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Jeremiah 6

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The Destruction of Jerusalem Depicted

6:1 “Run for safety, people of Benjamin!

Get out of Jerusalem! 1 

Sound the trumpet 2  in Tekoa!

Light the signal fires at Beth Hakkerem!

For disaster lurks 3  out of the north;

it will bring great destruction. 4 

6:2 I will destroy 5  Daughter Zion, 6 

who is as delicate and defenseless as a young maiden. 7 

6:3 Kings will come against it with their armies. 8 

They will encamp in siege all around it. 9 

Each of them will devastate the portion assigned to him. 10 

6:4 They will say, 11  ‘Prepare to do battle 12  against it!

Come on! Let’s attack it at noon!’

But later they will say, 13  ‘Oh, oh! Too bad! 14 

The day is almost over

and the shadows of evening are getting long.

6:5 So come on, let’s go ahead and attack it by night

and destroy all its fortified buildings.’

6:6 All of this is because 15  the Lord who rules over all 16  has said:

‘Cut down the trees around Jerusalem

and build up a siege ramp against its walls. 17 

This is the city which is to be punished. 18 

Nothing but oppression happens in it. 19 

6:7 As a well continually pours out fresh water

so it continually pours out wicked deeds. 20 

Sounds of violence and destruction echo throughout it. 21 

All I see are sick and wounded people.’ 22 

6:8 So 23  take warning, Jerusalem,

or I will abandon you in disgust 24 

and make you desolate,

a place where no one can live.”

6:9 This is what the Lord who rules over all 25  said to me: 26 

“Those who remain in Israel will be

like the grapes thoroughly gleaned 27  from a vine.

So go over them again, as though you were a grape harvester

passing your hand over the branches one last time.” 28 

6:10 I answered, 29 

“Who would listen

if I spoke to them and warned them? 30 

Their ears are so closed 31 

that they cannot hear!

Indeed, 32  what the Lord says is offensive to them.

They do not like it at all. 33 

6:11 I am as full of anger as you are, Lord, 34 

I am tired of trying to hold it in.”

The Lord answered, 35 

“Vent it, then, 36  on the children who play in the street

and on the young men who are gathered together.

Husbands and wives are to be included, 37 

as well as the old and those who are advanced in years.

6:12 Their houses will be turned over to others

as will their fields and their wives.

For I will unleash my power 38 

against those who live in this land,”

says the Lord.

6:13 “That is because, from the least important to the most important of them,

all of them are greedy for dishonest gain.

Prophets and priests alike,

all of them practice deceit.

6:14 They offer only superficial help

for the harm my people have suffered. 39 

They say, ‘Everything will be all right!’

But everything is not all right! 40 

6:15 Are they ashamed because they have done such shameful 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. 41 

They will be brought to ruin when I punish them,”

says the Lord.

6:16 The Lord said to his people: 42 

“You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. 43 

Ask where the old, reliable paths 44  are.

Ask where the path is that leads to blessing 45  and follow it.

If you do, you will find rest for your souls.”

But they said, “We will not follow it!”

6:17 The Lord said, 46 

“I appointed prophets as watchmen to warn you, 47  saying:

‘Pay attention to the warning sound of the trumpet!’” 48 

But they said, “We will not pay attention!”

6:18 So the Lord said, 49 

“Hear, you nations!

Be witnesses and take note of what will happen to these people. 50 

6:19 Hear this, you peoples of the earth: 51 

‘Take note! 52  I am about to bring disaster on these people.

It will come as punishment for their scheming. 53 

For they have paid no attention to what I have said, 54 

and they have rejected my law.

6:20 I take no delight 55  when they offer up to me 56 

frankincense that comes from Sheba

or sweet-smelling cane imported from a faraway land.

I cannot accept the burnt offerings they bring me.

I get no pleasure from the sacrifices they offer to me.’ 57 

6:21 So, this is what the Lord says:

‘I will assuredly 58  make these people stumble to their doom. 59 

Parents and children will stumble and fall to their destruction. 60 

Friends and neighbors will die.’

