Jeremiah 41“If you, Israel, want to come back,” says the Lord,
“if you want to come back to me ▼
you must get those disgusting idols ▼
▼ Heb “disgusting things.”out of my sight
and must no longer go astray. ▼
▼ Or possibly, “If you get those disgusting idols out of my sight, you will not need to flee.” This is less probable because the normal meaning of the last verb is “to wander,” “ to stray.”
2 You must be truthful, honest and upright
when you take an oath saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives!’ ▼
▼ Heb “If you [= you must, see the translator’s note on the word “do” later in this verse] swear/take an oath, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, justice, and righteousness…”
If you do, ▼
▼ 4:1–2a consists of a number of “if” clauses, two of which are formally introduced by the Hebrew particle אִם (’im) while the others are introduced by the conjunction “and,” followed by a conjunction (“and” = “then”) with a perfect in 4:2b which introduces the consequence. The translation “You must…. If you do,” was chosen to avoid a long and complicated sentence.the nations will pray to be as blessed by him as you are
and will make him the object of their boasting.” ▼
▼ Heb “bless themselves in him and make their boasts in him.”
3 Yes, ▼
▼ The Hebrew particle is obviously asseverative here since a causal connection appears to make little sense.the Lord has this to say
to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Like a farmer breaking up hard unplowed ground,
you must break your rebellious will and make a new beginning;
just as a farmer must clear away thorns lest the seed is wasted,
you must get rid of the sin that is ruining your lives. ▼
▼ Heb “Plow up your unplowed ground and do not sow among the thorns.” The translation is an attempt to bring out the force of a metaphor. The idea seems to be that they are to plow over the thorns and make the ground ready for the seeds which will produce a new crop where none had been produced before.
4 Just as ritual circumcision cuts away the foreskin
as an external symbol of dedicated covenant commitment,
you must genuinely dedicate yourselves to the Lord
and get rid of everything that hinders your commitment to me, ▼
▼ Heb “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskin of your heart.” The translation is again an attempt to bring out the meaning of a metaphor. The mention of the “foreskin of the heart” shows that the passage is obviously metaphorical and involves heart attitude, not an external rite.
people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.
If you do not, ▼
▼ Heb “lest.”my anger will blaze up like a flaming fire against you
that no one will be able to extinguish.
That will happen because of the evil you have done.”
Warning of Coming Judgment5 The Lord said, ▼
▼ It is unclear who the addressees of the masculine plural imperatives are here. They may be the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah who are sounding the alarm to others. However, the first person reference to the Lord in v. 6 and Jeremiah’s response in v. 10 suggest that this is a word from the Lord that he is commanded to pass on to the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah. If the imperatives are not merely rhetorical plurals they may reflect the practice referred to in Jer 23:18, 22; Amos 3:7. A similar phenomenon also occurs in Jer 5:1 and also in Isa 40:1–2. This may also be the explanation for the plural imperatives in Jer 31:6. For further discussion see the translator’s note on Jer 5:1.this in Judah and proclaim it in Jerusalem: ▼
‘Sound the trumpet ▼
▼ Heb “ram’s horn,” but the modern equivalent is “trumpet” and is more readily understandable.throughout the land!’
Shout out loudly,
‘Gather together! Let us flee into the fortified cities!’
6 Raise a signal flag that tells people to go to Zion. ▼
▼ Heb “Raise up a signal toward Zion.”
Run for safety! Do not delay!
For I am about to bring disaster out of the north.
It will bring great destruction. ▼
▼ Heb “out of the north, even great destruction.”
7 Like a lion that has come up from its lair ▼
▼ Heb “A lion has left its lair.” The metaphor is turned into a simile for clarification. The word translated “lair” has also been understood to refer to a hiding place. However, it appears to be cognate in meaning to the word translated “lair” in Ps 10:9; Jer 25:38, a word which also refers to the abode of the Lord in Ps 76:3.
the one who destroys nations has set out from his home base. ▼
▼ Heb “his place.”
He is coming out to lay your land waste.
Your cities will become ruins and lie uninhabited.
