Grace Theological Journal 1.2 (Fall 1980) 163-83.

[Copyright © 1980 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Grace Colleges and elsewhere]










            A striking feature of the Jeremiah material is the inclusion of

numerous quotations attributed to the prophet’s audience. A survey

of these materials shows that these quotations, whether verbatim or

"constructed" to reflect truthfully the collective expressions and senti-

ments of the audience, occur in four contexts: (1) accusation, (2)

announcement, (3) personal confrontation, and (4) invitation. Study

of these contexts demonstrates the degree and longevity of opposition

to the prophet’s ministry. The audience is depicted as overtly empha-

sizing Zions inviolability and as unduly attached to externals (ark,

temple, Law, king, etc.). Quotations of audience reaction in Jeremiah

articulate the theological divergency of his audience. In every age the

audience speaks its mind, declaring its theological tenets. Jeremiah

knew what his audience said and spoke directly to the issues. Simi-

larly the contemporary church must know and speak God’s Word.

The question is: What is the audience declaring today?


*    *    *


IN an earlier article this writer studied Jeremiah's employment of

seemingly direct quotations of pseudoprophets.l In the process of

that study, it also became apparent that the text of the book

contained an even higher number of quotations, originating with the

prophet's audience. These quotations serve as a major element in the

audience reaction to Jeremiah's ministry. Overholt has recently esti-

mated the number of such quotations to be "approximately 100 . . .


            1 R. E. Manahan, "A Theology of Pseudoprophets; A Study in Jeremiah," GTJ 1

(1980) 77-96.



distributed fairly evenly throughout the book.”2 So common a liter-

ary feature is deserving of serious study.3

What legitimate expectations might there be for such a study?

One matter is certain: placing side by side the contrasting words of

Jeremiah and his audience helps to clarify what theological issues

were at stake in his era of history.4 Such knowledge helps to sensitize

and elucidate nuances of meaning in the Jeremiah material that

otherwise might have been unnoticed. This background information

itself proves helpful for further study of the book.

Further, such study helps to identify what theological deviations

led to the apostasy of Judah in her waning years.5 The audience

spoke its mind, and what it said articulated its beliefs. Collation of

these findings ought to furnish materials for understanding the essen-

tial tenets of popular theology. If this alone were the yield of this

analysis, it would prove a worthwhile endeavor. Moreover, one may


2 T. W. Overholt, "Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" CBQ 41

(1979) 262. While from this writer's study Overholt's number appears to be a fair

approximation, he nowhere cites the 100 or so references, nor does he indicate his

definition of a quotation. Such a definition is necessary for the isolation and identifica-

tion of quoted material.

3 Even recent studies in other areas of research are indicating what valuable

contributions can be made by analyzing audience reaction. In particular note J.-P.

Van Noppen ("A Method for the Evaluation of Recipient Response," BT 30 [1979]

301ff.) and a new work to be published by T. E. Gregory (Vox Populi [Columbus:

Ohio State University, n.d.]). This latter work will maintain that it was not until the

beginning of the present century that, largely as a result of the influence of Marxist

thought, historians began to pay serious attention to the role of the crowd in antiquity.

4 This point is maintained (though from a radically different perspective) in another

context by R. Davidson ("Orthodoxy and the Prophetic Word," VT 14 [1964] 408). He

understands that an adequate exploration of the relationship between Yahweh’s word

and the religious orthodoxy (for this writer, apostasy) of the day demands fulfillment

of two conditions: "1) There must be a prophet locked in conflict with the religious

establishment and providing us with sufficient information to sketch clearly the major

issues at stake. 2) We must have access to the orthodox standpoint independent of that

provided by the prophetic criticism."

5 That apostasy is the issue is indicated by Jeremiah's use of hbAUwm;, meaning

"faithlessness, defection, apostasy"; cf. W. L. Holladay (ed.), A Concise Hebrew and

Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 218. Of the

dozen occurrences of this term in the OT Jeremiah uses the term in 2:19; 3:6, 8, 11, 12,

22; 5:6; 8:5; 14:7. Of these usages, a recurring phrase is lxerAW;yi hbAwum; (NASB,

"faithless Israel"; cf. 3:6, 8, 11, 12). This phrasing would indicate that rather early in his

ministry Jeremiah understood the nature of the audience's theological and experiential

deviation. This, of course, is understood on the assumption that the section Jeremiah

1-20 generally represents the period of Josiah's reign; cf. L. J. Wood, The Prophets of

Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 339, who follows the lead of E. J. Young

(Introduction to the Old Testament, 225-29). For an alternate viewpoint note R. K.

Harrison (Jeremiah and Lamentations [TyndaIe Old Testament Commentaries; Downers

Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1972] 33).



assume achievement of the above expectations to aid in understand-

ing something of the very nature and method of theological deviation

in any age. And just here the applicational nature of this study rests.

What Jeremiah sensed and reacted to serves as forewarning that

contemporary audience reaction may articulate its own popular theol-

ogy, a theology out of sorts with historic orthodoxy.

But these expectations require at least a sense of the nature of

the political environs of Jeremiah's age. His age was a political

hurricane, enfolding in its swirl nations of less might and scattering

political debris in unexpected ways. Judah found itself in the midst of

the storm, political uncertainties all around. Jeremiah's book records

the protracted agony of Judah's political fate. All this political

agitation and uncertainty left its mark on the response of Jeremiah's


The scope of this study prohibits any treatment of textual

problems in the book of Jeremiah, unless they raise an interpretive

question in relevant materials. There exist a number of more exten-

sive treatments of textual matters relating to the book.7 Yet, the

assumption is that the text must be taken seriously.8 When citing the

English translation of the text, the NASB will be used unless other-

wise noted.





An immediate concern of methodology is first to define impor-

tant terms. In this study that must include a definition of "quotation "

and "audience reaction."


6 For a helpful summation of the political crisis note W. C. Klein ("Commentary

on Jeremiah," ATR 45 [1963] 122). For an excellent treatment of the correlation

between theological conceptions and the state of Judah note C. E. Tilson ("False

Prophets in the Old Testament" [Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1951],

especially pages 303ff.).

7 Note especially J. Bright, Jeremiah (AB; Garden City: Doubleday, 1965); and J.

G. Janzen, Studies in the Text of Jeremiah (HSM 6; Cambridge: Harvard University,

1973). There are recent articles such as that of E. Tov ("Exegetical Notes on the

Hebrew Vorlage of the LXX of Jeremiah 27 (34)," ZAW 91 [1979] 73-93).

