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that the Lord, the God of Israel, says,[a] ‘The forces at your disposal[b] are now outside the walls fighting against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Babylonians[c] who have you under siege. I will gather those forces back inside the city.[d]

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  1. Jeremiah 21:4 tn Heb “Tell Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel.’” Using the indirect quote eliminates one level of embedded quotation and makes it easier for the reader to follow.
  2. Jeremiah 21:4 tn Heb “the weapons that are in your hand.” Weapons stands here by substitution for the soldiers who wield them.
  3. Jeremiah 21:4 sn The Babylonians (Heb “the Chaldeans”). The Chaldeans were a group of people in the country south of Babylon from which Nebuchadnezzar came. The Chaldean dynasty his father established became the name by which the Babylonians are regularly referred to in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s contemporary Ezekiel uses both terms.
  4. Jeremiah 21:4 tn The structure of the Hebrew sentence of this verse is long and complex and has led to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. There are two primary points of confusion: 1) the relation of the phrase “outside the walls,” and 2) the antecedent of “them” in the last clause of the verse, which reads in Hebrew, “I will gather them back into the midst of the city.” Most take the phrase “outside the walls” with “the Babylonians….” Some take it with “turn back/bring back” to mean “from outside….” However, the preposition “from” is part of the idiom for “outside….” The phrase goes with “fighting,” as J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 215) notes and as NJPS suggests. The antecedent of “them” has sometimes been taken mistakenly to refer to the Babylonians. It refers rather to “the forces at your disposal,” which is literally, “the weapons which are in your hands.” This latter phrase is a figure involving substitution (called metonymy), as Bright also correctly notes. The whole sentence reads in Hebrew, “I will bring back the weapons of war that are in your hand, with which you are fighting Nebuchadrezzar, the King of Babylon, and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside your wall, and I will gather them into the midst of the city.” The sentence has been restructured to better reflect the proper relationships and to make the sentence conform more to contemporary English style.