Jeremiah 81The Lord says, “When that time comes, ▼
▼ Heb “At that time.”the bones of the kings of Judah and its leaders, the bones of the priests and prophets and of all the other people who lived in Jerusalem will be dug up from their graves. 2They will be spread out and exposed to the sun, the moon and the stars. ▼
▼ MT, 4QJera and LXX read “the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven,” but 4QJerc reads “the sun and all the stars.”▼
▼ Heb “the host of heaven.”These are things they ▼
▼ Heb “the sun, moon, and host of heaven which they…”adored and served, things to which they paid allegiance, ▼ from which they sought guidance, and worshiped. The bones of these people ▼
▼ Heb “they will not” but the referent is far enough removed that it might be ambiguous.will never be regathered and reburied. They will be like manure used to fertilize the ground. ▼
▼ Heb “like dung/manure on the surface of the ground.”3However, I will leave some of these wicked people alive and banish them to other places. But wherever these people who survive may go, they will wish they had died rather than lived,” ▼
▼ Heb “Death will be chosen rather than life by the remnant who are left from this wicked family in all the places where I have banished them.” The sentence is broken up and restructured to avoid possible confusion because of the complexity of the English to some modern readers. There appears to be an extra “those who are left” that was inadvertently copied from the preceding line. It is missing from one Hebrew ms and from the Greek and Syriac versions and is probably not a part of the original text.says the Lord who rules over all. ▼
▼ Heb “Yahweh of armies.”▼
Willful Disregard of God Will Lead to Destruction4 The Lord said to me, ▼
▼ The words “the Lord said to me” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation to make clear who is speaking and who is being addressed.
“Tell them, ‘The Lord says,
Do people not get back up when they fall down?
Do they not turn around when they go the wrong way? ▼
▼ There is a play on two different nuances of the same Hebrew word that means “turn” and “return,” “turn away” and “turn back.”
5 Why, then, do these people of Jerusalem ▼
▼ The text is quite commonly emended, changing שׁוֹבְבָה הָעָם (shovevah ha’am) to שׁוֹבָב הָעָם (shovav ha’am) and omitting יְרוּשָׁלַםִ (yerushalaim); this is due to the anomaly of a feminine singular verb with a masculine singular subject and the fact that the word “Jerusalem” is absent from one Hebrew ms and the LXX. However, it is possible that this is a case where the noun “Jerusalem” is a defining apposition to the word “these people,” an apposition which GKC 425 #131.k calls “permutation.” In this case the verb could be attracted to the appositional noun and there would be no reason to emend the text. The MT is undoubtedly the harder reading and is for that reason to be preferred.▼
continually turn away from me in apostasy?
They hold fast to their deception. ▼
▼ Or “to their allegiance to false gods,” or “to their false professions of loyalty”; Heb “to deceit.” Either “to their mistaken beliefs” or “to their allegiance to false gods” would fit the preceding context. The former is more comprehensive than the latter and was chosen for that reason.
They refuse to turn back to me. ▼
▼ There is a continuing play on the same root word used in the preceding verse. Here the words “turn away from me,” “apostasy,” and “turn back to me” are all forms from the root that was translated “go the wrong way” and “turn around” in v. 4. The intended effect is to contrast Judah’s recalcitrant apostasy with the usual tendency to try and correct one’s mistakes.
6 I have listened to them very carefully, ▼
▼ Heb “I have paid attention and I have listened.” This is another case of two concepts being joined by “and” where one expresses the main idea and the other acts as an adverbial or adjectival modifier (a figure called hendiadys).
but they do not speak honestly.
None of them regrets the evil he has done.
None of them says, “I have done wrong!” ▼
▼ Heb “What have I done?” The addition of the word “wrong” is implicit in the context and is supplied in the translation for clarity. The rhetorical question does not function as a denial of wrongdoing, but rather as contrite shock at one’s own wrongdoing. It is translated as a declaration for the sake of clarity.
