History and Jeremiah’s Crisis of Faith

S. Kent Brown

S. Kent Brown, “History and Jeremiah’s Crisis of Faith,” in Isaiah and the Prophets: Inspired Voices from the Old Testament, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 105–18.

Before we begin our review of the parts of Jeremiah’s early ministry, let us first set out the usual and customary picture of it. [1] The prophet received his call while still a young man, during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign, about 627 or 626 B.C. In his early prophecies, he spoke of an unidentified peril which was to come upon Jerusalem and Judah from the north (see Jeremiah 1:13–16; 4:6; 6:1). Until about seventy years ago, [2] virtually all scholars believed that this was a reference to the Scythian hordes which swept through Syria and Palestine on their way to and from Egypt, and of which only the Greek historian Herodotus had something to say. [3] If indeed the Scythians were the peril envisioned by Jeremiah, then his predictions about Jerusalem’s destruction by that foe remained unfulfilled. I wish to note here, parenthetically, that I do not personally believe that this unidentified evil at the time of the prophet’s early ministry was the Scythian army. But more on this later. When this prophecy was not shortly fulfilled, Jeremiah lapsed into a period of silence. That the prophet was deeply troubled by the apparent nonfulfillment of his prophecies we learn from the so-called Confessions of Jeremiah (usually considered to be six in number: see Jeremiah 11:18–12:6; 15:10–21; 17:9–10, 14–18; 18:18–23; 20:7–12; 20:14–18). It is worth recalling, additionally, that 621 B.C. saw the discovery of the Book of the Law in the temple, upon which King Josiah based an extensive religious reform (2 Kings 22:8) [4] To all appearances, Jeremiah enthusiastically supported this revision, which both initially did away with all of the small shrines, whether dedicated to YHWH or to other non- Israelite deities, and attempted to centralize sacrificial worship at Jerusalem. [5] This reformation must have had a debilitating impact on the livelihood of Jeremiah’s priestly family, who not only lived in Anathoth but also probably officiated at one of the local discontinued shrines, thus explaining in part their strong opposition to his ministry. [6] When the strength and purpose of the reform began to wane, Jeremiah withdrew his endorsement. [7] Then, when Jehoiakim came to the throne after Josiah’s untimely death, the prophet once again took up his predictions concerning the peril from the north, this time applying them to the Chaldeans, who had newly arisen as an international power.

Every detail of this brief traditional outline of Jeremiah’s early ministry has been challenged. [8] For instance, concerning the relationship between the Scythian incursion and the prophet’s despair —the major items which will hold our attention here—no less a scholar than Professor John Bright wrote in 1959 that Herodotus’s assertion that “the Scythians . . . ran wild over western Asia, ranging as far as the Egyptian frontier, is to be received with greatest caution; though1 some scholars accept it and explain the oracles of Zephaniah and young Jeremiah in light of it, it is quite without objective support.” [9] Bright here dismisses Herodotus’s account without discussion. Bearing in mind the need to consider later the validity of Herodotus’s witness, let us first turn to the problem of the identification of the foe from the north, the solution to which will have to take into account the Greek historian.

At the time of his call, Jeremiah saw two visions (see Jeremiah 1:11, 13), [10] the second of which included a view of “a seething pot” boiling in the north. Its contents were to be poured out on Jerusalem and the land of Judah, for, as the Lord said: “Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness.” (Jeremiah 1:14–16a.) This picture of wide spread destruction and punishment from the north became a feature of Jeremiah’s message from the opening of his ministry. [11] Notably, in each reference to this peril (see Jeremiah l:14ff.; 4:6; 6:1), just who was coming from the north remained unknown, apparently even to the prophet, for it was not until a much later date in his ministry that he identified this punishing force as the Chaldeans from Babylonia (see Jeremiah 21:4, 9; 22:25). We can observe thus far, then, that the Lord had apparently revealed to the youthful Jeremiah only the northerly route by which the peril would travel to Palestine, [12] but not the foe who would come.

We noted earlier that something had occurred during the early years of the prophet’s career which drove him to complain bitterly about unfulfilled prophecies. Among other things, the situation had resulted in Jeremiah’s being totally and publicly discredited. In fact, even his family had joined in a plot to take his life, apparently because whatever had happened had created an enormous public outcry against him. What had occurred that caused the prophet to complain so and motivated his family and friends to seek his life? It does not seem possible that Jeremiah’s open support of Josiah’s religious reforms would have generated such a furor—even if those revisions eventually lost popular support, as some scholars maintain. [13] After all, Josiah was still living at the time. [14] We must seek a better explanation. And the only other possible and feasible solution is the Scythian hypothesis.

