The interest of the book of Jeremiah is unique. On the one hand, it is our most reliable and elaborate source for the long period of history which it covers; on the other, it presents us with prophecy in its most intensely human phase, manifesting itself through a strangely attractive personality that was subject to like doubts and passions with ourselves. At his call, in 626 B.C., he was young and inexperienced, i.6, so that he cannot have been born earlier than 650. The political and religious atmosphere of his ministry was alike depressing. When it began, the Scythians were overrunning Western Asia, and Judah was the vassal of Assyria, as she continued to be till the fall of Nineveh in 606 B.C. Josiah, in whose reign Jeremiah began his ministry, was a good king; but the idolatries of his grandfather Manasseh had only too surely left their mark, and the reformation which was inaugurated on the basis of Deuteronomy (621) had produced little permanent result. Idolatry and immorality of all kinds continued to be the order of the day, vii.9 (about 608). The inner corruption found its counterpart in political disaster. The death of Josiah in 609 at Megiddo, when he took the field, probably as the vassal of Assyria, against the king of Egypt, was a staggering blow to the hopes of the reformers, and formed a powerful argument in the hands of the sceptics. The vassalage of Assyria was exchanged for the vassalage of Egypt, and that, in four years, for the vassalage of Babylonia, whose supremacy over Western Asia was assured by her victory on the epoch-making field of Carchemish (605).

There was no strong ruler upon the throne of Judah during the years preceding the exile. Jehoahaz, the successor of Josiah, deposed by the Egyptians and exiled after a three months' reign, xxii.10-12, was succeeded by the rapacious Jehoiakim (608-597), who cared nothing for the warning words of Jeremiah (xxxvi.), and his successor Jehoiachin, who was exiled to Babylon after a three months' reign, was followed by the weak and vacillating Zedekiah, who reigned from 597 to 586, when Jerusalem was taken and the monarchy perished. The priests and prophets were no more faithful to their high office than the kings. The prophets were superficial men who did not realize how deep and grievous was the hurt of the people, xxiii.9-40, and who imagined that the catastrophe, if it came, would speedily be reversed, xxviii.; and the priests reposed a stubborn confidence in the inviolability of the temple (xxvi.) and the punctiliousness of their offerings, vii.21, 22.

Jeremiah, though he came of a priestly family, knew very well that there was no salvation in ritual. He saw that the root of the evil was in the heart, which was "deceitful above all things and desperately sick," xvii.9, and that no reformation was possible till the heart itself was changed. It was for this reason that he called upon the people to circumcise their heart, iv.4, and to search for Jehovah with all their heart, xxix.13.

It would be interesting to know what was Jeremiah's attitude to the law-book discovered and published in 621, but unfortunately the problems that gather round the authenticity of the text of Jeremiah are so vexatious that we cannot say with certainty. On the one hand, we know that, though at that time a prophet of five years' standing, he was not consulted on the discovery of the book (2 Kings xxii.14); on the other hand, xi.1-14 explicitly connects him with an itinerant mission throughout the province of Judah for the purpose of inculcating the teaching of "the words of this covenant," which can only be the book of Deuteronomy. But there is fairly good reason for supposing that this passage, which is diffuse, and very unlike the poems that follow it, vv.15, 16, 18-20, is one of the many later scribal additions to the book. Even if Jeremiah did support the Deuteronomic movement, he must have felt, in the words of Darmesteter, that "it is easier to reform the cult than the soul," and that the real solution would never be found in the statutes of a law-book, but only in the law written upon the heart, xxxi.31-33. Here again, this great prophecy of the law written upon the heart, has been denied to Jeremiah -- by Duhm, for example: but at any rate, it is conceived in the spirit of the prophet.

It is unfortunate that some of the noblest utterances on religion in the book of Jeremiah have been, for reasons more or less convincing, denied to him: e.g. the great passage which looks out upon a time when the dearest material symbols of the ancient religion would no longer be necessary; days would come when men would never think of the ark of the covenant, and never miss it, iii.16. But even if it could be proved that these words were not Jeremiah's, it was a sound instinct that placed them in his book. He certainly did not regard sacrifice as essential to the true religion, or as possessing any specially divine sanction, vii.22, and the thinker who could utter such a word as vii.22 is surely on the verge of a purely spiritual conception of religion, if indeed he does not stand already within it. If the temple is not indispensable, vii.4, neither could the ark be.

