I wrote a letter to the priests, the prophets, the leaders of the people, and to all the others whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken away as prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylonia. 2I wrote it after King Jehoiachin, his mother, the palace officials, the leaders of Judah and of Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the skilled workmen had been taken into exile. 3I gave the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom King Zedekiah of Judah was sending to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia. It said:
4“The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those people whom he allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take away as prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylonia: 5‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. 6Marry and have children. Then let your children get married, so that they also may have children. You must increase in numbers and not decrease. 7Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too. 8I, the LORD, the God of Israel, warn you not to let yourselves be deceived by the prophets who live among you or by any others who claim they can predict the future. Do not pay any attention to their29.8 Probable text their; Hebrew your. dreams. 9They are telling you lies in my name. I did not send them. I, the LORD Almighty, have spoken.’
“The LORD says, ‘When Babylonia's seventy years are over, I will show my concern for you and keep my promise to bring you back home. 11I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.29.11 the future you hope for; or a future full of hope. 12Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. 13
You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart. 14Yes, I say, you will find me, and I will restore you to your land. I will gather you from every country and from every place to which I have scattered you, and I will bring you back to the land from which I had sent you away into exile. I, the LORD, have spoken.’
15“You say that the LORD has given you prophets in Babylonia. 16Listen to what the LORD says about the king who rules the kingdom that David ruled and about the people of this city, that is, your relatives who were not taken away as prisoners with you. 17The LORD Almighty says, ‘I am bringing war, starvation, and disease on them, and I will make them like figs that are too rotten to be eaten. 18I will pursue them with war, starvation, and disease, and all the nations of the world will be horrified at what they see. Everywhere I scatter them, people will be shocked and terrified at what has happened to them. People will mock them and use their name as a curse. 19This will happen to them because they did not obey the message that I kept on sending to them through my servants the prophets. They refused to listen. 20All of you whom I sent into exile in Babylonia, listen to what I, the LORD, say.’
21“The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, has spoken about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are telling you lies in his name. He has said that he will hand them over to the power of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, who will put them to death before your eyes. 22When the people who were taken away as prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylonia want to bring a curse on someone, they will say, ‘May the LORD treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylonia roasted alive!’ 23This will be their fate because they are guilty of terrible sins — they have committed adultery and have told lies in the LORD's name. This was against the LORD's will; he knows what they have done, and he is a witness against them.29.23 done, and he… them; or done; he saw them do it. The LORD has spoken.”
24-25The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, gave me a message for Shemaiah of Nehelam, who had sent a letter in his own name to all the people of Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah and to all the other priests. In this letter, Shemaiah wrote to Zephaniah:
26“The LORD made you a priest in place of Jehoiada, and you are now the chief officer29.26 Some ancient translations officer; Hebrew officers. in the Temple. It is your duty to see that every madman who pretends to be a prophet is placed in chains with an iron collar round his neck. 27Why haven't you done this to Jeremiah of Anathoth, who has been speaking as a prophet to the people? 28He must be stopped because he told the people in Babylonia that they would be prisoners there a long time and should build houses, settle down, plant gardens, and eat what they grow.”
29Zephaniah read the letter to me, 30and then the LORD told me 31-32to send to all the prisoners in Babylon this message about Shemaiah: “I, the LORD, will punish Shemaiah and all his descendants. I did not send him, but he spoke to you as if he were a prophet, and he made you believe lies. He will have no descendants among you. He will not live to see the good things that I am going to do for my people, because he told them to rebel against me. I, the LORD, have spoken.”
301The LORD, the God of Israel, 2said to me: “Write down in a book everything that I have told you, 3because the time is coming when I will restore my people, Israel and Judah. I will bring them back to the land that I gave their ancestors, and they will take possession of it again. I, the LORD, have spoken.”
4The LORD says to the people of Israel and Judah:
5“I heard a cry of terror,
a cry of fear and not of peace.
6Now stop and think!
Can a man give birth to a child?
Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach
like a woman in labour?
Why is everyone so pale?
7A terrible day is coming;
no other day can compare with it —
a time of distress for my people,
but they will survive.”
8The LORD Almighty says: “When that day comes, I will break the yoke that is round their necks and remove their chains, and they will no longer be the slaves of foreigners. 9Instead, they will serve me, the LORD their God, and a descendant of David, whom I will enthrone as king.
“My people, do not be afraid;
people of Israel, do not be terrified.
I will rescue you from that distant land,
from the land where you are prisoners.
You will come back home and live in peace;
you will be secure, and no one will make you afraid.
11I will come to you and save you.
I will destroy all the nations
where I have scattered you,
but I will not destroy you.
I will not let you go unpunished;
but when I punish you, I will be fair.
I, the LORD, have spoken.”
12The LORD says to his people,
“Your wounds are incurable,
your injuries cannot be healed.
13There is no one to take care of you,
no remedy for your sores,
no hope of healing for you.
14All your lovers have forgotten you;
they no longer care about you.
I have attacked you like an enemy;
your punishment has been harsh
because your sins are many
and your wickedness is great.
15Complain no more about your injuries;
there is no cure for you.
I punished you like this
because your sins are many
and your wickedness is great.
16But now, all who devour you will be devoured,
and all your enemies will be taken away as prisoners.
All who oppress you will be oppressed,
and all who plunder you will be plundered.
17I will make you well again;
I will heal your wounds,
though your enemies say,
‘Zion is an outcast;
no one cares about her.’
