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Jeremiah 4

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4:1 “If you, Israel, want to come back,” says the Lord,

“if you want to come back to me 1 

you must get those disgusting idols 2  out of my sight

and must no longer go astray. 3 

4:2 You must be truthful, honest and upright

when you take an oath saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives!’ 4 

If you do, 5  the nations will pray to be as blessed by him as you are

and will make him the object of their boasting.” 6 

4:3 Yes, 7  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. 8 

4:4 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, 9 

people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.

If you do not, 10  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 Judgment

4:5 The Lord said, 11 

“Announce 12  this in Judah and proclaim it in Jerusalem: 13 

‘Sound the trumpet 14  throughout the land!’

Shout out loudly,

‘Gather together! Let us flee into the fortified cities!’

4:6 Raise a signal flag that tells people to go to Zion. 15 

Run for safety! Do not delay!

For I am about to bring disaster out of the north.

It will bring great destruction. 16 

4:7 Like a lion that has come up from its lair 17 

the one who destroys nations has set out from his home base. 18 

He is coming out to lay your land waste.

Your cities will become ruins and lie uninhabited.

4:8 So put on sackcloth!

Mourn and wail, saying,

‘The fierce anger of the Lord

has not turned away from us!’” 19 

4:9 “When this happens,” 20  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.”

4:10 In response to all this 21  I said, “Ah, Lord God, 22  you have surely allowed 23  the people of Judah and Jerusalem 24  to be deceived by those who say, ‘You will be safe!’ 25  But in fact a sword is already at our throats.” 26 

4:11 “At that time the people of Judah and Jerusalem 27  will be told,

‘A scorching wind will sweep down

from the hilltops in the desert on 28  my dear people. 29 

It will not be a gentle breeze

for winnowing the grain and blowing away the chaff. 30 

4:12 No, 31  a wind too strong for that will come at my bidding.

Yes, even now I, myself, am calling down judgment on them.’ 32 

4:13 Look! The enemy is approaching like gathering clouds. 33 

The roar of his chariots is like that of a whirlwind. 34 

His horses move more swiftly than eagles.”

I cry out, 35  “We are doomed, 36  for we will be destroyed!”

4:14 “Oh people of Jerusalem, purify your hearts from evil 37 

so that you may yet be delivered.

How long will you continue to harbor up

wicked schemes within you?

4:15 For messengers are coming, heralding disaster,

from the city of Dan and from the hills of Ephraim. 38 

4:16 They are saying, 39 

‘Announce to the surrounding nations, 40 

“The enemy is coming!” 41 

Proclaim this message 42  to Jerusalem:

“Those who besiege cities 43  are coming from a distant land.

They are ready to raise the battle cry against 44  the towns in Judah.”’

4:17 They will surround Jerusalem 45 

like men guarding a field 46 

because they have rebelled against me,”

says the Lord.

4:18 “The way you have lived and the things you have done 47 

will bring this on you.

This is the punishment you deserve, and it will be painful indeed. 48 

The pain will be so bad it will pierce your heart.” 49 

4:19 I said, 50 

“Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach! 51 

I writhe in anguish.

Oh, the pain in my heart! 52 

My heart pounds within me.

I cannot keep silent.

For I hear the sound of the trumpet; 53 

the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul! 54 

4:20 I see 55  one destruction after another taking place,

so that the whole land lies in ruins.

I see our 56  tents suddenly destroyed,

their 57  curtains torn down in a mere instant. 58 

4:21 “How long must I see the enemy’s battle flags

and hear the military signals of their bugles?” 59 

4:22 The Lord answered, 60 

“This will happen 61  because my people are foolish.

They do not know me.

They are like children who have no sense. 62 

They have no understanding.

They are skilled at doing evil.

They do not know how to do good.”

4:23 “I looked at the land and saw 63  that it was an empty wasteland. 64 

I looked up at the sky, and its light had vanished.

4:24 I looked at the mountains and saw that they were shaking.

All the hills were swaying back and forth!

4:25 I looked and saw that there were no more people, 65 

and that all the birds in the sky had flown away.

4:26 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. 66 

4:27 All this will happen because the Lord said, 67 

“The whole land will be desolate;

however, I will not completely destroy it.

4:28 Because of this the land will mourn

and the sky above will grow black. 68 

For I have made my purpose known 69 

and I will not relent or turn back from carrying it out.” 70 

4:29 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.

4:30 And you, Zion, city doomed to destruction, 71 

you accomplish nothing 72  by wearing a beautiful dress, 73 

decking yourself out in jewels of gold,

and putting on eye shadow! 74 

You are making yourself beautiful for nothing.

Your lovers spurn you.

They want to kill you. 75 

4:31 In fact, 76  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 77  gasping for breath,

reaching out for help, 78  saying, “I am done in! 79 

My life is ebbing away before these murderers!”

