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Jeremiah 4:3-18

Context

4:3 Yes, 1  the Lord has this to say

to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:

“Like a farmer breaking up hard unplowed ground,

you must break your rebellious will and make a new beginning;

just as a farmer must clear away thorns lest the seed is wasted,

you must get rid of the sin that is ruining your lives. 2 

4:4 Just as ritual circumcision cuts away the foreskin

as an external symbol of dedicated covenant commitment,

you must genuinely dedicate yourselves to the Lord

and get rid of everything that hinders your commitment to me, 3 

people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.

If you do not, 4  my anger will blaze up like a flaming fire against you

that no one will be able to extinguish.

That will happen because of the evil you have done.”

Warning of Coming Judgment

4:5 The Lord said, 5 

“Announce 6  this in Judah and proclaim it in Jerusalem: 7 

‘Sound the trumpet 8  throughout the land!’

Shout out loudly,

‘Gather together! Let us flee into the fortified cities!’

4:6 Raise a signal flag that tells people to go to Zion. 9 

Run for safety! Do not delay!

For I am about to bring disaster out of the north.

It will bring great destruction. 10 

4:7 Like a lion that has come up from its lair 11 

the one who destroys nations has set out from his home base. 12 

He is coming out to lay your land waste.

Your cities will become ruins and lie uninhabited.

4:8 So put on sackcloth!

Mourn and wail, saying,

‘The fierce anger of the Lord

has not turned away from us!’” 13 

4:9 “When this happens,” 14  says the Lord,

“the king and his officials will lose their courage.

The priests will be struck with horror,

and the prophets will be speechless in astonishment.”

4:10 In response to all this 15  I said, “Ah, Lord God, 16  you have surely allowed 17  the people of Judah and Jerusalem 18  to be deceived by those who say, ‘You will be safe!’ 19  But in fact a sword is already at our throats.” 20 

4:11 “At that time the people of Judah and Jerusalem 21  will be told,

‘A scorching wind will sweep down

from the hilltops in the desert on 22  my dear people. 23 

It will not be a gentle breeze

for winnowing the grain and blowing away the chaff. 24 

4:12 No, 25  a wind too strong for that will come at my bidding.

Yes, even now I, myself, am calling down judgment on them.’ 26 

4:13 Look! The enemy is approaching like gathering clouds. 27 

The roar of his chariots is like that of a whirlwind. 28 

His horses move more swiftly than eagles.”

I cry out, 29  “We are doomed, 30  for we will be destroyed!”

4:14 “Oh people of Jerusalem, purify your hearts from evil 31 

so that you may yet be delivered.

How long will you continue to harbor up

wicked schemes within you?

4:15 For messengers are coming, heralding disaster,

from the city of Dan and from the hills of Ephraim. 32 

4:16 They are saying, 33 

‘Announce to the surrounding nations, 34 

“The enemy is coming!” 35 

Proclaim this message 36  to Jerusalem:

“Those who besiege cities 37  are coming from a distant land.

They are ready to raise the battle cry against 38  the towns in Judah.”’

4:17 They will surround Jerusalem 39 

like men guarding a field 40 

because they have rebelled against me,”

says the Lord.

4:18 “The way you have lived and the things you have done 41 

will bring this on you.

This is the punishment you deserve, and it will be painful indeed. 42 

The pain will be so bad it will pierce your heart.” 43 

1 tn The Hebrew particle is obviously asseverative here since a causal connection appears to make little sense.

2 tn Heb “Plow up your unplowed ground and do not sow among the thorns.” The translation is an attempt to bring out the force of a metaphor. The idea seems to be that they are to plow over the thorns and make the ground ready for the seeds which will produce a new crop where none had been produced before.

3 tn Heb “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskin of your heart.” The translation is again an attempt to bring out the meaning of a metaphor. The mention of the “foreskin of the heart” shows that the passage is obviously metaphorical and involves heart attitude, not an external rite.

4 tn Heb “lest.”

5 tn The words “The Lord said” are not in the text, but it is obvious from v. 6 and v. 9 that he is the speaker. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

6 tn It is unclear who the addressees of the masculine plural imperatives are here. They may be the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah who are sounding the alarm to others. However, the first person reference to the Lord in v. 6 and Jeremiah’s response in v. 10 suggest that this is a word from the Lord that he is commanded to pass on to the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah. If the imperatives are not merely rhetorical plurals they may reflect the practice referred to in Jer 23:18, 22; Amos 3:7. A similar phenomenon also occurs in Jer 5:1 and also in Isa 40:1-2. This may also be the explanation for the plural imperatives in Jer 31:6. For further discussion see the translator’s note on Jer 5:1.

7 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

8 tn Heb “ram’s horn,” but the modern equivalent is “trumpet” and is more readily understandable.

9 tn Heb “Raise up a signal toward Zion.”

10 tn Heb “out of the north, even great destruction.”

11 tn Heb “A lion has left its lair.” The metaphor is turned into a simile for clarification. The word translated “lair” has also been understood to refer to a hiding place. However, it appears to be cognate in meaning to the word translated “lair” in Ps 10:9; Jer 25:38, a word which also refers to the abode of the Lord in Ps 76:3.

12 tn Heb “his place.”

