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Jeremiah 2:10-28

Context

2:10 Go west 1  across the sea to the coasts of Cyprus 2  and see.

Send someone east to Kedar 3  and have them look carefully.

See if such a thing as this has ever happened:

2:11 Has a nation ever changed its gods

(even though they are not really gods at all)?

But my people have exchanged me, their glorious God, 4 

for a god that cannot help them at all! 5 

2:12 Be amazed at this, O heavens! 6 

Be shocked and utterly dumbfounded,”

says the Lord.

2:13 “Do so because my people have committed a double wrong:

they have rejected me,

the fountain of life-giving water, 7 

and they have dug cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.”

Israel’s Reliance on Foreign Alliances (not on God)

2:14 “Israel is not a slave, is he?

He was not born into slavery, was he? 8 

If not, why then is he being carried off?

2:15 Like lions his enemies roar victoriously over him;

they raise their voices in triumph. 9 

They have laid his land waste;

his cities have been burned down and deserted. 10 

2:16 Even the soldiers 11  from Memphis and Tahpanhes

have cracked your skulls, people of Israel. 12 

2:17 You have brought all this on yourself, Israel, 13 

by deserting the Lord your God when he was leading you along the right path. 14 

2:18 What good will it do you 15  then 16  to go down to Egypt

to seek help from the Egyptians? 17 

What good will it do you 18  to go over to Assyria

to seek help from the Assyrians? 19 

2:19 Your own wickedness will bring about your punishment.

Your unfaithful acts will bring down discipline on you. 20 

Know, then, and realize how utterly harmful 21 

it was for you to reject me, the Lord your God, 22 

to show no respect for me,” 23 

says the Lord God who rules over all. 24 

The Lord Expresses His Exasperation at Judah’s Persistent Idolatry

2:20 “Indeed, 25  long ago you threw off my authority

and refused to be subject to me. 26 

You said, ‘I will not serve you.’ 27 

Instead, you gave yourself to other gods on every high hill

and under every green tree,

like a prostitute sprawls out before her lovers. 28 

2:21 I planted you in the land

like a special vine of the very best stock.

Why in the world have you turned into something like a wild vine

that produces rotten, foul-smelling grapes? 29 

2:22 You can try to wash away your guilt with a strong detergent.

You can use as much soap as you want.

But the stain of your guilt is still there for me to see,” 30 

says the Lord God. 31 

2:23 “How can you say, ‘I have not made myself unclean.

I have not paid allegiance to 32  the gods called Baal.’

Just look at the way you have behaved in the Valley of Hinnom! 33 

Think about the things you have done there!

You are like a flighty, young female camel

that rushes here and there, crisscrossing its path. 34 

2:24 You are like a wild female donkey brought up in the wilderness.

In her lust she sniffs the wind to get the scent of a male. 35 

No one can hold her back when she is in heat.

None of the males need wear themselves out chasing after her.

At mating time she is easy to find. 36 

2:25 Do not chase after other gods until your shoes wear out

and your throats become dry. 37 

But you say, ‘It is useless for you to try and stop me

because I love those foreign gods 38  and want to pursue them!’

2:26 Just as a thief has to suffer dishonor when he is caught,

so the people of Israel 39  will suffer dishonor for what they have done. 40 

So will their kings and officials,

their priests and their prophets.

2:27 They say to a wooden idol, 41  ‘You are my father.’

They say to a stone image, ‘You gave birth to me.’ 42 

Yes, they have turned away from me instead of turning to me. 43 

Yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’

2:28 But where are the gods you made for yourselves?

Let them save you when you are in trouble.

The sad fact is that 44  you have as many gods

as you have towns, Judah.

1 tn Heb “For go west.”

2 tn Heb “pass over to the coasts of Kittim.” The words “west across the sea” in this line and “east of” in the next are implicit in the text and are supplied in the translation to give geographical orientation.

sn The Hebrew term translated Cyprus (“Kittim”) originally referred to the island of Cyprus but later was used for the lands in the west, including Macedonia (1 Macc 1:1; 8:5) and Rome (Dan 11:30). It is used here as part of a figure called merism to denote the lands in the west as opposed to Kedar which was in the east. The figure includes polar opposites to indicate totality, i.e., everywhere from west to east.

3 sn Kedar is the home of the Bedouin tribes in the Syro-Arabian desert. See Gen 25:18 and Jer 49:38. See also the previous note for the significance of the reference here.

4 tn Heb “have exchanged their glory [i.e., the God in whom they glory].” This is a case of a figure of speech where the attribute of a person or thing is put for the person or thing. Compare the common phrase in Isaiah, the Holy One of Israel, obviously referring to the Lord, the God of Israel.

