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
than the grains of sand on the seashores.
At noontime I will bring a destroyer
against the mothers of their young men. 4
I will cause anguish 5 and terror
to fall suddenly upon them. 6
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
3 tn Heb “to me.” BDB 513 s.v. ל 5.a(d) compares the usage of the preposition “to” here to that in Jonah 3:3, “Nineveh was a very great city to God [in God’s estimation].” The NEB/REB interpret as though it were the agent after a passive verb, “I have made widows more numerous.” Most English versions ignore it. The present translation follows BDB though the emphasis on God’s agency has been strong in the passage.
4 tn The translation of this line is a little uncertain because of the double prepositional phrase which is not represented in this translation or most of the others. The Hebrew text reads: “I will bring in to them, against mother of young men, a destroyer at noon time.” Many commentaries delete the phrase with the Greek text. If the preposition read “against” like the following one this would be a case of apposition of nearer definition. There is some evidence of that in the Targum and the Syriac according to BHS. Both nouns “mothers” and “young men” are translated as plural here though they are singular; they are treated by most as collectives. It would be tempting to translate these two lines “In broad daylight I have brought destroyers against the mothers of her fallen young men.” But this may be too interpretive. In the light of 6:4, noontime was a good time to attack. NJPS has “I will bring against them – young men and mothers together – ….” In this case “mother” and “young men” would be a case of asyndetic coordination.
5 tn This word is used only here and in Hos 11:9. It is related to the root meaning “to rouse” (so BDB 735 s.v. I עִיר). Here it refers to the excitement or agitation caused by terror. In Hos 11:9 it refers to the excitement or arousal of anger.
6 tn The “them” in the Hebrew text is feminine referring to the mothers.