Judah is Justly Deserving of Coming Judgment1 The Lord said, ▼
“Go up and down ▼
▼ It is not clear who is being addressed here. The verbs are plural so they are not addressed to Jeremiah per se. Since the passage is talking about the people of Jerusalem, it is unlikely they are addressed here except perhaps rhetorically. Some have suggested that the heavenly court is being addressed here as in Job 1:6–8; 2:1–3. It is clear from Jer 23:18, 22; Amos 3:7 that the prophets had access to this heavenly counsel through visions (cf. 1 Kgs 22:19–23), so Jeremiah could have been privy to this speech through that means. Though these are the most likely addressee, it is too presumptuous to supply such an explicit addressee without clearer indication in the text. The translation will just have to run the risk of the probable erroneous assumption by most English readers that the addressee is Jeremiah.through the streets of Jerusalem. ▼
Look around and see for yourselves.
Search through its public squares.
See if any of you can find a single person
who deals honestly and tries to be truthful. ▼
▼ Heb “who does justice and seeks faithfulness.”
If you can, ▼
▼ Heb “squares. If you can find…if there is one person…then I will…”then I will not punish this city. ▼
▼ Heb “forgive [or pardon] it.”
2 These people make promises in the name of the Lord. ▼
▼ Heb “Though they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives.” The idea of “swear on oath” comes from the second line.
But the fact is, ▼
▼ The translation follows many Hebrew mss and the Syriac version in reading “surely” (אָכֵן, ’akhen) instead of “therefore” (לָכֵן, lakhen) in the MT.▼
▼ Heb “Surely.”what they swear to is really a lie.” ▼
▼ Heb “they swear falsely.”
3 Lord, I know you look for faithfulness. ▼
▼ Heb “O Lord, are your eyes not to faithfulness?” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer.
But even when you punish these people, they feel no remorse. ▼
▼ Commentaries and lexicons debate the meaning of the verb here. The MT is pointed as though from a verb meaning “to writhe in anguish or contrition” (חוּל [khul]; see, e.g., BDB 297 s.v. חוּל 2.c), but some commentaries and lexicons repoint the text as though from a verb meaning “to be sick,” thus “to feel pain” (חָלָה [khalah]; see, e.g., HALOT 304 s.v. חָלָה 3). The former appears more appropriate to the context.
Even when you nearly destroy them, they refuse to be corrected.
They have become as hardheaded as a rock. ▼
▼ Heb “They made their faces as hard as a rock.”
They refuse to change their ways. ▼
▼ Or “to repent”; Heb “to turn back.”
4 I thought, “Surely it is only the ignorant poor who act this way. ▼
▼ Heb “Surely they are poor.” The translation is intended to make clear the explicit contrasts and qualifications drawn in this verse and the next.
They act like fools because they do not know what the Lord demands. ▼
▼ Heb “the way of the Lord.”
They do not know what their God requires of them. ▼
▼ Heb “the judgment [or ordinance] of their God.”
5 I will go to the leaders ▼
▼ Or “people in power”; Heb “the great ones.”
and speak with them.
Surely they know what the Lord demands. ▼
▼ Heb “the way of the Lord.”
Surely they know what their God requires of them.” ▼
▼ Heb “the judgment [or ordinance] of their God.”
Yet all of them, too, have rejected his authority
and refuse to submit to him. ▼
6 So like a lion from the thicket their enemies will kill them.
Like a wolf from the desert they will destroy them.
Like a leopard they will lie in wait outside their cities
and totally destroy anyone who ventures out. ▼
▼ Heb “So a lion from the thicket will kill them. A wolf from the desert will destroy them. A leopard will watch outside their cities. Anyone who goes out from them will be torn in pieces.” However, it is unlikely that, in the context of judgment that Jeremiah has previously been describing, literal lions are meant. The animals are metaphorical for their enemies. Compare Jer 4:7.
For they have rebelled so much
and done so many unfaithful things. ▼
▼ Heb “their rebellions are so many and their unfaithful acts so numerous.”
7 The Lord asked, ▼
▼ These words are not in the text, but are supplied in the translation to make clear who is speaking.
“How can I leave you unpunished, Jerusalem? ▼
Your people ▼
▼ Heb “your children.”have rejected me
and have worshiped gods that are not gods at all. ▼
▼ Heb “and they have sworn [oaths] by not-gods.”
