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Nevi'im (prophets) of the Tanakh
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of the Old Testament
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italics: Catholic Deuterocanon
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"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

Jeremiah (Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel)

Jeremiah (also Jeremias ; Hebrew יִרְמְיָהוּ Jirməjā́hû , tooיִרְמְיָה Jirməjâ ; Greek Ἰερεμίας Ieremías ) is one of the great scriptural prophets of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible ) and thus of the Old Testament . The book has been divided into 52 chapters since the Middle Ages . Jeremiah is traditionally considered to be the author of the Lamentations of Jeremiah .


The Hebrew name Jeremiah is mainly written in the MT יִרְמְיָהוּ jirməjāhû (with the variant יִרְמְיָה jirməjāh in Jer 27.1  EU ). It is a sentence name. The subject (the theophore element יָהוּ jāhû or יָה jāh ) is YHWH , the predicate belongs to the root רומ rwm "to raise / raise". The name therefore means "YHWH may arise".

This translation assumes that the name is to be read as יְרִמְיָהוּ jərimjāhû , just as the Septuagint always reproduces the name as ιερεμιας ieremias . Otherwise the name would have to be derived from the root רמה rmh "throw / shoot / let down / betray", but the resulting translation of the name with "YHWH may throw / shoot / let down / betray" makes no sense.

Historical assignment

According to the information at the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet was called by God in the 13th year of reign of a king Joschiah (see Jer 1,2  EU ), which is around the year 626 or 627 BC. Corresponds to. The dating depends on the models used. It is reported about his work at the time of the kings Joschiah, Jehoahaz , Jehoiakim , Jehoiachin and Zedekiah in Jerusalem , which probably until 585 BC. Lasted. He preached conversion and repentance to YHWH to the people of Israel and for years prophesied the downfall of Jerusalem and the temple, which began in 586 BC. BC by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II actually entered.

The book is an important source for the history of the end of kingship in the southern kingdom of Judah . It paints a detailed picture of the political and social conditions at the time. Many of the peoples of the north mentioned therein can also be found in Assyrian and Greek sources ( Ashkenaz , Gomer , Minni , Ararat ( Urarṭu ), Medes and Persians ). Piotrovski tried to use Jeremiah for the story of Urarṭu and based on Jer 51,27  LUT (campaign of Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz - usually interpreted as Scythians - against Babylon ) put the end of Urarṭu 590 or 585. However, this interpretation is largely rejected; most researchers assume that the empire was already at the end of the 7th century BC. BC found its end.

The author of the Book of Jeremiah refers to the prophet, the son of the priest Hilkiah ( Jer 1,1  EU ), possibly of Abiathar the from David to Anathoth (after Jos 21.18  EU one of the cities that the descendants of the priest Aaron has been given were) exiled priests ( 1 Kings 2:26  Lut ). It is highly doubtful whether this is identical with the priest Hilkija named in the 2nd Book of Kings ( 2 Kings 22.4  Lut ). Jeremiah comes from Anatot, whose inhabitants want to talk him out of appearing as a prophet ( Jer 11 : 18-23  EU ).

A priestly stamping of the message of Jeremiah, as for example with the prophet Ezekiel, is not recognizable. Also his position towards the religious reform ( 2 Kings 23  Lut and 2 Chr 35  Lut ) by King Joschija, which dates back to the year 622 BC. Chr. And mainly concerned the Jewish worship in the Jerusalem temple and the reintroduction of the Passover festival , remains completely unclear, since Jeremiah's words from the years between the reform and the death of Joschiah have not survived.

In the biblical book of Jeremiah, the last news is his deportation to Egypt . Later non-canonical writings tell of his life there and his stoning around 580 BC. Chr.

Outline of the book

Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem ( Ilya Repin , 1870)

Different parts of the book of Jeremiah can be clearly distinguished by form. On the one hand there are prophetic words of Jeremiah, mostly formulated from the perspective of Jeremiah, of which individual sayings are in rhyme form, then there are psalm-like sections and on the other hand there are inserted narratives and reports about Jeremiah and his appearance, formulated in the third person.

