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Jeremiah 23:9-40

Context
Oracles Against the False Prophets 1 

23:9 Here is what the Lord says concerning the false prophets: 2 

My heart and my mind are deeply disturbed.

I tremble all over. 3 

I am like a drunk person,

like a person who has had too much wine, 4 

because of the way the Lord

and his holy word are being mistreated. 5 

23:10 For the land is full of people unfaithful to him. 6 

They live wicked lives and they misuse their power. 7 

So the land is dried up 8  because it is under his curse. 9 

The pastures in the wilderness are withered.

23:11 Moreover, 10  the Lord says, 11 

“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.” 12 

The Lord affirms it! 13 

23:13 The Lord says, 14  “I saw the prophets of Samaria 15 

doing something that was disgusting. 16 

They prophesied in the name of the god Baal

and led my people Israel astray. 17 

23:14 But I see the prophets of Jerusalem 18 

doing something just as shocking.

They are unfaithful to me

and continually prophesy lies. 19 

So they give encouragement to people who are doing evil,

with the result that they do not stop their evildoing. 20 

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

and the citizens of Jerusalem as bad as the people of Gomorrah. 21 

23:15 So then I, the Lord who rules over all, 22 

have something to say concerning the prophets of Jerusalem: 23 

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

and drink the poison water of judgment. 24 

For the prophets of Jerusalem are the reason 25 

that ungodliness 26  has spread throughout the land.’”

23:16 The Lord who rules over all 27  says to the people of Jerusalem: 28 

“Do not listen to what

those prophets are saying to you.

They are filling you with false hopes.

They are reporting visions of their own imaginations,

not something the Lord has given them to say. 29 

23:17 They continually say 30  to those who reject what the Lord has said, 31 

‘Things will go well for you!’ 32 

They say to all those who follow the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts,

‘Nothing bad will happen to you!’

23:18 Yet which of them has ever stood in the Lord’s inner circle 33 

so they 34  could see and hear what he has to say? 35 

Which of them have ever paid attention or listened to what he has said?

23:19 But just watch! 36  The wrath of the Lord

will come like a storm! 37 

Like a raging storm it will rage down 38 

on the heads of those who are wicked.

23:20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back

until he has fully carried out his intended purposes. 39 

In days to come 40 

you people will come to understand this clearly. 41 

23:21 I did not send those prophets.

Yet they were in a hurry to give their message. 42 

I did not tell them anything.

Yet they prophesied anyway.

23:22 But if they had stood in my inner circle, 43 

they would have proclaimed my message to my people.

They would have caused my people to turn from their wicked ways

and stop doing the evil things they are doing.

23:23 Do you people think 44  that I am some local deity

and not the transcendent God?” 45  the Lord asks. 46 

23:24 “Do you really think anyone can hide himself

where I cannot see him?” the Lord asks. 47 

“Do you not know that I am everywhere?” 48 

the Lord asks. 49 

23:25 The Lord says, 50  “I have heard what those prophets who are prophesying lies in my name are saying. They are saying, ‘I have had a dream! I have had a dream!’ 51  23:26 Those prophets are just prophesying lies. They are prophesying the delusions of their own minds. 52  23:27 How long will they go on plotting 53  to make my people forget who I am 54  through the dreams they tell one another? That is just as bad as what their ancestors 55  did when they forgot who I am by worshiping the god Baal. 56  23:28 Let the prophet who has had a dream go ahead and tell his dream. Let the person who has received my message report that message faithfully. What is like straw cannot compare to what is like grain! 57  I, the Lord, affirm it! 58  23:29 My message is like a fire that purges dross! 59  It is like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces! 60  I, the Lord, so affirm it! 61  23:30 So I, the Lord, affirm 62  that I am opposed to those prophets who steal messages from one another that they claim are from me. 63  23:31 I, the Lord, affirm 64  that I am opposed to those prophets who are using their own tongues to declare, ‘The Lord declares….’ 65  23:32 I, the Lord, affirm 66  that I am opposed to those prophets who dream up lies and report them. They are misleading my people with their reckless lies. 67  I did not send them. I did not commission them. They are not helping these people at all. 68  I, the Lord, affirm it!” 69 

23:33 The Lord said to me, “Jeremiah, 70  when one of these people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, ‘What burdensome message 71  do you have from the Lord?’ Tell them, ‘You are the burden, 72  and I will cast you away. 73  I, the Lord, affirm it! 74  23:34 I will punish any prophet, priest, or other person who says “The Lord’s message is burdensome.” 75  I will punish both that person and his whole family.’” 76 

