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Jeremiah 51:11

Context

51:11 “Sharpen 1  your arrows!

Fill your quivers! 2 

The Lord will arouse a spirit of hostility in 3  the kings of Media. 4 

For he intends to destroy Babylonia.

For that is how the Lord will get his revenge –

how he will get his revenge for the Babylonians’ destruction of his temple. 5 

Jeremiah 51:27-28

Context

51:27 “Raise up battle flags throughout the lands.

Sound the trumpets calling the nations to do battle.

Prepare the nations to do battle against Babylonia. 6 

Call for these kingdoms to attack her:

Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. 7 

Appoint a commander to lead the attack. 8 

Send horses 9  against her like a swarm of locusts. 10 

51:28 Prepare the nations to do battle against her. 11 

Prepare the kings of the Medes.

Prepare their governors and all their leaders. 12 

Prepare all the countries they rule to do battle against her. 13 

1 sn The imperatives here and in v. 12 are directed to the soldiers in the armies of the kings from the north (here identified as the kings of Media [see also 50:3, 9; 51:27-28]). They have often been addressed in this prophecy as though they were a present force (see 50:14-16; 50:21 [and the study note there]; 50:26, 29; 51:3) though the passage as a whole is prophetic of the future. This gives some idea of the ideal stance that the prophets adopted when they spoke of the future as though already past (the use of the Hebrew prophetic perfect which has been referred to often in the translator’s notes).

2 tn The meaning of this word is debated. The most thorough discussion of this word including etymology and usage in the OT and Qumran is in HALOT 1409-10 s.v. שֶׁלֶט, where the rendering “quiver” is accepted for all the uses of this word in the OT. For a more readily accessible discussion for English readers see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 2:422-23. The meaning “quiver” fits better with the verb “fill” than the meaning “shield” which is adopted in BDB 1020 s.v. שֶׁלֶט. “Quiver” is the meaning adopted also in NRSV, REB, NAB, and NJPS.

3 tn Heb “The Lord has stirred up the spirit of…” The verb is rendered here as a prophetic perfect. The rendering “arouse a spirit of hostility” is an attempt to render some meaning to the phrase and not simply ignore the word “spirit” as many of the modern English versions do. For a fuller discussion including cross references see the translator’s note on v. 1.

4 sn Media was a country in what is now northwestern Iran. At the time this prophecy was probably written they were the dominating force in the northern region, the most likely enemy to Babylon. By the time Babylon fell in 538 b.c. the Medes had been conquered and incorporated in the Persian empire by Cyrus. However, several times in the Bible this entity is known under the combined entity of Media and Persia (Esth 1:3, 4, 18, 19; 10:2; Dan 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15; 8:20). Dan 5:31 credits the capture of Babylon to Darius the Mede, which may have been another name for Cyrus or the name by which Daniel refers to a Median general named Gobryas.

5 tn Heb “For it is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for his temple.” As in the parallel passage in 50:28, the genitival construction has been expanded in the translation to clarify for the English reader what the commentaries in general agree is involved.

sn Verse 11c-f appears to be a parenthetical or editorial comment by Jeremiah to give some background for the attack which is summoned in vv. 11-12.

6 tn Heb “Raise up a standard on the earth. Blow a ram’s horn among the nations. Consecrate nations against her.” According to BDB 651 s.v. נֵס 1, the raising of a standard was a signal of a war – a summons to assemble and attack (see usage in Isa 5:26; 13:2; Jer 51:12). The “blowing of the ram’s horn” was also a signal to rally behind a leader and join in an attack (see Judg 3:27; 6:34). For the meaning of “consecrate nations against her” see the study note on 6:4. The usage of this phrase goes back to the concept of holy war where soldiers had to be consecrated for battle by the offering of a sacrifice. The phrase has probably lost its ritual usage in later times and become idiomatic for making necessary preparations for war.

7 sn Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz are three kingdoms who were located in the Lake Van, Lake Urmia region which are now parts of eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran. They were kingdoms which had been conquered and made vassal states by the Medes in the early sixth century. The Medes were the dominant country in this region from around 590 b.c. until they were conquered and incorporated into the Persian empire by Cyrus in 550 b.c.

8 tn The translation of this line is uncertain because it includes a word which only occurs here and in Nah 3:17 where it is found in parallelism with a word that is only used once and whose meaning in turn is uncertain. It is probably related to the Akkadian word tupsharru which refers to a scribe (Heb “a tablet writer”). The exact function of this official is disputed. KBL 356 s.v. טִפְסָר relates it to a “recruiting officer,” a sense which is reflected in NAB. The majority of modern English versions render “commander” or “marshal” following the suggestion of BDB 381 s.v. טִפְסָר. G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 351) translate “recruiter (scribe)” but explain the function on p. 371 as that of recording the plunder captured in war. The rendering here follows that of TEV and God’s Word and is the nuance suggested by the majority of modern English versions who rendered “appoint a marshal/commander against it.”

9 sn This is probably a poetic or shorthand way of referring to the cavalry and chariotry where horse is put for “rider” and “driver.”

10 tn Heb “Bring up horses like bristly locusts.” The meaning of the Hebrew word “bristly” (סָמָר, samar) is uncertain because the word only occurs here. It is generally related to a verb meaning “to bristle” which occurs in Job 4:15 and Ps 119:120. Exactly what is meant by “bristly” in connection with “locust” is uncertain, though most relate it to a stage of the locust in which its wings are still encased in a rough, horny casing. J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 759) adds that this is when the locust is very destructive. However, no other commentary mentions this. Therefore the present translation omits the word because it is of uncertain meaning and significance. For a fuller discussion of the way the word has been rendered see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 2:427.

11 tn See the first translator’s note on 51:27 and compare also 6:4 and the study note there.

12 tn See the translator’s note at 51:23 for the rendering of the terms here.

13 tc The Hebrew text has a confusing switch of possessive pronouns in this verse: “Consecrate the nations against her, the kings of the Medes, her governors and prefects, and all the land of his dominion.” This has led to a number of different resolutions. The LXX (the Greek version) renders the word “kings” as singular and levels all the pronouns to “his,” paraphrasing the final clause and combining it with “king of the Medes” to read “and of all the earth.” The Latin Vulgate levels them all to the third masculine plural, and this is followed by the present translation as well as a number of other modern English versions (NASB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, NCV). The ASV and NJPS understand the feminine to refer to Media, i.e., “her governors and all her prefects” and understand the masculine in the last line to be a distributive singular referring back to the lands each of the governors and prefects ruled over. This is probably correct but since governors and prefects refer to officials appointed over provinces and vassal states it amounts to much the same interpretation that the Latin Vulgate, the present translation, and other modern English versions have given.



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