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Jeremiah 9:10-21

Context
The Coming Destruction Calls For Mourning

9:10 I said, 1 

“I will weep and mourn 2  for the grasslands on the mountains, 3 

I will sing a mournful song for the pastures in the wilderness

because they are so scorched no one travels through them.

The sound of livestock is no longer heard there.

Even the birds in the sky and the wild animals in the fields

have fled and are gone.”

9:11 The Lord said, 4 

“I will make Jerusalem 5  a heap of ruins.

Jackals will make their home there. 6 

I will destroy the towns of Judah

so that no one will be able to live in them.”

9:12 I said, 7 

“Who is wise enough to understand why this has happened? 8 

Who has a word from the Lord that can explain it? 9 

Why does the land lie in ruins?

Why is it as scorched as a desert through which no one travels?”

9:13 The Lord answered, “This has happened because these people have rejected my laws which I gave them. They have not obeyed me or followed those laws. 10  9:14 Instead they have followed the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts. They have paid allegiance to 11  the gods called Baal, 12  as their fathers 13  taught them to do. 9:15 So then, listen to what I, the Lord God of Israel who rules over all, 14  say. 15  ‘I will make these people eat the bitter food of suffering and drink the poison water of judgment. 16  9:16 I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors 17  have known anything about. I will send people chasing after them with swords 18  until I have destroyed them.’” 19 

9:17 The Lord who rules over all 20  told me to say to this people, 21 

“Take note of what I say. 22 

Call for the women who mourn for the dead!

Summon those who are the most skilled at it!” 23 

9:18 I said, “Indeed, 24  let them come quickly and sing a song of mourning for us.

Let them wail loudly until tears stream from our own eyes

and our eyelids overflow with water.

9:19 For the sound of wailing is soon to be heard in Zion.

They will wail, 25  ‘We are utterly ruined! 26  We are completely disgraced!

For our houses have been torn down

and we must leave our land.’” 27 

9:20 I said, 28 

“So now, 29  you wailing women, hear what the Lord says. 30 

Open your ears to the words from his mouth.

Teach your daughters this mournful song,

and each of you teach your neighbor 31  this lament.

9:21 ‘Death has climbed in 32  through our windows.

It has entered into our fortified houses.

It has taken away our children who play in the streets.

It has taken away our young men who gather in the city squares.’

1 tn The words “I said” are not in the text, but there is general agreement that Jeremiah is the speaker. Cf. the lament in 8:18-9:1. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity. Some English versions follow the Greek text which reads a plural imperative here. Since this reading would make the transition between 9:10 and 9:11 easier it is probably not original but a translator’s way of smoothing over a difficulty.

2 tn Heb “I will lift up weeping and mourning.”

3 tn Heb “for the mountains.” However, the context makes clear that it is the grasslands or pastures on the mountains that are meant. The words “for the grasslands” are supplied in the translation for clarity.

4 tn The words “the Lord said” are not in the text, but it is obvious from the content that he is the speaker. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

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

6 tn Heb “a heap of ruins, a haunt for jackals.”

7 tn The words, “I said” are not in the text. It is not clear that a shift in speaker has taken place. However, the words of the verse are very unlikely to be a continuation of the Lord’s threat. It is generally assumed that these are the words of Jeremiah and that a dialogue is going on between him and the Lord in vv. 9-14. That assumption is accepted here.

8 tn Heb “Who is the wise man that he may understand this?”

9 tn Heb “And [who is the man] to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken that he may explain it?”

10 tn Heb “and they have not walked in it (with “it” referring to “my law”).

11 tn Heb “they have gone/followed after.” See the translator’s note at 2:5 for the idiom.

12 tn Heb “the Baals,” referring either to the pagan gods called “Baals” or the images of Baal (so NLT).

13 tn Or “forefathers,” or “ancestors.” Here the referent could be the immediate parents or, by their example, more distant ancestors.

14 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”

sn See the study notes on 2:9 and 7:3.

15 tn Heb “Therefore, thus says the Lord…” The person is shifted from third to first to better conform with English style.

16 tn Heb “I will feed this people wormwood and make them drink poison water.” “Wormwood” and “poison water” are not to be understood literally here but are symbolic of judgment and suffering. See, e.g., BDB 542 s.v. לַעֲנָה.

17 tn Heb “fathers.”

18 tn Heb “I will send the sword after them.” The sword here is probably not completely literal but refers to death by violent means, including death by the sword.

19 sn He will destroy them but not completely. See Jer 5:18; 30:11; 46:28.

20 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.”

sn For the significance of this title see the notes at 2:19 and 7:3.

21 tn Heb “Thus says Yahweh of armies.” However, without some addition it is not clear to whom the command is addressed. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity and to help resolve a rather confusing issue of who is speaking throughout vv. 16-21. As has been evident throughout the translation, the speaker is not always indicated. Sometimes it is not even clear who the speaker is. In general the translation and the notes have reflected the general consensus in identifying who it is. Here, however, there is a good deal of confusion about who is speaking in vv. 18, 20-21. The Greek translation has the Lord speaking throughout with second plural pronouns in vv. 18, 21 and the absence of the first line in v. 22. It would be hard to explain how the MT arose if it were the original text. Critical commentators such as J. Bright, W. Holladay, and W. McKane resolve the issue by dropping out the introductory formula in v. 17 and the first line of v. 22 and assigning the whole lament to Jeremiah. It seems obvious from the first plural pronouns and the content of v. 18 (and probably v. 21 as well) and the fact that the Lord is referred to in other than the first person in v. 20 that he is not the speaker of those verses. I have attempted to resolve the issue by having Jeremiah report the Lord’s command in v. 17 and have the rest of the speech be essentially that of Jeremiah. It should be admitted, however, that the issue is far from resolved. Most English versions simply ignore the problem. The GNB (= TEV) is a rare exception.

22 tn Heb “Consider!”

23 tn Heb “Call for the mourning women that they may come and send for the wise/skilled women that they may come.” The verbs here are masculine plural, addressed to the people.

24 tn The words “And I said, ‘Indeed” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to try and help clarify who the speaker is who identifies with the lament of the people.

25 tn The words “They will wail” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation to make clear that this is the wailing that will be heard.

sn The destruction is still in the future, but it is presented graphically as though it had already taken place.

26 tn Heb “How we are ruined!”

27 tn The order of these two lines has been reversed for English stylistic reasons. The text reads in Hebrew “because we have left our land because they have thrown down our dwellings.” The two clauses offer parallel reasons for the cries “How ruined we are! [How] we are greatly disgraced!” But the first line must contain a prophetic perfect (because the lament comes from Jerusalem) and the second a perfect referring to a destruction that is itself future. This seems the only way to render the verse that would not be misleading.

28 tn The words “I said” are not in the text. The text merely has “Indeed, yes.” The words are supplied in the translation to indicate that the speaker is still Jeremiah though he now is not talking about the mourning woman but is talking to them. See the notes on 9:17-18 for further explanation.

29 tn It is a little difficult to explain how the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) is functioning here. W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:311) may be correct in seeing it as introducing the contents of what those who call for the mourning women are to say. In this case, Jeremiah picks up the task as representative of the people.

30 tn Heb “Listen to the word of the Lord.”

sn In this context the “word of the Lord” that they are to listen for is the word of the lament that they are to teach their daughters and neighbors.

31 tn Heb “Teach…mournful song, and each woman her neighbor lady…”

32 sn Here Death is personified (treated as though it were a person). Some have seen as possible background to this lament an allusion to Mesopotamian mythology where the demon Lamastu climbs in through the windows of houses and over their walls to kill children and babies.



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