19 This is what the Lord says: “Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take[a] some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests 2 and go out to Ben Hinnom Valley near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. 3 Say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such a disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder[b] 4 because they have abandoned me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods that they, their ancestors, and the kings of Judah have never known. They have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built high places to Baal on which to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, something I have never commanded or mentioned; I never entertained the thought.[c]
6 “‘Therefore, look, the days are coming—this is the Lord’s declaration—when this place will no longer be called Topheth and Ben Hinnom Valley, but Slaughter Valley. 7 I will spoil the plans of Judah and Jerusalem in this place. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, by the hand of those who intend to take their life. I will provide their corpses as food for the birds of the sky and for the wild animals of the land. 8 I will make this city desolate, an object of scorn. Everyone who passes by it will be appalled and scoff because of all its wounds. 9 I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and they will eat each other’s flesh in the distressing siege inflicted on them by their enemies who intend to take their life.’
10 “Then you are to shatter the jar in the presence of the people going with you, 11 and you are to proclaim to them, ‘This is what the Lord of Armies says: I will shatter these people and this city, like one shatters a potter’s jar that can never again be mended. They will bury the dead in Topheth because there is no other place for burials. 12 That is what I will do to this place—this is the declaration of the Lord—and to its residents, making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will become impure like that place Topheth—all the houses on whose rooftops they have burned incense to all the stars in the sky and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’”
14 Jeremiah returned from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, stood in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple, and proclaimed to all the people, 15 “This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘I am about to bring on this city—and on all its cities—every disaster that I spoke against it, for they have become obstinate, not obeying my words.’”
Jeremiah Beaten by Pashhur
20 Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer and chief official in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 So Pashhur had the prophet Jeremiah beaten and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate in the Lord’s temple. 3 The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord does not call you Pashhur, but Terror Is on Every Side,[d] 4 for this is what the Lord says, ‘I am about to make you a terror to both yourself and those you love. They will fall by the sword of their enemies before your very eyes. I will hand Judah over to the king of Babylon, and he will deport them to Babylon and put them to the sword. 5 I will give away all the wealth of this city, all its products and valuables. Indeed, I will hand all the treasures of the kings of Judah over to their enemies. They will plunder them, seize them, and carry them off to Babylon. 6 As for you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house, you will go into captivity. You will go to Babylon. There you will die, and there you will be buried, you and all your friends to whom you prophesied lies.’”
Jeremiah Compelled to Preach
7 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived.
You seized me and prevailed.
I am a laughingstock all the time;
everyone ridicules me.
8 For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I proclaim, “Violence and destruction!”
so the word of the Lord has become my
constant disgrace and derision.
9 I say, “I won’t mention him
or speak any longer in his name.”
But his message becomes a fire burning in my heart,
shut up in my bones.
I become tired of holding it in,
and I cannot prevail.
10 For I have heard the gossip of many people,
“Terror is on every side!
Report him; let’s report him!”
Everyone I trusted[e] watches for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived
so that we might prevail against him
and take our vengeance on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior.
Therefore, my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
Since they have not succeeded, they will be utterly shamed,
an everlasting humiliation that will never be forgotten.
12 Lord of Armies, testing the righteous
and seeing the heart[f] and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for I have presented my case to you.
13 Sing to the Lord!
Praise the Lord,
for he rescues the life of the needy
from evil people.
14 May the day I was born
May the day my mother bore me
never be blessed.
15 May the man be cursed
who brought the news to my father, saying,
“A male child is born to you,”
bringing him great joy.
16 Let that man be like the cities
the Lord demolished without compassion.
Let him hear an outcry in the morning
and a war cry at noontime
17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb
so that my mother might have been my grave,
her womb eternally pregnant.
18 Why did I come out of the womb
to see only struggle and sorrow,
to end my life in shame?
Zedekiah’s Request Denied
21 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent Pashhur son of Malchijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah, asking, 2 “Inquire of the Lord on our behalf, since King Nebuchadnezzar[g] of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the Lord will perform for us something like all his past wondrous works so that Nebuchadnezzar will withdraw from us.”
3 But Jeremiah answered, “This is what you are to say to Zedekiah: 4 ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to repel the weapons of war in your hands, those you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans[h] who are besieging you outside the wall, and I will bring them into the center of this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a strong arm, with anger, fury, and intense wrath. 6 I will strike the residents of this city, both people and animals. They will die in a severe plague. 7 Afterward—this is the Lord’s declaration—King Zedekiah of Judah, his officers, and the people—those in this city who survive the plague, the sword, and the famine—I will hand over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, to their enemies, yes, to those who intend to take their lives. He will put them to the sword; he won’t spare them or show pity or compassion.’