All of them persist in their own wayward course ▼
▼ Heb “each one of them turns aside into their own running course.”▼
▼ The wordplay begun in v. 4 is continued here. The word translated “turns aside” in the literal translation and “wayward” in the translation is from the same root as “go the wrong way,” “turn around,” “turn away from me,” “apostasy,” “turn back to me.” What God hoped for were confessions of repentance and change of behavior; what he got was denial of wrongdoing and continued turning away from him.
like a horse charging recklessly into battle.
7 Even the stork knows
when it is time to move on. ▼
▼ Heb “its appointed time.” The translation is contextually motivated to avoid lack of clarity.
The turtledove, swallow, and crane ▼
▼ There is debate in the commentaries and lexicons about the identification of some of these birds, particularly regarding the identification of the “swallow” which is more likely the “swift” and the “crane” which some identify with the “thrush.” For a discussion see the Bible encyclopedias and the UBS handbook Fauna and Flora of the Bible. The identity of the individual birds makes little difference to the point being made and “swallow” is more easily identifiable to the average reader than the “swift.”
▼ Heb “keep.” Ironically birds, which do not think, obey the laws of nature, but Israel does not obey the laws of God.the normal times for their migration.
But my people pay no attention
▼ Heb “do not know.” But here as elsewhere the word “know” is more than an intellectual matter. It is intended here to summarize both “know” and “follow” (Heb “observe”) in the preceding lines.what I, the Lord, require of them. ▼
▼ Heb “the ordinance/requirement of the Lord.”
8 How can you say, “We are wise!
We have the law of the Lord”?
The truth is, ▼
▼ Heb “Surely, behold!”those who teach it ▼
▼ Heb “the scribes.”have used their writings
to make it say what it does not really mean. ▼
▼ Heb “The lying pen of the scribes have made [it] into a lie.” The translation is an attempt to make the most common interpretation of this passage understandable for the average reader. This is, however, a difficult passage whose interpretation is greatly debated and whose syntax is capable of other interpretations. The interpretation of the NJPS, “Assuredly, for naught has the pen labored, for naught the scribes,” surely deserves consideration within the context; i.e. it hasn’t done any good for the scribes to produce a reliable copy of the law, which the people have refused to follow. That interpretation has the advantage of explaining the absence of an object for the verb “make” or “labored” but creates a very unbalanced poetic couplet.
9 Your wise men will be put to shame.
They will be dumbfounded and be brought to judgment. ▼
▼ Heb “be trapped.” However, the word “trapped” generally carries with it the connotation of divine judgment. See BDB 540 s.v. לָכַד Niph.2, and compare usage in Jer 6:11 for support. The verbs in the first two lines are again the form of the Hebrew verb that emphasizes that the action is as good as done (Hebrew prophetic perfects).
Since they have rejected the word of the Lord,
what wisdom do they really have?
▼ See Jer 6:12–15 for parallels to 8:10–12. The words of Jeremiah to the people may have been repeated on more than one occasion or have been found appropriate to more than one of his collection of messages in written and edited form. See Jer 36:4 and Jer 36:28 for reference to at least two of these collections.So I will give their wives to other men
and their fields to new owners.
For from the least important to the most important of them,
all of them are greedy for dishonest gain.
Prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
11 They offer only superficial help
for the hurt my dear people ▼ have suffered. ▼
▼ Heb “They heal the wound of my people lightly.”
They say, “Everything will be all right!”
But everything is not all right! ▼
▼ Heb “They say, ‘Peace! Peace!’ and there is no peace!”
12 Are they ashamed because they have done such disgusting things?
No, they are not at all ashamed!
They do not even know how to blush!
So they will die just like others have died. ▼
▼ Heb “They will fall among the fallen.”
They will be brought to ruin when I punish them,
says the Lord.
