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Jeremiah 1-6 Common English Bible (CEB)


These are the words of Jeremiah, Hilkiah’s son, who was one of the priests from Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. The Lord’s word came to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year of Judah’s King Josiah, Amon’s son, and throughout the rule of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, until the fifth month of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, Josiah’s son, when the people of Jerusalem were taken into exile.

Call of Jeremiah

The Lord’s word came to me:

“Before I created you in the womb I knew you;
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I made you a prophet to the nations.”
“Ah, Lord God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak
    because I’m only a child.”
The Lord responded,
    “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’
        Where I send you, you must go;
        what I tell you, you must say.
Don’t be afraid of them,
    because I’m with you to rescue you,”
        declares the Lord.
Then the Lord stretched out his hand,
    touched my mouth, and said to me,
    “I’m putting my words in your mouth.
10 This very day I appoint you over nations and empires,
    to dig up and pull down,
    to destroy and demolish,
    to build and plant.”

Jeremiah’s mission confirmed

11 The Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

I said, “A branch of an almond[a] tree.”

12 The Lord then said, “You are right, for I’m watching over[b] my word until it is fulfilled.” 13 The Lord asked me again, “What do you see?”

I said, “A pot boiling over from the north.”

14 The Lord said to me, “Trouble will erupt from the north against the people of this land.”

15 I’m calling for all the tribes of great nations from the north, says the Lord, and they will set up their rulers by the entrances of Jerusalem, on its walls, and in every city of Judah. 16 I will declare my judgment against them for doing evil: for abandoning me, worshipping other gods, and trusting in the works of their hands. 17 But you must prepare for battle and be ready to utter every word I command you. Don’t be frightened before them, or I will frighten you before them. 18 Today I have made you an armed city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall against the entire land—the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and all its people. 19 They will attack you, but they won’t defeat you, because I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord.

God’s people abandon their God

The Lord’s word came to me:
Go and proclaim to the people of Jerusalem,
The Lord proclaims:
I remember your first love,[c]
    your devotion as a young bride,
    how you followed me in the wilderness,
    in an unplanted land.
Israel was devoted to the Lord,
    the early produce of the harvest.
Whoever ate from it became guilty;
    disaster overtook them,
        declares the Lord.
Listen to the Lord’s word,
    people of Judah,
    all you families of the Israelite household.

This is what the Lord says:

What wrong did your ancestors find in me
    that made them wander so far?
They pursued what was worthless
    and became worthless.
They didn’t ask,
    “Where’s the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
        who led us through the wilderness,
        in a land of deserts and ravines,
        in a land of drought and darkness,
        in a land of no return,
            where no one survives?”
I brought you into a land of plenty,
    to enjoy its gifts and goodness,
        but you ruined my land;
        you disgraced my heritage.
The priests didn’t ask,
    “Where’s the Lord?”
Those responsible for the Instruction didn’t know me;
    the leaders rebelled against me;
    the prophets spoke in the name of Baal,
        going after what has no value.
That is why I will take you to court
    and charge even your descendants,
        declares the Lord.
10 Look to the west as far as the shores of Cyprus
    and to the east as far as the land of Kedar.
Ask anyone there:
    Has anything this odd ever taken place?
11     Has a nation switched gods,
        though they aren’t really gods at all?
Yet my people have exchanged their glory
    for what has no value.
12 Be stunned at such a thing, you heavens;
    shudder and quake,
        declares the Lord.
13 My people have committed two crimes:
    They have forsaken me, the spring of living water.
    And they have dug wells, broken wells that can’t hold water.

