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Jeremiah 13:1-11

Context
An Object Lesson from Ruined Linen Shorts

13:1 The Lord said to me, “Go and buy some linen shorts 1  and put them on. 2  Do not put them in water.” 3  13:2 So I bought the shorts as the Lord had told me to do 4  and put them on. 5  13:3 Then the Lord spoke to me again and said, 6  13:4 “Take the shorts that you bought and are wearing 7  and go at once 8  to Perath. 9  Bury the shorts there 10  in a crack in the rocks.” 13:5 So I went and buried them at Perath 11  as the Lord had ordered me to do. 13:6 Many days later the Lord said to me, “Go at once to Perath and get 12  the shorts I ordered you to bury there.” 13:7 So I went to Perath and dug up 13  the shorts from the place where I had buried them. I found 14  that they were ruined; they were good for nothing.

13:8 Then the Lord said to me, 15  13:9 “I, the Lord, say: 16  ‘This shows how 17  I will ruin the highly exalted position 18  in which Judah and Jerusalem 19  take pride. 13:10 These wicked people refuse to obey what I have said. 20  They follow the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts and pay allegiance 21  to other gods by worshiping and serving them. So 22  they will become just like these linen shorts which are good for nothing. 13:11 For,’ I say, 23  ‘just as shorts cling tightly to a person’s body, so I bound the whole nation of Israel and the whole nation of Judah 24  tightly 25  to me.’ I intended for them to be my special people and to bring me fame, honor, and praise. 26  But they would not obey me.

1 tn The term here (אֵזוֹר, ’ezor) has been rendered in various ways: “girdle” (KJV, ASV), “waistband” (NASB), “waistcloth” (RSV), “sash” (NKJV), “belt” (NIV, NCV, NLT), and “loincloth” (NAB, NRSV, NJPS, REB). The latter is more accurate according to J. M. Myers, “Dress and Ornaments,” IDB 1:870, and W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:399. It was a short, skirt-like garment reaching from the waist to the knees and worn next to the body (cf. v. 9). The modern equivalent is “shorts” as in TEV/GNB, CEV.

sn The linen shorts (Heb “loincloth”) were representative of Israel and the wearing of them was to illustrate the Lord’s close relation to his people (v. 11). Since the priests’ garments were to be made wholly of linen (cf. Exod 28; Ezek 44:17-18), the fact that the shorts were to be made of linen probably was to symbolize the nature of Israel’s calling: they were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod 19:5-6). Just as the linen garments of the priest were to give him special honor and glory (Exod 28:40), so the linen garment was to be a source of praise and glory to the Lord (v. 11).

2 tn Heb “upon your loins.” The “loins” were the midriff of the body from the waist to the knees. For a further discussion including the figurative uses see, IDB, “Loins,” 3:149.

3 tn Or “Do not ever put them in water,” i.e., “Do not even wash them.”

sn The fact that the garment was not to be put in water is not explained. A possible explanation within the context is that it was to be worn continuously, not even taken off to wash it. That would illustrate that the close relationship that the Lord had with his people was continuous and indissoluble. Other explanations are that it was not to be gotten wet because (1) that would have begun the process of rotting (This assumes that the rotting was done by the water of the Euphrates. But it was buried in a crack in the rocks, not in the river itself); (2) that would have made it softer and easier to wear; or (3) that showed that the garment was new, clean, and fresh from the merchant. For this latter interpretation see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 64. For a fuller discussion of most of the issues connected with this acted out parable see W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:285-92. However, the reason is not explained in the text and there is not enough evidence in the text to come to a firm conclusion, though the most likely possibility is that it was not to be taken off and washed but worn continuously.

4 tn Heb “according to the word of the Lord.”

5 tn Heb “upon your loins.” The “loins” were the midriff of the body from the waist to the knees. For a further discussion including the figurative uses see R. C. Dentan, “Loins,” IDB 3:149-50.

6 tn Heb “The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying.”

7 tn Heb “which are upon your loins.” See further the notes on v. 1.

8 tn Heb “Get up and go.” The first verb is not literal but is idiomatic for the initiation of an action.

9 tn There has been a great deal of debate about whether the place referred to here is a place (Parah [= Perath] mentioned in Josh 18:23, modern Khirbet Farah, near a spring ’ain Farah) about three and a half miles from Anathoth which was Jeremiah’s home town or the Euphrates River. Elsewhere the word “Perath” always refers to the Euphrates but it is either preceded by the word “river of” or there is contextual indication that the Euphrates is being referred to. Because a journey to the Euphrates and back would involve a journey of more than 700 miles (1,100 km) and take some months, scholars both ancient and modern have questioned whether “Perath” refers to the Euphrates here and if it does whether a real journey was involved. Most of the attempts to identify the place with the Euphrates involve misguided assumptions that this action was a symbolic message to Israel about exile or the corrupting influence of Assyria and Babylon. However, unlike the other symbolic acts in Jeremiah (and in Isaiah and Ezekiel) the symbolism is not part of a message to the people but to Jeremiah; the message is explained to him (vv. 9-11) not the people. In keeping with some of the wordplays that are somewhat common in Jeremiah it is likely that the reference here is to a place, Parah, which was near Jeremiah’s hometown, but whose name would naturally suggest to Jeremiah later in the Lord’s explanation in vv. 9-11 Assyria-Babylon as a place connected with Judah’s corruption (see the notes on vv. 9-10). For further discussion the reader should consult the commentaries, especially W. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:396 and W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:285-92 who take opposite positions on this issue.

