Jeremiah: Jeremiah Declares God’s Message to Judah

The *Sins of God’s People

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Jeremiah chapters 1 to 10

www.easyenglish.info

Hilda Bright

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

About the book of Jeremiah

The *prophet Jeremiah

The members of Jeremiah’s family were priests. They lived in the town called Anathoth. It was about 3 miles (5 kilometres) away from Jerusalem. Jeremiah *prophesied during the 7th century *BC, when there were great political problems. Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, recorded the messages that Jeremiah dictated. But King Jehoiakim burnt that record (Jeremiah chapter 36). So Baruch wrote it again and Jeremiah added more messages. Many of the *prophecies are poems. Sometimes Jeremiah used dramatic actions to make the people understand his message. The various messages are not in the order in which Jeremiah gave them. So sometimes we do not know to which period in history they refer.

Jeremiah loved his country called Judah. But God would punish the people from Judah because of their wicked behaviour. Jeremiah had great mental pain when he had to warn his own people. Also he had troubles because many people insulted him. They attacked him too. On several occasions, he was close to death. But many years later, people respected Jeremiah. Some people thought that he was the Servant of the *LORD. Isaiah wrote about the Servant of the *LORD in Isaiah 52:12–53:12. Some people thought that Jesus was Jeremiah. They thought that Jeremiah had become alive again (Matthew 16:14).

Jeremiah had a close relationship with the *LORD. One of the most important things that Jeremiah spoke about was the New *Covenant. It replaced the *covenant that the *LORD had made with the *Jews during the life of Moses. In the first *Covenant, the *LORD promised to look after his people, the *Israelites. Because they were the *LORD’s people, they had to obey his orders. In the New *Covenant, the *LORD promised that his people will want to obey him. And the *LORD promised to forgive their *sins (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

a) The political situation.

During the 7th century *BC, the nations called Assyria, Egypt and Babylon wanted to gain political control in the Middle East. The *Assyrians defeated the ten *tribes in the northern *kingdom in 721 *BC. These 10 *tribes were called Israel. But the *Assyrian *kingdom ended and the powerful *Babylonian nation defeated Egypt in 605 *BC. Then the *Babylonians attacked the two *tribes in the southern *kingdom called Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem in 586 *BC. The *Babylonian army took their prisoners away from Judah. They took the prisoners into *exile in Babylon.

b) The kings of Judah.

King Manasseh and King Amon had allowed all kinds of *pagan acts in their religion. They allowed people to *sacrifice children.

King Josiah tried to destroy all the *pagan *idols and the places where people *worshipped them. Also he encouraged the people in Judah to *worship in Jerusalem. He did not want them to *worship at the local holy places. Jeremiah supported Josiah’s action. As a result, Jeremiah became unpopular with the priests in his own town. Later, Jeremiah realised that the people’s inner attitude had not changed. Josiah died in battle in 608 *BC. He was trying to stop the Egyptians so that they did not help Assyria against Babylon.

King Jehoahaz. The ruler of Egypt took him into Egypt and replaced him with Jehoiakim.

King Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim was another son of Josiah. Jehoiakim was a wicked and selfish ruler. He had destroyed Baruch’s first record (Jeremiah chapter 36). He did not remain loyal to his new master Nebuchadnezzar. So in 598 *BC the *Babylonian king made Jehoiakim a prisoner. But Nebuchadnezzar died at the beginning of the journey to Babylon.

King Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) went to Babylon as a prisoner in 597 *BC. But the next *Babylonian king freed him. And Jehoiachin received honour and regular meals for the rest of his life (Jeremiah 52:31-34).

King Zedekiah. The *Babylonians made him king. But he was a weak ruler. Against Jeremiah’s advice, he tried not to be loyal to Babylon. That action led to the end of the *kingdom called Judah in 586 *BC. Most of the people from Judah went into *exile in Babylon.

c) Judah after 586 *BC.

The *Babylonians appointed Gedaliah as the ruler of Judah. The chief officer in the army freed Jeremiah from prison. They invited Jeremiah to go to Babylon. But Jeremiah preferred to stay with the people in Judah. Ishmael and his followers killed Gedaliah. The people asked Jeremiah what they should do. He told them not to leave the country. But, against his advice, they ran away to Egypt and they took Jeremiah with them. Jeremiah continued to *prophesy in Egypt (Jeremiah chapters 40 to 44).

Jeremiah’s ideas about God.

1. *LORD (some Bibles use the *Hebrew word ‘Yahweh’). God told Moses that this was God’s name (Exodus 3:14). It sounds like the *Hebrew word for I AM. It means that the *LORD has no beginning and no end. The *LORD was present. He knew what was happening in Israel and in Judah. The *LORD gave his messages to Jeremiah. The *LORD guided and protected him (Jeremiah 1:17-19). Jeremiah uses this name most often for God.

2. Creator. God made the world (Jeremiah 10:12-13). He set the boundaries for the sea (Jeremiah 5:22). He sends the rain to provide the harvests (Jeremiah 5:24). But God can prevent the rain and the harvests also. He would do that because of Judah’s *sin (Jeremiah 3:3; 8:13).

3. King. God rules everyone with his great power Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:6-7). He can send an enemy from the north to punish the people in Israel and in Judah (Jeremiah 1:14-15). Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant, to take away the *LORD’s people into a foreign country (Jeremiah 27:6). Nobody can hide from God (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

4. God of Israel. God had rescued his people from Egypt (Jeremiah 16:14). At the mountain called Sinai, God promised that the *Israelites will be his special people. They will belong to him. The *Israelites agreed that they would obey the *LORD (Deuteronomy 26:16-19). The *Israelites were like a bride, and the *LORD was her husband. The *covenant was like the promises that men and women made at their marriage. But Judah had been like a wife who looked for other lovers. The people *worshipped the local false gods. Judah was not loyal to the *LORD alone (Jeremiah 2:2; 3:1). Hosea describes Israel in the same way (Hosea 2:5-8).

The *LORD loved his people. So he would not be satisfied with the *sacrifices and ceremonies of their religion alone (Jeremiah 7:22-23). The people must not continue to *worship false gods that have no value. The *LORD’s people had to obey his laws. Then the *LORD would see that they *worshipped him sincerely. The *LORD was like their husband, but he was also their Father. The *LORD wanted his children to return to him (Jeremiah 3:19; 4:22). Jeremiah often uses the word ‘turn’ or ‘return’. The *LORD wanted his people to turn back to him.

Chapter 1

The beginning 1:1-3

v1 These are the messages that Jeremiah, Hilkiah’s son, received from the *LORD. Jeremiah was one of the priests at a town called Anathoth. Anathoth was in the area where the people from the *tribe called Benjamin lived. v2 The *LORD gave a message to Jeremiah. He gave it in the 13th year that Josiah, the son of Amon, was king of Judah.

v3 Also the *LORD gave his message to Jeremiah during the reign of Jehoiakim. He was the son of Josiah, the king of Judah. The *LORD continued to speak by means of Jeremiah when Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, was king of Judah. Jeremiah spoke the *LORD’s messages until the 5th month of the 11th year that Zedekiah was king. That is when the *Babylonians took the people from Jerusalem into Babylon.

Verse 1 Jeremiah’s father may have come from the family of Abiathar. Abiathar had been a priest in the time of King Solomon (1 Kings 1:25; 2:26-27). Anathoth was a village about 3 miles (5 kilometres) to the north of Jerusalem.

Verse 2 Josiah was the last good king of Judah. He ruled from 640 to 609 *BC. Jeremiah became a *prophet in 626 *BC.

Verse 3 Jehoiakim was king from 609 to 598 *BC. He was a bad king and he opposed Jeremiah. The writer leaves out Jehoahaz (his other name is Shallum) and Jehoiachin. The writer did that because they were kings for only about three months each. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. That was before Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the *Babylonians, controlled Jerusalem. That happened in 586 *BC. He took into Babylon the people who were living in Jerusalem. Psalm 137 describes how sad those people were in Babylon. They wept for their own country ‘by the rivers in Babylon’.

The *LORD calls Jeremiah to be a *prophet 1:4-10

v4 The *LORD gave this message to me. He said,

v5 ‘I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s body.

Before you were born, I chose you.

I appointed you to be a *prophet to the nations.’

v6 ‘*LORD God’, I said, ‘I do not know how to speak. I am too young.’

v7 But the *LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone to whom I send you. You must say everything that I order you to say. v8 Do not be afraid of the people to whom I send you. I am with you. And I will rescue you’, declares the *LORD.

v9 Then the *LORD reached out and he touched my mouth. He said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. v10 Today I appoint you to speak to *kingdoms and to nations. You must pull them up by the roots. And you must tear them down. You must destroy and defeat them. But you must build them up also. And you must plant them.’

Verses 5-6 Jeremiah believed that the *LORD had chosen him. The *LORD chose him to be a *prophet. He had chosen Jeremiah even before he was born. But Jeremiah was like Moses in Exodus 4:10. Jeremiah did not believe that he had the experience or the character. He was still too young to be a *prophet.

Verses 7-8 The *LORD denied that Jeremiah was too young. There was no need for Jeremiah to be afraid. The *LORD will give his authority to his *prophet. And the *LORD will protect him.

Verses 9-10 Jeremiah had to speak to the people in his own country called Judah. But Jeremiah had to speak to other nations too. Jeremiah chapters 46-51 contain the *LORD’s messages to the nations.

First, Jeremiah had to give the *LORD’s message about his punishment. The *LORD would destroy those people who had not obeyed him. But Jeremiah had to give a message about hope also. A nation would realise why it had troubles. Then the *LORD would build that nation again. He would bring it back to its own country.

The *LORD is watching 1:11-12

v11 The *LORD gave this message to me. He asked me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ I replied, ‘I see the branch of an almond tree.’ v12 The *LORD said to me, ‘You are right. I am watching to make sure that my words will happen.’

Verses 11-12 An almond is a type of nut. The almond tree has the first flowers in the spring. So Jeremiah was looking at the branch of a tree that ‘wakes up’ early. The*Hebrew word for the tree is very similar to the word to be ‘awake’. The *LORD knew what was happening in Judah. He spoke and he was watching. He said that certain things would happen. And the *LORD will make sure that they happen. His words are the truth.

The enemy from the north 1:13-16

v13 The *LORD gave another message to me. He said, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a large pot. It contains something that is boiling. The pot is leaning towards us. It is leaning away from the north.’ v14 The *LORD said to me, ‘A very bad thing will boil over on everyone who lives in this country. It will come from the north. It will be like very hot water that burns their skin. v15 Very soon I will call all the armies in the northern *kingdoms’, declared the *LORD. ‘Their kings will come to Jerusalem. They will set up their royal seats at the gates of the city. They will attack all the walls that surround the city. They will go to war against all the towns in Judah. v16 I will punish my people because they have *sinned. They have left me. They have prayed to false gods. They have *worshipped the false gods that they made with their own hands.

Verses 13-16 The *kingdoms in the north were probably Babylon and the nations that fought with Babylon. The rulers of a city used to meet at the gates in the city. So the rulers from Babylon replaced Judah’s rulers. The *LORD used Babylon to punish the people in Judah. They had *worshipped false gods. They had *worshipped *idols. They had made those *idols themselves. Isaiah had laughed at the people who did that (Isaiah 44:12-20).

The *LORD warns Jeremiah 1:17-19

v17 Get yourself ready! Stand up. Say to them whatever I order you. Do not be very afraid of them. If you are afraid, I will make you more afraid in front of them. v18 I have made you like a city with strong walls round it. You will be as strong as a column of iron or a very strong metal wall. You will be able to oppose the whole country. The kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the country v19 will fight against you. But they will not defeat you. I am with you and I will rescue you’, declares the *LORD.

Verses 17-19 The *LORD warned Jeremiah that everyone would oppose him. The rulers, the *religious leaders and the rest of the people would not like his message. But Jeremiah had to be brave. He had to declare the whole message that the *LORD had given to him. The *LORD would be present with him. Jeremiah would be as strong as a city with walls. He would be as strong as very strong metals. The *LORD ordered Jeremiah to be loyal. But the *LORD also promised to defend his servant, Jeremiah.

Chapter 2

Israel had been loyal to the *LORD in the past 2:1-3

v1 The *LORD gave this message to me. v2 ‘Go and give my message to the people in Jerusalem.’ He said this.

           ‘I remember how loyal to me you were in your youth.

          You loved me as a bride loves her husband.

          You followed me through the *desert.

          You followed me through a country that nobody had planted.

v3      Israel belonged to the *LORD alone.

          They were the first part and the best part of his harvest.

          Everyone who hurt Israel is guilty.

          Great trouble came to their enemies.’

Verses 2-3 Jeremiah refers to Israel in two ways:

a) A bride. Israel was a bride and the *LORD was her husband. Hosea used a similar description (Hosea 2:2-20). After the *LORD rescued Israel from Egypt, Israel had been like a new bride. The *Israelites had been loyal to the *LORD when he led them through the *desert.

b) The first part and the best part. The people brought the first part and the best part of their annual harvest to the *Temple. They gave it to the priests. The first part of the harvest showed that all their crops were a gift from the *LORD. The first part was also the evidence that the complete harvest would follow (Leviticus 23:10; 17). Israel was the first nation that belonged to the *LORD. Israel was the evidence that other nations will belong to the *LORD.

The *LORD will punish any nation that opposes Israel. For example, Amos mentions the people in Edom. They had attacked Israel many times (Amos 1:11).

The *LORD had protected and provided for Israel 2:4-8

v4      The *descendants of Jacob, you must hear what the *LORD says.

          All the *tribes in Israel, you must listen.

v5      The *LORD says this.

          ‘Your people wandered so far away from me.

          Did they find anything that was wrong with me?

          They *worshipped *worthless false gods.

          Then they became *worthless themselves.

v6      They did not ask, “Where is the *LORD

          who brought us out from Egypt?

          He led us through a dry and empty region.

          He guided us through the *deserts and the deep valleys.

          It was a dark region with no water.

          It was a region where nobody lives.

          And nobody will travel there.”

v7      But I brought you into a country that has good soil.

          I gave to you its fruit and its best food.

          But you ruined my country.

          You turned my country into something that I hate.

v8      The priests did not ask, “Where is the *LORD?”

          The people who taught my law did not know me.

          The leaders refused to obey me.

          The *prophets spoke messages from *Baal.

          They *worshipped *worthless false gods.

