The Lord Recalls Israel’s Earlier Faithfulness1The Lord spoke to me. He said: 2“Go and declare in the hearing of the people of Jerusalem: ▼ ‘This is what the Lord says: “I have fond memories of you, ▼
▼ Heb “I remember to/for you.”how devoted you were to me in your early years ▼
▼ Heb “the loyal love of your youth.”▼
▼ The Hebrew word translated “how devoted you were” (חֶסֶד, khesed) refers metaphorically to the devotion of a new bride to her husband. In typical Hebraic fashion, contemporary Israel is identified with early Israel after she first entered into covenant with (= married) the Lord. The reference to her earlier devotion is not absolute but relative. Compared to her unfaithfulness in worshiping other gods after she got into the land, the murmuring and complaining in the wilderness are ignored.I remember how you loved me like a new bride; you followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted. 3Israel was set apart to the Lord; they were like the first fruits of a harvest to him. ▼
▼ Heb “the first fruits of his harvest.” Many commentators see the figure here as having theological significance for the calling of the Gentiles. It is likely, however, that in this context the metaphor – here rendered as a simile – is intended to bring out the special relationship and inviolability that Israel had with God. As the first fruits were the special possession of the Lord, to be eaten only by the priests and off limits to the common people, so Israel was God’s special possession and was not to be “eaten” by the nations.All who tried to devour them were punished; disaster came upon them,” says the Lord.’”
The Lord Reminds Them of the Unfaithfulness of Their Ancestors4 Now listen to what the Lord has to say, you descendants ▼
▼ Heb “house.”of Jacob,
all you family groups from the nation ▼
▼ Heb “house.”of Israel.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“What fault could your ancestors ▼
▼ Heb “fathers.”have possibly found in me
that they strayed so far from me? ▼
▼ Or “I did not wrong your ancestors in any way. Yet they went far astray from me.” Both translations are an attempt to render the rhetorical question which demands a negative answer.
They paid allegiance to ▼
▼ Heb “They went/followed after.” This idiom is found most often in Deuteronomy or covenant contexts. It refers to loyalty to God and to his covenant or his commandments (e.g., 1 Kgs 14:8; 2 Chr 34:31) with the metaphor of a path or way underlying it (e.g., Deut 11:28; 28:14). To “follow other gods” was to abandon this way and this loyalty (i.e., to “abandon” or “forget” God, Judg 2:12; Hos 2:13) and to follow the customs or religious traditions of the pagan nations (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:15). The classic text on “following” God or another god is 1 Kgs 18:18, 21 where Elijah taunts the people with “halting between two opinions” whether the Lord was the true God or Baal was. The idiom is often found followed by “to serve and to worship” or “they served and worshiped” such and such a god or entity (see, e.g., Jer 8:2; 11:10; 13:10; 16:11; 25:6; 35:15).worthless idols, and so became worthless to me. ▼
▼ The words “to me” are not in the Hebrew text but are implicit from the context: Heb “they followed after the worthless thing/things and became worthless.” There is an obvious wordplay on the verb “became worthless” and the noun “worthless thing,” which is probably to be understood collectively and to refer to idols as it does in Jer 8:19; 10:8; 14:22; Jonah 2:8.
6 They did not ask:
‘Where is the Lord who delivered us out of Egypt,
who brought us through the wilderness,
through a land of desert sands and rift valleys,
through a land of drought and deep darkness, ▼
▼ This word is erroneously rendered “shadow of death” in most older English versions; that translation is based on a faulty etymology. Contextual studies and comparative Semitic linguistics have demonstrated that the word is merely another word for darkness. It is confined to poetic texts and often carries connotations of danger and distress. It is associated in poetic texts with the darkness of a prison (Ps 107:10, 14), a mine (Job 28:3), and a ravine (Ps 23:4). Here it is associated with the darkness of the wasteland and ravines of the Sinai desert.
through a land in which no one travels,
and where no one lives?’ ▼
7 I brought you ▼ into a fertile land
so you could enjoy ▼
▼ Heb “eat.”its fruits and its rich bounty.
But when you entered my land, you defiled it; ▼
you made the land I call my own ▼
▼ Heb “my inheritance.” Or “the land [i.e., inheritance] I gave you,” reading the pronoun as indicating source rather than possession. The parallelism and the common use in Jeremiah of the term to refer to the land or people as the Lord’s (e.g., 12:7, 8, 9; 16:18; 50:11) make the possessive use more likely here.▼ loathsome to me.
