Jeremiah: Jeremiah Declares God’s Message to Judah

God’s People do not Obey the *Covenant

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Jeremiah chapters 11 to 20

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.


Chapter 11

Jeremiah and the *Covenant 11:1-23

1. God warns the people 11:1-8 

v1 The *LORD gave this message to Jeremiah. v2 ‘Listen to the rules of this *covenant. Tell them to the people in Judah. And tell them to the people who live in Jerusalem. v3 Tell them that the *LORD says this. He is the God of Israel. Let bad things happen to anyone who does not obey the rules of this *covenant. v4 They are the rules that I gave to your *ancestors. I gave them to your *ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. I rescued them from that place. That place was like the very hot room where people heat iron. I said, “Obey me. Do everything that I order you to do. Then you will be my people. And I will be your God. v5 Then I will carry out the serious promise that I made to your *ancestors. I promised to give to them a country that had plentiful milk and honey. It is the country that your people own today.” ’ I answered, ‘I agree *LORD.’

v6 The *LORD said to me, 'Declare all these words in the towns in Judah. Declare them in the streets in Jerusalem. "Listen to the rules of this *covenant and obey them. v7 I brought your *ancestors out from Egypt. From that time until today, I continued to warn them. I said: Obey me. v8 But they did not listen or obey. Instead, they refused to change their wicked attitude. They did what they wanted to do. So I brought onto them all the bad things in the *covenant. I ordered them to obey it, but they refused." '

Verses 1-8 In 621 *BC, Josiah was in his 18th year as king. The chief priest found a book in the *Temple. Probably it was a part of Deuteronomy. It explained how the *LORD's people should obey him. They had to carry out the *covenant that the *LORD had made between himself and the *Israelites. He made it at *Mount Sinai. Josiah had a meeting next to the *Temple, where the people listened to the *covenant. They promised to carry out the *covenant (2 Chronicles 34:29-33). As long as Josiah was the king, the people did not *worship the false gods. But really their attitude had not changed. When Jehoiakim became the king, they returned to their old habits. They *worshipped the false gods of nature.

The *LORD told Jeremiah to declare the message in the *covenant. He had to declare it in the towns in Judah and in Jerusalem. Probably this ‘*covenant' refers to both the *covenant that Josiah had made and to the original *covenant at Sinai. Bad things would happen if the people did not obey the *LORD (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). So Jeremiah had to remind everyone about what would happen. He may have done that during Josiah's time as king. Or he may have done it during the early part of the time when Jehoiakim was the king. At that time, the people had gone back to their old *pagan ways.

'The very hot room where people heat iron.’ This described how much the people had suffered in Egypt.

2. Judah did not obey the *covenant 11:9-17

v9 Then the *LORD said this to me. 'The people in Judah and the people who live in Jerusalem have made a wicked plan. v10 They have returned to the same *sins that their *ancestors did. These people refused to listen to what I told them. They have *worshipped and served false gods. I made a *covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. But they have not obeyed the rules of this *covenant. v11 So this is what the *LORD says. "I will bring trouble upon the people. They will not be able to escape it. When they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. v12 The towns in Judah and the people in Jerusalem will go and cry out. They will cry out to the false gods to whom they burn *incense. But those false gods will not help the people when trouble comes to them. v13 Judah, you have as many false gods as you have towns. And you have put up *altars to burn *incense to that disgusting god called *Baal. There are as many *altars as there are streets in Jerusalem.”

v14 Jeremiah, do not pray for these people. Do not appeal on their behalf. Do not make any request for them. They will call to me when they have troubles. But I will not listen to them.

v15    I love the people in Judah.

          But they are making evil plans with many other people.

          So they should not be in my *Temple.

          You kill animals. Then you give to me these animals.

          You make promises.

          But these things will not stop your punishment.

          You are happy when you do these wicked things.'

v16    The *LORD called you a healthy olive tree,

          with beautiful fruit.

          But with the roar of a great storm

          he will make its leaves burn.

          And then these branches will burn and become nothing.

v17 The *LORD, the powerful God, planted you. But now he has ordered your enemy to destroy you. The people in Israel and in Judah have done what is evil. They have made the *LORD very angry because they burned *incense to *Baal.

Verses 9-10 The people were not obeying the rules of the *covenant any longer. Probably there was no actual plan not to obey the *LORD's laws. But it just seemed like it. Everywhere in Judah people *worshipped the false gods of nature.

Verses 11-13 The *LORD would punish them. But it would be of no use to ask him for help. It would be of no use to ask their false gods to help them. There were so many false gods and *altars to the false gods in Judah. They were like the great number of towns and streets. *Incense was a sweet substance that people burned on their *altars.

Verses 14-15 The *LORD did not allow Jeremiah to pray for his people. The *LORD loved the people in Judah. They thought that their *sacrifices in the *Temple would satisfy the *LORD. But they were wrong. The *LORD would punish them for their wicked behaviour. Ceremonies would not change his decision. They enjoyed their wrong actions. But they would not be happy when the *LORD punished them.

Verses 16-17 At one time, Judah was like a healthy tree with beautiful fruit. The fruits of an olive tree produce good oil. But the *LORD's punishment would be like a great storm that damages the tree. The *LORD had ordered an enemy to destroy their nation.

3. The plot against Jeremiah 11:18-23

v18 The *LORD told me about the plot against me. That is how I knew it. He showed me what the people were doing. v19 I had been like a gentle young sheep that people led away to kill. I did not realise that they had plotted against me. They were saying this.

          'Let us destroy the tree and its fruit.

          Let us kill him.

          Then nobody will remember his name any longer.’

v20    But you are the *LORD, the powerful God.

          Always you judge fairly.

          You test people's thoughts and their feelings.

          I have trusted you to deal with my situation.

          So punish them because of what they have done.

v21 The *LORD says, ‘I am telling you about the men from Anathoth. They want to kill you. They are saying, "Do not *prophesy. And do not use the *LORD's name. If you do, we will kill you." v22 So the *LORD, the powerful God, says this. "I will punish them. Their young men will die in war. Their sons and daughters will die from hunger. v23 None will remain alive. The time will come to punish the men of Anathoth. I will destroy them." '

Verses 18-19 The *LORD warned Jeremiah that people wanted to kill him. Jeremiah had not been aware of his danger. An animal does not know that its owner plans to kill it. Jeremiah was like that animal. Isaiah, the *prophet, said that Jesus would be like a young sheep. That young sheep was ready for people to kill it (Isaiah 53:7). That happened to Jesus. The men who hated him killed him. The people from Jeremiah's own village, called Anathoth, intended to kill Jeremiah. Jeremiah was not married and he did not have any children. So if he died, the name of his family would not continue. That was very sad for a person.

Verse 20 Jeremiah knew that the *LORD is fair. The *LORD understands people's reasons for their actions. Jeremiah asked the *LORD to deal with his enemies. He wanted the *LORD to be like a lawyer, who was acting on his behalf.

Verse 21 It was his own family at Anathoth who were plotting against Jeremiah. The reason why they did that is not clear. These are possible reasons:

1. Josiah had ordered people to *worship in Jerusalem. Therefore, the priests in Anathoth lost their authority. They had to accept a less important rank in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:8-9). Jeremiah’s family were priests. So they were angry that Jeremiah had agreed with Josiah's orders.

2. The people from Anathoth did not understand Jeremiah's messages against Israel's *religious and social *sins. He had blamed the whole nation because they did not obey the *covenant. He had declared that the *LORD would punish them. So they thought that Jeremiah had brought shame on their village.

3. Jeremiah had said that the *LORD would use Babylon to punish his people. The people were angry with Jeremiah

Verses 22-23 The *LORD would punish the people who wanted to kill his servant Jeremiah. An enemy would attack them so that the young men would die in battle. After the war, there would be a lack of food. So their sons and their daughters would die from hunger. There would be no people left. The *LORD would punish the people in Anathoth at the time that he decided. Ezra 2:23 says that 128 men from Anathoth returned to Judah after the *exile in Babylon.

Chapter 12

The problem of the success of wicked people 12:1-6

v1      *LORD, I bring a matter before you.

          Always you do what is right.

          But now I want to speak to you

          about whether you are fair.

          Why do wicked people live so successfully?

          There are people whom nobody can trust.

          Why do they enjoy themselves so much?

v2      You have planted them and

          they have grown roots.

          They grow and they produce fruit.

          They give honour to you with what they say.

          But their desires are far away from you.

v3      *LORD, you know me and you see me.

          You test my thoughts about you.

          Drag these people off like sheep that men will kill.

          Prepare them for the day when they will die.

v4      I wonder how long the land will be dry because of the lack of water.

          I wonder how long the grass in every field will become dry.

          The people who live in the country are wicked.

          So the animals and the birds have died.

          And the people are saying,

          'The *LORD will not see what we are doing’.

v5      The *LORD says, ' Suppose that you have run in a race with other men.

          And perhaps they have made you tired.

          Then you will not be able to race against horses.

          You do not feel safe in the peaceful country.

          So you will not feel safe in the bushes near to the River Jordan.

v6      Even the members of your own family have turned against you.

          They have shouted loudly against you.

          They may say good things about you,

          but do not trust them.

Verses 1-2 Why do wicked people enjoy themselves? Why do they become successful? Why do innocent people have great troubles? People in every age ask these questions. Many people in the *Old Testament asked them too. (For example, Psalm 22:1-2; Habbakuk 1:2-4.) Jeremiah knew that the *LORD was always right. But the *LORD still allowed wicked people to remain. So Jeremiah wanted to know how the *LORD was fair. Psalm 1:1-3 uses the example of a good person. He is like a tree. People plant it where it can grow. And it produces fruit. Jeremiah changes that example. The wicked people are like plants. The plants grow and they produce fruit. The wicked people may speak the *LORD’s name, but they hide their real character. Really they do not care about the *LORD.

Verses 3-4 The *LORD had tested Jeremiah. The *LORD knew that he was a loyal servant. So Jeremiah wanted the wicked people to receive their punishment. When people are wicked, the natural world suffers. Amos believed that the *LORD caused the lack of water. The *LORD was trying to persuade his people to return to him (Amos 4:6-10). People were very wicked. They believed that the *LORD did not notice their behaviour.

Verses 5-6 The *LORD’s answer to Jeremiah did not solve his problem. Jeremiah found his present situation difficult. But the *LORD suggested that it would be worse in the future. There are two ways in which he described that:

1. Suppose that Jeremiah had been in a race with other men. If he became tired, he would not be able to compete with horses. The ‘other men’ were probably the false *prophets who had opposed Jeremiah. 'I did not send the *prophets, but they ran’, (Jeremiah 23:21). 'Horses' may describe the military power of Babylon. Jeremiah would find his situation even more difficult when a foreign enemy attacked Judah.

