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“O Israel,” says the Lord,
    “if you wanted to return to me, you could.
You could throw away your detestable idols
    and stray away no more.
Then when you swear by my name, saying,
    ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
you could do so
    with truth, justice, and righteousness.
Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world,
    and all people would come and praise my name.”

Coming Judgment against Judah

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!
    Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
O people of Judah and Jerusalem,
    surrender your pride and power.
Change your hearts before the Lord,[a]
    or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire
    because of all your sins.

“Shout to Judah, and broadcast to Jerusalem!
    Tell them to sound the alarm throughout the land:
‘Run for your lives!
    Flee to the fortified cities!’
Raise a signal flag as a warning for Jerusalem[b]:
    ‘Flee now! Do not delay!’
For I am bringing terrible destruction upon you
    from the north.”

A lion stalks from its den,
    a destroyer of nations.
It has left its lair and is headed your way.
    It’s going to devastate your land!
Your towns will lie in ruins,
    with no one living in them anymore.
So put on clothes of mourning
    and weep with broken hearts,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
    is still upon us.

“In that day,” says the Lord,
    “the king and the officials will tremble in fear.
The priests will be struck with horror,
    and the prophets will be appalled.”

10 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord,
    the people have been deceived by what you said,
for you promised peace for Jerusalem.
    But the sword is held at their throats!”

11 The time is coming when the Lord will say
    to the people of Jerusalem,
“My dear people, a burning wind is blowing in from the desert,
    and it’s not a gentle breeze useful for winnowing grain.
12 It is a roaring blast sent by me!
    Now I will pronounce your destruction!”

13 Our enemy rushes down on us like storm clouds!
    His chariots are like whirlwinds.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
    How terrible it will be, for we are doomed!
14 O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart
    that you may be saved.
How long will you harbor
    your evil thoughts?
15 Your destruction has been announced
    from Dan and the hill country of Ephraim.

16 “Warn the surrounding nations
    and announce this to Jerusalem:
The enemy is coming from a distant land,
    raising a battle cry against the towns of Judah.
17 They surround Jerusalem like watchmen around a field,
    for my people have rebelled against me,”
    says the Lord.
18 “Your own actions have brought this upon you.
    This punishment is bitter, piercing you to the heart!”

Jeremiah Weeps for His People

19 My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain!
    My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still.
For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets
    and the roar of their battle cries.
20 Waves of destruction roll over the land,
    until it lies in complete desolation.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed;
    in a moment my shelters are crushed.
21 How long must I see the battle flags
    and hear the trumpets of war?

22 “My people are foolish
    and do not know me,” says the Lord.
“They are stupid children
    who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
    but they have no idea how to do right!”

Jeremiah’s Vision of Coming Disaster

23 I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless.
    I looked at the heavens, and there was no light.
24 I looked at the mountains and hills,
    and they trembled and shook.
25 I looked, and all the people were gone.
    All the birds of the sky had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.
    The towns lay in ruins,
    crushed by the Lord’s fierce anger.

27 This is what the Lord says:
“The whole land will be ruined,
    but I will not destroy it completely.
28 The earth will mourn
    and the heavens will be draped in black
because of my decree against my people.
    I have made up my mind and will not change it.”

29 At the noise of charioteers and archers,
    the people flee in terror.
They hide in the bushes
    and run for the mountains.
All the towns have been abandoned—
    not a person remains!
30 What are you doing,
    you who have been plundered?
Why do you dress up in beautiful clothing
    and put on gold jewelry?
Why do you brighten your eyes with mascara?
    Your primping will do you no good!
The allies who were your lovers
    despise you and seek to kill you.

31 I hear a cry, like that of a woman in labor,
    the groans of a woman giving birth to her first child.
It is beautiful Jerusalem[c]
    gasping for breath and crying out,
    “Help! I’m being murdered!”

Footnotes

  1. 4:4 Hebrew Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart.
  2. 4:6 Hebrew Zion.
  3. 4:31 Hebrew the daughter of Zion.