8 Your priests ▼
▼ Heb “The priests…the ones who grasp my law…the shepherds…the prophets…they…”did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ ▼
Those responsible for teaching my law ▼
▼ Heb “those who handle my law.”▼ did not really know me. ▼
Your rulers rebelled against me.
Your prophets prophesied in the name of the god Baal. ▼
▼ Heb “by Baal.”
They all worshiped idols that could not help them. ▼
▼ Heb “and they followed after those things [the word is plural] which do not profit.” The poetic structure of the verse, four lines in which a distinct subject appears at the beginning followed by a fifth line beginning with a prepositional phrase and no distinct subject, argues that this line is climactic and refers to all four classes enumerated in the preceding lines. See W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:88–89. There may be a play or pun in the Hebrew text on the name for the god Baal (בַּעַל, ba’al) and the verb “cannot help you” (Heb “do not profit”) which is spelled יַעַל (ya’al).
The Lord Charges Contemporary Israel with Spiritual Adultery9 “So, once more I will state my case ▼
▼ Or “bring charges against you.”▼ against you,” says the Lord.
“I will also state it against your children and grandchildren. ▼
▼ The words “your children and” are supplied in the translation to bring out the idea of corporate solidarity implicit in the passage.▼
▼ The passage reflects the Hebrew concept of corporate solidarity: The actions of parents had consequences for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Compare the usage in the ten commandments, Deut 5:10, and note the execution of the children of Dathan and Abiram, Deut 11:6, and of Achan, Josh 7:24–25.
10 Go west ▼
▼ Heb “For go west.”across the sea to the coasts of Cyprus ▼
▼ Heb “pass over to the coasts of Kittim.” The words “west across the sea” in this line and “east of” in the next are implicit in the text and are supplied in the translation to give geographical orientation.▼
▼ The Hebrew term translated Cyprus (“Kittim”) originally referred to the island of Cyprus but later was used for the lands in the west, including Macedonia (1 Macc 1:1; 8:5) and Rome (Dan 11:30). It is used here as part of a figure called merism to denote the lands in the west as opposed to Kedar which was in the east. The figure includes polar opposites to indicate totality, i.e., everywhere from west to east.and see.
Send someone east to Kedar ▼ and have them look carefully.
See if such a thing as this has ever happened:
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods
(even though they are not really gods at all)?
But my people have exchanged me, their glorious God, ▼
▼ Heb “have exchanged their glory [i.e., the God in whom they glory].” This is a case of a figure of speech where the attribute of a person or thing is put for the person or thing. Compare the common phrase in Isaiah, the Holy One of Israel, obviously referring to the Lord, the God of Israel.
for a god that cannot help them at all! ▼
12 Be amazed at this, O heavens! ▼
Be shocked and utterly dumbfounded,”
says the Lord.
13 “Do so because my people have committed a double wrong:
they have rejected me,
the fountain of life-giving water, ▼
▼ It is difficult to decide whether to translate “fresh, running water” which the Hebrew term for “living water” often refers to (e.g., Gen 26:19; Lev 14:5), or “life-giving water” which the idiom “fountain of life” as source of life and vitality often refers to (e.g., Ps 36:9; Prov 13:14; 14:27). The contrast with cisterns, which collected and held rain water, suggests “fresh, running water,” but the reality underlying the metaphor contrasts the Lord, the source of life, health, and vitality, with useless idols that cannot do anything.
and they have dug cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.”
Israel’s Reliance on Foreign Alliances (not on God)14 “Israel is not a slave, is he?
He was not born into slavery, was he? ▼
▼ Heb “Is Israel a slave? Or is he a house born slave?” The questions are rhetorical, expecting a negative answer.▼
If not, why then is he being carried off?
15 Like lions his enemies roar victoriously over him;
they raise their voices in triumph. ▼
▼ Heb “Lions shout over him, they give out [raise] their voices.”▼
They have laid his land waste;
his cities have been burned down and deserted. ▼
▼ Heb “without inhabitant.”