Herodotus says that the Scythians, after becoming masters of Asia, marched south intending to invade Egypt. [15] En route they passed along the coastline of Syria and Palestine, a movement which surely was known to the inhabitants of Judah and would have spread alarm. Arriving at the border of Egypt, between the Philistine kingdom and the Delta region, the Scythians were met by Pharaoh Psammeticus and were bribed with gifts and persuaded not to invade the Nile Valley. The Scythians then retraced their steps, plundering at least the Philistine city of Ashkelon. Incidentally, this second sweep past the outlying communities of Judah would also have been known in Jerusalem. After returning to Asia, the Scythians were said to have ruled for twenty-eight years before their power waned.

Scholars have raised major objections against this narration by Herodotus. The first concerns its historicity. The protests range from outright denials of the incidents mentioned to an insistence that Herodotus’s information is questionable. [16] But no real foundation exists for rejecting his narrative out of hand. To be sure, Herodotus’s major interest centered on the possible relation of Aphrodite to the goddess of Ashkelon, whose city was attacked. But Herodotus’s interest in Aphrodite does not call the historicity of the entire incident into question. Neither is there any reason to suppose that the priests at Ashkelon made up the story merely to entertain inquisitive visitors to their city. [17] Moreover, the fact that the Bible makes no specific mention of this incident, and that it was narrated by Herodotus alone, does not destroy his credibility in the least. [18] On the contrary, his trustworthiness as a reliable source is buttressed by two pieces of evidence. The first is the existence of Jeremiah’s confessions, written in the wake of a crisis which caused the prophet deep personal disappointment, coupled with the resulting public outcry against him. Clearly, some major external event had happened to bring about this circumstance. Admittedly, I am here engaging a bit in circular reasoning by saying, on the one hand, that if the Scythians came Jeremiah’s situation can be explained and, on the other, that if the prophet’s circumstance is to be rightly understood then we shall likely see the Scythian incursion lying behind it. For good or bad, this is often how one has to deal with historical connections which on the surface are not readily apparent. But there is more. The second piece of evidence stems from the existence of the name Scythopolis, a toponym associated with an ancient city which lay in the Jordan Valley a few miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The origin of this name has puzzled investigators. The town was originally called Bethshan, mentioned as early as Joshua 17:11 as belonging to the tribe of Manasseh. [19] At a date prior to the second century B.C., this city acquired the name Scythopolis [20] and was reckoned within the Decapolis district, which was made up of ten non-Jewish cities in the regions of Galilee and Gilead. [21] Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the genesis of the toponym Scythopolis, including Jerome’s which suggested that the proximity of the biblical town Sukkoth (Genesis 33:17), whose consonants are s-k-t, had given Bethshan its new name. But the most natural explanation is that some of the Scythian band who had gone to the border of Egypt did not return with the main body to Asia. Instead, they turned aside when they came to Galilee and settled in the area near Bethshan. Eventually, in this view, it was these people who gave the town its name in the Greek period as a result of waning Israelite influences during and after the exile in Babylon. [22]

The second major problem facing the Scythian hypothesis consists in dating their incursion. If they came at a time removed from Jeremiah’s early ministry, the hypothesis does not hold. Let us state what is securely known. First of all, the Scythians came during the reign of Pharaoh Psammeticus (who died 610 B.C.). Secondly, the invasion occurred before the destruction of Nineveh by Cyaxares the Mede in 612 B.C. [23] Further, Egypt went to the aid of the crumbling Assyrian empire in 616 B.C., [24] the earliest terminus ante quern we can firmly establish. Scholars such as H. H. Rowley have suggested that the incursion likely occurred even before this, perhaps prior to 621 B.C., the beginning of Josiah’s reform. [25] Whether or not this idea holds, we can safely say—based simply on what can be demonstrated historically—that the crisis which precipitated Jeremiah’s troubles fell before 616 B.C., within a decade of his call. Such a conclusion supports the observations of others that the renewal of Jeremiah’s call, which appears at the end of his second confession in chapter 15, verses 20 and 21, must have followed a major setback early in his ministry rather than late. [26]

Having now established the high probability, not only that Herodotus’s record of the Scythian invasion is historically reliable, but also that this invasion came within the first years of Jeremiah’s ministry, we turn to the confessions themselves. Taken together, [27] the confessions clearly demonstrate both that the prophet was deeply disappointed because of unfulfilled prophecies and that, consequently, he felt God had abandoned him. In these solemn dirges one plainly sees that Jeremiah passed through a crisis which shook his faith in the Lord. Let us first discuss the confessions in order (see Jeremiah 11:18–12:6; 15:10–21; 17:9f., 14–18; 18:18–23; 20:7–12, 14–18), [28] and then suggest a reconstruction of events which led to his difficulties.

