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Jeremiah 42:20 (BHS):

כִּ֣י הִתְעֵתֶים בְּנַפְשֹֽׁותֵיכֶם֒ כִּֽי־אַתֶּ֞ם שְׁלַחְתֶּ֣ם אֹתִ֗י אֶל־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר הִתְפַּלֵּ֣ל בַּעֲדֵ֔נוּ אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ וּכְכֹל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יֹאמַ֜ר יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֵ֛ינוּ כֵּ֥ן הַגֶּד־לָ֖נוּ וְעָשִֽׂינוּ׃

I've been researching and I've come to see that this word is translated differently in different translations of the Bible. e.g.:

For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the Lord your God... (KJV)
For you were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the Lord your God... (NKJV)
For you have only deceived yourselves; for it is you who sent me to the Lord your God... (NASB)
You are making a fatal mistake. For you sent me to the Lord your God... (NET)

What is the most accurate translation of this verse?

  • JPS (1955) translates it "For ye have dealt deceitfully against your own souls ..." – Bruce James Sep 8 '14 at 16:15
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    The key word to answer your question is b'nafshotechem which means "your souls." So literally, the phrase is translated most correctly by the JPS -- you have deceived your own souls. In context, the phrase hitahtim b'nafshotechem appears to be an idiom for lying to yourself, or fooling yourself. I will look to see if I can find how early Aramaic translations, contemporary to the Temple, translated it. I doubt I'll have it today. – Bruce James Sep 8 '14 at 16:36
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Taken from Keil and Delitzsch's Commentary:

The Kethib התעתים has been incorrectly written for התעיים, the Hiphil from תּעה, to err; here, as in Proverbs 10:17, it means to make a mistake. בּנפשׁותיכם, not, "you mislead your own selves," decepistis animas vestras (Vulg.), nor "in your souls," - meaning, in your thoughts and intentions (Ngelsbach), - but "at the risk of your souls," your life; cf. Jeremiah 17:21. וּלכל אשׁר (Jeremiah 42:21), "and that in regard to all that for which Jahveh has sent me to you," points back to their promise, Jeremiah 42:5, that they would do "according to all the word." By employing the perfect in Jeremiah 42:20, Jeremiah 42:21, the thing is represented as quite certain, as if it had already taken place. Jeremiah 42:22 concludes the warning with a renewed threat of the destruction which shall befall them for their disobedience.

It appears from their deliberate disobedience that the certainty of God's destruction is upon them; they 'erred' at the risk of their lives; the NET provides the best rendering as the other translations seem to include some form of self-deception.

  • It strikes me that Jeremiah is simply saying, at the risk of paraphrasing in the modern vernacular: "you're fooling yourselves people. You wanted me to intervene with God for your sake, but you were never willing to do what He asked ... observe the commandments! Well now you will get what you deserve." – Bruce James Sep 8 '14 at 16:40
  • @BruceJames Well stated! – Tau Jan 1 '15 at 7:52

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