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Jeremiah Speaks in the Temple

(Jeremiah 26.1-6)

1-3 The Lord told me to stand by the gate of the temple[a] and tell the people who were going in that the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said:

Pay attention, people of Judah! Change your ways and start living right, then I will let you keep on living in your own country.[b] Don't fool yourselves! My temple is here in Jerusalem, but that doesn't mean I will protect you. I will keep you safe only if you change your ways and are fair and honest with each other. Stop taking advantage of foreigners, orphans, and widows. Don't kill innocent people. And stop worshiping other gods. Then I will let you enjoy a long life in this land I gave your ancestors.

But just look at what is happening! You put your trust in worthless lies. You steal and murder; you lie in court and are unfaithful in marriage. You worship idols and offer incense to Baal, when these gods have never done anything for you. 10 And then you come into my temple and worship me! Do you think I will protect you so that you can go on sinning? 11 (A) You are thieves, and you have made my temple your hideout. But I've seen everything you have done.

12 (B) Go to Shiloh, where my sacred tent once stood. Take a look at what I did there. My people Israel sinned, and so I destroyed Shiloh!

13 While you have been sinning, I have been trying to talk to you, but you refuse to listen. 14 Don't think this temple will protect you. Long ago I told your ancestors to build it and worship me here, but now I have decided to tear it down, just as I destroyed Shiloh. 15 And as for you, people of Judah, I'm going to send you away from my land, just as I sent away the people of Ephraim and the other northern tribes.

Punishment for Worshiping Other Gods

16 Jeremiah, don't pray for these people! I, the Lord, would refuse to listen. 17 Do you see what the people of Judah are doing in their towns and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 (C) Children gather firewood, their fathers build fires, and their mothers mix dough to bake bread for the goddess they call the Queen of Heaven.[c] They even offer wine sacrifices to other gods, just to insult me. 19 But they are not only insulting me; they are also harming themselves by doing these shameful things.

20 And now, I, the Lord All-Powerful, will flood Judah with my fiery anger until nothing is left—no people or animals, no trees or crops.

It Is Useless To Offer Sacrifices

21 The Lord told me to say to the people of Judah:

I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, but I won't accept sacrifices from you. So don't even bother bringing them to me. You might as well just cook the meat for yourselves.

22 At the time I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I didn't command them to offer sacrifices to me. 23 Instead, I told them, “If you listen to me and do what I tell you, I will be your God, you will be my people, and all will go well for you.” 24 But your ancestors refused to listen. They were stubborn, and whenever I wanted them to go one way, they always went the other. 25 Ever since your ancestors left Egypt, I have been sending my servants the prophets to speak for me. 26 But you have ignored me and become even more stubborn and sinful than your ancestors ever were!

Slaughter Valley

The Lord said:

27 Jeremiah, no matter what you do, the people won't listen. 28 So you must say to them:

People of Judah, I am the Lord your God, but you have refused to obey me, and you didn't change when I punished you. And now, you no longer even pretend to be faithful to me.

29 Shave your head bald
    and throw away the hair.
Sing a funeral song
    on top of a barren hill.
You people have made me angry,
    and I have abandoned you.

30 You have disobeyed me by putting your disgusting idols in my temple, and now the temple itself is disgusting to me. 31 (D) At Topheth in Hinnom Valley you have built altars where you kill your children and burn them as sacrifices to other gods. I would never think of telling you to do this. 32 So watch out! Someday that place will no longer be called Topheth or Hinnom Valley. It will be called Slaughter Valley, because you will bury your dead there until you run out of room, 33 and then bodies will lie scattered on the ground. Birds and wild animals will come and eat, and no one will be around to scare them off. 34 (E) When I am finished with your land, there will be deathly silence in the empty ruins of Jerusalem and the towns of Judah—no happy voices, no sounds of parties or wedding celebrations.

Then the bones of the dead kings of Judah and their officials will be dug up, along with the bones of the priests, the prophets, and everyone else in Jerusalem who loved and worshiped the sun, moon, and stars. These bones will be scattered and left lying on the ground like trash, where the sun and moon and stars can shine on them.

Some of you people of Judah will be left alive, but I will force you to go to foreign countries, and you will wish you were dead. I, the Lord God All-Powerful, have spoken.

The People Took the Wrong Road

The Lord said:

People of Jerusalem,
when you stumble and fall,
    you get back up,
and if you take a wrong road,
    you turn around and go back.[d]
So why do you refuse
    to come back to me?
Why do you hold so tightly
    to your false gods?

I listen carefully,
but none of you admit
    that you've done wrong.
Without a second thought,
you run down the wrong road[e]
    like horses running blindly
    into battle.

Storks, doves, swallows,
and thrushes
    all know when it's time
to fly away for the winter
    and when to come back.
But you, my people,
    don't know what I demand.
You say, “We are wise
because we have the teachings
    and laws of the Lord.”
But I say that your teachers
have turned my words
    into lies!
Your wise men
have rejected what I say,
    and so they have no wisdom.
Now they will be trapped
and put to shame;
    they won't know what to do.
10 (F) I'll give their wives and fields
    to strangers.

Everyone is greedy and dishonest,
    whether poor or rich.
Even the prophets and priests
    cannot be trusted.
11 (G) All they ever offer
to my deeply wounded people
    are empty hopes for peace.
12 They should be ashamed
of the way they live,
    but they don't even blush.
And so, when I punish Judah,
they will end up on the ground,
    dead like everyone else.
13 I will wipe them out.[f]
They are vines without grapes;
    fig trees without figs or leaves.
They have not done a thing
    that I told them![g]
I, the Lord, have spoken.

