At first glance, the call seems ordinary. A kind of (stereo) type-scene. God says, “You’re a prophet.” But Jeremiah says, “No.” Then God physically touches Jeremiah. And Jeremiah begins to speak.
But an unusual detail stands out. (That is, of course, how type-scenes work. Almost everything is predictable. Except for the one thing that isn’t.) Take a look at Jeremiah’s God.
Jeremiah’s God knew him in the womb. That’s the first thing God tells Jeremiah.
In real life, what kind of person says that? Only a biological mother. At least, that’s my experience. Just before our daughter was born, my husband talked to her. “Don’t worry, baby!” he said. “Soon you’ll join us!”
“Join us?!” I said. “We’ve been joined! Soon you’ll separate!”
Still, joined or separated, her temperament was the same. Sensitive, active, and wild. Her brother, too, was the same in utero as he was out. Calm, accommodating, and predictable. But who could know this? Only I could.
Jeremiah’s God is a mother.
Keep that in mind, and re-read God’s call to Jeremiah (1:4-18). The whole conversation sounds like a mother instructing her teen. Sharing with him a woman’s way of knowing. First, training his intuition and imagination. And then, sending him out into the world.
So, I offer a new translation of the call. It’s only a bit interpretive.
Then, my mother said to me:
Before I formed you in my belly, I knew you
Before you left the womb, I made you special
A seer and a truth-speaker
But I said:
Oh, Mom. I don’t know how to speak.
I’m still a kid.
But Mom said to me:
Don’t say, “I’m still a kid.”
When I send you out, you’ll go.
I taught you, and you’ll speak.
Don’t be afraid, because I am with you.
She put out her hand and touched my mouth.
Then, she said:
I’ve put my words in your mouth.
See, I appoint you today
To talk to nations, even to kings!
Like all visionary youth
You’ll pull down and destroy,
Build up and plant.
Let me teach you about imaginative vision.
Trust yourself. Let your imagination flow.
What do you see?
I see a branch of an olive tree.
That’s great. Now I’ll teach you to interpret it.
“Shaked” means almond.
“Shoked” means watchful.
The almond branch tells you:
I watch my words, make sure I say what I will do.
Now I see a steaming pot, facing away from the north.
Something’s coming from the north.
It’s boiling over onto your country.
Someone has to warn them.
If you can face me, you can face them.
You are strong.
They may fight you
But they won’t win
Because I am with you.
I could say more. But I won’t. Because the text speaks for itself.
Still: are you intrigued? Read also about the prophet Isaiah’s Mother God.