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Jeremiah, Josiah, Barker, And Me

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Kevin Christensen mentioned Margaret Barker's discussion of Jeremiah and Josiah's reforms in a different thread (Mother of the Lord, (2012), 54-75). I've read through her analysis, and I remain unconvinced. In this thread I'll present some of my reasons why.

1. The Problem of the Received Text

Barker begins her analysis of Jeremiah and Josiah’s reforms with a discussion of the question of the state of the text. She rightly notes that Jeremiah 29:16:20, 33:14-26, 39:4-13, 52:28-30 are not found in Greek Septuagint version (54 n. 184). But these passages have little significance for the question of Jeremiah’s view of Josiah--all passages relevant to this question are found in both the Masoretic and Septuagint version.

Barker also notes that there are textual and redactional questions related to the text of Jeremiah (54-55)--as there are in all biblical texts. She claims that Deuteronomist editors later changed the text of Jeremiah--“attributing their own words to Jeremiah” (55)--to bring his prophecies in line with their ideology. While this is, of course, possible, it is equally possible that many of Jeremiah’s “characteristic words and phrases” (55) sounds Deuteronomistic precisely because he was originally pro-Josiah and pro-reform. The main reason to think he wasn’t is that a pro-Reform Jeremiah doesn’t fit Barker’s theory. The text of Jeremiah makes perfect sense if he was indeed in favor of Josiah’s reforms. This fact forces Barker to assume that there must have been a pro-Deuteronomistic redaction of an originally anti-Deuteronomistic Jeremiah. In other words, she is required to assume the text of Jeremiah was changed to make it fit her theory. This is not a propitious start for her argument.

Edited by Bill Hamblin
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2. Overt Evidence that Jeremiah supported Josiah’s Reforms

There is a good deal of evidence for Jeremiah’s support for Josiah and his reforms.

1- Jeremiah composed a lament at the death of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:25).

2- Jeremiah was a priest whose father was named Hilkiah (Jeremiah 1:1). Hilkiah is the name of the High Priest in the time of Josiah, who was a major supporter of the reforms (2 Kings 22-23). It is not certain that Jeremiah’s father was Hilkiah the High Priest, but if he was it would indicate a close tie to Josiah’s reforms.

3- Jeremiah’s life was saved at his trial by Ahikam ben Shaphan (Jeremiah 26:24; 2 Kings 22:8-10, 12-14). Shaphan had been the chief scribe of Josiah, and a major supporter of his reforms (2 Kings 22). If Jeremiah had been an antagonist of Josiah, why would Ahikam have supported him and saved his life?

4- Reinforcing this connection, another son of Shaphan, Gemariah, allowed Jeremiah’s prophecies to be read in in the temple courtyard (Jeremiah 36:9-18). This is again a pro-reform family supporting Jeremiah.

5- Jeremiah repeatedly condemns Judah for failure to keep the Torah/Law, the standard self-reference for the book of Deuteronomy (4:44, 17:18, 28:58, 61, 29:21, 30:10, 31:26). (Note “Deuteronomy” is the modern name for the book, deriving from a Greek title meaning “second law.” In the Bible it’s standard name is the Book of the Law, or just the Law.)

• “as for my Torah, they have rejected it” (6:19)

• “they have forsaken my Torah that I set before them” (9:13)

• they “have forsaken me and have not kept my Torah” (16:11)

Israel must “listen to me, to walk in my Torah that I have set before you” (26:4)

• “I will put my Torah within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (31:33)

• “they did not obey your voice or walk in your Torah” (32:33)

• “they did not obey the voice of YHWH or walk in his Torah” (44:23)

If Jeremiah was opposed to the reforms outlined in the Torah/Deuteronomy, why consistently condemn Judah for not following the Torah?

Notice that these are all incidental details in the text. They are not the type of thing an alleged Deuteronomist redactor would manipulate.

Edited by Bill Hamblin
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This thread is an example of why I truly love this board. I get to see highly knowledgeable and brilliant people discussing topics that matter.

Edited by Nathair
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You make an excellent case. Particularly with respect to Jeremiah. However, I have some qualifiers:

While it is true that Hilkiah the high priest discovered a book of the Law in the temple archives (and he, rather than Josiah, may even have been the prime mover behind using it as a catalyst for reforms), it is not true that we actually know what the contents of that book were. What we now call “Deuteronomy” is the result of much redaction subsequent to Josiah’s public reform, the final edition of it being completed during the Exilic or post-Exilic period. Many scholars believe that the core of the original book found by Hilkiah was Deut 4:44 – 28:68, much of which was reedited to suit those in power — along with the Former Prophets (Deut thru II Kings). The legacy of the Deuteronomistic Historian is massive.

Agreed. But that doesn't much change whether Jeremiah supported or opposed Josiah/Hilkiah's reforms.

