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Jeremiah 44:12-15

Context
44:12 I will see to it that all the Judean remnant that was determined to go 1  and live in the land of Egypt will be destroyed. Here in the land of Egypt they will fall in battle 2  or perish from starvation. People of every class 3  will die in war or from starvation. They will become an object of horror and ridicule, an example of those who have been cursed and that people use in pronouncing a curse. 4  44:13 I will punish those who live in the land of Egypt with war, starvation, and disease just as I punished Jerusalem. 44:14 None of the Judean remnant who have come to live in the land of Egypt will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah. Though they long to return and live there, none of them shall return except a few fugitives.’” 5 

44:15 Then all the men who were aware that their wives were sacrificing to other gods, as well as all their wives, answered Jeremiah. There was a great crowd of them representing all the people who lived in northern and southern Egypt. 6  They answered,

1 tn Heb “they set their face to go.” Compare 44:11 and 42:14 and see the translator’s note at 42:15.

2 tn Heb “fall by the sword.”

3 tn Or “All of them without distinction,” or “All of them from the least important to the most important”; Heb “From the least to the greatest.” See the translator’s note on 42:1 for the meaning of this idiom.

4 tn See the study note on 24:9 and the usage in 29:22 for the meaning and significance of this last phrase.

sn See Jer 42:18 for parallel usage.

5 tn Heb “There shall not be an escapee or a survivor to the remnant of Judah who came to sojourn there in the land of Egypt even to return to the land of Judah which they are lifting up their souls [= “longing/desiring” (BDB 672 s.v. נָשָׂא Piel.2)] to return to live there; for none shall return except fugitives.” The long, complex Hebrew original has been broken up and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style. Another possible structure would be “None of the Judean remnant who have come to live in the land of Egypt will escape or survive. None of them will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah where they long to return to live. Indeed (emphatic use of כִּי [ki]; cf. BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.e) none of them shall return except a few fugitives.” This verse is a good example of rhetorical hyperbole where a universal negative does not apply to absolutely all the particulars. Though the Lord denies at the outset that any will escape or survive the punishment of vv. 12-13 to return to Judah, he says at the end that a few fugitives will return (the two words for fugitive are from the same root and mean the same thing). (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 618-19, might classify this as a synecdoche of genus where a universal negative does not deny particularity.) That this last statement is not a gloss or an afterthought is supported by what is said later in v. 28.

6 tn The translation is very interpretive at several key points: Heb “Then all the men who were aware that their wives were sacrificing to other gods and all their wives who were standing by, a great crowd/congregation, and all the people who were living in the land of Egypt in Pathros answered, saying.” It is proper to assume that the phrase “a great crowd” is appositional to “all the men…and their wives….” It is also probably proper to assume that the phrase “who were standing by” is unnecessary to the English translation. What is interpretive is the assumption that the “and all the people who were living in Egypt in Pathros” is explicative of “the great crowd” and that the phrase “in Pathros” is conjunctive and not appositional. Several commentaries and English versions (e.g., J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 678-79, n. 2; NJPS) assume that the phrase is descriptive of a second group, i.e., all the Jews from Pathros in Egypt (i.e., southern Egypt [see the study note on 44:1]). Those who follow this interpretation generally see this as a gloss (see Thompson, 678, n. 2, and also W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:279, n. 15b). It is probably better to assume that the phrase is explicative and that “all” is used in the same rhetorical way that it has been used within the chapter, i.e., “all” = representatives of all. Likewise the phrase “in Pathros” should be assumed to be conjunctive as in the Syriac translation and as suggested by BHS fn c since Jeremiah’s answer in vv. 24, 26 is directed to all the Judeans living in Egypt.



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