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Jeremiah 40:5

40:5 Before Jeremiah could turn to leave, the captain of the guard added, “Go back 1  to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed to govern 2  the towns of Judah. Go back and live with him 3  among the people. Or go wherever else you choose.” Then the captain of the guard gave Jeremiah some food and a present and let him go.

1 tc Or “Before Jeremiah could answer, the captain of the guard added.” Or “But if you remain, then go back.” The meaning of the first part of v. 5 is uncertain. The text is either very cryptic here or is corrupt, perhaps beyond restoration. The Hebrew text reads, “and he was not yet turning and return to Gedaliah” (וְעוֹדֶנּוּ לֹא־יָשׁוּב וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה) which is very cryptic. The Greek version lacks everything in v. 4 after “I will look out for you” and begins v. 5 with “But if not, run, return to Gedaliah” (= וְאִם לֹא רוּץ וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה). The Latin version reads the same as the Hebrew in v. 4 but reads “and don’t come with me but stay with Gedaliah” (= a possible Hebrew text of וְעִמָּדִי לֹא תָּשׁוּב וְשֵׁבָה אֶת־גְּדַלְיָה). The Syriac version reads “But if you are remaining then return to Gedaliah” (reading a possible Hebrew text of יֹשֵׁב וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה וְעוֹדְךָ לֻא with an abnormal writing of a conditional particle normally written לוּ [lu] and normally introducing conditions assumed to be untrue or reading וְעוֹדְךָ לְיֹשֵׁב וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה with an emphatic לְ [lÿ, see IBHS 211-12 §11.2.10i] and an informally introduced condition). NRSV does not explain the Hebrew base for its reading but accepts the Syriac as the original. It does appear to be the most likely alternative if the Hebrew is not accepted. However, the fact that none of the versions agree and all appear to be smoother than the Hebrew text suggests that they were dealing with an awkward original that they were trying to smooth out. Hence it is perhaps best to retain the Hebrew and make the best sense possible out of it. The most common reading of the Hebrew text as it stands is “and while he was not yet turning [= but before he was able to turn (to go)] [Nebuzaradan continued], ‘Go back to Gedaliah.’” (The imperfect in this case is an imperfect of capability [see IBHS 507 §31.4c, examples 2, 4, 5].) That is the reading that is adopted here. REB and TEV appear to accept a minor emendation of the verb “turn to leave” (יָשׁוּב, yashuv, a Qal imperfect) to “answer” (יָשִׁיב, yashiv, a Hiphil imperfect with an elided object [see BDB 999 s.v. שׁוּב Hiph.3 and compare 2 Chr 10:16]). All of this shows that the meaning of the text at this point is very uncertain.

2 tn Heb “set him over/ made him overseer over.” See BDB 823-24 s.v. פָּקִיד Hiph.1 and compare usage in Gen 39:4-5.

3 tn Heb “Go back to Gedaliah…and live with him among the people.” The long Hebrew sentence has been restructured to better conform with contemporary English style.

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