Why all the Repetition?

Jeremiah 1

Q. Jeremiah 39, Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 25 all talk about the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jewish people and the temple. They are almost exactly the same, word for word. Is there any significance?

A. Let’s look at the who, when and what first, then the how, and finally the why.

Jeremiah wrote the book of Jeremiah, but likely through his secretary Baruch:
Jer 1:1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,
• Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD which He had spoken to him.

Jer 1-51 record events before 580 BC, while Jer 52:31 records the release of Jehoiachin from prison by Evil-Merodach in 561 BC. Since Jeremiah lived from 650-570 BC, scholars believe Baruch added chapter 52 as a supplement. Commentators have analyzed the book, and suggest its outline with the following structure:

1:1-19 —– Prophetic Commission (The Call of Jeremiah)
2:1-25:38 —– Condemnation of Judah
26:1-29:32 ——- Conflicts of Jeremiah
30:1-33:26 ———– Future Restoration of Jerusalem
34:1-45:5 ——– Present Fall of Jerusalem
46:1-51:64 —- Condemnation of Nations
52:1-34 —- Historic Conclusion (The Fall of Jerusalem)

Chapters 39 is Jeremiah’s own account of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. In 52:4-27 Baruch likely filled in what Jeremiah left out in 39:1-10.

The authorship of 1 & 2 Kings is unknown. Jewish tradition believed it was Jeremiah, based on similarity of literary style. But again, 2 Kings 25:27 records Jehoiachin’s release, which happened after Jeremiah’s death. Scholars therefore believe it was a prophet or historian contemporary with Jeremiah, possibly Baruch, who had access to official court annals, as shown below:
1 Kgs 11:41 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon and whatever he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?
• 1 Kgs 14:19 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he made war and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.
• 1 Kgs 14:29 Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

As to the similarities, there are several possibilities:
1. Jeremiah copied from Kings,
2. Kings copied from Jeremiah, or
3. Both borrowed from prior works, such as those cited above, now lost.

(1) appears unlikely as Jeremiah is fuller than Kings in some passages e.g.
• Jer 52:10-11 vs. 2 Kgs 25:7;
• Jer 52:15 vs. 2 Kgs 25:11;
• Jer 52:19-23 vs. 2 Kgs 25:15-17;
• Jer 52:31 vs. 2 Kgs 25:27;
• Jer 52:34 vs. 2 Kgs 25:30.
(2) and (3) are plausible, but scholars are unable to determine which is more likely based on the available data.

But why did God tell us the same thing three times? I don’t know, because the Bible is silent on this. I only know that God often:
• Repeats things for emphasis;
• Tells us things from several perspectives to highlight different aspects e.g.
o 1 Chron repeats 2 Sam’s coverage on David’s reign, but omits the former inclusion of his sin with Bathsheba;
o 2 Chron reiterates 1 & 2 Kings’ narration from Solomon to the Babylonian captivity, with focuses on the kings of Judah while the latter includes both Judah and Israel;
o There are four Gospels with some events recorded in more than one Gospel, with variances because the emphases are different, but other events recorded only in one.

As to significance, we can see that while the multiple human authors might have borrowed from earlier sources, they complemented each other by supplying details which others omitted. Unlike other so-called holy books e.g. Qu’ran, or Book of Mormon, which has a single author and theoretically should not contain any contradictions, they contain internal inconsistencies which proved that they are not of divine origin. There are minor copyist errors in the Bible manuscripts which had been handed down over thousands of years, but nothing of importance that would invalidate any doctrine. As such, the Bible is the only inspired word of God, and reliable and trustworthy for our salvation.