The first passage brings chapter 11 to a close and opens chapter 12 (see Jeremiah 11:18–12:6). Jeremiah recorded here that the Lord had revealed to him a plot against his life hatched by “the men of Anathoth” (Jeremiah 11:21), his hometown (see Jeremiah 1:1). In this connection, Jeremiah noted that the instigators of the plot went so far as to speak in riddles when discussing his planned murder in his presence (see Jeremiah 11:19). His narrow escape from death seemingly led him to ask, “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit; thou art near in their mouth and far from their reins.” (Jeremiah 12:If.) [29] What the prophet said next forms an important key to understanding his own tortured frustrations and disappointments. “Thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee” (Jeremiah 12:3). Note the theme of trial, a concept which we shall stress again. The prophet has here claimed for the first time that the Lord had “tried” his loyalty. He continued by pleading that the Lord avenge him against his enemies. Then the Lord gently reprimanded him (see Jeremiah 12:5f.): “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” God’s message to the prophet was plain—matters were only to become worse. The Lord went on to say, “For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee” (Jeremiah 12:6). Whatever had happened, it is clear that it had turned not only the people in Jeremiah’s hometown but even members of his own family against him. In fact, the anger had run so deeply among family members that they too had participated in the plot against his life.

The second of the six confessions occurs in chapter 15. The prophet began it by saying, ‘ ‘Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!” (Jeremiah 15:10.) He then sorrowed that, although he had neither lent nor borrowed, everyone hated him. After he next quoted the Lord’s words concerning the fate of himself and of a remnant of Judah to be spared destruction, [30] Jeremiah continued:

O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy long suffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. (Jeremiah 15:15.)

It is absolutely clear both from this and from earlier passages that he had suffered severe persecution. And we know that some of it came from his family and old associates in Anathoth. Listen now to his following words as he reflected on his call:

Thy words were found, and I did eat them, thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16.)

One can imagine Jeremiah remembering the joy and happiness which came to him when he was first called to be a spokesman to God’s people. But after mentioning that this event effectively set him apart from others (see Jeremiah 15:17), he wrote a gloomy confession of his frustrations since his call

Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail? (Jeremiah 15:18.)

Here, mentioning his injury which seemingly could not be healed, Jeremiah dared to refer to God as “failing waters.” [31] In a word, the prophet was distressed. What had gone wrong? Significantly, this outburst led the Lord generously to reconfirm Jeremiah’s prophetic calling, almost—as we noted earlier—in the very words of his original commission (see Jeremiah 15:20–21; cf. 1:17–19).

In his third confession, appearing in chapter 17, Jeremiah again stated that the Lord had been trying him severely. He quoted the Lord as saying, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). But even though he had been severely tested, the prophet acknowledged that only the Lord finally could help him (see Jeremiah 17:14).

Verse 15 may hold a clue as to what had happened. We read: “Behold, they say unto me, where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now.” Plainly, Jeremiah was being teased and ridiculed because what he had prophesied had not come about. Something had obviously gone amiss—at least in the view of his hearers—and he was being baited to say more and thus compound his apparent errors. In this connection, we observe that in his fourth confession (see Jeremiah 18:18–23) he noted how his persecutors devised ways to trap him in his words so that they might refute him and not feel obliged to listen seriously to his message. Again, it is worthwhile to point out the prophet’s reference here to constant harassment and persecution.

Jeremiah’s fifth confession (Jeremiah 20:7–12) contains what is perhaps his most poignant statement:

O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, everyone mocketh me. (Jeremiah 20:7.)

He went on to say that his trust in the word of the Lord had fallen so low that he had decided to quit, [32] not to “speak any more in his name, But his word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” from uttering the words of the Lord. (Jeremiah 20:9.) The feeling that he was deceived finds close links with the theme of trial when, almost immediately afterward, he mentioned the “Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous” (Jeremiah 20:12). So intense had persecution of him become that Jeremiah, who once had prayed for his people, now demanded that the Lord take vengeance on those who treated him despitefully.

