Sorting Out Identities

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Says Gerber in Stone of Destiny, "Ollam Fodhla was the first king to hold the Fes, or Parliament of Tara, and the first to ordain district chiefs in Ireland" (p. 50).

Remember that in Israel the prophet was God’s representative to the king. And in ancient Ireland, "an ollamh was treated as of princely rank. An ollamh of law and poetry was even considered the equal of a king at the court; he, or she, for both were equal under the law, could speak even before the king at a council and give advice" (Ellis, p. 337). If Jeremiah wielded this kind of authority in Ireland, the general populace may well have thought him a king. Notice again Jeremiah’s commission from God: "See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms . . ." (Jeremiah 1:10, NRSV). It appears, then, that he was to exercise considerable authority. An interesting consideration in this regard is that The History of Ancient Caledonia—an 1897 Scottish publication that is reputedly the transcribing by author John MacLaren of a much older source—repeatedly refers to Ireland as "Jeremy’s Land."

Consider also that the king himself may have referred to the prophet as "my father" out of respect, just as was done in ancient Israel (see 2 Kings 2:12; 6:21). This, too, could have made Jeremiah appear a king. In fact, Gede, one name given for the king at the time, is referred to in an old poem as the son of Ollam Fodhla. And there may be yet another reason for the confusion, which we’ll see in a moment.

It also appears that Simon Brach could be chronologically aligned with Ollam Fodhla—if they are listed in sections that should actually overlap. The reckoning of Brach as a king, it should be noted, may have been a mistake. In the Bible, Baruch is called the son of Neriah. Yet, consider what a linguistics textbook says: "Sound changes . . . [such as] ‘r becomes l’ . . . are ‘natural’ sound changes often found in the world’s languages" (Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman, An Introduction to Language, Fourth Edition, 1988, p. 318). Perhaps Neriah was read as Nelia. So Baruch may have inadvertently been reckoned as the son or descendant of Neleus, forefather of the Milesian dynasty.

Simon Breck was also said to be a descendant of Gathelus. As this name is an eponym for the Goidels or Gaels, it really means that Breck was a Gael (an Israelite). But because Gathelus, or Gede, was considered as an actual name of the founder of the Milesian dynasty, Simon Breck was made to be his descendant, even though he probably wasn’t—and certainly wasn’t if he were Baruch.

Of course, it is possible that Baruch was actually exalted to some high position in Ireland. God had told him not to seek greatness—that his reward would be his life wherever he went (Jeremiah 45:5). But perhaps once he stopped seeking greatness, God finally rewarded him with some measure of it in his later years. He could have been made a noble over a small dominion, similar to Caleb in the Promised Land (see Joshua 14:13-14)—and this might have been confused with being a king. Or perhaps he was one of the district chiefs ordained by Ollam Fodhla. He may even have been considered an actual lesser king subject to Ireland’s high king.

It is interesting that he is described as the son of the king of Spain, considering that Jeremiah’s party evidently came through Milesian Spain. Brach being a prince of Spain could have been a misunderstanding resulting from his having come to Ireland directly from there along with confusion about his father’s name—and perhaps he was mistaken as the son of the regal-appearing Jeremiah, particularly if he ever referred to Jeremiah as "my father." If Jeremiah was Ollam Fodhla, we can perhaps see how Baruch was later considered his descendant.

There is further confusion over the identity of Heremon or Eremon. He is often said to be the son of Milesius but is sometimes identified as Milesius himself. Furthermore, there is, as mentioned, a Gede or Ghede who seems to be synonymous with Heremon. It is sometimes stated that Heremon had a son named Heremon. This name, a Hebrew derivative that may have meant something like "highest" (see Milner, p. 11 footnote), could have become a title for the Irish high king—similar to Eochaidh being a general term for prince. Thus, no matter what the actual name of the king at the time of Jeremiah, he may have been referred to both as Eochaidh and Heremon. Tea is reputed to have married Gede "the Heremon" by some accounts.

There is another possibility regarding the name Heremon that is rather astounding to contemplate. For the Hebrew derivation just mentioned is reckoned from the root ruwm, meaning "high . . . lofty . . . exalted" (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, No. 7311). And this root forms the name of a well-known Hebrew name—Jeremiah! His name, broken down as Yerem-Yah, is understood to mean "Exalted by the Eternal" or "Appointed by the Eternal" (No. 3414). In Greek his name is Ieremias. In Spanish his name is pronounced Heremias. With the Celtic augmentative suffix, this would become Heremion or Heremon.

So it just may be that Jeremiah’s name appears in the Irish annals after all—and that his name became confused with his contemporaries. If so, then Heremon was not actually the name of the husband of Zedekiah’s daughter—although it could have been the name of their son. For as important as Jeremiah was, it would not be at all surprising to find that others, particularly in the royal family, were named after him. In any event, it is interesting to consider that, as one source has put it, "Heremon and Ollam Fola are mingled together in hopeless confusion" (Matthew Kelly, 1848, translation notes accompanying John Lynch’s Cambrensis Eversus, 1662).

If Heremon or Eremion is the Irish form of Jeremiah, this could give us another possible origin of the name Eire or Ire-land. Indeed, it could explain why Ireland has been called Jeremy’s Land. For Ireland would actually mean "Jeremiah’s Land"—the land of Jeremiah! Yet it must still be kept in mind that the name Heremon became attached to the first Milesian king of Ireland, whether or not that was his actual name.