14 Is Israel a slave,
    a servant by birth?
    If not, why then has he become prey?
15 Lions roar at him; they growl.
    They destroy his land
        and make his towns desolate
        until nothing is left.
16 As well, the people of Memphis and Tahpanhes
    lay open your scalp.
17 Haven’t you brought this on yourself
    by abandoning the Lord your God,
        who has directed your paths?
18 So why take the path to Egypt
    to drink water from the Nile?
Why travel the path to Assyria
    to drink water from the Euphrates?
19 Your wrongdoing will punish you.
    Your acts of unfaithfulness will find you out.
Don’t you understand how terribly bitter
    it is to abandon the Lord your God
    and not fear me?
        declares the Lord of heavenly forces.
20 Long ago I broke your yoke;
    I shattered your chains.
    But even then you said, “I won’t serve you.”
On every high hill and under every lush tree,
    you have acted like a prostitute.
21 Yet it was I who planted you, a precious vine of fine quality;
    how could you turn into a wild vine
        and become good for nothing?
22 Even though you scrub yourself with soap or strong powder,
    the stain of your sin is still before me,
        declares the Lord God.
23 How can you say,
    “I’m not dirty;
    I haven’t gone after Baals.”
Look what you have done in the valley;
    consider what you have done there.
You are like a frenzied young camel,
    racing around,
24     a wild donkey in the wilderness,
    lustfully sniffing the wind.
Who can restrain such passion?
    Those who desire her need not give up;
    with little effort they will find her in heat.
25 Don’t run about until your feet are blistered
    and your throat is parched.
But you say, “What’s the use?
    I have fallen in love with foreign gods,
        and I must pursue them.”
26 As a thief is ashamed when caught in his tracks,
    so the people of Israel are ashamed—
        their kings, officials, priests, and prophets—
27     when they say to a piece of wood, “You are my father,”
        and to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
They have turned their backs to me
    and not their faces.
Yet in their time of trouble they say,
    “Arise and save us!”
28 Where are the gods
        you have made for yourselves?
    Let’s see if they will come through for you in your time of trouble.
    You have as many gods, Judah,
        as you have towns.
29 Why would you bring charges against me?
You have all rebelled against me,
        declares the Lord.
30 I have disciplined your children in vain;
    they have rejected my correction.
You have devoured your prophets
    like a hungry lion.
31 People of this generation, listen closely to the Lord’s word:
Have I been a wasteland to Israel
    or a land of dense darkness?
Why then do my people say,
    “We have wandered far away;
    we’ll come to you no longer”?
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry
    or a bride her wedding dress?
Yet you have forgotten me days without end!
33     So skilled are you at pursuing lovers[d]
        that you instruct even the most wicked.[e]
34 Your garments are stained
    with the blood of the innocent poor,
        even though you didn’t catch them
        breaking and entering.
Yet, despite all this,[f]
35 you still insist,
    “I’m innocent;
        as a result he will turn his anger away from me.”
Because you claim not to have sinned,
    I will pass judgment against you.
36 You change sides so casually!
    But Egypt will shame you
    no less than Assyria.
37 From there you will go out
    with your hands on your heads,
        because the Lord has rejected those you rely on;
        they won’t help you.

Jeremiah’s summons to change

If a man divorces his wife,
    and after she leaves him marries another,
        can he return to her again?
    Wouldn’t such an act completely corrupt the land?
Yet you have prostituted yourself with many lovers.
    Would you return to me?
        declares the Lord.
Look to the well-traveled paths[g] and see!
    Where haven’t you committed adultery?
On the roadsides you sit in wait for lovers,
    like a nomad in the wilderness.
You have corrupted the land
    with your cheap and reckless behavior.
That’s why the showers have failed
    and the spring rains have ceased.
Still you act like a brazen prostitute[h]
    who refuses to blush.
At the same time you say to me,
    “My father, my friend since youth,
        will you stay angry forever?
        Will you continue to be furious?”
This is what you say
    while you do as much evil as you possibly can.

During the rule of King Josiah, the Lord said to me: Have you noticed what unfaithful Israel has done? She’s gone about looking for lovers on top of every high hill and under every lush tree. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me, but she didn’t. Her disloyal sister Judah saw this. She[i] also saw that I sent unfaithful Israel away with divorce papers because of all her acts of unfaithfulness; yet disloyal sister Judah was not afraid but kept on playing the prostitute. She didn’t think twice about corrupting the land and committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet even after all this, disloyal sister Judah didn’t return to me with all her heart but only insincerely, declares the Lord. 11 Then the Lord said to me: Unfaithful Israel is less guilty[j] than disloyal Judah.

