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Jeremiah 3:1-14

Context

3:1 “If a man divorces his wife

and she leaves him and becomes another man’s wife,

he may not take her back again. 1 

Doing that would utterly defile the land. 2 

But you, Israel, have given yourself as a prostitute to many gods. 3 

So what makes you think you can return to me?” 4 

says the Lord.

3:2 “Look up at the hilltops and consider this. 5 

You have had sex with other gods on every one of them. 6 

You waited for those gods like a thief lying in wait in the desert. 7 

You defiled the land by your wicked prostitution to other gods. 8 

3:3 That is why the rains have been withheld,

and the spring rains have not come.

Yet in spite of this you are obstinate as a prostitute. 9 

You refuse to be ashamed of what you have done.

3:4 Even now you say to me, ‘You are my father! 10 

You have been my faithful companion ever since I was young.

3:5 You will not always be angry with me, will you?

You will not be mad at me forever, will you?’ 11 

That is what you say,

but you continually do all the evil that you can.” 12 

3:6 When Josiah was king of Judah, the Lord said to me, “Jeremiah, you have no doubt seen what wayward Israel has done. 13  You have seen how she went up to every high hill and under every green tree to give herself like a prostitute to other gods. 14  3:7 Yet even after she had done all that, I thought that she might come back to me. 15  But she did not. Her sister, unfaithful Judah, saw what she did. 16  3:8 She also saw 17  that I gave wayward Israel her divorce papers and sent her away because of her adulterous worship of other gods. 18  Even after her unfaithful sister Judah had seen this, 19  she still was not afraid, and she too went and gave herself like a prostitute to other gods. 20  3:9 Because she took her prostitution so lightly, she defiled the land 21  through her adulterous worship of gods made of wood and stone. 22  3:10 In spite of all this, 23  Israel’s sister, unfaithful Judah, has not turned back to me with any sincerity; she has only pretended to do so,” 24  says the Lord. 3:11 Then the Lord said to me, “Under the circumstances, wayward Israel could even be considered less guilty than unfaithful Judah. 25 

The Lord Calls on Israel and Judah to Repent

3:12 “Go and shout this message to my people in the countries in the north. 26  Tell them,

‘Come back to me, wayward Israel,’ says the Lord.

‘I will not continue to look on you with displeasure. 27 

For I am merciful,’ says the Lord.

‘I will not be angry with you forever.

3:13 However, you must confess that you have done wrong, 28 

and that you have rebelled against the Lord your God.

You must confess 29  that you have given yourself to 30  foreign gods under every green tree,

and have not obeyed my commands,’ says the Lord.

3:14 “Come back to me, my wayward sons,” says the Lord, “for I am your true master. 31  If you do, 32  I will take one of you from each town and two of you from each family group, and I will bring you back to Zion.

1 tn Heb “May he go back to her again?” The question is rhetorical and expects a negative answer.

sn For the legal background for the illustration that is used here see Deut 24:1-4.

2 tn Heb “Would the land not be utterly defiled?” The stative is here rendered actively to connect better with the preceding. The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer.

3 tn Heb “But you have played the prostitute with many lovers.”

4 tn Heb “Returning to me.” The form is the bare infinitive which the KJV and ASV have interpreted as an imperative “Yet, return to me!” However, it is more likely that a question is intended, expressing surprise in the light of the law alluded to and the facts cited. For the use of the infinitive absolute in the place of a finite verb, cf. GKC 346 §113.ee. For the introduction of a question without a question marker, cf. GKC 473 §150.a.

5 tn Heb “and see.”

6 tn Heb “Where have you not been ravished?” The rhetorical question expects the answer “nowhere,” which suggests she has engaged in the worship of pagan gods on every one of the hilltops.

7 tn Heb “You sat for them [the lovers, i.e., the foreign gods] beside the road like an Arab in the desert.”

8 tn Heb “by your prostitution and your wickedness.” This is probably an example of hendiadys where, when two nouns are joined by “and,” one expresses the main idea and the other qualifies it.

9 tn Heb “you have the forehead of a prostitute.”

10 tn Heb “Have you not just now called out to me, ‘[you are] my father!’?” The rhetorical question expects a positive answer.

