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Jeremiah 29:1-23

Context
Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles

29:1 The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles Nebuchadnezzar had carried off from Jerusalem 1  to Babylon. It was addressed to the elders who were left among the exiles, to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the other people who were exiled in Babylon. 2  29:2 He sent it after King Jeconiah, the queen mother, the palace officials, 3  the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had been exiled from Jerusalem. 4  29:3 He sent it with Elasah son of Shaphan 5  and Gemariah son of Hilkiah. 6  King Zedekiah of Judah had sent these men to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 7  The letter said:

29:4 “The Lord God of Israel who rules over all 8  says to all those he sent 9  into exile to Babylon from Jerusalem, 10  29:5 ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. 29:6 Marry and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and allow your daughters get married so that they too can have sons and daughters. Grow in number; do not dwindle away. 29:7 Work to see that the city where I sent you as exiles enjoys peace and prosperity. Pray to the Lord for it. For as it prospers you will prosper.’

29:8 “For the Lord God of Israel who rules over all 11  says, ‘Do not let the prophets or those among you who claim to be able to predict the future by divination 12  deceive you. And do not pay any attention to the dreams that you are encouraging them to dream. 29:9 They are prophesying lies to you and claiming my authority to do so. 13  But I did not send them. I, the Lord, affirm it!’ 14 

29:10 “For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule 15  are over will I again take up consideration for you. 16  Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore 17  you to your homeland. 18  29:11 For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. 19  ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you 20  a future filled with hope. 21  29:12 When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, 22  I will hear your prayers. 23  29:13 When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, 24  29:14 I will make myself available to you,’ 25  says the Lord. 26  ‘Then I will reverse your plight 27  and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord. 28  ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’

29:15 “You say, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets of good news 29  for us here in Babylon.’ 29:16 But just listen to what the Lord has to say about 30  the king who occupies David’s throne and all your fellow countrymen who are still living in this city of Jerusalem 31  and were not carried off into exile with you. 29:17 The Lord who rules over all 32  says, ‘I will bring war, 33  starvation, and disease on them. I will treat them like figs that are so rotten 34  they cannot be eaten. 29:18 I will chase after them with war, 35  starvation, and disease. I will make all the kingdoms of the earth horrified at what happens to them. I will make them examples of those who are cursed, objects of horror, hissing scorn, and ridicule among all the nations where I exile them. 29:19 For they have not paid attention to what I said to them through my servants the prophets whom I sent to them over and over again,’ 36  says the Lord. 37  ‘And you exiles 38  have not paid any attention to them either,’ says the Lord. 39  29:20 ‘So pay attention to what I, the Lord, have said, 40  all you exiles whom I have sent to Babylon from Jerusalem.’

29:21 “The Lord God of Israel who rules over all 41  also has something to say about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you and claiming my authority to do so. 42  ‘I will hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and he will execute them before your very eyes. 29:22 And all the exiles of Judah who are in Babylon will use them as examples when they put a curse on anyone. They will say, “May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab whom the king of Babylon roasted to death in the fire!” 43  29:23 This will happen to them because they have done what is shameful 44  in Israel. They have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and have spoken lies while claiming my authority. 45  They have spoken words that I did not command them to speak. I know what they have done. I have been a witness to it,’ says the Lord.” 46 

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

2 tn Jer 29:1-3 are all one long sentence in Hebrew containing a parenthetical insertion. The text reads “These are the words of the letter which the prophet Jeremiah sent to the elders…people whom Nebuchadnezzar had exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon after King Jeconiah…had gone from Jerusalem by the hand of Elasah…whom Zedekiah sent…saying, ‘Thus says the Lord…’” The sentence has been broken up for the sake of contemporary English style and clarity.

3 tn This term is often mistakenly understood to refer to a “eunuch.” It is clear, however, in Gen 39:1 that “eunuchs” could be married. On the other hand it is clear from Isa 59:3-5 that some who bore this title could not have children. In this period, it is possible that the persons who bore this title were high officials like the rab saris who was a high official in the Babylonian court (cf. Jer 39:3, 13; 52:25). For further references see HALOT 727 s.v. סָרִיס 1.c.

4 sn See 2 Kgs 24:14-16 and compare the study note on Jer 24:1.

