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Jeremiah 23:33


23:33 The Lord said to me, “Jeremiah, 1  when one of these people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, ‘What burdensome message 2  do you have from the Lord?’ Tell them, ‘You are the burden, 3  and I will cast you away. 4  I, the Lord, affirm it! 5 

Jeremiah 23:39

23:39 So 6  I will carry you far off 7  and throw you away. I will send both you and the city I gave to you and to your ancestors out of my sight. 8 

1 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).

2 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).

3 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).

4 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.

5 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

6 tn The translation of v. 38 and the first part of v. 39 represents the restructuring of a long and complex Hebrew sentence: Heb “But if you say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ therefore this is what the Lord says, ‘Because you said this word, “The burden of the Lord,” even though I sent unto saying, “you shall not say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ therefore…” The first “therefore” picks up the “if” (BDB 487 s.v. כֵּן 3.d) and the second answer the “because” (BDB 774 s.v. יַעַן 1).

7 tc The translation follows a few Hebrew mss and the major versions. The majority of Hebrew mss read “I will totally forget [or certainly forget] you.” In place of וְנָשִׁיתִי (vÿnashiti) a few Hebrew mss, LXX, Aquila, Symmachus, Syriac, and Vulgate read וְנָשָׂאתִי (vÿnasati). Instead of the infinitive absolute נָשׁאֹ (nasho’) a number of Hebrew mss, Aquila, Symmachus, Syriac, and Vulgate read נָשׂאֹ (naso’). For the confusion of III א and III ה verbs presupposed by the miswriting of the Hebrew text see GKC 216 §75.qq and compare the forms of נָבָא (nava’) in Jer 26:9 and 1 Sam 10:6. While the verb “forget” would not be totally inappropriate here it does not fit the concept of “throwing away from my presence” as well as “pick up” does. For the verb נָשָׂא (nasa’) meaning “carry you off” compare the usage in 1 Kgs 15:22; 18:12 (and see BDB 671 s.v. נָשָׂא 3.b). Many see the nuance “pick you up” carrying through on the wordplay in v. 33. While that may be appropriate for the repetition of the verb “throw away” (נָטַשׁ, natash) that follows, it does not seem as appropriate for the use of the infinitive absolute that follows the verb which expresses some kind of forcefulness (see GKC 343 §113.q).

8 tn Heb “throw you and the city that I gave you and your fathers out of my presence.” The English sentences have been broken down to conform to contemporary English style.

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