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1 tn Or “If you, Israel, want to turn [away from your shameful ways (those described in 3:23-25)]…then you must turn back to me.” Or perhaps, “Israel, you must turn back…Yes, you must turn back to me.”

2 tn Heb “disgusting things.”

3 tn 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.”

4 tn 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…”

5 tn 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.

6 tn Heb “bless themselves in him and make their boasts in him.”

7 tn The Hebrew particle is obviously asseverative here since a causal connection appears to make little sense.

8 tn 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.

9 tn 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.

10 tn Heb “lest.”

11 tn The words “The Lord said” are not in the text, but it is obvious from v. 6 and v. 9 that he is the speaker. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

12 tn 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.

13 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

14 tn Heb “ram’s horn,” but the modern equivalent is “trumpet” and is more readily understandable.

15 tn Heb “Raise up a signal toward Zion.”

16 tn Heb “out of the north, even great destruction.”

17 tn 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.

18 tn Heb “his place.”

19 tn 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.

20 tn Heb “In that day.”

21 tn The words “In response to all this” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to clarify the connection.

22 tn Heb “Lord Yahweh.” The translation follows the ancient Jewish tradition of substituting the Hebrew word for God for the proper name Yahweh.

23 tn 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.

24 tn Heb “this people and Jerusalem.”

25 tn 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.

26 tn Heb “touches the throat/soul.” For this use of the word usually translated “soul” or “life” cf. HALOT 672 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 1, 2 and compare the use in Ps 105:18.

27 tn Heb “this people and Jerusalem.”

28 tn Heb “A scorching wind from the hilltops in the desert toward…”

sn The allusion is, of course, to the destructive forces of the enemy armies of Babylon compared above in 4:7 to a destructive lion and here to the destructive desert winds of the Near Eastern sirocco.

29 tn 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.”

30 tn 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.

31 tn The word “No” is not in the text but is carried over from the connection with the preceding line “not for…”

32 tn Heb “will speak judgments against them.”

33 tn 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.

34 tn Heb “his chariots [are] like a whirlwind.” The words “roar” and “sound” are supplied in the translation to clarify the significance of the simile.

35 tn The words “I cry out” are not in the text, but the words that follow are obviously not the Lord’s. They are either those of the people or of Jeremiah. Taking them as Jeremiah’s parallels the interjection of Jeremiah’s response in 4:10 which is formally introduced.

36 tn 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.

37 tn Heb “Oh, Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil.”

38 tn Heb “For a voice declaring from Dan and making heard disaster from the hills of Ephraim.”

39 tn The words “They are saying” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection and are supplied in the translation for clarification.

40 tn The word “surrounding” is not in the text but is implicit and is supplied in the translation for clarification.

41 tc 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.”

42 tn The words, “this message,” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to make the introduction of the quote easier.

43 tn Heb “Besiegers.” For the use of this verb to refer to besieging a city compare Isa 1:8.

44 tn 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.”

45 tn 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).

46 sn 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.

47 tn Heb “Your way and your deeds.”

48 tn Heb “How bitter!”

49 tn 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.

50 tn 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.

51 tn Heb “My bowels! My bowels!”

52 tn Heb “the walls of my heart!”

53 tn Heb “ram’s horn,” but the modern equivalent is “trumpet” and is more readily understandable.

54 tc 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”).

55 tn The words, “I see” are not in the text here or at the beginning of the third line. They are supplied in the translation to show that this is Jeremiah’s vision of what will happen as a result of the invasion announced in 4:5-9, 11-17a.

56 tn 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.

57 tn Heb “my.”

58 tn 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.

59 tn Heb “the sound of ram’s horns,” but the modern equivalent is “bugles” and is more readily understandable.

60 tn 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.

61 tn Heb “For….” This gives the explanation for the destruction envisaged in 4:20 to which Jeremiah responds in 4:19, 21.

62 tn Heb “They are senseless children.”

63 tn 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.

64 tn 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.

65 tn Heb “there was no man/human being.”

66 tn Heb “because of the Lord, because of his blazing anger.”

67 tn Heb “For this is what the Lord said,”

68 sn 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.

69 tn 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.

70 tn Heb “will not turn back from it.”

71 tn 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.

72 tn Heb “What are you accomplishing…?” The rhetorical question assumes a negative answer, made clear by the translation in the indicative.

73 tn Heb “clothing yourself in scarlet.”

74 tn Heb “enlarging your eyes with antimony.” Antimony was a black powder used by women as eyeliner to make their eyes look larger.

75 tn Heb “they seek your life.”

76 tn The particle כִּי (ki) is more likely asseverative here than causal.

77 sn Jerusalem is personified as a helpless maiden.

78 tn Heb “spreading out her hands.” The idea of asking or pleading for help is implicit in the figure.

79 tn Heb “Woe, now to me!” See the translator’s note on 4:13 for the usage of “Woe to…”



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