An Object Lesson from Ruined Linen Shorts1The Lord said to me, “Go and buy some linen shorts ▼
▼ The term here (אֵזוֹר, ’ezor) has been rendered in various ways: “girdle” (KJV, ASV), “waistband” (NASB), “waistcloth” (RSV), “sash” (NKJV), “belt” (NIV, NCV, NLT), and “loincloth” (NAB, NRSV, NJPS, REB). The latter is more accurate according to J. M. Myers, “Dress and Ornaments,” IDB 1:870, and W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:399. It was a short, skirt-like garment reaching from the waist to the knees and worn next to the body (cf. v. 9). The modern equivalent is “shorts” as in TEV/GNB, CEV.▼
▼ The linen shorts (Heb “loincloth”) were representative of Israel and the wearing of them was to illustrate the Lord’s close relation to his people (v. 11). Since the priests’ garments were to be made wholly of linen (cf. Exod 28; Ezek 44:17–18), the fact that the shorts were to be made of linen probably was to symbolize the nature of Israel’s calling: they were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod 19:5–6). Just as the linen garments of the priest were to give him special honor and glory (Exod 28:40), so the linen garment was to be a source of praise and glory to the Lord (v. 11).and put them on. ▼
▼ Heb “upon your loins.” The “loins” were the midriff of the body from the waist to the knees. For a further discussion including the figurative uses see, IDB, “Loins,” 3:149.Do not put them in water.” ▼
▼ Or “Do not ever put them in water,” i.e., “Do not even wash them.”▼
▼ The fact that the garment was not to be put in water is not explained. A possible explanation within the context is that it was to be worn continuously, not even taken off to wash it. That would illustrate that the close relationship that the Lord had with his people was continuous and indissoluble. Other explanations are that it was not to be gotten wet because (1) that would have begun the process of rotting (This assumes that the rotting was done by the water of the Euphrates. But it was buried in a crack in the rocks, not in the river itself); (2) that would have made it softer and easier to wear; or (3) that showed that the garment was new, clean, and fresh from the merchant. For this latter interpretation see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 64. For a fuller discussion of most of the issues connected with this acted out parable see W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:285–92. However, the reason is not explained in the text and there is not enough evidence in the text to come to a firm conclusion, though the most likely possibility is that it was not to be taken off and washed but worn continuously.2So I bought the shorts as the Lord had told me to do ▼
▼ Heb “according to the word of the Lord.”and put them on. ▼
▼ Heb “upon your loins.” The “loins” were the midriff of the body from the waist to the knees. For a further discussion including the figurative uses see R. C. Dentan, “Loins,” IDB 3:149–50.3Then the Lord spoke to me again and said, ▼
▼ Heb “The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying.”4“Take the shorts that you bought and are wearing ▼ and go at once ▼
▼ Heb “Get up and go.” The first verb is not literal but is idiomatic for the initiation of an action.to Perath. ▼
▼ There has been a great deal of debate about whether the place referred to here is a place (Parah [= Perath] mentioned in Josh 18:23, modern Khirbet Farah, near a spring ’ain Farah) about three and a half miles from Anathoth which was Jeremiah’s home town or the Euphrates River. Elsewhere the word “Perath” always refers to the Euphrates but it is either preceded by the word “river of” or there is contextual indication that the Euphrates is being referred to. Because a journey to the Euphrates and back would involve a journey of more than 700 miles (1,100 km) and take some months, scholars both ancient and modern have questioned whether “Perath” refers to the Euphrates here and if it does whether a real journey was involved. Most of the attempts to identify the place with the Euphrates involve misguided assumptions that this action was a symbolic message to Israel about exile or the corrupting influence of Assyria and Babylon. However, unlike the other symbolic acts in Jeremiah (and in Isaiah and Ezekiel) the symbolism is not part of a message to the people but to Jeremiah; the message is explained to him (vv. 9–11) not the people. In keeping with some of the wordplays that are somewhat common in Jeremiah it is likely that the reference here is to a place, Parah, which was near Jeremiah’s hometown, but whose name would naturally suggest to Jeremiah later in the Lord’s explanation in vv. 9–11 Assyria-Babylon as a place connected with Judah’s corruption (see the notes on vv. 9–10). For further discussion the reader should consult the commentaries, especially W. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:396 and W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:285–92 who take opposite positions on this issue.Bury the shorts there ▼ in a crack in the rocks.” 5So I went and buried them at Perath ▼