2. 'In the peaceful country' referred to Judah in a time of peace. 'The bushes near to the River Jordan.' That was a dangerous place. Lions lived there (Jeremiah 49:19). So it would be very dangerous when the *Babylonian army arrived.

In these verses, the *LORD told Jeremiah that he must not pity himself. He had to prepare for greater danger and troubles. We know that Jeremiah had the courage to continue his work.

Jeremiah did not trust even the members of his own family. They were shouting after him as if he were running away. Or he was like an animal that they wanted to catch.

The *LORD's punishment for the people whom he had chosen 12:7-13

v7      I will turn away from my people.

          I have chosen my people. But I will leave them.

          I will give the people whom I love

          into the power of their enemies.

v8      My own people have behaved towards me

          like a lion in the forest.

          They have roared at me,

          so I hate them.

v9      My own country has become

          like a big bird with spots on it.

          And other birds surround it and attack it.

          Call all the wild animals.

          Bring them together to eat up my land.

v10    Many *shepherds will destroy my *vineyard.

          They will walk all over my field.

          They will turn my pleasant field

          into dry and empty land.

v11    It will become a wild region without water.

          It will be empty.

          The whole country will become a desert,

          because nobody cares.

v12    Many enemies will come

          over all the bare hills in the desert.

          The *LORD has sent war

          to destroy completely the whole country.

          Nobody will be safe.

v13    People will sow wheat,

          but they will harvest only weeds.

          They have made themselves very tired.

          But they have gained nothing for their hard work.

          They are ashamed, because their crops have failed.

          The *LORD has caused this because he is very angry.’

Verse 7 The *LORD speaks about 'my people'. Also he says, ‘I have chosen my people’. And he says, 'the people whom I love'. So the *LORD was sad that he had to leave them. He had to allow their enemies to control them.

Verse 8 The *LORD's people had acted like a lion that was ready to attack. They had opposed the *LORD and they refused to obey his laws. The word 'hate' does not mean that the *LORD would not love his people. It means that he had to punish them. He would not continue to help them.

Verse 9 The big bird eats small animals. A bird with spots on it is so different and unusual that other birds attack it. The people in Judah would be like the bird that other birds notice. The other birds were like Judah's enemies. The wild animals were another way to describe Judah's enemies. Wild animals eat the food that they have killed. So Judah's enemies would destroy the country completely.

Verses 10-11 The *LORD now speaks about Judah as his '*vineyard'. The *shepherds were the foreign rulers who would not respect the land. They would march everywhere. They would destroy so much that the land would become like an empty desert with no water.

Verse 12 Nobody would be able to escape the enemies. Great numbers of them would come, like a great crowd of insects. (Compare this with Isaiah 7:18).

Verse 13 The enemy would enter the country. As a result, people would not be able to look after their crops. Then the wheat would not be able to grow because of the weeds. Foreign armies also destroyed crops. People understood that it was a part of the *LORD's punishment (Leviticus 26:16).

The *LORD's message about Israel's neighbours 12:14-17

v14 This is what the *LORD says. 'All my wicked neighbours have taken the country that I gave to my people, Israel. I will take them from the lands in which they live. And I will take the people in Judah from among them. v15 But after I have taken those nations, I will pity them again. I will bring all of them back to their own countries.

v16 Suppose that they learn to copy the customs of my own people. In the past, they taught my people to make serious promises with the name of *Baal. But suppose that they make a serious promise in my name. Suppose that they say this. "You can be sure that the *LORD lives." Then I will give them a place among my people. v17 But if any one of those nations does not listen, I will destroy it completely’, declares the *LORD.

Verses 14-15 The evil neighbours were Syria, Moab and Ammon. The *LORD would send them into *exile because they attacked Israel. Judah had to go into *exile too. But the *LORD promised to let them go back into their own countries.

Verses 16-17 The other nations could become a part of the people that the *LORD had chosen. But the other nations had to accept the same customs of the *Israelite religion. Those nations must show that they wanted to obey the *LORD. Previously they had taught the *Israelites to use the name of *Baal with their promises. Now they had to say the *LORD’s name when they made serious promises. The *prophecy looks forward to the time when *Jews and *Gentiles *worship the *LORD together. Paul wrote about that in his letters to the people in cities called Ephesus and Galatia (Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:26-29). But those nations had to accept the *LORD as their king. The *LORD would destroy completely any nation that did not obey him.

Chapter 13

The *LORD warns the people 13:1-27

1. The *linen belt v1-11

v1 The *LORD said to me, 'Go and buy some material called *linen. Put it round the middle of your body like a belt. But do not let it get wet.’ v2 So I bought the material exactly as the *LORD told me to do. And I put it round the middle of my body. v3 Then the *LORD spoke to me for the second time. He said, v4 'You bought some *linen material. Now you are wearing this round the middle of your body. Take it off. Go to Perath. Hide this belt in a crack in the rocks.’ v5 So I went and hid it at Perath. I did exactly what the *LORD told me to do.

v6 Many days later, the *LORD spoke to me again. He told me, 'Go to Perath. Get the belt that I told you to hide there.’ v7 So I went to Perath. I dug up the belt from where I had hidden it. But it was falling apart. Nobody could use it. v8 Then the *LORD spoke to me again. v9 He said, 'In the same way, I will destroy Judah's pride. And I will destroy the great pride of Jerusalem. v10 These people are wicked. They refuse to listen to what I say. They refuse to change. They do whatever they want to do. They go to *worship and to serve false gods. They will not be good for anything. v11 My people will be like this *linen belt. A man ties this *linen belt round the middle of his body. In the same way, I tied all the people in Israel and Judah to me’, declares the *LORD. 'I wanted them to be my people. They should have told other people about me. People should praise me and give honour to me. But my people have not listened to me.

Verses 1-5 *Linen is a material that is like cotton. People make it from a plant called 'flax'. Priests had to wear *linen clothes (Leviticus 16:4). Jeremiah had to put a new *linen belt round the middle part of his body. But the belt must not get wet. It had to be clean and dry. Then he had to go and hide it in a rock. In the *Old Testament, often the word 'Perath' means the River Euphrates (for example, Genesis 2:14). But the River Euphrates was more than 350 miles (560 kilometres) from Anathoth. A journey to go there and to return would take Jeremiah several months. But Perath may have been a source of water at a place called Ain Farah. That was about 4 miles (6 kilometres) from Anathoth. Jeremiah may have gone there to act the story.

Verses 6-11 When Jeremiah dug up the belt, it was broken and dirty. It did not have any use. *Linen was for special use in their religion. In the same way, Judah should have been the *LORD's special people who served him. That *linen belt was close to a person who was wearing it. And the *LORD had wanted Judah to have as close a relationship with him. But the people in Judah had not been loyal. They had turned away from the *LORD and they *worshipped *pagan false gods. So the nation had become like that dirty *linen belt. They were of no use to the *LORD. They were so proud. So the *LORD decided to destroy Judah and its capital city called Jerusalem. The people in Judah did not listen to the *LORD's message. Instead, always they did what they wanted to do.

2. The story about the jars of wine 13:12-14

v12 Tell them, "The *LORD who is the God of Israel says this: Every jar should be full of wine. And suppose they say this to you: We know that every jar should be full of wine. v13 Then tell them this: This is what the *LORD says: I will fill with wine everyone who lives in this country. I will make them drunk. That will include the kings who come after David. I will make the priests, the *prophets and all who live in Jerusalem, drunk. v14 I will hit them against each other. I will punish parents and children alike. I will not feel sorry for them. I will have no pity for them. I love them. However, I will still destroy them. Nothing will stop me." '

Verse 12 People used *clay to make large jars. They baked them to make them hard. The jars stored a large quantity of wine or water. Probably these words were popular among the people who drank wine. Someone might joke and say this. 'We know that jars should be full of wine. That is why we use jars.’

Verses 13-14 The *LORD said that the people in Judah were like the jars. The *LORD’s anger was like the wine. He would make the people drink so much wine that they would become drunk. That kind of language was a way to describe the *LORD’s punishment. Isaiah describes a cup that contained the wine of the *LORD’s anger (Isaiah 51:17). And Psalm 60:3 speaks about God's wine. It made people unable to walk straight.

When *clay jars knocked against each other, they broke into pieces. So the *LORD would destroy his people. He would punish their kings and their *religious leaders. Old people and young people would have difficulties. Nobody would escape. They would be like people who are drunk. Those people do not know what they are doing. The *LORD’s people would not be able to defend themselves. Babylon would come to destroy them. The *LORD would not help them. They would receive the punishment that they deserved.

3. Jeremiah warns about *exile 13:15-17

v15    Listen and give attention.

          Do not be proud.

          The *LORD has spoken.

v16    Give honour to the *LORD your God.

          Give honour to him before he sends darkness.

          Do it before you trip. Do it before you fall in the dark hills.

          You hope that light will come.

          But the *LORD will turn it to deepest darkness.

          He will change it to deep shadows.

v17    If you do not listen,

          then I will cry in secret.

          Because you are so proud,

          I will weep bitterly.

          The enemy will take the *LORD's people away as prisoners.

          So tears will flow from my eyes.

Verses 15-16 The nation should give attention to what the *LORD had said already. He had warned them. But the people in Judah were proud. And the *LORD opposes people who are proud (Proverbs 3:34). Jeremiah imagined a traveller who was walking in the hills in the evening. He needed to arrive at a shelter while it remained light. If it became completely dark, he might trip. Then he might fall. The people in Judah must give honour to the *LORD. Then they would be like someone with sufficient light in order to travel. But if they refused to give honour to the *LORD, he would send great trouble. That trouble would be like deep darkness. Darkness refers to the attack by Babylon. The army from Babylon would take the people in Judah away from their own country. Jeremiah may be referring to the first attack in 597 *BC. King Jehoiachin and important officials became prisoners.

But still there was some hope for the nation. It is like some light before the end of the day. The deep darkness refers to when Nebuchadrezzar destroyed Jerusalem itself, in 586 *BC.

Verse 17 Jeremiah thought about his people’s pride. And he thought about what would happen to them as a result. That made Jeremiah weep bitterly. It was very hard for him to think about his own people who would go into *exile.

4. A sad song for the King and his mother 13:18-19

v18    Say this to the king and to his mother.

          “Come down from the seats from which you rule.

          Your beautiful crowns

          will fall off your heads."

v19    The gates of the cities in the Negev remain closed.

          There will not be anyone to open them.

          The enemy will take away all the people who are in Judah.

