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Jeremiah 23:30-33

Context
23:30 So I, the Lord, affirm 1  that I am opposed to those prophets who steal messages from one another that they claim are from me. 2  23:31 I, the Lord, affirm 3  that I am opposed to those prophets who are using their own tongues to declare, ‘The Lord declares….’ 4  23:32 I, the Lord, affirm 5  that I am opposed to those prophets who dream up lies and report them. They are misleading my people with their reckless lies. 6  I did not send them. I did not commission them. They are not helping these people at all. 7  I, the Lord, affirm it!” 8 

23:33 The Lord said to me, “Jeremiah, 9  when one of these people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, ‘What burdensome message 10  do you have from the Lord?’ Tell them, ‘You are the burden, 11  and I will cast you away. 12  I, the Lord, affirm it! 13 

1 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

2 tn Heb “who are stealing my words from one another.” However, context shows that it is their own word which they claim is from the Lord (cf. next verse).

3 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

4 tn The word “The Lord” is not actually in the text but is implicit in the idiom. It is generally supplied in all the English versions.

sn Jer 23:30-33 are filled with biting sarcasm. The verses all begin with “Behold I am against the prophets who…” and go on to describe their reprehensible behavior. They “steal” one another’s messages which the Lord sarcastically calls “my words” (The passage shows that they are not; compare Marc Anthony’s use of “noble” to describe the ignoble men who killed Caesar). Here the use of the idiom translated “to use their own tongue” is really the idiom that refers to taking something in preparation for action, i.e., “they take their tongue” and “declare.” The verb “declare” is only used here and is derived from the idiom “oracle of “ which is almost universally used in the idiom “oracle of the Lord” which occurs 176 times in Jeremiah. I.e., it is their tongue that is “declaring not his mouth (v. 16). Moreover in the report of what they “declare” the Lord has left out the qualifying “of the Lord” to suggest the delusive nature of their message, i.e. they mislead people into believing that their message is from the Lord. Elsewhere in the discussion of the issue of false prophecy the Lord will use the full formula (Ezek 13:6-7). How ironic that their “Oracle of…” is punctuated by the triple “Oracle of the Lord” (vv. 30, 31, 32; translated here “I, the Lord, affirm that…).

5 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

6 tn Heb “with their lies and their recklessness.” This is an example of hendiadys where two nouns (in this case a concrete and an abstract one) are joined by “and” but one is intended to be the adjectival modifier of the other.

7 sn In the light of what has been said this is a rhetorical understatement; they are not only “not helping,” they are leading them to their doom (cf. vv. 19-22). This figure of speech is known as litotes.

8 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

9 tn The words “The Lord said to me, ‘Jeremiah” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show the shift between the Lord addressing the people (second masculine plural) and the Lord addressing Jeremiah (second masculine singular).

10 tn The meaning of vv. 33-40 is debated. The translation given here follows the general direction of NRSV and REB rather than that of NIV and the related direction taken by NCV and God’s Word. The meaning of vv. 33-40 are debated because of (1) the ambiguity involved in the word מָשָּׂא (masa’), which can mean either “burden” (as something carried or weighing heavily on a person; see, e.g., Exod 23:5; Num 4:27; 2 Sam 15:33; Ps 38:4) or “oracle” (of doom; see, e. g., Isa 13:1; Nah 1:1); (the translation is debated due to etymological concerns), (2) the ambiguity of the line in v. 36 which has been rendered “For what is ‘burdensome’ really pertains rather to what a person himself says” (Heb “the burden is to the man his word”), and (3) the text in v. 33 of “you are the burden.” Many commentaries see a wordplay on the two words “burden” and “oracle” which are homonyms. However, from the contrasts that are drawn in the passage, it is doubtful whether the nuance of “oracle” ever is in view. The word is always used in the prophets of an oracle of doom or judgment; it is not merely revelation of God which one of the common people would have been uttering (contra NIV). Jeremiah never uses the word in that sense nor does anyone else in the book of Jeremiah.

sn What is in view here is the idea that the people consider Jeremiah’s views of loyalty to God and obedience to the covenant “burdensome.” I.e., what burdensome demands is the Lord asking you to impose on us (See Jer 17:21, 22, 24, 27 where this same word is used regarding Sabbath observance which they chafed at). The Lord answers back that it is not he who is being burdensome to them; they are burdensome to him (See 15:6: “I am weary” and compare Isa 1:14 where the verb rather than the noun is used).

11 tc The translation follows the Latin and Greek versions. The Hebrew text reads “What burden [i.e., burdensome message]?” The syntax of “what message?” is not in itself objectionable; the interrogative can function as an adjective (cf. BDB 552 s.v. מָה 1.a[a]). What is objectionable to virtually all the commentaries and lexicons is the unparalleled use of the accusative particle in front of the interrogative and the noun (see, e.g., BDB 672 s.v. III מָשָּׂא and GKC 365-66 §117.m, n. 3). The emendation only involves the redivision and revocalization of the same consonants: אֶת־מַה־מַשָּׂא (’et-mah-masa’) becomes אַתֶּם הַמָּשָּׂא (’atem hammasa’). This also makes a much more natural connection for the vav consecutive perfect that follows (cf. GKC 334 §112.x and compare Isa 6:7; Judg 13:3).

12 tn The meaning “cast you away” is questioned by some because the word is regularly used of “forsaking” or “abandoning” (see, e.g., Jer 7:29; 12:7; 15:6). However, it is clearly use of “casting down” or “throwing away” in Ezek 29:5; 32:4 and that meaning is virtually assured in v. 39 where the verb is combined with the phrase “from my presence” which is elsewhere used in rejection contexts with verbs like “send away,” “throw out,” or “remove” (see BDB 819 s.v. פָּנֶה II.8.a). This is another example of the bracketing effect of a key word and should be rendered the same in the two passages. Moreover, it fits in nicely with the play on “burden” here.

13 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”



TIP #07: Use the Discovery Box to further explore word(s) and verse(s). [ALL]
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