13 I will take away their harvests, ▼
▼ Or “I will completely destroy them.” The translation which is adopted is based on the revocalization of the MT which appears to mean literally “gathering I will sweep them away,” a rather improbable grammatical combination. It follows the suggestion found in HALOT 705 s.v. סוּף (Hiph) of reading אֹסֵף אֲסִיפָם (’ose, a first singular Qal imperfect of אָסַף [’asaf] followed by a noun אָסִיף [’asif] with possessive suffix) instead of the MT’s אָסֹף אֲסִיפֵם (’aspf ’asifem, a Qal infinitive absolute of אָסַף [’asaf] followed by the Hiphil imperfect of סוּף [suf] plus suffix). For parallel usage of the verb אָסַף (asaf) see BDB 62 s.v. אָסַף Qal.4, and for a similar form of the verb see Mic 4:6. The alternate translation follows the suggestion in BDB 692 s.v. סוּף Hiph: אָסֹף (’asof) is to be interpreted as a form of the Hiphil infinitive absolute (הָסֵף [hasef] would be expected) chosen for assonance with the following form. This suggestion would gain more credence if the MT is to be retained in Zeph 1:2 where parallel forms are found. However, that text too has been questioned on lexical and grammatical grounds. The translation adopted fits the following context better than the alternate one and is based on less questionable lexical and grammatical parallels. The Greek translation which reads “they shall gather their fruits” supports the translation chosen.says the Lord.
There will be no grapes on their vines.
There will be no figs on their fig trees.
Even the leaves on their trees will wither.
The crops that I gave them will be taken away.’” ▼
▼ The meaning of this line is very uncertain. A possible alternate translation is: “They have broken the laws that I gave them.” The line reads rather literally “And I gave them they passed over them.” The translation adopted treats the first expression as a noun clause (cf. GKC 488-89 #155.n) which is the subject of the following verb, i.e., “the things I gave them [contextually, the grapes, etc.] passed over from them.” The alternate translation treats the expression as a dangling object (a Hebrew casus pendens) resumed by the pronoun “them” and understands “the things that I gave them” to be the law or some related entity which is often the object of this verb (see BDB 717 s.v. עָבַר Qal.1.i). Neither of these translations is without its weakness. The weakness of the translation which has been adopted is the unusual use it assigns to the object suffix of the verb translated “pass over.” The weakness of the alternate translation is the rather abrupt and opaque introduction of a new topic of reference (i.e., the laws) into the context. On the whole the latter weakness would appear to outweigh the former. This line is missing from the Greek version and J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB]) and J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT]) despair of giving a translation. For other possible suggestions see, W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:285–86.
Jeremiah Laments over the Coming Destruction14 The people say, ▼
“Why are we just sitting here?
Let us gather together inside the fortified cities. ▼
▼ Heb “Gather together and let us enter into the fortified cities.”
Let us at least die there fighting, ▼
▼ Heb “Let us die there.” The words “at least” and “fighting” are intended to bring out the contrast of passive surrender to death in the open country and active resistance to the death implicit in the context.
since the Lord our God has condemned us to die.
He has condemned us to drink the poison waters of judgment ▼
because we have sinned against him. ▼
▼ Heb “against the Lord.” The switch is for the sake of smoothness in English.
15 We hoped for good fortune, but nothing good has come of it.
We hoped for a time of relief, but instead we experience terror. ▼
▼ Heb “[We hoped] for a time of healing but behold terror.”
16 The snorting of the enemy’s horses
is already being heard in the city of Dan.
The sound of the neighing of their stallions ▼
▼ Heb “his stallions.”
causes the whole land to tremble with fear.
They are coming to destroy the land and everything in it!
They are coming to destroy ▼
▼ The words “They are coming to destroy” are not in the text. They are inserted to break up a long sentence in conformity with contemporary English style.the cities and everyone who lives in them!”
17 The Lord says, ▼
▼ These words which are at the end of the Hebrew verse are brought forward to show at the outset the shift in speaker.
