- —Biblical Data:
- § I. Life:
- His Family.
- Attitude Toward Jerusalem Priesthood.
- § II. Prophetic Career:
- Residence in Jerusalem.
- Imprisonment and Release.
- Reading of the Roll.
- Political Attitude.
- Advises Acceptance of Yoke.
- Second Imprisonment.
- Taken to Egypt.
- § III. Character:
- Strong Personality.
- Despondent Tone.
- Relieved by Consolation.
- His Similes.
- Universality of the Godhead.
- —In Rabbinical Literature:
- His Prophetic Activity.
- During the Destruction of the Temple.
- Vision of the Mourning Woman.
Son of Hilkiah; prophet in the days of Josiah and his sons.§ I. Life:
In the case of no other Israelitish prophet is information so full as in that of Jeremiah. The historical portions of the Book of Jeremiah give detailed accounts of his external life evidently derived from an eye-witness—probably his pupil Baruch. Jeremiah's prophecies give an insight into his inner life, and by reason of their subjective quality explain his character and inward struggles. Of a gentle nature, he longed for the peace and happiness of his people, instead of which he was obliged to proclaim its destruction and also to witness that calamity. He longed for peace and rest for himself, but was obliged instead to announce to his people the coming of terrors, a task that could not but burden his heart with sorrow. He had also to fight against the refractory ones among them and against their councilors, false prophets, priests, and princes.His Family.
Jeremiah was born in the year 650
It is not improbable that the opposition in which Jeremiah seems to have stood to the priesthood of the central sanctuary at Jerusalem was a continuation of the opposition which had existed from former times between that priesthood and his family and which is traceable to Zadok, the successful opponent of Abiathar. Jeremiah's attitude may also have been influenced by the fact that he considered Josiah's measures too superficial for the moral reformation which he declared to be necessary if the same fate were not to befall the Temple of Zion as had in days gone by befallen the Temple of Shiloh (I Sam. iv.). An inward opposition of Jeremiah to the Deuteronomic law is not to be thought of. This may be seen from the exhortation (ib. xi. 1-8) in which Jeremiah calls on his people to hear "the words of this covenant" (ib. v. 3) which God had given to their fathers when He brought them up out of Egypt. In this passage there is a plain reference to the newly found law.
Just as little justifiable is the theory, which has recently been suggested, that Jeremiah in his later years departed from the Deuteronomic law. "The false [lying] pen of the scribe," which, as Jeremiah says, "makes the Torah of
- (a) During the Time of King Josiah: No further details of Jeremiah's life during the reign of Josiah are known. This is probably due to the fact, as has recently been suggested,that Jeremiah continued to live in his home at Anathoth during the opening years of his prophetic career. This theory is supported by the description of the prevailing religious rites which he gives in his first prophecies (Jer. iv. 4) and which applies better to the rough, simple, local cults than to the elaborate ritual of Yhwh in the central sanctuary. "On every hill and under every green tree" (ib. ii. 20) they honor the "strangers" (ib. v. 25), i.e., the Baalim (ib. ii. 23), who, introduced from abroad, had taken their place among the local deities. Israel had "acted wantonly" with them from the time when he first settled in the land of Canaan and had even burned his own children for them "in the valley" (ib. vii. 31).
