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Jeremiah 29:13

וּבִקַשְׁתֶּ֥ם אֹתִי וּמְצָאתֶם
You will seek me and find me,

כִּ֥י תִדְרְשֻׁנִי בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶם
when you seek me with all of your heart. (ESV)

The word translated "seek" in the first and second lines are different: בקש (bqš) vs דרש (drš). It's a little bit unusual for the ESV to translate two different words identically within a verse,1 but "seek" is indeed the gloss I learned for both, and I am aware of no difference between them. However, the author could have used the same word twice. Why didn't he?


1. Contrast ESV's handling of similar Hebrew in Deut 4:29: "seek ... search after", although I'm still not sure what is meant or whether it's based on a demonstrable distinction between the words. (This Q&A will obviously not be sufficient to get at the relationship between Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, but answers can feel free to start in Deuteronomy instead if this seems more appropriate.)

  • 1
    The use of synonyms is standard OT parallel style. Why is this style a question in this particular verse? This is a simple verse. Are you asking what are the difference in the semantic fields of בקש and דרש? Or are you asking about the logic of the translation? Or are you asking to what other verses this verse alludes? – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 17 '17 at 7:50
  • As is often (normally) the situation, here for "ESV" simply read "RSV" (i.e., this didn't originate with the ESV revisers, but with those responsible for the RSV; cf. ASV!), but the question stands. :) – Dɑvïd Jan 17 '17 at 8:44
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim I'm asking about the difference in the semantic value of בקש and דרש in this verse. Good point about parallelism, although I generally think about that as characteristic of poetry rather than prose. (Also, this isn't "synonymous" parallelism of the sort where we normally expect to find synonyms. I guess the semantics of the verse would be that of "synthetic" parallelism, but it's not exactly a standard pattern I think. Anyway, if one wanted to answer the question by arguing that this is poetry and fleshing out the nature of the parallelism, I'd be all for that!) – Susan Jan 17 '17 at 15:14
  • @Dɑvïd Oops, yeah, I always forget. – Susan Jan 17 '17 at 15:15
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Compare Jeremiah 29:131

וּבִקַּשְׁ תֶּם אֹתִי וּמְצָא תֶם כִּי תִ דְרְשֻׁ נִי בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם

with Deuteronomy 4:292

וּ בִקַּשְׁ תֶּם מִשָּׁם אֶת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּ מָצָא תָ כִּי תִ דְרְשֶׁ נּוּ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ

The verses are almost identical, with the same בקש -> מצא -> דרש structure. In Jeremiah God is speaking in first person through the prophet. In Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking about God in the third person. This is the explanation for the composition of Jeremiah 29:13, it is an allusion to and reminder of the promise in Deuteronomy 4:29. In both verses the situation is the same - exile among the nations. In both situations, the promise is the the same, "Seek Me and you will find Me, if you search sincerely".

Regarding the words, בקש has several possible meanings, but when used in conjunction with מצא, the meaning is "seek" or "look for". Compare with Genesis 37:163 in which Joseph searches for his brothers:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ הַגִּידָה נָּא לִי אֵיפֹה הֵם רֹעִים

מצא is either to find, or in nif'al, to be present, to be found as in the next verse in Jeremiah, 29:14.

דרש, possibly from the same word in Ugarit, is an insistent search for some specific thing, an inquisition (although not in the figurative, historical sense that has become dominant).

Examples of the forcefulness of דרש are:

Genesis 9:5 NIV

And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

Deuteronomy 23:21 NIV [MT 23:22]

If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.

Deuteonomy 22:2 NIV

If they do not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until they come looking for it. Then give it back.


  1. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)
  2. "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." (NIV)
  3. "He replied, "I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?" (NIV)
  • The LXX translators would seem to have come to the opposite conclusion, "Seek diligently for (εκ+ζητησατε) me and you will find me, in that you seek (ζητησετε) me with all your heart.". According to them then, (bakash - בָּקַשׁ) == (darash - דָּרַשׁ) + (with all your heart) – enegue Jan 18 '17 at 0:44
  • @enegue Check if there are Greek stylistic reasons for this translation. In terms of the Hebrew, what you report is just wrong translation. There are many instances of both בקש and דרש in the OT that allow us to pin down the meanings. The usages of these words in post OT Hebrew as "request" and "demand" and "inquire" also give an indication as to their earlier meanings. Jer 29:13 is not a verse that has attracted much scholarly attention because it is simple and clear. In any event I added some examples to my answer for clarification. Tnx. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 18 '17 at 5:53
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The difference between the two words is in their indirection, like {lend} vs {borrow}. In some regions of the world where English is used creolized, people might say, "Can you borrow me some money?"

Even the word {indirection} exhibits such a conflict. Traditionally the word is an action noun for {indirect}, or {lack of direction}. However, in information science, {indirection} is the path of reference taken to address an entity. i.e., {indirection} has taken on an interesting meaning of having a vectored direction to address an entity indirectly.