16 Even the soldiers ▼
▼ Heb “the sons of…”from Memphis and Tahpanhes
have cracked your skulls, people of Israel. ▼
▼ The translation follows the reading of the Syriac version. The Hebrew text reads “have grazed [= “shaved” ?] your skulls [as a sign of disgracing them].” Note that the reference shifts from third person, “him,” to second person, “you,” which is common in Hebrew style. The words “people of Israel” have been supplied in the translation to help identify the referent and ease the switch. The reading presupposes יְרֹעוּךְ (yero’ukh) a Qal imperfect from the verb רָעַע (ra’a’; see BDB 949 s.v. II רָעַע Qal.1 and compare usage in Jer 15:2; Ps 2:9). The MT reads יִרְעוּךְ (yir’ukh), a Qal imperfect from the root רָעָה (ra’ah; see BDB 945 s.v. I רָעָה Qal.2.b for usage). The use of the verb in the MT is unparalleled in the sense suggested, but the resultant figure, if “graze” can mean “shave,” is paralleled in Jer 47:5; 48:37; Isa 7:20. The reading of the variant is accepted on the basis that it is the rarer root; the scribe would have been more familiar with the root “graze” even though it is unparalleled in the figurative nuance implied here. The noun “head/skull” is functioning as an accusative of further specification (see GKC 372 #117.ll and compare usage in Gen 3:8), i.e., “they crack you on the skull” or “they shave you on the skull.” The verb is a prefixed form and in this context is either a preterite without vav (ו) consecutive or an iterative imperfect denoting repeated action. Some modern English versions render the verb in the future tense, “they will break [or shave] your skull.”
17 You have brought all this on yourself, Israel, ▼
▼ Heb “Are you not bringing this on yourself.” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer.
by deserting the Lord your God when he was leading you along the right path. ▼
▼ Heb “at the time of leading you in the way.”
18 What good will it do you ▼
▼ Heb “What to you to the way.”then ▼
▼ The introductory particle וְעַתָּה (ve’attah, “and now”) carries a logical, not temporal, connotation here (cf. BDB 274 s.v. עַתָּה 2.b).to go down to Egypt
to seek help from the Egyptians? ▼
What good will it do you ▼
▼ Heb “What to you to the way.”to go over to Assyria
to seek help from the Assyrians? ▼
▼ Heb “to drink water from the River [a common designation in biblical Hebrew for the Euphrates River].” This refers to seeking help through political alliance. See the preceding note.
19 Your own wickedness will bring about your punishment.
Your unfaithful acts will bring down discipline on you. ▼
▼ Or “teach you a lesson”; Heb “rebuke/chide you.”
Know, then, and realize how utterly harmful ▼
▼ Heb “how evil and bitter.” The reference is to the consequences of their acts. This is a figure of speech (hendiadys) where two nouns or adjectives joined by “and” introduce a main concept modified by the other noun or adjective.
it was for you to reject me, the Lord your God, ▼
▼ Heb “to leave the Lord your God.” The change in person is intended to ease the problem of the rapid transition, which is common in Hebrew style but not in English, from third to first person between this line and the next.
to show no respect for me,” ▼
▼ Heb “and no fear of me was on you.”
says the Lord God who rules over all. ▼
▼ Heb “the Lord Yahweh, [the God of] hosts.” For the title Lord God see the study note on 1:6. For the title “who rules over all” see the following study note. The title “the Lord who rules over all” is a way of rendering the title “Yahweh of armies.” It is an abbreviation of a longer title “Yahweh the God of armies” which occurs five times in Jeremiah (see, e.g., 44:7). The abbreviated title occurs seventy-seven times in the book of Jeremiah. On thirty-two occasions it is further qualified by the title “the God of Israel,” showing his special relation to Israel. On six occasions it is preceded by the title “Lord” (see, e.g., 46:10) and twice it is preceded by the title “the King” (see, e.g., 51:17). Both titles emphasize his sovereignty. Twice it is said that he is the maker of all things (10:16; 51:19), and once it is said that he made the earth and the people and animals on it and gives them into the control of whomever he wishes (27:4–5). On two occasions it is emphasized that he also made the heavenly elements and controls the natural elements of wind, rain, thunder, and hail (31:35; 51:14–16). All this is consistent with usage elsewhere where the “armies” over which he has charge are identified as (1) the angels which surround his throne (Isa 6:3, 5; 1 Kgs 22:19) and which he sends to protect his servants (2 Kgs 6:17), (2) the natural forces of thunder, rain, and hail (Isa 29:6; Josh 10:11; Judg 5:4, 5) through which he sends the enemy into panic and “gums” up their chariot wheels, (3) the armies of Israel (1 Sam 17:45) which he leads into battle (Num 10:34–35; Josh 5:14, 15) and for whom he fights as a mighty warrior (Exod 15:3; Isa 42:13; Ps 24:8), and even (4) the armies of the nations which he musters against his disobedient people (Isa 13:14). This title is most commonly found in the messenger formula “Thus says…” introducing both oracles of judgment (on Israel [e.g., 9:7, 15] and on the nations [e.g. 46:19; 50:18]; and see in general 25:29–32). It emphasizes his sovereignty as the king and creator, the lord of creation and of history, and the just judge who sees and knows all (11:20; 20:12) and judges each person and nation according to their actions (Jer 32:18–19). In the first instance (in the most dominant usage) this will involve the punishment of his own people through the agency of the Babylonians (cf., e.g., 25:8–9). But it will also include the punishment of all nations, including Babylon itself (cf. Jer 25:17–26, 32–38), and will ultimately result in the restoration of his people and a new relation with them (30:8; 31:35–37).