8 Of course, the underlying assumption of this paper is that the corpus of material

that has come down to the contemporary world is the context for this investigation.

The effort of this study is not to discuss the matter of the multitude of explanations for

how this book came to be. Harrison (Jeremiah and Lamentations, 27) comments: "It is

now increasingly realized that the extant writings of the prophets actually comprise

anthologies of their utterances, and the book of Jeremiah is no exception to this

general principle." Such being the case the text of Jeremiah has been searched time and

again for clues as to possible sources for the material. Beginning with Duhm and



Quotation. Robert Gordis some time ago noted the difficulty in

identifying quotations in the biblical record. Quite simply, "These

quotations are naturally not indicated by a system of punctuation,

which did not exist in ancient times, and often they may lack an

introductory verb of speaking or thinking."9 The reader of the

biblical record must supply quotation marks where the sense demands

them. This, of course, demands careful attention to the sense of the

passage and its intended structure within its context.10 Attendant to

this rather complex task is the sobering matter of knowing if a given

quotation is a verbatim citation of a speaker's actual words or the

hearer's verbalization of the speaker's thought. Here again the sur-

rounding of a text serves as the best guide for determining the nature

of the quoted material.

Given these problems in identifying quotations, the reader must

develop a definition of a quotation that will serve well in isolating

quoted materials. Gordis suggests that a "quotation" refers to "words

which do not reflect the present sentiments of the author of the

literary composition in which they are found, but have been intro-

duced by the author to convey the standpoint of another person or

situation."11 He understands this definition to include both actual

words and thoughts of the speaker. Generally, his definition is


But in the case of Jeremiah's book there is considerable textual

help in aiding this broad definition. The book possesses numerous

verbatim citations of speakers or verbalizations consistent with their

thought. Such an abundance of material helps the interpreter more

easily check his identification of a given quotation against numerous

other instances in the same body of literature.

Another feature of the book is its insistence on clarifying the

views of the audience. The book repeatedly articulates from Yahweh's

perspective the pulse of audience thought and life. This helps one

know what to expect the audience to say. This sensitizing to the

theological tension between Jeremiah and his audience enables the


Mowinckel, attempts have followed (cf. ibid., 27-34 for an adequate survey of more

recent discussion on the authorship of the book). Note the casual way in which W. J.

Horwitz ("Audience Reaction to Jeremiah," CBQ 32 [1970] 555) begins his article: "It

is generally recognized that three major sources, designated A, B, and C, have

preserved material from the prophet Jeremiah or concerning him."

9 R Gordis, Poets, Prophets, and Sages: Essays in Biblical Interpretation (Bloom-

ington: Indiana University, 1971) 108-9. Cf. also Gordis, The Book of God and Man

(Chicago: University of Chicago, 1965) 169ff.

10 Ibid., 109: "That the passage is indeed a quotation must be understood by the

reader, who is called upon in Semitic literature to supply not only punctuation but

vocalization as well.

11 Ibid.



contemporary reader to know where in the reading of the book a

quotation is more likely to occur (as an example, 3:22-25). To

reiterate, a quotation must be identified by a careful reading of the

text, watching for textual indicators of quoted material. The reader of

the book is aided by overt statements interpreting the nature of

Jeremiah's hearers. This helps the reader know what content to

expect in a quotation.

However, it is not always possible to determine if the quotation

of the audience is intended to be a verbatim citation or a paraphrase

of the speaker's thought. In fact, as Overholt points out, H. W. Wolff

in his Das Zitat im Prophetenspruch observed "that quotations in the

prophetic literature are usually attributed to groups of opponents,

and are sometimes strange enough (e.g., the quotation of future

words) to suggest that they are homiletical devices.”12 The attributing

of a quotation to a group must be a rhetorical device in which the

prophet constructs a "composite quotation" that truthfully represents

the expressions of the audience.

A definition of "quotation" must include breadth enough for

inclusion of both the author's direct citation of a speaker and

construction of a "composite quotation" to reflect truthfully the

collective expressions and sentiments of the audience. Above all, the

definition must be accompanied by a rejection of any type of histori-

cism that claims to identify infallibly all quotations, or finds quota-

tions where context argues against, or in this case, finds quotations

that argue against the interpretation of the audience given elsewhere

in the book.13

Audience reaction. A definition of audience reaction is also

necessary. Our present study understands that audience includes

Jeremiah's contemporary countrymen and reaction further restricts

the contemporary countrymen to those whose views counter Yah-

weh's as expressed through the prophet. This audience includes those

who hold generally to the same theological perspective that might be

termed a popular theology.


12 Overholt, "Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" 263.

13 By historicism is meant the process by which the text of Scripture is made to

submit to the unyielding demands of a modern scientific historiography which fails or

refuses to articulate its underlying presuppositions. Two examples of such tendencies

toward wresting the Biblical text are ibid., 108ff. (who hopes to find those verses,

formerly thought incongruous, that may now be found congruous when understood as

quotations) and Horwitz, "Audience Reaction to Jeremiah," 555-64. As evidence of his

methodology Gordis cites direct quotations of speech by the subject, development of

dialogue, direct quotations of the thoughts of the subject, prayers, quotations embody-

ing the previous standpoint of thought of the speaker (which he may now have

surrendered), citation of a hypothetical speech or thought, proverbial quotations, use

of proverbial quotations as a text, contrasting proverbs, etc.



By this definition are excluded those instances where Jeremiah

cites words that come from days other than his own.14 Also excluded

are quotations of foreign peoples.15 Generally, these are of value in

merely confirming the nuances of audience ideas expressed elsewhere.

Further, this definition excludes quotations of those contemporary

countrymen who may have taken Jeremiah's view or at least have

been sympathetic to it.16 In addition to these exclusions is the quota-

tion given in 10:19-20, where the speaker is the land personified.17

Moreover, those quotations where the prophet verbalizes on behalf of

the nation are not included, since the views of the nation and the

prophet are not concentric (cf. 4:10; 14:7-9, 13, 19-22).


