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Jeremiah 31:7-9

Context

31:7 Moreover, 1  the Lord says,

“Sing for joy for the descendants of Jacob.

Utter glad shouts for that foremost of the nations. 2 

Make your praises heard. 3 

Then say, ‘Lord, rescue your people.

Deliver those of Israel who remain alive.’ 4 

31:8 Then I will reply, 5  ‘I will bring them back from the land of the north.

I will gather them in from the distant parts of the earth.

Blind and lame people will come with them,

so will pregnant women and women about to give birth.

A vast throng of people will come back here.

31:9 They will come back shedding tears of contrition.

I will bring them back praying prayers of repentance. 6 

I will lead them besides streams of water,

along smooth paths where they will never stumble. 7 

I will do this because I am Israel’s father;

Ephraim 8  is my firstborn son.’”

1 tn See the translator’s notes on 30:5, 12.

2 tn Heb “for the head/chief of the nations.” See BDB 911 s.v. רֹאשׁ 3.c and compare usage in Ps 18:44 referring to David as the “chief” or “foremost ruler” of the nations.

3 tn It is unclear who the addressees of the masculine plural imperatives are in this verse. Possibly they are the implied exiles who are viewed as in the process of returning and praying for their fellow countrymen.

4 tc Or “The Lord will rescue his people. He will deliver those of Israel who remain alive.” The translation used in the text follows the Hebrew: “Rescue your people, O Lord, the remnant of Israel.” The alternate translation which is preferred by several modern English versions (e.g., REB, TEV) and a majority of modern commentaries (see, e.g., J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 569; J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 273, n. s-s) follows the reading of the Greek version and the Aramaic Targum and appears more appropriate to the context of praise presupposed by the preceding imperatives. The difference in the two readings are the omission of one vowel letter and the confusion of a final ךְ (kaf) and a וֹ (holem-vav) which are very similar in form. (The Greek presupposes הוֹשִׁיעַ יְהוָה אֶת־עַמּוֹ [hoshia yÿhvahet-ammo] for the Hebrew הוֹשַׁע יְהוָה אֶת־עַמְּךְ [hoshayÿhvahet-ammÿkh].) The key to a decision here is the shift from the verbs of praise to the imperative “say” which introduces the quotation; there is a shift from praise to petition. The shift in mood is not uncommon, occurring, for example, in Ps 118:25 and 126:4; it is the shift in mood between praise for what has begun to petition for what is further hoped for. It is easier to explain the origin contextually of the Greek and Targum than it is the Hebrew text, thus the Greek and Targum are probably a secondary smoothing of the text (this is the decision of the D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 4:263). The mood of prayer also shows up in v. 9 and again in vv. 17-18.

5 tn The words “And I will reply” are not in the text but the words vv. 8-9 appear to be the answer to the petition at the end of v. 7. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “They will come with weeping; I will bring them with supplication.” The ideas of contrition and repentance are implicit from the context (cf. vv. 18-19) and are supplied for clarity.

7 sn Jer 31:8-9 are reminiscent of the “New Exodus” motif of Isa 40-66 which has already been referred to in Jer 16:14-15; 23:7-8. See especially Isa 35:3-10; 40:3-5, 11; 41:17-20; 42:14-17; 43:16-21; 49:9-13. As there, the New Exodus will so outstrip the old that the old will pale in comparison and be almost forgotten (see Jer 23:7-8).

8 sn Ephraim was the second son of Joseph who was elevated to a place of prominence in the family of Jacob by the patriarch’s special blessing. It was the strongest tribe in northern Israel and Samaria lay in its territory. It is often used as a poetic parallel for Israel as here. The poetry is not speaking of two separate entities here; it is a way of repeating an idea for emphasis. Moreover, there is no intent to show special preference for northern Israel over Judah. All Israel is metaphorically God’s son and the object of his special care and concern (Exod 4:22; Deut 32:6).



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