Jer 15:6-9

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Thu Sep 16 19:38:40 EDT 1999

Dear Rolf,

I think that there is clear evidence for a break in the context before 
Jeremiah 15:5. Both NRSV and NIV make a paragraph break here, although 
NRSV (translated in the 1980s not the 1940s!) uses past tense in 
verses 6-9a and NIV uses future. One piece of evidence for a break is 
of course the change in verb form. Another is the change from prose 
style in verses 1-4 (except for the quoted poetic fragment in verse 2) 
to poetic style in verses 5-9. KIY at verse 5 may also be a marker of 
a new section. Furthermore, the whole thrust of the argument changes 
at this point.

I don't say this in support of any theory of multiple origins, but 
rather to show that there is evidence which might suggest a multiple 
origin. By the way, I am not suggesting an intrusion, but rather that 
much of the book of Jeremiah may be a compilation of originally 
separate prophetic oracles. By "prophetic" I do not necessarily mean 
"predictive". I am by no means suggesting that there is any proof of 
separate origin, but rather that there is sufficient grounds for 
doubting the original unity of 15:1-9 to be a serious flaw in any 
argument depending on this unity (as yours seems to). To put it more 
simply, we cannot assume unity.

If the original unit is taken as 15:5-9, it makes quite reasonable 
sense to take the central portion of this unit as past. The argument 
could be summarised as: "Do you expect Me to pity you? In the past you 
rejected Me and I punished you, and that's what I am going to do 
again." The redactor put this into a sensible context by putting it 
together with the originally separate oracle, with its own time frame, 
of 15:1-4. I accept that (if we ignore the verb forms) this is only 
one possible interpretation and that a future rendition is also 
possible. But this makes it a doubtful support for your theory.

In fact the whole problem with your arguments is that they are based a 
large number of cases each of which is individually doubtful. On your 
other E-mail you wrote of "the hundreds of QATALs and WAYYIQTOLs with 
future meaning", but despite many attempts you have not given any 
unequivocal examples (apart from "future perfects").

I am especially concerned at one argument in your other E-mail: this 
is prophecy, therefore (despite a disclaimer) this must be future. The 
prophetic books contain many passages which are clearly not future. So 
the argument that this passage must be future because it is in a 
prophetic book is completely invalid. While I would not go as far as 
you suggest I do in stating that "a rendition  of vv 6-9 as future 
rather than past is built on theology", I would say that the argument 
that this passage must be future because it is prophecy is based on a 
particular, and unsustainable, theological understanding of prophecy. 
I would also say that an insistence that vv 6-9 must be future and 
cannot be past is based on some kind of preconception, theological or 

But to be honest my main reason for preferring a past to a future 
understanding of this passage is very simple: the verb forms are those 
used in the great majority of cases in the whole Hebrew Bible (very 
close to all unambiguous cases!) in past contexts rather than future 
contexts. If there was good evidence for preferring a different 
understanding in this case, I would accept it, but you have given no 
evidence which remotely convinces me that the traditional 
understanding (reflected in RSV and NRSV) of the Hebrew verb forms is 
wrong, either in general or in this particular case.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[2]: Jer 15:6-9
Author:  <furuli at> at Internet
Date:    16/09/1999 09:35

Peter Kirk wrote:

>Dear Rolf,

Dear Peter,

When I collect the examples which contradict the four-component model, I 
take textual criticism into consideration. But I refuse to translate on the 
basis of an imaginary context. I am open for scientific work with the text, 
but would like to rely on data rather than speculation. It is true that I 
have presumed that the text of 15:1-9 is a unit in my previous posts. Are 
there any data suggesting that Jer 15 is a patchwork of different oracles?

All workers are influenced by their theology and their "horizon of 
understanding". However, the first step to suggest that theology plays too 
great a role in someone's work, is to show that theological viewpoints are 
important regarding the understanding of the particular text in question. In 
this case you should give some data supporting a "patchwork-understanding". 
If such are not given, I think it is methodologically sound to view the text 
as a unity. However, to view a part of the text as an intrusion because it 
contains verbs that contradict the traditional view, is hopelessly circular.

To be able to use the verb forms rather than the context, we must know 
their meaning. But to the best of my knowledge, those who propose a 
particular meaning for each verb form, do so on the basis of the study of 
just *a portion* of the Hebrew text. We cannot use such views to explain 
away counter-examples in other parts of the text; data from the *whole* 
text must be used.

Regardless of the origin of the text in the book of Jeremiah, the one who 
made the final draft of 15:1-10 portrayed it as a prophetic unit. This must 
also be taken into account. Can you please show how a rendition  of vv 6-9 
as future rather than past is built on theology?


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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