This severely spiritual conception of religion is but the outcome of the intensely personal religious experience of the prophet. There is no other prophet whose intercourse with the divine spirit is so dramatically portrayed, or into the depths of whose heart we can so clearly see. He speaks to God with a directness and familiarity that are startling, "Why hast Thou become to me as a treacherous brook, as waters that are not sure?" xv.18. He has little of the serene majesty of Isaiah whose eyes had seen the king. His tender heart, ix.1, is vexed and torn till he curses not only his enemies, xi.20ff., but the day on which he was born, xx.14-18. He did not choose his profession, he recoiled from it; but he was thrust into the arena of public life by an impulse which he could not resist. The word, which he would fain have hidden in his heart, was like a burning fire shut up in his bones, and it leaped into speech of flame, xx.9.

As a poet, Jeremiah is one of the greatest. He knows the human heart to its depths, and he possesses a power of remarkably terse and vivid expression. Nothing could be more weird than this picture of the utter desolation of war; --

I beheld the earth,
And lo! it was waste and void.
I looked to the sky,
And lo! its light was gone.
I beheld the mountains,
And lo! they trembled.
And all the hills
Swayed to and fro.
I beheld (the earth)
And lo! there was no man,
And all the birds of the heaven
Had fled.

A world without the birds would be no world to Jeremiah. Of singular power and beauty is the lament which Jeremiah puts into the mouths of the women: --

Death is come up at our windows,
He has entered our palaces,
Cutting off the children from the streets
And the youths from the squares.

Then the figure changes to Death as a reaper: --

There fall the corpses of men
Upon the face of the field,
Like sheaves behind the reaper
Which none gathers up.
ix.21, 22.

The book appropriately opens with the call of Jeremiah, and represents him as divinely preordained to his great and cheerless task before his birth. In two visions he sees prefigured the coming doom (i.) and the prophecies that immediately follow, though but loosely connected, appear to come from an early stage of his ministry, and to be elicited, in part, by the inroads of the Scythians -- the enemy from the north.

False to the love she bore Jehovah in the olden time, Israel has turned for help to Egypt, to Assyria, and to the impotent Baals with their licentious worship, ii, 1-iii.5; but[1]if in her despair and misery she yet turns with a penitent heart to Jehovah, the prophet assures her of His readiness to receive her, iii.19-iv.4. The rest of ch. iv. contains several poems of remarkable power. The Scythians are coming swiftly from the north, and Jeremiah's patriotic soul is deeply moved. He sees the desolation they will work, and counsels the people to gather in the fortified cities. The scene changes in v. and vi. to the capital, where Jeremiah's tender and unsuspecting heart has been harrowed by the lack of public and private conscience; and again the land is threatened with invasion from the swift wild Scythian hordes.
[Footnote 1: Ch. iii.6-18 contains much that is altogether worthy of Jeremiah, especially the great conception in v.16 of a religion which can dispense with its most cherished material symbols. It interrupts the connection, however, between vv.5 and 19, and curiously regards Israel as the northern kingdom, distinct from Judah, whereas in the surrounding context, ii.3, iii.23, Israel stands for Judah. The difference is suspicious. Again, v.18 would appear to presuppose that Judah is in exile or on the verge of it, which would make the passage among the latest in the book. If it is Jeremiah's, it must be much later than its context.]

The following chapter (vii.) introduces us to the reign of Jehoiakim.[1] The prophet strenuously combats the confidence falsely reposed in the temple and the ritual: the former is but a den of robbers, the latter had never been commanded by Jehovah, and neither will save them. With sorrowful eyes Jeremiah sees the coming disaster, and he sings of it in elegies unspeakably touching (viii.-x.: cf. viii.18-22, ix.21, 22).[2]
[Footnote 1: The scene in ch. vii. is very similar to, if not identical with that in ch. xxvi., which is expressly assigned to the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign (608).]
[Footnote 2: Ch. ix.22 is directly continued by x.17. Of the three passages intervening, ix.23, 24 (the true and false objects of confidence) and ix.25, 26 (punishment of those uncircumcised in heart or flesh) are both in the spirit of Jeremiah, but they cannot belong to this context. Ch. x.1-16, on the other hand, can hardly be Jeremiah's. Its theme is the impotence of idols and the omnipotence of Jehovah -- a favourite theme of Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Is. xl.), and it is elaborated in the spirit of Is. xliv.9-20. The warning not to fear the idols is much more natural if addressed to an exilic audience than to Jeremiah's contemporaries. It may be taken for granted that the passage is later than Jeremiah.]

