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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 

Jeremiah 12:1-4

Context

12:1 Lord, you have always been fair

whenever I have complained to you. 12 

However, I would like to speak with you about the disposition of justice. 13 

Why are wicked people successful? 14 

Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?

12:2 You plant them like trees and they put down their roots. 15 

They grow prosperous and are very fruitful. 16 

They always talk about you,

but they really care nothing about you. 17 

12:3 But you, Lord, know all about me.

You watch me and test my devotion to you. 18 

Drag these wicked men away like sheep to be slaughtered!

Appoint a time when they will be killed! 19 

12:4 How long must the land be parched 20 

and the grass in every field be withered?

How long 21  must the animals and the birds die

because of the wickedness of the people who live in this land? 22 

For these people boast,

“God 23  will not see what happens to us.” 24 

Jeremiah 15:15-18

Context

15:15 I said, 25 

Lord, you know how I suffer. 26 

Take thought of me and care for me.

Pay back for me those who have been persecuting me.

Do not be so patient with them that you allow them to kill me.

Be mindful of how I have put up with their insults for your sake.

15:16 As your words came to me I drank them in, 27 

and they filled my heart with joy and happiness

because I belong to you. 28 

15:17 I did not spend my time in the company of other people,

laughing and having a good time.

I stayed to myself because I felt obligated to you 29 

and because I was filled with anger at what they had done.

15:18 Why must I continually suffer such painful anguish?

Why must I endure the sting of their insults like an incurable wound?

Will you let me down when I need you

like a brook one goes to for water, but that cannot be relied on?” 30 

Jeremiah 17:14-18

Context

17:14 Lord, grant me relief from my suffering

so that I may have some relief.

Rescue me from those who persecute me

so that I may be rescued. 31 

17:15 Listen to what they are saying to me. 32 

They are saying, “Where are the things the Lord threatens us with?

Come on! Let’s see them happen!” 33 

17:16 But I have not pestered you to bring disaster. 34 

I have not desired the time of irreparable devastation. 35 

You know that.

You are fully aware of every word that I have spoken. 36 

17:17 Do not cause me dismay! 37 

You are my source of safety in times of trouble.

17:18 May those who persecute me be disgraced.

Do not let me be disgraced.

May they be dismayed.

Do not let me be dismayed.

Bring days of disaster on them.

Bring on them the destruction they deserve.” 38 

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.”

12 tn Or “Lord, you are fair when I present my case before you.”

13 tn Heb “judgments” or “matters of justice.” For the nuance of “complain to,” “fair,” “disposition of justice” assumed here, see BDB 936 s.v. רִיב Qal.4 (cf. Judg 21:22); BDB 843 s.v. צַדִּיק 1.d (cf. Ps 7:12; 11:7); BDB 1049 s.v. מִשְׁפָּט 1.f (cf. Isa 26:8; Ps 10:5; Ezek 7:27).

14 tn Heb “Why does the way [= course of life] of the wicked prosper?”

15 tn Heb “You planted them and they took root.”

16 tn Heb “they grow and produce fruit.” For the nuance “grow” for the verb which normally means “go, walk,” see BDB 232 s.v. חָלַךְ Qal.I.3 and compare Hos 14:7.

17 tn Heb “You are near in their mouths, but far from their kidneys.” The figure of substitution is being used here, “mouth” for “words” and “kidneys” for passions and affections. A contemporary equivalent might be, “your name is always on their lips, but their hearts are far from you.”

18 tn Heb “You, Lord, know me. You watch me and you test my heart toward you.”

sn Jeremiah appears to be complaining like Job that God cares nothing about the prosperity of the wicked, but watches his every move. The reverse ought to be true. Jeremiah shouldn’t be suffering the onslaughts of his fellow countrymen as he is. The wicked who are prospering should be experiencing punishment.

19 tn Heb “set aside for them a day of killing.”

20 tn The verb here is often translated “mourn.” However, this verb is from a homonymic root meaning “to be dry” (cf. HALOT 7 s.v. II אָבַל and compare Hos 4:3 for usage).

21 tn The words “How long” are not in the text. They are carried over from the first line.

22 tn Heb “because of the wickedness of those who live in it.”

