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Go to Bible: Jeremiah 8
“and the bones…and the bones.” This is the figure of speech polysyndeton, “many ‘ands’” the repetition of “and” before each phrase to emphasize each phrase. Each group has been evil in its own way, and each will be humiliated.(top)
“and that they have worshiped.” The people worshiped and loved the sun, moon, and stars, and looked to them for guidance and protection. Now their bones will degrade into dust without being buried, unprotected by those same astronomical wonders. Thus, in the context of the spiritual battle between Yahweh and celestial deities, the deities are seen to be powerless against the vengeance of God, the Most High God and creator of the heavens and the earth. It was a terrible cultural disgrace to be exposed and decompose like this and to not be properly buried. John A. Thompson correctly notes, “Even in modern times, the opening up of graves and the throwing about of the bones of the departed is practiced as a mark of extreme contempt. In recent wars in the Middle East such desecration and insult were perpetrated” (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Jeremiah).
The text could also read, “and that they have bowed down to.” The same Hebrew verb, shachah (#07812 שָׁחָה), is translated as both “bow down” and “worship;” traditionally “worship” if God is involved and “bow down” if people are involved, but the verb and action are the same, the act of bowing down is the worship. The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].(top)
“that remains...that remains.” The doubling of “that remains” is in the Masoretic Hebrew text but is omitted in the Septuagint and Syriac, so many modern versions leave it out, but it could well be original and doubled for emphasis. The “evil family” is Judah, whose people were of the family of Jacob. The doubling of “that remains” may be to emphasize how difficult it would be for the people who survived the Babylonian attacks and deportations. They would choose death over life because life would be so hard.(top)
“If one turns away, does he not return?” This is a rhetorical question. Normally, people who turn away repent at some later time and come back, but as we will see in the context, Judah does not repent, they are in perpetual backsliding (Jer. 8:5).(top)
|Jer 8:5||- (top)|
|Jer 8:6||- (top)|
“crane.” The bird that the Hebrew word refers to is uncertain.(top)
|Jer 8:8||- (top)|
“will be.” The Hebrew is more literally, “have been” (cp. YLT), but this is the idiom of the prophetic perfect. They will be put to shame in the future. The REV has translated the Hebrew as a future to clarify the English meaning because the idiom is not well-recognized in English (cp. HCSB; ESV; NET; NIV; NLT; NRSV; RSV).(top)
“So I will give their wives to others.” Jeremiah has said this before (cp. Jer. 6:12).(top)
“superficially.” The Hebrew word means “lightly, of little account, insignificantly, swiftly.” When applied to healing a wound it would indicate that it was not dealt with seriously, but just superficially treated.
“‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” This is stated earlier in Jeremiah 6:14 (see commentary on Jer. 6:14).(top)
“abominations.” The Hebrew is singular, abomination, but it is a collective noun.(top)
|Jer 8:13||- (top)|
“let’s perish there...doomed us to perish.” The Hebrew word translated “perish” is silence, so the phrases are more literally, “let us be silent there...put us to silence.” “Silence” in this context refers to the silence of death (cp. Ps. 94:17). Many versions translate “silence” as “perish” because it is not clear in English that “be silent” means “be dead.” That the men would yell, “let us enter into the fortified cities, and let us perish there,” is a cry of desperation, a cry of men who know they are about to die and want to make a desperate move to possibly save themselves from the “poisonous water” from Yahweh that is coming to them because of their sin.
“given us poisonous water to drink.” Poisonous water is also mentioned in Jeremiah 9:15 and 23:15.(top)
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|Jer 8:16||- (top)|
|Jer 8:17||- (top)|
|Jer 8:18||- (top)|
“from a far away land.” The meaning of the Hebrew text is not certain. It is possible that the text means a far away land, which in this case would refer to Babylon. However, the text may also refer to the furthest parts of the land of Israel (cp. ESV, NAB, NJB, NLT). However, the cry and question about why the Judeans would have idols is universal.
“idols.” The Hebrew is hard to bring into English, because the Hebrew word is the same is as translated “pointless” in Ecclesiastes 1:2 (“vanity” in the KJV). A very literal translation of the Hebrew might be “pointlessnesses,” but that would not mean much in English. One could say “vapors,” or “vanities,” but again, that would not communicate well. One could also say “worthless things,” but that would not necessarily mean “idols” to the average reader. The best solution seems to be to just say “idols,” as many modern versions do, and then explain the meaning in the commentary. Idols cannot save. They are worthless, pointless, futile, a temporary vapor, and God calls them just that.(top)
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended.” This does not likely refer to specific times of that particular year, but rather was likely a well-known saying about a seemingly hopeless situation. If the grain harvest was over and summer, the time of fruits and vegetables was over too, and there had been no harvest, then starvation loomed ahead. It seems that Jeremiah was saying that the time for repentance had come and gone and now God’s vengeance was in sight.(top)
“the daughter of my people.” An idiom of endearment. The NET translates it, “my dear people.” Somewhat more literal to the Hebrew text but still idiomatic is the translation, “my daughter, my people.”
“I go about in black.” This is roughly equivalent to going about in sackcloth, which was made of goathair, which was generally black. It means Jeremiah was in mourning.
“dismay has seized me.” Jeremiah understood the situation in Judah perfectly, that his people sinned and were sinning and were unrepentant about it, and God’s vengeance was coming as a result. Nevertheless, Jeremiah loved the people, and his country, and the Temple, and was overcome with dismay. We may understand why evil comes, but that does not mean that we will not have intense grief and sadness about it.(top)
|Jer 8:22||- (top)|