The oldest discourses concerning the Scythians (ib. iv. 5-31) seem also to have first been written in Anathoth. In them Jeremiah describes the irresistible advance of the people "from the north" which will bring terrible destruction upon the land of Israel on account of its apostasy. Another proof in favor of the theory that Jeremiah continued to live in Anathoth at the outset of his career is that the prophecies before ch. v. do not concern themselves with the doings of the capital, and that only with his supposed change of residence to Jerusalem begins the account of the external details of his life by his pupil, who was probably originally from Jerusalem and who first became associated with the prophet there. In the capital the simple local cults dwindled into comparative insignificance before the central sanctuary, but on the other hand immorality, frivolity, and deceit made themselves prominent, together with a disregard of the words of the prophet spoken by him to the people by
- (b) During the Time of King Jehoiakim: Jeremiah's removal from Anathoth to Jerusalem seems to have taken place a little before the time of Jehoiakim's accession; at least he appears as a resident in Jerusalem under that king. Just as his sternness and his threat of impending punishments had already displeased his fellow citizens in Anathoth to such an extent that they sought his life (ib. xi. 19), so also in Jerusalem general anger was soon aroused against him. The first occasion therefor was an event in the reign of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah preached a sermon in the valley Ben-hinnom against idolatry, and in order to bring the utter and complete ruin of the kingdom of Judah more clearly before the minds of his hearers he broke an earthen pitcher. When immediately afterward he repeated the same sermon in the Temple court, he was put in prison by Pashur, the priest in charge, being liberated, however, on the next day. The following section (ib. xxvi.) gives more details. When the people at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, in spite of the terrible loss they had sustained by the death of Josiah in the unfortunate battle of Megiddo and the resultant establishment of the Egyptian domination, still took comfort in the thought of the Temple and of the protection which the sanctuary was believed to afford, Jeremiah stood in the Temple court and called on the people to improve morally; otherwise the Temple of Jerusalem would share the fate of that of Shiloh. In terrible excitement the priests and prophets cried out that Jeremiah was worthy of death. He, however, was acquitted by the priests and elders, who seem to have had great respect for the word of a prophet, especially in view of the fact that some of the most prominent persons rose up and called to mind the prophet Micah, who had prophesied the same fate for the Temple and for Jerusalem.
The following incidents in Jeremiah's life are most closely connected with public events as he was more and more drawn into political life by them. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the same in which the Babylonians conquered the Egyptians in the battle of Carchemish and thus became the ruling power in the whole of Nearer Asia for almost seventy years, Jeremiah dictated to Baruch the speeches he had composed from the beginning of his career till then, and caused his pupil to read them before the people in the Temple, on a feast-day in the fifth year of Jehoiakim. Upon hearing of this event the highest officers of the court caused Baruch to read the roll once more to them; and afterward, in their dismay at its contents, they informed the king of it. Jehoiakim next caused the roll to be brought and read to him, but scarcely had the reader Jehudi read three or four leaves when the king had the roll cut in pieces and thrown into the brazier by which he was warming himself. Jeremiah, however, who on the advice of the officials had hidden himself, dictated anew the contents of the burnt roll to Baruch, adding "many like words" (ib. xxxvi. 32). It was his secretary likewise who (later) wrote into the roll all the new prophecies which were delivered up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.Political Attitude.
- (c) During the Time of Zedekiah: In the original roll which was burned by Jehoiakim, and which probably included practically the prophecies contained in ch. ii.-xii., Jeremiah had not made any positive demands concerning the political attitude of the kingdom of Judah. He had merely, in accordance with the principle laid down by Hosea and Isaiah, declared that Judah should not take any political stand of her own, and should follow neither after Assyria nor after Egypt, but should wait and do what Yhwh commanded (ib. ii. 18, 36). But in the course of events he felt impelled to take active part in political affairs. This was during the time of Zedekiah, who had been placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar after the deportation of Jehoiachin (ib. xxvii., xxviii.).