6:22 “This is what the Lord says:

‘Beware! An army 61  is coming from a land in the north.

A mighty nation is stirring into action in faraway parts of the earth.

6:23 Its soldiers are armed with bows and spears.

They are cruel and show no mercy.

They sound like the roaring sea

as they ride forth on their horses.

Lined up in formation like men going into battle

to attack you, Daughter Zion.’” 62 

6:24 The people cry out, 63  “We have heard reports about them!

We have become helpless with fear! 64 

Anguish grips us,

agony like that of a woman giving birth to a baby!

6:25 Do not go out into the countryside.

Do not travel on the roads.

For the enemy is there with sword in hand. 65 

They are spreading terror everywhere.” 66 

6:26 So I said, 67  “Oh, my dear people, 68  put on sackcloth

and roll in ashes.

Mourn with painful sobs

as though you had lost your only child.

For any moment now 69  that destructive army 70 

will come against us.”

6:27 The Lord said to me, 71 

“I have made you like a metal assayer

to test my people like ore. 72 

You are to observe them

and evaluate how they behave.” 73 

6:28 I reported, 74 

“All of them are the most stubborn of rebels! 75 

They are as hard as bronze or iron.

They go about telling lies.

They all deal corruptly.

6:29 The fiery bellows of judgment burn fiercely.

But there is too much dross to be removed. 76 

The process of refining them has proved useless. 77 

The wicked have not been purged.

6:30 They are regarded as ‘rejected silver’ 78 

because the Lord rejects them.”

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1 tn Heb “Flee for safety, people of Benjamin, out of the midst of Jerusalem.”

sn Compare and contrast Jer 4:6. There people in the outlying areas were warned to seek safety in the fortified city of Jerusalem. Here they are told to flee it because it was about to be destroyed.

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

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

3 tn Heb “leans down” or “looks down.” This verb personifies destruction leaning/looking down from its window in the sky, ready to attack.

4 tn Heb “[It will be] a severe fracture.” The nation is pictured as a limb being fractured.

sn This passage is emotionally charged. There are two examples of assonance or wordplay in the verse: “sound” (Heb tiqu, “blow”), which has the same consonants as “Tekoa” (Heb uvitqoa’), and “signal fire,” which comes from the same root as “light” (Heb sÿu maset, “lift up”). There is also an example of personification where disaster is said to “lurk” (Heb “look down on”) out of the north. This gives a sense of urgency and concern for the coming destruction.

5 tn The verb here is another example of the Hebrew verb form that indicates the action is as good as done (a Hebrew prophetic perfect).

6 sn Jerusalem is personified as a young maiden who is helpless in the hands of her enemies.

7 tn Heb “The beautiful and delicate one I will destroy, the daughter of Zion. The English versions and commentaries are divided over the rendering of this verse because (1) there are two verbs with these same consonants, one meaning “to be like” and the other meaning “to be destroyed” (intransitive) or “to destroy” (transitive), and (2) the word rendered “beautiful” (נָוָה, navah) can be understood as a noun meaning “pasture” or as a defective writing of an adjective meaning “beautiful, comely” (נָאוָה, navah). Hence some render “Fair Zion, you are like a lovely pasture,” reading the verb form as an example of the old second feminine singular perfect. Although this may fit the imagery of the next verse, that rendering ignores the absence of a preposition (לְ or אֶל, lÿ or ’el, both of which can be translated “to”) that normally goes with the verb “be like” and drops the conjunction in front of the adjective “delicate.” The parallel usage of the verb in Hos 4:5 argues for the meaning “destroy.”

8 tn Heb “Shepherds and their flocks will come against it.” Rulers are often depicted as shepherds; see BDB 945 s.v. רָעָה 1.d(2) (cf. Jer 12:10). The translation of this verse attempts to clarify the point of this extended metaphor.

9 tn Heb “They will thrust [= pitch] tents around it.” The shepherd imagery has a surprisingly ominous tone. The beautiful pasture filled with shepherds grazing their sheep is in reality a city under siege from an attacking enemy.

