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Jeremiah 49:23-29

Context
Judgment Against Damascus

49:23 The Lord spoke 1  about Damascus. 2 

“The people of Hamath and Arpad 3  will be dismayed

because they have heard bad news.

Their courage will melt away because of worry.

Their hearts will not be able to rest. 4 

49:24 The people of Damascus will lose heart and turn to flee.

Panic will grip them.

Pain and anguish will seize them

like a woman in labor.

49:25 How deserted will that once-famous city 5  be,

that city that was once filled with 6  joy! 7 

49:26 For her young men will fall in her city squares.

All her soldiers will be destroyed at that time,”

says the Lord who rules over all. 8 

49:27 “I will set fire to the walls of Damascus;

it will burn up the palaces of Ben Hadad.” 9 

Judgment Against Kedar and Hazor

49:28 The Lord spoke about Kedar 10  and the kingdoms of Hazor 11  that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered.

“Army of Babylon, 12  go and attack Kedar.

Lay waste those who live in the eastern desert. 13 

49:29 Their tents and their flocks will be taken away.

Their tent curtains, equipment, and camels will be carried off.

People will shout 14  to them,

‘Terror is all around you!’” 15 

1 tn The words “The Lord spoke” and “he said” are not in the text. There is only a title here: “Concerning Damascus.” However, something needs to be supplied to show that these are the Lord’s words of judgment (cf. v. 26 “oracle of the Lord” and the “I” in v. 27). These words have been supplied in the translation for clarity and consistency with the introduction to the other judgment speeches.

2 sn Damascus is a city in Syria, located below the eastern slopes of the Anti-lebanon Mountains. It was the capital of the Aramean state that was in constant hostility with Israel from the time of David until its destruction by the Assyrians in 732 b.c. At various times it was allied with the Aramean state of Hamath which was further north. Contingents from these Aramean states were involved in harassing Judah and Jerusalem in 598 b.c. when Jehoiakim rebelled (2 Kgs 24:2) but little is heard about them in the rest of the book of Jeremiah or in the history of this period.

3 tn Heb “Hamath and Arpad.” There is no word for people in the text. The cities are being personified. However, since it is really the people who are involved and it is clearer for the modern reader, the present translation supplies the words “people of” both here and in v. 24. The verbs in vv. 23-25 are all to be interpreted as prophetic perfects, the tense of the Hebrew verb that views an action as though it were as good as done. The verbs are clearly future in vv. 26-27 which begin with a “therefore.”

sn Hamath was a city on the Orontes River about 110 miles (183 km) north of Damascus. Arpad was a city that was 95 miles (158 km) farther north from there. These two cities were in the path of the northern descent of the kings of Assyria and Babylonia and had been conquered earlier under the Assyrian kings (Isa 10:9; 36:19; 37:13). The apparent reference here is to their terror and loss of courage when they hear the news that Nebuchadnezzar’s armies are on the move toward them and Damascus. They would have been in the path of Nebuchadnezzar as he chased Necho south after the battle of Carchemish.

4 tc The meaning of this verse is very uncertain. The Hebrew text apparently reads “Hamath and Arpad are dismayed. They melt away because they have heard bad news. Anxiety is in the sea; it [the sea] cannot be quiet.” Many commentaries and English versions redivide the verse and read “like the sea” for “in the sea” (כַּיָּם [kayyam] for בַּיָּם [bayyam]) and read the feminine singular noun דְּאָגָה (dÿagam) as though it were the third masculine plural verb דָּאֲגוּ (daagu): “They are troubled like the sea.” The translation follows the emendation proposed in BHS and accepted by a number of commentaries (e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 333; J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 723, n. 1). That emendation involves reading נָמֹג לִבָּם מִדְּאָגָה (namog libbam middÿagah) instead of נָמֹגוּ בַּיָּם דְּאָגָה (namogu bayyam dÿagah). The translation also involves a double reading of “heart,” for the sake of English style, once in the sense of courage (BDB 525 s.v. לֵב 10) because that is the nuance that best fits “melts” in the English idiom and once in the more general sense of hearts as the seat of fear, anxiety, worry. The double translation is a concession to English style.

5 tn Heb “city of praise.”

6 tn Heb “city of joy.”

7 tc Or “Why has that famous city not been abandoned, that city I once took delight in?” The translation follows the majority of modern commentaries in understanding לֹא (lo’, “not”) before “abandoned” as a misunderstanding of the emphatic ל (lamed; so J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 723, n. 3, and J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 333, n. c; see also IBHS 211-12 §11.2.10i and HALOT 485-86 s.v. II לְ for the phenomenon). The particle is missing from the Vulgate. The translation also follows the versions in omitting the suffix on the word “joy” that is found in the Hebrew text (see BHS note b for a listing of the versions). This gives a better connection with the preceding and the following verse than the alternate translation.

8 tn Heb “Oracle of Yahweh of armies.” For this title for God see the study note on 2:19.

9 sn Ben-Hadad was a common name borne by a number of the kings of Damascus, e.g., one during the time of Asa around 900 b.c. (cf. 1 Kgs 15:18-20), one a little later during the time of Omri and Ahab around 850 (1 Kgs 20), and one during the time of Jehoash about 800 (2 Kgs 13:24-25).

10 sn Kedar appears to refer to an Arabic tribe of nomads descended from Ishmael (Gen 25:13). They are associated here with the people who live in the eastern desert (Heb “the children of the east”; בְּנֵי־קֶדֶם, bÿne-qedem). In Isa 21:16 they are associated with the Temanites and the Dedanites, Arabic tribes in the north Arabian desert. They were sheep breeders (Isa 60:7) who lived in tents (Ps 120:5) and unwalled villages (Isa 42:11). According to Assyrian records they clashed with Assyria from the time of Shalmaneser in 850 until the time of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal in the late seventh century. According to the Babylonian Chronicles, Nebuchadnezzar defeated them in 599 b.c.

11 sn Hazor. Nothing is know about this Hazor other than what is said here in vv. 28, 30, 33. They appear to also be nomadic tent dwellers who had a loose association with the Kedarites.

12 tn The words “Army of Babylon” are not in the Hebrew text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.

13 sn Heb “the children of the east.” Nothing much is known about them other than their association with the Midianites and Amalekites in their attack on Israel in the time of Gideon (Judg 6:3, 33) and the fact that God would let tribes from the eastern desert capture Moab and Ammon in the future (Ezek 25:4, 10). Midian and Amalek were consider to be located in the region in north Arabia east of Ezion Geber. That would put them in the same general locality as the region of Kedar. The parallelism here suggests that they are the same as the people of Kedar. The words here are apparently addressed to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.

14 tn Or “Let their tents…be taken….Let their tent…be carried…. Let people shout….”

15 sn This expression is a favorite theme in the book of Jeremiah. It describes the terrors of war awaiting the people of Judah and Jerusalem (6:25), the Egyptians at Carchemish (46:5), and here the Kedarites.



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