If a man divorces his wife
and she goes from him
and becomes another man’s wife,
will he return to her?
Would not such a land be greatly polluted?
You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me? says the Lord.
Look up to the bare heights and see!
Where have you not been lain with?
By the waysides you have sat waiting for lovers,
like a nomad in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your whoring and wickedness.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and the spring rain has not come;
yet you have the forehead of a whore,
you refuse to be ashamed.
Have you not just now called to me,
‘My Father, you are the friend of my youth—
will he be angry for ever,
will he be indignant to the end?’
This is how you have spoken,
but you have done all the evil that you could.
A Call to Repentance
The Lord said to me ‘Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there?’ And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me’; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretence, says the Lord.
Then the Lord said to me: Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah. Go, and proclaim these words towards the north, and say:
Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful, says the Lord;
I will not be angry for ever.
Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
and scattered your favours among strangers under every green tree,
and have not obeyed my voice, says the Lord.
Return, O faithless children, says the Lord,
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.
I thought how I would set you among my children,
and give you a pleasant land,
the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
and would not turn from following me.
Instead, as a faithless wife leaves her husband,
so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the Lord.
A voice on the bare heights is heard,
the plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,
because they have perverted their way,
they have forgotten the Lord their God:
Return, O faithless children,
I will heal your faithlessness.
‘Here we come to you;
for you are the Lord our God.
Truly the hills are a delusion,
the orgies on the mountains.
Truly in the Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
‘But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our ancestors had laboured, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonour cover us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our ancestors, from our youth even to this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.’
If you return, O Israel, says the Lord,
if you return to me,
if you remove your abominations from my presence,
and do not waver,
and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives!’
in truth, in justice, and in uprightness,
then nations shall be blessed by him,
and by him they shall boast.
For thus says the Lord to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem:
Break up your fallow ground,
and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or else my wrath will go forth like fire,
and burn with no one to quench it,
because of the evil of your doings.
Invasion and Desolation of Judah Threatened
Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say:
Blow the trumpet through the land;
shout aloud and say,
‘Gather together, and let us go
into the fortified cities!’
Raise a standard towards Zion,
flee for safety, do not delay,
for I am bringing evil from the north,
and a great destruction.
A lion has gone up from its thicket,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone out from his place
to make your land a waste;
your cities will be ruins
Because of this put on sackcloth,
lament and wail:
‘The fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned away from us.’
On that day, says the Lord, courage shall fail the king and the officials; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded. Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God, how utterly you have deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, "It shall be well with you", even while the sword is at the throat!’
At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert towards my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgement against them.
Look! He comes up like clouds,
his chariots like the whirlwind;
his horses are swifter than eagles—
woe to us, for we are ruined!
O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness
so that you may be saved.
How long shall your evil schemes
lodge within you?
For a voice declares from Dan
and proclaims disaster from Mount Ephraim.
Tell the nations, ‘Here they are!’
Proclaim against Jerusalem,
‘Besiegers come from a distant land;
they shout against the cities of Judah.
They have closed in around her like watchers of a field,
because she has rebelled against me, says the Lord.
Your ways and your doings
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom; how bitter it is!
It has reached your very heart.’
Sorrow for a Doomed Nation
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent;
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Disaster overtakes disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard,
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
‘For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good.’
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
Because of this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above grow black;
for I have spoken, I have purposed;
I have not relented nor will I turn back.
At the noise of horseman and archer
every town takes to flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;
all the towns are forsaken,
and no one lives in them.
And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in crimson,
that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you;
they seek your life.
For I heard a cry as of a woman in labour,
anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
‘Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!’
The Utter Corruption of God’s People
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and take note!
Search its squares and see
if you can find one person
who acts justly
and seeks truth—
so that I may pardon Jerusalem.
Although they say, ‘As the Lord lives’,
yet they swear falsely.
O Lord, do your eyes not look for truth?
You have struck them,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to turn back.
Then I said, ‘These are only the poor,
they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the law of their God.
Let me go to the rich
and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord,
the law of their God.’
But they all alike had broken the yoke,
they had burst the bonds.
Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them,
a wolf from the desert shall destroy them.
