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Jeremiah Goes to the Pottery Shop

18 The Lord told me, “Go to the pottery shop, and when you get there, I will tell you what to say to the people.”

I went there and saw the potter making clay pots on his pottery wheel. And whenever the clay would not take the shape he wanted, he would change his mind and form it into some other shape.

Then the Lord told me to say:

People of Israel, I, the Lord, have power over you, just as a potter has power over clay. If I threaten to uproot and shatter an evil nation and that nation turns from its evil, I will change my mind.

If I promise to make a nation strong, 10 but its people start disobeying me and doing evil, then I will change my mind and not help them at all.

11 So listen to me, people of Judah and Jerusalem! I have decided to strike you with disaster, and I won’t change my mind unless you stop sinning and start living right.

12 But I know you won’t listen. You might as well answer, “We don’t care what you say. We have made plans to sin, and we are going to be stubborn and do what we want!”

13 So I, the Lord, command you to ask the nations, and find out if they have ever heard of such a horrible sin as what you have done.

14 The snow
on Lebanon’s mountains
    never melts away,
and the streams there
    never run dry.[a]
15 But you, my people,
    have turned from me
to burn incense
    to worthless idols.
You have left the ancient road
to follow an unknown path
    where you stumble over idols.

16 Your land will be ruined,
    and every passerby
will look at it with horror
    and make insulting remarks.
17 When your enemies attack,
I will scatter you like dust
    blown by an eastern wind.
Then, on that day of disaster,
    I will turn my back on you.

The Plot against Jeremiah

18 Some of the people said, “Let’s get rid of Jeremiah! We will always have priests to teach us God’s laws, as well as wise people to give us advice, and prophets to speak the Lord’s messages. So, instead of listening to Jeremiah any longer, let’s accuse him of a crime.”

Jeremiah Prays about His Enemies

19 Please, Lord, answer my prayer.
Make my enemies stop
    accusing me of evil.
20 I tried to help them,
but they are paying me back
    by digging a pit to trap me.
I even begged you
    not to punish them.
21 But now I am asking you
to let their children starve
    or be killed in war.
Let women lose
their husbands and sons
    to disease and violence.
22 These people have dug pits
    and set traps for me, Lord.
Make them scream in fear
when you send enemy troops
    to attack their homes.
23 You know they plan to kill me.
    So get angry and punish them!
Don’t ever forgive
    their terrible crimes.

Jeremiah and the Clay Jar

19 The Lord said:

Jeremiah, go to the pottery shop and buy a clay jar. Then take along some of the city officials and leading priests and go to Hinnom Valley, just outside Potsherd[b] Gate. Tell the people that I have said:

I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, and you kings of Judah and you people of Jerusalem had better pay attention. I am going to bring so much trouble on this valley that everyone who hears about it will be shocked. 4-5 The people of Judah stopped worshiping me and made this valley into a place of worship for Baal and other gods that have never helped them or their ancestors or their kings. And they have committed murder here, burning their young, innocent children as sacrifices to Baal. I have never even thought of telling you to do that. So watch out! Someday this place will no longer be called Topheth or Hinnom Valley. It will be called Slaughter Valley!

You people of Judah and Jerusalem may have big plans, but here in this valley I’ll ruin[c] those plans. I’ll let your enemies kill you, and I’ll tell the birds and wild animals to eat your dead bodies. I will turn Jerusalem into a pile of rubble, and every passerby will be shocked and horrified and will make insulting remarks. And while your enemies are trying to break through your city walls to kill you, the food supply will run out. You will become so hungry that you will eat the flesh of your friends and even of your own children.

10 Jeremiah, as soon as you have said this, smash the jar while the people are watching. 11 Then tell them that I have also said:

I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I warn you that I will shatter Judah and Jerusalem just like this jar that is broken beyond repair. You will bury your dead here in Topheth, but so many of you will die that there won’t be enough room.

12-13 I will make Jerusalem as unclean as Topheth, by filling the city with your dead bodies. I will do this because you and your kings have gone up to the roofs of your houses and burned incense to the stars in the sky, as though they were gods. And you have given sacrifices of wine to foreign gods.

Jeremiah Speaks in the Temple Courtyard

14 I went to Topheth, where I told the people what the Lord had said. Then I went to the temple courtyard and shouted to the people, 15 “Listen, everyone! Some time ago, the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, warned you that he would bring disaster on Jerusalem and all nearby villages. But you were stubborn and refused to listen. Now the Lord is going to bring the disaster he promised.”

Pashhur Arrests Jeremiah

20 Pashhur son of Immer was a priest and the chief of temple security. He heard what I had said, and so he hit me.[d] Then he had me arrested and put in chains[e] at the Benjamin Gate in the Lord’s temple.[f] The next day, when Pashhur let me go free, I told him that the Lord had said:

No longer will I call you Pashhur. Instead, I will call you Afraid-of-Everything.[g] You will be afraid, and you will bring fear to your friends as well. You will see enemies kill them in battle. Then I will have the king of Babylonia take everyone in Judah prisoner, killing some and dragging the rest away to Babylonia. He will clean out the royal treasury and take everything else of value from Jerusalem.

