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Jeremiah 15:1-9

Context

15:1 Then the Lord said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me pleading for 1  these people, I would not feel pity for them! 2  Get them away from me! Tell them to go away! 3  15:2 If they ask you, ‘Where should we go?’ tell them the Lord says this:

“Those who are destined to die of disease will go to death by disease.

Those who are destined to die in war will go to death in war.

Those who are destined to die of starvation will go to death by starvation.

Those who are destined to go into exile will go into exile.” 4 

15:3 “I will punish them in four different ways: I will have war kill them. I will have dogs drag off their dead bodies. I will have birds and wild beasts devour and destroy their corpses. 5  15:4 I will make all the people in all the kingdoms of the world horrified at what has happened to them because of what Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem.” 6 

15:5 The Lord cried out, 7 

“Who in the world 8  will have pity on you, Jerusalem?

Who will grieve over you?

Who will stop long enough 9 

to inquire about how you are doing? 10 

15:6 I, the Lord, say: 11  ‘You people have deserted me!

You keep turning your back on me.’ 12 

So I have unleashed my power against you 13  and have begun to destroy you. 14 

I have grown tired of feeling sorry for you!” 15 

15:7 The Lord continued, 16 

“In every town in the land I will purge them

like straw blown away by the wind. 17 

I will destroy my people.

I will kill off their children.

I will do so because they did not change their behavior. 18 

15:8 Their widows will become in my sight more numerous 19 

than the grains of sand on the seashores.

At noontime I will bring a destroyer

against the mothers of their young men. 20 

I will cause anguish 21  and terror

to fall suddenly upon them. 22 

15:9 The mother who had seven children 23  will grow faint.

All the breath will go out of her. 24 

Her pride and joy will be taken from her in the prime of their life.

It will seem as if the sun had set while it was still day. 25 

She will suffer shame and humiliation. 26 

I will cause any of them who are still left alive

to be killed in war by the onslaughts of their enemies,” 27 

says the Lord.

1 tn The words “pleading for” have been supplied in the translation to explain the idiom (a metonymy). For parallel usage see BDB 763 s.v. עָמַד Qal.1.a and compare usage in Gen 19:27, Deut 4:10.

sn Moses and Samuel were well-known for their successful intercession on behalf of Israel. See Ps 99:6-8 and see, e.g., Exod 32:11-14, 30-34; 1 Sam 7:5-9. The Lord is here rejecting Jeremiah’s intercession on behalf of the people (14:19-22).

2 tn Heb “my soul would not be toward them.” For the usage of “soul” presupposed here see BDB 660 s.v. נֶפֶשׁ 6 in the light of the complaints and petitions in Jeremiah’s prayer in 14:19, 21.

3 tn Heb “Send them away from my presence and let them go away.”

4 tn It is difficult to render the rhetorical force of this passage in meaningful English. The text answers the question “Where should we go?” with four brief staccato-like expressions with a play on the preposition “to”: Heb “Who to the death, to the death and who to the sword, to the sword and who to the starvation, to the starvation and who to the captivity, to the captivity.” The word “death” here is commonly understood to be a poetic substitute for “plague” because of the standard trio of sword, famine, and plague (see, e.g., 14:12 and the notes there). This is likely here and in 18:21. For further support see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:440. The nuance “starvation” rather than “famine” has been chosen in the translation because the referents here are all things that accompany war.

5 tn The translation attempts to render in understandable English some rather unusual uses of terms here. The verb translated “punish” is often used that way (cf. BDB 823 s.v. פָּקַד Qal.A.3 and compare usage in Jer 11:22, 13:21). However, here it is accompanied by a direct object and a preposition meaning “over” which is usually used in the sense of appointing someone over someone (cf. BDB 823 s.v. פָּקַד Qal.B.1 and compare usage in Jer 51:27). Moreover the word translated “different ways” normally refers to “families,” “clans,” or “guilds” (cf. BDB 1046-47 s.v. מִשְׁפָּחָה for usage). Hence the four things mentioned are referred to figuratively as officers or agents into whose power the Lord consigns them. The Hebrew text reads: “I will appoint over them four guilds, the sword to kill, the dogs to drag away, the birds of the skies and the beasts of the earth to devour and to destroy.”

6 tn The length of this sentence runs contrary to the normal policy followed in the translation of breaking up long sentences. However, there does not seem any way to break it up here without losing the connections.

sn For similar statements see 2 Kgs 23:26; 24:3-4 and for a description of what Manasseh did see 2 Kgs 21:1-16. Manasseh was the leader, but they willingly followed (cf. 2 Kgs 21:9).

7 tn The words “The Lord cried out” are not in the text. However, they are necessary to show the shift in address between speaking to Jeremiah in vv. 1-4 about the people and addressing Jerusalem in vv. 5-6 and the shift back to the address to Jeremiah in vv. 7-9. The words “oracle of the Lord” are, moreover, found at the beginning of v. 6.

8 tn The words, “in the world” are not in the text but are the translator’s way of trying to indicate that this rhetorical question expects a negative answer.

9 tn Heb “turn aside.”

10 tn Or “about your well-being”; Heb “about your welfare” (שָׁלוֹם, shalom).

11 tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.” In the original text this phrase is found between “you have deserted me” and “you keep turning your back on me.” It is put at the beginning and converted to first person for sake of English style and clarity.

12 tn Heb “you are going backward.” This is the only occurrence of this adverb with this verb. It is often used with another verb meaning “turn backward” (= abandon; Heb סוּג [sug] in the Niphal). For examples see Jer 38:22; 46:5. The only other occurrence in Jeremiah has been in the unusual idiom in 7:24 where it was translated “they got worse and worse instead of better.” That is how J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 109) translates it here. However it is translated, it has connotations of apostasy.

