[b-hebrew] Jeremiah 3:7

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Fri Jun 6 16:18:43 EDT 2008


Dear Dave,
> Is God admitting to making a false prediction in Jeremiah 3:7?
>
> The more scholarly/formally dynamic translations render this verse as:
>
> NAS Jeremiah 3:7 "And I thought, 'After she has done all these things, she will return to Me'; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
>
> NAU Jeremiah 3:7 "I thought, 'After she has done all these things she will return to Me'; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
>
> NRS Jeremiah 3:7 And I thought, "After she has done all this she will return to me"; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it.
>
> RSV Jeremiah 3:7 And I thought, `After she has done all this she will return to me'; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it.
>
> NJB Jeremiah 3:7 I thought, "After doing all this she will come back to me." But she did not come back. Her faithless sister Judah saw this.
>
> However, other translations hide the sense of prediction/optimism about the future:
>
> Jeremiah 3:7 7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 
>
> NKJ Jeremiah 3:7 "And I said, after she had done all these things, 'Return to Me.' But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
>
> LXE Jeremiah 3:7 And I said after she had committed all these acts of fornication, Turn again to me. Yet she returned not. And faithless Juda saw her faithlessness.
>
> What is the correct sense of the Hebrew?  Did God make a prediction (i.e., she will return to me), or just a command (i.e, return to me)?
>   

HH: The grammar is ambiguous, since the form can be third person 
feminine singular imperfect or second person masculine singular 
imperfect. This explains the difference in translation, since both are 
grammatical and plausible. However the more recent translations are 
generally going with the first option you gave, which involves the third 
person feminine singular. One reason for this is that elsewhere in the 
chapter where God gives a command, he uses the imperative rather than 
the imperfect. The imperfect can be used to give commands (they are used 
in the Ten Commandments).

HH: There is another verse later in the chapter that provides the same 
dilemma:

NRSV: Jer. 3:19      I thought
        how I would set you among my children,
    and give you a pleasant land,
        the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.
    And I thought you would call me, My Father,
        and would not turn from following me.

KJV: Jer. 3:19 But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and 
give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? 
and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.

HH: What you need to understand, however, is that this is not a 
prophecy. It is an allegory, and within the allegory the husband is 
using "common sense." He is expressing what it would be reasonable for 
the husband to expect in such circumstances. He is giving what would 
have been rational and normal behavior by Israel. God expresses himself 
in this way to show how unnatural and treacherous the behavior of Israel 
was (and in v. 19 both houses of Israel).

HH: So it is not a prophecy in any sense. Within the allegory it is the 
logical expectation.

Yours,
Harold Holmyard



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