Jeremiah 31:7-14

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Christmastide B6


7 For thus says the Lord:A
Sing aloudB with gladnessC for Jacob,D
    and raise shoutsE for the chief of the nations;F
proclaim,G give praise,H and say,
    “Save,I O Lord, your people,
    the remnantJ of Israel.”K

Notes on verse 7

A “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
B “sing aloud” = ranan. This is to cry aloud, rejoice, or sing. It is a shout that is generally a joyful one.
C “gladness” = simchah. From samach (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to brighten up; also used figuratively). This is joy, rejoicing, pleasure, or glee.
D “Jacob” = yaaqob. From the same as aqeb (heel, footprint, horse hoof, one who lies in wait). This is Jacob, son of Isaac, and his descendants. It means heel, supplanter, or usurper.
E “raise shouts” = tsahal. 9x in OT. This is to cause to shine, shout, cry, rejoice, neigh, bellow, lift up. This word is to gleam and figuratively means being cheerful. It is a clear vocalization from either a human or an animal.
F “nations” = goy. From the same as gevah (the back, body, or person); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. It can also be someone’s name. Often used in the Old Testament to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. By way of Yiddish, “goy” refers to any non-Jewish person.
G “proclaim” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
H “give praise” = halal. This is to be clear – it originally referred to a sound, then a color. It was to shine and then make a show or boast then to rave. In a causative sense it came to mean celebrate, give glory, sing praise, or be worth of praise. Because of the celebratory nature of the word, it could also mean to give in marriage. This is where Hallelujah comes from.
I “save” = yasha. To deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free.
J “remnant” = sheerith. From shaar (to remain or be left over; properly, this refers to something that swells or expands and so it creates extra or redundancy). This is rest, residue, remnant, survivor, final portion, or posterity.
K “Israel” = yisrael. From sarah (to persist, persevere, contend, strive, wrestle) + el (God or a god). This means “God strives” or “one who wrestles with God.” It is another name for Jacob and for his offspring.

8 See,L I am going to bring them from the land of the north,M
    and gather them from the farthest partsN of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    those with child and those in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall returnO here.P

Notes on verse 8

L see” = hen. This is lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise.
M “north” = tsaphon. From tsaphan (to hide, hoard, reserve; to hide something by covering it, which implies storing it up. Figuratively, to deny. Can also mean lurk). This is properly hidden or dark. Used to mean north or northward.
N “farthest parts” = yerekah. From yarek (thigh, side, loin; used as a euphemism for genitalia – may come from a word that means soft). This is properly the flank, but used to refer to the recesses, border, or coast. Can also mean side.
O “return” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
P “here” = hennah. Related to “see” in v8. Perhaps from hen (see note L above). This is here, now, since.

9 With weepingQ they shall come,
    and with consolationsR I will leadS them back,
I will let them walk by brooksT of water,
    in a straightU pathV in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
    and EphraimW is my firstborn.

Notes on verse 9

Q “weeping” = beki. From bakah (to weep, make lamentation, complain). This is weeping or overflowing. As an analogy, it is used to describe dripping.
R “consolations” = tachanun. 18x in OT. From chanan (beseech, show favor, be gracious; properly, to bend in kindness to someone with less status). This is asking for a favor, praying earnestly.
S “lead” = yabal. 18x in OT. This is to bring, carry, conduct, or lead. Properly, the word means to flow. Used causatively, as here, it means to bring – particularly with fanfare.
T “brooks” = nachal. From nachal (to take as heritage, inherit, or distribute). This is a river or stream. It could be a wadi or arroyo – sometimes a narrow valley with no water at all, but in strong rains or when winter snow melts, it swells or floods with water.
U straight” = yashar. From yashar (to be smooth or straight, agreeable or pleasing). This is straight or right and therefore direct. As pleasing to God, it is upright i.e. righteous, showing equity.
V “path” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
W “Ephraim” = ephrayim. From ephraath (fruitfulness, several place names); from parah (to bear fruit, be fruitful, grow, increase; to bear fruit in a literal or figurative sense). This is Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons and also used to describe his descendants and land. The name may mean “bearing double fruit.”

10 HearX the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, “He who scatteredY Israel will gather him,
    and will keepZ him as a shepherd a flock.”AA

Notes on verse 10

X “hear” = shama. Same as “proclaim” in v7.
Y “scattered” = zarah. To scatter, disperse, cast away, or scrutinize.
Z “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve in the sense of guarding something valuable rather than guarding a prisoner. It is like placing a hedge of thorns around something to keep it safe.
AA “flock” = eder. Perhaps from adar (dig, help, fail, keep rank, muster). This is an arrangement – like a muster, but of animals. So, a flock or herd.