The last confession (Jeremiah 20:14–18) was written in the depths of despair. I know of only one other mournful passage in all of scripture that can match its majestic blackness and sorrow. [33] Indeed, the prophet had been brought to the end of his strength and wit. His faith had run out. What made him feel that he had been deceived by God himself, that somehow the Lord had made sport of him and finally had abandoned him?

The answer, as I have suggested, is to be connected with the sudden appearance and then abrupt disappearance of the Scythians—tiny events when viewed against the massive events of the fall of the Assyrian Empire. But before I offer my final solution to the problem, I must briefly return to an issue discussed earlier in another context. It concerns the series of statements about an “evil from the north” (see Jeremiah 4:6), the instrument of God’s wrath against the unrepentant kingdom of Judah. As we already noted, the identity of this peril was not known to Jeremiah during the early years of his ministry. We should now further observe that Zephaniah, whose ministry preceded that of Jeremiah by a few years, also knew of a peril that was to come out of the north. [34] Since Zephaniah did not name this foe in his writings, it is clear that Jeremiah could not have learned its identity from this source.

From our vantage point, we know the identity of that peril who the Lord said would come to destroy Jerusalem and its temple. It was, of course, the Babylonian army. Indeed, as we have seen, Jeremiah came to know in the latter part of his ministry that it was the Chaldeans who were the “evil [that] shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land” (Jeremiah 1:14; see 21:4, 9; 22:25). Let us bear this in mind as we review a series of events associated with the Assyrian Empire before and during Jeremiah’s ministry.

In 721 B.C. Samaria, then the capital of the kingdom of Israel, fell to the Assyrians after a three-year siege led by Shalmeneser V (727–722 B.C.) and Sargon II (722–705 B.C.) (see 2 Kings 17:5 ff.). We mark in passing Sargon’s claim that he deported a total of 27,290 people. [35] By 664 B.C., just fifty-seven years after the fall of Samaria, Assyrian power and territory had reached their zenith. But this did not last long. In October 626 B.C., about the time of Jeremiah’s call, the Babylonian prince Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrians at Babylon, thus leading a successful revolt. Ten years later, the situation had become so desperate for Assyria that Egypt, an old nemesis and tribute-paying state, went to their assistance. Two years later, in 614 B.C., the capital city of Asshur was taken by Cyaxares, commander of the Medes. In 612 B.C., Nineveh itself fell to him while he was leading an allied force consisting of Medes, Babylonians, and possibly Scythian horsemen. [36] It was the Scythians who had earlier swept down from the southern marches of the present-day Soviet Union who draw our attention.

We now must review the events that, although seemingly insignificant on the larger Near Eastern stage, affected the early ministry of Jeremiah so deeply. From all we can learn, the Lord did not reveal the identity of the foe from the north either to Jeremiah, the young prophet from Anathoth, or to Zephaniah, who had prophesied of a similar peril. Bearing this in mind, we note that before Jeremiah had prophesied for a decade, regularly warning that such a foe would appear bringing death and destruction to the people of Judah, the Scythians had passed along the coast of Palestine. They were on their way to Egypt, looting and burning as they went. [37] The natural response of everyone in Judah, apparently including the prophet, would have been to consider the appearance of the Scythians as the fulfillment of his prophecies. At that moment, then, when the Scythians came sweeping down the Mediterranean plain, word would have been quickly communicated to Jerusalem that an attack was imminent.

But the expected attack never came, The Scythians passed southward, doing no appreciable damage to Jewish settlements. Even on their return they made the city and temple of Ashkelon their main target, doing consequential damage to nothing else. Thus the Scythian threat came and went, and Jerusalem and the land of Judah remained untouched. What had appeared to be the impending fulfillment of Jeremiah’s words simply evaporated. It was then that his credibility fell to an all-time low. Had not the threat vanished? Had not Jeremiah been proven a false prophet? In the resulting furor and embarrassment, the prophet grew inwardly puzzled, frustrated, and disappointed. For a time it must have appeared that the Lord had deceived him, and he became the laughingstock of everyone. It was at this point, I believe, that his family and friends sought to take away his life because he had brought upon them intolerable shame and embarrassment. The youth from Anathoth, who had seemingly succeeded in the highest possible way, had suddenly—to all appearances—proved to be false, both to his people and to his religion. To compound the public pain and humiliation of his family, he eventually continued his message of Judah’s doom, at the Lord’s behest, now, however, identifying the peril as the Chaldeans from Babylon.

