Israel Forsakes God

The word(A) of the Lord came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

“This is what the Lord says:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,(B)
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,(C)
    through a land not sown.
Israel was holy(D) to the Lord,(E)
    the firstfruits(F) of his harvest;
all who devoured(G) her were held guilty,(H)
    and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.

Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob,
    all you clans of Israel.

This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
    that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols(I)
    and became worthless(J) themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,
    who brought us up out of Egypt(K)
and led us through the barren wilderness,
    through a land of deserts(L) and ravines,(M)
a land of drought and utter darkness,
    a land where no one travels(N) and no one lives?’
I brought you into a fertile land
    to eat its fruit and rich produce.(O)
But you came and defiled my land
    and made my inheritance detestable.(P)
The priests did not ask,
    ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;(Q)
    the leaders(R) rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,(S)
    following worthless idols.(T)

“Therefore I bring charges(U) against you again,”
declares the Lord.
    “And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
10 Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus(V) and look,
    send to Kedar[a](W) and observe closely;
    see if there has ever been anything like this:
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?
    (Yet they are not gods(X) at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious(Y) God
    for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
    and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken(Z) me,
    the spring of living water,(AA)
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
14 Is Israel a servant, a slave(AB) by birth?
    Why then has he become plunder?
15 Lions(AC) have roared;
    they have growled at him.
They have laid waste(AD) his land;
    his towns are burned(AE) and deserted.(AF)
16 Also, the men of Memphis(AG) and Tahpanhes(AH)
    have cracked your skull.
17 Have you not brought this on yourselves(AI)
    by forsaking(AJ) the Lord your God
    when he led you in the way?
18 Now why go to Egypt(AK)
    to drink water from the Nile[b]?(AL)
And why go to Assyria(AM)
    to drink water from the Euphrates?(AN)
19 Your wickedness will punish you;
    your backsliding(AO) will rebuke(AP) you.
Consider then and realize
    how evil and bitter(AQ) it is for you
when you forsake(AR) the Lord your God
    and have no awe(AS) of me,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

20 “Long ago you broke off your yoke(AT)
    and tore off your bonds;(AU)
    you said, ‘I will not serve you!’(AV)
Indeed, on every high hill(AW)
    and under every spreading tree(AX)
    you lay down as a prostitute.(AY)
21 I had planted(AZ) you like a choice vine(BA)
    of sound and reliable stock.
How then did you turn against me
    into a corrupt,(BB) wild vine?
22 Although you wash(BC) yourself with soap(BD)
    and use an abundance of cleansing powder,
    the stain of your guilt is still before me,”
declares the Sovereign Lord.(BE)
23 “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;(BF)
    I have not run after the Baals’?(BG)
See how you behaved in the valley;(BH)
    consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
    running(BI) here and there,
24 a wild donkey(BJ) accustomed to the desert,(BK)
    sniffing the wind in her craving—
    in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
    at mating time they will find her.
25 Do not run until your feet are bare
    and your throat is dry.
But you said, ‘It’s no use!(BL)
    I love foreign gods,(BM)
    and I must go after them.’(BN)

26 “As a thief is disgraced(BO) when he is caught,
    so the people of Israel are disgraced—
they, their kings and their officials,
    their priests(BP) and their prophets.(BQ)
27 They say to wood,(BR) ‘You are my father,’
    and to stone,(BS) ‘You gave me birth.’
They have turned their backs(BT) to me
    and not their faces;(BU)
yet when they are in trouble,(BV) they say,
    ‘Come and save(BW) us!’
28 Where then are the gods(BX) you made for yourselves?
    Let them come if they can save you
    when you are in trouble!(BY)
For you, Judah, have as many gods
    as you have towns.(BZ)

29 “Why do you bring charges against me?
    You have all(CA) rebelled against me,”
declares the Lord.
30 “In vain I punished your people;
    they did not respond to correction.(CB)
Your sword has devoured your prophets(CC)
    like a ravenous lion.

