DEFENDING THE OT: The Book of Jeremiah Is Authentic and True

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GLEASON L. ARCHER, JR. (1916-2004), (B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University; B.D., Princeton Theological Seminary; L.L.B., Suffolk Law School) was a biblical scholar, theologian, educator, and author. He was a professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he taught from 1965 through 1991.

Jeremiah began his ministry at about twenty years of age in the thirteenth year of Josiah, that is, 626 B.C. For the greater part of his life he lived in his hometown of Anathoth (for he was of a priestly family) and appeared at Jerusalem at the annual feast days of the Jewish religious year. He seems to have been well off financially, since he was able to purchase the forfeited estate of a bankrupt kinsman without apparent difficulty. Under God-fearing Josiah, he remained unmolested by the government and enjoyed such cordial relations with that king that he composed an eloquent lamentation at the time of the king’s death at the battle of Megiddo. Yet, even among his fellow priests and relatives, Jeremiah had built up considerable ill will because of his forthright rebuke of their infidelity to the Covenant and his condemnation of their worldly practices.

After Josiah’s death, with the rise of the idolatrous faction and the pro-Egyptian party, a serious reaction resulted against Jeremiah and all he stood for. It was only through the interposition of a few God-fearing elders and princes that Jeremiah escaped arrest for his unpalatable arraignment of the nation in the “Temple Sermon” of chapters 7–10. From that time on he seems to have been forbidden to enter the temple precinct, for he had to send aloud his secretary Baruch as his spokesman whenever he had a message of God to proclaim before the people. He therefore dictated his prophecies to Baruch that they might be read aloud to the people of Jerusalem. But soon this copy was turned over to King Jehoiakim, who destroyed it in his fireplace, section by section, as it was read to him by his own secretary. Later, King Zedekiah, a successor of Jehoiakim, permitted the prophet to be incarcerated by the nationalistically minded nobles, who saw Jeremiah as a traitor because he had urged the nation to submit to Babylon. Nevertheless, Zedekiah was secretly fearful of God’s messenger because of the fulfillment of his past predictions relative to the Chaldean invasion of 598. He therefore had the prophet rescued from death when he was at the point of perishing in his brutal confinement and he kept him hidden from danger until the fall of Jerusalem.

THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

Kings of Babylon/Chaldea

King

Date (B.C.)

Nabopolassar

612–605

Nebuchadnezzar

605–562

Evil-Merodach

561–560

Neriglissar

560–556

Labashi-Marduki

556

Nabonidus

555–539

Belshazzar (co-regency)

553–539

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

When the forces of Nebuchadnezzar finally stormed the city, it was only natural that Jeremiah was offered by the conquerors a place of honor and a pension in Babylon (since he had constantly urged the Jews to submit to Nebuchadnezzar as God’s instrument for chastening them). Yet Jeremiah chose to stay with the remnant of his own people in Palestine and minister to the bands of guerrillas or partisans who had remained behind after the great deportation to Babylonia. But after the treacherous murder of Gedaliah by the treacherous Ishmael he was abducted and carried off to Egypt by the fugitive remnant of the Jews, who preferred to take refuge in the land of the Nile rather than to remain in Palestine and face the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. In Egypt, Jeremiah prophesied for several years longer, and it was probably there that he died.

israel against all odds ISRAEL AGAINST ALL ODDS - Vol. II

By nature, Jeremiah was gentle, tender, and sympathetic; yet he was charged by God to proclaim a stern message of irreversible gloom. Loving his people with a deep affection, he constantly found himself the object of hatred, reproached with charges of treason. Although he was sensitive to the extreme, he was forced to undergo a constant barrage of slander and persecution that would normally have crushed the most callous spirit. Introspective and retiring by nature, he was ever thrust into the limelight. Occasionally, he attempted to throw off his prophetic responsibility as a burden too heavy for him to bear, but again and again he returned to the call of duty, and by the power of the Lord stood indeed as a “tower of bronze” (1:18).

