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“If a man divorces a woman
    and she goes and marries someone else,
he will not take her back again,
    for that would surely corrupt the land.
But you have prostituted yourself with many lovers,
    so why are you trying to come back to me?”
    says the Lord.
“Look at the shrines on every hilltop.
    Is there any place you have not been defiled
    by your adultery with other gods?
You sit like a prostitute beside the road waiting for a customer.
    You sit alone like a nomad in the desert.
You have polluted the land with your prostitution
    and your wickedness.
That’s why even the spring rains have failed.
    For you are a brazen prostitute and completely shameless.
Yet you say to me,
    ‘Father, you have been my guide since my youth.
Surely you won’t be angry forever!
    Surely you can forget about it!’
So you talk,
    but you keep on doing all the evil you can.”

Judah Follows Israel’s Example

During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what fickle Israel has done? Like a wife who commits adultery, Israel has worshiped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. I thought, ‘After she has done all this, she will return to me.’ But she did not return, and her faithless sister Judah saw this. She saw[a] that I divorced faithless Israel because of her adultery. But that treacherous sister Judah had no fear, and now she, too, has left me and given herself to prostitution. Israel treated it all so lightly—she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So now the land has been polluted. 10 But despite all this, her faithless sister Judah has never sincerely returned to me. She has only pretended to be sorry. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Hope for Wayward Israel

11 Then the Lord said to me, “Even faithless Israel is less guilty than treacherous Judah! 12 Therefore, go and give this message to Israel.[b] This is what the Lord says:

“O Israel, my faithless people,
    come home to me again,
for I am merciful.
    I will not be angry with you forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt.
    Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God
and committed adultery against him
    by worshiping idols under every green tree.
Confess that you refused to listen to my voice.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

14 “Return home, you wayward children,”
    says the Lord,
    “for I am your master.
I will bring you back to the land of Israel[c]
    one from this town and two from that family—
    from wherever you are scattered.
15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
    who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.

16 “And when your land is once more filled with people,” says the Lord, “you will no longer wish for ‘the good old days’ when you possessed the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant. You will not miss those days or even remember them, and there will be no need to rebuild the Ark. 17 In that day Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Throne of the Lord.’ All nations will come there to honor the Lord. They will no longer stubbornly follow their own evil desires. 18 In those days the people of Judah and Israel will return together from exile in the north. They will return to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance forever.

19 “I thought to myself,
    ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’
I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—
    the finest possession in the world.
I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’
    and I wanted you never to turn from me.
20 But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel!
    You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband.
    I, the Lord, have spoken.”

21 Voices are heard high on the windswept mountains,
    the weeping and pleading of Israel’s people.
For they have chosen crooked paths
    and have forgotten the Lord their God.

22 “My wayward children,” says the Lord,
    “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.”

“Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply,
    “for you are the Lord our God.
23 Our worship of idols on the hills
    and our religious orgies on the mountains
    are a delusion.
Only in the Lord our God
    will Israel ever find salvation.
24 From childhood we have watched
    as everything our ancestors worked for—
their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters—
    was squandered on a delusion.
25 Let us now lie down in shame
    and cover ourselves with dishonor,
for we and our ancestors have sinned
    against the Lord our God.
From our childhood to this day
    we have never obeyed him.”

“O Israel,” says the Lord,
    “if you wanted to return to me, you could.
You could throw away your detestable idols
    and stray away no more.
Then when you swear by my name, saying,
    ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
you could do so
    with truth, justice, and righteousness.
Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world,
    and all people would come and praise my name.”

Coming Judgment against Judah

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

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!
    Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
O people of Judah and Jerusalem,
    surrender your pride and power.
Change your hearts before the Lord,[d]
    or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire
    because of all your sins.

“Shout to Judah, and broadcast to Jerusalem!
    Tell them to sound the alarm throughout the land:
‘Run for your lives!
    Flee to the fortified cities!’
Raise a signal flag as a warning for Jerusalem[e]:
    ‘Flee now! Do not delay!’
For I am bringing terrible destruction upon you
    from the north.”

A lion stalks from its den,
    a destroyer of nations.
It has left its lair and is headed your way.
    It’s going to devastate your land!
Your towns will lie in ruins,
    with no one living in them anymore.
So put on clothes of mourning
    and weep with broken hearts,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
    is still upon us.

“In that day,” says the Lord,
    “the king and the officials will tremble in fear.
The priests will be struck with horror,
    and the prophets will be appalled.”

10 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord,
    the people have been deceived by what you said,
for you promised peace for Jerusalem.
    But the sword is held at their throats!”

11 The time is coming when the Lord will say
    to the people of Jerusalem,
“My dear people, a burning wind is blowing in from the desert,
    and it’s not a gentle breeze useful for winnowing grain.
12 It is a roaring blast sent by me!
    Now I will pronounce your destruction!”

13 Our enemy rushes down on us like storm clouds!
    His chariots are like whirlwinds.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
    How terrible it will be, for we are doomed!
14 O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart
    that you may be saved.
How long will you harbor
    your evil thoughts?
15 Your destruction has been announced
    from Dan and the hill country of Ephraim.

16 “Warn the surrounding nations
    and announce this to Jerusalem:
The enemy is coming from a distant land,
    raising a battle cry against the towns of Judah.
17 They surround Jerusalem like watchmen around a field,
    for my people have rebelled against me,”
    says the Lord.
18 “Your own actions have brought this upon you.
    This punishment is bitter, piercing you to the heart!”

Jeremiah Weeps for His People

19 My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain!
    My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still.
For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets
    and the roar of their battle cries.
20 Waves of destruction roll over the land,
    until it lies in complete desolation.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed;
    in a moment my shelters are crushed.
21 How long must I see the battle flags
    and hear the trumpets of war?

22 “My people are foolish
    and do not know me,” says the Lord.
“They are stupid children
    who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
    but they have no idea how to do right!”

Jeremiah’s Vision of Coming Disaster

23 I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless.
    I looked at the heavens, and there was no light.
24 I looked at the mountains and hills,
    and they trembled and shook.
25 I looked, and all the people were gone.
    All the birds of the sky had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.
    The towns lay in ruins,
    crushed by the Lord’s fierce anger.

27 This is what the Lord says:
“The whole land will be ruined,
    but I will not destroy it completely.
28 The earth will mourn
    and the heavens will be draped in black
because of my decree against my people.
    I have made up my mind and will not change it.”

29 At the noise of charioteers and archers,
    the people flee in terror.
They hide in the bushes
    and run for the mountains.
All the towns have been abandoned—
    not a person remains!
30 What are you doing,
    you who have been plundered?
Why do you dress up in beautiful clothing
    and put on gold jewelry?
Why do you brighten your eyes with mascara?
    Your primping will do you no good!
The allies who were your lovers
    despise you and seek to kill you.

31 I hear a cry, like that of a woman in labor,
    the groans of a woman giving birth to her first child.
It is beautiful Jerusalem[f]
    gasping for breath and crying out,
    “Help! I’m being murdered!”

Footnotes

  1. 3:8 As in Dead Sea Scrolls, one Greek manuscript, and Syriac version; Masoretic Text reads I saw.
  2. 3:12 Hebrew toward the north.
  3. 3:14 Hebrew to Zion.
  4. 4:4 Hebrew Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart.
  5. 4:6 Hebrew Zion.
  6. 4:31 Hebrew the daughter of Zion.

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