Verses 5-6 The people in Israel had forgotten all that the *LORD had done for them. He had rescued them from Egypt. He had guided them on their journey through the dangerous *desert. And he had protected them in the *desert. Usually people avoided that place because there was no water.

Verse 7 The *LORD had taken them into a good country. The land produced plenty of fruit and food. But the people did not thank the *LORD for his gifts. Instead they began to *worship the *Baals. They believed that those local false gods sent the rain. They believed that those false gods provided the crops.

Verse 8 The *religious leaders and other rulers were responsible. They did not teach the people to follow the *LORD. Instead they encouraged the people to *worship false and *worthless gods.

The *LORD accuses Israel 2:9-13

v9      So I am accusing you again.

          And I will accuse your children’s children.

v10    Go to the coasts in the west and look.

          Send people to the countries in the east.

          Let the people look carefully.

          See if there has been anything like this.

v11    No other nation has changed its gods,

          (but these gods are not real).

          But my people have exchanged their wonderful God.

          They have exchanged me for *worthless false gods.

v12    Skies above, show that this astonishes you.

          Tremble with great disgust.

v13    My people have been guilty of two *sins.

          They have left me.

          I am like fresh water that comes up from the ground.

          But my people have dug their own wells.

          But these wells have cracks in them.

          They cannot hold any water.

Verses 9-11 The *LORD contrasts the behaviour of Israel with the behaviour of the other nations. Israel should notice the country called Cyprus and all of other nations in the west. They should look closely at Kedar, where the Arab *tribes lived in the east. All those nations remained loyal to their false gods, although they were not real gods. But Israel had left the *LORD who deserved honour. Israel started to *worship objects that were of no use.

Verse 12 The skies had been a witness to the *covenant between the *LORD and the *Israelites at *Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 30:19). Now Israel had not obeyed that *covenant because they were not loyal to the *LORD. So the *LORD called out to the skies. Israel’s behaviour should astonish and disgust them.

Verse 13 The *LORD makes people alive. People need water to remain alive. The *LORD is like fresh water that comes up from the ground. ‘Wells’ refer to places that store water. Israel had trusted false gods. But those false gods were like wells that have cracks in them. Those wells were of no use as the water leaked out. That means that Israel’s false gods were of no use.

Israel *sinned when they trusted other nations 2:14-19

v14    People in Israel, you are not servants.

          You were not born as slaves.

          Do you know why your enemies have taken you away?

v15    They have roared at you like lions.

          They have made angry noises and they are ready to attack you.

          They have destroyed your country.

          They have burned your towns and they left them empty.

v16    There are the men from the towns called Memphis and Tahpanhes.

          They have broken the top of your heads. This brings shame to you.

v17    You have caused this to happen to you.

          I am the *LORD your God.

          But you left me, even when I was leading you.

v18    You should not go to Egypt

          to drink water from the River Nile.

          And you should not go to Assyria

          to drink water from the River Euphrates.

v19    Your own wicked behaviour will punish you.

          The wrong things that you have done will blame you.

          Think carefully, and understand.

          You will have great troubles

          when you turn away from the *LORD your God.

          And you will have troubles when you have no respect for me’,

          declares the *LORD, the powerful God.

Verses 14-16 The people in Israel were not born as slaves. But their enemies had taken away their freedom. Jeremiah describes the powerful country called Assyria. He says that it was like a fierce lion. The *Assyrians had attacked the northern part of Israel and they had destroyed its cities. In 722 *BC the *Assyrians had destroyed Samaria, the capital city of Israel. The cities were empty. The *Assyrians warned the people in Judah about what might happen to them. Memphis and Tahpanhes were towns in Egypt. Judah would have troubles if they tried to accept political help from Egypt. Already the men from Memphis and Tahpanhes had hurt them badly.

Verses 17-18 ‘To drink water from the River Nile or the River Euphrates.’ This describes how Judah tried to make friends with the powerful countries called Egypt and Assyria. The *LORD had rescued his people from Egypt. But they were turning back to a country that could not help them. Judah was trusting Egypt for help. Already Isaiah had said that this was foolish (Isaiah 30:1-5; 31:1-3).

Verse 19 Judah turned to other countries for help. But that would cause Judah to have troubles in the future. King Jehoiakim had to pay large sums of silver and gold to Egypt (2 Kings 23:35). *Assyrian soldiers killed prisoners in cruel ways. Or the soldiers took the prisoners away to Assyria (Amos 4:2). The people in Israel had caused those punishments to happen to them. So the people in Judah should learn from that. Bad things would happen to them also if they did not honour the *LORD.

Descriptions of Judah’s *sin 2:20-30

v20    ‘A long time ago you broke off the *yoke that had I put on you.

          You tore off the thick string with which I had tied you.

          You said, “I will not serve you!”

          On every high hill and under every green tree

          you *worshipped false gods.

v21    When I planted you, you were like the very best *vine.

          You were the best, healthy plant.

          Then you turned against me.

          And you became a bad, wild *vine.

v22    You wash yourself with the strongest soap.

          You use plenty of soap.

          But still I can see the stains of your *sin’,

          declares the *LORD God.

v23    You cannot say, “I am *clean.

          I have not followed the *Baals.”

          You cannot say that.

          Remember how you *sinned in the valley.

          Think about what you have done.

          You are like a female camel that runs from one place to another place.

v24    You are like a wild animal that lives in the *desert.

          She smells the wind when she wants to mate.

          Nobody can hold her back when it is her time to mate.

          The males that run after her will have no trouble.

          They will find her easily. Then they can mate with her at the right time.

v25    Do not run after false gods. You will make your feet sore.

          Do not run after them so much that you need to have a drink.

          But you said, “It is no use!

          I love these foreign false gods and I must go after them.”

v26    A thief loses honour when people catch him.

          And so you people in Israel will lose all your honour.

          Your kings and officials are ashamed;

          And so are your priests and your *prophets.

v27    You say to a piece of wood, “You are my father.”

          You say to a stone, “You are my mother.”

          You turned your backs to me.

          You refuse to look at me.

          But when you are in trouble you say this.

          “Come and save us!”

v28    You have the false gods that you made for yourselves.

          Let them come when you are in trouble!

          Let them save you, if they can!

          Judah, you have as many false gods as you have towns.

v29    You should not accuse me.

          All of you have refused to obey me’, declares the *LORD.

v30    ‘I have punished your people, but it was of no use.

          I showed that their behaviour was wrong. But you did not learn.

          You have killed your *prophets.

          You have made them disappear as if a hungry lion had eaten them.

Verse 20 Israel was like an animal that refused to obey the farmer. It had broken the *yoke that was on its shoulders. It had torn the thick strings that link the *yoke to the plough. Israel had behaved like that kind of an animal. For many years, Israel had refused to obey the *LORD. The people *worshipped the false gods called *Baals. The people had acts of sex with other people. They believed that this behaviour produced good crops.

Verse 21 Isaiah had described Israel as the *LORD’s *vineyard too. (Isaiah 5:1-7). Also Jeremiah thought about a plant that produces *grapes. He says that Israel has disappointed the *LORD. They were like a good plant. They should have produced the very best fruit. Instead, they became like a plant that produced small, wild fruits.

Verse 22 Jeremiah thought about dirty stains that even the strongest soap cannot remove. Israel’s behaviour was like a bad mark that nothing could remove.

Verse 23-24 Israel might say that they had not *worshipped the local *Baals. But they had been like a wild animal that was ready to mate. Also the camel was ready for the males to find her. Israel had been ready to jooin with other nations.

Verse 25 If the people in Judah continued to follow foreign false gods, they would become prisoners. They would have to walk into a foreign country with bare feet. They would suffer because they would not have enough water to drink. Yet they were foolish and they loved foreign false gods.

Verses 26-27 Perhaps someone catches a thief while he is stealing. The thief will feel ashamed. Many people and leaders were responsible for Israel’s *sins. And in a similar way, all of them would be ashamed. They asked sticks and stones to help them when they were in trouble. But they were no use.

Verses 28-29 When Judah had troubles, their many false gods had no power to rescue the people. The people may complain that the *LORD was not dealing with them fairly. But they deserved punishment. They had refused to obey the *LORD.

Verse 30 Judah had not learned from what had happened to Israel. They had not listened to the *LORD’s *prophets. Instead, Judah killed the *prophets. Those *prophets had urged them to return to the *LORD. Manasseh had killed many *prophets when he was the king of Judah (2 Kings 21:16).

The *LORD will judge sinful Judah 2:31-37

v31    People in Israel, listen to my message!

          I have not been like a *desert to Israel.

          I have not been like a country where there is great darkness.

          But my people will say, “We are free to wander.

          We will not come to you again.”

v32    A young woman does not forget her precious stones.

          A bride does not forget her wedding dress.

          But my people have forgotten me for

          more days than anyone can count.

v33    You chase after false gods in a very skilful way.

          Even the worst women can learn from your bad behaviour.”

v34    The blood of the people whom you killed is on your clothes.

          You killed poor people who were not guilty.

          They were not going in to steal.

v35    But still you say,

          “I am innocent. I have not done anything that is wrong.

          The *LORD is not angry with me.”

          You say, “I have not *sinned”.

          But I will judge you, because you are guilty,

v36    You should not continue to change your behaviour so much.

          Assyria did not help you,

          and Egypt will not help you either.

v37    So you will leave Egypt

          with your hands tied together above your heads.

          The *LORD has refused to accept those whom you trust.

          They will not help you.

Verses 31-32 The *LORD had guided his people through the dangerous *desert. Now, Israel wanted to forget the *LORD. That was very hard to believe. At *Mount Sinai, Israel had become the *LORD’s ‘bride’. Israel had made a *covenant with the *LORD. A bride will never forget her wedding clothes. And yet Israel, the *LORD’s bride, had forgotten the *LORD.

Verses 33-34 The people had become skilful in their acts of sex. It was part of how they *worshipped the *Baals. The people were very clever in their wicked behaviour. They were able even to help professional *prostitutes. Anyone who killed a thief at night was not guilty (Exodus 22:2-3). But those people were not going into your house to steal. The *LORD’s people had no excuse. They deserved the *LORD’s punishment because they had killed innocent people.

Verse 35 The people said that they were innocent. They thought that the *LORD accepted their ways now. King Josiah was a good king who trusted the *LORD. Josiah had made changes to the *religious customs (2 Kings chapter 23). The people had accepted some of the changes. But the people’s real attitude had not changed. They continued to deny that they had not obeyed the *LORD’s laws. So the *LORD would punish them.

Verses 36-37 The nations called Assyria and Egypt did not help Israel and Judah. But the *LORD’s people continued to trust those nations. The *LORD is the only God whom his people could trust always. But they forgot that. If the *Israelites asked Egypt to help, they would return as prisoners. The *LORD rules all nations. So he would punish Judah for their foolish political ideas. And the *LORD would punish Judah because Judah did not trust him. There is a picture on the wall of an Egyptian *temple. It shows prisoners with their hands tied together above their heads.

Chapter 3

Israel’s attitude towards God 3:1-5

v1      Suppose that a man divorces his wife.

          Then she marries another man.

          Her first husband should not return to her.

          If he does, the country will become *unclean.

          People in Israel, you have lived like a *prostitute.

          You have loved many false gods.

          So do you think that you can return to me now?’ asks the *LORD

v2      ‘Look up at the bare tops of the hills.

          Everywhere, you have acted like a *prostitute.

          You have loved false gods.

          You sat by the side of the road. You were waiting for lovers.

          You sat there like someone who wanders in the *desert.

          You have made the country *unclean.

          You are like a wicked *prostitute.

v3      So I have stopped the showers of rain.

          No rain has fallen in the spring.

          But still you look like a *prostitute who has no shame.

          You refuse to look ashamed.

v4      Now you have called out to me.

          You said, “My father, you have been my friend since I was young.

v5      You will not be angry with me always.

          You will not continue to be angry with me always.”

          This is how you talk.

          But you do all the evil things that you can.’

Verses 1-2 A wife, who is divorced, may marry another man. But later, if she returns to her first husband, he must not marry her again (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jeremiah used that law to teach Israel. They must not expect the *LORD to forgive them easily. The people had behaved like *prostitutes. They *worshipped the local false gods on the tops of the hills. Israel had been like a *prostitute who was waiting to attract men. Tamar had waited by the road for Judah. And Tamar had pretended to be a *prostitute (Genesis 38:14).

Verses 3-4 The *LORD had not let the rain fall. He wanted to make the nation realise its *sin. The *LORD controls nature. Their lack of water reminded them about that. Their false gods had no real power. A *prostitute does not look ashamed. The nation had been like that. When the lack of rain continued, people asked the *LORD to help. They said that always the *LORD had been their father and their friend. They were not speaking the truth. They had failed many times to give honour to the *LORD alone.

Verse 5 When they complained to the *LORD, they should not expect him to answer. They did not change their behaviour. Still they refused to obey the *LORD’s laws.

Both Israel and Judah are guilty 3:6-11

v6 During the time that Josiah was the king, the *LORD spoke to me. He said this. ‘Have you seen what the people in Israel have done? They have *worshipped false gods on the high hills. And they *worshipped the false gods under every green tree. The people have not been loyal to me. They have been like a *prostitute. v7 They have done all these things. But I thought that they would return to me afterwards. But they did not return. Their sister nation, Judah, saw it. They were not loyal to me either. v8 I gave Israel her notice of divorce. I sent her away because she had loved false gods many times. But I saw that her sister nation, Judah, did not respect me either. Then Judah went out and loved false gods. v9 Israel acted like a *prostitute. But this did not matter to Judah at all. Judah made the country *unclean. Judah *worshipped the false gods that men had made from wood and from stone. v10 Even so, Israel’s sister nation, Judah, did not come back to me completely. They only pretended to respect me’, declares the *LORD. v11 The *LORD said to me, ‘Both Israel and Judah have not been loyal to me. But Israel was not as guilty as Judah.’

Verses 6-7 Judah saw what Israel had done. But Judah had behaved in the same way. They failed to respect the *LORD. And they had *worshipped the *Baals. The *LORD hoped that Judah would return to him. But the *LORD hoped in vain.

Verses 8-9 The *LORD had ‘divorced’ Israel. He allowed the *Assyrians to take Israel away from their own country. Judah refused to learn from Israel’s experience. Instead, Judah had followed Israel’s example. That caused the country to be *unclean.

