New English Translation
A Lament over the Ravages of Drought[a]
2 “The people of Judah are in mourning.
The people in her cities are pining away.
They lie on the ground expressing their sorrow.[d]
Cries of distress come up to me[e] from Jerusalem.
3 The leading men of the cities send their servants for water.
They go to the cisterns,[f] but they do not find any water there.
They return with their containers[g] empty.
Disappointed and dismayed, they bury their faces in their hands.[h]
4 They are dismayed because the ground is cracked[i]
because there has been no rain in the land.
The farmers, too, are dismayed
and bury their faces in their hands.
5 Even the doe abandons her newborn fawn[j] in the field
because there is no grass.
6 Wild donkeys stand on the hilltops
and pant for breath like jackals.
Their eyes are strained looking for food,
because there is none to be found.”[k]
7 Then I said,[l]
“O Lord, intervene for the honor of your name[m]
even though our sins speak out against us.[n]
Indeed,[o] we have turned away from you many times.
We have sinned against you.
8 You have been the object of Israel’s hopes.
You have saved them when they were in trouble.
Why have you become like a resident foreigner[p] in the land?
Why have you become like a traveler who only stops in to spend the night?
9 Why should you be like someone who is helpless,[q]
like a champion[r] who cannot save anyone?
You are indeed with us,[s]
and we belong to you.[t]
Do not abandon us!”
10 Then the Lord spoke about these people.[u]
Judgment for Believing the Misleading Lies of the False Prophets
11 Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for good to come to these people![z] 12 Even if they fast, I will not hear their cries for help. Even if they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.[aa] Instead, I will kill them through wars, famines, and plagues.”[ab]
13 Then I said, “Oh, Sovereign Lord,[ac] look![ad] The prophets are telling them that you said,[ae] ‘You will not experience war or suffer famine.[af] I will give you lasting peace and prosperity in this land.’”[ag]
14 Then the Lord said to me, “Those prophets are prophesying lies while claiming my authority![ah] I did not send them. I did not commission them.[ai] I did not speak to them. They are prophesying to these people false visions, worthless predictions,[aj] and the delusions of their own mind. 15 I did not send those prophets, though they claim to be prophesying in my name. They may be saying, ‘No war or famine will happen in this land.’ But I, the Lord, say this about[ak] them: ‘War and starvation will kill those prophets.’[al] 16 The people to whom they are prophesying will die through war and famine. Their bodies will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem and there will be no one to bury them. This will happen to the men and their wives, their sons, and their daughters.[am] For I will pour out on them the destruction they deserve.”[an]
Lament over Present Destruction and Threat of More to Come
17 “Tell these people this, Jeremiah:[ao]
‘My eyes overflow with tears
day and night without ceasing.[ap]
For my people, my dear children,[aq] have suffered a crushing blow.
They have suffered a serious wound.[ar]
18 If I go out into the countryside,
I see those who have been killed in battle.
If I go into the city,
I see those who are sick because of starvation.[as]
For both prophet and priest—
they go peddling in the land
but they are not humbled.’”[at]
19 Then I said,
“Lord,[au] have you completely rejected the nation of Judah?
Do you despise[av] the city of Zion?
Why have you struck us with such force
that we are beyond recovery?[aw]
We hope for peace, but nothing good has come of it.
We hope for a time of relief from our troubles, but experience terror.[ax]
20 Lord, we confess that we have been wicked.
We confess that our ancestors have done wrong.[ay]
We have indeed[az] sinned against you.
21 For the honor of your name,[ba] do not treat Jerusalem with contempt.
Do not treat with disdain the place where your glorious throne sits.[bb]
Be mindful of your covenant with us. Do not break it.[bc]
22 Do any of the worthless idols[bd] of the nations cause rain to fall?
Do the skies themselves send showers?
Is it not you, O Lord our God, who does this?[be]
So we put our hopes in you[bf]
because you alone do all this.”
- Jeremiah 14:1 sn The form of Jer 14:1-15:9 is very striking rhetorically. It consists essentially of laments and responses to them. However, what makes it so striking is its deviation from normal form (cf. 2 Chr 20:5-17 for what would normally be expected). The descriptions of the lamentable situation come from the mouth of God, not the people (cf.14:1-6, 17-18). The prophet utters the petitions with statements of trust (14:7-9, 19-22), and the Lord answers, not with oracles promising deliverance but promising doom (14:10; 15:1-9). In the course of giving the first oracle of doom, the Lord commands Jeremiah not to pray for the people (14:11-12), and Jeremiah tries to provide an excuse for their actions (14:13). The Lord responds to that with an oracle of doom on the false prophets (14:14-16).
