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Jeremiah 16:19-21

Context

16:19 Then I said, 1 

Lord, you give me strength and protect me.

You are the one I can run to for safety when I am in trouble. 2 

Nations from all over the earth

will come to you and say,

‘Our ancestors had nothing but false gods –

worthless idols that could not help them at all. 3 

16:20 Can people make their own gods?

No, what they make are not gods at all.” 4 

16:21 The Lord said, 5 

“So I will now let this wicked people know –

I will let them know my mighty power in judgment.

Then they will know that my name is the Lord.” 6 

1 tn The words “Then I said” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation to show the shift from God, who has been speaking to Jeremiah, to Jeremiah, who here addresses God.

sn The shift here is consistent with the interruptions that have taken place in chapters 14 and 15 and in Jeremiah’s response to God’s condemnation of the people of Judah’s idolatry in chapter 10 (note especially vv. 6-16).

2 tn Heb “O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble. The literal which piles up attributes is of course more forceful than the predications. However, piling up poetic metaphors like this adds to the length of the English sentence and risks lack of understanding on the part of some readers. Some rhetorical force has been sacrificed for the sake of clarity.

3 tn Once again the translation has sacrificed some of the rhetorical force for the sake of clarity and English style: Heb “Only falsehood did our ancestors possess, vanity and [things in which?] there was no one profiting in them.”

sn This passage offers some rather forceful contrasts. The Lord is Jeremiah’s source of strength, security, and protection. The idols are false gods, worthless idols, that can offer no help at all.

4 tn Heb “and they are ‘no gods.’” For the construction here compare 2:11 and a similar construction in 2 Kgs 19:18 and see BDB 519 s.v. לֹא 1.b(b).

5 tn The words “The Lord said” are not in the text. However, it is obvious that he is the speaker. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Or “So I will make known to those nations, I will make known to them at this time my power and my might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.”

tn There is a decided ambiguity in this text about the identity of the pronoun “them.” Is it his wicked people he has been predicting judgment upon or the nations that have come to recognize the folly of idolatry? The nearer antecedent would argue for that. However, usage of “hand” (translated here “power”) in 6:12; 15:6 and later 21:5 and especially the threatening motif of “at this time” (or “now”) in 10:18 suggest that the “So” goes back logically to vv. 16-18, following a grounds of judgment with the threatened consequence as it has in at least 16 out of 18 occurrences thus far. Moreover it makes decidedly more sense that the Jews will know that his name is the Lord as the result of the present (“at this time”) display of his power in judgment than that the idolaters will at some later (cf. Isa 2:2-4 for possible parallel) time. There has been a decided emphasis that the people of Israel do not “know” him (cf. 2:8; 4:22; 9:3, 6). Now they will, but in a way they did not wish to. There is probably an allusion (and an ironic reversal) here to Exod 3:13-15; 34:5-7. They have presumed upon his graciousness and forgotten that his name not only involves being with them to help but being against them to punish sin. Even if the alternate translation is followed the reference is still to God’s mighty power made known in judging the wicked Judeans. The words “power” and “might” are an example of hendiadys in which two nouns joined by “and” in which one modifies the other.



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