▼ The translation reads בִּפְרָתָה (bifratah) with 4QJera as noted in W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:393 instead of בִּפְרָת (bifrat) in the MT.as the Lord had ordered me to do. 6Many days later the Lord said to me, “Go at once to Perath and get ▼
▼ Heb “Get from there.” The words “from there” are not necessary to the English sentence. They would lead to a redundancy later in the verse, i.e., “from there…bury there.”the shorts I ordered you to bury there.” 7So I went to Perath and dug up ▼
▼ Heb “dug and took.”the shorts from the place where I had buried them. I found ▼
▼ Heb “And behold.”that they were ruined; they were good for nothing.
8 Then the Lord said to me, ▼
▼ Heb “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying.”9“I, the Lord, say: ▼
▼ Heb “Thus says the Lord.”‘This shows how ▼
▼ In a sense this phrase which is literally “according to thus” or simply “thus” points both backward and forward: backward to the acted out parable and forward to the explanation which follows.I will ruin the highly exalted position ▼
▼ Many of the English versions have erred in rendering this word “pride” or “arrogance” with the resultant implication that the Lord is going to destroy Israel’s pride, i.e., humble them through the punishment of exile. However, BDB 144-45 s.v. גָּאוֹן 1 is more probably correct when they classify this passage among those that deal with the “‘majesty, excellence’ of nations, their wealth, power, magnificence of buildings….” The closest parallels to the usage here are in Zech 10:11 (parallel to scepter of Egypt); Ps 47:4 (47:5 HT; parallel to “our heritage” = “our land”); Isa 14:11; and Amos 8:7. The term is further defined in v. 11 where it refers to their special relationship and calling. To translate it “pride” or “arrogance” also ruins the wordplay on “ruin” (נִשְׁחַת [nishkhat] in v. 7 and אַשְׁחִית [’ashkhit] in v. 9).▼
▼ Scholars ancient and modern are divided over the significance of the statement I will ruin the highly exalted position in which Judah and Jerusalem take pride (Heb “I will ruin the pride of Judah and Jerusalem”). Some feel that it refers to the corrupting influence of Assyria and Babylon and others feel that it refers to the threat of Babylonian exile. However, F. B. Huey (Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 144) is correct in observing that the Babylonian exile did not lead to the rottenness of Judah, the corrupting influence of the foreign nations did. In Jeremiah’s day these came through the age-old influences of the Canaanite worship of Baal but also the astral worship introduced by Ahaz and Manasseh. For an example of the corrupting influence of Assyria on Judah through Ahaz’s political alliances see 2 Kgs 16 and also compare the allegory in Ezek 23:14–21. It was while the “linen shorts” were off Jeremiah’s body and buried in the rocks that the linen shorts were ruined. So the Lord “ruined” the privileged status that resulted from Israel’s close relationship to him (cf. v. 11). For the “problem” created by the Lord ruining Israel through corrupting influence compare the notes on Jer 4:10 and compare also passages like Isa 63:17 and Isa 6:10.in which Judah and Jerusalem ▼ take pride. 10These wicked people refuse to obey what I have said. ▼
▼ Heb “to listen to my words.”They follow the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts and pay allegiance ▼ to other gods by worshiping and serving them. So ▼
▼ The structure of this verse is a little unusual. It consists of a subject, “this wicked people” qualified by several “which” clauses preceding a conjunction and a form which would normally be taken as a third person imperative (a Hebrew jussive; וִיהִי, vihi). This construction, called casus pendens by Hebrew grammarians, lays focus on the subject, here calling attention to the nature of Israel’s corruption which makes it rotten and useless to God. See GKC 458 #143.d for other examples of this construction.they will become just like these linen shorts which are good for nothing. 11For,’ I say, ▼