13 tn Heb “stretched out my hand against you.” For this idiom see notes on 6:12.

14 tn There is a difference of opinion on how the verbs here and in the following verses are to be rendered, whether past or future. KJV, NASB, NIV for example render them as future. ASV, RSV, TEV render them as past. NJPS has past here and future in vv. 7-9. This is perhaps the best solution. The imperfect + vav consecutive here responds to the perfect in the first line. The imperfects + vav consecutives followed by perfects in vv. 7-9 and concluded by an imperfect in v. 9 pick up the perfects + vav (ו) consecutives in vv. 3-4. Verses 7-9 are further development of the theme in vv. 1-4. Verses 5-6 have been an apostrophe or a turning aside to address Jerusalem directly. For a somewhat similar alternation of the tenses see Isa 5:14-17 and consult GKC 329-30 §111.w. One could of course argue that the imperfects + vav consecutive in vv. 7-9 continue the imperfect + vav consecutive here. In this case, vv. 7-9 are not a continuation of the oracle of doom but another lament by God (cf. 14:1-6, 17-18).

15 sn It is difficult to be sure what intertextual connections are intended by the author in his use of vocabulary. The Hebrew word translated “grown tired” is not very common. It has been used twice before. In 9:5-6b where it refers to the people being unable to repent and in 6:11 where it refers to Jeremiah being tired or unable to hold back his anger because of that inability. Now God too has worn out his patience with them (cf. Isa 7:13).

16 tn The words “The Lord continued” are not in the text. They have been supplied in the translation to show the shift back to talking about the people instead of addressing them. The obvious speaker is the Lord; the likely listener is Jeremiah as in vv. 1-4.

17 tn Heb “I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork in the gates of the land.” The word “gates” is here being used figuratively for the cities, the part for the whole. See 14:2 and the notes there.

sn Like straw blown away by the wind. A figurative use of the process of winnowing is referred to here. Winnowing was the process whereby a mixture of grain and straw was thrown up into the wind to separate the grain from the straw and the husks. The best description of the major steps in threshing and winnowing grain in the Bible is seen in another figurative passage in Isa 41:15-16.

18 tn Or “did not repent of their wicked ways”; Heb “They did not turn back from their ways.” There is no casual particle here (either כִּי [ki], which is more formally casual, or וְ [vÿ], which sometimes introduces casual circumstantial clauses). The causal idea is furnished by the connection of ideas. If the verbs throughout this section are treated as pasts and this section seen as a lament, then the clause could be sequential: “but they still did not turn…”

19 tn Heb “to me.” BDB 513 s.v. ל 5.a(d) compares the usage of the preposition “to” here to that in Jonah 3:3, “Nineveh was a very great city to God [in God’s estimation].” The NEB/REB interpret as though it were the agent after a passive verb, “I have made widows more numerous.” Most English versions ignore it. The present translation follows BDB though the emphasis on God’s agency has been strong in the passage.

20 tn The translation of this line is a little uncertain because of the double prepositional phrase which is not represented in this translation or most of the others. The Hebrew text reads: “I will bring in to them, against mother of young men, a destroyer at noon time.” Many commentaries delete the phrase with the Greek text. If the preposition read “against” like the following one this would be a case of apposition of nearer definition. There is some evidence of that in the Targum and the Syriac according to BHS. Both nouns “mothers” and “young men” are translated as plural here though they are singular; they are treated by most as collectives. It would be tempting to translate these two lines “In broad daylight I have brought destroyers against the mothers of her fallen young men.” But this may be too interpretive. In the light of 6:4, noontime was a good time to attack. NJPS has “I will bring against them – young men and mothers together – ….” In this case “mother” and “young men” would be a case of asyndetic coordination.

21 tn This word is used only here and in Hos 11:9. It is related to the root meaning “to rouse” (so BDB 735 s.v. I עִיר). Here it refers to the excitement or agitation caused by terror. In Hos 11:9 it refers to the excitement or arousal of anger.

22 tn The “them” in the Hebrew text is feminine referring to the mothers.

23 tn Heb “who gave birth to seven.”

sn To have seven children was considered a blessing and a source of pride and honor (Ruth 4:15; 1 Sam 2:5).

24 tn The meaning of this line is debated. Some understand this line to mean “she has breathed out her life” (cf., e.g., BDB 656 s.v. נָפַח and 656 s.v. ֶנפֶשׁ 1.c). However, as several commentaries have noted (e.g., W. McKane, Jeremiah [ICC], 1:341; J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 109) it makes little sense to talk about her suffering shame and embarrassment if she has breathed her last. Both the Greek and Latin versions understand “soul” not as the object but as the subject and the idea being one of fainting under despair. This idea seems likely in light of the parallelism. Bright suggests the phrase means either “she gasped out her breath” or “her throat gasped.” The former is more likely. One might also render “she fainted dead away,” but that idiom might not be familiar to all readers.

25 tn Heb “Her sun went down while it was still day.”

sn The sun was the source of light and hence has associations with life, prosperity, health, and blessing. The premature setting of the sun which brought these seems apropos as metaphor for the loss of her children which were not only a source of joy, help, and honor. Two references where “sun” is used figuratively, Ps 84:11 (84:12 HT) and Mal 4:2, may be helpful here.

26 sn She has lost her position of honor and the source of her pride. For the concepts here see 1 Sam 2:5.

27 tn Heb “I will deliver those of them that survive to the sword before their enemies.” The referent of “them” is ambiguous. Does it refer to the children of the widow (nearer context) or the people themselves (more remote context, v. 7)? Perhaps it was meant to include both. Verse seven spoke of the destruction of the people and the killing off of the children.



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