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Jeremiah 9:16-21

Context
9:16 I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors 1  have known anything about. I will send people chasing after them with swords 2  until I have destroyed them.’” 3 

9:17 The Lord who rules over all 4  told me to say to this people, 5 

“Take note of what I say. 6 

Call for the women who mourn for the dead!

Summon those who are the most skilled at it!” 7 

9:18 I said, “Indeed, 8  let them come quickly and sing a song of mourning for us.

Let them wail loudly until tears stream from our own eyes

and our eyelids overflow with water.

9:19 For the sound of wailing is soon to be heard in Zion.

They will wail, 9  ‘We are utterly ruined! 10  We are completely disgraced!

For our houses have been torn down

and we must leave our land.’” 11 

9:20 I said, 12 

“So now, 13  you wailing women, hear what the Lord says. 14 

Open your ears to the words from his mouth.

Teach your daughters this mournful song,

and each of you teach your neighbor 15  this lament.

9:21 ‘Death has climbed in 16  through our windows.

It has entered into our fortified houses.

It has taken away our children who play in the streets.

It has taken away our young men who gather in the city squares.’

1 tn Heb “fathers.”

2 tn Heb “I will send the sword after them.” The sword here is probably not completely literal but refers to death by violent means, including death by the sword.

3 sn He will destroy them but not completely. See Jer 5:18; 30:11; 46:28.

4 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

sn For the significance of this title see the notes at 2:19 and 7:3.

5 tn Heb “Thus says Yahweh of armies.” However, without some addition it is not clear to whom the command is addressed. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity and to help resolve a rather confusing issue of who is speaking throughout vv. 16-21. As has been evident throughout the translation, the speaker is not always indicated. Sometimes it is not even clear who the speaker is. In general the translation and the notes have reflected the general consensus in identifying who it is. Here, however, there is a good deal of confusion about who is speaking in vv. 18, 20-21. The Greek translation has the Lord speaking throughout with second plural pronouns in vv. 18, 21 and the absence of the first line in v. 22. It would be hard to explain how the MT arose if it were the original text. Critical commentators such as J. Bright, W. Holladay, and W. McKane resolve the issue by dropping out the introductory formula in v. 17 and the first line of v. 22 and assigning the whole lament to Jeremiah. It seems obvious from the first plural pronouns and the content of v. 18 (and probably v. 21 as well) and the fact that the Lord is referred to in other than the first person in v. 20 that he is not the speaker of those verses. I have attempted to resolve the issue by having Jeremiah report the Lord’s command in v. 17 and have the rest of the speech be essentially that of Jeremiah. It should be admitted, however, that the issue is far from resolved. Most English versions simply ignore the problem. The GNB (= TEV) is a rare exception.

6 tn Heb “Consider!”

7 tn Heb “Call for the mourning women that they may come and send for the wise/skilled women that they may come.” The verbs here are masculine plural, addressed to the people.

8 tn The words “And I said, ‘Indeed” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to try and help clarify who the speaker is who identifies with the lament of the people.

9 tn The words “They will wail” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation to make clear that this is the wailing that will be heard.

sn The destruction is still in the future, but it is presented graphically as though it had already taken place.

10 tn Heb “How we are ruined!”

11 tn The order of these two lines has been reversed for English stylistic reasons. The text reads in Hebrew “because we have left our land because they have thrown down our dwellings.” The two clauses offer parallel reasons for the cries “How ruined we are! [How] we are greatly disgraced!” But the first line must contain a prophetic perfect (because the lament comes from Jerusalem) and the second a perfect referring to a destruction that is itself future. This seems the only way to render the verse that would not be misleading.

12 tn The words “I said” are not in the text. The text merely has “Indeed, yes.” The words are supplied in the translation to indicate that the speaker is still Jeremiah though he now is not talking about the mourning woman but is talking to them. See the notes on 9:17-18 for further explanation.

13 tn It is a little difficult to explain how the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) is functioning here. W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:311) may be correct in seeing it as introducing the contents of what those who call for the mourning women are to say. In this case, Jeremiah picks up the task as representative of the people.

14 tn Heb “Listen to the word of the Lord.”

sn In this context the “word of the Lord” that they are to listen for is the word of the lament that they are to teach their daughters and neighbors.

15 tn Heb “Teach…mournful song, and each woman her neighbor lady…”

16 sn Here Death is personified (treated as though it were a person). Some have seen as possible background to this lament an allusion to Mesopotamian mythology where the demon Lamastu climbs in through the windows of houses and over their walls to kill children and babies.



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