Jeremiah 20:7 (KJV):

  1. O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.

Jeremiah 20:7 (ASV):

O Jehovah, thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am become a laughing-stock all the day, every one mocketh me.

Jeremiah 20:7 (HOT):

  1. פתיתני** יהוה ואפת חזקתני ותוכל הייתי לשׂחוק כל־היום כלה** לעג לי׃

What is the most accurate translation of Jeremiah 20:7?

The Hebrew root "פתה" has the following meanings:

  • deceived.

  • allured, enticed, induced.

  • persuaded.

KJV and DRB translated it as (...deceived... deceived...), while ASV translated it as (... persuaded... persuaded...).

The context prefers (... deceived... deceived...).

I read a translation: (... (induced)... persuaded...), in NKJ. This translation is also more accepted, but the Hebrew two words from the same root.

In NRSV, and Darby Translation it's (... enticed... enticed...). I think this is the most accurate translation, since the Hebrew word has the three meanings and this meaning fits more with the context.

Look the following text:

I think our translation of this passage is very exceptionable. My old Bible reads, Thou laddist me aside Lord; and I was lad aside. The original word is פתיתני pittithani, thou hast persuaded me, i.e., to go and prophesy to this people. I went, faithfully declared thy message, and now I am likely to perish by their cruelty. As the root פתה pathah signifies to persuade and allure as well as to deceive, the above must be its meaning in this place. Taken as in our Version it is highly irreverent. It is used in the same sense here as in Gen 9:27 : God shall enlarge (persuade, margin) Japheth; and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.

So, what is the most accurate translation of Jeremiah 20:7?

  • Could you edit the post to bold the word: פתיתני, since I can't bold it? – salah Mar 27 '20 at 15:27
  • Could you edit the Hebrew text bolding the two words: פתיתני and ואפת? – salah Mar 27 '20 at 15:39

I never tire of underline the fact that in a lot of instances some ‘Bible discrepancies’ arise owing to the fact we disregard the strong connection between verbal form/noun/other speech’s part and the basic idea expressed by the conceptual root.

The passage at issue is the following:

פתיתני יהוה ואפת חזקתני ותוכל הייתי לשׂחוק כל־היום כלה לעג לי׃

In this case the pivotal MT root is פתה (PTE) (for your ease I have put the PTE’s verbal forms in italics).

First of all, you see – also if you are not accustomed with Hebrew language – that this root is mentioned twice, at the beginning of the verse (PTITNI and APT). In fact, a lot of common readings are: “Thou hast deceived (PTITNI) me, O Lord, and I have been deceived (APT)”, or the like.

Also uninitianed people can grasp that it is erroneous to translate differently these two verbal forms (derived from PTE). For a couple of example, we have to discard the translations like “you have been false to me, and I was tricked” (BBE); and “You tricked me, LORD, and I was really fooled” (CEV).

After we have ascertained this fact, we have – now – to ask ourself, What is basic idea behind this root (PTE)?

The basic idea isn’t related to trick, deceive, mislead someone. This concepts are only derived ones, in other words, they are possible sub-meanings of the basic concept, that is – instead – simply, ‘to open, to enlarge, to make wide’. Yes, the same verb all the Semitic speakers used for to open doors, or other items, to enlarge territories (e. g. Gen 9:27), and so on. We have a confirmation of this definition also by the most ancient Semitic language, the Akkadian. For a single example, we found the verb patû, that means ‘to open […] to understand, to hint […] to reveal, to make to wisen up’.

The pivotal point is that this root – in the Bible - is used not only for tangible items, but also in a mental sense (just as you see in Akkadian).

In fact, the Strong Lexicon (H6601) states: “[…] be (causatively make) roomy; usually figuratively (in a mental or moral sense).” The Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) lexicon includes in the meanings of it: “[…] to be open-minded.”

So, have the Bible translators need to translate the couple of verbal forms in Jer 20:7 (PTITNI and APT) with ‘to trick-deceive-mislead someone’ corresponding terms, really?

