Jeremiah's Non-Burial Refrain

Book Section (Chapter)

This chapter introduces the non-burial refrain in the Book of Jeremiah. The non-burial refrain is composed of thirteen variations on the idea that God will slay the people of Judah, leaving their bodies out to be eaten by the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, disinterring and exposing their bones to the sun, moon, and stars, and filling the Valley of Ben Hinnom with their corpses until it overflows. This chapter argues that the non-burial refrain encodes traumatic memories from the siege and fall of Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE, including realities of siege warfare, beliefs about the dead, and shifting burial practices. Additionally, the non-burial refrain serves as a vehicle by which the text of Jeremiah suggests, refutes, and revises its claims about the role of the God of Israel in the Babylonian exile – first, exploring the idea that God is responsible for the slaying and scattering of Judah then moving to a belief that God is the one who will ultimately consecrate, inter, and gather a fallen people after cataclysmic military defeat. While the non-burial refrain is often over-looked in favor of the repeated Jeremian verb pairs “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” introduced in Jer 1:10, this chapter shows how the non-burial refrain is the more often repeated refrain and serves as the book’s dominant metaphor for exile from the perspective of those left behind.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Jobe, S

Cited Editors

  • Stuhlman, L; Silver, E

Duke Contributors

Published Date

  • 2021

Book Title

  • The Oxford Handbook of Jeremiah


  • 27

Published By

International Standard Book Number 10 (ISBN-10)

  • 0190693061

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780190693060