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Jeremiah 11:9-23

Context

11:9 The Lord said to me, “The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem have plotted rebellion against me! 1  11:10 They have gone back to the evil ways 2  of their ancestors of old who refused to obey what I told them. They, too, have paid allegiance to 3  other gods and worshiped them. Both the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah 4  have violated the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11:11 So I, the Lord, say this: 5  ‘I will soon bring disaster on them which they will not be able to escape! When they cry out to me for help, I will not listen to them. 11:12 Then those living in the towns of Judah and in Jerusalem will 6  go and cry out for help to the gods to whom they have been sacrificing. However, those gods will by no means 7  be able to save them when disaster strikes them. 11:13 This is in spite of the fact that 8  the people of Judah have as many gods as they have towns 9  and the citizens of Jerusalem have set up as many altars to sacrifice to that disgusting god, Baal, as they have streets in the city!’ 10  11:14 So, Jeremiah, 11  do not pray for these people. Do not cry out to me or petition me on their behalf. Do not plead with me to save them. 12  For I will not listen to them when they call out to me for help when disaster strikes them.” 13 

11:15 The Lord says to the people of Judah, 14 

“What right do you have to be in my temple, my beloved people? 15 

Many of you have done wicked things. 16 

Can your acts of treachery be so easily canceled by sacred offerings 17 

that you take joy in doing evil even while you make them? 18 

11:16 I, the Lord, once called 19  you a thriving olive tree,

one that produced beautiful fruit.

But I will set you 20  on fire,

fire that will blaze with a mighty roar. 21 

Then all your branches will be good for nothing. 22 

11:17 For though I, the Lord who rules over all, 23  planted you in the land, 24 

I now decree that disaster will come on you 25 

because the nations of Israel and Judah have done evil

and have made me angry by offering sacrifices to the god Baal.” 26 

A Plot Against Jeremiah is Revealed and He Complains of Injustice

11:18 The Lord gave me knowledge, that I might have understanding. 27 

Then he showed me what the people were doing. 28 

11:19 Before this I had been like a docile lamb ready to be led to the slaughter.

I did not know they were making plans to kill me. 29 

I did not know they were saying, 30 

“Let’s destroy the tree along with its fruit! 31 

Let’s remove Jeremiah 32  from the world of the living

so people will not even be reminded of him any more.” 33 

11:20 So I said to the Lord, 34 

“O Lord who rules over all, 35  you are a just judge!

You examine people’s hearts and minds. 36 

I want to see you pay them back for what they have done

because I trust you to vindicate my cause.” 37 

11:21 Then the Lord told me about 38  some men from Anathoth 39  who were threatening to kill me. 40  They had threatened, 41  “Stop prophesying in the name of the Lord or we will kill you!” 42  11:22 So the Lord who rules over all 43  said, “I will surely 44  punish them! Their young men will be killed in battle. 45  Their sons and daughters will die of starvation. 11:23 Not one of them will survive. 46  I will bring disaster on those men from Anathoth who threatened you. 47  A day of reckoning is coming for them.” 48 

1 tn Heb “Conspiracy [a plot to rebel] is found [or exists] among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

2 tn Or “They have repeated the evil actions of….”

3 tn Heb “have walked/followed after.” See the translator’s note at 2:5 for the idiom.

4 tn Heb “house of Israel and house of Judah.”

5 tn Heb “Therefore, thus, says the Lord.” The person has been shifted in the translation in accordance with the difference between Hebrew and English style.

6 tn Heb “Then the towns of Judah and those living in Jerusalem will…”

7 tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic involving the use of an infinitive of the verb before the verb itself (Heb “saving they will not save”). For this construction to give emphasis to an antithesis, cf. GKC 343 §113.p.

8 tn This is again an attempt to render the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) contextually. The nuance is a little hard to establish due to the nature of the rhetoric of the passage which utilizes the figure of apostrophe where the Lord turns from talking about Judah to addressing her directly, probably in condemnatory tones. Something like “the very idea that you should…” might best represent the mood. The כִּי is probably asseverative or intensive (cf. BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.e).

9 sn Cf. Jer 2:28.

