These are the words of Jeremias, son of Helcias, one of the priests who dwelt at Anathoth, in the lands of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him during the reign of Josias, son of Amon, over Juda, in the thirteenth year of it; came to him during the reign of Josias son, Joachim, and did not cease till the men of Jerusalem went into exile, when Sedecias, that was also son to Josias, had been reigning eleven years and five months.
The word of the Lord came to me, and his message was: I claimed you for my own before ever I fashioned you in your mother's womb; before ever you came to the birth, I set you apart for myself; I have a prophet's errand for you among the nations. Alas, alas, Lord God (said I), I am but a child that has never learned to speak. A child, say you? the Lord answered. Nay, I have a mission for you to undertake, a message to entrust to you. Have no human fears; am I not at your side, to protect you from harm? the Lord says. And with that, the Lord put out his hand, and touched me on the mouth; See, he told me, I have inspired your lips with utterance. Here and now I give you authority over nations and kingdoms everywhere; with a word you shall root them up and pull them down, overthrow and lay them in ruins; with a word you shall build them up and plant them anew.
Then the Lord's word came to me, Tell me, Jeremias, what is this you see? A branch of a tree, I told him, with the eyes already open. Well seen, he answered; and I too have my eyes open, watching for the opportunity to carry out the threats I utter. And again it came, Tell me, what is this you see? A boiling caldron, said I, that is coming from the north. And it is from the north, the Lord told me, that calamity is brewing for all your fellow-countrymen. All the tribes the northern kings rule I mean to muster, the Lord says; hither they will march, and each will set up his throne where gate of Jerusalem stands, or encircling wall, or fortified city of Juda. And there I will plead my cause against the men of Juda, charging them with their rebellion in forsaking me; in offering libation to gods not theirs, and worshipping idols of their own making.
Up, then, gird you like a man, and speak out all the message I give you. Meet them undaunted, and they shall have no power to daunt you. Strong I mean to make you this day as fortified city, or pillar of iron, or wall of bronze, to meet king, prince, priest of Juda, and common folk all the country through; impregnable you shall be to their attack; am I not at your side, the Lord says, to deliver you?
Then the Lord's word came to me: Go and cry out so that all Jerusalem may hear, with this message from the Lord: What memories I have of you, gracious memories of your youth, of the love that plighted troth between us, when I led you through the desert; alone in the barren wastes, you and I! Israel was set apart for the Lord, first-fruits vowed to be his revenue; he lay under a ban that plucked them, and must rue his rashness, the Lord says. Listen, then, to the Lord's word, men of Jacob; listen, every clan that bears the name of Israel, to the Lord's message: What fault did they find in me, those fathers of yours, that they should keep their distance from me, and court false gods, false as themselves? And never a thought to ask where I, the Lord, was, that rescued them from Egypt, and led them on their way through the desert, wild and solitary, parched and dead, far from haunt of traveller and the homes of men! Into a land of plenty I brought you, to enjoy the fruits and the blessings of it; and you had no sooner entered it than you must needs defile it, my own land, turn my chosen home into a place abominable. Never a priest to ask where I, the Lord, was; never a man of law but made a stranger of me, never a ruler but played me false, never a prophet but took Baal for his oracle, and had recourse to powers that were impotent. Against you, the Lord says, my appeal still lies, and with your children I will yet be at issue.
Sail the seas till you reach the isles of Cethim; send envoys out to the wilds of Cedar; look for yourselves and make earnest enquiry, to know if the like was ever heard! What nation ever changed its gods, though gods indeed they were not? And should my people barter away the glory that dwelt among them, for powers that power have none? In horror and dismay witness, you heavens, the sight; crumble in ruins! Two wrongs this people of mine committed; me they forsook, the fountain of living water, and thereupon they dug cisterns of their own, leaking cisterns, that water had none to give them.
What, is the race of Israel a slave, a chattel, that it should pass from hand to hand as the prize of war? Roaring lions have claimed it for their prey; the land lies waste, the cities burnt and desolate. Even the Egyptians have come from Memphis and Taphne, to strip you bare; tell me, Israel, how came this? Was it not because you had forsaken the Lord your God, that till then had led you?
What, would you turn to Egypt, to Assyria, and slake your thirst with Nile or Euphrates? Here is the very proof of your wickedness, the measure of your unfaithfulness; see how ill it has gone with you, says the Lord, the God of hosts, ever since you did forsake the Lord your God, ever since you did banish the fear of me! It is an old tale, now, how you did break in pieces the yoke of my dominion, did sever all the bonds between us, crying out, I will serve no more! You were off to play the wanton, the nearest hill-top or secret forest for your bower. Alas, vineyard of mine, that I planted with such care, never a worthless shoot! How is it you have played me false, and are no vineyard of mine?
Ay, use nitre for your cleansing, spread potash as you may, foul with guilt I shall still find you, says the Lord God. Nay, never boast that you are undefiled, to countryside gods have no recourse; bethink you of your traffickings in Ben-Ennom valley, and read there the story of your doings. Camel never found its way so lightly; wild ass in its familiar desert, scenting its mate, never obeyed the fire in its blood more uncontrollably! Little search it needs to find your haunts, as its mate in springtime. Reckless of unshod feet, of parching throat, you cry out despairingly, Return I cannot; to alien gods all my heart is vowed, and I must follow still!
Thief caught in the act has less cause to blush than the men of Israel, king and prince, priest and prophet, with the rest. Stock of wood and block of stone they hailed as the father that had begotten them; on me they turned their backs, and gave me never a glance. And now, in their distress, it is Up, Lord, and bring us rescue! Where are those other gods you made for yourself? Bid them rise up and aid you in the hour of peril; gods you had a many; no city of yours, Juda, but must have its own! And would you still implead me? Nay, says the Lord, you have forsaken me, one and all. In vain I have smitten them, all those sons of yours; still you turned your swords against the prophets, bloodthirsty as lions.
Out upon this age! Here is the Lord's message, give good heed to it. Have I shewn myself unfriendly to Israel, like a desert, like a land overcast by shadows, that my own people has resolved to keep its distance, and come my way no more? What, should maid forget her jewels, bride her stomacher? And my own people, all these long days, has forgotten me! What avails it to justify yourself, in hope of winning back my love, when you yourself do blazon so openly your doings, your foul misdoings? There is blood on your hands, the blood of friendless folk and innocent. It is not thieves I have found, but men guilty of such crimes as these. And still you declare yourself innocent of any fault, still you bid me withhold my vengeance! Come, let me answer your plea of innocence.
How light a woman you are, ever at your old ways! Not less than your hopes of Assyria, your hopes of Egypt shall be disappointed; thence, too, you shall come away wringing your hands; all the confidence you have the Lord means to destroy; you shall make no shift with Egypt.
What is the law of common life? Let wife that has been put away by her husband marry a second, can she afterwards return to the first? That were shame and defilement. And you with many lovers have played the wanton; yet come back to me, the Lord says, and you shall find welcome. Lift up your eyes to the bare hills, and tell me, which of them has not been the scene of your shame? Like a highway robber you did lurk by the roadside, waiting for your lovers; by your heartless wantonness the whole land was defiled. I called you to account for it; heaven's dews were stanched, and the late rains did not fall, and still never a blush on your harlot's brow! Little wonder you should have been crying out to me, since then, calling me father, calling me the loved friend of your girlhood's days; was there no quenching my anger? Would it smoulder on for ever? Ay, all this you said, but still would go on sinning, still would have your way.
It was in the days of king Josias the Lord said to me: Israel's apostasy you have seen, how she ever betook herself to the nearest high hill or leafy wood, to play the wanton there; and how, when I called her back to me in spite of it, she would not come. Now mark the treachery of her sister Juda. She too had seen it all, how I had bidden apostate Israel begone, and given her a writ of separation; and now treacherous Juda, unabashed, went off in her turn to play the wanton. So wayward, so wanton, she defiled all that land of hers, giving herself to lovers made of wood and stone! After all the warnings I had given, Juda, the treacherous, would never come back to me in good earnest, only with lying professions, the Lord says.
And the Lord told me: Better than Juda's treachery, the apostasy of Israel deserves to be acquitted. Carry this message of mine to the north country: Come back to me, apostate Israel, the Lord says, and there shall be no frown of mine awaiting you; I am merciful, the Lord says, and vengeance shall not last for ever. Only acknowledge your fault, he tells you, in deserting the Lord your God and betaking yourself to the bowers of strange lovers, deaf to my call. Wandering hearts, the Lord bids you come back to him, and renew your troth; by ones and twos, from this city or that, from this clan or that, he will claim you for his own and bring you back to Sion; and you shall have shepherds of his own choice to guide you well and prudently. After that, the Lord says, when all is growth and fertility, no longer shall you have the Ark of the Lord's Covenant for your rallying-cry; from thought and memory it will have passed away, nor any care shall be bestowed on the fashioning of it. It is Jerusalem men will speak of as the Lord's throne; there at Jerusalem all the nations of the world will meet in the Lord's name, the false aims of their perverse hearts forgotten. When that time comes, Juda and Israel will be united; together they will come back from the north country to the land I gave your fathers for their home.
Must I ever be offering you sonship, and a land so fair that all the peoples of the world might envy you its possession? Must I ever be pleading with you to acknowledge me as your father, and forsake my guidance no more? Hitherto, the Lord says, nothing could I win from Israel but a false jade's contempt. Now, from yonder hill-passes, another cry is heard; a cry of mourning and lament from the sons of Israel, over the wrong path they have chosen in forgetting the Lord their God. Wandering hearts, come back to me, and all your rebel acts shall be pardoned.
See, we come to you; are you not the Lord our God? The many gods of hill-side and mountain-side have played us false; we know it now; we know now that Israel must look to the Lord our God for deliverance. Ever since the days of our youth all the hopes our fathers had, of flock and herd, of son and daughter, are lost; the worship of shame has cheated us. Lie we down with shame for our bed, and let reproach be all our covering; sinners from our youth upwards, we and our fathers before us, against the Lord our God; the Lord our God, and we would not listen to his voice!
Do but retrace your steps, Israel, and return to me, do but cast away the abominations that offend my sight, and in that mind persist; let but your oath, As the Lord is a living God! be a true oath, in loyal duty uttered; then shall all the nations learn to bless and to praise him.
And to the men of Juda, to Jerusalem, this is the Lord's message: Yours to drive a new furrow, nor sow any longer among the briers. You must be circumcised afresh, men of Juda; citizens of Jerusalem, of heart's defilement rid yourselves, if you would not see my vengeance burst into flame unquenchable, as your scheming malice has deserved.
News for Juda, news that shall echo through Jerusalem; tell it out, sound the trumpet over the country-side! Loud be the cry raised, for all to muster and to man the fortified cities! Raise the standard in Sion, and rally to it with all haste! Here is peril I am bringing upon you from the north country, here is great calamity. Roused is the lion from his lair; he is astir, ready to prey on the nations; he is marching out to make earth a desert, and your cities too shall be laid waste, and stand there untenanted. Well may you gird yourselves with sackcloth, well may you beat the breast and cry aloud; fire of the Lord's vengeance has not passed us by. When that day comes, the Lord says, heart of king and heart of prince shall be dismayed; dumb-stricken the priest, the prophet unmanned.
Alas, alas, Lord God, said I, can it be that you have deceived your people, deceived Jerusalem, by telling them they should have peace, and here is the sword threatening our very lives?
When that time comes, verdict shall be passed on this people of mine, and on Jerusalem: My people's wanton ways are like the hot wind that blows from the desert slopes, that will neither winnow nor sift. And in return, I will summon to my side a wind that blows full, and so I will plead my cause against them. An overshadowing cloud the invader shall be, his chariots outspread like the storm-wrack, his horses swifter than eagles. Alas the day, we are ruined!
Now, Jerusalem, as your life you love, rid your heart of guile; will you never cease to harbour those false thoughts of yours? Here is news cried from Dan, here are monstrous tidings from the hill-country of Ephraim; tell it far and wide, Jerusalem has heard the bruit of her besiegers coming from a distant land, that even now raise their battle-cry among the cities of Juda; even now they keep watch over the country-side about her, the Lord says, and all because she defied my vengeance. Ill deeds and ill counsel of yours have brought all this upon you; the due reward of your wickedness, how bitter the taste of it, how it wrings your heart! Deep, deep rankles the wound; my very heart-strings echo lament; no rest is mine, since my ear caught bray of trumpet and cry of battle. Tale upon tale of ruin; a whole land laid waste, no cabin or hovel spared, suddenly, as all in a moment! Always the sight of men fleeing, always the sound of the trumpet in my ears!
Ah, reckless people of mine, that would not acknowledge me; blind fools, for mischief so shrewd, in well-doing so untutored!
Earthward I looked, and all was void and empty; heavenward, and in heaven no light shone; looked at mountain and hill-side, and saw them stir and tremble; looked for some sign of man, and in vain; the very birds in heaven had all taken flight. It was a garden I looked at, but a garden untenanted; no city in it but had perished at the Lord's glance, before the frown of his vengeance. For it was so the Lord's sentence ran; the whole countryside should be abandoned, and still he will not have taken full toll. At his sentence, earth should mourn and heaven grow dark with sorrow, yet of his decree there should be no repenting; he would not go back from it. Everywhere, at the noise of archer and horseman, the townsfolk flee away, take to the hills and climb their high rocks; never a town but is left deserted of its inhabitants. And you, Jerusalem, when your turn comes to be despoiled, what shift will you make? Vain was it to dress in scarlet, and deck yourself with chains of gold, and with antimony darken your eyes; vain were those arts, your lovers are weary of you now, and your life is forfeit. Cries of anguish I hear, as from a woman in the throes of travail; it is queen Sion, gasping out her life, and crying with hands outspread, Woe is me, I swoon away, here in the slaughter-house!
Go the rounds of Jerusalem, search the streets of it with hue and cry; and if you find one man there that faithfully does his duty, and keeps troth, then the city shall be pardoned. Nay, though they call on the living God to be their witness, they forswear themselves none the less.
On faithfulness, Lord, your eyes are set. And these, when you smite them, are unrepentant still; when you crush them to earth, will not heed reproof; brows are theirs unyielding as rock, and return they will not. But indeed, thought I, perhaps they are poor men and foolish, that have never learnt the divine command, or what their God requires of them. I will go and have speech with the men of rank; what the divine command is, what their God requires of them, these will surely know. And these I found conspiring, as none other, to throw off the yoke, to break through their bonds. What wonder if they are attacked and despoiled by robbers, that leave the woods at night-time, stealthily as lion or wolf or prowling leopard, to beleaguer their towns and catch all who venture forth? So many their rebellions, so obstinate their defiance!
For all this, how should I pardon you? Your sons have deserted me, by gods that are no gods their vows are taken; full-fed with my bounty, they left their wedded troth, to wanton in the bower of a mistress; bold in their adultery as stallion at grass neighing for its mate. What, shall I let all this pass me by, the Lord says; shall I not take my fill of vengeance against such a nation as this? Scale those ramparts, and so fall to pillage, not taking full toll even yet; root out the slips of yonder vine, the Lord will not claim them. Obstinately they have defied me, the Lord says, Israel and Juda both; they disown me; Nay, they tell one another, this is none of his doing, harm shall never befall us, we shall have neither slaughter nor famine here; the prophets did but waste breath, no word of revelation made to them; on their own heads be it!
Vain words; but not vainly the Lord, the God of hosts, has spoken; flaming words of his he has entrusted to my lips, and fuel this people shall be for their devouring. A nation from far away I am summoning, even now, Israel, to the attack; a warlike nation, of ancient lineage, whose very tongue shall be strange to you, no word of it, well understood; greedily as the tomb their quivers gape, and they are warriors all. They shall rob you of harvest and of food, rob you of son and daughter, rob you of flock and herd, rob you of vine and fig-tree; and all the strongholds, wherein your hope lies, at the sword's point shall be overthrown. Yet even then, the Lord says, I will not take full toll of you. Ask you why the Lord has so much misused you, this is to be my answer: Did you not forsake me, to worship alien gods in your own land? Alien gods you shall worship in an alien land, for your punishment.
To Israel's race proclaim it, for all Juda to hear, Listen, foolish folk and unperceiving, with sightless eyes, ears that had as well been deaf! Have you no fear of me, the Lord says, will you stand unmoved in my presence? Was it not I gave the sea its frontier of sand, by my eternal decree inviolate? Vainly the waves boil and toss, they cannot pass beyond it. A faithless heart, a rebellious heart this people of mine has; in a moment they swerve aside from the path, and are gone; never a thought of reverence for the Lord their God, who gives them autumn and spring rains when the time comes, and secures them a full harvest. It is your wrong-doing that has altered their course; to guilt such as yours, blessings are denied.
Godless men there are among my people that lie in wait like any fowler, but noose and trap of theirs is set to catch men. Never was cage so full of birds, as their homes of wealth ill gotten; men of power and riches, pampered and sleek, they defy my will past all bearing; redress they deny to the widow, right to the orphan, justice to the poor. What, shall I let all this pass me by, the Lord says, shall I not take my fill of vengeance against such a nation as this? A wonder this land has seen beyond all belief; here are prophets that utter a lying message, priests that clap their hands in applause, and this people of mine is well content. And what shift will you make when the end comes?
Rally, tribesmen of Benjamin that live in the midst of Jerusalem; at Thecua sound the trumpet, raise the standard on Bethacarem; it is from the north peril may be seen coming, peril of great calamity. Poor Sion, all too fair she seems, all too delicate! Alas, what strange shepherds are these, what troops that follow them? See how they pitch their tents about her! See how many each has at his back, and there must be pasture for them all! Sound we the attack on the city; to move now were best, and march up under the light of noon! Plague upon it, the day is already spent, the shadows of evening lengthen already; up, then, march we on by night, by night plunder their houses!
Down with yonder trees, the Lord of hosts says, and build siege-works about Jerusalem; here is a city must be called to account for all the oppression that is harboured there. Never cistern kept its waters so fresh, as she her store of wickedness; no news from her but of wrong and waste, no sight I see there but distress and violence. Jerusalem, be warned in time; else my love you shall forfeit, and I will make a ruin of you, a land uninhabited.
Israel, says the Lord of hosts, is a vineyard for the gleaning; no cluster shall be left; back with you, vintager, to the baskets! Vain appeal, whom shall I cite for witness of it? Oh that it should fall on ears uncircumcised, oh that God's word should be slighted, and find no welcome! Nay, but the divine anger burns within me, I can forbear no longer. I must blurt out my message to all, children playing in the streets, no less than warriors met in council; none shall be spared, husband or wife, greybeard or man of many summers. Homes, lands and wedded wives, all must pass into other hands; none that dwells in Juda, the Lord says, but shall feel my vengeance. High and low, ill-gotten gains they covet; treacherous the ways alike of prophet and of priest; here lies my people grievously hurt, and they tend her unconcernedly; All's well, they say, all's well, when in truth all goes amiss. Shamed they needs must be, that did so detestably; shamed, but never ashamed, for indeed they have lost the power to blush; theirs to fall amid the common ruin, crushed to earth, the Lord says, when I call all to account.
The Lord's message was, Halt at the cross-roads, look well, and ask yourselves which path it was that stood you in good stead long ago. That path follow, and you shall find rest for your souls. But follow they would not; and next, I would set watchmen on the heights; let them only listen, when these sounded the trumpet; but listen they would not. To the nations, then, I proclaim it; let my doom be pronounced in the public ear; all earth shall hear it. I mean to bring upon this people of mine the punishment their scheming wickedness has earned, so deaf to my calls, of my law so defiant. What avails it to offer me incense from Saba, and the fragrant calamus that grows far away? Unwelcome to me your burnt-sacrifice, undesired your victims. This doom the Lord pronounces; I mean so to entangle this people of mine that they shall stumble to their undoing all of them, father and son together, neighbour with neighbour, friend with friend.
Here is a people marching from the north country, the Lord says, a great nation from the world's end. Arrow and shield they ply, and their hard hearts pity none; loud their battle-cry as the roaring of the sea. So they ride on, as warriors ride, poor Sion, your enemies. Unnerved our hands droop at the very rumour of it; grief overmasters us, sharp as the pangs of travail; forbidden is the country-side, the high roads untravelled; the drawn sword threatens, and peril is all about us. Juda, poor widowed queen, put sackcloth about you and strew yourself with ashes; as for an only son make loud lament; without warning the spoiler will be upon us.
I have a task for you to perform among my people; you shall be my trusty assayer, putting the quality of their lives to the test. These faithless rulers that go about on their slanderous errands, what are they but copper and iron, base metal all? Bellows have done their work, the lead streams away in the fire, carrying nothing with it; vain, smelter, your toil, the dross remains unpurged. Refuse-silver they shall be called; has not the Lord refused them?
