Israel, if you really want to come back to me, get rid of those disgusting idols. 2 Make promises only in my name, and do what you promise! Then all nations will praise me, and I will bless them. 3 People of Jerusalem and Judah, don’t be so stubborn! Your hearts have become hard, like unplowed ground where thornbushes grow. 4 With all your hearts, keep the agreement I made with you. But if you are stubborn and keep on sinning, my anger will burn like a fire that cannot be put out.
Disaster Is Coming
The Lord said:
5 “Sound the trumpets, my people. Warn the people of Judah,[a] ‘Run for your lives! 6 Head for Jerusalem or another walled town!'
“Jeremiah, tell them I’m sending disaster from the north. 7 An army will come out, like a lion from its den. It will destroy nations and leave your towns empty and in ruins.”
8 Then I said to the people of Israel, “Put on sackcloth![b] Mourn and cry out, ‘The Lord is still angry with us.’”
9 The Lord said,
“When all this happens, the king and his officials, the prophets and the priests will be shocked and terrified.”
10 I said, “You are the Lord God. So why have you fooled everyone, especially the people of Jerusalem? Why did you promise peace, when a knife is at our throats?”
The Coming Disaster
11-12 When disaster comes, the Lord will tell you people of Jerusalem,
“I am sending a windstorm from the desert— not a welcome breeze.[c] And it will sweep you away as punishment for your sins. 13 Look! The enemy army swoops down like an eagle; their cavalry and chariots race faster than storm clouds blown by the wind.”
Then you will answer, “We are doomed!”
14 But Jerusalem, there is still time for you to be saved. Wash the evil from your hearts and stop making sinful plans, 15 before a message of disaster arrives from the hills of Ephraim and the town of Dan.[d]
16-17 The Lord said,
“Tell the nations that my people have rebelled against me. And so an army will come from far away to surround Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. I, the Lord, have spoken.
18 “People of Judah, your hearts will be in pain, but it’s your own fault that you will be punished.”
Jeremiah’s Vision of the Coming Punishment
19 I can’t stand the pain! My heart pounds, as I twist and turn in agony. I hear the signal trumpet and the battle cry of the enemy, and I cannot be silent. 20 I see the enemy defeating us time after time, leaving everything in ruins. Even my own home is destroyed in a moment. 21 How long will I see enemy flags and hear their trumpets?
22 I heard the Lord say, “My people ignore me. They are foolish children who do not understand that they will be punished. All they know is how to sin.”
23 After this, I looked around. The earth was barren, with no form of life. The sun, moon, and stars had disappeared. 24 The mountains were shaking; 25 no people could be seen, and all the birds had flown away. 26 Farmland had become a desert, and towns were in ruins. The Lord’s fierce anger had done all of this.
The Death of Jerusalem
27-28 The Lord said:
I have made my decision, and I won’t change my mind. This land will be destroyed, although not completely. The sky will turn dark, and the earth will mourn.
29 Enemy cavalry and archers shout their battle cry. People run for their lives and try to find safety among trees and rocks. Every town is empty.
30 Jerusalem, your land has been wiped out. But you act like a prostitute and try to win back your lovers, who now hate you. You can put on a red dress, gold jewelry, and eye shadow, but it’s no use— your lovers are out to kill you!
31 I heard groaning and crying. Was it a woman giving birth to her first child? No, it was Jerusalem. She was gasping for breath and begging for help. “I’m dying!” she said. “They have murdered me.”
Is Anyone Honest and Faithful?
The Lord said to me:
5 “Search Jerusalem for honest people who try to be faithful. If you can find even one, I’ll forgive the whole city. 2 Everyone breaks promises made in my name.”
3 I answered, “I know that you look for truth. You punished your people for their lies, but in spite of the pain, they became more stubborn and refused to turn back to you.” 4 Then I thought to myself, “These common people act like fools, and they have never learned what the Lord their God demands of them. 5 I’ll go and talk to the leaders. They know what God demands.” But even they had decided not to obey the Lord.
6 The people have rebelled and rejected the Lord too many times. So enemies will attack like lions from the forest or wolves from the desert. Those enemies will watch the towns of Judah, and like leopards they will tear to pieces whoever goes outside.
Enemies Will Punish Judah
The Lord said:
7 People of Judah, how can I forgive you? I gave you everything, but you abandoned me and worshiped idols. You men go to prostitutes and are unfaithful to your wives. 8 You are no better than animals, and you always want sex with someone else’s wife.
9 Why shouldn’t I punish the people of Judah? 10 I will tell their enemies, “Go through my vineyard. Don’t destroy the vines, but cut off the branches, because they are the people who don’t belong to me.”
11 In every way, Judah and Israel have been unfaithful to me. 12 Their prophets lie and say, “The Lord won’t punish us. We will have peace and plenty of food.” 13 They tell these lies in my name, so now they will be killed in war or starve to death.
14 I am the Lord God All-Powerful. Jeremiah, I will tell you exactly what to say. Your words will be a fire; Israel and Judah will be the fuel.
15 People of Israel, I have made my decision. An army from a distant country will attack you. I’ve chosen an ancient nation, and you won’t understand their language. 16 All of them are warriors, and their arrows bring death. 17 This nation will eat your crops and livestock; they will leave no fruit on your vines or trees. And although you feel safe behind thick walls, your towns will be destroyed and your children killed.