          He will carry them away completely.

Verse 18 The king was Jehoiachin and his mother was Nehushta. Jehoiachin became king when he was 18 years old. But after three months, Nebuchadnezzar took him to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-12). That happened in 597 *BC. The king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin his freedom in 562 *BC, but he never returned to Judah. The record gives the name of the king’s mother. That showed that she was important in Judah. But in Babylon, the king and his mother had a humble position. Their beautiful crowns were probably a part of the precious things that the enemy took.

Verse 19 The Negev was the desert area south of Judah. But here it refers to cities in the south of Judah. The enemy may have reached as far as those cities. Nobody could enter them. Also nobody could leave them. Often in the Bible, `all’ means `many’. Not everyone in Judah went into *exile. But only the poorest people remained in the country called Judah.

5. The shame of defeat 13:20-27

v20    Jerusalem, look up.

          See those people who are coming from the north.

          The *LORD intended you to look after the people.

          Where are they?

          Where are the sheep of which you were so proud?

v21    You worked hard to make special friends.

          What will you say when the *LORD lets them rule you?

          Pain will take hold of you.

          It will be like the pain of a woman who is having a baby.

v22    Perhaps you ask yourself,

          'Why has this happened to me?'

          It is because of your many *sins.

          That is why the enemy has torn off your clothes.

          That is why they have acted so badly against your body.

v23    Black people in the country called Ethiopia cannot

          change the colour of their skin.

          The animal called a leopard cannot remove its spots.

          It is the same with you.

          You have been wicked for so long.

          And now you cannot do good things.

v24    The *LORD says,

          'I will scatter you, like the outer part of wheat.

          It is the part that the desert wind blows away.

v25    That is what will happen to you.

          I have decided to do this to you’, declares the *LORD.

          'You have forgotten me.

          And you have trusted false gods.

v26    So I will tear off your clothes.

          Then people will see the shame of your naked body.

v27    They will see that you have not been loyal to me.

          You have been like a man who desires his neighbour's wife.

          You have been like a horse that wanted to mate with a female horse.

          You have acted like *prostitutes who are on the hills and in the fields.

          I hate your wicked deeds.

          It will be terrible for you, Jerusalem.

          How long will you choose to be *unclean?’

Verses 20-21 Jerusalem had no power to protect the people in its country. It was like a *shepherd who could look after his sheep. The enemy from the north was Babylon, who was attacking Judah already. Judah had tried to make Babylon a political friend. But Babylon would rule Judah. The people in Judah would find that a painful experience. It would be painful, like a woman who was having a baby.

Verse 22 The people did not believe that such trouble would happen to them. They wanted to know why it would happen. They were like many people who ask this. 'Why should that happen to me?' Jeremiah said that it was because of Judah's great *sins. The *LORD's punishment would be like the enemy who tears off their clothes. They would appear naked. That happened to *prostitutes to make them ashamed in public. Hosea spoke about his wife in that way (Hosea 2:3, 10).

Verse 23 It seemed impossible for the nation to change its wicked behaviour. It is impossible for a black man to change the colour of his skin. A leopard is a large animal like a lion. It has small black spots all over its fur. It cannot remove its spots. Judah had not obeyed the *LORD's laws for a long time. Judah’s bad behaviour had become a habit.

Verse 24 Farmers threw their grain into the air so that the wheat fell to the ground. The wind blew away the outer part that had no use. The *LORD said that he would force the people of Judah out of their country. They would be like the outer part of the grain that the wind blows away.

Verses 25-27 The future punishment comes from the *LORD. It would come because the people had trusted false gods. The *LORD himself would show everyone how Judah had not been loyal to him. They would be like someone who had suffered a sex attack. They would be naked. Judah was interested in false gods. That *worship involved acts of sex. Jeremiah describes that in three ways:

a) Judah was like a husband who was not loyal to his wife.

b) Judah was like a horse who was trying to attract a female horse.

c) Judah was like a *prostitute who sold her body to men for sex.

The *LORD hated the false religion that happened in the hills and in the fields.

The *Babylonians would attack Jerusalem. Jeremiah thought about what would happen. He was very sad when he thought about that. His question, 'How long?' showed Jeremiah's slight hope that Judah might change. Perhaps Judah would become the *LORD's loyal nation. Jeremiah knew that the *LORD’s punishment was certain. But his great wish was that his people would return to the *LORD. The *LORD had chosen Judah to serve him.

Chapter 14

A time of the lack of rain 14:1-6

v1      The *LORD gave this message to Jeremiah about the lack of rain.

v2      ‘Judah is very sad.

          Her cities are becoming weak.

          People lie on the ground, and they weep.

          And in Jerusalem they cry aloud.

v3      The important men send their servants to get water.

          They go to the wells,

          but they do not find any water.

          They return with empty jars.

          They are frightened and they have no hope.

          They cover their heads.

v4      The ground has cracks in it

          because there is no rain in the land.

          The farmers' hopes have gone.

          They cover their heads.

v5      There is no grass.

          So even the animal in the field

          leaves her baby animal to which she has just given birth.

v6      Animals called wild donkeys stand on the bare hills.

          They breathe through their mouths very quickly like small animals called wild dogs.

          They cannot see properly

          because they have no grass to eat.’

Verses 1-6 This poem describes the effects of the lack of rain. The *Hebrew word is plural. So there may have been a long time without rain. Or perhaps there were several times when the country suffered from a serious lack of rain.

Verses 2-3 describe a national sad song. The lack of rain had affected the whole country, the cities as well as the villages. Everyone suffered, even the people who were of important rank. Their servants returned from the wells without any water in their jars. It was not their fault. They covered their heads. That showed that they were sad. And they were frightened too.

Verse 4 Farmers could not produce crops because the land was hard. It had become so dry that there were cracks in the earth.

Verse 5 Even an animal who had given birth recently would go against her natural behaviour. There was no grass so she could not feed her baby. So she would leave it.

Verse 6 When a wild dog (a small animal) needs water its tongue hangs out of its mouth. And it cannot breathe properly. The wild donkeys (animals like small horses) were behaving in the same way. And their eyes could not see clearly because they were dying. There was no grass for them to eat.

Jeremiah's prayer 14:7-9

v7      Our *sins are a witness against us.

          But *LORD, do something because of the honour of your name.

          We have turned away from you many times.

          We have *sinned against you.

v8      You are the person in whom Israel hopes.

          You save us when we are in trouble.

          You seem like a stranger in our country.

          You seem like a traveller who stays for only one night.

v9      You seem like a person who is astonished.

          You seem like a soldier who has no power to rescue anyone.

          *LORD, you are among us,

          and we are your people.

          Please do not leave us!

Verse 7 Jeremiah prayed on behalf of his people. First, he confessed that they were guilty of many *sins. They turned away from the *LORD. They failed to obey him many times. But Jeremiah asked the *LORD to act. The *LORD’s own honour was in danger. Often the word 'name' means 'character'. So Jeremiah was appealing to the *LORD to show his love and his pity.

Verse 8 The *LORD is the person in whom Israel hopes. The *LORD is the person who can rescue the *Israelites in times of trouble. The *LORD needed to save the country from the army of Babylon. The *LORD seemed to have no permanent interest in their country. He was like a stranger. He was like someone who travelled through the country. Or like someone who spent only one night there.

Verse 9 The *LORD was behaving as if events were a surprise for him. Jeremiah asked why the *LORD was not ready. The *LORD seemed like a soldier who had no power to rescue anyone. The nation said that they were the *LORD's people. But they had not been loyal to him. They appealed to the *LORD not to leave them. They did not want to be alone.

The *LORD's answer 14:10-12

v10    This is what the *LORD says about these people.

          'They love to wander away from me.

          They cannot control their feet!'

          So the *LORD does not accept them.

          He will remember the wicked things that they have done.

          He will punish them because they have *sinned.

v11 Then the *LORD said to Jeremiah, 'Do not pray that good things will happen to these people. v12 Sometimes they choose to go without food. But I will not listen to their cry for help. They *sacrifice burnt *offerings and grain *offerings. But I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy the people with war, hunger and disease.’

Verses 10-12 The people in Judah had wandered away from the *LORD in two ways. They had *worshipped false gods. Also, they had tried to make political friends with Babylon and Egypt. Jeremiah should not pray for 'these people'. 'These people ' makes them sound far away from the *LORD. The *LORD did not say 'my' people. The people did *religious acts. They went without food and they gave *sacrifices. But those acts meant nothing unless the people changed their behaviour too. Hunger and disease often followed war. The people did not obey the *LORD. They cried to the *LORD to help them. But that was of no use. God would not listen to them.

Jeremiah's excuse for his people 14:13

v13 But I said, '*LORD and King, the *prophets continue to tell them this. "You will not have war or hunger." They say, "The *LORD will give you peace that will last." '

Verse 13 Jeremiah tried to give an excuse for his people. The false *prophets had told them that there would be peace. They would not have to experience war and its results.

The *LORD's reply 14:14-16

v14 Then the *LORD said to me, 'The *prophets use my name but they are speaking lies. I have not sent them or appointed them. I have not spoken to them. They tell you about their special dreams or their secret knowledge. But everything is a lie. They pretend to bring to you messages from false gods. They have imagined many things. And they want you to believe these things. v15 The *prophets are *prophesying and they are saying the *LORD’s name. So here is what the *LORD says about them. “I did not send them. They are saying that no war or hunger will come to this country. But those same *prophets will die because of war or hunger. v16 Men will throw into the streets of Jerusalem the people who listened to the *prophets. The people will die because of war and hunger. There will be nobody to bury them. There will be nobody to bury their wives and their children. I will pour out trouble upon them. That is exactly what they deserve.”

Verses 14-16 The *LORD replied that the *prophets were telling lies. They pretended to give special messages from false gods. The *LORD had not sent the *prophets. They would be the first people to die in a war. The people who had listened to them, would die as well. There would be nobody left to bury them or their families. People thought that was an insult to the dead person. It is still true today. To have no grave causes shame.

Jeremiah is a sad witness 14:17-18

v17    Give them this message.

          “Let tears flow from my eyes.

          Let them pour out all night and all day.

          Never let them stop.

          The people from my own nation

          have suffered a terrible injury.

          A terrible thing has happened to them.

v18    I go into the country.

          And I see the people who died in the war.

          I go into the city.

          And I see the people who have died of hunger.

          Both *prophets and priests have gone to a foreign country.” ’

Verses 17-18 Judah was like a young woman who had suffered an injury. Judah would not recover from it. The *prophet cried because Judah had great troubles. He did not stop. Everywhere he went he saw the dead people. These verses may refer to the time when Babylon attacked Judah in 597 *BC. Many people died, and some had to go into *exile in Babylon.

