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Jeremiah 10:11-12

Context

10:11 You people of Israel should tell those nations this:

‘These gods did not make heaven and earth.

They will disappear 1  from the earth and from under the heavens.’ 2 

10:12 The Lord is the one who 3  by his power made the earth.

He is the one who by his wisdom established the world.

And by his understanding he spread out the skies.

1 tn Aram “The gods who did not make…earth will disappear…” The sentence is broken up in the translation to avoid a long, complex English sentence in conformity with contemporary English style.

2 tn This verse is in Aramaic. It is the only Aramaic sentence in Jeremiah. Scholars debate the appropriateness of this verse to this context. Many see it as a gloss added by a postexilic scribe which was later incorporated into the text. Both R. E. Clendenen (“Discourse Strategies in Jeremiah 10,” JBL 106 [1987]: 401-8) and W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:324-25, 334-35) have given detailed arguments that the passage is not only original but the climax and center of the contrast between the Lord and idols in vv. 2-16. Holladay shows that the passage is a very carefully constructed chiasm (see accompanying study note) which argues that “these” at the end is the subject of the verb “will disappear” not the attributive adjective modifying heaven. He also makes a very good case that the verse is poetry and not prose as it is rendered in the majority of modern English versions.

sn This passage is carefully structured and placed to contrast the Lord who is living and eternal (v. 10) and made the heavens and earth (v. 12) with the idols who did not and will disappear. It also has a very careful concentric structure in the original text where “the gods” is balanced by “these,” “heavens” is balance by “from under the heavens,” “the earth” is balanced by “from the earth,” and “did not make” is balanced and contrasted in the very center by “will disappear.” The structure is further reinforced by the sound play/wordplay between “did not make” (Aram לָא עֲבַדוּ [la’ ’avadu]) and “will disappear” (Aram יֵאבַדוּ [yevadu]). This is the rhetorical climax of Jeremiah’s sarcastic attack on the folly of idolatry.

3 tn The words “The Lord is” are not in the text. They are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation here because of the possible confusion of who the subject is due to the parenthetical address to the people of Israel in v. 11. The first two verbs are participles and should not merely be translated as the narrative past. They are predicate nominatives of an implied copula intending to contrast the Lord as the one who made the earth with the idols which did not.



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