The Lesson from the Potter Working the Clay
18 1 God told Jeremiah, 2 "Up on your feet! Go to the potter's house. When you get there, I'll tell you what I have to say." 3 So I went to the potter's house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. 4 Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. 5 Then God's Message came to me: 6 "Can't I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?" God's Decree! "Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel. 7 At any moment I may decide to pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them. 8 But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them. 9 At another time I might decide to plant a people or country, 10 but if they don't cooperate and won't listen to me, I will think again and give up on the plans I had for them.
11 "So, tell the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem my Message: 'Danger! I'm shaping doom against you, laying plans against you. Turn back from your doomed way of life. Straighten out your lives.' 12 "But they'll just say, 'Why should we? What's the point? We'll live just the way we've always lived, doom or no doom.'" 13 God's Message: "Ask around. Survey the godless nations. Has anyone heard the likes of this? Virgin Israel has become a slut! 14 Does snow disappear from the Lebanon peaks? Do alpine streams run dry? 15 But my people have left me to worship the Big Lie. They've gotten off the track, the old, well-worn trail, And now bushwhack through underbrush in a tangle of roots and vines. 16 Their land's going to end up a mess - a fool's memorial to be spit on. Travelers passing through will shake their heads in disbelief. 17 I'll scatter my people before their enemies, like autumn leaves in a high wind. On their day of doom, they'll stare at my back as I walk away, catching not so much as a glimpse of my face."
The People's Plots and Jeremiah's Prayer
18 Some of the people said, "Come on, let's cook up a plot against Jeremiah. We'll still have the priests to teach us the law, wise counselors to give us advice, and prophets to tell us what God has to say. Come on, let's discredit him so we don't have to put up with him any longer." 19 And I said to God: "God, listen to me! Just listen to what my enemies are saying. 20 Should I get paid evil for good? That's what they're doing. They've made plans to kill me! Remember all the times I stood up for them before you, speaking up for them, trying to soften your anger? 21 But enough! Let their children starve! Let them be massacred in battle! Let their wives be childless and widowed, their friends die and their proud young men be killed. 22 Let cries of panic sound from their homes as you surprise them with war parties! They're all set to lynch me. The noose is practically around my neck! 23 But you know all this, God. You know they're determined to kill me. Don't whitewash their crimes, don't overlook a single sin! Round the bunch of them up before you. Strike while the iron of your anger is hot!"
The Lesson from the Broken Vessel
19 1 God said to me, "Go, buy a clay pot. Then get a few leaders from the people and a few of the leading priests 2 and go out to the Valley of Ben-hinnom, just outside the Potsherd Gate, and preach there what I tell you. 3 "Say, 'Listen to God's Word, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem! This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel. I'm about to bring doom crashing down on this place. Oh, and will ears ever ring! 4 Doom - because they've walked off and left me, and made this place strange by worshiping strange gods, gods never heard of by them, their parents, or the old kings of Judah. Doom - because they have massacred innocent people. 5 Doom - because they've built altars to that no-god Baal, and burned their own children alive in the fire as offerings to Baal, an atrocity I never ordered, never so much as hinted at! 6 "'And so it's pay day, and soon' - God's Decree! - 'this place will no longer be known as Topheth or Valley of Ben-hinnom, but Massacre Meadows. 7 I'm canceling all the plans Judah and Jerusalem had for this place, and I'll have them killed by their enemies. I'll stack their dead bodies to be eaten by carrion crows and wild dogs. 8 I'll turn this city into such a museum of atrocities that anyone coming near will be shocked speechless by the savage brutality. 9 The people will turn into cannibals. Dehumanized by the pressure of the enemy siege, they'll eat their own children! Yes, they'll eat one another, family and friends alike.'
