4 “If you will return, O Israel,” says the Lord, “If you will return to Me, And if you will put away your detestable things and remove your man-made gods from My sight, And not stray or waver, 2 And if you swear [your oaths], ‘As the Lord lives,’ In truth, in justice, and in righteousness, Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory.”
3 For this is what the Lord says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem,
“Plow your uncultivated ground [for a season], And do not sow among thorns. 4 “Circumcise (dedicate, sanctify) yourselves to the Lord And remove the foreskin [sins] of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire [consuming all that gets in its way] And burn and there will be no one to quench it, Because of the evil of your acts.”
5 Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say, “Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry aloud and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us go Into the fortified cities.’ 6 “Raise a banner toward Zion [to mark the way for those seeking safety inside Jerusalem’s walls]! Seek refuge, do not stand [immobile], For I am bringing evil from the north (the army of Babylon), And great destruction. 7 “A lion has left his lair, And a destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone out from his place To desolate your land; Your cities will be in ruins Without an inhabitant. 8 “For this reason, put on sackcloth [for mourning], Lament (mourn with expressions of grief for the dead) and wail, For the fierce anger of the Lord Has not turned back from us.”
9 “It shall come about in that day,” says the Lord, “that the heart and courage of the king will fail (be paralyzed), and also the heart of the princes; the priests will be appalled and the prophets will be astounded and horrified.”
10 Then I said, “[a]Alas, Lord God! Surely You have completely deceived and misled this people and Jerusalem, [for the prophets represented You as] saying [to Your people], ‘You will have peace,’ but [in fact] a sword reaches to their throat.”
11 In that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A scorching wind from the barren heights in the wilderness [comes at My command] against the daughter of My people—not [a wind] to winnow and not to cleanse [from chaff, as when threshing, but] 12 a wind too strong and full for this comes at My word. Now I will also speak judgment against My people.”
13 “Behold, the enemy comes up like clouds, His chariots like the whirlwind; His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe (judgment is coming) to us, for we are ruined!”
14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long will your wicked and immoral thoughts Lodge within you? 15 For a voice declares from Dan [far in the north], And proclaims evil from [b]Mount Ephraim. 16 “Warn the [neighboring] nations now [that our enemy is coming]! Announce to Jerusalem, ‘Besiegers are coming from a far country, And they lift their voices and shout against the cities of Judah. 17 ‘Like watchmen of a field they are against her on all sides, Because she has rebelled against Me,’ says the Lord. 18 “Your ways and your deeds Have brought these things on you. This is your tragedy and doom; how bitter, How it has touched your heart!”
Lament over Judah’s Devastation
19 My soul, my soul! I writhe in anguish and pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is pounding and throbbing within me; I cannot be silent, For you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war. 20 News of one [terrible] disaster comes close after another, For the whole land is devastated; Suddenly my tents are spoiled and destroyed, My [tent] curtains [ruined] in a moment. 21 How long [O Lord] must I see the banner [marking the way for flight] And hear the sound of the trumpet [urging the people to run for safety]? 22 “For My people are stupid and foolish,” [says the Lord to Jeremiah]; “They do not know Me; They are foolish children And have no understanding. They are shrewd [enough] to do evil, But they do not know [how] to do good.”
23 I looked at the earth [in my vision], and behold, it was [as at the time of creation] formless and void; And to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked at the mountains, and behold, they were trembling, And all the hills moved back and forth. 25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, And all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and behold, the fertile land was a wilderness, And all its cities were pulled down Before the [presence of the] Lord, before His fierce anger.
27 Therefore says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation, Yet I will not cause total destruction. 28 “For this reason the earth shall mourn And the heavens above shall become dark, Because I have spoken, I have decided, And I will not change my mind (relent), nor will I turn back from it.” 29 Every city runs away at the sound of the horsemen and archers. They go into the thickets and climb among the rocks; Every city is deserted, And no man lives in them. 30 And you, O desolate one, what will you do? Though you clothe yourself in scarlet, Though you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, Though you enlarge your eyes with paint, You make yourself beautiful in vain. Your lovers (allies) despise you; They seek your life. 31 For I heard a cry like a woman in labor, The anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, The cry of the Daughter of Zion (Jerusalem), who gasps for breath, Who stretches out her hands, saying, “Woe is me [my judgment comes]! I faint [in fear] before the murderers.”
5 “Roam back and forth through the streets of Jerusalem, And look now and take note. And look in her open squares To see if you can find a man [as Abraham sought in Sodom], One who is just, who [has integrity and moral courage and] seeks truth (faithfulness); Then I will pardon Jerusalem—[for the sake of one uncompromisingly righteous person]. 2 “And though they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ Surely they swear [their oaths] falsely.” 3 O Lord, do not Your eyes look for truth? You [have seen their faithless heart and] have stricken them, But they did not weaken; You have consumed them, But they refused to take correction or instruction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to repent and return to You.