When, in the fourth year of Zedekiah, ambassadors from the surrounding nations came to deliberate with the King of Judah concerning a common uprising against the Babylonian king, a prophet by the name of Hananiahproclaimed in the Temple the speedy return of Jehoiachin and his fellow exiles as well as the bringing back of the Temple vessels which had been carried off by Nebuchadnezzar, supporting his prophecy by the announcement that the "word of
But destiny was soon fulfilled, and with it came new trials for Jeremiah. Zedekiah had been obliged to succumb to the insistence of the war party and to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians then marched against Judah to punish Zedekiah and quell the rebellion. When Jeremiah's prophecy was near its fulfilment, the king sent often for him to consult with him and to ascertain how it would go with the people and with himself and what he should do to save himself. Jeremiah told him plainly that the Babylonians would conquer and advised him to surrender before the beginning of hostilities, in order to ward off the worst. Zedekiah, however, did not dare follow this advice, and thus the catastrophe came to pass, not without Jeremiah having in the meantime to endure many hardships owing to the siege. Since he undoubtedly prophesied the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and warned against resisting them as well as against trusting in the Egyptians for help, he was regarded as a traitor to his country; and for that reason and because his openly expressed conviction robbed the besieged of their courage, he was placed in confinement. He was treated as a deserter also because he desired to go to his native city on a personal matter at a time when the Babylonians had temporarily raised the siege to march against Hophra, the Egyptian king (the "Apries" of Herodotus), who was advancing against them. Jeremiah was arrested and thrown into a dungeon, whence he was released by the king. He was then confined in the court of the guard in the royal castle, as his discouraging influence on the soldiers was feared. Although he was allowed a certain freedom there, since he continued to make no secret of his conviction as to the final downfall of Judah, the king's officers threw him into an empty cistern. From this also he was rescued by a eunuch with the king's permission, being saved at the same time from death by starvation (ib. xxxvii., xxxviii.). He then remained in the lighter captivity of the court prison until he was liberated at the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
- (d) During the Time After the Fall of Jerusalem: The Babylonians handed Jeremiah over to the care and protection of the governor Gedaliah, with whom he lived at Mizpah. After the murder of the governor, Jeremiah seems to have been carried off by Ishmael, the murderer of Gedaliah, and to have been rescued by Johanan and his companions. This may be concluded from the fact that the prophet, with Baruch, was among the non-deported Jews who thought of going to Egypt through fear of the Babylonians. During a stay near Beth-lehem he was asked for God's will on the matter. When, after ten days, he received the answer that they should remain in the country, his warning voice was not heard, the cry being raised against him that Baruch had incited him to give this counsel. Accordingly the Jews dragged the prophet with them, as a hostage (Duhm ["Theologie der Propheten," p. 235]: "as an amulet")to Tahapanhes (i.e., Daphne, on the eastern branch of the Nile). Here Jeremiah continued to prophesy the destruction by the Babylonians of his fellow refugees as also of the Pharaohs and of the temples of Egypt (ib. xxxvii.-xliv.). Here also he must have experienced the anger of the women refugees, who could not be prevented by him from baking cakes and pouring out wine to the "queen of heaven" (ib. xliv. 15 et seq.).Jeremiah probably died in Egypt. Whether his countrymen killed him, as tradition says, can, on account of the lack of historical data, be neither affirmed nor denied. But his assassination does not seem wholly impossible in view of the angry scene just mentioned. At any rate, his life, even as it had been a continual struggle, ended in suffering. And it was not the least of the tragic events in his life that his chief opponents belonged to the same two classes of which he himself was a member. The priests fought him because he declared sacrifice to be of little importance, and the prophets because he declared that it was self-interest which prompted them to prophesy good for the people.
- (a) Character of Personality: The tragic element in Jeremiah's life has already been mentioned. It was heightened by the subjective trait which is peculiar to Jeremiah more than to other prophets, even the older ones. This personal suffering over the hard fate which he is obliged to proclaim to his people as God's changeless will is so strong that he even makes the attempt in earnest intercession to move God to a milder attitude toward the guilty. "Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them and to turn away thy wrath from them" (ib. xviii. 20). He would undoubtedly like to keep silence and yet must speak: "I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay"—i.e., "I struggled to keep it within me and I could not" (ib. xx. 9). Yhwh even has to forbid his intercession for the sinners (ib. vii. 16, xi. 14, xiv. 11), and to forbid the people to seek his intercession (ib. xlii. 2, 4). Jeremiah's sympathy for his countrymen who have been punished by God is so great that at one time the prophetical declaration to the people is changed into the people's petition: "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing" (ib. x. 24). In moving terms he describes the pain which he feels within him, in his "very heart," when he hears the sound of war and must announce it to the people (ib. iv. 19, viii. 18-22); and in despair over his sad life he curses the day of his birth (ib. xx. 14-18).With this intense sensitiveness on the part of the prophet, it should not cause surprise that, on the other hand, his anger breaks forth against his persecutors and he desires a day of destruction to come upon them (ib. xvii. 18).
