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How Israel Can Return to the Lord

The Lord said:

Israel, if you really want
to come back to me,
get rid
    of those disgusting idols.
Make promises only in my name,
    and do what you promise!
Then all nations will praise me,
    and I will bless them.
People of Jerusalem and Judah,
    don’t be so stubborn!
Your hearts have become hard,
like unplowed ground
    where thornbushes grow.
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:

“Sound the trumpets, my people.
Warn the people of Judah,[a]
    ‘Run for your lives!
Head for Jerusalem
    or another walled town!'

“Jeremiah, tell them I’m sending
    disaster from the north.
An army will come out,
    like a lion from its den.
It will destroy nations
and leave your towns empty
    and in ruins.”

Then I said
    to the people of Israel,
“Put on sackcloth![b]
    Mourn and cry out,
‘The Lord is still angry
    with us.’”

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
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:

“Search Jerusalem
for honest people
    who try to be faithful.
If you can find even one,
    I’ll forgive the whole city.
Everyone breaks promises
    made in my name.”

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.”
Then I thought to myself,
“These common people
    act like fools,
and they have never learned
what the Lord their God
    demands of them.
I’ll go and talk to the leaders.
They know what God demands.”
    But even they had decided
    not to obey the Lord.

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:

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.
You are no better than animals,
and you always want sex
    with someone else’s wife.

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:

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.
Jerusalem is a lovely pasture,
but shepherds will surround it
    and divide it up,
then let their flocks
    eat all the grass.[h]
Kings will tell their troops,
    “If we reach Jerusalem
in the morning,
    we’ll attack at noon.
But if we arrive later,
we’ll attack after dark
    and destroy its fortresses.”

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.
Evil pours from your city
    like water from a spring.
Sounds of violent crimes
    echo within your walls;
victims are everywhere,
    wounded and dying.

Listen to me,
you people of Jerusalem
    and Judah.
I will abandon you,
and your land will become
    an empty desert.
I will tell your enemies
to leave your nation bare
    like a vine stripped of grapes.
I, the Lord All-Powerful,
    have spoken.

Jeremiah’s Anger

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.


  1. 4.5 Judah: Hebrew “Judah and Jerusalem.”
  2. 4.8 sackcloth: 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.
  3. 4.11,12 a 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. 4.15 Ephraim. . . 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. 5.28 refuse to help: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  6. 5.31 give. . . god: Or “tell lies.”
  7. 5.31 don’t. . . me: Or “don’t care what I want.”
  8. 6.2, 3 Jerusalem. . . grass: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  9. 6.26 sackcloth: See the note at 4.8.

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