The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah during Zedekiah's tenth year as king of Judah. (This was Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year as king.)
At that time the army of the king of Babylon was blockading Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah was locked up in the courtyard of the prison. This prison was in the palace of the king of Judah.
When King Zedekiah of Judah locked up Jeremiah, Zedekiah asked him, "Why are you prophesying? You are saying, 'This is what the LORD says: I'm going to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will capture it.
King Zedekiah of Judah will not escape from the Babylonians. He will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon. He will talk to Nebuchadnezzar in person and look him in the eye.
Nebuchadnezzar will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and Zedekiah will stay there until I deal with him, declares the LORD. When you fight the Babylonians, you won't win.'"
Jeremiah said, "The LORD spoke his word to me. He said,
'Jeremiah, your cousin Hanamel, son of Shallum, is going to come to you and say, "Buy my field that is in Anathoth, because as the closest relative it is your responsibility to buy it."'
"Then, as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the prison. He said to me, 'Please buy my field that is in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. It is your responsibility to purchase it, because the rights of the closest relative belong to you. Buy it for yourself.' Then I knew that the LORD had spoken to me.
"So I bought the field in Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and gave him the money. The field cost seven ounces of silver.
I signed the deed, sealed it, had people witness the signing of the deed, and paid out the silver.
Then I took the sealed copy of the deed, containing the terms and conditions, as well as an unsealed copy.
I gave the copies of the deeds to Baruch, son of Neriah and grandson of Mahseiah. I did this in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and the witnesses who had signed the deed and in the presence of all the Jews who were sitting in the courtyard of the prison.
Then I gave Baruch these orders:
'This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Take both of these documents, both the sealed and the unsealed copies of the deed. Put them in a clay jar so that they will last a long time.
This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: My people will again buy houses, fields, and vineyards in this land.'
"After I had given the copies to Baruch, son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD. I prayed,
'Almighty LORD, you made heaven and earth by your great strength and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
You show mercy to thousands of generations. However, you punish children for the wickedness of their parents. You, God, are great and mighty. Your name is the LORD of Armies.
You make wise plans and do mighty things. You see everything the descendants of Adam do. You reward them for the way they live and for what they do.
You performed miraculous signs and amazing things in Egypt. To this day you are still doing them in Israel. You made a name for yourself that continues to this day.
You brought your people from Egypt with miraculous signs and amazing things, with a mighty hand and a powerful arm, and with great terror.
You gave them the land that you swore with an oath to give their ancestors, the land flowing with milk and honey.
They entered and took possession of it. However, they refused to obey you or to follow your teachings. They didn't do anything you commanded them to do, so you brought all this disaster on them.
"'See how the dirt ramps have been built up around the city to capture it! Because of wars, famines, and plagues, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you have threatened to do has happened, as you can see.
Yet you, Almighty LORD, told me to buy a field with money and get witnesses to confirm it, although the city was handed over to the Babylonians.'"
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah. He said,
"I am the LORD God of all humanity. Nothing is too hard for me.
This is what the LORD says: I'm going to hand this city over to the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They will capture it.
"The Babylonians who are attacking this city will break in, set this city on fire, and burn it down. They will burn down the houses of people who made me furious by going up to the roofs to burn incense to Baal and to pour out wine offerings to other gods.
Ever since they were young, the people of Israel and Judah have done what I consider evil. The people of Israel have made me furious by what they've done," declares the LORD.
"The people in this city have made me so angry and furious from the day they built it to this day. So now I must remove this city from my presence.
"The people of Israel and Judah have made me furious because they are evil. The people, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, and the Judeans and those who live in Jerusalem
have turned their backs, not their faces to me. I taught them again and again, but they refused to listen and learn.
They set up their detestable idols in the temple that is called by my name, and they dishonored it.
In the valley of Ben Hinnom they built worship sites for Baal to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I didn't ask them to do this. It never entered my mind. I didn't make Judah sin.
"You have said this about the city, 'Because of wars, famines, and plagues it will be handed over to the king of Babylon.' Now this is what the LORD God of Israel says:
I am going to gather the people from all the lands where I scattered them in my anger, fury, and terrifying wrath. I will bring them back to this place and make them live here securely.
They will be my people, and I will be their God.
I will give them the same attitude and the same purpose so that they will fear me as long as they live. This will be for their own good and for the good of their children.
I will make an eternal promise to them that I will never stop blessing them. I will make them fear me so that they will never turn away from me.
I will enjoy blessing them. With all my heart and soul I will faithfully plant them in this land.
"This is what the LORD says: As I brought all these disasters on these people, so I will bring on them all these blessings that I have promised them.
You have said that this land is a wasteland, without people or animals living in it. You have also said that it has been handed over to the Babylonians. But people will once again buy fields in this land.
They will buy fields for money, sign deeds, seal them, and have people witness the signing of the deeds. This will happen in the territory of Benjamin, in the region of Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities on the mountains, in the hill country, and in the Negev because I will bring them back from their captivity," declares the LORD.
While Jeremiah was still being held in the courtyard of the prison, the LORD spoke his word to him a second time. The LORD said,
"I made [the earth], formed it, and set it in place. My name is the LORD. This is what the LORD says:
Call to me, and I will answer you. I will tell you great and mysterious things that you do not know.