4 Then I said, “[Surely] these are only the poor (uneducated); They are [sinfully] foolish and have no [spiritual] understanding, For they do not know the way of the Lord Or the ordinance of their God [and the requirements of His just and righteous law]. 5 “I will go to the great [men] And speak to them, For they [must] know the way of the Lord, The ordinance of their God.” But [I found the reverse to be true, that] they too had all alike broken the yoke [of God’s law] And had burst the bonds [of obedience to Him]. 6 Therefore a lion from the forest will kill them, A wolf of the deserts will destroy them, A leopard is watching their cities. Everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces, Because their transgressions are many, Their desertions of faith are countless.
7 “Why should I [overlook these offenses and] forgive you? Your children have abandoned (rejected) Me And sworn [their oaths] by those who are not gods. When I had fed them until they were full [and bound them to Me by a promise], They committed [spiritual] adultery, Assembling in troops at the houses of prostitutes (idols). 8 “They were like well-fed, lusty stallions, Each one neighing after his neighbor’s wife. 9 “Shall I not punish them [for these things]?” says the Lord; “Shall I not avenge Myself On a nation such as this?”
10 “Go up through the rows of Jerusalem’s vineyards and destroy [them], But do not completely destroy everything. Strip away her branches and the tendrils [of her vines], For they are not the Lord’s. 11 “For the house of Israel and the house of Judah Have dealt very treacherously (faithlessly) with Me,” declares the Lord. 12 They have lied about and denied the Lord By saying, “It is not He [who speaks through His prophets]; Misfortune and evil shall not come on us, Nor will we see war or famine. 13 “The prophets are like the [c]wind [their prophecy will not come to pass], And the word [of God] is not in them. In this manner it will be done to them [as they prophesied, not to us].”
14 Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, “Because you [people] have spoken this word, Behold, I am making My words a fire in your mouth [Jeremiah] And this people wood, and My words will consume them. 15 “Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from far away, O house of Israel,” says the Lord. “It is a mighty and enduring nation, It is an ancient nation, A nation whose language you do not know, Whose words you do not comprehend. 16 “Their quiver is [filled with the dead] like an open grave; They are all mighty men [heroes of their nation]. 17 “They will consume your harvest and [eat up] your bread; They will consume your sons and your daughters; They will consume your flocks and your herds; They will consume your vines and your fig trees. With the sword they will break down and demolish your fortified cities in which you trust.
18 “But even in those days,” says the Lord, “I will not totally destroy you. 19 It will come about when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ then you shall answer them, ‘As you have abandoned (rejected) Me,’ [says the Lord,] ‘and have served strange and foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’
20 “Declare this in the house of Jacob And proclaim it in Judah, saying: 21 ‘Now hear this, O foolish people without heart, 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 [in awe] in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, An eternal decree and a perpetual barrier beyond which it cannot pass. Though the waves [of the sea] toss and break, yet they cannot prevail [against the sand ordained to hold them back]; Though the waves and the billows roar, yet they cannot cross over [the barrier]. [Is not such a God to be feared?] 23 ‘But this people has a stubborn heart and a rebellious will [that draws them away from Me]; They have turned away and have gone [into idolatry]. 24 ‘They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear and worship the Lord our God [with profound awe and reverence], Who gives rain in its season, Both the autumn and the spring rain, Who keeps for us The appointed weeks of the harvest.” 25 ‘Your wickedness has turned these [blessings] away, And your sins have withheld good [harvests] from you. 26 ‘For wicked men are found among My people, They watch like fowlers who lie in wait; They set a trap, They catch men. 27 ‘As a cage is full of birds, So are their houses full of deceit and treachery; Therefore they have become influential and rich. 28 ‘They are fat and they are sleek (prosperous), They [d]excel in acts of wickedness; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the orphan, so that they [the wicked] may prosper, And they do not defend the rights of the poor. 29 ‘Shall I not punish them [for these things]?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself On such a nation as this?’
30 “An appalling and horrible thing [bringing desolation and destruction] Has come to pass in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule [e]on their own authority; And My people love [to have] it so! But what will you do when the end comes?
