DISSERTAZIONI DI DOTTORATO
Water Imagery in the Book of Jeremiah
This dissertation focuses on the literary function of water imagery in JerMT and evaluates the importance of this for the social and theological messages of the book. To achieve these goals, along with the usual exegetical methodology, this dissertation follows Harshav’s theory of metaphor and literary text for the study of water images in their metaphorical and literal meanings. After the identification of the semantic field of water in JerMT, the introductory chapter is followed by three parts.
The first part focuses on water imagery in Jer 2-6 (second chapter) and Jer 7-10 (third chapter). These images are used to avoid the declaration of the broken covenant. In Jer 2-6, the idolatry is described as forsaking the spring of living water to rely on cisterns (2:13) or on the rivers (2:18). This leads to withheld rain (3:3). Jerusalem must repent to obtain water (4:3); otherwise, the drought will be intensified by the sirocco (4:11-13), and by the extension of the withheld rain (5:24-25). The military invasion will come as a flood (5:22; 6:23). In Jer 7-10, the sirocco becomes active (7:20) and the intensified drought affects the nature (8:13, 20), the people who weep (8:14; 9:14; 9:16-17) and Yhwh who speaks through his tears (8:23; 9:9-10).
The second part analysis water imagery in Jer 11-20 (fourth chapter) and Jer 21-25 (fifth chapter). These images declare the broken covenant and its curses. In Jer 11-20, the drought (11:16; 12:4-5) is integrated with the flood of the coming military invasion (13:1-11) and sirocco (13:24). Jerusalem becomes a desert (14:1-6) and the people seek water without repentance (14:8, 22). This makes the desertification caused by the military invasion inevitable (16:1-9; 17:5-7; 18:16-17). On the contrary, the drought (15:18) leads the prophet to repentance. This transforms him from an image of desolation (16:1-9) to one of salvation (17:7-8). The persistence in sin (17:12-13) leads the people, the vessel water, to be broken (19:1-13). In Jer 21-25, Yhwh’s anger (21:5) is active through the new sirocco, Nebuchadnezzar, against the kings (21:12, 14; 22:6, 20-23), the false prophets (23:10, 15, 19-20) and the nations (25:30-38). Paradoxically, the wilderness can be changed to a fertile land (23:3-4; 24.6-7).
The third part focuses on water imagery in Jer 26-45 (sixth chapter) and in Jer 46-51 (seventh chapter). These images describe the punishment and its transformation into salvation. In Jer 26-35, water imagery appears, firstly, in the oracles of salvation, (i) through the possible agricultural activities (29:5, 28; 31:27 , 38-40; 32:15, 41, 43, 44); (ii) the transformation of the desert (30:5-11, 12-17) into a garden with abundant water (31:7-14, 15-22); (iii) the transformation of the tears of grief (8:14; 9:14) into tears of repentance and joy (31:9). Secondly, water imagery appears in 35:12, through the lack of agricultural activities. This refers to the time of desolation. If the people learn the “lesson” of the Rechabites, their desolation will lead them to life (cf. 35:19). In Jer 36-45, the dried cistern-Jerusalem becomes a prison (37:16, 21) and a tomb (38:1-6) for the prophet. These images refer to the slavery and exile. His “coming up” from the cistern (38:7-14) is an image of the exile end. The presence and absence of water in 40:10, 12; 41:7, 9, 10 denote the coexistence of obedience and disobedience and their consequences. In Jer 46-51, by drying up the water of the nations (cf. 48:34; 50:38; 51:36) or allowing it to flood (46:7-8; 50:42; 51:42, 55cd, 63-64), Yhwh shows that he is the sovereign of the history. In this way, the dissertation also illustrates the importance of water imagery to understand the social and theological message of Jer.