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  Discovery Box

Jeremiah 8:7-9

Context

8:7 Even the stork knows

when it is time to move on. 1 

The turtledove, swallow, and crane 2 

recognize 3  the normal times for their migration.

But my people pay no attention

to 4  what I, the Lord, require of them. 5 

8:8 How can you say, “We are wise!

We have the law of the Lord”?

The truth is, 6  those who teach it 7  have used their writings

to make it say what it does not really mean. 8 

8:9 Your wise men will be put to shame.

They will be dumbfounded and be brought to judgment. 9 

Since they have rejected the word of the Lord,

what wisdom do they really have?

1 tn Heb “its appointed time.” The translation is contextually motivated to avoid lack of clarity.

2 tn There is debate in the commentaries and lexicons about the identification of some of these birds, particularly regarding the identification of the “swallow” which is more likely the “swift” and the “crane” which some identify with the “thrush.” For a discussion see the Bible encyclopedias and the UBS handbook Fauna and Flora of the Bible. The identity of the individual birds makes little difference to the point being made and “swallow” is more easily identifiable to the average reader than the “swift.”

3 tn Heb “keep.” Ironically birds, which do not think, obey the laws of nature, but Israel does not obey the laws of God.

4 tn Heb “do not know.” But here as elsewhere the word “know” is more than an intellectual matter. It is intended here to summarize both “know” and “follow” (Heb “observe”) in the preceding lines.

5 tn Heb “the ordinance/requirement of the Lord.”

6 tn Heb “Surely, behold!”

7 tn Heb “the scribes.”

8 tn Heb “The lying pen of the scribes have made [it] into a lie.” The translation is an attempt to make the most common interpretation of this passage understandable for the average reader. This is, however, a difficult passage whose interpretation is greatly debated and whose syntax is capable of other interpretations. The interpretation of the NJPS, “Assuredly, for naught has the pen labored, for naught the scribes,” surely deserves consideration within the context; i.e. it hasn’t done any good for the scribes to produce a reliable copy of the law, which the people have refused to follow. That interpretation has the advantage of explaining the absence of an object for the verb “make” or “labored” but creates a very unbalanced poetic couplet.

9 tn Heb “be trapped.” However, the word “trapped” generally carries with it the connotation of divine judgment. See BDB 540 s.v. לָכַד Niph.2, and compare usage in Jer 6:11 for support. The verbs in the first two lines are again the form of the Hebrew verb that emphasizes that the action is as good as done (Hebrew prophetic perfects).



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