In ch. xi. Jeremiah is divinely impelled to undertake an itinerant mission throughout Judah in support of the Deuteronomic legislation, but he is warned that, for their disobedience, the people will be overtaken by disaster, which he must not intercede to avert, xi.1-17. A cruel conspiracy formed against him by his own townsmen raises perplexities in his mind touching the moral order, but he is reminded that still harder things are in store, xi. l8-xii.6. Then follows a poem, xii.7-13, lamenting the desolation of the land, though who the aggressors are it is hard to say; but, in vv.14-17, a passage possibly much later, there is an ultimate possibility of restoration both for Judah and her ravaged neighbours, if they adopt the religion of Judah. In ch. xiii. which possibly belongs to Jehoiachin's short reign, 597 B.C. (cf. v.18 with 2 Kings xxiv.8), the utter and incurable corruption of the people is symbolically indicated to Jeremiah, who announces the speedy fall of the throne and the sorrows of exile.

The elements that make up chs. xiv.-xvii. are very loosely connected. Generally speaking, the situation of the people is desperate. The doom -- already inaugurated in the form of a drought-is hastening on; no excuse will be accepted and no intercession can avail. In a bold and striking poem, xv.10-21, Jeremiah complains of his bitter and lonely fate, and is reassured of the divine support. In view of the impending misery he is forbidden to marry, and more and more he is thrown back upon Jehovah as his absolute and only hope.[1] [Footnote 1: Ch. xvii.19-27 is almost certainly post-exilic, and probably belongs to Nehemiah's time (about 450). Jeremiah nowhere else emphasizes the Sabbath, and it would be very unlike him to represent the future prosperity of Judah as conditional upon the people's observance of a single law, especially one not distinctively ethical. Such emphasis on the Sabbath suggests the post-exilic church (cf. Neh. xiii.; Is. lviii.).]

Chs. xviii.-xx. A chance sight of a potter refashioning a spoiled vessel suggests to Jeremiah the conditional nature of prophecy. But as Judah remains obstinate, the threat must be irretrievably fulfilled. The proclamation of this truth in the temple court led to his imprisonment. On his release he distinctly and deliberately announces the exile to Babylon, and then breaks out into a passionate cry, which rings with an almost unparalleled sincerity, over the misery of his life, especially of that prophetic life to which he had been mysteriously but irresistibly impelled.

Ch. xxi.1-10, one of the latest pieces in the book, contains Jeremiah's answer to the question of Zedekiah relative to the issue of the siege of Jerusalem, which had already begun (588). Then follow two sections, one dealing with kings, xxi.11-xxiii.8, the other with prophets, xxiii.9-40. The former, after an introduction which emphasizes the specific functions of the king, deals successively with Jehoahaz (=Shallum), Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim's oppressive methods being pointedly contrasted with the beneficent regime of his father Josiah; and against the present incompetence of the rulers and misery of the monarchy is thrown up a picture of the true king and the Messianic days, xxiii.5-8. The latter section, xxiii.9-40, denounces the prophets for their immorality, their easy optimism and their lack of independence.

In ch. xxiv., which falls in Zedekiah's reign, after the first deportation (about 596 B.C.), it is symbolically suggested to Jeremiah that the exiles are much better than those who were allowed to remain in the land, and their ultimate fate would be infinitely happier. The battle of Carchemish in 605 showed that Babylonian supremacy was ultimately inevitable; to this year belongs ch. xxv., in which Jeremiah definitely announces the duration of the exile as seventy years. Many lands beside Judah would be included in the doom, and finally Babylon itself would be punished.