The book was not called the Law or Tora, but rather mišnē hatôrâ at Deut 17:18 (cf. the LXX and Josh 8:32), along with the self-conscious recognition by Deut 28:69 (KJ 29:1) that Deut is a second covenant. Moreover, two other important points need to be considered: (1) Jews refer to the five books of Moses as the Torah (Pentateuch), and (2) Akkadian šanû “second” typically designated just such secondary reworkings of originally canonical material in Mesopotamian literature. Indeed, Deuteronomy takes the form of the Assyrian, Aramaic, and Hittite treaties of the day (G. Mendenhall), and includes what Moshe Weinfeld terms a “formal cultic ceremony” (ABD II:170), which is ironically based on a Northern Kingdom Shechemite covenantal ceremony (Deut 11:26-32, 26:16 – 27:26). One finds the same sort of treaty-covenant ceremony in King Benjamin’s Speech in Mosiah 2 - 5.

Dt. 17:18 is not talking about Deuteronomy as a second law, but that the kings of Israel should make a second copy of Deuteronomy to study and govern by (17:19). Deuteronomy calls itself "the Law" (ha-torah) in 4:44, and "the Book of the Law" in Dt 29:21, 30:10, and 31:26.

While I would like to see some dissertations or theses written about the relationship between the Brass Plates (qua Book of Mormon) and the so-called D-work, it seems clear that a good part of Deut was brought south by refugees from the Northern Kingdom (including the Manassite clan of Lehi’s fathers). What is truly remarkable about the D-work is that it systematically excludes mention of Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk.* The Bible as we have received it does not speak with one voice, but is an anthology of competing traditions: Priestly, Prophetic, Poetic/liturgical, Wisdom, etc.

What is interesting are the cases in which Lehi immediately follows the ancient Patriarchal and Exodus tradition available to him on the Brass Plates (I Nephi 2:7) and ignores later Deuteronomic rules, such as the prohibition in Deut 12:13-15. The legal code in Exodus 20:24 did not make obligatory a single cult center (Jerusalem), and did not argue that one could sacrifice nowhere else, Sacrifices could be performed anywhere, just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sacrificed in every place where they found or sought God’s presence. Moreover, the Book of Mormon evinces no concern that building multiple temples might be inappropriate.

I agree. We need to:

1- find where the BOM directly quotes from or mentions Deuteronomy

2- find where the BOM alludes to a passage from Deuteronomy

3- find where the BOM seems to parallel ideas in Deuteronomy

4- find where the BOM differs from Deuteronomy

5- find where the BOM explicitly rejects Deuteronomy.

Any doubt about the truly revolutionary nature of the final form of Deuteronomy is allayed by consulting with the acknowledged expert on the subject, Bernard Levinson in his Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (Oxford, 1997). A 2009 review by Neil Godfrey is available at https://vridar.wordp...ernard levinson .

* D. N. Freedman, The Unity of the Hebrew Bible (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991), 52 n. 12, citing C. Begg in Irish Biblical Studies, 7 (1985):139-164; Biblische Notizen, 32 (1986):41-53; 38/39 (1987):19-25.

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Dt. 17:18 is not talking about Deuteronomy as a second law, but that the kings of Israel should make a second copy of Deuteronomy to study and govern by (17:19). Deuteronomy calls itself "the Law" (ha-torah) in 4:44, and "the Book of the Law" in Dt 29:21, 30:10, and 31:26.

I'm not sure how self-referential we should consider the final edition of Deuteronomy to be. We face the same problem with the Book of Mormon as a final edition of many different documents, yet which refers to itself in ways which RIchard Bushman and others say is virtually "post modern."

However, the references you provide here all speak of a particular book of the Law, i.e., one of an unspecified number, leaving Deut not as the only book of the Law/Tora, and repeating the same commands given in Exodus to deposit it in the Ark of the Covenant. These are not exclusive references in Deut 29:20,28 (KJ 29:21,29), 30:10, 31:26, but to "this Tora," or "this book of the Tora," just as we might refer to this book of the Bible. The concept here has more to do with an "abridgment" of the Law than with an exclusive claim to it (cf. I Nephi 1:17, Words of Mormon 3, Mormon 5:9, Moroni 1:1).

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  • 3 weeks later...

One very striking difference in the language of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah is the use of the title Lord of Hosts. It never appears in Deuteronomy, and is rare the the Deuteronomist Histories. 1 Kings does so three times. 2 Kings does so one or two times. 1 Samuel does so five times, often in connection with Shiloh, the Northern Shrine (compare Shilom in the Book of Mormon). 2 Samuel does so six times in prayers of David. Isaiah 1–39 does so 54 times. Isaiah 40–63 does so six times, three of them in chapters quoted in the Book of Mormon. Jeremiah uses Lord of Hosts 81 times.