“If you, Israel, will return,(A)
    then return to me,”
declares the Lord.
“If you put your detestable idols(B) out of my sight
    and no longer go astray,
and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
    you swear,(C) ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’(D)
then the nations will invoke blessings(E) by him
    and in him they will boast.(F)

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:

“Break up your unplowed ground(G)
    and do not sow among thorns.(H)
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
    circumcise your hearts,(I)
    you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath(J) will flare up and burn like fire(K)
    because of the evil(L) you have done—
    burn with no one to quench(M) it.

Disaster From the North

“Announce in Judah and proclaim(N) in Jerusalem and say:
    ‘Sound the trumpet(O) throughout the land!’
Cry aloud and say:
    ‘Gather together!
    Let us flee to the fortified cities!’(P)
Raise the signal(Q) to go to Zion!
    Flee for safety without delay!
For I am bringing disaster(R) from the north,(S)
    even terrible destruction.”

A lion(T) has come out of his lair;(U)
    a destroyer(V) of nations has set out.
He has left his place
    to lay waste(W) your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins(X)
    without inhabitant.
So put on sackcloth,(Y)
    lament(Z) and wail,
for the fierce anger(AA) of the Lord
    has not turned away from us.

“In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “the king and the officials will lose heart,(AB)
the priests will be horrified,
    and the prophets will be appalled.”(AC)

10 Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived(AD) this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’(AE) when the sword is at our throats!”

11 At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, “A scorching wind(AF) from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; 12 a wind(AG) too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments(AH) against them.”

13 Look! He advances like the clouds,(AI)
    his chariots(AJ) come like a whirlwind,(AK)
his horses(AL) are swifter than eagles.(AM)
    Woe to us! We are ruined!(AN)
14 Jerusalem, wash(AO) the evil from your heart and be saved.(AP)
    How long(AQ) will you harbor wicked thoughts?
15 A voice is announcing from Dan,(AR)
    proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.(AS)
16 “Tell this to the nations,
    proclaim concerning Jerusalem:
‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land,(AT)
    raising a war cry(AU) against the cities of Judah.(AV)
17 They surround(AW) her like men guarding a field,
    because she has rebelled(AX) against me,’”
declares the Lord.
18 “Your own conduct and actions(AY)
    have brought this on you.(AZ)
This is your punishment.
    How bitter(BA) it is!
    How it pierces to the heart!”

19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!(BB)
    I writhe in pain.(BC)
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds(BD) within me,
    I cannot keep silent.(BE)
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;(BF)
    I have heard the battle cry.(BG)
20 Disaster follows disaster;(BH)
    the whole land lies in ruins.(BI)
In an instant my tents(BJ) are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard(BK)
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?(BL)

22 “My people are fools;(BM)
    they do not know me.(BN)
They are senseless children;
    they have no understanding.(BO)
They are skilled in doing evil;(BP)
    they know not how to do good.”(BQ)

23 I looked at the earth,
    and it was formless and empty;(BR)
and at the heavens,
    and their light(BS) was gone.
24 I looked at the mountains,
    and they were quaking;(BT)
    all the hills were swaying.
25 I looked, and there were no people;
    every bird in the sky had flown away.(BU)
26 I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;(BV)
    all its towns lay in ruins(BW)
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.(BX)

27 This is what the Lord says:

“The whole land will be ruined,(BY)
    though I will not destroy(BZ) it completely.
28 Therefore the earth will mourn(CA)
    and the heavens above grow dark,(CB)
because I have spoken and will not relent,(CC)
    I have decided and will not turn back.(CD)

29 At the sound of horsemen and archers(CE)
    every town takes to flight.(CF)
Some go into the thickets;
    some climb up among the rocks.(CG)
All the towns are deserted;(CH)
    no one lives in them.

30 What are you doing,(CI) you devastated one?
    Why dress yourself in scarlet
    and put on jewels(CJ) of gold?
Why highlight your eyes with makeup?(CK)
    You adorn yourself in vain.
Your lovers(CL) despise you;
    they want to kill you.(CM)

31 I hear a cry as of a woman in labor,(CN)
    a groan as of one bearing her first child—
the cry of Daughter Zion(CO) gasping for breath,(CP)
    stretching out her hands(CQ) and saying,
“Alas! I am fainting;
    my life is given over to murderers.”(CR)

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