A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming

By Walter Brueggemann | Go to book overview

The Oracles against the Nations
Jeremiah 46:1–51:64

It is conventional in the prophetic literature of the OT to have collections of oracles which are Yahweh’s word to (and against) the nations, as in Amos 1–2, Isa. 13–23, and Ezek. 25–32.1 The history and development of this genre of prophetic speech is not well known to us.2 It may be that the oracles emerged in the midst of liturgic celebrations of the sovereignty of Yahweh, and served to voice the claim that God’s sovereign rule extended not simply over Israel but over all peoples. Thus in Ps. 96:10 the imperative is issued: “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!’.” (NRSV).3 The oracles may then be the concrete way in which it is announced to the nations that “The Lord is king.”

That genre, which no doubt has liturgical antecedents, is utilized

1. A splendid introduction to the genre and various texts is Norman K. Gottwald, All the Kingdoms of the Earth (New York: Harper and Row, 1964). In this volume Gottwald is still focused on historical-critical questions and does not greatly reflect the penetrating social criticism of his later work.

2. The origin of the genre is perhaps liturgical. See one bold proposal in that regard by Aage Bentzen, “The Ritual Background of Amos 1:2–2:3,” Oudtestamentische Studiën 8 (1950): 85–99.

3. See the discussion of the psalm and this formula in Walter Brueggemann, Israel’s Praise: Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 29–53. There is no doubt that the formula used in the Jerusalem temple carried with it triumphalist tendencies for the Davidic house; cf. John Mauchline, “Implicit Signs of a Persistent Belief in the Davidic Empire,” Vetus Testamentum 20 (1970): 287–303.

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