- (b) Character of His Writing: It is doubtless due to this despondent and often despairing frame of mind that his words frequently make a dull and lifeless impression which is not remedied by a heaping up of synonymous terms; and this is all the more noticeable because the rhythm of the speeches is very feeble and frequently almost disappears. Although this may have been due in part to the fact that Jeremiah did not write his book himself, it is still undeniable that there is a monotony in the contents of his speeches. This may be traced to the conditions of his age. The prophet is always complaining of the sins of the people, particularly of their idolatry, or else describing the catastrophe which is to burst upon them through the hordes from the north. Seldom is there a brighter outlook into a better future.
The hope which he had at the beginning, that the people would recognize the evils of idolatry and would turn again to God with inward repentance (ib. ii.-iv. 4), entirely disappears later in face of the utter perverseness of the people; as does the other hope that Ephraim, the lost favorite of
From his choice of words it may be concluded that Jeremiah, like Isaiah, was an educated man. The pictures which he paints of outdoor life show a deep, delicate appreciation of nature. The voices of the desert sound in his poems; he speaks of the swift-footed dromedary running to and fro, of the cattle grown wild on the plains, of the thirsty wild ass gasping for breath with dim eyes, and of the bird of prey which the fowler has tied to a stake in order to attract his victim. Even in the description of chaos (ib. iv. 25) "Jeremiah does not forget the birds" (Duhm, in the introduction to his translation of Jeremiah, p. xxii.). His is, indeed, rather a lyrical nature, since even without a picture he tarries sometimes in an appreciative contemplation of nature, which corresponds to his sensitive comprehension of the human heart. God's greatness is manifested to him in the sand on the shore, which is placed as an eternal boundary for the sea; "andthough the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it" (ib. v. 22). He observes the lengthening shadows as the day is sinking (ib. vi. 4), or the dry wind of the high places which comes in from the wilderness and is too strong to serve either for fanning or for cleansing (ib. iv. 11). Now and then with a special touch he raises his pictures of human life above the vagueness which on account of the suppression of details is common to the Old Testament illustrations and examples. He furnishes the "smelter" (), who has been a stereotyped example since the oldest prophets, with bellows (ib. vi. 29); as symbols of the joyful existence which his prophecies foretelling punishment will drive away, he mentions, besides the voices of the bridegroom and of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the candle (ib. xxv. 10; comp. ib. vii. 34, xvi. 9). He also observes how the shepherd counts the sheep of his flock (ib. xxxiii. 13).
The symbolic acts of which he makes frequent use, whether he actually carries them out, as in breaking the earthen pitcher, in putting on the cords, and in placing the yoke on his neck, or merely imagines them, as in the allegories in Jer. xiii. 1 et seq., are simple and easily intelligible (Baudissin, "Einleitung," pp. 420 et seq.).Universality of the Godhead.
- (c) Character of His Religious Views: In conformity with the subjectivity of his nature, Jeremiah raised the conception of the bond between God and His people far above the conception of a physical relation, and transferred piety from mere objective ceremonies into the human heart (comp. ib. iv. 4, xvii. 9, xxix. 13, and, if Jeremianic, also xxxi. 31 et seq.). Through this conception of man's relation to the divinity, the idea of the divine universality, if not created by him, was yet (if Amos ix. 2-4, 5 et seq. be excluded) very clearly demonstrated. Although a large part of the passages in which the universality of God is most clearly expressed (Jer. xxvii. 5, 11; xxxii. 19; xlix. 11) are doubtful as regards their authorship, there are nevertheless undoubted passages (ib. xii. 14 et seq., and xviii. 7 et seq.) in which Jeremiah, although from the standpoint that Yhwh is the special God of Israel, expresses his conviction that He can reject nations other than Israel and afterward take them again into His favor. If in these passages the particularistic conception of God is not completely abandoned, nevertheless His universality is the direct consequence of the portrayal, which was first given by Jeremiah, of His omnipresence and omnipotence, filling heaven and earth (ib. xxiii. 23; comp. ii. 16). Thus Jeremiah, starting out from his conception of God, can characterize the gods of the heathen as "no gods," and can express his conviction that "among the idols of the heathen there is not one which can cause rain," whereas Yhwh has made all (ib. xiv. 22; comp. xvi. 19 et seq.). But in spite of this tendency toward a universalistic conception of God, which later became a firm article of belief, the barriers of the national religion had not yet fallen in Jeremiah's mind. This is shown most clearly by the fact that even he conceives of a final restoration of the tribe of Israel.