11 tn Heb “Will he keep angry forever? Will he maintain [it] to the end?” The questions are rhetorical and expect a negative answer. The change to direct address in the English translation is intended to ease the problem of the rapid transition, common in Hebrew style (but not in English), from second person direct address in the preceding lines to third person indirect address in these two lines. See GKC 462 §144.p.

12 tn Heb “You do the evil and you are able.” This is an example of hendiadys, meaning “You do all the evil that you are able to do.”

13 tn “Have you seen…” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer.

14 tn Heb “she played the prostitute there.” This is a metaphor for Israel’s worship; she gave herself to the worship of other gods like a prostitute gives herself to her lovers. There seems no clear way to completely spell out the metaphor in the translation.

15 tn Or “I said to her, ‘Come back to me!’” The verb אָמַר (’amar) usually means “to say,” but here it means “to think,” of an assumption that turns out to be wrong (so HALOT 66.4 s.v. אמר); cf. Gen 44:28; Jer 3:19; Pss 82:6; 139:11; Job 29:18; Ruth 4:4; Lam 3:18.

sn Open theists suggest that passages such as this indicate God has limited foreknowledge; however, more traditional theologians view this passage as an extended metaphor in which God presents himself as a deserted husband, hoping against hope that his adulterous wife might return to him. The point of the metaphor is not to make an assertion about God’s foreknowledge, but to develop the theme of God’s heartbreak due to Israel’s unrepentance.

16 tn The words “what she did” are not in the text but are implicit from the context and are supplied in the translation for clarification.

17 tc Heb “she [‘her sister, unfaithful Judah’ from the preceding verse] saw” with one Hebrew ms, some Greek mss, and the Syriac version. The MT reads “I saw” which may be a case of attraction to the verb at the beginning of the previous verse.

18 tn Heb “because she committed adultery.” The translation is intended to spell out the significance of the metaphor.

19 tn The words “Even after her unfaithful sister, Judah, had seen this” are not in the Hebrew text but are implicit in the connection and are supplied for clarification.

20 tn Heb “she played the prostitute there.” This is a metaphor for Israel’s worship; she gave herself to the worship of other gods like a prostitute gives herself to her lovers. There seems no clear way to completely spell out the metaphor in the translation.

21 tc The translation reads the form as a causative (Hiphil, תַּהֲנֵף, tahanef) with some of the versions in place of the simple stative (Qal, תֶּחֱנַף, tekhenaf) in the MT.

22 tn Heb “because of the lightness of her prostitution, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood.”

23 tn Heb “And even in all this.”

24 tn Heb “ has not turned back to me with all her heart but only in falsehood.”

25 tn Heb “Wayward Israel has proven herself to be more righteous than unfaithful Judah.”

sn A comparison is drawn here between the greater culpability of Judah, who has had the advantage of seeing how God disciplined her sister nation for having sinned and yet ignored the warning and committed the same sin, and the culpability of Israel who had no such advantage.

26 tn Heb “Go and proclaim these words to the north.” The translation assumes that the message is directed toward the exiles of northern Israel who have been scattered in the provinces of Assyria to the north.

27 tn Heb “I will not cause my face to fall on you.”

28 tn Heb “Only acknowledge your iniquity.”

29 tn The words “You must confess” are repeated to convey the connection. The Hebrew text has an introductory “that” in front of the second line and a coordinative “and” in front of the next two lines.

30 tc MT reads דְּרָכַיִךְ (dÿrakhayikh, “your ways”), but the BHS editors suggest דּוֹדַיִךְ (dodayikh, “your breasts”) as an example of orthographic confusion. While the proposal makes sense, it remains a conjectural emendation since it is not supported by any actual manuscripts or ancient versions.

tn Heb “scattered your ways with foreign [gods]” or “spread out your breasts to strangers.”

31 tn Or “I am your true husband.”

sn There is a wordplay between the term “true master” and the name of the pagan god Baal. The pronoun “I” is emphatic, creating a contrast between the Lord as Israel’s true master/husband versus Baal as Israel’s illegitimate lover/master. See 2:23-25.

32 tn The words, “If you do” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection of the Hebrew verb with the preceding.



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