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Jeremiah 23:11-15

Context

23:11 Moreover, 1  the Lord says, 2 

“Both the prophets and priests are godless.

I have even found them doing evil in my temple!

23:12 So the paths they follow will be dark and slippery.

They will stumble and fall headlong.

For I will bring disaster on them.

A day of reckoning is coming for them.” 3 

The Lord affirms it! 4 

23:13 The Lord says, 5  “I saw the prophets of Samaria 6 

doing something that was disgusting. 7 

They prophesied in the name of the god Baal

and led my people Israel astray. 8 

23:14 But I see the prophets of Jerusalem 9 

doing something just as shocking.

They are unfaithful to me

and continually prophesy lies. 10 

So they give encouragement to people who are doing evil,

with the result that they do not stop their evildoing. 11 

I consider all of them as bad as the people of Sodom,

and the citizens of Jerusalem as bad as the people of Gomorrah. 12 

23:15 So then I, the Lord who rules over all, 13 

have something to say concerning the prophets of Jerusalem: 14 

‘I will make these prophets eat the bitter food of suffering

and drink the poison water of judgment. 15 

For the prophets of Jerusalem are the reason 16 

that ungodliness 17  has spread throughout the land.’”

1 tn The particle כִּי (ki) which begins this verse is parallel to the one at the beginning of the preceding verse. However, the connection is too distant to render it “for.” “Moreover” is intended to draw the parallel. The words “the Lord says” (Heb “Oracle of the Lord”) have been drawn up to the front to introduce the shift in speaker from Jeremiah, who describes his agitated state, to God, who describes the sins of the prophets and priests and his consequent judgment on them.

2 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

3 tn For the last two lines see 11:23 and the notes there.

4 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

5 tn The words “The Lord says” are not in the text, but it is clear from the content that he is the speaker. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 map For location see Map2 B1; Map4 D3; Map5 E2; Map6 A4; Map7 C1.

7 tn According to BDB 1074 s.v. תִּפְלָּה this word means “unseemly, unsavory.” The related adjective is used in Job 6:6 of the tastelessness of something that is unseasoned.

8 tn Heb “by Baal.”

sn Prophesying in the name of the god Baal was a clear violation of Mosaic law and punishable by death (see Deut 13:1-5). For an example of the apostasy encouraged by prophets of Baal in the northern kingdom of Israel see 1 Kgs 18:16-40.

9 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

10 tn Or “they commit adultery and deal falsely.” The word “shocking” only occurs here and in 5:30 where it is found in the context of prophesying lies. This almost assures that the reference to “walking in lies” (Heb “in the lie”) is referring to false prophesy. Moreover the references to the prophets in 5:13 and in 14:13-15 are all in the context of false prophesy as are the following references in this chapter in 23:24, 26, 32 and in 28:15. This appears to be the theme of this section. This also makes it likely that the reference to adultery is not literal adultery, though two of the false prophets in Babylon were guilty of this (29:23). The reference to “encouraging those who do evil” that follows also makes more sense if they were preaching messages of comfort rather than messages of doom. The verbs here are infinitive absolutes in place of the finite verb, probably used to place greater emphasis on the action (cf. Hos 4:2 in a comparable judgment speech.)

11 tn Heb “So they strengthen the hands of those doing evil so that they do not turn back from their evil.” For the use of the figure “strengthen the hands” meaning “encourage” see Judg 9:24; Ezek 13:22 (and cf. BDB 304 s.v. חָזַק Piel.2). The vav consecutive on the front of the form gives the logical consequence equivalent to “so” in the translation.

12 tn Heb “All of them are to me like Sodom and its [Jerusalem’s] inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

sn The rhetoric of this passage is very forceful. Like Amos who focuses attention on the sins of the surrounding nations to bring out more forcefully the heinousness of Israel’s sin, God focuses attention on the sins of the prophets of Samaria to bring out the even worse sin of the prophets of Jerusalem. (The oracle is directed at them, not at the prophets of Samaria. See the announcement of judgment that follows.) The Lord has already followed that tack with Judah in Jeremiah 2 (cf. 2:11). Moreover, he here compares the prophets and the evil-doing citizens of Jerusalem, whom they were encouraging through their false prophesy, to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who were proverbial for their wickedness (Deut 32:32; Isa 1:10).

13 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

sn See the study note on 2:19 for explanation of this title.

14 tn Heb “Therefore, thus says the Lord…concerning the prophets.” The person is shifted to better conform with English style and the word “of Jerusalem” is supplied in the translation to avoid the possible misunderstanding that the judgment applies to the prophets of Samaria who had already been judged long before.

15 tn Heb “I will feed this people wormwood and make them drink poison water.” For these same words of judgment on another group see 9:15 (9:14 HT). “Wormwood” and “poison water” are not to be understood literally here but are symbolic of judgment and suffering. See, e.g., BDB 542 s.v. לַעֲנָה.

16 tn The compound preposition מֵאֵת (meet) expresses source or origin (see BDB 86 s.v. אֵת 4.c). Context shows that the origin is in their false prophesying which encourages people in their evil behavior.

17 sn A word that derives from this same Hebrew word is used in v. 11 at the beginning of the Lord’s criticism of the prophet and priest. This is a common rhetorical device for bracketing material that belongs together. The criticism has, however, focused on the false prophets and the judgment due them.



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