14 This means exclusion of those quotations recorded in 31:7, 18-19, 23, 29, 34.

There is little doubt that the context of chap. 31 is future blessing for Yahweh's

renewed people; cf. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentations, 135. V 7 mirrors a sharp

contrast to the nation's comments in the days of Jeremiah (note for example 2:20; 6:16,

17; 22:21). And just so is the sentiment of 31:18-19. Also contrastive to what people of

the exilic period must have uttered is the statement of 3:29 (ibid., 137). Exilic peoples

"felt that God was judging them unjustly for circumstances which were no fault of

theirs." Added to this cluster of verses in chap. 31 are several other references that refer

to the future. The passage in 3:16 indicates that one day the people will no longer say,

"The ark of the covenant of the Lord," because in that day their concern will be over

Yahweh's divine presence rather than the symbol of it (note ibid., 66). However, this

passage may have had a polemic use for Jeremiah's audience. Two passages, 16:14-15

and 23:7-8, substantially repeating each other, point out that, though God will cast his

people into a foreign land (16:13) that is not the final end. Eventually once restored to

the land they will have been furnished a more glorious substratum for the oath by

Yahweh's name; cf. C. W. E. Naegelsbach, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (Lange's

Commentaries; New York: Scribner's, 1915) 159 and 209. The passage in 23:7-8 is the

more difficult, made so by its omission between vv 6 and 8 and its inclusion at the end

of the chapter in the LXX. On the whole, given the context of both passages, the

altered substratum of the oath refers to the coming restoration of Yahweh's people.

15 Quotations of this sort are those in 6:4; 12:16 (cf. 12:14); 39:12; 40:2-5; 46:8, 14,

16, 17; 48:2, 3, 14, 17, 19; 49:4, 29; 50:7, 46.

16 An illustration of this type of quotation is that of 45:3 which recounts an

utterance of Baruch whom T. W. Davies ("Baruch," International Standard Bible

Encyclopedia [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939], 1.407) describes as the devoted friend

and faithful attendant of the prophet Jeremiah. Also add to this passage the citations

of the conversation of Elishama, Delaish, Elnathan, Gemariah, Zedekiah, and all the

other officials (note 36:12) with Baruch. The quotations occur in 36:14, 15, 16, 17, 19.

The context indicates these officials (at least the first three named above) were more

kindly disposed to Baruch (and thus Jeremiah); cf. 36:25. Jer 36:24 does indicate that

"the king and all his servants (vydAbAfE-lkAv;) who heard these words were not afraid, nor

did they rend their garments." At first reading, this comment might include the

individuals named above. But they are referred to as "officials"(MyriWA). The term

"servants" would include still others who attended the king. Therefore, the comment of

v 24 must be understood to exclude these officials. For a similar conclusion compare

Naegelsbach (The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 315): "By the servants of the king

who 'heard all these words,' are here evidently to be understood those whose who

heard them here for the first time, not those who had already heard them in the



Methodological approach


The chief concern here is with the method of collation to be used

as one sifts through the quotations that can now be isolated by

observing the above definitions. Of course, not every interpreter has

suggested the same methodology.

Several alternatives. One could take Horwitz's suggestion that

the method of collation for organizing these quotations is three-

fold.18 There are replies in which the audience repeats Jeremiah's

statements. Again, there are replies induced by Jeremiah's words.

And again, there are quotations made by Jeremiah (or God) of

retorts the audience had made. These three have much to commend

themselves. Certainly it is possible to collate the quotations about

such centers. However, the weakness remains that this method tends

to focus on the context of the quotation especially, not specifically on

what the quotation tells about the audience; to know of the audience

is important. The method does not appear broad enough to analyze

adequately the quotations of audience reactions.

An alternative is Crenshaw's suggested methodology of collation.

For him, the organizational schema must denote what one might call

the theological tenets of the audience. Thus, he concludes that there

are six such tenets:


. . . (1) confidence in God's faithfulness, (2) satisfaction with tradi-

tional religion, (3) defiance in the face of prophets who hold a different


secretary's office." Probably another quotation could be added to this category, 38:9, a

citation of Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch. Though little is known of this individ-

ual, the citation does picture him as sympathetic to Jeremiah's needs; compare "Ebed-

Melech," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939),

2. 890. Additionally there are the quotations of Gedaliah (40:9-10, 16), whom the

biblical record treats in kindly fashion, and probably the ten of eighty men (41:8; cf.

41:5). And, though the nature of their religious correspondence to the viewpoint of

Jeremiah cannot be known exactly (cf. 26:21), the citations in 26:16, 18-19 indicate that

a number of people came to the defense of Jeremiah's prophecy concerning the

judgment to fall on Jerusalem.

17 Of this passage Naegelsbach (The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 123) says:

"That both these verses are the words of the country personified, is seen from 'my

children,' etc., in ver. 20, for neither the prophet says this, nor the people, who are

identical with the children and not forsaken, but forsaking.--And I say. In these words

also we have a proof that the land is the speaker. For the words express no

consciousness of guilt, but a comfort, which the innocent land alone could find, in the

fact that a calamity is laid upon it, which must be borne." An interesting comparison

with this passage is Jer 4:28.

18 Horwitz, "Audience Reaction To Jeremiah," 559. One of his hopes by this

method is to help establish, as Overholt ("Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience

Reaction,'" 262) says, "the historicity of the prophet's message of the inevitable

destruction of the nation."



view, (4) despair when hope seems dead, (5) doubt as to the justice of

God, and (6) historical pragmatism.19

Whereas Horwitz's method tends to isolate the settings of the quota-

tions, Crenshaw's isolates the theological implications of the quota-

tions themselves. But the latter lost something valuable, measuring a

given quotation by its setting. It might yield insight for why the

quotation was included at any given point in the text.

There are yet other alternative methods of collation. Overholt

summarizes the three centers about which Wolff believed quotations

could be collected:

. . . those expressing faithfully the opinions of the persons quoted,

those transforming these opinions by means of exaggeration and irony,

and words spoken in the future.20


Then Overholt suggests his own method: examine "the form and

rhetoric of the passages in which the quotations occur in an effort to

describe where and how they are used in the prophet's speech."21 For

him, this methodology will aid in the discussion of the functions of

these quotations in the message of Jeremiah.


19 J. L. Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict (BZAW 124; Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1971)

24ff. A. S. Van der Woude ("Micah In Dispute With the Pseudo-Prophets," VT 19

[1969] 246) maintains that the theological tenets of "Zion-theology" which character-

ized the audience can be known through a study of disputations between canonical

prophets and pseudoprophets.

