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Jeremiah 23:23-30

Context

23:23 Do you people think 1  that I am some local deity

and not the transcendent God?” 2  the Lord asks. 3 

23:24 “Do you really think anyone can hide himself

where I cannot see him?” the Lord asks. 4 

“Do you not know that I am everywhere?” 5 

the Lord asks. 6 

23:25 The Lord says, 7  “I have heard what those prophets who are prophesying lies in my name are saying. They are saying, ‘I have had a dream! I have had a dream!’ 8  23:26 Those prophets are just prophesying lies. They are prophesying the delusions of their own minds. 9  23:27 How long will they go on plotting 10  to make my people forget who I am 11  through the dreams they tell one another? That is just as bad as what their ancestors 12  did when they forgot who I am by worshiping the god Baal. 13  23:28 Let the prophet who has had a dream go ahead and tell his dream. Let the person who has received my message report that message faithfully. What is like straw cannot compare to what is like grain! 14  I, the Lord, affirm it! 15  23:29 My message is like a fire that purges dross! 16  It is like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces! 17  I, the Lord, so affirm it! 18  23:30 So I, the Lord, affirm 19  that I am opposed to those prophets who steal messages from one another that they claim are from me. 20 

1 tn The words “Do you people think” at the beginning of this verse and “Do you really think” at the beginning of the next verse are not in the text but are a way of trying to convey the nature of the rhetorical questions which expect a negative answer. They are also a way of trying to show that the verses are still connected with the preceding discussion addressed to the people (cf. 23:16, 20).

2 tn Heb “Am I a god nearby and not a god far off?” The question is sometimes translated as though there is an alternative being given in v. 23, one that covers both the ideas of immanence and transcendence (i.e., “Am I only a god nearby and not also a god far off?”). However, the hey interrogative (הַ) at the beginning of this verse and the particle (אִם, ’im) at the beginning of the next show that the linkage is between the question in v. 23 and that in v. 24a. According to BDB 210 s.v. הֲ 1.d both questions in this case expect a negative answer.

sn The thought that is expressed here must be viewed against the background of ancient Near Eastern thought where gods were connected with different realms, e.g., Baal, the god of wind, rain, and fertility, Mot, the god of drought, infertility, and death, Yam, the god of the sea and of chaos. Moreover, Baal was worshiped in local manifestations as the Baal of Peor, Baal of Gad, etc. Hence, Baal is sometimes spoken of in the singular and sometimes in the plural. The Lord is the one true God (Deut 6:4). Moreover, he is the maker of heaven and earth (Gen 14:12; 2 Kgs 19:15; Ps 115:15), sees into the hearts of all men (Ps 33:13-15), and judges men according to what they do (Ezek 7:3, 7, 27). There is no hiding from him (Job 34:22; Ps 139:7-12) and no escape from his judgment (Amos 9:2-4). God has already spoken to the people and their leaders through Jeremiah along these lines (Jer 16:17; 21:14). Lurking behind the thoughts expressed here is probably Deut 29:19-21 where God warns that one “bad apple” who thinks he can get away with sinning against the covenant can lead to the destruction of all. The false prophets were the “bad apples” that were encouraging the corruption of the whole nation by their words promoting a false sense of security unconnected with loyalty to God and obedience to his covenant. The first question deals with the issue of God’s transcendence, the second with his omniscience, and the third with his omnipresence.

3 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

4 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

5 tn The words “Don’t you know” are not in the text. They are a way of conveying the idea that the question which reads literally “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” expects a positive answer. They follow the pattern used at the beginning of the previous two questions and continue that thought. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

7 tn The words, “The Lord says” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show that the Lord continues speaking.

8 sn To have had a dream was not an illegitimate means of receiving divine revelation. God had revealed himself in the past to his servants through dreams (e.g., Jacob [Gen 31:10-11] and Joseph [Gen 37:6, 7, 9]) and God promised to reveal himself through dreams (Num 12:6; Joel 2:28 [3:1 HT]). What was illegitimate was to use the dream to lead people away from the Lord (Deut 13:1-5 [13:2-6 HT]). That was what the prophets were doing through their dreams which were “lies” and “the delusions of their own minds.” Through them they were making people forget who the Lord really was which was just like what their ancestors had done through worshiping Baal.

9 sn See the parallel passage in Jer 14:13-15.

10 tn The relation of the words to one another in v. 26 and the beginning of v. 27 has created difficulties for translators and commentators. The proper solution is reflected in the NJPS. Verses 26-27 read somewhat literally, “How long is there in the hearts of the prophets who are prophesying the lie and [in the hearts of] the prophets of the delusions of their [own] heart the plotting to cause my people to forget my name…” Most commentaries complain that the text is corrupt, that there is no subject for “is there.” However, the long construct qualification “in the hearts of” has led to the lack of observation that the proper subject is “the plotting to make my people forget.” There are no exact parallels but Jer 14:22; Neh 5:5 follow the same structure. The “How long” precedes the other means of asking a question for the purpose of emphasis (cf. BDB 210 s.v. הֲ 1.b and compare for example the usage in 2 Sam 7:7). There has also been a failure to see that “the prophets of the delusion of…” is a parallel construct noun after “heart of.” Stripping the syntax down to its barest minimum and translating literally, the sentence would read “How long will the plotting…continue in the hearts of the prophets who…and [in hearts of] the prophets of…” The sentence has been restructured in the translation to conform to contemporary English style but attempt has been made to maintain the same subordinations.

11 tn Heb “my name.”

sn In the OT, the “name” reflected the person’s character (cf. Gen 27:36; 1 Sam 25:25) or his reputation (Gen 11:4; 2 Sam 8:13). To speak in someone’s name was to act as his representative or carry his authority (1 Sam 25:9; 1 Kgs 21:8). To call someone’s name over something was to claim it for one’s own (2 Sam 12:28). Hence, here to forget the name is equivalent to forgetting who he was in his essential character (cf. Exod 3:13-15; 6:3; 34:5-7). By preaching lies they had obliterated part of his essential character and caused people to forget who he really was.

12 tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 39).

13 tn Heb “through Baal.” This is an elliptical expression for the worship of Baal. See 11:17; 12:16; 19:5 for other references to their relation to Baal. There is a deliberate paralleling in the syntax here between “through their dreams” and “through Baal.”

14 tn Heb “What to the straw with [in comparison with] the grain?” This idiom represents an emphatic repudiation or denial of relationship. See, for example, the usage in 2 Sam 16:10 and note BDB 553 s.v. מָה 1.d(c).

15 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

16 tn Heb “Is not my message like a fire?” The rhetorical question expects a positive answer that is made explicit in the translation. The words “that purges dross” are not in the text but are implicit to the metaphor. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

17 tn Heb “Is it not like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” See preceding note.

18 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

19 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

20 tn Heb “who are stealing my words from one another.” However, context shows that it is their own word which they claim is from the Lord (cf. next verse).



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