5 tn Heb “what cannot profit.” The verb is singular and the allusion is likely to Baal. See the translator’s note on 2:8 for the likely pun or wordplay.

6 sn In earlier literature the heavens (and the earth) were called on to witness Israel’s commitment to the covenant (Deut 30:12) and were called to serve as witnesses to Israel’s fidelity or infidelity to it (Isa 1:2; Mic 6:1).

7 tn It is difficult to decide whether to translate “fresh, running water” which the Hebrew term for “living water” often refers to (e.g., Gen 26:19; Lev 14:5), or “life-giving water” which the idiom “fountain of life” as source of life and vitality often refers to (e.g., Ps 36:9; Prov 13:14; 14:27). The contrast with cisterns, which collected and held rain water, suggests “fresh, running water,” but the reality underlying the metaphor contrasts the Lord, the source of life, health, and vitality, with useless idols that cannot do anything.

8 tn Heb “Is Israel a slave? Or is he a house born slave?” The questions are rhetorical, expecting a negative answer.

sn The Lord is here contrasting Israel’s lofty status as the Lord’s bride and special possession, which he had earlier reminded her of (see 2:2-3), with her current status of servitude to Egypt and Assyria.

9 tn Heb “Lions shout over him, they give out [raise] their voices.”

sn The reference to lions is here a metaphor for the Assyrians (and later the Babylonians, see Jer 50:17). The statement about lions roaring over their prey implies that the prey has been vanquished.

10 tn Heb “without inhabitant.”

11 tn Heb “the sons of…”

12 tc The translation follows the reading of the Syriac version. The Hebrew text reads “have grazed [= “shaved” ?] your skulls [as a sign of disgracing them].” Note that the reference shifts from third person, “him,” to second person, “you,” which is common in Hebrew style. The words “people of Israel” have been supplied in the translation to help identify the referent and ease the switch. The reading presupposes יְרֹעוּךְ (yÿroukh) a Qal imperfect from the verb רָעַע (raa’; see BDB 949 s.v. II רָעַע Qal.1 and compare usage in Jer 15:2; Ps 2:9). The MT reads יִרְעוּךְ (yirukh), a Qal imperfect from the root רָעָה (raah; see BDB 945 s.v. I רָעָה Qal.2.b for usage). The use of the verb in the MT is unparalleled in the sense suggested, but the resultant figure, if “graze” can mean “shave,” is paralleled in Jer 47:5; 48:37; Isa 7:20. The reading of the variant is accepted on the basis that it is the rarer root; the scribe would have been more familiar with the root “graze” even though it is unparalleled in the figurative nuance implied here. The noun “head/skull” is functioning as an accusative of further specification (see GKC 372 §117.ll and compare usage in Gen 3:8), i.e., “they crack you on the skull” or “they shave you on the skull.” The verb is a prefixed form and in this context is either a preterite without vav (ו) consecutive or an iterative imperfect denoting repeated action. Some modern English versions render the verb in the future tense, “they will break [or shave] your skull.”

13 tn Heb “Are you not bringing this on yourself.” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer.

14 tn Heb “at the time of leading you in the way.”

15 tn Heb “What to you to the way.”

16 tn The introductory particle וְעַתָּה (vÿattah, “and now”) carries a logical, not temporal, connotation here (cf. BDB 274 s.v. עַתָּה 2.b).

17 tn Heb “to drink water from the Shihor [a branch of the Nile].” The reference is to seeking help through political alliance with Egypt as opposed to trusting in God for help. This is an extension of the figure in 2:13.

18 tn Heb “What to you to the way.”

19 tn Heb “to drink water from the River [a common designation in biblical Hebrew for the Euphrates River].” This refers to seeking help through political alliance. See the preceding note.

20 tn Or “teach you a lesson”; Heb “rebuke/chide you.”

21 tn Heb “how evil and bitter.” The reference is to the consequences of their acts. This is a figure of speech (hendiadys) where two nouns or adjectives joined by “and” introduce a main concept modified by the other noun or adjective.

22 tn Heb “to leave the Lord your God.” The change in person is intended to ease the problem of the rapid transition, which is common in Hebrew style but not in English, from third to first person between this line and the next.

23 tn Heb “and no fear of me was on you.”

