3 In a faraway land[a] the Lord will manifest himself to them. He will say to them, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.[b]
Jeremiah 31:3tn The first word מֵרָחוּק (merakhoq, “distant”) can mean at a distance in location or time (2 Kgs 19:25). While built from the preposition מִן (min, “from, of, since, than”) and the adjective רָחוּק (rakhoq), “far, distant”), the pieces work as one unit and typically do not mean “from a distant place,” as is especially evident when one stands at a distance (Exod 2:4) or goes to a distant place (Isa 22:3). Both options, location and time, are possible here. Either the Lord appears at a distant place (where the exiles are), or, understanding the verb as past time, he appeared long ago. In the latter view, this is probably reminiscent of God’s appearance at Sinai, reminding the people of the eternal love he covenanted with them, on the basis of which he maintains his faithful love to and will restore them.
Jeremiah 31:3tn Or the translation of verses 2-3 could be, “The people of Israel who survived the onslaughts of Egypt and Amalek found favor in the wilderness as they journeyed to find rest. At that time long ago the Lord manifested himself to them. He said, ‘I have…That is why I have drawn you to myself through my unfailing kindness.’” There is debate whether the reference here is to God’s preservation of Israel during their wandering in the Sinai desert or his promise to protect and preserve them on their return through the Arabian desert on the way back from Assyria and Babylon (see e.g., Isa 42:14-16; 43:16-21; Jer 16:14-15; 23:7-8). The only finite verbs in vv. 2-3a before the introduction of the quote are perfects, which can denote either a past act or a future act viewed as certain of fulfillment (the prophetic perfect; see GKC 312-13 §106.n, and see examples in Jer 11:16; 13:17; 25:14; 28:4). The phrase at the beginning of v. 3 can either refer to temporal (cf. BDB 935 s.v. רָחוֹק 2.b, and Isa 22:11) or spatial distance (cf. BDB 935 s.v. רָחוֹק 2.a, and Isa 5:29; 59:14). The verb in the final clause in v. 3 can refer to either the extension of God’s love, as in Pss 36:10 and 109:12 (cf. HALOT 645-46 s.v. מָשַׁךְ Qal.3), or the drawing of someone to him in electing, caring love, as in Hos 11:4 (cf. BDB 604 s.v. מָשַׁךְ Qal.1). The translation has opted for the prophetic reference to future deliverance because of the preceding context, the use of מֵרָחוֹק (merakhoq) to refer to the far-off land of exile in Jer 30:10; 46:27; and 51:50, and the reference to survivors from the sword being called on to remember the Lord in that far-off land in 51:50.
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