Jeremiah's prayer 14:19-22

v19    Have you turned away from Judah completely?

          Do you hate the city called Zion?

          Why have you made us suffer

          so that nothing can heal us?

          We hoped that peace would come.

          But no good thing has happened to us.

          We hoped for a time when you would heal us.

          But all we got was terror.

v20    *LORD, we confess that we have been wicked.

          And our *ancestors were guilty too.

          It is true that we have *sinned against you.

v21    Because of the honour of your name, do not turn away from us.

          Do not bring shame on your magnificent *throne.

          Remember the *covenant that you made with us.

          Please do not end it.

v22    None of the false gods in the nations bring rain.

          The skies do not send down showers by themselves.

          No, it is you, *LORD our God, who sends the rain.

          So we hope in you. You are the God who does all this.

Verses 19-20 Jeremiah speaks on behalf of his nation. His people wondered why they had great troubles. There was a lack of rain. And the *Babylonian army had attacked them. They had hoped for rain and for a time of peace. But they were disappointed. They begin to realise that they had *sinned against the *LORD. They had continued to *sin as their *ancestors did.

Verse 21 Other nations would not respect the *LORD if he refused to help his people. The *LORD's magnificent *throne was the *Temple in Jerusalem. The nation had not obeyed the *covenant. But they ask the *LORD to remember his *covenant with them.

Verse 22 It is of no use to *worship false gods. The sky is not a false god who sends rain. The *LORD alone can provide the rain that they needed so badly. The only person in whom they can hope is the *LORD.

Chapter 15

The terrible destroyers in Judah 15:1-9

v1 Then the *LORD said to me. 'Even if Moses and Samuel were standing in front of me, I would not feel sorry for this people. Send them away from me! Let them go! v2 They may ask you, "Where shall we go?" Then tell them, “This is what the *LORD says:

          Those people that I have selected to die, will die.

          Those people that I have selected for death in a war, will die in a war.

          Those people that I have selected for hunger, will die from hunger.

          Those people that I have selected to become prisoners, will go away as prisoners.”

v3 I will send four kinds of destroyers against them’, declares the *LORD. ‘War will kill them. Small animals called dogs will drag them away. Birds will eat them. Wild animals will destroy them. v4 I will make all the *kingdoms on the earth hate them. This is because of what Manasseh did in Jerusalem. He was the king of Judah, and he was Hezekiah's son.

v5      Nobody will have pity on you, Jerusalem.

          Nobody will cry about your death.

          Nobody will stop to ask how you are.

v6      It was you who left me’, declares the *LORD.

          'You continue to turn away from me.

          So I will destroy you with my own hands.

          I cannot show you my love and my pity any longer.

v7      I will stand at the city gates of the country.

          I will scatter the people, like the farmer separates

          the outer part from the grain.

          I have destroyed my people.

          I will bring death to them

          because they have not changed their behaviour.

v8      I will increase the number of their widows.

          They will be more than the grains of sand on the sea shore.

          I will bring an enemy at noon

          against the mothers of young men.

          Suddenly I will bring great pain and fear on them.

v9      Mothers of many children will become weak.

          They will take their last breath.

          The sun will set on them while it is still day.

          The mothers will be ashamed. People will say terrible things about them.

          And those people who remain alive, I will kill in war.

          I will make their enemies do it’, declares the *LORD.

Verse 1 Moses had prayed to the *LORD to forgive the people’s *sin. They *sinned when they made a gold cow as their false god (Exodus 32:11). Moses asked the *LORD to punish him instead. Samuel had prayed on behalf of Israel. He asked the *LORD to protect them against the *Philistines. His prayer was successful because the *Philistines became afraid during a storm. The people in Israel were able to follow the *Philistines and defeat them (Samuel 7:5-9). But Jeremiah could not pray for his people, because they were not willing to obey the *LORD

Verses 2-3 People would die in war and die from hunger. Some people would go away from their own country as prisoners. Nobody would bury their bodies. The animals would drag them away. The birds and the wild animals that ate dead bodies, would destroy them completely.

Verse 4 Manasseh, Hezekiah's son, was the most wicked king in Judah. He had encouraged people to *worship all kinds of *idols. That included the *sacrifice of children (2 Kings 21:1-16). Josiah had tried to remove all those bad acts. But people continued to go against the very first *commandment. The *LORD ordered them to *worship him only.

Verses 5-7 The *LORD had not left the people in Judah, but the people had left him. They had continued to turn away from the *LORD. So the time had come for the *LORD to punish Judah. Nobody would pity them. The *LORD would be like a farmer who throws grain into the air with a large fork. The wind blows away the outer part that had no use. The people in Judah were like the outer part. The *LORD would scatter them in a foreign country, in the same way that wind blew the outer part away.

Verses 8-9 The *LORD had promised Abraham that his *descendants will be more than the grains of sand by the sea (Genesis 22:17). Now he was warning Judah that there would be more widows than the grains of sand. Women’s husbands and children would die. If a mother had many children, all of them would die. And they would die while they were still young. That meant that a person's family would end. There would be nobody left to remember them.

It was usual for an army to attack at dawn or in the night. But the enemy was very powerful. The enemy was bold enough to attack at noon. It was possible to destroy Judah during the brightest part of the day. Mothers would suffer so much when their children died. Then the mothers too would become ill and die. If people remained alive, they would die in the war.

Jeremiah wishes that he had never been born 15:10

v10    My mother, I wish that I had never been born.

          The whole country opposes me.

          They fight against me.

          I have not given anyone a loan.

          I have not asked anyone to loan anything to me.

          But everyone wants bad things to happen to me.

Verse 10 Everyone opposed Jeremiah. And everyone attacked what he said. People hated him although he had done nothing bad to them. He had not lent anything to anyone. So nobody could say that he was unfair. He had not asked people for anything, not even for a short time. People wanted bad things to happen to him. But he did not understand why. He wished that he had never been born.

The *LORD's answer to Jeremiah 15:11

v11    The *LORD said, 'Jeremiah I will keep you safe for a good purpose.

          I will make your enemies come to you.

          They will ask you to pray for them.

          They will appeal to you

          when they are in great trouble.

Verse 11 The *LORD’s answer was that he had a good plan for Jeremiah. So the *LORD would rescue him from his enemies. Times of trouble would come. And his enemies would ask him to pray for them.

The *LORD's message to Judah 15:12-14

v12    People in Judah, the army of Babylon will come from the north.

          They are as strong as iron and *bronze.

          Nobody can break their power.

v13    I will give away your wealth and your rich possessions.

          The enemy will take away everything and they will not pay for it.

          That will happen because you have *sinned so much.

          All through your country you have *sinned.

v14    I will make you slaves to your enemies.

          You will serve them in a country that you do not know.

          My anger will start a fire that will burn against you for always.’

Verses 12-14 Iron from the north was especially good iron. It came from the area near to the Black Sea. Babylon was the enemy from the north. Judah would not be able to defend itself. Babylon was very strong like the best iron. *Bronze was another strong metal. When Babylon defeated Judah, they would take away Judah's wealth. And they would take away everything that the people kept as valuable. That would happen because of Judah's *sins. The people in Judah would become slaves in a country about which they knew nothing. The *LORD was very angry with Judah. The *LORD’s punishment was like a fire that would burn against them.

Jeremiah's reason why Jeremiah complained 15:15-18

v15    *LORD, you understand.

          Remember me, and look after me.

          Pay back those people who are trying to hurt me.

          You are patient. Do not let me die.

          Think about how much people blame me because of you.

v16    When I received your words, I ate them.

          They gave me joy. They pleased me greatly,

          because I belong to you,

          *LORD, you are the powerful God.

v17    I never sat among people who were having a merry time.

          I never had a good time with them.

          I sat alone, because you were guiding me.

          And your anger against *sin was burning inside me.

v18    Why does my pain never end?

          Why is my injury so serious

          that I cannot get well again?

          To me you are like a stream that runs dry.

          You are like a source of water that has no water.

Verse 15 Jeremiah was doing the *LORD's work. So Jeremiah reminded the *LORD that he had troubles because of that work. He wanted the *LORD to deal with the people who were making him so unhappy.

Verses16-18 Jeremiah had been happy to receive the *LORD's words. Ezekiel had also been happy like that (Ezekiel 3:3). Jeremiah was very happy with the *LORD’s words. They were like good food. He had not joined the people who were having a merry time. He had remained alone because the *LORD had made him aware of the people's *sin. Jeremiah felt as if he had a painful wound. He felt that nothing would heal it. He felt that the *LORD did not care about him now. The *LORD had been like a source of water that always gives fresh water. That kept Jeremiah in good health (Jeremiah 2:13). But the *LORD was now like a stream that had become dry.

The *LORD's answer 15:19-21

v19    The *LORD says, 'Turn away from your *sin.

          Then I will heal you, so that you can serve me.

          Speak words that are valuable.

          Do not speak words that have no value.

          Then you will be speaking on behalf of me.

          Let these people turn to you,

          but you must not turn to them.

v20    I will make you like a wall.

          You will be like a strong wall that people make from *bronze.

          They will fight against you,

          but they will not overcome you.

          I am with you and I will rescue you’, declares the *LORD.

v21    'I will save you from these wicked people.

          I will make you free from those people who are cruel to you.’

Verse 19 Jeremiah wanted to give up his task. But the *LORD said that was a *sin. Jeremiah could speak on behalf of the *LORD again if he would give up that *sin. The *LORD would make him healthy again in his spirit, so that he could serve the *LORD. Jeremiah had to be careful about what he said. He should not say that the *LORD failed to care about him. The words that Jeremiah spoke should show the difference between true religion and *worthless *idol *worship. He should not worry what people thought about him. He might not be popular because of what he said. But he should urge people to turn back to the *LORD.

Verses 20-21 Jeremiah should remember the promise that the *LORD gave to him. That happened when the *LORD called him first (Jeremiah 1:17-19). People would oppose Jeremiah. But the *LORD would make him like a strong wall that an enemy could not break. The *LORD would save him from the wicked and cruel people who were trying to attack him. So first, the *LORD blamed Jeremiah because he pitied himself. Then the *LORD encouraged him to continue his work as the *LORD's *prophet. The *LORD would protect Jeremiah.