20 Note Overholt, "Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" 263.

About these citations of the audience C. Westermann (Basic Forms of Prophetic

Speech [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967] 59-61) points out that Wolff's investigation

(Das Zitat im Prophetenspruch) "of the citation in the prophetic speech, i.e., of the

words of other men which are cited by the prophets, confirms. . . that the prophetic

speech forms a unity consisting of an announcement and its reason: 'Yahweh's word

and deed are not arbitrary. At the outset a reason for the coming judgment is indicated

by the prefatory disclosure of guilt which also takes place in the citation. ...The

citation is necessary because an altercation is demanded by the dispute between God

and man. The speech that only gives an imperative about the future and does not

contain an altercation with the hearer is thus actually unprophetic. . . . The citation is

subject to the freedom of the prophetic proclamation. It is the instrument of his public

speech. . . . Because of this it is impossible to make a strict distinction between

authentic and inauthentic (i.e., composed by the prophet) citations. The citation does

not belong to the realm of the "private experiences." Either the prophet has heard it in

the street like other people, or . . . he has formulated the citation on the basis of his

knowledge of the heart of the people. . . . The lawsuit procedure is the stylistic

background of the prophetic citation. . . . With the citation, it is as though the prophet

allows the accused to accuse themselves. . . . The regular place in the prophetic speech

where the citation frequently recurs is in the reason for the judgment. It is the clearest

form of the reason.'"

21 Overholt, "Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" 264.



A proposal. The above summation of possible methodologies for

interpreting audience response quotations indicates the need for a

method that is able to deal with the "where" and the "what" of these

citations. The method must describe where the citation is found, that

is, concern itself with the context of the quotation. Jeremiah used

citations, but in what contextual settings? Additionally, the method

must focus attention on the "what," the actual content of the quota-

tion. The question is: What does that content tell us of the religious

ideas of Jeremiah's audience? This content sensitizes one to the

central point(s) of tension between Jeremiah and his audience.

In the following discussion, attention will be given to the context

in which these citations occur. The contexts vary and the location of

the quotation within a given type of context varies. But always at the

front is the sharp contrast between the prophet and his audience (the

"how" of Jeremiah's method).



As the process of collecting quotations about various contextual

centers begins, the interpreter must not overlook the danger of

forcing disparate passages into the same category of context.22 How-

ever, where there is similarity of context, collating the various cita-

tions may be very helpful in understanding the uses to which these are

put in the Jeremiah material. Centers of context about which these

citations circulate seem to be four in number, three of which have

large and nearly equal numbers of citations attached. These four are:

Accusation, Announcement, Personal Confrontation, and Invitation.

A fairly even distribution of these quotations exists throughout the

book, ranging from chaps. 2 through 51.



The study begins here simply because quotations in an accusa-

tion setting are principally found in the first half of the book.23 By

accusation is meant those passages which record the prophet's press-

ing home Yahweh's case" against the audience. The burden of the case,

though having multiple features, has but one purpose: to substantiate

the charge of not complying with Yahweh's expectations.24 The use of


22 Note a similar warning concerning the same forcing of the whole of prophetic

speech patterns into a few categories in Westermann (Basic Forms of Prophetic

Speech, 56-57).

23 The locations of quotations in the context of accusation are: 2:6, 8, 20, 23, 25, 27

(all 3), 31, 35 (first one in the verse); 5:2, 12-13, 19, 24; 6: 14, 16, 17; 7:10; 8:6, 8, 11;

13:22; 16:10; 18:12; 22:14, 21; 23:17 (both), 25; 27:9, 14, 16.

24 Overholt--("Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" 264) follows

the direction of K. Koch (The Growth of the Biblical Tradition), in understanding



quotations within this nucleus is three-fold: (1) quotations used as

confirmation of the accusation, (2) quotations used as contrast to the

accusation, and (3) quotations used as introduction to the accusation.

But whatever placement a given quotation has within the accusation,

the nuclear idea is present: Israel's failure to comply with Yahweh's

expectations.25 A survey of this three-fold usage follows.

Quotation as confirmation. Those passages where citations of

this sort occur use the quotation as evidence to substantiate the

accusation. From study of these passages, there appears a complex of

seven distinct accusations in which quotations confirm the charge. In

2:6, as well as 2:31, the accusation of (1) ingratitude is brought

against the audience. The first reference concerns what they did not

say. The rhetorical question of v 5 introduces the citation.26 Vv 5 and

6 together indicate that Yahweh faithfully provided for them through

effective leadership. The expected reciprocation from Israel was to

seek the very God who had so abundantly provided.27 But that was

what Israel had not done. They did not ask after him, implying that

he had been forgotten. The second of these two references (2:31) also

suggests the same element of ingratitude. The rhetorical questions


accusation as focusing on the relationship between Yahweh and the audience and as

describing "a social, political, or religious situation that requires 'remedy and interven-

tion by Yahweh.'" For further discussion of accusation note Westermann (Basic Forms

of Prophetic Speech, I 42ff.).

25 Typically accusation has been considered a part of the judgment speech. How-

ever, G. W. Ramsey ("Speech-Forms in Hebrew Law and Prophetic Oracles," JBL 96

[1977] 45-58) has argued that judgment speeches must be distinguished in form from

complaint speeches which contain accusation but no "emphasis on forthcoming

punishment" announcement. Ramsey also points out that as Yahweh presses his

lawsuit against Israel, he acts "in accord with what is expected of a just suzerain" (ibid.,

57). The whole matter of the lawsuit as brought by the suzerain has gained consider-

able attention in the last two decades. For a recent discussion of this lawsuit (byri)

pattern cf. M. Weinfeld, "Ancient Near Eastern Patterns in Prophetic Literature." VT

27 (1977) 187ff. Further selected information on this matter and the whole issue of

patterns from the Ancient Near East and their attendant contributions for understand-

ing Old Testament prophecy: J. Craghn. "Mari and Its Prophets: The Contributions of

Mari to the Understanding of Biblical Prophecy," BTB 5 (1975) 32-55; J. Holladay,

"Assyrian Statecraft and the Prophets of Israel," HTR 63 (1970) 29-51; H. B. Huffmon

"Prophecy in the Mari Letters," BA 31 (1968) 101-24; Huffmon, "The Covenant

Lawsuit in the Prophets," JBL 68 (1959) 285-95; W. Moran, "New Evidence From

Mari on the History of Prophecy," Bib 50 (1969) 15-56; J. F. Ross, "Prophecy in

Hamath. Israel, and Mari." HTR 63 (1970) 1-28; S. D. Walters, "Prophecy in Mari and

Israel." JBL 89 (1970) 78-91.