- C. W. E. Nägelsbach, Der Prophet Jeremia und Babylon, Erlangen, 1850;
- C. H. Cornill, Jeremia und Seine Zeit, 1880;
- T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah: His Life and Times, 1888;
- Lazarus, Der Prophet Jeremia;
- K. Marti, Der Prophet Jeremia von Anatot, 1889;
- W. Erbt, Jeremia und Seine Zeit, 1902;
- Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jeremia, Uebersetzt, 1903 (comp. Introduction, pp. v.-xxxiv.);
- bibliography under Jeremiah, Book of.
Jeremiah, a descendant of Rahab by her marriage with Joshua (Sifre, Num. 78; Meg. 14b, below), was born during the persecution of the prophets under Jezebel (Gen. R. lxiv. 6; Rashi on Jer. xx. 14 reads, probably correctly, "Manasseh" instead of "Jezebel"). The lofty mission for which Jeremiah was destined was evident even at his birth; for he not only came into the world circumcised (Ab. R. N. ii. [ed. Schechter, p. 12]; Midr. Teh. ix. [ed. Buber, p. 84]), but as soon as he beheld the light of day he broke out into loud cries, exclaiming with the voice of a youth: "My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me," etc. (Jer. iv. 20). He continued by accusing his mother of unfaithfulness; and as the latter was greatly astonished to hear this unbecoming speech of her new-born infant, he said: "I do not mean you, my mother. My prophecy does not refer to you; I am speaking of Zion and Jerusalem. They deck out their daughters, and clothe them in purple, and put golden crowns on their heads; but the robbers shall come and take these things away."
Jeremiah refused God's call to the prophethood, and referred to Moses, Aaron, Elijah, and Elisha, all of whom, on account of their calling, were subjected to sorrows and to the mockery of the Jews; and he excused his refusal with the plea that he was still too young. God, however, replied: "I love youth because it is innocent; it was for this reason that when I led Israel out of Egypt I called him 'my son' [comp. Hosea xi. 1], and when I think lovingly of Israel, I speak of it as of a boy [Jer. ii. 2]; hence do not say 'I am a boy.'" Then God handed to Jeremiah the "cup of wrath," from which he was to let the nations drink; and when Jeremiah asked which nation should drink first, the answer was "Israel." Then Jeremiah began to lament his fate, comparing himself with the high priest who was about to perform in the Temple the ceremonies prescribed in the case of a woman suspected of adultery (Num. v. 12 et seq.), and who, when he approached her with the "cup of the bitter water," beheld his own mother (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 129a, b]).His Prophetic Activity.
The prophetic activity of Jeremiah began in the reign of Josiah; he was a contemporary of his relative the prophetess Hulda and of his teacher Zephaniah (comp. Maimonides in the introduction to "Yad"; in Lam. R. i. 18 Isaiah is mentioned as Jeremiah's teacher). These three prophets divided their activity in such wise that Hulda spoke to the women and Jeremiah to the men in the street, while Zephaniah preached in the synagogue (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.). When Josiah restored the true worship, Jeremiah went to the exiled ten tribes, whom he brought to Palestine under the rule of the pious king ('Ar. 33a). Although Josiah went towar with Egypt against the prophet's advice, yet the latter knew that the pious king did so only in error (Lam. R. l.c.); and in his dirges he bitterly laments the king's death, the fourth chapter of the Lamentations beginning with a dirge on Josiah (Lam. R. iv. 1; Targ. II Chron. xxxv. 25).
