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Jeremiah 11:18-20

Context
A Plot Against Jeremiah is Revealed and He Complains of Injustice

11:18 The Lord gave me knowledge, that I might have understanding. 1 

Then he showed me what the people were doing. 2 

11:19 Before this I had been like a docile lamb ready to be led to the slaughter.

I did not know they were making plans to kill me. 3 

I did not know they were saying, 4 

“Let’s destroy the tree along with its fruit! 5 

Let’s remove Jeremiah 6  from the world of the living

so people will not even be reminded of him any more.” 7 

11:20 So I said to the Lord, 8 

“O Lord who rules over all, 9  you are a just judge!

You examine people’s hearts and minds. 10 

I want to see you pay them back for what they have done

because I trust you to vindicate my cause.” 11 

1 tn Heb “caused me to know that I might know.” Many English versions supply an unstated object “their plots” which is referred to later in the context (cf. v. 19). The presupposition of this kind of absolute ellipsis is difficult to justify and would create the need for understanding an ellipsis of “it” also after “I knew.” It is better to see a bipolar use of the verb “know” here. For the second use of the verb “know” meaning “have understanding” see BDB 394 s.v. ָידַע Qal.5.

2 tn Heb “Then you showed me their deeds.” This is another example of the rapid shift in person which is common in Jeremiah. As elsewhere, it has been resolved for the sake of avoiding confusion for the English reader by leveling the referent to the same person throughout. The text again involves an apostrophe, talking about the Lord to addressing him.

3 tn Heb “against me.” The words “to kill me” are implicit from the context and are supplied in the translation for clarity.

4 tn The words “I did not know that they were saying” are not in the text. The quote is without formal introduction in the original. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

5 tn This word and its pronoun (לַחְמוֹ, lakhmo, “its bread”) is often emended to read “in/with its sap” = “in its prime” (either לֵחוֹ [lekho] or לֵחְמוֹ [lekhÿmo]); the latter would be more likely and the מוֹ (mo) could be explained as a rare use of the old poetic third plural suffix for the third singular; cf. GKC 258 §91.l for general use and Ps 11:7 and Job 27:23 for third singular use. Though this fits the context nicely the emendation is probably unnecessary since the word “bread” is sometimes used of other foodstuff than grain or its products (cf. BDB 537 s.v. לֶחֶם 2.a).

sn The word fruit refers contextually here to the prophecies that Jeremiah was giving, not (as some suppose) his progeny. Jeremiah was not married and had no children.

6 tn Heb “cut it [or him] off.” The metaphor of the tree may be continued, though the verb “cut off” is used also of killing people. The rendering clarifies the meaning of the metaphor.

7 tn Heb “so that his name will not be remembered any more.”

8 tn The words “So I said to the Lord” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show the shift in address.

9 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

sn For the significance of the term see the notes at 2:19 and 7:3.

10 tn HebLord of armies, just judge, tester of kidneys and heart.” The sentence has been broken up to avoid a long and complex English sentence. The translation is more in keeping with contemporary English style. In Hebrew thought the “kidneys” were thought of as the seat of the emotions and passions and the “heart” was viewed as the seat of intellect, conscience, and will. The “heart” and the “kidneys” are often used figuratively for the thoughts, emotions, motives, and drives that are thought to be seated in them.

11 tn Heb “Let me see your retribution [i.e., see you exact retribution] from them because I reveal my cause [i.e., plea for justice] to you.”



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