Chs. i.-xxv. represent in the main the words of Jeremiah; we now come to a group of narratives by Baruch, xxvi.-xxix. Ch. xxvi. relates how a courageous sermon of Jeremiah's (608 B.C.) provoked the hostility of the professional clergy, and nearly cost him his life. Chs. xxvii.-xxix. show how the calm wisdom of Jeremiah met the ambitions and hopes cherished by his countrymen at home and in exile during the reign of Zedekiah.[1] In view of a coalition that was forming against Babylon in Western Asia, he announces that the supremacy of Nebuchadrezzar is divinely ordained, and any such coalition is doomed to failure (xxvii.). That supremacy will last for many a day; and a strange fate overtakes the shallow prophet who supposes that it will be over in two years (xxviii.). The exiles are therefore advised by Jeremiah in a letter to settle down contentedly in their adopted land, though the letter naturally rouses the resentment and opposition of the superficial prophets among the exiles (xxix.).
[Footnote 1: In ch. xxvii.1, for "Jehoiakim" read "Zedekiah," cf. vv.3, 12. ]

The next four chapters, xxx.-xxxiii., are full of promise: they look out upon the restoration, in which, despite the seeming hopelessness of the prospect, Jeremiah never ceased to believe. It is a voice from the dark days of the siege of Jerusalem, 587 (xxxii.1ff.); but the present sorrow is to be followed by a period of joy, when the city will be rebuilt, and the mighty love of Jehovah will express itself in the restoration not only of Judah but of Israel, a love to which there will be a glad spontaneous response from men who have the divine law written in their hearts. This prophecy of the new covenant is one of the noblest and most daring conceptions in the Old Testament, very naturally appropriated by our Lord and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (xxx., xxxi.). So confident was Jeremiah in the divine assurance that Palestine would one day be freed from the Babylonian yoke that, even during the siege of the city, he purchased fields belonging to a kinsman, and took measures to preserve the title deeds (xxxii.). Ch. xxxiii. still further confirms the assurance of restoration.

There can be no doubt that Jeremiah both believed in and announced the restoration: the very straightforward story in ch. xxxii., which, by the way, throws considerable light on the psychology of prophecy, is proof enough of that. But there can be equally little doubt that the section xxx.-xxxiii. did not come, as it stands, from the hand of Jeremiah. Many verses have no doubt been needlessly suspected: the attitude to northern Israel in ch. xxxi., especially vv.4, 5, practically forbids a reference of these verses to post-exilic times. But xxxi.7-l4 -- the glad return -- is exactly in the spirit of Deutero-Isaiah, and appears to be dependent upon him. Whatever doubt, however, may be attached to these sections, it is practically certain that the concluding section, xxxiii.14-26, which has a special word of promise, not only for the house of David, but for the Levitical priests, is not Jeremiah's. The verses are wanting in the Septuagint, and so were not in the Hebrew copy from which that translation was made; but more fatal still to their authenticity is their attitude to the priests and offerings. The religion advocated by Jeremiah was a purely spiritual one, which could dispense with temple and sacrifice (ch. vii.). "To the false prophets," as Robertson Smith has said, "and the people who followed them, the ark, the temple, the holy vessels, were all in all. To Jeremiah they were less than nothing, and their restoration was no part of his hope of salvation." It is very significant in this connection that the Septuagint omits the restoration of the holy vessels in xxvii.22.

From the ideal pictures of the last group, ch. xxxiv. flings us back into the stern reality. The city and the king alike are doomed, and their fate is thoroughly justified by the treachery displayed towards the Hebrew slaves, who were compelled by their masters to return to the bondage from which, in the stress of siege, they had emancipated them.

The next chapter, xxxv., carries us back to the reign of Jehoiakim, and, in an interesting and important passage, contrasts the faithfulness of the Rechabites to the commands of their ancestor Jonathan with the popular disregard of Jehovah.

The long section which follows (xxxvi.-xlv.) is almost purely historical. It comes in the main from Baruch, but it has been expanded here and there by subsequent writers; e.g. xxxix.4-13 is not found in the Septuagint; the importance of Jeremiah is heightened in this passage by his being the object of the special care of Nebuchadrezzar, vv.11ff., whereas in all probability his fate was decided, not by the king, but by his officers (ci.3, 13, 14). But after making every deduction, these chapters remain as a historical source of the first rank. The section begins by revealing the reckless impiety of Jehoiakim in burning the prophecies of Jeremiah in 605 B.C., but the other chapters gather round the siege of Jerusalem, eighteen years later, and the events that followed it. They describe the cruel and successive imprisonments of the prophet for his fearless and seemingly unpatriotic proclamation of the Babylonian triumph, the pitiful vacillation of the king, the final capture of the city, the appointment of Gedaliah as governor of Judah, his assassination and the attempt to avenge it, the consequent departure of many Jews to Egypt against the advice of Jeremiah, who was forced to accompany them, the prophet's denunciation of the idolatry practised in Egypt and announcement of the conquest of that land by Nebuchadrezzar. The section closes (xlv.) with a word of meagre consolation to Baruch, whose courage was giving way beneath the strain of the times.

