Infidelity of Israel.* 1The word of the LORD came to me: 2Go, cry out this message for Jerusalem to hear!
I remember the devotion* of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride,
Following me in the wilderness,
in a land unsown.a
3Israel was dedicated to the LORD,
the first fruits* of his harvest;
All who ate of it were held guilty,
evil befell them—oracle of the LORD.b
4Listen to the word of the LORD, house of Jacob!
All you clans of the house of Israel,
5thus says the LORD:
What fault did your ancestors find in me
that they withdrew from me,
Went after emptiness,
and became empty themselves?c
6They did not ask, “Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
Who led us through the wilderness,
through a land of wastes and ravines,
A land of drought and darkness,
a land which no one crosses,
where no one dwells?”d
7I brought you into the garden land
to eat its fine fruits,
But you entered and defiled my land,
you turned my heritage into an abomination.e
8The priests did not ask,
“Where is the LORD?”
The experts in the law* did not know me:
the shepherds rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after useless idols.f
9Therefore I will again accuse you—oracle of the LORD—
even your children’s children I will accuse.g
10Cross to the coast of Cyprus and see,
send to Kedar* and carefully inquire:
Where has anything like this been done?
11Does any other nation change its gods?—
even though they are not gods at all!
But my people have changed their glory
for useless things.h
12Be horrified at this, heavens;
shudder, be appalled—oracle of the LORD.
13Two evils my people have done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.i
14Is Israel a slave, a house-born servant?*
Why then has he become plunder?
15Against him lions roar,
they raise their voices.
They have turned his land into a waste;
his cities are charred ruins, without an inhabitant.j
16Yes, the people of Memphis* and Tahpanhes
shave the crown of your head.
17Has not forsaking the LORD, your God,
done this to you?k
18And now, why go to Egypt,*
to drink the waters of the Nile?
Why go to Assyria,
to drink the waters of the River?
19Your own wickedness chastises you,
your own infidelities punish you.
Know then, and see, how evil and bitter
is your forsaking the LORD, your God,
And your showing no fear of me,
oracle of the Lord, the GOD of hosts.l
20Long ago you broke your yoke,m
you tore off your bonds.
You said, “I will not serve.”
On every high hill, under every green tree,
you sprawled and served as a prostitute.*
21But I had planted you as a choice vine,
all pedigreed stock;
How could you turn out so obnoxious to me,
a spurious vine?n
22Even if you scour it with lye,
and use much soap,
The stain of your guilt is still before me,
oracle of the Lord GOD.o
23How can you say, “I am not defiled,
I have not pursued the Baals”?
Consider your conduct in the Valley,*
recall what you have done:
A skittish young camel,
running back and forth,
24a wild donkey bred in the wilderness,
Sniffing the wind in her desire—
who can restrain her lust?
None seeking her need tire themselves;
in her time they will find her.
25Stop wearing out your feet
and parching your throat!
But you say, “No use! No!
How I love these strangers,
after them I must go.”p
26As the thief is shamed when caught,
so shall the house of Israel be shamed:
They, their kings, their princes,
their priests and their prophets;q
27They say to a piece of wood, “You are my father,”
and to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
They turn their backs to me, not their faces;
yet in their time of trouble they cry out,
“Rise up and save us!”
28Where are the gods you made for yourselves?
Let them rise up!
Will they save you in your time of trouble?
For as numerous as your cities
are your gods, O Judah!
And as many as the streets of Jerusalem
are the altars you have set up for Baal.r
29Why are you arguing with me?
You have all rebelled against me—oracle of the LORD.
30In vain I struck your children;
correction they did not take.
Your sword devoured your prophets
like a ravening lion.s
31You people of this generation,
consider the word of the Lord:
Have I become a wilderness to Israel,
a land of gloom?
Why then do my people say, “We have moved on,
we will not come to you any more”?
32Does a young woman forget her jewelry,
a bride her sash?
Yet my people have forgotten me
days without number.t
33How well you pick your way
when seeking love!
In your wickedness,
you have gone by ways unclean!
34On your clothing is
the life-blood of the innocent,
you did not find them committing burglary;
35Nonetheless you say, “I am innocent;
at least, his anger is turned away from me.”
Listen! I will judge you
on that word of yours, “I have not sinned.”
36How frivolous you have become
in changing your course!
By Egypt you will be shamed,
just as you were shamed by Assyria.u
37From there too you will go out,
your hands upon your head;
For the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust,
with them you will have no success.v
* [2:1–3:5] These chapters may contain some of Jeremiah’s early preaching. He portrays Israel as the wife of the Lord, faithful only in the beginning, when she walked behind him (2:2–3, 5; 3:1). Consistent with the marriage metaphor, he describes her present unfaithfulness as adultery (2:20; 3:2–3); now she walks behind the Baals.
* [2:2] Devotion: Heb. hesed; Israel’s gratitude, fidelity, and love for God.
* [2:3] First fruits: the first yield of a harvest offered as a sign of dependence on and gratitude toward the Lord of the land, thus divine property. Israel, then, is a gift made to God, set apart for his use; cf. Ex 23:19.
* [2:8] Experts in the law: the priests. The shepherds: the kings and nobles.
* [2:10] Kedar: a nomadic tribe in north Arabia. Cyprus and Kedar represent west and east.
* [2:14] House-born servant: one born in the master’s house, in contrast to a slave acquired by purchase or as a captive; cf. Lv 22:11.
* [2:16] Memphis: the capital of Lower Egypt. Tahpanhes: a frontier city of Egypt, east of the Delta. Shave the crown of your head: an image for Egypt plundering Judah; perhaps a reference to the capture of King Jehoahaz in 609 B.C. (2 Kgs 23:34).
* [2:18] Egypt and Assyria were the competing foreign powers favored by rival parties within Judah. The desire for such foreign alliances is a further desertion of the Lord, the source of living waters (v. 13), in favor of the above-named powers, symbolized by the waters of the Nile and the Euphrates rivers.
* [2:20] Served as a prostitute: idolatry (because Israel is the “bride” of God); cf. vv. 2–3.
* [2:23] The Valley: probably Ben-hinnom, south of Jerusalem, site of the sanctuary of Topheth, where children were sacrificed to Molech; cf. 7:31.
a. [2:2] Dt 2:7; 32:9–12; Mi 6:4.
b. [2:3] Jer 12:14; Ex 4:22; Dt 7:6; 14:2.
c. [2:5] 2 Kgs 17:15; Is 5:4; Mi 6:3.
d. [2:6] Ex 20:2–3; Dt 8:14; Is 63:11–14.
e. [2:7] Lv 18:24–25; Dt 8:7–10; 32:13–14.
h. [2:11] Jer 16:20; Ps 106:20.
i. [2:13] Jer 17:13; Ps 36:9; Is 1:4.
m. [2:20] Jer 3:6, 13; Jgs 10:6.
n. [2:21] Ex 15:17; Ps 80:9; Is 5:4.
q. [2:26] Jer 48:27; Rom 6:21.
r. [2:28] Jer 11:13; Dt 32:38; Jgs 10:14.
t. [2:32] Jer 13:25; Dt 32:18.
u. [2:36] 2 Chr 28:16–21.
v. [2:37] 2 Sm 13:19.