Destruction of Jerusalem Impending
6 “Run for safety, you children of Benjamin, Out of the midst of Jerusalem! And blow a trumpet in Tekoa [in Judah] And raise a signal-fire in Beth-haccherem [near Jerusalem]; For evil is looking down [with eager anticipation] from the north, And great destruction. 2 “I will destroy the Daughter of Zion (Jerusalem), the lovely and delicate one [so like a luxurious pasture]. 3 “Shepherds with their flocks will come against her; They will pitch their tents all around her; They will pasture, each one in his place [eating up all her rich grasses]. 4 “[They shout], ‘Prepare for war against her; Arise, let us [take her by surprise and] attack her at noon. But alas, the daylight pales, The evening shadows grow long. 5 ‘Arise, let us [awaken to] attack her at night And destroy her [fortified] palaces!’”
6 For the Lord of hosts has said,
“Cut down her trees And build a siege [mound] against Jerusalem. This is the city which must be punished; There is nothing but oppression inside her [walls]. 7 “As a fountain springs up and pours out its fresh waters, So she [continually] pours out her fresh wickedness. Violence and destruction are heard inside her [walls]; Sickness and wounds are always before Me. 8 “Be wise and be warned, O Jerusalem, Or I will be alienated from you, And make you a desolation, An uninhabited land.”
9 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “They will thoroughly gather like [fruit on] a vine what is left of Israel; Pass your hand [over the vine] again and again [Babylon, tool of destruction] like a grape gatherer, Over the branches [stripping the tendrils off the vine].” 10 To whom shall I (Jeremiah) speak and give warning That they may hear? Behold, their ears are [f]closed [absolutely deaf to God] And they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reprimand and an object of scorn to them; They have no delight in it. 11 But I am full of the wrath (judgment) of the Lord; I am tired of restraining it. “[I will] pour it out on the children in the street And on the young men gathered together; For both the husband and wife shall be taken, The aged and the very old [though full of days they are not exempt from judgment]. 12 “Their houses shall be turned over to others, Their fields and their wives together; For I will stretch out My hand Against the inhabitants of the land,” says the Lord. 13 “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for [unfair] gain; And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals deceitfully. 14 “They have treated superficially the [bloody] broken wound of My people, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ When there is no peace. 15 “Were they ashamed because they had committed disgusting and vile things? No, they were not at all ashamed; They did not even know how to blush [at their idolatry]. Therefore they will fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them They will be overthrown,” says the Lord.
16 Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the roads and look; ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is; then walk in it, And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it!’ 17 “I have set watchmen (prophets) over you, Saying, ‘Listen and pay attention to the [warning] sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ 18 “Therefore hear, O [Gentile] nations, And see, O congregation, what [vengeful act] is to be done to them. 19 “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their schemes, Because they have not listened and paid attention to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also. 20 “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from [g]Sheba And the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not sweet and pleasing to Me.”
21 Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people. The fathers and the sons together Will stumble against them; The neighbor and his friend will perish.”
The Enemy from the North
22 Thus says the Lord, “Behold, a people is coming from the north country, And a great nation shall be stirred up and put into action from the remote parts of the earth. 23 “They seize bow and spear; They are cruel and inhuman and have no mercy. Their voice sounds like the roaring sea; They ride [in formation] on horses, Arrayed as a man for battle Against you, O Daughter of Zion (Jerusalem)!” 24 We have heard the report of it; Our hands become limp and helpless. Anguish has gripped us, Pain like that of a woman in childbirth. 25 Do not go out into the field Nor walk on the road, For the enemy is armed with the sword; Terror is on every side. 26 O daughter of my people [says Jeremiah], Clothe yourself in sackcloth and wallow in ashes; Mourn [aloud] as for an only son, A most bitter cry [of sorrow and regret], For suddenly the destroyer will come upon us [on both prophet and people].
27 “I [the Lord] have set you as an assayer [O Jeremiah] and as a tester [of the ore] of My people, That you may know and analyze their acts.” 28 They are all the worst [kind] of [stiff-necked, godless] rebels, Going around spreading slander. They are [not gold and silver ore, but] bronze and iron; They are all corrupt. 29 The bellows blow fiercely, The lead is consumed by the fire; In vain they continue refining, But the wicked are not separated and removed. 30 They call them rejected silver [only dross, without value], Because the Lord has rejected them.
Jeremiah 4:10Jeremiah could not reconcile the tragedy he was now commanded to announce with his previous prophecy.
Jeremiah 6:20Located in southwestern Arabia, Sheba was ruled by the priest-kings of the Sabeans whose primary deity was Attar, a god of procreation. The ruins of the capital city of Mariaba attest to the splendor of the ancient kingdom. The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon the king of Israel in about 950 b.c. The purpose of her 1,200 mile journey was most likely to establish a fair trade agreement. Incense was among the most desirable and valuable exports of Sheba.
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