26 Note W. A. Bruggeman, "Jeremiah's Use of Rhetorical Questions," JBL 92

(1973) 358-74.

27 Compare Laetsch, Biblical Commentary: Jeremiah, 36 and Naegelsbach. The

Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 31.



imply that Yahweh had not been a wilderness or a land of thick

darkness.28 Yet, Israel spurned his leadership, choosing instead to

roam at her pleasure.

Quotations as confirmation are also used when an accusation is

made of (2) defiling the land (2:8). Taken together, vv 7 and 8

indicate the religious leadership's failure to handle the law aright,

because they did not know Yahweh. Thus they never asked, "Where

is the Lord?" They did not seek his mouth (cf. Lev 10:11). The

reproach of their failure (as teachers of the Law to seek from

Yahweh's mouth) fell upon the land (2:7).

A third accusation is that of (3) defection. These quotations are

found in 2:20, 25, 27; 5:24; and 8:6.29 The composite picture of these

citations is rebellion and overthrow. Israel's own words turn back on

them as evidence of rebellion, the very accusation of Yahweh. Listen

to their confirmatory words: "I will not serve" (2:20); "It is hopeless!

No! For I have loved strangers, and after them I will walk" (2:25);

"You are my father" (spoken to a tree, 2:27); "You gave me birth"

(spoken to a stone, 2:27); "Arise and save us" (when all else fails, call

upon Yahweh, 2:27); "Let us now fear the Lord our God, who gives

rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who

keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest" (this they did not say

in their heart, 5:24); "What have I done?" (no man asked in repen-

tance, 8:6).30

A further use of quotation as confirmation is in the prophet's

accusation of (4) lying (5:12-13). The implication of these words is

that the people called lie the dire predictions of destruction uttered by

true prophets. "Not He; misfortune will not come on us," says the

audience. But Yahweh had not lied to them. They assumed too much!

Two more uses of quotations as confirmation occur as the audience is

accused of (5) folly (22:14; in this case Jehoiakim's folly) and (6)

continuing obstinance (22:21; here the citation confirms their continu-

ing habit of refusal).

A final use of quotations to confirm an accusation is in the case

of false prophets who are accused of (7) falsification (6:14; 8:11; 23:17)


28 On the term here translated "thick darkness" (hyAl;Pex;ma) cf. BDB, 66; and H.

Freedman, Jeremiah (Soncino Books of the Bible; London: Soncino, 1949) 16 for brief

discussions of this term.

29 This interpretation of 2:20 understands the verse to be read as NIV has it: "Long

ago you broke off your yoke and tore off you bonds. . . "; for commentary and

discussion on the pointing consult Naegelsbach, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 27

(textual and grammatical n. 1) and Laetsch, Biblical Commentary: Jeremiah, 40

(Grammatical Notes).

30 That this latter reference is in the context of defection is made clear by the

previous context.



[both]; 23:25; 27:9; 27:14; 27:16; 37:19).31 A cursory reading of these

quotations confirms the accusation of falsification. These prophets

declared that the audience could expect peace, that calamity would

not come, that service under the enemy would not happen, and that

even the absence of the temple vessels was of short duration. Alas, all

was believable because the false prophets claimed, "I had a dream!"

They had not stood in Yahweh's council and their predictions thus

were false.32 The accusation of falsification is confirmed by the words

these prophets spoke. None of what they spoke would happen.


Quotation as contrast. This usage (and the one to follow) is far

less frequent in the accusation sections of the Jeremiah material. In

this case the quotation is understood as a contrast to the accusation.

Through use of this contrast the precise point of the accusation is

sharpened and heightened. Four accusations are made in which the

citation stands as a contrast.

There is the accusation of (1) guilt (2:23; 2:35). In 2:23 the

audience reaction is that of innocence, but the accusation which

continues in vv 24ff. corrects her false claim. No wonder the rhetor-

ical question of 2:23 begins with, "How can you say. . .?" The

passage in 2:35 suggests that the audience continues insisting (imper-

fect) on their innocence, this in spite of their open, brazen sin (v 34).

A further usage is in an accusation of (2) swearing falsely (5:2). The

quotation indicates their readiness to make use of the most binding

oath of all and in that very instance, therefore (NkelA), swear falsely

(rq,w,).33 Moreover, a quotation as a contrast to an accusation of (3)

ignorance of sin's consequence is used in 7:10 and of (4) ignorance of

Yahweh's law in 8:8. In both cases the assumption of the audience is a

stark contrast to the accusation. They reason that sin has no conse-

quence; thus, "we are delivered." The law's presence means "we are

wise." Their problem was that, while the law was present, they did

not know the ordinance of Yahweh (8:7). Thus the rhetorical question

of v 8, "How can you say. . . ?" Finally in 6:16 and 17 the quotation

is used as evidence of (5) rejecting invitations offered.


Quotation as introduction. In this case, the quotation is used to

initiate the accusation against the audience (5:19; 13:22; 16:10; 18:12).


31 For a more complete interpretation of these false prophets note R. E. Manahan,

"A Theology of Pseudoprophets: A Study in Jeremiah," GTJ I (1980) 79-81.

32 On this entire concept of falsehood in Jeremiah note T. W. Overholt, The Threat

of Falsehood (Naperville: Allenson, 1970).

33 Compare Naegelsbach, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 69 for comments

which reach the same conclusion. So Freedman (Jeremiah, 34) concludes: "Their oaths

are false, even when supported by the most solemn mention of God's name."



The first three are cast in question form. Each raises the question of

what the basis for judgment is. The question introduces a rather

detailed accusation. In 18:12 a statement of the audience's insistence.

on following their own course introduces the accusation of vv 13ff.34



The burden of announcement is judgment and is the expected

corollary to accusation. By announcement is meant that oracle of

disaster sure to follow heavy on the heels of failure to comply with

Yahweh's expectations.35 While attention might be given to the

recipient of the announcement (an individual or the nation) or to the

content of the announcement (death, dispossession from the land,

etc.), study might also be given to location within the announcement

oracle. The several quotations within announcement oracles fall into

two categories of location.36 These citations appear to be used either

to introduce the announcement or in some cases add an expansion to

the announcement. A survey of these locations follows.

