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Jeremiah 10:17-22

Context
Jeremiah Laments for and Prays for the Soon-to-be-Judged People

10:17 Gather your belongings together and prepare to leave the land,

you people of Jerusalem 1  who are being besieged. 2 

10:18 For the Lord says, “I will now throw out

those who live in this land.

I will bring so much trouble on them

that they will actually feel it.” 3 

10:19 And I cried out, 4  “We are doomed! 5 

Our wound is severe!

We once thought, ‘This is only an illness.

And we will be able to bear it!’ 6 

10:20 But our tents have been destroyed.

The ropes that held them in place have been ripped apart. 7 

Our children are gone and are not coming back. 8 

There is no survivor to put our tents back up,

no one left to hang their tent curtains in place.

10:21 For our leaders 9  are stupid.

They have not sought the Lord’s advice. 10 

So they do not act wisely,

and the people they are responsible for 11  have all been scattered.

10:22 Listen! News is coming even now. 12 

The rumble of a great army is heard approaching 13  from a land in the north. 14 

It is coming to turn the towns of Judah into rubble,

places where only jackals live.

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

2 tn Heb “you who are living in/under siege.” The pronouns in this verse are feminine singular in Hebrew. Jerusalem is being personified as a single woman. This personification carries on down through v. 19 where she speaks in the first person. It is difficult, however, to reflect this in a translation that conveys any meaning without being somewhat paraphrastic like this.

3 tn The meaning of this last line is somewhat uncertain: Heb “I will cause them distress in order that [or with the result that] they will find.” The absence of an object for the verb “find” has led to conjecture that the text is wrong. Some commentators follow the lead of the Greek and Latin versions which read the verb as a passive: “they will be found,” i.e., be caught and captured. Others follow a suggestion by G. R. Driver (“Linguistic and Textual Problems: Jeremiah,” JQR 28 [1937-38]: 107) that the verb be read not as “they will find” (יִמְצָאוּ [yimtsau] from מָצָא [matsa’]) but “they will be squeezed/ drained” (יִמְצוּ [yimtsu] from מָצָה [matsah]). The translation adopted assumes that this is an example of the ellipsis of the object supplied from the context (cf. E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 8-12). For a similar nuance for the verb “find” = “feel/experience” see BDB 592 s.v. מָצָא Qal.1.f and compare the usage in Ps 116:3.

4 tn The words, “And I cried out” are not in the text. It is not altogether clear who the speaker is in vv. 19-25. The words of vv. 19-20 would best be assigned to a personified Jerusalem who laments the destruction of her city (under the figure of a tent) and the exile of her children (under the figure of children). However, the words of v. 21 which assign responsibility to the rulers do not fit well in the mouth of the people but do fit Jeremiah. The words of v. 22 are very appropriate to Jeremiah being similar to the report in 4:19-20. Likewise the words of v. 23 which appear to express man’s incapacity to control his own destiny and his resignation to the fate which awaits him in the light of v. 24 seem more appropriate to Jeremiah than to the people. There has been no indication elsewhere that the people have shown any indication of being resigned to their fate or willing to accept their punishment. Though the issue is far from resolved a majority of commentators see Jeremiah as the speaker so identifying himself with their fate that he speaks as though he were this personified figure. It is not altogether out of the question, however, that the speaker throughout is personified Jerusalem though I know of no commentator who takes that view. For those who are interested, the most thorough discussion of the issue is probably to be found in W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:230-35, especially 233-35. Rendering the pronouns throughout as “we” and “our” alleviates some of the difficulty but some speaker needs to be identified in the introduction to allay any possible confusion. Hence I have opted for what is the majority view.

5 tn Heb “Woe to me on account of my wound.” The words “woe to” in many contexts carry the connotation of hopelessness and of inevitable doom (cf. 1 Sam 4:7, 8; Isa 6:5), hence a “deadly blow.” See also the usage in 4:13, 31; 6:4 and the notes on 4:13. For the rendering of the pronoun as “we” and “our” here and in the verses to follow see the preceding note.

6 tn Some interpret this as a resignation to the punishment inflicted and translate “But I said, ‘This is my punishment and I will just need to bear it.’” This is unlikely given the meaning and usage of the word rendered “sickness” (חֳלִי, khali), the absence of the pronoun “my,” and the likelihood that the particle אַךְ means “only” not “indeed” (cf. BDB s.v. אַךְ 2.b and compare its usage in v. 24).

sn What is being referred to here is the feeling that was encouraged by the false prophets that the ill fortunes of the nation were just temporary setbacks and everything would soon get better (cf. 6:14; 8:11).

7 tn Heb “My tent has been destroyed and my tent cords have been ripped apart.” For a very similar identification of Jeremiah’s plight with the plight of the personified community see 4:20 and the notes there.

8 tn Heb “my children have gone from me and are no more.”

sn What is being referred to is the exile of the people of the land. This passage could refer to the exiles of 605 b.c., 597 b.c., or more probably be anticipatory of the exile of 588 b.c. since the “tent,” (i.e., the city) is pictured as torn down. The picture of devastation and desolation here should be contrasted with that in Isa 54:2-3.

9 tn Heb “the shepherds.”

10 tn Heb “They have not sought the Lord.”

sn The idiom translated sought the Lord’s advice quite commonly refers to inquiring for the Lord’s guidance through a prophet. See for example Exod 18:15; 1 Sam 9:9; 1 Kgs 22:8. It would not exclude consulting the law.

11 tn Heb “all their flock (or “pasturage”).”

sn This verse uses the figure of rulers as shepherds and the people they ruled as sheep. It is a common figure in the Bible. See Ezek 34 for an extended development of this metaphor.

12 tn Heb “The sound of a report, behold, it is coming.”

13 tn Heb “ coming, even a great quaking.”

14 sn Compare Jer 6:22.



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