Chapter 16

Jeremiah's life would be a message 16:1-13

v1 The *LORD gave this message to me. He said, v2 'You must not marry and have sons and daughters in this country.’ v3 The *LORD says this about the sons and daughters who are born in this place. This is what he says about their mothers and fathers. v4 'They will die of terrible diseases. Nobody will weep for them. Nobody will bury them. Their bodies will be like rubbish that is lying on the ground. Men will kill them with a sword. They will die because they have no food. Instead, they will become food for the birds and the wild animals.’

v5 This is what the *LORD says. 'Jeremiah, do not go into a house where there is a meal because of a funeral. Do not go there to weep or to show your sympathy. I have taken away my *blessing. I will not love or pity these people now’, declares the *LORD. v6 'Both important people and people, who are not important, will die in this country. Nobody will bury their bodies. Nobody will weep for them. Nobody will cut himself or shave his head because of them. v7 Nobody will give food to them. Nobody will give some drink to them to comfort them. Nobody will do it, even if it is for a father or mother who has died.

v8 Do not go into a house where there is a wonderful meal. Do not sit down to eat and to drink. v9 The *LORD, the powerful God, says this. “I am the God of Israel. While you are alive, you will see what I will do. I will stop the sounds of joy and happiness in this place. Nobody will hear the voices of a bride and a bridegroom in this place.”

v10 You will tell this to them. Then they will ask you why the *LORD has decided to bring such great trouble on them. They will ask what wrong thing they have done. They will say that they have not *sinned against the *LORD their God. v11 When they say that, tell them this. "It is because your *ancestors left me”, announces the *LORD. "They followed false gods. They served them and they *worshipped them. Your *ancestors left me and they did not obey my law. v12 But you have behaved more wickedly than your *ancestors. You do not obey me. You refuse to change your evil ways. v13 So I will throw you out of this country. I will throw you into a country that neither you nor your *ancestors have ever known. And there you will serve false gods every day and every night. I will not be kind to you."

Verses 1-4 Jeremiah must not marry or have children. That would show that parents and children would die. They would die in a war. Or they would die because of the hunger and disease that were the results of a war. Nobody would bury their bodies, which would be like rubbish on the ground. The birds and the animals would eat their bodies. There would be nobody to weep for them.

Verses 5-7 Jeremiah must not join in social events. If there was a funeral, he must not show his sympathy. He must not eat the meal at the funeral. That showed that the *LORD had decided not to *bless those people. All kinds of people would die, important people as well as those people who were not important. Nobody would bury them or weep for them. Nobody would try to comfort sad people. Nobody would give them something to eat or to drink. Nobody would weep, not even for a mother or a father who had died. To shave the head showed that a person was sad. To cut oneself was a *pagan custom that the *LORD’s people must not copy (Leviticus 19:28).

Verses 8-9 Jeremiah must not join in happy social occasions. He must not go into a house where they were enjoying a wonderful meal. That showed that those happy occasions would not happen in the future. Soon people would not be able to enjoy themselves at weddings.

Verses 10-13 People would ask Jeremiah why the *LORD had ordered such great trouble for them. They said that they were innocent. They had not done any wrong things. But they were avoiding the truth. They had *sinned so much for a long time. So they did not see their wicked behaviour. Malachi also wrote about people who were very wicked. They did not understand why the *LORD was angry with them (Malachi 2:17; 3:8). But their *ancestors were not continuing to *worship the *LORD. They were not obeying his laws. But in Jeremiah's time, the people were more wicked than their *ancestors. They did not obey the *LORD. Instead, they decided to do whatever they wanted to do. So the *LORD would send them into a country that they did not know. There they would serve false gods all the time. The *LORD would not be kind to the people. The *Greek translation of this verse suggests that the foreign false gods would show no kindness to their prisoners.

A hope for the future 16:14-15

v14 ‘Very soon,' declares the *LORD, 'people will not say this. "The *LORD brought the people of Israel out from Egypt. Surely the *LORD lives." v15 Instead they will say, "The *LORD brought the people out from the country in the north. He brought them out from all the countries where he had sent them. Surely the *LORD lives." I will bring them back to the country that I gave to their *ancestors.

Verses 14-15 In the future, people would describe the *LORD in a different way. The *LORD had rescued his people from Egypt. At some time in the future, they would say that he rescued them from Babylon. Or they would say that he had brought them back. They had come from other countries to which he had sent them. People used the words 'surely the *LORD lives'. They said that when they made serious promises. They were asking the *LORD to make their words happen. A long time ago, the *LORD had given the country to their *ancestors. And the people would return to live there.

They cannot escape the *LORD's punishment 16:16-18

v16 But now I will send for many men who catch fish’, declares the *LORD. 'And they will catch some of these people. After that, I will send for many hunters. They will hunt for the other people on every mountain and hill. The hunters will bring out the people from the cracks in the rocks. v17 My eyes see everything that these people do. They cannot hide from me anything that they do. Always I can see their *sin. v18 I will repay them double because of their *sin. And I will repay them double because of the wicked things that they have done. They have made my country *unclean with the images of their evil false gods. These *idols are not alive. The people have filled my country with these *idols that I hate.’

Verse 16 The enemy would be like men who catch fish. The enemy would catch the people in Judah. In Amos 4:2, Amos had described how the *Assyrians would take away the people in Israel with fish hooks (bent pieces of metal). That happened when the *Assyrians led people away with hooks through their noses. Habbakuk also used that kind of description. He described that the enemy pulled people from the sea as if they were fish (Habbakuk 1:14-15). The enemy would also be like hunters. They would find the people wherever they might hide. Mountains and caves would not be safe places. Certainly, the enemy would find the people.

Verse 17 The people could not hide from the *LORD. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God when they had not obeyed his orders (Genesis 3:8-10). Children try to hide from their parents when they have done wrong things. Criminals try to hide so that they can escape from the police. But nobody can hide from God. The people in Judah did not believe that the *LORD knew all their actions. But the *LORD was aware of their wicked behaviour.

Verse 18 The word 'double' does not mean that the *LORD would punish people unfairly. It may mean that the punishment would be complete. Isaiah comforted Judah. He told them that their punishment was complete. They had paid for their *sin. They had received from the *LORD 'double' because of all their *sins (Isaiah 40:2). Or 'double' can mean that the punishment would be equal to the *sin.

The people in Judah had made the country *unclean by means of their *sin. They had *worshipped *idols that did not live. Those *idols were like dead animals. Nobody who touched the *idols was holy. The *LORD hated those *idols. The country belonged to the *LORD. But because the people *sinned, the country was not holy now. So the *LORD must punish the people. He removed from the country those people who had made the country not holy.

Hope for the nations 16:19-21

v19    *LORD, you give me strength.

          You are like a strong building to me.

          You are a safe place when I am in trouble.

          The nations from all over the earth will come to you.

          They will say,

          'Our people from a long time ago owned nothing but false gods.

          They were *worthless *idols that did not help them.’

v20    People make their own false gods.

          But they are not gods at all.

v21    The *LORD says, 'So I will teach them.

          This time I will teach them

          that I am powerful and strong.

          Then they will know that I am the *LORD.

Verses 19-20 Jeremiah describes how the *LORD made him strong. The *LORD was like his strong building and his place of safety. These names for God are in other parts of the *Old Testament. The writer of Psalm 18:2-3 calls God his strong building and his shelter. God was King David’s strong place (Psalm 59:10; 16-17). David trusted God to give him strength.

One day all people will understand God's power. God promised Abraham that all the nations will receive *blessing (Genesis 12:3). Isaiah said that 'in the last days' all nations will come to *worship the *LORD (Isaiah 2:2). Jeremiah saw when that would happen. People would recognise that *idols had no value. Men made them. *Idols brought no benefit to the people who *worshipped them.

Verse 21 The *LORD himself will teach the nations. He will do that by means of his servants, the *prophets. Israel itself will also be the *LORD's servant. Israel will bring 'light to the *Gentiles', so that the *Gentiles will know the *LORD's power (Isaiah 49:6). He had rescued the *Israelites from Egypt. So all the nations in the entire world will come to know the *LORD's character.

Chapter 17

Judah's *sin and punishment 17:1-4

v1      An iron tool has cut *sin deep into Judah.

          A very hard, sharp stone has written their *sin on their hearts,

          and on the corners of their *altars.

v2      Even their children remember their *altars, and the special poles.

          These stand next to the green trees. And they stand on the high hills.

v3      They remember these things in the mountains.

          They remember these things in the country.

          I will make the enemy take away

          all your wealth and all your rich possessions.

          It will be a present to your enemies.

          This will happen because your *sin is everywhere in the country.

v4      You will lose the country that I gave to you.

          It will be your own fault.

          I will make you slaves to your enemies

          in a country that you do not know.

          You have made my anger burn like a fire.

          And it will burn for always.’

Verse 1 People used to write on stone. They cut the stone with an iron tool or with a very hard, sharp stone. This verse means that Judah's *sin was deep and permanent. They refused to change their behaviour. They refused to obey the *LORD. *Altars had small points that stuck up from the four corners. The points protected the *sacrifice. The points were called the 'horns' of the *altar. They were like the horns (bones) that are on the heads of some animals. The *LORD told the people that the blood from a *sacrifice would hide their *sin (Leviticus 4:26). But Judah's *sin was so great that their *sin would remain even at the *altars.

Verse 2 The *pagan places where they *worshipped their false gods were under trees or on hills. The special poles gave honour to the female false god called Asherah. God’s law forbade those poles (Deuteronomy 16:21). The people in Judah gave *sacrifices to the *LORD. But they continued to *worship the false gods in the country as well. The people were not obeying their *covenant with the *LORD as their only God and King.

Verses 3-4 The children remembered too many wicked places. But soldiers would take away from Judah all its wealth and everything valuable. They would remove all the places where people had *worshipped false gods. The people in Judah would lose the country that the *LORD had given to them. But they could blame only themselves. They would serve the enemy in a country about which they knew nothing. That happened in 587 *BC (2 Kings 25:11-21). 'Fire' is a way to describe God's punishment. Judah's *sin had made the *LORD very angry. He would be angry for a long time.

Two ways to behave 17:5-11

v5      This is what the *LORD says.

          'Great evil will come upon those people who trust other people.

          They trust that other people will make them strong.

          Those people’s hearts turn away from the *LORD.

v6      They will be like a bush in the desert.

          They will not see any good things when they come.

          They will live in dry places in the desert.

          They will live in a salty land where no other person lives.

v7      But anyone who trusts in the *LORD is happy.

          His confidence is in the *LORD.

v8      He will be like a tree that someone planted by the water.

          It pushes out its roots by a stream.

          It is not afraid when the hot weather comes.

          Its leaves are always green.

          It does not worry when there is no rain.

          Always it yields fruit.

v9      I do not know who can understand the human heart.

          It is less honest than anything else.