Quotation as introduction. Thirteen quotations seem to be used

to introduce the announcement. Four of these are constructed rhetor-

ically as questions: 13:12; 15:2; 23:33; and 33:24. All of these lead to a

more complete discussion of judgment. The third of these issues in an

announcement which, from vv 34-38, continues circulating about the

phrase first introduced in v 33: "The oracle of the Lord." However,

the introductory quotation in v 33 is immediately followed by the

bold announcement: "I shall abandon you." The quotation of v 33

indicates the derision of the audience as they ask what new heavy,

burdensome (xW.Ama), not pleasing word had come from Yahweh.37


34 In point of fact the quotation of 18:12 functions as a transition between

invitation (end of v 11) and accusation in verse 13. The accusation builds on the

quotation, "therefore" ( NkelA, v 13).

35 Overholt, "Jeremiah 2 and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" 264. For

a more detailed discussion of announcement in terms of its introduction, form,

content, contrast motif, sign etc., see Westermann, Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech,

149-61. For an interesting study on a tangential treatment of announcement cf. D. R.

Hillers, "A Convention In Hebrew Literature: The Reaction to Bad News," ZAW 77

(1965) 86-92.

36 This study understands that quotations within announcements are: 2:35 (the

second of two); 4:5, 19-21, 31; 8:14-16a, 19, 20; 9:19; 13:12, 18; 15:2; 21:13; 22:18

(both); 23:33, 34; 35 (both), 38; 33:24; 34:5; 38:22; 42:13, 14; 44:25, 26; 51:34, 35 (both).

37 The use of word emphasizes the derision the audience held for words of woe, not

weal, from Yahweh. Of course, the word could simply mean "pronouncement" (cf.

Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 217), but

the context suggests the term should be understood in the sense of burden. Of the

passage Naegelsbach (The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 217) comments: "At all

events the opposers emphasized the idea of burden. They wished to say that every



The last of these four (33:24) has been somewhat difficult to

interpret, but the understanding here is that the nation of Israel is

speaking and that "this people" may refer to that skeptical portion of

the audience. "My people" would then refer to the whole of the

nation.38 The skepticism concerns whether Yahweh has kept faithfully

his promise in choosing Israel and Judah. The announcement which

follows is not ultimately of destruction but of weal: "I will restore

their fortunes and will have mercy on them." But upon the immediate

audience it was an announcement of woe, since the weal will eventu-

ally follow a carrying off into captivity (MtAUbw;).39

Besides these four references there is considerable variety in just

what relationship the introductory quotation sustains to the crux of

the announcement. The obstinacy evident in the citation in 44:25

brings on full force the prediction of judgment. In 2:35b the obstinate

insistence of innocence brings on the prediction.

The passage in 29:15 uses an introductory quotation in a rather

unusual way. A citation is made which indicates that members of the

nation already in Babylon believed that true prophets were among

them. These prophets could continue their predictions about Jerusa-

lem so long as the city stood. But the announcement is that Jerusalem

will not stand (vv 16-20). What then will those supposed prophets in

Babylon prophesy about? They will be out of work!40

In 51:34 and 35 (both) the citations lead to an announcement

against Babylon. The speaker of these citations is Israel as she

anguishes in her distress (the NIV punctuation is preferable). The

citations of 22:18 indicate how lamentation over the passing of

Jehoiakim will not be made. Silence over this sort of lament is


declaration of Jehovah was only a new burden, that only what was burdensome, not

what was pleasing, came from this God. In so far the question was one of blasphemous

derision." There is also the matter of the LXX rendering of "What oracle" (or burden)

by "You are the oracle" (v 33). This, however, does not alter the general interpretation

of the passage.

38 For further discussion of this point note ibid., 296 and Freedman, Jeremiah, 229.

39 While there is some debate over the exact translation of the word MtAUbw; (cf.

Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 358), the

statement "I will restore" (bvwixA, v 26) confirms the interpretation here offered. This

latter form itself has been of some concern also (note apparatus).

40 On this passage Naegelsbach (The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 249) com-

ments: "Hence also the prophecies of the false prophets dwelt above all on the

continuance of Jerusalem. Even the present misfortune, the partial deportation of the

people and the sacred vessels, although they had not predicted it, they could explain as

a mere episode, which did not refute the main tenor of their promises, so long as

Jerusalem and the temple were standing, and there were people in Jerusalem. Hence

Jeremiah takes away the ground from under the feet of those false prophets, by

predicting in vers. 16-20 the total destruction of the present population of Jerusalem,

together with their king."



appropriate to the announcement that "he will be buried with a

donkey's burial" (v 19). The quotation of 13:18 graphically introduces

the announcement of the ruination of regal symbols due to exile.

Quotation as expansion. Among the seventeen quotations used

to expand and amplify in some way the essence of the announcement

of judgment are those which picture alarm, sorrow, anguish, and even

despair on the part of those who will be judged. Alarm among the

recipients of judgment is portrayed by the quotations in 4:5 and 8:14-

16a. Sorrow, anguish, and despair are graphically depicted in expan-

sions of the announcement in 4:19-21, 31; 8:19, 20; and 9:19.41 The

passages in 23:34, 35 (both), and 38 all in some way expand on the

central idea of the audience's skeptical derision given in the introduc-

tory quotation in v 33. In a rather long announcement passage, the

quotation of 21:13 functions as a means of identifying the audience as

those who securely rest in their supposed invulnerability. However,

Zedekiah, the king, is promised a humanitarian end, and the quota-

tion serves as an expansion on that theme in 34:5.

The occurrence in 44:26 is a bit unexpected in the way the

citation is employed to expand on the announcement. The quotation

suggests that the oath will not be practiced (even falsely) because of

the decimation of those men of Judah presently in Egypt (44:27). By

citing what those men will not say, the quotation is intended to

expand on the announcement: "All the men of Judah who are in the

land of Egypt will meet their end by the sword and by famine until

they are completely gone" (44:27).

Last, there are three quotations in 38:22 and 42:13, 14 which, for

purposes of this survey, may conveniently be grouped together. All

three are in the context of a conditional construction.42 In all three

cases the audience faced a decision: What should we do about

leaving? In these cases the quotations in their respective ways expand

on the announcement of judgment.


Personal confrontation

The emphasis here falls on personal. These quotations are cen-

tered in passages where Jeremiah as prophet is pitted against opposi-

tion (of varying degrees). A number of quotations suggest (1) great


41 This interpretation of 8:19 is contested by Bruggemann, "Jeremiah's Use of

Rhetorical Questions," 362) who understands the rhetorical question to create "an

entry for the accusation which asserts that the issue is not Yahweh's presence but

Israel's lack of loyalty." The interpretation suggested in this study is that v 18 (note

alternate translations of initial words) introduces the announcement that moves

through v 22.

