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Israel's Open Sore in the Book of Jeremiah

Amy Kalmanofsky
Journal of Biblical Literature
Vol. 135, No. 2 (Summer 2016), pp. 247-263
DOI: 10.15699/jbl.1352.2016.2942
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Page Count: 18
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Israel's Open Sore in the Book of Jeremiah
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The incurable sore that plagues Israel throughout the book of Jeremiah is a complex, rhetorically powerful image laden with theological import. Whether marking a diseased or a disabled body, the image of the incurable sore manifests the Bible's general attitudes toward the body and, more specifically, toward the female body, which is associated with disability and impurity. The incurable sore simultaneously communicates Israel's corruption and God's power, while revealing the essential dynamic of Israel's relationship with God. It testifies that Israel is at God's mercy. Embodying the concerns of a society in crisis, the sore also demands a powerful emotional response, evoking both pity and disgust. Though the question remains whether the afflicted Israel portrayed by Jeremiah can be healed, the image of the incurable sore is itself a source of healing. As if applying a balm onto Israel's affliction, the prophet employs this image as part of his corporeal rhetoric in order to persuade his audience to reform their behavior and pursue wholeness.

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