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Jeremiah 5-6 Good News Translation (GNT)

The Sin of Jerusalem

People of Jerusalem, run through your streets!
    Look around! See for yourselves!
    Search the marketplaces!
Can you find one person
    who does what is right
    and tries to be faithful to God?
If you can, the Lord will forgive Jerusalem.
Even though you claim to worship the Lord,
    you do not mean what you say.
Surely the Lord looks for faithfulness.
He struck you, but you paid no attention;
    he crushed you, but you refused to learn.
You were stubborn and would not turn from your sins.
Then I thought, “These are only the poor and ignorant.
They behave foolishly;
    they don't know what their God requires,
    what the Lord wants them to do.
I will go to the people in power
    and talk with them.
Surely they know what their God requires,
    what the Lord wants them to do.”
But all of them have rejected the Lord's authority
    and refuse to obey him.
That is why lions from the forest will kill them;
    wolves from the desert will tear them to pieces,
    and leopards will prowl through their towns.
If those people go out, they will be torn apart
    because their sins are numerous
    and time after time they have turned from God.
The Lord asked, “Why should I forgive the sins of my people?
They have abandoned me
    and have worshiped gods that are not real.
I fed my people until they were full,
    but they committed adultery
    and spent their time with prostitutes.
They were like well-fed stallions wild with desire,
    each lusting for his neighbor's wife.
Shouldn't I punish them for these things
    and take revenge on a nation such as this?
10 I will send enemies to cut down my people's vineyards,
    but not to destroy them completely.
I will tell them to strip away the branches,
    because those branches are not mine.
11 The people of Israel and Judah
    have betrayed me completely.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”

The Lord Rejects Israel

12 The Lord's people have denied him and have said, “He won't really do anything.[a] We won't have hard times; we won't have war or famine.” 13-14 They have said that the prophets are nothing but windbags and that they have no message from the Lord. The Lord God Almighty said to me, “Jeremiah, because these people have said such things, I will make my words like a fire in your mouth. The people will be like wood, and the fire will burn them up.”

15 People of Israel, the Lord is bringing a nation from far away to attack you. It is a strong and ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know. 16 Their archers are mighty soldiers who kill without mercy. 17 They will devour your crops and your food; they will kill your sons and your daughters. They will slaughter your flocks and your herds and destroy your vines and fig trees. The fortified cities in which you trust will be destroyed by their army.

18 The Lord says, “Yet even in those days I will not completely destroy my people. 19 When they ask why I did all these things, tell them, Jeremiah, that just as they turned away from me and served foreign gods in their own land, so they will serve strangers in a land that is not theirs.”

God Warns His People

20 The Lord says, “Tell the descendants of Jacob, tell the people of Judah: 21 Pay attention, you foolish and stupid people, who have eyes, but cannot see, and have ears, but cannot hear. 22 I am the Lord; why don't you fear me? Why don't you tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary of the sea, a permanent boundary that it cannot cross. The sea may toss, but it cannot go beyond it; the waves may roar, but they cannot break through. 23 But you people! You are stubborn and rebellious; you have turned aside and left me. 24 You never thought to honor me, even though I send the autumn rains and the spring rains and give you the harvest season each year. 25 Instead, your sins have kept these good things from you.

26 “Evildoers live among my people; they lie in wait like those who lay nets to catch birds,[b] but they have set their traps to catch people. 27 Just as a hunter fills a cage with birds, they have filled their houses with loot. That is why they are powerful and rich, 28 why they are fat and well fed. There is no limit to their evil deeds. They do not give orphans their rights or show justice to the oppressed.

29 “But I, the Lord, will punish them for these things; I will take revenge on this nation. 30 A terrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 prophets speak nothing but lies; priests rule as the prophets command, and my people offer no objections. But what will they do when it all comes to an end?”

