This book is the account of what was said by Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests of the town of Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.
The Lord spoke to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon was king of Judah,
and he spoke to him again when Josiah's son Jehoiakim was king. After that, the Lord spoke to him many times, until the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah. In the fifth month of that year the people of Jerusalem were taken into exile.
The Lord said to me,
"I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations."
I answered, "Sovereign Lord, I don't know how to speak; I am too young."
But the Lord said to me, "Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say.
Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!"
Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me, "Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak.
Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
The Lord asked me, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" I answered, "A branch of an almond tree."
"You are right," the Lord said, "and I am watching to see that my words come true."
Then the Lord spoke to me again. "What else do you see?" he asked. I answered, "I see a pot boiling in the north, and it is about to tip over this way."
He said to me, "Destruction will boil over from the north on all who live in this land,
because I am calling all the nations in the north to come. Their kings will set up their thrones at the gates of Jerusalem and around its walls and also around the other cities of Judah.
I will punish my people because they have sinned; they have abandoned me, have offered sacrifices to other gods, and have made idols and worshiped them.
Get ready, Jeremiah; go and tell them everything I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them now, or I will make you even more afraid when you are with them.
Listen, Jeremiah! Everyone in this land - the kings of Judah, the officials, the priests, and the people - will be against you. But today I am giving you the strength to resist them; you will be like a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. They will not defeat you, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken."
The Lord told me
to proclaim this message to everyone in Jerusalem. "I remember how faithful you were when you were young, how you loved me when we were first married; you followed me through the desert, through a land that had not been planted.
Israel, you belonged to me alone; you were my sacred possession. I sent suffering and disaster on everyone who hurt you. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Listen to the Lord's message, you descendants of Jacob, you tribes of Israel.
The Lord says: "What accusation did your ancestors bring against me? What made them turn away from me? They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves.
They did not care about me, even though I rescued them from Egypt and led them through the wilderness: a land of deserts and sand pits, a dry and dangerous land where no one lives and no one will even travel.
I brought them into a fertile land, to enjoy its harvests and its other good things. But instead they ruined my land; they defiled the country I had given them.
The priests did not ask, "Where is the Lord?' My own priests did not know me. The rulers rebelled against me; the prophets spoke in the name of Baal and worshiped useless idols.
"And so I, the Lord, will state my case against my people again. I will bring charges against their descendants.
Go west to the island of Cyprus, and send someone eastward to the land of Kedar. You will see that nothing like this has ever happened before.
No other nation has ever changed its gods, even though they were not real. But my people have exchanged me, the God who has brought them honor, for gods that can do nothing for them.
And so I command the sky to shake with horror, to be amazed and astonished,
for my people have committed two sins: they have turned away from me, the spring of fresh water, and they have dug cisterns, cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.
"Israel is not a slave; he was not born into slavery. Why then do his enemies hunt him down?
They have roared at him like lions; they have made his land a desert, and his towns lie in ruins, completely abandoned.
Yes, the people of Memphis and Tahpanhes have cracked his skull.
Israel, you brought this on yourself! You deserted me, the Lord your God, while I was leading you along the way.
What do you think you will gain by going to Egypt to drink water from the Nile? What do you think you will gain by going to Assyria to drink water from the Euphrates?
Your own evil will punish you, and your turning from me will condemn you. You will learn how bitter and wrong it is to abandon me, the Lord your God, and no longer to remain faithful to me. I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken."
The Sovereign Lord says, "Israel, long ago you rejected my authority; you refused to obey me and worship me. On every high hill and under every green tree you worshiped fertility gods.
I planted you like a choice vine from the very best seed. But look what you have become! You are like a rotten, worthless vine.
Even if you washed with the strongest soap, I would still see the stain of your guilt.
How can you say you have not defiled yourself, that you have never worshiped Baal? Look how you sinned in the valley; see what you have done. You are like a wild camel in heat, running around loose,
rushing into the desert. When she is in heat, who can control her? No male that wants her has to trouble himself; she is always available in mating season.
Israel, don't wear your feet out, or let your throat become dry from chasing after other gods. But you say, "No! I can't turn back. I have loved foreign gods and will go after them.' "
The Lord says, "Just as a thief is disgraced when caught, so all you people of Israel will be disgraced - your kings and officials, your priests and prophets.