8 So put on sackcloth!
Mourn and wail, saying,
‘The fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned away from us!’” ▼
▼ Or “wail because the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.” The translation does not need to assume a shift in speaker as the alternate reading does.
9 “When this happens,” ▼
▼ Heb “In that day.”says the Lord,
“the king and his officials will lose their courage.
The priests will be struck with horror,
and the prophets will be speechless in astonishment.”
10 In response to all this ▼
▼ The words “In response to all this” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to clarify the connection.I said, “Ah, Lord God, ▼
▼ Heb “Lord Yahweh.” The translation follows the ancient Jewish tradition of substituting the Hebrew word for God for the proper name Yahweh.you have surely allowed ▼
▼ Or “You have deceived.” The Hiphil of נָשָׁא (nasha’, “to deceive”) is understood in a tolerative sense here: “to allow [someone] to be deceived.” IBHS 446 #27.5c notes that this function of the hiphil describes caused activity that is welcome to the undersubject, but unacceptable or disagreeable to a third party. Jerusalem and Judah welcomed the assurances of false prophets who deceived them. Although this was detestable to God, he allowed it.the people of Judah and Jerusalem ▼
▼ Heb “this people and Jerusalem.”to be deceived by those who say, ‘You will be safe!’ ▼
▼ Heb “Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace’”; or “You have deceived the people of Judah and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace.’” The words “you will be safe” are, of course, those of the false prophets (cf., Jer 6:14; 8:11; 14:13; 23:16–17). It is difficult to tell whether the charge here is meant literally as the emotional outburst of the prophet (compare for example, Jer 15:18) or whether it is to be understood as a figure of speech in which a verb of direct causation is to be understood as permissive or tolerative, i.e., God did not command the prophets to say this but allowed them to do so. While it is not beyond God to use false prophets to accomplish his will (cf., e.g., 1 Kgs 22:19–23), he elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah directly denies having sent the false prophets to say such things as this (cf., e.g., Jer 14:14–15; 23:21, 32). For examples of the use of this figure of speech, see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 571, 823 and compare Ezek 20:25. The translation given attempts to resolve the issue.But in fact a sword is already at our throats.” ▼
11 “At that time the people of Judah and Jerusalem ▼
▼ Heb “this people and Jerusalem.”will be told,
‘A scorching wind will sweep down
from the hilltops in the desert on ▼
▼ Heb “A scorching wind from the hilltops in the desert toward…”▼ my dear people. ▼
▼ Heb “daughter of my people.” The term “daughter of” is appositional to “my people” and is supplied in the translation as a term of sympathy and endearment. Compare the common expression “daughter of Zion.”
It will not be a gentle breeze
for winnowing the grain and blowing away the chaff. ▼
▼ Heb “not for winnowing and not for cleansing.” The words “It will not be a gentle breeze” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection. They are supplied in the translation here for clarification.
12 No, ▼
▼ The word “No” is not in the text but is carried over from the connection with the preceding line “not for…”a wind too strong for that will come at my bidding.
Yes, even now I, myself, am calling down judgment on them.’ ▼
▼ Heb “will speak judgments against them.”
13 Look! The enemy is approaching like gathering clouds. ▼
▼ Heb “he is coming up like clouds.” The words “The enemy” are supplied in the translation to identify the referent and the word “gathering” is supplied to try to convey the significance of the simile, i.e., that of quantity and of an approaching storm.
The roar of his chariots is like that of a whirlwind. ▼
▼ Heb “his chariots [are] like a whirlwind.” The words “roar” and “sound” are supplied in the translation to clarify the significance of the simile.
His horses move more swiftly than eagles.”
I cry out, ▼ “We are doomed, ▼
▼ Heb “Woe to us!” The words “woe to” are common in funeral laments and at the beginning of oracles of judgment. In many contexts they carry the connotation of hopelessness or apprehensiveness of inevitable doom.for we will be destroyed!”
14 “Oh people of Jerusalem, purify your hearts from evil ▼
▼ Heb “Oh, Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil.”
so that you may yet be delivered.
How long will you continue to harbor up
wicked schemes within you?