A message came from the Lord to Jeremias, bidding him take his stand at the temple gate, and there proclaim aloud: Listen to this word of the Lord, men of Juda, that make your way in through these gates to worship him. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your lives and your likings, if you would have me dwell here among you. Trust never in the false assurances that proclaim this place The Lord's temple, The Lord's temple, The Lord's temple. Will you but amend your lives and your likings, giving one man redress against another, not oppressing the alien, the orphan, the widow, nor in these precincts putting innocent men to death, nor courting, to your ruin, the gods of other nations, then indeed I will make my dwelling here among you, in the land which was my gift to your fathers from the beginning to the end of time. You put your trust in flattering hopes, which can nothing avail you; theft, murder, adultery, the false oath, libations to Baal, the courting of alien gods that are no gods of yours, nothing comes amiss, if only you can come and stand in my presence, here in this house, the shrine of my name, and tell yourselves you have made amends for all these your detestable doings! What, does this house, the shrine of such a name, count for no more than a den of thieves, in eyes like yours? Think you, the Lord says, that eternal God has no eyes to see it? Go and visit that sanctuary of mine at Silo, where of old my power rested; look well, what havoc I have made of it, to punish the misdeeds of Israel, that was my people too. Because of so much done amiss, the Lord says; because you would not listen when I cried early at your doors, or answer any call of mine; this house, shrine of my name and centre of your hopes, this home I gave to you and to your fathers, shall fare as Silo fared. All those brethren of yours, the whole stock of Ephraim, I banished from my presence, and you shall be banished in your turn.
Nor do you, Jeremias, think to plead for this people of mine, or take up in their name the burden of praise and prayer; thwart my will, you shall have no hearing. Can you not see for yourself what ill deeds are done in the townships of Juda, in the very streets of Jerusalem? See the children gathering sticks, the father lighting a fire, the mother kneading dough, and all to make cakes for the queen of heaven! See how they offer libation to alien gods, to despite me! Yet not to me they do despite, the Lord says, rather to themselves; every hope of theirs shall fail them. This warning, then, the Lord God sends them: Fury and indignation of mine are brewing against this place, man and beast, woodland tree and growing crop; and when that fire is lit, there shall be no quenching it.
A message from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: No more be at pains to distinguish between burnt-sacrifice and offering; use for your own eating the flesh of all alike! Burnt-sacrifices, offerings, not of these was my theme when I gave commandments to your fathers at the time of their deliverance from Egypt; my word of command to them was, Obey my bidding, if I am to be your God, you my people; follow the path I have marked out for you, as you hope to prosper. And did they listen? Hearing they gave me none; their own whim, the false aim of their corrupt hearts was all the rule they lived by; still turned their backs on me, and refused to look my way; so it has been since your fathers left Egypt, so it is yet. No day dawned but I was at work betimes, sending my servants to prophesy to them, but still they would not listen, still hearing they gave me none; stubborn under my yoke, they outdid their own fathers in wickedness. All this you shall say to them, but they will not listen to you; your call shall go unheeded. Then tell them, Here is a people who will not listen to the voice of their own God, or accept reproof from him; loyalty is dead, the word is on their lips no more.
Cut off, Jerusalem, those locks of yours, and cast them away from you; loud let the hills echo with your lament; on a guilty age, the Lord has pronounced sentence of banishment and rejection. The men of Juda have defied my will, the Lord says; foul idols they have set up in the house that is the sanctuary of my name, and utterly profaned it; in the valley of Ben-Ennom stands the hill-shrine of Topheth, where they sacrifice their own sons and daughters in the furnace, a rite not of my bidding, not of my imagining. And now, the Lord says, a time is coming when no more will be heard of Topheth or Ben-Ennom; it will be called The Valley of the Slain; men will be finding room for their dead in Topheth, because other burying-ground is none. Nay, Juda shall be carrion for birds that fly in air, for beasts that roam the earth; and never a man left to drive them away. In the townships of Juda, in the streets of Jerusalem, cries of joy and mirth shall be heard no more, voice of bridegroom and of bride shall be heard no more; the whole land will have turned into a wilderness.
All the tombs in Jerusalem will be rifled, the Lord says, when that day comes, tomb of king and prince of Juda's line, tomb of priest and prophet, tomb of common citizen; naked their bones shall lie, with sun and moon and all the starry host to witness it, their gods aforetime; gods so loved, so well served, so hailed, so courted, so adored! Those bones there shall be none to gather, none to bury; they shall lie like dung on the bare ground. And the living shall envy the dead; so poor a home shall be left, the Lord of hosts says, to the remnant of a guilty race, in the far lands to which I have banished them.
Give them this message from the Lord: A man falls but to rise, errs but to retrieve his path; how is it that this rebellious people of mine at Jerusalem has rebelled so obstinately? They cling to their illusion, and return no more. Listen I never so attentively, wholesome word I hear none; never a man that repents of his sin, asks himself what his life has been. No, each one follows his own bent, reckless as war-horse charging into battle. Yet the kite, circling in air, knows its time; turtledove can guess, and swallow, and stork, when they should return; only for my people the divine appointment passes unobserved. What, still boasting that you are wise, that the Lord's law finds its home among you? Nay, but the scribes, with their false penmanship, have construed all amiss. In all their wisdom, how disappointed, how bewildered, how entrapped! God's word they cast away, and wisdom left them. Alien lords their wives shall have, alien masters their lands; (high and low, ill-gotten gains they covet; treacherous the ways alike of prophet and of priest; here lies my people grievously hurt, and they tend her unconcernedly; All's well, they say, all's well, when in truth all goes amiss. Shamed they needs must be, that did so detestably; shamed, but never ashamed, for indeed they have lost the power to blush; theirs to fall in the common ruin, crushed to earth, the Lord says, when I call all to account). I will make an end of them once for all, the Lord says; never a grape on the vine, or a fig on the fig-tree, every leaf withered; and I have given them ... what has passed them by.
Why do we linger here? Muster we, and man the stronghold, and wait there uncomplaining; silence the Lord our God has imposed on us, given us a draught to dull the senses; the Lord, whom our sins have offended. How we long for better times, and no relief comes to us; for remedy at last, and danger still threatens! All the way from Dan the noise of horses reaches us, gallant chargers neighing in their pride, till earth trembles with the echoes of it; on they come, bearing ruin to field and crop, to city and citizen! With such a brood of deadly serpents I am plaguing you, the Lord says, charm is none shall rid you of its bite.
Grief beyond all grief, that bows down my heart within me! So cries my own people in its distress from a country far away. Does the Lord dwell in Sion no longer? Is she forsaken by her king?
And she? What of the idols, what of the alien gods that turned me into her enemy?
Harvest-time is over, summer is gone, and still no deliverance has come to us. Wounded she lies, my own people, and is not her wound mine? Shall I not go mourning, bewildered by grief? Grows the balm in Galaad no more, is the healer's art lost there, that the people I love should lie wounded, and the wound will not close?
Well-head were this head of mine, eyes of a fountain these eyes, day nor night should serve me to weep enough for my country's dead. Oh that some lodging-place in the wilderness for me were dwelling-place, far from the haunts of my own people, that are faithless lovers, rebel subjects all!
Deceitful tongues, treacherous as the hidden archer's bow, hearts that lord it over their fellow-countrymen, wrong leading to wrong, and my claims forgotten! the Lord says. Neighbour of neighbour beware, kinsman let kinsman never trust; none goes about to overthrow you more craftily than brother of yours or friend. None but will overreach his fellow with lies; all their schooling is in falsehood, all their striving for ill-gotten gain. In what a nest of treason you dwell! And such treason, the Lord says, as will acknowledge no claim of mine. This warning, then, he utters, the Lord of hosts: The fire for them! They must be tried in the crucible; what other choice has my faithless people left me? Tongues that wound like an arrow, with deceit for poison, ever the smooth word of friend laying snare for friend; what, shall I let all this pass me by, the Lord says; shall I not take my fill of vengeance against such a nation as this?
Sad dirge be made for the hills, lament for all the wide pasture-lands, that are scorched bare, and left untravelled; silent the herdsman's call; birds that nested there, cattle that grazed there, fled and gone.
I mean to turn Jerusalem into a heap of dust, the lair of serpents; the cities of Juda shall stand desolate, with none to inhabit them. Come now, who is wise enough to read the riddle, to what spokesman shall the Lord's proclamation be entrusted, when he tells us why the land lies ruined, burnt up like the wilderness, and never a passer-by? It is because they forsook the commandment I gave them, the Lord says, would not heed my call or follow it; because they had recourse to ill devices of their own, and to the gods of the country-side, whose worship their fathers taught them. This doom, then, the Lord of hosts pronounces, the God of Israel: On wormwood I will feed this people of mine, gall shall be the drink I give them; far away I will scatter them, in countries never they, never their fathers knew; and the sword shall follow close behind, to exterminate them.
This too the Lord of hosts says, the God of Israel: Search all about, and find mourners, mistresses of their craft, and such as will answer your summons with all haste; no time let them lose in making dole for us; weep every eye, be every eyelid blubbered with tears. Listen to Sion's lament: Alas, what scathe, alas, what shame! Our land lies deserted, our homes in ruins! To you, women, the Lord's word comes; this is matter for your hearing. To daughters of yours, neighbours of yours, teach the sad melody of yonder lament; here is death looking in at our windows, finding its way into our palaces, and soon there will be no children playing out of doors, nor grown men passing to and fro in the streets. A message from the Lord; Like dung they shall lie on the ground, the corpses of the dead, like the sheaf left after reaping is done, that none is at pains to gather.
This, too, is the Lord's message: Never boast, if you are wise, of your wisdom, if you are strong, of your strength, if you are rich, of your riches; boast is none worth having, save that insight which gives knowledge of me; in all my dealings with mankind so merciful a Lord, the Lord says, so just, so faithful, and a lover of such dealings where they are found.
A time of reckoning there shall be, the Lord says, for all the nations that practice circumcision, Egypt, Juda, Edom, Ammon, Moab; ay, and the desert folk that clip their foreheads bare. The whole world is uncircumcised; all have hearts uncircumcised, and Israel with the rest.
Listen, men of Israel, to the Lord's utterance concerning you. Thus says the Lord: Do not learn to follow Gentile ways, or be dismayed by portents in the heavens, as the Gentiles are. How empty the observances the heathen use! What is the stuff upon which the carver works but a trunk of wood, felled by an axe out in the forest? Only he has tricked it out with gold and silver, hammer and nail must do their work, lest it should fall to pieces. Idols cunningly plated as palm-trees, yet dumb as they, and men must carry them to and fro, for movement they have none! To these give no reverence; they can neither mar nor make you.
No, Lord, you have no rival; so great you are, so great is the sovereignty of your name. King of all nations, how should we not fear you in that majesty of yours? Boast the world as it will of wisdom or of empire, none can rival you. Ah, folly and blindness, ah, fond teaching, lifeless as wood itself! Ay, bring plates of silver from Tharsis, gold from Ophaz, it is all man's work, fresh from the smithy; bring robes of blue and purple, they are man's work still! But the Lord is God in good earnest, a God that lives, that has eternal dominion, and can make earth tremble with his frown, strike the nations powerless when he threatens them.
No place on earth or under heaven, you must tell the nations, for gods that could fashion neither heaven nor earth.
Power that made the earth, wisdom that orders nature, foresight that spread out the heavens! At the sound of his voice, what mustering of the waters overhead! He summons up the cloud-wrack from the world's end, turns the lightning into a rain-storm, brings the winds out of his store-house; how puny, then, is man's skill, how sorry a thing is the carver's workmanship; after all his pains, only a lifeless counterfeit! Fond imaginations, fantastic figures, when the time comes for reckoning, they will be heard of no more. Not such the worship that is the heirloom of Jacob's line; their God is the God who made all things, Israel his patrimony, the Lord of hosts his name.
Take up from the ground, poor besieged one, your load of shame. This time, the Lord says, I mean to hurl them far away, the dwellers in this land, and great distress shall be theirs, that they may be found...
Alas, for my wounding, for the grievous hurt that is mine! Hitherto I had thought to bear my sickness, if this were all; but now what am I? A tent broken down, all its ropes severed: all my citizens have deserted me, and are no more to be found; who shall raise the pole, who shall stretch the curtains now? And the cause of it? Unskilful shepherds that would have no recourse to the Lord; see how their art has failed them, and all the flock is scattered far and wide! A sound comes to me that brings tidings with it, a great stir from the north country; all Juda is to become a desert, a lair for serpents now.
Lord, I know it well enough, it is not for man to choose his lot; not human wisdom guides our steps aright. Chasten me, Lord, but with due measure kept; not as your anger demands, or you will grind me to dust. Pour out this indignation of yours upon the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the tribes that never invoke your name; by whom Jacob is devoured, devoured and devastated, and all his pride scattered to the winds.
Here is a message which came from the Lord to Jeremias about the covenant: Listen well to the terms of it, and be the spokesmen of it to all the race of Juda, all the citizens of Jerusalem. This warning you shall give them from the Lord God of Israel: Cursed be the man who will not obey the terms of this covenant, the commandment which I enjoined on your fathers when I rescued them from Egypt's furnace of iron. Give heed to my call, I told them, and do as I bid you; then you shall be my people, and I will be your God. So would I fulfil the promise made on oath to their fathers before them; the promise of a land all milk and honey, that land which is yours to-day.
So be it, Lord, said I; and he bade me cry the message aloud all through the townships of Juda, all through the streets of Jerusalem: Listen to the terms of this covenant, and keep them well; ever since I rescued them from Egypt I have been adjuring those fathers of yours, day in, day out, to listen to me, and listen they would not. No hearing would they give me, but went each his own way, perverse as ever, till at last I must carry out the threats contained in this covenant, still proclaimed and still defied.
Why, the Lord said to me, here is a conspiracy among Juda's folk, Jerusalem's folk! They have gone back to the old guilty ways of their rebellious fathers; they in their turn have betaken themselves to the worship of alien gods; my immemorial covenant with Israel and Juda is void; they have rescinded it! And now, the Lord says, I mean to visit them with punishment inevitable, punishment inexorable; let Juda and Jerusalem have recourse, if they will, to the gods they honour with their sacrifices, it will avail them nothing in their distress. No township of yours, Juda, but must have its own deity, no street in Jerusalem but you would set up there altars abominable, where sacrifice is offered to the gods of the countryside!
Nor do you, Jeremias, think to intercede for this people of mine, or take up in their name the burden of praise and prayer; when they cry to me in their distress, hearing they shall have none. A people so well beloved, that so haunts my house, yet stained with crime! What, do you think the consecrated flesh will avail to rid you of your wanton guilt? An olive-tree, sturdy and fair and fruitful, so it was the Lord loved to think of you; and now, at the sound of his majestic voice, fire breaks out in it, and all those shoots are burned away. Yes, it is the Lord of hosts, who once planted you, that has now decreed the undoing of Israel and Juda, undoing for their own ill-doing, when they sacrificed to the gods of the country-side in defiance of me.
You, Lord, did make it all known to me past doubt, warning me beforehand of their devices. Hitherto, I had been unsuspecting as a cade lamb that is led off to the slaughter-house; I knew nothing of the plots they were hatching against me, as they whispered, Let us give him a taste of the gallows-tree; let us rid the world of him, so that his very name will be forgotten! But you, Lord of hosts, true judge that can read the inmost thoughts of man's heart, let me live to see you punish them; to you I have made my plea known. And now the Lord has a word for yonder men of Anathoth, who conspired to kill me, and would have stopped me prophesying in the Lord's name, on pain of my life. I will call them to account for it, says the Lord of hosts; by the sword their warriors shall perish, and their sons and daughters by famine. None shall be left; woe betide the men of Anathoth, when the year comes for my reckoning with them.
Lord, I know well that right is on your side, if I plead against you, yet remonstrate with you I must; why is it that the affairs of the wicked prosper; never a traitor double-dyed but all goes well with him? Deep roots they strike, so firmly you have planted them, thrive and bear fruit; yet all the while their hearts keep you at a distance, only their lips proclaim you. Yet it is I, Lord, that hold your warrant; with favour you regard me, have proof of my heart's loyalty; will you not herd them together like sheep, and mark them down for slaughter? How long must this land go in mourning, all the verdure of its fields be parched up, to avenge the ill-doing of its inhabitants? Neither beast nor bird left in it; and still their hope is, I shall not live to see their end come!
What, tired out so soon when your rivals were on foot? And have you the mettle to challenge horsemen? Easy to keep your confidence here on safe ground; what shift will you make in the fens of Jordan? Even by your own clansmen, your own father's kin, you are betrayed; these too will join in the hue and cry after you; never trust soft words of theirs.
Farewell, my home; I have done with my chosen people; the life that was so dear to me I have handed over to its enemies. My people grown strange to me, as lion snarling in its forest lair; what marvel if I am weary of it? My people grown strange to me as carrion-bird, its mottled plumage all bathed in blood!
Gather here, beasts that roam the earth, eager for your prey. Drovers a many have laid waste my vineyard, trampled down my lands; the land I loved so, turned into a lonely wilderness! Desolate they have made it, and desolate it mourns for me now; a very picture of desolation, and all for the want of men with heeding hearts. No track over the uplands but has seen the freebooters coming by; from end to end of the country the sword of divine vengeance must pass, leaving no peace for any living thing; where wheat was sown, the harvest shall be of briers, where men hold lands, they shall get no advantage of it; all your harvests shall disappoint you, so fierce the Lord's anger burns.
And this message comes from the Lord to those ill neighbours of his, that encroach upon the domain he has granted to his people of Israel: I mean to uproot them from their homes, when I uproot the men of Juda from the land that lies between them. Yet I will relent towards them, so uprooted, and have pity on them; to their scattered homes and countries they shall all return. Then, if they will but learn the traditions of my own people, and take their oaths by the Lord, the living God, as they once taught my people to take oaths by Baal, their fortunes shall be founded anew in the midst of Juda. But wherever my call goes unheeded, the Lord says, that people's uprooting shall be that people's undoing.
The Lord's word came to me: Go and buy a girdle of linen, and put it about your loins, one that was never yet soaked in water. Girdle I bought me as the Lord had bidden, and wore it; and now the Lord spoke again: Is the girdle bought and worn? Up, take it with you to Euphrates river, and hide it there in a crevice of the rock. So I went obediently, and hid it away in the Euphrates. Many days afterwards, the Lord sent me on my travels again to the Euphrates, to recover the girdle hidden there at his command; so thither I went, and unearthed the girdle from its hiding-place, to find it all perished and useless. Whereupon the Lord's word came to me, and this was his message: Not less the great pride of Juda, the great pride of Jerusalem, must perish. Here is a rebellious people that will not listen to my call; they must needs take their own false path, courting alien gods and submitting to their worship. No better, then, than yonder useless girdle; close as a man's girdle fits about his loins I had bound Israel and Juda to myself; my people they were to be, my renown and prize and pride; but no, they would not listen.
Tell them this, too, from the Lord God of Israel, Flagons must have wine to fill them. And when they answer, it is no news to them that flagons are for wine, give them this message from the Lord: Ay, but the people of this land, king of David's line sitting on David's throne, priest and prophet and citizens of Jerusalem every one, are flagons waiting to be filled. I mean to bemuse them, as with wine, and then shatter them; brother torn away from brother, and fathers from their children; ruth and respite none shall have, nor be spared in the common ruin.
Hear and heed and humble yourselves; it is the Lord who speaks. Give God his due, ere the shadows fall, and your feet begin to stumble on the dark mountain-ways. For day you shall long, but he will have turned it into night; dark as death the lowering of the storm. Sirs, if you will not listen now, give me leave to hide myself away and bemoan your proud hearts; weep I must and wail, and my eyes run down with tears, if the Lord's flock is doomed to captivity.
To king and queen-mother say this, Come down and take your places with the rest, discrowned of your royalty. Shut off are the cities of the south, entry is none; dispeopled lies Juda, of all her sons dispeopled. New-comers from the north country, look about you and see!...
... Ah, Jerusalem, what has become of the flock once entrusted to you, your honourable care? What will you say when you are called to give account of it? Your enemies are such as you have taught how to attack you; your schooling has recoiled on your own head; sharper than travail-throes the anguish that shall overtake you. And will you find room for surmise, why this should have befallen you? Doubt not it is your own wrongdoing that has stripped you naked, and plunged your steps deep in defilement. Sooner may Ethiop turn white, leopard's hide unmarked, than Juda unlearn the lesson of ill-doing and amend. Far and wide I will scatter your sons, like straws caught in the desert wind; such is the fortune sent you, such your retribution exactly awarded, because you have forgotten me, and in lying fables put your trust. That is why I will pull your skirts about your ears and manifest your shame; adulteries of yours, and lasciviousness, and all the guilt of your debauchery, the foul deeds I have seen done on hill-tops, in the open country-side. Fie on you, Jerusalem, that will not come back to me and be cleansed! Shall it last for ever?