In {borrow}, the indirect vector is the borrower seeking for and then receiving. In {lend}, the indirect vector is the lender being sought and then providing. Where the target of the indirect vectors is the entity to borrowed and lent.

The indirect vector of {בקש} is the {bkesh}er seeking to receive. Whereas the {דרש} is the {dresh}er being sought to provide.

  • Borrower = solicitor; Lender = solicitee;
  • {בקש} = solicitor action; {דרש} = solicitee action;

Certainly one could lend without being solicited. Just as one could provide {בקש} without being sought for.

You have to note the grammatical indirections of the two words in Jer 29:13.

  • {בקשתם} with 2ndP plural masc {תם} suffix indicating action by the solicitor. {בקשתם אתי} = ya'll solicit of me.

  • similarly {מצאתם} where {מצא} = {find, discover}

  • But {תדרשני} has 1stP singular associative/dative {ֻנִי} suffix, and 2nd/3rdP cohortative/incomplete {ת} prefix. The incomplete imbuing the attitude, to wish. Meaning = ya'll/you wish my-command/guidance. Note that there is no need for (and should not be) the preposition {אתי = of me} after {תדרשני} because the indirection is already implied.

  • Note in verse 14, it is no longer {מצאתם} but {נמצאתי}. With the simple passive stative {נ} prefix and the 1stP singular completed-particple {תי} suffix, stating that {I be found/discovered}.

Note that in modern Hebrew {בבקשה} is a polite form of saying {may I?}, {Excuse me, may I?}. May I pass thro? May I ask you if you wish to have this cup of tea/hors d'oeuvres? Or in rude circumstances - excuse me, pls shaddap, let me speak.

Compare with Jer 37:7,

  • כה תאמרו אל מלך יהודה השלח אתכם אלי לדרשני הנה
  • Thus shall you say to king of judah, the-one-sending you to me for my-response.

I realise that translators would simply translate {לדרשני} as {to inquire of me}. But. compare use of associative in Numbers 11:15 {הרגני נא הרג} = {killing-of-me please kill} = please execute killing of me.

The difference between the two words

  • {בקשני} = my request
  • {דרשני} = my response, my guidance, my providing information

Here is the pattern verses 12,13,14:

  • וקראתם אתי והלכתם והתפללתם אלי
    • when you call to me, and you come and you prostrate/pray to me
  • ושמעתי אליכם
    • then I would hear you
  • ובקשתם אֹתי ומצאתם
    • when you request of me and you seek-to-find
  • כי תדרשני בכל לבבכם
    • that you wish/want my-response/guidance with all your hearts
  • ונמצאתי לכם
    • I would be found to you

The passage indicates that it is not sufficient to seek, but also to want the response to that seeking.

One must be extremely careful to note the change of indirection due to passive voice, and causative inflection.

Grammatical cross-references

  • {דָּרַשׁ DaRaSh} = active, provide guidance/instruction
  • {דָּרֹשׁ DaRoSh} = passive participle, the guidance given
    • (caution: Stackoverflow's font overlaps/confuses nikudot of resh and shim)
    • e.g. {כתב KoTaV} = write,
    • but passive participle {כתוב KTUV} = that which is written = writings
  • {דִרְשׁוּ DiRShU} = imperative active causative
    • causative: causes instruction to be given = get instructions
    • imperative causative: commanded to get instructions
    • (caution: Stackoverflow needs to improve the nikud font. That is a shva not a xiriq beneath the resh)
Levi 10:16
  • ואת שעיר החטאת דָּרֹשׁ (DaRoSh)
    • then instruction of the hairy-goat of consecration
  • דָּרַשׁ משה והנה שרף (DaRaSh)
    • Moses instructing and hence is burnt
  • Note the {דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ}. They are not a doublet emphasis as the translations would have it. They are grammatically different.
    • {דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ = DaRoSh DaRaSh} = Moses giving instruction on the passive-participle-item instruction
    • Moses instructed with instructions
Deut 11:12
  • ארץ אשר יי אלהיך
    • land which Hashem your G'd
  • דֹּרֵשׁ אתה תמיד עיני (DoResh, simple active)
    • provides-guidance for her always
Deut 22:2
  • והיה עמך עד
    • then it be with you until
  • דְּרֹשׁ אחיך אתו (DRoSh)
    • your brother's information-being-asked
  • והשבתו לו
    • then return it to him
Deut 23:21
  • לא תאחר לשלמו
    • do not delay to complete/fulfill it
  • כי דָּרֹשׁ
    • for information
  • יִדְרְשֶׁנּוּ יי אלהיך
    • shall He Hashem your G'd cause-information-providing
  • מעמך
    • from of you
2 Kings 1:2
  • לכו דִרְשׁ֗וּ בבעל זבוב
    • go for cause-instruction-providing in flying-lord
  • אלהי עקרו
    • gods of Akron

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