▼ The words “I say” are “Oracle of the Lord” in Hebrew, and are located at the end of this statement in the Hebrew text rather than the beginning. However, they are rendered in the first person and placed at the beginning for smoother English style.‘just as shorts cling tightly to a person’s body, so I bound the whole nation of Israel and the whole nation of Judah ▼
▼ Heb “all the house of Israel and all the house of Judah.”tightly ▼
▼ It would be somewhat unnatural in English to render the play on the word translated here “cling tightly” and “bound tightly” in a literal way. They are from the same root word in Hebrew (דָּבַק, davaq), a word that emphasizes the closest of personal relationships and the loyalty connected with them. It is used, for example, of the relationship of a husband and a wife and the loyalty expected of them (cf. Gen 2:24; for other similar uses see Ruth 1:14; 2 Sam 20:2; Deut 11:22).to me.’ I intended for them to be my special people and to bring me fame, honor, and praise. ▼
▼ Heb “I bound them…in order that they might be to me for a people and for a name and for praise and for honor.” The sentence has been separated from the preceding and an equivalent idea expressed which is more in keeping with contemporary English style.But they would not obey me.
12 “So tell them, ▼
▼ Heb “So you shall say this word [or message] to them.”‘The Lord, the God of Israel, says, “Every wine jar is made to be filled with wine.”’ ▼
▼ Heb “Every wine jar is supposed to be filled with wine.”▼
▼ Some scholars understand this as a popular proverb like that in Jer 31:29 and Ezek 18:2. Instead this is probably a truism; the function of wine jars is to be filled with wine. This may relate to the preceding where the Lord has set forth his intention for Israel. It forms the basis for a ironic threat of judgment because they have failed to fulfill his purpose.And they will probably say to you, ‘Do you not think we know ▼
▼ This is an attempt to render a construction which involves an infinitive of a verb being added before the same verb in a question which expects a positive answer. There may, by the way, be a pun being passed back and forth here involving the sound play been “fool” (נָבָל, naval) and “wine bottle” (נֶבֶל, nebel).that every wine jar is supposed to be filled with wine?’ 13Then ▼
▼ The Greek version is likely right in interpreting the construction of two perfects preceded by the conjunction as contingent or consequential here, i.e., “and when they say…then say.” See GKC 494 #159.g. However, to render literally would create a long sentence. Hence, the words “will probably” have been supplied in v. 12 in the translation to set up the contingency/consequential sequence in the English sentences.tell them, ‘The Lord says, “I will soon fill all the people who live in this land with stupor. ▼
▼ It is probably impossible to convey in a simple translation all the subtle nuances that are wrapped up in the words of this judgment speech. The word translated “stupor” here is literally “drunkenness” but the word has in the context an undoubted intended double reference. It refers first to the drunken like stupor of confusion on the part of leaders and citizens of the land which will cause them to clash with one another. But it also probably refers to the reeling under God’s wrath that results from this (cf. Jer 25:15–29, especially vv. 15–16). Moreover there is still the subtle little play on wine jars. The people are like the wine jars which were supposed to be filled with wine. They were to be a special people to bring glory to God but they had become corrupt. Hence, like wine jars they would be smashed against one another and broken to pieces (v. 14). All of this, both “fill them with the stupor of confusion” and “make them reel under God’s wrath,” cannot be conveyed in one translation.I will also fill the kings from David’s dynasty, ▼
▼ Heb “who sit on David’s throne.”the priests, the prophets, and the citizens of Jerusalem with stupor. ▼
▼ In Hebrew this is all one long sentence with one verb governing compound objects. It is broken up here in conformity with English style.14And I will smash them like wine bottles against one another, children and parents alike. ▼
▼ Or “children along with their parents”; Heb “fathers and children together.”I will not show any pity, mercy, or compassion. Nothing will keep me from destroying them,’ ▼
▼ Heb “I will not show…so as not to destroy them.”says the Lord.”
