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My name is Jeremiah. I am a priest, and my father Hilkiah and everyone else in my family are from Anathoth in the territory of the Benjamin tribe. This book contains the things that the Lord told me to say. The Lord first spoke to me in the thirteenth year that Josiah[a] was king of Judah, and he continued to speak to me during the rule of Josiah’s son Jehoiakim.[b] The last time the Lord spoke to me was in the fifth month[c] of the eleventh year that Josiah’s son Zedekiah[d] was king. That was also when the people of Jerusalem were taken away as prisoners.

The Lord Chooses Jeremiah

The Lord said:

“Jeremiah, I am your Creator,
    and before you were born,
I chose you to speak for me
    to the nations.”

I replied, “I’m not a good speaker, Lord, and I’m too young.”

“Don’t say you’re too young,” the Lord answered. “If I tell you to go and speak to someone, then go! And when I tell you what to say, don’t leave out a word! I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don’t be afraid.”

The Lord reached out his hand, then he touched my mouth and said, “I am giving you the words to say, 10 and I am sending you with authority to speak to the nations for me. You will tell them of doom and destruction, and of rising and rebuilding again.”

11 The Lord showed me something in a vision. Then he asked, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

I answered, “A branch of almonds that ripen early.”

12 “That’s right,” the Lord replied, “and I always rise early[e] to keep a promise.”

13 Then the Lord showed me something else and asked, “What do you see now?”

I answered, “I see a pot of boiling water in the north, and it’s about to spill out toward us.”

14 The Lord said:

I will pour out destruction
    all over the land.
15 Just watch while I send
    for the kings of the north.
They will attack and capture
    Jerusalem and other towns,
then set up their thrones
    at the gates of Jerusalem.

16 I will punish my people,
    because they are guilty
of turning from me
    to worship idols.

17 Jeremiah, get ready!
Go and tell the people
    what I command you to say.
Don’t be frightened by them,
or I will make you terrified
    while they watch.

18 My power will make you strong
    like a fortress
    or a column of iron
    or a wall of bronze.
You will oppose all of Judah,
including its kings and leaders,
    its priests and people.
19 They will fight back,
    but they won’t win.
I, the Lord, give my word—
    I won’t let them harm you.

Israel’s Unfaithfulness

The Lord told me to go to Jerusalem and tell everyone that he had said:

When you were my young bride,
you loved me
and followed me
    through the barren desert.
You belonged to me alone,
like the first part of the harvest,
    and I severely punished
    those who mistreated you.

Listen, people of Israel,[f]
    and I, the Lord, will speak.
I was never unfair
    to your ancestors,
but they left me
and became worthless
    by following worthless idols.
Your ancestors refused
    to ask for my help,
though I had rescued them
    from Egypt
and led them through
a treacherous, barren desert,
    where no one lives
    or dares to travel.

I brought you here to my land,
    where food is abundant,
but you made my land filthy
    with your sins.
The priests who teach my laws
    don’t care to know me.
Your leaders rebel against me;
your prophets
    give messages from Baal
    and worship false gods.

The Lord Accuses His People

I will take you to court
and accuse you
    and your descendants
10 of a crime that no nation
    has ever committed before.
Just ask anyone, anywhere,
from the eastern deserts
    to the islands in the west.
11 You will find that no nation
has ever abandoned its gods
    even though they were false.
I am the true and glorious God,
but you have rejected me
    to worship idols.
12 Tell the heavens
    to tremble with fear!
13 You, my people, have sinned
    in two ways—
you have rejected me,
the source
    of life-giving water,
and you’ve tried to collect water
in cracked and leaking pits
    dug in the ground.

14 People of Israel,
you weren’t born slaves;
    you were captured in war.
15 Enemies roared like lions
and destroyed your land;
    towns lie burned and empty.
16 Soldiers from the Egyptian towns
of Memphis and Tahpanhes
    have cracked your skulls.
17 It’s all your own fault!
You stopped following me,
    the Lord your God,
18 and you trusted the power
    of Egypt and Assyria.[g]
19 Your own sins will punish you,
because it was a bitter mistake
    for you to reject me
    without fear of punishment.
I, the Lord All-Powerful,
    have spoken.