A leopard is watching against their cities;
everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces—
because their transgressions are many,
their apostasies are great.
How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me,
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of prostitutes.
They were well-fed lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbour’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord;
and shall I not bring retribution
on a nation such as this?
Go up through her vine-rows and destroy,
but do not make a full end;
strip away her branches,
for they are not the Lord’s.
For the house of Israel and the house of Judah
have been utterly faithless to me, says the Lord.
They have spoken falsely of the Lord,
and have said, ‘He will do nothing.
No evil will come upon us,
and we shall not see sword or famine.’
The prophets are nothing but wind,
for the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them!
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts:
Because they have spoken this word,
I am now making my words in your mouth a fire,
and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them.
I am going to bring upon you
a nation from far away, O house of Israel, says the Lord.
It is an enduring nation,
it is an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know,
nor can you understand what they say.
Their quiver is like an open tomb;
all of them are mighty warriors.
They shall eat up your harvest and your food;
they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;
they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
they shall destroy with the sword
your fortified cities in which you trust.
But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you. 19And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’
Declare this in the house of Jacob,
proclaim it in Judah:
Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes, but do not see,
who have ears, but do not hear.
Do you not fear me? says the Lord;
Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,
a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail,
though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
they have turned aside and gone away.
They do not say in their hearts,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives the rain in its season,
the autumn rain and the spring rain,
and keeps for us
the weeks appointed for the harvest.’
Your iniquities have turned these away,
and your sins have deprived you of good.
For scoundrels are found among my people;
they take over the goods of others.
Like fowlers they set a trap;
they catch human beings.
Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of treachery;
therefore they have become great and rich,
they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;
they do not judge with justice
the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord,
and shall I not bring retribution
on a nation such as this?
An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule as the prophets direct;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
The Imminence and Horror of the Invasion
Flee for safety, O children of Benjamin,
from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem;
for evil looms out of the north,
and great destruction.
I have likened daughter Zion
to the loveliest pasture.
Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her.
They shall pitch their tents around her;
they shall pasture, all in their places.
‘Prepare war against her;
up, and let us attack at noon!’
‘Woe to us, for the day declines,
the shadows of evening lengthen!’
‘Up, and let us attack by night,
and destroy her palaces!’
For thus says the Lord of hosts:
Cut down her trees;
cast up a siege-ramp against Jerusalem.
This is the city that must be punished;
there is nothing but oppression within her.
As a well keeps its water fresh,
so she keeps fresh her wickedness;
violence and destruction are heard within her;
sickness and wounds are ever before me.
Take warning, O Jerusalem,
or I shall turn from you in disgust,
and make you a desolation,
an uninhabited land.
To whom shall I speak and give warning,
that they may hear?
See, their ears are closed,
they cannot listen.
The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn;
they take no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
I am weary of holding it in.
Pour it out on the children in the street,
and on the gatherings of young men as well;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the old folk and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others,
their fields and wives together;
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land, says the Lord.
For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace.
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not ashamed,
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Also I raised up sentinels for you:
‘Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not give heed.’
Therefore hear, O nations,
and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not given heed to my words;
and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba,
or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable,
nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
Therefore thus says the Lord:
See, I am laying before this people
stumbling-blocks against which they shall stumble;
parents and children together,
neighbour and friend shall perish.
Thus says the Lord:
See, a people is coming from the land of the north,
a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
They grasp the bow and the javelin,
they are cruel and have no mercy,
their sound is like the roaring sea;
they ride on horses,
equipped like a warrior for battle,
against you, O daughter Zion!
‘We have heard news of them,
our hands fall helpless;
anguish has taken hold of us,
pain as of a woman in labour.
Do not go out into the field,
or walk on the road;
for the enemy has a sword,
terror is on every side.’
O my poor people, put on sackcloth,
and roll in ashes;
make mourning as for an only child,
most bitter lamentation:
for suddenly the destroyer
will come upon us.
I have made you a tester and a refiner among my people
so that you may know and test their ways.
They are all stubbornly rebellious,
going about with slanders;
they are bronze and iron,
all of them act corruptly.
The bellows blow fiercely,
the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,
for the wicked are not removed.
They are called ‘rejected silver’,
for the Lord has rejected them.