- We looked at Jeremiah 4:23-27 in class this week and I plan a podcast on the text over at 5 Minute Bible so, since Ill use my own very literal translation there I though I’d publish it here wirth a few notes to explain it.It is intended to be as near word for word as I could get and still be English. So the repetitions stand out, it is laid out to show the terse almost staccato feel. I have noted some of my translation choices with footnotes.
- 23I looked at the earth.
- It’s higgledy piggledy.2
- To heaven,
- but no light there!
- 24I looked on the mountains.
- They are quaking.
- All the hills shake themselves.
- 25I looked.
- No human,
- and all the birds of heaven have fled.
- 26I looked.
- The field’s a desert,
- and all its cities are destroyed
- before YHWH,
- before the heat of his anger.
- 27For thus says YHWH:
- All the land will be desolation.
- But I will not make a full ending.
- 28Because of this the earth will mourn,
- and the heavens will be dark above,
- because I have spoken,
- I have decided;
- and I have not relented
- nor will I turn back
Warning, I may update this post, adding notes, or even adjusting the translation. I did this one some years back and need to revisit it when I have time, my son did years ago name my translation the Temporary English Version ;)
- הִנֵּה hinneh “look!” can serve a number of functions. In old translations it was often rendered “Lo!” or “Behold!” The important part this construction plays in giving language a “biblical” flavour, illustrates its significance to Hebrew speech.
In narrative hinneh often marks a change in view-point:
Ruth 2:4 where we are invited to “join” Ruth in watching Boaz’ arrival;
Ruth 3:8, having followed Ruth to Boaz’ feet, we share his surprised awakening.
It also serves other functions:
affirmation (translated something like “indeed”) – Ruth 3:2 (where the “look” seems redundant in English);
explanation “that is…” (which we would put in brackets) Am 7:1;
call to attention (Ruth 1:15)
marking events that happen contemporaneously – Ruth 4:1 where וְהִנֵּה suggests that, hardly has Boaz sat down, than the other Goel arrives. [↩]
- תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ tohu vabohu
This phrase is found most notably in Gen 1:2 (also though split by other words in Is 34:11) translators have to choose a rendering which ideally captures:
the sense of confusion – rendered in traditional English translations “formless and void” –
and the echoing sound.
Various proposals have been tried; Robert Alter’s literary “welter and waste” is good. I have opted in Jer 4:23 for the more homely “higgledy piggeldy”. [↩]