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Jeremiah 49:23-24

Context
Judgment Against Damascus

49:23 The Lord spoke 1  about Damascus. 2 

“The people of Hamath and Arpad 3  will be dismayed

because they have heard bad news.

Their courage will melt away because of worry.

Their hearts will not be able to rest. 4 

49:24 The people of Damascus will lose heart and turn to flee.

Panic will grip them.

Pain and anguish will seize them

like a woman in labor.

1 tn The words “The Lord spoke” and “he said” are not in the text. There is only a title here: “Concerning Damascus.” However, something needs to be supplied to show that these are the Lord’s words of judgment (cf. v. 26 “oracle of the Lord” and the “I” in v. 27). These words have been supplied in the translation for clarity and consistency with the introduction to the other judgment speeches.

2 sn Damascus is a city in Syria, located below the eastern slopes of the Anti-lebanon Mountains. It was the capital of the Aramean state that was in constant hostility with Israel from the time of David until its destruction by the Assyrians in 732 b.c. At various times it was allied with the Aramean state of Hamath which was further north. Contingents from these Aramean states were involved in harassing Judah and Jerusalem in 598 b.c. when Jehoiakim rebelled (2 Kgs 24:2) but little is heard about them in the rest of the book of Jeremiah or in the history of this period.

3 tn Heb “Hamath and Arpad.” There is no word for people in the text. The cities are being personified. However, since it is really the people who are involved and it is clearer for the modern reader, the present translation supplies the words “people of” both here and in v. 24. The verbs in vv. 23-25 are all to be interpreted as prophetic perfects, the tense of the Hebrew verb that views an action as though it were as good as done. The verbs are clearly future in vv. 26-27 which begin with a “therefore.”

sn Hamath was a city on the Orontes River about 110 miles (183 km) north of Damascus. Arpad was a city that was 95 miles (158 km) farther north from there. These two cities were in the path of the northern descent of the kings of Assyria and Babylonia and had been conquered earlier under the Assyrian kings (Isa 10:9; 36:19; 37:13). The apparent reference here is to their terror and loss of courage when they hear the news that Nebuchadnezzar’s armies are on the move toward them and Damascus. They would have been in the path of Nebuchadnezzar as he chased Necho south after the battle of Carchemish.

4 tc The meaning of this verse is very uncertain. The Hebrew text apparently reads “Hamath and Arpad are dismayed. They melt away because they have heard bad news. Anxiety is in the sea; it [the sea] cannot be quiet.” Many commentaries and English versions redivide the verse and read “like the sea” for “in the sea” (כַּיָּם [kayyam] for בַּיָּם [bayyam]) and read the feminine singular noun דְּאָגָה (dÿagam) as though it were the third masculine plural verb דָּאֲגוּ (daagu): “They are troubled like the sea.” The translation follows the emendation proposed in BHS and accepted by a number of commentaries (e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 333; J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 723, n. 1). That emendation involves reading נָמֹג לִבָּם מִדְּאָגָה (namog libbam middÿagah) instead of נָמֹגוּ בַּיָּם דְּאָגָה (namogu bayyam dÿagah). The translation also involves a double reading of “heart,” for the sake of English style, once in the sense of courage (BDB 525 s.v. לֵב 10) because that is the nuance that best fits “melts” in the English idiom and once in the more general sense of hearts as the seat of fear, anxiety, worry. The double translation is a concession to English style.



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