15 For messengers are coming, heralding disaster,
from the city of Dan and from the hills of Ephraim. ▼
▼ Heb “For a voice declaring from Dan and making heard disaster from the hills of Ephraim.”
16 They are saying, ▼
▼ The words “They are saying” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection and are supplied in the translation for clarification.
‘Announce to the surrounding nations, ▼
▼ The word “surrounding” is not in the text but is implicit and is supplied in the translation for clarification.
“The enemy is coming!” ▼
▼ Or “Here they come!” Heb “Look!” or “Behold!” Or “Announce to the surrounding nations, indeed [or yes] proclaim to Jerusalem, ‘Besiegers…’” The text is very elliptical here. Some of the modern English versions appear to be emending the text from הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold”) to either הֵנָּה (hennah, “these things”; so NEB), or הַזֶּה (hazzeh, “this”; so NIV). The solution proposed here is as old as the LXX which reads, “Behold, they have come.”
Proclaim this message ▼
▼ The words, “this message,” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to make the introduction of the quote easier.to Jerusalem:
“Those who besiege cities ▼ are coming from a distant land.
They are ready to raise the battle cry against ▼
▼ Heb “They have raised their voices against.” The verb here, a vav (ו) consecutive with an imperfect, continues the nuance of the preceding participle “are coming.”the towns in Judah.”’
17 They will surround Jerusalem ▼
▼ Heb “will surround her.” The antecedent is Jerusalem in the preceding verse. The referent is again made explicit in the translation to avoid any possible lack of clarity. The verb form here is a form of the verb that emphasizes the fact as being as good as done (i.e., it is a prophetic perfect).
like men guarding a field ▼
▼ There is some irony involved in the choice of the simile since the men guarding a field were there to keep thieves from getting in and stealing the crops. Here the besiegers are guarding the city to keep people from getting out.
because they have rebelled against me,”
says the Lord.
18 “The way you have lived and the things you have done ▼
▼ Heb “Your way and your deeds.”
will bring this on you.
This is the punishment you deserve, and it will be painful indeed. ▼
▼ Heb “How bitter!”
The pain will be so bad it will pierce your heart.” ▼
▼ Heb “Indeed, it reaches to your heart.” The subject must be the pain alluded to in the last half of the preceding line; the verb is masculine, agreeing with the adjective translated “painful.” The only other possible antecedent “punishment” is feminine.
19 I said, ▼
▼ The words “I said” are not in the text. They are used to mark the shift from the Lord’s promise of judgment to Jeremiah’s lament concerning it.
“Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach! ▼
▼ Heb “My bowels! My bowels!”
I writhe in anguish.
Oh, the pain in my heart! ▼
▼ Heb “the walls of my heart!”
My heart pounds within me.
I cannot keep silent.
For I hear the sound of the trumpet; ▼
▼ Heb “ram’s horn,” but the modern equivalent is “trumpet” and is more readily understandable.
the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul! ▼
▼ The translation reflects a different division of the last two lines than that suggested by the Masoretes. The written text (the Kethib) reads “for the sound of the ram’s horn I have heard [or “you have heard,” if the form is understood as the old second feminine singular perfect] my soul” followed by “the battle cry” in the last line. The translation is based on taking “my soul” with the last line and understanding an elliptical expression “the battle cry [to] my soul.” Such an elliptical expression is in keeping with the elliptical nature of the exclamations at the beginning of the verse (cf. the literal translations of the first two lines of the verse in the notes on the words “stomach” and “heart”).
20 I see ▼ one destruction after another taking place,
so that the whole land lies in ruins.
I see our ▼
▼ Heb “my.” This is probably not a reference to Jeremiah’s own tents since he foresees the destruction of the whole land. Jeremiah so identifies with the plight of his people that he sees the destruction of their tents as though they were his very own. It would probably lead to confusion to translate literally and it is not uncommon in Hebrew laments for the community or its representative to speak of the community as an “I.” See for example the interchange between first singular and first plural pronouns in Ps 44:4–8.tents suddenly destroyed,
▼ Heb “my.”curtains torn down in a mere instant. ▼
▼ It is not altogether clear what Jeremiah intends by the use of this metaphor. In all likelihood he means that the defenses of Israel’s cities and towns have offered no more resistance than nomads’ tents. However, in light of the fact that the word “tent” came to be used generically for a person’s home (cf. 1 Kgs 8:66; 12:16), it is possible that Jeremiah is here referring to the destruction of their homes and the resultant feeling of homelessness and loss of even elementary protection. Given the lack of certainty the present translation is rather literal here.
