Jeremiah 91[Heb. 8:23] ▼ I wish that my head were a well full of water ▼
▼ Heb “I wish that my head were water.”
and my eyes were a fountain full of tears!
If they were, I could cry day and night
for those of my dear people ▼ who have been killed.
2 [Heb. 9:1] I wish I had a lodging place in the desert
where I could spend some time like a weary traveler. ▼
▼ Heb “I wish I had in the desert a lodging place [inn, or place to spend the night] for travelers.”
Then I would desert my people
and walk away from them
because they are all unfaithful to God,
a congregation ▼
▼ Or “bunch,” but this loses the irony; the word is used for the solemn assemblies at the religious feasts.of people that has been disloyal to him. ▼
▼ Heb “they are all adulterers, a congregation of unfaithful people.” However, spiritual adultery is, of course, meant, not literal adultery. So the literal translation would be misleading.
The Lord Laments That He Has No Choice But to Judge Them3 The Lord says, ▼
▼ The words “The Lord says” have been moved up from the end of the verse to make clear that a change in speaker has occurred.
“These people are like soldiers who have readied their bows.
Their tongues are always ready to shoot out lies. ▼
▼ Heb “They have readied [or strung] their tongue as their bow for lies.”
They have become powerful in the land,
but they have not done so by honest means. ▼
▼ Heb “but not through honesty.”
Indeed, they do one evil thing after another ▼
▼ Heb “they go from evil to evil.”
and do not pay attention to me. ▼
▼ Or “do not acknowledge me”; Heb “do not know me.” But “knowing” in Hebrew thought often involves more than intellectual knowledge; it involves emotional and volitional commitment as well. For יָדַע meaning “acknowledge” see 1 Chr 28:9; Isa 29:21; Hos 2:20; Prov 3:6. This word is also found in ancient Near Eastern treaty contexts where it has the idea of a vassal king acknowledging the sovereignty of a greater king (cf. H. Huffmon, “The Treaty Background of Hebrew yada,” BASOR 181 : 31-37).
4 Everyone must be on his guard around his friends.
He must not even trust any of his relatives. ▼
▼ Heb “Be on your guard…Do not trust.” The verbs are second masculine plural of direct address and there seems no way to translate literally and not give the mistaken impression that Jeremiah is being addressed. This is another example of the tendency in Hebrew style to turn from description to direct address (a figure of speech called apostrophe).
For every one of them will find some way to cheat him. ▼
▼ Heb “cheating, each of them will cheat.”▼
And all of his friends will tell lies about him.
5 One friend deceives another
and no one tells the truth.
These people have trained themselves ▼
▼ Heb “their tongues.” However, this is probably not a natural idiom in contemporary English and the tongue may stand as a part for the whole anyway.to tell lies.
They do wrong and are unable to repent.
6 They do one act of violence after another,
and one deceitful thing after another. ▼
▼ An alternate reading for vv. 5d–6b is: “They wear themselves out doing wrong. Jeremiah, you live in the midst of deceitful people. They deceitfully refuse to take any thought of/acknowledge me.” The translation which has been adopted is based on a redivision of the lines, a redivision of some of the words, and a revocalization of some of the consonants. The MT reads literally “doing wrong they weary themselves. Your sitting in the midst of deceit; in deceit they refuse to know me” (הַעֲוֵה נִלְאוּ׃ שִׁבְתְּךָ בְּתוֹךְ מִרְמָה בְּמִרְמָה מֵאֲנוּ דַעַת־אוֹתִי). The Greek version reads literally “they do wrong and they do not cease to turn themselves around. Usury upon usury and deceit upon deceit. They do not want to know me.” This suggests that one should read the Hebrew text as שֻׁב׃ תֹּךְ בְּתוֹךְ מִרְ־מָה בְּמִרְ־מָה מֵאֲנוּ דַעַת אוֹתִי הַעֲוֵה נִלְאוּ, which translated literally yields “doing evil [= “they do evil” using the Hiphil infinitive absolute as a finite verb (cf. GKC 346 #113.ff)] they are not able [cf. KBL 468 s.v. לָאָה Niph.3 and see Exod 7:18 for parallel use] to repent. Oppression on oppression [cf. BDB 1067 s.v. תֹּךְ, II תּוֹךְ]; deceit on deceit. They refuse to know me.” This reading has ancient support and avoids the introduction of an unexpected second masculine suffix into the context. It has been adopted here along with a number of modern commentaries (cf., e.g., W. McKane, Jeremiah [ICC], 1:201) and English versions as the more likely reading.
They refuse to pay attention to me,” ▼
says the Lord.
