Jeremiah 23:33
And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(33) The burden of the Lord.—The English expresses the literal meaning of the word, “something lifted up, or borne.” It passed, however, as the English equivalent has done, through many shades of meaning, and became, in the language of the prophets, one of the received terms for a solemn, emphatic utterance. In 1Chronicles 15:22; 1Chronicles 15:27 it is applied to the chanted music of the Temple. Isaiah had brought it into use (see Note on Isaiah 13:1), and employs it twelve times as the title of special prophecies. Jeremiah never uses it of his own messages, probably, as this verse indicates, because it had become a favourite formula with the false prophets. This seems a more rational view than that which assumes that the false prophets applied the words in mockery to his utterances as being “burdens” in the ordinary sense of the word, oppressive and intolerable.

What burden?—The false prophets had come, not without a supercilious scorn, asking, with affected grandeur, what burden, what oracle Jeremiah had from Jehovah. He repeats their question with a deeper scorn, and tells them that for them the “burden” tells of exile and shame. A different division of the words of the prophet’s answer (which presents some exceptional grammatical difficulties) gives a rendering adopted by the LXX. and Vulgate, “Ye are the burden”—i.e., it is about you and for you.

I will even forsake you.—Better, I will cast you off, with a play upon the literal sense of the word “burden.” They have made themselves too grievous to be borne. Jehovah will disburden Himself of them.

Jeremiah 23:33. When this people, or the prophet, &c., shall ask thee, &c. — “The remaining part of this chapter is directed against those who called the word of God, spoken by the true prophets, A BURDEN, by way of reproach; meaning that it always portended evil, and never good;” the word משׁא, a burden, generally signifying a calamitous prophecy. See note on Isaiah 13:1. “Ahab intended to cast the same slur on the Prophet Micaiah when he represented him as one that never prophesied good concerning him, but evil, 1 Kings 22:8.” The false prophets, who said, Peace, peace, it seems, derided the true prophets, whose predictions were full of threatenings, as if God’s messages were a burden which they were weary of hearing; and made a jest of these words, The burden of the Lord, with which God’s prophets sometimes prefaced their prophecies. Upon this account God forbade the use of that expression, as in the following verses. See Lowth.

23:33-40 Those are miserable indeed who are forsaken and forgotten of God; and men's jesting at God's judgments will not baffle them. God had taken Israel to be a people near to him, but they shall now be cast out of his presence. It is a mark of great and daring impiety for men to jest with the words of God. Every idle and profane word will add to the sinner's burden in the day of judgment, when everlasting shame will be his portion.Burden - Here a prophecy, either

(1) as being something weighty: or

(2) a something said aloud.

Isaiah brought the word into general use: Jeremiah never used it, though his predictions were all of impending evil. The false prophets, however, applied it in derision to Jeremiah's prophecies, playing upon its double sense, and so turning solemn realities into mockery (see Jeremiah 23:34).

What burden? - Or, according to another reading, Ye are the burden.

I will even forsake you - Rather, and I will cast you away. From the idea of a burden the thought naturally arises of refusing to bear it, and throwing it off.

33. What is the burden—play on the double sense of the Hebrew: an oracle and a burden. They scoffingly ask, Has he got any new burden (burdensome oracle: for all his prophecies are disasters) to announce (Mal 1:1)? Jeremiah indignantly repeats their own question, Do you ask, What burden? This, then, it is, "I will forsake you." My word is burdensome in your eyes, and you long to be rid if it. You shall get your wish. There will be no more prophecy: I will forsake you, and that will be a far worse "burden" to you. The true prophets, to let the people know how little pleasing it was to them to be the messengers of God’s threatenings, to denounce his judgments, usually thus began their prophecies of that nature, calling them

the burden of the Lord, as may be seen, Isaiah 13:1 15:1 22:1 Habakkuk 1:1 Zechariah 9:1 Malachi 1:1. The profane people, and false prophets, and corrupt priests, not loving to hear their doom, would ordinarily mock at the true prophets; and in derision ask them what was the burden of the Lord? what in news they had for them next? God bids the prophet tell them that God would forsake them, either as to the Spirit of prophecy, they should have no more prophets, or (which is more probable) as to his special providence, by which he had watched over, protected, and hitherto defended them; a burden heavy enough, Hosea 9:12.

And when this people, or a prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee,.... Any of the people, who were grown very profane; or any of the false prophets, who encouraged them in their irreligion and impiety; or any of the priests, who were in combination with them against the true prophets of the Lord; when any of these, in a scoffing jeering manner, should ask the Prophet Jeremiah,

saying, what is the burden of the Lord? or prophesy in the name of the Lord, as the Targum; and because some of the prophecies are called "burdens", see Isaiah 13:1; hence, by way of derision, they called every one so; and because many of these, though not all, were predictions of judgments and calamities that were to come on men; therefore they accounted all that the true prophets brought from the Lord as such, and sneering asked, what bad news do you bring now? what calamities are now to befall us? as if he was always a bringer of evil tidings;

thou shalt then say unto them, what burden? making as if he was ignorant of what they meant; or rather as expressing indignation and resentment at the question; do you ask me such a question? I will tell you what it is, as follows: though the words may be rendered without an interrogation, "thou shalt then say unto them, that which is a burden" (t); which will fall heavy upon them, and be a burden unto them, and sink them down into ruin and destruction;

I will even forsake you, saith the Lord; so that they should have no more of his presence among them, or of prophecy with them, or of his protection of them.

(t) "dicito ad eos quodnam onus sit", Schmidt. So the Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the {b} burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say to them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.