Verses 10-11 King Josiah had removed wrong acts from their religion. Then the people in Judah said that they would be loyal to the *LORD. But Judah had lied. Judah had not been sincere when they returned to the *LORD. Both Israel and Judah had not been loyal to the *LORD. But Judah was more guilty than Israel. Judah had seen what had happened to Israel. But the people in Judah had failed to learn from what they saw. And Judah was even more to blame because the people pretended to be loyal to the *LORD.

Hope for the future 3:12-18

v12    Go. Announce this message to the people who are in the north.

          ‘Israel, you have not been loyal’, declares the *LORD.

          ‘Return to me.

          I will not frown on you any longer.

          I am kind and I am willing to forgive’,

          declares the *LORD.

          ‘I will not be angry for always.

v13    You must admit that you are guilty.

          You have refused to obey the *LORD your God.

          You have loved false gods everywhere.

          You have *worshipped them under every green tree.

          You have not obeyed me’, declares the *LORD.

v14 Come back to me, you people who have not been loyal’, says the *LORD. ‘I am your husband. I will choose one person from each town. And I will choose two people from each *tribe. And I will bring you to the city called Zion. v15 Then I will give to you *shepherds, who will be my true servants. They will know and understand how to lead you. v16 At that time there will be many people in the country’, says the *LORD. ‘Then people will not talk about the *covenant box of the *LORD any longer. They will not think about it. They will not remember it. They will not miss it. They will not make another one. v17 At that time they will call Jerusalem “the royal seat of the *LORD”. All the nations will come together in Jerusalem. And they will give honour to the *LORD. They will not continue to do the wicked things that their evil desires want. v18 At that time the people in Judah will join the people from Israel. Together they will come from a country in the north. They will come to the country that I gave to your *ancestors. It was a gift that will belong to their *descendants.

Verses 12-14 In 722 *BC the *Assyrians had taken away the ten *tribes of the northern *kingdom (Israel). The *Assyrians made them prisoners. The *Assyrians had taken them away from their own country. The *LORD told the people in Israel to turn back to him sincerely. If they did, he would not continue to be angry. He would forgive them. He would bring them back to their own country. Zion is another name for Jerusalem. Israel should confess that they had not been loyal to the *LORD. Israel had been wicked and they had not obeyed the *LORD’s laws. The *LORD is the true husband of Israel. The word *Baal means ‘husband’ or ‘master’. It shows that the false *Baal was not Israel’s husband (for example, Jeremiah 2:26).

Only a few people returned to Jerusalem. Isaiah wrote about the small number of people who had remained loyal to the *LORD (Isaiah 10:22).

Verses 15-16 Often the leaders of the people are called *shepherds. A *shepherd looks after sheep. In a similar way, leaders should look after their people. The *LORD would give to Judah new leaders who would be the *LORD’s true servants. The people would not need the *covenant box.

Verses 17-18 The city called Jerusalem will be the *LORD’s magnificent royal seat. People from every nation will come to *worship the *LORD there. Isaiah said that Jerusalem will be ‘a light’ to the people who are not *Jews (Isaiah 49:6). The people would be willing to change. They would stop their wicked behaviour. They would respect the *LORD. The people from Judah and some people from Israel would unite (Isaiah 11:12). They would return to the country that the *LORD gave to Abraham and to his *descendants. After Jesus had left the earth, people from all nations could become the *LORD’s people (Acts 11:18). But these promises will happen only when Jesus returns to earth. Then there will be ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Revelation 21:1-2). They will not need an *covenant box or a *temple then. The *LORD himself will be there in his magnificent heaven (Revelation 21:22-26).

The *LORD’s promise and Israel’s reply 3:19-25

v19    I wanted to act towards you as my sons.

          I wanted to give to you a pleasant country.

          It is the most beautiful country that any nation could have.

          I thought that you would call me “Father”.

          I hoped that you would follow me always.

v20    But you people are like a woman who is not loyal to her husband.

          Israel, you have not been loyal to me’, says the *LORD.

v21    ‘I can hear a cry on the bare tops of the hills.

          The people in Israel are crying and they are praying.

          They have turned away from the right way to live.

          They have forgotten the *LORD, who is their God.

v22    You have not been loyal’, says the *LORD.

          ‘Return to me. I will heal you.

          Then you will not turn away from me again.’

          ‘Yes’, the people say, ‘we will come to you.

          You are the *LORD our God.

v23    Yes, it is true. The hills lead us in the wrong way.

          There were parties there. There was no control in them.

          You are the only God who can save us.

v24    From our youth, we have lived without any shame.

          The disgusting false gods made us lose everything

for which our *ancestors worked.

          They have destroyed all our sheep and our cows.

          They have destroyed our sons and our daughters.

v25    Let us lie down and be ashamed,

          Let our loss of respect cover us.

          You are the *LORD our God, but we have *sinned against you.

          We and our *ancestors have *sinned.

          We have not obeyed the *LORD our God

          from our youth until now.’

Verses 19-20 The *LORD wanted to be Israel’s father. The *LORD wanted to act in the same way that a father acts towards his children. Hosea had described the *LORD’s care for Israel. The *LORD had brought them out from Egypt and he guided them (Hosea 11:1-4). The country to which the *LORD brought them was a good country. But the people were like a woman who was not loyal to her husband. They had left the *LORD and they had *worshipped the false gods in the country.

Verses 21-22 The tops of the hill are bare. Perhaps Josiah had destroyed the special places to *Baal there. Or ‘bare’ may describe actions there that have no result. The people continued to ask the *Baals to help when they were in trouble. The people were crying when they had troubles. Jeremiah saw that they had forgotten the *LORD. Their wrong actions showed that they had turned away from him. They had to return to the *LORD before he would help them.

Verses 23-25 This prayer is an ideal way for people to confess their *sins. In verse 24 the people call the *Baals ‘disgusting’ false gods. The people had *sinned against the *LORD from the time when they came out of Egypt. But the *Baals had not helped them. They *worshipped *Baal with its disgusting acts. Those acts had made their nation poor. The nation must accept that they should be very ashamed of themselves.

Chapter 4

When people return to the *LORD, they must be genuine 4:1-4

v1      ‘If you will return, Israel,

          return to me’, declares the *LORD.

          ‘Throw away *idols.

          I hate them.

          Do not go away from the right way.

v2      Make serious promises and use my name.

          Say, “You can be sure that the *LORD lives.”

          Let all your promises be truthful, fair and honest.

          Then the *LORD will *bless the nations.

          And they will be very happy to know him.’

v3      The *LORD says this to the people in Judah and in Jerusalem.

          ‘Your hearts are like a field that the farmer has not ploughed.

          So change your behaviour and produce good crops.

          Do not plant seed among weeds.

v4      Men in Judah and people in Jerusalem,

          You must *circumcise yourselves for the *LORD.

          *Circumcise your hearts. Do not refuse to change.

          You have done wicked things.

          If you do not change, I will be very angry.

           My fierce anger will burn suddenly like fire.

          It will burn. And nobody will be able to stop it.’

Verses 1-2 People may have said the prayer in Jeremiah 3:22-25. But many people did not let it change their lives. ‘You can be sure that the *LORD lives.’ That was the usual way to make a serious promise. It was only for people who accepted the *LORD as their king. The people who used those words had to obey the *LORD. The *LORD’s law says this. ‘Do not use the *LORD your God’s name in a wrong way.’ (Exodus 20:7). People had to be truthful, fair and honest. That showed that Israel was obeying the *covenant with the *LORD. Other nations would see that the *LORD *blessed Israel (Deuteronomy 28:1-6). Those nations would want those *blessings too. They will be very happy when they obey the *LORD as their king too. The *LORD had promised that he will *bless all the families on the earth. He promised to do that by means of Abraham’s *descendants (Genesis 22:18). If Israel were loyal to the *LORD, every nation would benefit. Isaiah realised that too (Isaiah 42:6).

Verse 3 The people had a wrong attitude. They did not accept the *LORD’s message. They were like a hard field that a farmer had not ploughed. A farmer prepares his field for a good harvest. In a similar way, the people had to prepare themselves to listen to the *LORD. A farmer did not sow seeds where there were weeds. The weeds stopped the corn so that it could not grow. Jesus showed what happened to the *LORD’s word when it grew among the weeds (Mark 4:18-19). A farmer has to clear the weeds from his ground. The people in Judah did wicked deeds. Those deeds were like the weeds. The people had to clear out their wicked deeds before they could serve the *LORD properly.

Verse 4 For Israel, *circumcision was the evidence of the *covenant between the *LORD and Israel (Genesis 17:10-14). The *LORD never intended it to be outer evidence only in the body. It was the evidence of Israel’s inner belief. *Circumcision showed that Israel belonged to the *LORD. It showed that they would serve him. The *LORD told Israel to obey him completely. They had to be loyal to the *LORD. They had to remove anything that prevented them. The *LORD had appealed to them to return to him. The *LORD would punish them if they refused to return sincerely. ‘Fire’ was a way to describe the *LORD’s punishment (Amos 5:6). Nobody can prevent or stop the fire of the *LORD’s anger.

The *LORD’s punishment 4:5 - 6:30

1. The alarm 4:5-10

v5      ‘Announce my message in Judah and in Jerusalem.

          Blow the *trumpet everywhere in the country!

          Shout loudly and say this.

          “Gather together!

          Let us run away to the cities with strong walls!”

v6      Warn the people to go to Zion!

          Run for safety! Do not delay!

          I am bringing trouble from the north.

          The enemy will destroy everything.

v7      A lion has come out from where he hides.

          Those people who destroy the nations have set out.

          They have left their place,

          to ruin your country.

          Your towns will have much damage.

          Nobody will be able live in them.

v8      So put on rough cloth.

          Weep and cry about what has happened.

          The *LORD is fiercely angry with us.

v9      In that day’, says the *LORD,

          ‘the king and his officials will lose their courage.

          The priests will feel shock.

          And the *prophets will be very afraid.’

v10 Then I said, ‘*LORD God. You have not told the truth to the people in Judah and in Jerusalem. You have told them, “You will have peace”. But soon the sword will kill us.’

Verses 5-7 The message about the pot that was boiling over (Jeremiah 1:13-15) was becoming true. Jeremiah does not say who the enemy from the north was. The sound from the *trumpet warned people about danger. Jeremiah describes the alarm in short commands because the enemy was on its way. People had to run for safety into towns with strong walls round them. They had to escape to Zion (Jerusalem). There would be no buildings left in other towns. Nobody would be able to live there.

The lion may refer to the country called Assyria or Babylon. There are very good images of lions on *Assyrian walls and on an important street in Babylon. The enemy would destroy everything. The *LORD was using the enemy to punish the people in Judah because of their *sins.

Verses 8-9 When people were sad they wore rough cloth. It also showed that they were sorry because of their wrong actions. All the leaders, whom Jeremiah had blamed (Jeremiah 2:8; 26), would be very afraid.

Verse 10 The false *prophets promised that there would be peace (Jeremiah 6:14). But they did not speak true words. The enemy was ready to attack Judah. The *LORD is the King who will carry out his plans. Jeremiah believed that. But the *LORD allowed the people to believe wrong things. Jeremiah did not understand why the *LORD allowed it. Jeremiah had deep sympathy with his own people. Maybe that was why he protested. Maybe he hoped that the other *prophets spoke some truth.

2. The *LORD’s punishment will be like the hot wind 4:11-18

v11    At that time the *LORD will warn the people in Judah and Jerusalem. He will tell them this. ‘I send a very hot, dry wind from the high bare places in the desert. It blows down quickly on my very own people. But it will not separate the corn from the outer part of grain that has no use. It will not clean what is dirty. v12 The wind will be too strong for that. And now I will announce my decision against you.’

v13    Look! The enemy is approaching like the clouds.

          His carts for war are coming like a strong wind.

          His horses are faster than large, strong birds.

          How terrible for us! The enemy will destroy us!

v14    People in Jerusalem, you must wash your *sins from your hearts.

          Then the *LORD will save you.

          You must not continue to think wicked things.

v15    A voice is speaking from the city called Dan.

          From the hills in Ephraim the voice announces

          that trouble is coming.

v16    ‘Tell this to the nations. Warn Jerusalem.

          An army will attack you.

          It is coming from a country that is far away.

          It will shout words of war against the cities in Judah.

v17    The enemy will surround the cities like people who guard a field.

          This is because Judah has refused to obey me’, declares the *LORD.

v18    ‘Trouble will come to you

          because of your own behaviour and your actions.

          Your evil has caused you to have many difficulties.

          This is how I will punish you.

          How bitter it is!

          It has affected you deeply.’

Verses 11-12 The hot dry wind came from the desert. It burned up plants and trees. Farmers used a gentle wind to separate their ripe grain from its outer parts. They threw the grains into the air with a large fork. The wind blew the outer part away. The corn fell onto the ground. But a strong wind destroyed both the corn and its outer part. The hot strong wind described the *LORD’s punishment. It would destroy the good people and the bad people together.

Verse 13 Jeremiah compared the enemy to the clouds that warn about a storm. The carts for war are the vehicles in which the enemies rode. They seemed to come as fast as a great wind. Horses that pulled the carts were even faster than large strong birds. Clouds, carts for war, horses and large strong, birds are all ways to express great speed. They show how fast Judah’s enemy was approaching.

Verse 14 The people in Jerusalem must remove their wrong actions before the *LORD would save them. The enemy was on its way, but the people could avoid the *LORD’s punishment. They should stop their wicked plans.

Verse 15 Dan was a city in the north of Israel. Jeremiah imagined a person with a message who was running from Dan. He would warn everyone that the enemy was already on its way.

Verses 16-18 The hills of Ephraim are to the north of Jerusalem. They would receive the news first and then Jerusalem itself would receive it. The enemies, who came from a distant country, would shout. It would show that they are fighting against the cities in Judah.

Farmers built small shelters. They stayed in them while they protected their crops. In a similar way, the enemies would wait outside the cities. Jeremiah had spoken about kings who would come from the north. They would be at the gates of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:13-15). Judah had refused to obey the *LORD. All that had happened as a punishment for their actions. The nation’s troubles would be great. When they had troubles, it would be their own fault.

3. Jeremiah’s cry because of his pain 4:19-22

v19    My pain, my pain! My mental pain

          makes me suffer greatly.

          My heart is beating out of control.

          I cannot remain silent.

          I have heard the sound of the *trumpet.

          I have heard the shouts of battle.

v20    One terrible event follows another terrible event.

          The enemy ruins the whole country.

          Suddenly the enemy destroys my tents.