5 sn Elasah son of Shaphan may have been the brother of Ahikam, who supported Jeremiah when the priests and the prophets in Jerusalem sought to kill Jeremiah for preaching that the temple and the city would be destroyed (cf. 26:24).

6 sn This individual is not the same as the Gemariah mentioned in 36:10, 11, 12, 25 who was one of the officials who sought to have the first scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies preserved. He may, however, have been a son or grandson of the High Priest who discovered the book of the law during the reign of Josiah (cf., e.g., 2 Kgs 22:8, 10) which was so instrumental in Josiah’s reforms.

7 sn It is unclear whether this incident preceded or followed those in the preceding chapter. It is known from 52:59 that Zedekiah himself had made a trip to Babylon in the same year mentioned in 28:1 and that Jeremiah had used that occasion to address a prophecy of disaster to Babylon. It is not impossible that Jeremiah sent two such disparate messages at the same time (see Jer 25:8-11, 12-14, 17-18, 26).

8 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”

sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.

9 tn Heb “I sent.” This sentence exhibits a rapid switch in person, here from the third person to the first. Such switches are common to Hebrew poetry and prophecy (cf. GKC 462 §144.p). Contemporary English, however, does not exhibit such rapid switches and it creates confusion for the careful reader. Such switches have regularly been avoided in the translation.

sn Elsewhere Nebuchadnezzar is seen as the one who carried them into exile (cf. 27:20; 29:1). Here and in v. 14 the Lord is seen as the one who sends them into exile. The Lord is the ultimate cause and Nebuchadnezzar is his agent or servant (cf. 25:9; 27:6 and notes).

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

11 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”

sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.

12 sn See the study notes on 27:9 for this term.

13 tn Heb “prophesying lies to you in my name.”

sn For the significance of “in my name” see the study notes on 14:14 and 23:27.

14 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

15 sn See the study note on Jer 25:11 for the reckoning of the seventy years.

16 tn See the translator’s note on Jer 27:22 for this term.

17 tn Verse 10 is all one long sentence in the Hebrew original: “According to the fullness of Babylon seventy years I will take thought of you and I will establish my gracious word to you by bringing you back to this place.” The sentence has been broken up to conform better to contemporary English style.

18 tn Heb “this place.” The text has probably been influenced by the parallel passage in 27:22. The term appears fifteen times in Jeremiah and is invariably a reference to Jerusalem or Judah.

sn See Jer 27:22 for this promise.

19 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

20 tn Heb “I know the plans that I am planning for you, oracle of the Lord, plans of well-being and not for harm to give to you….”

21 tn Or “the future you hope for”; Heb “a future and a hope.” This is a good example of hendiadys where two formally coordinated nouns (adjectives, verbs) convey a single idea where one of the terms functions as a qualifier of the other. For this figure see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 658-72. This example is discussed on p. 661.

22 tn Heb “come and pray to me.” This is an example of verbal hendiadys where two verb formally joined by “and” convey a main concept with the second verb functioning as an adverbial qualifier.

23 tn Or “You will call out to me and come to me in prayer and I will hear your prayers.” The verbs are vav consecutive perfects and can be taken either as unconditional futures or as contingent futures. See GKC 337 §112.kk and 494 §159.g and compare the usage in Gen 44:22 for the use of the vav consecutive perfects in contingent futures. The conditional clause in the middle of 29:13 and the deuteronomic theology reflected in both Deut 30:1-5 and 1 Kgs 8:46-48 suggest that the verbs are continent futures here. For the same demand for wholehearted seeking in these contexts which presuppose exile see especially Deut 30:2, 1 Kgs 8:48.

24 tn Or “If you wholeheartedly seek me”; Heb “You will seek me and find [me] because you will seek me with all your heart.” The translation attempts to reflect the theological nuances of “seeking” and “finding” and the psychological significance of “heart” which refers more to intellectual and volitional concerns in the OT than to emotional ones.

25 tn Heb “I will let myself be found by you.” For this nuance of the verb see BDB 594 s.v. מָצָא Niph.1.f and compare the usage in Isa 65:1; 2 Chr 15:2. The Greek version already noted that nuance when it translated the phrase “I will manifest myself to you.”

