The Sign of the Loincloth: Jeremiah (13:1-11)
The first eleven verses of chapter thirteen of Jeremiah are a very distinctive portion of an already unique book. Jeremiah's vision of the sign of the loincloth is an affluent passage whose depth cannot be fully understood without a proper exegetical exploration. I intend on doing an exegesis on this passage of Jeremiah. The language and symbols used held significance easily understood by the original audience, yet are difficult to comprehend by modern audiences. The main significance of this piece is not the ruin of the people of Judah, rather the lack of an offering of hope which usually accompanies the prophecies and visions of Jeremiah. The complexity of the passage, coupled with the depth of scholarly research accompanying it make it a challenging, yet fulfilling passage for a deeper exegetical study.
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied for a long period of time. Most scholars agree that the dates for the career of Jeremiah begin sometime around 630 BC and end sometime very soon after the fall of Judah to the Babylonians in 586 BC. The book of Jeremiah is a composition highlighting this long career spanning numerous years and an equally numerous number of monarchs. J.A. Thompson, in his commentary on Jeremiah, highlights that the dates for this passage are hard to narrow down, yet many scholars align with one particular interpretation. He believes that the date for the opening passage of chapter thirteen occurred sometime around the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. After this battle, Jehoiakim, King of Judah, shifted his main alliance from Egypt to Nebuchadreaazr of Babylon. His logic for this date is very sound. Overman 2
He indicated that the nature of the piece is representative of a shift of both power and allegiance. During this time period, Babylon and to some extent Assyria re-emerged as the predominant powers in the Ancient Near East. The re-emergence of Babylon as the dominant nation brought them into a closer connection with the kingdom of Judah, thereby bringing the Babylonian dominance into the forefront of Jewish thought, especially for the prophetic faction. The greatest concern for the prophets, including Jeremiah, would have been the return of the Babylonian gods Baal and Asheroth to the forefront of Jewish worship. The Jewish people, particularly the kingdom of Judah, had long rotated their allegiance between Yahwehistic worship and the worship of Babylonian fertility gods. Thompson argues, and is agreed with by many scholars including J.P. Hyatt, that the events around 605 B.C. involving Babylon would have provided the spark
The literary context of the Sign of the Loincloth passage remains in the same form throughout the narrative. It occurs in the opening section of the book of Jeremiah, chapters 1-25, stylized as being doom and gloom. This is one of the few passages in that section that does not offer an sort of a hope offering to the Jewish people. The context for this passage is a parable written in prose form. In this parable, the first seven verses (1-7) are written in first-person, autobiographical form. Verses 8-10 are generally accepted to be an revelation from Yahweh explaining to Jeremiah the rationale and significance of his actions. Verses 10-11 are widely accepted to be the work of a later editor. The basis for the editorial redaction is mainly on the grounds of stylistic differences which fit the form and style of later passages in Jeremiah known by scholars to be written by later editors. There is little or no published disagreement amongst
scholars concerning the literary context of the Sign of the Waistcloth parable in Jeremiah 13. The aforementioned context is widely accepted as accurate.
The opening of the passage, particularly the first two verses, is extremely meaningful and has a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. In these verses, Jeremiah is instructed by God to go and...
Cited: Freedman, David Noel, ed. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992
Newsome, James D. The Hebrew Prophets. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984
Nicholson, E.W. The Cambridge Bible Commentary. Jeremiah 1-25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973
Thompson, J.A. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. The Book of Jeremiah. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989
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