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Jeremiah’s Message in the Temple

26 Soon after Jehoiakim[a] became king of Judah, the Lord said:

Jeremiah, I have a message for everyone who comes from the towns of Judah to worship in my temple. Go to the temple courtyard and speak every word that I tell you. Maybe the people will listen this time. And if they stop doing wrong, I will change my mind and not punish them for their sins. Tell them that I have said:

You have refused to listen to me and to obey my laws and teachings. Again and again I have sent my servants the prophets to preach to you, but you ignored them as well. Now I am warning you that if you don’t start obeying me right away, I will destroy this temple, just as I destroyed the town of Shiloh.[b] Then everyone on earth will use the name “Jerusalem” as a curse word.

Jeremiah on Trial

The prophets, the priests, and everyone else in the temple heard what I said, 8-9 and as soon as I finished, they all crowded around me and started shouting, “Why did you preach that the Lord will destroy this temple, just as he destroyed Shiloh? Why did you say that Jerusalem will be empty and lie in ruins? You ought to be put to death for saying such things in the Lord’s name!” Then they had me arrested.

10 The royal officers heard what had happened, and they came from the palace to the new gate of the temple to be the judges at my trial.[c] 11 While they listened, the priests and the prophets said to the crowd, “All of you have heard Jeremiah prophesy that Jerusalem will be destroyed. He deserves the death penalty.”

12-13 Then I told the judges and everyone else:

The Lord himself sent me to tell you about the terrible things he will do to you, to Jerusalem, and to the temple. But if you change your ways and start obeying the Lord, he will change his mind.

14 You must decide what to do with me. Just do whatever you think is right. 15 But if you put me to death, you and everyone else in Jerusalem will be guilty of murdering an innocent man, because everything I preached came from the Lord.

16 The judges and the other people told the priests and prophets, “Since Jeremiah only told us what the Lord our God had said, we don’t think he deserves to die.”

17 Then some of the leaders from other towns stepped forward. They told the crowd that 18 years ago when Hezekiah[d] was king of Judah, a prophet named Micah from the town of Moresheth had said:

“I, the Lord All-Powerful, say
Jerusalem will be plowed under
    and left in ruins.
Thorns will cover the mountain
    where the temple
    now stands.”[e]

19 Then the leaders continued:

No one put Micah to death for saying that. Instead, King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord with fear and trembling and asked him to have mercy. Then the Lord decided not to destroy Jerusalem, even though he had already said he would.

People of Judah, if Jeremiah is killed, we will bring a terrible disaster on ourselves.

20-24 After these leaders finished speaking, an important man named Ahikam son of Shaphan spoke up for me as well. And so, I wasn’t handed over to the crowd to be killed.

Uriah the Prophet

While Jehoiakim[f] was still king of Judah, a man named Uriah son of Shemaiah left his hometown of Kiriath-Jearim and came to Jerusalem. Uriah was one of the Lord’s prophets, and he was saying the same things about Judah and Jerusalem that I had been saying. And when Jehoiakim and his officials and military officers heard what Uriah said, they tried to arrest him, but he escaped to Egypt. So Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Achbor and some other men after Uriah, and they brought him back. Then Jehoiakim had Uriah killed and his body dumped in a common burial pit.

Slaves of Nebuchadnezzar

27 1-2 Not long after Zedekiah became king of Judah,[g] the Lord told me:

Jeremiah, make a wooden yoke[h] with leather straps, and place it on your neck. Then send a message to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon. Some officials from these countries are in Jerusalem, meeting with Zedekiah. So have them tell their kings that I have said:

I am the All-Powerful Lord God of Israel, and with my power I created the earth, its people, and all animals. I decide who will rule the earth, 6-7 and I have chosen my servant King Nebuchadnezzar[i] of Babylonia to rule all nations, including yours. I will even let him rule the wild animals. All nations will be slaves of Nebuchadnezzar, his son, and his grandson. Then many nations will join together, and their kings will be powerful enough to make slaves of the Babylonians.

This yoke stands for the power of King Nebuchadnezzar, and I will destroy any nation that refuses to obey him. Nebuchadnezzar will attack, and many will die in battle or from hunger and disease. You might have people in your kingdom who claim they can tell the future by magic or by talking with the dead or by dreams or messages from a god. But don’t pay attention if any of them tell you not to obey Nebuchadnezzar. 10 If you listen to such lies, I will have you dragged far from your country and killed. 11 But if you and your nation are willing to obey Nebuchadnezzar, I will let you stay in your country, and your people will continue to live and work on their farms.

