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Jeremiah 9:21-22

Context

9:21 ‘Death has climbed in 1  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.’

9:22 Tell your daughters and neighbors, ‘The Lord says,

“The dead bodies of people will lie scattered everywhere

like manure scattered on a field.

They will lie scattered on the ground

like grain that has been cut down but has not been gathered.”’” 2 

1 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.

2 tn Or “‘Death has climbed…city squares. And the dead bodies of people lie scattered…They lie scattered…but has not been gathered.’ The Lord has told me to tell you this.” Or “For death will climb…It will enter…It will take away…who gather in the city squares. So tell your daughters and neighbors, ‘The Lord wants you to say, “The dead bodies of people lie scattered…They lie scattered…has not been gathered.”’” The main causes of ambiguity are the particle כִּי (ki) introducing v. 21 and the verb form דַּבֵּר (dabber) at the beginning of v. 22. כִּי may be interpreted as introducing a causal sentence giving Jeremiah’s grounds for the commands of v. 19 in which case the verbs would best be understood as prophetic perfects (as in the second alternate translation). Or it may be interpreted as introducing the content of the lament the women are to teach their daughters and neighbors (as in the translation adopted and in the first alternate translation). The form דַּבֵּר may be interpreted as a Piel masculine singular imperative addressed to Jeremiah (as in the first alternate translation where it is placed at the end for the sake of clarity) or as a Piel infinitive absolute either explaining what the woman are to teach their daughters and neighbors (as in the second alternate translation; cf. GKC 341 §113.h, i for this use of the infinitive absolute) or as equivalent to an imperative addressed to the women telling them to tell their daughters and neighbors the reason for the lament, i.e., the Lord’s promise of widespread death (cf. GKC 346 §113.bb for this use of the infinitive absolute). The translation chosen has opted for v. 21 as the content of the lament and v. 22 as the further explanation that Jeremiah has the women pass on to their neighbors and daughters. This appears to this interpreter to create the least confusion and dislocation in the flow of the passage.



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