26 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

27 tn Heb “restore your fortune.” Alternately, “I will bring you back from exile.” This idiom occurs twenty-six times in the OT and in several cases it is clearly not referring to return from exile but restoration of fortunes (e.g., Job 42:10; Hos 6:11–7:1; Jer 33:11). It is often followed as here by “regather” or “bring back” (e.g., Jer 30:3; Ezek 29:14) so it is often misunderstood as “bringing back the exiles.” The versions (LXX, Vulg., Tg., Pesh.) often translate the idiom as “to go away into captivity,” deriving the noun from שְׁבִי (shÿvi, “captivity”). However, the use of this expression in Old Aramaic documents of Sefire parallels the biblical idiom: “the gods restored the fortunes of the house of my father again” (J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire [BibOr], 100-101, 119-20). The idiom means “to turn someone's fortune, bring about change” or “to reestablish as it was” (HALOT 1386 s.v. 3.c). In Ezek 16:53 it is paralleled by the expression “to restore the situation which prevailed earlier.” This amounts to restitutio in integrum, which is applicable to the circumstances surrounding the return of the exiles.

28 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

29 tn The words “of good news” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

30 tn Heb “But thus says the Lord about.” The words “just listen to what” are supplied in the translation to help show the connection with the preceding.

sn Jeremiah answers their claims that the Lord has raised up prophets to encourage them that their stay will be short by referring to the Lord’s promise that the Lord’s plans are not for restoration but for further destruction.

31 tn The words “of Jerusalem” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to identify the referent and avoid the possible confusion that “this city” refers to Babylon.

32 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.” See the study note on 2:19 for explanation of this title.

33 tn Heb “the sword.”

34 tn The meaning of this word is somewhat uncertain. It occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. BDB 1045 s.v. שֹׁעָר relates it to the noun “horrible thing” (translated “something shocking”) in Jer 5:30; 23:14 and defines it as “horrid, disgusting.” HALOT 1495 s.v. שֹׁעָר relates it to the same noun and define it as “rotten; corrupt.” That nuance is accepted here.

sn Compare Jer 24:8-10 in its context for the figure here.

35 tn Heb “with the sword.”

36 tn See the translator’s note on 7:13 for an explanation of this idiom.

37 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

38 tn The word “exiles” is not in the text. It is supplied in the translation to clarify the referent of “you.”

39 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

40 tn Heb “pay attention to the word of the Lord.” However, the Lord is speaking in the words just previous to this and in the words which follow (“whom I have sent”). This is another example of the shift from third person referent to first person which is common in Hebrew poetry and prophecy but is not common in English style. The person has been adjusted in the translation to avoid confusion.

41 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”

sn See study notes on 2:19 and 7:3 for the explanation of this title.

42 tn Heb “prophesying lies in my name.” For an explanation of this idiom see the study notes on 14:14 and 23:27.

43 sn Being roasted to death in the fire appears to have been a common method of execution in Babylon. See Dan 3:6, 19-21. The famous law code of the Babylonian king Hammurabi also mandated this method of execution for various crimes a thousand years earlier. There is a satirical play on words involving their fate, “roasted them to death” (קָלָם, qalam), and the fact that that fate would become a common topic of curse (קְלָלָה, qÿlalah) pronounced on others in Babylon.

44 tn It is commonly assumed that this word is explained by the two verbal actions that follow. The word (נְבָלָה, nÿvalah) is rather commonly used of sins of unchastity (cf., e.g., Gen 34:7; Judg 19:23; 2 Sam 13:12) which would fit the reference to adultery. However, the word is singular and not likely to cover both actions that follow. The word is also used of the greedy act of Achan (Josh 7:15) which threatened Israel with destruction and the churlish behavior of Nabal (1 Sam 25:25) which threatened him and his household with destruction. The word is also used of foolish talk in Isa 9:17 (9:16 HT) and Isa 32:6. It is possible that this refers to a separate act, one that would have brought the death penalty from Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., the preaching of rebellion in conformity with the message of the false prophets in Jerusalem and other nations (cf. 27:9, 13). Hence it is possible that the translation should read: “This will happen because of their vile conduct. They have propagated rebellion. They have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives. They have spoken words that I did not command them to speak. They have spoken lies while claiming my authority.”

45 tn Heb “prophesying lies in my name.” For an explanation of this idiom see the study notes on 14:14 and 23:27.

46 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”



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