12 After I had spoken to the officials from the nearby kingdoms, I went to King Zedekiah and told him the same thing. Then I said:

Zedekiah, if you and the people of Judah want to stay alive, you must obey Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. 13 But if you refuse, then you and your people will die from war, hunger, and disease, just as the Lord has warned. 14 Your prophets have told you that you don’t need to obey Nebuchadnezzar, but don’t listen to their lies. 15 Those prophets claim to be speaking for the Lord, but he didn’t send them. They are lying! If you do what they say, he will have both you and them dragged off to another country and killed. The Lord has spoken.

16 When I finished talking to the king, I went to the priests and told them that the Lord had said:

Don’t listen to the prophets when they say that very soon the Babylonians will return the things they took from my temple. Those prophets are lying! 17 If you choose to obey the king of Babylonia, you will live. But if you listen to those prophets, this whole city will be nothing but a pile of rubble.

18 If I really had spoken to those prophets, they would know what I am going to do. Then they would be begging me not to let everything else be taken from the temple and the king’s palace and the rest of Jerusalem. 19-21 After all, when Nebuchadnezzar took King Jehoiachin[j] to Babylonia as a prisoner, he didn’t take everything of value from Jerusalem. He left the bronze pillars, the huge bronze bowl called the Sea, and the movable bronze stands in the temple, and he left a lot of other valuable things in the palace and in the rest of Jerusalem.

But now I, the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, say that all these things 22 will be taken to Babylonia, where they will remain until I decide to bring them back to Jerusalem. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Jeremiah Accuses Hananiah of Being a False Prophet

28 Later that same year, in the fifth month of the fourth year that Zedekiah[k] was king,[l] the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur from Gibeon came up to me in the temple. And while the priests and others in the temple were listening, he told me that the Lord had said:

I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, and I will smash the yoke[m] that Nebuchadnezzar[n] put on the necks of the nations to make them his slaves. And within two years, I will bring back to Jerusalem everything that he took from my temple and carried off to Babylonia. King Jehoiachin[o] and the other people who were taken from Judah to Babylonia will be allowed to come back here as well. All this will happen because I will smash the power of the king of Babylonia!

The priests and the others were still standing there, so I said:

Hananiah, I hope the Lord will do exactly what you said. I hope he does bring back everything the Babylonians took from the temple, and that our people who were taken to Babylonia will be allowed to return home. But let me remind you and everyone else that long before we were born, prophets were saying powerful kingdoms would be struck by war, disaster, and disease. Now you are saying we will have peace. We will just have to wait and see if that is really what the Lord has said.[p]

10 Hananiah grabbed the wooden yoke from my neck and smashed it. 11 Then he said, “The Lord says this is the way he will smash the power Nebuchadnezzar has over the nations, and it will happen in less than two years.”

I left the temple, 12 and a little while later, the Lord told me 13-14 to go back and say to Hananiah:

I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel. You smashed a wooden yoke, but I will replace it with one made of iron. I will put iron yokes on all the nations, and they will have to do what King Nebuchadnezzar commands. I will even let him rule the wild animals.

15-16 Hananiah, I have never sent you to speak for me. And yet you have talked my people into believing your lies and rebelling against me. So now I will send you—I’ll send you right off the face of the earth! You will die before this year is over.

17 Two months later, Hananiah died.

Jeremiah’s Letter to the People of Judah in Babylonia

29 1-2 I had been left in Jerusalem when King Nebuchadnezzar[q] took many of the people of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylonia as prisoners, including King Jehoiachin,[r] his mother, his officials, and the metal workers and others in Jerusalem who were skilled in making things. So I wrote a letter to the prophets, the priests, the leaders, and the rest of our people in Babylonia. I gave the letter to Elasah and Gemariah,[s] two men that King Zedekiah[t] of Judah was sending to Babylon to talk with Nebuchadnezzar. In the letter, I wrote that the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said:

I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. Now I tell you to settle there and build houses. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. Get married and have children, then help your sons find wives and help your daughters find husbands, so they can have children as well. I want your numbers to grow, not to get smaller.

Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be.

8-9 Some of your people there in Babylonia are fortunetellers, and you have asked them to tell you what will happen in the future. But they will only lead you astray. And don’t let the prophets fool you, either. They speak in my name, but they are liars. I have not spoken to them.

