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Jeremiah 23:21-25

Context

23:21 I did not send those prophets.

Yet they were in a hurry to give their message. 1 

I did not tell them anything.

Yet they prophesied anyway.

23:22 But if they had stood in my inner circle, 2 

they would have proclaimed my message to my people.

They would have caused my people to turn from their wicked ways

and stop doing the evil things they are doing.

23:23 Do you people think 3  that I am some local deity

and not the transcendent God?” 4  the Lord asks. 5 

23:24 “Do you really think anyone can hide himself

where I cannot see him?” the Lord asks. 6 

“Do you not know that I am everywhere?” 7 

the Lord asks. 8 

23:25 The Lord says, 9  “I have heard what those prophets who are prophesying lies in my name are saying. They are saying, ‘I have had a dream! I have had a dream!’ 10 

1 tn Heb “Yet they ran.”

sn The image is that of a messenger bearing news from the king. See 2 Sam 18:19-24; Jer 51:31; Isa 40:9; 52:7; Hab 2:2 (the tablet/scroll bore the message the runner was to read to the intended recipients of his message). Their message has been given in v. 17 (see notes there for cross references).

2 tn Or “had been my confidant.” See the note on v. 18.

3 tn The words “Do you people think” at the beginning of this verse and “Do you really think” at the beginning of the next verse are not in the text but are a way of trying to convey the nature of the rhetorical questions which expect a negative answer. They are also a way of trying to show that the verses are still connected with the preceding discussion addressed to the people (cf. 23:16, 20).

4 tn Heb “Am I a god nearby and not a god far off?” The question is sometimes translated as though there is an alternative being given in v. 23, one that covers both the ideas of immanence and transcendence (i.e., “Am I only a god nearby and not also a god far off?”). However, the hey interrogative (הַ) at the beginning of this verse and the particle (אִם, ’im) at the beginning of the next show that the linkage is between the question in v. 23 and that in v. 24a. According to BDB 210 s.v. הֲ 1.d both questions in this case expect a negative answer.

sn The thought that is expressed here must be viewed against the background of ancient Near Eastern thought where gods were connected with different realms, e.g., Baal, the god of wind, rain, and fertility, Mot, the god of drought, infertility, and death, Yam, the god of the sea and of chaos. Moreover, Baal was worshiped in local manifestations as the Baal of Peor, Baal of Gad, etc. Hence, Baal is sometimes spoken of in the singular and sometimes in the plural. The Lord is the one true God (Deut 6:4). Moreover, he is the maker of heaven and earth (Gen 14:12; 2 Kgs 19:15; Ps 115:15), sees into the hearts of all men (Ps 33:13-15), and judges men according to what they do (Ezek 7:3, 7, 27). There is no hiding from him (Job 34:22; Ps 139:7-12) and no escape from his judgment (Amos 9:2-4). God has already spoken to the people and their leaders through Jeremiah along these lines (Jer 16:17; 21:14). Lurking behind the thoughts expressed here is probably Deut 29:19-21 where God warns that one “bad apple” who thinks he can get away with sinning against the covenant can lead to the destruction of all. The false prophets were the “bad apples” that were encouraging the corruption of the whole nation by their words promoting a false sense of security unconnected with loyalty to God and obedience to his covenant. The first question deals with the issue of God’s transcendence, the second with his omniscience, and the third with his omnipresence.

5 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

6 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

7 tn The words “Don’t you know” are not in the text. They are a way of conveying the idea that the question which reads literally “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” expects a positive answer. They follow the pattern used at the beginning of the previous two questions and continue that thought. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

9 tn The words, “The Lord says” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity to show that the Lord continues speaking.

10 sn To have had a dream was not an illegitimate means of receiving divine revelation. God had revealed himself in the past to his servants through dreams (e.g., Jacob [Gen 31:10-11] and Joseph [Gen 37:6, 7, 9]) and God promised to reveal himself through dreams (Num 12:6; Joel 2:28 [3:1 HT]). What was illegitimate was to use the dream to lead people away from the Lord (Deut 13:1-5 [13:2-6 HT]). That was what the prophets were doing through their dreams which were “lies” and “the delusions of their own minds.” Through them they were making people forget who the Lord really was which was just like what their ancestors had done through worshiping Baal.



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