10 tn Heb “They will graze each one his portion.” For the use of the verb “graze” to mean “strip” or “devastate” see BDB 945 s.v. רָעָה 2.c. For a similar use of the word normally meaning “hand” to mean portion compare 2 Sam 19:43 (19:44 HT).

sn There is a wordplay involving “sound…in Tekoa” mentioned in the study note on “destruction” in v. 1. The Hebrew verb “they will pitch” is from the same root as the word translated “sound” (taqÿu [תִּקְעוּ] here and tiqu [תִּקְעוּ] in v. 1).

11 tn These words are not in the text but are implicit in the connection. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Heb “Sanctify war.” This is probably an idiom from early Israel’s holy wars in which religious rites were to precede the battle.

13 tn These words are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity. Some commentaries and English versions see these not as the words of the enemy but as those of the Israelites expressing their fear that the enemy will launch a night attack against them and further destroy them. The connection with the next verse, however, fits better with them if they are the words of the enemy.

14 tn Heb “Woe to us!” For the usage of this phrase see the translator’s note on 4:13. The usage of this particle here is a little exaggerated. They have lost the most advantageous time for attack but they are scarcely in a hopeless or doomed situation. The equivalent in English slang is “Bad news!”

15 tn Heb “For.” The translation attempts to make the connection clearer.

16 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

sn For an explanation of the significance of this title see the study note on 2:19.

17 tn Heb “Cut down its trees and build up a siege ramp against Jerusalem.” The referent has been moved forward from the second line for clarity.

18 tn Or “must be punished.” The meaning of this line is uncertain. The LXX reads, “Woe, city of falsehood!” The MT presents two anomalies: a masculine singular verb with a feminine singular subject in a verbal stem (Hophal) that elsewhere does not have the meaning “is to be punished.” Hence many follow the Greek which presupposes הוֹי עִיר הַשֶּׁקֶר (hoyir hasheqer) instead of הִיא הָעִיר הָפְקַד (hihair hofqad). The Greek is the easier reading in light of the parallelism, and it would be hard to explain how the MT arose from it. KBL suggests reading a noun meaning “licentiousness” which occurs elsewhere only in Mishnaic Hebrew, hence “this is the city, the licentious one” (attributive apposition; cf. KBL 775 s.v. פֶּקֶר). Perhaps the Hophal perfect (הָפְקַד, hofÿqad) should be revocalized as a Niphal infinitive absolute (הִפָּקֹד, hippaqod); this would solve both anomalies in the MT since the Niphal is used in this nuance and the infinitive absolute can function in place of a finite verb (cf. GKC 346 §113.ee and ff). This, however, is mere speculation and is supported by no Hebrew ms.

19 tn Heb “All of it oppression in its midst.”

20 tc Heb “As a well makes cool/fresh its water, she makes cool/fresh her wickedness.” The translation follows the reading proposed by the Masoretes (Qere) which reads a rare form of the word “well” (בַּיִר [bayir] for בְּאֵר [bÿer]) in place of the form written in the text (Kethib, בּוֹר [bor]), which means “cistern.” The latter noun is masculine and the pronoun “its” is feminine. If indeed בַּיִר (bayir) is a byform of בְּאֵר (beer), which is feminine, it would agree in gender with the pronoun. It also forms a more appropriate comparison since cisterns do not hold fresh water.

21 tn Heb “Violence and destruction are heard in it.”

22 tn Heb “Sickness and wound are continually before my face.”

23 tn This word is not in the text but is supplied in the translation. Jeremiah uses a figure of speech (enallage) where the speaker turns from talking about someone to address him/her directly.

24 tn Heb “lest my soul [= I] becomes disgusted with you.”

sn The wordplay begun with “sound…in Tekoa” in v. 1 and continued with “they will pitch” in v. 3 is concluded here with “turn away” (וּבִתְקוֹעַ תִּקְעוּ [uvitqoatiqu] in v. 1, תָּקְעוּ [taqu] in v. 3 and תֵּקַע [teqa’] here).

