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Jeremiah 10:19-20

Context

10:19 And I cried out, 1  “We are doomed! 2 

Our wound is severe!

We once thought, ‘This is only an illness.

And we will be able to bear it!’ 3 

10:20 But our tents have been destroyed.

The ropes that held them in place have been ripped apart. 4 

Our children are gone and are not coming back. 5 

There is no survivor to put our tents back up,

no one left to hang their tent curtains in place.

1 tn The words, “And I cried out” are not in the text. It is not altogether clear who the speaker is in vv. 19-25. The words of vv. 19-20 would best be assigned to a personified Jerusalem who laments the destruction of her city (under the figure of a tent) and the exile of her children (under the figure of children). However, the words of v. 21 which assign responsibility to the rulers do not fit well in the mouth of the people but do fit Jeremiah. The words of v. 22 are very appropriate to Jeremiah being similar to the report in 4:19-20. Likewise the words of v. 23 which appear to express man’s incapacity to control his own destiny and his resignation to the fate which awaits him in the light of v. 24 seem more appropriate to Jeremiah than to the people. There has been no indication elsewhere that the people have shown any indication of being resigned to their fate or willing to accept their punishment. Though the issue is far from resolved a majority of commentators see Jeremiah as the speaker so identifying himself with their fate that he speaks as though he were this personified figure. It is not altogether out of the question, however, that the speaker throughout is personified Jerusalem though I know of no commentator who takes that view. For those who are interested, the most thorough discussion of the issue is probably to be found in W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:230-35, especially 233-35. Rendering the pronouns throughout as “we” and “our” alleviates some of the difficulty but some speaker needs to be identified in the introduction to allay any possible confusion. Hence I have opted for what is the majority view.

2 tn Heb “Woe to me on account of my wound.” The words “woe to” in many contexts carry the connotation of hopelessness and of inevitable doom (cf. 1 Sam 4:7, 8; Isa 6:5), hence a “deadly blow.” See also the usage in 4:13, 31; 6:4 and the notes on 4:13. For the rendering of the pronoun as “we” and “our” here and in the verses to follow see the preceding note.

3 tn Some interpret this as a resignation to the punishment inflicted and translate “But I said, ‘This is my punishment and I will just need to bear it.’” This is unlikely given the meaning and usage of the word rendered “sickness” (חֳלִי, khali), the absence of the pronoun “my,” and the likelihood that the particle אַךְ means “only” not “indeed” (cf. BDB s.v. אַךְ 2.b and compare its usage in v. 24).

sn What is being referred to here is the feeling that was encouraged by the false prophets that the ill fortunes of the nation were just temporary setbacks and everything would soon get better (cf. 6:14; 8:11).

4 tn Heb “My tent has been destroyed and my tent cords have been ripped apart.” For a very similar identification of Jeremiah’s plight with the plight of the personified community see 4:20 and the notes there.

5 tn Heb “my children have gone from me and are no more.”

sn What is being referred to is the exile of the people of the land. This passage could refer to the exiles of 605 b.c., 597 b.c., or more probably be anticipatory of the exile of 588 b.c. since the “tent,” (i.e., the city) is pictured as torn down. The picture of devastation and desolation here should be contrasted with that in Isa 54:2-3.



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