Under Jehoiakim the prophet's life was a hard one; not only did the wicked king burn the early chapters of Lamentations, but the prophet was even in danger of his life (M. Ḳ. 26a; Lam. R., Introduction, p. 28). He fared still worse, however, under Zedekiah, when he had to withstand many attacks both upon his teachings and upon his life. On account of his descent from the proselyte Rahab he was scorned by his contemporaries as one who had no right to reproach the Jews for their sins (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xiii. 115b), and they furthermore accused him of unchastity (B. Ḳ. 16b). The hatred of the priests and of the war party against Jeremiah brought about his imprisonment on a false accusation by one of them, Jeriah, a grandson of Hananiah, an old enemy of Jeremiah. His jailer Jonathan, a relative of Hananiah, mocked him with the words: "Behold, what honors your friend has brought upon you! How fine is this prison in which you now are; truly it is like a palace!" Yet the prophet remained steadfast; and when the king asked whether Jeremiah had a prophecy for him, the prophet fearlessly answered: "Yes: the King of Babel will lead you into exile." When he saw how angry the king grew on hearing this, he tried to change the subject, saying: "Lo, even the wicked seek a pretext when they revenge themselves on their enemies! How much greater right has one to expect that a just man will have sufficient reason for bringing evil upon any one! Your name is 'Zedekiah,' indicating that you are a just 'ẓaddiḳ'; I therefore pray you not to send me back to prison." The king granted this request; but he was unable to withstand for long the clamorings of the nobles, and Jeremiah was cast into a muddy pit, the intention being that he should perish therein. As there was enough water in the pit to drown a man, the design of his enemies would have been carried out had not God miraculously caused the water to sink to the bottom and the dirt to float, so that Jeremiah escaped death. Even then his former keeper, Jonathan, mocked the prophet, calling to him: "Why do you not rest your head on the mud so that you may be able to sleep a while?" At the instance of Ebed-melech, the king permitted Jeremiah to be rescued from the pit. Jeremiah at first did not answer Ebed-melech when he called to him, because he thought it was Jonathan. Ebed-melech, who thought that the prophet was dead, then began to weep, and it was only after he had heard the weeping that Jeremiah answered; thereupon he was drawn up from the mire (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 130a, b]; comp. Ebed-melech in Rabbinical Literature).During the Destruction of the Temple.
The enemies and adversaries of the prophet were not aware that to him alone they owed the preservation of the city and the Temple, since his merits were so great in the eyes of God that He would not bring punishment upon Jerusalem so long as the prophet was in the city (Pesiḳ. R. l.c. [ed. Friedmann, p. 131a]; somewhat different in the Syriac Apoc. Baruch, ii.). The prophet was therefore commanded by God to go to Anathoth; and in his absence the city was taken and the Temple destroyed. When Jeremiah on his return beheld smoke rising from the Temple, he rejoiced because he thought that the Jews had reformed and were again bringing burnt offerings to the sanctuary. Soon, however, he discovered his error, and began to weep bitterly, lamenting that he had left Jerusalem to be destroyed. He now followed the road to Babylon, which was strewn with corpses, until he overtook the captives being led away by Nebuzar-adan, whom he accompanied as far as the Euphrates (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.; comp. Syriac Apoc. Baruch, l.c.). Although Jeremiah, by the express command of Nebuchadnezzar, was allowed to come and go as he pleased (Jer. xxxix. 12), yet when he saw captives he voluntarily caused himself to be chained or otherwise bound to them, notwithstanding Nebuzar-adan, who, anxious to carry out the orders of his master, always unchained him. At last Nebuzar-adan said to Jeremiah: "You are one of these three: a false prophet, one who despises suffering, or a murderer. For years you have prophesied the downfall of Jerusalem, and now when the prophecy has been fulfilled, you are sorry, which shows that you yourself do not believe in your prophecies. Or you are one who voluntarily seeks suffering; for I take care that nothing shall happen to you, yet you yourself seek pain. Or perhaps you are hoping that the king will kill me when he hears that you have suffered so much, and he will think that I have not obeyed his commands" (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xiv. 113; Lam. R., Introduction, p. 34).