So a point of interest in the Book of Mormon is that the title "Lord of Hosts" occurs fifty-four times in the Book of Mormon. John Welch observes that

outside of numerous Book of Mormon occurrences of this phrase in passages that are quoted from Isaiah and Malachi, only Nephi, Jacob, [both quite early in the Nephite record] and Samuel [in the generation before the Lord's appearance] used this title. They usually did so in condemning or cursing the wicked. "A curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts . . . then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Helaman 13:17, 32).

Samuel's teachings in the Book of Mormon have been noted as providing a clear example of Wisdom literature (by Nibley, for instance, in The Book of Mormon: 40 Years After). Alyson Von Feldt's Occasional Paper on Wisdom teaching in the Book of Mormon is very insightful.

Who were these hosts? According to Margaret Barker's readings, In the biblical texts that retain them, these are the sons of God mentioned in Genesis, Deuteronomy, Job, and the Psalms,107 those present at the divine council witnessed by Jeremiah and Amos,108 the good angels who serve God, those who come to fight on the Day of the Lord,109 and the fallen angels who oppose him.110

It is significant that the texts which deal with the kingship of Yahweh are also those which deal with the heavenly hosts and the angel mythology (Exodus 15:8; Numbers 23:21; Deuteronomy 33:5). In later texts the king and his Holy Ones appear in 1QapGen 2 and
1 Enoch
9:12; cf. Matthew 25. It is the king and his host of Holy Ones which gives us the title Lord of Hosts, common in Isaiah, but absent from the texts which describe Israel's early histories. If these histories were themselves early texts, this absence would be significant, and it would be possible to conclude that Isaiah had invented the title himself. But since the Deuteronomists have had a hand in the composition of these histories, the absence may be significant for another reason. (Barker, Older Testament, 127)

So are the hosts of heaven no more than the stars in the heavens? Or are they seen as symbols of the angels of the great council? What difference might that make?

The Book of Mormon opens with Lehi's visions, first of the pillar of fire, then of the numberless concourses of angels,

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a avision, even that he saw the bheavens open, and he thought he csaw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his aluster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

10 And he also saw atwelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

It still seems to me that even when Jeremiah (or his editors) uses the language of Deuteronomy, there are clear differences in outlook on key issues that make a difference. And I assume that Deuteronomy is a text with a history, with different versions, with different interpreters, and multiple layers. It can be used in different ways by different people.

My starting point in approaching Jeremiah back in 2003 was Friedman, who in the 2nd Edition of Who Wrote the Bible? suggested that Jeremiah, or perhaps Baruch, was the D writer, claiming agreement on "every major point." Such a statement began with an unstated and consequently unexamined assumption that the definition of "every major point" had been settled in terms of the Deuteronomistic outlook. And it was my reading of Jeremiah, against that starting assumption of agreement and identity, that certain passages began to jump out for me. The passages I thought most interesting in light of Margaret's work rarely received mention in any of the Jeremiah commentaries I read. Despite many points of agreement, Jeremiah contradicts Deuteronomy on just the points that Margaret saw as key to the reform.

She cites the "preface to Deuteronomy"—now chapter 4 of that book—as showing what this group set out to remove from the religion of Israel:

First, they were to have the Law instead of Wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:6). . . . [W]hat was the Wisdom which the Law replaced? Second, they were to think only of the formless voice of God sounding from the fire and giving the Law (Deuteronomy 19:12). Israel had long had a belief in the vision of God, when the glory had been visible on the throne in human form, surrounded by the heavenly hosts. What happened to the visions of God? And third, they were to leave the veneration of the host of heaven to peoples not chosen by Yahweh (Deuteronomy 4:19–20). Israel had long regarded Yahweh as the Lord of the hosts of heaven, but the title Yahweh of Hosts was not used by the Deuteronomists. What happened to the hosts, the angels?

In her most recent book, Barker adds references to two other Deuteronomic proscriptions. The Jews were not to "enquire after secret things which belonged only to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). Their duty was to obey the commandments bought down from Sinai and not to seek someone who would ascend to heaven for them to discover remote and hidden things (Deuteronomy 30:11)."34

The issue for me is, are such points of disagreement minor points, not worth thinking about, or major points that illuminate was was going on in Lehi's Jerusalem?

I'll mention two other interesting passages in The Mother of the Lord. At one point, Margaret describes an experient in making a scale model of the Holy of Holies. That is, a cube in which the walls, floors and ceiling are all lined with gold, which, if smoothed and polished makes a mirrored surface. In that context, put a menorah, which contains seven burning flames. And then in the center of that mirrored chamber, put a High Priest, dressed in white, the garb of the angels, with a metal plate on his forehead identifying him as Yahweh. When the High Priest looks around, what will he see but numberless concourses of angels amid the everlasting burnings. Interesting how the symbol points so powerfully to what it is intended to symbolize.