          Nothing can heal it.

v10    I, the *LORD, look carefully at people’s desires.

          I test what is in their minds.

          I will decide what each person’s behaviour deserves.

          I will give him the right reward because of his behaviour

v11    A bird called a partridge warms eggs that it has not laid.

          The person, who becomes rich in an unfair way, is like this bird.

          When the person is half way through his life, his riches will leave him.

          Finally, he will prove how foolish he is.’

Verses 5-8 show two ways to behave. And it contrasts their results. They are similar to Psalm 1. Jeremiah may have known this Psalm. Or Psalm 1 may have its origin in this passage. The person who turns away from the *LORD, is like a bush in the desert. It does not grow much because there is little water. That person will be lonely and of no use. When difficult times come, he will have no source of strength.

The person who trusts the *LORD is like a tree. The tree pushes its roots towards water so that it can grow. And that tree produces a lot of fruit. That person may have a difficult time, like a tree in a period without rain. But the *LORD makes him strong in his spirit.

These verses may also refer to the whole nation of Judah. Psalm 146:3 says that it is foolish to trust rulers for help. Judah had tried to obtain political strength when they trusted Egypt and Babylon. The nation did not trust the *LORD and serve him. So they became like a bush in the desert that has no fruit. The nation had no strength when an enemy attacked.

Verses 9-10 People are very clever because they can hide their real character. The writer of Proverbs says that a person's thoughts and plans are 'like deep water' (Proverbs 18:4a; 20:5). But God sees our real character. The words 'less honest' remind us about Jacob. He cheated his brother, Esau (Genesis 27:36). Without God, our thoughts and feelings are not very good. God will look at people’s actions before he decides about their rewards. He will give to people the reward that they deserve.

Verse 11 There was a popular belief about the bird called a partridge. In its nest, it had eggs that it had not laid. A person can do wrong things to gain great wealth. They are like that bird. But soon the young birds leave the nest. They fly away from the false parent bird. So the wealth that does not really belong to a person, soon will disappear. He is as foolish as the rich man in Jesus' story. He did not realise that the *LORD did not consider him rich (Luke 12:13-20).

Praise to the *LORD 17:12-13

v12    The *LORD's wonderful *throne is up high.

          It has been high from the beginning.

          It is a holy place where we can *worship.

v13    *LORD, you are Israel's only certainty.

          You will bring shame on everyone who leaves you.

          The names of those people who turn away from you

          will die in the earth.

          They have left you.

          But you are like a fountain of water. This water makes us alive.

Verse 12 ‘up high' refers to *Mount Zion, where the *Temple stood. A long time ago, the *LORD had chosen to be among his people at that place (Exodus15:17). It also refers to the 'wonderful *throne'. The people in Israel thought that the *LORD was present between the cherubim on the box of the *covenant (Psalm 80:1). The cherubim were gold images whose wings protected the *throne. In the *Temple, Isaiah saw the *LORD 'up high, above everything' (Isaiah 6:1). The words ‘up high' remind everyone that the *LORD is holy. He deserves respect and praise.

Verse 13 The *LORD’s people can find security only in the *LORD. 'The names of those people who turn away from you will die in the earth'. These words may mean this. Very quickly, people would forget those people who turn away from God. Their names were like dust that people soon walked on. However, 'earth' sometimes referred to the world after death. So the words may mean this. People who turn away from the *LORD must expect to die. God alone makes us alive. He is like water that always flows. Jesus used that description about himself. He is the only person who can give water or life that never fails (John 4:14).

Jeremiah's prayer for help 17:14-18

v14    Heal me, *LORD. Then I shall be completely well.

          Then I shall be safe.

          You are the God whom I praise.

v15    Continually people are saying this to me.

          'What has happened to the message that the *LORD gave you?

          Let it happen now!'

v16    *LORD, I have not run away.

          I am still the *shepherd of your people.

          I did not want you to bring great trouble on them.

          You know this. And you know every word that I speak.

v17    Do not be a terror to me.

          In the time of trouble, you are my place of safety.

v18    Bring shame on those people who attack me.

          But protect me from shame.

          Let them be very frightened.

          But protect me from great fear.

          Bring trouble upon them very soon.

          Destroy them completely.

Verse 14 Jeremiah had spoken about his troubles. He described them as a wound that nothing could heal (Jeremiah 15:18). But now he was confident that the *LORD could heal him. And the *LORD could rescue him from his enemies.

Verses 15-16 He praises the *LORD. But Jeremiah wanted the *LORD to know that the people laugh at him and at his message. He had said that he was giving a message from the *LORD. It was about trouble in the future. But nothing had happened. So the people did not believe what he had said.

Jeremiah had not tried to escape from his task. Still he was looking after his people. Jeremiah was like a *shepherd who looked after his sheep. He had no pleasure when he brought bad news to his people. The *LORD knew that very well.

Verses 17-18 Jeremiah asked that the *LORD would be his shelter during the time of trouble. He wanted the *LORD to prove that his attackers are guilty. He asked the *LORD to protect him from fear. But he wanted his enemies to be very frightened. He asked the *LORD to destroy them completely.

Obey the laws of the *Sabbath 17:19-27

v19 This is what the *LORD said to me. 'Go and stand at the People's Gate. That is where the kings of Judah go in and out of the city. Then go to all the other gates in Jerusalem. v20 Say, "Kings of Judah and all the people in Judah, listen to the *LORD's message. Listen, everyone who lives in Jerusalem. Listen, everyone who comes through these gates. v21 The *LORD says: Be careful! Your lives are important! Make sure that you do not carry a load on the *Sabbath day. Do not bring it through the gates in Jerusalem. v22 Do not carry a load out of your houses on the *Sabbath. Do not work on that day. But respect the *Sabbath as a holy day. I gave this *commandment to your *ancestors. v23 But they did not listen, or give any attention to me. They did not change. They did not listen. They did not learn when I corrected them.

v24 Be careful to obey me”, declares the *LORD. “Do not bring a load through the gates of this city on the *Sabbath. Instead, respect the *Sabbath as a holy day. Do not do any work on the *Sabbath. v25 Then kings, who have David's royal power, will come through the gates of this city. They and their officials will ride in special carts. And they will ride on horses. The people in Judah and Jerusalem will come with them. And always this city will have people who are living in it. v26 People will come in from the towns in Judah. They will come from the villages round Jerusalem. They will come from the region that belongs to Benjamin. They will come from the low western hills. People will come from the mountains and from the Negev. They will bring burnt *offerings and *sacrifices. They will bring grain *offerings, *incense and *offerings to thank the *LORD. They will bring all these *offerings to the *Temple. v27 But suppose that you do not obey me. Suppose that you do not respect the *Sabbath as a holy day. Suppose that you carry a load through the gates in Jerusalem on the *Sabbath day. Then I will start a fire at the gates of Jerusalem that nobody can stop. It will destroy the palaces in Jerusalem.” ’

Verses 19-20 Jeremiah had to give his message at the city gates. Plenty of people would listen to him. The People's Gate was the one through which the king and the princes went in and out.

Verses 21-24 The *Sabbath was the 7th day of the week. The *LORD ordered the people in Israel to give it honour because it is a 'holy' day. 'Holy' means that it should be a special day for the *LORD. It was separate and different from the other days. It reminded the people that God created the world. God had rested after the six days when he created the world (Exodus 20:8-11; Genesis 2:3). Also it reminded them about how the *LORD had rescued his people from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). To make it a special day, they must not work. That meant that they should not carry loads from their houses. And they should not carry loads through the city gates. They were obeying the *LORD’s laws when they made the *Sabbath a special day. It showed other nations how their God was different from the *pagan false gods. But their *ancestors refused to listen to the *LORD. They did what they wanted to do. Amos had spoken about the greedy people in Israel. They did not like the *Sabbath to interrupt their business. They wanted to continue their trade so that they could earn money (Amos 8:5). So Jeremiah warned the people in Judah to obey the *LORD’s *Sabbath law.

Verses 25-26 The *LORD promised the people in Judah three things if they obeyed the *Sabbath law:

a) The family of kings from David would continue.

b) The city of Jerusalem would have inhabitants always.

c) People would come to the *Temple to bring their *offerings to the *LORD. They would come from all directions in the country. Instead of an 'enemy from the north', people would come in peace from the region that belonged to Benjamin. That region was to the north of Jerusalem. The low hills were in the west. People would come from the mountains, and from the Negev. The Negev was the dry land in the south. They would bring all the kinds of *offerings that the book of Leviticus describes. Jeremiah did not say that people should not give *sacrifices. However, *sacrifices were wrong acts when the people did not obey the *LORD (Jeremiah 7:21-23).

Verse 27 'Fire' was a way to describe God's punishment. If the people did not obey the law, the *LORD would destroy Jerusalem completely.

Usually Christians respect the first day of the week, Sunday, as a special day. It was the day when Jesus rose again from death (Matthew 28:1). Nehemiah described all the activities on the *Sabbath in his time (Nehemiah 13:15). But these things happen in many places today. In England, it is not a special day for God. It has become as busy as any other day of the week. Now it is not a day of 'delight' and 'joy in the *LORD ' (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Chapter 18

At the house of the man who makes pots 18:1-12

v1 The *LORD gave this message to Jeremiah. v2 'Go down to the *potter's house. I will give my message to you there.’ v3 So I went down to the *potter's house. I saw him when he was working at the wheel. v4 He was using his hands to shape a pot from *clay. But there was something wrong with the pot. So the *potter shaped it into another pot, in the way that he thought best.

v5 Then the *LORD gave this message to me. v6 'People in Israel, I can do with you exactly as this *potter does’, declares the *LORD. 'The *clay is in the *potter's hand. In the same way, you are in my hand, people of Israel. v7 At any time I might announce that I am going to pull up a nation or *kingdom by its roots. And that I will tear it down and destroy it. v8 Perhaps the nation that I warned turns away from its *sins. Then I will not do what I announced. I will not bring trouble to that nation as I had planned. v9 At another time I might announce this. I will build up and plant a nation or *kingdom. v10 But perhaps that nation does evil things. It does not obey me. Then I will change my mind about the good things that I had planned to do for it.

v11 So speak to the people in Judah and to the people who live in Jerusalem. The *LORD says, "I am the *potter. Look, I am making plans against you. I am going to bring trouble upon you. Each person must stop your evil deeds. Change how you live. Change how you act." v12 But they will reply, "It is no use. We will continue to do what we have planned. Each of us will do what our wicked hearts desire.”

