Part 3: Who is speaking in Jeremiah 10:19-20?
As part of a thesis discussing the representative role of Jeremiah the prophet, I looked at how various passages in Jeremiah allow for ambiguity in who is speaking in the text. Below is a short discussion on Jeremiah 10:19-20.
Another section that shows further the ambiguity between the feelings of Jeremiah and the people of Judah is Jeremiah 10:19-20.10 It is questionable who is speaking here, Jeremiah or the people of Judah. According to Polk, more commentators claim that the people of Judah are speaking in these verses.11 Since verse 18 speaks of the destruction coming on the people of Judah, the people would be the most logical recipients of this message of destruction, and they are thus the ones most likely to respond. Since verse 21 refers to the people of Judah in the third person as “my people,” it is less likely that the people of Judah are speaking here.
Furthermore, the use of the first person singular possessive pronoun here suggests instead a completely different speaker: one who has a claim on the people of Judah, a claim held primarily by God. Yet, it does not seem that the LORD is speaking here, which implies that Jeremiah has taken over that claim. Moreover, it is fairly clear that Jeremiah is speaking in verse 23, so he could easily be the one speaking in verses 19-20.
Thus the one expressing the grief found in verses 19-20 is somewhat ambiguous, blurring the distinction between the feelings of Jeremiah and the people of Israel. In the midst of this blurring, the step towards seeing a representational nature to the feelings is easier to make.
10 Jeremiah 10:18-21 (NIV): 18 For this is what the LORD says: “At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured.” 19 Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, “This is my sickness, and I must endure it.” 20 My tent is destroyed; all its ropes are snapped. My children are gone from me and are no more; no one is left now to pitch my tent or to set up my shelter. 21 The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.
11 Timothy Polk, Prophetic Persona: Jeremiah and the Language of Self (JSOTSup 32; 1984), 61.