I, the LORD, have spoken.”
18The LORD says,
“I will restore my people to their land
and have mercy on every family;
Jerusalem will be rebuilt,
and its palace restored.
19The people who live there will sing praise;
they will shout for joy.
By my blessing they will increase in numbers;
my blessing will bring them honour.
20I will restore the nation's ancient power
and establish it firmly again;
I will punish all who oppress them.
21-22Their ruler will come from their own nation,
their prince from their own people.
He will approach me when I invite him,
for who would dare come uninvited?
They will be my people,
and I will be their God.
I, the LORD, have spoken.”
23-24The LORD's anger is a storm, a furious wind that will rage over the heads of the wicked. It will not end until he has done all that he intends to do. In days to come his people will understand this clearly.
311The LORD says, “The time is coming when I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they will be my people. 2In the desert I showed mercy to those people who had escaped death. When the people of Israel longed for rest, 3I appeared to them31.3 One ancient translation them; Hebrew me. from far away. People of Israel, I have always loved you, so I continue to show you my constant love. 4Once again I will rebuild you. Once again you will take up your tambourines and dance joyfully. 5Once again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria, and those who plant them will eat what the vineyards produce. 6Yes, the time is coming when watchmen will call out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Let's go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.’ ”
7The LORD says,
“Sing with joy for Israel,
the greatest of the nations.
Sing your song of praise,
‘The LORD has saved his31.7 Some ancient translations The LORD… his; Hebrew LORD, save your. people;
he has rescued all who are left.’
8I will bring them from the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
The blind and the lame will come with them,
pregnant women and those about to give birth.
They will come back a great nation.
9My people will return weeping,
praying as I lead them back.
I will guide them to streams of water,
on a smooth road where they will not stumble.
I am like a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my eldest son.”
10The LORD says,
“Nations, listen to me,
and proclaim my words on the far-off shores.
I scattered my people, but I will gather them
and guard them as a shepherd guards his flock.
11I have set Israel's people free
and have saved them from a mighty nation.
12They will come and sing for joy on Mount Zion
and be delighted with my gifts —
gifts of corn and wine and olive oil,
gifts of sheep and cattle.
They will be like a well-watered garden;
they will have everything they need.
13Then the young women will dance and be happy,
and men, young and old, will rejoice.
I will comfort them and turn their mourning into joy,
their sorrow into gladness.
14I will fill the priests with the richest food
and satisfy all the needs of my people.
I, the LORD, have spoken.”
The LORD says,
“A sound is heard in Ramah,
the sound of bitter weeping.
Rachel is crying for her children;
they are gone,
and she refuses to be comforted.
16Stop your crying
and wipe away your tears.
All that you have done for your children
will not go unrewarded;
they will return from the enemy's land.
17There is hope for your future;
your children will come back home.
I, the LORD, have spoken.
18“I hear the people of Israel say in grief,
‘LORD, we were like an untamed animal,
but you taught us to obey.
Bring us back;
we are ready to return to you,
the LORD our God.
19We turned away from you,
but soon we wanted to return.
After you had punished us,
we hung our heads in grief.
We were ashamed and disgraced,
because we sinned when we were young.’
20“Israel, you are my dearest son,
the child I love best.
Whenever I mention your name,
I think31.20 I mention… I think; or I threaten to punish, I still think. of you with love.
My heart goes out to you;
I will be merciful.
21Set up signs and mark the road;
find again the way by which you left.
Come back, people of Israel,
come home to the towns you left.
22How long will you hesitate, faithless people?
I have created something new and different,
as different as a woman protecting a man.”31.22 as different… man; Hebrew unclear.
23The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says, “When I restore the people to their land, they will once again say in the land of Judah and in its towns,
‘May the LORD bless the sacred hill31.23 sacred hill: Mount Zion, the hill in Jerusalem which formed part of the Temple and palace area. of Jerusalem,
the holy place where he lives.’24People will live in Judah and in all its towns, and there will be farmers, and shepherds with their flocks. 25I will refresh those who are weary and will satisfy with food everyone who is weak from hunger. 26So then, people will say, ‘I went to sleep and woke up refreshed.’
27“I, the LORD, say that the time is coming when I will fill the land of Israel and Judah with people and animals. 28And just as I took care to uproot, to pull down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to demolish them, so I will take care to plant them and to build them up. 29
When that time comes, people will no longer say,
‘The parents ate the sour grapes,
But the children got the sour taste.’30Instead, all those who eat sour grapes will have their own teeth set on edge; and they will all die because of their own sin.”
The LORD says, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep that covenant. 33
The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34
None of them will have to teach his fellow-citizen to know the LORD, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the LORD, have spoken.”
35The LORD provides the sun for light by day,
the moon and the stars to shine at night.
He stirs up the sea and makes it roar;
his name is the LORD Almighty.
36He promises that as long as the natural order lasts,
so long will Israel be a nation.
37If one day the sky could be measured
and the foundations of the earth explored,
only then would he reject the people of Israel
because of all they have done.
The LORD has spoken.
38“The time is coming,” says the LORD, “when all Jerusalem will be rebuilt as my city, from Hananel Tower west to the Corner Gate. 39And the boundary line will continue from there on the west to the hill of Gareb and then round to Goah. 40The entire valley, where the dead are buried and refuse is thrown, and all the fields above the brook of Kidron as far as the Horse Gate to the east, will be sacred to me. The city will never again be torn down or destroyed.”