This study analyzes all of the actual references to "wife" and "wives," following the Hebrew terms 'iššâ and nāšîm respectively, in the book of Jeremiah where the marriage imagery has a prominent role in the understanding of the content and the context of the text. It was noticed in this study that the use of the marriage imagery was clustered within two background scenarios, marriage and war. These backgrounds reflect the primary or secondary function that the marriage imagery serves within their larger literary and semantic units. These two identified backgrounds constituted the foundations for the final title of this study.
One initial challenge in the attempt to approach the role of women within the marriage relationship is constituted by the language. In Hebrew, the basic term to refer to wife is the word generally used for woman, 'iššâ. This means that, depending on the contexts, this word could be translated in different ways, one of them being "wife/wives." The term 'iššâ, woman (in the singular), appears twelve (12) times in the book of Jeremiah.1 The plural nāšîm, women, appears twenty four (24) times. 2 From this total of thirty six (36) occurrences, ten times (10x) the content and context show the marriage relationship to be central to the understanding of the main topic, and therefore, this study analyzes those passages more thoroughly. The selected passages in the singular include: Jer 3:1; 3:20; 5:8; 6:11; and 16:2. The selected passages in the plural include: Jer 6:12; 8:10; 14:16; 18:21; and 29:23.
Four major steps are taken in the analysis of the selected passages. First, the study of each passage starts with the textual analysis of the MT, which is complemented by a close look at the variations present in the LXX. Second, the textual analysis is then followed by a literary analysis that gradually expands, if needed, to larger literary units to explore other, already identified or potential, semantic layers that could illuminate the meaning of the text under analysis. Third, based on the questions that rise from the results of these initial steps of analysis which has women at the center stage, in a section called topic analysis, I seek to respond to those raised questions or topics. These responses give priority to what can be found in the biblical material, in particularly in the book of Jeremiah. The fourth and final step is to draw general observation from what has been noticed in the analyzed text. The emphasis still is to understand the possible function(s) of the marriage imagery in the particular passages under analysis.
Regarding the chapter divisions, the first two chapters of this study serve as an introduction to provide the reader with preliminary remarks to clarify the content and the approach. Chapter 1 offers some information about the kinship terminology relevant to the study of marriage in the ancient Israelite society, and chapter 2 offers a brief introduction to current studies on metaphors as well as the theoretical framework behind the structuring of the approach used of this study. Three major categories have been used for the division of the next four chapters, Chapters 3 to 6: (a) thematic, (b) numerical, and (c) literary.
The results of a structural analysis of the biblical text (which included a textual, a literary, and a topic analysis), having women as the object/subject of study, led to two significant findings: First, this study shows that most of the references to wife/wives within the two mentioned contexts, marriage and war, in the book of Jeremiah are metaphorical. Second, whenever the marriage imagery, in addition to serving the metaphorical function, is used to compare the human marriage relationship with the divine, that is, when an analogical comparison is done between the human and the divine realms (two different natures), a terminological shift happened.
Having concluded that the nature of most of these references to wife/wives is metaphorical, the proper route to understand the richness of a metaphor stands at the level of the statement in the text, and this is the reason why I recommend that each analysis be read first independently. It is in the statement where the metaphor is produced. One can not just group all the appearances of a metaphorical term (or a statement), and generalize its meaning. The best we can do is to draw general observations. One of the main goals of this study was to develop an analysis that would include the gender aspect. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
1Jer 3:1; 3:3; 3:20; 5:8; 6:11; 9:19; 13:21; 16:2; 44:7; 48:41; 49:22; and 51:22. 2Jer 6:12; 7:18; 8:10; 9:19; 14:16; 18:21; 29:6 (2x); 29:23; 35:8; 38:22; 38:23; 40:7; 41:16; 43:6; 44:9 (2x); 44:15 (2x); 44:20; 44:24; 44:25; 50:37; and 51:30.