Pashhur, you are guilty of telling lies and claiming they were messages from me. That’s why I will have the Babylonians take you, your family, and your friends as prisoners to Babylonia, where you will all die and be buried.

Jeremiah Complains to the Lord

You tricked me, Lord,
    and I was really fooled.
You are stronger than I am,
    and you have defeated me.
People never stop sneering
    and insulting me.
You have let me announce
    only destruction and death.
Your message has brought me
nothing but insults
    and trouble.
Sometimes I tell myself
not to think about you, Lord,
    or even mention your name.
But your message burns
in my heart and bones,
    and I cannot keep silent.

10 I heard the crowds whisper,
    “Everyone is afraid.
Now’s our chance
    to accuse Jeremiah!”
All of my so-called friends
are just waiting
    for me to make a mistake.
They say, “Maybe Jeremiah
    can be tricked.
Then we can overpower him
    and get even at last.”

11 But you, Lord,
are a mighty soldier,
    standing at my side.
Those troublemakers
will fall down and fail—
    terribly embarrassed,
    forever ashamed.

12 Lord All-Powerful,
    you test those who do right,
and you know every heart
    and mind.
I have told you my complaints,
so let me watch you
    take revenge on my enemies.
13 I sing praises to you, Lord.
You rescue the oppressed
    from the wicked.

14 Put a curse on the day I was born!
    Don’t bless my mother.
15 Put a curse on the man
who told my father,
“Good news!
    You have a son.”
16 May that man be like the towns
    you destroyed without pity.
Let him hear shouts of alarm
in the morning
    and battle cries at noon.
17 He deserves to die
for not killing me
    before I was born.
Then my mother’s body
    would have been my grave.
18 Why did I have to be born?
Was it just to suffer
    and die in shame?

The Lord Will Fight against Jerusalem

21 King Zedekiah[h] of Judah sent for Pashhur son of Malchiah and for a priest named Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. Then he told them,”Talk with Jeremiah for me.”

So they came to me and said, “King Nebuchadnezzar[i] of Babylonia has attacked Judah. Please ask the Lord to work miracles for our people, as he has done in the past, so that Nebuchadnezzar will leave us alone.”

3-7 I told them that the Lord God of Israel had told me to say to King Zedekiah:

The Babylonians have surrounded Jerusalem and want to kill you and your people. You are asking me to save you, but you have made me furious. So I will stretch out my mighty arm and fight against you myself. Your army is using spears and swords to fight the Babylonians, but I will make your own weapons turn and attack you. I will send a horrible disease to kill many of the people and animals in Jerusalem, and there will be nothing left to eat. Finally, I will let King Nebuchadnezzar and his army fight their way to the center of Jerusalem and capture everyone who is left alive, including you and your officials. But Nebuchadnezzar won’t be kind or show any mercy—he will have you killed! I, the Lord, have spoken.

Then I told them that the Lord had said:

People of Jerusalem, I, the Lord, give you the choice of life or death. The Babylonian army has surrounded Jerusalem, so if you want to live, you must go out and surrender to them. But if you want to die because of hunger, disease, or war, then stay here in the city. 10 I have decided not to rescue Jerusalem. Instead, I am going to let the king of Babylonia burn it to the ground. I, the Lord, have spoken.

The Lord Warns the King of Judah

11 Pay attention, you that belong
    to the royal family.
12 Each new day, make sure
    that justice is done,
and rescue those
    who are being robbed.
Or else my anger will flame up
like a fire that never goes out.

13 Jerusalem,
    from your mountaintop
you look out over the valleys[j]
    and think you are safe.
But I, the Lord, am angry,
14 and I will punish you
    as you deserve.
I’ll set your palace[k] on fire,
and everything around you
    will go up in smoke.

The Lord Will Punish the King of Judah

22 1-3 The Lord sent me to the palace of the king of Judah to speak to the king, his officials, and everyone else who was there. The Lord told me to say:

I am the Lord, so pay attention! You have been allowing people to cheat, rob, and take advantage of widows, orphans, and foreigners who live here. Innocent people have become victims of violence, and some of them have even been killed. But now I command you to do what is right and see that justice is done. Rescue everyone who has suffered from injustice.

If you obey me, the kings from David’s family will continue to rule Judah from this palace. They and their officials will ride in and out on their horses or in their chariots. But if you ignore me, I promise in my own name that this palace will lie in ruins. Listen to what I think about it:

The palace of Judah’s king
is as glorious as Gilead
    or Lebanon’s highest peaks.
But it will be as empty
as a ghost-town
    when I’m through with it.
I’ll send troops to tear it apart,
and its beautiful cedar beams
    will be used for firewood.

People from different nations will pass by and ask, “Why did the Lord do this to such a great city as Jerusalem?” Others will answer, “It’s because the people worshiped foreign gods and broke the agreement that the Lord their God had made with them.”