After the prophet had marched with the captives as far as the Euphrates, he decided to return to Palestine in order to counsel and comfort those that had remained behind. When the exiles saw that the prophet was about to leave them, they began to cry bitterly, saying: "O father Jeremiah, you too are abandoning us!" But he answered: "I call heaven and earth to witness, had you shed a single tear at Jerusalem for your sins you would not now be in exile" (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 131b]; according to Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, and Lam. R. l.c. God commanded Jeremiah to return to Palestine). On the way back to Jerusalem he found portions of the bodies of the massacred Jews, which he picked up lovingly one after another and placed in various parts of his garments, all the while lamenting that his warnings had been heeded so little by these unfortunates (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, and Lam. R. l.c.).Vision of the Mourning Woman.
It was on this journey that Jeremiah had the curious vision which he relates in the following words: "When I went up to Jerusalem, I saw a woman, clad in black, with her hair unbound, sitting on the top of the [holy] mountain, weeping and sighing, and crying with a loud voice, 'Who will comfort me?' I approached her and said, 'If you are a woman, then speak; but if you are a spirit, then depart from me.' She answered, 'Do you not know me? I am the woman with the seven children whose father went far oversea,and while I was weeping over his absence, word was brought to me that a house had fallen in and buried my children in its ruins; and now I no longer know for whom I weep or for whom my hair is unbound.' Then said I to her, 'You are no better than my mother Zion, who became a pasture for the beasts of the field.' She answered, 'I am your mother Zion: I am the mother of the seven.' I said, 'Your misfortune is like that of Job. He was deprived of his sons and daughters, and so were you; but as fortune again smiled upon him, so it will likewise smile upon you'" (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.; in IV Esd. there is mentioned a similar vision of Ezra; comp. Lévi in "R. E. J." xxiv. 281-285).
On his return to Jerusalem it was the chief task of the prophet to protect the holy vessels of the Temple from profanation; he therefore had the holy tent and the Ark of the Covenant taken [by angels ?] to the mountain from which God showed the Holy Land to Moses shortly before his death (II Macc. ii. 5 et seq.; comp.
The Christian legend (pseudo-Epiphanius, "De Vitis Prophetarum"; Basset, "Apocryphen Ethiopiens," i. 25-29), according to which Jeremiah was stoned by his compatriots in Egypt because he reproached them with their evil deeds, became known to the Jews through Ibn Yaḥya ("Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," ed. princeps, p. 99b); this account of Jeremiah's martyrdom, however, may have come originally from Jewish sources. Another Christian legend narrates that Jeremiah by prayer freed Egypt from a plague of crocodiles and mice, for which reason his name was for a long time honored by the Egyptians (pseudo-Epiphanius and Yaḥya, l.c.). The assertion—made by Yaḥya (l.c. p. 101a) and by Abravanel (to Jer. i. 5), but not by Isserles, as Yaḥya erroneously states—that Jeremiah held a conversation with Plato, is also of Christian origin.
In haggadic literature Jeremiah and Moses are often mentioned together, their life and works being presented in parallel lines. The following old midrash is especially interesting in connection with Deut. xviii. 18, in which a prophet like Moses is promised: "As Moses was a prophet for forty years, so was Jeremiah; as Moses prophesied concerning Judah and Benjamin, so did Jeremiah; as Moses' own tribe [the Levites under Korah] rose up against him, so did Jeremiah's tribe revolt against him; Moses was cast into the water, Jeremiah into a pit; as Moses was saved by a female slave (the slave of Pharaoh's daughter), so Jeremiah was rescued by a male slave [Ebed-melech]; Moses reprimanded the people in discourses, so did Jeremiah" (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, xiii. 112a; comp. Matt. xvi. 14).