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Jeremiah 11:2-3

Context
11:2 “Hear 1  the terms of the covenant 2  I made with Israel 3  and pass them on 4  to the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. 5  11:3 Tell them that the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘Anyone who does not keep the terms of the covenant will be under a curse. 6 

1 tn The form is a second masculine plural which is followed in the MT of vv. 2-3 by second masculine singulars. This plus the fact that the whole clause “listen to the terms of this covenant” is nearly repeated at the end of v. 3 has led many modern scholars to delete the whole clause (cf., e.g. W. McKane, Jeremiah [ICC], 1:236-37). However, this only leads to further adjustments in the rest of the verse which are difficult to justify. The form has also led to a good deal of speculation about who these others were that are initially addressed here. The juxtaposition of second plural and singular forms has a precedent in Deuteronomy, where the nation is sometimes addressed with the plural and at other times with a collective singular.

2 sn The covenant I made with Israel. Apart from the legal profession and Jewish and Christian tradition the term “covenant” may not be too familiar. There were essentially three kinds of “covenants” that were referred to under the Hebrew term used here: (1) “Parity treaties” or “covenants” between equals in which each party pledged itself to certain agreed upon stipulations and took an oath to it in the name of their god or gods (cf. Gen 31:44-54); (2) “Suzerain-vassal treaties” or “covenants” in which a great king pledged himself to protect the vassal’s realm and his right to rule over his own domain in exchange for sovereignty over the vassal, including the rendering of absolute loyalty and submission to the great king’s demands spelled out in detailed stipulations; (3) “Covenants of grant” in which a great king granted to a loyal servant or vassal king permanent title to a piece of land or dominion over a specified realm in recognition of past service. It is generally recognized that the Mosaic covenant which is being referred to here is of the second type and that it resembles in kind the ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal treaties. These treaties typically contained the following elements: (1) a preamble identifying the great king (cf. Exod 20:2a; Deut 1:1-4); (2) a historical prologue summarizing the great king’s past benefactions as motivation for future loyalty (cf. Exod 20:2b; Deut 1:5–4:43); (3) the primary stipulation of absolute and unconditional loyalty (cf. Exod 20:3-8; Deut 5:111:32); (4) specific stipulations governing future relations between the vassal and the great king and the vassal’s relation to other vassals (cf. Exod 20:22–23:33; Deut 12:126:15); (5) the invoking of curses on the vassal for disloyalty and the pronouncing of blessing on him for loyalty (cf. Lev 26; Deut 27-28); (6) the invoking of witnesses to the covenant, often the great king’s and the vassal’s gods (cf. Deut 30:19; 31:28 where the reference is to the “heavens and the earth” as enduring witnesses). It is also generally agreed that the majority of the threats of punishment by the prophets refer to the invocation of these covenant curses for disloyalty to the basic stipulation, that of absolute loyalty.

3 tn Heb “this covenant.” The referent of “this” is left dangling until it is further defined in vv. 3-4. Leaving it undefined in the translation may lead to confusion hence the anticipatory nature of the demonstrative is spelled out explicitly in the translation.

4 tn Heb “and speak/tell them.” However, the translation chosen is more appropriate to modern idiom.

5 tn Or “those living in Jerusalem”; Heb “inhabitants of.”

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

6 tn Heb “Cursed is the person who does not listen to the terms of this covenant.” “This covenant” is further qualified in the following verse by a relative clause. The form of the sentence and the qualification “my” before covenant were chosen for better English idiom and to break up a long sentence which really extends to the middle of v. 5.



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