« AnteriorContinuar »
THE PROPHECIES OF JEREMIAH.
I . THE PROPHET'S NAME AND DESCENT.
The name Jeremiah, seldom in the present book in the
abbreviated form ?WpT (cf. on xxvii. 1), is of doubtful signification. If derived from the root nD"}, it would mean: Yah = Yahu=Yahveh hurls, in the sense of Ex. xv. 1, or of hurling lightnings; rather, according to Dietrich: Yahveh founds, like Km in Syriac, cf. fundamenta jaeere and the Hebrew rrV, to found, from which also proper names come. LXX 'Iepefitas, Vulg. Jeremias.
The name was not uncommon in Israel (1 Chron. xii. 13; 2 Kings xxiii . 31, cf. Jer. xxxv. 3, and elsewhere). Our prophet is more precisely described as son of Hilkiah (i . 1), by whom we are not to understand, as has been done in ancient and modern days, the high priest of this name who held office in Josiah's days and took part in the reforms of that king (2 Kings xxii., xxiii.), since, instead of the definite statement which we should then expect, we have only a general account: of the priests at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin; the high priest without doubt had his seat in Jerusalem; on the other hand, the priests settled at Anathoth, the old Levitical town (Josh. xxi. 18), the present Anata (a good hour north-east of Jerusalem; according to Joseph. Ant. x. 7. 3, twenty stadia from Jerusalem), probably belonged,
according to 1 Kings ii. 26, to the line of Ithamar, not to that of Zadok.
IL THE PROPHET'S TIMES AND LABOURS.
Jeremiah prophesied from the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign (i. 2, xxv. 3), i.e. about 628 B.C., to the destruction of Jerusalem, 588 (587?) B.C., under the last kings of Judah (Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah), and after the fall of the capital several years longer at any rate in Egypt,—thus perhaps for a period of about fifty years.
Josiah (640-609) came to the throne, after the murder of his father Amon, in his eighth year, 2 Kings xxii. 1. See respecting his disposition, xxii. 2, xxiii. 25. In the Chronicles various preliminary reforms are noticed on the part of this ruler before his proper systematic reformation. It is probable in itself that such attempts came first, and we have no right to mistrust the Chronicler, whose narrative is here more detailed (against Ewald, Hist. iii. 207). He relates (2 Chron. xxxiv. 3-7), that already in the eighth year of his reign, and therefore the sixteenth of his life, Josiah sought the Lord, and in the twelfth year (twentieth of his life) began to clear the land of heathen idols. Kings and Chronicles then relate in common, that in the eighteenth year of his reign (twentysixth of his life), on occasion of the finding of the law-book in the temple, Josiah carried out a consistent and rigid reformation of worship in accordance with this Torah (2 Kings xxii. 1-xxiii. 30; 2 Chron. xxxiv. 8-xxxv. 27).
The divine call of the prophet Jeremiah of Anathoth falls five years earlier. In the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign he does not appear to have been so well known and recognised as a prophet at Jerusalem that official application would be made to him for oracles. On the contrary, such application is made by Josiah's servants to the prophetess Huldah, 2 Kings xxii. 14 ff. Jeremiah's earliest discourses (chs. ii.—vi.) in the time of this king belong to the thirteenth year (ch. i.), cf. iii . 6 (iv. 10, after the eighteenth year). Ch. xvii. 19-27, too, belongs to this period,—a proof how the prophet also took part, under higher impulse, in the attempt to lead the nation back to observance of the law, all which he relates in xi. 1-8. This movement must have had the warm sympathy of Jeremiah, who is constantly complaining of idolatry and hill-worship, and who shows himself full of the spirit of Deuteronomy. All the more noteworthy is his independence of the pious king. His testimony originates simply in the direct command of the Lord; his judgment respecting the nation and its condition, certified to him as divine even at his call, was not altered by Josiah's renovation of worship and morals; it must have remained essentially the same as indicated in 2 Kings xvii. 16 f., xxiii. 26, because the better efforts of some in high place, while producing many outward changes, did not penetrate the nation's heart, and were unable to secure the sway of the Spirit of the Lord even among the priesthood and the prophetic body. Jeremiah seems also to have disapproved a vacillating policy in Josiah (ii. 36 f.). How closely attached, nevertheless, he remained to this excellent king, and how bitterly he mourned his premature end (at Megiddo in the battle with Pharaoh-necho, 609), is shown by the circumstance that he composed lamentations upon him with whom the good genius of his people vanished, —lamentations which were extant in the Chronicler's days (2 Chron. xxxv. 25), but have not come down to us. In that reformation-preaching of the covenant-law in Josiah's days Jeremiah laboured also in other cities of the land (xi. 6); whereas otherwise the proper scene of his labour was in Jerusalem, where he was fond of addressing the multitudes gathered at the feasts in the temple. He would also fain have carried out this mission in behalf of the law in his native town of Anathoth; but there, like other prophets in their own home, he met with fierce opposition, which issued in a
dangerous plot against his life, from which a warning of the Lord preserved him (xi. 18 ff.). Even his brethren and near kinsmen entered into the conspiracy against him (xii. 6), probably looking upon him as a dangerous enthusiast.