23 tn Heb “he.” The referent is usually identified as God and is supplied here for clarity. Some identify the referent with Jeremiah. If that is the case, then he returns to his complaint about the conspirators. It is more likely, however, that it refers to God and Jeremiah’s complaint that the people live their lives apart from concern about God.

24 tc Or reading with the Greek version, “God does not see what we are doing.” In place of “what will happen to us (אַחֲרִיתֵנוּ, ’akharitenu, “our end”) the Greek version understands a Hebrew text which reads “our ways” (אָרְחוֹתֵנו, ’orkhotenu), which is graphically very close to the MT. The Masoretic is supported by the Latin and is retained here on the basis of external evidence. Either text makes good sense in the context. Some identify the “he” with Jeremiah and understand the text to be saying that the conspirators are certain that they will succeed and he will not live to see his prophecies fulfilled.

sn The words here may be an outright rejection of the Lord’s words in Deut 32:20, which is part of a song that was to be taught to Israel in the light of their predicted rejection of the Lord.

25 tn The words “I said” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to mark the shift from the Lord speaking to Jerusalem, to Jeremiah speaking to God.

26 tn The words “how I suffer” are not in the text but are implicit from the continuation. They are supplied in the translation for clarity. Jeremiah is not saying “you are all knowing.”

27 sn Heb “Your words were found and I ate them.” This along with Ezek 2:83:3 is a poetic picture of inspiration. The prophet accepted them, assimilated them, and made them such a part of himself that he spoke with complete assurance what he knew were God’s words.

28 tn Heb “Your name is called upon me.”

sn See Jer 14:9 where this idiom is applied to Israel as a whole and Jer 7:10 where it is applied to the temple. For discussion cf. notes on 7:10.

29 tn Heb “because of your hand.”

30 tn Heb “Will you be to me like a deceptive (brook), like waters which do not last [or are not reliable].”

sn Jeremiah is speaking of the stream beds or wadis which fill with water after the spring rains but often dry up in the summer time. A fuller picture is painted in Job 6:14-21. This contrasts with the earlier metaphor that God had used of himself in Jer 2:13.

31 tn The translation fills in the details of the metaphor from a preceding context (15:18) and from the following context (17:18). The literal translation “Heal me and I will be healed. Rescue me and I will be rescued.” does not make much sense if these details are not filled in. The metaphor is filled in for clarity for the average reader.

32 tn Heb “Behold, they are saying to me.”

33 tn Heb “Where is the word of the Lord. Let it come [or come to pass] please.”

34 tc Heb “I have not run after you for the sake of disaster.” The translation follows the suggestion of some ancient versions. The Hebrew text reads “I have not run from being a shepherd after you.” The translation follows two Greek versions (Aquila and Symmachus) and the Syriac in reading the word “evil” or “disaster” here in place of the word “shepherd” in the Hebrew text. The issue is mainly one of vocalization. The versions mentioned are reading a form מֵרָעָה (meraah) instead of מֵרֹעֶה (meroeh). There does not appear to be any clear case of a prophet being called a shepherd, especially in Jeremiah where it is invariably used of the wicked leaders/rulers of Judah, the leaders/rulers of the enemy that he brings to punish them, or the righteous ruler that he will bring in the future. Moreover, there are no cases where the preposition “after” is used with the verb “shepherd.” Parallelism also argues for the appropriateness of this reading; “disaster” parallels the “incurable day.” The thought also parallels the argument thus far. Other than 11:20; 12:3; 15:15 where he has prayed for vindication by the Lord punishing his persecutors as they deserve, he has invariably responded to the Lord’s word of disaster with laments and prayers for his people (see 4:19-21; 6:24; 8:18; 10:19-25; 14:7-9, 19-22).

35 tn Heb “the incurable day.” For the use of this word see the note on 17:9.

36 tn Heb “that which goes out of my lip is right in front of your face.”

37 tn Heb “do not be a source of dismay for me.” For this nuance of מְחִתָּה (mÿkhittah) rather than “terror” as many of the English versions have it see BDB 370 s.v. מְחִתָּה 1.b and the usage in Prov 21:15. Compare also the usage of the related verb which occurs in the next verse (see also BDB 369 s.v. חָתַת Qal.2).

38 tn Or “complete destruction.” See the translator’s note on 16:18.

sn Jeremiah now does what he says he has not wanted to do or been hasty to do. He is, however, seeking his own vindication and that of God whose threats they have belittled.



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