Bible: Jeremiah 4-6

4:1If you, Israel, want to come back,” says the Lord,

“if you want to come back to me 1 

you must get those disgusting idols 2  out of my sight

and must no longer go astray. 3 

4:2 You must be truthful, honest and upright

when you take an oath saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives!’ 4 

If you do, 5  the nations will pray to be as blessed by him as you are

and will make him the object of their boasting.” 6 

4:3 Yes, 7  the Lord has this to say

to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:

“Like a farmer breaking up hard unplowed ground,

you must break your rebellious will and make a new beginning;

just as a farmer must clear away thorns lest the seed is wasted,

you must get rid of the sin that is ruining your lives. 8 

4:4 Just as ritual circumcision cuts away the foreskin

as an external symbol of dedicated covenant commitment,

you must genuinely dedicate yourselves to the Lord

and get rid of everything that hinders your commitment to me, 9 

people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.

If you do not, 10  my anger will blaze up like a flaming fire against you

that no one will be able to extinguish.

That will happen because of the evil you have done.”

Warning of Coming Judgment

4:5 The Lord said, 11 

“Announce 12  this in Judah and proclaim it in Jerusalem: 13 

‘Sound the trumpet 14  throughout the land!’

Shout out loudly,

Gather together! Let us flee into the fortified cities!’

4:6 Raise a signal flag that tells people to go to Zion. 15 

Run for safety! Do not delay!

For I am about to bring disaster out of the north.

It will bring great destruction. 16 

4:7 Like a lion that has come up from its lair 17 

the one who destroys nations has set out from his home base. 18 

He is coming out to lay your land waste.

Your cities will become ruins and lie uninhabited.

4:8 So put on sackcloth!

Mourn and wail, saying,

‘The fierce anger of the Lord

has not turned away from us!’ 19 

4:9When this happens,” 20  says the Lord,

“the king and his officials will lose their courage.

The priests will be struck with horror,

and the prophets will be speechless in astonishment.”

4:10 In response to all this 21  I said, “Ah, Lord God, 22  you have surely allowed 23  the people of Judah and Jerusalem 24  to be deceived by those who say, ‘You will be safe!’ 25  But in fact a sword is already at our throats.” 26 

4:11At that time the people of Judah and Jerusalem 27  will be told,

‘A scorching wind will sweep down

from the hilltops in the desert on 28  my dear people. 29 

It will not be a gentle breeze

for winnowing the grain and blowing away the chaff. 30 

4:12 No, 31  a wind too strong for that will come at my bidding.

Yes, even now I, myself, am calling down judgment on them.’ 32 

4:13 Look! The enemy is approaching like gathering clouds. 33 

The roar of his chariots is like that of a whirlwind. 34 

His horses move more swiftly than eagles.”

I cry out, 35  “We are doomed, 36  for we will be destroyed!

4:14Oh people of Jerusalem, purify your hearts from evil 37 

so that you may yet be delivered.

How long will you continue to harbor up

wicked schemes within you?

4:15 For messengers are coming, heralding disaster,

from the city of Dan and from the hills of Ephraim. 38 

4:16 They are saying, 39 

‘Announce to the surrounding nations, 40 

“The enemy is coming!” 41 

Proclaim this message 42  to Jerusalem:

“Those who besiege cities 43  are coming from a distant land.

They are ready to raise the battle cry against 44  the towns in Judah.”’

4:17 They will surround Jerusalem 45 

like men guarding a field 46 

because they have rebelled against me,”

says the Lord.

4:18The way you have lived and the things you have done 47 

will bring this on you.

This is the punishment you deserve, and it will be painful indeed. 48 

The pain will be so bad it will pierce your heart.” 49 

4:19 I said, 50 

“Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach! 51 

I writhe in anguish.

Oh, the pain in my heart! 52 

My heart pounds within me.

I cannot keep silent.

For I hear the sound of the trumpet; 53 

the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul! 54 

4:20 I see 55  one destruction after another taking place,

so that the whole land lies in ruins.

I see our 56  tents suddenly destroyed,

their 57  curtains torn down in a mere instant. 58 

4:21How long must I see the enemy’s battle flags

and hear the military signals of their bugles? 59 

4:22 The Lord answered, 60 

“This will happen 61  because my people are foolish.

