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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 53, 2005

JACK R. LUNDBOM, Jeremiah 21–36 (Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 2004). Pp. xvi+649. $US45.00.

Lundbom’s work on Jeremiah 21–36 is the second of a three-volume AB commentary on the book of Jeremiah. His interpretation of the book is based on rhetorical criticism, the details of which he outlines in his earlier volume: Jeremiah 1–20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1999). To understand much of Lundbom’s exegesis of chapters 21–36, it will be necessary in this review to refer back to his first volume on chapters 1–20.

For Lundbom, the book gives us clear access to the figure of the historical Jeremiah. The poetry of chapters 1–20 are the oracles of Jeremiah committed to writing by Baruch, chapter 24 is an authentically Jeremian account of a prophetic vision, and chapters 37–44 are the account of “Jeremiah’s final sufferings from the vantage point of one observing them at close range” (Jeremiah 1–20, 96). Lundbom is less confident about the Jeremian authorship of all of the oracles against the nations (chapters 46–51) and allows for the possibility that some of this material does not have Jeremiah as its composer. In general, Lundbom is more insistent than even William Holladay on Jeremian authorship of material, and parts company with the latter in attributing to Jeremiah passages such as 17:19–27 and 33:14–26 (regarded by Holladay and many other commentators as having a post-exilic origin).

Lundbom’s methodology leads him to propose a way of dividing the book that differs from most other commentaries. He identifies chapters 1–20 (rather than the more commonly proposed chapters 1–25) as the first major section of the book, formed by the inclusio in 1:5 and 20:18. This he calls “the First Edition of the book of Jeremiah, a rewritten scroll of 604 B.C. or later” (Jeremiah 1–20, 94). Chapters 1–20 are followed by the “King and Prophet Appendix,” chapters 21–23 (Jeremiah 21–36, 94). The next major section of the book is chapters 24–36. Lundbom offers further divisions of these chapters. One section is chapters 30–33 (“the book of restoration”), which were an independent collection before their incorporation into the book. Another is formed around what he calls the “Jehoiakim Cluster” and the “Zedekiah Cluster.” The former consists of chapters 25–26 and 35–36, which originally belonged together and which contain narratives set in the reign of Jehoiakim. The latter consists of chapters 24, 27–29, which come from the time of Zedekiah (Lundbom reads Zedekiah for the MT’s “Jehoiakim” in 27:1).

Lundbom’s treatment of chapter 24 provides a good illustration of his method. Unlike other commentaries that put chapter 24 with chapter 21–23, or that see it as the conclusion of a major section of the book, for reasons of “form, content and location” and its similarity to chapter 1, Lundbom argues that chapter 24 is an introduction to a new section of the book. It originally belonged to the Zedekiah cluster, whose datelines formed a chiasm: chapter 24 (A) and 29 (A’), both situated “after the exile of Jeconiah”; chapters 27 (B) and 28 (B’), both set in the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign (ibid. 223). The subject matter of each arm of the chiasm is similar: submission to the king of Babylon (B, B’), and the division of the community of Judah into good and bad (A, A’).

Chapter 24 is a Jeremian composition, and shows no evidence of any Deuteronomistic influence in its composition. Expressions such as “for good” (vv. 5–6), “build up, overthrow, plant, uproot” (v. 6), “the sword, famine, pestilence” (v. 10) are characteristic of both Jeremian prose and poetry. The use of alternatives (“good figs” and “bad figs”) is just as characteristic of Jeremiah as it is of the Deuteronomists. The condemnation of the exiles in Egypt (v. 8) does not require a post-587 date for the chapter, because Judeans had been in exile at least since the time of Jehoiakim (ibid. 225). The two oracles that explain the significance of the good and bad figs (vv. 5–7, 8–10) have different but clearly identifiable rhetorical structures, and do not require the deleting of any part of the text (as some scholars have argued).

While Lundbom’s views on the book’s provenance, redactional history and structure may not command broad agreement among Jeremiah scholars, his careful and detailed exegesis of the Hebrew text gives us a rich and important resource for the future study of the book.

Review by
John Hill
Yarra Theological Union
Box Hill VIC 3128, Australia