Jerusalem Is Surrounded by Enemies

People of Benjamin, run for safety! Escape from Jerusalem! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa and build a signal fire in Beth Haccherem. Disaster and destruction are about to come from the north. The city of Zion is beautiful, but it will be destroyed; kings will camp there with their armies. They will pitch their tents around the city, and each of them will camp wherever they want. They will say, “Prepare to attack Jerusalem! Get ready! We'll attack at noon!” But then they will say, “It's too late, the day is almost over, and the evening shadows are growing long. We'll attack by night; we'll destroy the city's fortresses.”

The Lord Almighty has ordered these kings to cut down trees and build mounds in order to besiege Jerusalem. He has said, “I will punish this city because it is full of oppression. As a well keeps its water fresh, so Jerusalem keeps its evil fresh. I hear violence and destruction in the city; sickness and wounds are all I see. People of Jerusalem, let these troubles be a warning to you, or else I will abandon you; I will turn your city into a desert, a place where no one lives.”

Rebellious Israel

The Lord Almighty said to me, “Israel will be stripped clean like a vineyard from which every grape has been picked. So you must rescue everyone you can while there is still time.”

10 I answered, “Who would listen to me if I spoke to them and warned them? They are stubborn and refuse to listen to your message; they laugh at what you tell me to say. 11 Your anger against them burns in me too, Lord, and I can't hold it in any longer.”

Then the Lord said to me, “Pour out my anger on the children in the streets and on the gatherings of the young people. Husbands and wives will be taken away, and even the very old will not be spared. 12 Their houses will be given to others, and so will their fields and their wives. I am going to punish the people of this land. 13 Everyone, great and small, tries to make money dishonestly; even prophets and priests cheat the people. 14 They act as if my people's wounds were only scratches. ‘All is well,’ they say, when all is not well. 15 Were they ashamed because they did these disgusting things? No, they were not at all ashamed; they don't even know how to blush. And so they will fall as others have fallen; when I punish them, that will be the end of them. I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Israel Rejects God's Way

16 The Lord said to his people, “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is. Walk in it, and you will live in peace.”

But they said, “No, we will not!” 17 Then the Lord appointed sentries to listen for the trumpet's warning. But they said, “We will not listen.”

18 So the Lord said, “Listen, you nations, and learn what is going to happen to my people. 19 Listen, earth! As punishment for all their schemes I am bringing ruin on these people, because they have rejected my teaching and have not obeyed my words. 20 What do I care about the incense they bring me from Sheba, or the spices from a distant land? I will not accept their offerings or be pleased with their sacrifices. 21 And so I will make these people stumble and fall. Parents and children will die, and so will friends and neighbors.”

Invasion from the North

22 The Lord says, “People are coming from a country in the north; a mighty nation far away is preparing for war. 23 They have taken up their bows and swords; they are cruel and merciless. They sound like the roaring sea, as they ride their horses. They are ready for battle against Jerusalem.”

24 “We have heard the news,” say the people of Jerusalem, “and our hands hang limp; we are seized by anguish and pain like a woman in labor. 25 We don't dare go to the countryside or walk on the roads, because our enemies are armed and terror is all around us.”

26 The Lord says to his people, “Put on sackcloth and roll in ashes. Mourn with bitter tears as you would for an only child, because the one who comes to destroy you will suddenly attack. 27 Jeremiah, test my people, as you would test metal, and find out what they are like. 28 They are all stubborn rebels, hard as bronze and iron. They are all corrupt, going around and spreading gossip. 29 The furnace burns fiercely, but the waste metals do not melt and run off. It is useless to go on refining my people, because those who are evil are not taken away. 30 They will be called worthless dross, because I, the Lord, have rejected them.”

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 5:12 He won't … anything; or We don't want anything to do with him.
  2. Jeremiah 5:26 Probable text they … birds; Hebrew unclear.
Good News Translation (GNT)

Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Jeremiah 5-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Utter Corruption of God’s People

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
    look around and take note!
Search its squares and see
    if you can find one person
who acts justly
    and seeks truth—
so that I may pardon Jerusalem.[a]
Although they say, “As the Lord lives,”
    yet they swear falsely.
O Lord, do your eyes not look for truth?
You have struck them,
    but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
    but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
    they have refused to turn back.