I think that there’s no need to deviate – in this case – from the basic idea of ‘to open, to enlarge’ to apply some sub-meanings of this basic concept. If we – instead – choose to ‘deviate’, we will shoot ourselves in the feet: (1) losing the connection between the basic concept of PTE, and (2) giving rise to a ‘Bible discrepancy’, that will oblige us so trying to do a balancing act to have a right understanding of passages like Jer 20:7.

What is – differently – the right manner to translate this passage?

John Gill: “But it seems best of all to translate them, as they will hear it, "O Lord, thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded" ["Persuasisti mihi, O Jehovah, et persuasus sum", Luther, Piscator, Schmidt.]; […] and then the sense is, thou hast persuaded me to take upon me the prophetical office against my will, and against remonstrances made by me; and I was persuaded by thy words and promises, and by thy spirit and grace, to enter upon it; to which sense the following words incline.”

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown: “Others translate as Margin, “Thou hast enticed” or “persuaded me,” namely, to undertake the prophetic office, “and I was persuaded,” that is, suffered myself to be persuaded to undertake what I find too hard for me. So the Hebrew word is used in a good sense (Gen 9:27, margin; Pro 25:15; Hos 2:14).”

Keil & Delitzsch: “The words of Jer 20:7 are not an upbraiding, nor are they given in an upbraiding tone (Hitz.); for פִּתָּה does not mean befool, but persuade, induce by words to do a thing.”

Joseph Benson: “O Lord, thou hast deceived me, &c. — This is a very harsh and improper translation of the prophet’s words, פתיתני ואפת, which properly and literally signify, Thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded.”

Adam Clarke: “I think our translation of this passage is very exceptionable. My old Bible reads, Thou laddist me aside Lord; and I was lad aside. The original word is פתיתני pittithani, thou hast persuaded me, i.e., to go and prophesy to this people.”

NET Bible note: “There is no indication in this passage that Jeremiah is accusing God of misleading him or raising false hopes; God informed him at the outset that he would encounter opposition (1:17-19). Rather, he is alluding to his call to be a prophet, a call which he initially resisted but was persuaded to undertake because of God’s persistence (Jer 1:7-10). The best single word to translate ‘…’ with is thus “persuaded” or “coerced.” The translation spells out the allusion explicitly so the reader is not left wondering about what is being alluded to when Jeremiah speaks of being “coerced.” The translation “I let you do it” is a way of rendering the Niphal of the same verb which must be tolerative rather than passive since the normal passive for the Piel would be the Pual (See IBHS 389-90 §23.4g for discussion and examples.)”

I think these are enough information to understand the correct manner to translate Jer 20:7.

For a final point, I add only that the concept behind the expressions of Jeremiah is the same we found in Hosea 2:16 (MT, or 14 others). Note, please, the same verb PTE utilized (I’ve put it in italics)

לכן הנה אנכי מפתיה והלכתיה המדבר ודברתי על־לבה

A literal translation: “For thus – behold! – I persuade [PTIE] her and I will bring her to the wilderness and I will speak on heart [LB] of her”.

Note that the God’s persuasion goes through the speaking to the heart of ‘her’. In the same manner, as we have shown above, the words of God touched so much the Jeremiah’s heart (interiority) so he was persuaded to do the will of Lord יהוה.

Since you ask me to do so, I now will express the opinion of mine. Simply, I agree with the Bible scholars I cited above, concluding that the first part of the passage at issue should be translated in the following manner (or alike), omitting the perfect/imperfect-related connotations: "O Jehovah, you have persuaded me and I was persuaded..." (very similar to ASV, LEB, Young readings).

So, where has the initial ‘discrepancy’ got to? It has melt away…

I hope these information will be useful for you.

  • your answer is very helpful, however, I want you to write a conclusion including your opinion. – salah Mar 29 '20 at 12:50

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