How the Lord answered Jeremias in the matter of the drought. Lamentation in Juda, faint hearts and the dress of mourners in the market-place, loud the cry that goes up from Jerusalem! Master sends man to fetch water, but when cistern is reached, water is none; back go the pails empty, and disappointed vexation veils its head. Vexation, too, and veiled heads among the country folk, so languish the fields for lack of rain; hind forsakes its new-born young, out on the plain, because grass has failed it, and the wild ass on the hillside gasps for air, crocodile-fashion, eyes dim with the vain search for pasture. What though we have guilt to plead against us? For your own honour, Lord, bring us aid, rebels so often, yet confessing how we have wronged you! You, Israel's hope, in time of calamity its refuge still, will you pass us by, like stranger in a land that is none of his, like some traveller that will ask for a night's lodging and be gone? Why do you hang back like a man irresolute, a warrior that has forgotten his strength? Lord, your dwelling-place is among us; your holy name we bear; will you abandon us?
Hearts ever in love with wandering, never at rest, what answer will the Lord make them? That his favour is not for them; at this hour he keeps their guilt in memory, for all their misdoings calls them to account. Nay, the Lord said to me, do not pray for the welfare of such a people as this. Fast they, their prayers shall go unheard; offer they burnt-sacrifice and victim, I will have none of it; sword, and famine, and the pestilence shall wear them down. Alas, alas, Lord God, said I, here are their prophets telling them they shall never see sword drawn, famine shall be none among them; theirs shall be a land of lasting content. These are but false promises, the Lord said, that they utter in my name; warrant they never had from me, nor errand, nor message; of false visions they tell you, and soothsayings, and trickery, and their own hearts inventions. Here is the Lord's sentence upon prophets not of his sending, who speak to you in his name of a land unhurt by sword or famine; by sword and famine those prophets shall be devoured. Slain by sword and famine, the common folk that listen to them shall lie in the streets of Jerusalem, with none to bury them; wives and sons and daughters shall die with them; their own misdoings shall be a flood to drown them. This too you shall say to them...
... Weep, eyes, day and night, never resting, at the great hurt, the grievous wound she suffers, my people, inviolable till now! Nothing the country-side shews but massacre, nothing the city but faces pinched with famine; prophet and priest are gone, in a land of strangers they must ply their trade now. Have you abandoned Juda once for all, are you weary of Sion? Past all healing you have wounded us; how we long for better times, and no relief comes to us, for remedy at last, and danger still threatens! Lord, we acknowledge our rebelliousness, acknowledge our fathers' guilt, confess that we have wronged you; for your own honour, do not shame us, do not drag your own royal glory in the dust; will you forget, will you annul the covenant that binds you? Grant rain they cannot, the false gods of the heathen, the dumb skies have no showers of their own to give; for these, his creatures, wait we patiently on the Lord our God.
But it was thus the Lord answered me: though Moses himself and Samuel made intercession for them, neither love nor liking would I have for this people of mine; banish them from my presence, to go where they will. If they ask whither, give them this message from the Lord: Whom the plague beckons, to the plague; whom the sword, to the sword; whom famine, to famine; whom exile, to exile. Escort they shall have of four kinds, the Lord says; the sword to slay and the dogs to tear them, birds in air and beasts on earth to devour and make an end of them. All the kingdoms of the world shall be in a ferment over them; so will I punish the ill deeds done in Jerusalem by Manasses, son of Ezechias, when he was king of Juda. Nay, Jerusalem, who shall pity or bemoan you, who shall turn aside, as he passes, to wish you well? You have forsaken me the Lord says, and would journey with me no more; now my hand is raised to strike, and make an end of you; I am weary of wooing you. Over the threshold of the land I blow my people away like chaff, bereaved, diminished, and unrepentant still. Widows there be, countless as the sea-sand; where is now the warrior son? In broad daylight I send the roving spoiler to strike terror into their cities. Sick at heart and faint she lies, that seven sons had borne; her noon is night, her hopes and her pride gone; and all that she has left, the Lord says, shall fall a prey to the sword in battle.
An ill day when you, my own mother, did bring me into the world! A world where all for me is strife, all is hostility; neither creditor I nor debtor to any man, yet they curse my name!
But the Lord answered, I promise that you shall leave behind you good service done, and that in all distress and persecution I am coming to your side, to save you from your enemies. What, should iron and bronze be in league with the iron that comes from the north?
... (All the riches and treasures of your land shall be despoiled, in punishment for all its guilt, and to no purpose; I am summoning enemies to attack you from a land far away; it is your own persons that shall be burnt up in the fires of vengeance my anger has kindled)...
You are my witness, Lord; bethink you, and come to my defence against my persecutors; hold your hand no longer, but claim me for your own; if I have earned an ill name, it was in your cause. When your words were found, how greedily I devoured them! Great joy and content those words gave to my heart, heart of a prophet that bears your name. Not for me the company of the merry-makers, I would not share in their boastfulness; under the threat of your judgement I sat alone, filled with boding thoughts. Why are those sad thoughts still with me? Is my hurt desperate, beyond all remedy? Did it cheat me, like some empty water-course, my hope in you?
Draw near to me, the Lord said, and I will draw you to myself, to wait upon me. When you have learned to separate worth from dross, you shall be my true spokesman, and you shall draw others to yourself, not let yourself be drawn to them. This people of mine shall find you a stout wall of bronze, impregnable to their attack; am I not at your side, the Lord says, to protect and deliver you? Let the wicked be never so powerful, I will engage for your safety.
The Lord's word came to me: With such a land for your dwelling-place, neither wive nor gender; for sons and daughters born in this land, for mothers who there gave them birth and fathers who begot them, the Lord has ill news to hear. Die they of the plague, they shall lie like dung on the ground, unwept, unburied; meet they their end by sword or famine, birds in air and beasts that roam the earth shall prey on the carrion of them. Where they hold wake for the dead, such is the Lord's bidding, never enter you, condole and console you never; friendship of mine this people shall never have, nor grace, nor mercy, the Lord says. Die rich, die poor in that country of theirs, burial and wake they shall have none; never a limb gashed or a head shaved to honour them; none shall break bread with the mourner, nor give him a draught of wine for his comfort, though father or mother he bewail. Nor enter you where men feast, to sit at meat and drink with them; this doom he utters, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You shall live to see the day when cries of joy and mirth, voice of bridegroom and of bride, in this land are heard no more.
This warning uttered, if they ask you why the divine sentence is so stern, wherein their guilt lies, what wrong they have done to the Lord their God, tell them this in his name: It is because your fathers have forsaken me, had recourse to alien gods, and submitted to the worship of them, my claim renounced, my laws defied. And you have out-done your fathers in malice, each of you following the ill bent of his own heart, and disobeying me. Exiles far from home, in a land neither you nor those fathers of yours ever saw, you shall spend day and night in the service of alien gods, without respite. (Ay, the Lord says, a time is coming when the living Lord men swear by will no longer be the God who rescued Israel from Egypt; the living God will be one who has rescued Israel from the north country, and all the places of exile that are now designed for you, restoring them to the home which was once his gift to their fathers.) Many fishermen I have, the Lord says, to spread the nets for them; and after that many huntsmen, to hunt them down among mountains and hill-sides and rocky caverns. Good watch I keep on their doings, never lose sight of them; no guilt of theirs can escape my scrutiny. Twice over they shall pay for guilt of theirs, misdoing of theirs, the men that have profaned my own land with dead idols, spread pollution through all my domain.
Strength and stronghold, Lord, refuge in time of peril, shall not the Gentiles themselves come to you from the ends of the earth, confessing that all their patrimony is but a heritage of lies, that their idols cannot avail them? Shall men make gods for themselves, that gods in truth are none?
Ay, it is the very lesson I mean to teach them now; that I act, and act with power; they shall learn to know the Lord's name at last.
Not more indelible were the guilt of Juda, if pen of steel or point of diamond had graven it with their hearts for tablet, or upon the rim of their altars; indelible, while there are sons of theirs to remember where altar stood once and sacred tree, shrine in the thick forest, shrine on the high hills; to offer sacrifice even yet in the open country-side. All the riches and treasures of your land shall be destroyed, all its hill-shrines, in punishment for all its guilt. Lost to you, the home that once I gave you; in a land you know not you shall be the slave of your enemies; the fire of anger you have kindled in me can never be quenched.
Cursed shall he be, the Lord says, that puts his trust in man, and will have flesh and blood to aid him, his thoughts far from God. Never shall the sight of better times greet him; forlorn as some bush of tamarisk out in the desert, he dwells in a parched waste, the salt plains for all his company. Blessed shall he be that puts his trust in the Lord, makes the Lord his refuge. Not more favoured is tree planted by the waters edge, that pushes out its roots to catch the moisture, and defies the summer heat; its green leaves careless of the drought, its fruit unfailing.
There is no riddle like the twists of the heart; who shall master them? Who but I, the Lord, that can see into man's heart, and read his inmost thoughts, to every life awarding what its doings have earned? Partridge that fosters a brood not its own is fit emblem for the man that wins riches unjustly; when life is but half done, he must take leave of them, a fool to the last.
Where from the first supreme majesty sits enthroned, there lies our sanctuary; you, Lord, are Israel's hope; the men who forsake you will be disappointed, the men who swerve from your paths will be names written in sand; have they not forsaken that Lord who is the fountain of living water? If I am to be healed, it is you, Lord, must heal me; if I am to find deliverance, it is you must deliver me; you are all my boast. What has become of the Lord's threat? (so men taunt me), we are waiting to see it accomplished! But this was no hasty word of mine, I did but lead where you led; it was no wish of mine that calamity should befall mankind; no word I uttered but had the warrant of your scrutiny. Not for me your terrors; the day of affliction is coming, but I shall find refuge in you. They must be abashed, and I vindicated; they must cower, while I stand confident. It is on them the day of affliction will fall; reward them, then, with twofold hurt for the hurt they did.
The Lord bade me go and take my stand at the People's Gate, where the kings of Juda passed to and fro; and then, in turn, at the other gates of Jerusalem. This was to be my message from the Lord to king and people of Juda, to every citizen of Jerusalem that used those gates: No more, on peril of your lives, shoulder those packs of yours and carry them through Jerusalem gates on the sabbath day. Never a load must leave your houses, nor any work be done, on the sabbath; this was the command I gave to your fathers, only they would not listen or pay heed, chafed under the yoke of discipline and refused to obey me. And you, the Lord says, will you obey? Rid these gateways of their sabbath burdens, keep the sabbath holy by resting from work, and your kings and princes, David's own heirs, shall still go riding through them, with horses and chariots, with their retinue of nobles, with the men of Juda and Jerusalem's citizens in their train. Evermore your city shall be populous; from the townships of Juda, from your own country-side, from Benjamin, from plain and hill and the waste lands of the south, men shall come with burnt-sacrifice and victim and bloodless offering and incense to enrich the Lord's temple. Refuse to keep the sabbath holy, profane it with burdens borne and burdens admitted through the gates, and I will set those gates in a blaze that shall burn down all Jerusalem ere you can quench it.
The Lord's word came to Jeremias, bidding him betake himself to the potter's house; there a divine message awaited him. So I went to the potter's house, and found him working at his wheel; just then, the thing of clay he was a-fashioning broke in his hands, and he, as the whim took him, turned it into another thing of clay. Then it was the Lord's word came to me: You are in my hands, men of Israel, as the clay in the potter's; why may I not do as the potter did? All at once to a nation here, a kingdom there, I pronounced my sentence, for the uprooting and undoing of it, for its utter destruction. Let but that nation repent of the crimes I brought against it, I too will repent of the punishment I thought to exact. All at once to a nation here, a kingdom there, I promise restoration of its fortunes and new life. Let but that nation defy my will, shut its ears to my claim, I too will repent of all the fair promises I made it.
Be this, then, your message from the Lord to Juda's folk, to the citizens of Jerusalem: days I have in store for you; all my plans are laid; time that each one of you should return from the false path, shape aims and thoughts anew. Ah no, they tell me, too late! Each one clings to his own course, follows his own bent still. Search the world over, the Lord says, where were ever such deeds heard of as this deed Israel, false maid, has most foully done? What, shall the snows of Lebanon melt from those wild peaks, shall they be dried up at their source, those icy torrents that flow down from it? Not less strange that this people of mine should forget me, and resort to vain sacrifices; that they should find their own paths too rough for them, the tracks marked out so long ago, and journey on instead along by-paths untrodden. Desolate their country shall lie, doomed to everlasting scorn; every passerby will shudder at it, or toss his head in derision. I will sweep them away before the enemy's onset, as the east wind sweeps all before it; turn my back and never look their way in the hour of need.
Hereupon they summoned a conclave to plot against me, Jeremias; What, they said, would he have us believe we need no more priests to expound the law, no more wise men to counsel us, no more prophets to say their word? They thought to compass my death by their clamour; to all my warnings would pay heed no longer. Lord, give me audience; listen to these pratings of my enemies. Must they make such a return for my good will, laying a snare to take my life? Bethink you, how I ever stood up before you to plead for them, to avert your anger from them. Henceforth leave their children to famish, or give them up to butchery; may their wives be childless widows, their grown men die of pestilence, their young men by the sword-thrust in battle; let their homes ring with lamentation, a prey to the sudden onslaught of robbers! Cunning the snare they laid, deep the pit they dug to entrap me; but there is no hiding from you. Lord, the designs they have on my life. Do not forgive their malice, keep their guilt ever in your sight; cast them down to earth at your presence, and in your anger make an end of them.
Up, the Lord said to me, and get you a jar of earthenware; take it to the valley of Ben-Ennom, close to the Earthenware Gate, with elders of the people and some of the older priests for your company; there prophesy as I bid you. To the dynasty of Juda, to all the citizens of Jerusalem, give this message from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I mean to bring such calamity on this place, as shall ring in the ears of all that hear it. The place that once was mine, now alienated by the rebels that dwell there; to alien gods they never knew, no fathers of theirs, no kings of Juda ever knew, they have done sacrifice in this place, drenching it with the blood of the innocent. Here the gods of the country-side must have their hill-shrines, and children must be burnt as a sacrifice in their honour; a rite not of my prescribing, or enjoining, or imagining. And now, the Lord says, a time is coming when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of Ben-Ennom; it will be called the Valley of the Slain. In this valley all the hopes of Juda and Jerusalem shall be poured away; at the sword's point they shall meet their enemy and fall into pitiless hands, and I will give leave to bird in air, beast on earth, to prey on the carrion of them. A thing of horror and scorn this city shall be; no passer-by but will shudder at it, or hiss derision at the memory of its sufferings. Nay, a pitiless enemy shall beleaguer them with so hard a siege, that I will leave them no food save the flesh of son and daughter; man shall eat man.
Then break that jar of yours, for all your company to see, and give them this message from the Lord of hosts: Broken to pieces you shall be, nation and city, like yonder thing of clay that is past all repairing; men will be finding room for their dead in Topheth, because other burying-ground is none. Such, the Lord says, is the doom have pronounced on city and citizens; Jerusalem itself shall be a Topheth, all the houses in it, and yonder palace where the kings of Juda reigned, as Topheth unclean; it was there, on the rooftops, they sacrificed to all the host of heaven, and made offering to alien gods. His errand at Topheth done, Jeremias took his stand in the temple courts, and gave the people this message from the Lord God of Israel: All these threats against Jerusalem and her daughter cities I mean to perform; the punishment of a yoke refused, a call unheeded.
When Jeremias uttered this prophecy, one of those who heard him was Phassur, son of Emmer, a priest who was entrusted with the care of the temple. This Phassur gave Jeremias a beating, and put him in the stocks at the upper gate of Benjamin, in the temple precincts, but next day released him. A new name the Lord has for you, Jeremias told him, instead of Phassur; he means to call you Danger-Everywhere. Danger enough you shall have, the Lord says, you and those friends of yours; with your own eyes you shall see the enemy put them to the sword, when I make the king of Babylon master of Juda; to Babylon he will take them and put them to the sword there. All the wealth of this city, all the fruits of its toil, all that is of price, all the treasury of Juda's kings, those enemies shall have in their power, to plunder and carry off and take back to Babylon with them. And you, Phassur, with all your household, shall go into exile; to Babylon you shall go, in Babylon you shalt die, and there find burial with all such friends of yours as listened to your lying prophecy.
Lord, you have sent me on a fool's errand; if I played a fool's part, a strength greater than mine overmastered me; morn to night, what a laughing-stock am I, every man's nay-word! Long have I prophesied, and still I clamoured against men's wickedness, and still cried ruin; day in, day out, nothing it earns me, this divine spokesmanship, but reproach and mockery. Did I essay to put the Lord out of my thoughts, and speak no more in his name, all at once it seemed as though a raging fire were locked in my bosom, pierced my whole frame, till I was worn out with it, and could bear no more. For me, danger everywhere; so many crying, Denounce him, and that contemptuous cry echoed by all the companions I trusted, ever at my side: Denounce him we will; he may be fooled yet! Then we can overmaster him, and take our vengeance! But the Lord stands at my side, a strong champion; fall and fail they must, my persecutors, and be disappointed of their hopes; fools, that cannot foresee shame eternal, shame indelible, awaiting them! But you, Lord of hosts, true judge that can read the inmost thoughts of man's heart, let me live to see you punish them; to you I have made my plea known. Sing to the Lord yet, praise the Lord yet; he does not leave a defenceless life at the mercy of the wicked.
Cursed be the day of my birth! A time for cursing it was, not for blessing, when my mother brought me into the world. Cursed be the man who told my father a son had been born to him, and brought gladness, ay, gladness, into his heart! For that good news, be he rewarded with the noise of battle-cry at morn, dirge at noon, like some city the Lord overthrows in anger unrelenting! Why did he not slay me yet unborn, the womb for my tomb, and frustrate my mother's hope eternally? Why must I come out into the light of day, where only labour and sorrow greet me, and in disappointed striving all my life is spent?
And this was the answer Jeremias had from the Lord, when king Sedecias sent two envoys to consult him; their names were Phassur son of Melchias, and Sophonias son of Maasias, a priest. The king sought a divine oracle about the war then levied on him by Nabuchodonosor, king of Babylon; would the Lord grant his people wondrous deliverance as of old? Would the siege be raised? And Jeremias sent them back to the royal presence, with this message from the Lord, the God of Israel: All the strength you have put into the field, to meet the king of Babylon and your Chaldaean besiegers at a distance from the walls, I mean to force back into the city and coop it up within. Then my arm shall be raised to strike, then my power shall be exerted, but against you; I will be all anger, all indignation, all resentment, smiting the inhabitants of this city with a great pestilence that shall slay both man and beast. But not king Sedecias; he shall be left alive, and some of his courtiers and his retinue, some of the citizens will be left alive, plague and war and famine notwithstanding. And these shall fall into the hands of Nabuchodonosor, king of Babylon, into the hands of a pitiless enemy, that will put them to the sword without ransom, or ruth, or respite.
And this warning the Lord gives to the common folk: Here is choice I offer you between life and death, take which course you will. To remain in this city means death by sword, famine, or pestilence; leave it, and go over to the investing army of Chaldaeans, and you shall be spared, glad enough to escape with your lives. For woe, not weal, I keep this city ever in regard; the king of Babylon shall be master of it, and burn it to the ground.
And for king and princes of Juda: Men of David's line, here is a message from the Lord for your hearing. Learn betimes to make true award, and rob the oppressor of his prey, or my vengeance will blaze out against you for your ill-doings, like fire that still burns and will not be quenched.
Have at you, proud city, the Lord says, the valley your dwelling-place, rock-built guardian of the plain! Boast you, its townspeople, that on you no stroke shall fall, none shall reach your lair? You shall be called to account, the Lord says, as your ill-doings have deserved; in this forest I will light such a fire as shall consume all around it.
A message from the Lord, I must betake myself to the royal palace, and make proclamation there; Listen to a divine warning, king of Juda though you be, and heir to David's throne; it is for you and your courtiers and your retinue, all that claim entry here. Just sentence, the Lord says, and right award; rob the oppressor of his prey; to alien, orphan and widow do neither despite nor wrong; never, within these walls, be innocence condemned to death. This warning if you obey, through these palace gates the heirs of David and of David's throne, with horses and chariots, courtiers and retinue, shall yet pass to and fro. Disobey, the Lord says, and my own honour is engaged to make, of this palace, a ruin. On the royal house of Juda this is the Lord's sentence: Growth I found here once, generous as in Galaad or on Lebanon's height; now I have sworn to make a desert of it, no place for the haunts of men. Who shall strike the blow, and with what arms, is decreed already; all those fair cedars shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.