A Warning for the People
8 “But tell this people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live and will retain his life like the spoils of war. 10 For I have set my face against this city to bring disaster and not good—this is the Lord’s declaration. It will be handed over to the king of Babylon, who will burn it.’
11 “And to the house of the king of Judah say this: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! 12 House of David, this is what the Lord says:
Administer justice every morning,
and rescue the victim of robbery
from his oppressor,
or my anger will flare up like fire
and burn unquenchably
because of your evil deeds.
13 Beware! I am against you,
you who sit above the valley,
you atop the rocky plateau—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
you who say, “Who can come down against us?
Who can enter our hiding places?”
14 I will punish you according to what you have done—
this is the Lord’s declaration.
I will kindle a fire in your forest
that will consume everything around it.’”
Judgment against Sinful Kings
22 This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and announce this word there. 2 You are to say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, king of Judah, you who sit on the throne of David—you, your officers, and your people who enter these gates. 3 This is what the Lord says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the resident alien, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you conscientiously carry out this word, then kings sitting on David’s throne will enter through the gates of this palace riding on chariots and horses—they, their officers, and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these words, then I swear by myself—this is the Lord’s declaration—that this house will become a ruin.’”
6 For this is what the Lord says concerning the house of the king of Judah:
“You are like Gilead to me,
or the summit of Lebanon,
but I will certainly turn you into a wilderness,
7 I will set apart destroyers against you,
each with his weapons.
They will cut down the choicest of your cedars
and throw them into the fire.
8 “Many nations will pass by this city and ask one another, ‘Why did the Lord do such a thing to this great city?’ 9 They will answer, ‘Because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord their God and bowed in worship to other gods and served them.’”
A Message concerning Shallum
10 Do not weep for the dead;
do not mourn for him.
Weep bitterly for the one who has gone away,
for he will never return again
and see his native land.
11 For this is what the Lord says concerning Shallum son of Josiah, king of Judah, who became king in place of his father Josiah, and who has left this place: “He will never return here again, 12 but he will die in the place where they deported him, never seeing this land again.”
A Message concerning Jehoiakim
13 Woe for the one who builds his palace
his upstairs rooms through injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve without pay
and will not give him his wages,
14 who says, “I will build myself a massive palace,
with spacious upstairs rooms.”
He will cut windows[i] in it,
and it will be paneled with cedar
and painted bright red.
15 Are you a king because you excel in cedar?
Didn’t your father eat and drink
and administer justice and righteousness?
Then it went well with him.
16 He took up the case of the poor and needy;
then it went well.
Is this not what it means to know me?
This is the Lord’s declaration.
17 But you have eyes and a heart for nothing
except your own dishonest profit,
shedding innocent blood
and committing extortion and oppression.
18 Therefore, this is what the Lord says concerning Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah:
They will not mourn for him, saying,
“Woe, my brother!” or “Woe, my sister!”
They will not mourn for him, saying,
“Woe, lord! Woe, his majesty!”
19 He will be buried like a donkey,
dragged off and thrown
outside Jerusalem’s gates.
20 Go up to Lebanon and cry out;
raise your voice in Bashan;
cry out from Abarim,
for all your lovers[j] have been crushed.
21 I spoke to you when you were secure.
You said, “I will not listen.”
This has been your way since youth;
indeed, you have never listened to me.
22 The wind will take charge of[k] all your shepherds,
and your lovers will go into captivity.
Then you will be ashamed and humiliated
because of all your evil.
23 You residents of Lebanon,
nestled among the cedars,
how you will groan[l] when pains come on you,
agony like a woman in labor.
A Message concerning Coniah
24 “As I live”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“though you, Coniah[m] son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would tear you from it. 25 In fact, I will hand you over to those you dread, who intend to take your life, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the Chaldeans. 26 I will hurl you and the mother who gave birth to you into another land, where neither of you were born, and there you will both die. 27 They will never return to the land they long to return to.”
28 Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered pot,
a jar no one wants?
Why are he and his descendants hurled out
and cast into a land they have not known?
29 Earth, earth, earth,
hear the word of the Lord!
30 This is what the Lord says:
Record this man as childless,
a man who will not be successful in his lifetime.
None of his descendants will succeed
in sitting on the throne of David
or ruling again in Judah.
