Grace Theological Journal 1.2 (Fall 1980) 163-83.
1980 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;
[Copyright © 1980 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;
digitally prepared for use at
AN INTERPRETIVE SURVEY:
QUOTATIONS IN JEREMIAH
RONALD E. MANAHAN
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
164 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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
spoke its mind, and what it said articulated its beliefs. Collation of
these findings ought to furnish materials for
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 
and a new work to be published by T. E. Gregory (Vox Populi [
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  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 ; 3:6, 8, 11, 12,
22; 5:6; 8:5; 14:7. Of these usages, a recurring phrase is lxerAW;yi hbAwum; (NASB,
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
(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).
AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 165
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.
the storm, political uncertainties all around. Jeremiah's book records
the protracted agony of
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-
METHODOLOGY FOR THIS STUDY
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  122). For an excellent treatment of the correlation
between theological conceptions and the state of
in the Old Testament" [Ph.D. dissertation,
especially pages 303ff.).
7 Note especially J. Bright, Jeremiah (AB; Garden City: Doubleday, 1965); and J.
in the Text of Jeremiah (HSM 6;
There are recent articles such as that of
Hebrew Vorlage of the LXX of Jeremiah 27 (34)," ZAW 91  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
166 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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  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-
(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.
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 167
contemporary reader to know where in the reading of the book a
quotation is more likely to occur (as an example, -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.
168 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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. ; 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.
contrast to the nation's comments in the days of Jeremiah (note for example ; ,
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 (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 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 () 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
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; (cf. ); 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
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
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 169
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
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."
170 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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
 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
(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.
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 171
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).
CONTEXTUAL SETTING OF QUOTATIONS
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
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; , 16, 17; ; 8:6, 8, 11;
; ; ; , 21; (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
172 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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:
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
seek the very God who had so abundantly provided.27 But that was
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
 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
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,
Statecraft and the Prophets of
"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
26 Note W. A. Bruggeman, "Jeremiah's Use of Rhetorical Questions," JBL 92
27 Compare Laetsch, Biblical Commentary: Jeremiah, 36 and Naegelsbach. The
Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 31.
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 173
imply that Yahweh had not been a wilderness or a land of thick
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 ). 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 , 25, 27; ; 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" (); "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, ); "Arise and save us" (when all else fails, call
upon Yahweh, ); "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, ); "What have I done?" (no man asked in repen-
A further use of quotation as confirmation is in the prophet's
accusation of (4) lying (-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 (; in this case Jehoiakim's folly) and (6)
continuing obstinance (; 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 (; ; )
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 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
30 That this latter reference is in the context of defection is made clear by the
174 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
[both]; ; 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 (; ). In 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 begins with, "How can you say. . .?" The
passage in 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 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 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 (; ; ; ).
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."
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 175
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 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: ; 15:2; ; 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 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
36 This study understands that quotations within announcements are: (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.
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
176 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
The last of these four (33:24) has been somewhat difficult to
interpret, but the understanding here is that the
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
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
them. These prophets could continue their predictions about Jerusa-
lem so long as the city
stood. But the announcement is that
will not stand (vv 16-20). What then will those supposed prophets in
In 51:34 and 35 (both) the citations lead to an announcement
anguishes in her distress (the NIV punctuation is preferable). The
citations of 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.
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
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
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
together with their king."
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 177
appropriate to the announcement that "he will be buried with a
donkey's burial" (v 19). The quotation of 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 -
16a. Sorrow, anguish, and despair are graphically depicted in expan-
sions of the announcement in -21, 31; , 20; and 9:19.41 The
passages in , 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 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
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
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.
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 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
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
178 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
personal threats against Jeremiah. These locations are , 21; 12:4;
; (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
On three occasions, there are quotations in the context of (3) the
prophet's seeming conflict with the ways of Yahweh (, 15, and
). 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 ().
apodosis, the last two quotations (42:13, 14) in the protasis. The construction itself
43 On 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
44 For a study of this conflict note T. W. Overholt, “Jeremiah 27-29: The Question
of False Prophecy," JAAR 35 (1967) 241-49.
AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 179
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
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
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
CONTENT OF THE QUOTATIONS
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
180 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
opposition. The audience claimed innocence in the face of such
charges (cf. and 8:6). As Jeremiah attempted to call them back,
they went their own way, insisting on their self-direction (cf. , 31;
; etc.). So serious was the conflict between prophet and audience
that they mocked him and wished his death (cf. and ;
; 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.
More than a dozen passages scattered throughout the book
indicate that the notion of
audience belief. Jeremiah had given clear assurances that covenant
obedience would assure
collapse.47 He called the audience to obedience.48 But they did not
obey. They insisted on
12:4; ; ; 27:9, 14 and 37:19). And even after the Babylo-
nians had staged attacks, the audience (represented by Hananiah in
continued insisting that
they had to make a few adjustments in their analysis! Within two
years things would be better! The audience was even aware that
had predicted the plowing of
matter; the audience believed
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-
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
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 -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
However, agreement cannot be found with Hayes' later conclusion that "the tradition
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 181
given to messengers who came demanding the city's surrender: "That
the Lord hath founded
people take refuge" (Isa ).
The second of two quotations in Jeremiah which may give a clue
concerning why the audience concluded
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 -13 together may suggest that
the audience understood
ing of her caused him never to act against her. Such activity against
her would be utter inconsistency (contrast the singular expression
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
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-
Emphasis on externals
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
and the Prophets," Interpreting the Prophetic Tradition (edited by Harry Orlinsky;
of Biblical Studies;
so Tilson, "False Prophets In the Old Testament," 309. He continues: "Hard upon
the heels of the belief that Yahweh was
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
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.
182 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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 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 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
be external rationalizations (29:15, compare with 16-20). Externals
became signs of Yahweh's selection of
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
right to exist. The prophet insisted that
the audience's disobedience. The audience accused Jeremiah of lying
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
88  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
54 Note the study of P. R. Ackroyd, "The Temple Vessels-A continuity theme,"
Studies in the Religion
MANAHAN: AUDIENCE REACTION QUOTES IN JEREMIAH 183
externals for covenantal obligation. This derangement insidiously
kept the audience from perceiving clearly the realities of the Babylo-
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
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org