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Chapter 2

Infidelity of Israel.[a] The word of the Lord came to me: Go, cry out this message for Jerusalem to hear!

I remember the devotion[b] of your youth,
    how you loved me as a bride,
Following me in the wilderness,
    in a land unsown.(A)
Israel was dedicated to the Lord,
    the first fruits[c] of his harvest;
All who ate of it were held guilty,
    evil befell them—oracle of the Lord.(B)
Listen to the word of the Lord, house of Jacob!
    All you clans of the house of Israel,
    thus says the Lord:
What fault did your ancestors find in me
    that they withdrew from me,
Went after emptiness,
    and became empty themselves?(C)
They did not ask, “Where is the Lord
    who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
Who led us through the wilderness,
    through a land of wastes and ravines,
A land of drought and darkness,
    a land which no one crosses,
    where no one dwells?”(D)
I brought you into the garden land
    to eat its fine fruits,
But you entered and defiled my land,
    you turned my heritage into an abomination.(E)
The priests did not ask,
    “Where is the Lord?”
The experts in the law[d] did not know me:
    the shepherds rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
    and went after useless idols.(F)
Therefore I will again accuse you—oracle of the Lord
    even your children’s children I will accuse.(G)
10 Cross to the coast of Cyprus and see,
    send to Kedar[e] and carefully inquire:
    Where has anything like this been done?
11 Does any other nation change its gods?—
    even though they are not gods at all!
But my people have changed their glory
    for useless things.(H)
12 Be horrified at this, heavens;
    shudder, be appalled—oracle of the Lord.
13 Two evils my people have done:
    they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.(I)
14 Is Israel a slave, a house-born servant?[f]
    Why then has he become plunder?
15 Against him lions roar,
    they raise their voices.
They have turned his land into a waste;
    his cities are charred ruins, without an inhabitant.(J)
16 Yes, the people of Memphis[g] and Tahpanhes
    shave the crown of your head.
17 Has not forsaking the Lord, your God,
    done this to you?(K)
18 And now, why go to Egypt,[h]
    to drink the waters of the Nile?
Why go to Assyria,
    to drink the waters of the River?
19 Your own wickedness chastises you,
    your own infidelities punish you.
Know then, and see, how evil and bitter
    is your forsaking the Lord, your God,
And your showing no fear of me,
    oracle of the Lord, the God of hosts.(L)
20 Long ago you broke your yoke,(M)
    you tore off your bonds.
    You said, “I will not serve.”
On every high hill, under every green tree,
    you sprawled and served as a prostitute.[i]
21 But I had planted you as a choice vine,
    all pedigreed stock;
How could you turn out so obnoxious to me,
    a spurious vine?(N)
22 Even if you scour it with lye,
    and use much soap,
The stain of your guilt is still before me,
    oracle of the Lord God.(O)
23 How can you say, “I am not defiled,
    I have not pursued the Baals”?
Consider your conduct in the Valley,[j]
    recall what you have done:
A skittish young camel,
    running back and forth,
24     a wild donkey bred in the wilderness,
Sniffing the wind in her desire—
    who can restrain her lust?
None seeking her need tire themselves;
    in her time they will find her.
25 Stop wearing out your feet
    and parching your throat!
But you say, “No use! No!
    How I love these strangers,
    after them I must go.”(P)
26 As the thief is shamed when caught,
    so shall the house of Israel be shamed:
They, their kings, their princes,
    their priests and their prophets;(Q)
27 They say to a piece of wood, “You are my father,”
    and to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
They turn their backs to me, not their faces;
    yet in their time of trouble they cry out,
    “Rise up and save us!”
28 Where are the gods you made for yourselves?
    Let them rise up!
    Will they save you in your time of trouble?
For as numerous as your cities
    are your gods, O Judah!
And as many as the streets of Jerusalem
    are the altars you have set up for Baal.(R)
29 Why are you arguing with me?
    You have all rebelled against me—oracle of the Lord.
30 In vain I struck your children;
    correction they did not take.
Your sword devoured your prophets
    like a ravening lion.(S)
31 You people of this generation,
    consider the word of the Lord:
Have I become a wilderness to Israel,
    a land of gloom?
Why then do my people say, “We have moved on,
    we will not come to you any more”?
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
    a bride her sash?
Yet my people have forgotten me
    days without number.(T)
33 How well you pick your way
    when seeking love!
In your wickedness,
    you have gone by ways unclean!
34 On your clothing is
    the life-blood of the innocent,
    you did not find them committing burglary;
35 Nonetheless you say, “I am innocent;
    at least, his anger is turned away from me.”
Listen! I will judge you
    on that word of yours, “I have not sinned.”
36 How frivolous you have become
    in changing your course!
By Egypt you will be shamed,
    just as you were shamed by Assyria.(U)
37 From there too you will go out,
    your hands upon your head;
For the Lord has rejected those in whom you trust,
    with them you will have no success.(V)