20 Long ago you left me
and broke all ties between us,
    refusing to be my servant.
Now you worship other gods
    by having sex
on hilltops or in the shade
    of large trees.[h]
21 You were a choice grapevine,
but now you produce nothing
    but small, rotten grapes.

Israel Is Stained with Guilt

22 The Lord said:

People of Israel,
    you are stained with guilt,
and no soap or bleach
    can wash it away.
23 You deny your sins
and say, “We aren’t unclean.
    We haven’t worshiped Baal.”[i]
But think about what you do
    in Hinnom Valley.[j]
And you run back and forth
    like young camels,
as you rush to worship one idol
    after another.
24 You are a female donkey
    sniffing the desert air,
wanting to mate
with just anyone.
    You are an easy catch!
25 Your shoes are worn out,
    and your throat is parched
from running here and there
    to worship foreign gods.
“Stop!” I shouted,
but you replied, “No!
    I love those gods too much.”

26 You and your leaders
are more disgraceful
    than thieves—
you and your kings,
    your priests and prophets
27 worship stone idols
    and sacred poles
as if they had created you
    and had given you life.
You have rejected me,
but when you’re in trouble,
    you cry to me for help.
28 Go cry to the gods you made!
There should be enough of them
    to save you,
because Judah has as many gods
    as it has towns.

Israel Rebels against the Lord

29 The Lord said to Israel:

You accuse me of not saving you,
    but I say you have rebelled.
30 I tried punishing you,
but you refused
    to come back to me,
and like fierce lions
    you killed my prophets.

31 Now listen to what I say!
Did I abandon you in the desert
    or surround you with darkness?
You are my people,
    yet you have told me,
“We’ll do what we want,
and we refuse
    to worship you!”
32 A bride could not forget
to wear her jewelry
    to her wedding,
but you have forgotten me
    day after day.
33 You are so clever
    at finding lovers
that you could give lessons
    to a prostitute.
34 You killed innocent people
    for no reason at all.
And even though their blood
    can be seen on your clothes,
35 you claim to be innocent,
and you want me to stop
    being angry with you.
So I’ll take you to court,
    and we’ll see who is right.

36 When Assyria let you down,
    you ran to Egypt,
but you’ll find no help there,
37 and you will leave
    in great sadness.[k]
I won’t let you find help
    from those you trust.

Sin and Shame

The Lord said to the people of Israel:

If a divorced woman marries,
can her first husband
    ever marry her again?
No, because this
    would pollute the land.
But you have more gods
than a prostitute has lovers.
    Why should I take you back?
Just try to find one hilltop
    where you haven’t gone
to worship other gods
    by having sex.[l]
You sat beside the road
    like a robber in ambush,
except you offered yourself
    to every passerby.
Your sins of unfaithfulness
    have polluted the land.
So I, the Lord, refused
    to let the spring rains fall.
But just like a prostitute,
you still have no shame
    for what you have done.
You call me your father
    or your long-lost friend;
you beg me to stop being angry,
    but you won’t stop sinning.

The Lord Asks Israel To Come Back to Him

When Josiah[m] was king, the Lord said:

Jeremiah, the kingdom of Israel[n] was like an unfaithful wife who became a prostitute on the hilltops and in the shade of large trees.[o] 7-8 I knew that the kingdom of Israel had been unfaithful and committed many sins, yet I still hoped she might come back to me. But she didn’t, so I divorced her and sent her away.

Her sister, the kingdom of Judah, saw what happened, but she wasn’t worried in the least, and I watched her become unfaithful like her sister. The kingdom of Judah wasn’t sorry for being a prostitute, and she didn’t care that she had made both herself and the land unclean by worshiping idols of stone and wood. 10 And worst of all, the people of Judah pretended to come back to me. 11 Even the people of Israel were honest enough not to pretend.