25 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

sn For an explanation of the significance of this title see the study note on 2:19.

26 tn The words “to me” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.

27 tn Heb “They will thoroughly glean those who are left in Israel like a vine.” That is, they will be carried off by judgment. It is not necessary to read the verb forms here as two imperatives or an infinitive absolute followed by an imperative as some English versions and commentaries do. This is an example of a third plural verb used impersonally and translated as a passive (cf. GKC 460 §144.g).

28 tn Heb “Pass your hand back over the branches like a grape harvester.” The translation is intended to clarify the metaphor that Jeremiah should try to rescue some from the coming destruction.

29 tn These words are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.

30 tn Or “To whom shall I speak? To whom shall I give warning? Who will listen?” Heb “Unto whom shall I speak and give warning that they may listen?”

31 tn Heb “are uncircumcised.”

32 tn Heb “Behold!”

33 tn Heb “They do not take pleasure in it.”

34 tn Heb “I am full of the wrath of the Lord.”

35 tn These words are not in the text but are implicit from the words that follow. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

36 tn Heb “Pour it out.”

37 tn Heb “are to be captured.”

38 tn Heb “I will reach out my hand.” This figure involves both comparing God to a person (anthropomorphism) and substitution (metonymy) where hand is put for the actions or exertions of the hand. A common use of “hand” is for the exertion of power or strength (cf. BDB 290 s.v. יָד 2 and 289-90 s.v. יָד 1.e(2); cf. Deut 34:12; Ps 78:42; Jer 16:21).

39 tn Heb “They heal [= bandage] the wound of my people lightly”; TEV “They act as if my people’s wounds were only scratches.”

40 tn Heb “They say, ‘Peace! Peace!’ and there is no peace!”

41 tn Heb “They will fall among the fallen.”

42 tn The words, “to his people” are not in the text but are implicit in the interchange of pronouns in the Hebrew of vv. 16-17. They are supplied in the translation here for clarity.

43 tn Heb “Stand at the crossroads and look.”

44 tn Heb “the ancient path,” i.e., the path the Lord set out in ancient times (cf. Deut 32:7).

45 tn Heb “the way of/to the good.”

46 tn These words are not in the text but are implicit in the interchange of pronouns in the Hebrew of vv. 16-17. They are supplied in the translation here for clarity.

47 tn Heb “I appointed watchmen over you.”

48 tn Heb “Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet.” The word “warning” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied.

49 tn These words are not in the text but are implicit from the flow of the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

50 tn Heb “Know, congregation [or witness], what in [or against] them.” The meaning of this line is somewhat uncertain. The meaning of the noun of address in the second line (“witness,” rendered as an imperative in the translation, “Be witnesses”) is greatly debated. It is often taken as “congregation” but the lexicons and commentaries generally question the validity of reading that word since it is nowhere else applied to the nations. BDB 417 s.v. עֵדָה 3 says that the text is dubious. HALOT 747 s.v. I עֵדָה, 4 emends the text to דֵּעָה (deah). Several modern English versions (e.g., NIV, NCV, God’s Word) take it as the feminine singular noun “witness” (cf. BDB 729 s.v. II עֵדָה) and understand it as a collective. This solution is also proposed by J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 259, n. 3) and appears to make the best sense in the context. The end of the line is very elliptical but is generally taken as either, “what I will do with/to them,” or “what is coming against them” (= “what will happen to them”) on the basis of the following context.

51 tn Heb “earth.”

52 tn Heb “Behold!”

53 tn Heb “disaster on these people, the fruit of their schemes.”

54 tn Heb “my word.”

55 tn Heb “To what purpose is it to me?” The question is rhetorical and expects a negative answer.

56 tn The words “when they offer up to me” are not in the text but are implicit from the following context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

57 tn Heb “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to me.” “The shift from “your” to “their” is an example of the figure of speech (apostrophe) where the speaker turns from talking about someone to addressing him/her directly. Though common in Hebrew style, it is not common in English. The shift to the third person in the translation is an accommodation to English style.