Nations a many shall pass by those ruins; and when a man asks his neighbour what it meant, that the Lord should deal so hardly with a great city like this, the answer will be, It was because they forsook the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped alien gods, took alien gods for their masters.
Not for the dead your tears, not for him bow your heads; if weep you must, weep for him that must go and come again no more, never again see the land of his birth! Sellum, that followed his father Josias on the throne of Juda, is leaving Jerusalem, the Lord says, and will never come back to it; die he must in that country to which I have banished him, and see this land no more.
Alas, for the palace that is built with gains ill gotten, for halls founded only on wrong! Alas for the man that sets his fellow-man vainly drudging, and leaves his wages unpaid! A fine house I will make of it, says he, and wide rooms in it! Here he will throw out a window, there he will panel a wall with cedar, and paint it vermilion. Are you hoping for a long reign, that you should challenge comparison with the cedar? Your father was one that ate and drank at his ease, gave every man his just due, and was content; well for him that he gave the friendless and the poor redress, as men will when they bethink themselves of me. You have no eyes, no thoughts, but for gain; for innocent men's undoing, for oppression, for the reckless pursuit of mischief. This, then, is the Lord's sentence upon Joachim, son to Josias and king of Juda: For him no cry shall be made, Brother, what grief! Sister of mine, what grief! For him no cry shall be made, Ah, what a master! Ah, what renown! An ass's burial he shall have, cast out, a stinking corpse, beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
Get you gone, faithless people, to Lebanon, and cry out there; fill Basan with your voice, and let Abarim echo the cry again; ruin has overtaken all those lovers of yours. In the days of your ease, I gave you warning, but you would not listen; it was ever thus from your girlhood's days, my voice went unheard. Drifting with the wind, the drovers you once did follow, captive all those that once held your love! Be ashamed at last, and blush for all your wickedness. High on Lebanon your dwelling-place, high in the cedars that nest of yours, piteous shall be your moan when pangs overtake you, like the pangs of a woman in travail.
And of Joachim's son Jechonias, that is heir to the throne of Juda, the Lord says this: Were he the signet ring on my right hand, I would cast him off none the less. You have sworn enemies to fear; Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and his Chaldaeans, shall have the mastery of you. Cast away, yourself and the queen-mother who bore you, into an alien land, far from the land of your birth, to die there; ever longing for home, and home returning never. What, is he but a broken piece of earthenware, this Jechonias, a useless shard, that he should be thrown away, and his sons with him, cast out into a land unknown? Alas, my country, alas, alas, my country, bitter hearing the Lord sends you: Write him down a barren trunk, a life gone to waste; child of his race shall never mount David's throne, or govern this realm of Juda.
Out upon them, the Lord says, the shepherds who ravage and disperse my flock, sheep of my own pasturing! This is the Lord's word to the shepherds that guide his people: You are the men who have dispersed my flock, driven it to and fro, and made no account of it; account you must give it me, says the Lord, Israel's God, for all you have done amiss. Then will I reassemble all that is left of my flock, scattered over so many lands, and restore them to their old pasture-ground, to increase and grow numerous there; shepherds I mean to give them that will do shepherd's work; fears and alarms shall be none to daunt them and none shall be missing from their full count, the Lord says. Nay, a time is coming, the Lord says, when I will raise up, from the stock of David, a faithful scion at last. The land shall have a king to reign over it, and reign over it wisely, giving just sentence and due award. When that time comes, Juda shall find deliverance, none shall disturb Israel's rest; and the name given to this king shall be, The Lord vindicates us. In those days to come, says the divine message, the living Lord men swear by will no longer be the God who rescued Israel from Egypt; the living God will be one who rescued Israel and brought them home from the north country, and from all the places of exile he had once designed for them, to live in their own land again.
A message to the prophets: Crushed is the heart in me, and my whole being trembles; my thoughts whirl like a drunken man's, bemused by a divine presence, by awe of a divine voice. The whole land is a nest of adulterers; their guilt it is that widows the countryside, parches the upland meadows; reckless their pursuit of mischief, through the power they wield all goes amiss. Prophet and priest alike are impious; in my own house, the Lord says, those ill-doings of theirs are plain to view. Perilously they shall fare as one that walks by night in slippery places; falter and fall they must; punishment awaits them, the Lord says, my audit-year is at hand. For the prophets of Samaria how was it I lost all liking? Because they were the spokesmen of Baal, and did but lead Israel astray, that was my people. And now the same foul adultery I find in the prophets of Jerusalem, the same treacherous dealings; and the sinner is encouraged to go on in his evil ways, till city and citizens, for me, are one with Sodom and Gomorrha. A warning to you then, prophets, from the Lord God of hosts, that he will give you wormwood to eat, gall to drink; you, the fountain-head of that pollution which overflows all the land.
Do not listen, says the Lord of hosts, to the prophets who prophesy only to fool you; fancy of theirs, not word of mine, inspires the utterance. To my blasphemers they bring divine assurance that all shall go well with them; never a man so set on his own false aims but they will tell him, Harm shall never touch you. Never a one of them privy to the Lord's designs, never one looked and learned, listened and heard his message.
Like a whirlwind it will suddenly appear, the Lord's vengeance; will break in storm over rebel heads. Nor shall the divine anger be appeased till the blow has been struck and the decree executed; what his design was, you shall know all too well, all too late.
An errand these prophets ran, but none of mine; a message they gave, but not of my sending. Privy to my design had they been, ah, then they should have uttered my own warnings, and so I might have turned my people aside from false paths, and erring thoughts! God am I, the Lord says, only when I stand near, and not when I am far away? Where, he would know, will you hide so close that he is not watching you, he, the Lord, that fills heaven and earth? No word, he says, but reaches my ears when one of these prophets gives false guidance in my name; I had a dream, he will tell you, I had a dream! Will they never have had enough of their lying divinations, their cheating fantasies? Dreams bandied from mouth to mouth, for these would they have my people barter away the memory of me, as their fathers did for Baal? Nay, let the dreamer be content to tell his dreams, and the prophet to whom my word comes utter my word faithfully; chaff and grain must not be mingled. My word is a fire, the Lord says, a hammer to break rocks in pieces; out upon the prophets, I say, who proclaim divine utterances they have borrowed from their fellow men; out upon the prophets, I say, who let their tongues wag and then cry, Oracle. Out upon the prophets, I say, who dream all amiss and recount their dreams, leading my people astray with their lies and their mummeries; yet errand or warrant they had none from me, the Lord says, nor yet to this people of mine bring any advantage.
And if people, or prophet, or priest, should greet you with the question, Pray, what burden is the Lord taking up today? your answer shall be, You are the burden I bear, the Lord says, and I mean to cast you from my shoulders. Prophet, priest or simple citizen that asks thus about the Lord's burden does it at his own peril, and the peril of all his household; be content to ask friend or neighbour, What oracle, what message has the Lord given? Do not speak any more of his burden. If you do, you lay a heavy charge upon yourselves, by bandying words with the living God, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Ask the prophet what the Lord's oracle, what the Lord's message is; if you ask after the Lord's burden, this warning I give you from him: For your disobedience to the message I sent, commanding you to use the word Burden no longer, I will make a burden of you, and carry you away, and leave you abandoned, you and your city, my gift to you and to your fathers. You shall be a laughing-stock for ever, a by-word eternally; time shall never efface the memory of your shame.
After king Nabuchodonosor, of Babylon, had carried off the king of Juda, Jechonias the son of Joachim, and taken him away to Babylon with all his nobles, and all the carpenters and smiths in Jerusalem, the Lord shewed me a vision. I saw two baskets of figs, set down at the gate of the Lord's temple. The figs in one basket were of excellent nature, like those which first ripen; in the other, most foul, so foul there was no eating them. What see you, Jeremias? the Lord asked, and I told him, Figs, the good ones excellent good, the foul ones very foul, too foul for eating. Then the Lord's word came to me, A message from the Lord God of Israel: This meaning the good figs have, that good will of mine goes with the men of Juda I have banished from their homes, and sent away into the country of Chaldaea. I will smile on them once more, and bring them back home, and all will be building now, not pulling down, planting now, not uprooting. And I will give them a heart to know me, know me by my divine name; they my people, and I their God, once in good earnest they have retraced their steps, and come back to me. And this meaning the foul figs have, that could not be eaten, they were so foul. Doom like theirs I have in store for Sedecias, king of Juda, the Lord says, and for his nobles, and for all those other men of Jerusalem that have either stayed in the city or taken up their abode in Egypt. Trouble and conflict their destiny shall be in every kingdom of the world; they shall be a laughing-stock and a warning, a by-word and a name to curse by, in all the countries I have appointed for their banishment. Sword and famine and pestilence I will let loose upon them, till none of them is left in this land, my gift to them and to their fathers.
Here is a message for the whole people of Juda, entrusted to Jeremias in the fourth year of Joakim's reign (that was son to Josias) in Juda, the first of Nabuchodonosor's in Babylon. To all Juda, and to all the citizens of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremias delivered it: These twenty-three years, ever since the thirteenth year of Josias' reign, that was son to Amon, the Lord's word has been coming to me, and ever I was early at your doors repeating it, but you would not listen. Early to your doors the Lord sent all those prophets that were servants of his, but hearing there was none, nor heeding. False aims, he warned you, lead you by false paths astray; come back to me, and you shall dwell yet in this land, my gift to you and to your fathers from the beginning to the end of time. Would you court slavery by worshipping alien gods, defy my vengeance with your ill-doings, till I plague you? But you would not listen to me, the Lord says; ill was done yet, and my vengeance was yet defied. And now, says the Lord of hosts, finding you disobedient still, I mean to summon all the nations of the north country, with Nabuchodonosor, that servant of mine that is king in Babylon; I, the Lord, will bid him march on this land and its citizens, and all its neighbours. I mean to make an end of them, and leave it a thing to provoke wonder and scorn, desolate for all time. Never again cries of joy and mirth, never again the voice of bridegroom and of bride, never a mill turning, never a lamp to shine. For seventy years this whole land shall be a desert and a portent, and the king of Babylon shall have all these peoples for his slaves.
Then, when seventy years have passed, I will call the king of Babylon to account, the Lord says, for all the wrongs he has done, with his people and with that Chaldaean country of his; that country in its turn I will leave desolate for ever. The sentence I have pronounced against it shall be executed in full, all the doom Jeremias has foretold in this book of prophecy against all the nations of the world. Great nations, proud kings, have held Israel enslaved; now for their own lives, their own deeds, they too must make amends.
The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, bade me take the cup of vengeance that was in his hand, and give drink out of it to all the nations to which my errand lay; drink it they should, and reel to and fro, bemused by the threat of his sword let loose, among them. So I took the cup from the Lord's hand; nor was there any of the nations the Lord had sent me to threaten but must drink of it. Jerusalem must drink, and the townships of Juda, kings and nobles with the rest; the land was doomed to become a desert, a thing of wonder and scorn, a name to be used in cursing, as it is at this day. Pharao king of Egypt and all his court and his nobles must drink, and all the mingled people of his realm. No king in the land of Hus but must drink of it, nor among the Philistine cities, Ascalon, Gaza, Accaron and Azotus, nor in Edom, Moab and Ammon, no king in Tyre, and the Sidonian country, and the islands that lie beyond the sea. Dedan must drink, and Thema, and Buz, and all the folk with shaven heads, all the kings of Arabia, and the western desert kings. Nor any king in Zambri, Elam, and Media, nor any king in the north country, far or near, but must pledge his neighbour; all the kings of the earth must have their share, and Sesach not till the last.
This message I was to give them from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Drink, besot yourselves, and then fall to vomiting; and topple over at last, never to rise again, so well shall my sword do its work among you! If they made to refuse the cup I offered them, this more I should add: Nay, but drink you must, says the Lord of hosts; here am I beginning my work of vengeance with that city which is the shrine of my name, and shall you be acquitted, you others, and go scot-free? That shall never be, says the Lord of hosts; to the sword if I appeal, it is for a whole world's punishment.
With such words as these you shall prophesy to them: From on high, from his holy dwelling-place, the Lord makes his voice heard, terrible as lion roaring; as roar of lion against sheep-fold, and that fold his own! Loud echoes his vintage-cry as he treads down all the dwellers on earth; to the ends of the world it must echo; a whole world he calls to account, impleads the whole race of men; The sword's point for my adversaries, the Lord says. From nation to nation, says the Lord of hosts, calamity will spread, like a great whirlwind sprung up from the corners of the earth, and from end to end of it the bodies of the Lord's foes unwept, ungathered, unburied, shall lie like dung on the ground. Cry out, make loud lament, shepherds of the nations, and you, the lordliest among their flocks, go strewn with ashes; your day is done, slain you must lie there, unvalued as some delicate vase broken to pieces. For shepherds, and the pride of the flock, no refuge now; hark how they lament, shepherds and pride of the flock, for pasture-grounds the Lord has laid waste! Silent they lie now, once happy fields, under ban of the Lord's vengeance. Lion springs not from his lair more suddenly; all their land lies waste, so pitiless the invader's onset, so pitiless the Lord's anger.
At the beginning of Joachim's reign in Juda, that was son to Josias, word came from the Lord, and this was his bidding: Go and stand in the temple porch, and there, to pilgrims from all the townships of Juda, deliver the message I have entrusted to you; no word of it do you retrench. It may be they will listen, and go astray no longer; then I will forgo the punishment I have devised for their ill-doings. This divine warning give them: Listen to me, and live by the law I have enjoined upon you, obeying the call of the prophets, those servants of mine whom I sent early to your doors, upon an errand that went unheeded; or this sanctuary, too, shall be deserted as Silo, and this city shall be an accursed name, all the world over.
Priests and prophets and townsfolk heard it alike, this utterance of Jeremias in the temple; and when he had thus done the Lord's errand for all the people to hear, priests and prophets and townsfolk laid hands upon him, crying out, His life must pay for it! What, would he threaten in the Lord's name that this temple is to share Silo's doom, this city to be left forlorn, uninhabited? There, in the Lord's house, Jeremias must confront the anger of a whole people. When they heard of it, the nobles of Juda left palace for temple, and there held assize, at the approaches of the New Gate. Before these, and before the general assembly, priest and prophet called for the death penalty; here was a man who had foretold, in the public hearing, calamity for Jerusalem. To nobles and to people Jeremias had but one defence: Nothing have I said against temple or city but what the Lord's errand bade me. Come, do but amend your lives and your likings, and listen to the Lord your God; he will spare you the doom he has pronounced upon you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me what you will, what you think right. Only be sure of this, if you kill me, you will bring the guilt of murder on yourselves, your city, and all that dwell there; no word you have heard from me but has the Lord's true warrant.
And this answer both nobles and townsfolk made to priest and prophet, There is no death sentence lies against this man; as the spokesman of the Lord our God he has given us his message. There were some of the older citizens that rose to defend him: publicly; Remember the prophet Michaeas of Morasthi, they said, in the days of king Ezechias, who told the people of Juda: Sion shall be no better than a ploughed field, says the Lord of hosts, Jerusalem but a heap of stones, the temple height only a hanging wood. Did Ezechias king of Juda, or his subjects, thereupon put him to death? Nay, they feared the Lord too well for that; went about to appease his anger, so that he spared them the punishment he had threatened. It were pity of our lives, did we so great a wrong!
Another prophet there was that came in the Lord's name, Urias, the son of Semei, a man of Cariathiarim, and used no gentler language about this city and country than Jeremias himself. King Joachim, and all his chieftains and his nobles, were for making away with him when they heard such warnings; and though he took alarm at the rumour of it and fled to Egypt, royal pursuivants were sent there under Elnathan, son of Achobor, to bring him back; whereupon king Joachim put him to the sword, and cast his body away among the tombs of the common folk. But Jeremias had a friend in Ahicam, the son of Saphan, who would not let him be handed over to the people and put to death.
At the beginning of the new king's reign in Juda, that was son to Josias, word came from the Lord to Jeremias after this fashion. The Lord bade me make myself a yoke, band and bar, and put it about my neck; let it be the answer, he said, given by Sedecias, king of Juda, to the envoys that have come to him from the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon. This message you shall give them, for their masters, from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: My strength it was, the exertion of my power, that made earth, made man and beast to walk on it; and I give dominion over it to the man on whom my choice falls. And all these countries I have handed over to my servant Nabuchodonosor, king of Babylon, making even the wild beasts subject to him; all the world must obey him, and his son and his grandson after him, until the time has run out, for him and for his land both; nations a many and great kings shall pay him their homage. Nation or people that will not be vassal to Nabuchodonosor, will not bow to Babylon's yoke, I will punish with sword and famine and pestilence, until the last of them is left at his mercy. Do not listen, then, to those prophets of yours, diviner and dreamer, soothsayer and sorcerer, who bid you resist the king of Babylon; whither will they bring you, these lying prophecies? To a land far from your home, to sentence of banishment, and your undoing. But let a nation once bow to the king of Babylon's yoke, and become his vassal, to that nation, the Lord says, I will leave its own fields to till, its own home to dwell in.
All this message I gave to Sedecias, king of Juda; Your lives shall be spared, I told him, if you will only bow your necks to the yoke, letting king and people of Babylon be your masters; will you court death, king and people at once, from sword, famine and pestilence, the Lord's threat against all who refuse submission? To the prophets who declare you shall never be vassals of Babylon, give no heed; they are cheating you with lies; warrant from me they have none, yet falsely claim to be my spokesmen, to your own casting away and undoing, and theirs moreover who so prophesy.
And this message I gave from the Lord to priests and people: Do not listen to those prophets of yours who bid you expect the speedy return of the sacred treasures from Babylon. These are but lying prophecies; do not let them deter you from submitting to the king of Babylon, your only hope of safety; shall this city become a desert? Prophets if they be, spokesmen of the Lord if they be, let them rather plead with him, the Lord of hosts, that the treasures still left in temple and palace and city may not find their way to Babylon too. Doom the Lord of hosts has decreed upon all of them, pillars and brazen basin and stands, and those other treasures that remained here untouched, when Joachim's son Jechonias, that once reigned in Juda, was carried off to Nabuchodonosor's capital at Babylon, with all the notables of this city and realm. This he would have you know, he, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, that all the treasures left in temple, palace or city shall be carried away to Babylon in their turn. There they shall remain, the Lord says, till the time comes for demanding an account of them, for bringing them back and setting them up again where they stood before.
Sedecias had then but lately come to the throne of Juda; it was the fourth year of his reign. In the fifth month of that year a prophet from Gabaon, Hananias son of Azur, came up to me in the temple, in full sight of priests and worshippers. A message, he said, from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: So much for the king of Babylon's yoke! I have broken it to pieces. Two years must run their course, and then all shall come back again here; all the temple treasures Nabuchodonosor took away with him to his capital at Babylon, and the king of Juda too, Jechonias son of Joachim, with all the exiles from Juda Babylon now holds. I will bring them back, the Lord says, and break the yoke of the king of Babylon to pieces.
But from Jeremias this prophet Hananias had a prophet's answer, there in the presence of the priests, and of all who stood by in the Lord's house; Amen to that! Well indeed it were if the Lord would grant this prophecy of yours fulfilment, would bring all the temple treasure home, and all the exiles at Babylon! Only, here is a word for your hearing, and for the general hearing no less. So many prophets before your day and mine, so many nations, such proud empires their theme, and all alike told of battle, of distress, of famine; here is one at last that brings good news! Why then when his words come true, none will doubt that his errand was from the Lord. At that, Hananias took the band from Jeremias neck and broke it, crying out before all the people, A message from the Lord! Thus, when two years have run their course, I will break the yoke which king Nabuchodonosor of Babylon has laid on the necks of all the nations! And Jeremias said no more, but passed on.
Thus did Hananias break the band on the neck of his fellow prophet; and thereupon came the word of the Lord to Jeremias, Go and give Hananias this message from the Lord: Wooden yoke break, iron yoke make! The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, tells you that he is putting a yoke of iron on the necks of all the nations, subjecting them to Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon. His subjects they shall be; even over the wild beasts dominion is granted him. This, too, Jeremias said to his fellow prophet, Listen, Hananias; errand from the Lord you have none, you are cheating yonder people with false hopes. And this doom the Lord has uttered: I mean to banish you from this earth altogether; you shall die within the year, for this language of rebellion against the Lord. Hananias died that year, before seven months were over.
To those other elders, priests and prophets who had already gone into exile, to all the citizens Nabuchodonosor had carried off with him to Babylon, the prophet Jeremias sent a message in writing. Among these were king Jechonias and the queen-mother, and the chamberlains, and all that were of note in realm or capital; nor were any carpenters or smiths left in Jerusalem. The new king of Juda, Sedecias, was sending Elasa, the son of Saphan, and Gamarias, the son of Helcias, on a mission to Nabuchodonosor at Babylon, and to their hands the letter of Jeremias was entrusted.