- Jeremiah 14:1 tn Heb “that which was.”
- Jeremiah 14:1 sn Drought was one of the punishments for failure to adhere to the terms of their covenant with God. See Deut 28:22-24 and Lev 26:18-20.
- Jeremiah 14:2 tn Heb “Judah mourns; its gates pine away; they are in mourning on the ground.” There are several figures of speech involved here. The basic figure is that of personification, where Judah and it cities are said to be in mourning. However, in the third line the figure is a little hard to sustain because “they” are in mourning on the ground. That presses the imagination of most moderns a little too far. Hence the personification has been translated as “people of” throughout. The term “gates” here is used as part for whole for the “cities” themselves, as in several other passages in the OT (cf. BDB 1045 s.v. שַׁעַר 2.b, c and see, e.g., Isa 14:31).
- Jeremiah 14:2 tn The words “to me” are not in the text. They are implicit from the fact that the Lord is speaking. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 14:3 tn Though the concept of “cisterns” is probably not familiar to some readers, it would be a mistake to translate this word as “well.” Wells have continual sources of water. Cisterns were pits dug in the ground and lined with plaster to hold rainwater. The drought had exhausted all the water in the cisterns.
- Jeremiah 14:3 tn The word “containers” is a generic word in Hebrew meaning “vessels.” It would probably in this case involve water “jars” or “jugs.” But since in contemporary English one would normally associate those terms with smaller vessels, “containers” may be safer.
- Jeremiah 14:3 tn Heb “they cover their heads.” Some of the English versions have gone wrong here because of the “normal” use of the words translated here “disappointed” and “dismayed.” Regularly translated “ashamed” and “disgraced, humiliated, dismayed” elsewhere (see e.g., Jer 22:22), they are somewhat synonymous terms that are often parallel or combined. The key here, however, is the expression “they cover their heads,” which is used in 2 Sam 15:30 for the expression of grief. Moreover, the word translated “disappointed” (בּוֹשׁ, bosh) here is used that way several times. See, for example, Jer 12:13 and consult examples in BDB 101 s.v. בּוֹשׁ Qal.2. A very similar context with the same figure is found in Jer 2:36-37.
- Jeremiah 14:4 tn For the use of the verb “is cracked” here, see BDB 369 s.v. חָתַת Qal.1 and compare the usage in Jer 51:56, where it refers to broken bows. The form is a relative clause without relative pronoun (cf., GKC 486-87 §155.f). The sentence as a whole is related to the preceding through a particle meaning “because of” or “on account of.” Hence the subject and verb have been repeated to make the connection.
- Jeremiah 14:5 tn Heb “she gives birth and abandons.”
- Jeremiah 14:6 tn Heb “their eyes are strained because there is no verdure.”
- Jeremiah 14:7 tn The words “Then I said” are not in the text. However, it cannot be a continuation of the Lord’s speech, and the people have consistently refused to acknowledge their sin. The fact that the prayers here and in vv. 19-22 are followed by an address from God to Jeremiah regarding prayer (cf. 4:11 and the interchanges there between God and Jeremiah, and 15:1) also argues that the speaker is Jeremiah. He is again identifying with his people (cf. 8:18-9:2). Here he takes up the petition part of the lament, which often contains elements of confession of sin and statements of trust. In 14:1-6 God portrays to Jeremiah the people’s lamentable plight instead of their describing it to him. Here Jeremiah prays what they should pray. The people are strangely silent throughout.
- Jeremiah 14:7 tn Heb “Act for the sake of your name.” For the usage of “act” in this absolute, unqualified sense, cf. BDB 794 s.v. עָשָׂה Qal.I.r and compare the usage, e.g., in 1 Kgs 8:32 and 39. For the nuance of “for the sake of your name,” compare the usage in Isa 48:9 and Ezek 20:9, 14.
- Jeremiah 14:7 tn Or “bear witness against us,” or “can be used as evidence against us,” to keep the legal metaphor. Heb “testify against.”
- Jeremiah 14:7 tn The Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) can scarcely be causal here; it is either intensive (BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.e) or concessive (BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.c). The parallel usage in Gen 18:20 argues for the intensive force, as does the fact that the concessive has already been expressed by אִם (ʾim).
