Jeremiah 29 – A Letter to the Captives & The Problem of the Septuagint Version of Jerusalem

Babylonian Ration Tablets
Excavating the “Northern Palace,” the royal residence of king Nebuchadnezzar, Robert Koldewey (1899-1917) discovered Akkadian cuneiform tablets dated to 594-569 B.C. The tablets were a record of food rations, of grain and oil, given out to captives extradited from conquered lands.

Because they listed the names of surviving conquered kings, officials, and craftsmen living in Babylonia and receiving a ration of grain and oil, the tablets became known as the Babylonian Ration Tablets.

I took a quick look at the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint and even though they both seem to say the same thing, the wording in the Septuagint appear to somewhat take away from God.

I’m going to stick with the KJV because out of all versions of the Bible today I feel it is the closest to the original.  Some say that the Septuagint is the original text, but I have a gut feeling that it’s not.  

You can’t trust the devil or his puppets, especially not the Jews.  So now I want to look at…

Jeremiah 29 A Letter to the Captives

1 Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;

29:1-32 – Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles of 597 B.C. is followed by God’s message of judgment against the false prophet Shemaiah.

2 (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)

“Queen” – Nehushta, Jeconiah’s mother.

3 By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,

Nebuchadnezzar Brick
Bricks like this Nebuchadnezzar II Brick are very common around the ruins of ancient Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar used them in all of his official building projects and they were made in the millions and every one of them was stamped or inscribed in cuneiform.

The discovery of this Nebuchadnezzar II inscribed brick is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology because it contains a declaration by king Nebuchadnezzar II, the monarch who is mentioned so often in the Bible and is the one who destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC and carried the Jews away into exile.

4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;

5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;

6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.

7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.

9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.

10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

29:12-13 – echoed from Deut 4:29-30.  The Lord’s gracious gift of prosperity is contingent of His people’s willingness to repent.

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

29:14 – a summary of Deut 30:3-5.

15 Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;

Ahiel’s House
A four-room house with two monolithic pillars that once supported its flat roof (note the pair of upright pillars on the small platform in the bottom center of the above photo; also below).

The house had an outside stone staircase leading to a second story. The outside of Ahiel’s house (east) was badly preserved, but the western side on the hill was well preserved. Inside the house were found cosmetics and housewares.

16 Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity;

17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

18 And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:

19 Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.

20 Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon:

21 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes;

22 And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;

Toilet Seat
Not only did Ahiel have a nice house, he had that rarest of ancient conveniences, a bathroom with a carved stone toilet seat, complete with a second hole for males who chose to urinate while sitting down. A shallow bowl found alongside could have been used for water to flush the waste, or to pour a liming agent into the 6-foot-deep cesspit below.

Archaeologists excavated the cesspit and discovered it had been left untouched since the 586 BC siege. Traces of bacteria and other wastes confirmed that the people of Jerusalem were forced to eat wild plants and weeds to avoid death by starvation.

23 Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.

24 Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,

25 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying,

26 The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.

27 Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?

28 For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.

29 And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.

30 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,

31 Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:

29:31-32 – the Lord’s threat against Shemajha is similar to that against Hananiah (see 28:15-16).

32 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.

The Problem of the
Septuagint Version of Jerusalem

The book of Jeremiah has come down to us in two different versions: the Greek version, known as the Septuagint, and the Hebrew version, known as the Masoretic Text.  There are significant differences between the two in terms of wording, structure and length.

Septuagint Manuscript
Detail of a second-century C.E. Greek (Septuagint) manuscript of the book of Joshua. The Schoyen Collection, London and Oslo.

This fragment of the book of Joshua comes from a second-century manuscript of the Septuagint, an early translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.

The Septuagint derives its name from the seventy Jewish scholars who supposedly completed the translation in the late second century B.C.E. As the legend goes, the Greek king of Egypt, Ptolemy II, asked these scholars to translate the Torah from Hebrew into Greek for the library at Alexandria.

According to this story, Ptolemy II intended the translation to be used by Alexandrian Jews, whose primary language was Greek. In addition to the traditional Jewish canon, the Septuagint contains a number of related writings, such as the book of Judith.

Wording: The Septuagint version of Jeremiah lacks approximately 2,700 words when compared with the Masoretic Text.  At the same time, the Greek text contains some 100 words not found in the Hebrew.

Structure: Chapters in the Septuagint version of Jeremiah do not follow the same order as those in the Masoretic Text.  The most striking example of divergent arrangement concerns the oracles against foreign nations.  In the Hebrew text these appear as chapters 46-51

In the Septuagint these same oracles fall in the middle of Jeremiah, between 25:13 and 25:15, with verse 14 being omitted.  Furthermore, the order of the oracles is different.  The Hebrew sequence is Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Elam and Babylon.

The Septuagint, on the other hand, addresses Elam, Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Edom, Ammon, Kedar, Damascus and Moab, in that order.

Length: The overall lengths of the two versions is unequal.  The Septuagint text of Jeremiah is nearly one eighth shorter than the Hebrew version – the equivalent of seven to eight chapters.

Several partial Jeremiah manuscripts in Hebrew found among the Dead Sea Scroll in Cave 4 may shed light on this complex issue.  Two significant manuscripts agree with the Masoretic Text, but another text, a fragment containing Jer 9:22-10:18, may reflect the wording in the Septuagint.

This evidence suggests that the book of Jeremiah may have circulated in two distinct Hebrew editions, one of which we see through the window of the Septuagint translation and the other as the traditional version of the Masoretic Text.

Even the Septuagint does reflect that the book circulated in more than one “edition,” this does not imply that the Hebrew text of Jeremiah is untrustworthy.  It simply appears that two versions of the text of Jeremiah emerged fairly early and that for a long time both circulated among the Jews.

The book of Jeremiah itself suggests a rather involved and difficult history (see chapter 36).  Jerusalem was destroyed and the people scattered, with some going to Babylon but others, including Jeremiah himself, traveling to Egypt.

In light of the turmoil of these times, it is not surprising that there were different collections of the prophet’s messages.  The two anthologies of his sermons and writings could have circulated from very early and yet both be authentic collections of Jeremiah’s prophecies.

It is important then to note that the Septuagint is based upon a different version of the same book, as opposed to being a different book.

…the Jew’s evil Bible, the Talmud.