12 Go proclaim these words to the north and say:

Return, unfaithful Israel,
        declares the Lord.
I won’t reject you,
    for I’m faithful,
        declares the Lord;
I won’t stay angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your wrongdoing:
    how you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
        and given yourself to strangers
            under every lush tree
        and haven’t obeyed me,
            declares the Lord.
14 Return, rebellious children,
        declares the Lord,
    for I’m your husband.
I’ll gather you—
    one from a city and two from a tribe—
        and bring you back to Zion.

15 I will appoint shepherds with whom I’m pleased, and they will lead you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And in those days, when your numbers have greatly increased in the land, declares the Lord, people will no longer talk about the Lord’s covenant chest; they won’t recall or remember it; they won’t even miss it or try to build another one. 17 At that time, they will call Jerusalem the Lord’s throne, and all nations will gather there to honor the Lord’s name. No longer will they follow their own willful and evil hearts. 18 In those days the people of Judah and Israel will leave the north together for the land that I gave their ancestors as an inheritance.

19 I thought to myself, How wonderful it would be
    to treat you like children
    and give you a beautiful land,
        an inheritance unrivaled among the nations.
And I thought, You will call me father,
    and you won’t turn away from me.
20 But as a woman betrays her lover,
    so you, people of Israel, have betrayed me,
        declares the Lord.
21 A voice is heard on the well-traveled paths;[k]
    it’s the crying and pleading of the people of Israel,
        who have lost their way
        and forgotten the Lord their God.
22 Return, rebellious children,
    and I will heal your rebellion.

“Here we are; we come to you,
    for you are the Lord our God.
23 Surely what happens on the hills[l] is a waste,
    as is the uproar on the mountains.
Only in the Lord our God
    is the salvation of Israel.
24 From our youth, shame[m] has devoured
    the fruit of our parents’ labor—
        their flocks and herds,
        as well as their sons and daughters.
25 Let’s lie down in our shame.
    Let our dishonor cover us,
        for we have sinned against the Lord our God,
            both we and our ancestors,
            from our youth to this very day.
We have disobeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”

If you return, Israel, return to me, declares the Lord.
    If you get rid of your disgusting idols from my presence
        and wander no more,
    and if you swear by the living God
        in truth, justice, and righteousness,
    then the nations will enjoy God’s blessings;[n]
        they will boast about him.

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to the residents of Jerusalem:

Break up your hard rocky soil;
    don’t plant among the thorns.
Dedicate[o] yourselves to the Lord;
    don’t be thick-skinned,[p]
        people of Judah and residents of Jerusalem,
    or else my anger will spread like a wildfire.
        It will burn, with no one to put it out,
        because of your evil deeds.

Disaster approaches

Announce in Judah,
        in Jerusalem proclaim,
    sound the alarm throughout the land,
        cry out and say,
        “Gather together!
        Let’s flee to the fortified towns!”
Set up a flag to Zion;
    take cover, don’t just stand there!
I’m bringing disaster from the north,
    massive devastation.
A lion bursts out of the thicket;
    a destroyer of nations advances.
He’s gone forth from his place
    to ravage your land,
    to wipe out your towns,
        until no one is left.
So put on funeral clothing.
    Weep and wail,
        for the Lord’s fierce anger
        hasn’t turned away from us.
On that day, declares the Lord,
    the courage of the king and his princes will fail,
    the priests will be stunned,
        and the prophets will be shocked.
10 Then I said, “Lord God, no!
    You have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem
        by promising them peace
even though the sword is at their throats.”
11 At that time, this people and Jerusalem will be told:
A blistering wind from the bare heights;
    it rages in the desert toward my people,
        not merely to winnow or cleanse.
12     This wind is too devastating for that.
Now I, even I, will pronounce my sentence against them.
13 Look! He approaches like the clouds;
        his chariots advance like a tempest,
        his horses swifter than eagles.
    How horrible! We’re doomed!
14 Cleanse your heart of evil, Jerusalem,
    that you may be saved.
    How long will you entertain your destructive ideas?
15 A voice declares from Dan;
    someone proclaims disaster from the highlands of Ephraim.
16 Warn the nations,
    proclaim it to Jerusalem!
        Armies are approaching from a far-away country,
        raising their war cries against the towns of Judah.
17 They hem her in like those guarding a field,
    because she has rebelled against me,
        declares the Lord.
18 Your own conduct, your own deeds have done this to you.
This is your payment and how bitter it is,
    piercing into the depths of your heart.