42 The construction is "if (Mxi, 38:21 and 42:13) . . . participle. . . , then (v; 38:22 and

42:15) . . ." Note GKC, 494-97. The first of these quotations (38:22) is placed in the



personal threats against Jeremiah. These locations are 11:19, 21; 12:4;

18:18; 20:10 (both); 26:8-9, 11; 29:26-28; 37:13; and 38:4.43 Taken

together, these quotations testify to the breadth, length, and depth of

opposition to Jeremiah. That citizens from his hometown, the nation

at large, friends, priests, false prophets, political officials, and even an

exile all opposed him demonstrates the breadth of opposition. The

length of that ill-feeling persisted throughout most of the prophet's

ministry. And the depth of that ill-feeling is seen very plainly in

reading the above references; they wanted his death.

Beyond this there are a number of (2) personal encounters with

individuals. Most preeminently the encounters are with Zedekiah.

The citations of this sort are 21:2; 32:3-5; 37:3, 9, 17, 19; 38:10, 14, 16,

19, and 24-26. In general terms, the portrait given of Zedekiah is of a

man caught in all the turmoil of the age, caught with a faltering

kingdom on his hands. Additionally, four quotations are given of

Johanan, 40:14; 42:2-3, 5-6; and 43:2-3. In the mouth of Jehoiakim

are put the words of one quotation (36:29; a quotation within a

quotation), and in the mouth of Ishmael one quotation (41:6). The

passages in 44:16-18 and 19 concern an encounter Jeremiah had with

a group of men and women (note the message against which they

reacted, 44:1-14). A last personal encounter in which a quotation is

placed is that of Hananiah and Jeremiah in chap. 28.44 Vv 2-4

recount the words of Hananiah. Clearly these words could have been

grouped earlier with statements about false prophets, but considering

the nature of the head-on confrontation of chap. 28, they belong in

this category.

On three occasions, there are quotations in the context of (3) the

prophet's seeming conflict with the ways of Yahweh (14:13, 15, and

17:15). The first two alternate between Jeremiah's attempted excuse

for the people (false prophets are misleading them) and Yahweh's

answer (he did not send those prophets to say what they had

declared). Jeremiah's other conflict in which a quotation occurs is his

complaint that the audience derisively asks to know where the word

of Yahweh is (17:15).


apodosis, the last two quotations (42:13, 14) in the protasis. The construction itself

suggests probability.

43 On 20:10 note the interpretation offered by W. L. Holladay, "The Covenant

With the Patriarchs Overturned: Jeremiah's Intention In 'Terror On Every Side,'" JBL

91 (1972) 305-20 and D. L. Christensen, "'Terror On Every Side' In Jeremiah," JBL 92

(1973) 498-502.

44 For a study of this conflict note T. W. Overholt, “Jeremiah 27-29: The Question

of False Prophecy," JAAR 35 (1967) 241-49.




The materials within this last context of quoted material from

the audience may be surveyed very briefly since the number of

citations is few, three in fact. The first of these in 3:22b-25 appears to

be a structured response from the audience at the invitation of

Yahweh to return.45  In the response, the audience is made to speak in

words of repentance and sorrow over sins committed. Here provision

is made for the audience to have an appropriate response, unfortu-

nately, a response she never made. In 4:2, the quotation appears in

the protasis of a conditional statement as one of the conditions to be

met for those who truly return. They are to swear in truth and

righteousness, not falsely. The "Temple Sermon" in chap. seven

contains a quotation within the invitation with which the passage

begins. They had falsely trusted in objects and externals. Those who

amend their ways will be blessed with Yahweh's special presence in

their midst.

This survey of the nearly one hundred quotations serves to

indicate the context within which citations are made. The discussion

now raises the question: What can be learned about the book's

interpretation of the audience by studying the actual content of the





By now, certain ideas about the content of these numerous

audience reaction quotations should be clear. Space does not permit

any extensive treatment of each quotation. In fact, such would serve

no particular purpose here. A general picture, however, of the

audience begins to emerge from a survey of these quotations. The

composite portrayal is telling and establishes some rather clear points

of tension between the prophet and his audience. Other than the

following could be said, but what follows must be said.46


Opposition to the prophet's theology

Jeremiah had consistently maintained throughout his ministry

that breaking Yahweh's stipulations was the reason for coming

judgment. In the previous analysis of quotations in accusation sec-

tions the study indicated the prophet's charges that met with stiff


45 For an important interpretive note on 3:22ff. see Gordis, Poets, Prophets, and

Sages: Essays in Biblical Interpretation, 116-17.

46 In addition to the three items cited attention could be called to the types of sins

the audience committed or the nature of false prophets or the type of response to

Yahweh's blessings.



opposition. The audience claimed innocence in the face of such

charges (cf. 2:35 and 8:6). As Jeremiah attempted to call them back,

they went their own way, insisting on their self-direction (cf. 2:20, 31;

6:16; etc.). So serious was the conflict between prophet and audience

that they mocked him and wished his death (cf. 17:15 and 11:19;

18:18; 26:8-9; etc.). And this opposition lasts from beginning to end,

so intense was it (cf. all of chap. 2 and 44:16-18, 19). In the face of

such hostility, the question can rightfully be raised: What audience

ideas led them in such reaction? The content of these quotations does

not leave one wanting for an answer.


Emphasis on Zion's inviolability

More than a dozen passages scattered throughout the book

indicate that the notion of Jerusalem's security stood at the heart of

audience belief. Jeremiah had given clear assurances that covenant

obedience would assure Jerusalem's continuance, and disobedience its

collapse.47 He called the audience to obedience.48 But they did not

obey. They insisted on Jerusalem's continuance (note 6:14; 7:10; 8:11;

12:4; 21:13; 23:17; 27:9, 14 and 37:19). And even after the Babylo-

nians had staged attacks, the audience (represented by Hananiah in

28:2-4) continued insisting that Jerusalem was inviolable. Of course,

they had to make a few adjustments in their analysis! Within two

years things would be better! The audience was even aware that

Micah had predicted the plowing of Zion (26:18). But that did not

matter; the audience believed Zion could not fall. But why did they

take this view?

