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. 1
For both prophet and priest go about their own business
in the land without having any real understanding.’” 2
16:4 They will die of deadly diseases. No one will mourn for them. They will not be buried. Their dead bodies will lie like manure spread on the ground. They will be killed in war or die of starvation. Their corpses will be food for the birds and wild animals.
1 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.
2 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.