted, put in jail, at one point thrown in a pit to die. He was often bitter about his experience, and expresses the anger and frustration he feels. He is not depicted as a man of iron, and yet he continues in preaching and praying for God's people.

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."

Christianity

The Christian thought (pseudo-Epiphanius, "De Vitis Prophetarum"; Basset, "Apocryphen Ethiopiens," i. 25-29), according to which Jeremiah was stoned by his compatriots in Egypt because he reproached them with their evil deeds, became known to the Jews through Ibn Yaḥyà ("Šalšelet ha-qabbālāh," ed. princeps, p. 99b.)

This account of Jeremiah's martyrdom, however, may have come originally from Jewish sources. Another Christian story narrates that Jeremiah by prayer freed Egypt from a plague of crocodiles and mice; for which reason his name was for a long time honored by the Egyptians (pseudo-Epiphanius and Yaḥya, l.c.). He is commemorated as a prophet in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod on June 26. On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, his feast day is May 1. He is also commemorated as a saint in the Coptic Orthodox Church, where his feast falls on 5 Pashons.

Islam

In some Islamic narrations Ezra or Jeremiah is the person who mentioned in this verse:

Consider the one who passed by a ghost town and wondered, "How can GOD revive this after it had died?" GOD then put him to death for a hundred years, then resurrected him. He said, "How long have you stayed here?" He said, "I have been here a day, or part of the day." He said, "No! You have been here a hundred years. Yet, look at your food and drink; they did not spoil. Look at your donkey - we thus render you a lesson for the people. Now, note how we construct the bones, then cover them with flesh." When he realized what had happened, he said, "Now I know that GOD is Omnipotent."

It is told that the town is Jerusalem after destruction and Ezra or Jeremiah is the person that asked God how this town will be alive according to promises.

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 prophesized, 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 task ever assigned, and how difficult it was to be able to see, in advance, ones 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 Babylon. 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 States, 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

See also

References

External links

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