10 tn Heb “For [or Indeed] the number of your [sing.] cities are your [sing.] gods, Judah, and the number of the streets of Jerusalem [or perhaps (your) streets, Jerusalem] you [plur.] have set up altars to the shameful thing, altars to sacrifice to Baal.” This passage involves a figure of speech where the speaker turns from describing something about someone to addressing him/her directly (a figure called apostrophe). This figure is not common in contemporary English literature or conversation and translating literally would lead to confusion on the part of some readers. Hence, the translation retains the third person in keeping with the rest of the context. The shift from singular “your cities” to plural “you have set up” is interpreted contextually to refer to a shift in addressing Judah to addressing the citizens of Jerusalem whose streets are being talked about. The appositional clause, “altars to sacrifice to Baal” has been collapsed with the preceding clause to better identify what the shameful thing is and to eliminate a complex construction. The length of this sentence runs contrary to the usual practice of breaking up long complex sentences in Hebrew into shorter equivalent ones in English. However, breaking up this sentence and possibly losing the connecting link with the preceding used to introduce it might lead to misunderstanding.

11 tn Heb “you.”

12 tn The words “to save them” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

sn Cf. Jer 7:16 where this same command is addressed to Jeremiah.

13 tc The rendering “when disaster strikes them” is based on reading “at the time of” (בְּעֵת, bÿet) with a number of Hebrew mss and the versions instead of “on account of” (בְּעַד, bÿad). W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:347) is probably right in assuming that the MT has been influenced by “for them” (בַעֲדָם, vaadam) earlier in the verse.

14 tn The words “The Lord says to the people of Judah” are not in the text. It is, however, clear from the words that follow that he is the speaker and Judah the addressee. The words are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.

15 tn Heb “What to my beloved [being] in my house?” The text has been restructured to avoid possible confusion by the shift from third person in the first two lines to second person in the last two lines and the lines of the following verse. The reference to Judah as his “beloved” is certainly ironic and perhaps even sarcastic.

16 tc The meaning of this line is uncertain. The text reads somewhat literally either “her doing the wicked thing the many” or “doing it, the wicked thing, the many.” The text, relationship between words, and meaning of this whole verse have been greatly debated. Wholesale emendation based on the ancient versions is common in both the commentaries and the modern English versions. Many follow the lead of the Greek version which in many cases offers a smoother reading but for that very reason may not be original. The notes that follow will explain some of these emendations but will also attempt to explain the most likely meaning of the MT which is the more difficult and probably the more original text. Since it is presumed to be the original the text will be dealt with in the notes line for line in the MT even though the emendations often relate to more than one line. For example the Greek of the first two lines reads: “Why has the beloved done abomination in my house?” This ignores the preposition before “my beloved” (לִידִידִי, lididi) and treats the form “her doing” (עֲשׂוֹתָהּ [’asotah], Qal infinitive plus suffix) as a finite verb (עָשְׂתָה [’astah], Qal perfect third feminine). The forms are similar but the Greek is smoother. Moreover, it is difficult to explain the presence of “to” in the MT if the Greek is the original. The Greek text likewise does not have the difficulty that is exhibited in the MT by the word “the many” (הָרַבִּים, harabbim). It reads a word for “vows/votive offerings” (εὐχαί [eucai] regularly = נְדָרִים [gÿdarim]) in place of the word “many” (הָרַבִּים, harabbim) and takes it as part of a compound subject of the verb in the following line meaning “take away.” However, this word is far removed graphically from that in the MT and it would be difficult to explain how the MT arose from it. The Old Latin apparently reads a word for “fat” (adipes = חֲלָבִים, khalavim) which is closer in script to the MT and would be more likely original than the Greek. However, both of these resolutions look like attempts to smooth out a difficult text. Because there is no solid support for any single reading, it is probably best to retain the MT’s “the many.” Many do retain it and take it as a second accusative of “doing it” and read “she does the wicked thing with many [i.e., many false gods],” a use of the accusative which is hard to justify. Another alternative, taking the adjective “the many” to modify the noun “the wicked thing” is sometimes suggested but is not possible because the adjective is masculine plural and the noun is feminine singular which is contrary to Hebrew style. Hence one cannot read “she has done many wicked things.” The present translation follows the suggestion in D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 4:209, that it is the subject of the infinitive construct with an object suffix which is anticipatory of the noun “wickedness” that follows (cf. GKC 425 §131.m), i.e., “the many do it, namely the wickedness” (for the meaning of the noun see BDB 273 s.v. מְזִמָּה 3.b).