“Yes indeed, ▼
▼ Heb “Indeed [or For] behold!” The translation is intended to convey some of the connection that is suggested by the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) at the beginning of the verse.I am sending an enemy against you
that will be like poisonous snakes which cannot be charmed away. ▼
And they will inflict fatal wounds on you.” ▼
▼ Heb “they will bite you.” There does not appear to be any way to avoid the possible confusion that literal snakes are meant here except to paraphrase. Possibly one could say “And they will attack you and ‘bite’ you,” but the enclosing of the word “bite” in quotations might lead to even further confusion.
18 Then I said, ▼
“There is no cure ▼
▼ The meaning of this word is uncertain. The translation is based on the redivision and repointing of a word that occurs only here in the MT and whose pattern of formation is unparalleled in the Hebrew Bible. The MT reads מַבְלִיגִיתִי (mavligiti) which BDB provisionally derives from a verb root meaning “to gleam” or “to shine.” However, BDB notes that the text is dubious (cf. BDB 114 s.v. מַבְלִיגִית). The text is commonly emended to מִבְּלִי גְּהֹת (mibbeli gehot) which is a Qal infinitive from a verb meaning “to heal” preceded by a compound negative “for lack of, to be at a loss for” (cf., e.g., HALOT 514 s.v. מַבְלִיגִית and 174 s.v. גּהה). This reading is supported by the Greek text which has an adjective meaning “incurable,” which is, however, connected with the preceding verse, i.e., “they will bite you incurably.”for my grief!
I am sick at heart!
19 I hear my dear people ▼ crying out ▼
▼ Heb “Behold the voice of the crying of the daughter of my people.”
throughout the length and breadth of the land. ▼
They are crying, ‘Is the Lord no longer in Zion?
Is her divine King ▼
▼ Heb “her King” but this might be misunderstood by some to refer to the Davidic ruler even with the capitalization.no longer there?’”
The Lord answers, ▼
▼ The words, “The Lord would answer” are not in the text but are implicit from the words that follow. They are supplied in the translation for clarity. Another option would be to add “And I can just hear the Lord reply.”
“Why then do they provoke me to anger with their images,
with their worthless foreign idols?” ▼
▼ The people’s cry and the Lord’s interruption reflect the same argument that was set forth in the preceding chapter. They have misguided confidence that the Lord is with them regardless of their actions and he responds that their actions have provoked him to the point of judging them. See especially 7:4 and 7:30.
20 “They cry, ▼ ‘Harvest time has come and gone, and the summer is over, ▼
▼ Heb “Harvest time has passed, the summer is over.”▼
▼ This appears to be a proverbial statement for “time marches on.” The people appear to be expressing their frustration that the Lord has not gone about his business of rescuing them as they expected. For a similar misguided feeling based on the offering of shallow repentance see Hos 6:1–3 (and note the Lord’s reply in 6:4–6).
and still we have not been delivered.’
21 My heart is crushed because my dear people ▼ are being crushed. ▼
▼ Heb “Because of the crushing of the daughter of my people I am crushed.”
I go about crying and grieving. I am overwhelmed with dismay. ▼
▼ Heb “I go about in black [i.e., mourning clothes]. Dismay has seized me.”
22 There is still medicinal ointment ▼
▼ Heb “balm.” The more familiar “ointment” has been used in the translation, supplemented with the adjective “medicinal.”▼ available in Gilead!
There is still a physician there! ▼
▼ Heb “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” In this context the questions are rhetorical and expect a positive answer, which is made explicit in the translation.▼
▼ The prophet means by this metaphor that there are still means available for healing the spiritual ills of his people, mainly repentance, obedience to the law, and sole allegiance to God, and still people available who will apply this medicine to them, namely prophets like himself.
Why then have my dear people ▼
not been restored to health? ▼
▼ Or more clearly, “restored to spiritual health”; Heb “Why then has healing not come to my dear people?”▼
▼ Jeremiah is lamenting that though there is a remedy available for the recovery of his people they have not availed themselves of it.
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