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Jeremiah 51:3-4

Context

51:3 Do not give her archers time to string their bows

or to put on their coats of armor. 1 

Do not spare any of her young men.

Completely destroy 2  her whole army.

51:4 Let them fall 3  slain in the land of Babylonia, 4 

mortally wounded in the streets of her cities. 5 

Jeremiah 51:56-57

Context

51:56 For a destroyer is attacking Babylon. 6 

Her warriors will be captured;

their bows will be broken. 7 

For the Lord is a God who punishes; 8 

he pays back in full. 9 

51:57 “I will make her officials and wise men drunk,

along with her governors, leaders, 10  and warriors.

They will fall asleep forever and never wake up,” 11 

says the King whose name is the Lord who rules over all. 12 

1 tc The text and consequent meaning of these first two lines are uncertain. Literally the Masoretic reads “against let him string let him string the one who strings his bow and against let him raise himself up in his coat of armor.” This makes absolutely no sense and the ancient versions and Hebrew mss did not agree in reading this same text. Many Hebrew mss and all the versions as well as the Masoretes themselves (the text is left unpointed with a marginal note not to read it) delete the second “let him string.” The LXX (or Greek version) left out the words “against” at the beginning of the first two lines. It reads “Let the archer bend his bow and let the one who has armor put it on.” The Lucianic recension of the LXX and some Targum mss supplied the missing object “it” and thus read “Let the archer ready his bow against it and let him array himself against it in his coat of mail.” This makes good sense but does not answer the question of why the Hebrew text left off the suffix on the preposition twice in a row. Many Hebrew mss and the Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate (the Latin version) change the pointing of “against” (אֶל [’el]) to “not” (אַל [’al]) and thus read “Let the archer not string the bow and let him not array himself in his armor.” However, many commentators feel that this does not fit the context because it would apparently be addressed to the Babylonians, not the enemy, which would create a sudden shift in addressee with the second half of the verse. However, if it is understood in the sense taken here it refers to the enemy not allowing the Babylonian archers to get ready for the battle, i.e., a surprise attack. This sense is suggested as an alternative in J. Bright, Jeremiah (AB), 346, n. u-u, and J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 747, n. 5, and is the interpretation adopted in TEV and probably also in NIrV.

2 sn For the concept underlying this word see the study note on “utterly destroy” in Jer 25:9 and compare the usage in 50:21, 26.

3 tn The majority of English versions and the commentaries understand the vav (ו) consecutive + perfect as a future here “They will fall.” However, it makes better sense in the light of the commands in the previous verse to understand this as an indirect third person command (= a jussive; see GKC 333 §112.q, r) as REB and NJPS do.

4 tn Heb “the land of the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.

5 tn The words “cities” is not in the text. The text merely says “in her streets” but the antecedent is “land” and must then refer to the streets of the cities in the land.

6 tn Heb “for a destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon.”

7 tn The Piel form (which would be intransitive here, see GKC 142 §52.k) should probably be emended to Qal.

8 tn Or “God of retribution.”

9 tn The infinitive absolute emphasizes the following finite verb. Another option is to translate, “he certainly pays one back.” The translation assumes that the imperfect verbal form here describes the Lord’s characteristic actions. Another option is to take it as referring specifically to his judgment on Babylon, in which case one should translate, “he will pay (Babylon) back in full.”

10 sn For discussion of the terms “governors” and “leaders” see the note at Jer 51:23.

11 sn See the note at Jer 51:39.

12 tn For the title “Yahweh of armies” see the study note on Jer 2:19.



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