(b) The prophets called their threatenings God's burden, which the sinners were not able to sustain, therefore the wicked in deriding the word, would ask of the prophets, what was the burden as though they would say, You seek nothing else, but to lay burdens on our shoulders and thus they rejected the word of God as a grievous burden.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
33. say unto them, What burden!] mg. (less well) tell them what the burden is, but mg. also suggests that we read, with LXX and Vulg., Ye are the burden. The change requires only a different division of the consonants in MT. and has general support.

33–40. See introd. summary to section. The original word means either a burden or a prophetic utterance. It would appear that those hostile to Jeremiah had taken to apply the word derisively to the prophet’s utterances as being indeed burdensome. “What new prophecy hast thou for us to hear? At any rate we will warrant it to be a wearying one.” Hence the word is to be used no longer, but expressions not open to such misuse are to take its place.

Verses 33-40. - The abuse of a consecrated phrase. The prophets were accustomed to apply the term massa to their prophetic declarations in the sense of "oracle," or "utterance" - a sense derived from the use of the cognate verb for "to lift up the voice," i.e. to pronounce clearly and distinctly. But the word massa was also in common use for "load, burden," and hence the "false prophets" applied the term derisively to Jeremiah's discourses. "Rightly does he call his word a massa; it is not merely a solemn utterance, but a heavy burden; as De Wette puts it, not merely a Weissagung, but a Wehsagung. The passage is important as indicating the sense in which the true prophets understood the term. It should be added that the term mused is prefixed to at least four Biblical passages which, not being of threatening import, do not admit of being entitled "burdens" (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Proverbs 30:1; Proverbs 31:1; comp. Lamentations 2:14). How remarkable is the line adopted by Jeremiah 1 He simply abandons the use Of the term massa, consecrated as it was by the practice of inspired men! Better to adopt a new phrase, than to run the risk of misunderstanding or, even worse, profanity. Verse 33. - What burden? etc. The Hebrew text, as usually read, is extremely difficult; the Authorized Version is entirely unjustifiable. It is just possible to explain, with Ewald, "As to this question, What is the burden? the true meaning of the word is that," etc. But how harsh and artificial! By a change in the grouping of the consonants (which alone constitute the text), we may read, Ye are the burden. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Hitzig, Graf, Payne Smith. We must in this case continue, and I will cast you off, as the same verb is to be rendered in Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 12:7. Instead of carrying you with the long-suffering of a father (Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 46:3, 4; Isaiah 63:9; Psalm 28:9), I will east you off as a troublesome load (Isaiah 1:14). Jeremiah 23:33A rebuke of their mockery at Jeremiah's threatening predictions. - Jeremiah 23:33. "And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest ask thee, saying: What is the burden of Jahveh? then say to them: What the burden is - now I will cast you off, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:34. And the prophet, the priest, and the people that shall say: burden of Jahveh, on that man will I visit it and on his house. Jeremiah 23:35. Thus shall ye say each to the other, and each to his brother: What hath Jahveh answered, and what hath Jahveh spoken? Jeremiah 23:36. But burden of Jahveh shall ye mention no more, for a burden to every one shall his own word be; and ye wrest the words of the living God Jahveh of hosts, our God. Jeremiah 23:37. Thus shalt thou say to the prophet: What hath Jahveh answered thee, and what hath He spoken? Jeremiah 23:38. But if ye say: burden of Jahveh, therefore thus saith Jahveh: Because ye say this word: burden of Jahveh, and yet I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say: burden of Jahveh; Jeremiah 23:39. Therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and cast away from my face you and this city that I gave you and your fathers, Jeremiah 23:40. And will lay upon you everlasting reproach, and everlasting, never-to-be-forgotten disgrace."

The word משּׂא, from נשׂא, lift up, bear, sig. burden, and, like the phrase: lift up the voice, means a saying of weighty or dread import. The word has the latter sig. in the headings to the prophecies of threatening character; see on Nahum 1:1, where this meaning of the word in the headings is asserted, and the widespread opinion that it means effatum is refuted. Jeremiah's adversaries - as appears from these verses - used the word "burden" of his prophetic sayings by way of mockery, meaning burdensome prophecies, in order to throw ridicule on the prophet's speeches, by them regarded as offensive. Thus if the people, or a prophet, or a priest ask: What is the burden of Jahveh, i.e., how runs it, or what does it contain? he is to answer: The Lord saith: I will cast you off, i.e., disburden myself of you, as it were - the idea of "burden" being kept up in the answer to the question. The article on the word prophet is used to show that the word is used generally of the class of prophets at large. The את in the answering clause is nota accus., the following phrase being designedly repeated from the question; and hence the unusual combination את־מה. The sense is: as regards the question what the burden is, I will cast you away. There is no reason to alter the text to fit the lxx translation: ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ τὸ λῆμμα, or Vulg.: vos estis onus, as Cappell., J. D. Mich., Hitz., Gr., etc., do. The lxx rendering is based, not on another reading, but on another division of the words, viz., אתם המשׂא. - In Jeremiah 23:34 the meaning of this answer is more fully explained. On every one that uses the word "burden" in this sneering way God will avenge the sneer, and not only on his person, but on his house, his family as well. In Jeremiah 23:35 they are told how they are to speak of prophecy. Jeremiah 23:36. They are no longer to make use of the phrase "burden of Jahveh," "for the burden shall his word be to each one," i.e., the word "burden" will be to each who uses it a burden that crushes him down. "And ye wrest," etc., is part of the reason for what is said: and ye have equals for ye have wrested the words of the living God. The clause is properly a corollary which tells what happens when they use the forbidden word.

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