7 Therefore the Lord who rules over all says, ▼
▼ Heb “Yahweh of armies.”▼
“I will now purify them in the fires of affliction ▼
▼ Heb “I will refine/purify them.” The words “in the fires of affliction” are supplied in the translation to give clarity to the metaphor.and test them.
The wickedness of my dear people ▼ has left me no choice.
What else can I do? ▼
▼ Heb “For how else shall I deal because of the wickedness of the daughter of my people.” The MT does not have the word “wickedness.” The word, however, is read in the Greek version. This is probably a case of a word dropping out because of its similarities to the consonants preceding or following it (i.e., haplography). The word “wickedness” (רַעַת, ra’at) has dropped out before the words “my dear people” (בַּת־עַמִּי, bat-’ammi). The causal nuance which is normal for מִפְּנֵי (mippene) does not make sense without some word like this, and the combination of רַעַת מִפְּנֵי (mippene ra’at) does occur in Jer 7:12 and one very like it occurs in Jer 26:3.
8 Their tongues are like deadly arrows. ▼
▼ This reading follows the Masoretic consonants (the Kethib, a Qal active participle from שָׁחַט, shakhat). The Masoretes preferred to read “a sharpened arrow” (the Qere, a Qal passive participle from the same root or a homonym, meaning “hammered, beaten”). See HALOT 1354 s.v. II שָׁחַט for discussion. The exact meaning of the word makes little difference to the meaning of the metaphor itself.
They are always telling lies. ▼
▼ Heb “They speak deceit.”
Friendly words for their neighbors come from their mouths.
But their minds are thinking up ways to trap them. ▼
▼ Heb “With his mouth a person speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets an ambush for him.”
9 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 them…? Should I not bring retribution…?” The rhetorical questions function as emphatic declarations.▼
The Coming Destruction Calls For Mourning10 I said, ▼
▼ The words “I said” are not in the text, but there is general agreement that Jeremiah is the speaker. Cf. the lament in 8:18–9:1. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity. Some English versions follow the Greek text which reads a plural imperative here. Since this reading would make the transition between 9:10 and 9:11 easier it is probably not original but a translator’s way of smoothing over a difficulty.
“I will weep and mourn ▼
▼ Heb “I will lift up weeping and mourning.”for the grasslands on the mountains, ▼
▼ Heb “for the mountains.” However, the context makes clear that it is the grasslands or pastures on the mountains that are meant. The words “for the grasslands” are supplied in the translation for clarity.
I will sing a mournful song for the pastures in the wilderness
because they are so scorched no one travels through them.
The sound of livestock is no longer heard there.
Even the birds in the sky and the wild animals in the fields
have fled and are gone.”
11 The Lord said, ▼
▼ The words “the Lord said” are not in the text, but it is obvious from the content that he is the speaker. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.
“I will make Jerusalem ▼ a heap of ruins.
Jackals will make their home there. ▼
▼ Heb “a heap of ruins, a haunt for jackals.”
I will destroy the towns of Judah
so that no one will be able to live in them.”
12 I said, ▼
▼ The words, “I said” are not in the text. It is not clear that a shift in speaker has taken place. However, the words of the verse are very unlikely to be a continuation of the Lord’s threat. It is generally assumed that these are the words of Jeremiah and that a dialogue is going on between him and the Lord in vv. 9–14. That assumption is accepted here.
“Who is wise enough to understand why this has happened? ▼
▼ Heb “Who is the wise man that he may understand this?”
Who has a word from the Lord that can explain it? ▼
▼ Heb “And [who is the man] to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken that he may explain it?”
Why does the land lie in ruins?
Why is it as scorched as a desert through which no one travels?”