Jehoahaz, who reigned but three months (2 Kings xxiii. 31 f.), is only mentioned in Jer. xxii. 10 ff. under the name of Shallum (see on xxii. 11). He will not return to Jerusalem from his journey to the Egyptian camp at Eiblah, where he was taken prisoner and carried off to Egypt.
Jehoiakim, his elder brother, passed over by the people as the less worthy, raised to the throne by Pharaoh-necho under the above name, his previous name having been Eliakim, reigned eleven years (609-598 B.C.). This king, in contrast to his worthy father, favoured the prevailing heathen and untheocratic usages (2 Kings xxiii . 37), into which path his brother had already turned aside (2 Kings xxiii. 32). In social respects, also, the rule of this vain, pomp-loving, and harsh prince was a misfortune to the oppressed nation (Jer. xxii. 13 ff.). But it was his political treachery that was especially full of danger. At first a partisan of Egypt, in his fifth year he became tributary to Nebuchadnezzar, but again conspired against him after three years' subjection. In this way he brought about the devastation of the land by Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, who gladly acted as the tools of the Chaldaeans (2 Kings xxix. 1 f), until Nebuchadnezzar under his successor came to Jerusalem and revenged himself by plundering and carrying away the people. On all these accounts Jeremiah was forced severely to rebuke the king's conduct and to threaten him with personal punishment, which also overtook him, xxii. 1-19 (xxi. 11-14). Cf. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 6 f. The circumstances of his death are obscure. Probably he came into the Babylonian camp, was there unfavourably received and put in chains, but did not reach Babylon. Under Jehoiakim the great temple-discourse was uttered, chs. vii.-ix., x. 17-25, and this at the beginning of his reign, according to xxvi. 1. The fourth year of Jehoiakim was especially epoch-making in history and prophecy; then in the battle of Carchemish the superiority of the Chaldaeans over the Egyptians was decided, as Jeremiah, xlvi. 1-12, had predicted. In this year, when all eyes were turned to the movements of the great nations, Jeremiah in a survey of these movements prophetically announces the consequences of the approaching elevation of the Chaldaeans over Asia and Africa, ch. xxv. From this year also spring specific oracles respecting individual kingdoms, chs. xlviii., xlix.; ch. xlvii. from a little earlier time; xlvi. 13 ff. and xlix. 34-39 are of later origin. Of the addresses to Judah, chs. xi., xii., xiv. 1-xvii. 18 (spoken on occasion of a drought) seem to us to have been uttered under Jehoiakim, and this in his earlier days, before enemies had invaded the land; also xviii.-xx. The occurrence in ch. xxxv. is expressly dated in these days.
It is easy to conceive that, under such a government, the incorruptible and intrepid prophet had even at this early period to endure severe attacks and persecutions at the hands of the authorities. Cf. xvii. 18, xviii. 18 ff. Already, on occasion of the temple-discourse just mentioned, according to ch. xxvi. a capital charge was brought by the priests and prophets against the inexorable preacher of woe, who spared them least of all. Cf. the discourse against the prophets, xxiii. 9-40. But the princes here showed themselves as yet considerate and just; among them and the influential elders of the land he did not lack well-disposed intercessors and protectors. Nevertheless he did not escape actual ill-treatment on the part of Pashhur who had charge of the police in the temple, as ch. xx. relates. His attitude also to the people became at this time more strained, as xvi . 1 ff. shows, where among other things he is advised by God not to marry, since the children of this land have nothing good to expect. In consequence of his action in ch. xx., xxvi., access to the temple-forecourt and labour among the people seem to have