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Circumcision of the Prostitute: Gender, Sexuality, and the Call To Repentance in Jeremiah 3:1- 4:41

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image of Biblical Interpretation

The move from accusation to promise in Jer. 3:1—4:4 is mirrored by a move from female imagery to male imagery. The passage begins with marriage imagery: God as the husband, and Israel as the wife who acts like a harlot. Sister imagery is used next to portray the "rivalry" in prostitution between Judah and the northern kingdom. When the chapter begins to move to the possibility of repentance, however, the imagery changes to father-son imagery, God being the father and Israel being the repentant and obedient son. The last shift in imagery, that of circumcision, as a sign both of human repentance and of God's promise, occurs in Jer. 4:1-4. In addition to shifts in imagery, there are also shifts in mode of address, from feminine direct address to masculine direct address. Equally significant as the shift in imagery, the direct address is used rhetorically to pressure the audience into identifying in one way as opposed to another (e.g., to identify as the proper sons to God as father rather than as unfaithful wife to God as husband). This article explores these shifts in gender imagery and direct address, focusing on the ways in which gender and sexuality are constructed in this chapter, and how they in turn construct the call to repentance.

Affiliations: 1: Emory University


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