The Lord Expresses His Exasperation at Judah’s Persistent Idolatry20 “Indeed, ▼
▼ Or “For.” The Hebrew particle (כִּי, ki) here introduces the evidence that they had no respect for him.long ago you threw off my authority
and refused to be subject to me. ▼
▼ Heb “you broke your yoke…tore off your yoke ropes.” The metaphor is that of a recalcitrant ox or heifer which has broken free from its master.
You said, ‘I will not serve you.’ ▼
▼ The MT of this verse has two examples of the old second feminine singular perfect, שָׁבַרְתִּי (shavarti) and נִתַּקְתִּי (nittaqti), which the Masoretes mistook for first singulars leading to the proposal to read אֶעֱבוֹר (’e’evor, “I will not transgress”) for אֶעֱבֹד (’e’evod, “I will not serve”). The latter understanding of the forms is accepted in KJV but rejected by almost all modern English versions as being less appropriate to the context than the reading accepted in the translation given here.
Instead, you gave yourself to other gods on every high hill
and under every green tree,
like a prostitute sprawls out before her lovers. ▼
▼ Heb “you sprawled as a prostitute on….” The translation reflects the meaning of the metaphor.
21 I planted you in the land
like a special vine of the very best stock.
Why in the world have you turned into something like a wild vine
that produces rotten, foul-smelling grapes? ▼
▼ Heb “I planted you as a choice vine, all of it true seed. How then have you turned into a putrid thing to me, a strange [or wild] vine.” The question expresses surprise and consternation. The translation is based on a redivision of the Hebrew words סוּרֵי הַגֶּפֶן (sure haggefen) into סוֹרִיָּה גֶּפֶן (soriyyah gefen) and the recognition of a hapax legomenon סוֹרִיָּה (soriyyah) meaning “putrid, stinking thing.” See HALOT 707 s.v. סוֹרִי.
22 You can try to wash away your guilt with a strong detergent.
You can use as much soap as you want.
But the stain of your guilt is still there for me to see,” ▼
▼ Heb “Even if you wash with natron/lye, and use much soap, your sin is a stain before me.”
says the Lord God. ▼
23 “How can you say, ‘I have not made myself unclean.
I have not paid allegiance to ▼ the gods called Baal.’
Just look at the way you have behaved in the Valley of Hinnom! ▼
▼ Heb “Look at your way in the valley.” The valley is an obvious reference to the Valley of Hinnom where Baal and Molech were worshiped and child sacrifice was practiced.
Think about the things you have done there!
You are like a flighty, young female camel
that rushes here and there, crisscrossing its path. ▼
▼ The metaphor is intended to depict Israel’s lack of clear direction and purpose without the Lord’s control.
24 You are like a wild female donkey brought up in the wilderness.
In her lust she sniffs the wind to get the scent of a male. ▼
▼ The words “to get the scent of a male” are implicit and are supplied in the translation for clarification.
No one can hold her back when she is in heat.
None of the males need wear themselves out chasing after her.
At mating time she is easy to find. ▼
▼ The metaphor is intended to depict Israel’s irrepressible desire to worship other gods.
