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The Potter and the Clay

18 This is the word the Lord spoke to Jeremiah: “Go down to the potter’s house. I will give you my message there.” So I went down to the potter’s house. I saw him working at the potter’s wheel. He was making a pot from clay. But something went wrong with it. So the potter used that clay to make another pot. He used his hands to shape the pot the way that he wanted it to be.

Then the Lord spoke his word to me: “Family of Israel, can’t I do the same thing with you?” says the Lord. “You are like the clay in the potter’s hands. There may come a time when I will speak about a nation or a kingdom. I might say I will pull that nation up by its roots. Or I might say I will pull that nation down and destroy it. But if the people of that nation are sorry for the evil they have done, I would change my mind. I would not carry out my plans to bring disaster to them. There may come another time when I will speak about a nation. I might say that I will build up and plant that nation. 10 But if I see it doing evil by not obeying me, I would change my mind. I would not carry out my plans to do good for them.

11 “So, say this to the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem: ‘This is what the Lord says: I am preparing disaster for you right now. I am making plans against you. So stop doing the evil you are doing. Change your ways and do what is right.’ 12 But the people of Judah will answer, ‘It won’t do any good to try! We will continue to do what we want. Each of us will do what his stubborn, evil heart wants!’”

13 So this is what the Lord says:
“Ask the people in other nations this question:
    ‘Have you ever heard anything like this?’
    The people of Israel have done a horrible thing.
14 The snow on the mountains of Lebanon
    never melts from the rocks.
Its cool, flowing streams
    do not dry up.
15 But my people have forgotten me.
    They make offerings to worthless idols.
This makes them stumble in what they do.
    They stumble about in the old ways of their ancestors.
They walk along back roads
    and on poor highways.
16 So Judah’s country will become an empty desert.
    People will not stop making fun of it.
They will shake their heads as they pass by.
    They will be shocked at how the country was destroyed.
17 I will scatter them before their enemies
    as a strong east wind blows things away.
At that awful time they will not see me coming to help them.
    They will see me leaving.”

Jeremiah’s Fourth Complaint

18 Then the people said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah. Surely the teaching of the law by the priest will not be lost. And the advice from the wise men will still be with us. We will still have the words of the prophets. So let’s ruin him by telling lies about him! We won’t pay attention to anything he says.”

19 Lord, listen to me.
    Listen to what my accusers are saying!
20 Good should not be paid back with evil.
    But they have dug a pit in order to kill me.
Lord, remember that I stood before you
    and asked you to do good things for these people.
    I asked you to turn your anger away from them.
21 So now, let their children starve.
    Let their enemies defeat them with swords.
Let their wives lose their children and husbands.
    Let the men from Judah be put to death.
    Let the young men be killed in battle.
22 Let them cry out in their houses.
    Bring an enemy against them suddenly.
Let all this happen because my enemies have dug a pit to trap me.
    And they have hidden traps for me to step in.
23 Lord, you know
    about their plans to kill me.
Don’t forgive their crimes.
    Don’t erase their sins.
Make them fall from their places.
    Punish them while you are angry.

At the Potter’s House

18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay(A) in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand,(B) Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted,(C) torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent(D) and not inflict on it the disaster(E) I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built(F) up and planted, 10 and if it does evil(G) in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider(H) the good I had intended to do for it.(I)

11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster(J) for you and devising a plan(K) against you. So turn(L) from your evil ways,(M) each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’(N) 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use.(O) We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.(P)’”

13 Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“Inquire among the nations:
    Who has ever heard anything like this?(Q)
A most horrible(R) thing has been done
    by Virgin(S) Israel.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon
    ever vanish from its rocky slopes?
Do its cool waters from distant sources
    ever stop flowing?[a]
15 Yet my people have forgotten(T) me;
    they burn incense(U) to worthless idols,(V)
which made them stumble(W) in their ways,
    in the ancient paths.(X)
They made them walk in byways,
    on roads not built up.(Y)
16 Their land will be an object of horror(Z)
    and of lasting scorn;(AA)
all who pass by will be appalled(AB)
    and will shake their heads.(AC)
17 Like a wind(AD) from the east,
    I will scatter them before their enemies;
I will show them my back and not my face(AE)
    in the day of their disaster.”

18 They said, “Come, let’s make plans(AF) against Jeremiah; for the teaching of the law by the priest(AG) will not cease, nor will counsel from the wise,(AH) nor the word from the prophets.(AI) So come, let’s attack him with our tongues(AJ) and pay no attention to anything he says.”

19 Listen to me, Lord;
    hear what my accusers(AK) are saying!
20 Should good be repaid with evil?(AL)
    Yet they have dug a pit(AM) for me.
Remember that I stood(AN) before you
    and spoke in their behalf(AO)
    to turn your wrath away from them.
21 So give their children over to famine;(AP)
    hand them over to the power of the sword.(AQ)
Let their wives be made childless and widows;(AR)
    let their men be put to death,
    their young men(AS) slain by the sword in battle.
22 Let a cry(AT) be heard from their houses
    when you suddenly bring invaders against them,
for they have dug a pit(AU) to capture me
    and have hidden snares(AV) for my feet.
23 But you, Lord, know
    all their plots to kill(AW) me.
Do not forgive(AX) their crimes
    or blot out their sins from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
    deal with them in the time of your anger.(AY)


  1. Jeremiah 18:14 The meaning of the Hebrew for this sentence is uncertain.