Verses 1-4 The ‘wheel’ that the *potter used was two round stones. The *potter's feet spun the lower stone. The upper stone then moved round. The *potter threw the lump of *clay into the middle of the upper stone. He shaped the *clay with his hands as the stone moved round. Sometimes there was something wrong with the *clay. He could not make the pot into the right shape. So the *potter squeezed together the *clay. And he began again, until the pot was the right shape.

Verses 5-11 The idea of the *LORD as a *potter and the people as the *clay was familiar. God created man from the ground (Genesis 2:7). Isaiah reminded the people that they had no right to question the *potter (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9). God can remake the character of a person, as he did with Peter and Paul in the *New Testament. But in these verses the *LORD is talking about nations. He is not the God of Israel alone. He is the *potter who has power over the nations. Amos had said that also (Amos 9:7). Israel and other nations were like *clay in the *LORD’s hands. He could shape their future to fit in with his plans. If a nation was like a less than perfect pot, he planned to destroy it. But perhaps that nation was ready to change and to obey the *LORD. Then the *LORD could change his plans as the *potter changed the shape of a pot.

Jonah had said that the *LORD would destroy Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). But the people were sorry because of their *sins. So the *LORD did not destroy the city (Jonah 3:10). The *LORD may intend to make a nation strong. But then, that nation may act wickedly. So he will think again whether to carry out his plan.

Jeremiah had to warn the people in Judah and Jerusalem to stop their wicked behaviour. The *LORD was preparing to bring great trouble upon them. Probably he warned them during the early years when Jehoiakim was the king.

Verse 12 For a long time the people had done what they wanted to do. So they found it impossible to change. They continued to follow their own plans.

Israel's behaviour that is not natural 18:13-17

v13    Therefore the *LORD says this.

          “Ask the nations a question. Has anyone ever heard anything like this?

          Virgin Israel has done an awful thing.

v14    The snow on Lebanon

          never vanishes from its rocky slopes.

          The cold mountain streams never stop their flow.

          They never become dry.

v15    But my people have forgotten me.

          They burn *incense to *worthless false gods.

          Their false gods made them trip and fall

          as they walked on the old paths.

          Their false gods made them walk on unclear paths

          rather than walk on proper roads.

v16    They have made this country like a desert.

          People will laugh at it again and again.

          All the people who pass by it will have a shock.

          They will be so astonished that they will shake their heads.

v17    The wind from the east blows away the dust.

          In the same way, I will scatter the people in front of their enemies.

          I will show them my back. I will not show them my face.

          I will not help them when the time of their trouble comes.” ’

Verse 13 The nation of Israel should have been like a virgin. A virgin was an unmarried woman. She kept herself *sexually pure before she had a husband. Instead, the nation of Israel was like a *prostitute. The people had made themselves not pure with *pagan customs. Some of the *pagan ceremonies involved people in wrong *sexual acts. Israel's *sin was so awful that other nations found it difficult to believe it.

Verses 14-15 The two statements emphasise that nature is constant. Always there was snow on the slopes of the mountain in Lebanon. There were sources of water that continued to flow. But Israel's behaviour was not natural. The people were not loyal to the *LORD. They had left him and they *worshipped *worthless false gods. *Incense gave a sweet smell when the people burnt it. God's law was like a good road or path on which they had walked at the beginning. But those false gods had caused God's people to leave the safe way of God's laws. The false gods caused the people to *sin. Without God’s laws, the people had difficulties. It would be like a bad path where they would trip. They would find no sign to show to them the right direction.

Verses 16-17 Because of Israel's *sin, the country would become like a desert. An enemy would destroy it. When other people saw that, they would laugh at Israel. Those people would be so astonished. They would not believe what they saw. The *LORD would act like the hot wind in the desert that blows away the dust. Their enemies would take them away into other countries. That happened in 587 *BC. The *Babylonian army took the people in Judah away from their own country. The *LORD would turn away from his people. That means that he would not notice them. So the *LORD would not help the people in Judah when the enemy came into their country.

The plot against Jeremiah 18:18

v18 They said, 'Come, let us make plans against Jeremiah. We will continue to have the priests to teach us the law. Always we will have wise people to give us advice. We will have *prophets to bring us messages from the *LORD. So let us speak against Jeremiah. Let us take no notice of anything that he says.’

Verse 18 Jeremiah had made some officials very angry. So they planned to say that he made false *prophecies. They said that he was insulting the *LORD. He spoke about trouble for the nation. The officials said that he was not loyal to the nation. They would have plenty of *religious experts without Jeremiah. Priests taught what the law meant. For example, the people asked Haggai about the meat that they gave to the *LORD (Haggai 2:11-14). Wise men would give practical advice. The *prophets would give to them the *LORD's messages. So they did not need Jeremiah. The priests, the wise men and the *prophets were three groups of officials. It was probably those three groups who had agreed to attack Jeremiah. He had spoken against them many times (Jeremiah 5:13; 6:13; 8:8).

Jeremiah's answer to the plot 18:19-23

v19    Listen to me, *LORD.

          Hear what my enemies are saying about me.

v20    They should not make an evil plot against me.

          All that I have done is good.

          But they have dug a deep hole for me.

          Remember that I stood in front of you.

          I spoke on their behalf.

          I tried to turn your anger away from them.

v21    So let their children die from hunger.

          Let the enemy kill them.

          Let their wives lose their husbands and children.

          Let the enemy put their men to death.

          Let their young men die in battle

v22    Let there be cries from their houses

          when their enemies come against them suddenly.

          They have dug a deep hole to catch me.

          They have hidden traps for my feet.

v23    But *LORD, you know all about their plans to kill me.

          Do not forgive their crimes.

          Do not wipe away their *sins so that you do not see them.

          Destroy my enemies.

          Punish them while you are angry.

Verses 19-20 Jeremiah asked the *LORD to notice what was happening to him. Jeremiah had prayed for good things for his people. And he asked the *LORD to remember that. He had asked the *LORD not to be angry with them. But they were not grateful. Instead, they were planning to kill him. People dug large holes to catch animals. One of David's soldiers had killed a lion that had fallen into a large hole (2 Samuel 23:20). Jeremiah felt that his enemies were trying to trap him like an animal.

Verses 21-23 Jeremiah's words that wish such damage seem very different from his other messages. But Jeremiah was a person with feelings. His own people's attitude had hurt his feelings deeply. He also cared about the *LORD whose *covenant his people had not obeyed. The *LORD’s people had not kept their serious promise to obey him. So Jeremiah believed that the *LORD must punish them. The details about the troubles that would come are also in Deuteronomy 28. When the enemy came, people would die in battle. Other people would starve to death.

Jeremiah's prayer that the *LORD will not forgive his enemies is very different from Jesus. Jesus asked God to forgive all those people who were making him suffer (Luke 23:34). Jeremiah had complained before. He was like a young sheep that people intended to kill (Jeremiah 11:9). Jesus told us to be willing to forgive our enemies. But God does not forgive them until they turn away from their *sin.

Chapter 19

The message about the broken pot 19:1-15

v1 This is what the *LORD says. 'Go and buy a *clay pot from the *potter. Take some of the older leaders and some of the priests with you. v2 Go out to the valley called Ben Hinnom, which is near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Then announce the message that I give to you. v3 Say, " Kings of Judah and people from Jerusalem, hear the *LORD’s message to you. This is what the powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring trouble upon Jerusalem. It will be terrible. And everyone who hears about it will not be able to forget it. v4 My people have left me. They have made this into a place where they *worship foreign false gods. They have burnt *sacrifices to them here. My people, their *ancestors and the kings of Judah did not know these false gods before. My people have filled this place with the blood of people who were not guilty of anything. v5 My people have built the high places where they *worship *Baal. There they *sacrifice their children in the fire as a gift to *Baal. I did not order this. I did not think about this terrible act. v6 So watch out!” declares the *LORD. “One day soon they will not call this place Topheth, or the valley of Ben Hinnom. Instead, they will call it the Valley of Death.

v7 In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will use their enemies to kill them. The enemy, who wants to kill, will kill them. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds and to the wild animals. v8 I will destroy this city completely. People will laugh at it. It will give a shock to everyone who passes by. They will laugh at the people because of all their injuries. v9 Their enemies will want to kill them. They will surround and attack the city. I will make the people in this city eat the dead bodies of their sons and their daughters. And they will eat each other, because they will be so hungry. They will not be able to obtain food.” v10 Then break the pot while the people with you are watching. v11 Say to them, “The powerful *LORD says this: This pot is broken and nobody can mend it. In a similar way I will break this nation and this city into pieces. They will bury the dead people in Topheth. After a time, there will be no more room to bury anyone. v12 This is what I will do to this place. I will do it to those people who live here”, declares the *LORD. “I will make this city like Topheth. I will make the houses in the city *unclean like Topheth. v13 The houses in Jerusalem will become *unclean. The houses that belong to the kings of Judah also will be *unclean. They will be like Topheth. These people burnt *incense on the roofs of their houses. They *worshipped the stars. They also poured out drinks as gifts to false gods." '

v14 Jeremiah then returned from Topheth. The *LORD had sent him there to *prophesy. He went and stood in front of the *LORD's *Temple. This is what he said to the people. v15 'The most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says this. "Listen! I am going to bring all the trouble that I announced. This city and the villages round it will have great trouble. This is because my people refused me. They did not listen to what I said." '

Verse 1-3 Jeremiah had to buy a *clay pot, from a *potter. Then he had to take some officials with him as witnesses. He had to go to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near to the Potsherd Gate. The people threw away their broken pieces of pots there. Jeremiah had to announce the *LORD’s punishment on the people in Jerusalem. If a pot had something wrong with it, a *potter could shape it again. But the *clay on the *potter's wheel had to be soft. When the pot was hard, nothing could shape it again. So they had to break the pot. Judah had become like a hard pot, because the people had refused to change their behaviour. To break that pot in front of witnesses would show the *LORD punishment.

Verses 4-9 The people made *sacrifices to false gods. The people had even given their sons to the false god called Molech. They killed their children and they burnt them in the fire. 'The blood of people who were not guilty' probably refers to that act. King Manasseh had encouraged it (2 Kings 21:16). So the valley of Topheth, where that happened, would become a terrible place.

The *Hebrew word for 'ruin' in verse 7 is very similar to the word for 'pot'. When the enemy attacked the city of Jerusalem, many people would die in battle. Their dead bodies would lie where the birds and wild animals would eat them. In the city, people would starve. The people could not obtain food because the enemy was waiting outside the walls. They became so desperate that they ate their own children. And they ate each another.

That terrible thing had happened before, when Samaria suffered (2 Kings 6:6). It happened again when the *Babylonian army attacked Jerusalem in 587 *BC (Lamentations 4:10). It also happened in 70 *AD, when the Romans were waiting to destroy Jerusalem.