They do not know me.

They are like children who have no sense. 62 

They have no understanding.

They are skilled at doing evil.

They do not know how to do good.”

4:23I looked at the land and saw 63  that it was an empty wasteland. 64 

I looked up at the sky, and its light had vanished.

4:24 I looked at the mountains and saw that they were shaking.

All the hills were swaying back and forth!

4:25 I looked and saw that there were no more people, 65 

and that all the birds in the sky had flown away.

4:26 I looked and saw that the fruitful land had become a desert

and that all of the cities had been laid in ruins.

The Lord had brought this all about

because of his blazing anger. 66 

4:27 All this will happen because the Lord said, 67 

“The whole land will be desolate;

however, I will not completely destroy it.

4:28 Because of this the land will mourn

and the sky above will grow black. 68 

For I have made my purpose known 69 

and I will not relent or turn back from carrying it out.” 70 

4:29 At the sound of the approaching horsemen and archers

the people of every town will flee.

Some of them will hide in the thickets.

Others will climb up among the rocks.

All the cities will be deserted.

No one will remain in them.

4:30 And you, Zion, city doomed to destruction, 71 

you accomplish nothing 72  by wearing a beautiful dress, 73 

decking yourself out in jewels of gold,

and putting on eye shadow! 74 

You are making yourself beautiful for nothing.

Your lovers spurn you.

They want to kill you. 75 

4:31 In fact, 76  I hear a cry like that of a woman in labor,

a cry of anguish like that of a woman giving birth to her first baby.

It is the cry of Daughter Zion 77  gasping for breath,

reaching out for help, 78  saying, “I am done in! 79 

My life is ebbing away before these murderers!

Judah is Justly Deserving of Coming Judgment

5:1 The Lord said, 80 

“Go up and down 81  through the streets of Jerusalem. 82 

Look around and see for yourselves.

Search through its public squares.

See if any of you can find a single person

who deals honestly and tries to be truthful. 83 

If you can, 84  then I will not punish this city. 85 

5:2 These people make promises in the name of the Lord. 86 

But the fact is, 87  what they swear to is really a lie.” 88 

5:3 Lord, I know you look for faithfulness. 89 

But even when you punish these people, they feel no remorse. 90 

Even when you nearly destroy them, they refuse to be corrected.

They have become as hardheaded as a rock. 91 

They refuse to change their ways. 92 

5:4 I thought, “Surely it is only the ignorant poor who act this way. 93 

They act like fools because they do not know what the Lord demands. 94 

They do not know what their God requires of them. 95 

5:5 I will go to the leaders 96 

and speak with them.

Surely they know what the Lord demands. 97 

Surely they know what their God requires of them.” 98 

Yet all of them, too, have rejected his authority

and refuse to submit to him. 99 

5:6 So like a lion from the thicket their enemies will kill them.

Like a wolf from the desert they will destroy them.

Like a leopard they will lie in wait outside their cities

and totally destroy anyone who ventures out. 100 

For they have rebelled so much

and done so many unfaithful things. 101 

5:7 The Lord asked, 102 

“How can I leave you unpunished, Jerusalem? 103 

Your people 104  have rejected me

and have worshiped gods that are not gods at all. 105 

Even though I supplied all their needs, 106  they were like an unfaithful wife to me. 107 

They went flocking 108  to the houses of prostitutes. 109 

5:8 They are like lusty, well-fed 110  stallions.

Each of them lusts after 111  his neighbor’s wife.

5:9 I will surely punish them for doing such things!” says the Lord.

“I will surely bring retribution on such a nation as this! 112 

5:10 The Lord commanded the enemy, 113 

“March through the vineyards of Israel and Judah and ruin them. 114 

But do not destroy them completely.

Strip off their branches

for these people do not belong to the Lord. 115 

5:11 For the nations of Israel and Judah 116 

have been very unfaithful to me,”

says the Lord.

5:12These people have denied what the Lord says. 117 

They have said, ‘That is not so! 118 

No harm will come to us.

We will not experience war and famine. 119 

5:13 The prophets will prove to be full of wind. 120 

The Lord has not spoken through them. 121 

So, let what they say happen to them.’