Israel Refused To Worship the Lord
18 The Lord said:
Jeremiah, the enemy army won’t kill everyone in Judah. 19 And the people who survive will ask, “Why did the Lord our God do such terrible things to us?” Then tell them:
I am the Lord, but you abandoned me and worshiped other gods in your own land. Now you will be slaves in a foreign country. 20 Tell these things to each other, you people of Judah, you descendants of Jacob.
21 You fools! Why don’t you listen when I speak? Why can’t you understand 22 that you should worship me with fear and trembling? I’m the one who made the shore to hold back the ocean. Waves may crash on the beach, but they can come no farther. 23 You stubborn people have rebelled and turned your backs on me. 24 You refuse to say, “Let’s worship the Lord! He’s the one who sends rain in spring and autumn and gives us a good harvest.” 25 That’s why I cannot bless you!
26 A hunter traps birds and puts them in a cage, but some of you trap humans and make them your slaves. 27 You are evil, and you lie and cheat to make yourselves rich. You are powerful 28 and prosperous, but you refuse to help[e] the poor get the justice they deserve. 29 You need to be punished, and so I will take revenge. 30 Look at the terrible things going on in this country. I am shocked! 31 Prophets give their messages in the name of a false god,[f] my priests don’t want to serve me,[g] and you—my own people— like it this way! But on the day of disaster, where will you turn for help?
A Warning for the People of Jerusalem
The Lord said:
6 Run for your lives, people of Benjamin. Get out of Jerusalem. Sound a trumpet in Tekoa and light a signal fire in Beth-Haccherem. Soon you will be struck by disaster from the north. 2 Jerusalem is a lovely pasture, but shepherds will surround it and divide it up, 3 then let their flocks eat all the grass.[h] 4 Kings will tell their troops, “If we reach Jerusalem in the morning, we’ll attack at noon. But if we arrive later, 5 we’ll attack after dark and destroy its fortresses.”
6 I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I will command these armies to chop down trees and build a ramp up to the walls of Jerusalem.
People of Jerusalem, I must punish you for your injustice. 7 Evil pours from your city like water from a spring. Sounds of violent crimes echo within your walls; victims are everywhere, wounded and dying.
8 Listen to me, you people of Jerusalem and Judah. I will abandon you, and your land will become an empty desert. 9 I will tell your enemies to leave your nation bare like a vine stripped of grapes. I, the Lord All-Powerful, have spoken.
10 I have told the people that you, Lord, will punish them, but they just laugh and refuse to listen. 11 Your anger against Judah flames up inside me, and I can’t hold it in much longer.
The Lord’s Anger Will Sweep Everyone Away
The Lord answered:
Don’t hold back my anger! Let it sweep away everyone— the children at play and all adults, young and old alike. 12 I’ll punish the people of Judah and give to others their houses and fields, as well as their wives. I, the Lord, have spoken.
13 Everyone is greedy and dishonest, whether poor or rich. Even the prophets and priests cannot be trusted. 14 All they ever offer to my deeply wounded people are empty hopes for peace. 15 They should be ashamed of their disgusting sins, but they don’t even blush. And so, when I punish Judah, they will end up on the ground, dead like everyone else. I, the Lord, have spoken.
The People of Judah Rejected God’s Way of Life
16 The Lord said:
My people, when you stood at the crossroads, I told you, “Follow the road your ancestors took, and you will find peace.” But you refused. 17 I also sent prophets to warn you of danger, but when they sounded the alarm, you paid no attention. 18 So I tell all nations on earth, “Watch what I will do! 19 My people ignored me and rejected my laws. They planned to do evil, and now the evil they planned will happen to them.”
20 People of Judah, you bring me incense from Sheba and spices from distant lands. You offer sacrifices of all kinds. But why bother? I hate these gifts of yours! 21 So I will put stumbling blocks in your path, and everyone will die, including parents and children, neighbors and friends.
An Army from the North
22 The Lord said,
“Look toward the north, where a powerful nation has prepared for war. 23 Its well-armed troops are cruel and never show mercy. Their galloping horses sound like ocean waves pounding on the shore. This army will attack you, lovely Jerusalem.”
24 Then the people said,
“Just hearing about them makes us tremble with fear, and we twist and turn in pain like a woman giving birth.”
25 The Lord said,
“Don’t work in your fields or walk along the roads. It’s too dangerous. The enemy is well armed 26 and attacks without warning. So mourn, my people, as though your only child had died. Wear clothes made of sackcloth[i] and roll in the ash pile.”
The Lord’s People Must Be Tested
The Lord said:
27 Jeremiah, test my people as though they were metal. 28 And you’ll find they are hard like bronze and iron. They are stubborn rebels, always spreading lies. 29 Silver can be purified in a fiery furnace, 30 but my people are too wicked to be made pure, and so I have rejected them.
4.8sackcloth: A rough, dark-colored cloth made from goat or camel hair and used to make grain sacks. It was worn in times of trouble or sorrow.
4.11,12a welcome breeze: Hebrew “a wind to blow away the husks.” Farmers used a special shovel to pitch grain and husks into the air. Wind would blow away the light husks, and the grain would fall back to the ground, where it could be gathered up.
4.15Ephraim. . . Dan: The hills of Ephraim were to the north of Jerusalem, and Dan was even farther north. They would be reached by the invading army first.
5.28refuse to help: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
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