  • Chapters 1–10 contain the calling of Jeremiah as a prophet and words of judgment,
    • Part of it is the temple address in chapter 7 and the idol polemics in chapter 10 (cf. Isa 44).
  • Chapters 11–20 contain complaints and judgments.
    • The denominations of Jeremiah are prominent parts of it. They address the loneliness of the prophet, who accuses God for it.
    • The numerous acts of drawing by Jeremiah are also memorable : the spoiled belt in chapter 13 and the shattered jug in chapter 19.
  • Chapters 21–24 have words for leaders: Jerusalem will be destroyed!
  • In chapter 25 follows the announcement of the 70 years of exile
  • Chapters 26–29 contains a first narrative text about the fate of Jeremiah. Here Jeremiah is shown in conflict with other prophets, e.g. a. the court prophet Hananiah.
  • Words of salvation follow in chapters 30–35. The talk of the New Covenant in chapter 31 is illustrated by the purchase of land in Anatot in chapter 32. This is to show that Israel has a future beyond the impending destruction of Jerusalem.
  • Chapters 36–45 contains a second narrative that explains the fate of Jeremiah in the besieged Jerusalem. Here Jeremiah is in conflict with the last king, Judas Zidkiah. After the conquest of Jerusalem in chapter 39 and the assassination of the governor Gedaliah, who was installed by the Babylonians in chapter 41, he flees to Egypt in chapter 43. His last act of drawing in Egypt heralds the conquest of Egypt by the Babylonians.
  • Chapters 46–51 contain words of the prophets against foreign peoples. Chapter 51 announces a war of extermination against the Babylonians.
  • The book ends in chapter 52 with the account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the pardon of Jehoiachin (cf. 2 Kings 24f).

First chapter as program text

The first chapter can be read as the program text of the entire book. This chapter lays various traces into the book:

  • The complex heading in Jeremiah 1,1 qualifies the "words of Jeremiah" as a YHWH word and accentuates two primary dates: 628 - possibly the beginning of Josiah's cult cleansing measures - and 586, end of the kingdom of Judah.
  • Jeremiah 1,5 describes Jeremiah as a “prophet for the nations” - more clearly than any other character in the Old Testament he bears this title: Jeremiah is referred to as “the prophet” 31 times.
  • “Do not be afraid of them” reads Jeremiah 1,8: Before the addressees of Jeremiah's words of judgment are named, it becomes clear: Jeremiah as the messenger of the word of God is under massive threat. Two groups stand out among Jeremiah's opponents: on the one hand prophets and priests in Jeremiah 26-29, on the other hand kings and officials in Jeremiah 21-24.34-38.
  • "Tear up and tear down, destroy and tear down, build up and plant" (Jeremiah 1:10) are Jeremiah's tasks. The predominance of the court speeches in the Book of Jeremiah corresponds to the predominance of the destructive word pairs.
  • In Jeremiah 1: 11–15, the sight of an almond branch, the name of which in Hebrew sounds like “guard tree”, leads to the inspiration that YHWH is watching over the fulfillment of his word. This is a central point throughout the book.
  • “I will give my judgment” reads Jeremiah 1:16. Accordingly, the first half of the book is dominated by indictments and pronouncements.

Theological focus


Theological and ethical analyzes merge in the book, as does the criticism. A basic idea is that if Israel follows other gods, YHWH will litigate his chosen people and threaten the loss of the land. Šeqer (Hebrew = lie , deceit, mendacity) is a key word: it is no longer the law of YHWH that determines a community based on solidarity, but deception, deception and profit shape society. Therefore, the criticism hits mainly the prophets, priests and kings.

In some texts the judgment seems to be inevitable, but then again there are concrete expectations of salvation - probably reinforced by later additions. Good and bad cannot always be neatly separated. Salvation lies in the fact that the time of calamity is limited, that God renounces punishment and Jerusalem may return to YHWH.

Jeremiah 39

The chapter is significant insofar as it has a parallel in the books of kings (2 Kings 25) and marks the end of the southern kingdom. Different aspects become clear in this chapter:

  • The times given in vv. 1-2 indicate that the Babylonians were besieged for 18 months. (Two months of the first year, then a full year of twelve months, then another four months of the third year).
  • King Zedekiah and his troops flee the city of Jerusalem at night, but the people stay behind (v. 4).
  • In Jericho the troops are overtaken (v. 5). The location of Ribla is irritating because the reason for the long journey there is not immediately apparent. Death sentences are passed there (v. 6): The continuation of the dynasty is ensured by the killing of the sons and the Judean politicians are also killed. With eyes gouged out, Zedekiah is deported the long way to Babel (v. 7)
  • Palace and houses are burned, the walls torn down (v. 8). The deserters and the remnants are also taken prisoner to Babylon (v. 9).