It ran thus: A message from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to the men of Jerusalem he has sent into exile at Babylon! I would have you build yourselves houses of your own to dwell in, plant yourselves gardens of your own to support you, wive and gender, and of your sons and daughters wed man with maid, maid with man, to breed sons and daughters in their turn; grow numerous, that are now so few, there in your land of exile. A new home I have given you; for the welfare of that realm be ever concerned, ever solicit the divine favour; its welfare is yours. And this warning he sends you, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Never allow prophet and soothsayer that are of your company to mislead you; his dreams let the dreamer abandon; prophets there are, the Lord says, that claim falsely to be my spokesmen, and warrant from me have none. All but seventy years, he tells you, must have run their course before Babylon's time is up; then I will come to relieve you, and make good the promise of your return.
I have not lost sight of my plan for you, the Lord says, and it is your welfare I have in mind, not your undoing; for you, too, I have a destiny and a hope. Cry out to me then, and your suit shall prosper; plead with me, and I will listen; look for me, and you shall find me, if you will but look for me in good earnest. Find me you shall, the Lord says, and your sentence of exile shall be reversed; the same Lord who scattered them among alien folk and in far countries will bring the exiles home. So much for your claim that the Lord has revived the gift of prophecy among you, there in Babylon.
As for the king who now sits on David's throne, and the citizens who dwell here now, instead of sharing your exile, this is the divine sentence: I mean to plague them, says the Lord of hosts, with sword and famine and pestilence; of no more account will I make them than a basket of foul figs, so foul there is no eating them. Sword and famine and pestilence shall follow at their heels; bane they shall be to all the kingdoms of the world, a name to curse by, a thing of wonder and of scorn, a laughing-stock among all the countries I have appointed for their banishment. All this, because they would not listen to any word of mine, the Lord says; early to their doors I sent the prophets that were servants of mine, I, your Lord, and could get no hearing.
Listen, then, to the Lord's decree, men of Jerusalem I have sent into exile at Babylon. This doom the Lord has pronounced upon Achab, the son of Colias, and Sedecias the son of Maasias, false prophets both of them, that speak to you as in my name; I mean to hand them over for punishment to Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and that punishment you shall witness for yourselves. Wherever exiles from Juda are found in the Chaldaean country, this shall be the curse they use: Such doom the Lord give you as he gave to Sedecias and Achab, that the king of Babylon roasted over a fire! This is great shame they have brought on Israel, bedding with their neighbours wives, and uttering in my name counterfeit prophecies that had no warrant of mine; of these misdoings I am judge and witness both.
And another message must be given to Semeias of Nehelam from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, about the letter he sent to the citizens left in Jerusalem, and namely to the high priest Sophonias, the son of Maasias, and his fellow priests. This letter ran, If the Lord would have you follow Joiada in the high priesthood, it was to make you master of his house, ready with stocks and gaol for any mad fellow that came a-prophesying. Why does Jeremias of Anathoth go unrebuked, and prophesy among you still? He has written to us here in Babylon for the very purpose of telling us our exile shall be long; we must build ourselves houses to dwell in, we must plant gardens to support us! This letter was read aloud to Jeremias by the high priest; and then it was that the Lord's word came to Jeremias, with a message he must send to the exiles: This doom the Lord utters against Semeias of Nehelam. Would he prophesy in my name, a man that has no warrant from me, and give you confidence in false hopes? I will call Semeias of Nehelam to account for it, the Lord says, and his children after him. Man of his race there shall be none surviving among this people of mine, the Lord says, to see my bounty bestowed on it. Against me, the Lord, he has used the language of rebellion.
Word came to Jeremias from the Lord, the God of Israel, bidding him write down in a book the revelation made known to him. A time is coming, the Lord says, when I will reverse the sentence of exile against my people of Israel and Juda; I, the Lord, will restore them to possession of the land I gave to their fathers.
This is the divine promise made to Israel and Juda: A cry of terror, the Lord says, for all to hear! All is consternation, where all was peace. Why, here is a riddle and a wonder; can motherhood fall to the lot of men folk? Why is there none to be seen but goes by, hand on loins, cheeks blanched, like a woman in travail? Alas for pity, what a day is this, none like it; what a time of distress for Jacob's race! Yet it shall leave them unharmed. A promise they have from the Lord of hosts that he will break the yoke they bear, when that day comes, and part their chains asunder; no more shall they be at the mercy of alien masters, they shall obey the Lord their God only, and that David-king of theirs whom he will give them.
Have you no fear, the Lord says, Jacob, that are my servant still; not for Israel is danger brewing. From that far country of exile I mean to restore you, restore those children of yours; Jacob shall return, and live at ease, every blessing shall enjoy, and enemies have none to fear; I am at your side, the Lord says, to protect you. Of all the lands in which I have dispersed you I will take full toll, but not of you; I would but chasten you with due measure kept, lest you should hold yourself altogether acquitted. Poor Sion, yours is a wound past curing, a grievous hurt, the Lord says; no man brings you redress or remedy, salve to heal you you have none; your old lovers think of you no more, woo you no more. A shrewd blow I struck you, unsparing of correction; so many your misdoings, your guilt so inveterate. Misdoings a many, and guilt inveterate, these be the cause of your hurt, and I the doer of it; and would you cry out upon a grief there is no remedying? Only be sure of this, the enemies that prey on you shall themselves fall a prey to exile; spoiled your spoilers shall be, and all that plunder you I will give up to plunder. Then I will heal that scar of yours, the Lord says, cure you of your wounds; too soon they called you a neglected bride, Sion the unwooed!
Nay, says the Lord, I mean to bring a tent-dwelling Jacob home, have pity on those ruined walls, build the city anew on its height, set up the temple and its ordinances anew; here songs of praise shall echo once again, and cries of mirth. They shall increase, that hitherto had dwindled, be exalted, that once were brought low. Then, as in days of old, the full muster of the tribes shall have its place in my regard; who wrongs them shall be called to account for it. A prince of their own race they shall have, a home-born ruler, singled out by my own call to serve me; that office, the Lord says, none may take on himself unbidden. You shall be my own people, and I your own God.
Like a whirlwind it will suddenly appear, the Lord's vengeance; will break in storm, and light upon rebel heads. Nor shall the divine anger be appeased till the blow has been struck and the decree executed; what his design was, will be known all too well, all too late.
No clan in Israel, the Lord says, but shall own me as its God when that day comes, and all of them shall be my people. Out there in the solitudes they have won pardon, those exiles the sword left untouched; Israel shall find a home, the Lord says, the Lord, making himself known from far away. With unchanging love I love you, and now in mercy I have drawn you to myself. Israel, poor homeless maid, I will build your fortunes anew; built anew they shall be, and you shall go forth once more, your tambour hung about you, among the choir of dancers. Once more you shall plant vineyards over the hill-country of Samaria; planted they shall be, and the men who planted them await the appointed time before they gather the vintage. Watchmen there shall be, when that day comes, in the hill-country of Ephraim that will cry aloud, Up, to Sion go we, and there worship the Lord our God! Rejoice, the Lord says, at Jacob's triumph, the proudest of nations greet with a glad cry; loud echo your songs of praise, Deliverance, Lord, for your people, for the remnant of Israel! From the north country, from the very ends of earth, I mean to gather them and bring them home; blind men and lame, pregnant women and women brought to bed, so great the muster at their home-coming. Weeping they shall come, and I, moved to pity, will bring them to their journey's end; from mountain stream to mountain stream I will lead them, by a straight road where there is no stumbling; I, Israel, your father again, and you, Ephraim, my first-born son.
Listen, Gentiles, to the Lord's promise; his word must go out to the islands that are far away; word that he who scattered Israel will gather Israel in, will guard it faithfully as a shepherd guards his flock. The Lord means to ransom Jacob, to grant deliverance from the tyrant's power. The exiles will return, greeting mount Sion with cries of gladness; thronging in to take possession of the Lord's gifts, corn and oil and wine, increase of flock and herd. Revived their spirits shall be, like a garden when the stream flows full; they shall hunger no more. Glad the maidens shall dance, gladness there shall be for young and old alike; I will turn all their sorrow into joy, comfort and cheer their sad hearts. Full-fed my priests shall be with dainties; blessings my people shall have, the Lord says, till they ask no more.
Now, the Lord says, a voice is heard in Rama, of lamentation and bitter mourning; it is Rachel weeping for her children, and she will not be comforted, because none is left. But thus he reassures you: Sad voice, lament, sad eyes, weep no more; I, the Lord, give you promise of a reward for your working-days, a return from the enemy's country. A hope is left for you hereafter, the Lord says; to their own possessions your sons shall return. Doubt not I heard it, the cry of Ephraim forlorn: Lord, it was your task to chasten me, that must learn, like bullock untamed, to bear the yoke; grant me return, and I will return to you; you are the Lord my God. Only when you called me back to yourself did I repent; only when my lesson was learnt did I cry out upon my shame. How did I blush with confusion, bearing the disgrace the sins of my youth had earned! Why, what a favourite son is this Ephraim, what a spoilt child of mine, that I should pronounce my doom on him, and care for him nonetheless! In truth, my heart goes out to him; I will be merciful to him yet, the Lord says.
Way-marks leave behind you, sad trophies be raising as you go, to put you in mind of the straight road you have trodden. Return you must, poor Israel, return you must to these, your own cities; fickle maid, dally no longer. Here is a new order of things the Lord has established on earth; weak woman is to be the protectress of man's strength.
A message from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: To town and country-side of Juda I will restore the exiled folk, and once again the greeting will be heard, A blessing on you from the Lord, fair home of true observance, holy mountain-side! Once again Juda and Juda's townsfolk shall dwell there; fields shall be tilled and flocks led out to pasture; faint hearts shall be refreshed, and hunger's craving satisfied. Ah, to wake upon such a sight! Then were sleep welcome.
A time is coming, the Lord says, when I mean to enrich Israel's home, Juda's home, with stock of men and of cattle both; jealous watch I will still keep over them, but not, as of old, to root up and to demolish, to scatter and lay waste and to do hurt; all shall be building, the Lord says, all shall be planting now. When that time comes, no more shall be heard of the proverb, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are being set on edge; tooth of eater shall ache now, and a man's own guilt shall be a man's own doom.
A time is coming, the Lord says, when I mean to ratify a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Juda. It will not be like the covenant which I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand, to rescue them from Egypt; that they should break my covenant, and I, all the while, their master, the Lord says. No, this is the covenant I will grant the people of Israel, the Lord says, when that time comes. I will implant my law in their innermost thoughts, engrave it in their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. There will be no need for neighbour to teach neighbour, or brother to teach brother, the knowledge of the Lord; all will know me, from the highest to the lowest. I will pardon their wrong-doing; I will not remember their sins any more. A message from the Lord, from him, the God of hosts, the same who brightens day with the sun's rays, night with the ordered service of moon and star, who can stir up the sea and set its waves a-roaring; All these laws of mine will fail me, he says, before the line of Israel fails me; a people it must remain until the end of time. You have the Lord's word for it; When you can measure heaven above, he tells you, and search the foundations of earth below, then I will cast away the whole line of Israel, for all its ill deserving.
Behold, says the divine promise, a time is coming when the city shall be rebuilt in the Lord's honour, from Hananeel's Tower as far as the Corner Gate; nay, in advance of that the limit of its range shall reach, across Gareb hill, to take in Goatha, burial-ground and ash-pit and all the dead soil as far as Cedron brook, and eastward as far as the corner by the Horsemen's Gate; all shall be consecrated to the Lord; tree shall not be uprooted there henceforward, nor house overthrown.
A message came from the Lord to Jeremias during the tenth year of Sedecias reign in Juda the eighteenth of Nabuchodonosor's at Babylon; the Babylonian army was besieging Jerusalem at the time, and Jeremias was a prisoner there, confined in the guard-court that lay before the royal palace. It was for his prophesying that king Sedecias had imprisoned him; what meant this threat from the Lord, of giving Jerusalem over to capture by the king of Babylon? He had said, besides: King Sedecias of Juda shall not escape from the Chaldaeans; the king of Babylon shall have the mastery of him; they shall have speech together, meet face to face. To Babylon Sedecias shall go, and there remain till I have entered into a reckoning with him. All shall go amiss, if you join battle with the Chaldaeans.
And now Jeremias announced a new oracle the Lord had given him. The Lord told me, he said, that my cousin Hanameel, son of Sellum, would come and ask me to buy in certain land of his at Anathoth, which was my duty as his next of kin. And as the Lord foretold, so it fell out; Hanameel came to my prison doors, and said, Pray buy in that field of mine at Anathoth in Benjamin; you are the rightful heir, and your duty it is, as next of kin, to buy it from me. Then I knew that I had received a divine warning, and buy it I did, this field at Anathoth, from Hanameel, that was son to my uncle Sellum. I paid him the price, that was but seventeen pieces of silver; wrote and signed the deed, called in witnesses, and weighed out the money on the scales. So here was the deed of possession sealed up, all its terms set down and attested, and characters written without; all this I handed over to Baruch, son of Neri, son of Maasias, still in the presence of my cousin Hanameel, and the witnesses that had signed it, and the Jews who sat around me in the court where I was confined. Before them all, I gave Baruch this charge: A message for you from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these two pieces of writing, the sealed deed within and the covering of it that is open to view, and keep them in some jar of clay, where they can remain long without damage. This is what he would tell you, he, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, that there shall yet be buying of house and field and vineyard, here in this land.
The deed once made over to Baruch, son of Neri, I prayed to the Lord thus: Alas, alas, Lord God! you are the maker of heaven and earth, so great is your power, so wide your reach; no task, for you, is too difficult. A thousandfold you shew your mercy; yet, when you do punish, into the son's lap the father's guilt overflows; how great, how strong that God, whose name is the Lord of hosts! How sublime your counsels, your thoughts how high above us! And still you keep watch over all mankind, ready to award each life what its own devices have earned. Such deeds you did as are signs and portents to this day in the land of Egypt, in Israel too and all the world over; did win that renown which to this day is yours. Signs and portents there must be, and the exercise of your constraining power, and a great dread, before you could rescue your people Israel from Egypt; then you would bestow upon them this land, the home promised to their fathers, a land all milk and honey; they invaded it, they took possession of it. But to your voice they would not listen, your law they would not follow; no duty you had enjoined but lay neglected, and all the calamities we see about us are the issue. Here are siege-works raised to reduce the city; sword and famine and pestilence are giving it over to the Chaldaeans for their prey; of all you have threatened you see here the fulfilment. And now, Lord God, you would have me buy land, and call in witnesses of payment made; now, when this city lies at the mercy of the Chaldaeans!
Hereupon the word of the Lord came to Jeremias: Am I not the Lord, the God of all that lives? How should any task be too difficult for me?
This is the divine sentence; I mean to hand over this city to capture by the king of Babylon and his Chaldaeans; they shall take it by storm, and set it alight, and burn all its houses to the ground; it was there, on the roof-tops, they sacrificed to Baal, and made offerings to alien gods in despite of me. From their youth up, Israel and Juda have defied my will unceasingly; even now, says the Lord, their ill-doings are a provocation to me. Anger and scorn this city of theirs has earned from me, nothing else, from the day they built it to this day when I purpose that it shall offend my sight no more; so long have Israel and Juda defied my vengeance with the wrong they did, king and prince, priest and prophet, country-folk and citizens of Jerusalem; always the back turned, never a glance my way, always the deaf ear, the warning unheeded, when I sent early to their doors to bring them to a better mind! Have they not profaned that house which is the sanctuary of my name, by setting up their idols in it? Have they not made hill-shrines for Baal in the valley of Ben-Ennom, and there initiated son and daughter with Moloch-rites that were never of my bidding? No thought was it of mine that they should do this foul deed, which has brought guilt on Juda.
What, then, of this city, doomed in your eyes to fall into the power of Babylon's king, through sword and famine and pestilence? This is the message the Lord God of Israel sends to it: I mean to gather its people again, scattered over so many lands by the vengeance my fierce anger brought; restore them to this place, and bid them dwell there contentedly. They shall be my people, I their God; one will they shall have, and journey by one way, living evermore in the fear of me, winning for themselves and for their sons a blessing. An eternal covenant I will make with them, nor ever cease to speed them; inspire their hearts with the fear of me, that never swerves aside. My welcome task it shall be to prosper them, and root their stock firmly in this land of theirs; this shall be all my love and liking. Threat of mine and promise of mine, the Lord says, shall alike be fulfilled. This country of yours a desert, man nor beast to dwell in it, given up to the power of Babylon? So your fears tell you; but there shall be buying of lands in it yet, the price paid, the deed executed, the bond sealed, witnesses called in, all over Benjamin and round about Jerusalem, all through the cities of Juda, by hill and plain and the uplands of the south; I mean to bring the exiles home again, says the Lord.
Jeremias was still confined to his prison in the court when the word of the Lord came to him a second time. It ran: Thus says the Lord, that all this will do, all this will devise and determine, so great is his name: Cry out to me still, and you shall find audience; great mysteries that lie beyond your ken I will make known to you. Ruined houses of Jerusalem, ruined palace of the kings of Juda, what has the Lord to tell you about these?...
... to siege and sword. Come they to fight against the Chaldaeans, it is but to strew those earthworks with their own dead bodies; in anger and scorn I will smite them down, turning my back on the city they have stained with such guilt. Closed and cured those wounds shall be; I myself will heal them, grant them peace and safety to their heart's content. The fortunes of Juda and Jerusalem I will reverse, and they shall be established as firmly as ever; all the guilt that offends me purged away, all the wrong and despite they did me forgiven. My pride and prize, my renown and triumph, to be their benefactor, so that all the world shall hear of it; everywhere the tale of my bounty and my blessing shall strike awe and dread into men's hearts. Where all seems to your eyes but a desert, man nor beast left in the townships of Juda and in Jerusalem, empty street, empty house, empty byre, there, says the Lord, you shall hear cries of joy and mirth, voice of bridegroom and voice of bride. There you shall hear men singing, Give thanks to the Lord, the Lord is gracious, his mercy endures for ever, as they bring to his temple the offerings they have vowed. Your country's doom shall be reversed, says the divine promise, and all shall be as of old. Juda and all its townships a desert, no living thing to dwell here? Nay, says the Lord of hosts, once again it shall be the abode of shepherds, a resting-place for their flocks. By hill and plain and the uplands of the south, all over Benjamin and round about Jerusalem, all through the cities of Juda, there shall be flocks passing to and fro, and their masters a-counting them, the Lord says.
Behold, he says, a time is coming when I will make good my promise to Israel and Juda; the day will dawn, the time be ripe at last for that faithful scion to bud from David's stock; the land shall have a king to reign over it, giving just sentence and due award. When that time comes, Juda shall find deliverance, none shall disturb Jerusalem's rest; and the name given to this king shall be, The Lord vindicates us. Never a man wanting of David's line, the Lord says, to sit on Israel's throne; never lack of priest and Levite to wait upon me, bring me burnt-sacrifice and burn the bloodless offering, and slaughter victims, day after day.
And the word of the Lord came to Jeremias, giving him this message: If you can rescind my ordinance of day and night, that there should be day-time and night-time no more, only then will I rescind the privilege granted to my servant David, and there shall be heirs of his throne no more, Levites and priests to wait on me no more. My servant David, the Levites that wait on me, these shall have a posterity countless as the stars of heaven, measureless as the sea-sand. This message, too, Jeremias had from the Lord: Mark well how they declare, the folk among whom you dwell, that there are two families the Lord has chosen, and both he has cast off; so that they despise my own people, and no longer count it a nation. But this is the divine answer: Laws if I have made none for day and night, for heaven and earth no ordinances prescribed, then let it be thought that I mean to cast Israel away, or depose the line of David from its headship over all who spring from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Trust me their doom shall be reversed, their lot shall be pitied.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremias at the time when king Nabuchodonosor of Babylon, at the head of his own army, with vassal kingdoms and peoples to aid him, levied war on Jerusalem and its daughter cities. This was the message sent by the Lord God of Israel: Go and warn Sedecias, king of Juda, in my name that I mean to hand over this city to the Babylonian king, who will burn it to the ground. And add this besides: you yourself will not escape from him; they will catch you, sure enough, and hand you over to him; you and the king of Babylon shall have speech together, meet face to face and to Babylon you shall go. Would you but listen, King Sedecias of Juda, to the Lord's bidding! Die by the sword, he tells you, you should not; peaceful your death should be and they should make such burning for you as they made for your fathers that reigned before you, raise such cries of lamentation, Alas, what a king was this! This is my promise to you, the Lord says. All this king Sedecias of Juda must hear from the prophet Jeremias, there in Jerusalem; and still the Babylonian army pressed hard on the city, and on those other cities of Juda that were left, Lachis and Azecha; the rest of the fortified cities had already been taken.