It is to Jeremiah’s everlasting credit that he remained faithful as he passed through an extraordinarily severe test of his trust in the Lord. But pass it he did. The most tragic of prophets, he emerged from this crucible of trial more deeply committed than ever. And he had to be so committed, for it was at least another thirty years before he saw the fulfillment of his woeful prophecies of destruction, the message which he had borne since the first of his career. Prophesying for more than four decades, he remained to the last of his ministry a lonely man speaking with a lonely voice in a sea of distrust, lack of faith, and sin. But in the end, God vindicated his servant’s prophecies and thus his servant. This observation alone constitutes a message for our own day: God honors and supports his servants who are faithful.


[1] A good summary of the range of problems concerning Jeremiah’s early ministry is that by H. H. Rowley, “The Early Prophecies of Jeremiah in Their Setting,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 45 (1962–63): 198–234 (reprinted in Rowley’s Men of God [1963], 133–68). I am indebted to this insightful synopsis for much of my own understanding of this critical period in the prophet’s career.

[2] Rowley, 206f. F. Wilke was among the first to reject the Scythian hypothesis: see Alttestament-liche Studien, Rudolf Kittel zum 60. geburtstag dargebracht, Beitrage zur Wissenschaft vom Alten Testament, vol. 13 (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1913), 222ff.

[3] The Histories, 1.104–6.

[4] Almost without exception, scholars identify this Book of the Law as an early version of Deuteronomy. See Rowley’s summarizing observation about this on 226ff. A very extensive literature exists on this subject. Latter-day Saints, incidentally, should not be surprised at the assertion that Deuteronomy may have been known in varying versions, since, for example, what we read about Moses’ end in Deuteronomy chapter 34 differs substantially from what must have been written on the brass plates, a notion based on the very different account of Moses’ fate in Alma 45:19.

[5] This is the usual reading of Jeremiah chapter 11, which, being full of Deuteronomic terminology and phraseology, apparently illustrates that Jeremiah was here advocating support of Josiah’s reform. See Rowley, 226f. for bibliography.

[6] The notion that Jeremiah was an Aaronite priest descended from the high priest Abiathar, who was exiled by Solomon to Anathoth (1 Kings 2:26f.) has been challenged. To be sure, the phrase “of the priests” (Jeremiah 1:1) is omitted by the Septuagint. But there is no textual evidence against these words among Hebrew manuscripts (see Rowley, 200, 203–6). One is always faced with the question of how to explain the opposition of the prophet’s family. One logical answer, of course, is that the (Deuteronomic) reform somehow threatened their livelihood as priests of a local shrine. One notes that the name Anathoth derives from Anath, the name of a Canaanite goddess, possibly indicating that the town in pre-Israelite times housed a shrine dedicated to her. It would not be unusual for the Israelite priests to have taken over such a holy place and merely used it for their own worship. See the article on “Anathoth” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 125b.

[7] This is the usual interpretation. But see the cautioning remarks of John Bright, Jeremiah, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), xci–xcvi, 88f.

[8] Rowley, 199–201.

[9] John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), 293.

[10] Questions have been raised whether the two visions accompanied Jeremiah’s call (see Jeremiah 1:4–10). In Jeremiah, 7f., Bright finally does admit that if they were not integral parts of Jeremiah’s call they were given to him soon afterwards.

[11] If one could demonstrate that Jeremiah’s second vision (see Jeremiah l:13ff.) came at a date significantly later than 627 or 626 B.C., the year of his call, then the vision could not have been (mistakenly) applied to the Scythians and would have referred from the first only to the Chaldeans. But nothing internal or external to the text supports a late date for this vision. See Bright, Jeremiah, 7f.

[12] Whether Jeremiah had the Scythians in mind, as some scholars maintain, or whether the Lord originally had reference to the Chaldeans, the route into Palestine for either would necessarily have been from the north. Rowley, 214f.

[13] Rowley, 232–34.