Even though I supplied all their needs, ▼
▼ Heb “I satisfied them to the full.”they were like an unfaithful wife to me. ▼
▼ Heb “they committed adultery.” It is difficult to decide whether literal adultery with other women or spiritual adultery with other gods is meant. The word for adultery is used for both in the book of Jeremiah. For examples of its use for spiritual adultery see 3:8, 9; 9:2. For examples of its use for literal adultery see 7:9; 23:14. The context here could argue for either. The swearing by other gods and the implicit contradiction in their actions in contrast to the expected gratitude for supplying their needs argues for spiritual adultery. However, the reference to prostitution in the next line and the reference to chasing after their neighbor’s wives argues for literal adultery. The translation opts for spiritual adultery because of the contrast implicit in the concessive clause.
They went flocking ▼
▼ There is a great deal of debate about the meaning of this word. Most of the modern English versions follow the lead of lexicographers who relate this word to a noun meaning “troop” and understand it to mean “they trooped together” (cf. BDB 151 s.v. גָּדַד Hithpo.2 and compare the usage in Mic 5:1 [4:14 HT]). A few of the modern English versions and commentaries follow the reading of the Greek and read a word meaning “they lodged” (reading ִיתְגּוֹרְרוּ [yitggoreru] from I גּוּר [gur; cf. HALOT 177 s.v. Hithpo. and compare the usage in 1 Kgs 17:20] instead of יִתְגֹּדָדוּ [yitggodadu]). W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:180) sees a reference here to the cultic practice of cutting oneself in supplication to pagan gods (cf. BDB 151 s.v. גָּדַד Hithpo.1 and compare the usage in 1 Kgs 18:28). The houses of prostitutes would then be a reference to ritual prostitutes at the pagan shrines. The translation follows BDB and the majority of modern English versions.to the houses of prostitutes. ▼
▼ Heb “to a house of a prostitute.”▼
8 They are like lusty, well-fed ▼
▼ The meanings of these two adjectives are uncertain. The translation of the first adjective is based on assuming that the word is a defectively written participle related to the noun “testicle” (a Hiphil participle מַאֲשִׁכִים [ma’ashikhim] from a verb related to אֶשֶׁךְ [’eshekh, “testicle”]; cf. Lev 21:20) and hence “having testicles” (cf. HALOT 1379 s.v. שָׁכָה) instead of the Masoretic form מַשְׁכִּים (mashkim) from a root שָׁכָה (shakhah), which is otherwise unattested in either verbal or nominal forms. The second adjective is best derived from a verb root meaning “to feed” (a Hophal participle מוּזָנִים [muzanim, the Kethib] from a root זוּן [zun; cf. BDB 266 s.v. זוּן] for which there is the cognate noun מָזוֹן [mazon; cf. 2 Chr 11:23]). This is more likely than the derivation from a root יָזַן ([yazan]reading מְיֻזָּנִים [meyuzzanim], a Pual participle with the Qere) which is otherwise unattested in verbal or nominal forms and whose meaning is dependent only on a supposed Arabic cognate (cf. HALOT 387 s.v. יָזַן).stallions.
Each of them lusts after ▼
▼ Heb “neighs after.”his neighbor’s wife.
9 I will surely punish them for doing such things!” says the Lord.
“I will surely bring retribution on such a nation as this!” ▼
▼ Heb “Should I not punish them…? Should I not bring retribution…?” The rhetorical questions have the force of strong declarations.
10 The Lord commanded the enemy, ▼
▼ These words to not appear in the Hebrew text but have been added in the translation for the sake of clarity to identify the implied addressee.
“March through the vineyards of Israel and Judah and ruin them. ▼
▼ Heb “through her vine rows and destroy.” No object is given but “vines” must be implicit. The word for “vineyards” (or “vine rows”) is a hapax legomenon and its derivation is debated. BDB 1004 s.v. שּׁוּרָה repoints שָׁרוֹתֶיהָ (sharoteha) to שֻׁרוֹתֶיהָ (shuroteha) and relates it to a Mishnaic Hebrew and Palestinian Aramaic word meaning “row.” HALOT 1348 s.v. שּׁוּרָה also repoints to שֻׁרוֹתֶיהָ and relates it to a noun meaning “wall,” preferring to see the reference here to the walled terraces on which the vineyards were planted. The difference in meaning is minimal.
But do not destroy them completely.
Strip off their branches
for these people do not belong to the Lord. ▼
▼ Heb “for they do not belong to the Lord.” In the light of the context and Jeremiah’s identification of Israel as a vine (cf., e.g., 2:21) and a vineyard (cf., e.g., 12:10), it is likely that this verse has a totally metaphorical significance. The enemy is to go through the vineyard that is Israel and Judah and destroy all those who have been unfaithful to the Lord. It is not impossible, however, that the verse has a double meaning, a literal one and a figurative one: the enemy is not only to destroy Israel and Judah’s vines but to destroy Israel and Judah, lopping off the wicked Israelites who, because of their covenant unfaithfulness, the Lord has disowned. If the verse is totally metaphorical one might translate: “Pass through my vineyard, Israel and Judah, wreaking destruction. But do not destroy all of the people. Cut down like branches those unfaithful people because they no longer belong to the Lord.”
