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How Israel Can Return to the Lord

The Lord said:

Israel, if you really want
to come back to me,
get rid
    of those disgusting idols.
Make promises only in my name,
    and do what you promise!
Then all nations will praise me,
    and I will bless them.
People of Jerusalem and Judah,
    don’t be so stubborn!
Your hearts have become hard,
like unplowed ground
    where thornbushes grow.
With all your hearts,
keep the agreement
    I made with you.
But if you are stubborn
    and keep on sinning,
my anger will burn like a fire
    that cannot be put out.

Disaster Is Coming

The Lord said:

“Sound the trumpets, my people.
Warn the people of Judah,[a]
    ‘Run for your lives!
Head for Jerusalem
    or another walled town!'

“Jeremiah, tell them I’m sending
    disaster from the north.
An army will come out,
    like a lion from its den.
It will destroy nations
and leave your towns empty
    and in ruins.”

Then I said
    to the people of Israel,
“Put on sackcloth![b]
    Mourn and cry out,
‘The Lord is still angry
    with us.’”

The Lord said,

“When all this happens,
    the king and his officials,
the prophets and the priests
    will be shocked and terrified.”

10 I said, “You are the Lord God. So why have you fooled everyone, especially the people of Jerusalem? Why did you promise peace, when a knife is at our throats?”

The Coming Disaster

11-12 When disaster comes, the Lord will tell you people of Jerusalem,

“I am sending a windstorm
from the desert—
    not a welcome breeze.[c]
And it will sweep you away
    as punishment for your sins.
13 Look! The enemy army
    swoops down like an eagle;
their cavalry and chariots
race faster
than storm clouds
    blown by the wind.”

Then you will answer,
    “We are doomed!”

14 But Jerusalem, there is still time
    for you to be saved.
Wash the evil from your hearts
    and stop making sinful plans,
15 before a message of disaster
from the hills of Ephraim
    and the town of Dan.[d]

16-17 The Lord said,

“Tell the nations that my people
    have rebelled against me.
And so an army will come
    from far away
to surround Jerusalem
    and the towns of Judah.
I, the Lord, have spoken.

18 “People of Judah,
    your hearts will be in pain,
but it’s your own fault
    that you will be punished.”

Jeremiah’s Vision of the Coming Punishment

19 I can’t stand the pain!
My heart pounds,
    as I twist and turn in agony.
I hear the signal trumpet
and the battle cry of the enemy,
    and I cannot be silent.
20 I see the enemy defeating us
time after time,
    leaving everything in ruins.
Even my own home
    is destroyed in a moment.
21 How long will I see enemy flags
    and hear their trumpets?

22 I heard the Lord say,
    “My people ignore me.
They are foolish children
who do not understand
    that they will be punished.
All they know is how to sin.”

23 After this, I looked around.
The earth was barren,
    with no form of life.
The sun, moon, and stars
    had disappeared.
24 The mountains were shaking;
25 no people could be seen,
    and all the birds
    had flown away.
26 Farmland had become a desert,
    and towns were in ruins.
The Lord’s fierce anger
    had done all of this.

The Death of Jerusalem

27-28 The Lord said:

I have made my decision,
    and I won’t change my mind.
This land will be destroyed,
    although not completely.
The sky will turn dark,
    and the earth will mourn.

29 Enemy cavalry and archers
    shout their battle cry.
People run for their lives
and try to find safety
    among trees and rocks.
Every town is empty.

30 Jerusalem, your land
    has been wiped out.
But you act like a prostitute
and try to win back your lovers,
    who now hate you.
You can put on a red dress,
gold jewelry, and eye shadow,
    but it’s no use—
your lovers are out to kill you!

31 I heard groaning and crying.
Was it a woman giving birth
    to her first child?
No, it was Jerusalem.
She was gasping for breath
    and begging for help.
“I’m dying!” she said.
    “They have murdered me.”


  1. 4.5 Judah: Hebrew “Judah and Jerusalem.”
  2. 4.8 sackcloth: A rough, dark-colored cloth made from goat or camel hair and used to make grain sacks. It was worn in times of trouble or sorrow.
  3. 4.11,12 a welcome breeze: Hebrew “a wind to blow away the husks.” Farmers used a special shovel to pitch grain and husks into the air. Wind would blow away the light husks, and the grain would fall back to the ground, where it could be gathered up.
  4. 4.15 Ephraim. . . Dan: The hills of Ephraim were to the north of Jerusalem, and Dan was even farther north. They would be reached by the invading army first.