          In a moment, he destroys my shelter.

v21    I do not know for how long I must see the enemy’s flag.

          And I still hear the sound of the *trumpet.

v22    The *LORD says, ‘My people are stupid.

          They do not know me.

          They are foolish children.

          They do not understand.

          They are clever about how to do wicked things.

          But they know nothing about how to do good things.’

Verses 19-21 Jeremiah had courage. He had described what was happening to his nation. But he loved his people. He thought about the enemy who was coming to destroy them. So he cried out in deep pain. He had heard all the noise of war. He had seen the enemy destroy all the buildings. Very soon, there would be nowhere for people to find shelter and protection. Jeremiah continued to see the enemy’s flags. And he continued to hear the *trumpet that called for battle. He wondered how long he would be able to deal with that.

Verse 22 The people in Judah were stupid. They did not know the *LORD. That means that they did not live in the right way. They did not give honour to the *LORD. They had no relationship with him. So they were foolish and they did not understand. They knew how to behave in the wrong way. But they did not know how to behave in the right way. They were so stupid. They did not understand the *LORD. They deserved his punishment

4. The results of the *LORD’s punishment 4:23-31

v23    I looked at the earth and it had no shape.

          And it was empty.

          I looked up at the sky and it was dark.

          Its light had gone.

v24    I looked at the mountains

          and they were shaking.

          All the hills were moving from one side to the other side.

v25    I looked, and there were no people.

          Every kind of bird in the sky had flown away.

v26    I looked, and the good land had become a desert.

          The enemy had ruined all the towns.

          This all happened because the *LORD was so angry.

v27    This is what the *LORD says,

          ‘I will destroy the country.

          But I will not destroy the whole country.

v28    So the earth will be sad.

          The sky above will become dark.

          I have spoken, and I will not change my mind.

          I have decided, and I will not turn back.

v29    People can hear the sound of the men on their horses.

          Men, who have arrows, are coming.

          So the people in every town run away.

          Some of the people go into the bushes.

          Some people climb up into the rocks.

          They have left all the towns.

          Nobody is living in them.

v30    What are you doing, you whom the enemy is destroying?

          Why are you dressing in bright red clothes?

          Why are you putting on pieces of gold that make you beautiful?

          Why do you paint colour round your eyes?

          It is no use to make yourself beautiful.

          Your lovers hate you.

          They want to kill you.

v31    I hear a cry like that of a woman who is having a baby.

          I hear a cry of pain like someone who is having her first child.

          It is the cry of the people in Jerusalem.

          They are struggling to breathe.

          They reach out their hands and they say this.

          “Help us! We are becoming weak!

          Murderers are going to kill us!” ’

Verses 23-26 Jeremiah describes the results of the *LORD’s punishment. He used language that is like the language in Genesis 1. But the *LORD is not creating the world and everything in it. Instead, everything has gone back into confusion. The earth is ‘without shape and it is empty’ (Genesis 1:2). There was no sun, no moon and there were no stars. Usually the mountains and the hills are firm and they show strength. But they were shaking and rocking. People left the country. And even the birds have flown away. There were no buildings left in the towns. All that happened because the *LORD was very angry with his people. The land that gave good crops had turned into a desert. This has happened in parts of the world today. People have cut down trees and the soil has become loose. Then the wind blows away the soil. All that is left is a desert.

Verse 27 The *LORD will not destroy his people completely. Some people remained after the enemy had destroyed the country. Isaiah had spoken about that hope (Isaiah 10:20-22).

Verse 28 Jeremiah describes the earth as a person who is sad. The sky becomes black because the light has gone (verse 23).

Verses 29-31 The people in Judah heard the enemy coming nearer. So the people ran away. They were afraid of the arrows that the enemy used. The people in Judah tried to find safe places to hide. They went into the woods and into caves in the cliffs (Isaiah 2:19). Jeremiah describes how Judah tried desperately to be at peace with the enemy. He describes Judah like a *prostitute. The *prostitute puts on bright clothes. She paints on a black powder round her eyes. It makes her eyes look larger and more attractive. But it was no use for Judah to make herself look beautiful. Judah’s ‘lovers’ were Egypt and Assyria or Babylon. But they hated Judah and they wanted to kill her.

Jeremiah then changes his description. He describes a woman who gives birth to her first child. The woman was crying because of the pain. She held out her hands for help. The people in Jerusalem cried out as the enemy was ruining it.

Chapter 5

5. The reasons for the *LORD’s punishment 5:1-9

v1      The *LORD says, ‘Go up and down the streets in Jerusalem.

          Look round you. Think about what you see.

          Search through the market places.

          Can you find just one person who acts honestly?

          Can you find one person who tries to tell the truth?

          If you can, I will forgive this city.

v2      They use my name when they make all their promises.

          They say, “You can be sure that the *LORD lives”

          But they are making promises that are false.’

v3      *LORD, you look for the truth.

          You have beaten your people but they felt no pain.

          You have overcome them but they refuse to learn.

          They decided definitely not to change.

          They refused to turn away from their *sins.

v4      I thought, ‘These are only the poor people. They are foolish.

          They do not know how the *LORD wants them to live,

          They do not know what the *LORD requires.

v5      So I will go to their leaders and speak to them.

          They should know how the *LORD wants them to live.

          They should know what the *LORD requires.’

          But all of them had broken off the *yoke.

          They had torn off the thick string.

v6      So a lion from the forest will attack them.

          A wild animal from the desert will destroy them.

          A fierce animal will hide near their towns.

          It will tear into pieces anyone who dares to go out.

          They have refused to obey the *LORD.

          They have turned away from him many times.

v7      The *LORD says, ‘I do not think that I should forgive you.

          Your people have left me.

          They have made promises and they used the names of false gods.

          But they are not really gods at all.

          I supplied everything that the people needed.

          But they left their true husband.

          Crowds of them went to the homes of *prostitutes.

v8      They are like male horses. They have plenty to eat and

          they have great desires.

          Each of them desires another man’s wife.

v9      I should punish them for this.’ declares the *LORD.

          ‘I should punish a nation that does these things.

Verses 1-3 Jerusalem was more wicked than the city called Sodom. The *LORD had spoken to Abraham. The *LORD would forgive Sodom if there were 10 good men in the city (Genesis 18:31-32). Jeremiah searched in the streets and in public places in Jerusalem. He searched for only one good person. It seemed that he searched in vain. That showed that the nation deserved the *LORD’s punishment. The *prophets Amos and Micah had also appealed to the people to be honest and to be fair (Amos 5:24, Micah 6:8). But the people in Judah were not truthful. They made serious promises and they used these words. ‘You can be sure that the *LORD lives.’ Often they did not remember their promise. However, they did not expect the *LORD to punish them. Their actions were different from what they said. The *LORD had tried to punish them already. But they refused to learn. Three times Jeremiah mentions that his people refused to change their behaviour.

Verses 4-6 Jeremiah thought that there was some excuse for the poor people. He may not have meant those people with little money. The poor people were those who were foolish. They did not understand what the *LORD’s law required. The leaders knew the *LORD’s law. But they had acted like an animal that was trying to free itself from it’s *yoke. It was breaking the thick string that tied it to the *yoke (Jeremiah 2:20). The leaders had chosen not to obey the *LORD’s law. Lions, wild animals and fierce animals referred to the enemies. The enemies would attack and destroy Judah. The people in Judah had refused to obey the *LORD many times.

Verses 7-9 The *LORD could not forgive his people. They had left him. They made serious promises. But they used the names of false gods that did not exist. The *LORD had supplied everything that his people needed. But they had not obeyed their *covenant with the *LORD. They had not been grateful (Deuteronomy 32:15-17). Many of them had gone to *prostitutes. The people were like horses that had plenty to eat. So they were ready to attract mates. The people in Judah were so wicked. They were like animals that were looking for a mate. The *LORD would punish the nation because they behaved without shame.

6. The people refuse to believe Jeremiah’s message 5:10-14

v10    Go through the nation’s *vineyards and destroy them.

          But do not destroy them completely.

          Tear off their branches,

          because these people do not belong to the *LORD.

v11    The people in Israel and Judah

          have not been loyal to me at all’, declares the *LORD.

v12    Those people have lied about the *LORD.

          They said, ‘He will do nothing!

          Nothing bad will happen to us.

          We will never see war. We will never be hungry.

v13    The *prophets are like the wind.

          Their message does not come from the *LORD.

          So bad things will happen to them.’

v14    Therefore, the *LORD, the powerful God, says this.

          ‘The people have spoken like this.

          So my words will be like a fire in your mouth.

          I will make the people like wood

          that the fire will burn completely.

Verses 10-11 Judah was like the *LORD’s *vineyard. The people should have a good life. They should be like a *vine that grows good *grapes. The *LORD was disappointed when his people did not obey him. Isaiah had described that (Isaiah 5:1-7). The *LORD would order an enemy to enter the *vineyard. (Jeremiah does not name that enemy.) The enemy would not destroy the *LORD’s *vines completely. But the enemy would cut off the branches that had not produced fruit. The fruit means good lives. Israel and Judah had separated themselves from the *LORD. Jesus described God’s *vineyard in a similar way. Jesus described himself as the *vine. He described the people who follow him as the branches (John 15:1-7).

Verses 12-14 The people refused to believe that the *LORD would punish them. They laughed at *prophets like Jeremiah. He had spoken about war and lack of food. Verse 13 may describe Jeremiah’s message to the false *prophets. The *Hebrew word for wind is ‘ruach’. It also can mean ‘spirit’. God’s Spirit was not in the false *prophets. Their words would blow away like the wind. The false *prophets would die in war or they would starve (Jeremiah 14:13-15). But Jeremiah’s words were from the *LORD. Those words would be like fire that burns up wood. His words would destroy the false *prophets. And they would destroy the people who believed them.

7. The terrible enemy 5:15-19

v15    ‘People from Israel, listen to me’,

          announces the *LORD.

          ‘I am bringing against you

          a nation from far away.

          It is an old nation. And it will remain for a long time.

          Its people speak a language that you do not know.

          You cannot understand what they are saying.

v16    The cases in which they carry their arrows are like an open grave.

          All their soldiers are powerful.

v17    They will destroy your crops and your food.

          They will destroy your sons and your daughters.

          They will destroy your sheep and your cows.

          They will destroy your *vines and your *fig trees.

          You trust in your cities that have walls round them.

          But this nation will destroy your people with their swords.

v18 Yet even at that time’, declares the *LORD, ‘I will not destroy you completely. v19 The people will ask, “Why has the *LORD our God done this to us?” You will tell them this. “You have left me. You have served foreign false gods in your own country. So now you will serve foreign people in a country that is not your own.”

Verses 15-17 The enemy was an old nation that would continue for a long time. They spoke a language that Judah did not understand. Their arrows would cause many deaths. All their soldiers were powerful. They would destroy everyone and everything in the country. They would kill Judah’s children and their animals. The enemy would destroy Judah’s food. They would destroy the plants and the trees that provided wine and food. *Vines provide *grapes. *Figs are small, sweet fruits with many seeds inside them. Usually cities with walls are safe places. But the enemy would break down the walls and kill the people.

Verses 18-19 The *LORD repeated his promise that he would not destroy the nation completely (Jeremiah 4:27). But the people had left the *LORD and they served foreign false gods instead. So the people would have to serve foreign people in a foreign country. That happened when the enemy took the people from Judah into Babylon.

8. The foolish people who forget the *LORD’s power 5:20-25

v20    Announce this to the *descendants of Jacob.

          Tell this to the people in Judah.

v21    Listen to this, you foolish people.

          Listen to this, you people who do not have any sense.

          You have eyes, but you do not see.

          You have ears, but you do not hear.

v22    You should respect me’, declares the *LORD.

          ‘You should tremble in front of me.

          I made the sand as a boundary for the sea.

          It is a limit that the sea cannot go past.

          It will do that for always.

          The waves may roll, but they cannot pass over it.

          They may roar, but they cannot go across it.

v23    But these people refuse to change. They do not obey me.

          They have turned away from me. They have gone the wrong way.

v24    They do not say to themselves,

          “Let us respect the *LORD our God.

          He sends rain in the autumn and in the spring.

          He promises us that the harvest will come

          at the same time each year.”

v25    But you have done many wrong things.

          Your wrong acts have kept away these gifts.

          Your *sins have kept these good things away from you.

Verses 20-21 The *descendants of Jacob are the people who lived in Israel. Jeremiah had to tell the people from Israel and Judah to listen. They were foolish. They had eyes, but they understood nothing. They had ears, but they did not listen to the *LORD (Isaiah 6:9-10). They respected false gods, but they did not respect the *LORD.

Verses 22-23 The people should remember that the *LORD controls the sea. When he created dry land, the *LORD put a limit on the water (Genesis 1:6-10). That was a rule that the sea cannot change. The waves may make a lot of noise. But the waves have no power to cross beyond the sand. The people in Israel were afraid of the sea. But they should not be afraid, because the *LORD controlls the sea. The sea recognised its master. But Israel refused to obey the *LORD, who was their master. The *LORD had given the people limits in the 10 *commandments. But the people had not obeyed those laws. They had done what they wanted to do.

Verse 24 The people followed *Baal. And they thought that he controlled nature. They thought that *Baal sent the rain at the right time. They thought that *Baal sent the harvest. But it was the *LORD who sent the rain in the autumn and the spring. The weeks of harvest were the seven weeks after the *religious event called Passover. The priest gave to the *LORD some of the first barley (grain) as a gift (Leviticus 23:10). Seven weeks later, the priest gave wheat from the new crop (Leviticus 23:17).

Verse 25 Amos said that the lack of rain was a warning from the *LORD. The *LORD was warning his people to return to him (Amos 4:6-8). Jeremiah believed that the lack of rain warned about the *LORD’s punishment. The people *sinned. Because of their *sins, the *LORD could not send his gifts to them.

The people are greedy and selfish 5:26-29

v26    Some of my people are wicked. They hide and wait.

          They are like people who catch birds.

          Instead, they set traps to catch men.

v27    Hunters will fill a cage with birds.

          My people are like those hunters. Instead, they fill their houses with evil.

          They cheat other people.

          So they have become rich and powerful.

v28    They have become fat and grand.

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

          They do not speak on behalf of the children

          whose parents have died.

          They do not help the poor people to obtain their rights.

v29    I should punish my people for this’, declares the *LORD.

          ‘I should punish a nation that does these things.

