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Jeremiah 9:3-9

Context
The Lord Laments That He Has No Choice But to Judge Them

9:3 The Lord says, 1 

“These people are like soldiers who have readied their bows.

Their tongues are always ready to shoot out lies. 2 

They have become powerful in the land,

but they have not done so by honest means. 3 

Indeed, they do one evil thing after another 4 

and do not pay attention to me. 5 

9:4 Everyone must be on his guard around his friends.

He must not even trust any of his relatives. 6 

For every one of them will find some way to cheat him. 7 

And all of his friends will tell lies about him.

9:5 One friend deceives another

and no one tells the truth.

These people have trained themselves 8  to tell lies.

They do wrong and are unable to repent.

9:6 They do one act of violence after another,

and one deceitful thing after another. 9 

They refuse to pay attention to me,” 10 

says the Lord.

9:7 Therefore the Lord who rules over all says, 11 

“I will now purify them in the fires of affliction 12  and test them.

The wickedness of my dear people 13  has left me no choice.

What else can I do? 14 

9:8 Their tongues are like deadly arrows. 15 

They are always telling lies. 16 

Friendly words for their neighbors come from their mouths.

But their minds are thinking up ways to trap them. 17 

9:9 I will certainly punish them for doing such things!” says the Lord.

“I will certainly bring retribution on such a nation as this!” 18 

1 tn The words “The Lord says” have been moved up from the end of the verse to make clear that a change in speaker has occurred.

2 tn Heb “They have readied [or strung] their tongue as their bow for lies.”

3 tn Heb “but not through honesty.”

4 tn Heb “they go from evil to evil.”

5 tn Or “do not acknowledge me”; Heb “do not know me.” But “knowing” in Hebrew thought often involves more than intellectual knowledge; it involves emotional and volitional commitment as well. For יָדַע meaning “acknowledge” see 1 Chr 28:9; Isa 29:21; Hos 2:20; Prov 3:6. This word is also found in ancient Near Eastern treaty contexts where it has the idea of a vassal king acknowledging the sovereignty of a greater king (cf. H. Huffmon, “The Treaty Background of Hebrew yada,” BASOR 181 [1966]: 31-37).

6 tn Heb “Be on your guard…Do not trust.” The verbs are second masculine plural of direct address and there seems no way to translate literally and not give the mistaken impression that Jeremiah is being addressed. This is another example of the tendency in Hebrew style to turn from description to direct address (a figure of speech called apostrophe).

7 tn Heb “cheating, each of them will cheat.”

sn There is perhaps an intentional pun and allusion here to Gen 27:36 and the wordplay on the name Jacob there. The text here reads עָקוֹב יַעְקֹב (’aqob yaqob).

8 tn Heb “their tongues.” However, this is probably not a natural idiom in contemporary English and the tongue may stand as a part for the whole anyway.

9 tc An alternate reading for vv. 5d-6b is: “They wear themselves out doing wrong. Jeremiah, you live in the midst of deceitful people. They deceitfully refuse to take any thought of/acknowledge me.” The translation which has been adopted is based on a redivision of the lines, a redivision of some of the words, and a revocalization of some of the consonants. The MT reads literally “doing wrong they weary themselves. Your sitting in the midst of deceit; in deceit they refuse to know me” (הַעֲוֵה נִלְאוּ׃ שִׁבְתְּךָ בְּתוֹךְ מִרְמָה בְּמִרְמָה מֵאֲנוּ דַעַת־אוֹתִי). The Greek version reads literally “they do wrong and they do not cease to turn themselves around. Usury upon usury and deceit upon deceit. They do not want to know me.” This suggests that one should read the Hebrew text as שֻׁב׃ תֹּךְ בְּתוֹךְ מִרְ־מָה בְּמִרְ־מָה מֵאֲנוּ דַעַת אוֹתִי הַעֲוֵה נִלְאוּ, which translated literally yields “doing evil [= “they do evil” using the Hiphil infinitive absolute as a finite verb (cf. GKC 346 §113.ff)] they are not able [cf. KBL 468 s.v. לָאָה Niph.3 and see Exod 7:18 for parallel use] to repent. Oppression on oppression [cf. BDB 1067 s.v. תֹּךְ, II תּוֹךְ]; deceit on deceit. They refuse to know me.” This reading has ancient support and avoids the introduction of an unexpected second masculine suffix into the context. It has been adopted here along with a number of modern commentaries (cf., e.g., W. McKane, Jeremiah [ICC], 1:201) and English versions as the more likely reading.

10 tn Or “do not acknowledge me”; Heb “do not know me.” See the note on the phrase “do not take any thought of me” in 9:3.

11 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

12 tn Heb “I will refine/purify them.” The words “in the fires of affliction” are supplied in the translation to give clarity to the metaphor.

13 tn Heb “daughter of my people.” For the translation given here see 4:11 and the note on the phrase “dear people” there.

14 tc Heb “For how else shall I deal because of the wickedness of the daughter of my people.” The MT does not have the word “wickedness.” The word, however, is read in the Greek version. This is probably a case of a word dropping out because of its similarities to the consonants preceding or following it (i.e., haplography). The word “wickedness” (רַעַת, raat) has dropped out before the words “my dear people” (בַּת־עַמִּי, bat-ammi). The causal nuance which is normal for מִפְּנֵי (mippÿne) does not make sense without some word like this, and the combination of רַעַת מִפְּנֵי (mippÿne raat) does occur in Jer 7:12 and one very like it occurs in Jer 26:3.

15 tc This reading follows the Masoretic consonants (the Kethib, a Qal active participle from שָׁחַט, shakhat). The Masoretes preferred to read “a sharpened arrow” (the Qere, a Qal passive participle from the same root or a homonym, meaning “hammered, beaten”). See HALOT 1354 s.v. II שָׁחַט for discussion. The exact meaning of the word makes little difference to the meaning of the metaphor itself.

16 tn Heb “They speak deceit.”

17 tn Heb “With his mouth a person speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets an ambush for him.”

18 tn Heb “Should I not punish them…? Should I not bring retribution…?” The rhetorical questions function as emphatic declarations.

sn See 5:9, 29. This is somewhat of a refrain at the end of a catalog of Judah’s sins.



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