13 tn Or “wail because the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.” The translation does not need to assume a shift in speaker as the alternate reading does.

14 tn Heb “In that day.”

15 tn The words “In response to all this” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to clarify the connection.

16 tn Heb “Lord Yahweh.” The translation follows the ancient Jewish tradition of substituting the Hebrew word for God for the proper name Yahweh.

17 tn Or “You have deceived.” The Hiphil of נָשָׁא (nasha’, “to deceive”) is understood in a tolerative sense here: “to allow [someone] to be deceived.” IBHS 446 §27.5c notes that this function of the hiphil describes caused activity that is welcome to the undersubject, but unacceptable or disagreeable to a third party. Jerusalem and Judah welcomed the assurances of false prophets who deceived them. Although this was detestable to God, he allowed it.

18 tn Heb “this people and Jerusalem.”

19 tn Heb “Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace’”; or “You have deceived the people of Judah and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace.’” The words “you will be safe” are, of course, those of the false prophets (cf., Jer 6:14; 8:11; 14:13; 23:16-17). It is difficult to tell whether the charge here is meant literally as the emotional outburst of the prophet (compare for example, Jer 15:18) or whether it is to be understood as a figure of speech in which a verb of direct causation is to be understood as permissive or tolerative, i.e., God did not command the prophets to say this but allowed them to do so. While it is not beyond God to use false prophets to accomplish his will (cf., e.g., 1 Kgs 22:19-23), he elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah directly denies having sent the false prophets to say such things as this (cf., e.g., Jer 14:14-15; 23:21, 32). For examples of the use of this figure of speech, see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 571, 823 and compare Ezek 20:25. The translation given attempts to resolve the issue.

20 tn Heb “touches the throat/soul.” For this use of the word usually translated “soul” or “life” cf. HALOT 672 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 1, 2 and compare the use in Ps 105:18.

21 tn Heb “this people and Jerusalem.”

22 tn Heb “A scorching wind from the hilltops in the desert toward…”

sn The allusion is, of course, to the destructive forces of the enemy armies of Babylon compared above in 4:7 to a destructive lion and here to the destructive desert winds of the Near Eastern sirocco.

23 tn Heb “daughter of my people.” The term “daughter of” is appositional to “my people” and is supplied in the translation as a term of sympathy and endearment. Compare the common expression “daughter of Zion.”

24 tn Heb “not for winnowing and not for cleansing.” The words “It will not be a gentle breeze” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection. They are supplied in the translation here for clarification.

25 tn The word “No” is not in the text but is carried over from the connection with the preceding line “not for…”

26 tn Heb “will speak judgments against them.”

27 tn Heb “he is coming up like clouds.” The words “The enemy” are supplied in the translation to identify the referent and the word “gathering” is supplied to try to convey the significance of the simile, i.e., that of quantity and of an approaching storm.

28 tn Heb “his chariots [are] like a whirlwind.” The words “roar” and “sound” are supplied in the translation to clarify the significance of the simile.

29 tn The words “I cry out” are not in the text, but the words that follow are obviously not the Lord’s. They are either those of the people or of Jeremiah. Taking them as Jeremiah’s parallels the interjection of Jeremiah’s response in 4:10 which is formally introduced.

30 tn Heb “Woe to us!” The words “woe to” are common in funeral laments and at the beginning of oracles of judgment. In many contexts they carry the connotation of hopelessness or apprehensiveness of inevitable doom.

31 tn Heb “Oh, Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil.”

32 tn Heb “For a voice declaring from Dan and making heard disaster from the hills of Ephraim.”

33 tn The words “They are saying” are not in the text but are implicit in the connection and are supplied in the translation for clarification.

34 tn The word “surrounding” is not in the text but is implicit and is supplied in the translation for clarification.

35 tc Or “Here they come!” Heb “Look!” or “Behold!” Or “Announce to the surrounding nations, indeed [or yes] proclaim to Jerusalem, ‘Besiegers…’” The text is very elliptical here. Some of the modern English versions appear to be emending the text from הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold”) to either הֵנָּה (hennah, “these things”; so NEB), or הַזֶּה (hazzeh, “this”; so NIV). The solution proposed here is as old as the LXX which reads, “Behold, they have come.”

36 tn The words, “this message,” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to make the introduction of the quote easier.

37 tn Heb “Besiegers.” For the use of this verb to refer to besieging a city compare Isa 1:8.

38 tn Heb “They have raised their voices against.” The verb here, a vav (ו) consecutive with an imperfect, continues the nuance of the preceding participle “are coming.”

39 tn Heb “will surround her.” The antecedent is Jerusalem in the preceding verse. The referent is again made explicit in the translation to avoid any possible lack of clarity. The verb form here is a form of the verb that emphasizes the fact as being as good as done (i.e., it is a prophetic perfect).

40 sn There is some irony involved in the choice of the simile since the men guarding a field were there to keep thieves from getting in and stealing the crops. Here the besiegers are guarding the city to keep people from getting out.

41 tn Heb “Your way and your deeds.”

42 tn Heb “How bitter!”

43 tn Heb “Indeed, it reaches to your heart.” The subject must be the pain alluded to in the last half of the preceding line; the verb is masculine, agreeing with the adjective translated “painful.” The only other possible antecedent “punishment” is feminine.



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