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Jeremiah 15:2-3

Context
15:2 If they ask you, ‘Where should we go?’ tell them the Lord says this:

“Those who are destined to die of disease will go to death by disease.

Those who are destined to die in war will go to death in war.

Those who are destined to die of starvation will go to death by starvation.

Those who are destined to go into exile will go into exile.” 1 

15:3 “I will punish them in four different ways: I will have war kill them. I will have dogs drag off their dead bodies. I will have birds and wild beasts devour and destroy their corpses. 2 

1 tn It is difficult to render the rhetorical force of this passage in meaningful English. The text answers the question “Where should we go?” with four brief staccato-like expressions with a play on the preposition “to”: Heb “Who to the death, to the death and who to the sword, to the sword and who to the starvation, to the starvation and who to the captivity, to the captivity.” The word “death” here is commonly understood to be a poetic substitute for “plague” because of the standard trio of sword, famine, and plague (see, e.g., 14:12 and the notes there). This is likely here and in 18:21. For further support see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:440. The nuance “starvation” rather than “famine” has been chosen in the translation because the referents here are all things that accompany war.

2 tn The translation attempts to render in understandable English some rather unusual uses of terms here. The verb translated “punish” is often used that way (cf. BDB 823 s.v. פָּקַד Qal.A.3 and compare usage in Jer 11:22, 13:21). However, here it is accompanied by a direct object and a preposition meaning “over” which is usually used in the sense of appointing someone over someone (cf. BDB 823 s.v. פָּקַד Qal.B.1 and compare usage in Jer 51:27). Moreover the word translated “different ways” normally refers to “families,” “clans,” or “guilds” (cf. BDB 1046-47 s.v. מִשְׁפָּחָה for usage). Hence the four things mentioned are referred to figuratively as officers or agents into whose power the Lord consigns them. The Hebrew text reads: “I will appoint over them four guilds, the sword to kill, the dogs to drag away, the birds of the skies and the beasts of the earth to devour and to destroy.”



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