Verses 10-13 Jeremiah broke the pot into small pieces. That showed that the *LORD would destroy Judah and Jerusalem. Soon the witnesses would tell other people what Jeremiah had said. And they would tell what he had done. Jerusalem would not be suitable for *religious ceremonies for two reasons:

a) Dead bodies made a person or a place *unclean. And there would be dead bodies everywhere in the city.

b) People *worshipped *pagan false gods. People burnt *incense on the roofs of their houses when they *worshipped the stars. And they poured out drink to give to other false gods.

Topheth was *unclean already. It had become a place where people *worshipped *pagan false gods. Later, it became the place where people threw all their rubbish.

Verses 14-15 Jeremiah went to the *Temple area. There he repeated his message. The *LORD would destroy Jerusalem and all the villages near to it. The people could blame only themselves because of what would happen. They always refused to listen to the *LORD’s message when Jeremiah warned them. And they continued to please only themselves.

Chapter 20

Jeremiah and Pashhur 20:1-6

v1 The priest called Pashhur, the son of Immer, was the chief officer in the *LORD's *Temple. He heard Jeremiah *prophesy that the *LORD will destroy Jerusalem. v2 So he made some men beat Jeremiah. Then he put Jeremiah in a small prison at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the *LORD's *Temple. v3 The next day Pashhur freed Jeremiah. Jeremiah said to him, 'The *LORD's name for you is not Pashhur. It is ‘Magor-Missabib’. v4 This is what the *LORD says to you, “I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. You will see them die. Their enemies will kill them with swords. I will give all the people in Judah to the king of Babylon. He will take them away to Babylon. Or he will kill them with swords. v5 I will give all the wealth of this city to Judah's enemies. I will give to them all its products and everything that is valuable. I will give to them all the stores of gold. I will give to them every valuable thing that belongs to the kings of Judah. Judah’s enemies will take away everything to Babylon. v6 And you, Pashhur, and everyone who lives in your house, will have to go to Babylon. You have *prophesied lies to all your friends. So you and all your friends will die in Babylon. That is where they will bury your bodies.” ’

Verses 1-2 Pashhur was an official. He was responsible to keep everything in order in the *Temple. He arrested Jeremiah when he heard Jeremiah’s message. He made people beat Jeremiah. The Upper Gate of Benjamin was an entrance to the *Temple. But it was not the same as the Benjamin Gate on the north side of the city. There, Pashhur punished Jeremiah in a way that would be very painful. The *Hebrew word for ‘prison’ means 'to bend round’. It may have been in a very small room where Jeremiah could not move properly. And his body would ache. Some Bibles use the word 'stocks'. It describes a wooden structure with holes for the feet or hands. So the prisoner would not be able to move. His legs would become stiff and painful.

Verses 3-4 Jeremiah gave a new name to Pashhur. It was Magor-Missabib. It meant 'Terror on every side'. In the *Hebrew language these words may sound similar to his name. This phrase appears in other places. It means that everywhere people would be very afraid. There was terror on every side when the people heard the bad news. They heard that the enemy was approaching (Jeremiah 6:25). Jeremiah's enemies used the name to bother him (Jeremiah 20:10). Everyone lived in terror when the enemy attacked Jerusalem (Lamentations 2:22). Pashhur himself would become evidence of terror. He and his friends would watch many people in Jerusalem die. His 'friends' may have been political friends who trusted in Egypt rather than in the *LORD.

Verses 5-6 Jeremiah now says that the enemy was the king of Babylon. That king was called Nebuchadnezzar. He would take prisoners away into Babylon. He would steal everything that the rulers and the ordinary people possessed. The list showed that the enemy would leave behind nothing of any value.

Pashhur was one of the false *prophets. He had said that people had nothing to fear. He said that there would be peace (Jeremiah 6:14). But he and his friends would go to Babylon, where they would die. Their graves would be in a foreign country. Pashhur probably went into *exile in 597 *BC. The officer in charge in the *Temple after that was Zephaniah son of Maaseiah (Jeremiah 29:25-26).

Jeremiah complains to the *LORD 20:7-10

v7      *LORD, you cheated me when you persuaded me to *prophesy.

          And I let you cheat me.

          You were stronger than I am. And you won.

          People laugh at me all day long.

          Everyone laughs at me.

v8      Every time I speak, I shout out.

          I shout a message about fights and damage.

          So your message has brought

          insult and shame to me all day long.

v9      Sometimes I think, 'I will not talk about him.

          I will not speak his message any longer.’

          But then your message is like a fire that burns inside me.

          It burns in my bones.

          I try to hold it inside me. But it makes me tired.

          The truth is that I cannot hold it inside me.

v10    I hear many people whispering.

          'Terror on every side!

          Report him to the authorities! Let us report him!'

          All my friends are waiting for me to make a mistake.

          They are saying, ‘Perhaps we can cheat him

          so that he makes a mistake.

          Then we will defeat him.

          And we will have the chance to hurt him.’

Verses 7-8 Jeremiah was unhappy because of what had happened to him. He began to ask the *LORD questions about his work as a *prophet. The word 'persuaded' has a certain meaning in the *Hebrew language. It refers to the way that a man might tempt an unmarried woman to have sex with him (Exodus 22:16). Jeremiah was using language that almost insulted the *LORD. It meant that the *LORD had led him to be a *prophet against his own wishes. And the *LORD had allowed it to happen. The *LORD was more powerful than Jeremiah. So Jeremiah could not oppose him. The *LORD’s message about trouble in the future had not happened yet. So people were laughing at Jeremiah. Every day they insulted him. And they blamed him because of what he was saying.

Verse 9 Jeremiah decided that he would forget the *LORD. He would not *prophesy on behalf of the *LORD. But Jeremiah found that it was impossible. There was a strong feeling in him that made him continue. It was like a fire that was burning inside him. He could not escape from his work for the *LORD. He became tired when he tried not to speak the *LORD’s message. Amos had felt a similar feeling. 'The *LORD God has spoken. And I have to *prophesy' (Amos 3:3).

Verse 10 People laughed at Jeremiah's constant message about trouble in the future. So they used his words 'Terror on every side' as a name to insult him. The people should have been his friends. But they were watching everything that he did. They listened to everything that he said. They wanted to change what his words meant. They wanted to see him make a mistake. Then they would report him to the rulers. Jeremiah felt like David, whose enemies wanted to kill him (Psalm 56:6). Jeremiah had spoken against the people. Now they wanted him to have troubles because of what he said.

Praise in the middle of protest 20:11-13

v11    But the *LORD is with me. And he is like a powerful champion.

          So those people who want me to have troubles will trip. And they will fall.

          They will not win against me.

          They will fail. They will be very ashamed.

          Nobody will forget their shame.

v12    You are the *LORD, the most powerful God.

          You test people who do right deeds.

          You see what is in their hearts and in their minds.

          So let them have troubles because of what they have done.

          Do this because I am obeying you.

v13    Sing to the *LORD! Praise the *LORD!

          He rescues those people who need help.

          He saves them from the wicked people.

Verse 11 Then Jeremiah remembered that the *LORD promised to be with him (Jeremiah 1:18-19). He describes the *LORD in the same way that David did. The *LORD is powerful in battles (Psalm 24:8). The *LORD is his champion. So his enemies would not be able to defeat him.

Verse 12 This verse is similar to Jeremiah 11:20. The *LORD is able to see the emotions and the thoughts that people hide. Like a man who tests metals, the *LORD knew that Jeremiah was honest. And the *LORD would punish everyone who did wrong deeds. Jeremiah's enemies were trying to find a way to bring him to the rulers. Jeremiah trusted the *LORD to defend him against any false evidence.

Verse 13 These are sudden shouts to praise the *LORD. They show that Jeremiah's confidence in the *LORD had returned for a while. Jeremiah may have said that after Pashhur freed him from prison.

Jeremiah's despair 20:14-18

v14    I wish evil things upon the day that I was born.

          Let there be no *blessing for the day that my mother gave birth to me.

v15    I wish evil things upon the man who brought the news to my father.

          He is the person who made my father very happy.

          He said, 'You have a child. It is a son!'

v16    Let that man be like the towns

          that the *LORD destroyed without pity.

          Let that man hear sad cries in the morning.

          Let him hear the sound of the battle at noon.

v17    He did not kill me in my mother's body.

          He did not make my grave inside my mother’s body.

          He did not let her body stay large for always.

v18    I wish that I never came out from my mother's body.

          I have seen trouble and sad times only.

          And my life will end in shame.

Verses 14-15 Then Jeremiah's mood changed from hope to despair. In Israel, anyone who spoke bad words about the *LORD or about his own parents was guilty of a crime. Someone would kill him (Leviticus 20:9; 24:10-16). Jeremiah did not wish evil things upon the *LORD. But he wished evil things upon the day that he was born. Before he was born, the *LORD had chosen him to be a *prophet (Jeremiah 1:5). So Jeremiah was speaking bad words about what the *LORD had chosen for him. He did not wish evil things upon his father. Instead, he wished evil things upon the man who took the news of a son to his father. The birth of a son was a happy event. It meant that the family name would continue. Jeremiah's father would have felt happy. There was a male child who would become the head of his family.

Verses 16-17 The towns that the *LORD destroyed were Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-28). Jeremiah's despair was very great. He was wishing that an innocent man would have troubles. Jeremiah had wanted to die in his mother's body. That would have been his grave. She would have a large body, because the baby would be inside her for always. Really he did not want anyone to cause the death of a mother and her son. But he was making crazy remarks because he was so depressed.

Verse 18 He had seen trouble during all of his life. That made him sad. He thought that he would feel ashamed, even at the end his life.


AD ~ refers to the years after Christ was born.

altar ~ a block of wood or stone with a flat top. People gave gifts or *sacrifices on it to God or to a false god.

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.

clay ~ a type of earth from which people made pots.          

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.

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

Gentile ~ a person who is not a *Jew.

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

Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.

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

kingdom ~ a country where a king rules.

linen ~ a special type of cloth of good quality. People make it from the plant called flax.

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.

potter ~ a person who makes pots from *clay.

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.

Sabbath ~ the 7th day of the *Jewish week; it starts from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. The day on which God rested when he created the world. A day of rest in which *Jews are not allowed to work (Exodus 20:8-11). Something that has a connection with the Sabbath.

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.

sexual ~ feelings or behaviour that have a connection with the act of sex.

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.

throne ~ a magnificent royal seat on which a king or ruler sits

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.

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.


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


Concise Oxford Chambers 21st Century

Thesaurus ~ Geddes and Grosset ~ 1999


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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