- Jeremiah 14:8 tn It would be a mistake to translate this word as “stranger.” This word (גֵּר, ger) refers to a resident alien or resident foreigner who stays in a country not his own. The status of a (גֵּר, ger) varied by country. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, but the resident foreigner in Israel was under the same laws (civil and religious) as the Israelite and could worship the Lord as part of the covenant community. For more on the ger (גֵּר), see the notes at Exod 12:19; Lev 19:3; Deut 23:7; 29:11. Jeremiah’s complaint here is particularly bold, reversing the image of Lev 25:23 where the Lord owns the land and the Israelites are “resident foreigners” (ger; גֵּר). For further information on the status of “resident foreigners” see IDB 4:397-99 s.v. “Sojourner.”
- Jeremiah 14:9 tn This is the only time this word occurs in the Hebrew Bible. The lexicons generally take it to mean “confused” or “surprised” (cf., e.g., BDB 187 s.v. דָּהַם). However, the word has been found in a letter from the seventh century in a passage where it must mean something like “be helpless”; see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 1:433, for discussion and bibliography of an article where this letter is dealt with.
- Jeremiah 14:9 tn Heb “mighty man, warrior.” For this nuance see 1 Sam 17:51, where it parallels a technical term used of Goliath earlier in 17:4, 23.
- Jeremiah 14:9 tn Heb “in our midst.”
- Jeremiah 14:9 tn Heb “Your name is called upon us.” See Jer 7:10, 11, 14, 30 for this idiom with respect to the temple and see the notes on Jer 7:10.
- Jeremiah 14:10 tn Heb “Thus said the Lord concerning this people.”sn The Lord answers indirectly, speaking neither to Jeremiah directly nor to the people. Instead of the oracle of deliverance that was hoped for (cf. 2 Chr 20:14-17; Pss 12:5 [12:6 HT]; 60:6-8 [60:8-10 HT]), there is an oracle of doom.
- Jeremiah 14:10 tn It is difficult to be certain how the particle כֵּן (ken, usually used for “thus, so”) is to be rendered here. BDB 485 s.v. כֵּן 1.b says that the force sometimes has to be elicited from the general context, and it points back to the line of v. 9. IHBS 666 §39.3.4e states that when there is no specific comparative clause preceding, a general comparison is intended. They point to Judg 5:31 as a parallel. Ps 127:2 may also be an example if כִּי (ki) is not to be read (cf. BHS fn). “Truly” seemed the best way to render this idea in contemporary English.
- Jeremiah 14:10 tn Heb “They do not restrain their feet.” The idea of “away from me” is implicit in the context and is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 14:10 tn Heb “remember.”
- Jeremiah 14:10 tn Heb “their iniquities.”
- Jeremiah 14:11 tn Heb “on behalf of these people for benefit.”
- Jeremiah 14:12 sn See 6:16-20 for parallels.
- Jeremiah 14:12 tn Heb “through sword, starvation, and plague.”sn These were penalties (curses) that were to be imposed on Israel for failure to keep her covenant with God (cf. Lev 26:23-26). These three occur together fourteen other times in the book of Jeremiah.
- Jeremiah 14:13 tn Heb “Lord Yahweh.” The translation follows the ancient Jewish tradition of substituting the Hebrew word for God for the proper name Yahweh.
- Jeremiah 14:13 tn Heb “Behold.” See the translator’s note on usage of this particle in 1:6.
- Jeremiah 14:13 tn The words “that you said” are not in the text but are implicit from the first person in the affirmation that follows. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 14:13 tn Heb “You will not see sword and you will not have starvation [or hunger].”
- Jeremiah 14:13 tn Heb “I will give you unfailing peace in this place.” The translation opts for “peace and prosperity” here for the word שָׁלוֹם (shalom) because in the context it refers both to peace from war and security from famine and plague. The word translated “lasting” (אֱמֶת, ʾemet) is difficult to render here because it has broad uses: “truth, reliability, stability, steadfastness,” etc. “Guaranteed” or “lasting” seem to fit the context the best.
- Jeremiah 14:14 tn Heb “Falsehood those prophets are prophesying in my name.” In the OT, the “name” reflected the person’s character (cf. Gen 27:36; 1 Sam 25:25) or his reputation (Gen 11:4; 2 Sam 8:13). To speak in someone’s name was to act as his representative or carry his authority (1 Sam 25:9; 1 Kgs 21:8).
- Jeremiah 14:14 tn Heb “I did not command them.” Cf. 1 Chr 22:12 for usage.