Denominations of Jeremiah

The denominations of Jeremiah are individual concluding sections in chapters 11–20. They address the internal and external conflicts of the prophet, they are held in the style of lament psalms and differ in form from the prophetic sayings.

  • 11, 18–23: Jeremiah complains about the attempted murder of the men of Anatot. God then promises to visit them.
  • 12, 1–6: Jeremiah laments the happiness of the wicked (רשעים) and the faithless (בוגדי בגד).
  • 15, 10–21 Jeremiah complains about his office and the isolation that goes with it (cf. Chap. 16, 1–19!): He stands alone against everyone in the country, everyone curses him (v. 10), he has gotten away from all socializing to keep away (v. 17) v. 15 even asks Jeremiah to take revenge on his opponents.
  • 17, 14–18: Jeremiah asks when the announced will finally happen so that it does not become a mockery. Again the request that his persecutors be put to shame.
  • 18, 18–23: complaint about the pursuits and attacks; Jeremiah asks for the devastating end of his opponents (v. 23: "Do not forgive them their iniquities ... Let them fall before you ... at the time of your anger!") For God's proof of power.
  • 20, 7–18: As one who was deceived by God, Jeremiah finally wants to withdraw from his service. Verses 14-18 are no longer in the form of prayer, but in the form of a self-curse. Similar to Job 3, the day you are born is cursed.

These denominations were the reason that the Lamentations were assigned to Jeremiah and also led to the term Jeremiad .

In the overall context of the book, however, the fate of Jeremiah turns: In chap. 37ff, Jeremiah is one of the saved, while his opponents experience their punishment. So their superiority and success were only temporary. One could say that the person and the fate of Jeremiah offered themselves as a "foil" for the tension between real conditions and God's justice , which is still outstanding, but will ultimately prevail. In later writings it was no longer a big step towards apocalyptic . The connection between the danger and preservation of a prophet only exists in this form in Jeremiah.

Text history of the book

1-24 1-24
25th 1-13a 25th 1-13
13b-38 32 13-38
26-44 33-51
45 51 31-35
46 26th
47 29
48 31
49 1-5, 7-22,
23-27, 28-33
30th 17-21, 1-16,
29-33, 23-28
34-39 25th 14-19
50-51 27-28
52 52

The book of Jeremiah has come down to us in two different versions. The short version of the Book of Jeremiah in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) differs from the longer version in the Masoretic Text (MT) in many ways. In the corresponding passages, the Greek version is obviously a faithful translation of the Hebrew original. Overall, however, the Hebrew text is about a seventh longer. In addition, both versions differ considerably in structure. The Greek text follows the “tripartite eschatological scheme” (Proverbs of calamity against Israel - Proverbs of calamity against the peoples - Proverbs of salvation for Israel), while in the Hebrew version the sayings of the people (chapters 46-51) follow the proclamations of salvation for Israel, which are also included in the stories about Jeremiah are embedded (see adjacent table).

As the Qumran finds suggest, the Greek version is based on a Hebrew model that is different from the Masoretic text. Which of the two versions is the older is disputed. In any case, one can assume a longer parallel story of tradition.

Origin of the book

In the biblical tradition, the author is considered to be the prophet of the same name, who lived from around 627 to 587 BC. Worked in Jerusalem.

For a long time, the scientific discussion of the 20th century was determined by the commentary of Bernhard Duhm (1901). He saw the oldest part of the book in the "Poems of Jeremiah" in chapters 1 to 25. In his opinion, a second block consisted of the "Book of Baruch" (chapters 26-45). Later additions can be found in all parts of the book. According to Duhm, only about 280 verses can be traced back to the historical Jeremiah, ie less than a quarter of the book.