The houses in this city and the palaces of the kings of Judah have been torn down to be used against the dirt ramps and weapons of the Babylonians. This is what the LORD God of Israel says about this:
The people of Israel fought the Babylonians. Now their houses are filled with the bodies of their own people I killed in my anger and my fury. I will hide my face from this city because of its wickedness.
"But I will heal this city and restore it to health. I will heal its people, and I will give them peace and security.
I will restore Judah and Israel and rebuild them as they were before.
I will cleanse them from all the sins that they have committed against me. I will forgive them for all the sins that they have committed against me and for rebelling against me.
Then Jerusalem will be my source of joy, praise, and honor. All the nations on earth will hear about all the blessings that I will give to Jerusalem. They will be afraid and tremble because of all the prosperity that I will provide for it.
"This is what the LORD says: You have said that this place is ruined and that no people or animals live in it. It's true! The cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem are deserted. No people or animals live there. But once again you will hear
the sounds of joy and happiness and the sounds of brides and grooms. You will hear those who bring thank offerings to the LORD's temple say, 'Give thanks to the LORD of Armies because the LORD is good, because his mercy endures forever.' I will restore the fortunes of the land to what they were before," says the LORD.
"This is what the LORD of Armies says: In this deserted place, where no people or animals live, and in all its cities, there will once again be pastures where shepherds can rest their flocks.
In the cities on the mountains, in the foothills, in the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the area around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, shepherds will once again count their sheep," says the LORD.
"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will keep the promise that I made to Israel and Judah.
In those days and at that time, I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David. He will do what is fair and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live securely. Jerusalem will be called The LORD Our Righteousness.
"This is what the LORD says: David will never fail to have a descendant sitting on the throne of Israel.
The Levitical priests will never fail to have a descendant in my presence to sacrifice burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to prepare daily sacrifices."
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah. He said,
"This is what the LORD says: Suppose you could break my arrangement with day and night so that they wouldn't come at their proper time.
Then my arrangement with my servant David could be broken, and he would not have a descendant to rule on his throne. The arrangement with my servants the Levitical priests could also be broken.
I will multiply the descendants of my servant David and the Levites who serve me like the stars of heaven that cannot be counted and the sand on the seashore that cannot be measured."
Then the LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah. He said,
"Haven't you noticed what these people have said? They have said that the LORD has rejected the two families he has chosen. They despise my people, and they no longer consider them a nation.
"This is what the LORD says: Suppose I hadn't made an arrangement with day and night or made laws for heaven and earth.
Then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and of my servant David. I would not let any of David's descendants rule the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, I will restore their fortunes and love them."
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, his entire army, and all the kingdoms and people that he ruled were attacking Jerusalem and all its cities. He said,
"This is what the LORD God of Israel says: Go to King Zedekiah of Judah, and tell him, 'The LORD says: I'm going to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down.
You will not escape from him. You will certainly be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will talk to you face to face. Then you will go to Babylon.
"'Listen to the word of the LORD, King Zedekiah of Judah. This is what the LORD says about you: You will not die in war.
You will die peacefully. People will burn [funeral] fires for you as they did for your ancestors, the kings who lived before you. They will say, "Oh, master," as they mourn for you. I have spoken my word, declares the LORD.'"
The prophet Jeremiah told all these things to King Zedekiah of Judah in Jerusalem.
He did this when the army of the king of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem and the cities of Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities of Judah that were left.
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah and all the people in Jerusalem promised to free their slaves.
Everyone was supposed to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female. No one was supposed to keep another Jew as a slave.
All the officials and all the people agreed and promised to free their male and female slaves and not to keep them as slaves anymore. So they set them free.
But afterwards, they changed their minds and took back the men and women they had freed and made them their slaves again.
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah. He said,
"This is what the LORD God of Israel says: I put a condition on the promise I made to your ancestors when I brought them from Egypt, where they were slaves. I said,
'Every seven years each of you must free any Hebrews who sold themselves to you. When they have served you for six years, you must set them free.' But your ancestors refused to obey me or listen to me.
Recently, you changed and did what I consider right. You agreed to free your neighbors, and you made a promise in my presence, in the temple that is called by my name.
Now you have changed again and dishonored me. You brought back the male and female slaves that you had set free to live their own lives. You have forced them to be your male and female slaves again.
"This is what the LORD says: You didn't obey me. You haven't freed your relatives and neighbors. Now I am going to free you," declares the LORD. "I will free you to die in wars, plagues, and famines. I will make all the kingdoms of the world horrified at the thought of you.
I will hand over the people who have rejected my promise. They have not kept the terms of the promise which they made in my presence when they cut a calf in two and passed between its pieces.
I will hand over the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the palace officials, the priests, and all the common people who passed between the pieces of the calf.
I will hand them over to their enemies who want to kill them, and their corpses will be food for birds and wild animals.
I will hand King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who want to kill them and to the army of the king of Babylon, the army that has withdrawn from you.
I am going to give a command," declares the LORD. "I will bring that army back to this city to attack it, capture it, and burn it down. I will destroy the cities of Judah so that no one will live there."