Anguish over looming disaster

19 Oh, my suffering, my suffering!
    My pain is unbearable;
    my heart is in turmoil;
    it throbs nonstop.
I can’t be silent, because I hear the blast of the trumpet
    and the roar of the battle cry!
20 Disaster follows disaster;
    the whole land is ruined.
Suddenly, my tents are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle flags
    and hear the blast of the trumpet?
22 My people are foolish.
    They don’t even know me!
They are thoughtless children
    without understanding;
        they are skilled at doing wrong,
        inept at doing right.
23 I looked at the earth,
    and it was without shape or form;
        at the heavens
        and there was no light.
24 I looked at the mountains
    and they were quaking;
    all the hills were rocking back and forth.
25 I looked and there was no one left;
    every bird in the sky had taken flight.
26 I looked and the fertile land was a desert;
    all its towns were in ruins
        before the Lord,
        before his fury.
27 The Lord proclaims:
    The whole earth will become a desolation,
        but I will not destroy it completely.
28 Therefore, the earth will grieve
    and the heavens grow dark
        because I have declared my plan
        and will neither change my mind
            nor cancel the plan.
29 As the horsemen and archers approach,
    the people take flight.
They hide in the bushes
    and escape to the cliffs.
Every city is deserted;
    no one remains.
30 And you, devastated one,
    why dress up in scarlet,
    deck yourself in gold jewelry,
    and color your eyes with paint?
In vain you get all decked out;
    your lovers have rejected you
    and now seek your life.
31 I hear the cry of a woman in labor,
    the distress of one delivering her first child.
It is the cry of Daughter Zion,
    gasping for breath,
    her arms stretched out,
    and moaning,
    “I’m about to fall into the hands of murderers!”

Futile search for a good person

Search every street in Jerusalem,
    comb the squares,
    look far and wide
        for one person,
        even one who acts justly
        and seeks truth that I may pardon her!
Even when making a pledge—“As the Lord lives”—
    they swear falsely.
Lord, don’t you look for integrity?
You have struck them down,
    but they didn’t even cringe.
You have crushed them,
    but they have ignored your discipline.
They make their faces harder than rock
    and refuse to return.
Then I thought to myself,
    These are the poor who don’t know better!
    They don’t understand the Lord’s way
        or the justice of their God.
Let me go and speak to the powerful people,
    for they will surely know the Lord’s way
    and the justice of their God.
But they too have broken their yoke
    and shattered the chains.
Therefore, a lion from the forest will attack them;
    a wolf from the desert will destroy them;
    a leopard prowling around their towns
        will tear to pieces anyone venturing out—
        because of their many crimes
        and countless acts of unfaithfulness.
How can I pardon you?
    Your children have forsaken me
        and swear by gods that are not gods.
Although I could have satisfied them,
    they committed adultery,
        dashing off to the prostitution house.
They are lusty stallions roving about,
    snorting for another’s wife.
The Lord declares:
    Shouldn’t I confront these acts?
    Shouldn’t I take revenge on such a nation?

Contempt for God

10 Climb through her vineyards and ravage them,
    although not completely.
Prune back her branches,
    because they aren’t the Lord’s.
11 The people of Israel and Judah
    have been utterly faithless to me,
        declares the Lord.
12 They have lied about the Lord
    and said, “He’ll do nothing![q]
Disaster won’t come upon us;
    we won’t see war or famine.”
13 The prophets are so much wind;
    the word isn’t in them.
        Thus and so may it be done to them.