11 For the nations of Israel and Judah ▼
▼ Heb “the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
have been very unfaithful to me,”
says the Lord.
12 “These people have denied what the Lord says. ▼
▼ Heb “have denied the Lord.” The words “What…says” are implicit in what follows.
They have said, ‘That is not so! ▼
▼ Or “he will do nothing”; Heb “Not he [or it]!”
No harm will come to us.
We will not experience war and famine. ▼
▼ Heb “we will not see the sword and famine.”
13 The prophets will prove to be full of wind. ▼
▼ Heb “will be wind.”▼
▼ There is a wordplay on the Hebrew word translated “wind” (רוּחַ, ruakh) which also means “spirit.” The prophets spoke by inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord (cf., e.g., 2 Chr 20:14); hence the prophet was sometimes called “the man of the spirit” (cf. Hos 9:7). The people were claiming that the prophets were speaking lies and hence were full of wind, not the Spirit.
The Lord has not spoken through them. ▼
▼ Heb “the word is not in them.” The MT has a highly unusual form here, the Piel perfect with the definite article (הַדִּבֵּר, haddibber). It is undoubtedly best to read with the LXX (Greek version) and one Hebrew ms the article on the noun (הַדָּבָר, haddavar).
So, let what they say happen to them.’”
14 Because of that, ▼
▼ Heb “Therefore.”the Lord, the God who rules over all, ▼ ▼
▼ Here the emphasis appears to be on the fact that the Lord is in charge of the enemy armies whom he will use to punish Israel for their denial of his prior warnings through the prophets.said to me, ▼
▼ The words, “to me” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection. They are supplied in the translation for clarification.
“Because these people have spoken ▼
▼ Heb “you have spoken.” The text here דַּבֶּרְכֶם (dabberkhem, “you have spoken”) is either a case of a scribal error for דַּבֶּרָם (dabberam, “they have spoken”) or an example of the rapid shift in addressee which is common in Jeremiah.like this, ▼
▼ Heb “this word.”
I will make the words that I put in your mouth like fire.
And I will make this people like wood
which the fiery judgments you speak will burn up.” ▼
▼ Heb “like wood and it [i.e., the fire I put in your mouth] will consume them.”
15 The Lord says, ▼
▼ Heb “oracle of the Lord.”“Listen, ▼
▼ Heb “Behold!”nation of Israel! ▼
▼ Heb “house of Israel.”
I am about to bring a nation from far away to attack you.
It will be a nation that was founded long ago
and has lasted for a long time.
It will be a nation whose language you will not know.
Its people will speak words that you will not be able to understand.
16 All of its soldiers are strong and mighty. ▼
▼ Heb “All of them are mighty warriors.”
Their arrows will send you to your grave. ▼
▼ Heb “his quiver [is] an open grave.” The order of the lines has been reversed to make the transition from “nation” to “their arrows” easier.
17 They will eat up your crops and your food.
They will kill off ▼
▼ Heb “eat up.”your sons and your daughters.
They will eat up your sheep and your cattle.
They will destroy your vines and your fig trees. ▼
▼ Or “eat up your grapes and figs”; Heb “eat up your vines and your fig trees.”▼
▼ It was typical for an army in time of war in the ancient Near East not only to eat up the crops but to destroy the means of further production.
Their weapons will batter down ▼
▼ Heb “They will beat down with the sword.” The term “sword” is a figure of speech (synecdoche) for military weapons in general. Siege ramps, not swords, beat down city walls; swords kill people, not city walls.
the fortified cities you trust in.
18 Yet even then ▼
▼ Heb “in those days.”I will not completely destroy you,” says the Lord. 19 “So then, Jeremiah, ▼
▼ The word, “Jeremiah,” is not in the text but the second person address in the second half of the verse is obviously to him. The word is supplied in the translation here for clarity.when your people ▼
▼ The MT reads the second masculine plural; this is probably a case of attraction to the second masculine plural pronoun in the preceding line. An alternative would be to understand a shift from speaking first to the people in the first half of the verse and then speaking to Jeremiah in the second half where the verb is second masculine singular. E.g., “When you [people] say, “Why…?” then you, Jeremiah, tell them…”ask, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all this to us?’ tell them, ‘It is because you rejected me and served foreign gods in your own land. So ▼
▼ Heb “As you left me and…, so you will….” The translation was chosen so as to break up a rather long and complex sentence.you must serve foreigners ▼ in a land that does not belong to you.’
