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Is There a Pre-Trial Procedure in Jeremiah 26?

Pages 249 - 252


Bar-Ilan University

1 P. Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice: Legal Terms, Concepts and Procedures in the Hebrew Bible, JSOTS.S 105, Sheffield 1994; M. Roncace, Jeremiah, Zedekiah, and the Fall of Jerusalem: A Study of Prophetic Narrative, JSOT.S 423, London 2005; R. Westbrook, The Trial of Jeremiah, in Reading the Law: Studies in Honour of Gordon J. Wenham, ed. J.G. McConville and K. Möller, New York 2007, 95–107; H. Knobloch, Die nachexilische Prophetentheorie des Jeremiabuches (BZABR 12), Wiesbaden 2009, 19–72 and the bibliography cited therein. Biblical quotations in this paper are taken from the NRSV.

2 It should be noted that none of the scholars and commentators cited in this paper offer a summary of all the legal terms appearing in Jer 26. An exception is G. Brin, The Prophet in His Struggles, Tel Aviv 1983, 33–82 (Heb.)

3 I will not address here the question of the relationship between Jer 7 and Jer 26. There are numerous studies dealing with the relationship between chs. 7 and 26, especially their redactional relationship. See the literature cited in C. J. Sharp, Prophecy and Ideology in Jeremiah: Struggles for Authority in the Deutero-Jeremianic Prose, London/New York 2003, 54–62. A summary of research on the cohesiveness of Jer. 26 can be found in W. McKane, Jeremiah, ICC (Edinburgh, 1996) vol. II, 665–72. For a synchronic reading of this narrative, J. Dubbink, A Story of Three Prophets: Synchronic and Diachronic Analysis of Jeremiah 26, in Tradition and Innovation in Biblical Interpretation: Studies Presented to Professor Eep Talstra on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. W. Th. van Peursen and J.W. Dyk. Leiden 2011, 13–30.

4 Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice (above, n. 1), 226, n. 12; Z. Weisman, People and King in Biblical Jurisdiction, Tel Aviv 1991 (Heb.), 140; Westbrook, The Trial of Jeremiah (above, n. 1), 96. It is quite surprising to find that HALOT does not mention this meaning for תפש.

5 Cf. 1 Sam 14:44; 22:16; 1 Kgs 2:37. See Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice (above, n. 1), 361; W. McKane, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary of Jeremiah, Vol. 2 (ICC), Edinburgh 1996, 676–81; Knobloch, nachexilische Prophetentheorie, 55.

6 Scholars and interpreters are debated with regard to the exact nature of Jeremiah's accusation. See Y. Hoffman, Prophecy and Soothsaying, in Tehillah le-Moshe; Biblical and Judaic Studies in Honor of Moshe Greenberg. Ed. by Mordechai Cogan, eds. B. L. Eichler and J. H. Tigay, Winona Lake IN, 1997, 221–243.

7 Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice, 76.

8 H. J. Boecker, Law and the Administration of Justice in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, trans. J. Moiser, Minneapolis 1980, 44; Roncace, Jeremiah, 79; G. W. Ramsey, Speech-Forms in Hebrew Law and Prophetic Oracles, JBL 96 (1977), 49; W.L. Holladay Jeremiah 2, Hermeneia, Minneapolis 1989, 102; B. Wells, The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes, (BZABR 4), Wiesbaden 2004, 19, n. 13; Westbrook (above, n. 1), 96; G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26–52 (WBC, 27), Dallas 1995, 7.

9 S. Holtz, Neo-Babylonian Court Procedures, Leiden 2009, 284–85, 309. He refers to E. Dombradi, Die Darstellung des Rechtsaustrags in den altbabylonischen Prozessurkunden, Stuttgart 1996.

10 A. Bartor, The ‘Juridical Dialogue’: A Literary-Judicial Pattern, VT 53 (2003), 446–47. She labels these phases in the trial accounts “preliminary investigation”. Other scholars label this phase “interrogation”. See N. M. Sarna, Genesis, JPS Torah Commentary, Philadelphia 1989, 26.

11 J.K. Bruckner, Implied Law in the Abraham Narrative: A Literary and Theological Analysis, JSOTS.S 335, New York and London 2001, 127.

12 H.J. Boecker, Redeformen des Rechtslebens im Alten Testament (WMANT, 14), Neukirchen-Vluyn, 41–45. Boecker calls it “vorgerichtliche Auseinandersetzung”.

13 E.L. Greenstein, A Forensic Understanding of the Speech From the Whirlwind, in Texts, Temples, and Traditions: A Tribute to Menahem Haran, ed. M.V. Fox (et al.), Winona Lake, IN 1996, 241–258; F.R. Magdalene, On the Scales of Righteousness: Neo-Babylonian Trial Law and the Book of Job, Providence, RI 2007.

14 In the trial narrative of Cain (Gen 4:9–16) Hamilton writes that God interrogates Cain. He avoids using the term “pre-trial”, thus seeing God's interrogating Cain as part of his trial. See V. P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17 (NICOT), Grand Rapids 1990, 231.

15 M. De Roche, Yahweh's Rib against Israel, JBL 102 (1983) 563–74. For pre-trial in ancient Greece, see A.R.W. Harrison, The Law of Athens 2: Procedure, London 1998, pp. 94–105; D.M. MacDowell, The Law in Classical Athens, London 1978, 240–42. For modern legal system, see D.E. Hall, Criminal Law and Procedure, Clifton Park, NY 2012, 491 (“preliminary hearing”).

16 Magdalene, On the Scales of Righteousness, 68. She cites YOS (Yale Oriental Series – Babylonian Texts) 6 208.

17 Weisman, People and King (above, note 4); Cf. O'Connor who differentiates between “The Initial Audience Response” in vv. 7–8 and “The Formal Response” in vv. 9–16. See K.M. O'Connor, ‘Do not Trim a Word’: The Contributions of Chapter 26 to the Book of Jeremiah, CBQ 51 (1989), 617–30. I do not accept the assignments of different parts of the text to redactional layers. For a similar view, see M. Leuchter. The Polemics of Exile in Jeremiah 26–45, Cambridge 2008, 36–38.

18 That term is very ambiguous. See the discussion of Westbrook, The Trial of Jeremiah (above, n. 1) and the bibliography cited therein.

19 Die nachexilische Prophetentheorie (above, note 1), 58.

20 I would like to thank Dr. Shalom Holtz of the Yeshiva University, for sharing with me his thought regarding several issues that arose from this paper. Bovati, Re-Establishing Justice (above, n. 1), 171 also views Deut. 25:1 as part of the trial itself.


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