Also, on page 360, she quotes Ezekiel 19.10-14 on the Mother as "like a vine in the vineyard, transplanted by the waters," (an image similar to the famous tree planted by the waters in the Psalms in Jeremiah 17), "then plucked up in anger and thrown to the ground..,, stripped of her fruit."

She compares this passage to Josiah's removing the Menorah from the temple and burning it. It's a very interesting section, particularly as she describes how such passages show that "The Lady then, went to the south." And of course, when Lehi went to the south, where his next major vision was of the tree. And Nephi later makes explicity the connection between the tree and the Mother of the Lord. And there is John Sorenson's little essay on related passages in Ezekiel as prophecies of the Mulekites. Margaret talks about the relationship of Wisdom to the Kings.


Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I'll mention two other interesting passages in The Mother of the Lord. At one point, Margaret describes an experient in making a scale model of the Holy of Holies. That is, a cube in which the walls, floors and ceiling are all lined with gold, which, if smoothed and polished makes a mirrored surface. In that context, put a menorah, which contains seven burning flames. And then in the center of that mirrored chamber, put a High Priest, dressed in white, the garb of the angels, with a metal plate on his forehead identifying him as Yahweh. When the High Priest looks around, what will he see but numberless concourses of angels amid the everlasting burnings. Interesting how the symbol points so powerfully to what it is intended to symbolize.

That's pretty cool.

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Argument six, Jeremiah and the False Prophets.


BIll offers a good discussion of how Jeremiah uses the two Biblical tests for prophets that are provided in Deuteronomy, being fulfillment of prophesy, and consistency with canon, and death. In looking beyond the accounts in Jeremiah, the notion of death disproving a claim to being a prophet is more than a little tricky. Prophets do get killed now and then. And there are some other tests for prophets in Jeremiah that are not included in Deuteronomy.

For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? (Jer. 23:18. Compare II Kings, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel, and 1st Enoch)

And in Jeremiah 23:21-22, the chapter on false prophets, with this additional test regarding knowledge of the council.

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.

The counsel here, is of course, the same as in Amos 3:7. And as Daniel Peterson notes:

Here “secret” is a translation of the Hebrew sod. Professor Daniel Peterson has explained that “an understanding of the Hebrew term sod is crucial for appreciating these passages. In the Old Testament, that word denotes confidential discussions or secrets (as at Proverbs 3:32 and 11:13). It also refers to the council setting in which such confidential discussions are conducted.”

Clearly Jeremiah knows about the counsel, as does Lehi.

Deuteronomy says that “The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Further, it explains that “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it unto us that we may hear and do it?” (Deut. 30:11-12)

Against this, Jeremiah speaks as one who has been invited to learn and declare the secret things:

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jer. 33:3)

I just noticed this as well in Jeremiah 23:26-27, in the chapter on false prophets.

How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;

Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

Think of Margaret's discussion of the Name in The Great Angel, where "The Name of the Most High is the Lord: it does not mean that this is the way that the Most High is addressed, but that the Lord as the Son/Name of the Most High." (p 210, and elsewhere.) She also links the name with the the mark of anointing for the High Priest, which actually was the name. Jeremiah addresses the contemporary scene when he says, "Hath a nation changed their gods?"

Another test for prophets appears in Jeremiah and Isaiah, and is re-enforced in the New Testament.

Jeremiah 20:11

The LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.

Isaiah 54:7

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

This does not mean that there won't be problems. Prophets have been killed. Jeremiah himself wondered about when some of his prophecies would be fulfilled. This means that over time, sometimes a long time, the prophets will be recognized as such. See, for example 2 Timothy 4:15-17.

Of whom thou be aware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.

At my first answer, no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known.

This is to suggest that agreement between Jeremiah and Deuteronomy is not the whole story. I see the rivalry as about the points of difference despite points of agreement. With respect to the law and those who had charge of it, Jeremiah comments that “they that handle the law knew me not.” (Jer. 2: 8 )

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. (Jer. 23:30)

And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God. (Jer. 23:36)

It's not about wholesale replacing but of taking and modifying without authority. For me, it's much like the difference between Jacob who retains the First Temple ways, and Sherem who holds to the Law of Moses, but denies prophesy and the Messiah. They both accept the law. They disagree about the secret things.


Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

Edited by Kevin Christensen
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BIll offers a good discussion of how Jeremiah uses the two Biblical tests for prophets that are provided in Deuteronomy, being fulfillment of prophesy, and consistency with canon, and death. In looking beyond the accounts in Jeremiah, the notion of death disproving a claim to being a prophet is more than a little tricky. Prophets do get killed now and then.



Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

You're right.

The prophet Uriah Ben-Shemaiah of Qiryat Yearim was executed by Judahite officials after extraditing him from Egypt during the reign of King Jehoiakim (Jer 26:20-23). How can a righteous prophet get executed?

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