- Jeremiah 14:14 tn Heb “divination and worthlessness.” This is an example of hendiadys, where two nouns are joined by “and,” with one serving as qualifier of the other. The noun “worthlessness” functions as an adjective in an “of” phrase that follows and qualifies a noun (an attributive genitive in Hebrew) in Zech 11:17 and Job 13:4. sn The word translated “predictions” here is really the word “divination.” Divination was prohibited in Israel (cf. Deut 18:10, 14). The practice of divination involved various mechanical means to try to predict the future. The word was used here for its negative connotations in a statement that is rhetorically structured to emphasize the falseness of the promises of the false prophets. It would be unnatural to contemporary English style to try to capture this emphasis in English. In the Hebrew text the last sentence reads, “False vision, divination, and worthlessness and the deceitfulness of their heart they are prophesying to them.” For the emphasis in the preceding sentence see the note there.
- Jeremiah 14:15 tn Heb “Thus says the Lord about.” The first person construction has been used in the translation for better English style.
- Jeremiah 14:15 tn Heb “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who are prophesying in my name and I did not send them [= whom I did not send] and they are saying [= who are saying], ‘Sword and famine…’, by sword and famine those prophets will be killed.” This sentence has been restructured to conform to contemporary English style.sn The rhetoric of the passage is again sustained by an emphatic word order that contrasts what they say will not happen to the land, “war and famine,” with the punishment that the Lord will inflict on them, i.e., “war and starvation [or famine].”
- Jeremiah 14:16 tn Heb “And the people to whom they are prophesying will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem, and there will not be anyone to bury them, they, their wives, and their sons and their daughters.” This sentence has been restructured to break up a long Hebrew sentence and to avoid some awkwardness due to differences in the ancient Hebrew and contemporary English styles.
- Jeremiah 14:16 tn Heb “their evil.” Hebrew words often include within them a polarity of cause and effect. Thus the word for “evil” includes both the concept of wickedness and the punishment for it. Other words that function this way are “iniquity” = “guilt [of iniquity]” = “punishment [for iniquity].” Context determines which nuance is proper.
- Jeremiah 14:17 tn The word “Jeremiah” is not in the text but the address is to a second person singular hearer and is a continuation of 14:14, where the quote starts. The word is supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Jeremiah 14:17 tn Many of the English versions and commentaries render this an indirect or third person imperative, “Let my eyes overflow…,” because of the particle אַל (ʾal) introducing the phrase translated “without ceasing” (אַל־תִּדְמֶינָה, ʾal-tidmenah). However, this is undoubtedly an example where the particle introduces an affirmation that something cannot be done (cf. GKC 322 §109.e). Clear examples of this are found in Pss 41:2 (41:3 HT); 50:3; and Job 41:8 (40:32 HT). God here is again describing a lamentable situation and giving his response to it. See 14:1-6 above.sn Once again it is the Lord lamenting the plight of the people to them, rather than the people lamenting their plight to him. See 14:1-6 and the study notes on the introduction to this section and on 14:7.
- Jeremiah 14:17 tn Heb “virgin daughter, my people.” The last noun here is appositional to the first two (genitive of apposition). Hence it is not ‘literally’ “virgin daughter of my people.”sn This is a metaphor that occurs several times with regard to Israel, Judah, Zion, and even Sidon and Babylon. It is the poetic personification of the people, the city, or the land. Like other metaphors the quality of the comparison being alluded to must be elicited from the context. This is easy in Isa 23:12 (oppressed) and Isa 47:1 (soft and delicate), but not so easy in other places. From the nature of the context, the reference here may be to the protection the virgin was normally privileged to have, with a reminder that the people were forfeiting it by their actions. Hence God lamented for them.
- Jeremiah 14:17 tn This is a poetic personification. To translate with the plural “serious wounds” might mislead some into thinking of literal wounds.sn Cf. Jer 10:19 for a similar use of this metaphor.
- Jeremiah 14:18 tn The word “starvation” has been translated “famine” elsewhere in this passage. It is the word that refers to hunger. The “starvation” here may be war induced and not simply that which comes from famine per se. “Starvation” will cover both.