23:35 So I, Jeremiah, tell you, 77  “Each of you people should say to his friend or his relative, ‘How did the Lord answer? Or what did the Lord say?’ 78  23:36 You must no longer say that the Lord’s message is burdensome. 79  For what is ‘burdensome’ 80  really pertains to what a person himself says. 81  You are misrepresenting 82  the words of our God, the living God, the Lord who rules over all. 83  23:37 Each of you should merely ask the prophet, ‘What answer did the Lord give you? Or what did the Lord say?’ 84  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 85  I will carry you far off 86  and throw you away. I will send both you and the city I gave to you and to your ancestors out of my sight. 87  23:40 I will bring on you lasting shame and lasting disgrace which will never be forgotten!’”

1 sn Jeremiah has already had a good deal to say about the false prophets and their fate. See 2:8, 26; 5:13, 31; 14:13-15. Here he parallels the condemnation of the wicked prophets and their fate (23:9-40) with that of the wicked kings (21:11-22:30).

2 tn The word “false” is not in the text, but it is clear from the context that these are whom the sayings are directed against. The words “Here is what the Lord says” are also not in the text. But comparison with 46:2; 48:1; 49:1, 7, 23, 28; and 21:11 will show that this is a heading. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

3 tn Heb “My heart is crushed within me. My bones tremble.” It has already been noted several times that the “heart” in ancient Hebrew psychology was the intellectual and volitional center of the person, the kidneys were the emotional center, and the bones the locus of strength and also the subject of joy, distress, and sorrow. Here Jeremiah is speaking of his distress of heart and mind in modern psychology, a distress that leads him to trembling of body which he compares to that of a drunken person staggering around under the influence of wine.

4 tn Heb “wine has passed over him.”

5 tn Heb “wine because of the Lord and because of his holy word.” The words that are supplied in the translation are implicit from the context and are added for clarity.

sn The way the Lord and his word are being treated is clarified in the verses that follow.

6 tn Heb “adulterers.” But spiritual adultery is clearly meant as also in 3:8-9; 9:2, and probably also 5:7.

7 tn For the word translated “They live…lives” see usage in Jer 8:6. For the idea of “misusing” their power (Heb “their power is not right” i.e., used in the wrong way) see 2 Kgs 7:9; 17:9. In the original text this line (really two lines in the Hebrew poetry) are at the end of the verse. However, this places the antecedent too far away and could lead to confusion. The lines have been rearranged to avoid such confusion.

8 tn For the use of this verb see 12:4 and the note there.

9 tc The translation follows the majority of Hebrew mss (מֵאָלָה, mealah) rather than the Greek and Syriac version and a few Hebrew mss which read “because of these” (מֵאֵלֶּה [meelleh], referring to the people unfaithful to him).

sn The curse is, of course, the covenant curse. See Deut 29:20-21 (29:19-20 HT) and for the specific curse see Deut 28:23-24. The curse is appropriate since their “adultery” lay in attributing their fertility to the god Baal (see Hos 2:9-13 (2:11-15 HT) and violating the covenant (see Hos 4:1-3).

10 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.

11 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

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

13 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

14 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.

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

16 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.

17 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.

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

19 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.)

20 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.

21 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).

22 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

23 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.

24 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.

25 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.

26 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.

27 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

28 tn The words “to the people of Jerusalem” are not in the Hebrew text but are supplied in the translation to reflect the masculine plural form of the imperative and the second masculine plural form of the pronoun. These words have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

29 tn Heb “They tell of a vision of their own heart [= mind] not from the mouth of the Lord.”

30 tn The translation reflects an emphatic construction where the infinitive absolute follows a participle (cf. GKC 343 §113.r).

31 tc The translation follows the Greek version. The Hebrew text reads, “who reject me, ‘The Lord has spoken, “Things…”’” The Greek version is to be preferred here because of (1) the parallelism of the lines “reject what the Lord has said” // “follow the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts;” (2) the preceding context which speaks of “visions of their own imaginations not of what the Lord has given them;” (3) the following context which denies that they have ever had access to the Lord’s secrets; (4) the general contexts earlier regarding false prophecy where rejection of the Lord’s word is in view (6:14 [see there v. 10]; 8:11 [see there v. 9]); (5) the meter of the poetic lines (the Hebrew meter is 3/5/4/3; the meter presupposed by the translation is 5/3/4/3 with the 3’s being their words). The difference is one of vocalization of the same consonants. The vocalization of the MT is יְהוָה מְנַאֲצַי דִּבֶּר [mÿnaatsay dibber yÿhvah]; the Hebrew Vorlage behind the Greek would be vocalized as מְנַאֲצֵי דְּבַר יְהוָה (mÿnaatsey dÿvar yÿhvah).