Then I said, “These are only the poor,
    they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
    the law of their God.
Let me go to the rich[b]
    and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord,
    the law of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke,
    they had burst the bonds.

Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them,
    a wolf from the desert shall destroy them.
A leopard is watching against their cities;
    everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces—
because their transgressions are many,
    their apostasies are great.

How can I pardon you?
    Your children have forsaken me,
    and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
    they committed adultery
    and trooped to the houses of prostitutes.
They were well-fed lusty stallions,
    each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
says the Lord;
    and shall I not bring retribution
    on a nation such as this?

10 Go up through her vine-rows and destroy,
    but do not make a full end;
strip away her branches,
    for they are not the Lord’s.
11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
    have been utterly faithless to me,
says the Lord.
12 They have spoken falsely of the Lord,
    and have said, “He will do nothing.
No evil will come upon us,
    and we shall not see sword or famine.”
13 The prophets are nothing but wind,
    for the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!

14 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:
Because they[c] have spoken this word,
I am now making my words in your mouth a fire,
    and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them.
15 I am going to bring upon you
    a nation from far away, O house of Israel,
says the Lord.
It is an enduring nation,
    it is an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know,
    nor can you understand what they say.
16 Their quiver is like an open tomb;
    all of them are mighty warriors.
17 They shall eat up your harvest and your food;
    they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
    they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
they shall destroy with the sword
    your fortified cities in which you trust.

18 But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you. 19 And when your people say, “Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?” you shall say to them, “As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”

20 Declare this in the house of Jacob,
    proclaim it in Judah:
21 Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
    who have eyes, but do not see,
    who have ears, but do not hear.
22 Do you not fear me? says the Lord;
    Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,
    a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail,
    though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
    they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say in their hearts,
    “Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives the rain in its season,
    the autumn rain and the spring rain,
and keeps for us
    the weeks appointed for the harvest.”
25 Your iniquities have turned these away,
    and your sins have deprived you of good.
26 For scoundrels are found among my people;
    they take over the goods of others.
Like fowlers they set a trap;[d]
    they catch human beings.
27 Like a cage full of birds,
    their houses are full of treachery;
therefore they have become great and rich,
28     they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;
    they do not judge with justice
the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,
    and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
29 Shall I not punish them for these things?
says the Lord,
    and shall I not bring retribution
    on a nation such as this?

30 An appalling and horrible thing
    has happened in the land:
31 the prophets prophesy falsely,
    and the priests rule as the prophets direct;[e]
my people love to have it so,
    but what will you do when the end comes?

The Imminence and Horror of the Invasion

Flee for safety, O children of Benjamin,
    from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
    and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem;
for evil looms out of the north,
    and great destruction.
I have likened daughter Zion
    to the loveliest pasture.[f]
Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her.
    They shall pitch their tents around her;
    they shall pasture, all in their places.
“Prepare war against her;
    up, and let us attack at noon!”
“Woe to us, for the day declines,
    the shadows of evening lengthen!”
“Up, and let us attack by night,
    and destroy her palaces!”
For thus says the Lord of hosts:
Cut down her trees;
    cast up a siege ramp against Jerusalem.
This is the city that must be punished;[g]
    there is nothing but oppression within her.
As a well keeps its water fresh,
    so she keeps fresh her wickedness;
violence and destruction are heard within her;
    sickness and wounds are ever before me.
Take warning, O Jerusalem,
    or I shall turn from you in disgust,
and make you a desolation,
    an uninhabited land.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Glean[h] thoroughly as a vine
    the remnant of Israel;
like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again
    over its branches.

10 To whom shall I speak and give warning,
    that they may hear?
See, their ears are closed,[i]
    they cannot listen.
The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn;
    they take no pleasure in it.
11 But I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
    I am weary of holding it in.