25 Do not chase after other gods until your shoes wear out
and your throats become dry. ▼
▼ Heb “Refrain your feet from being bare and your throat from being dry/thirsty.”
But you say, ‘It is useless for you to try and stop me
because I love those foreign gods ▼ and want to pursue them!’
26 Just as a thief has to suffer dishonor when he is caught,
so the people of Israel ▼
▼ Heb “house of Israel.”will suffer dishonor for what they have done. ▼
▼ The words “for what they have done” are implicit in the comparison and are supplied in the translation for clarification.
So will their kings and officials,
their priests and their prophets.
27 They say to a wooden idol, ▼
▼ Heb “wood…stone…”‘You are my father.’
They say to a stone image, ‘You gave birth to me.’ ▼
▼ The reference to wood and stone is, of course, a pejorative reference to idols made by human hands. See the next verse where reference is made to “the gods you have made.”
Yes, they have turned away from me instead of turning to me. ▼
▼ Heb “they have turned [their] backs to me, not [their] faces.”
Yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’
28 But where are the gods you made for yourselves?
Let them save you when you are in trouble.
The sad fact is that ▼
▼ This is an attempt to render the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki, “for, indeed”) contextually.you have as many gods
as you have towns, Judah.
29 “Why do you try to refute me? ▼
All of you have rebelled against me,”
says the Lord.
30 “It did no good for me to punish your people.
They did not respond to such correction.
You slaughtered your prophets
like a voracious lion.” ▼
▼ Heb “Your sword devoured your prophets like a destroying lion.” However, the reference to the sword in this and many similar idioms is merely idiomatic for death by violent means.
31 You people of this generation,
listen to what the Lord says.
“Have I been like a wilderness to you, Israel?
Have I been like a dark and dangerous land to you? ▼
▼ Heb “a land of the darkness of Yah [= thick or deep darkness].” The idea of danger is an added connotation of the word in this context.
Why then do you ▼
▼ Heb “my people.”say, ‘We are free to wander. ▼
▼ Or more freely, “free to do as we please.” There is some debate about the meaning of this verb (רוּד, rud) because its usage is rare and its meaning is debated in the few passages where it does occur. The key to its meaning may rest in the emended text (reading וְרַדְתִּי [veradti] for וְיָרַדְתִּי [veyaradti]) in Judg 11:37 where it refers to the roaming of Jephthah’s daughter on the mountains of Israel.
We will not come to you any more?’
32 Does a young woman forget to put on her jewels?
Does a bride forget to put on her bridal attire?
But my people have forgotten me
for more days than can even be counted.
33 “My, how good you have become
at chasing after your lovers! ▼
▼ Heb “How good you have made your ways to seek love.”
Why, you could even teach prostitutes a thing or two! ▼
▼ Heb “so that even the wicked women you teach your ways.”
34 Even your clothes are stained with
the lifeblood of the poor who had not done anything wrong;
you did not catch them breaking into your homes. ▼
▼ The words “for example” are implicit and are supplied in the translation for clarification. This is only one example of why their death was not legitimate.▼
Yet, in spite of all these things you have done, ▼
35 you say, ‘I have not done anything wrong,
so the Lord cannot really be angry with me any more.’
But, watch out! ▼ I will bring down judgment on you
because you say, ‘I have not committed any sin.’
36 Why do you constantly go about
changing your political allegiances? ▼
▼ Heb “changing your way.” The translation follows the identification of the Hebrew verb here as a defective writing of a form (תֵּזְלִי [tezeli] instead of תֵּאזְלִי [te’zeli]) from a verb meaning “go/go about” (אָזַל [’azal]; cf. BDB 23 s.v. אָזַל). Most modern English versions, commentaries, and lexicons read it from a root meaning “to treat cheaply [or lightly]” (תָּזֵלִּי [tazelli] from the root זָלַל (zalal); cf. HALOT 261 s.v. זָלַל); hence, “Why do you consider it such a small matter to…”
You will get no help from Egypt
just as you got no help from Assyria. ▼
▼ Heb “You will be ashamed/disappointed by Egypt, just as you were ashamed/ disappointed by Assyria.”
37 Moreover, you will come away from Egypt
with your hands covering your faces in sorrow and shame ▼
because the Lord will not allow your reliance on them to be successful
and you will not gain any help from them. ▼
▼ Heb “The Lord has rejected those you trust in; you will not prosper by/from them.”
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