You will all be disgraced - you that say that a tree is your father and that a rock is your mother. This will happen because you turned away from me instead of turning to me. But when you are in trouble, you ask me to come and save you.
"Where are the gods that you made for yourselves? When you are in trouble, let them save you - if they can! Judah, you have as many gods as you have cities.
What is your complaint? Why have you rebelled against me?
I punished you, but it did no good; you would not let me correct you. Like a raging lion, you have murdered your prophets.
People of Israel, listen to what I am saying. Have I been like a desert to you, like a dark and dangerous land? Why, then, do you say that you will do as you please, that you will never come back to me?
Does a young woman forget her jewelry, or a bride her wedding dress? But my people have forgotten me for more days than can be counted.
You certainly know how to chase after lovers. Even the worst of women can learn from you.
Your clothes are stained with the blood of the poor and innocent, not with the blood of burglars. "But in spite of all this,
you say, "I am innocent; surely the Lord is no longer angry with me.' But I, the Lord, will punish you because you deny that you have sinned.
You have cheapened yourself by turning to the gods of other nations. You will be disappointed by Egypt, just as you were by Assyria.
You will turn away from Egypt, hanging your head in shame. I, the Lord, have rejected those you trust; you will not gain anything from them."
The Lord says, "If a man divorces his wife, and she leaves him and becomes another man's wife, he cannot take her back again. This would completely defile the land. But, Israel, you have had many lovers, and now you want to return to me!
Look up at the hilltops. Is there any place where you have not acted like a prostitute? You waited for lovers along the roadside, as an Arab waits for victims in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution.
That is why the rains were held back, and the spring showers did not come. You even look like a prostitute; you have no shame.
"And now you say to me, "You are my father, and you have loved me ever since I was a child.
You won't always be angry; you won't be mad at me forever.' Israel, that is what you said, but you did all the evil you could."
When Josiah was king, the Lord said to me, "Have you seen what Israel, that unfaithful woman, has done? She has turned away from me, and on every high hill and under every green tree she has acted like a prostitute.
I thought that after she had done all this, she would surely return to me. But she did not return, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it all.
Judah also saw that I divorced Israel and sent her away because she had turned from me and had become a prostitute. But Judah, Israel's unfaithful sister, was not afraid. She too became a prostitute
and was not at all ashamed. She defiled the land, and she committed adultery by worshiping stones and trees.
And after all this, Judah, Israel's unfaithful sister, only pretended to return to me; she was not sincere. I, the Lord, have spoken."
Then the Lord told me that, even though Israel had turned away from him, she had proved to be better than unfaithful Judah.
He told me to go and say to Israel, "Unfaithful Israel, come back to me. I am merciful and will not be angry; I will not be angry with you forever.
Only admit that you are guilty and that you have rebelled against the Lord, your God. Confess that under every green tree you have given your love to foreign gods and that you have not obeyed my commands. I, the Lord, have spoken.
"Unfaithful people, come back; you belong to me. I will take one of you from each town and two from each clan, and I will bring you back to Mount Zion.
I will give you rulers who obey me, and they will rule you with wisdom and understanding.
Then when you have become numerous in that land, people will no longer talk about my Covenant Box. They will no longer think about it or remember it; they will not even need it, nor will they make another one.
When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called "The Throne of the Lord,' and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them.
Israel will join with Judah, and together they will come from exile in the country in the north and will return to the land that I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession."
The Lord says, "Israel, I wanted to accept you as my child and give you a delightful land, the most beautiful land in all the world. I wanted you to call me father and never again turn away from me.
But like an unfaithful wife, you have not been faithful to me. I, the Lord, have spoken."
A noise is heard on the hilltops: it is the people of Israel crying and pleading because they have lived sinful lives and have forgotten the Lord their God.
Return, all of you who have turned away from the Lord; he will heal you and make you faithful. You say, "Yes, we are coming to the Lord because he is our God.
We were not helped at all by our pagan worship on the hilltops. Help for Israel comes only from the Lord our God.
But the worship of Baal, the god of shame, has made us lose flocks and herds, sons and daughters - everything that our ancestors have worked for since ancient times.
We should lie down in shame and let our disgrace cover us. We and our ancestors have always sinned against the Lord our God; we have never obeyed his commands."