11 For the Lord has ransomedBB Jacob,
    and has redeemedCC him from handsDD too strongEE for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,FF
    and they shall be radiantGG over the goodnessHH of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine,II and the oil,JJ
    and over the youngKK of the flockLL and the herd;MM
their lifeNN shall become like a wateredOO garden,PP
    and they shall never languishQQ again.

Notes on verses 11-12

BB “ransomed” = padah. This is ransom, redeem, rescue, release, preserve, or deliver.
CC “redeemed” = gaal. This is to redeem someone or something according to kinship laws. So, it could be acting on a relative’s behalf to buy back their property, to marry one’s brother’s widow, etc. This could be more briefly translated as to redeem, acts as kinsman, or purchase. As a noun, it could be deliverer or avenger.
DD “hands” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
EE “too strong” = chazaq. From chazaq (to be or become firm or strength, seize, strengthen, repair, fortify, help). This is strong, loud, powerful, impudent. This word is often used of negative sense of strength – hard, bold, violent.
FF “Zion” = tsiyyon. The word is related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.
GG “radiant” = nahar. 6x in OT. This is to sparkle and so it is used figuratively to describe cheerfulness. Since water sparkles in a flowing stream, it can also mean to flow. From this meaning, it can figuratively mean people assembling together.
HH “goodness” = tub. From tob (to be pleasing or good). This is good, good things, gladness. It can refer to beauty or joy or general well-being.
II “wine” = tirosh. From yarash (to inherit, cast out, expel; to take occupation of a place by casting out previous occupants and taking their place; so, it implies seizing or robbing as well as impoverishing or ruining). This is fresh wine or new wine. From the root in the sense that the juice is freshly expelled from the grape.
JJ “oil” = yitshar. From the same as tsohar (midday, light, window); from tsahar (to produce oil, glisten). This is fresh oil or anointed oil. Oil as producing light in lamps. Used figuratively to mean anointing.
KK “young” = ben. Literally “son,” but can more broadly mean offspring.
LL “flock” = tson. Root means to migrate. This refers to sheep and goats.
MM “herd” = baqar. From baqar (to seek, inquire; properly, to plow or break forth; used figuratively to inspect, care for, consider). This is cattle, ox, cows in generally. Used collectively for herd.
NN “life” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This refers to any creature that breathes – the vitality of each one. It can be a living person, life itself, a soul. It can also be a poetic way to refer to an individual or it can refer to emotions and appetites.
OO “watered” = raveh. 3x in OT. From ravah (to drink your fill, satisfy, soak, water abundantly, make drunk, bathe). This is watered or drunken.
PP “garden” = gan. From ganan (to cover, surround, protect, defend). This is an enclosure – a garden within a fence.
QQ “languish” = daeb. 3x in OT. This is to become faint or waste away, to mourn or be sorrowful. It can also mean to pine.

13 Then shall the young womenRR rejoiceSS in the dance,TT
    and the young men and the oldUU shall be merry.
I will turnVV their mourning into joy,WW
    I will comfortXX them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fillYY of fatness,ZZ
    and my people shall be satisfiedAAA with my bounty,BBB
saysCCC the Lord.

Notes on verses 13-14

RR “young women” = betulah. Root means to separate. This is a maiden – a young, unmarried woman who would be presumed to be a virgin. Sometimes used to mean bride or in a figurative sense in describing a place.
SS “rejoice” = samach. Related to “gladness” in v7. See note C above.
TT “dance” = machol. 6x in OT. From chul (to whirl, dance, writhe; properly, to move in a circular way; used specifically for dancing or from writhing in labor pains; used figuratively for waiting, perverting, or fearing). This is a dance that is round in some way.
UU “old” = zaqen. From the same as zaqan (beard, chin – the beard as a marker of age). This is old or aged, an elder or old man.
VV “turn” = haphak. This is turn or overturn, change.
WW “joy” = sason. From sus (to rejoice, be glad; properly, to be bright – so, cheerful). This is rejoicing, cheerfulness, welcome.
XX “comfort” = nacham. Properly, this is a strong breath or a sigh. This can be to be sorry, to pity, console. Comfort, or repent. But, one can also comfort oneself with less righteous thoughts, so this can also mean to avenge oneself.
YY “give…their fill” = ravah. 14x in NT. Related to “watered” in v12. See note OO above.
ZZ “fatness” = deshen. 15x in OT. From dashen (to be or grow fat, be greasy, be anointed, become prosperous, to sate, remove ashes; figuratively, to satisfy). This is fatness or ashes from fat. Figuratively used for abundance.
AAA “satisfied” = saba. To be sated, satisfied – to have enough is a literal or figurative sense.
BBB “bounty” = tub. Same as “goodness” in v12
CCC “says” = neum. From na’am (to utter a prophecy or speak as a prophet; this means to whisper and so implies speaking an oracle or can more generally mean say). This is an utterance, an oracle.

Image Credit: “Return to Zion,” by Avraham Ofek, mural on the post office in Jerusalem, 20th century.

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