10 "Say all this, and then smash the pot in front of the men who have come with you. 11 Then say, 'This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: I'll smash this people and this city like a man who smashes a clay pot into so many pieces it can never be put together again. They'll bury bodies here in Topheth until there's no more room. 12 And the whole city will become a Topheth. 13 The city will be turned by people and kings alike into a center for worshiping the star gods and goddesses, turned into an open grave, the whole city an open grave, stinking like a sewer, like Topheth.'" 14 Then Jeremiah left Topheth, where God had sent him to preach the sermon, and took his stand in the court of God's Temple and said to the people, 15 "This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies to you: 'Warning! Danger! I'm bringing down on this city and all the surrounding towns the doom that I have pronounced. They're set in their ways and won't budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.'"
The Curse on Pashur for Imprisoning Jeremiah
20 1 The priest Pashur son of Immer was the senior priest in God's Temple. He heard Jeremiah preach this sermon. 2 He whipped Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate of God's Temple. 3 The next day Pashur came and let him go. Jeremiah told him, "God has a new name for you: not Pashur but Danger-Everywhere, 4 because God says, 'You're a danger to yourself and everyone around you. All your friends are going to get killed in battle while you stand there and watch. What's more, I'm turning all of Judah over to the king of Babylon to do whatever he likes with them - haul them off into exile, kill them at whim. 5 Everything worth anything in this city, property and possessions along with everything in the royal treasury - I'm handing it all over to the enemy. They'll rummage through it and take what they want back to Babylon. 6 "'And you, Pashur, you and everyone in your family will be taken prisoner into exile - that's right, exile in Babylon. You'll die and be buried there, you and all your cronies to whom you preached your lies.'"
7 You pushed me into this, God, and I let you do it. You were too much for me. And now I'm a public joke. They all poke fun at me. 8 Every time I open my mouth I'm shouting, "Murder!" or "Rape!" And all I get for my God-warnings are insults and contempt. 9 But if I say, "Forget it! No more God-Messages from me!" The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I'm worn out trying to hold it in. I can't do it any longer! 10 Then I hear whispering behind my back: "There goes old 'Danger-Everywhere.' Shut him up! Report him!" Old friends watch, hoping I'll fall flat on my face: "One misstep and we'll have him. We'll get rid of him for good!" 11 But God, a most fierce warrior, is at my side. Those who are after me will be sent sprawling - Slapstick buffoons falling all over themselves, a spectacle of humiliation no one will ever forget. 12 Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, no one fools you. You see through everyone, everything. I want to see you pay them back for what they've done. I rest my case with you. 13 Sing to God! All praise to God! He saves the weak from the grip of the wicked.
14 Curse the day I was born! The day my mother bore me - a curse on it, I say! 15 And curse the man who delivered the news to my father: "You've got a new baby - a boy baby!" (How happy it made him.) 16 Let that birth notice be blacked out, deleted from the records, And the man who brought it haunted to his death with the bad news he brought. 17 He should have killed me before I was born, with that womb as my tomb, My mother pregnant for the rest of her life with a baby dead in her womb. 18 Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb? Life's been nothing but trouble and tears, and what's coming is more of the same.
The Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold
21 1 God's Message to Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent Pashur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to him with this request: 2 "Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has waged war against us. Pray to God for us. Ask him for help. Maybe God will intervene with one of his famous miracles and make him leave." 3 But Jeremiah said, "Tell Zedekiah: 4 'This is the God of Israel's Message to you: You can say good-bye to your army, watch morale and weapons flushed down the drain. I'm going to personally lead the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, against whom you're fighting so hard, right into the city itself. 5 I'm joining their side and fighting against you, fighting all-out, holding nothing back. And in fierce anger. 6 I'm prepared to wipe out the population of this city, people and animals alike, in a raging epidemic. 7 And then I will personally deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his princes, and any survivors left in the city who haven't died from disease, been killed, or starved. I'll deliver them to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon - yes, hand them over to their enemies, who have come to kill them. He'll kill them ruthlessly, showing no mercy.'