32 tn Heb “You will have peace.” But see the note on 14:13. See also 6:14 and 8:11.

33 tn Or “has been the Lord’s confidant.”

sn The Lord’s inner circle refers to the council of angels (Ps 89:7 [89:8 HT]; 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1-2; Job 15:8) where God made known his counsel/plans (Amos 3:7). They and those they prophesied to will find out soon enough what the purposes of his heart are, and they are not “peace” (see v. 20). By their failure to announce the impending doom they were not turning the people away from their wicked course (vv. 21-22).

34 tn The form here is a jussive with a vav of subordination introducing a purpose after a question (cf. GKC 322 §109.f).

35 tc Heb “his word.” In the second instance (“what he has said” at the end of the verse) the translation follows the suggestion of the Masoretes (Qere) and many Hebrew mss rather than the consonantal text (Kethib) of the Leningrad Codex.

36 tn Heb “Behold!”

37 tn The syntax of this line has generally been misunderstood, sometimes to the point that some want to delete the word wrath. Both here and in 30:23 where these same words occur the word “anger” stands not as an accusative of attendant circumstance but an apposition, giving the intended referent to the figure. Comparison should be made with Jer 25:15 where “this wrath” is appositional to “the cup of wine” (cf. GKC 425 §131.k).

38 tn The translation is deliberate, intending to reflect the repetition of the Hebrew root which is “swirl/swirling.”

39 tn Heb “until he has done and until he has carried out the purposes of his heart.”

40 tn Heb “in the latter days.” However, as BDB 31 s.v. אַחֲרִית b suggests, the meaning of this idiom must be determined from the context. Sometimes it has remote, even eschatological, reference and other times it has more immediate reference as it does here and in Jer 30:23 where it refers to the coming days of Babylonian conquest and exile.

41 tn The translation is intended to reflect a Hebrew construction where a noun functions as the object of a verb from the same root word (the Hebrew cognate accusative).

42 tn Heb “Yet they ran.”

sn The image is that of a messenger bearing news from the king. See 2 Sam 18:19-24; Jer 51:31; Isa 40:9; 52:7; Hab 2:2 (the tablet/scroll bore the message the runner was to read to the intended recipients of his message). Their message has been given in v. 17 (see notes there for cross references).

43 tn Or “had been my confidant.” See the note on v. 18.

44 tn The words “Do you people think” at the beginning of this verse and “Do you really think” at the beginning of the next verse are not in the text but are a way of trying to convey the nature of the rhetorical questions which expect a negative answer. They are also a way of trying to show that the verses are still connected with the preceding discussion addressed to the people (cf. 23:16, 20).

45 tn Heb “Am I a god nearby and not a god far off?” The question is sometimes translated as though there is an alternative being given in v. 23, one that covers both the ideas of immanence and transcendence (i.e., “Am I only a god nearby and not also a god far off?”). However, the hey interrogative (הַ) at the beginning of this verse and the particle (אִם, ’im) at the beginning of the next show that the linkage is between the question in v. 23 and that in v. 24a. According to BDB 210 s.v. הֲ 1.d both questions in this case expect a negative answer.

sn The thought that is expressed here must be viewed against the background of ancient Near Eastern thought where gods were connected with different realms, e.g., Baal, the god of wind, rain, and fertility, Mot, the god of drought, infertility, and death, Yam, the god of the sea and of chaos. Moreover, Baal was worshiped in local manifestations as the Baal of Peor, Baal of Gad, etc. Hence, Baal is sometimes spoken of in the singular and sometimes in the plural. The Lord is the one true God (Deut 6:4). Moreover, he is the maker of heaven and earth (Gen 14:12; 2 Kgs 19:15; Ps 115:15), sees into the hearts of all men (Ps 33:13-15), and judges men according to what they do (Ezek 7:3, 7, 27). There is no hiding from him (Job 34:22; Ps 139:7-12) and no escape from his judgment (Amos 9:2-4). God has already spoken to the people and their leaders through Jeremiah along these lines (Jer 16:17; 21:14). Lurking behind the thoughts expressed here is probably Deut 29:19-21 where God warns that one “bad apple” who thinks he can get away with sinning against the covenant can lead to the destruction of all. The false prophets were the “bad apples” that were encouraging the corruption of the whole nation by their words promoting a false sense of security unconnected with loyalty to God and obedience to his covenant. The first question deals with the issue of God’s transcendence, the second with his omniscience, and the third with his omnipresence.