Verses 26-28 Jeremiah uses the example of a hunter. The hunter sets a trap to catch birds. And he fills cages with the birds that he has caught. Some of the people were like that. They used wicked ways to obtain goods. Their houses were full of the things that they had taken. Both Amos and Micah had spoken against those kinds of people. Those people had cheated and they had robbed other people (Amos 2:6-7, Micah 6:10-12). But the wicked people in Judah continued to become rich. They continued to behave badly towards the poor people. To be fat showed that people were wealthy. Moses had said that people must not behave badly towards the widows. And people must not behave badly towards the children whose parents had died (Exodus 22:22). Isaiah had urged his people to be fair. They should protect the widows and the children who had no parents (Isaiah 1:17). Jeremiah said that about the poor people. They went to court to ask for their rights. But nobody helped them.

Verse 29 repeats Jeremiah 5:9. The *LORD had to punish those people. They had failed to obey him. They did not look after those people who needed help.

The *sin of the *prophets and the priests 5:30-31

v30    Something terrible and disgusting

          has happened in the country.

v31    The *prophets *prophesy lies.

          The priests rule by their authority.

          And my people love it this way.

          But what will they do when the end comes?

Verses 30-31 The *prophets told lies. They told the people that there would be peace. The *prophets said that nobody would attack the people. The *prophets said that the *LORD would not punish the people. So the *prophets encouraged bad behaviour. It is not clear whether ‘their authority’ refers to the authority of the priests. It may mean that the priests worked with the authority of the *prophets. Together they allowed the people not to obey the *LORD’s laws. Sometimes they insulted Jeremiah. And they tried to stop him so that he did not *prophesy (Jeremiah 18:18; 20:7-8). The priests and the *prophets allowed the easy way to live. And the people in Judah were very happy to accept that.

When the time for punishment came, the *prophets and the priests would realise their mistake. But it would be too late to change their behaviour. They would not know what to do.

Chapter 6

Jeremiah warns the people to escape from Jerusalem 6:1-8

v1      People in Benjamin, run for safety!

          Run away from Jerusalem!

          Blow the *trumpet in Tekoa!

          Send a signal to everyone in Beth-Hakkerem!

          Soon terrible trouble will come from the north.

          The *Babylonians will destroy everything.

v2      I will destroy the city called Zion,

          although it is very beautiful.

v3      *Shepherds will come to it with their sheep.

          They will put up their tents round it.

          All of them will take care of their own sheep.’

v4      ‘Prepare for a battle against Jerusalem!

          Get up! Let us attack at noon!

          But the daylight has almost gone.

          The shadows in the evening are getting longer.

v5      So get up! Let us attack them at night

          and let us destroy her palaces!’

v6      The *LORD, the powerful God, says this to the *Babylonians.

          ‘Cut down the trees.

          Use them to build up a slope to surround the walls of Jerusalem.

          I must punish this city.

          It is full of people who behave badly towards other people.

v7      Jerusalem continues to*sin.

          in the same way that wells continue to give water.

          I hear the sound of people who are attacking each other.

          And they are causing trouble.

          I look at them and I see disease and injuries.

v8      Jerusalem, listen to my warning.

          If you do not listen, I will turn away from you.

          I will make your country like a desert.

          Nobody will be able to live in it.’

Verse 1 Jeremiah warns his own *tribe called Benjamin. He warns them to run away from Jerusalem. Soon the enemy would surround them. The enemy would make the people give in to them. Tekoa was the village where Amos lived (Amos 1:1). It was about 5 miles (8 kilometres) south of Bethlehem. The *Hebrew word ‘Tekoa’ has the same letters as the word for ‘blow’. Probably the people would be safer in the area to the south of Jerusalem than in the city. Beth-Hakkerem was a city close to Jerusalem.

Armies used to light fires on high places to send messages. They also used to write messages on pieces of pot. Recently, people found a very old piece of pot in a place called Lachish. And it referred to a signal that people had sent by means of a fire.

Verses 2-3 Zion is another name for Jerusalem. It was a beautiful city. One translation says that Jerusalem was like a place with much grass round it. Animals fed there. The *shepherds refer to the rulers of the enemy. The sheep refer to their soldiers. They would put up their tents like *shepherds who were waiting to feed their sheep. Each soldier would decide where his place should be.

Verses 4-6 The *Babylonians told their armies to ‘prepare for battle. To ‘prepare’ meant that their *pagan priests gave *offerings to their false gods. They decided the right time to attack. Usually battles began in the morning when everything was ready. They continued until the evening. It was not usual to attack at night. So the enemy were eager to control Judah’s cities.

To destroy Jerusalem, the enemy would wait outside the walls. Then the people would not be able to leave the city to get help from outside. They could not obtain food. They would become so hungry that they would starve to death. The enemy built slopes of wood and earth against the walls. Then they could reach the weaker parts of the walls. They would use equipment to break down the walls. Then they would climb over the walls and go inside the city. The enemy would kill everyone and they would destroy everything. (The same thing happened to Jerusalem when the army from Rome attacked the city in *AD 70.) The *LORD would punish the city because the people in the city had behaved badly towards each other.

Verses 7-8 Water fills up a well all the time. The people in Judah continued to *sin all the time. They quarrelled and they caused trouble. The *LORD saw only disease and injury in their spirit. Jerusalem had to learn its lesson and had to change its behaviour. If it did not change, the *LORD will turn away from Jerusalem. He would make its country into a desert where nobody could live.

The *LORD’s anger against a wicked society 6:9-15

v9      The *LORD, the powerful God says this.

          ‘The people gather carefully the few *grapes that remain on a *vine.

          So let Israel’s enemies gather the few people who remain in the country.

          Be like someone who gathers the last *grapes.

          Look carefully at the branches again.’

v10    I cannot speak to anyone and I cannot warn anyone.

          They will not listen to me.

          They have closed their ears

          so that they cannot hear.

          The words that the *LORD says offend them.

          They do not like what he says.

v11    But the *LORD’s anger burns inside me,

          and I cannot hold it inside me.

          The *LORD says to me,

          ‘Pour out my anger on the children in the street.

          Pour out my anger on the young people who meet together.

          People will take both husband and wife.

          They will also take the people who are very old.

v12    Their houses will belong to other people.

          And their fields and their wives will belong to other people.

          I will oppose the people who live in the country’, declares the *LORD.

v13    ‘Everyone, from the least important to the most important person,

          wants to become richer and richer.

          Both the *prophets and the priests are not honest.

          They make money in wrong ways.

v14    They put a bandage on the wound of my people.

          But they do not think that it is serious.

          “Peace, peace,” they say.

          But there is no peace.

v15    They are not ashamed of their terrible behaviour.

          They do not feel any shame at all.

          They do not know how to look guilty.

          So they will fall like all the other people who have fallen already.

          When I punish them, it will be the end of them.’

Verse 9 The enemy was like someone who was gathering *grapes. He made sure that none remained on the *vine. The *vine is the nation called Judah. That means that the enemy would try to destroy everyone. The *LORD promised in 4:27 that he would not destroy the country completely. Jeremiah must try to save the last few people.

Verse 10 It was very difficult for Jeremiah to warn the people. They did not want to listen to his message. They were not happy about what the *LORD was saying to them. Instead, his words annoyed them.

Verses 11-12 Wicked behaviour affected the whole society. So the *LORD was angry with everyone. He was angry with the men and the women, the young people and the old people. The children, who were playing in the streets, would have troubles. And the young people who liked to meet together would have troubles. The married adults and the old people would have troubles too. The people in Judah would not be able to keep all their property. Other people would take it. And they would lose their wives and their children.

Verses 13-15 Jeremiah 8:10-12 repeats these verses. Everyone wanted to become rich, so everyone was guilty. Their money was the most important thing for them. The *prophets and the priests were bad too. They cheated the people. And they told the people that they should not worry. The *prophets and the priests were like people who failed to give proper care to a serious injury. They should have told the people to turn back to the *LORD. But they encouraged the people to believe that the *LORD would not punish them. The *prophets and the priests had become so wicked that they did not feel any shame. They did not show on their faces any evidence that they felt guilty. So when the *LORD punished the nation, the *prophets and the priests would also have troubles. And they would die.

Israel refuses to follow the *LORD’s way 6:16-21

v16    This is what the *LORD says.

          ‘Stand where the roads cross and look. Ask where the old paths are.

          Ask where the good path is. And walk on it.

          And your hearts will find peace.

          But they said, “We will not walk on it.”

v17    I appointed men to warn you.

          I said, “Listen to the sound of the *trumpet!”

          But you said, “We will not listen.”

v18    So give attention, you nations.

          Be witnesses for me.

          Watch what will happen to my people.

v19    Earth, listen to this.

          I am going to bring great trouble upon these people.

          I will punish them for all the evil things that they have plotted.

          They have not listened to my words.

          They have refused to obey my law.

v20    I do not care about *incense from the country called Sheba.

          I do not care about sweet food from a distant country.

          I do not accept your *burnt offerings.

          Your *sacrifices do not please me.’

v21    So this is what the *LORD says.

          ‘These people will trip and fall.

          Fathers and sons alike will fail to get past them.

          Neighbours and friends will die.’

Verses 16-17 ‘The old paths’ were the laws that Moses had given to the *LORD’s people. The people had to walk along a good path. That meant that they had to obey the *LORD’s law. Then, the people could feel safe. It would give them a sense of peace. ‘The people who love your law have great peace’ (Psalm 119:165). Jesus told the people to walk with him. Then he would give rest (peace) to them (Matthew 11:29).

A *trumpet warned that danger was very near. Some men were responsible to warn people. The *LORD would punish the people for their *sins very soon (Ezekiel 3:16-21).

Verses 18-19 The *LORD wanted the nations and the earth to witness his punishment. He would punish the people who did not obey him. They did not listen to the *prophets. They refused to change their wicked behaviour.

Verse 20 The people had their *religious ceremonies. They thought that they pleased the *LORD in that way. Sheba was a country in South West Arabia. (Now it is called Yemen.) *Incense is a substance that the people burn in *religious ceremonies. It may have come from India. Priests priests burned it. Also they used it to make the holy oil (Exodus 30:23-25). The *Hebrew words suggest that its smoke was sweet. It showed that people’s prayers went up to the *LORD (Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8).

*Burnt offerings meant that the priests *sacrificed the whole animal. *Sacrifices meant that they gave only the best part of the animal. *Worshippers received the rest of the animal to eat. Those expensive ceremonies happened in the *Temple in Jerusalem. But *religious ceremonies alone have no value. The people could not have those ceremonies instead of correct behaviour. They had to obey the *LORD. Only right behaviour gives honour to the *LORD. Other *prophets said that also. It is better to obey the *LORD than to give *sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel told that to Saul. Isaiah said that the *LORD hated all Judah’s *sacrifices. The *LORD would not listen to their prayers because they were wicked people. And they did not help the poor people (Isaiah 1:10-17). Amos and Micah also emphasised what the *LORD wanted (Amos 5:21-24, Micah 6:6-8).

Verse 21 The *Hebrew words say that the *LORD put things in their way. People would trip over those things. This may refer to the soldiers of the enemy. Families and friends would die when the *LORD punished his people.

The enemy from the north 6:22-26

v22    This is what the *LORD says.

          ‘Look, an army is coming from the north.

          I am making a great nation ready to move.

          Its army is coming from a country very far away.

v23    Its soldiers have bows and sticks with sharp points with which to fight.

          The soldiers are cruel. They pity nobody.

          They ride on their horses.

          And they sound like the sea that is roaring

          They come all ready for the battle.

          They will attack you, Jerusalem.

v24    We have heard reports about them.

          We can do nothing to help ourselves.

          We have great troubles.

          Our pain is like the pain of a woman who is having a baby.

v25    Do not go to the fields.

          Do not walk on the roads.

          Our enemies have swords.

          And there is terror everywhere.

v26    My people, put on rough cloth.

          Roll among the ashes.

          Cry with bitter tears,

          as you would weep for an only son.

          The enemy who is going to destroy us will come suddenly.’

Verses 22-23 Jeremiah does not name the enemy from the north. But it may be the *Babylonians. Their army was efficient. They rode horses that made a noise as they rushed along. It was as loud as the noise of a stormy sea. They had more than one piece of equipment with which to fight. A bow was a piece of equipment that fired arrows. The sticks with sharp points were called spears. They were wooden poles with sharp metal points at the end. The enemy threw those spears as they rode along. Verse 25 mentions swords. Men used swords to cut and to kill people. The enemy was very cruel, and they pitied nobody.

These verses appear again in Jeremiah 50:42. But in that verse it is Babylon that would have troubles.

Verses 24-25 The people in Judah were very frightened. The reports about the enemy frightened them. The people in Judah felt that they had no power. They were suffering mental pain. It was as strong as the physical pain of a woman who was having a baby. There was nobody to protect them. Previously they had felt that it would be safer outside Jerusalem. Now it would be dangerous if they were outside the towns. And it would be dangerous on the roads. ‘Terror everywhere’ is a phrase that Jeremiah uses several times. He gave the name ‘Terror everywhere’ to Pashhur the priest. That priest tried to stop Jeremiah so that he did not *prophesy (Jeremiah 20:3). The words are also in Jeremiah 20:10; 46:5 and 49:29.

Verse 26 All the people in Judah wore rough cloth. That showed that they were sad. They also put ashes over themselves. People cried bitterly as if an only son died (Amos 8:10). They would have nobody to continue their family name. Many families would have no *descendants. The enemy would kill them. The enemy might end the whole nation.

Jeremiah has to test the character of the *LORD’s people 6:27-30

v27    The *LORD said this to me. ‘I have made you like someone who tests metals.

          My people are the rock that has metal inside it.

          I want you to watch them.

          Test the way that they behave.

v28    All the time, they are people who refuse to obey me.

          They go round and they tell lies about other people.

          They are like a mixture of metals called *bronze and iron.

          All of them do wicked things.

v29    People use something that will make the fire very hot.

          The fire will burn away the lead.

          But it is impossible to make these people *clean

          The fire does not *clean these wicked people.

v30    The *LORD has refused to keep them.

          So they are like silver that people throw away.’        

Verses 27-29 People obtain metals or other valuable substances from a solid material called ore. To obtain pure metal they put the ore into a very hot fire. Lead (a metal) helps to remove dirt and other substances that have no value. Jeremiah’s work was like that of a refiner. A refiner is someone who tries to get a precious metal like silver out from the ore (Malachi 3:2-3). Jeremiah’s *prophecies were like the fire. They should have removed wrong things from the people. But the people were like types of metals called *bronze and iron. These metals are not precious like silver. Bronze, iron and lead were waste materials. Jeremiah tried to remove the wicked actions from the people. But he had no result. He could not make them like pure silver.

