Jeremiah's Mother God Says: I Knew You in the Womb

Jeremiah's Mother God Says: I Knew You in the Womb

Jeremiah's mother God says, "I knew you in the womb" illustrated with a woman whose skirts flow into the sky and out of whose belly light rays flow.Jeremiah, the Biblical prophet, describes the day God called him.

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.

Look again.

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.

It’s you.

Do it!

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.

3 Comments
  1. Did you mean to say “What do you see/ I see the branch of an almond tree”? I’m sure you “watched you words”; I don’t want this to be a jeremiad. 😉

    1. Ha ha ha, fine humour once again! It’s so characteristic of Hebrew Bible poetry to have lots of puns and I’m grateful to you for adding to the mix!

  2. I always enjoy reading Rabbi Kaplan’s excursions into biology and her passion for metaphor. And it shows up nicely in this essay.

    That said, the first few paragraphs of her essay immediately brought to my mind all the cases of male brooding in the animal world. Here is a bit clipped directly from wikipedia:

    Mouth brooding behaviour

    Paternal mouthbrooders are species where the male looks after the eggs. Paternal mouthbrooders include the arowana, the mouthbrooding betta Betta pugnax, and sea catfish such as Ariopsis felis. Among cichlids, paternal mouthbrooding is relatively rare, but is found among some of the tilapiines, most notably the black-chin tilapia Sarotherodon melanotheron.

    There are more examples.

    : -)

    Richard W.

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