46 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

47 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

48 tn The words “Don’t you know” are not in the text. They are a way of conveying the idea that the question which reads literally “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” expects a positive answer. They follow the pattern used at the beginning of the previous two questions and continue that thought. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

49 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

50 tn The words, “The Lord says” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show that the Lord continues speaking.

51 sn To have had a dream was not an illegitimate means of receiving divine revelation. God had revealed himself in the past to his servants through dreams (e.g., Jacob [Gen 31:10-11] and Joseph [Gen 37:6, 7, 9]) and God promised to reveal himself through dreams (Num 12:6; Joel 2:28 [3:1 HT]). What was illegitimate was to use the dream to lead people away from the Lord (Deut 13:1-5 [13:2-6 HT]). That was what the prophets were doing through their dreams which were “lies” and “the delusions of their own minds.” Through them they were making people forget who the Lord really was which was just like what their ancestors had done through worshiping Baal.

52 sn See the parallel passage in Jer 14:13-15.

53 tn The relation of the words to one another in v. 26 and the beginning of v. 27 has created difficulties for translators and commentators. The proper solution is reflected in the NJPS. Verses 26-27 read somewhat literally, “How long is there in the hearts of the prophets who are prophesying the lie and [in the hearts of] the prophets of the delusions of their [own] heart the plotting to cause my people to forget my name…” Most commentaries complain that the text is corrupt, that there is no subject for “is there.” However, the long construct qualification “in the hearts of” has led to the lack of observation that the proper subject is “the plotting to make my people forget.” There are no exact parallels but Jer 14:22; Neh 5:5 follow the same structure. The “How long” precedes the other means of asking a question for the purpose of emphasis (cf. BDB 210 s.v. הֲ 1.b and compare for example the usage in 2 Sam 7:7). There has also been a failure to see that “the prophets of the delusion of…” is a parallel construct noun after “heart of.” Stripping the syntax down to its barest minimum and translating literally, the sentence would read “How long will the plotting…continue in the hearts of the prophets who…and [in hearts of] the prophets of…” The sentence has been restructured in the translation to conform to contemporary English style but attempt has been made to maintain the same subordinations.

54 tn Heb “my name.”

sn In the OT, the “name” reflected the person’s character (cf. Gen 27:36; 1 Sam 25:25) or his reputation (Gen 11:4; 2 Sam 8:13). To speak in someone’s name was to act as his representative or carry his authority (1 Sam 25:9; 1 Kgs 21:8). To call someone’s name over something was to claim it for one’s own (2 Sam 12:28). Hence, here to forget the name is equivalent to forgetting who he was in his essential character (cf. Exod 3:13-15; 6:3; 34:5-7). By preaching lies they had obliterated part of his essential character and caused people to forget who he really was.

55 tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 39).

56 tn Heb “through Baal.” This is an elliptical expression for the worship of Baal. See 11:17; 12:16; 19:5 for other references to their relation to Baal. There is a deliberate paralleling in the syntax here between “through their dreams” and “through Baal.”

57 tn Heb “What to the straw with [in comparison with] the grain?” This idiom represents an emphatic repudiation or denial of relationship. See, for example, the usage in 2 Sam 16:10 and note BDB 553 s.v. מָה 1.d(c).

58 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

59 tn Heb “Is not my message like a fire?” The rhetorical question expects a positive answer that is made explicit in the translation. The words “that purges dross” are not in the text but are implicit to the metaphor. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

60 tn Heb “Is it not like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” See preceding note.

61 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

62 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

63 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).

64 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

65 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…).

66 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

67 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.

68 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.

69 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

70 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).

71 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).

72 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).

73 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.

74 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

75 tn Heb “burden of the Lord.”

76 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).

77 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.

78 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.

79 tn Heb “burden of the Lord.”

80 tn Heb “the burden.”

81 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.

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

83 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

84 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.”

85 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).

86 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).

87 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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