The People and Their Punishment

14 The people of Judah
    say to each other,
“What are we waiting for?
Let's run to a town with walls
    and die there.
We rebelled against the Lord,
and we were sentenced to die
    by drinking poison.
15 We had hoped for peace
and a time of healing,
    but all we got was terror.
16 Our enemies have reached
    the town of Dan in the north,
and the snorting of their horses
    makes us tremble with fear.
The enemy will destroy Jerusalem
and our entire nation.
    No one will survive.”

17 “Watch out!” the Lord says.
“I'm sending poisonous snakes
    to attack you,
and no one can stop them.”

Jeremiah Mourns for His People

18 I'm burdened with sorrow
    and feel like giving up.
19 In a foreign land
    my people are crying.
Listen! You'll hear them say,
“Has the Lord deserted Zion?
    Is he no longer its king?”

I hear the Lord reply,
“Why did you make me angry
    by worshiping useless idols?”

20 The people complain,
“Spring and summer
    have come and gone,
but still the Lord
    hasn't rescued us.”

21 My people are crushed,
and so is my heart.
    I am horrified and mourn.
22 If medicine and doctors
may be found in Gilead,
    why aren't my people healed?

I wish that my eyes
    were fountains of tears,
so I could cry day and night
for my people
    who were killed.
I wish I could go into the desert
    and find a hiding place
from all who are treacherous
    and unfaithful to God.

The Lord Answers Jeremiah

The Lord replied:

Lies come from the mouths
of my people,
    like arrows from a bow.
With each dishonest deed
    their power increases,
and not one of them will admit
    that I am God.

Jeremiah, all your friends
    and relatives
tell lies about you,
    so don't trust them.
They wear themselves out,
always looking for a new way
    to cheat their friends.
Everyone takes advantage
    of everyone else,
and no one will admit
    that I am God.

And so I will purify
    the hearts of my people
just as gold is purified
in a furnace.
    I have no other choice.
They say they want peace,
    but this lie is deadly,
like an arrow that strikes
    when you least expect it.
Give me one good reason
not to punish them
    as they deserve.
I, the Lord All-Powerful,
    have spoken.

Jeremiah Weeps for His People

10 I weep for the pastureland
    in the hill country.
It's so barren and scorched
    that no one travels there.
No cattle can be found there,
and birds and wild animals
    have all disappeared.

11 I heard the Lord reply,
    “When I am finished,
Jerusalem and the towns of Judah
will be piles of ruins
    where only jackals[h] live.”

Why the Land Was Destroyed

12 I said to the Lord, “None of us can understand why the land has become like an uncrossable desert. Won't you explain why?”

13 The Lord said:

I destroyed the land because the people disobeyed me and rejected my laws and teachings. 14 They were stubborn and worshiped Baal,[i] just as their ancestors did. 15 So I, the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, promise them poison to eat and drink.[j] 16 I'll scatter them in foreign countries that they and their ancestors have never even heard of. Finally, I will send enemy soldiers to kill every last one of them.

The Women Who Are Paid To Weep

17 The Lord All-Powerful said,
“Make arrangements now
for the women who are paid
    to weep at funerals,[k]
especially the women
    who can cry the loudest.”

18 The people answered,
“Let them come quickly
    and cry for us,
until our own eyes
    are flooded with tears.
19 Now those of us on Zion cry,
‘We are ruined!
    We can't stand the shame.
Our homes have been destroyed,
    and we must leave our land.’

20 “We ask you women
to pay attention
    to what the Lord says.
We will teach you a funeral song
that you can teach
    your daughters and friends:
21 ‘We were in our fortress,
but death sneaked in
    through our windows.
It even struck down
children at play
    and our strongest young men.’

22 “The Lord has told us
the ground will be covered
    with dead bodies,
like ungathered stalks of grain
    or manure in a field.”

What the Lord Likes Best

23 The Lord says:

Don't brag about your wisdom
    or strength or wealth.
24 (H) If you feel you must brag,
    then have enough sense
to brag about worshiping me,
    the Lord.
What I like best
    is showing kindness,
justice, and mercy
    to everyone on earth.

25-26 Someday I will punish the nations of Egypt, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, and the tribes of the desert.[l] The men of these nations are circumcised, but they don't worship me. And it's the same with you people of Judah. Your bodies are circumcised, but your hearts are unchanged.


  1. 7.1-3 temple: The Hebrew text has “house of the Lord,” another name for the temple.
  2. 7.1-3 let you … own country: Or “live here with you.”
  3. 7.18 Queen of Heaven: Probably another name for the goddess Astarte.
  4. 8.4 if you take … go back: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 8.6 you run down the wrong road: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  6. 8.13 I will wipe them out: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  7. 8.13 They have not … them: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  8. 9.11 jackals: Desert animals related to wolves, but smaller.
  9. 9.14 Baal: See the note at 2.23.
  10. 9.15 poison to eat and drink: Or “bitter disappointment to eat, and tears to drink.”
  11. 9.17 women … weep at funerals: Or “the women who weep for Baal”; the god Baal was believed to have died and come back to life, and some women would go to places of worship and weep over the death of Baal.
  12. 9.25,26 the tribes of the desert: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

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