12 Jeremiah, shout toward the north:

Israel, I am your Lord
    come back to me!
You were unfaithful
    and made me furious,
but I am merciful,
    and so I will forgive you.
13 Just admit that you rebelled
and worshiped foreign gods
    under large trees everywhere.
14 You are unfaithful children,
but you belong to me.
    Come home!
I’ll take one or two of you
from each town and clan
    and bring you to Zion.
15 Then I’ll appoint wise rulers
    who will obey me,
and they will care for you
    like shepherds.

16 You will increase in numbers,
    and there will be no need
to remember the sacred chest
    or to make a new one.[p]
17 The whole city of Jerusalem
    will be my throne.[q]
All nations will come here
    to worship me,
and they will no longer follow
    their stubborn, evil hearts.
18 Then, in countries to the north,
you people of Judah and Israel
    will be reunited,
and you will return to the land
    I gave your ancestors.
19 I have always wanted
    to treat you as my children
and give you the best land,
    the most beautiful on earth.
I wanted you to call me “Father”
    and not turn from me.
20 But instead, you are like a wife
    who broke her wedding vows.
You have been unfaithful to me.
    I, the Lord, have spoken.

The People Confess Their Sins

The Lord said:

21 Listen to the noise
    on the hilltops!
It’s the people of Israel,
weeping and begging me
    to answer their prayers.
They forgot about me
    and chose the wrong path.
22 I will tell them, “Come back,
and I will cure you
    of your unfaithfulness.”

They will answer,
“We will come back, because you
    are the Lord our God.
23 On hilltops, we worshiped idols
    and made loud noises,
but it was all for nothing—
    only you can save us.
24 Since the days of our ancestors
    when our nation was young,
that shameful god Baal[r] has taken
    our crops and livestock,
    our sons and daughters.
25 We have rebelled against you
    just like our ancestors,
and we are ashamed of our sins.”

Footnotes

  1. 1.2 Josiah: Ruled 640-609 B.C.
  2. 1.3 Jehoiakim: Ruled 609-598 B.C.
  3. 1.3 fifth month: Ab, the fifth month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-July to mid-August.
  4. 1.3 Zedekiah: Ruled 598-586 B.C.
  5. 1.11,12 almonds. . . rise early: In Hebrew “almonds that ripen early” sounds like “always rise early.”
  6. 2.4 Israel: After the nation was divided, the northern kingdom was called “Israel,” and the southern kingdom was called “Judah” (see 1 Kings 12.1-20). In 722 B.C. the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, and Judah was all that was left. And so in the book of Jeremiah the name “Israel” is most often used of the southern kingdom.
  7. 2.18 trusted. . . Assyria: Hebrew “went to Egypt and drank from the Shihor River, and you went to Assyria and drank from the Euphrates River.”
  8. 2.20 having sex. . . trees: In some Canaanite religions, worshipers had sex with temple prostitutes, who represented their gods; many of the Canaanite places of worship were on hilltops or under large trees.
  9. 2.23 Baal: The Hebrew text has “the Baals,” probably because the god Baal was believed to be present in different forms at different places of worship.
  10. 2.23 Hinnom Valley: Hebrew “the valley” (see 7.31-32; 19.1-6).
  11. 2.37 in great sadness: Or “as prisoners.”
  12. 3.2 hilltop. . . sex: See the note at 2.20.
  13. 3.6 Josiah: Ruled 640-609 B.C.
  14. 3.6 Israel: The northern kingdom (see the note at 2.4).
  15. 3.6 prostitute. . . trees: See the note at 2.20.
  16. 3.16 make a new one: The sacred chest was probably destroyed or taken away by the Babylonians when they captured Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
  17. 3.16,17 sacred chest. . . throne: The sacred chest was thought to be God’s throne on earth.
  18. 3.24 that shameful god Baal: The Hebrew text has “The Shame,” which was sometimes used as a way of making fun of the Canaanite god Baal.