The Lord and His Sheep
23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” This is the Lord’s declaration. 2 “Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds who tend my people: You have scattered my flock, banished them, and have not attended to them. I am about to attend to you because of your evil acts”—this is the Lord’s declaration. 3 “I will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands where I have banished them, and I will return them to their grazing land. They will become fruitful and numerous. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will tend them. They will no longer be afraid or discouraged, nor will any be missing.” This is the Lord’s declaration.
The Righteous Branch of David
5 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—
“when I will raise up a Righteous Branch for David.
He will reign wisely as king
and administer justice and righteousness in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved,
and Israel will dwell securely.
This is the name he will be called:
The Lord Is Our Righteousness.[n]
7 “Look, the days are coming”—the Lord’s declaration—“when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ 8 but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the land of the north and from all the other countries where I[o] had banished them.’ They will dwell once more in their own land.”
False Prophets Condemned
9 Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me,
and all my bones tremble.
I have become like a drunkard,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord,
because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
the land mourns because of the curse,
and the grazing lands in the wilderness have dried up.
Their way of life[p] has become evil,
and their power is not rightly used
11 because both prophet and priest are ungodly,
even in my house I have found their evil.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
12 Therefore, their way will seem
like slippery paths in the gloom.
They will be driven away and fall down there,
for I will bring disaster on them,
the year of their punishment.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
13 Among the prophets of Samaria
I saw something disgusting:
They prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
14 Among the prophets of Jerusalem also
I saw a horrible thing:
They commit adultery and walk in lies.
They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
and none turns his back on evil.
They are all like Sodom to me;
Jerusalem’s residents are like Gomorrah.
15 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Armies says concerning the prophets:
I am about to feed them wormwood
and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness[q] has spread throughout the land.
16 This is what the Lord of Armies says: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are deluding you. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the Lord’s mouth. 17 They keep on saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord has spoken: You will have peace.’ They have said to everyone who follows the stubbornness of his heart, ‘No harm will come to you.’”
18 For who has stood in the council of the Lord
to see and hear his word?
Who has paid attention to his word and obeyed?
19 Look, a storm from the Lord!
Wrath has gone out,
a whirling storm.
It will whirl about the heads of the wicked.
20 The Lord’s anger will not turn away
until he has completely fulfilled the purposes of his heart.
In time to come you will understand it clearly.
21 I did not send out these prophets,
yet they ran.
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
22 If they had really stood in my council,
they would have enabled my people to hear my words
and would have turned them from their evil ways
and their evil deeds.
23 “Am I a God who is only near”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and not a God who is far away? 24 Can a person hide in secret places where I cannot see him?” —the Lord’s declaration. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” —the Lord’s declaration.
25 “I have heard what the prophets who prophesy a lie in my name have said: ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the minds of the prophets prophesying lies, prophets of the deceit of their own minds? 27 Through their dreams that they tell one another, they plan to cause my people to forget my name as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 The prophet who has only a dream should recount the dream, but the one who has my word should speak my word truthfully, for what is straw compared to grain?”—this is the Lord’s declaration. 29 “Is not my word like fire”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and like a hammer that pulverizes rock? 30 Therefore, take note! I am against the prophets”—the Lord’s declaration—“who steal my words from each other. 31 I am against the prophets”—the Lord’s declaration—“who use their own tongues to make a declaration. 32 I am against those who prophesy false dreams”—the Lord’s declaration—“telling them and leading my people astray with their reckless lies. It was not I who sent or commanded them, and they are of no benefit at all to these people”—this is the Lord’s declaration.
The Burden of the Lord
33 “Now when these people or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden[r] of the Lord?’ you will respond to them, ‘What is the burden? I will throw you away! This is the Lord’s declaration.’ 34 As for the prophet, priest, or people who say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ I will punish that man and his household. 35 This is what each man is to say to his friend and to his brother: ‘What has the Lord answered?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 36 But no longer refer to[s] the burden of the Lord, for each man’s word becomes his burden and you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of Armies, our God. 37 Say to the prophet, ‘What has the Lord answered you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 But if you say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ then this is what the Lord says: Because you have said, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ and I specifically told you not to say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ 39 I will surely forget you.[t] I will throw you away from my presence—both you and the city that I gave you and your ancestors. 40 I will bring on you everlasting disgrace and humiliation that will never be forgotten.”
As we continue to read Jeremiah, we see there are many hard words from God to people. God is a jealous and a just God. Although he is those things, he is not a cosmic killjoy. He actually wants to bring people freedom. He wants to bring people joy. That freedom and Joy is only found in what He gave to humans. He gave his son, Jesus, who would come to the earth and die in our place. Today, ask God to show you where you have stepped away from him. Ask him to forgive you and always remember he has your best interest at heart.