13 The Lord answered, “This has happened because these people have rejected my laws which I gave them. They have not obeyed me or followed those laws. ▼
▼ Heb “and they have not walked in it (with “it” referring to “my law”).14Instead they have followed the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts. They have paid allegiance to ▼ the gods called Baal, ▼
▼ Heb “the Baals,” referring either to the pagan gods called “Baals” or the images of Baal (so NLT).as their fathers ▼
▼ Or “forefathers,” or “ancestors.” Here the referent could be the immediate parents or, by their example, more distant ancestors.taught them to do. 15So then, listen to what I, the Lord God of Israel who rules over all, ▼
▼ Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”▼ say. ▼
▼ Heb “Therefore, thus says the Lord…” The person is shifted from third to first to better conform with English style.‘I will make these people eat the bitter food of suffering and drink the poison water of judgment. ▼
▼ Heb “I will feed this people wormwood and make them drink poison water.” “Wormwood” and “poison water” are not to be understood literally here but are symbolic of judgment and suffering. See, e.g., BDB 542 s.v. לַעֲנָה.16I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors ▼
▼ Heb “fathers.”have known anything about. I will send people chasing after them with swords ▼
▼ Heb “I will send the sword after them.” The sword here is probably not completely literal but refers to death by violent means, including death by the sword.until I have destroyed them.’” ▼
17 The Lord who rules over all ▼
▼ Heb “Yahweh of armies.”▼ told me to say to this people, ▼
▼ Heb “Thus says Yahweh of armies.” However, without some addition it is not clear to whom the command is addressed. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity and to help resolve a rather confusing issue of who is speaking throughout vv. 16–21. As has been evident throughout the translation, the speaker is not always indicated. Sometimes it is not even clear who the speaker is. In general the translation and the notes have reflected the general consensus in identifying who it is. Here, however, there is a good deal of confusion about who is speaking in vv. 18, 20–21. The Greek translation has the Lord speaking throughout with second plural pronouns in vv. 18, 21 and the absence of the first line in v. 22. It would be hard to explain how the MT arose if it were the original text. Critical commentators such as J. Bright, W. Holladay, and W. McKane resolve the issue by dropping out the introductory formula in v. 17 and the first line of v. 22 and assigning the whole lament to Jeremiah. It seems obvious from the first plural pronouns and the content of v. 18 (and probably v. 21 as well) and the fact that the Lord is referred to in other than the first person in v. 20 that he is not the speaker of those verses. I have attempted to resolve the issue by having Jeremiah report the Lord’s command in v. 17 and have the rest of the speech be essentially that of Jeremiah. It should be admitted, however, that the issue is far from resolved. Most English versions simply ignore the problem. The GNB (= TEV) is a rare exception.
“Take note of what I say. ▼
▼ Heb “Consider!”
Call for the women who mourn for the dead!
Summon those who are the most skilled at it!” ▼
▼ Heb “Call for the mourning women that they may come and send for the wise/skilled women that they may come.” The verbs here are masculine plural, addressed to the people.
18 I said, “Indeed, ▼
▼ The words “And I said, ‘Indeed” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to try and help clarify who the speaker is who identifies with the lament of the people.let them come quickly and sing a song of mourning for us.
Let them wail loudly until tears stream from our own eyes
and our eyelids overflow with water.
19 For the sound of wailing is soon to be heard in Zion.
They will wail, ▼
▼ The words “They will wail” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation to make clear that this is the wailing that will be heard.▼
▼ The destruction is still in the future, but it is presented graphically as though it had already taken place.‘We are utterly ruined! ▼
▼ Heb “How we are ruined!”We are completely disgraced!
For our houses have been torn down
and we must leave our land.’” ▼
▼ The order of these two lines has been reversed for English stylistic reasons. The text reads in Hebrew “because we have left our land because they have thrown down our dwellings.” The two clauses offer parallel reasons for the cries “How ruined we are! [How] we are greatly disgraced!” But the first line must contain a prophetic perfect (because the lament comes from Jerusalem) and the second a perfect referring to a destruction that is itself future. This seems the only way to render the verse that would not be misleading.
20 I said, ▼
“So now, ▼
▼ It is a little difficult to explain how the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) is functioning here. W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:311) may be correct in seeing it as introducing the contents of what those who call for the mourning women are to say. In this case, Jeremiah picks up the task as representative of the people.you wailing women, hear what the Lord says. ▼
▼ Heb “Listen to the word of the Lord.”▼
▼ In this context the “word of the Lord” that they are to listen for is the word of the lament that they are to teach their daughters and neighbors.
Open your ears to the words from his mouth.
Teach your daughters this mournful song,
and each of you teach your neighbor ▼
▼ Heb “Teach…mournful song, and each woman her neighbor lady…”this lament.
21 ‘Death has climbed in ▼
▼ Here Death is personified (treated as though it were a person). Some have seen as possible background to this lament an allusion to Mesopotamian mythology where the demon Lamastu climbs in through the windows of houses and over their walls to kill children and babies.through our windows.
It has entered into our fortified houses.
It has taken away our children who play in the streets.
It has taken away our young men who gather in the city squares.’
22 Tell your daughters and neighbors, ‘The Lord says,
“The dead bodies of people will lie scattered everywhere
like manure scattered on a field.