8 "And then tell the people at large, 'God's Message to you is this: Listen carefully. I'm giving you a choice: life or death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die - either in battle or by starvation or disease. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who have surrounded the city will live. You'll lose everything - but not your life. 10 I'm determined to see this city destroyed. I'm that angry with this place! God's Decree. I'm going to give it to the king of Babylon, and he's going to burn it to the ground.' 11 "To the royal house of Judah, listen to God's Message! 12 House of David, listen - God's Message to you: 'Start each day by dealing with justice. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Prevent fire - the fire of my anger - for once it starts, it can't be put out. Your evil regime is fuel for my anger. 13 Don't you realize that I'm against you, yes, against you. You think you've got it made, all snug and secure. You say, "Who can possibly get to us? Who can crash our party?" 14 Well, I can - and will! I'll punish your evil regime. I'll start a fire that will rage unchecked, burn everything in sight to cinders.'"
Prophecies against the Kings of Judah
22 1 God's orders: "Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. 2 Say, 'Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David's throne - you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. 3 This is God's Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don't take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering! 4 "'If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots - they and their officials and the citizens of Judah. 5 But if you don't obey these commands, then I swear - God's Decree! - this palace will end up a heap of rubble.'" 6 This is God's verdict on Judah's royal palace: "I number you among my favorite places - like the lovely hills of Gilead, like the soaring peaks of Lebanon. Yet I swear I'll turn you into a wasteland, as empty as a ghost town. 7 I'll hire a demolition crew, well-equipped with sledgehammers and wrecking bars, Pound the country to a pulp and burn it all up. 8 "Travelers from all over will come through here and say to one another, 'Why would God do such a thing to this wonderful city?' 9 They'll be told, 'Because they walked out on the covenant of their God, took up with other gods and worshiped them.'" Building a Fine House but Destroying Lives
10 Don't weep over dead King Josiah. Don't waste your tears. Weep for his exiled son: He's gone for good. He'll never see home again. 11 For this is God's Word on Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah: "He's gone from here, gone for good. 12 He'll die in the place they've taken him to. He'll never see home again." 13 "Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives, Who cheats his workers and won't pay them for their work, 14 Who says, 'I'll build me an elaborate mansion with spacious rooms and fancy windows. I'll bring in rare and expensive woods and the latest in interior decor.' 15 So, that makes you a king - living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn't he? He did what was right and treated people fairly, And things went well with him. 16 He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn't this what it means to know me?" God's Decree! 17 "But you're blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself, Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims." 18 This is God's epitaph on Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: "Doom to this man! Nobody will shed tears over him, 'Poor, poor brother!' Nobody will shed tears over him, 'Poor, poor master!' 19 They'll give him a donkey's funeral, drag him out of the city and dump him. You've Made a Total Mess of Your Life
20 "People of Jerusalem, climb a Lebanon peak and weep, climb a Bashan mountain and wail, Climb the Abarim ridge and cry - you've made a total mess of your life. 21 I spoke to you when everything was going your way. You said, 'I'm not interested.' You've been that way as long as I've known you, never listened to a thing I said. 22 All your leaders will be blown away, all your friends end up in exile, And you'll find yourself in the gutter, disgraced by your evil life. 23 You big-city people thought you were so important, thought you were 'king of the mountain'! You're soon going to be doubled up in pain, pain worse than the pangs of childbirth. 24 "As sure as I am the living God" - God's Decree - "even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, I'd pull you off 25 and give you to those who are out to kill you, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, 26 and then throw you, both you and your mother, into a foreign country, far from your place of birth. There you'll both die. 27 "You'll be homesick, desperately homesick, but you'll never get home again." 28 Is Jehoiachin a leaky bucket, a rusted-out pail good for nothing? Why else would he be thrown away, he and his children, thrown away to a foreign place? 29 O land, land, land, listen to God's Message! 30 This is God's verdict: "Write this man off as if he were childless, a man who will never amount to anything. Nothing will ever come of his life. He's the end of the line, the last of the kings.