Sigmund Mowinckel (1914) took a different approach . In the creation of the book he distinguished four sources: words of Jeremiah, stories about Jeremiah, stylistically deuteronomistic speeches (e.g. c. 7 and 25) and the words of salvation in Jer 30f. However, the character of the prose speech is not based on sources, but editorial, that is, they already assume their context, as Winfried Thiel was able to demonstrate. Thiel therefore only made a distinction between Jeremian texts, a Deuteronomistic editing and post-Deuteronomistic additions.

However, in the so-called deuteronomistic texts, a distinction must be made between linguistic and factual deuteronomisms. The origin of the Book of Jeremiah is therefore probably far more complex to imagine than can be represented in these simplifying models. The book of Jeremiah is pervaded by references to an existing written culture : Not only does Baruch bear the title 'Schreiber' (36.26), but the title is also used in other ways (36.12; 37.15.20; 52.25). There is talk of blackboard (17.3), ink (36.18) and scribe's knife (36.23). Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles in chapter 29: 1. The literally quoted threat of calamity Micah (26.17f) and allusions to numerous earlier prophets require written documentation of these earlier prophetic sayings.

Jeremiah in art and music

Quote from Jer 7.2 above the former main entrance of the Mennonite Church Friedelsheim
Quote from Jer 29:11 on a plaque of the Mennonite parish hall in Limburgerhof- Kohlhof
  • In the church of St. Nikolai in Potsdam there is a ceiling painting by Jeremiah. It was created by the painter Karl Stürmer . Further paintings on the pendentives below the dome show the other main biblical prophets Isaiah (by Eduard Holbein ), Daniel (by Hermann Theodor Schultz ) and Ezekiel (by Gustav Eich ). They were created in collaboration with the Berlin painter Peter von Cornelius .
  • In 1877, Karl Federlin created the large sandstone statue of the prophet Jeremiah on the 500th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of Ulm Minster . It was donated by members of the local synagogue (including Albert Einstein's father ). The statue stands on the pulpit side of the main nave below the large organ.
  • Auguste de Niederhäusern, called Rodo (1863–1913), prophet Jeremiah, statue in front of St. Pierre Cathedral, Geneva.
  • The expressionist drama Jeremias is by Stefan Zweig . A dramatic poem in nine pictures. (Leipzig: Insel 1917). The writer Franz Werfel published the historical novel Hear the Voice in 1937 , in which he recorded the subject of Jeremiah. The following year, Josef Kastein's novel Jeremias: The Report on the Fate of an Idea was published (Vienna / Jerusalem: Löwit 1938).
  • Leonard Bernstein's First Symphony (1942) is entitled Jeremiah .
  • Theophil Laitenberger created the oratorio Zeit des Jeremia (1972), a large oratorio for baritone, large and small choir, flutes, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, timpani, strings and organ.
  • Bertold Hummel's third symphony Jeremia (1996) consists of four movements with the titles Anathot - Babylon - Lamentationes Jeremiae - Hymnus-Lakén.

Memorial Day of the Prophet

See also



  • Bernhard Duhm: The Book of Jeremiah. (Short hand commentary on the Old Testament XI). Tübingen / Leipzig 1901.
  • Wilhelm Rudolph: Jeremiah . Old Testament Handbook 1/12. 3rd, verb. Ed., Mohr, Tübingen 1968.
  • Siegfried Herrmann : Jeremiah . Biblical Commentary XII. Neukirchener Verl., Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1986– [so far only series 1 and 2 published] - ISBN 3-7887-0787-9 .
  • Gunther Wanke: Jeremiah . Zurich Bible Commentary 20. Theol. Verl., Zurich.
  • Georg Fischer: Jeremiah 1–25 . Herder's theological commentary on the Old Testament . Herder, Freiburg i.Br. u. a. 2005 (764 pp.) - ISBN 3-451-26838-8 .
  • Georg Fischer: Jeremiah 26–52 . Herder's theological commentary on the Old Testament. Herder, Freiburg i.Br. u. a. 2005 (744 pp.) - ISBN 3-451-26839-6 .
  • Jack R. Lundbom: Jeremiah . 3 vols. New York 1999-2004.
    • Vol. 1: Jeremiah 1-20. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary . The Anchor Bible 21A. Doubleday, New York 1999. (934 pp.) - ISBN 0-385-41112-X .
    • Vol. 2: Jeremiah 21-36. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary . The Anchor Bible 21B. Doubleday, New York 2004. (649 pp.) - ISBN 0-385-41113-8 .
    • Vol. 3: Jeremiah 37-52. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary . The Anchor Bible 21C. Doubleday, New York 2004. (624 pp.) - ISBN 0-385-51160-4 .
  • Walter Brueggemann : A Commentary on Jeremiah. Exile and Homecoming . Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1999 - ISBN 0-8028-0280-X .
  • Werner H. Schmidt : The book of Jeremiah. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.

