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“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’

—Jeremiah 31:10 (ESV)

Why is the masculine pronoun "him" used to describe Israel in this passage? Why doesn't Jeremiah refer to the people of Israel with the plural pronoun "them"?

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Hi Kristine! It sounds like you have a great question, but because it's so terse, I can't tell. Can I persuade you elaborate a bit more about why the masculine pronouns are unexpected to you in this particular passage? It also helps to provide a quotation so that we all are on the same page and don't need to look it up. Thanks and welcome to the site. –  Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 20:01
It looks like the NJPS translation uses "them". It might be a translation question... @GoneQuiet: I do see "Israel" in the English translations I've checked. Is the word not in Hebrew? –  Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 20:45
Since there's a lot going on here, I'm closing the question until we can clarify what's being asked. There might be several strange things going on in this verse and we don't want to have people misplace answers! (See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/147896/…) –  Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 21:25
Jer 31:9 in the Mesorah, start of the open "parashah". The OP question is probably why "he/him" and not "them", referring to the people of Israel, especially as a flock is in general plural. Answer is that "Israel" here is the a.k.a of the patriarch Jacob, who represents the people of Israel in prophetic writing, plus OT Hebrew in general does not stand on consistency of person or number so that he/flock does not sound odd in OT Hebrew. As an aside, there is some room to translate יקבצנו as "collect them", because of the diacritic. –  Eli Rosencruft Sep 25 '12 at 14:34
@Eli Rosencruft: It sounds like you've got a good idea what the question might be asking. If you won't mind contributing an edit to clarify, I would appreciate it. Thanks! –  Jon Ericson Sep 25 '12 at 16:22

2 Answers 2

Verse 10 starts a paragraph in the Hebrew, and the following verse (v. 11) mentions "Jacob" in parallel... That is, Israel = Jacob, which is a masculine name. So the context of verses 10-11 refers to the faithful remnant of Israelites in both the northern and southern kingdoms (="Jacob"), who will be reestablished through the New Covenant (Jer 31:31).

In other words, "Jacob" is masculine, which refers to the faithful remnant in both the northern kingdom and southern kingdom, and so the pronouns for "Israel" in that chapter are masculine in gender.

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I think the use of the male pronoun casts Israel into an image of God's loved 'son'. It is the same but maybe more clearly used here:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Ho 11:1, ESV)

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