Here is another message the Lord entrusted to Jeremias, and this was the occasion of it. King Sedecias had bound the citizens of Jerusalem by a covenant; all alike were to set free their slaves and handmaids that were of Hebrew blood; would they play the master to their own Jewish kinsfolk? On hearing the proclamation, nobles and common people alike had agreed to release slave and handmaid, and exempt them from all service henceforward; and this they did obediently enough; but afterwards they changed their minds, haled them off, men and women, and reduced them to slavery once again. Then it was word came from the Lord to Jeremias, and thus the divine message ran: Word from the Lord God of Israel! I made a covenant with your fathers, when I rescued them from their place of bondage in Egypt. Seven years up, every slave sold in bondage to his fellow Hebrew must go free; six years of service, and then release. Your fathers would not listen, turned a deaf ear to me; but you, to-day, have thought better of it, and done my will, proclaiming liberty to your fellow-countrymen; you have sworn it in my presence, in the house that is the shrine of my name. And then you went back, and dragged my name in the dust! You would claim them afresh, men and women servants you had set free, now their own masters; they must be your servants and handmaids still.
This sentence, then, the Lord pronounces: You have not obeyed me, by granting freedom to your own brethren and neighbours, and here is the freedom I mean to grant you in return; freedom of the sword, freedom of the famine, freedom of the pestilence! A bane I will make you to all the kingdoms of earth. I will have no more of them, the men who transgress my covenant, have no respect for the agreement they made in my own presence, the calf they cut in two and walked between the slices of it, nobles of Juda and Jerusalem, chamberlains and priests, and all the common folk that passed between share and share. I mean to give them up into the hands of enemies that are sworn upon their lives; bird in air and beast on earth shall prey upon that carrion of theirs. Sedecias, king of Juda, and his nobles, shall fall into the hands of pitiless enemies, the armies of Babylon, that now give you a respite. These, at my command, shall march on this city again, lay siege to it, and capture it, and burn it to the ground; and I will make the townships of Juda into a desert, never a soul to dwell there.
In the reign of Josias' son Joachim, word came to Jeremias from the Lord, Go, make yourself acquainted with the men of Rechab's clan; I would have you entertain them in one of the treasury rooms at the temple, and there set wine before them. So Jezonias, son of Jeremias, son of Habsanias was my guest, with his brethren and his sons and the whole Rechabite clan; into the temple I brought them, to the apartment of Hanan's sons, that come down from God's servant Jegedelias. It was next to the apartment of the door-keeper, Maasias the son of Sellum. Here I set a bowl and goblet of wine before the men of Rechab's clan, and bade them drink, but drink wine they would not. Our father Jonadab, said they, the son of Rechab gave us a rule to live by. Wine neither we should drink, nor any son of ours in perpetuity; no house build, no crops sow, no vineyard plant or possess; in tents we were to live all our days, and long those days should last in this land that was none of ours. As our father Jonadab son of Rechab bade us live, so live we, so our wives and sons and daughters live, drinking no wine at any time. Houses we build none to dwell in, vineyards and fields and crops have none; tent-dwellers we remain, true to every command of our father Jonadab; it was only when king Nabuchodonosor of Babylon marched against us that we were fain to take shelter in Jerusalem from threats of Chaldaean and Syrian; that is why we make our abode in Jerusalem.
And now the Lord's word came to Jeremias: A message from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel! Go and tell all the men of Juda, all the citizens of Jerusalem. Great marvel it is, the Lord says, you are so unruly still, and will not heed my bidding. Here is Jonadab son of Rechab will have his sons drink no wine, and his word holds; wine they drink none to this day, for love of their father's rule; and I, that send word early to your doors, can win no obedience. Early I sent them to your doors, the prophets that were servants of mine, bidding you come back from your straying, and shape your thoughts anew; have recourse no longer to the worship of alien gods, if you would dwell securely in this land, my gift to you and to your fathers; but you gave me neither heed nor hearing. So loyal the Rechabites to the commands of their father Jonadab, and my people so disobedient! I mean, then, says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to punish the citizens of Jerusalem for warnings unheeded, for calls refused, with all the punishments I have threatened. To the clan of Rechab Jeremias gave this message from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: For your obedience to your father Jonadab, for precept remembered and for duty done, he, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, promises that this line of Rechab and Jonadab, long as time lasts, shall never want a posterity to do him service.
In the fourth year of Josias' son Joachim, the Lord gave Jeremias this commandment: Get yourself a scroll, and write down on it all the warnings I have uttered against Israel and Juda, and against the other nations of the world, ever since I first spoke to you under king Josias. Maybe, when the men of Juda hear of all the mischief I mean to do them, they will leave off their straying in false paths, and so I will overlook the guilt of their wrongdoing.
So Jeremias sent for Baruch the son of Nerias; the Lord's utterances, every one, Jeremias rehearsed and Baruch wrote down on the scroll. And now Jeremias had an errand for him; I must keep my house, said he, go into the Lord's temple I may not. Do you, on a fasting day, go there instead, and read out some of the divine utterances I have dictated to you, in the temple itself, for all the citizens to hear, and all the men of Juda besides, that have come in from their several townships. Maybe their intercession will find its way into the Lord's presence; maybe they will leave off their straying in false paths; here are grievous threats from the Lord of angry vengeance against his people. So it was Baruch son of Nerias, but in fulfilment of Jeremias command, that took the scroll and read out, there in the Lord's house, the Lord's message. It was the ninth month, in the fifth year of Josias' son Joachim, when they proclaimed a fast, that was to be kept in the Lord's presence by all the citizens and all who had come into from the other towns of Juda. And there in the Lord's house, from the apartment of Gamarias, whose father, Saphan, had once been secretary, in the upper court, close by the entry of the new temple gate, Baruch read out Jeremias' book of warning. No line he read of the divine utterance but had an eager listener in Gamarias' son Michaeas, who thereupon went down to the secretary's room, where he found all the notables assembled. There was the secretary, Elisama; there were Dalaias son of Semeias, and Elnathan son of Achobor, and Gamarias son of Saphan, and Sedecias son of Hananias, and all the notables in general. To these Michaeas repeated all he had heard Baruch read out from the scroll in public; and Judi, son of Nathanias, son of Selemias, son of Cushi, was sent on an errand to Baruch in the name of all present. Come thither he must, and bring the scroll he had read thus publicly with him. So it was Baruch, son of Nerias, that came before them, and the scroll with him; they bade him be seated, and read it aloud to them, so read it he did. When all the reading was over, they looked each at other in amazement, and told Baruch all this must be brought to the king's ears. Then they asked, How comes it that these are the words of Jeremias, and yet of your writing? Why, said he, Jeremias gave them out, as if he were reading them aloud, and I sat by with paper and ink to write them down. Go into hiding, they told him, you and Jeremias with you, and be sure none knows where to find you.
Then they made their way into the palace court to find the king, leaving the book there in the secretary's room. When they had brought their news to his hearing, the king would have Judi fetch the book itself from Elisama's room; which he did, and read it out for the king to hear, and all the courtiers that stood about him. Since it was the ninth month, Joachim was in his winter parlour, and a brazier of coals in front of him; and when Judi had read but three columns or four, he took his penknife and began cutting the scroll into pieces, which he threw on to the brazier until the whole book had perished in the flames. King and courtiers listened to all these warnings, yet feared they never, nor rent their clothes; and although Elnathan, Dalaias and Gamarias would have prevented Joachim from burning the scroll, he would not listen to them. Jeremiel son of Amalech, Saraias son of Ezriel, and Selemias son of Abdeel were bidden to attach the persons of the scribe Baruch and the prophet Jeremias; but the Lord kept them in safe hiding.
And this was the Lord's word to the prophet Jeremias, when the king burnt the scroll, and with it all the utterances he had dictated to Baruch: Get you another scroll, and write down on it whatever was contained in the one king Joachim burnt. And to king Joachim give this message from the Lord: Burn book and chide prophet, if you will, for warning you that the king of Babylon will come back with all speed, and lay this country waste, leaving neither man nor beast to dwell in it. But this is the Lord's doom against king Joachim of Juda: No son of his shall follow him on the throne of David; his body shall be cast away in the open, to bear the day's heat and the night frost. With guilt of his, with guilt of household and court of his, I will reckon in full; all my unheeded threats against Jerusalem and Juda shall be made good.
So Jeremias must get Baruch another scroll to write on, and all the contents of the book Joachim burnt must be dictated anew; much more was added besides to enlarge it.
In place of Jechonias, that was son to Joachim, Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon would have Sedecias, another of Josias' sons, mount the throne of Juda; but no heed would the new king give, nor his courtiers, nor his subjects, to the warnings uttered in the Lord's name by the prophet Jeremias. To him the king sent envoys, Juchal the son of Selemias and the priest Sophonias, son of Maasias, bidding him pray to the Lord their God for the common welfare. Jeremias was still free to come and go as he pleased among his fellow-citizens; they had not yet imprisoned him.
At this time, Pharao's army was on the march, advancing from the Egyptian frontier; and the Chaldaeans, this news reaching them, had raised the siege of Jerusalem. So the Lord's word came to the prophet Jeremias: Take back this message from the Lord God of Israel to the king who sent you to consult me. Back home to Egypt it shall march, the army of Pharao that has come out in your support; whereupon the Chaldaeans will return to the attack, will capture this city and burn it to the ground. Never cheat yourselves with the hope that the enemy will march away and leave you alone; march away they will not, the Lord says. Low though you should lay every Chaldaean that takes the field against you, save for some few wounded, those wounded men shall rise up from their tents, and burn this city to the ground notwithstanding.
And now, while Pharao still threatened, and the Chaldaeans had raised the siege, Jeremias took occasion to leave Jerusalem and make his way to Benjamin, where he must divide up some property in the presence of his fellow-citizens. When he reached the Benjamin gate, the officer whose turn it was to mount guard there, Jerias, the son of Selemias, the son of Hananias, put the prophet under arrest, under the charge of deserting to the Chaldaeans. In vain did Jeremias protest, What, I desert to the Chaldaeans? There is no truth in it! Jerias led him away into the presence of the nobles; and these, in a rage, first had him beaten, then confined him in the house of the secretary, Jonathan, who had charge of the prisoners at this time. So came Jeremias to a dungeon cell, and long remained there.
It was king Sedecias who released him, sending for him and questioning him privately in the palace. Has the Lord any message for me? he asked. Yes, said Jeremias; that you shall be at the mercy of Nabuchodonosor. Then he asked the king, What wrong have I done to you, to your courtiers or your subjects, that you have thrown me into prison? Tell me, how have they sped, those prophets of yours who foretold that the king of Babylon should never reach you, never invade this land of yours? Listen to me, my lord king, I entreat you, and look favourably on my suit. Do not send me back to the house of yonder secretary Jonathan, for there I needs must die! So king Sedecias had him confined in the court without, and given a loaf of bread each day, with seasoning added, as long as bread there should be in the city. And there Jeremias was left, among the prisoners in the courtyard.
Still Jeremias would speak out before all the people; and among those who listened to him were Saphatias son of Mathan, Gedelias son of Phassur, Juchal son of Selemias, and Phassur son of Melchias. This message they heard him proclaim from the Lord: To remain in this city means death by sword, famine and pestilence; go over to the Chaldaeans, you shall have your lives for guerdon, and be spared. And this: Past doubt, the city will fall into the hands of the king of Babylon, by right of capture. And they urged the king, these notables, to make an end of him; He goes about, said they, to weaken the resolve of the garrison, and of the people at large, by talking in this fashion; there is malice here, not good will. He is at your disposal, king Sedecias answered; not for a king to withstand you! So they had their way with Jeremias; he should be left helpless in the cistern of Melchias the son of Amelech, there in the court where the prisoners were kept. Into the cistern they lowered him with ropes; there was no water in it now, only mire, and into the mire he sank.
But there was an Ethiopian chamberlain at the court, named Abdemelech, that heard how Jeremias had been let down into the cistern; and as the king was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, this Abdemelech came out from the palace and remonstrated with him. My lord king, he said, here is foul wrong done to the prophet Jeremias; they have let him down into a cistern, where he will die of hunger, such lack of bread there is in the city. Why then, said the king to Abdemelech the Ethiopian, take thirty men with you, and rescue Jeremias from the cistern while there is yet life in him. So Abdemelech took the men with him, made his way into the palace, beneath the store-chamber, took old rags and clouts that lay mouldering there, and let them down by ropes to Jeremias in the cistern. Here be torn things and mouldering, the Ethiopian said to Jeremias, but you may put these under your arm-pits, and the ropes under these again. Jeremias obeyed, and they pulled him up by the ropes till he was clear of the cistern; but the courtyard was his prison still.
Then king Sedecias would have the prophet come to him by the third door of the palace, the one that leads to the temple. I have a question to ask you, he said to Jeremias; hide nothing from me. Why, Jeremias answered, if I tell you what I know, you will but kill me, and if I give you advice, you will not heed it. But king Sedecias took a secret oath, As the Lord is a living God, the Lord who gave us this breath we breathe, slay you I will not, nor hand you over to your mortal enemies. Thereupon Jeremias told him a message from the Lord, the God of hosts: Go out and give yourself up to Nabuchodonosor's chieftains, and your life shall be safe, nor shall there be any burning of the city; you and yours shall be spared. If you do not give yourself up to them, then the Chaldaeans shall gain mastery of the city and burn it to the ground, and for yourself there is no escaping them. Yet my heart misgives me, Sedecias told him, over the Jews that have already made their submission; what if I should be handed over to these, and they wreak their spite on me? That shall not be, Jeremias answered. Give heed, only give heed, to this message from the Lord I bear you; so you shall speed well, and life be granted you. Refuse to yield, and here is the doom he has made known to me. Never a woman that is left in the palace of the kings of Juda but shall be spoil for the chieftains of the king of Babylon! And as they are led away, this shall be their lament: False friend fooled you, and had the better of you; feet fast in the treacherous morass has left you! Wife of yours and son of yours led away into the enemy's camp, and you yourself powerless to escape; yourself the king of Babylon shall take prisoner, and burn your city to the ground.
On peril of your life, king Sedecias warned him, let none hear what has passed between us. If it reach the ears of the nobles that we have had speech together, and they bid you repeat what you said, or what said the king, hiding nothing as you hold your life dear, then be this your answer, Why, I pleaded my suit with the king's grace that he would not have me sent back to Jonathan's house, to die there. Come and ask him they did, and he answered as the king bade him; so with that they let him be; nothing had been overheard. This imprisonment of Jeremias in the courtyard lasted until the taking of Jerusalem; for, sure enough, Jerusalem was taken.
Sedecias had been reigning for eight years and ten months in Juda when Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon led his armies to the siege of Jerusalem; in the eleventh year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, the city wall was breached. In they marched, Neregel, Sereser, Semegarnabu, Sarsachim, Rabsarts, (Neregel, Sereser), and Rebmag, and all the king of Babylon's other chieftains, and occupied the central gate. Sedecias king of Juda and all his warriors fled at their approach, leaving the city at dead of night by way of the royal garden and the gate between the two walls; it was the desert road they took when they left it. The Chaldaean army went in pursuit, and overtook Sedecias in the open plain of Jericho; captured him, and brought him before Nabuchodonosor at Reblatha, in the Emath country; and there sentence was pronounced on him. Slain by the king of Babylon were all his sons, there in their father's sight; slain by the king of Babylon were all the nobles of Juda; and as for Sedecias himself, his eyes were put out, and he was carried off, loaded with chains, to Babylon. King's palace and poor man's house the Chaldaeans burnt to the ground, and threw down the walls of Jerusalem in ruins. All the rest who survived, defenders and deserters alike, were carried off by Nabuzardan, the captain of the royal bodyguard, to Babylon; he left none except the poorest of the inhabitants, landless men, in Juda, who found themselves enriched, that day, with vineyards and cisterns of their own.
This Nabuzardan, captain of the royal bodyguard had orders from king Nabuchodonosor about Jeremias; Take him under your loving charge, said he, and let him have what cheer he will. So here were Nabuzardan, captain of the royal bodyguard, and Nabusezban, and Rabsarts, and Neregel, and Sereser, and Rebmag, and all the king of Babylon's great chieftains, sending out to free Jeremias from his prison in the courtyard. And they entrusted him to the care of Godolias, son of Ahicam; with him Jeremias should dwell, and make his home among his own people.
While he was still in the courtyard prison, Jeremias had been entrusted with a message from the Lord for the Ethiopian, Abdemelech: All my doom against this city, says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I mean to fulfil; ban it is and not blessing, and you shall live to see it; but to you I will grant safety, the Lord says. Never shall dreaded foe have the mastery, when I am there to deliver you; you are marked out for safety, that did put your confidence in me, the Lord says.
To Jeremias the word of the Lord still came, after the captain of the bodyguard, Nabuzardan, had set him at liberty. This happened at Rama, where he was singled out, still in chains, among the prisoners from Jerusalem and Juda who were on their way to Babylon. As he took him apart from the rest, the captain of the bodyguard said to him, With calamity the Lord your God threatened this land of yours, and calamity he has brought upon it; his threat is fulfilled. What guilt was this, to refuse the Lord obedience! And here is the issue. From your hands I have struck the chains, as you see; bear me company, if you will, to Babylon, and I will take good care of you; if you will not go my way, then abide where you are. The whole land is at your disposal, and you are free to take your own path; none may constrain you to go with me. Here is Godohas, son of Ahicam, son of Saphan, that is entrusted by the king of Babylon with the charge of all Juda; dwell with him if you will, here among your own people, or where you have a mind betake you. And with that, the captain of the bodyguard furnished him with provisions, and made him a present besides, and so took leave of him. It was to Godolias son of Ahicam, at Maspath, that Jeremias repaired, and dwelt with him among the remnant of the land's inhabitants.
Men, women, and children, to Godolias son of Ahicam the king of Babylon entrusted them, all these landless folk who had not been carried off into exile. And when the news of this appointment reached the army chieftains, scattered here and there with their men, they rallied to Godolias at Maspha. Here were Ismahel, son of Nathanias, Johanan and Jonathan, sons of Caree, Sareas, son of Thanehumeth, the sons of Ophi from Netophathi, and Jezonias, son of Maachathi, all with men at their backs. To these, chiefs and men alike, Godolias son of Ahicam son of Saphan took an oath. They need have no fear of living under Chaldaean rule; let them remain in the country as the king of Babylon's vassals, and all should go well with them. I am living here in Masphath, said he, to take the orders sent me from Chaldaea; it is for you to gather in vintage and harvest and olive-yield, each of you abiding in the city he now occupies. There were other Jews living in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the countries round about; these, when they heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Juda, and put Godolias, son of Ahicam, son of Saphan, in charge of them, came back from the countries where they had taken refuge into Judaea, came to Godolias at Masphath; and abundant was the store they brought in, of grapes and grain both.
And now, at Masphath, Godolias was visited by Johanan son of Caree, and the other chieftains from the countryside, with this warning: We have information that Ismahel, son of Nathanias, was sent here by Baalis, king of Ammon, to take your life. But Godolias would not believe it. When Johanan was at Masphath he took Godolias aside; Let me go and make away with Ismahel secretly, he urged; if he should take your life, all the Jews that have rallied about you will be scattered again, and Juda have a remnant no more. But Godolias would have none of it; Nay, said he to Johanan, leave off your purpose; it is but a false report you tell me concerning Ismahel.
The seventh month had come; and now Ismahel, son of Nathanias, son of Elisama, one of the royal princes and the king's vassals, came with ten followers to Masphath, where Godolias was, and at Masphath they sat at table together. There and then, at the sword's point, Ismahel and his ten men put Godolias to death. So perished Godolias, son of Ahicam, son of Saphan, that held the king of Babylon's warrant to rule the country. Such Jews as were with Godolias at Masphath, such Chaldaean soldiers as he found there, Ismahel despatched at the same time. And the day after Godolias' murder, before the news of it was out, came eighty pilgrims from Sichem, Silo, and Samaria, beards shaven, garments rent, in mourning all of them, with bloodless offerings and incense for the Lord's temple. Out came Ismahel son of Nathanias from Masphath to meet them, and wept ever as he went; Welcome, said he, from Godolias son of Ahicam! And when they had reached the middle of the town, just by the cistern, they were slain by Ismahel and his men; all except ten of them, who pleaded for their lives and told Ismahel they had a hoard of wheat, barley, oil and honey hidden away under their lands; these were spared the fate of the rest. When he slew the companions of Godolias, Ismahel had thrown their bodies into the cistern; it was one which king Asa had made to defend the place against Baasa, king of Israel; now, Ismahel's massacre filled it to the brim.
