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Jeremiah 21:13-14

Context

21:13 Listen, you 1  who sit enthroned above the valley on a rocky plateau.

I am opposed to you,’ 2  says the Lord. 3 

‘You boast, “No one can swoop down on us.

No one can penetrate into our places of refuge.” 4 

21:14 But I will punish you as your deeds deserve,’

says the Lord. 5 

‘I will set fire to your palace;

it will burn up everything around it.’” 6 

1 tn Or “Listen, Jerusalem, you…”; Heb text of v. 21a-b reads, “Behold I am against you [fem. sg.], O inhabitant [fem. sg.] of the valley [and of] the rock of the plain, oracle of the Lord, who are saying [masc. pl.].” Verses 13-14 are generally treated as a separate oracle addressed to Jerusalem. The basis for this is (1) the appropriateness of the description here to the city of Jerusalem; (2) the rather similar reference to Jerusalem smugly living in her buildings made from cedars of Lebanon in 22:23; (3) the use of the second feminine singular pronoun “you” in other places in reference to Jerusalem (cf. clearly in 4:14; 6:8; 13:20; 15:5-6); (4) the use of the feminine singular participle to refer to personified Jerusalem in 10:17 as well as 20:23. However, the description in 21:13 is equally appropriate to the royal household that the Lord has been addressing; the palace stood on the Ophel or fill between the northern and southern hill just south of the temple and overlooked the Kidron valley. Moreover, the word “enthroned” is even more fitting to the royal household than to Jerusalem. The phrase “enthroned above the valley” is literally “inhabitant of the valley.” But since the literal is inappropriate for either Jerusalem or the royal palace, the phrase is regularly interpreted after the parallel phrase referring to the Lord “enthroned above the cherubim.” The royal house was “enthroned” more literally than Jerusalem was. Taking this to refer to the royal court rather than Jerusalem also introduces one less unintroduced entity by the shift in pronoun in vv. 11-14 as well as eliminating the introduction of an otherwise unintroduced oracle. The “you” of “you boast” is actually the masculine plural participle (Heb “who say”) that modifies the feminine singular participle “you who sit enthroned” and goes back to the masculine plural imperatives in v. 12 rather than introducing a new entity, the people of the city. The participle “you who sit enthroned” is to be interpreted as a collective referring to the royal court not a personification of the city of Jerusalem (cf. GKC 394 §122.s and see, e.g., Isa 12:6; Mic 1:11). Moreover, taking the referent to be the royal court makes the reference to the word translated “palace” much more natural. The word is literally “forest” and is often seen to be an allusion to the armory which was called the “Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kgs 7:2; 10:17; 10:21; Isa 22:8 and see also Ezek 17:3 in an allegory (17:2-18) which may have been contemporary with this oracle). Taking the oracle to refer to the royal court also makes this oracle more parallel with the one that follows where destruction of the palace leads also to the destruction of the city.

2 tn Heb “I am against you.”

3 tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.”

4 tn Heb “Who can swoop…Who can penetrate…?” The questions are rhetorical and expect a negative answer. They are rendered as negative affirmations for clarity.

sn What is being expressed here is the belief in the inviolability of Zion/Jerusalem carried to its extreme. Signal deliverances of Jerusalem such as those experienced under Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20) and Hezekiah (Isa 37:36-37) in the context of promises to protect it (Isa 31:4-5; 37:33-35; 38:6) led to a belief that Zion was unconquerable. This belief found expression in several of Israel’s psalms (Pss 46, 48, 76) and led to the mistaken assumption that God would protect it regardless of how the people treated God or one another. Micah and Jeremiah both deny that (cf. Mic 3:8-12; Jer 21:13-14).

5 tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.”

6 tn Heb “I will set fire in its forest and it will devour its surroundings.” The pronouns are actually third feminine singular going back to the participle “you who sit enthroned above the valley.” However, this is another example of those rapid shifts in pronouns typical of the biblical Hebrew style which are uncommon in English. They have regularly been leveled to the same person throughout in the translation to avoid possible confusion for the English reader.



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