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Peter Kirk

An alternative solution to the puzzle of two rab-ša-rēši's is that between 39:3 and 39:13 Nabû-šarrussu-ukin died or left office, and was replaced by Nabû-shēzibanni. This is all the more likely if a number of years had passed between these two events as you suggest - and also because Nabû-šarrussu-ukin, if the same one mentioned on the tablet, had already been in office for quite a few years by the time of 39:3. So there is no need to postulate either a corrupt text or parallel holders of the same office.

In fact I see you suggest that 39:13 took place in 560-538 BCE and so between 26 and 48 years after the fall of Jerusalem in 586. Given that time interval the surprising thing is not that there was a new rab-ša-rēši but that Nergal-šarri-uṣur was still rab-mugi - unless of course this is a different person of the same name - and of course by this time there was a king Nergal-šarri-uṣur to complicate the issue. I note also from 52:28-30 that exiles were taken from Jerusalem in Nebuchadnezzar's 7th, 18th and 23rd years, i.e. 597, 586 and 581, but no later deportations are mentioned. Nebuzaradan is credited with the 581 deportation, and it seems to me that this fits better with 39:9-14.

Also bear in mind that Jeremiah's prophetic ministry started in the 13th year of Josiah (1:2), 626 BCE, so he was probably born before 640, and so even in 560 rather old to be doing what is recorded of him in chapters 40-44.

John Hobbins

Hi Peter.

Well, that's a nice try, and I am sympathetic to it.

However, the lapse of time I posit (and others before and after me) regarding Jeremiah 39:3 and 13 relates to that between the time of composition of the first and second editions of the book of Jeremiah (the first preserved to a large extent in the LXX, to which 39:13 does not belong; the second in the MT, to which it does).

There is in fact no lapse in time between 39:3 and 13 in terms of the events recounted. At least there is no textual clue to that effect, and I am loathe to assume one except on stronger evidence than has so far been put forward.

I've revised the post to be clearer on this point.

Kevin P. Edgecomb

It's known that Nergal-sarri-usur who ruled after Amel-Marduk was Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law. That he was a ranking official during Nebuchadnezzar's reign is a given, but which official is questioned. Are the two Nergalsharezers, one with the epithet "Samgar" and the other "Rabmag" the same man? If, as seems likely, they are different, which is the later king? Up to now, the confusion of the text of Jer 39.3 has led to the conclusion that Nergalsharezer the Rabmag was the later king. Now that the text is cleared up, we have two guys with the same name, with different epithets/titles, and more confusion.

And yet, I think if this tablet incident teaches us anything, it's to avoid emendation. Of all the suggestions over the course of the last couple of centuries of critical examination of Jer 39.3, the suggestion that 39.3 was a corrupted version of 39.13 held sway, with the proper solution being very nearly ignored. That was wrong. Suggesting further emendations seems absolutely unwise at this stage, regarding these names. All are clearly recognizable, externally attested Babylonian names, with likewise attested titles/epithets. Analysis should be moving in another direction, and rather attempting to disambiguate the roles of these Babylonian officials, rather than trying to correct their perfectly clear names.


One of my teachers, Father Mitchell Dahood, taught that the consonantal text is to be respected at almost any cost.

Truth be told, this holds as well for the traditional grammatical and syntactic analysis preserved by the Masoretes to an amazingly large degree.

There is a place for conjectural emendation, but the history of scholarship is littered with unnecessary and useless ones.

Peter Kirk

John, thanks for the clarification that you were referring to composition dates rather than dates of events. However, it still seems odd to me to suggest that 39:13 was written after 560, after Jeremiah's death. Surely a more likely theory for the absence of 39:4-13 (LXX 46:4-13) in LXX is homoioteleuton, the tendency of scribes to skip from one verse to another when they have very similar endings.

Anyway, I disagree that there was no time between 39:3 and 39:13. According to 39:2 and 52:6, the events of 39:2-4 took place on the 9th day of the 4th month, but according to 52:12 Nebuzaradan didn't arrive in Jerusalem until the 10th day of the 5th month. So, even if this refers to the same year, which is I think uncertain, the events of 39:13, in which Nebuzaradan took part, took place more than a month after those of 39:3. There is no justification in the Hebrew for the pluperfect in 39:11 (T)NIV. We know from 52:30 that Nebuzaradan was still around four years later. So the event of 39:13 may have taken place months or even a few years after the arrival of Nebuzaradan, after he had had time to ask Nebuchadnezzar (who was at Riblah in northern Syria) what should be done about Jeremiah and receive a reply.