Verse 30 The people were like the rubbish that Jeremiah’s *prophecies had failed to remove. So the *LORD thought that they were like rubbish. He would have to punish them.

Chapter 7

The Message in the *Temple 7:1-8:3

Jeremiah’s message came during the time when Jehoiakim was king. Jeremiah chapter 26 repeats this message. So Jeremiah may have given it on more than one occasion. Or maybe chapter 26 refers to the same event, but it shows the result of Jeremiah’s words.

1. False confidence 7:1-15

v1 This is the message that came to Jeremiah from the *LORD. He said, v2 ‘Stand at the gate of my house. Announce my message to my people there. “Listen to the *LORD’s message, all you people in Judah. You come through these gates to *worship the *LORD.” v3 The *LORD is the powerful God of Israel. He says to you, “Change the way that you live. Change the way that you act. Then I will live with you. v4 Do not trust lies. Do not say: This is the *Temple of the *LORD, the *Temple of the *LORD, the *Temple of the *LORD!” v5 Definitely you must change the way that you live. And you must change the way that you act. You must be fair to each other. v6 Do not behave badly towards foreigners or towards widows. Do not fail to help the children whose fathers have died. Do not kill those people who have done no wrong deeds. Do not *worship false gods. That will ruin you. v7 If you obey me, then I will let you live in this place. It is the country that I gave to your *ancestors for always. v8 But look! You are trusting *worthless lies. v9 You continue to steal and to murder. You are not loyal to your husbands and your wives. You tell lies. You burn *incense to *Baal. You *worship false gods that you have not known. v10 Then you come and stand in front of me. You continue to come to this house where my Name lives. You say, “We are safe”. You think that you are safe to do all these terrible things. v11 My Name lives in this house. But you have made it a place where robbers can hide. But I have been watching you!’ declares the *LORD. v12 ‘Go now to the town called Shiloh. It was the place where my Name first lived. See what I did to Shiloh. This was because of the wicked things that my people in Israel were doing. v13 I spoke to you many times’, declares the *LORD. ‘I warned you while you were doing all these things. But you did not listen. I called out to you, but you did not answer. v14 So what I did to Shiloh, now I will do to this *Temple of mine. You trust in this *Temple. It is the place that I gave to your *ancestors and to you. v15 I will throw you out of my country. That is what I did to your relatives, the people of Ephraim.’

Verses 1-4 Jeremiah stood in a place where a large number of people could hear him. It might have been at a special time when people came to *worship. It might have been at one of the three great *religious events in the year. These were called Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Ingathering. Today we call these events Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-16, Leviticus 23:4-21; 33-43).

The *Hebrew words in verse 3 may mean, ‘I will allow you to live in this place’. If so, it may refer to the country that the *LORD had given to his people. Also it may refer to Jerusalem and the *Temple. Three times the people repeated, ‘This is the *Temple of the *LORD’. It emphasised what they believed. They had the *Temple. So they thought that no enemy could defeat them. The *LORD had chosen Jerusalem as his home on earth (Psalm 132:13-14). He had promised to David a *kingdom for always (2 Samuel 7:12-13). The *LORD had protected Jerusalem from the *Assyrians when Hezekiah was king (Isaiah 37:33-37). But the words ‘the *Temple of the *LORD’ had no meaning if the people did not obey the *LORD. Some people may have thought that the words would protect them. But the words were not magic. The people had to change the way that they lived. Then the *LORD would *bless them.

Verses 5-11 These verses describe the laws that the people in Judah had not obeyed. And 5 of the laws are from the *LORD’s 10 *commandments (Exodus chapter 20). The people thought that they would be safe in the *Temple. But they were not safe there. They were using the *Temple like ‘a cave from which the people go out to steal’. Jesus remembered these words. He was angry that the people used the *Temple in the wrong way (Matthew 21:13).

Verses 12-15 The people from Judah should have learned from their history. Shiloh was a town north of Jerusalem. When the people arrived in the country, they put the special tent in the town called Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). The tent contained the box of the *covenant. The people went to *worship at Shiloh when Eli was the priest (1 Samuel 1:3). The *Philistines destroyed Shiloh in about 1050 *BC. The people who dig up ancient places have found the evidence for this. The *LORD could do the same things to Jerusalem that he had done to Shiloh. He had warned his people many times about their wicked behaviour. But they had refused to listen. So the *LORD could send them away from their own country. Already he had sent the people from the northern *kingdom of Israel into Assyria in 721 *BC. Ephraim was another name for Israel. Shiloh was in the territory of Israel.

2. False ways to *worship 7:16-20

v16 ‘So, Jeremiah, do not pray on behalf of these people. Do not make any appeal or request for them. Do not ask me to forgive them. I will not listen to you. v17 You can see what they are doing in the towns in Judah and in the streets in Jerusalem. v18 The children gather wood. The fathers light the fires. The women mix the flour and water to make cakes. They give them to the female false god called the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink as gifts to false gods. That makes me very angry. v19 But I am not the person that they are hurting’, announces the *LORD. ‘They are hurting themselves.’ v20 So the *LORD God says this. ‘I will pour out my fierce anger on this place. I will be extremely angry. I will pour my anger out on people and on animals alike. It will destroy the trees and the crops. My anger will be like a fire that nobody can put out.’

Verses 16-20 The *LORD told Jeremiah not to pray for his people. They had continued to *worship false gods. They were unlikely to change so Jeremiah’s prayers would be a waste of time. ‘The Queen of Heaven’ was probably the moon, a star, or the female false god called Ishtar or Astarte. The *Jews continued to *worship her in Egypt after the army from Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem (Jeremiah chapter 44). Whole families involved themselves in that religion. The children looked for wood. The fathers made the fire. The women made the cakes to give to the female false god. The cakes were in the shape of a star, moon or female false god. Or they had the image of a star, moon or female false god on them. King Josiah had tried to stop the people so that they did not *worship the Queen of Heaven (2 Kings 23:4-6). But they never stopped.

The people’s *sin would cause their troubles. The *LORD was so angry that he would destroy the whole nation. The people and the animals would die. His anger would affect the trees and the crops.

3. To obey is better than to *sacrifice 7:21-29

v21 The *LORD is the powerful God of Israel. He says this. ‘Add your *burnt offerings to your other *sacrifices. Eat them all! v22 I brought your *ancestors out from Egypt. I did not give them commands about *burnt offerings and *sacrifices. v23 But I did order them to obey me. I said, “Obey me. Then I will be your God and you will be my people. Behave in the way that I order you to behave. Then good things will happen to you.”

v24 But they did not listen. They refused to pay any attention to me. They were not willing to change. They did whatever their evil desires wanted. They became worse instead of better. v25 From the time that your *ancestors left Egypt, I continued to send my servants, the *prophets, to you. I sent them to you many times. v26 But the people did not listen. They refused to take any notice of me. They did not want to change. They did more wicked things than their *ancestors had done.

v27 Jeremiah, when you tell them all this, they will not listen to you. When you call to them, they will not answer. v28 So say to them, “You are a nation that has not obeyed the *LORD your God. The *LORD told you that your behaviour was wrong. But you did not learn. Truth has disappeared. You do not tell the truth now.” v29 The *LORD says to the people in Jerusalem, “Cut off your hair. Sing a sad song on the bare tops of the hills. You must do this because the *LORD is very angry with the people who are still alive. He has turned away from you. He has left you.”

Verses 21-23 For a burnt *offering, the priests burnt the whole animal. For *sacrifices they gave only the best part of the animal. And the people who brought the animal received back the rest of it. Then they could eat it (compare Jeremiah 6:20). But the *LORD said that they should eat the *burnt offerings too. The people had not changed their behaviour. So, none of their *offerings had any value. After their *ancestors left Egypt, the *LORD gave laws to them. He told them how to behave. Moses put up a ‘Meeting Tent’. Then the *LORD told the people how they should give their *sacrifices. But he would *bless them only if they behaved in the right way.

Verses 24-28 The people had no excuse for their behaviour. From the time that they left Egypt, the *LORD continued to warn them. The *prophets had told them regularly what the *LORD wanted. But the people refused to listen. Their behaviour was worse than the behaviour of their *ancestors.

The *LORD warned Jeremiah that his work would be difficult. The people had not listened to the *LORD’s servants before Jeremiah came. And the people did not listen to the *LORD’s servants after Jeremiah. But it was his task to warn the people. They were not loyal to the *LORD. Their *ancestors had said, ‘We will do all that the *LORD has said’ (Exodus 19:8). But the people in Judah did not carry out that promise.

Verse 29 The people in Judah ought to behave like sad people. People cut off their hair to show that they were sad. They did that when someone had died (Job 1:20). The people called Nazirites let their hair grow long. It showed that they had given their lives to the *LORD. They cut their hair if they did not continue to serve him. The people from Judah did not want to serve the *LORD. They had to sing a sad song, like a funeral song. It would be the ‘funeral’ of their nation. The bare hills were the places where they had *worshipped false gods.

The valley of death 7:30-34

v30 The people in Judah have behaved wickedly’, announces the *LORD. ‘They have put their *idols, which I hate, in my house. They have *worshipped them there. They have made my house *unclean. v31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the valley of Ben Hinnom. There they *sacrifice their children in the fire. I did not tell them to do this. And I did not think about it.

v32 So watch out!’ announces the *LORD. ‘One day soon, people will not continue to call the place Topheth. And they will not call it the valley of Hinnom either. Instead, they will call it the Valley of Death. They will bury the dead bodies of people in Topheth. But there will be no more room. v33 Then they will not be able to bury the bodies of other people there. So their bodies will be food for the birds and the wild animals. And there will be nobody to scare them away.

v34 I will end the joyful and happy sounds. Nobody will hear the voices of brides and bridegrooms any longer. There will be no happy sounds in the towns in Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. The land will become a desert.

Verses 30-31 During the time that Manasseh was king, people put full size images of their false gods in the *Temple (2 Kings 21:5). That meant that the *Temple was not holy. It insulted the *LORD. It suggested that he was not the King of Israel. ‘Topheth’ probably means ‘fire place’. When Manasseh was king, some people burnt their children there as a *sacrifice. And they gave the *sacrifice to the false god called Molech (2 Kings 23:10). The law forbade the *sacrifice of a child (Leviticus 18:21). Ben Hinnom was probably the name of a former owner of the valley. It became the place where people of Jerusalem threw their rubbish. Its name appears in the *New Testament as ‘Gehenna’. It became the name for hell, the place for punishment.

Verses 32-33 When the enemy attacked Jerusalem, very many people would die. There would not be room to bury all the dead bodies in Topheth. The people thought that it was terrible to leave a body without a grave. (It is still true today. People want to bury a human body properly. This is true even when nobody knows the name of the dead person.) There would not be enough people who remained alive, to bury all the bodies. The birds and the animals would eat the bodies.

Verse 34 All sounds of normal, happy life would disappear. Even the happiness of a wedding would not exist. The land would become a desert.

Chapter 8

The valley of death 8:1-3

v1 At that time the enemy soldiers will open the graves’, announces the *LORD. ‘They will take out the bones of the kings and the officials from Judah. They will remove the bones of the priests and the *prophets. They will take out the bones of the citizens of Jerusalem. v2 The bones will lie outside under the sun, the moon and all the stars that these people had loved. The people had followed them and *worshipped them. The people had asked them for advice. So nobody will gather up the bones of these people or bury them again. Instead, the bones will be like dung (animal rubbish) on the ground. v3 Everyone who remains in this evil nation will not want to live. Instead they will want to die. In the countries where I force them to go, they will have a great desire for death.’ The *LORD who is the powerful God, announces this.

Verses 1-3 The enemy would open all the graves and take out the bones. Maybe the enemy hoped to find something valuable that people had buried with the bodies. But perhaps they would do it as an insult to the people that they had defeated. The enemy would leave the bones lying on the ground. The bones would be there in the day and at night. But the star, the moon and the sun gods had no power. They were false gods. They did not help the people who had *worshipped them. The bones would lie on the ground like animal rubbish. (People used animal rubbish to make crops grow.) There, nobody would bury the bones again.

Verse 3 It would be a terrible time. Nobody would want to remain alive.

*Sin and punishment 8:4-12

v4      ‘Jeremiah, tell them that the *LORD says this.

          “When the people fall down, they get up again.

          When someone turns away, he returns.

v5      So I do not know why the people of Jerusalem have turned away from me.

          I do not know why always they turn away from me.

          They continue to tell lies.

          They refuse to return to me.

v6      I have listened carefully.

          But they do not speak the truth.

          Nobody wants to turn away from his *sins.

          Nobody asks: What have I done that is wrong?

          All of them go their own way.

          They are like horses that are charging into a battle.

v7      Big birds called storks know when to fly to another country.

          So do birds called doves, swifts and thrushes.

          But my people do not know what I require them to do.

v8      I do not know how you can say: We are wise.

          We have the law of the *LORD.

          Actually, the people who teach the law have told lies about it.

          They have not written the truth.

v9      Now the people will not respect these wise teachers.

          The *LORD will defeat them and he will trap them.

          They have refused to accept the *LORD’s message.

          So they do not have a good kind of wisdom.

v10    I will give their wives to other men.

          I will give their fields to new owners.

          Everyone, from the least important person to the most important person,

          wants to become richer and richer.

          But their wealth will not be honest.

          The *prophets and priests all tell lies.

v11    They bandage the injuries of my people.

          But they do not think that they are serious.

          They say: Peace, peace.

          But there is no peace.

v12    They are not ashamed of their terrible behaviour.

          They do not feel any shame at all.

          They do not know how to look guilty.

          So they will fall like other people who have fallen already.

          When I punish them that will be the end of them.”

Verses 4-7 People usually learn from their mistakes. But the people in Judah were on the way to punishment. A horse goes fast when it charges straight into a battle. That emphasises how the people in Judah refused to change their behaviour. Judah continued to *sin and they did not stop. Jeremiah uses the words ‘turn’ and ‘return’ many times. Storks, doves, swifts and thrushes are all birds that know where to go during the winter. They know when to fly to another country where it is warmer. They obey the natural desire that the *LORD has given to them. But the people in Judah do not obey the laws that the *LORD gave to guide them.

