I have difficulties to understand the German term "Last" or "Lastwort" in the common Christian German translations of Jeremiah chap 23, verse 33 (corresponding to "burden" in English versions). Thanks to a link in an answer, I've found a German translation of the Tanakh by Prof. Philippson, and he uses something like "...was ist der 'Auftrag des Ewigen'..." ("I don't give you tasks/jobs")

I don't have an idea of a good English representation, which has the connotation that I get when I'm reading the Philippson's text, but reading this gives me a much better, smoother and immediate understanding than the "burden"-versions.

Since this also agrees better with my own spiritual so-to-say structure, I would like to know, whether Prof. Philippson's translation was more appropriate compared to translations containing "burden" or similar words.

See below a screenshot from the Philippson's translation:


  • You expect us to be experts in German (a language that I speak to a limited extent), but this is a Judaism site. You should somehow rephrase your question (in order to avoid being closed as off-topic), that how the word מַשָּׂא is interpreted in Jeremiah 23:33. Dec 4, 2019 at 10:25
  • @Kazibácsi - thank you for your remark. Well, the question is induced by the german translation, but I would be satisfied when this would be explained as well in english only. I feel a big difference between saying "burden" and saying "give tasks". My problem here is that I'm not sure about a good english word for the german "auftrag" with its specific connotation, otherwise I could reduce my question completely into english. I ask here on mi-yodeya since it might be significant that Prof. Philippson is a genuine jewish source and I thought that it might be the more correct translation at all. Dec 4, 2019 at 10:31
  • @Kazibácsi - ah, I followed your link, and see the "burden"- word as well. So I assume the answer to my question is simply, that the Philippson's version is missing-the-point? Dec 4, 2019 at 10:42
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    As I saw now, most Jewish sources agree that the word should be interpreted here as burden (see Rashi on the verse). If you look up the occurrences of the word in a concordance, you'll find this very clear usage as burden in Exodus 23:5, but Numbers 4 is also talking about a similar concept. So I'd also go for Last instead of Auftrag (if that matters). Dec 4, 2019 at 10:47
  • @Kazibácsi - thank you again. I followed the link to the Rashi-comment and I think I'm going to understand the point, the comments there should help. Maybe need a bit more time and chewing... Dec 4, 2019 at 11:01

1 Answer 1


The Hebrew word משא literally means a 'burden', but is often used in the Prophets to mean a prophecy, and specifically a negative prophecy of a burden some nation will be made to bear.

The classical commentator Rashi explains on Jeremiah 23:33 (link is Hebrew, this is a loose translation)

'What is the burden of the Lord' - This was said as a jest, since they found his prophecies burdensome.

This usage is also found in Isaiah, e.g Chapter 17, and in other places.

  • Thanks, simyou, for the answer. The comments really help to change mind towards the more common translation. Perhaps I should leave the Philippson's translation aside, I've looked at it studying Kohelet and Ezra/Nehemia and some other texts and maybe it's sometimes misleading as well. Dec 4, 2019 at 11:16
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    @Gottfried In general it's good to see different commentaries and translations, as in many cases there are indeed debates about interpretation, but it doesn't seem to be such a case. Dec 4, 2019 at 11:28
  • @Kazibácsi - again thanks for the remark! Just to "close-the-case" here: should I edit the question? (Or maybe you've an immediate idea: just feel free to improve it accordingly) Dec 4, 2019 at 11:39
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    @Gottfried, simyou, I think Rashi's point is that this is a pun. They'd go to the prophet and ask him ~"any new prophecies lately?" but do so using the word "משא" to show that his messages were burdensome.
    – msh210
    Dec 4, 2019 at 11:44
  • @msh210 - you made me smile :) I'll take it as another facet! Dec 4, 2019 at 11:47

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