The interest attaching to the oracles against the foreign nations (xlvi.-li.) is not very great, as, for good reasons, the authenticity of much -- some say all -- of the section may be disputed, and with the exception of the oracle against Egypt, they are lacking, as a whole, not only in distinctness of situation, but also in that emotion and originality so characteristic of Jeremiah.

The whole group (except the oracle against Elam, xlix.34-39, which is expressly assigned to Zedekiah's reign) is suggested by reflection on the decisive influence which the battle of Carchemish was bound to have on the fortunes of Western Asia, xlvi.2. Nebuchadrezzar is alluded to, either expressly, xlix.30, or figuratively, xlviii.40, as the instrument of the divine vengeance. In the Septuagint, this group of oracles appears between xxv.13 and xxv.15, a chapter likewise assigned to the year of the battle of Carchemish, xxv.1. Ch. xlvi. contains two oracles against Egypt, the first of which, at least vv.1-12, is graphic and powerful, and the second, vv. 13-26, announces the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadrezzar, which took place in 568 B.C. The vengeance upon Egypt, v. 10, in which the writer evidently exults, may be vengeance for the defeat of Josiah at Megiddo.[1] A certain vigour also characterizes the oracle against the Philistines (xlvii.), and the conception of the enemy "out of the north," v. 2, is a familiar one in Jeremiah.
[Footnote 1: Ch. xlvi.27, 28, hardly in place here, were borrowed from xxx.10f. and doubtless added later.]

Even if, however, these oracles could be rescued for Jeremiah, those that follow are, in all probability, nothing but later literary compilations resting upon a close study of the earlier prophetical literature. The oracle against Moab (xlviii.) besides being unpardonably diffuse, is essentially an imitation of the old oracle preserved in Isaiah xv., xvi. The oracle against Ammon, xlix.1-6, is followed by another against Edom, vv. 7-22, which again borrows very largely from Obadiah. Doom is further pronounced on Damascus, vv. 23-27, Kedar and Hazor, vv. 28-33, and, about seven years later, on Elam, vv. 34-39. It is not, indeed, impossible that Jeremiah should have uttered a prophetic word concerning at least some of these nations -- witness his reply to the ambassadors of the neighbouring kings in ch. xxvii. -- though the relevance of Elam in such a connection is hard to see; but it is very improbable that a writer and thinker so independent as Jeremiah should have borrowed in the wholesale fashion which characterizes the bulk of this group of oracles. The oracle against Egypt might be his, not impossibly the oracle against the Philistines also; but the group as a whole, consisting of seven oracles -- omitting the oracle against Elam, which, by its date, falls outside -- appears to be a later artificial composition, utilizing the more familiar names in xxv.19-26, and expanding the hint in vv.15-17 that the nations would be compelled to drink of the cup of the fury of Jehovah.

The climax of the foreign oracles is that against Babylon (l.-li.58). This prophecy is written with great vigour and intensity and characterized by a tone of triumphant scorn. A nation from the north, l.3, explicitly designated as the Medes, li.11, is to assail Babylon and reduce her to a desolation. Jehovah's people are urged to leave the doomed city; with sins forgiven they will be led back by Jehovah to their own land, and the poet contemplates with glowing satisfaction the day when Babylon the destroyer will be herself destroyed.