Verses 8-9 Often the people who taught the law are called scribes. They had to explain to the people what the law meant. The teachers came from groups of families (1 Chronicles 2:55). They were present during the time when Josiah was the king (2 Chronicles 34:13). But they were explaining the *LORD’s laws wrongly. They were causing people to *sin. The *LORD would show that the teachers were not very wise. He would punish them. In the *New Testament, Jesus called the scribes (teachers) ‘blind guides’. Often they showed the people the wrong way to behave (Matthew 23:13-24).

Verses 10-12 repeat what Jeremiah had said in Jeremiah 6:12-15. He had blamed the *religious leaders for their lies. And he had described what would happen to them and to the other greedy people.

The beginning of the *LORD’s punishment 8:13-17

v13    ‘I will take away their harvest’, declares the *LORD.

          ‘There will not be any *grapes on the *vine.

          There will not be any *figs on the trees.

          And the leaves on the trees will dry up.

          What I have given to them,

          I will take away from them.’

v14    The people said, “We do not want to stay here.

          Gather together!

          Let us escape to the cities with walls round them.

          Let us die there!

          The *LORD our God has decided that we must die.

          He has given to us poisonous water to drink.

          That is because we have *sinned against him.

v15    We hoped that peace would come.

          But nothing has happened.

          We hoped that our God would heal us.

          But all we got was terror.

v16    We can hear the noise from the enemy’s horses

          all the way from Dan.

          The whole country trembles with fear

          when their strong horses make loud noises. 

          They have come to destroy the country and everything in it.

          They will destroy the city and everyone who lives in it.”

v17    The *LORD says, ‘I will send poisonous snakes among you.

          Nobody will be able to control them.

          They will bite you.’

Verse 13 The *vine and the *fig tree are the signs of the nation of Judah. *Grapes and *figs are fruits. They refer to the good things that the people should be doing (Jeremiah 6:9). But there was no fruit. There were no good deeds at all in Judah. So the *LORD would take away their nation.

Verses 14-16 describe the desperate fear that the people in Judah felt. They were so afraid that they wanted to rush back to the cities with walls. ‘Poisonous water’ describes the difficulties that the people expected. They realised that they had not been loyal to the *LORD. So they did not expect good things to happen. But they were hoping that the enemy would not attack them. They heard the rapid approach of a large army. Horses make a loud noise when they blow hard through their noses. Dan was at the northern end of Israel. But the sound of horses was frightening people in the whole country. The people knew that the enemy would destroy everyone and everything.

Verse 17 The enemy was as dangerous as poisonous snakes. Jeremiah may have remembered the time when the snakes were the evidence of the *LORD’s punishment. It happened to the *Israelites in the *desert (Numbers 21:6-9). But the *LORD made a way to heal those people. Now there was no way that anyone could stop the enemy. The enemy would attack them and kill them.

Jeremiah is very sad about Jerusalem 8:18-22

v18    I am so sad. No-one can comfort me.          

          I am sick in my heart.

v19    Listen to my people who are crying out

          from a country far away.

          They cry, ‘I thought that the *LORD was in Jerusalem.

          I wonder whether her king is there any longer.’

          The *LORD replies, ‘They have made me angry with their *idols.

          Their *worthless *idols come from other countries.’

          The people cry out,

v20    ‘The harvest is over.

          The summer has ended.

          Nobody has rescued us.’

v21    I feel so bad because my people have troubles.

          I am sad, and terror grips me.

v22    There should be medicine in Gilead.

          There should be a doctor there.

          But nobody makes my people healthy again.

Verses 8:18-22 These verses show the great mental pain that Jeremiah felt. He saw what had happened. And he knew what was going to happen to his people. He was loyal to the *LORD. But he felt mental pain when his people in Judah had troubles.

Verse 19 Jeremiah imagined the *LORD’s people who were in Babylon. They were wondering why the *LORD had allowed the enemy to destroy their city. The *LORD’s answer was that they had made him angry. They had *worshipped *idols that were of no use.

Verse 20 The wheat harvest was usually from April to June. Then from July to August, the people gathered the harvest of fruits. If both the wheat harvest and the fruit harvest failed, there would be a serious lack of food. These words were probably a popular way to describe a hopeless situation. There was no way to escape from the situation. Nobody would rescue them.

Verse 22 The region called Gilead was to the south of the sea of Galilee. It was famous for its type of medicine called balm. Balm, which came from small trees, was oil. It had a pleasant smell. People used it to ease pain. It also helped to heal injuries. ‘My people’ are the words that both Jeremiah and the *LORD use. Balm could heal a physical injury. But the health of Judah’s spirit would not improve if they did not return to the *LORD.

Chapter 9

The people in Jerusalem deserve God’s punishment

v1      I have a wish for my head. I want it to be like a well. A well that is full of water.

          I wish that my eyes were like a fountain of tears!

          Then I could weep all day and all night.

          I could weep on behalf of my people, whom the enemy has killed.

v2      I wish that I could find somewhere to stay in the *desert.

          Then I could leave my people.

          I could get away from them.

          They *worshipped false gods.

          They did not do what they had promised to the *LORD.

          They are not loyal to the *LORD.

v3      ‘They get ready to use their tongues like bows.

          Their mouths shoot out lies like arrows.

          They tell lies to gain power in the country.

          They go from one *sin to another *sin.

          They do not take any notice of me’, declares the *LORD.

v4      ‘Watch your friends carefully.

          Do not trust the members in your family.

          This is because every relative cheats.

          Every friend tells lies.

v5      One friend cheats another friend.

          Nobody speaks the truth.

          They have taught their tongues how to lie.

          They have made themselves tired because they *sin so much.

v6      You live among people who tell lies.

          When they cheat they refuse to take notice of me’,

          declares the *LORD.

v7      So the *LORD, who is the powerful God, says this.

          ‘I will make them pure. I will test them.

          I need to do this.

          My people are so full of *sin.

v8      Their tongues are like arrows that bring death.

          They tell lies.

          Everyone speaks in a friendly way to his neighbour.

          But, actually, it is a plan to trap his neighbour.

v9      I should punish them for that.’ declares the *LORD.

          ‘I should punish the nation

          that does these things.’

Verse 1 Jeremiah was very sad about the death of his own people. He wished that he had a well of water in his head. Then he could weep all the time for the people that the enemy had killed.

Verse 2 Jeremiah wept on behalf of his people. But their behaviour disgusted him so much that he wanted to leave them. He wanted to find a lonely place in which to stay. Then he would be away from all the people who were not loyal to the *LORD. They were like women who left their husbands. They had not done what they had promised. The people made a *covenant with the *LORD when they were with him at *Mount Sinai. They had promised to obey him. But they failed to obey him. They started to *worship false gods.

Verses 3-6 These verses describe how all the people were not sincere. Their lies were like arrows. Arrows can destroy the body. But lies destroy friendships between people. Even members of the same family could not trust each other. Verse 4 says that every brother cheats like Jacob. He cheated his brother Esau (Genesis 27:36). Actually, the people had taught themselves to lie. Their *sins were so many that they had made themselves very tired. So it had become difficult to change their behaviour. Verse 3 says that they did not take any notice of the *LORD. Verse 6 shows that the situation was worse. They refused to take any notice of the *LORD.

Verses 7-9 The *LORD said that he would make his people *clean. And he would test them (Jeremiah 6:27-30). Now the *LORD says that he would act like a refiner. A refiner burns the dirty substances away from valuable metals. He then tests to see whether he has the pure metal. This describes how the people in Judah would have difficulties. They were so wicked that the *LORD could do nothing else. The people spoke in a friendly way to their neighbours. However, they made plans to cause trouble to their neighbours. The *LORD had no choice. He had to punish the nation that was not honest.

A sad song for Judah 9:10-22

1. The *LORD will ruin Judah 9:10-11

v10    I will cry and weep on behalf of the mountains.

          I will sing a sad song about the fields in the *desert.

          They are dry and empty.

          Nobody travels through them now.

          There are no cows to make their noise in that area.

          All the birds have flown away.

          All the animals have gone.

v11    ‘I will ruin Jerusalem completely.

          Only small animals will live there.

          I will destroy the towns in Judah.

          Nobody will be able to live in them.’

Verse 10 Jeremiah was sad as he thought about his country. Judah’s *sin affected everything that lived there. ‘Fields’ refer to all the places where animals can find food. The fields in the *desert provided very little food. But even they had dried up. People would no longer travel through such a lonely place. There would be no animals there. And even the birds had flown away.

Verse 11 ‘I will’. This means that these are the *LORD’s words. All the buildings in Jerusalem would be just piles of stones. Nobody would be able to live in any of the towns in Judah. The small animals are called wild dogs. They eat dead animals. Nothing else would be able to live there.

2. The reason why the *LORD will ruin Judah 9:12-16

v12 I wonder who is wise enough to understand this. I wonder whether the *LORD taught anyone about it. Why has the land become dry and empty? Why is it like a desert that nobody can cross?

v13 The *LORD said, ‘It is because my people have turned away from my law. I gave it to them, but they have not obeyed me. They have not obeyed my law. v14 Instead, they have done what they wanted to do. They have followed the *Baals. Their *ancestors taught them to do this.’ v15 Therefore the powerful *LORD, who is the God of Israel, says this. ‘I will make these people eat bitter food. I will make them drink poisonous water. v16 I will scatter them among the nations. These are the nations that neither these people nor their *ancestors have known before. I will chase these people with swords. I will chase them until I have destroyed them.’

Verses 12-14 These verses give an explanation for the punishment in verses 10-11. The *LORD’s people had not obeyed the *covenant that they had made at *Mount Sinai. Instead, they thought that the *Baals would give them their crops.

Verses 15-16 These words describe the *LORD’s punishment. The people must ‘eat bitter food’ and ‘drink poisonous water’. Those words mean that they would have great troubles and difficulties. The *LORD would send them into *exile. They would live among people whom they had never met. *Exile was one of the results of *sin. You can read about it in Deuteronomy 28:64-67. Because Judah refused to obey the *LORD, he would send the enemy. Then the enemy would pursue the people from Judah and would kill them in war.

3. The women who weep on behalf of Judah 9:17-22

v17    This is what the *LORD, the most powerful God, says.

          ‘Think about this! Send for the women who weep

          for dead people.

          Send for the women who are the most skilful.

v18    Let them come quickly and weep for us.

          Let them cry until tears pour out of our eyes.

          And water will flow from our eyes.

v19    We can hear the people who are weeping in Jerusalem.

          They are saying, “The enemy has ruined us! The enemy has destroyed us!

          Our shame is very great.

          We must leave our country,

          because the enemy has destroyed our houses.” ’

v20    Women, you must hear the *LORD’s message.

          Listen to what he is saying.

          Teach your daughters how to weep for the dead people.

          Teach each other a sad song.

v21    Death has climbed in through our windows.

          Death has entered our strong cities.

          It has removed the children from the streets.

          It has taken the young men from the public places.

v22    Say, ‘This is what the *LORD declares.

          “The dead bodies of people will lie

          like rubbish in the open fields.

          They will be like corn after the farmer has cut it down

          Nobody will gather them up.” ’

Verses 17-20 When someone died, professional singers arrived. They sang sad songs. They cried loudly and they wept. (In Mark 5:38 Jesus had to make some women like that leave Jairus’s house. They were crying loudly because Jairus’s daughter had died.) Jeremiah says that the women should weep loudly. The enemy had destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. The people would go into *exile. The women should teach those sad songs to their daughters. Perhaps their daughters would have to weep for their mothers. Their mothers might die when the enemy attacked.

Verses 21-22 So many people would die. Death is like a person who can go anywhere. Nothing can stop death when it enters private houses. Death is like a thief that climbs in through a window. A story from the country called Canaan describes death in a similar way. Death can get into cities with strong walls. People of all ages would die. Children, who play in the streets, would die. Young men, who meet each other in the market place, would die. There would be so many bodies that they would be like rubbish on the fields. Death is like a farmer who cuts down his corn at harvest time. There is nobody to pick up the corn. And there would be nobody to pick up the dead bodies. Nobody would bury them.

True wisdom 9:23-24

v23    This is what the *LORD says.

          ‘A wise man should not praise himself about how wise he is.

          A strong man should not tell other people how strong he is.

          A rich man should not allow other people know how rich he is.

v24    But the man who praises himself should be happy about this.

          He understands me and he knows me. He should be happy about that.

          I want him to know that I am the *LORD.

          I am kind and fair. I do what is right on the earth.

          And that behaviour pleases me.

Verses 23-24 Usually you praise yourself so that other people will admire you. The Pharisee (*religious leader) in Jesus’ story praised himself about the way that he carried out his religion (Luke 18:10-12). Wisdom, strength and wealth may be valuable if people use them in the right way. But you should not praise yourself if you have them. It is far more valuable to know the *LORD. Then you will understand that he is always loyal and kind. He is fair. He always does the right things. Abraham prayed ‘Always the Judge of all the earth will do what is right’ (Genesis 18:25). The *LORD is very pleased with these qualities. He wants all his people to have them as well.

False *circumcision 9:25-26

v25 Very soon’, declares the *LORD, ‘I will punish all who are *circumcised only in their bodies. v26 That includes the people in the countries called Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon and Moab. Also it includes the people who live in the *desert. And it includes the people who shave the hair from the front of their heads. All these nations are not really *circumcised. Even the people in Israel are not *circumcised in their hearts.’

Verse 25 The *LORD never intended that *circumcision should be only a physical act. It should show that the nation gave honour to the *LORD as their King. The *LORD’s people must obey him (Genesis 17:9-14). ‘To *circumcise the heart’ meant to obey the *LORD’s laws (Deuteronomy 10:16-20).

Verse 26 The nations in this verse may have intended to fight against Babylon. They all used *circumcision. But it was only a physical act. Judah did not obey the *LORD so Judah was no better than its *pagan neighbours. The people who lived in the *desert were *tribes of Arabs. They shaved a part of their hair. They did that to give honour to the false god called Bacchus. Or they did it to show that they were not happy. The people in Judah must not copy a *pagan ceremony when they were sad (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). The law forbade that act (Leviticus 19:27).

Chapter 10

The *LORD and *idols 10:1-16

These verses are very similar to Isaiah 40:18-20 and 44:12-20. Both *prophets showed that the people were foolish. They did not *worship the powerful God who created the world. Instead, the people *worshiped objects that were not alive.