17 tn The meaning of this line is also uncertain. The Hebrew text reads somewhat literally, “holy meat they pass over from upon you.” The question of the subject of the verb is the main problem here. The verb is masculine plural and the only subject available is “holy meat” which is singular, a “they” which goes back to “the many,” or a noun from the end of the preceding line which is combined with “holy meat.” The latter is the solution of the Greek version which reads “Will votive offerings [or pieces of fat (following the Old Latin)] and holy meats take away from you your wickedness?” However, that resolution has been rejected in the preceding note as smoothing out the difficulties of the first two lines. It also leaves out the כִּי (ki) at the beginning of the following line and takes the noun “your wickedness” as the object of the verb. That certainly would make for an easier reading of both this line and the next and the assumption that כִּי may not be in the text is possible because it could be explained as a double writing of the pronoun on the end of the preceding phrase “from upon you” (מֵעָלָיִךְ, mealayikh). However, besides being the smoother reading it leaves the last line too short poetically. The solution of the UBS, Preliminary Report, 4:209 is that “they” (referring back to “the many”?) is the subject. They read: “so that they carry away from you even sacrificial flesh.” But who are “they” and “you?” Is the “they” the priests and the “you” the people? (See 1 Sam 2:10-17 for a possible parallel.) This, however, introduces too many unknowns into the text. The translation adopted is based on a revocalization of the form “from upon you” (מֵעָלָיִךְ, mealayikh) to “your treacherous acts” (מַעֲלָיִךְ, maalayikh; for this noun cf. BDB 591 s.v. I מַעַל 2), a solution which is also proposed in the margin of the NJPS which reads: “Can your treacheries be canceled by sacral flesh?” For the nuance of the verb presupposed here (= be removed, cease to exist) see BDB 718 s.v. עָבַר Qal.6.c and compare usage in Job 30:15. While this solution does preserve the consonantal text and is accepted here, it should be acknowledged that there is no ancient support for it and the reading of the noun “treacheries” in place of the compound preposition “from upon” is purely speculative.

18 tn Heb “for [or when] your wickedness then you rejoice.” The meaning of this line is uncertain. The Greek version, which reads “or will you escape by these things” (presupposing a Hebrew text אִם עַל זוֹת תָּעוּזִי, ’imal zot tauzi) is far removed from the reading in the MT (אָז תַּעֲלֹזִי [’az taalozi]; the rest of the Hebrew line has been left out because the Greek reads it with the preceding line) and again appears to be an attempt to smooth out a difficult text. The translation retains the MT but rewords it so it makes better sense in English. The translation presupposes that the phrase “your wickedness” is the object of the verb “take joy” and the adverb “then” refers back to the offering of sacred flesh, i.e., “even then [or at that time]” as a constructio ad sensum. For a similar use of the adverb (אָז, ’az) compare Gen 13:7. For the use of כִּי (ki) meaning “that” after a question see BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.f. A possible alternative would be to read as UBS, Preliminary Report, 4:209 do: “When trouble reaches you, then will you exult?” If the text of the whole verse followed here, the more difficult text, is not the original one, the most likely alternative would be: “What right does my beloved have to be in my house? She has does wicked things [reading עָשְׂתָה מְזִמֹּת, ’ostah mÿzimot]. Can fat pieces [reading הַחֲלָבִים, hakhalavim] and sacred meat take away your wickedness from you [reading יַעֲבִרוּ מֵעָלַיִךְ רָעָתֵכִי, yaaviru mealayikh raatekhi]? [If it could] then you could rejoice.” It should be emphasized that the text of the verse is uncertain in a number of places and open to more than one interpretation. However, regardless of which text or interpretation of it is followed, the Masoretic as interpreted here, the Greek as given in the notes, or an emended text based on both, the overall meaning is much the same. Judah has done evil and the Lord rejects their superficial attempts to placate him through ritual without change of behavior. The particulars are different; the point is the same.

sn For the argument of this verse compare the condemnatory questions in Jer 7:9-11.

19 tn Heb “The Lord once called you….” This is another example of the rapid shift in person that is common to Hebrew style which is not common in English and could lead to confusion for some readers. Here and in the verses that follow the person has been shifted to first person for consistency in English.

20 tn The verb form used here is another example of a verb expressing that the action is as good as done (the Hebrew prophetic perfect).

21 tn Heb “At the sound of a mighty roar he will set fire to it.” For the shift from third person “he” to the first person “I” see the preceding note. The Hebrew use of the pronouns in vv. 16-17 for the olive tree and the people that it represents is likely to cause confusion if retained. In v. 16 the people are “you” and the olive tree is “it.” The people are again “you” in v. 17 but part of the metaphor is carried over, i.e., “he ‘planted’ you.” It creates less confusion in the flow of the passage if the metaphorical identification is carried out throughout by addressing the people/plant as “you.”

22 tn The verb here has most commonly been derived from a root meaning “to be broken” (cf. BDB 949 s.v. II רָעַע) which fits poorly with the metaphor of setting the plant on fire. Another common option is to emend it to a verb meaning “to be burned up” (בָּעַר, baar). However, it is better to follow the lead of the Greek version which translates “be good for nothing” (ἠχρειώθησαν, hcreiwqhsan) and derive the verb from רָעַע (raa’) meaning “be bad/evil” (cf. BDB 949 and compare the nuance of the adjective from this verb in BDB 948 s.v. רַע 5).

