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The Evil of the People of Judah

The Lord says, “Walk the streets of Jerusalem. Look around and think about these things. Search the public squares of the city. See if you can find one good person, one who does honest things and who searches for the truth. If you find one good person, I will forgive Jerusalem. The people make promises and say, ‘As the Lord lives.’ But they don’t really mean it!”

Lord, I know that you want people
    to be loyal to you.
You hit the people of Judah,
    but they did not feel any pain.
You destroyed them,
    but they refused to learn their lesson.
They became very stubborn.
    They refused to be sorry for the bad things they did.

But I said to myself,
    “It must be only the poor who are so foolish.
They have not learned the way of the Lord.
    They don’t know the teachings of their God.
So I will go to the leaders of Judah.
    I will talk to them.
Surely the leaders know the way of the Lord.
    Surely they know the law of their God.”
But the leaders had all joined together
    to break away from serving God.
So a lion from the forest will attack them.
    A wolf from the desert will kill them.
A leopard is hiding near their cities,
    to tear to pieces anyone who comes out.
That’s because the people have sinned again and again.
    Many times they have wandered away from God.

God says, “People of Judah, why should I forgive you?
    Your children have abandoned me.
    They made promises to idols that are not really gods!
I gave your children everything they needed,
    but they were still unfaithful to me!
    They spent their time with prostitutes.
They are like horses that have had plenty to eat and are ready to mate.
    They are like a horse that is calling its neighbor’s wife.
Should I punish the people of Judah for doing these things?”
    This message is from the Lord.
“You know I should punish a nation such as this.
    I should give it the punishment it deserves.

10 “Go along the rows of Judah’s grapevines.
    Cut down the vines. (But don’t completely destroy them.)
    Cut off all their branches, because they don’t belong to the Lord.
11 The family of Israel and the family of Judah
    have been unfaithful to me in every way.”
    This message is from the Lord.

12 “Those people lied about the Lord.
    They said, ‘He will not do anything to us.
Nothing bad will happen to us.
    We will never see an army attack us.
    We will never starve.’
13 The prophets are only empty wind.[a]
    The word of God is not in them.[b]
    Bad things will happen to them.”

14 The Lord God All-Powerful said these things:
    “The people said I would not punish them.
So, Jeremiah, the words I give you will be like fire,
    and these people will be like wood.
    That fire will burn them up completely.”
15 Family of Israel, this message is from the Lord.
    “I will soon bring a nation from far away to attack you.
It is an old nation;
    it is an ancient nation.
The people of that nation speak a language that you do not know.
    You cannot understand what they say.
16 Their arrow bags are like open graves.
    All their men are strong soldiers.
17 They will eat all the crops that you gathered.
    They will eat all your food.
    They will destroy your sons and daughters.
They will eat your flocks and your herds.
    They will eat your grapes and your figs.
They will destroy your strong cities with their swords.
    They will destroy the strong cities that you trust in.”

18 This message is from the Lord: “But, Judah, when these terrible days come, I will not fully destroy you. 19 The people of Judah will ask you, ‘Jeremiah, why has the Lord our God done this bad thing to us?’ Give them this answer: ‘You people of Judah have left me, and you have served foreign idols in your own land. You did these things, so now you will serve foreigners in a land that does not belong to you.’

20 “Tell this message to the family of Jacob,
    and tell it in the nation of Judah.
21 Hear this message,
    you foolish people who have no sense.
You have eyes, but you don’t see!
    You have ears, but you don’t listen!
22 Surely you are afraid of me.”
This message is from the Lord.
    “You should shake with fear in front of me.
I am the one who made the sandy shores to hold back the sea.
    I made it that way to keep the water in its place forever.
The waves may pound the beach, but they will not destroy it.
    The waves may roar as they come in, but they cannot go beyond the beach.
23 But the people of Judah are stubborn.
    They are always planning ways to turn against me.
    They turned away from me and left me.
24 The people of Judah never say to themselves,
    ‘Let’s fear and respect the Lord our God.
He gives us autumn and spring rains at just the right time.
    He makes sure that we have the harvest at just the right time.’
25 You don’t have these blessings because you have done wrong.
    Your sins have kept these good things away from you.
26 There are evil men among my people.
    They are like men who make nets for catching birds.[c]
They set their traps,
    but they catch people instead of birds.
27 Their houses are full of lies,
    like a cage full of birds.
Their lies made them rich and powerful.
28     They have grown big and fat from the evil they have done.
There is no end to the evil they do.
    They will not plead the case of children who have no parents.
    They will not help these orphans.
    They will not let the poor be judged fairly.
29 Should I punish the people of Judah for doing these things?”
    This message is from the Lord.
“You know I should punish a nation such as this.
    I should give it the punishment it deserves.

30 “A terrible and shocking thing
    has happened in the land of Judah.
31 The prophets tell lies.
    The priests will not do what they were chosen to do,[d]
and my people love it this way!
    But what will you people do when your punishment comes?


  1. Jeremiah 5:13 wind This is a wordplay. The Hebrew word for wind is like the word for spirit.
  2. Jeremiah 5:13 The word … them Literally, “And the ‘He said’ is not in them.”
  3. Jeremiah 5:26 men … birds The Hebrew text here is hard to understand.
  4. Jeremiah 5:31 priests … were chosen to do The Hebrew text here is hard to understand.

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