The events of 39:13 - and 39:14 - occurred in all likelihood a month or so after the event recorded in 39:3. That's time enough, of course, for one rab(ša)rēši to have been replaced by another. I don't think we can rule that out, so your point is well-taken. I have modified the post accordingly.

It is true that Lundbom in particular assumes that a scribe skipped over long sections of text repeatedly by homoteleuton in order to support his hypothesis that MT represents almost always the pristine text, and LXX the inferior text. I've worked through many examples and feel it is much more likely that the Vorlage of OG Jeremiah (represented also at Qumran in Hebrew) represents a first edition, and proto-MT a second edition, of a Jeremianic corpus. Baruch may well have been responsible for the first edition. The second edition, based on internal indicia, hardly seems much later nonetheless. No more than a decade or two may separate them. The plusses in MT almost always read as if they are expansions of a base which flows just fine without them. That being the case, those who hold to the priority of MT over LXX these days tend to be those who are wedded to MT on grounds which have nothing to do with sound text-criticism.

If you mean to imply that Nabû-zēr-iddina rab-nuh̬atimmu hung around Judah for four years, well, that sounds unlikely. He probably returned four years later on new business of his lord.

Peter Kirk

That being the case, those who hold to the priority of MT over LXX these days tend to be those who are wedded to MT on grounds which have nothing to do with sound text-criticism.

If so, this makes a change from the days not very long ago when those who preferred LXX to MT tended to be ignorant of Hebrew and/or anti-Semitic. Now I accept that Emanuel Tov is neither of these. But I still wonder about the motivations of some others. Perhaps it is to appease the Orthodox church?

Personally, as a Bible translator, I see all kinds of clear indications that LXX is a sometimes very poor translation of MT as well as being based on a generally secondary and less reliable text.

As for Jeremiah 39:4-13, this hardly makes sense as a later addition. I note that 52:7 which is in LXX is parallel to 39:2,4. 52:7-16 is closely parallel to 39:4-10 and so this would make sense as a later addition to chapter 39. But 39:11-13 does not make sense as an addition; however, 39:4-13 as a whole makes a lot of sense as an omission by homoioteleuton.

I have not looked into the other differences between LXX and MT in Jeremiah. Your explanation of them may be good. But the explanation for this gap in LXX may be a quite different one.

My suggestion concerning Nabû-zēr-iddina was that he was the head of a Babylonian occupying force. But maybe there wasn't one.



one has to remember, of course, that LXX is not a translation of MT, that is, its Vorlage differed from proto-MT in large and small details.

Few would dispute this today, given the mass of textual variation, both systematic and asystematic, attested at Qumran.

On the two editions of the book of Jeremiah, I recommend, besides the classic treatment of the question by Emanuel Tov, "The Literary History of the Book of Jeremiah in the Light of Its Textual History," in Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism (ed. Jeffrey H. Tigay; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985) 211-237; Yohanan Goldman, Prophétie et royauté au retour de l’exil. Les origins littéraires de la forme massorétique du livre de Jérémie (OBO 118; Frieburg: Universitätsverlag / Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1992) passim, and in particular, 218-237.

Kevin P. Edgecomb

Peter, to "please the Orthodox Church" is most certainly not an issue. For the Orthodox, the LXX is canonical, the MT simply is not. The discussion of different text-forms is pretty much irrelevant outside the academy, and is certainly so for those entering the narthex.

Anyhow, you mention the close duplications between the two sections. One way to explain it is that MT expanded with other material because alternate but closely related versions of the same stories were known, as is suggested in the expansion of Samuel in MT over LXX. I think it was Tov who suggests that the differences between LXX (the earlier edition) and MT (a later edition) should be viewed rather in a relationship of literary development, as the pluses in MT certainly seem to be authentic, regardless of whatever reason they were not included in the earlier LXX edition.

The problem of two "chief officials" just a few verses apart is not easily solved, however, even with seeing that Jursa's tablet shows the one of Jer 39.3 in office in Nebuchadnezzar's thenth year, 595, and apparently in 587/586. What is the date of the later verse, when a different man is mentioned? Perhaps Jursa will find another tablet to clear that up, too, which wouldn't be too surprising, but would certainly be fun.

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