Jeremiah 3:8-9 NIV

8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

Is it Israel or Judah who committed adultery with stones and with stocks?

  • your text is from KJV, not the NIV.
    – S. Broberg
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 13:48
  • It might help to read [Jeremiah 3:1-9] in Hebrew to answer your question. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


The referent is Judah. The feminine-gender pronominal suffix on זְנוּתָהּ and the verbs וַתֶּחֱנַף and וַתִּנְאַף do not preclude this interpretation.

Gesenius wrote the following on יְהוּדָה (yehuda),1

n. d. Teilung des Reiches: Reich u. Volk Juda (ersteres f. Jes 44 26. Jer 23 6. Ps 114 2, letzteres m. Jes 3 8 od. f. Thr 1 3),

after the splitting of the kingdom: the kingdom and the people of Judah (the former, feminine Isa. 44:26; Jer. 23:6; Psa. 114:2; the latter, masculine Isa. 3:8 or feminine Lam. 1:3).


        1 16th ed., p. 289, יְהוּדָה (yehuda), 3.

In v. 8, יְהוּדָה (“Judah”) is explicitly identified as the sister of [the northern kingdom of] Israel, viz. אֲחוֹתָהּ (achota), “her sister.” Hence, both Israel and Judah are feminine in this narrative, being Yahveh’s wives.

But, the nearest antecedent to the pronominal suffix on זְנוּתָהּ is not Israel (from the first half of v. 8), but Judah (from the last half of v. 8). Hence, זְנוּתָהּ (“her whoredom”) refers to Judah’s whoredom, not Israel’s.


Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Hebräisches und aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament. Ed. Bulh, Frants. 16th ed. Leipzig: Vogel, 1915.


The subject of verse 9 is the northern kingdom of Israel. The NIV reads:

Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. (NIV)

The NIV translators have inserted the word Israel to help the reader.

The NASB, a more literal translation remains closer to the Hebrew:

"Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.

The Hebrew reads "her harlotry" - זְנוּתָ֔הּ - the ה indicating 3rd person Fem. Sing.

  • I think the NIV meant to clarify "because her [Israel's] immorality mattered so little to her [Judah]"
    – b a
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 0:00

Answer : Yisrael ( יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל) ;

In Hebrew, read [Jeremiah 3:6] "Have you seen what the backsliding Yisrael has done?" (הֲרָאִ֕יתָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָֽשְׂתָ֖ה מְשֻׁבָ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל )

  • If you read [Jeremiah 3:8] "because of all that backsliding Yisrael had committed adultery" (וָאֵ֗רֶא כִּ֚י עַל־כָּל־אֹדוֹת֙ אֲשֶׁ֚ר נִֽאֲפָה֙ מְשֻׁבָ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל )

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