Jeremiah 16:19-21 – Commentary


My strength may need to be restructured after the fashion of gecl: “you give me strength.” tev is similar, though it reverses the order of strength and stronghold: “you are the one who protects me and gives me strength.” The noun rendered stronghold occurs only here in the book of Jeremiah; in the Old Testament it is most frequently used of a place of protection such as a fortress.

The Hebrew word for refuge is used only seven other times in the Hebrew Old Testament, including two other places in Jeremiah (25:35; 46:5, where rsv has “in haste”). Trouble is first used in 4:31, where it is rendered “anguish.” tev renders my refuge in the day of trouble as “you help me in times of trouble,” and gecl has “I can run to you in time of danger.” It can also be expressed as “you are the one who protects me in times of trouble.”

To thee shall the nations come is not natural English word order; tev has “Nations will come to you.” However, the Hebrew text does emphasize to thee, and translators may be able to retain this with a rendering such as “You are the one the nations come to,” or they may place this emphasis earlier in the verse, as in tev (“you are the one”).

The expression from the ends of the earth is an idiom that means “from everywhere on earth.” Translators should use whatever the normal expression is in their language to convey this meaning.

Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies: Fathers (see 2:5) is once again used in the sense of “ancestors” (tev, gecl). In this line inherited might better be expressed as “possessed” (niv), or be understood as part of a phrase with Our fathers, such as “Our traditional religion” (frcl). Lies is best understood in the sense of “false gods” (tev, niv). This whole line is translated by gecl as “The gods of our ancestors are nothing but frauds.”

Worthless things: See the comment at 2:5. Translators should also see the discussion of “other gods” at 1:16.

In which there is no profit: See the comment at 2:8.

These last two lines may be rendered “Our ancestors possessed only false gods, worthless idols that could do nothing for them” or “Our traditional religion [or, way of worshiping God] was a lie. We worshiped worthless things that could do nothing for us.”


Can man make for himself gods? may be more effective as a statement: “No one can make his own gods” (gecl). tev retains the question form, but then answers in the negative: “No, if they did, those would not really be gods.” A similar rendering is “No, because what people make cannot be gods.”

See also 1:16 for a discussion of “other gods.”


Since the Lord is now the speaker, it would be helpful to the reader to make this clear, as in tev: “ ‘So then,’ says the Lord.…”

For behold, I refer to verse 16.

I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might: Both niv and reb translate make them know as “teach.” But it may not be normal in some languages to “teach power” any more than to “know power.” Translators may need to render know my power and my might as “teach them how powerful and mighty I am” or “make them experience my power and my might.” Power and might are parallel here, two words for the same thing. If necessary, translators can collapse them into one word. Them is marked by tev as “the nations,” on the basis of verse 19. gecl is similar. tev translates this once as “once and for all” to express the meaning behind this phrase and the repetition of I will make them know, which it omits.

And they shall know that my name is the Lord is restructured in tev to say “they will know that I am the Lord.” gecl is the same as tev, except that the clause is introduced by “and.” This rendering recognizes that name in such a context is equated with the Lord himself. As commentators point out, to know that he is the Lord means that people acknowledge him or confess that he is Lord. Consequently, some translators have translated the last part of the verse “and they will acknowledge that I am the Lord.”







Newman, B. M., Jr., & Stine, P. C. (2003). A handbook on Jeremiah (pp. 394–396). New York: United Bible Societies.

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