23 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

24 tn The words “in the land” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to clarify the meaning of the metaphor.

25 tn Heb “For Yahweh of armies who planted you speaks disaster upon you.” Because of the way the term Lord of armies has been rendered this sentence has been restructured to avoid confusion in English style.

26 tn Heb “pronounced disaster…on account of the evil of the house of Israel and the house of Judah which they have done to make me angry [or thus making me angry] by sacrificing to Baal.” The lines have been broken up in conformity with contemporary English style.

27 tn Heb “caused me to know that I might know.” Many English versions supply an unstated object “their plots” which is referred to later in the context (cf. v. 19). The presupposition of this kind of absolute ellipsis is difficult to justify and would create the need for understanding an ellipsis of “it” also after “I knew.” It is better to see a bipolar use of the verb “know” here. For the second use of the verb “know” meaning “have understanding” see BDB 394 s.v. ָידַע Qal.5.

28 tn Heb “Then you showed me their deeds.” This is another example of the rapid shift in person which is common in Jeremiah. As elsewhere, it has been resolved for the sake of avoiding confusion for the English reader by leveling the referent to the same person throughout. The text again involves an apostrophe, talking about the Lord to addressing him.

29 tn Heb “against me.” The words “to kill me” are implicit from the context and are supplied in the translation for clarity.

30 tn The words “I did not know that they were saying” are not in the text. The quote is without formal introduction in the original. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

31 tn This word and its pronoun (לַחְמוֹ, lakhmo, “its bread”) is often emended to read “in/with its sap” = “in its prime” (either לֵחוֹ [lekho] or לֵחְמוֹ [lekhÿmo]); the latter would be more likely and the מוֹ (mo) could be explained as a rare use of the old poetic third plural suffix for the third singular; cf. GKC 258 §91.l for general use and Ps 11:7 and Job 27:23 for third singular use. Though this fits the context nicely the emendation is probably unnecessary since the word “bread” is sometimes used of other foodstuff than grain or its products (cf. BDB 537 s.v. לֶחֶם 2.a).

sn The word fruit refers contextually here to the prophecies that Jeremiah was giving, not (as some suppose) his progeny. Jeremiah was not married and had no children.

32 tn Heb “cut it [or him] off.” The metaphor of the tree may be continued, though the verb “cut off” is used also of killing people. The rendering clarifies the meaning of the metaphor.

33 tn Heb “so that his name will not be remembered any more.”

34 tn The words “So I said to the Lord” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show the shift in address.

35 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

36 tn HebLord of armies, just judge, tester of kidneys and heart.” The sentence has been broken up to avoid a long and complex English sentence. The translation is more in keeping with contemporary English style. In Hebrew thought the “kidneys” were thought of as the seat of the emotions and passions and the “heart” was viewed as the seat of intellect, conscience, and will. The “heart” and the “kidneys” are often used figuratively for the thoughts, emotions, motives, and drives that are thought to be seated in them.

37 tn Heb “Let me see your retribution [i.e., see you exact retribution] from them because I reveal my cause [i.e., plea for justice] to you.”

38 tn Heb “Therefore thus says the Lord.” This phrase is anticipatory of the same phrase at the beginning of v. 22 and is introductory to what the Lord says about them. The translation seeks to show the connection of the “therefore” which is sometimes rather loose (cf. BDB 487 s.v. כֵּן 3.d[b]) with the actual response which is not given until v. 22.

39 tn Heb “the men of Anathoth.” However, this does not involve all of the people, only the conspirators. The literal might lead to confusion later since v. 21 mentions that there will not be any of them left alive. However, it is known from Ezra 2:23 that there were survivors.

40 tc The MT reads the 2nd person masculine singular suffix “your life,” but LXX reflects an alternative reading of the 1st person common singular suffix “my life.”

41 tn Heb “who were seeking my life, saying…” The sentence is broken up in conformity with contemporary English style.

42 tn Heb “or you will die by our hand.”

43 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

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

44 tn Heb “Behold I will.” For the function of this particle see the translator’s note on 1:6.

45 tn Heb “will die by the sword.” Here “sword” stands contextually for “battle” while “starvation” stands for death by starvation during siege.

46 tn Heb “There will be no survivors for/among them.”

47 tn Heb “the men of Anathoth.” For the rationale for adding the qualification see the notes on v. 21.

48 tn Heb “I will bring disaster on…, the year of their punishment.”



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