Jeremiah 13:20-22

13:20 Then I said,

“Look up, Jerusalem, and see

the enemy that is coming from the north.

Where now is the flock of people that were entrusted to your care?

Where now are the ‘sheep’ that you take such pride in?

13:21 What will you say when the Lord appoints as rulers over you those allies

that you, yourself, had actually prepared as such?

Then anguish and agony will grip you

like that of a woman giving birth to a baby.

13:22 You will probably ask yourself, 10 

‘Why have these things happened to me?

Why have I been treated like a disgraced adulteress

whose skirt has been torn off and her limbs exposed?’ 11 

It is because you have sinned so much. 12 

tn The words “Then I said” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation to show the shift in speaker from vv. 18-19 where the Lord is speaking to Jeremiah.

tn The word “Jerusalem” is not in the Hebrew text. It is added in the Greek text and is generally considered to be the object of address because of the second feminine singular verbs here and throughout the following verses. The translation follows the consonantal text (Kethib) and the Greek text in reading the second feminine singular here. The verbs and pronouns in vv. 20-22 are all second feminine singular with the exception of the suffix on the word “eyes” which is not reflected in the translation here (“Look up” = “Lift up your eyes”) and the verb and pronoun in v. 23. The text may reflect the same kind of alternation between singular and plural that takes place in Isa 7 where the pronouns refer to Ahaz as an individual and his entourage, the contemporary ruling class (cf., e.g., Isa 7:4-5 [singular], 9 [plural], 11 [singular], 13-14 [plural]). Here the connection with the preceding may suggest that it is initially the ruling house (the king and the queen mother), then Jerusalem personified as a woman in her role as a shepherdess (i.e., leader). However, from elsewhere in the book the leadership has included the kings, the priests, the prophets, and the citizens as well (cf., e.g., 13:13). In v. 27 Jerusalem is explicitly addressed. It may be asking too much of some readers who are not familiar with biblical metaphors to understand an extended metaphor like this. If it is helpful to them, they may substitute plural referents for “I” and “me.”

tn The word “enemy” is not in the text but is implicit. It supplied in the translation for clarity.

sn On the phrase the enemy that is coming from the north see Jer 1:14-15; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 10:22.

tn Heb “the flock that was given to you.”

tn Heb “the sheep of your pride.” The word “of your people” and the quotes around “sheep” are intended to carry over the metaphor in such a way that readers unfamiliar with the metaphor will understand it.

tn Or perhaps more rhetorically equivalent, “Will you not be surprised?”

tn The words “The Lord” are not in the text. Some commentators make the enemy the subject, but they are spoken of as “them.”

tn Or “to be rulers.” The translation of these two lines is somewhat uncertain. The sentence structure of these two lines raises problems in translation. The Hebrew text reads: “What will you do when he appoints over you [or punishes you (see BDB 823 s.v. פָּקַד Qal.B.2 for the former, Qal.A.3 for the latter)] and you, yourself, taught them over you friends [or chiefs (see BDB 48 s.v. I אַלּוּף 2 and Ps 55:13 for the former and BDB 49 s.v. II אַלּוּף and Exod 15:15 for the latter)] for a head.” The translation assumes that the clause “and you, yourself, taught them [= made them accustomed, i.e., “prepared”] [to be] over you” is parenthetical coming between the verb “appoint” and its object and object modifier (i.e., “appointed over you allies for rulers”). A quick check of other English versions will show how varied the translation of these lines has been. Most English versions seem to ignore the second “over you” after “you taught them.” Some rearrange the text to get what they think is a sensible meaning. For a fairly thorough treatment see W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:308-10.

sn What is being alluded to here is the political policy of vacillating alliances through which Judah brought about her own downfall, allying herself first with Assyria, then Egypt, then Babylon, and then Egypt again. See 2 Kgs 23:2924:7 for an example of this policy and the disastrous consequences.

tn Heb “Will not pain [here = mental anguish] take hold of you like a woman giving birth.” The question is rhetorical expecting a positive answer.

10 tn Heb “say in your heart.”

11 tn Heb “Your skirt has been uncovered and your heels have been treated with violence.” This is the generally accepted interpretation of these phrases. See, e.g., BDB 784 s.v. עָקֵב a and HALOT 329 s.v. I חָמַס Nif. The significance of the actions here are part of the metaphor (i.e., personification) of Jerusalem as an adulteress having left her husband and have been explained in the translation for the sake of readers unfamiliar with the metaphor.

sn The actions here were part of the treatment of an adulteress by her husband, intended to shame her. See Hos 2:3, 10 (2:5, 12 HT); Isa 47:4.

12 tn The translation has been restructured to break up a long sentence involving a conditional clause and an elliptical consequential clause. It has also been restructured to define more clearly what “these things” are. The Hebrew text reads: “And if you say, ‘Why have these things happened to me?’ Because of the greatness of your iniquity your skirts [= what your skirt covers] have been uncovered and your heels have been treated with violence.”