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Jeremiah 15:10-18

Context
Jeremiah Complains about His Lot and The Lord Responds

15:10 I said, 1 

“Oh, mother, how I regret 2  that you ever gave birth to me!

I am always starting arguments and quarrels with the people of this land. 3 

I have not lent money to anyone and I have not borrowed from anyone.

Yet all of these people are treating me with contempt.” 4 

15:11 The Lord said,

“Jerusalem, 5  I will surely send you away for your own good.

I will surely 6  bring the enemy upon you in a time of trouble and distress.

15:12 Can you people who are like iron and bronze

break that iron fist from the north? 7 

15:13 I will give away your wealth and your treasures as plunder.

I will give it away free of charge for the sins you have committed throughout your land.

15:14 I will make you serve your enemies 8  in a land that you know nothing about.

For my anger is like a fire that will burn against you.”

15:15 I said, 9 

Lord, you know how I suffer. 10 

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, 11 

and they filled my heart with joy and happiness

because I belong to you. 12 

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 13 

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?” 14 

1 tn The words “I said” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to mark a shift in the speaker.

2 tn Heb “Woe to me, my mother.” See the comments on 4:13 and 10:19.

3 tn Heb “A man of strife and a man of contention with all the land.” The “of” relationship (Hebrew and Greek genitive) can convey either subjective or objective relationships, i.e., he instigates strife and contention or he is the object of it. A study of usage elsewhere, e.g., Isa 41:11; Job 31:35; Prov 12:19; 25:24; 26:21; 27:15, is convincing that it is subjective. In his role as God’s covenant messenger charging people with wrong doing he has instigated counterarguments and stirred about strife and contention against him.

4 tc The translation follows the almost universally agreed upon correction of the MT. Instead of reading כֻּלֹּה מְקַלְלַונִי (kulloh mÿqallavni, “all of him is cursing me”) as the Masoretes proposed (Qere) one should read קִלְלוּנִי (qilluni) with the written text (Kethib) and redivide and repoint with the suggestion in BHS כֻּלְּהֶם (qullÿhem, “all of them are cursing me”).

5 tn The word “Jerusalem” is not in the text. It is supplied in the translation for clarity to identify the referent of “you.” A comparison of three or four English versions will show how difficult this verse is to interpret. The primary difficulty is with the meaning of the verb rendered here as “I will surely send you out [שֵׁרִותִךָ, sherivtikha].” The text and the meaning of the word are debated (for a rather full discussion see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:446-47, n. b-b). Tied up with that is the meaning of the verb in the second line and the identification of who the speaker and addressee are. One of two approaches are usually followed. Some follow the Greek version which has Jeremiah speaking and supporting his complaint that he has been faithful. In this case the word “said” is left out, the difficult verb is taken to mean “I have served you” (שֵׁרַתִּיךָ [sheratikha] from שָׁרַת [sharat; BDB 1058 s.v. שָׁרַת]) and the parallel verb means “I have made intercession for my enemies.” The second tack is to suppose that God is speaking and is promising Jeremiah deliverance from his detractors. In this case the troublesome word is taken to mean “deliver” (cf. BDB 1056 s.v. I שָׁרָה), “strengthen” (see BDB’s discussion) or read as a noun “remnant” (שֵׁרִיתְךָ = שְׁאֵרִיתְךָ [sheritekha = shÿeritekha]; again see BDB’s discussion). In this case the parallel verb is taken to mean “I will cause your enemies to entreat you,” a meaning it has nowhere else. Both of these approaches are probably wrong. The Greek text is the only evidence for leaving out “said.” The problem with making Jeremiah the addressee is twofold. First, the word “enemy” is never used in the book of Jeremiah’s foes, always of political enemies. Second, and more troublesome, one must assume a shift in the addressee between v. 11 and vv.13-14 or assume that the whole is addressed. The latter would be odd if he is promised deliverance from his detractors only to be delivered to captivity. If, however, one assumes that the whole is addressed to Jerusalem, there is no such problem. A check of earlier chapters will show that the second masculine pronoun is used for Judah/Jerusalem in 2:28-29; 4:1-2; 5:17-18; 11:13. In 2:28-28 and 4:1-2 the same shift from second singular to second plural takes place as does here in vv. 13-14. Moreover, vv. 13-14 continue much of the same vocabulary and is addressed to Jerusalem. The approach followed here is similar to that taken in REB except “for good” is taken in the way it is always used rather to mean “utterly.” The nuance suggested by BDB 1056 s.v. I שָׁרָה is assumed and the meaning of the parallel verb is assumed to be similar to that in Isa 53:6 (see BDB 803 s.v. פָּגַע Hiph.1). The MT is retained with demonstrable meanings. For the concept of “for good” see Jer 24:5-6. This assumes that the ultimate goal of God’s discipline is here announced.

sn The Lord interrupts Jeremiah’s complaint with a word for Jerusalem. Compare a similar interruption in discussion with Jeremiah in vv. 5-6.

6 tn “Surely” represents a construct in Hebrew that indicates a strong oath of affirmation. Cf. BDB 50 s.v. אִם 1.b(2) and compare usage in 2 Kgs 9:26.

7 tn Or “Can iron and bronze break iron from the north?” The question is rhetorical and expects a negative answer. The translation and meaning of this verse are debated. See note for further details. The two main difficulties here involve the relation of words to one another and the obscure allusion to iron from the north. To translate “literally” is difficult since one does not know whether “iron” is subject of “break” or object of an impersonal verb. Likewise, the dangling “and bronze” fits poorly with either understanding. Options: “Can iron break iron from the north and bronze?” Or “Can one break iron, even iron from the north and bronze.” This last is commonly opted for by translators and interpreters, but why add “and bronze” at the end? And what does “iron from the north” refer to? A long history of interpretation relates it to the foe from the north (see already 1:14; 4:6; 6:1; 13:20). The translation follows the lead of NRSV and takes “and bronze” as a compound subject. I have no ready parallels for this syntax but the reference to “from the north” and the comparison to the stubbornness of the unrepentant people to bronze and iron in 6:28 suggests a possible figurative allusion. There is no evidence in the Bible that Israel knew about a special kind of steel like iron from the Black Sea mentioned in later Greek sources. The word “fist” is supplied in the translation to try to give some hint that it refers to a hostile force.

sn Compare Isa 10:5-6 for the idea here.

8 tc This reading follows the Greek and Syriac versions and several Hebrew mss. Other Hebrew mss read “I will cause the enemy to pass through a land.” The difference in the reading is between one Hebrew letter, a dalet (ד) and a resh (ר).

9 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.

10 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.”

11 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.

12 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.

13 tn Heb “because of your hand.”

14 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.



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