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Jeremiah 21:4-5

Context
21:4 that the Lord, the God of Israel, says, 1  ‘The forces at your disposal 2  are now outside the walls fighting against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Babylonians 3  who have you under siege. I will gather those forces back inside the city. 4  21:5 In anger, in fury, and in wrath I myself will fight against you with my mighty power and great strength! 5 

1 tn Heb “Tell Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel.’” Using the indirect quote eliminates one level of embedded quotation and makes it easier for the reader to follow.

2 tn Heb “the weapons which are in your hand.” Weapons stands here by substitution for the soldiers who wield them.

3 sn The Babylonians (Heb “the Chaldeans”). The Chaldeans were a group of people in the country south of Babylon from which Nebuchadnezzar came. The Chaldean dynasty his father established became the name by which the Babylonians are regularly referred to in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s contemporary Ezekiel uses both terms.

4 tn The structure of the Hebrew sentence of this verse is long and complex and has led to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. There are two primary points of confusion: 1) the relation of the phrase “outside the walls,” and 2) the antecedent of “them” in the last clause of the verse that reads in Hebrew: “I will gather them back into the midst of the city.” Most take the phrase “outside the walls” with “the Babylonians….” Some take it with “turn back/bring back” to mean “from outside….” However, the preposition “from” is part of the idiom for “outside….” The phrase goes with “fighting” as J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 215) notes and as NJPS suggests. The antecedent of “them” has sometimes been taken mistakenly to refer to the Babylonians. It refers rather to “the forces at your disposal” which is literally “the weapons which are in your hands.” This latter phrase is a figure involving substitution (called metonymy) as Bright also correctly notes. The whole sentence reads in Hebrew: “I will bring back the weapons of war which are in your hand with which you are fighting Nebuchadrezzar the King of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside your wall and I will gather them into the midst of the city.” The sentence has been restructured to better reflect the proper relationships and to make the sentence conform more to contemporary English style.

5 tn Heb “with outstretched hand and with strong arm.” These are, of course, figurative of God’s power and might. He does not literally have hands and arms.

sn The phrases in this order are unique but a very similar phrase “by strong hand and outstretched arm” are found several times with reference to God’s mighty power unleashed against Egypt at the exodus (cf., Deut 4:34; 5:15; 26:8; Jer 32:21; Ps 136:12). Instead of being directed at Israel’s enemies it will now be directed against her.



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