10 sn The significance of this act is explained in vv. 9-10. See the notes there for explanation.

11 tc The translation reads בִּפְרָתָה (bifratah) with 4QJera as noted in W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:393 instead of בִּפְרָת (bifrat) in the MT.

12 tn Heb “Get from there.” The words “from there” are not necessary to the English sentence. They would lead to a redundancy later in the verse, i.e., “from there…bury there.”

13 tn Heb “dug and took.”

14 tn Heb “And behold.”

15 tn Heb “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying.”

16 tn Heb “Thus says the Lord.”

17 tn In a sense this phrase which is literally “according to thus” or simply “thus” points both backward and forward: backward to the acted out parable and forward to the explanation which follows.

18 tn Many of the English versions have erred in rendering this word “pride” or “arrogance” with the resultant implication that the Lord is going to destroy Israel’s pride, i.e., humble them through the punishment of exile. However, BDB 144-45 s.v. גָּאוֹן 1 is more probably correct when they classify this passage among those that deal with the “‘majesty, excellence’ of nations, their wealth, power, magnificence of buildings….” The closest parallels to the usage here are in Zech 10:11 (parallel to scepter of Egypt); Ps 47:4 (47:5 HT; parallel to “our heritage” = “our land”); Isa 14:11; and Amos 8:7. The term is further defined in v. 11 where it refers to their special relationship and calling. To translate it “pride” or “arrogance” also ruins the wordplay on “ruin” (נִשְׁחַת [nishkhat] in v. 7 and אַשְׁחִית [’ashkhit] in v. 9).

sn Scholars ancient and modern are divided over the significance of the statement I will ruin the highly exalted position in which Judah and Jerusalem take pride (Heb “I will ruin the pride of Judah and Jerusalem”). Some feel that it refers to the corrupting influence of Assyria and Babylon and others feel that it refers to the threat of Babylonian exile. However, F. B. Huey (Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 144) is correct in observing that the Babylonian exile did not lead to the rottenness of Judah, the corrupting influence of the foreign nations did. In Jeremiah’s day these came through the age-old influences of the Canaanite worship of Baal but also the astral worship introduced by Ahaz and Manasseh. For an example of the corrupting influence of Assyria on Judah through Ahaz’s political alliances see 2 Kgs 16 and also compare the allegory in Ezek 23:14-21. It was while the “linen shorts” were off Jeremiah’s body and buried in the rocks that the linen shorts were ruined. So the Lord “ruined” the privileged status that resulted from Israel’s close relationship to him (cf. v. 11). For the “problem” created by the Lord ruining Israel through corrupting influence compare the notes on Jer 4:10 and compare also passages like Isa 63:17 and Isa 6:10.

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

20 tn Heb “to listen to my words.”

21 tn Heb “and [they follow] after.” See the translator’s note at 2:5 for the idiom.

22 tn The structure of this verse is a little unusual. It consists of a subject, “this wicked people” qualified by several “which” clauses preceding a conjunction and a form which would normally be taken as a third person imperative (a Hebrew jussive; וִיהִי, vihi). This construction, called casus pendens by Hebrew grammarians, lays focus on the subject, here calling attention to the nature of Israel’s corruption which makes it rotten and useless to God. See GKC 458 §143.d for other examples of this construction.

23 tn The words “I say” are “Oracle of the Lord” in Hebrew, and are located at the end of this statement in the Hebrew text rather than the beginning. However, they are rendered in the first person and placed at the beginning for smoother English style.

24 tn Heb “all the house of Israel and all the house of Judah.”

25 tn It would be somewhat unnatural in English to render the play on the word translated here “cling tightly” and “bound tightly” in a literal way. They are from the same root word in Hebrew (דָּבַק, davaq), a word that emphasizes the closest of personal relationships and the loyalty connected with them. It is used, for example, of the relationship of a husband and a wife and the loyalty expected of them (cf. Gen 2:24; for other similar uses see Ruth 1:14; 2 Sam 20:2; Deut 11:22).

26 tn Heb “I bound them…in order that they might be to me for a people and for a name and for praise and for honor.” The sentence has been separated from the preceding and an equivalent idea expressed which is more in keeping with contemporary English style.



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