They will lie scattered on the ground
like grain that has been cut down but has not been gathered.”’” ▼
▼ Or “‘Death has climbed…city squares. And the dead bodies of people lie scattered…They lie scattered…but has not been gathered.’ The Lord has told me to tell you this.” Or “For death will climb…It will enter…It will take away…who gather in the city squares. So tell your daughters and neighbors, ‘The Lord wants you to say, “The dead bodies of people lie scattered…They lie scattered…has not been gathered.”’” The main causes of ambiguity are the particle כִּי (ki) introducing v. 21 and the verb form דַּבֵּר (dabber) at the beginning of v. 22. כִּי may be interpreted as introducing a causal sentence giving Jeremiah’s grounds for the commands of v. 19 in which case the verbs would best be understood as prophetic perfects (as in the second alternate translation). Or it may be interpreted as introducing the content of the lament the women are to teach their daughters and neighbors (as in the translation adopted and in the first alternate translation). The form דַּבֵּר may be interpreted as a Piel masculine singular imperative addressed to Jeremiah (as in the first alternate translation where it is placed at the end for the sake of clarity) or as a Piel infinitive absolute either explaining what the woman are to teach their daughters and neighbors (as in the second alternate translation; cf. GKC 341 #113.h, i for this use of the infinitive absolute) or as equivalent to an imperative addressed to the women telling them to tell their daughters and neighbors the reason for the lament, i.e., the Lord’s promise of widespread death (cf. GKC 346 #113.bb for this use of the infinitive absolute). The translation chosen has opted for v. 21 as the content of the lament and v. 22 as the further explanation that Jeremiah has the women pass on to their neighbors and daughters. This appears to this interpreter to create the least confusion and dislocation in the flow of the passage.
▼ It is not always clear why verses were placed in their present position in the editorial process of collecting Jeremiah’s sermons and the words the Lord spoke to him (see Jer 36:4, 32 for reference to two of these collections). Here it is probable that vv. 23–26 were added as a further answer to the question raised in v. 12.The Lord says,
“Wise people should not boast that they are wise.
Powerful people should not boast that they are powerful. ▼
▼ Or “Strong people should not brag that they are strong.”
Rich people should not boast that they are rich. ▼
▼ Heb “…in their wisdom…in their power…in their riches.”
24 If people want to boast, they should boast about this:
They should boast that they understand and know me.
They should boast that they know and understand
that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth
and that I desire people to do these things,” ▼
▼ Or “fairness and justice, because these things give me pleasure.” Verse 24 reads in Hebrew, “But let the one who brags brag in this: understanding and knowing me that I, the Lord, do faithfulness, justice, and righteousness in the earth for/that I delight in these.” It is uncertain whether the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) before the clause “I delight in these things” is parallel to the כִּי introducing the clause “that I, the Lord, act…” or causal giving the grounds for the Lord acting the way he does. In the light of the contrasts in the passage and the emphasis that Jeremiah has placed on obedience to the covenant and ethical conduct in conjunction with real allegiance to the Lord not mere lip service, it is probable that the clauses are parallel. For the use of כִּי to introduce clauses of further definition after a direct object as here see GKC 365 #117.h and see BDB 393 s.v. יָדַע Qal.1.a. For parallels to the idea of Yahweh requiring these characteristics in people see Hos 6:6, Mic 6:8.
says the Lord.
25 The Lord says, “Watch out! ▼
▼ Heb “Behold!”The time is soon coming when I will punish all those who are circumcised only in the flesh. ▼
▼ Heb “punish all who are circumcised in the flesh.” The translation is contextually motivated to better bring out the contrast that follows.26That is, I will punish the Egyptians, the Judeans, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and all the desert people who cut their hair short at the temples. ▼
▼ Heb “all those who are cut off on the side of the head who live in the desert.” KJV and some other English versions (e.g., NIV “who live in the desert in distant places”; NLT “who live in distant places”) have followed the interpretation that this is a biform of an expression meaning “end or remote parts of the [far] corners [of the earth].” This interpretation is generally abandoned by the more recent commentaries and lexicons (see, e.g. BDB 802 s.v. פֵּאָה 1 and HALOT 858 s.v. פֵּאָה 1.β). It occurs also in 25:33; 49:32.I will do so because none of the people of those nations are really circumcised in the Lord’s sight. ▼
▼ Heb “For all of these nations are uncircumcised.” The words “I will do so” are supplied in the translation to indicate the connection with the preceding statement.▼
▼ A contrast is drawn here between circumcision as a mere external cutting of the flesh and a sign of commitment to the covenant and the God of the covenant. The people of these nations practiced circumcision but not as a sign of the covenant. The people of Israel engaged in it as a religious practice but without any obedience to the covenant that it was a sign of or any real commitment to the Lord.Moreover, none of the people of Israel ▼
▼ Heb “house of Israel.”are circumcised when it comes to their hearts.” ▼
▼ Heb “And all the house of Israel is uncircumcised of heart.”
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