Jeremiah 23:33 “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ 34And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household. 35Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has the LORD answered?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ 36But ‘the burden of the LORD’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man’s own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. 37Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the LORD answered you?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ 38But if you say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the LORD,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’” 39therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. 40And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’”

In one paragraph, the burden of the LORD appears 8 times. What were Jeremiah's concerns here?

2 Answers 2


The Hebrew word מַשָּׂא (massa) literally means "burden"; however, in Hebrew idiom it also meant the "weight/burden" of a message to be proclaimed. Ellicott has this comment:

(33) The burden of the Lord.—The English expresses the literal meaning of the word, “something lifted up, or borne.” It passed, however, as the English equivalent has done, through many shades of meaning, and became, in the language of the prophets, one of the received terms for a solemn, emphatic utterance. In 1Chronicles 15:22; 1Chronicles 15:27 it is applied to the chanted music of the Temple. Isaiah had brought it into use (see Note on Isaiah 13:1), and employs it twelve times as the title of special prophecies. Jeremiah never uses it of his own messages, probably, as this verse indicates, because it had become a favourite formula with the false prophets. This seems a more rational view than that which assumes that the false prophets applied the words in mockery to his utterances as being “burdens” in the ordinary sense of the word, oppressive and intolerable.

The Pulpit commentary is similarly helpful. BDB also has "oracle" as the one of the idiomatic meanings of this Hebrew word as well -

III. מַשָּׂא noun masculineIsaiah 14:28 utterance, oracle (compare נשׂא 1b (6); GfJeremiah 23:33); — ׳מ absolute Isaiah 14:28 +; usually construct Isaiah 13:1 +; — of prophetic utterance: 2 Kings 9:25; Isaiah 14:28; Ezekiel 12:10; 2Chronicles 24:27 (with עַל); בָבֶל ׳מ Isaiah 13:1, מוֺאָב ׳מ Isaiah 15:1, compare Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 21:1,11; Isaiah 22:1; Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 30:6; Nahum 1:1; בערב ׳מ Isaiah 21:13 is later insert (Di); ׳מ = revelation, אֲשֶׁר חָזָה חֲבַקּוּק הַנָּבִיא ׳הַמּ Habakkuk 1:1; ׳י ׳מ utterance of ׳י Jeremiah 23:33,34,36,38 (3 t. in verse) (compare 2 Kings 9:25), see also 2 Kings 9:33 b (read אַתֶּם הַמַּשָּׂא), with word-play, — followed by וְנָטַשְׁתִּי 2 Kings 9:36 b; ׳דְבַר י ׳מ Zechariah 9:1 (+ בארץ), Zechariah 12:1 (+ עַליִֿשְׂרָאֵל), Malachi 1:1 (+ ׳אֶליִֿשׂ). — Proverbs 31:1 see I. מַשָּׂא, p. 601 above; in Proverbs 30:1 read מִמַּשָּׂא from Massa (Mühlau, De), or הַמַּשָּׂאִי (Wild), which however is perhaps not original, but borrowed from Proverbs 31:1 (compare Wildon the passage FrankenbSpr. p. 5; corrupt name of Agur's home or tribe, Kau).

Now, Jeremiah's inspired text is (typically) very clever in that he employs this word מַשָּׂא (massa) in a dual sense - of both the oracle/message, and, of the people who have become a burden to God.

The pulpit commentary summarizes the meaning well -

Verse 33. - What burden? etc. The Hebrew text, as usually read, is extremely difficult; the Authorized Version is entirely unjustifiable. It is just possible to explain, with Ewald, "As to this question, What is the burden? the true meaning of the word is that," etc. But how harsh and artificial! By a change in the grouping of the consonants (which alone constitute the text), we may read, Ye are the burden. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Hitzig, Graf, Payne Smith. We must in this case continue, and I will cast you off, as the same verb is to be rendered in Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 12:7. Instead of carrying you with the long-suffering of a father (Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 46:3, 4; Isaiah 63:9; Psalm 28:9), I will east you off as a troublesome load (Isaiah 1:14).


Interestingly in the paragraph just before:

Jeremiah 23:23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? 24Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. 29Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. 31Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ 32Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD.

The phrase appears 10 times in one paragraph. This is followed by another paragraph where the burden of the LORD appears 8 times. Jeremiah wanted to make the point of the distinction between true and false prophecy. True prophets declare the word of the Lord while false prophets are burdens to the Lord. These paragraphs foreshadow the conflict between Jeremiah and Hananiah.

Jeremiah 28:15 Then the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD did not send you, but you have persuaded this people to trust in a lie. 16Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. You will die this year because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.’ ” 17And in the seventh month of that very year, the prophet Hananiah died.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.