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Jeremiah 29:24-28

Context
A Response to the Letter and a Subsequent Letter

29:24 The Lord told Jeremiah, “Tell 1  Shemaiah the Nehelamite 2  29:25 that the Lord God of Israel who rules over all 3  has a message for him. 4  Tell him, 5  ‘On your own initiative 6  you sent a letter 7  to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah 8  and to all the other priests and to all the people in Jerusalem. 9  In your letter you said to Zephaniah, 10  29:26 “The Lord has made you priest in place of Jehoiada. 11  He has put you in charge in the Lord’s temple of controlling 12  any lunatic 13  who pretends to be a prophet. 14  And it is your duty to put any such person in the stocks 15  with an iron collar around his neck. 16  29:27 You should have reprimanded Jeremiah from Anathoth who is pretending to be a prophet among you! 17  29:28 For he has even sent a message to us here in Babylon. He wrote and told us, 18  “You will be there a long time. Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce.”’” 19 

1 tn The words “The Lord told Jeremiah” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation here to indicate the shift in topic and the shift in addressee (the imperative “tell” is second singular). The introduction supplied in the translation here matches that in v. 30 where the words are in the text.

2 tn It is unclear whether this is a family name or a place name. The word occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible.

3 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.

4 tn Heb “Tell Shemaiah the Nehelamite, ‘Thus says Yahweh of armies the God of Israel….” The indirect quotation is used in the translation to avoid the complexity of embedding a quotation within a quotation.

5 sn Jer 29:24-32 are concerned with Jeremiah’s interaction with a false prophet named Shemaiah. The narrative in this section is not in strict chronological order and is somewhat elliptical. It begins with a report of a message that Jeremiah appears to have delivered directly to Shemaiah and refers to a letter that Shemaiah sent to the priest Zephaniah encouraging him to reprimand Jeremiah for what Shemaiah considered treasonous words in his letter to the exiles (vv. 24-28; compare v. 28 with v. 5). However, Jeremiah is in Jerusalem and Shemaiah is in Babylon. The address must then be part of a second letter Jeremiah sent to Babylon. Following this the narrative refers to Zephaniah reading Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah and Jeremiah sending a further letter to the captives in Babylon (vv. 29-32). This is probably not a third letter but part of the same letter in which Jeremiah reprimands Shemaiah for sending his letter to Zephaniah (vv. 25-28; the same letter referred to in v. 29). The order of events thus is: Jeremiah sent a letter to the captives counseling them to settle down in Babylon (vv. 1-23). Shemaiah sent a letter to Zephaniah asking him to reprimand Jeremiah (vv. 26-28). After Zephaniah read that letter to Jeremiah (v. 29), Jeremiah wrote a further letter to Babylon reprimanding him (vv. 25-28, 31) and pronouncing judgment on him (v. 32). The elliptical nature of the narrative is reflected in the fact that vv. 25-27 are part of a long causal sentence which sets forth an accusation but has no corresponding main clause or announcement of judgment. This kind of construction involves a rhetorical figure (called aposiopesis) where what is begun is not finished for various rhetorical reasons. Here the sentence that is broken off is part of an announcement of judgment which is not picked up until v. 32 after a further (though related) accusation (v. 31b).

6 tn Heb “In your [own] name.” See the study note on 23:27 for the significance of this idiom.

7 tn Heb “letters.” Though GKC 397 §124.b, n. 1 denies it, this is probably a case of the plural of extension. For a similar usage see Isa 37:14 where the plural “letters” is referred to later as an “it.” Even if there were other “letters,” the focus is on the letter to Zephaniah.

8 sn According to Jer 52:24 and 2 Kgs 25:18 Zephaniah son of Maaseiah was second in command to the high priest. He was the high ranking priest who was sent along with a civic official to inquire of the Lord’s will from Jeremiah by Zedekiah on two separate occasions (Jer 21:1; 37:3).

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

10 tn The words “In your letter you said to Zephaniah” are not in the text: Heb “you sent a letter to…, saying.” The sentence has been broken up to conform better to contemporary English style and these words have been supplied in the translation to make the transition to the address to Zephaniah in vv. 26-28.

11 tn Heb “in place of Jehoiada the priest.” The word “the priest” is unnecessary to the English sentence.

12 tc Heb “The Lord has appointed you priest in place of the priest Jehoiada to be overseer in the house of the Lord for/over.” The translation is based on a reading presupposed by several of the versions. The Hebrew text reads “The Lord has…to be overseers [in] the house of the Lord for/over.” The reading here follows that of the Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions in reading פָּקִיד בְּבֵית (paqid bÿvet) in place of פְּקִדִים בֵּית (pÿqidim bet). There has been a confusion of the ם (mem) and בּ (bet) and a transposition of the י (yod) and ד (dalet).

13 sn The Hebrew term translated lunatic applies to anyone who exhibits irrational behavior. It was used for example of David who drooled and scratched on the city gate to convince Achish not to arrest him as a politically dangerous threat (1 Sam 21:14). It was often used contemptuously of the prophets by those who wanted to play down the significance of their words (2 Kgs 9:11; Hos 9:7 and here).

14 tn The verb here is a good example of what IBHS 431 §26.2f calls the estimative-declarative reflexive where a person presents himself in a certain light. For examples of this usage see 2 Sam 13:5; Prov 13:7.

15 tn See the translator’s note on 20:2 for this word which only occurs here and in 20:2-3.

16 tn This word only occurs here in the Hebrew Bible. All the lexicons are agreed as seeing it referring to a collar placed around the neck. The basis for this definition are the cognate languages (see, e.g., HALOT 958-59 s.v. צִינֹק for the most complete discussion).

17 tn Heb “So why have you not reprimanded Jeremiah…?” The rhetorical question functions as an emphatic assertion made explicit in the translation.

18 tn Heb “For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying….” The quote, however, is part of the earlier letter.

19 sn See v. 5.



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