20 “Proclaim ▼
▼ The verbs are second plural here. Jeremiah, speaking for the Lord, addresses his people, calling on them to make the message further known.this message among the descendants of Jacob. ▼
▼ Heb “in the house of Jacob.”
Make it known throughout Judah.
21 Tell them: ‘Hear this,
you foolish people who have no understanding,
who have eyes but do not discern,
who have ears but do not perceive: ▼
▼ Heb “they have eyes but they do not see, they have ears but they do not hear.”
22 “You should fear me!” says the Lord.
“You should tremble in awe before me! ▼
▼ Heb “Should you not fear me? Should you not tremble in awe before me?” The rhetorical questions expect the answer explicit in the translation.
I made the sand to be a boundary for the sea,
a permanent barrier that it can never cross.
Its waves may roll, but they can never prevail.
They may roar, but they can never cross beyond that boundary.” ▼
▼ Heb “it.” The referent is made explicit to avoid any possible confusion.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
They have turned aside and gone their own way. ▼
▼ The words, “their own way” are not in the text but are implicit and are supplied in the translation for clarity.
24 They do not say to themselves, ▼
▼ Heb “say in their hearts.”
“Let us revere the Lord our God.
It is he who gives us the autumn rains and the spring rains at the proper time.
It is he who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.” ▼
▼ Heb “who keeps for us the weeks appointed for harvest.”
25 Your misdeeds have stopped these things from coming. ▼
▼ Heb “have turned these things away.”
Your sins have deprived you of my bounty.’ ▼
▼ Heb “have withheld the good from you.”
26 “Indeed, there are wicked scoundrels among my people.
They lie in wait like bird catchers hiding in ambush. ▼
▼ The meaning of the last three words is uncertain. The pointing and meaning of the Hebrew word rendered “hiding in ambush” is debated. BDB relates the form (כְּשַׁךְ, keshakh) to a root שָׁכַךְ (shakhakh), which elsewhere means “decrease, abate” (cf. BDB 1013 s.v. שָׁכַךְ), and notes that this is usually understood as “like the crouching of fowlers,” but they say this meaning is dubious. HALOT 1345 s.v. I שׁוֹר questions the validity of the text and offers three proposals; the second appears to create the least textual modification, i.e., reading כְּשַׂךְ (kesakh, “as in the hiding place of (bird catchers)”; for the word שַׂךְ (sakh) see HALOT 1236 s.v. שׂךְ 4 and compare Lam 2:6 for usage. The versions do not help. The Greek does not translate the first two words of the line. The proposal given in HALOT is accepted with some hesitancy.
They set deadly traps ▼
▼ Heb “a destroying thing.”to catch people.
27 Like a cage filled with the birds that have been caught, ▼
▼ The words, “that have been caught” are not in the text but are implicit in the comparison.
their houses are filled with the gains of their fraud and deceit. ▼
That is how they have gotten so rich and powerful. ▼
▼ Heb “therefore they have gotten great and rich.”
28 That is how ▼
▼ These words are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to show that this line is parallel with the preceding.they have grown fat and sleek. ▼
▼ The meaning of this word is uncertain. This verb occurs only here. The lexicons generally relate it to the word translated “plate” in Song 5:14 and understand it to mean “smooth, shiny” (so BDB 799 s.v. I עֶשֶׁת) or “fat” (so HALOT 850 s.v. II עֶשֶׁת). The word in Song 5:14 more likely means “smooth” than “plate” (so TEV). So “sleek” is most likely here.
There is no limit to the evil things they do. ▼
▼ Heb “they cross over/transgress with respect to matters of evil.”▼
They do not plead the cause of the fatherless in such a way as to win it.
They do not defend the rights of the poor.
29 I will certainly punish them for doing such things!” says the Lord.
“I will certainly bring retribution on such a nation as this! ▼
▼ Heb “Should I not punish…? Should I not bring retribution…?” The rhetorical questions function as emphatic declarations.▼
30 “Something horrible and shocking
is going on in the land of Judah:
31 The prophets prophesy lies.
The priests exercise power by their own authority. ▼
▼ Heb “they shall rule at their hands.” Since the word “hand” can be used figuratively for authority or mean “side” and the pronoun “them” can refer to the priests themselves or the prophets, the following translations have also been suggested: “the priests rule under their [the prophets’] directions,” or “the priests rule in league with them [the prophets].” From the rest of the book it would appear that the prophets did not exercise authority over the priests nor did they exercise the same authority over the people that the priests did. Hence it probably mean “by their own hand/power/authority.”
And my people love to have it this way.
But they will not be able to help you when the time of judgment comes! ▼
▼ Heb “But what will you do at its end?” The rhetorical question implies a negative answer: “Nothing!”
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