10 After Babylonia has been the strongest nation for seventy years, I will be kind and bring you back to Jerusalem, just as I have promised. 11 I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. 12 You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. 13 You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you 14 and accept your worship. Then I will gather you from all the nations where I scattered you, and you will return to Jerusalem.

15 You feel secure, because you think I have sent prophets to speak for me in Babylonia.

16-19 But I have been sending prophets to the people of Judah for a long time, and the king from David’s family and the people who are left in Jerusalem and Judah still don’t obey me. So I, the Lord All-Powerful, will keep attacking them with war and hunger and disease, until they are as useless as rotten figs. I will force them to leave the land, and all nations will be disgusted and shocked at what happens to them. The nations will sneer and make fun of them and use the names “Judah” and “Jerusalem” as curse words.

And you have not obeyed me, even though 20 I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. But you had better listen to me now. 21-23 You think Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah are prophets because they claim to speak for me. But they are lying! I haven’t told them anything. They are also committing other horrible sins in your community, such as sleeping with the wives of their friends. So I will hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar, who will put them to death while the rest of you watch. And in the future, when you want to put a curse on someone, you will say, “I pray that the Lord will kill you in the same way the king of Babylonia burned Zedekiah and Ahab to death!”

A Message for Shemaiah

24-25 The Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, told me what would happen to Shemaiah,[u] who was one of our people in Babylonia. After my letter reached Babylonia, Shemaiah wrote letters to the people of Jerusalem, including the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, and the other priests. The letter to Zephaniah said:

26 After the death of Jehoiada the priest, the Lord chose you to be the priest in charge of the temple security force. You know that anyone who acts crazy and pretends to be a prophet should be arrested and put in chains[v] and iron collars. 27 Jeremiah from the town of Anathoth is pretending to be a prophet there in Jerusalem, so why haven’t you punished him? 28 He even wrote a letter to the people here in Babylonia, saying we would be here a long time. He told us to build homes and to plant gardens and grow our own food.

29 When Zephaniah received Shemaiah’s letter, he read it to me. 30 Then the Lord told me what to write in a second letter 31 to the people of Judah who had been taken to Babylonia. In this letter, I wrote that the Lord had said:

I, the Lord, have not chosen Shemaiah to be one of my prophets, and he has misled you by telling lies in my name. 32 He has even talked you into disobeying me. So I will punish Shemaiah. He and his descendants won’t live to see the good things I will do for my people. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Footnotes

  1. 26.1 Jehoiakim: See the note at 1.3.
  2. 26.6 Shiloh: The sacred tent had once stood at Shiloh.
  3. 26.10 new gate. . . trial: Public trials were often held in an open area at a gate of a city, palace, or temple.
  4. 26.18 Hezekiah: Ruled 716-687 B.C.
  5. 26.18 Jerusalem. . . stands: See Micah 3.12.
  6. 26.20-24 Jehoiakim: See the note at 1.3.
  7. 27.1,2 Not long after Zedekiah became king of Judah: A few manuscripts and one ancient translation; most Hebrew manuscripts “Not long after Jehoiakim became king of Judah”; most manuscripts of another ancient translation do not have these words. Jehoiakim ruled 609-598 B.C., and Zedekiah ruled 598-586 B.C.
  8. 27.1,2 yoke: A wooden collar that fits around the neck of an ox, so the ox can be made to pull a plow or a cart.
  9. 27.6,7 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2.
  10. 27.19-21 Jehoiachin: Hebrew “Jeconiah” (see the note at 24.1).
  11. 28.1 Zedekiah: See the note at 1.3.
  12. 28.1 Later. . . king: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  13. 28.2 yoke: See the note at 27.1,2.
  14. 28.2 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2.
  15. 28.4 Jehoiachin: Hebrew “Jeconiah” (see the note at 24.1).
  16. 28.9 We will. . . said: See Deuteronomy 18.21,22.
  17. 29.1,2 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2.
  18. 29.1,2 Jehoiachin: Hebrew “Jeconiah” (see the note at 24.1).
  19. 29.3 Elasah and Gemariah: Hebrew “Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah.”
  20. 29.3 Zedekiah: See the note at 1.3.
  21. 29.24,25 Shemaiah: Hebrew “Shemaiah, who came from the town of Nehelam.”
  22. 29.26 in chains: See the note at 20.2.