Individual studies

  • Sigmund Mowinckel: On the composition of the book Jeremia (= Skrifter / Videnskapsselskapet i Kristiania, Historisk-Filosofisk Class 1913,5), Dybwad, Kristiana 1914.
  • Winfried Thiel: The deuteronomistic editing of Jeremiah 1–25 (WMANT 41). Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsverein, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1973, ISBN 3-7887-0341-5 .
  • Winfried Thiel: The deuteronomistic editing of Jeremiah 26-45 (WMANT 52). Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsverein, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1981, ISBN 3-7887-0647-3 .
  • Norbert Ittmann: The denominations of Jeremiah: their significance for the proclamation of the prophet (= WMANT Scientific Monographs on the Old and New Testament , Volume 54), Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsverein, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1981, ISBN 3-7887-0661-9 (Dissertation University Munich 1977, 211 pages).
  • Axel Graupner: Mission and Fate of the Prophet Jeremiah (BThSt 15). Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsverein, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1989, ISBN 3-7887-1364-X .
  • Hermann-Josef Stipp: The Masoretic and Alexandrian special items of the Book of Jeremiah. Text-historical rank, characteristics, driving forces (= OBO Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Volume 136, ISSN  1015-1850 ). Universitätsverlag, Friborg / Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1994, ISBN 3-7278-0956-6 (Friborg) / ISBN 3-525-53771-9 (Göttingen).
  • Konrad Schmid : Book designs of the Book of Jeremiah. Investigations into the editorial and reception history of Jer 30–33 in the context of the book (= WMANT Scientific Monographs on the Old and New Testaments , Volume 72). Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsverein, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1996, ISBN 3-7887-1608-8 (dissertation University of Zurich 1996, XIII, 446 pages).
  • Christl Maier: Jeremiah as a teacher of the Torah. Social commandments of Deuteronomy in updates of the Book of Jeremiah (= FRLANT research on religion and literature of the Old and New Testaments , issue 196). Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 3-525-53880-4 (Habilitation Humboldt University Berlin 2000/2001, 422 pages).
  • Hannes Bezzel: The denominations of Jeremiah. An editorial history study (= supplements to the journal for Old Testament science , Volume 378), de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, NY 2007, ISBN 3-11-020043-0 (Dissertation University of Göttingen 2007, X, 354 pages).

Stories and novels

  • Josef Kastein: Jeremias: The report of the fate of an idea. Löwit, Vienna and Jerusalem 1938.
  • Hermann Koch (religious educator) : Blooming, almond twig, blooming: Jeremiah, prophet between crisis of faith and trust in God. Junge Gemeinde 2004. ISBN 978-3-7797-0322-8 (Dramatic story in novel form).
  • Franz Werfel: Hear the voice. 1938 (historical novel)
  • Stefan Zweig: Jeremiah. A dramatic poem in nine pictures. Insel, Leipzig 1917

Web links

Commons : Jeremiah  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. Martin Noth : The Israelite personal names in the context of common emitic naming , Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1928, p. 201.
  3. Common models come from William Foxwell Albright , Edwin R. Thiele and Gershon Galil .
  4. ^ Adam T. Smith: The Making of an Urartian Landscape in Southern Transcaucasia: A Study of Political Architectonics. In: American Journal of Archeology 103/1, 1999, 50.
  5. The table is based on the texts in:
    Jeremiah. In: Parallel Aligned Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek texts of Jewish Scripture. University of Pennsylvania , Center for Computer Analysis of Texts (CCAT), April 5, 1994, accessed November 6, 2018 (Old Hebrew, Old Greek, ( Betacode )).
  6. ^ Jeremiah in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  7. Kristiania also Christiania , until 1924 the name of Oslo , the capital of Norway