14 Therefore, the Lord God of heavenly forces proclaims:

Because you have spoken this way,
    I will put my words
        in your mouth as a fire;
    it will consume the people,
        who are but kindling.
15 I am about to bring a distant nation against you,
        people of Israel,
        declares the Lord.
    It is an established nation,
        an ancient nation,
        a nation whose language you don’t know,
        whose speech you won’t understand.
16 Its weapons are deadly;[r]
    its warriors are many.
17 It will devour your harvest and food;
    it will devour your sons and daughters;
    it will devour your flocks and herds;
    it will devour your vines and fig trees;
    it will shatter your fortified towns in which you trust—
        with the sword!

18 Yet even in those days, declares the Lord, I won’t completely destroy you. 19 And when they ask, “Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?” you must reply, “Just as you have abandoned me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land not your own.”

Shouldn’t you fear me?

20 Declare this to the people of Jacob,
    announce it in Judah:
21 Listen, you foolish and senseless people,
    who have eyes but don’t see
        and ears but don’t hear.
22 Shouldn’t you fear me,
        declares the Lord,
    and tremble before me,
        the one who set the shoreline for the sea,
        an ancient boundary that it can’t pass?
Though its waves may rise and roar,
    they can’t pass the limits I have set.
23 And yet the people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
    they turn and go their own way.
24 They don’t say in their hearts,
    Let’s fear the Lord our God,
        who provides rain in autumn and spring
        and who assures us of a harvest in its season.
25 Your wrongdoing has turned these blessings[s] away.
    Your sin has robbed you of good.
26 Criminals are found among my people;
    they set traps to catch people,
        like hunters lying in wait.[t]
27 Like a cage full of birds,
    so their houses are full of loot.
No wonder they are rich and powerful
28     and have grown fat and sleek!
To be sure, their evil deeds exceed all limits,
    and yet they prosper.
They are indifferent to the plight of the orphan,
    reluctant to defend the rights of the poor.
29 Shouldn’t I punish such acts?
        declares the Lord.
    Shouldn’t I repay that nation for its deeds?
30 An awful, a terrible thing
    has happened in the land:
31         The prophets prophesy falsely,
        the priests rule at their sides,[u]
        and my people love it this way!
But what will you do when the end comes?

Prepare for war

Escape, people of Benjamin,
    get out of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
    sound the alarm in Beth-haccherem;
        for disaster looms from the north,
        massive devastation.
You are like a lovely pasture, Daughter Zion.[v]
    Shepherds come to her with their flocks.
    They pitch their tents around her
        and graze in their place.
“Prepare for battle against her;
    get ready; let’s attack by noon!
Oh, no! Daylight is fading,
    and the evening shadows lengthen.
Get ready, let’s attack by night
    and destroy her fortresses!”
The Lord of heavenly forces proclaims:
Cut down her trees,
    and build siege ramps against Jerusalem.
This city must be held accountable,[w]
    for there’s nothing but oppression in her midst.
As a well brings forth fresh water,
    she brings forth evil.
Violence and destruction are heard within her;
    injury and wounds are ever before me.
Hear me out,[x] Jerusalem,
    or else I’ll turn away from you
        and reduce you to ruins,
        a land unfit to live in.

Unresponsive people

This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says:
From top to bottom, let them harvest
    the remaining few in Israel.
        Pick clean every
        last grape on the vine!
10 To whom can I speak and warn?
    How can I get someone’s attention?
        Their ears are shut tight,[y]
        so they won’t hear.
They are ashamed of the Lord’s word
    and take no pleasure in it.
11 But I’m filled with the Lord’s rage
    and am tired of holding it in.