Pour it out on the children in the street,
    and on the gatherings of young men as well;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
    the old folk and the very aged.
12 Their houses shall be turned over to others,
    their fields and wives together;
for I will stretch out my hand
    against the inhabitants of the land,
says the Lord.

13 For from the least to the greatest of them,
    everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
    everyone deals falsely.
14 They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
    saying, “Peace, peace,”
    when there is no peace.
15 They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
    yet they were not ashamed,
    they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
    at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord.
16 Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
17 Also I raised up sentinels for you:
    “Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!”
But they said, “We will not give heed.”
18 Therefore hear, O nations,
    and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
19 Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people,
    the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not given heed to my words;
    and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
20 Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba,
    or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
    nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
21 Therefore thus says the Lord:
See, I am laying before this people
    stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble;
parents and children together,
    neighbor and friend shall perish.

22 Thus says the Lord:
See, a people is coming from the land of the north,
    a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
23 They grasp the bow and the javelin,
    they are cruel and have no mercy,
    their sound is like the roaring sea;
they ride on horses,
    equipped like a warrior for battle,
    against you, O daughter Zion!

24 “We have heard news of them,
    our hands fall helpless;
anguish has taken hold of us,
    pain as of a woman in labor.
25 Do not go out into the field,
    or walk on the road;
for the enemy has a sword,
    terror is on every side.”

26 O my poor people, put on sackcloth,
    and roll in ashes;
make mourning as for an only child,
    most bitter lamentation:
for suddenly the destroyer
    will come upon us.

27 I have made you a tester and a refiner[j] among my people
    so that you may know and test their ways.
28 They are all stubbornly rebellious,
    going about with slanders;
they are bronze and iron,
    all of them act corruptly.
29 The bellows blow fiercely,
    the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,
    for the wicked are not removed.
30 They are called “rejected silver,”
    for the Lord has rejected them.

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 5:1 Heb it
  2. Jeremiah 5:5 Or the great
  3. Jeremiah 5:14 Heb you
  4. Jeremiah 5:26 Meaning of Heb uncertain
  5. Jeremiah 5:31 Or rule by their own authority
  6. Jeremiah 6:2 Or I will destroy daughter Zion, the loveliest pasture
  7. Jeremiah 6:6 Or the city of license
  8. Jeremiah 6:9 Cn: Heb They shall glean
  9. Jeremiah 6:10 Heb are uncircumcised
  10. Jeremiah 6:27 Or a fortress
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jeremiah 5-6 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

“Roam the streets of Yerushalayim
look around, observe and ask in its open spaces:
if you can find anyone (if there is anyone!)
who acts with justice and seeks the truth,
I will pardon her.
And though they say, ‘As Adonai lives,’
the fact is that they are swearing falsely.”

Adonai, your eyes look for truth.
You struck them, but they weren’t affected;
you [nearly] destroyed them,
but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than rock,
refusing to repent.

My reaction was, “These must be the poor,
the foolish, not knowing the way of Adonai
or the rulings of their God.
I will go to the prominent men,
and I will speak to them;
for they know the way of Adonai
and the rulings of their God.”
But these had completely broken the yoke
and torn the harness off.
This is why a forest lion kills them,
why a desert wolf can plunder them,
why a leopard guards their cities —
all who leave are torn to pieces —
because their crimes are many,
their backslidings keep increasing.

“Why should I forgive you?
Your people have abandoned me
and sworn by non-gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery,
thronging to the brothels.
They have become like well-fed horses,
lusty stallions, each one neighing
after his neighbor’s wife.
Should I not punish for this?” asks Adonai.
“Should I not be avenged on a nation like this?”

10 Go through her rows [of vines], and destroy them
(but don’t destroy them completely):
strip away her branches,
they do not belong to Adonai.
11 “For the house of Isra’el
and the house of Y’hudah
have thoroughly betrayed me,” says Adonai.

12 They have denied Adonai,
they have said, “He won’t do anything,
calamity will not strike us,
we will see neither sword nor famine.
13 The prophets are merely wind,
they do not have the word;
the things that they are predicting
will happen only to them.”

14 Therefore Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot says:

“Because you people speak this way,
I will make my words fire in your mouth, [Yirmeyahu,]
and this people wood;
so that it will devour them.
15 I will bring on you, house of Isra’el,
a distant nation,” says Adonai,
“an enduring nation, an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know —
you will not understand what they are saying.
16 Their quiver is like an open grave,
they are all mighty warriors.
17 They will eat up your harvest and your bread,
they will eat up your sons and your daughters,
they will eat up your flocks and your herds,
they will eat up your vines and your fig trees;
with the sword they will beat down
your fortified cities, in which you trust.
18 But even in those days,” says Adonai,
“I will not completely destroy you.
19 And when your people ask, ‘Why has Adonai
our God done all these things to us?’
you are to give them this answer:
‘Just as you abandoned me
and served strange gods in your own land,
so likewise you will serve strangers
in a land that is not your own.’
20 Announce this in the house of Ya‘akov,
proclaim it in Y’hudah; say:
21 ‘Hear this, stupid, brainless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear:
22 Don’t you fear me? — says Adonai.
Won’t you tremble at my presence?
I made the shore the limit for the sea;
by eternal decree it cannot pass.
Its waves may toss, but to no avail;
although they roar, they cannot cross it.
23 But this people has a rebellious, defiant heart;
they have rebelled and gone!
24 They don’t say to themselves,
“Let’s fear Adonai our God,
who gives the fall and spring rains in season,
who reserves us the weeks assigned for harvest.”
25 Your crimes have overturned nature’s rules,
your sins have kept back good from you.’
26 “For among my people there are wicked men,
who, like fowlers, lie in wait and set traps
to catch their fellow human beings.
27 Their houses are as full of fraud
as a cage full of birds.
They grow rich and great, 28 sleek and bloated;
they excel in acts of wickedness
but do not plead on behalf of the orphan,
thus enabling his cause to succeed;
nor do they judge in favor of the poor.

29 “Should I not punish for this?” asks Adonai.
“Should I not be avenged on a nation like this?
30 A shocking and horrifying thing
has happened in the land:
31 The prophets prophesy lies,
the cohanim obey the prophets,
and my people love it that way.
But what will you do at the end of it all?

“Head for cover, people of Binyamin,
get out of Yerushalayim!
Blow the shofar in T’koa,
light the beacon on Beit-Hakerem.
For disaster threatens from the north,
with great destruction.
Although she is beautiful and delicate,
I am cutting off the daughter of Tziyon.”

Shepherds advance on her with their flocks;
all around her they pitch their tents,
each grazing his own plot of pasture.
“Prepare for war against her!
Get up! Let’s attack at noon!”
“Woe to us! for the day is waning,
evening shadows are lengthening.”
“Get up! Let’s attack at night!
Let’s destroy her palaces!”

For Adonai-Tzva’ot says this:

“Cut down her trees, and raise a siege-ramp
against Yerushalayim!
This is the city to be punished;
in her there is nothing but oppression.
Just as a cistern keeps its water fresh,
so she keeps her wickedness fresh!
Violence and destruction are heard within her,
always before me sickness and wounds.
Accept correction, Yerushalayim,
or I will be estranged from you
and turn you into a desolate waste,
a land without inhabitants.”

Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot:

“They will glean the remnant of Isra’el
as thoroughly as in a vineyard —
one last time, like a grape-picker,
pass your hand over the vines.”

10 To whom should I speak? Whom should I warn?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are dull, they can’t pay attention.
For them the word of Adonai has become
unattractive, an object of scorn.
11 This is why I am full of Adonai’s fury;
I am weary of holding it back.

“Pour it out on the children in the street
and on the groups of young men gathered;
for husbands and wives will be taken together,
seniors as well as the very old.
12 Their homes will be turned over to others,
their fields together with their wives.
Yes, I will stretch out my hand against those
who are living in the land,” says Adonai.
13 “For from the least to the greatest of them,
all are greedy for gains;
prophets and cohanim alike,
they all practice fraud —
14 they dress the wound of my people,
but only superficially,
saying, ‘There is perfect shalom,’
when there is no shalom.

15 “They should be ashamed
of their detestable deeds,
but they are not ashamed at all;
they don’t know how to blush.
Therefore when others fall,
they too will fall;
when I punish them,
they will stumble,” says Adonai.

16 Here is what Adonai says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask about the ancient paths,
‘Which one is the good way?’
Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not take it.’
17 I appointed sentinels to direct them:
‘Listen for the sound of the shofar.’
But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
18 So hear, you nations; know, you assembly,
what there is against them.
19 Hear, oh earth! I am going
to bring disaster on this people;
it is the consequence
of their own way of thinking;
for they pay no attention to my words;
and as for my Torah, they reject it.
20 What do I care about incense from Sh’va
or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are unacceptable,
your sacrifices don’t please me.”

21 Therefore thus says Adonai:

“I will put obstacles in the way of this people
that they will stumble over —
fathers and sons, neighbors and friends,
all will perish together.”

22 Here is what Adonai says:

“A people is coming from the land of the north,
a great nation will be aroused from the ends of the earth.
23 They will take hold of bow and spear;
they are cruel; they have no compassion:
their noise as they ride on horses
is like the roaring sea;
and they are equipped for battle
against you, daughter of Tziyon.
24 ‘We have heard the news,
and our hands fall limp;
anguish has seized us,
pain like a mother’s in childbirth.’”

25 Don’t go into the countryside,
don’t walk out on the road;
for the sword of the enemy is spreading
terror in every direction.

26 Daughter of my people,
put on sackcloth, roll in ashes,
mourn as if for an only son,
wail most bitterly;
for suddenly the destroyer
will come upon us.

27 “I have made you a refiner and tester of my people,
to know and test how they behave.
28 All of them are total rebels,
spreading slanderous gossip;
they are bronze and iron, [inferior metals,]
all of them corrupt.
29 The bellows blast away;
and though the lead is consumed by the fire,
in vain has the smelter refined,
for the wicked have not been separated.
30 They are called ‘rejected silver,’
because Adonai has rejected them.”

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.

Jeremiah 5-6 The Message (MSG)

Sins Are Piled Sky-High

1-2 “Patrol Jerusalem’s streets.
    Look around. Take note.
Search the market squares.
    See if you can find one man, one woman,
A single soul who does what is right
    and tries to live a true life.
    I want to forgive that person.”
        God’s Decree.
“But if all they do is say, ‘As sure as God lives . . .’
    they’re nothing but a bunch of liars.”

3-6 But you, God,
    you have an eye for truth, don’t you?
You hit them hard, but it didn’t faze them.
    You disciplined them, but they refused correction.
Hardheaded, harder than rock,
    they wouldn’t change.
Then I said to myself, “Well, these are just poor people.
    They don’t know any better.
They were never taught anything about God.
    They never went to prayer meetings.
I’ll find some people from the best families.
    I’ll talk to them.
They’ll know what’s going on, the way God works.
    They’ll know the score.”
But they were no better! Rebels all!
    Off doing their own thing.
The invaders are ready to pounce and kill,
    like a mountain lion, a wilderness wolf,
Panthers on the prowl.
    The streets aren’t safe anymore.
And why? Because the people’s sins are piled sky-high;
    their betrayals are past counting.

7-9 “Why should I even bother with you any longer?
    Your children wander off, leaving me,
Taking up with gods
    that aren’t even gods.
I satisfied their deepest needs, and then they went off with the ‘sacred’ whores,
    left me for orgies in sex shrines!
A bunch of well-groomed, lusty stallions,
    each one pawing and snorting for his neighbor’s wife.
Do you think I’m going to stand around and do nothing?”
    God’s Decree.
“Don’t you think I’ll take serious measures
    against a people like this?

Eyes That Don’t Really Look, Ears That Don’t Really Listen

10-11 “Go down the rows of vineyards and rip out the vines,
    but not all of them. Leave a few.
Prune back those vines!
    That growth didn’t come from God!
They’ve betrayed me over and over again,
    Judah and Israel both.”
        God’s Decree.

12-13 “They’ve spread lies about God.
    They’ve said, ‘There’s nothing to him.
Nothing bad will happen to us,
    neither famine nor war will come our way.
The prophets are all windbags.
    They speak nothing but nonsense.’”

14 Therefore, this is what God said to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“Because they have talked this way,
    they are going to eat those words.
Watch now! I’m putting my words
    as fire in your mouth.
And the people are a pile of kindling
    ready to go up in flames.

15-17 “Attention! I’m bringing a far-off nation
    against you, O house of Israel.”
        God’s Decree.
“A solid nation,
    an ancient nation,
A nation that speaks another language.
    You won’t understand a word they say.
When they aim their arrows, you’re as good as dead.
    They’re a nation of real fighters!
They’ll clean you out of house and home,
    rob you of crops and children alike.
They’ll feast on your sheep and cattle,
    strip your vines and fig trees.
And the fortresses that made you feel so safe—
    leveled with a stroke of the sword!

18-19 “Even then, as bad as it will be”—God’s Decree!—“it will not be the end of the world for you. And when people ask, ‘Why did our God do all this to us?’ you must say to them, ‘It’s tit for tat. Just as you left me and served foreign gods in your own country, so now you must serve foreigners in their own country.’

20-25 “Tell the house of Jacob this,
    put out this bulletin in Judah:
Listen to this,
    you scatterbrains, airheads,
With eyes that see but don’t really look,
    and ears that hear but don’t really listen.
Why don’t you honor me?
    Why aren’t you in awe before me?
Yes, me, who made the shorelines
    to contain the ocean waters.
I drew a line in the sand
    that cannot be crossed.
Waves roll in but cannot get through;
    breakers crash but that’s the end of them.
But this people—what a people!
    Uncontrollable, untameable runaways.
It never occurs to them to say,
    ‘How can we honor our God with our lives,
The God who gives rain in both spring and autumn
    and maintains the rhythm of the seasons,
Who sets aside time each year for harvest
    and keeps everything running smoothly for us?’
Of course you don’t! Your bad behavior blinds you to all this.
    Your sins keep my blessings at a distance.

To Stand for Nothing and Stand Up for No One

26-29 “My people are infiltrated by wicked men,
    unscrupulous men on the hunt.
They set traps for the unsuspecting.
    Their victims are innocent men and women.
Their houses are stuffed with ill-gotten gain,
    like a hunter’s bag full of birds.
Pretentious and powerful and rich,
    hugely obese, oily with rolls of fat.
Worse, they have no conscience.
    Right and wrong mean nothing to them.
They stand for nothing, stand up for no one,
    throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor.
Do you think I’ll stand by and do nothing about this?”
    God’s Decree.
“Don’t you think I’ll take serious measures
    against a people like this?

30-31 “Unspeakable! Sickening!
    What’s happened in this country?
Prophets preach lies
    and priests hire on as their assistants.
And my people love it. They eat it up!
    But what will you do when it’s time to pick up the pieces?”

A City Full of Lies

1-5 “Run for your lives, children of Benjamin!
    Get out of Jerusalem, and now!
Give a blast on the ram’s horn in Blastville.
    Send up smoke signals from Smoketown.
Doom pours out of the north—
    massive terror!
I have likened my dear daughter Zion
    to a lovely meadow.
Well, now ‘shepherds’ from the north have discovered her
    and brought in their flocks of soldiers.
They’ve pitched camp all around her,
    and plan where they’ll ‘graze.’
And then, ‘Prepare to attack! The fight is on!
    To arms! We’ll strike at noon!
Oh, it’s too late? Day is dying?
    Evening shadows are upon us?
Well, up anyway! We’ll attack by night
    and tear apart her defenses stone by stone.’”