King Jehoahaz

The Lord said:

10 King Josiah is dead,
    so don’t cry for him.[l]
Instead, cry for his son
    King Jehoahaz,[m]
dragged off to another country,
    never to return.

11-12 Jehoahaz[n] became king of Judah after his father King Josiah died. But Jehoahaz was taken as a prisoner to a foreign country. Now I, the Lord, promise that he will die there without ever seeing his own land again.

King Jehoiakim

The Lord told me to say:

13 King Jehoiakim,[o] you are doomed!
You built a palace
    with large rooms upstairs.
14 You put in big windows
and used cedar paneling
    and red paint.
But you were unfair
and forced the builders to work
    without pay.

15 More cedar in your palace
doesn’t make you a better king
    than your father Josiah.
He always did right—
he gave justice to the poor
    and was honest.
16 That’s what it means
    to truly know me.
So he lived a comfortable life
and always had enough
    to eat and drink.

17 But all you think about
    is how to cheat
or abuse or murder
    some innocent victim.
18 Jehoiakim, no one will cry
    at your funeral.
They won’t turn to each other
    and ask,
“Why did our great king
    have to die?”
19 You will be given a burial
    fit for a donkey;
your body will be dragged
outside the city gates
    and tossed in the dirt.
I, the Lord, have spoken.

King Jehoiachin and the People of Jerusalem

The Lord told me to say:

20 People of Jerusalem,
the nations[p] you trusted
    have been crushed.
Go to Lebanon and weep;
cry in the land of Bashan
    and in Moab.
21 When times were good,
    I warned you.
But you ignored me,
just as you have done
    since Israel was young.
22 Now you will be disgraced
    because of your sins.
Your leaders will be swept away
    by the wind,
and the nations you trusted
will be captured
and dragged
    to a foreign country.
23 Those who live in the palace
    paneled with cedar[q]
will groan with pain
    like women giving birth.

24 King Jehoiachin,[r] son of Jehoiakim,[s] even if you were the ring I wear as the sign of my royal power, I would still pull you from my finger. 25 I would hand you over to the enemy you fear, to King Nebuchadnezzar[t] and his army, who want to kill you. 26 You and your mother[u] were born in Judah, but I will throw both of you into a foreign country, where you will die, 27 longing to return home.

28 Jehoiachin, you are unwanted
    like a broken clay pot.
So you and your children
will be thrown
into a country
    you know nothing about.

29 Land of Judah, I am the Lord.
    Now listen to what I say!
30 Erase the names
of Jehoiachin’s children
    from the royal records.
He is a complete failure,
and so none of them
    will ever be king.
I, the Lord, have spoken.

Footnotes

  1. 18.14 dry: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 14.
  2. 19.2 Potsherd: A piece of broken pottery.
  3. 19.7 ruin: In Hebrew “ruin” sounds like “jar” (see verse 1).
  4. 20.2 hit me: Or “beat me up” or “had me beaten up.”
  5. 20.2 in chains: Or “in the stocks” (a wooden frame with holes for the hands, neck, or feet of a prisoner) or “in a prison cell.”
  6. 20.2 the Benjamin Gate in the Lord’s temple: The Hebrew text has “the upper Benjamin Gate in the temple”; the lower Benjamin Gate may have been the city gate of that name.
  7. 20.3 Afraid-of-Everything: Hebrew “Magor-Missabib.”
  8. 21.1 Zedekiah: See the note at 1.3.
  9. 21.2 Nebuchadnezzar: Ruled 605-562 B.C.
  10. 21.13 Jerusalem. . . valleys: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  11. 21.14 your palace: The Hebrew text has “the forest”; the largest room in the king’s palace was known as Forest Hall (see 1 Kings 7.2,3).
  12. 22.10 King Josiah. . . him: The Hebrew text has “don’t cry for the dead one,” meaning King Josiah, who ruled 640-609 B.C.
  13. 22.10 his son, King Jehoahaz. . . country: The Hebrew text has “the one who was dragged off to another country,” meaning King Jehoahaz, who ruled for three months in 609 B.C.
  14. 22.11,12 Jehoahaz: The Hebrew text has “Shallum,” another name for Jehoahaz.
  15. 22.13 Jehoiakim: See the note at 1.3.
  16. 22.20 nations: Or “gods.”
  17. 22.23 who live in the palace paneled with cedar: The Hebrew text has “who live in Lebanon and who nest among the cedars,” which probably means Forest Hall in the royal palace at Jerusalem, which was paneled with cedar and had cedar columns and a cedar ceiling, all from Lebanon (see 1 Kings 7.2,3).
  18. 22.24 Jehoiachin: The Hebrew text has “Coniah,” another form of Jehoiachin’s name; he ruled for three months in 598 B.C.
  19. 22.24 Jehoiakim: See the note at 1.3.
  20. 22.25 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2.
  21. 22.26 mother: See the note at 13.18.