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Jeremiah 20:14-18

Context

20:14 Cursed be the day I was born!

May that day not be blessed when my mother gave birth to me. 1 

20:15 Cursed be the man

who made my father very glad

when he brought him the news

that a baby boy had been born to him! 2 

20:16 May that man be like the cities 3 

that the Lord destroyed without showing any mercy.

May he hear a cry of distress in the morning

and a battle cry at noon.

20:17 For he did not kill me before I came from the womb,

making my pregnant mother’s womb my grave forever. 4 

20:18 Why did I ever come forth from my mother’s womb?

All I experience is trouble and grief,

and I spend my days in shame. 5 

1 sn From the heights of exaltation, Jeremiah returns to the depths of despair. For similar mood swings in the psalms of lament compare Ps 102. Verses 14-18 are similar in tone and mood to Job 3:1-10. They are very forceful rhetorical ways of Job and Jeremiah expressing the wish that they had never been born.

2 tn Heb “Cursed be the man who brought my father the news saying, ‘A son, a male, has been born to you,’ making glad his joy.” This verse has been restructured for English stylistic purposes.

sn The birth of a child was an occasion of great joy. This was especially true if the child was a boy because it meant the continuance of the family line and the right of retention of the family property. See Ruth 4:10, 13-17.

3 sn The cities alluded to are Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the Jordan plain which had become proverbial for their wickedness and for the destruction that the Lord brought on them because of it. See Isa 1:9-10; 13:19; Jer 23:14; 49:18.

4 tn Heb “because he did not kill me from the womb so my mother might be to me for my grave and her womb eternally pregnant.” The sentence structure has been modified and the word “womb” moved from the last line to the next to the last line for English stylistic purposes and greater clarity.

5 tn Heb “Why did I come forth from the womb to see [= so that I might see] trouble and grief and that my days might be consumed in shame.”



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