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Chapter 23

A Just Shepherd.[a] (A)Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture—oracle of the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.(B) I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.(C) I will raise up shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing—oracle of the Lord.(D)

See, days are coming—oracle of the Lord
    when I will raise up a righteous branch for David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely,
    he shall do what is just and right in the land.(E)
In his days Judah shall be saved,
    Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name to be given him:
    “The Lord our justice.”(F)

(G)Therefore, the days are coming—oracle of the Lord—when they shall no longer say, “As the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt”; but rather, “As the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north”—and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own soil.

The False Prophets[b]

Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me,
    all my bones tremble;
I am like a drunk,
    like one overcome by wine,
Because of the Lord,
    because of his holy words.
10 The land is filled with adulterers;
    because of the curse the land mourns,
    the pastures of the wilderness are withered.(H)
Theirs is an evil course,
    theirs is unjust power.
11 Both prophet and priest are godless!
    In my very house I find their wickedness—
    oracle of the Lord.(I)
12 Hence their way shall become for them
    slippery ground.
Into the darkness they shall be driven,
    and fall headlong;
For I will bring disaster upon them,
    the year of their punishment—oracle of the Lord.(J)
13 Among Samaria’s prophets
    I saw something unseemly:
They prophesied by Baal
    and led my people Israel astray.(K)
14 But among Jerusalem’s prophets
    I saw something more shocking:
Adultery, walking in deception,[c]
    strengthening the power of the wicked,
    so that no one turns from evil;
To me they are all like Sodom,
    its inhabitants like Gomorrah.(L)

15 Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts against the prophets:

Look, I will give them wormwood to eat,
    and poisoned water to drink;
For from Jerusalem’s prophets
    ungodliness has gone forth into the whole land.(M)
16     Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Do not listen to the words of your prophets,
    who fill you with emptiness;
They speak visions from their own fancy,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.(N)
17 They say to those who despise the word of the Lord,[d]
    “Peace shall be yours”;
And to everyone who walks in hardness of heart,
    “No evil shall overtake you.”(O)
18 Now, who has stood in the council of the Lord,
    to see him and to hear his word?
    Who has heeded his word so as to announce it?(P)
19 See, the storm of the Lord!
    His wrath breaks forth
In a whirling storm
    that bursts upon the heads of the wicked.(Q)
20 The anger of the Lord shall not abate
    until he has carried out completely
    the decisions of his heart.
In days to come
    you will understand fully.
21 I did not send these prophets,
    yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
    yet they prophesied.(R)
22 Had they stood in my council,
    they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
They would have brought them back from their evil ways
    and from their wicked deeds.
23 Am I a God near at hand only—oracle of the Lord(S)
    and not a God far off?[e]
24 Can anyone hide in secret
    without my seeing them?—oracle of the Lord.
Do I not fill
    heaven and earth?—oracle of the Lord.

25 I have heard the prophets who prophesy lies in my name say, “I had a dream! I had a dream!” 26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets who prophesy lies and their own deceitful fancies ever turn back? 27 By the dreams they tell each other, they plan to make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal.(T) 28 Let the prophets who have dreams tell their dreams; let those who have my word speak my word truthfully!

What has straw to do with wheat?[f]
    —oracle of the Lord.(U)
29 Is not my word like fire—oracle of the Lord
    like a hammer shattering rock?

30 Therefore I am against the prophets—oracle of the Lord—those who steal my words from each other.(V) 31 Yes, I am against the prophets—oracle of the Lord—those who compose their own speeches and call them oracles. 32 Yes, I am against the prophets who tell lying dreams—oracle of the Lord—those who lead my people astray by recounting their reckless lies. It was not I who sent them or commanded them; they do this people no good at all—oracle of the Lord.(W)

33 [g]And when this people or a prophet or a priest asks you, “What is the burden of the Lord?” you shall answer, “You are the burden, and I cast you off”—oracle of the Lord. 34 If a prophet or a priest or anyone else mentions “the burden of the Lord,” I will punish that man and his household. 35 Thus you shall ask, when speaking to one another, “What answer did the Lord give?” or “What did the Lord say?” 36 But “the burden of the Lord” you shall mention no more. For each of you, your own word becomes the burden so that you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. 37 Thus shall you ask the prophet, “What answer did the Lord give?” or “What did the Lord say?” 38 But if you ask about “the burden of the Lord,” then thus says the Lord: Because you use this phrase, “the burden of the Lord,” though I forbade you to use it, 39 therefore I will lift you on high and cast you from my presence, you and the city which I gave to you and your ancestors. 40 And I will bring upon you eternal reproach, eternal shame, never to be forgotten.(X)


  1. 23:1–8 With the false rulers (shepherds) who have governed his people the Lord contrasts himself, the true shepherd, who will in the times of restoration appoint worthy rulers (vv. 1–4). He will provide a new king from David’s line who will rule justly, fulfilling royal ideals (vv. 5, 6). “The Lord our justice” is an ironic wordplay on the name of the weak King Zedekiah (“The Lord is justice”). Unlike Zedekiah, the future king will be true to the name he bears. Verses 7–8 may have been added during the exile.
  2. 23:9–40 After the collection of oracles against the kings, the editor of the book placed this collection of oracles against the false prophets. With them are associated the priests, for both have betrayed their trust as instructors in the ways of the Lord; cf. 2:8; 4:9; 6:13–14.
  3. 23:14 Cf. note on 13:25.
  4. 23:17–20 Not only are the false prophets personally immoral, but they encourage immorality by prophesying good for evildoers. The true prophet, on the other hand, sees the inevitable consequences of evil behavior.
  5. 23:23–24 Near at hand only…far off: a divine claim that no one can hide from God and that God is aware of all that happens.
  6. 23:28–29 Straw…wheat: a contrast between false and true prophecy. True prophecy is also like fire (cf. 5:14; 20:9), producing violent results (v. 29); Jeremiah’s own life is a testimony of this.
  7. 23:33–40 A wordplay on massa’, which means both “oracle” (usually of woe) and “burden.” In vv. 34–40 the word massa’ itself is forbidden to the people under the meaning of a divine oracle.