[14] The issue rests on the dating of the confessions. While it is rather certain that they were not all written at the same time (Rowley, 220f.), their general date of composition is crucial if we are to place the prophet’s crisis during Josiah’s reign (640–609 B.C.), especially since the confessions relate the public and familial outcry against him (see Jeremiah 11:19–21; 12:6; 18:18, 22f.; 20:7f.; 10). One key is the second confession (see Jeremiah 15:10–21), which included a renewal of Jeremiah’s call (vv. 20f.) in almost the same terms used in his initial summons by the Lord (cf. Jeremiah l:18f.). As Rowley points out, the renewal “can most naturally be placed after his initial experience of failure,’’ early in his ministry rather than late (p. 222). See John Bright, “A Prophet’s Lament and Its Answer: Jeremiah 15:10–21,” Interpretation 28 (1974): 59–74.

[15] Herodotus, The Histories, 1.103–6.

[16] See references in Rowley, 208f.

[17] Ibid., 209.

[18] Ibid., 211–12. A recently published review of the archaeological evidence which generally supports Herodotus’s account is Edwin Yamauchi’s “The Scythians: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes,” Biblical Archaeologist 46 (Spring 1983): 90–99. No less a scholar than T. R. Glover thought that Jeremiah had made clear reference to the Scythians in 6:22–23; see his Herodotus, Sather Classical Lectures (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1924), 95.

[19] See also Judges 1:27; 1 Chronicles 7:29; and 1 Samuel 31:10, 12, where it is recorded that the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were hung on the wall of Bethshan by the Philistines. Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews VI.xiv.8 [#374] and elsewhere, has noted that Scythopolis was the former Bethshan.

[20] The Septuagint reading of Judges 1:27 makes the identification between Bethshan and Scythopolis. Hence, the latter would have been well established by the time of the translation of the book of Judges from Hebrew to Greek (third century or earlier?). That the new toponym was widely held by the second century B.C. can be seen by its appearance in 1 Maccabees 5:52; 7:36; and 2 Maccabees 12:39.

[21] William Smith, ed., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1873; reprint ed., AMS Press [1966]), 398f., 757; Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Zweite Reihe [R-Z], Dritter Halbband, columns 947f.

[22] Rowley, 21 Of.

[23] Herodotus, The Histories, 1.103, 106.

[24] See references in Rowley, 202, 211.

[25] Ibid., 211, makes the attractive suggestion that the prophetess Hulda was consulted about the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22:14ff.) because the young Jeremiah had already been discredited by this time, 621 B.C.

[26] See note 14 above.

[27] See Rowley’s brief commentary, 220–23. Bright has much more to say in his Jeremiah.

[28] Recent studies include those by W. V. Chambers, “The Confessions of Jeremiah: A Study in Prophetic Ambivalence” (PhD dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1972); Cheng-Chang Wang, “A Theology of Frustration—An Interpretation of Jeremiah’s Confessions,” South East Asia Journal of Theology, 15 (1974):36–42; and P. Welten, “Leiden und Leidenserfahrung im Buch Jeremia,” Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche 74 (1977): 123–50.

[29] One hears echoes, of course, of a similar prayer uttered by the modern-day Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail (D&C 121:1–6). Compare Habakkuk 1:2–4, 13.

[30] See the recent article on Jeremiah’s citation of the words of the Lord here by G. V. Smith, “The Use of Quotations in Jeremiah XV 11–14,” Vetus Testamentum 29 (1979):229–31.

[31] Bright, Jeremiah, 110: “Literally ‘a deceitful (brook),’ a stream that goes dry in summer and cannot be depended upon for water. Remember that Jeremiah had once (see Jeremiah 2:13) called Yahweh ‘the fountain of living waters’!”

[32] The prophet’s decision to remain silent has usually been associated with his disappointment in the reforms of Josiah (see Rowley, 200). But Jeremiah’s words in chapter 20, verse 7, seem to point to a frustration growing out of something deeper. Consequently, I believe that his period of silence had to do with the seeming nonfulfillment of his prophecies, not with his disappointment in the reform movement. A treatment of all of chapter 20 appears in D. J. A. Clines, “Form, Occasion and Redaction in Jeremiah 20,” Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 88 (1976):390–409.

[33] I refer to Job’s lament (Job chapter 3).

[34] Zephaniah 1:10 mentions a series of landmarks on the north side of Jerusalem past which the invaders were to come.

[35] D. Winton Thomas, ed., Documents from Old Testament Times (reprint ed.; New York: Harper, 1961), 58–63. A fuller range of texts appears in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3d ed. with Supplement (Princeton: University Press, 1969), 284–87.

[36] See, for instance, A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 161–63, 168–70; and Bright, A History of Israel, 288–302.

[37] It is Herodotus who mentioned the Scythian wont to plunder (The Histories, 1.106).