5:14 Because of that, 122  the Lord, the God who rules over all, 123  said to me, 124 

“Because these people have spoken 125  like this, 126 

I will make the words that I put in your mouth like fire.

And I will make this people like wood

which the fiery judgments you speak will burn up.” 127 

5:15 The Lord says, 128 Listen, 129  nation of Israel! 130 

I am about to bring a nation from far away to attack you.

It will be a nation that was founded long ago

and has lasted for a long time.

It will be a nation whose language you will not know.

Its people will speak words that you will not be able to understand.

5:16 All of its soldiers are strong and mighty. 131 

Their arrows will send you to your grave. 132 

5:17 They will eat up your crops and your food.

They will kill off 133  your sons and your daughters.

They will eat up your sheep and your cattle.

They will destroy your vines and your fig trees. 134 

Their weapons will batter down 135 

the fortified cities you trust in.

5:18 Yet even then 136  I will not completely destroy you,” says the Lord. 5:19 So then, Jeremiah, 137  when your people 138  ask, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all this to us?’ tell them, ‘It is because you rejected me and served foreign gods in your own land. So 139  you must serve foreigners 140  in a land that does not belong to you.’

5:20Proclaim 141  this message among the descendants of Jacob. 142 

Make it known throughout Judah.

5:21 Tell them: ‘Hear this,

you foolish people who have no understanding,

who have eyes but do not discern,

who have ears but do not perceive: 143 

5:22You should fear me!” says the Lord.

“You should tremble in awe before me! 144 

I made the sand to be a boundary for the sea,

a permanent barrier that it can never cross.

Its waves may roll, but they can never prevail.

They may roar, but they can never cross beyond that boundary.” 145 

5:23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.

They have turned aside and gone their own way. 146 

5:24 They do not say to themselves, 147 

“Let us revere the Lord our God.

It is he who gives us the autumn rains and the spring rains at the proper time.

It is he who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.” 148 

5:25 Your misdeeds have stopped these things from coming. 149 

Your sins have deprived you of my bounty.’ 150 

5:26Indeed, there are wicked scoundrels among my people.

They lie in wait like bird catchers hiding in ambush. 151 

They set deadly traps 152  to catch people.

5:27 Like a cage filled with the birds that have been caught, 153 

their houses are filled with the gains of their fraud and deceit. 154 

That is how they have gotten so rich and powerful. 155 

5:28 That is how 156  they have grown fat and sleek. 157 

There is no limit to the evil things they do. 158 

They do not plead the cause of the fatherless in such a way as to win it.

They do not defend the rights of the poor.

5:29 I will certainly punish them for doing such things!” says the Lord.

“I will certainly bring retribution on such a nation as this! 159 

5:30Something horrible and shocking

is going on in the land of Judah:

5:31 The prophets prophesy lies.

The priests exercise power by their own authority. 160 

And my people love to have it this way.

But they will not be able to help you when the time of judgment comes! 161 

The Destruction of Jerusalem Depicted

6:1Run for safety, people of Benjamin!

Get out of Jerusalem! 162 

Sound the trumpet 163  in Tekoa!

Light the signal fires at Beth Hakkerem!

For disaster lurks 164  out of the north;

it will bring great destruction. 165 

6:2 I will destroy 166  Daughter Zion, 167 

who is as delicate and defenseless as a young maiden. 168 

6:3 Kings will come against it with their armies. 169 

They will encamp in siege all around it. 170 

Each of them will devastate the portion assigned to him. 171 

6:4 They will say, 172  ‘Prepare to do battle 173  against it!

Come on! Let’s attack it at noon!’

But later they will say, 174  ‘Oh, oh! Too bad! 175 

The day is almost over

and the shadows of evening are getting long.

6:5 So come on, let’s go ahead and attack it by night

and destroy all its fortified buildings.’

6:6 All of this is because 176  the Lord who rules over all 177  has said:

‘Cut down the trees around Jerusalem

and build up a siege ramp against its walls. 178 

This is the city which is to be punished. 179 

Nothing but oppression happens in it. 180 

6:7 As a well continually pours out fresh water

so it continually pours out wicked deeds. 181 

Sounds of violence and destruction echo throughout it. 182 

All I see are sick and wounded people.’ 183 

6:8 So 184  take warning, Jerusalem,

or I will abandon you in disgust 185 

and make you desolate,

a place where no one can live.”

