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Jeremiah 20:10-11


20:10 I 1  hear many whispering words of intrigue against me.

Those who would cause me terror are everywhere! 2 

They are saying, “Come on, let’s publicly denounce him!” 3 

All my so-called friends 4  are just watching for

something that would lead to my downfall. 5 

They say, “Perhaps he can be enticed into slipping up,

so we can prevail over 6  him and get our revenge on him.

20:11 But the Lord is with me to help me like an awe-inspiring warrior. 7 

Therefore those who persecute me will fail and will not prevail over me.

They will be thoroughly disgraced because they did not succeed.

Their disgrace will never be forgotten.

1 tn It would be difficult to render accurately the Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) that introduces this verse without lengthening the English line unduly. It probably means something like “This is true even though I…,” i.e., the particle is concessive (cf. BDB s.v. כִּי 2.c). No other nuance seems appropriate. The particle is left out of the translation, but its presence is acknowledged here.

2 tn The phrase translated “Those who would cause me terror are everywhere” has already occurred in 6:25 in the context of the terror caused by the enemy from the north and in 20:3 in reference to the curse pronounced on Pashhur who would experience it first hand. Some have seen the phrase here not as Jeremiah’s ejaculation of terror but of his assailant’s taunts of his message or even their taunting nickname for him. But comparison of this passage with the first two lines of Ps 31:13 (31:14 HT) which are word for word the same as these two will show that it refers to the terror inspired by the plots of his enemies to do away with him. It is also clear from the context of that passage and the following context here that the “whispering of many” (the literal translation of “many whispering words of intrigue against me) refers to intrigues to take vengeance on him and do away with him.

3 tn Heb “Denounce and let us denounce him.” The verb which is translated “denounce” (נָגַד, nagad) does not take an accusative object of person as it does here very often. When it does it usually means to inform someone. The only relevant passage appears to be Job 17:5 where it means something like “denounce.” What is probably involved here are the attempts to portray Jeremiah as a traitor (Jer 26:10) and a false prophet (see his conflict with Hananiah in Jer 28).

4 tn Heb “the men of my peace [who are concerned about my welfare].” For this phrase compare Ps 41:9 (41:10 HT); Jer 38:22. It is generally agreed that irony is being invoked here, hence “so-called” is supplied in the translation to bring out the irony.

5 tn Heb “watching my stumbling [for me to stumble].” Metaphorically they were watching for some slip-up that would lead to his downfall. Compare the use in Pss 35:15 and 38:17 (38:18 HT).

6 tn All the text says literally is “Perhaps he can be enticed so that we can prevail over him.” However the word “enticed” needs some qualification. As W. McKane (Jeremiah [ICC], 1:479) notes it should probably be read in the context of the “stumbling” (= “something that would lead to my downfall”). Hence “slipping up” has been supplied as an object. It is vague enough to avoid specifics as the original text does but suggests some reference to “something that would lead to my downfall.”

sn There is an interesting ironical play on words here with the earlier use of these same Hebrew words in v. 7 to refer to the Lord coercing him into being his spokesman and overcoming his resistance. Jeremiah is lamenting that it was God’s call to speak his word which he could not (and still cannot) resist that has led ironically to his predicament, which is a source of terror to him.

7 sn This line has some interesting ties with Jer 15:20-21 where Jeremiah is assured by God that he is indeed with him as he promised him when he called him (1:8, 19) and will deliver him from the clutches of wicked and violent people. The word translated here “awe-inspiring” is the same as the word “violent people” there. Jeremiah is confident that his “awe-inspiring” warrior will overcome “violent people.” The statement of confidence here is, by the way, a common element in the psalms of petition in the Psalter. The common elements of that type of psalm are all here: invocation (v. 7), lament (vv. 7-10), confession of trust/confidence in being heard (v. 11), petition (v. 12), thanksgiving or praise (v. 13). For some examples of this type of psalm see Pss 3, 7, 26.

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