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Jeremiah 32:16-25

Jeremiah’s Prayer of Praise and Bewilderment

32:16 “After I had given the copies of the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, 32:17 ‘Oh, Lord God, 1  you did indeed 2  make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. 3  Nothing is too hard for you! 32:18 You show unfailing love to thousands. 4  But you also punish children for the sins of their parents. 5  You are the great and powerful God who is known as the Lord who rules over all. 6  32:19 You plan great things and you do mighty deeds. 7  You see everything people do. 8  You reward each of them for the way they live and for the things they do. 9  32:20 You did miracles and amazing deeds in the land of Egypt which have had lasting effect. By this means you gained both in Israel and among humankind a renown that lasts to this day. 10  32:21 You used your mighty power and your great strength to perform miracles and amazing deeds and to bring great terror on the Egyptians. By this means you brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt. 11  32:22 You kept the promise that you swore on oath to their ancestors. 12  You gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. 13  32:23 But when they came in and took possession of it, they did not obey you or live as you had instructed them. They did not do anything that you commanded them to do. 14  So you brought all this disaster on them. 32:24 Even now siege ramps have been built up around the city 15  in order to capture it. War, 16  starvation, and disease are sure to make the city fall into the hands of the Babylonians 17  who are attacking it. 18  Lord, 19  you threatened that this would happen. Now you can see that it is already taking place. 20  32:25 The city is sure to fall into the hands of the Babylonians. 21  Yet, in spite of this, 22  you, Lord God, 23  have said to me, “Buy that field with silver and have the transaction legally witnessed.”’” 24 

1 tn Heb “Lord Yahweh.” For an explanation of the rendering here see the study note on 1:6.

sn The parallel usage of this introduction in Jer 1:6; 4:10; 14:13 shows that though this prayer has a lengthy introductory section of praise vv. 17-22, this prayer is really one of complaint or lament.

2 tn This is an attempt to render the Hebrew particle normally translated “behold.” See the translator’s note on 1:6 for the usage of this particle.

3 tn Heb “by your great power and your outstretched arm.” See 21:5; 27:5 and the marginal note on 27:5 for this idiom.

4 tn Or “to thousands of generations.” The contrast of showing steadfast love to “thousands” to the limitation of punishing the third and fourth generation of children for their parents’ sins in Exod 20:5-6; Deut 5:9-10; Exod 34:7 has suggested to many commentators and translators (cf., e.g., NRSV, TEV, NJPS) that reference here is to “thousands of generations.” The statement is, of course, rhetorical emphasizing God’s great desire to bless as opposed to the reluctant necessity to punish. It is part of the attributes of God spelled out in Exod 34:6-7.

5 tn Heb “pays back into the bosom of their children the sin of their parents.”

6 tn Heb “Nothing is too hard for you who show…and who punishes…the great [and] powerful God whose name is Yahweh of armies, [you who are] great in counsel…whose eyes are open…who did signs…” Jer 32:18-22 is a long series of relative clauses introduced by participles or relative pronouns in vv. 18-20a followed by second person vav consecutive imperfects carrying on the last of these relative clauses in vv. 20b-22. This is typical of hymnic introductions to hymns of praise (cf., e.g., Ps 136) but it is hard to sustain the relative subordination which all goes back to the suffix on “hard for you.” The sentences have been broken up but the connection with the end of v. 17 has been sacrificed for conformity to contemporary English style.

7 tn Heb “[you are] great in counsel and mighty in deed.”

8 tn Heb “your eyes are open to the ways of the sons of men.”

9 tn Heb “giving to each according to his way [= behavior/conduct] and according to the fruit of his deeds.”

10 tn Or “You did miracles and amazing deeds in the land of Egypt. And you continue to do them until this day both in Israel and among mankind. By this mean you have gained a renown…” The translation here follows the syntactical understanding reflected also in NJPS. The Hebrew text reads: “you did miracles and marvelous acts in the land of Egypt until this day and in Israel and in mankind and you made for yourself a name as this day.” The majority of English versions and commentaries understand the phrases “until this day and in Israel and in mankind” to be an elliptical sentence with the preceding verb and objects supplied as reflected in the alternate translation. However, the emphasis on the miraculous deeds in Egypt in this section both before and after this elliptical phrase and the dominant usage of the terms “signs and wonders” to refer to the plagues and other miraculous signs in Egypt calls this interpretation into question. The key here is understanding “both in Israel and in mankind” as an example of a casus pendens construction (a dangling subject, object, or other modifier) before a conjunction introducing the main clause (cf. GKC 327 §111.h and 458 §143.d and compare the usage in Jer 6:19; 33:24; 1 Kgs 15:13). This verse is the topic sentence which is developed further in v. 21 and initiates a narrative history of the distant past that continues until v. 22b where reference is made to the long history of disobedience which has led to the present crisis.

11 tn Heb “You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders and with a mighty hand and with outstretched arm and with great terror.” For the figurative expressions involved here see the marginal notes on 27:5. The sentence has been broken down to better conform to contemporary English style.

12 tn Heb “fathers.”

13 tn For an alternative translation of the expression “a land flowing with milk and honey” see the translator’s note on 11:5.

14 tn Or “They did not do everything that you commanded them to do.” This is probably a case where the negative (לֹא, lo’) negates the whole category indicated by “all” (כָּל, kol; see BDB 482 s.v. כָּל 1.e(c) and compare usage in Deut 12:16; 28:14). Jeremiah has repeatedly emphasized that the history of Israel since their entry into the land has been one of persistent disobedience and rebellion (cf., e.g. 7:22-26; 11:7-8). The statement, of course, is somewhat hyperbolical as all categorical statements of this kind are.

15 tn Heb “Siege ramps have come up to the city to capture it.”

16 tn Heb “sword.”

17 tn Heb “The Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for further explanation.

18 tn Heb “And the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it because of the sword, starvation, and disease.” The verb “has been given” is one of those perfects that view the action as good as done (the perfect of certainty or prophetic perfect).

19 tn The word “Lord” is not in the text but is supplied in the translation as a reminder that it is he who is being addressed.

20 tn Heb “And what you said has happened and behold you see it.”

21 tn Heb “The Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for further explanation.

22 tn Heb “And you, Lord Yahweh, have said to me, ‘Buy the field for…’ even though the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians.” The sentence has been broken up and the order reversed for English stylistic purposes. For the rendering “is sure to fall into the hands of” see the translator’s note on the preceding verse.

23 tn Heb “Lord God.” For the rendering of this title see the study note on 1:6.

24 tn Heb “call in witnesses to witness.”

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