15 Eternal One: A voice rises from Ramah— mourning and bitter weeping are heard day and night. The voice is Rachel’s; she’s weeping for her children. She will not be comforted, for her children are no more.[a]
The setting is Ramah, a village a few miles north of Jerusalem, where exiles are assembled before the long march to Babylon. Later the prophet himself will spend time in this refugee camp awaiting his own exile (40:1). For now, he paints the picture of Rachel, one of the matriarchs of this nation, weeping for her children as they head off into captivity.
16 But listen to what the Eternal says:
Eternal One: Do not weep, Rachel—wipe the tears from your eyes— for I promise I will reward you for what you have done. Your children will return from this exile; they will come back home from this enemy land. 17 There is hope for your future, I promise. Your children will come home to their own land. 18 I have heard the cries of Ephraim, groaning, “You have disciplined me. I was like an unruly calf, but You disciplined me. Bring me back, so I can return home, for You are my God, the Eternal. 19 After I had turned away from You, I repented. I turned back toward You when I understood what I had done; I slapped my thigh in shame and regret for the disgraceful things I did when I was young.” 20 So I, the Eternal One, asked: “Is this not Ephraim, My beloved son, My darling child? As often as I speak against him, I have never forgotten him. Even now, My heart longs for him; I will surely show him mercy!”
21 Set up markers along the road; put up guideposts so you can find your way home. Pay attention to the highway, the road you take into exile. Return by the same way, My virgin Israel; return to your cities and villages.
22 How long will you drift this way and that, My renegade daughter? Take heart—for now the Eternal will do a new thing on the earth: a woman will surround a man.[b]
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