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Jeremiah 40:1-5

Context
Jeremiah Is Set Free A Second Time

40:1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah 1  after Nebuzaradan the captain of the royal guard had set him free at Ramah. 2  He had taken him there in chains 3  along with all the people from Jerusalem 4  and Judah who were being carried off to exile to Babylon. 40:2 The captain of the royal guard took Jeremiah aside and said to him, “The Lord your God threatened this place with this disaster. 40:3 Now he has brought it about. The Lord has done just as he threatened to do. This disaster has happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. 5  40:4 But now, Jeremiah, today I will set you free 6  from the chains on your wrists. If you would like to come to Babylon with me, come along and I will take care of you. 7  But if you prefer not to come to Babylon with me, you are not required to do so. 8  You are free to go anywhere in the land you want to go. 9  Go wherever you choose.” 10  40:5 Before Jeremiah could turn to leave, the captain of the guard added, “Go back 11  to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed to govern 12  the towns of Judah. Go back and live with him 13  among the people. Or go wherever else you choose.” Then the captain of the guard gave Jeremiah some food and a present and let him go.

1 tn Heb “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord.” This phrase regularly introduces the Lord’s directions to Jeremiah which immediately follow (cf. 7:1; 11:1; 18:1; 30:1; 34:1; 35:1). In 21:1; 44:1 it introduces a word of the Lord that Jeremiah communicates to others. However, no directions to Jeremiah follow here nor does any oracle that Jeremiah passes on to the people. Some commentators explain this as a heading parallel to that in 1:1-3 (which refers to messages and incidents in the life of Jeremiah up to the fall of Jerusalem) introducing the oracles that Jeremiah delivered after the fall of Jerusalem. However, no oracles follow until 42:9. It is possible that the intervening material supply background material for the oracle that is introduced in 42:7. An analogy to this structure but in a much shorter form may be found in 34:8-12. Another possible explanation is that the words of the captain of the guard in vv. 2-3 are to be seen as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah. In this case, it is a rather ironical confirmation of what Jeremiah had been saying all along. If it is thought strange that a pagan soldier would have said these words, it should be remembered that foreign soldiers knew through their intelligence sources what kings and prophets were saying (cf. Isa 36:7), and it is not unusual for God to speak through pagan prophets (cf. Balaam’s oracles, e.g. Num 23:7-10) or even a dumb animal (e.g., Balaam’s donkey [Num 22:28, 30]). Given the penchant for the use of irony in the book of Jeremiah, this is the most likely explanation. For further discussion on this view see G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC), 235-36.

2 sn Some commentators see the account of Jeremiah’s release here in 40:1-6 as an alternate and contradictory account to that of Jeremiah’s release in 39:11-14. However, most commentators see them as complementary and sequential. Jeremiah had been released from the courtyard of the guardhouse on orders of the military tribunal there shortly after Nebuzaradan got to Jerusalem and passed on Nebuchadnezzar’s orders to them. He had been released to the custody of Gedaliah who was to take him back to the governor’s residence and look after him there. However, Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem among the people there. He was mistakenly rounded up with them and led off as a prisoner to be deported with the rest of the exiles. However, when he got to Ramah which was a staging area for deportees, Nebuzaradan recognized him among the prisoners and released him a second time.

3 tn Heb “when he took him and he was in chains.” The subject is probably Nebuzaradan or the indefinite third singular (GKC 460 §144.d). The Kethib of the word for בָּאזִקִּים (baziqqim) is to be explained as a secondary formation with prosthetic א (aleph) from the normal word for “fetter” (זֵק, zeq) according to HALOT 27 s.v. אֲזִקִּים (see GKC 70 §19.m and 235-36 §85.b for the phenomenon).

4 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

5 tn Heb “Because you [masc. pl.] sinned against the Lord and did not hearken to his voice [a common idiom for “obey him”], this thing has happened to you [masc. pl.].”

6 tn The verb here is an example of the perfect of resolve where the speaker announces his intention to do something according to IBHS 488-89 §30.5.1d. The word “Jeremiah” is supplied in the translation to avoid the possible misunderstanding that the you is still plural.

7 tn Or “look out for you.” See 39:12 and the translator’s note there.

8 tn Or “Stay here”; Heb “Forbear.” The imperative is used in a permissive sense; “you may forbear.” See GKC 324 §110.b and compare usage in Gen 50:6.

9 tn Heb “See all the land [or the whole land] is before you.” For this idiom see BDB 817 s.v. פָּנֶה II.4.a(f) and compare the usage in Gen 20:15; 47:6.

10 tn Heb “Unto the good and the right in your eyes to go, go there.”

11 tc Or “Before Jeremiah could answer, the captain of the guard added.” Or “But if you remain, then go back.” The meaning of the first part of v. 5 is uncertain. The text is either very cryptic here or is corrupt, perhaps beyond restoration. The Hebrew text reads, “and he was not yet turning and return to Gedaliah” (וְעוֹדֶנּוּ לֹא־יָשׁוּב וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה) which is very cryptic. The Greek version lacks everything in v. 4 after “I will look out for you” and begins v. 5 with “But if not, run, return to Gedaliah” (= וְאִם לֹא רוּץ וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה). The Latin version reads the same as the Hebrew in v. 4 but reads “and don’t come with me but stay with Gedaliah” (= a possible Hebrew text of וְעִמָּדִי לֹא תָּשׁוּב וְשֵׁבָה אֶת־גְּדַלְיָה). The Syriac version reads “But if you are remaining then return to Gedaliah” (reading a possible Hebrew text of יֹשֵׁב וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה וְעוֹדְךָ לֻא with an abnormal writing of a conditional particle normally written לוּ [lu] and normally introducing conditions assumed to be untrue or reading וְעוֹדְךָ לְיֹשֵׁב וְשֻׁבָה אֶל־גְּדַלְיָה with an emphatic לְ [lÿ, see IBHS 211-12 §11.2.10i] and an informally introduced condition). NRSV does not explain the Hebrew base for its reading but accepts the Syriac as the original. It does appear to be the most likely alternative if the Hebrew is not accepted. However, the fact that none of the versions agree and all appear to be smoother than the Hebrew text suggests that they were dealing with an awkward original that they were trying to smooth out. Hence it is perhaps best to retain the Hebrew and make the best sense possible out of it. The most common reading of the Hebrew text as it stands is “and while he was not yet turning [= but before he was able to turn (to go)] [Nebuzaradan continued], ‘Go back to Gedaliah.’” (The imperfect in this case is an imperfect of capability [see IBHS 507 §31.4c, examples 2, 4, 5].) That is the reading that is adopted here. REB and TEV appear to accept a minor emendation of the verb “turn to leave” (יָשׁוּב, yashuv, a Qal imperfect) to “answer” (יָשִׁיב, yashiv, a Hiphil imperfect with an elided object [see BDB 999 s.v. שׁוּב Hiph.3 and compare 2 Chr 10:16]). All of this shows that the meaning of the text at this point is very uncertain.

12 tn Heb “set him over/ made him overseer over.” See BDB 823-24 s.v. פָּקִיד Hiph.1 and compare usage in Gen 39:4-5.

13 tn Heb “Go back to Gedaliah…and live with him among the people.” The long Hebrew sentence has been restructured to better conform with contemporary English style.



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