This oracle purports to be a message which Jeremiah sent with an officer Seraiah, who accompanied King Zedekiah to Babylon (li.59). There is no probability, however, that the oracle was written by Jeremiah. Doubtless the prophet foretold the destruction of Babylon, xxv.10, but his attitude to that great power in this oracle is altogether different from what we know it to have been, judging by other authentic oracles of this period (xxvii.-xxix.). There he counsels patience -- it is the false prophets who hope for a speedy deliverance -- here there is an eager expectancy which amounts to impatience. But the contents of the oracle show that it cannot belong to the year to which it is assigned. The temple is already destroyed, l.28, li.11, so that the exile is presupposed, and indeed the Medes are definitely named as the executors of vengeance upon Babylon. All this carries us down to the conquests of Cyrus and the close of the exile, indeed to the time of Isaiah xl.-lv. The oracle bears a striking resemblance both in spirit and expression to Isaiah xiii., and might well come from the same time (about 540). It may, however, be later. Not only is it diffuse in expression and slipshod in arrangement, but it borrows extensively from other exilic or post-exilic parts of the book of Jeremiah (cf. li.15-19 with x.12-16, l.44-46 with xlix.19-21), late exilic parts of Isaiah (cf. Jer. l.39ff, with Isa. xiii.19-22), and from Ezekiel (cf. Jer. li.25 with Ezek. xxxv.3). Besides, the author appears to have no clear conception of the actual situation, as he seems to regard Israel and Judah as living side by side in Babylon, l.4, 33. In all probability the oracle against Babylon is a post-exilic production inspired by the yearning to see the ancient oppressors not only humbled, but destroyed.

The oracle just discussed is supposed to be an expansion of the message given by Jeremiah, in writing, to Seraiah, li.60a, when he went with the king to Babylon. But though this narrative, li.59-64, possibly rests on a basis of fact, it cannot have come, in its present form, from Jeremiah, for it presupposes the preceding oracle against Babylon, which has just been shown not to be authentic.

With the composition of ch. lii., which narrates the capture of Jerusalem and the exile of the people, Jeremiah had nothing whatever to do. The chapter, except vv. 28-30, which is additional, is simply taken bodily from 2 Kings xxiv.18-xxv.30, with the omission of the account of the appointment and assassination of Gedaliah (2 Kings xxv.22-26) as that story had already been fully told in Jeremiah xl.-xliii.

The Greek version of Jeremiah is of more than usual interest and importance. It is about 2,700 words, or one-eighth of the whole, shorter than the Hebrew text, though it has about 100 words or so not found in the Hebrew. The order, too, is occasionally different, notably in the oracles against the foreign nations (xlvi.-li.), which in the Septuagint are placed between xxv.13 and xxv.15 (verse 14 being omitted). After making every deduction for the usual number of mistakes due to incompetence and badly written manuscripts, it has to be admitted that, in certain respects, the Greek text is superior to the Hebrew. This is especially plain if we examine its omissions. Considering the later tendency to expand, its relative brevity is a point in its favour; but, when we examine particular cases, the superiority of the Septuagint, with its omissions, is evident at once.

Ch. xxvii., e.g., is considerably longer in the Hebrew than in the Greek text; but the additions in the Hebrew text represent Jeremiah as interested in the temple vessels and prophesying their restoration to the temple when the exile was over, in a way that is utterly unlike what we know of Jeremiah's general attitude to the material symbols of religion. Similarly, xxxiii.14-26, which promises, among other things, that there would never be lacking a Levitical priest to offer burnt offerings, is wanting in the Septuagint; here again the Greek must be regarded as more truly representing Jeremiah's attitude to sacrifice (vii.22). It would, of course, be unfair to infer from this that the briefer readings of the Septuagint were invariably superior to the longer readings of the Massoretic text, for it can be shown that the Greek translators often omitted or passed lightly over what they did not understand; nevertheless, their omissions often indicate a better and more original text.

With regard to the oracles against the foreign nations, there can be little doubt that their position in the Hebrew text is to be preferred to that of the Greek. A certain plausibility attaches to the Greek text which places them after xxv.13, the last clause of which -- "that which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations" -- is taken as a title; but, besides completely breaking up the surrounding context, whose theme is altogether Judah, the Greek position of the oracles is exceedingly clumsy, preceding as it does the enumeration in xxv.15-29, which it might indeed follow, but could not reasonably precede. Further the Hebrew arrangement of the oracles within this group is much more probable than the Greek. The former appropriately reserves the oracle against Babylon to the end, the latter places it third, i.e. among the nations which are to be punished by Babylon herself, xxv.9.