Two passages may suggest an answer. The passage in 33:24 is

interesting. Earlier, the interpretation given this verse was that skepti-

cal Israel speaks, saying: "The two families which the Lord chose, He

has rejected them." The audience here places fault squarely on

Yahweh's failure to execute his choosing of them. Their degradation

prohibited an alternative explanation. Could it be that in their minds

the rise or fall of Zion was solely dependent on Yahweh's selection of

it? Many years earlier Isaiah had recorded an interesting passage in

this light. Hayes points out that Isaiah watched "the menace of the

Assyrian army: 'There cometh a smoke out of the north, and there is

no straggler in his ranks (Is. 14:31b)."'49 Only one answer can be


47 Important passages here are 17:21-25; 22:8-9; 23:5-6; 25:29; 26:18-21; 29:11;

32:23ff.; 33: 19ff.; 35:15; 52:1ff.

48 Cf. 11:3ff. and so throughout the book.

49 See J. H. Hayes, "The Tradition of Zion's Inviolability," JBL 82 (1963) 424-25.

However, agreement cannot be found with Hayes' later conclusion that "the tradition

of Zion's election, associated with the bringing of the ark to the city and the building of



given to messengers who came demanding the city's surrender: "That

the Lord hath founded Zion, and in her shall the afflicted of his

people take refuge" (Isa 14:32).

The second of two quotations in Jeremiah which may give a clue

concerning why the audience concluded Zion could not fall is in 5:12-

13. Here the words "Not He; misfortune will not come on us" are of

note. The opening words "Not He" (NASB) are translated "He will

do nothing" in NIV. The expression xUh-xlo implies that such

activity as misfortune (hfArA) is somehow not part of what Yahweh

would do. The suggestion is that the character of their God rejected

such activity. Taking 33:24 and 5:12-13 together may suggest that

the audience understood Zion as inviolable because Yahweh's choos-

ing of her caused him never to act against her. Such activity against

her would be utter inconsistency (contrast the singular expression

of 26:18).

Tilson in his study has grappled with this situation of the

audience. He concludes that out of a "basically religious understand-

ing of Yahweh's protection, there evolved a political theory that may

be termed 'the divine right of Israel to chart Yahweh's course for

him.'”50 The audience must have come to see Yahweh's very existence

as a guarantee of their success.51 In summary, the audience reaction

quotations in Jeremiah leave no doubt that the audience held tena-

ciously to Zion's inviolability as a central theological-political tenet.


Emphasis on externals

If Zion's continuance is not conditioned on covenantal obedience

as Jeremiah declared, then what is the basis of its continuance? The

audience understood Yahweh's selection as the basis. But how could

the audience be assured of this selection?


the temple, was connected with pre-Davidic or non-Israelite traditions concerning the

invulnerability of Jerusalem" (ibid., 426). Cf. also the study of R. De Vaux, "Jerusalem

and the Prophets," Interpreting the Prophetic Tradition (edited by Harry Orlinsky;

Library of Biblical Studies; Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1969), 275-300.

so Tilson, "False Prophets In the Old Testament," 309. He continues: "Hard upon

the heels of the belief that Yahweh was Palestine's special protector came the illogical,

as well as irreligious and disastrous, deduction that he was its necessary protector.

Simultaneous with the emergence of this solution to the religious-political puzzle,

humble gratitude in the face of Yahweh's unspeakable grace began to give way to

arrogant presumption upon his irrational prejudice. "

51 For Tilson such thinking on the part of the audience may be explained by the

tendency of the audience to equate Yahweh's rule as coextensive with the landed area

of Israel; he was a tribal god (ibid., 303ff.). For further study on this general subject

note F. C. Fensham, "Covenant, Promise and Expectation in the Bible," TZ 23 (1967)

305-22. Also note the attendant discussion of W. C. Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament

Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 152ff.



As part of the religious rationale, Jeremiah's audience considered

externals to be evidence of this selection. Externals became necessary

to legitimate this selection. Should the externals be taken away, the

selection was invalidated. What were these externals?

Several quotations of the audience clarify at least certain of these

externals. The citation in 3:16 is in the context of change which the

people will undergo. The change will be that the ark's significance will

be outshone by the presence of Yahweh.52 That this contrast is picked

to depict the change may indicate that the mention of the ark was

polemical. This would be especially so if the ark had comprised one

of the externals to which the audience had given their loyalties.53

In 7:4 little doubt is left that another of the externals was the,

presence of the temple. The audience must have concluded that the

temple's presence was in some sense a guarantee of their blessing

from Yahweh's hand. The presence of the Law may have been

another external (8:8); In 8:19 the external seems to be the presence

of the dynasty. If there is a king, good! Even the vessels had some

external significance for the audience (27:16 and 28:3).54 And, per-

haps, even prophets (so long as some externals existed in Zion) could

be external rationalizations (29:15, compare with 16-20). Externals

became signs of Yahweh's selection of Zion and its continuance.



In the foregoing survey, an attempt has been made to establish

something of the context and content of audience reaction quotations

in Jeremiah. The study has yielded several important points.

The point of theological tension between Jeremiah and his

audience is rather clear. Whereas Jeremiah had insisted on confor-

mity to covenantal stipulations, the audience had insisted on Zion's

right to exist. The prophet insisted that Zion's collapse resulted from

the audience's disobedience. The audience accused Jeremiah of lying

because Zion was inviolable. Understanding this tension helps to

interpret both the book and the man. Certain points of conflict were

at stake. These become part of the milieu of Jeremiah.

Audience reaction indicates the several elements of theological

divergency. It is a theology of presumption, one that is "para-

covenantal" (Yahweh had chosen!). But it was one which substituted


52 Cf. M. Weinfeld ("Jeremiah and the Spiritual Metamorphosis of Israel," ZAW

88 [1976] 26ff.) for a discussion of this passage, especially his notations on its dating.

53 For a study on the history of the presence of the ark note M. Haran, "The

Disappearance of the Ark," IEJ 13 (1963) 46-58, but especially 51.

54 Note the study of P. R. Ackroyd, "The Temple Vessels-A continuity theme,"

Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel (SVT 22; Leiden: Brill, 1972) 166-81.



externals for covenantal obligation. This derangement insidiously

kept the audience from perceiving clearly the realities of the Babylo-

nian threat.

And this survey reminds that audience reaction now, as then,

speaks its mind, declares its theological tenets. Jeremiah knew what

the audience said and spoke directly to the issues at stake. Similarly

the contemporary church must know and carefully speak God's Word

as did Jeremiah. What is audience reaction saying today? And is the

Word faithfully spoken?



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: