Letter of JeremiahCommon English Bible (CEB)
This is a copy of the letter that Jeremiah sent to those who would be taken as prisoners to Babylon by the Babylonian king. Jeremiah wrote to give them the instructions that God imposed upon him.
God’s exile of Israel into Babylon
1 Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s king, will bring you as prisoners to Babylon because of the sins that you committed in the presence of God. 2 When you enter Babylon, you will be there a long time, as long as seven generations. Afterward, I will bring you out from there peacefully. 3 In Babylon you will see gods of silver, gold, and wood paraded on the Babylonians’ shoulders. These gods inspire awe among the people. 4 Be careful that you don’t become like the Gentiles,[a] letting fear of these gods grip you, 5 especially when you see large crowds of people walking in front of and behind them, worshipping them. But say to yourself, Lord, we want to worship you. 6 For God’s[b] angel is with you, examining your souls.
Inability of the idols to do anything
7 A carpenter smooths out the tongues of the idols. They are covered in gold and silver, but they are fake and unable to speak. 8 The Gentiles take gold and place crowns on their gods’ heads, like a young girl playing dress up. 9 Sometimes the priests secretly take away the gold and silver from their gods to spend on themselves and give to prostitutes in the brothels. 10 The Gentiles dress these gods of silver, gold, and wood with clothing just like people. But these idols can’t be rescued from rust and rotting.[c] 11 Even though the idols are dressed in rich purple clothing, the Gentiles have to wipe off the idols’ faces because of the dust in the temple that thickly covers them. 12 One idol has a royal staff, like a person who is a regional judge, but the idol can’t destroy the person who offends it. 13 Another one has a dagger or an ax in its right hand, but it can’t defend itself from war or robbers. 14 Clearly they are no gods, so don’t be afraid of them.
15 Just as a person’s utensil is useless after it’s broken, so are the Gentiles’ gods after they have been placed in their temples. 16 Their eyes are full of dust from the feet of visitors. 17 Even as the courtyards are locked up on every side when one is sentenced to death for doing wrong against a king, so the priests secure their temples with doors, bolts, and bars from robbers and thieves. 18 The priests light more lamps for the idols than for themselves, but their gods can’t see them. 19 The idols are just like the beams that support a house, but people say that their hearts melt before them.[d] They don’t notice when vermin from the earth have eaten them and their clothing. 20 Their faces have been darkened by the smoke that is in the temple. 21 Bats, swallows, birds, and cats land on their bodies and heads. 22 From this you will know that they aren’t gods. So don’t be afraid of them.
23 As for the gold they wear beautifully, the idols won’t shine unless someone else wipes away the rust. They didn’t have any feeling when they were made. 24 They are purchased at great cost, but there is no breath in them. 25 Since they have no feet, others carry them on their shoulders, demonstrating their worthlessness to people. Their servants are ashamed, since the idols fall to the ground unless they steady them and hold them up. 26 If anyone stands an idol up, it can’t move by itself. If one is tilted over, it can’t straighten itself up. Yet gifts are placed in front of them—just as people place gifts in front of the dead!
Worthlessness of the idols
27 Their priests misuse the sacrifices by selling them and using the money for themselves. Their wives also preserve some of the meat,[e] but they don’t share it with the poor or disabled. Menstruating[f] women and others who have just given birth have handled their sacrifices. 28 Since you know from these things that they aren’t gods, don’t be afraid of them.
29 Why call them gods? Because women place food before these gods of silver, gold, and wood? 30 Or because the priests sit in their temples with their garments torn, with their heads and beards shaved, and their heads uncovered? 31 They howl and shout in front of their gods as some do at a funeral feast for the dead. 32 Yet the priests take the gods’ clothing to dress their wives and children.
33 Whether one treats them badly or well, the gods aren’t able to repay in kind. They aren’t able to install or remove a ruler. 34 They can’t give either wealth or money. If someone makes a solemn promise and doesn’t keep it, they can’t enforce it. 35 They can’t save a person from death or rescue a weak person from a strong one. 36 They can’t restore sight to the blind or rescue a person in an emergency. 37 They can’t show mercy to a widow, nor can they do any good for an orphan. 38 These wooden things covered in gold and silver are like stones from a mountain. Their servants will be humiliated. 39 So why should anyone consider or call them gods?
40 In addition, even the Chaldeans dishonor them. When they see a person who is unable to speak, they bring out Bel and expect Bel to make a sound as if he were able to understand. 41 Even after observing this, the Chaldeans themselves are unable to abandon the idols because they have no sense. 42 The women, with cords wrapped around them, sit along the streets and burn corn husks as incense. 43 When one of these women is dragged away by someone to have sex, she makes fun of the one nearest her by saying that the other woman wasn’t as worthy as she, nor has the woman’s cord been broken. 44 Everything that is done for the gods is phony. So why should anyone consider or call them gods?
45 Carpenters and goldsmiths make them. They can be only what these designers want them to be. 46 Their creators won’t live long themselves, so how can the things they have made be gods? 47 These designers leave behind something fake and disgraceful for those who come after them. 48 When war or disasters come, the priests consult with each other about where they may hide along with the idols. 49 So how can one not grasp that they aren’t gods? They can’t save themselves from war or other disasters. 50 After such events as this, the idols, made of wood and covered in gold and silver, will be recognized as fake. It will be clear to the nations and to the rulers that they aren’t gods but human creations. There’s nothing divine about them. 51 Who then doesn’t realize that they aren’t gods?
52 They could never raise up a ruler over a country or provide rain for people. 53 They can’t render a verdict in their own cases, nor can they save those falsely accused, because the idols are powerless. They are like crows between the sky and the earth. 54 When a fire breaks out in the home of their wooden gods covered in gold and silver, their priests will run and save themselves, but the gods will be destroyed like the supporting beams. 55 The idols can’t stand up against kings or enemies in war. 56 So why should anyone consider or call them gods?
57 The wooden gods covered in gold and silver can’t be saved from thieves and robbers, who will take away the gold, silver, and clothing that the idols wear. They won’t be able to protect themselves. 58 It’s better to be a ruler who has courage or a household utensil that the owner can actually use than to be fake gods. The door of a house, which keeps safe the things that are in it, is better than fake gods. A wooden column in a palace is better than these fake gods.
The power of Israel’s God
59 The sun, moon, and stars are bright, and they willingly obey when given an order. 60 Also lightning is widely seen when it flashes and draws attention. The wind also blows in every land. 61 When God commands the clouds to move across the whole world, they carry out the order. When the fire is sent out from above to destroy mountains and forests, it accomplishes what it is ordered to do. 62 But the idols can’t be compared with such forces of nature in appearance or ability. 63 There’s no reason at all to believe in them or call them gods. They aren’t able to judge anyone’s case or do good for anyone. 64 Since you know they aren’t gods, don’t be afraid of them.
65 They can’t curse or bless rulers. 66 They can’t show signs in the sky among the nations or shine like the sun or give light like the moon. 67 The animals are better off than the idols, for they are able to run for shelter and help themselves. 68 It is obvious to us that the idols aren’t gods. So don’t be afraid of them.
69 As a scarecrow in a cucumber field offers no protection, so do[g] their wooden gods covered in gold and silver. 70 In the same way, their wooden gods covered in gold and silver could be compared to a briar patch where every bird perches or to a dead body thrown out into the darkness. 71 From the purple cloth—and the marble that decays and crumbles[h] on them—you will know they aren’t gods. Later they themselves will be devoured, and it will be a disgrace in the land.
72 So it is better to be a righteous person without any idols. That person will be far removed from disgrace.