- Jeremiah 14:18 tn The meaning of these last two lines is somewhat uncertain. The keys are the two verbs סָחַר (sakhar) and יָדַע (yadaʿ). סָחַר (sakhar) most commonly occurs as a participle meaning “trader” or “merchant.” As a finite verb (only elsewhere in Gen 34:10, 21; 42:34) it seems to refer to “trading; doing business,” though DCH understands it only as “traveling around” and proposes “wander” in this verse. The common verb יָדַע (yadaʿ) means “to know.” Among homophonous roots DCH includes יָדַע II (yadaʿ) meaning “be quiet, at rest; be submissive” (cf. Job 21:19; Prov 5:6; Hos 9:7; Isa 45:4). The primary options in the first portion are that they “wander about” or “trade” “throughout the land.” In the second portion they “do not rest,” “are not humbled,” “are not submissive (to the Lord),” or “are ignorant.” Whether they wander without rest, have turned tradesmen without submitting to the Lord, or treat their religious duties as items for trade while ignorant of what God really says, the point is that they are absent from their proper duties of teaching the people to know God. The current translation sees the priests and prophets as disadvantaged, forced into peddling, yet still not humbled so as to return to God. The text has been interpreted to mean that priest and prophet have gone into exile, “journeying into” (cf., e.g., BDB 695 s.v. סָחַר Qal.1). This seems unlikely since it would suppose that the people are in hardship because of a punishment that has happened to their religious leaders, rather than for the failure of their leaders. (On the failure of the prophets and priests see 2:8; 5:13; 6:13; 8:10.) See also W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:330-31 for a more thorough discussion of the issues.
- Jeremiah 14:19 tn The words, “Then I said, ‘Lord’” are not in the Hebrew text. It is obvious from the context that the Lord is addressee. The question of the identity of the speaker is the same as that raised in vv. 7-9, and the arguments set forth there are applicable here as well. Jeremiah is here identifying with the people and doing what they refuse to do, i.e., confess their sins and express their trust in him.
- Jeremiah 14:19 tn Heb “does your soul despise.” Here as in many places the word “soul” stands as part for whole for the person himself, emphasizing emotional and volitional aspects of the person. However, in contemporary English one does not regularly speak of the “soul” in contexts such as this, but of the person.sn There is probably a subtle allusion to the curses called down on the nation for failure to keep their covenant with God. The word used here is somewhat rare (גָּעַל, gaʿal). It is used of Israel’s rejection of God’s stipulations and of God’s response to their rejection of him and his stipulations in Lev 26:11, 15, 30, 43-44. That the allusion is intended is probable when account is taken of the last line of v. 21.
- Jeremiah 14:19 tn Heb “Why have you struck us and there is no healing for us.” The statement involves poetic exaggeration (hyperbole) for rhetorical effect.
- Jeremiah 14:19 tn Heb “[We hope] for a time of healing but behold terror.”sn The last two lines of this verse are repeated word for word from 8:15. There they are spoken by the people.
- Jeremiah 14:20 tn Heb “We acknowledge our wickedness [and] the iniquity of our [fore]fathers.” For the use of the word “know” to mean “confess, acknowledge,” cf. BDB 394 s.v. יָדַע, Qal.1.f and compare the usage in Jer 3:13.sn For a longer example of an individual identifying with the nation and confessing their sins and the sins of their forefathers, see Ps 106.
- Jeremiah 14:20 tn This is another example of the intensive use of כִּי (ki). See BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.e.
- Jeremiah 14:21 tn Heb “For the sake of your name.”
- Jeremiah 14:21 tn English versions quite commonly supply “us” as an object for the verb in the first line. This is probably wrong. The Hebrew text reads, “Do not treat with contempt for the sake of your name; do not treat with disdain your glorious throne.” This is case of poetic parallelism where the object is left hanging until the second line. For an example of this see Prov 13:1 in the original and consult E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 103-4. There has also been some disagreement whether “your glorious throne” refers to the temple (as in 17:12) or Jerusalem (as in 3:17). From the beginning of the prayer in v. 19, where a similar kind of verb has been used with respect to Zion/Jerusalem, it would appear that the contextual referent is Jerusalem. The absence of an object from the first line makes it possible to retain part of the metaphor in the translation and still convey some meaning.sn The place of God’s glorious throne was first of all the ark of the covenant, where God was said to be enthroned between the cherubim, then the temple that housed it, and then the city itself. See 2 Kgs 19:14-15 in the context of Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem.
- Jeremiah 14:21 tn Heb “Remember, do not break your covenant with us.”
- Jeremiah 14:22 tn The word הֶבֶל (hevel), often translated “vanities,” is a common pejorative epithet for idols or false gods. See already in 8:19 and 10:8.
- Jeremiah 14:22 tn Heb “Is it not you, O Lord our God?” The words “who does” are supplied in the translation for English style.
- Jeremiah 14:22 tn The rhetorical negatives are balanced by a rhetorical positive.