is-the-quran-the-word-of-god UNDERSTANDING ISLAM AND TERRORISM THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM.png

Jeremiah: History of the Text

There is good evidence to believe that even apart from the original edition of Jeremiah’s prophecy, which was destroyed by Jehoiakim, there was a later edition which preceded the final form of the text as we have it in the Masoretic tradition. At least this is a reasonable deduction to draw from the Greek LXX, since it appears to be about one-eighth shorter than the Hebrew text of the MT. It differs also in the arrangement of the chapters, for chapters 46–51 of the MT are placed after chapter 25 in the LXX, and they are arranged in a somewhat different sequence. Jeremiah 33:14–26 of the MT is altogether missing in the LXX. It would seem that this earlier edition was published in the prophet’s own lifetime and first disseminated in Egypt. Later, after Jeremiah’s death, it appears that his secretary, Baruch, made a more comprehensive collection of his master’s sermons and rearranged the material in more logical order. The MT undoubtedly preserves this posthumous edition of Baruch. In this connection, note that 36:32 indicates that a second preliminary edition was published in the reign of Jehoiakim, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that Jeremiah kept adding to these earlier sermons the messages the Lord gave him in the reign of Zedekiah and in the period subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem.

The following table is a correlation between the MT and the LXX in order to facilitate comparison:

MT

LXX

1:1–25:13

1:1–25:13

25:14–46:5

32:1–51:35

46:1–51:64

25:14–31:44

Young Christians

Jeremiah: Integrity of the Text

Most rationalist critics deny certain portions of Jeremiah both to Jeremiah himself and to Baruch his secretary. Passages challenged include (1) 10:1–16, because it warns the Jews in exile against idolatry in terms reminiscent of Deutero-Isaiah; (2) 17:19–27, because of the emphasis upon strict Sabbath keeping, which is reminiscent of Ezekiel or the priestly code and therefore a little too late for Jeremiah; (3) chapters 30 and 31, because of the Messianic expectation which some critics feel was only characteristic of the post-exilic period and also because of the emphasis upon individual responsibility in the mood of Ezekiel 18 (the assumption being that this passage in Jeremiah must have been later than Ezekiel); (4) chapter 51, because in verse 41 Babylon is spoken of by its Athbash equivalent, “Sheshakh,” and the Athbash is considered a late artificial device. (Athbash is so called because it is a code in which the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet indicates the first, the second to the last indicates the second letter; hence the B-b-l of Babel comes out as Sh-sh-k, or the code name Sheshach in KJV.)

The Epistle to the Hebrews PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL

But it should be noted that all these criteria for later dating depend for their validity upon unproved assumptions such as the post-exilic dating of document P of the Torah and of Isaiah II, and a supposedly late evolutionary hypothesis as to the development of the messianic hope. It is difficult of course, to justify any extensive chronological gap between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, since according to the biblical evidence the two prophets were contemporaneous in their ministries, at least during the latter part of Jeremiah’s career. There is a very close resemblance between Jer. 31:29–30 and Ezek. 18:2–3; yet it would appear that what Jeremiah says in passing is taken up by Ezekiel as a sort of text for an extended sermon.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

Jeremiah: Miscellaneous Historical Matters

In regard to Jeremiah’s prediction in 29:10 concerning the seventy years’ captivity, there is some question as to how the seven decades are to be computed. The main deportation of the population of Judah did not take place until 586 B.C. In 539, Babylon fell to the Persian conquerors, and within a year or two the Jewish remnant who chose to return resettled in Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, possibly in 536. Yet only fifty years elapsed between 586 and 536, and so we must look for other termini. Since the first Palestinian invasion of Nebuchadnezzar took place in 605 B.C., and resulted in the deportation of a considerable number of hostages (including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), this date might serve as the terminus a quo; thus 536 would be approximately seventy years later. Another possibility is to begin the seventy years at the destruction of the Temple by General Nebuzaradan in 586 and prolong the captivity until the second temple had been completely rebuilt, which took place in 516. Of these two choices, the latter seems to be very definitely favored by Zech. 1:12: “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Jehovah of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation, these threescore and ten years?” (ASV). Since this utterance must have been given in 519 B.C., we can only conclude that, from the standpoint of the angel at least, the seventy years were not yet up; and that the gracious promise in Jer. 29:10 was not to be fulfilled until the Temple itself was restored.

THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Until a few decades ago, considerable skepticism was voiced by many critics as to the fulfillment of the prediction made by Jeremiah in 43:9–13 and 44:30 that northern Egypt would be devastated by an invasion of the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar (cf. also Ezek. 29:19–20, which contains a similar prediction). The pagan Greek historians make no mention of such an invasion, although there is a definite record to be found in Josephus’s Antiquities 10.9.5–7: “Johanan took those whom he had rescued and came to a certain place called Mandara. On the fifth year (582/81) after the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the twenty-third (582) of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he made an expedition against Coele-Syria; and when he had possessed himself of it, he made war against the Ammonites and Moabites; and when he had brought all those nations under subjection, he fell upon Egypt in order to overthrow it, and he slew the king that then reigned and set up another; and he took those Jews that were there captives, and led them away to Babylon; and such was the end of the nation of the Hebrews.”

Many authorities tended to discount this testimony of Josephus as merely manufactured in order to support the Hebrew Scriptures. But R. Campbell Thompson of Oxford remarks: “The small fragment of a Babylonian chronicle first published by Pinches shows that Nebuchadnezzar launched an expedition against Egypt in his thirty-seventh year, i.e., about 567 B.C.E.… the very distance to which he penetrated is a matter of dispute.… We might almost assume from the tradition that certain Babylonian settlers built a ‘Babylon’ in Egypt near the Pyramids, which appears to have existed as an important fort in the time of Augustus, that his army at all events left some mark there.” In ANET3 (p. 308) appears a translation of a fragmentary Babylonian text in the British Museum containing the following sentence: “In the thirty-seventh year (568/67), Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, marched against Mi-sir [Egypt] to deliver a battle.” Additional archaeological confirmation is found in an inscription on the statue of Nes-hor in the Louvre. Nes-hor was a governor of southern Egypt under Hophra (Uaḥ-ib-Ra, in Egyptian). In this biographical record he states that an army of Asiatics and northern peoples who had invaded Egypt attempted to advance up the Nile valley to Ethiopia, but this was fortunately averted by the favor of the gods.” In view of this evidence, therefore, it is hardly justifiable to deny any longer the historicity of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt, or to question that it was a very serious and devastating incursion.

At this point mention should be made of an important archaeological find unearthed at the site of the ancient city of Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) which brought to light a file of correspondence consisting of about twenty-one ostraca dating from the year 588 B.C. They practically all consist of letters or memoranda written by the captain of a military outpost named Hoshaiah to Ya’ush, the district commander of the Jewish forces stationed in Lachish during the third Chaldean invasion. In most of these letters Hoshaiah seems to be defending himself against slanders and misrepresentations concerning his own loyalty or efficiency. In these communications he refers to various people or incidents in such an elusive way that we cannot be sure of their full import. Some scholars have concluded, for example, that a certain prophet mentioned in these letters might either have been Jeremiah himself, or Urijah, who was extradited from Egypt after uttering an adverse prophecy against Jehoiakim (cf. Jer. 26:20–23). A further study of the evidence, however, has led most scholars to conclude that the prophet mentioned in these letters cannot reliably be identified upon the basis of the data at hand. The most significant light cast upon the period of Jeremiah by the Lachish correspondence is to be found in the linguistic field. The type of Hebrew employed in these ostraca bears a very marked similarity to that which appears in the writings of Jeremiah, and serves to confirm the genuineness of his prophecies as stemming from the beginning of the sixth century B.C.[1]

[1] Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 400–405.

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