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Jeremiah 23:33-40

Context

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  23:34 I will punish any prophet, priest, or other person who says “The Lord’s message is burdensome.” 6  I will punish both that person and his whole family.’” 7 

23:35 So I, Jeremiah, tell you, 8  “Each of you people should say to his friend or his relative, ‘How did the Lord answer? Or what did the Lord say?’ 9  23:36 You must no longer say that the Lord’s message is burdensome. 10  For what is ‘burdensome’ 11  really pertains to what a person himself says. 12  You are misrepresenting 13  the words of our God, the living God, the Lord who rules over all. 14  23:37 Each of you should merely ask the prophet, ‘What answer did the Lord give you? Or what did the Lord say?’ 15  23:38 But just suppose you continue to say, ‘The message of the Lord is burdensome.’ Here is what the Lord says will happen: ‘I sent word to you that you must not say, “The Lord’s message is burdensome.” But you used the words “The Lord’s message is burdensome” anyway. 23:39 So 16  I will carry you far off 17  and throw you away. I will send both you and the city I gave to you and to your ancestors out of my sight. 18  23:40 I will bring on you lasting shame and lasting disgrace which will never be forgotten!’”

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 Heb “burden of the Lord.”

7 tn Heb “And the prophet or the priest or the people [common person] who says, ‘The burden of the Lord,” I will visit upon [= punish] that man and his house.” This is an example of the Hebrew construction call nominative absolute or casus pendens (cf. GKC 458 §143.d).

8 tn The words “So, I, Jeremiah tell you” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show that it is he who is addressing the people, not the Lord. See “our God” in v. 38 and “Here is what the Lord says…” which indicate the speaker is other than he.

9 tn This line is sometimes rendered as a description of what the people are doing (cf. NIV). However, repetition with some slight modification referring to the prophet in v. 37 followed by the same kind of prohibition that follows here shows that what is being contrasted is two views toward the Lord’s message, i.e., one of openness to receive what the Lord says through the prophet and one that already characterizes the Lord’s message as a burden. Allusion to the question that started the discussion in v. 33 should not be missed. The prophet alluded to is Jeremiah. He is being indirect in his reference to himself.

10 tn Heb “burden of the Lord.”

11 tn Heb “the burden.”

12 tn Heb “The burden is [or will be] to a man his word.” There is a good deal of ambiguity regarding how this line is to be rendered. For the major options and the issues involved W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:651-52 should be consulted. Most of them are excluded by the observation that מַשָּׂא probably does not mean “oracle” anywhere in this passage (see note on v. 33 regarding the use of this word). Hence it does not mean “every man’s word becomes his oracle” as in NIV or “for that ‘burden’ [= oracle] is what he entrusts to the man of his word” (W. McKane, Jeremiah [ICC], 1:600-601). The latter is also ruled out by the fact that the antecedent of “his” on “his word” is clearly the word “man” in front of it. This would be the only case where the phrase “man of his word” occurs. There is also no textual reason for repointing the noun with the article as the noun with the interrogative to read “For how can his word become a burden to anyone?” There are, of course, other options but this is sufficient to show that the translation has been chosen after looking at other alternatives.

13 tn Heb “turning.” See BDB 245 s.v. הָפַךְ Qal.1.c and Lev 13:55; Jer 13:33 “changing, altering.”

14 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

15 tn See the note on v. 35.

sn As noted in v. 35 the prophet is Jeremiah. The message is directed against the prophet, priest, or common people who have characterized his message as a “burden from the Lord.”

16 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).

17 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).

18 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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