Thus there was no longer a remnant at Masphath; the king's daughters, and all the other folk left there by Nabuzardan under the care of Godolias, Ismahel took off with him as his captives, and so would have marched away into the Ammonite country. But Johanan, son of Caree, and the other army chieftains that were on his side, no sooner heard the ill news of what Ismahel had done than they mustered all their men to give him battle, and caught up with him at the pool of Gabaon. A welcome sight it was to Ismahel's company, when they saw Johanan, son of Caree, and the other chieftains approaching; back went all the prisoners to Masphath, and threw in their lot with Johanan instead; Ismahel fled at the sight of him, and reached the Ammonite country with only eight men at his back.
Johanan and his fellow chieftains would not leave at Masphath this remnant they had rescued from Ismahel after the murder of Godolias; all the fighting men, the women and children, the eunuchs, who had returned with them from Gabaon. They went off and made their home for a time at Chamaan, near Bethlehem, thinking to take refuge in Egypt from the vengeance of the Chaldaeans. From these they had much to fear, now that Ismahel son of Nathanias had murdered Godolias son of Ahicam, the king of Babylon's own representative in Juda.
And now all the army chieftains, Johanan son of Caree and Jezonias son of Osaias and their followers, high and low, came to consult Jeremias. Look kindly, they said, on our request; we would have you intercede with the Lord your God for this poor remnant, left so few in number, as you see. Whither go we? What shift make we? Please it the Lord your God to make all this known to us. And the prophet Jeremias said, Your request shall be granted. Pray I will, as you bid me pray, to the Lord your God, and his answer you shall hear in full, no word kept hidden from you. And this promise they made on their part: The Lord himself bear witness against us, unerring and unfailing, if we are not true to every word of that message the Lord sends us through your means. Be it for weal or woe, it is the voice of the Lord our God; to him lies your errand, and him we will obey; heed we the commands of the Lord our God, nothing can go amiss.
Ten days passed, and then the Lord's word came to Jeremias. Johanan son of Caree he summoned to him, and all the army chieftains, and their followers, high and low; and thus spoke to them: A message to you from the Lord, the God of Israel! To him I went on your errand, and laid your prayers before him. Wait on quietly, he says, in this land of yours, and all shall be building now, not destroying, all shall be planting now, not uprooting; amends enough is the calamity I have brought on you. What, does the king of Babylon daunt you with his terrors? Of him have no fear; danger from him is none, the Lord says, when I am at your side to protect you, and deliver you from his power. I will take pity on you now; only pity shall you find, and on your native soil an abiding home.
But if you refuse to make it your home, if you disobey the divine command; if you are heard crying, No! To Egypt! There we will dwell, where are no sights of bloodshed, no sound of trumpet-call, no famine to be endured! then, last of the Jews, listen to this, the Lord's message. This he tells you, he, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel! If you turn your faces towards Egypt, and thither repair to find a refuge, the sword you dread shall overtake you, there in Egypt, the famine that haunts you shall be with you still, there in Egypt, and in Egypt you shall die. None that turns his face towards Egypt for refuge but sword or famine or pestilence shall be the undoing of him; such calamity I mean to bring on it as none shall survive, none shall escape. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Go you to Egypt, my angry vengeance shall blaze out against you no less than when you dwelt once at Jerusalem; yours shall be a name of execration and horror, a name to curse by and to revile, and this land you shall never see more. Last of the Jews, this is the Lord's message: Go to Egypt you must not. Bear me witness, all of you, that I have given you solemn warning this day. But no, you did but hoodwink yourselves; you would have me do your errand to the Lord our God, and so you promised, Pray to the Lord our God for us, make known to us whatever is his divine will, and it shall be done; but now I have told it you, and where is your obedience to that divine will, to the message he bade me deliver to you? Here then is full warning that the land where you mean to take refuge shall be the undoing of you, by war and famine and pestilence.
Such was the errand upon which the Lord now sent Jeremias to his people. And when Jeremias had delivered all this message to them from the Lord their God, Azarias, son of Osaias, contradicted him; Johanan, too, the son of Caree, and the other malcontents held the same language. you lie, they said, warrant you have none from the Lord our God to prevent us taking refuge in Egypt; it is Baruch, son of Nerias, who sets you on, thinking to betray us to the Chaldaeans, and have us put to death, or carried away to Babylon. Thus Johanan, son of Caree, with the army chieftains and all their men in his support, refused to obey the Lord's bidding and remain where they were in Juda. He and his fellow chieftains took all the remaining Jews away with them; some of these had been scattered in distant parts, but had now come back to live at home with their wives and children; others, the king's daughters among them, had been entrusted by Nabuzardan, the captain of the bodyguard, to Godolias, son of Ahicam, son of Saphan, that had the prophet Jeremias and Baruch son of Nerias at his side. With all these at their back they crossed the Egyptian frontier, in defiance of the Lord's bidding, and made their way to Taphnis. And at Taphnis the word of the Lord came to Jeremias: Take a load of great stones with you, and go to the vault under the brick wall by the gate of Pharao's palace at Taphnis; there bury them, with Jewish folk by to watch you. And this message you shall give them from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I mean to summon one that is my servant, Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and set up a throne for him on these foundations; where these stones lie buried, his canopy shall rise. He it is that shall come and doom the Egyptians; whom the plague beckons, to the plague, whom exile, to exile, whom the sword, to the sword. The idols of Egypt he shall carry away into banishment, first setting light to their temples and burning them down. Lightly as shepherd dons cloak, he shall invest himself with sovereignty over its people, and unmolested go his way, breaking in pieces the statues that adorn Egypt's sun-temple, the shrines of Egypt burning to the ground.
Here is a message that was sent through Jeremias to all the Jews living in Egypt, whether in Magdalus or Taphnis or Memphis or the Phatures country: Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: You have seen for yourselves what calamity I brought on Jerusalem and the cities of Juda, how this day they are empty of inhabitants. By their own guilt they earned it, when they defied my vengeance, courting the sacrifices and the worship of alien gods they had never known till then, they and you and your fathers alike. Early to your doors I sent those prophets that were servants of mine, bidding you leave off such foul doings of yours, doings most hateful to me; but heed and hearing they gave me none, still went astray, to alien gods still made sacrifice. At last my angry vengeance blazed up, and lit such a fire in the townships of Juda, in the streets of Jerusalem, as has left them, this day, a barren wilderness. And now, says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, what of yourselves? Would you fasten a noose round your own necks, court death for man and woman, child and weanling, till remnant of Juda there is none? For rivals must I have images of your own making? Will you sacrifice to gods not yours, there in Egypt? Why would you take refuge there, to your own undoing, to be a name all the world should curse by and revile? Have you forgotten them, ill deeds done in your fathers days by king and queen, by man and wife, throughout Juda and the streets of Jerusalem? Alas, to this day so there is no amending; no dread of me, no living by the divine law, by the rule I held up for a pattern to you and to your fathers! Thus, then he threatens you, he, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: It is my frown you shall see henceforward; the whole of Juda shall be cut away. The remnant that looked to find a refuge in Egypt, in Egypt shall perish, sword and famine their undoing, sword and famine for all of them, high and low. Theirs shall be a name of execration and of wonder, a name to curse by and to revile. Sword, famine and pestilence, so I called Jerusalem to account, and so I will call Egypt to account; for those Jewish survivors that have taken refuge in Egypt there is no escaping with their lives, no returning to Juda, home of their eager desire; only fugitives shall return.
Jeremias did not go unanswered; there were men there who knew well their wives made offering to alien gods; of the women themselves, many were standing by. They had but one thought, all these exiles that were making their home at Phatures in Egypt; Ay, so the Lord bids you tell us, but we will have none of it. Sworn we are, and by that oath we mean to stand, that we will do sacrifice to the queen of heaven, and make offering of cakes to her, as we ever did, we and our fathers, kings and rulers of ours, in the townships of Juda and in Jerusalem streets; bread we had in those days to our heart's content, and all went well with us; bad times we never saw. It is only since we left off doing sacrifice to the queen of heaven, and paid tribute of cakes no more, that all is woe and want, sword wasting us and famine. Sacrifice when we women make to the queen of heaven, and pour libation to her, be sure our men-folk know in whose honour cake is made, and wine is poured!
But Jeremias turned upon them all, men and women alike, all that had given him his answer. Nay, said he, when you did sacrifice all through Juda and in Jerusalem streets, and your fathers before you, king and noble and plain citizen, be sure the Lord was heeding you, and marked it well. It was when the Lord could bear no longer with false aims and foul deeds of yours, that your land became a wilderness, a thing of wonder, a name to curse by, a land empty of inhabitants, as it is this day. It was because you sacrificed, in the Lord's despite, to false gods, because you would not obey him, would not follow law and decree and ordinance of his, that all the calamity of these times has come upon you.
This, too, Jeremias said to the crowd about him, and to their women-folk besides: Jews of Egypt, listen to the message he sends you, he, the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. So you will be as good as your word; sacrifice and libation you have vowed to the queen of heaven and must pay it; all is accomplished, will has turned into act! Then listen, Jews of Egypt, to the doom which the Lord pronounces: By the honour of my own name I have sworn it, the Lord says, never Jew shall be heard more taking his oath by the living God, in all this land of Egypt! For woe, not for weal, these eyes of mine shall watch over them, till sword and famine have done their work, and Jew in Egypt is none. To Juda from Egypt they shall return, such few as have escaped the sword's point, and the remnant that took refuge here shall learn to their cost whose prophecy was fulfilled, theirs or mine. Here is a sign I mean to give you, the Lord says, here in this land, in proof that my threats shall be accomplished. Thus says the Lord: I, that gave up Sedecias of Juda to Nabuchodonosor, his mortal enemy, will give up to his mortal enemies yonder Ephree, that is now Pharao in Egypt.
When Baruch, son of Nerias, had written down the words dictated to him by Jeremias, in the fourth year of Joachim's reign in Juda, this comfort Jeremias gave him: A message from the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, Baruch! Woe is you, heavy is your heart; sorrow upon sorrow the Lord gives you, and respite you can find none. Yet this message the Lord has for you: Here am I destroying what my own hands built, uprooting what my own hands planted; and for you must it be all prizes? For prizes never look you; enough for you that, go you where you will, safe-conduct of your life I am granting you.
Here follows the doom which the Lord pronounced to the prophet Jeremias against the nations of the world. And first against Egypt, whose army stood at Charcamis, by the river Euphrates, under its king Pharao Nechao, and there was defeated by Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, in the fourth year of Joachim's reign over Juda, that was son to Josias.
Buckler, there, and shield; march we to battle! Yoke steed, and, horsemen, mount; stand to your ranks, helmeted; scour lance, and don breastplate! What means it? Here be cowards turning their backs, here be great warriors slain; pell-mell they flee, and never a glance behind; peril is all around, the Lord says. For the swift no escape, for the strong no prevailing; there in the north, by Euphrates banks, they fail and fall!
Can it be a river that comes up in flood, eddies are these of a foaming torrent? Like river in flood, like foaming torrent marches Egypt to battle, threatening to cover earth with its advance, drown city and citizen. Ay, mount horse, dizzily reel the chariot; way there for the warriors, Ethiop and Libyan with their great shields, men of Lydia that ply bow and shoot arrow so well! Alas, not yours the day; this day the Lord, the God of hosts, has chosen for his day of vengeance, when he will take toll of his enemies; fed and glutted his sword shall be, drink deep of men's blood; here, on Euphrates banks, the Lord, the God of hosts, will claim his sacrifice. Egypt, poor maid, to Galaad betake you, to find balm for your wounds! Salve after salve you will try in vain; there is no healing you. Your shame has come to all men's ears, earth echoes with your lament; warrior leaned upon warrior of yours for support, and they fell both together.
And thus the Lord prophesied to Jeremias the coming of Nabuchodonosor, king of Babylon, and his victory over Egypt. Here is news for Egypt; cry it in Magdalus, wake the echoes of Memphis, in Taphnis tell it abroad! Stand to arms, make ready for battle; your border countries have fallen a prey to the sword already! Why have your warriors melted away? Stand they could not, when the Lord was minded to overthrow them. Many he brought to earth; stumbled they, man over his fellow, crying out, Up, to men of our own race return we, to the land of our birth; escape we from the invader's sword!
What name shall we give to Pharao? Call him, Din of Battle at Last. By his own life he has sworn it, that King whose name is the Lord of hosts; Pharao's conqueror is on the way, towering high as Thabor among the hills, as Carmel above the sea.
Poor maid of Egypt, an exile's pack provide you! A lonely wilderness Memphis shall be, where none may dwell henceforward. Fitting emblem of Egypt, a heifer lithe and graceful; from the north a gad-fly shall come to trouble her rest. But those mercenaries of hers that went to and fro like bullocks full-fed, see how they have turned about and taken flight all at once, none ready to stand his ground! The day has come when they are marked down for slaughter; they shall be called to account at last. Loud her voice shall rise above the clash of bronze, now that the invader's army draws near, pitiless as woodmen that go a-hewing; forest is none so deep they shall not lay it bare, numberless as the locust-swarm. Poor Egypt, all shame and as confusion, prey of the northern folk! The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, has pronounced his doom: I mean to have a reckoning now with Ammon of Thebes, with Pharao and Egypt, with all its gods and all its kings, with Pharao and all who trust in Pharao's aid! I mean to give them up into the hands of their mortal enemies, Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon and his vassals; then Egypt shall have rest, as Egypt did of old.
Have you no fear, the Lord says, Jacob, that are my servant still; not for Israel is danger brewing. From that far country of exile I mean to restore you, restore those children of yours; Jacob shall return, and live at ease, every blessing shall enjoy, and enemies have none to fear. For you no terrors, Jacob that are my servant, the Lord says; am I not at your side? Of all the lands in which I have dispersed you I will take full toll, but not of you; I would but chastise you with due measures kept, lest I should leave you altogether acquitted.
And this doom the Lord pronounced to the prophet Jeremias against the Philistines, before the defeat of Gaza by king Pharao.
Waters rising in the north, the Lord says, a river that overflows its banks, covering earth and earth's increase, city and citizen! Loud the cries everywhere, a whole world in lament, as the sound of armed hosts draws nearer, groan of chariot and rattle of wheels; listless hang hands, father for son has never a glance to spare. So comes the day when Philistia shall be plundered, all of it, Tyre and Sidon of all their defenders shall be stripped; Philistia the Lord despoils, and all that is left of the island-dwellers from Caphtor. Shorn heads in Gaza; Ascalon is silent now, silent all their valleys. Long will you bear the marks of your mourning! Rest you, sword of the Lord! Back into your scabbard, calm yourself, and rest! Nay, rest how should it? It holds the Lord's warrant to subdue Ascalon and the seaboard country; there he has made tryst with it.
And thus to Moab speaks the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Alas for Nabo, spoiled and shamed, for Cariathaim taken, the high fortress humbled, a prey to alarms! For Moab, scant triumph; against Hesebon there are plots a-brewing, Away with it, a nation let it be no more! Silence for you, a long silence; the sword is at your heels. From Oronaim the cry goes up, rack and ruin everywhere; Moab lies crushed, let Segor echo the cry! Weep they and wail, that climb the slopes of Luith; all the way down from Oronaim their foes may hear it, the cry of desolation. Fly he must that would escape with life, stripped though he be as the desert tamarisk. Ill reposed that confidence in ramparts of yours, stores of yours; taken you shall be like the rest, and Charnos go into exile, all his priests and all his votary chiefs with him. Of all your cities, none shall be safe from the spoiler's entry; wasted your valleys shall be, swept bare the hill-sides the Lord decrees it. Weave a coronal for Moab; in the flower of her pride she goes into exile, and all her cities lie desolate, none to dwell there.
Cursed the man who goes about the Lord's work grudgingly, nor with blood stains his sword!
Since those first days of his, ever was Moab too rich; he, that knew not exile, is like a wine that has settled on its lees, never decanted; tang and reek of it were never lost; a time is coming now, the Lord says, when I mean to send certain stewards of mine that shall tilt those jars; draw wine, drain goblet, and break jar to pieces! Chamos will play Moab false, as Bethel played Israel false, when Israel trusted in its sanctuary. Ay, boast on of your bravery, tell us you are warriors all! Yet Moab is laid waste, its townships aflame, all the flower of its chivalry gone to their death; so that king decrees, whose name is the Lord of hosts. Not long delayed, Moab's last hour; runs on swift feet his calamity. Mourn with him, you that are his neighbours, you that are his familiars; so trusty a rod broken, a staff so fair.
Poor maid of Dibon, come down from your splendour and sit on the parched ground; the spoiler of Moab has scaled your heights, dismantled your walls; poor maid of Aroer, by the wayside linger and look around you; ask of the fugitives, How went the day? Alas, Moab's hope is lost; Moab lies conquered. Loud be the cry of lament in Arnon, that tells of fields laid waste; doom on the hill-country, on Helon, Jasa, and Mephaath, Dibon, Nabo, and Beth-Deblathaim, Cariathaim, Beth-gamul, Bethmaon, Carioth, and Bosra, and all the cities of Moab, far and near. Blunted now is that horn, the Lord says, crushed that strong arm! Senseless let him fall, that once for the divine power vaunted himself a match; a laughing-stock let him be, that once, vomiting over his wine, clapped hands in derision to make a laughing-stock of Israel! An interloper you did call him, and now, for this ill speaking of yours, yourself shalt be cast into exile. Leave your cities, Moabites, and take to the hills; make the dove your model, that ever at the outermost edge of cave will build her nest.
The boasting of Moab has long been in our ears, as it was ever boastful; proud, scornful, boastful Moab, with head so high in air! Well I know, the Lord says, those high pretensions of hers, that have no strength to warrant them, those dreams that never come true! So, from one end of Moab to the other, there is dole and dirge, mournful hearing for the men behind those walls of hardened brick. Jazer laments for you, vineyard of Sabama, and with Jazer I too will mourn; your shoots reached from Jazer itself to the Dead Sea and beyond; now, harvest of yours and vintage of yours the spoiler has overrun. From the garden-lands of Moab joy and triumph have died away; all the presses I have emptied of their wine, no vintage-song, no treading the grapes as of old. The dirge goes up from Hesebon, from Eleale and Jasa; goes up all the way from Segor to Oronaim, like the lowing of heifer full-grown; foul run the waters of Nemrim. None will I leave in Moab, the Lord says, to worship at the hill-shrines, or do sacrifice to its gods. For Moab my heart wails like the wailing of flutes, wailing of flutes for those brick-walled cities of hers; too high she aimed, and see, they lie in ruins. Every head is shorn, every beard shaved in mourning; with bound hands men go, sackcloth on their backs. Roof-top and street in Moab is none but echoes with grief; I have cast Moab away, the Lord says, like a jar past mending.
Lament for Moab in defeat, bowed heads for Moab's shame! A laughing-stock it will be and a by-word for all its neighbours. An eagle's flight yonder conqueror has, the Lord says, and will sweep down on Moab too. Now Carioth is lost, and all the strongholds taken; cowed as woman's heart in child-bearing are those warrior hearts; Moab, that set the Lord at defiance, shall be a people no more. Terror in front of its people, the Lord says, trap and toil behind them; from terror flee you, into trap fall you; from the trap free you, toils shall fasten you. Such shall be my year of reckoning with the men of Moab, the Lord says. From the toils escaped, who turns to Hesebon for shelter? Helpless he stands; such a fire comes out from Hesebon, all Seon's capital aflame, till cheek and head of blustering Moab are consumed. Alas, Moab, alas, people of Chamos, for your undoing! Gone into exile now your sons and daughters! Yet a time shall come at last, the Lord says, when her lot shall be reversed. Thus far the doom of Moab.
And thus the Lord speaks to the Ammonites: Did Israel, then, leave no sons, no heirs to follow him? How comes it that Melchom boasts possession of Gad, and worshippers of his dwell in yonder cities? A time is coming, the Lord says, when Rabbath Ammon shall hear the din of fighting, and shall be thrown down in ruins; when her daughter cities shall be burnt to the ground, and Israel, so runs the divine promise, shall drive out the intruder. Shall Hesebon mourn for Hai laid waste, and the women of Rabbath for Rabbath make no lament? Nay, put on sackcloth, raise the dirge as you scatter among the hedge-rows; Melchom goes into banishment, his priests and his votary chieftains with him. So proud of your valleys! Wasted away, now, is that vale of yours, pampered maiden; confident in your rich store, you did flatter yourself none should come near to harm you, but I mean to fill you with dread, says the Lord, the God of hosts, dread of all your neighbours. Each man shall take his own path, scattering in flight, and there shall be none to rally the fugitives. Yet afterwards, the Lord says, I will bring the exiled sons of Ammon back to their home.