31 “You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:

“Have I been a desert to Israel
    or a land of great darkness?(CD)
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
    we will come to you no more’?(CE)
32 Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
    a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten(CF) me,
    days without number.
33 How skilled you are at pursuing(CG) love!
    Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
34 On your clothes is found
    the lifeblood(CH) of the innocent poor,
    though you did not catch them breaking in.(CI)
Yet in spite of all this
35     you say, ‘I am innocent;(CJ)
    he is not angry with me.’
But I will pass judgment(CK) on you
    because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’(CL)
36 Why do you go about so much,
    changing(CM) your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt(CN)
    as you were by Assyria.
37 You will also leave that place
    with your hands on your head,(CO)
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
    you will not be helped(CP) by them.


  1. Jeremiah 2:10 In the Syro-Arabian desert
  2. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew Shihor; that is, a branch of the Nile

The word of the Eternal came to me again.

With Jeremiah as God’s mouthpiece, the mighty oracles begin about a loving husband (God) divorcing his unfaithful wife (Judah).

Eternal One: Go now, and say this loud enough for all Jerusalem to hear. Tell them that the Eternal speaks these words:

    “I still remember the way you clung to Me in your youth, in the early days of our union.
        Like a young bride, you loved the vows you made.
    As I led you from slavery in Egypt to your freedom in Canaan, you drew close to Me.
        Even in the barren wilderness along the way, I filled your every need.
    In those days, you, Israel, were set apart for Me, the Eternal.
        You were like the first portions of the harvest—devoted and true.
    All who defied this arrangement and ate My portion for themselves were guilty,
        and evil rained down upon them.”

Listen to the very word of the Eternal, house of Jacob and all the clans of Israel!

Eternal One: What happened between us?
        What could I have done to your ancestors that was so wrong, so unfair?
    Why would they pull away from Me
        to pursue the empty worship of idols that has left them just as empty?
    They didn’t think to say, “Where is the Eternal who rescued us from slavery in Egypt?
        Where is the One who led us through the wilderness—a land of deserts and ravines?”
    No one seems to remember how they crossed a scorched and lifeless land,
        a darkness none had ever crossed before, a place where none survive.
    I am the One who delivered you into this land of abundance
        to enjoy its fruits and many good things.
    But you have now taken the very land I gave you and defiled it.
        You have done a most disgusting thing with this gift I reserved only for you.
    Even then, the priests didn’t think to say, “Where is the Eternal One?”
        Those who understand and teach the law act as if they’ve never known Me.
    The rulers also have moved against Me.
        Even the so-called prophets spoke in the name of Baal
        and pursued worthless idols in their vain attempt for greater prosperity.

    This is the case that I bring against you and your descendants:
10     You can search from the coastlands of Kittim in the west
        to the deserts of Kedar in the east, and you won’t find anything as sickening as this.
11     Has a nation ever exchanged its gods for some others,
        even if they weren’t really gods in the first place?
    But My beloved people have done just that: they have exchanged their glory
        to pursue worthless idols in their vain attempt for greater prosperity.

Israel’s plan to submit herself to the authority of a stronger pagan nation in return for protection makes no sense to an objective observer, much less to God Himself. During the long history of this nation, her troubles have often resulted from a stubborn refusal to trust God. They have a habit of looking elsewhere—to anywhere or anyone but God—for relief, of turning to nations that are never constant friends. For example, when the Assyrian Empire was conquering the region 100 years earlier, the Northern Kingdom of Israel attempted to ward off the threat by making treaties with other nations. Despite their feeble plans, Israel fell in 722 b.c. to Assyrian might and cruelty. Now God points out to Judah’s leaders in the Southern Kingdom how useless it is to align with either Egypt or Assyria when the punishing Babylonian army is on the horizon. It doesn’t matter how powerful her allies may seem; once the covenant with God is broken, Israel must pay for her infidelity.

12     Be horrified, O you heavens, at this appalling betrayal.
        Cringe in horror and be repulsed.
13     My people are guilty of two evils:
        They have abandoned Me, the spring of living waters;
    And instead, they have settled for dead and stagnant water
        from cracked, leaky cisterns of their own making.