1. *Idols that have no value 10:1-5

v1 People from Israel, you must listen to what the *LORD is telling you. v2 This is what the *LORD says.

          ‘Do not copy the customs in other nations.

          Do not allow unusual events in the sky to frighten you.

          These events frighten other nations but you must not be afraid.

v3      The customs of these other nations are worth nothing.

          People cut down a tree in the forest.

          A skilful worker shapes the wood with a sharp tool.

v4      Other people use silver and gold to make it look beautiful.

          They use a hammer and nails to fasten it to the ground.

          Then it will not shake and fall down.

v5      Their *idols cannot speak.

          They are like an object in the shape of a person

          in a field of vegetables.

          People have to carry the *idols because they cannot walk.

          So do not be afraid of these *idols.

          They cannot hurt you in any way.

          And they cannot help you either.’

Verses 1-2 Some nations *worshipped the sun, the moon and the stars. So any unusual event in the sky made them afraid. The people in Judah had no reason to be afraid. Jeremiah showed that the images of *pagan false gods gave no help.

Verses 3-4 He describes the hard work to make an *idol. People had to cut down a tree. Then a skilful worker had to use some of the wood. He shaped it with his sharp tool into a figure. Other people made it beautiful. They covered the wood with silver and gold. Then they fastened the *idol to the ground so that it did not fall over.

Verse 5 Jeremiah shows that those *idols are of no use. They cannot speak. They cannot walk. They stand like silent objects in the shape of a person. These objects are called scarecrows. People use scarecrows to scare birds away from their fields. The vegetables are called cucumbers. They are long green fruit that have white juice inside them. *Idols are not alive because they are just pieces of wood. They cannot do anything for people. *Idols cannot hurt people. Neither can they do good things for people. So the people in Judah should not respect *idols.

2. The real God 10:6-10

v6      *LORD, nobody is like you.

          You are great.

          You are very powerful.

v7      You are the king of the nations,

          and everyone should respect you.

          This is what everyone should expect to do.

          There is nobody who is like you among all the wise people in the nations.

          And there is nobody who is like you in all their *kingdoms.

v8      They are all foolish and they have no sense.

          They learn from *worthless pieces of wood.

v9      The people have brought silver that someone shaped with a hammer.

          The silver comes from the town called Tarshish.

          And the people have brought gold from the region called Uphaz.

          The skilful workers, who can use wood and gold, make an *idol.

          Then they put blue and purple clothes on it.

          The skilful workers make the whole thing.

v10    But the *LORD is the only real God.

          He is the only God who is alive. He is the king who rules for always.

          When he is angry, the earth trembles.

          The nations cannot deal with his great anger.

Verses 6-7 The *LORD is great and powerful. He is the king who rules every nation. So people should respect him. And they should obey him. There is nobody to compare with the *LORD among both the wisest men and their rulers. That contrasts with the *idols who could give no help.

Verses 8-9 The people who tried to learn from pieces of wood were foolish. Tarshish may be Tartessus in Spain, which sent silver to the town called Tyre (Ezekiel 27:12). Uphaz may refer to a region that we do not know now. However, it may not refer to a place. It may mean that the gold was of the purest quality. The *idol may have been very attractive. But it was only something that a man had made.

Verse 10 The *LORD is the only real God. The *idols are false gods. The *LORD is alive. The false gods are not alive. The *LORD is the King who rules for always. A wooden *idol does not last. When the *LORD is angry, he can make the earth shake. When the *LORD judges the nations, they will not continue.

3. A message 10:11

v11 Tell them this. ‘Your gods did not make the heaven and the earth. Those false gods will disappear from the earth. They will vanish from the world.

Verse 11 This verse interrupts the poem that praises the *LORD. The verse is in the Aramaic language. It became the common language for many people in Western Asia. Some teachers think that a scribe (a person who copies books) or an editor added the remark later. It may have been a warning that people knew. It was a warning against many false gods.

4. God who created the world 10:12-16

v12    God made the earth by means of his power.

          He established the world by means of his wisdom.

          He spread out the heavens by means of his knowledge.

v13    The waters in the heavens roar when they hear the loud noise of his voice.

          He makes the clouds rise from the ends of the earth.

          He sends the lightning to flash with the rain.

          He brings out the winds from the rooms where he stores them.

v14    Nobody has any sense.

          Nobody knows anything at all.

          People work with gold. They make *idols with it.

          This brings shame on them.

          Those people make *idols that are not real.

          The *idols cannot breathe.

v15    They are worth nothing. They are false.

          When the *LORD judges them,

          The *idols will die.

v16    The God of Jacob is not like these things.

          He has made everything.

          He made Israel, the nation that belongs to him.

          His name is the *LORD, the most powerful God.

Verses 12-16 appear again in Jeremiah 51:15-19

Verses 12-13 The *LORD is powerful and wise. In contrast, *idols are weak and foolish. The *LORD created the earth. And he ‘spread out the heavens like a tent’ (Psalm 104:2). The loud noise that follows the lightning is called thunder. The *prophet describes it as the *LORD’s voice. A storm is the result of the *LORD’s action. He calls up the clouds. He sends the lightning with the rain. He also sends the wind. The storm is the *LORD’s work. *Baal cannot make a storm happen.

Verses 14-15 Some people know the *LORD. This means that they have a relationship with him. Those people who do not have a relationship with the *LORD are foolish. The worker used gold to make an *idol. But the *idol is not real because it is not alive. It is false. Some people may laugh at it. The *idol will bring shame on its maker. At the time of punishment the *LORD would destroy those *worthless *idols.

Verse 16 The *LORD gave Jacob the name ‘Israel’ (Genesis 32:22-32). ‘The God of Jacob’ means ‘the God of Israel’. *Old Testament writers use the names Jacob and Israel to refer to the same nation. An example is, ‘You, Israel, are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen’ (Isaiah 41:8). The people in Israel are the *LORD’s special people. He loves and protects them. Israel is the *LORD’s servant. The people should love and obey the *LORD. He is the powerful ruler of everything.

A warning about *exile 10:17-22

v17    People in Jerusalem, gather up what belongs to you.

          Then leave the country.

          Your enemies have surrounded you.

v18    The *LORD says this.

          ‘There are people who live in this country.

          But now I will throw out everyone.

          I will bring trouble upon them.

          They will know that I am hurting them.’

v19    How terrible it is for me because of my injury.

          My wound cannot heal.

          However, I said to myself,

          ‘This is my punishment and I must suffer it.’

v20    The enemy has destroyed my tent.

          All its thick strings have broken.

          My people have gone away and left me.

          Now there is nobody left to put up my tent.

          I have nobody to put up my shelter.

v21    The *shepherds have no sense.

          They do not ask the *LORD for advice.

          So the *shepherds do not succeed.

          The enemy has scattered all their sheep.

v22    Listen! The message is coming.

          It is a noisy confusion from the north!

          It is an army that will turn the towns of Judah into a desert.

          The town will become a home for small wild animal.

Verses 17-18 These verses may refer to the time before the *Babylonian army attacked Jerusalem in 597 *BC. The *LORD would throw the people from Judah out of their own country. The enemy would take them away as prisoners. So they had to pick up the few things that they could carry with them. There are pictures in Assyria that people painted on walls a long time ago. In the pictures, prisoners are carrying bundles on their heads.

Verses 19-21 Jeremiah is sad because of his people. He speaks as if the nation has an injury. And it is an injury that nobody could heal. It is also like a tent. The tent had fallen down because its thick strings had broken. Jeremiah accepts what is happening. But he blamed the nation’s leaders, whom he calls *shepherds. He refers to kings and to other officials. They had been of no use. They had not asked the *LORD for advice. Instead, they had been stupid enough to ask the *Baals to help (Jeremiah 2:8). So the enemy would scatter the people, in the same way that wolves (wild animals) scatter sheep.

Verse 22 The people could hear the noise of the enemy. It was preparing to march from Babylon. Their army would destroy the towns in Judah, so that they would be empty. Only wild animals would live in them.

Jeremiah’s prayer 10:23-25

v23    *LORD, I know that a man’s life is not his own.

          It is not for a man to decide his own actions.

v24    Correct us, *LORD, but please be fair.

          Do not correct us when you are angry.

          If you do, you will destroy us completely.

v25    Pour out your great anger on the nations.

          They do not know you.

          Pour your anger on these people.

          They do not *worship you.

          They have destroyed the people in Israel.

          They have destroyed them completely.

          They have also destroyed the country in which your people lived.

Verse 23 Jeremiah prays for his nation. But he knows that the *LORD must punish the people. He may mean that only the *LORD decides a person’s fate. People may be proud. They may think that whatever happens is their own decision. Also Jeremiah may mean that people have a moral weakness. They cannot do right things all the time.

Verse 24 There are two ideas about punishment. One idea is that it should be severe. It should punish a crime. Ezekiel 30:14-19 describes how the *LORD destroyed proud Egypt. But the other idea is that punishment should correct someone for their own benefit. ‘The *LORD corrects the people whom he loves’ (Proverbs 3:12). Jeremiah asks the *LORD for punishment that will not be severe. He asks the *LORD to be patient when he punished Judah. Jeremiah knew that the *LORD must punish Judah. But he prayed that the *LORD would not destroy the nation completely. The *LORD had to punish Judah in order to teach the people.

Verse 25 This prayer is in Psalm 79:6-7. The nations who did not obey the *LORD deserved the *LORD’s punishment. That is what people believed. The nations had attacked Israel for many years, and they had destroyed the country. Egypt, Assyria, Edom and Syria were some of those enemies. Sometimes the *LORD used a nation to punish his own people. Assyria had been the *LORD’s tool to show that the *LORD was angry at Israel (Isaiah 7:18-20). But Assyria itself deserved the *LORD’s punishment. It had become so proud and cruel (Isaiah 37:22-29).

Jeremiah knew that Judah had failed to obey the *LORD. So Judah was no better than the other nations, who had never made a *covenant with the *LORD.

 

WORD LIST

AD ~ refers to the years after Christ was born.

ancestors ~ members of your family who lived in the past.

Assyrian ~ people who live in, or come from, the country called Assyria; anything connected with Assyria.

Baal ~ a local false god. People thought that these false gods made crops grow.

Babylonian ~ people who live in, or come from, the country called Babylon; anything connected with Babylon.

BC ~ refers to the years before Christ was born.

bless ~ to say or to do good things to a person.

blessings ~ the good things that God gives to us or that he does for us.

bronze ~ a brown metal that is a mixture of two metals called copper and tin.

burnt offerings ~ see ‘offerings’

circumcise/ circumcision ~ to cut off the loose skin from the end of the male sex part. For the *Jews it was the evidence of God’s *covenant with them.

clean ~ suitable for God or for God’s people; pure in thought and action. A clean person could go to *worship God. In the Old Testament many things could make a person *unclean. The *Israelites could not eat animals that God called *unclean.

commandments ~ the 10 important commands or rules that God gave to Moses on *Mount Sinai

covenant ~ the special promise that the *LORD made to his people, the *Israelites. The *LORD’s covenant with the *Israelites established a special relationship between him and them. But they had to obey him.

descendants ~ members of your family who live after you live.

desert ~ a wild place where there are small bushes and not much water. It has poor soil and people cannot produce crops there.

exile ~ absence from the country where usually you live. Usually somebody forces a person to go into exile.

fig ~ a small fruit with many seeds inside it; the tree that produces these fruits.

grapes ~ the fruit of a plant called a *vine. People eat grapes. Also they use grapes to make wine.

Hebrew ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *Old Testament. The language that the *Israelites spoke. Another name for a *Jew or for an *Israelite.

idol ~ an image of a false god that people *worship instead of the *LORD.

incense ~ a substance that gives a sweet smell when people burn it.

Israelites ~ people from the nation called Israel; another name for the *Jews.

Jew ~ a *descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

LORD ~ a special name for God. In the *Hebrew Bible it translates the word YHWH. Probably YHWH (Yahweh) means ‘he is always alive’.

mount ~ another name for mountain.

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible that the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.

offering ~ a gift to please the *LORD or a false god.
            burnt offering ~ the *Israelite priest burnt the whole animal on the *altar

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible that the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.

pagan ~ a person who loves a false god or false gods; something that has a connection with a false god.

Philistines ~ a nation that fought against the people in Israel and in Judah.

prophecy/prophecies ~ the words that a *prophet speaks or writes.

prophesy ~ to speak or write about things that will happen in the future; to speak on behalf of God or on behalf of a false god.

prophet ~ a person who declares God's message.

prostitute ~ a person who sells their body for sex.

religious ~ something that has a connection with religion.

sacrifice ~ an *offering to God or to false gods. The *Israelites had to give sacrifices to the *LORD when they asked him to forgive their *sins. Usually the priest had to kill a special animal and burn it on the *altar. Sometimes *pagans killed a child as a sacrifice.

shepherds ~ men who look after sheep. Sometimes leaders in Israel were called shepherds.

sin ~ when a person does or says bad things against God or against other people; the bad things that a person does or says when they do not obey God.

temple ~ a building where people *worship a false god.

Temple ~ the most important building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.

tribe ~ group of people that have the same *ancestor.

trumpet ~ a musical instrument that people blow into to make a sound; men used it to sound an alarm for war.

unclean ~ not *clean; unsuitable for God or for God’s people. When somebody was unclean that person was unable to go and to *worship God.

vine ~ the plant on which *grapes grow.

vineyard ~ the place where *vines grow.

worship ~ to show honour to God or to a false god. People may sing or pray when they worship. Or they may kneel or give a gift to God.

worthless ~ of no value.

yoke ~ a piece of wood that goes across the neck of an animal when it pulls a plough or a cart; a way to describe how a king has control over a nation.

BOOK LIST

R.K. Harrison ~ Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Jeremiah and Lamentations ~ Tyndale Press 1973

Derek Kidner ~ The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Jeremiah ~ IVP 2003 reprint

Alan Millard ~ Discoveries from Bible Times ~ Lion Publishing 1997

J A Thompson ~ New International Commentary on the *Old Testament: The Book of Jeremiah ~ Eerdmans 1980

DICTIONARIES

Concise Oxford Chambers 21st Century

Thesaurus ~ Geddes and Grosset ~ 1999

BIBLES

New International Version ~1st published 1979

New International Readers Version ~ 1998

New International Version Study Bible ~ 1987

New English Bible ~ 1970

Jerusalem Bible ~ 1974

Today's English Version ~ 1976

 

© 2014, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

November 2014

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