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Jeremiah 20:7

Context
Jeremiah Complains about the Reaction to His Ministry

20:7 Lord, you coerced me into being a prophet,

and I allowed you to do it.

You overcame my resistance and prevailed over me. 1 

Now I have become a constant laughingstock.

Everyone ridicules me.

Jeremiah 20:9

Context

20:9 Sometimes I think, “I will make no mention of his message.

I will not speak as his messenger 2  any more.”

But then 3  his message becomes like a fire

locked up inside of me, burning in my heart and soul. 4 

I grow weary of trying to hold it in;

I cannot contain it.

1 tn The translation is admittedly interpretive but so is every other translation that tries to capture the nuance of the verb rendered here “coerced.” Here the Hebrew text reads: “You [ – ]ed me and I let myself be [ – ]ed. You overpowered me and prevailed.” The value one assigns to [ – ] is in every case interpretive based on what one thinks the context is referring to. The word is rendered “deceived” or “tricked” by several English versions (see, e.g., KJV, NASB, TEV, ICV) as though God had misled him. It is rendered “enticed” by some (see, e.g., NRSV, NJPS) as though God had tempted him with false hopes. Some go so far as to accuse Jeremiah of accusing God of metaphorically “raping” him. It is true that the word is used of “seducing” a virgin in Exod 22:15 and that it is used in several places to refer to “deceiving” someone with false words (Prov 24:28; Ps 78:36). It is also true that it is used of “coaxing” someone to reveal something he does not want to (Judg 14:15; 16:5) and of “enticing” someone to do something on the basis of false hopes (1 Kgs 22:20-22; Prov 1:10). However, it does not always have negative connotations or associations. In Hos 2:14 (2:16 HT) God “charms” or “woos” Israel, his estranged ‘wife,’ into the wilderness where he hopes to win her back to himself. What Jeremiah is alluding to here is crucial for translating and interpreting the word. There is no indication in this passage that Jeremiah is accusing God of misleading him or raising false hopes; God informed him at the outset that he would encounter opposition (1:17-19). Rather, he is alluding to his call to be a prophet, a call which he initially resisted but was persuaded to undertake because of God’s persistence (Jer 1:7-10). The best single word to translate ‘…’ with is thus “persuaded” or “coerced.” The translation spells out the allusion explicitly so the reader is not left wondering about what is being alluded to when Jeremiah speaks of being “coerced.” The translation “I let you do it” is a way of rendering the Niphal of the same verb which must be tolerative rather than passive since the normal passive for the Piel would be the Pual (See IBHS 389-90 §23.4g for discussion and examples.). The translation “you overcame my resistance” is based on allusion to the same context (1:7-10) and the parallel use of חָזַק (khazaq) as a transitive verb with a direct object in 1 Kgs 16:22.

2 tn Heb “speak in his name.” This idiom occurs in passages where someone functions as the messenger under the authority of another. See Exod 5:23; Deut 18:19, 29:20; Jer 14:14. The antecedent in the first line is quite commonly misidentified as being “him,” i.e., the Lord. Comparison, however, with the rest of the context, especially the consequential clause “then it becomes” (וְהָיָה, vÿhayah), and Jer 23:36 shows that it is “the word of the Lord.”

3 tn The English sentence has again been restructured for the sake of English style. The Hebrew construction involves two vav consecutive perfects in a condition and consequence relation, “If I say to myself…then it [his word] becomes.” See GKC 337 §112.kk for the construction.

4 sn Heb “It is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones.” In addition to standing as part for the whole, the “bones” for the person (e.g., Ps 35:10), the bones were associated with fear (e.g., Job 4:14) and with pain (e.g., Job 33:19, Ps 102:3 [102:4 HT]) and joy or sorrow (e.g., Ps 51:8 [51:10 HT]). As has been mentioned several times, the heart was connected with intellectual and volitional concerns.



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