15 Then I said to the people of Judah, ▼
“Listen and pay attention! Do not be arrogant!
For the Lord has spoken.
16 Show the Lord your God the respect that is due him. ▼
Do it before he brings the darkness of disaster. ▼
▼ The words “of disaster” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation to explain the significance of the metaphor to readers who may not be acquainted with the metaphorical use of light and darkness for salvation and joy and distress and sorrow respectively.▼
▼ For the metaphorical use of these terms the reader should consult O. A. Piper, “Light, Light and Darkness,” IDB 3:130–32. For the association of darkness with the Day of the Lord, the time when he will bring judgment, see, e.g., Amos 5:18–20. For the association of darkness with exile see Isa 9:1–2 (8:23–9:1 HT).
Do it before you stumble ▼
▼ Heb “your feet stumble.”into distress
like a traveler on the mountains at twilight. ▼
▼ Heb “you stumble on the mountains at twilight.” The added words are again supplied in the translation to help explain the metaphor to the uninitiated reader.
Do it before he turns the light of deliverance you hope for
into the darkness and gloom of exile. ▼
▼ Heb “and while you hope for light he will turn it into deep darkness and make [it] into gloom.” The meaning of the metaphor is again explained through the addition of the “of” phrases for readers who are unacquainted with the metaphorical use of these terms.▼
17 But if you will not pay attention to this warning, ▼
▼ Heb “If you will not listen to it.” For the use of the feminine singular pronoun to refer to the idea(s) expressed in the preceding verse(s), see GKC 440-41 #135.p.
I will weep alone because of your arrogant pride.
I will weep bitterly and my eyes will overflow with tears ▼
▼ Heb “Tearing [my eye] will tear and my eye will run down [= flow] with tears.”▼
▼ The depth of Jeremiah’s sorrow for the sad plight of his people, if they refuse to repent, is emphasized by the triple repetition of the word “tears” twice in an emphatic verbal expression (Hebrew infinitive before finite verb) and once in the noun.
because you, the Lord’s flock, ▼
▼ Heb “because the Lord’s flock will…” The pronoun “you” is supplied in the translation to avoid the shift in English from the second person address at the beginning to the third person affirmation at the end. It also helps explain the metaphor of the people of Israel as God’s flock for some readers who may be unfamiliar with that metaphor.will be carried ▼
▼ The verb is once again in the form of “as good as done” (the Hebrew prophetic perfect).into exile.”
18 The Lord told me, ▼
“Tell the king and the queen mother,
‘Surrender your thrones, ▼
▼ Or “You will come down from your thrones”; Heb “Make low! Sit!” This is a case of a construction where two forms in the same case, mood, or tense are joined in such a way that one (usually the first) is intended as an adverbial or adjectival modifier of the other (a figure called hendiadys). This is also probably a case where the imperative is used to express a distinct assurance or promise. See GKC 324 #110.b and compare the usage in Isa 37:30 and Ps 110:2.▼
for your glorious crowns
will be removed ▼
▼ Heb “have come down.” The verb here and those in the following verses are further examples of the “as good as done” form of the Hebrew verb (the prophetic perfect).from your heads. ▼
▼ The translation follows the common emendation of a word normally meaning “place at the head” (מַרְאֲשׁוֹת [mar’ashot] plus pronoun = מַרְאֲוֹשׁתֵיכֶם [mar’aoshtekhem]) to “from your heads” (מֵרָאשֵׁיכֶם, mera’shekhem) following the ancient versions. The meaning “tiara” is nowhere else attested for this word.