21 “How long must I see the enemy’s battle flags
and hear the military signals of their bugles?” ▼
▼ Heb “the sound of ram’s horns,” but the modern equivalent is “bugles” and is more readily understandable.
22 The Lord answered, ▼
▼ These words are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to show clearly the shift in speaker. Jeremiah has been speaking; now the Lord answers, giving the reason for the devastation Jeremiah foresees.
“This will happen ▼ because my people are foolish.
They do not know me.
They are like children who have no sense. ▼
▼ Heb “They are senseless children.”
They have no understanding.
They are skilled at doing evil.
They do not know how to do good.”
23 “I looked at the land and saw ▼
▼ Heb “I looked at the land and behold...” This indicates the visionary character of Jeremiah’s description of the future condition of the land of Israel.that it was an empty wasteland. ▼
▼ Heb “formless and empty.” This is a case of hendiadys (two nouns joined by “and” both describe the same thing): one noun retains its full nominal force, the other functions as an adjective. The words תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu vavohu) allude to Gen 1:2, hyperbolically picturing a reversal of creation and return to the original precreation chaos.
I looked up at the sky, and its light had vanished.
24 I looked at the mountains and saw that they were shaking.
All the hills were swaying back and forth!
25 I looked and saw that there were no more people, ▼
▼ Heb “there was no man/human being.”
and that all the birds in the sky had flown away.
26 I looked and saw that the fruitful land had become a desert
and that all of the cities had been laid in ruins.
The Lord had brought this all about
because of his blazing anger. ▼
▼ Heb “because of the Lord, because of his blazing anger.”
27 All this will happen because the Lord said, ▼
▼ Heb “For this is what the Lord said,”
“The whole land will be desolate;
however, I will not completely destroy it.
28 Because of this the land will mourn
and the sky above will grow black. ▼
▼ The earth and the heavens are personified here and depicted in the act of mourning and wearing black clothes because of the destruction of the land of Israel.
For I have made my purpose known ▼
▼ Heb “has spoken and purposed.” This is an example of hendiadys where two verbs are joined by “and” but one is meant to serve as a modifier of the other.
and I will not relent or turn back from carrying it out.” ▼
▼ Heb “will not turn back from it.”
29 At the sound of the approaching horsemen and archers
the people of every town will flee.
Some of them will hide in the thickets.
Others will climb up among the rocks.
All the cities will be deserted.
No one will remain in them.
30 And you, Zion, city doomed to destruction, ▼
▼ Heb “And you that are doomed to destruction.” The referent is supplied from the following context and the fact that Zion/Jerusalem represents the leadership which was continually making overtures to foreign nations for help.
you accomplish nothing ▼
▼ Heb “What are you accomplishing…?” The rhetorical question assumes a negative answer, made clear by the translation in the indicative.by wearing a beautiful dress, ▼
▼ Heb “clothing yourself in scarlet.”
decking yourself out in jewels of gold,
and putting on eye shadow! ▼
▼ Heb “enlarging your eyes with antimony.” Antimony was a black powder used by women as eyeliner to make their eyes look larger.
You are making yourself beautiful for nothing.
Your lovers spurn you.
They want to kill you. ▼
▼ Heb “they seek your life.”
31 In fact, ▼
▼ The particle כִּי (ki) is more likely asseverative here than causal.I hear a cry like that of a woman in labor,
a cry of anguish like that of a woman giving birth to her first baby.
It is the cry of Daughter Zion ▼
▼ Jerusalem is personified as a helpless maiden.gasping for breath,
reaching out for help, ▼
▼ Heb “spreading out her hands.” The idea of asking or pleading for help is implicit in the figure.saying, “I am done in! ▼
My life is ebbing away before these murderers!”
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