This is the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to what was left of the elders among the exiles, to the priests and prophets and all the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem,
including King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the government leaders, and all the skilled laborers and craftsmen.
The letter was carried by Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah had sent to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The letter said:
This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God, to all the exiles I've taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:
"Build houses and make yourselves at home. "Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.
"Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you'll thrive in that country and not waste away.
"Make yourselves at home there and work for the country's welfare. "Pray for Babylon's well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you."
Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God: "Don't let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don't pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you.
They're a bunch of liars preaching lies - and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me." God's Decree!
This is God's Word on the subject: "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen.
"When you come looking for me, you'll find me.
I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree. "I'll turn things around for you. I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you" - God's Decree - "bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.
"But for right now, because you've taken up with these newfangled prophets who set themselves up as 'Babylonian specialists,' spreading the word 'God sent them just for us!'
God is setting the record straight: As for the king still sitting on David's throne and all the people left in Jerusalem who didn't go into exile with you, they're facing bad times.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, 'Watch this! Catastrophe is on the way: war, hunger, disease! They're a barrel of rotten apples.
I'll rid the country of them through war and hunger and disease. The whole world is going to hold its nose at the smell, shut its eyes at the horrible sight. They'll end up in slum ghettos
because they wouldn't listen to a thing I said when I sent my servant-prophets preaching tirelessly and urgently. No, they wouldn't listen to a word I said.'" God's Decree.
"And you - you exiles whom I sent out of Jerusalem to Babylon - listen to God's Message to you.
As far as Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah are concerned, the 'Babylonian specialists' who are preaching lies in my name, I will turn them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will kill them while you watch.
The exiles from Judah will take what they see at the execution and use it as a curse: 'God fry you to a crisp like the king of Babylon fried Zedekiah and Ahab in the fire!'
Those two men, sex predators and prophet-impostors, got what they deserved. They pulled every woman they got their hands on into bed - their neighbors' wives, no less - and preached lies claiming it was my Message. I never sent those men. I've never had anything to do with them." God's Decree. "They won't get away with a thing. I've witnessed it all."
And this is the Message for Shemaiah the Nehelamite:
"God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says: You took it on yourself to send letters to all the people in Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah and the company of priests. In your letter you told Zephaniah that
God set you up as priest replacing priest Jehoiadah. He's put you in charge of God's Temple and made you responsible for locking up any crazy fellow off the street who takes it into his head to be a prophet.
"So why haven't you done anything about muzzling Jeremiah of Anathoth, who's going around posing as a prophet?
He's gone so far as to write to us in Babylon, 'It's going to be a long exile, so build houses and make yourselves at home. Plant gardens and prepare Babylonian recipes.'"
The priest Zephaniah read that letter to the prophet Jeremiah.
Then God told Jeremiah,
"Send this Message to the exiles. Tell them what God says about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Shemaiah is preaching lies to you. I didn't send him. He is seducing you into believing lies.
So this is God's verdict: I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his whole family. He's going to end up with nothing and no one. No one from his family will be around to see any of the good that I am going to do for my people because he has preached rebellion against me." God's Decree.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)