19 The gates of the towns in southern Judah will be shut tight. ▼
▼ Heb “The towns of the Negev will be shut.”
No one will be able to go in or out of them. ▼
All Judah will be carried off into exile.
They will be completely carried off into exile.’” ▼
20 Then I said, ▼
“Look up, Jerusalem, ▼
▼ The word “Jerusalem” is not in the Hebrew text. It is added in the Greek text and is generally considered to be the object of address because of the second feminine singular verbs here and throughout the following verses. The translation follows the consonantal text (Kethib) and the Greek text in reading the second feminine singular here. The verbs and pronouns in vv. 20–22 are all second feminine singular with the exception of the suffix on the word “eyes” which is not reflected in the translation here (“Look up” = “Lift up your eyes”) and the verb and pronoun in v. 23. The text may reflect the same kind of alternation between singular and plural that takes place in Isa 7 where the pronouns refer to Ahaz as an individual and his entourage, the contemporary ruling class (cf., e.g., Isa 7:4–5 [singular], 9 [plural], 11 [singular], 13–14 [plural]). Here the connection with the preceding may suggest that it is initially the ruling house (the king and the queen mother), then Jerusalem personified as a woman in her role as a shepherdess (i.e., leader). However, from elsewhere in the book the leadership has included the kings, the priests, the prophets, and the citizens as well (cf., e.g., 13:13). In v. 27 Jerusalem is explicitly addressed. It may be asking too much of some readers who are not familiar with biblical metaphors to understand an extended metaphor like this. If it is helpful to them, they may substitute plural referents for “I” and “me.”and see
the enemy ▼
▼ The word “enemy” is not in the text but is implicit. It supplied in the translation for clarity.▼ that is coming from the north.
Where now is the flock of people that were entrusted to your care? ▼
▼ Heb “the flock that was given to you.”
Where now are the ‘sheep’ that you take such pride in? ▼
▼ Heb “the sheep of your pride.” The word “of your people” and the quotes around “sheep” are intended to carry over the metaphor in such a way that readers unfamiliar with the metaphor will understand it.
21 What will you say ▼
▼ Or perhaps more rhetorically equivalent, “Will you not be surprised?”when the Lord ▼
▼ The words “The Lord” are not in the text. Some commentators make the enemy the subject, but they are spoken of as “them.”appoints as rulers over you those allies
that you, yourself, had actually prepared as such? ▼
▼ Or “to be rulers.” The translation of these two lines is somewhat uncertain. The sentence structure of these two lines raises problems in translation. The Hebrew text reads: “What will you do when he appoints over you [or punishes you (see BDB 823 s.v. פָּקַד Qal.B.2 for the former, Qal.A.3 for the latter)] and you, yourself, taught them over you friends [or chiefs (see BDB 48 s.v. I אַלּוּף 2 and Ps 55:13 for the former and BDB 49 s.v. II אַלּוּף and Exod 15:15 for the latter)] for a head.” The translation assumes that the clause “and you, yourself, taught them [= made them accustomed, i.e., “prepared”] [to be] over you” is parenthetical coming between the verb “appoint” and its object and object modifier (i.e., “appointed over you allies for rulers”). A quick check of other English versions will show how varied the translation of these lines has been. Most English versions seem to ignore the second “over you” after “you taught them.” Some rearrange the text to get what they think is a sensible meaning. For a fairly thorough treatment see W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:308–10.▼
▼ What is being alluded to here is the political policy of vacillating alliances through which Judah brought about her own downfall, allying herself first with Assyria, then Egypt, then Babylon, and then Egypt again. See 2 Kgs 23:29–24:7 for an example of this policy and the disastrous consequences.
Then anguish and agony will grip you
like that of a woman giving birth to a baby. ▼
▼ Heb “Will not pain [here = mental anguish] take hold of you like a woman giving birth.” The question is rhetorical expecting a positive answer.