  1. 2:1–3:5 These chapters may contain some of Jeremiah’s early preaching. He portrays Israel as the wife of the Lord, faithful only in the beginning, when she walked behind him (2:2–3, 5; 3:1). Consistent with the marriage metaphor, he describes her present unfaithfulness as adultery (2:20; 3:2–3); now she walks behind the Baals.
  2. 2:2 Devotion: Heb. hesed; Israel’s gratitude, fidelity, and love for God.
  3. 2:3 First fruits: the first yield of a harvest offered as a sign of dependence on and gratitude toward the Lord of the land, thus divine property. Israel, then, is a gift made to God, set apart for his use; cf. Ex 23:19.
  4. 2:8 Experts in the law: the priests. The shepherds: the kings and nobles.
  5. 2:10 Kedar: a nomadic tribe in north Arabia. Cyprus and Kedar represent west and east.
  6. 2:14 House-born servant: one born in the master’s house, in contrast to a slave acquired by purchase or as a captive; cf. Lv 22:11.
  7. 2:16 Memphis: the capital of Lower Egypt. Tahpanhes: a frontier city of Egypt, east of the Delta. Shave the crown of your head: an image for Egypt plundering Judah; perhaps a reference to the capture of King Jehoahaz in 609 B.C. (2 Kgs 23:34).
  8. 2:18 Egypt and Assyria were the competing foreign powers favored by rival parties within Judah. The desire for such foreign alliances is a further desertion of the Lord, the source of living waters (v. 13), in favor of the above-named powers, symbolized by the waters of the Nile and the Euphrates rivers.
  9. 2:20 Served as a prostitute: idolatry (because Israel is the “bride” of God); cf. vv. 2–3.
  10. 2:23 The Valley: probably Ben-hinnom, south of Jerusalem, site of the sanctuary of Topheth, where children were sacrificed to Molech; cf. 7:31.

Israel Forsakes God

The word(A) of the Lord came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

“This is what the Lord says:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,(B)
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,(C)
    through a land not sown.
Israel was holy(D) to the Lord,(E)
    the firstfruits(F) of his harvest;
all who devoured(G) her were held guilty,(H)
    and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.

Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
    all you clans of Israel.

This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
    that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols(I)
    and became worthless(J) themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,
    who brought us up out of Egypt(K)
and led us through the barren wilderness,
    through a land of deserts(L) and ravines,(M)
a land of drought and utter darkness,
    a land where no one travels(N) and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land
    to eat its fruit and rich produce.(O)
But you came and defiled my land
    and made my inheritance detestable.(P)
The priests did not ask,
    ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;(Q)
    the leaders(R) rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,(S)
    following worthless idols.(T)

“Therefore I bring charges(U) against you again,”
declares the Lord.
    “And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
10 Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus(V) and look,
    send to Kedar[a](W) and observe closely;
    see if there has ever been anything like this:
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?
    (Yet they are not gods(X) at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious(Y) God
    for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
    and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken(Z) me,
    the spring of living water,(AA)
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
14 Is Israel a servant, a slave(AB) by birth?
    Why then has he become plunder?
15 Lions(AC) have roared;
    they have growled at him.
They have laid waste(AD) his land;
    his towns are burned(AE) and deserted.(AF)
16 Also, the men of Memphis(AG) and Tahpanhes(AH)
    have cracked your skull.
17 Have you not brought this on yourselves(AI)
    by forsaking(AJ) the Lord your God
    when he led you in the way?
18 Now why go to Egypt(AK)
    to drink water from the Nile[b]?(AL)
And why go to Assyria(AM)
    to drink water from the Euphrates?(AN)
19 Your wickedness will punish you;
    your backsliding(AO) will rebuke(AP) you.
Consider then and realize
    how evil and bitter(AQ) it is for you
when you forsake(AR) the Lord your God
    and have no awe(AS) of me,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

20 “Long ago you broke off your yoke(AT)
    and tore off your bonds;(AU)
    you said, ‘I will not serve you!’(AV)
Indeed, on every high hill(AW)
    and under every spreading tree(AX)
    you lay down as a prostitute.(AY)
21 I had planted(AZ) you like a choice vine(BA)
    of sound and reliable stock.
How then did you turn against me
    into a corrupt,(BB) wild vine?
22 Although you wash(BC) yourself with soap(BD)
    and use an abundance of cleansing powder,
    the stain of your guilt is still before me,”
declares the Sovereign Lord.(BE)
23 “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;(BF)
    I have not run after the Baals’?(BG)
See how you behaved in the valley;(BH)
    consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
    running(BI) here and there,
24 a wild donkey(BJ) accustomed to the desert,(BK)
    sniffing the wind in her craving—
    in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
    at mating time they will find her.
25 Do not run until your feet are bare
    and your throat is dry.
But you said, ‘It’s no use!(BL)
    I love foreign gods,(BM)
    and I must go after them.’(BN)

26 “As a thief is disgraced(BO) when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests(BP) and their prophets.(BQ)
27 They say to wood,(BR) ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone,(BS) ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs(BT) to me
    and not their faces;(BU)
yet when they are in trouble,(BV) they say,
    ‘Come and save(BW) us!’
28 Where then are the gods(BX) you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!(BY)
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns.(BZ)

29 “Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all(CA) rebelled against me,”
declares the Lord.
30 “In vain I punished your people;
    they did not respond to correction.(CB)
Your sword has devoured your prophets(CC)
    like a ravenous lion.

31 “You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

“Have I been a desert to Israel
    or a land of great darkness?(CD)
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
    we will come to you no more’?(CE)
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
    a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten(CF) me,
    days without number.
33 How skilled you are at pursuing(CG) love!
    Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
34 On your clothes is found
    the lifeblood(CH) of the innocent poor,
    though you did not catch them breaking in.(CI)
Yet in spite of all this
35     you say, ‘I am innocent;(CJ)
    he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment(CK) on you
    because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’(CL)
36 Why do you go about so much,
    changing(CM) your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt(CN)
    as you were by Assyria.
37 You will also leave that place
    with your hands on your head,(CO)
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
    you will not be helped(CP) by them.


  1. Jeremiah 2:10 In the Syro-Arabian desert
  2. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew Shihor; that is, a branch of the Nile