14 Is Israel some common slave, born into bondage?
Why has he been carted off as if he were the spoil of battle?
15 The nations have circled him like hungry young lions,
    roaring and growling their war cries.
They have left Israel a wasteland—
    the cities destroyed and the people scattered.
16 Even your Egyptian allies, from Memphis and Tahpanhes,
    have stripped you of land and your crowning glory.
17 Is there anyone to blame but yourself?
    Weren’t you the ones who abandoned the Eternal,
Your True God, even as He led you on this journey?

18 Eternal One: What do you hope to accomplish by going to Egypt
        and drinking from the waters of the Nile?
    What do you think you will gain by traveling to Assyria
        and drinking from the waters of the Euphrates?
19     It is your wickedness that will punish you
        and your desertion of My ways that will convict you.
    See the evil and taste the bitterness of forsaking the one True God, the Eternal.
        At the core of this evil is the sad truth that you have forgotten the wonder and terror of who I am.

So says the Eternal Lord, Commander of heavenly armies.

20 Eternal One (to His people): A long time ago, I broke the yoke that weighed you down
        and tore off the chains that enslaved you;
    Still you boldly said, “I will not serve You!”
        Instead, you bowed down like a whore to pagan gods on the high hills, under every green tree.
21     I am the One who planted you like a select vine, chosen from vintage stock.
        How could you turn into such a useless, wild weed of a vine?
22     You can scrub yourself with all the soap you want,
        but you’ll never be able to wash away the stain of what you’ve done before Me.

So says the Eternal Lord.

23 Eternal One (to His people): How can you say, “I have not been defiled”?
        How can you reply, “I have not run after the idols of Baal?”
    You know exactly what you’ve done down in the valley—
        you’re like a young camel running here and there without any direction.
24     You’ve acted like a wild donkey at home in that desert,
        sniffing at the wind for any scent of the next encounter, unbridled in her lust.
    It’s not even fair to say you were seduced by these gods.
        You sought them out!
25     I warn you again: stop running after these rituals
        till your feet are bare and your throat is dried out.
    You said, “I can’t help myself, for I love these strange gods I am chasing after.”

26     Like a thief caught in the act, the people of Israel will be put to shame:
        kings, leaders, priests, and prophets will be shamed.
27     They say to a piece of wood, “You are my father”;
        they confess to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
    They have shunned Me, who gave them life—turning their backs
        instead of facing Me—
    But that will change when troubles come.
        That’s when they will cry out to Me, “Stand up for us, and save us!”
28     O Judah, where will your pagan gods be then?
        You know, the ones you made yourself?
    Let them stand up on their own.
        See if they’re able to save you from your troubles.
    You have as many gods as villages, Judah. Now let them take care of you.

29     Why are you leveling charges against Me?
        You are the unfaithful one here.
    You have all pulled away from Me.
30     I tried to discipline your sons, but it didn’t work; they wouldn’t listen.
        You destroyed the prophets I sent to speak truth to you.
    You devoured them as a lion does his prey.

31 People of this generation, consider again the word of the Eternal.

Eternal One: Have I been a barren wasteland to Israel with nothing to offer?
        Am I no more than a land cloaked in darkness to them?
    Why do My own people say to Me,
        “We would rather wander where we want than come to You”?
32     Does a young woman ever forget her jewelry?
        Does a bride forget to bring along her wedding dress?
    And yet My people forgot Me long, long ago.
33     How good you’ve become at your reckless loving!
        You could teach even a loose woman a thing or two.
34     The stain of the blood of the poor and the innocent is on your clothes
    Even though you didn’t find them breaking into your houses.
        In spite of it all,
35     Still you dare to say, “I am innocent;
        surely God could not be angry with me anymore.”
    Yet watch as I condemn you
        because you perjure yourself saying, “I have not sinned.”
36     How do you keep changing directions,
        making a covenant with Me, then a treaty with them?
    You will soon be disappointed by the alliance with Egypt
        just as you were by the one with Assyria.
37     You will leave this land as captives, with your hands on your head.
        Why? Because I, the Eternal One, have rejected those you relied on.
    You will never prosper from their help.