And for Edom, this. No more is Theman wise, as of old, says the Lord of hosts; the prudence of that breed is lost, its wisdom all gone to waste. Flee away, men of Dedan, and never look behind you, or hide deep in earth; I am bringing ruin upon Esau, calling him to account at last. Here are such vintagers as will leave you never a cluster, such night-robbers as will have their fill; mine to strip Esau bare, dig to up his lairs till there is no hiding in them. The whole brood of him must be destroyed, never a kinsman or neighbour left, that will say, To my care entrust your orphans, to me let your widows look for support. So many there are, the Lord says, that must drink the cup of vengeance all undeserving; and would you be spared, would you be acquitted? Acquittal for you is none; you shall drain it to the dregs. By my own honour I have sworn it, the Lord says, that Bosra shall be an empty wilderness, a name to revile and to curse by; that her daughter cities shall for ever be desolate.
Hue and cry the Lord has brought to my ears, that even now goes out among the nations, Muster we and march we against her; on to battle! A little thing I mean you to be in the world's eyes henceforward, unregarded among the nations; till now, pride and the insolence of your heart deluded you, so safe your nest among the rock-crevices, so close you did cling to the mountain summits; but now, be your eyrie high as the eagle's, I will yet drag you down, the Lord says. A very desert Edom shall be; no passer-by but will stand amazed, and hiss derision at its sufferings; not more ruinously Sodom fell, and Gomorrha, and their neighbour cities, that lie uninhabited, far from the homes of men. See how lion from the fens of Jordan sallies out against yonder protected fold! Not less sudden the alarm shall be; and the flock shall have a master of my own choosing. Match for me is none, there is none dare implead me, no rival shepherd may challenge a claim like mine! Would you know what the Lord's design is for Edom, what plans he is devising against the homesteads of Theman? Why, he says, it will but need an array of weaklings to dislodge them, pull their dwelling-place down about their ears! And with the crash of that ruin earth shakes, far as the Red Sea ring the echoes of it. An eagle's flight yonder conqueror has, to soar high and sweep down on Bosra; cowed as woman's heart in child-bearing are the warrior hearts of Edom.
And for Damascus, this. Hamath and Arphad see their hopes betray them; grievous the news that reaches them, and they are rocked on a sea of doubt; anxiety gives them no respite. As for Damascus, her strength has left her; no thought has she but for flight, daunted by her peril, overcome, like woman in child-bearing, as with sharp pangs. City so renowned, home of such delights, must all abandon her? In her streets they lie slain, all the flower of her youth, all her brave warriors lie silent now, the Lord says; and such a fire I will light within Damascus walls as shall feed on the palaces of Benadad.
And this for Cedar, and the realms of Asor, that were destroyed by Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon. Word comes from the Lord: Up, march against Cedar, despoil we these children of the East! Pillage there shall be of home and herd, plundering of tents and gear and camels, and cries of Danger everywhere. Flee away, wander far away, men of Asor; deep, says the Lord, be your hiding-places! Here is Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon holding a council of war, devising plans against you.
Up, march against a people that lives at ease, fearing no attack, the Lord says; gates and bars they have none, dwelling there in the wilderness; camels for your plunder, herds a many for your prey! Scattered they shall be to all the winds, the folk that clip their foreheads bare and from every corner of their lands death shall threaten them, the Lord says. Asor shall be a lair for serpents, a land for ever desolate; uninhabited it shall lie, far from the homes of men.
And here is the doom the Lord pronounced to the prophet Jeremias against Aelam, at the beginning of Sedecias' reign in Juda. A message from the Lord of hosts! I mean to break the bows of yonder Aelamites, wherein lies all their strength. Upon Aelam I will bid the winds blow from the four corners of heaven, and before each scatter them like chaff, till nation is none that has not seen their fugitives. Daunted the Aelamites shall be by the onset of their mortal enemies; my angry vengeance I will let loose against them, the Lord says, and my sword shall go at their heels till I have taken full toll of them. In Aelam I will set up my throne, he says, and rid it altogether of kings and princes. Yet afterwards, so runs the divine promise, I will bring the exiled sons of Aelam back to their home.
And here is the doom the Lord pronounced, with Jeremias for his spokesman, against Babylon and Chaldaea.
Tell it out, proclaim it for all the world to hear; set up a trophy, and cry the news, leave nothing untold! News of Babylon taken, and Bel thwarted, and Merodach overcome; all the idols put to shame, routed, all the false gods! Here is a people on the march from the north country that shall attack Babylon and turn her land into a desert; man nor beast shall dwell there, all are fled and gone.
So the day shall dawn, the time be ripe at last, the Lord says, when Israel and Juda both together shall come back, weeping as they hasten on their journey to find the Lord their God. For Sion every voice asking, every face towards Sion turned, they will come back, and bind themselves to the Lord by an eternal covenant, never to be forgotten. My people, all this while, has been but a flock gone astray; their shepherds led them by false paths, and left them to roam the hillside; hill and mountain-side they crossed, and their own resting-place lay forgotten. None passed by but preyed on them; nor did the oppressor's conscience smite him; had they not set the Lord at defiance, that Lord who was the home of their loyalty, the hope of their race?
Flee, Israel, from Babylon; from Chaldaea's land be foremost to depart, like buck-goats that lead the way for their fellows. See what a confederacy of great nations I am mustering, there in the north country, to besiege and take Babylon, death-dealing archers that never speed arrow in vain! Chaldaea shall be a prize of war, the Lord says, and all her spoilers be content. Ay, boast and brag, trample on my own domain, like calves at grass or bellowing bull! Shame waits for the mother that bore you, her pride must be lowered in the dust; least regarded of all realms, a desert, pathless and parched! Doomed, all of her, by the Lord's vengeance to empty desolation; no passer-by but shall stand amazed at Babylon, or hiss derision at her sufferings. To your posts, archers, around the walls of Babylon; shoot, never spare arrow; to the Lord her life is forfeit. Now, raise the cry! Everywhere she is yielding; falls buttress and gapes wall, the Lord is avenged! Ay, take your fill of vengeance, pay her what she has earned. Leave none in Babylon to sow the fields, or carry scythe in harvest-time; fled, each to his own, before the invader's sword, fled, this way and that, to the countries of their birth.
Poor Israel, a flock so scattered! Lions have chased them away; first the Assyrian king would prey on them, and since then yonder Nabuchodonosor, of Babylon, has mangled their bones! And now, says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I mean to have a reckoning with the Babylonian king, and his realm, as once with Assyria. And Israel I will restore to his home; Carmel and Basan shall be his pasture-ground again, hill-country of Ephraim and Galaad his hunger shall content. When that day dawns, the Lord says, when the time is ripe for it, guilt shall be found in Israel no more, for the record of Juda's sins you shall search in vain; the remnant which I leave shall win my pardon.
March on, the Lord says, into the land of tyranny, and call its citizens to account; bale and ban at their heels! All my command see you execute. Din of battle sounds through the land, and the crash of ruin; rack and ruin everywhere! And this Babylon was once a hammer to smite the world; now it lies by all the world abandoned! I laid a trap for you, Babylon, and you were caught unawares; your long defiance of the Lord has found you out and overtaken you at last. Now the Lord opens his armoury, takes out from it the tools that shall wreak his vengeance; he, the Lord of hosts, has work for them to do in the country of the Chaldaeans. From the furthest confines of the land draw near; open a way for the spoilers; pile up stones from the road in heaps; make an end of her, leave nothing to survive. An end of all her warriors, to the slaughter-house with them! Woe betide them, their day has come, the time when they must meet their reckoning.
Listen to the buzz of voices, as the fugitives escaped from Babylon come back to Sion, spreading the news how the Lord has been avenged, how the Lord's temple has been avenged.
Archers a many with bent bows, give them orders how the city must fare: Stand about in a ring, let never a man escape, pay it what its deeds have earned; to Babylon do as Babylon did to others, the city that was the Lord's enemy, defied the holy One of Israel. In her streets they lie slain, all the flower of her youth, all her brave warriors lie silent now, the Lord says. Have at you, says the Lord, the God of hosts; your day has come, the time when you must meet your reckoning! Stumbles the tyrant and falls, with none there to raise him; and in those cities of his I will kindle such a fire as shall consume all around it. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Here is great wrong done to Israel and to Juda both; he that has them holds them fast, and let them go he will not. Yet they have a strong champion that claims them as his own; his name is the Lord of hosts; right and redress he will bring them in such a fashion as will shake earth, and make the homes of Babylon tremble. The sword it must be, the Lord says, for the men of Chaldaea, for citizen of Babylon, and prince, and councillor; the sword for their wise men, that shall be fools, and their brave men, that shall be cowards; the sword for horse and chariot, the sword for all the mixed breed in it, that shall be weak as women, the sword for all their treasure-houses, that shall be given up to plunder. And for their waters, not a sword, but drought to dry them up; is not this a land of idols, that loves to see portents befall? It shall be a lair for serpents and strange monsters, a haunt of the ostrich, but never again shall man dwell there; age after age, it shall never be rebuilt; not more ruinously the Lord overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha and their neighbour cities, that lie uninhabited, far from the homes of men.
Here is a people marching from the north country, the Lord says, a great nation from the world's end, and vassal kings a many. Bow and shield they ply, and their hard hearts pity none; loud their battle-cry as the roaring of the sea. So they ride on, as warriors ride, poor Babylon, your enemies. Unnerved the king's hands droop at the very rumour of it; grief overmasters him, sharp as the pangs of travail. See how lion from the fens of Jordan sallies out against yonder protected fold! Not less sudden the alarm shall be; and the flock shall have a master of my own choosing. Match for me is none, there is none dare implead me, no rival shepherd may challenge a claim like mine! Would you know what the Lord's design is for Babylon, what plans he is devising against the realm of Chaldaea? Why, he says, it will need but an array of weaklings to dislodge them, pull their dwelling-place down about their ears! Babylon has fallen; earth trembles at the sound of it; a great cry goes up for all the world to hear.
Thus says the Lord, I mean to let loose on Babylon, and the whole of Defiance-land, a destroying blast; winnowers of mine shall reach Babylon and fall to winnowing it, till all the heaps are gone; an ill day for Babylon, cut off on every side. Let not a man live to bend bow again, or don breastplate for battle; never a warrior spare, army she must have none left. Everywhere in countryside and street of Chaldaea the mangled corpses lie; Juda's God, the Lord of hosts, has not altogether forsaken her, and to that holy One of Israel the whole land is forfeit. Flee away from the confines of Babylon, flee for your lives; would you meekly accept her punishment? The time has come when the Lord will take vengeance on her, he it is that sends this retribution. Babylon, that was once a golden cup in the Lord's hand, for a whole world's bemusing! Drank nations of that cup, how they reeled and tottered! And now, all in a moment, Babylon herself falls to her ruin. Raise the dirge, go find balm to heal those wounds of hers! Alas, we sought a cure for Babylon, but curing her there was none; time it is we left her, and went back each to his own land; towers heaven-high the measure of her punishment, and is lost among the clouds. Come, then, since he has given us the redress we needed, recount we in Sion the great doings of the Lord our God.
Whet arrow, and fill quiver; the Lord has put a resolve into the heart of the Median king; he will have Babylon overthrown. The Lord shall be avenged, his temple shall be avenged! Against Babylon's walls display the standard, keep strict watch, post sentinels, lay ambush; the doom of its folk, long since devised, long since denounced, he will execute. Land by all those tributary streams so enriched, your end is reached, your thread is spun. By his own honour the Lord of hosts has sworn it, your enemies shall swarm about you like locusts, raising their vintage-song.
His the power that made the earth, the wisdom that orders nature, the foresight that spread out the heavens. At the sound of his voice, what mustering of the waters overhead! He summons up the cloud-wrack from the world's end, turning the lightning into a rain-storm, bringing the winds out of his store-house; how puny, then, is man's skill, how sorry a thing is the metal-caster's workmanship; after all his labour at the forge, only a lifeless counterfeit! Fond imaginations, fantastic figures, when the time comes for reckoning, they will be heard of no more. Not such the worship that is the heirloom of Jacob's line; their God is the God who made all things, Israel his patrimony, the Lord of hosts, his name.
Great conqueror, the weapon I wield! By your means I crush the nations, undo empires; crush horse and rider, crush chariot and charioteer, crush man and woman, crush old and young, crush lad and lass, crush shepherd and flock, crush ploughman and team, crush prince and ruler! And now I mean to repay Babylon, and all the people of Chaldaea, for the wrongs they did, says the Lord, and your eyes shall see it. Have at you, stronghold of ruin, the Lord says, a whole world's ruin! My hand is raised to smite you, and tear you from your rocky bed; a calcined heap you shall be, that never corner-stone, never foundation-stone shall yield; the Lord dooms you to lie for ever desolate.
Display your standard for all the world to see, sound the trumpet far and wide, enrol the nations against her; make tryst with the kings of Ararat, Menni, and Ascenez, and count Taphsar among her enemies; like locusts in bristling array swarm your cavalry. Plight all the nations to make war on her, the kings of Media with their chieftains and satraps, all their wide dominion; a whole world in turmoil and travail with the stir of the divine resolve to crush Babylon, make Babylon an empty desert. See how her warriors quit the field, to garrison their strongholds, how their valour dies away and grows womanish, how her roofs blaze, the bars of her gates are shattered! Courier meets courier, post to post hands the tidings on; tell the king of Babylon how his capital has fallen, length and breadth of it, the fords occupied, the reed-beds aflame, dismayed the defenders. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Babylon is a threshing-floor time has worn smooth; wait but a little, and it is ready for harvest.
Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, how he has preyed on me, feasted on me, left me but an empty shell; a devouring monster that with kernel fills his maw, throws husk away! Thus Sion, for her torn flesh, thus Jerusalem, for her blood spilt, arraigns Babylon and all yonder Chaldaean folk; and now the Lord of hosts promises to maintain their quarrel, to redress their wrongs. I will turn her sea into desert sand, he tells you, dry up her flow of waters; Babylon shall remain a heap of ruins, a lair for serpents, a thing of wonder and derision, and never a soul to dwell in it. What though they rage like roaring lion, like young lion that tosses his mane? I have a medicine for this thirst of theirs, to bemuse them and steal away their senses; they shall sleep on, the Lord says, with that eternal sleep from which there is no waking. Never was lamb led to the slaughter-house, never ram or buck-goat, so unsuspecting. Sesach taken, the paragon of kingdoms fallen! Babylon turned into a sight of horror for all the world to see! Babylon foundered and gone, the waste waves closing over her! All her cities a picture of desolation, an empty desert, uninhabited, untrodden by mortal foot. Bel, too, the God of Babylon, I will call to account, and make him disgorge his treasures; no more shall pilgrims flock into his temple from distant lands; Babylon's defences are down.
You that are my own people, separate yourselves from her, flee all of you from the Lord's vengeance; else you shall be ever faint with alarms, ever daunted by the news that reaches you, each year a fresh rumour of wrongs done in this land, of rulers struggling for preeminence.
A time is coming when I mean to have a reckoning with the idols of Babylon; the land will learn that they have played it false, when corpses lie thick in the heart of it. Heaven and earth, and all they contain, will be triumphing over Babylon, says the Lord, as they see the spoilers marching against her from the north country; through Babylon so many slain in Israel, of Babylon so many slain, in every corner of their land! Come, linger not, you that have escaped the sword; exiled far away, bethink you still of the Lord, still let the thought of Jerusalem return to your hearts.
Alas, we are all confusion; what taunts we must listen to, shame-faced, now that the Lord's holy temple by alien intruders is defiled!
A time is coming, the Lord says, when I mean to have a reckoning with those false gods of hers. Everywhere in Chaldaea there shall be wounded men a-groaning; let Babylon scale the skies, fortify her walls heaven-high, they shall yet find their way in, the spoilers that do my errand, the Lord says. Babylon shall be all lament, Chaldaea a crash of ruin; the mighty stir of the city will be drowned, when the Lord lays it waste, by the surge of armies, wave upon wave, and the noise of their shouting. The spoiler has come upon Babylon; her warriors are caught in a trap, their bows are useless now; the Lord's vengeance is irresistible, and he pays full measure. Bemused they shall be, prince and councillor and chieftain and ruler and warrior; all shall sleep eternally the sleep from which there is no waking; such is the decree of that King whose name is the Lord of hosts.
That wide wall of Babylon, says the Lord of hosts, shall be dismantled at last, those high gates burnt. So men labour for nothing; so the toil of nations perishes in the fire.
And now Jeremias had an errand for Saraias, son of Nerias, son of Maasias. When king Sedecias departed to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign, Saraias went with him as his principal spokesman. Jeremias had written down on a single scroll all the doom that was to befall Babylon, all the prophecy against Babylon aforegoing. When you reach Babylon, he told Saraias, be sure you read all this. And say, in reading it: Lord, you do threaten this place with destruction; man nor beast shall dwell there, it shall lie desolate for ever. Then when you have finished reading the scroll, tie a stone to it and sink it in the midst of Euphrates; and this add: Thus Babylon shall sink, and rise no more out of the calamity I mean to bring upon it; Babylon shall melt away.
Here ends the prophecy of Jeremias.
Sedecias was twenty-one years old when he came to the throne, and his reign at Jerusalem lasted eleven years; his mother's name was Amital, daughter of Jeremias of Lobna. He disobeyed the Lord's will, as Joachim had; for now the Lord's anger hung over Juda and Jerusalem, ready to banish them from his presence. And Sedecias in his turn revolted from the king of Babylon.
And now, in the ninth year of Sedecias reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nabuchodonosor reached Jerusalem at the head of his army. They surrounded it and threw up siege works about it, and so the city continued beleaguered until king Sedecias' eleventh year. Then, on the ninth day of the fourth month, when famine had broken out in the city and the poorer folk had nothing left to eat, a breach was made in the walls; and that night all the fighting men made their escape by way of the gate between the two walls, by the royal garden, leaving the Chaldaeans to continue the siege of the city. They chose for their flight the road which leads to the desert, and in the desert by Jericho Sedecias was overtaken by the Chaldaeans, who had set out in pursuit. All his retinue deserted him; and so, a prisoner, the king was borne away to Reblatha, in the Emath country, where Nabuchodonosor passed sentence on him. Slain by the king of Babylon were all his sons, there in their father's sight; slain by the king of Babylon, at Reblatha, were all the nobles of Juda; and as for Sedecias himself, his eyes were put out, and he was carried off, loaded with chains, to Babylon, where he remained a prisoner till the day of his death.
On the tenth day of the fifth month in the nineteenth year of Nabuchodonosor's reign, the commander of his bodyguard, Nabuzardan, came on his master's errand to Jerusalem, where he burned down temple and palace and private dwellings too; no house of note but he set it on fire. The troops he brought with him were employed in dismantling the walls on every side of it. Then Nabuzardan carried off the remnants of the people that were left in the city, the deserters who had gone over to Nabuchodonosor, and the common folk generally; leaving only such of the poorer sort as were vine-dressers and farm labourers. Brazen pillars and brazen stands and the great basin of bronze that stood in the Lord's temple the Chaldaeans broke up, and took away all the bronze to Babylon; for bronze, too, they carried away pot and fork, ladle and cup and saucer, all the appurtenances of worship that were of bronze; for gold, too, and for silver, bowl and censer and urn and basin and lampstand and spoon and goblet; nothing did Nabuzardan leave behind him. There was no reckoning the weight of bronze, when the two pillars, the great basin, and the twelve calves supporting it, all set up by Solomon in the temple, are included; each pillar was eighteen cubits high, twelve cubits round, and four fingers thick, and they were hollow within. On each rested a brazen capital, five cubits in height, with network and pomegranate mouldings on the rim; the pattern of each was the same. There were ninety-six pomegranates besides, making a hundred in all, and all had network around them.
Prisoners, too, Nabuzardan carried away with him, the two chief priests, Saraias and Sophonias, the three doorkeepers from the temple, and among the citizens, the chamberlain who commanded the army, seven other courtiers who were left in the city, the secretary who was charged with the army and had the levying of recruits, and sixty surviving citizens of the common sort. All these were carried away by Nabuzardan to Reblatha, into Nabuchodonosor's presence; and there at Reblatha, in the Emath country, Nabuchodonosor put them to death. So the men of Juda were exiled from their country. Three thousand and twenty-three Jewish citizens Nabuchodonosor banished in the seventh year of his reign, and another eight hundred and thirty-two, from Jerusalem, in the eighteenth year of it; then, in his twenty-third year, seven hundred and forty-five were banished by Nabuzardan, the captain of the bodyguard; four thousand six hundred in all.
On the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, in the thirty-seventh year after king Joachim of Juda had been carried into exile, the new king of Babylon, Evil-Merodach, in this first year of his reign, gave redress to his captive and released him from prison. Graciously did Evil-Merodach receive him, gave him a seat of honour above the other captive kings, and relieved him of his prisoner's garb. All the rest of his life he was entertained at the royal table; all the rest of his life he received, day and day, a perpetual allowance granted to him, as long as he should live, by the king's bounty.