22 You will probably ask yourself, ▼
▼ Heb “say in your heart.”
‘Why have these things happened to me?
Why have I been treated like a disgraced adulteress
whose skirt has been torn off and her limbs exposed?’ ▼
▼ Heb “Your skirt has been uncovered and your heels have been treated with violence.” This is the generally accepted interpretation of these phrases. See, e.g., BDB 784 s.v. עָקֵב a and HALOT 329 s.v. I חָמַס Nif. The significance of the actions here are part of the metaphor (i.e., personification) of Jerusalem as an adulteress having left her husband and have been explained in the translation for the sake of readers unfamiliar with the metaphor.▼
It is because you have sinned so much. ▼
▼ The translation has been restructured to break up a long sentence involving a conditional clause and an elliptical consequential clause. It has also been restructured to define more clearly what “these things” are. The Hebrew text reads: “And if you say, ‘Why have these things happened to me?’ Because of the greatness of your iniquity your skirts [= what your skirt covers] have been uncovered and your heels have been treated with violence.”
23 But there is little hope for you ever doing good,
you who are so accustomed to doing evil.
Can an Ethiopian ▼
▼ This is a common proverb in English coming from this biblical passage. For cultures where it is not proverbial perhaps it would be better to translate “Can black people change the color of their skin?” Strictly speaking these are “Cushites” inhabitants of a region along the upper Nile south of Egypt. The Greek text is responsible for the identification with Ethiopia. The term in Greek is actually a epithet = “burnt face.”change the color of his skin?
Can a leopard remove its spots? ▼
▼ Heb “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? [Then] you also will be able to do good who are accustomed to do evil.” The English sentence has been restructured and rephrased in an attempt to produce some of the same rhetorical force the Hebrew original has in this context.
24 “The Lord says, ▼
▼ The words, “The Lord says” are not in the text at this point. The words “an oracle of the Lord” does, however, occur in the middle of the next verse and it is obvious the Lord is the speaker. The words have been moved up from the next verse to enhance clarity.
‘That is why I will scatter your people ▼
▼ Heb “them.” This is another example of the rapid shift in pronouns seen several times in the book of Jeremiah. The pronouns in the preceding and the following are second feminine singular. It might be argued that “them” goes back to the “flock”/“sheep” in v. 20, but the next verse refers the fate described here to “you” (feminine singular). This may be another example of the kind of metaphoric shifts in referents discussed in the notes on 13:20 above. Besides, it would sound a little odd in the translation to speak of scattering one person like chaff.like chaff
that is blown away by a desert wind. ▼
25 This is your fate,
the destiny to which I have appointed you,
because you have forgotten me
and have trusted in false gods.
26 So I will pull your skirt up over your face
and expose you to shame like a disgraced adulteress! ▼
27 People of Jerusalem, ▼
▼ Heb “Jerusalem.” This word has been pulled up from the end of the verse to help make the transition. The words “people of” have been supplied in the translation here to ease the difficulty mentioned earlier of sustaining the personification throughout.I have seen your adulterous worship,
your shameless prostitution to, and your lustful pursuit of, other gods. ▼
▼ Heb “[I have seen] your adulteries, your neighings, and your shameless prostitution.” The meanings of the metaphorical references have been incorporated in the translation for the sake of clarity for readers of all backgrounds.▼
▼ The sentence is rhetorically loaded. It begins with three dangling objects of the verb all describing their adulterous relationship with the false gods under different figures and which are resumed later under the words “your disgusting acts.” The Hebrew sentence reads: “Your adulteries, your neighings, your shameful prostitution, upon the hills in the fields I have seen your disgusting acts.” This sentence drips with explosive disgust at their adulterous betrayal.
I have seen your disgusting acts of worship ▼
on the hills throughout the countryside.
You are doomed to destruction! ▼
▼ Heb “Woe to you!”▼
How long will you continue to be unclean?’”
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