Pour it out on the children in the streets
    and on the youths gathered together;
    husband with wife will be trapped,
        as will those old and gray.
12 Their homes will be turned over to others,
    their fields and wives as well.
I will stretch out my hand
    against the people of this land,
        declares the Lord.
13 From the least to the greatest,
        each is eager to profit;
    from prophet to priest,
        each trades in dishonesty.
14 They treat the wound of my people
    as if it were nothing:
“All is well, all is well,” they insist,
    when in fact nothing is well.
15 They should be ashamed
    of their detestable practices,
    but they have no shame;
    they don’t even blush!
Therefore, they will fall among the fallen
    and stumble when I bring disaster,
        declares the Lord.
16 The Lord proclaims:
Stop at the crossroads and look around;
    ask for the ancient paths.
    Where is the good way?
Then walk in it
    and find a resting place for yourselves.
        But you[z] said, “We won’t go!”
17 Still, I have appointed watchmen to warn you.
    But you[aa] said, “We won’t listen!”
18 Therefore, pay attention, nations;
        take notice, assembly,
        what is ahead of them.[ab]
19 Pay attention, earth:
I’m bringing disaster upon my people,
    the fruit of their own devices,
    because they have ignored my words
    and they have rejected my teaching.
20 What use to me is incense from Sheba
    or sweet cane from a faraway land?
Your entirely burned offerings won’t buy your pardon;
    your sacrifices won’t appease me.
21 Therefore, the Lord proclaims:
I’m putting obstacles before this people,
    and both parents and children will stumble over them;
    neighbor and friend alike will perish.

Panic-stricken Zion

22 The Lord proclaims:
An army is on the move
        from the northern regions;
    a great nation is roused
        from the ends of the earth.
23 Equipped with bow and spear,
    they are cruel;
    they show no mercy.
Their horsemen sound
    like the roaring sea,
        arrayed in battle formation
        against you, Daughter Zion.
24 We have heard reports of them
    and are panic-stricken;
    distress overwhelms us,
        pain like that of a woman in labor.
25 Don’t go out into the field!
    Don’t walk on the road!
        The enemies’ sword
            terrorizes at every turn.
26 My people,
    put on funeral clothes and roll in ashes;
    weep and wail as for an only child,
        because the destroyer will suddenly descend upon us.

Prophet as tester

27 I have made you a tester of metals,
    to examine my people[ac]
    to know and prove their ways.
28 They are tin[ad] and iron;
    they are headstrong and rebellious.
They live to slander.
    They act corruptly—every last one!
29 The bellows roar;
    the lead is consumed.[ae]
Yet the refining fails;
    the impurities[af] remain.
30 They are called “rejected silver,”
    for the Lord has rejected them.


  1. Jeremiah 1:11 Heb shaqed
  2. Jeremiah 1:12 Heb shoqed
  3. Jeremiah 2:2 Or the love of your youth
  4. Jeremiah 2:33 Or love
  5. Jeremiah 2:33 Or you have taught your ways to wicked women.
  6. Jeremiah 2:34 Heb uncertain
  7. Jeremiah 3:2 Or bare heights
  8. Jeremiah 3:3 Or You have a prostitute’s forehead.
  9. Jeremiah 3:8 LXX, Syr; MT I
  10. Jeremiah 3:11 Or more righteous
  11. Jeremiah 3:21 Or bare heights
  12. Jeremiah 3:23 LXX, Syr, Vulg; MT from the hills
  13. Jeremiah 3:24 Or the shame
  14. Jeremiah 4:2 Or bless themselves in him or be blessed by him or will bless themselves
  15. Jeremiah 4:4 Or circumcise
  16. Jeremiah 4:4 Or remove the foreskins of your hearts
  17. Jeremiah 5:12 Or not he
  18. Jeremiah 5:16 Or Its quiver is like an open grave
  19. Jeremiah 5:25 Heb lacks blessings.
  20. Jeremiah 5:26 Heb uncertain
  21. Jeremiah 5:31 Or by their hands
  22. Jeremiah 6:2 Heb uncertain
  23. Jeremiah 6:6 Heb uncertain
  24. Jeremiah 6:8 Or Accept correction
  25. Jeremiah 6:10 Or uncircumcised
  26. Jeremiah 6:16 Or they
  27. Jeremiah 6:17 Or they
  28. Jeremiah 6:18 Heb uncertain
  29. Jeremiah 6:27 Heb uncertain
  30. Jeremiah 6:28 Or bronze
  31. Jeremiah 6:29 Heb uncertain
  32. Jeremiah 6:29 Or wicked
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


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