A message came to me from the LORD about all of the Jews who were living in Lower Egypt. They were living in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis. It was also about all of the Jews who were living in Upper Egypt.
The LORD who rules over all is the God of Israel. He said, "You saw all of the trouble I brought on Jerusalem. I also brought it on all of the towns in Judah. Today they lie there deserted and destroyed.
That is because of the evil things their people did. They made me very angry. They burned incense to other gods. And they worshiped them. They and you and your people of long ago never had anything to do with those gods before.
"Again and again I sent my servants the prophets. They said, 'Don't worship other gods! The LORD hates it!'
"But the people didn't listen. They didn't pay any attention. They didn't turn from their sinful ways. They didn't stop burning incense to other gods.
"So my burning anger was poured out. It blazed out against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. It made them the dry and empty places they are today."
The LORD God who rules over all is the God of Israel. He says, "Why do you want to bring all of this trouble on yourselves? You are cutting off from Judah its men and women. You are cutting off the children and babies. Not one of you will be left.
Why do you want to make me angry with the gods your hands have made? Why do you burn incense to the gods of Egypt, where you have come to live? You will destroy yourselves. All of the nations on earth will call down curses on you. They will bring shame on you.
"Have you forgotten the evil things your people did long ago? The kings and queens of Judah did those same things. So did you and your wives. They were done in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem.
"To this very day the people of Judah have not made themselves low in my sight. They have not shown any respect for me. They have not obeyed my law. They have not followed the rules I gave you and your people long ago."
The LORD who rules over all is the God of Israel. He says, "I have decided to bring horrible trouble on you. I will destroy the whole land of Judah.
I will destroy the people of Judah who are left. They had decided to go to Egypt and settle down there. But all of them will die in Egypt. They will die of war or hunger. All of them will die, from the least important of them to the most important. They will die of war or hunger. People will call down curses on them. They will be shocked at them. They will say bad things about them. And they will bring shame on them.
I will use war, hunger and plague to punish the Jews who live in Egypt. I punished Jerusalem in the same way.
"None of the people of Judah who have gone to live in Egypt will escape. Not one of them will live to return to Judah. They long to return and live there. But only a few will escape from Egypt and go back."
All of the Jews who were living in Lower and Upper Egypt gathered to give me their answer. A large crowd had come together. It included men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods. Their wives were there with them. All of them said to me,
"We won't listen to the message you have spoken to us in the LORD's name!
We will certainly do everything we said we would. We'll burn incense to the goddess who is called the Queen of Heaven. We'll pour out drink offerings to her. We'll do just as we and our people before us did. Our kings and our officials also did it. All of us did it in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food. We were well off. We didn't suffer any harm.
"But then we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven. We stopped pouring out drink offerings to her. And ever since that time we haven't had anything. Instead, we've been dying of war and hunger."
The women added, "We burned incense to the Queen of Heaven. We poured out drink offerings to her. And our husbands knew we were making cakes that looked like her. They knew we were pouring out drink offerings to her."
Then I spoke to all of the people who were answering me. I spoke to men and women alike. I said,
"Didn't the LORD know you were burning incense in the towns of Judah? Didn't he care that you were also doing it in the streets of Jerusalem? You and your people before you were doing it. Your kings and officials were doing it too. So were the rest of the people in the land.
"The LORD couldn't put up with the evil things you were doing anymore. He hated the things you did. So people called down curses on your land. It became a dry and empty desert. No one lived there. And that's the way it still is today.
"You have burned incense to other gods. You have sinned against the Lord. You haven't obeyed him or his law. You haven't followed his rules. You haven't lived up to the terms of the covenant he made with you. That's why all of this trouble has come on you. You have seen it with your own eyes."
Then I spoke to all of the people. That included the women. I said, "All you people of Judah in Egypt, listen to the LORD's message.
The LORD who rules over all is the God of Israel. He says, 'You and your wives have done what you promised you would do. You said, "We will certainly keep the promises we made to the Queen of Heaven. We'll burn incense to her. We'll pour out drink offerings to her." ' "Go ahead then. Do what you said you would! Keep your promises!
But listen to the LORD's message. Listen, all you Jews living in Egypt. 'I take an oath in my own great name,' says the Lord. 'I promise that no one from Judah who lives anywhere in Egypt will ever again pray in my name. None of them will ever take an oath and say, "You can be sure that the LORD and King is alive."
" 'I am watching over them to do them harm and not good. The Jews in Egypt will die of war and hunger until all of them are destroyed.
Some will not be killed. They will return to Judah from Egypt. But they will be very few. Then all of the people of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know the truth. They will know whether what I say or what they say will come true.
" 'I will give you a miraculous sign that I will punish you in this place,' announces the Lord. 'Then you can be sure that my warnings of harm against you will come true.'
The LORD says, 'I am going to hand Pharaoh Hophra over to his enemies who want to take his life. In the same way, I handed King Zedekiah over to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia. He was the enemy who wanted to take Zedekiah's life.' " Hophra was king of Egypt.