We possess some direct information about the composition of the book of Jeremiah, but the present arrangement is marked by considerable confusion, and can in no case be original. A glance at the contents of consecutive chapters is enough to show that the order is not rigorously chronological. Ch. xxv., e.g., falls in 605 B.C., whereas the preceding chapter is at least eight years later (cf. xxiv.1, 8). Ch. xxi.1-10, which reflects the period of the siege of Jerusalem, is one of the latest passages in the book (587 B.C.). There are occasional traces of a topical order: e.g. chs. xviii., xix., give lessons from the potter, xxi.9-xxiii.8 is a series of prophecies concerning kings, xxiii.9-40 another concerning prophets. Chs. xxx.-xxxiii. gather up the prophecies concerning the restoration. Chs. xxxvii.-xliv. constitute a narrative dealing with the siege of the city and events immediately subsequent to it. Here we touch one of the striking peculiarities of the book of Jeremiah that much of it is purely narrative. Again, in the narrative portion, sometimes the prophet speaks himself in the first person, as in the account of his call (i.), sometimes he is spoken of in the third, xxviii.5.

This suggests that some passages are more directly traceable to Jeremiah than others, and the clue to this fact is to be found in the interesting story told in ch. xxxvi. There we are informed that Jeremiah dictated to his disciple Baruch the scribe the messages of his ministry since his call twenty-one years before. After being read before the public gathering at the temple, and then before the court, they were destroyed by the king, Jehoiakim; but the messages were rewritten by Baruch, and many similar words, we are told, were added, xxxvi.32. It is clear that the book written by Baruch to Jeremiah's dictation cannot have been very long, as it could be read three times in one day, but it is impossible to say what precisely were its constituent elements. Roughly speaking, they must be confined to chs. i.-xxv., as the following chapters (except xlvi.-li.) are either narrative, like xxvi.-xxix., xxxvii.-xliv., or, if prophetic words of Jeremiah, come from a later date (cf. xxx.-xxxiii., xxxii.1). But the book cannot have included all of i.-xxv., for, as we have seen, parts of this section are later than 605, when the book was first dictated (cf. xxiv., xxi.1-10), and some are very late (cf. x.1-16, exilic at the earliest, and xvii.19-27, post-exilic). The difficulty of determining the constituents is increased by the fact that several of the chapters are undated (e.g. xiv.1-xvii.18). No doubt most of chs. i.-xii. and much of xiii.-xxv. were included within the original book dictated.

It is further important to note that the book was dictated; that is to say, it was not written by Jeremiah's own hand, and it was dictated from memory, though very possibly on the basis of notes. Obviously we cannot in any case have in these few chapters more than a summary of the words spoken during a ministry which at that time had already covered twenty-one years. The strong personal feeling which animates so much of Jeremiah's early prophecies, especially the poetry, we owe directly to his own dictation. The narrative sections, in which he is spoken of in the third person, but most of which obviously came from some one who was thoroughly conversant with the prophet's life, we owe, no doubt, to the faithful Baruch, who clearly held the prophet's words not only in respect, but in reverence, xxxvi.24. The biography, which, in its earlier chapters, assumes a somewhat annalistic form, xxvi. i, xxviii. i, xxix. i, develops an easy and flowing style when it comes to deal with the siege of Jerusalem (xxxvii.-xliv.). Speaking very generally, the biography covers chs. xxvi.-xlv. (except xxx., xxxi., xxxiii.).

But long after Baruch was in his grave, the book of Jeremiah continued to receive additions. Some of these, from exilic and post-exilic times, we have already seen (of, 1., li.). A relatively large literature grew up around the book of Jeremiah: 2 Chron. xxxvi.21 even quotes as Jeremiah's a prophecy which does not occur in our canonical book at all. (cf. Lev. xxvi.34f). Often those who added to the book had no clear imagination of the historical situation whatever; one of them represents Jeremiah as addressing the kings of Judah -- as if they had all lived at the same time -- on the question of the Sabbath day (xvii.20, cf. xix.3). The extent of these additions has already been illustrated by comparison with the Septuagint, and very often the passages which are not supported by the Greek text are historically the least trustworthy, cf. xxxix.11, 12. These different recensions of the original text attest the wide popularity of the book; an Aramaic gloss in x.11 shows the liberties which transcribers took with the text, the integrity of which suffered much from its very popularity. The interest of the later scribes was rather in homiletics than in history, and very probably most of the writing that seems tedious and diffuse in the book of Jeremiah is to be set down to the count of these teaching scribes. Jeremiah was a very gifted poet, with unusual powers of emotional expression, and it is greatly to be regretted that his own message has been so inextricably involved in the inferior work of a later age.

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