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Jeremiah 14:17-18

Context
Lament over Present Destruction and Threat of More to Come

14:17 “Tell these people this, Jeremiah: 1 

‘My eyes overflow with tears

day and night without ceasing. 2 

For my people, my dear children, 3  have suffered a crushing blow.

They have suffered a serious wound. 4 

14:18 If I go out into the countryside,

I see those who have been killed in battle.

If I go into the city,

I see those who are sick because of starvation. 5 

For both prophet and priest go about their own business

in the land without having any real understanding.’” 6 

1 tn The word “Jeremiah” is not in the text but the address is to a second person singular and is a continuation of 14:14 where the quote starts. The word is supplied in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Many of the English versions and commentaries render this an indirect or third person imperative, “Let my eyes overflow…” because of the particle אַל (’al) which introduces the phrase translated “without ceasing” (אַל־תִּדְמֶינָה, ’al-tidmenah). However, this is undoubtedly an example where the particle introduces an affirmation that something cannot be done (cf. GKC 322 §109.e). Clear examples of this are found in Pss 41:2 (41:3 HT); 50:3; Job 40:32 (41:8). God here is describing again a lamentable situation and giving his response to it. See 14:1-6 above.

sn Once again it is the Lord lamenting the plight of the people, now directed to them, not the people lamenting their plight to him. See 14:1-6 and the study notes on the introduction to this section and on 14:7.

3 tn Heb “virgin daughter, my people.” The last noun here is appositional to the first two (genitive of apposition). Hence it is not ‘literally’ “virgin daughter of my people.”

sn This is a metaphor which occurs several times with regard to Israel, Judah, Zion, and even Sidon and Babylon. It is the poetic personification of the people, the city, or the land. Like other metaphors the quality of the comparison being alluded to must be elicited from the context. This is easy in Isa 23:12 (oppressed) and Isa 47:1 (soft and delicate) but not so easy in other places. From the nature of the context the suspicion here is that the protection the virgin was normally privileged to is being referred to and there is a reminder that the people are forfeiting it by their actions. Hence God laments for them.

4 tn This is a poetic personification. To translate with the plural “serious wounds” might mislead some into thinking of literal wounds.

sn Compare Jer 10:19 for a similar use of this metaphor.

5 tn The word “starvation” has been translated “famine” elsewhere in this passage. It is the word which refers to hunger. The “starvation” here may be war induced and not simply that which comes from famine per se. “Starvation” will cover both.

6 tn The meaning of these last two lines is somewhat uncertain. The meaning of these two lines is debated because of the uncertainty of the meaning of the verb rendered “go about their business” (סָחַר, sakhar) and the last phrase translated here “without any real understanding.” The verb in question most commonly occurs as a participle meaning “trader” or “merchant” (cf., e.g., Ezek 27:21, 36; Prov 31:14). It occurs as a finite verb elsewhere only in Gen 34:10, 21; 42:34 and there in a literal sense of “trading,” “doing business.” While the nuance is metaphorical here it need not extend to “journeying into” (cf., e.g., BDB 695 s.v. סָחַר Qal.1) and be seen as a reference to exile as is sometimes assumed. That seems at variance with the causal particle which introduces this clause, the tense of the verb, and the surrounding context. People are dying in the land (vv. 17-18a) not because prophet and priest have gone (the verb is the Hebrew perfect or past) into exile but because prophet and priest have no true knowledge of God or the situation. The clause translated here “without having any real understanding” (Heb “and they do not know”) is using the verb in the absolute sense indicated in BDB 394 s.v. יָדַע Qal.5 and illustrated in Isa 1:3; 56:10. For a more thorough discussion of the issues one may consult W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:330-31.

sn For the “business” of the prophets and priest see 2:8; 5:13; 6:13; 8:10. In the context it refers to the prophets prophesying lies (see vv. 13-15).



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