6-8 God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave the orders:

“Chop down her trees.
    Build a siege ramp against Jerusalem,
A city full of brutality,
    bursting with violence.
Just as a well holds a good supply of water,
    she supplies wickedness nonstop.
The streets echo the cries: ‘Violence! Rape!’
    Victims, bleeding and moaning, lie all over the place.
You’re in deep trouble, Jerusalem.
    You’ve pushed me to the limit.
You’re on the brink of being wiped out,
    being turned into a ghost town.”

More orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“Time’s up! Harvest the grapes for judgment.
    Salvage what’s left of Israel.
Go back over the vines.
    Pick them clean, every last grape.

Is Anybody Listening?

10-11 “I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening?
    I’ve a warning to post. Will anyone notice?
It’s hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax—
    deaf as a post, blind as a bat.
It’s hopeless! They’ve tuned out God.
    They don’t want to hear from me.
But I’m bursting with the wrath of God.
    I can’t hold it in much longer.

11-12 “So dump it on the children in the streets.
    Let it loose on the gangs of youth.
For no one’s exempt: Husbands and wives will be taken,
    the old and those ready to die;
Their homes will be given away—
    all they own, even their loved ones—
When I give the signal
    against all who live in this country.”
        God’s Decree.

13-15 “Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar,
    little people and big people alike.
Prophets and priests and everyone in between
    twist words and doctor truth.
My people are broken—shattered!—
    and they put on Band-Aids,
Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
    But things are not ‘just fine’!
Do you suppose they are embarrassed
    over this outrage?
No, they have no shame.
    They don’t even know how to blush.
There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom
    and there’s no getting up.
As far as I’m concerned,
    they’re finished.”
        God has spoken.

Death Is on the Prowl

16-20 God’s Message yet again:

“Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
    Ask for directions to the old road,
The tried-and-true road. Then take it.
    Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, ‘Nothing doing.
    We aren’t going that way.’
I even provided watchmen for them
    to warn them, to set off the alarm.
But the people said, ‘It’s a false alarm.
    It doesn’t concern us.’
And so I’m calling in the nations as witnesses:
    ‘Watch, witnesses, what happens to them!’
And, ‘Pay attention, Earth!
    Don’t miss these bulletins.’
I’m visiting catastrophe on this people, the end result
    of the games they’ve been playing with me.
They’ve ignored everything I’ve said,
    had nothing but contempt for my teaching.
What would I want with incense brought in from Sheba,
    rare spices from exotic places?
Your burnt sacrifices in worship give me no pleasure.
    Your religious rituals mean nothing to me.”

21 So listen to this. Here’s God’s verdict on your way of life:

“Watch out! I’m putting roadblocks and barriers
    on the road you’re taking.
They’ll send you sprawling,
    parents and children, neighbors and friends—
    and that will be the end of the lot of you.”

22-23 And listen to this verdict from God:

“Look out! An invasion from the north,
    a mighty power on the move from a faraway place:
Armed to the teeth,
    vicious and pitiless,
Booming like sea storm and thunder—tramp, tramp, tramp—
    riding hard on war horses,
In battle formation
    against you, dear Daughter Zion!”

24-25 We’ve heard the news,
    and we’re as limp as wet dishrags.
We’re paralyzed with fear.
    Terror has a death grip on our throats.
Don’t dare go outdoors!
    Don’t leave the house!
Death is on the prowl.
    Danger everywhere!

26 “Dear Daughter Zion: Dress in black.
    Blacken your face with ashes.
Weep most bitterly,
    as for an only child.
The countdown has begun . . .
    six, five, four, three . . .
    The Terror is on us!”

27-30 God gave me this task:

“I have made you the examiner of my people,
    to examine and weigh their lives.
They’re a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch,
    rotten to the core, the lot of them.
Refining fires are cranked up to white heat,
    but the ore stays a lump, unchanged.
It’s useless to keep trying any longer.
    Nothing can refine evil out of them.
Men will give up and call them ‘slag,’
    thrown on the slag heap by me, their God.”

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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