6:9 This is what the Lord who rules over all 186  said to me: 187 

“Those who remain in Israel will be

like the grapes thoroughly gleaned 188  from a vine.

So go over them again, as though you were a grape harvester

passing your hand over the branches one last time.” 189 

6:10 I answered, 190 

“Who would listen

if I spoke to them and warned them? 191 

Their ears are so closed 192 

that they cannot hear!

Indeed, 193  what the Lord says is offensive to them.

They do not like it at all. 194 

6:11 I am as full of anger as you are, Lord, 195 

I am tired of trying to hold it in.”

The Lord answered, 196 

“Vent it, then, 197  on the children who play in the street

and on the young men who are gathered together.

Husbands and wives are to be included, 198 

as well as the old and those who are advanced in years.

6:12 Their houses will be turned over to others

as will their fields and their wives.

For I will unleash my power 199 

against those who live in this land,”

says the Lord.

6:13That is because, from the least important to the most important of them,

all of them are greedy for dishonest gain.

Prophets and priests alike,

all of them practice deceit.

6:14 They offer only superficial help

for the harm my people have suffered. 200 

They say, ‘Everything will be all right!’

But everything is not all right! 201 

6:15 Are they ashamed because they have done such shameful things?

No, they are not at all ashamed.

They do not even know how to blush!

So they will die, just like others have died. 202 

They will be brought to ruin when I punish them,”

says the Lord.

6:16 The Lord said to his people: 203 

“You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. 204 

Ask where the old, reliable paths 205  are.

Ask where the path is that leads to blessing 206  and follow it.

If you do, you will find rest for your souls.”

But they said, “We will not follow it!

6:17 The Lord said, 207 

“I appointed prophets as watchmen to warn you, 208  saying:

‘Pay attention to the warning sound of the trumpet!’” 209 

But they said, “We will not pay attention!

6:18 So the Lord said, 210 

“Hear, you nations!

Be witnesses and take note of what will happen to these people. 211 

6:19 Hear this, you peoples of the earth: 212 

‘Take note! 213  I am about to bring disaster on these people.

It will come as punishment for their scheming. 214 

For they have paid no attention to what I have said, 215 

and they have rejected my law.

6:20 I take no delight 216  when they offer up to me 217 

frankincense that comes from Sheba

or sweet-smelling cane imported from a faraway land.

I cannot accept the burnt offerings they bring me.

I get no pleasure from the sacrifices they offer to me.’ 218 

6:21 So, this is what the Lord says:

‘I will assuredly 219  make these people stumble to their doom. 220 

Parents and children will stumble and fall to their destruction. 221 

Friends and neighbors will die.’

6:22This is what the Lord says:

‘Beware! An army 222  is coming from a land in the north.

A mighty nation is stirring into action in faraway parts of the earth.

6:23 Its soldiers are armed with bows and spears.

They are cruel and show no mercy.

They sound like the roaring sea

as they ride forth on their horses.

Lined up in formation like men going into battle

to attack you, Daughter Zion.’ 223 

6:24 The people cry out, 224  “We have heard reports about them!

We have become helpless with fear! 225 

Anguish grips us,

agony like that of a woman giving birth to a baby!

6:25 Do not go out into the countryside.

Do not travel on the roads.

For the enemy is there with sword in hand. 226 

They are spreading terror everywhere.” 227 

6:26 So I said, 228  “Oh, my dear people, 229  put on sackcloth

and roll in ashes.

Mourn with painful sobs

as though you had lost your only child.

For any moment now 230  that destructive army 231 

will come against us.”

6:27 The Lord said to me, 232 

“I have made you like a metal assayer

to test my people like ore. 233 

You are to observe them

and evaluate how they behave.” 234 

6:28 I reported, 235 

“All of them are the most stubborn of rebels! 236 

They are as hard as bronze or iron.

They go about telling lies.

They all deal corruptly.

6:29 The fiery bellows of judgment burn fiercely.

But there is too much dross to be removed. 237 

The process of refining them has proved useless. 238 

The wicked have not been purged.

6:30 They are regarded as ‘rejected silver 239 

because the Lord rejects them.”

NET Bible Study Environment