In Jeremiah 3:15, the prophet Yirmiyahu begins declaring the Word of YHVH (דְבַר־יְהֹוָה֙) in past tense first-person singular : I gave (נָֽתַתִּ֥י)

  • See Ivri conjugation of "Natati" (נָֽתַתִּ֥י) = I gave. [https://www.pealim.com/dict/1285-latet/#h-PERF-1s].

Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 3:15 [MT]

[15] "And I gave [you] Shepherds like-My Heart, and they guided you with knowledge and understanding." ( וְנָֽתַתִּ֥י לָכֶ֛ם רֹעִ֖ים כְּלִבִּ֑י וְרָע֥וּ אֶתְכֶ֖ם דֵּעָ֥ה וְהַשְׂכֵּֽיל )
  • See Ivri conjugation of "Rau" (רָע֥וּ) = They guided. [https://www.pealim.com/dict/2065-lirot/#h-PERF-3p].

Who are the "Shepherds Like-My Heart" ( רֹעִ֖ים כְּלִבִּ֑י ) recounted by the prophet Yirmiyahu in Jeremiah 3:15?


Jeremiah 3:15 English Standard Version

“‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

I will give
וְנָתַתִּ֥י (wə·nā·ṯat·tî)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Conjunctive perfect - first person common singular Strong's Hebrew 5414: To give, put, set

Technically, נָֽתַתִּ֥י is not past tense. It is in Qal perfect tense/aspect. It is most often translated as past tense in English. There is an exception as it is in this case. Because Jeremiah is pronouncing a prophecy here, it is considered as the prophetic perfect tense where a Hebrew perfect can be translated into English future tense. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophetic_perfect_tense.

With one except, all versions in https://biblehub.com/jeremiah/3-15.htm translate it as future tense.

Young's Literal Translation

And I have given to you shepherds According to Mine own heart, And they have fed you with knowledge and understanding.

Who are the “Shepherds Like-My Heart”?

In the past, before Jeremiah was born, God had given them David who was after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) to shepherd Israel. In the future, God will give more shepherds after his heart. The great shepherd was Jesus.

John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Further, Christ promised us the gifts of sheperds/pastors to the church.

Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,

Some of these pastors will lead us with knowledge and understanding as prophesied by Jeremiah.

  • Tony - Thanks for researching, but here are some questions for Strong's : #1. Why would a conjunction "And" (Ve, וְ) be translated as an adverb "Then" (אָז, Az)?; #2. If "Natati" (נָֽתַתִּ֥י) is I will give, what is "I gave"? Oct 28 '20 at 20:47
  • I updated my answer.
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 30 '20 at 16:01
  • 1
    I'm afraid this is not "past tense", nor even simply "Perfect". It is waw "consecutive" + Perfect, and so carries a future nuance here. It is not an example of the "prophetic perfect". Notice how all these verbs are translated as future tense in Greek Septuagint, and how they are carried forward by imperfects in the Hebrew of v. 16. That is why all translations offer future sense here. Hope that helps.
    – Dɑvïd
    Oct 30 '20 at 18:06
  • @חִידָה in Biblical Hebrew, וְ does not only mean and, it can also mean but, then, and many other things. Biblical Hebrew does not map perfectly onto English, which causes a lot of confusion when translating to English. אז is also just as strange as ו, only it occurs vary rarely. אז like ו also has a sort of waw-consecutive behavior when used with verbs.
    – aefrrs
    Dec 3 '20 at 6:42

First of all the word ונתתי means "I will give you" in this case as it is the waw-consecutive form. One should read this passage alongside Ezekiel 34, which discusses "shepherds" in a very similar manner. Shepherds is used as a metaphor for kings or rulers in both of these passages. As for the word רעים כלבי, that means "shepherds who will do what I want them to do," as כלבי often means "like my hearts desire." In context, this verse means that if the people repent from their ways they will be given good leaders. It is a more abstract statement. As for some leaders who would fit this statement, some examples are Ezra and Zerubbabel.


Wanatathi should not be translated "and I gave" but "I would [or will give -- when you satisfy what I've described] give."

The shepherds who are of the sort God desires (which are kelabu - "according to [God's] heart") are those which are promised to the wayward people, when and if they repent ("return" to God's ways).

The context is that the people have lost their way and need good leaders -- but don't deserve them because of their waywardness. If they make an effort to return to the way they know is right, God will give them good leaders to nourish them in that journey of good will.

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