24 tn Heb “the Lord Yahweh, [the God of] hosts.” For the title Lord God see the study note on 1:6. For the title “who rules over all” see the following study note. The title “the Lord who rules over all” is a way of rendering the title “Yahweh of armies.” It is an abbreviation of a longer title “Yahweh the God of armies” which occurs five times in Jeremiah (see, e.g., 44:7). The abbreviated title occurs seventy-seven times in the book of Jeremiah. On thirty-two occasions it is further qualified by the title “the God of Israel,” showing his special relation to Israel. On six occasions it is preceded by the title “Lord” (see, e.g., 46:10) and twice it is preceded by the title “the King” (see, e.g., 51:17). Both titles emphasize his sovereignty. Twice it is said that he is the maker of all things (10:16; 51:19), and once it is said that he made the earth and the people and animals on it and gives them into the control of whomever he wishes (27:4-5). On two occasions it is emphasized that he also made the heavenly elements and controls the natural elements of wind, rain, thunder, and hail (31:35; 51:14-16). All this is consistent with usage elsewhere where the “armies” over which he has charge are identified as (1) the angels which surround his throne (Isa 6:3, 5; 1 Kgs 22:19) and which he sends to protect his servants (2 Kgs 6:17), (2) the natural forces of thunder, rain, and hail (Isa 29:6; Josh 10:11; Judg 5:4, 5) through which he sends the enemy into panic and “gums” up their chariot wheels, (3) the armies of Israel (1 Sam 17:45) which he leads into battle (Num 10:34-35; Josh 5:14, 15) and for whom he fights as a mighty warrior (Exod 15:3; Isa 42:13; Ps 24:8), and even (4) the armies of the nations which he musters against his disobedient people (Isa 13:14). This title is most commonly found in the messenger formula “Thus says…” introducing both oracles of judgment (on Israel [e.g., 9:7, 15] and on the nations [e.g. 46:19; 50:18]; and see in general 25:29-32). It emphasizes his sovereignty as the king and creator, the lord of creation and of history, and the just judge who sees and knows all (11:20; 20:12) and judges each person and nation according to their actions (Jer 32:18-19). In the first instance (in the most dominant usage) this will involve the punishment of his own people through the agency of the Babylonians (cf., e.g., 25:8-9). But it will also include the punishment of all nations, including Babylon itself (cf. Jer 25:17-26, 32-38), and will ultimately result in the restoration of his people and a new relation with them (30:8; 31:35-37).

25 tn Or “For.” The Hebrew particle (כִּי, ki) here introduces the evidence that they had no respect for him.

26 tn Heb “you broke your yoke…tore off your yoke ropes.” The metaphor is that of a recalcitrant ox or heifer which has broken free from its master.

27 tc The MT of this verse has two examples of the old second feminine singular perfect, שָׁבַרְתִּי (shavarti) and נִתַּקְתִּי (nittaqti), which the Masoretes mistook for first singulars leading to the proposal to read אֶעֱבוֹר (’eevor, “I will not transgress”) for אֶעֱבֹד (’eevod, “I will not serve”). The latter understanding of the forms is accepted in KJV but rejected by almost all modern English versions as being less appropriate to the context than the reading accepted in the translation given here.

28 tn Heb “you sprawled as a prostitute on….” The translation reflects the meaning of the metaphor.

29 tc Heb “I planted you as a choice vine, all of it true seed. How then have you turned into a putrid thing to me, a strange [or wild] vine.” The question expresses surprise and consternation. The translation is based on a redivision of the Hebrew words סוּרֵי הַגֶּפֶן (sure haggefen) into סוֹרִיָּה גֶּפֶן (soriyyah gefen) and the recognition of a hapax legomenon סוֹרִיָּה (soriyyah) meaning “putrid, stinking thing.” See HALOT 707 s.v. סוֹרִי.

30 tn Heb “Even if you wash with natron/lye, and use much soap, your sin is a stain before me.”

31 tn Heb “Lord Yahweh.” For an explanation of this title see the study notes on 1:6.

32 tn Heb “I have not gone/followed after.” See the translator’s note on 2:5 for the meaning and usage of this idiom.

33 tn Heb “Look at your way in the valley.” The valley is an obvious reference to the Valley of Hinnom where Baal and Molech were worshiped and child sacrifice was practiced.

34 sn The metaphor is intended to depict Israel’s lack of clear direction and purpose without the Lord’s control.

35 tn The words “to get the scent of a male” are implicit and are supplied in the translation for clarification.

36 sn The metaphor is intended to depict Israel’s irrepressible desire to worship other gods.

37 tn Heb “Refrain your feet from being bare and your throat from being dry/thirsty.”

38 tn Heb “It is useless! No!” For this idiom, see Jer 18:12; NEB “No; I am desperate.”

39 tn Heb “house of Israel.”

40 tn The words “for what they have done” are implicit in the comparison and are supplied in the translation for clarification.

41 tn Heb “wood…stone…”

42 sn The reference to wood and stone is, of course, a pejorative reference to idols made by human hands. See the next verse where reference is made to “the gods you have made.”

43 tn Heb “they have turned [their] backs to me, not [their] faces.”

44 tn This is an attempt to render the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki, “for, indeed”) contextually.



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