58 tn This is an attempt to render the Hebrew particle rendered “behold” joined to the first person pronoun.

59 tn Heb “I will put stumbling blocks in front of these people.” In this context the stumbling blocks are the invading armies.

60 tn The words “and fall to their destruction” are implicit in the metaphor and are supplied in the translation for clarity.

61 tn Heb “people.”

62 sn Jerualem is personified as a young maiden helpless before enemy attackers.

63 tn These words are not in the text, but, from the context, someone other than God is speaking and is speaking for and to the people (either Jeremiah or the people themselves). These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

64 tn Or “We have lost our strength to do battle”; Heb “Our hands hang limp [or helpless at our sides].” According to BDB 951 s.v. רָפָה Qal.2, this idiom is used figuratively for losing heart or energy. The best example of its figurative use of loss of strength or the feeling of helplessness is in Ezek 21:12 where it appears in the context of the heart (courage) melting, the spirit sinking, and the knees becoming like water. For other examples compare 2 Sam 4:1; Zeph 3:16. In Neh 6:9 it is used literally of the builders “dropping their hands from the work” out of fear. The words “with fear” are supplied in the translation because they are implicit in the context.

65 tn Heb “For the enemy has a sword.”

66 tn Heb “Terror is all around!”

67 tn These words are not in the text but are implicit from the context.

68 tn Heb “daughter of my people.” For the translation given here see 4:11 and the translator’s note there.

69 tn Heb “suddenly.”

70 tn Heb “the destroyer.”

71 tn These words are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity. Note “I have appointed you.” Compare Jer 1:18.

72 tn Heb “I have made you an assayer of my people, a tester [?].” The meaning of the words translated “assayer” (בָּחוֹן, bakhon) and “tester” (מִבְצָר, mivtsar) is uncertain. The word בָּחוֹן (bakhon) can mean “tower” (cf. BDB 103 s.v. בָּחוֹן; cf. Isa 23:13 for the only other use) or “assayer” (cf. BDB 103 s.v. בָּחוֹן). The latter would be the more expected nuance because of the other uses of nouns and verbs from this root. The word מִבְצָר (mivtsar) normally means “fortress” (cf. BDB 131 s.v. מִבְצָר), but most modern commentaries and lexicons deem that nuance inappropriate here. HALOT follows a proposal that the word is to be repointed to מְבַצֵּר (mÿvatser) and derived from a root בָּצַר (batsar) meaning “to test” (cf. HALOT 143 s.v. IV בָּצַר). That proposal makes the most sense in the context, but the root appears nowhere else in the OT.

73 tn Heb “test their way.”

74 tn These words are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity. Some takes these words to be the continuation of the Lord’s commission of Jeremiah to the task of testing them. However, since this is the evaluation, the task appears to be complete. The words are better to be taken as Jeremiah’s report after he has completed the task.

75 tn Or “arch rebels,” or “hardened rebels.” Literally “rebels of rebels.”

76 tn Heb “The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed by the fire.” The translation tries to clarify a metaphor involving ancient metallurgy. In the ancient refining process lead was added as a flux to remove impurities from silver ore in the process of oxidizing the lead. Jeremiah says that the lead has been used up and the impurities have not been removed. The translation is based on the recognition of an otherwise unused verb root meaning “blow” (נָחַר [nakhar]; cf. BDB 1123 s.v. I חָרַר and HALOT 651 s.v. נָחַר) and the Masoretes’ suggestion that the consonants מאשׁתם be read מֵאֵשׁ תַּם (meesh tam) rather than as מֵאֶשָּׁתָם (meeshatam, “from their fire”) from an otherwise unattested noun אֶשָּׁה (’eshah).

77 tn Heb “The refiner refines them in vain.”

78 tn This translation is intended to reflect the wordplay in the Hebrew text where the same root word is repeated in the two lines.



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