The Enemy at the Gates
1Seek refuge, Benjaminites,
from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
raise a signal over Beth-haccherem;
For disaster threatens from the north,
and mighty destruction.a
2Lovely and delicate
daughter Zion, you are ruined!
3Against her, shepherds come with their flocks;*
all around, they pitch their tents against her;
each one grazes his portion.b
4“Prepare for war against her,
Up! let us rush upon her at midday!”
“Woe to us! the day is waning,
evening shadows lengthen!”
5“Up! let us rush upon her by night,
destroy her palaces!”c
6For thus says the LORD of hosts:
Hew down her trees,
throw up a siege mound against Jerusalem.
Woe to the city marked for punishment;
there is nothing but oppression within her!d
7As a well keeps its waters fresh,
so she keeps fresh her wickedness.
Violence and destruction resound in her;
ever before me are wounds and blows.e
8Be warned, Jerusalem,
or I will be estranged from you,
And I will turn you into a wilderness,
a land where no one dwells.
9Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Glean, glean like a vine
the remnant of Israel;
Pass your hand, like a vintager,
repeatedly over the tendrils.
10To whom shall I speak?
whom shall I warn, and be heard?
See! their ears are uncircumcised,
they cannot pay attention;
See, the word of the LORD has become for them
an object of scorn, for which they have no taste.f
11But the wrath of the LORD brims up within me,
I am weary of holding it in.
I will pour it out upon the child in the street,
upon the young men gathered together.
Yes, husband and wife will be taken,
elder with ancient.g
12Their houses will fall to others,
their fields and their wives as well;
For I will stretch forth my hand
against those who dwell in the land—oracle of the LORD.h
13Small and great alike, all are greedy for gain;
prophet and priest, all practice fraud.i
14They have treated lightly
the injury to my people:
“Peace, peace!” they say,
though there is no peace.j
15They have acted shamefully, committing abominations,
yet they are not at all ashamed,
they do not know how to blush.
Therefore they will fall among the fallen;
in the time of their punishment they shall stumble,
says the LORD.k
16Thus says the LORD:
Stand by the earliest roads,
ask the pathways of old,*
“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;
thus you will find rest for yourselves.
But they said, “We will not walk it.”l
17I raised up watchmen* for them:
“Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!”
But they said, “We will not pay attention!”
18Therefore hear, O nations,
and know, O earth,
what I will do with them:
19See, I bring evil upon this people,
the fruit of their own schemes,
Because they did not pay attention to my words,
because they rejected my law.m
20Of what use to me is incense that comes from Sheba,
or sweet cane from far-off lands?
Your burnt offerings find no favor with me,
your sacrifices do not please me.n
21Therefore, thus says the LORD:
See, I will place before this people
obstacles to trip them up;
Parents and children alike,
neighbors and friends shall perish.o
22Thus says the LORD:
See, a people comes from the land of the north,
a great nation, rising from the very ends of the earth.p
23Bow and javelin they wield;
cruel and pitiless are they.
They sound like the roaring sea
as they ride forth on horses,
Each in his place for battle
against you, daughter Zion.
24We hear news of them;
our hands hang helpless,
Anguish takes hold of us,
pangs like a woman in childbirth.q
25Do not go out into the field,
do not step into the street,
For the enemy has a sword;
terror on every side!
26Daughter of my people, dress in sackcloth,
roll in the ashes.
Mourn as for an only child
with bitter wailing:
“How suddenly the destroyer
comes upon us!”r
27* A tester for my people I have appointed you,
to search and test their way.s
28Arch-rebels are they all,
dealers in slander,
bronze and iron, all of them,
destroyers they are.
29The bellows are scorched,
the lead is consumed by the fire;
In vain has the refiner refined,
the wicked are not drawn off.
30“Silver rejected” they shall be called,
for the LORD has rejected them.
* [6:3] Shepherds come with their flocks: foreign invaders with their armies.
* [6:16] Pathways of old: history and the lessons to be learned from it.
* [6:17] Watchmen: the prophets who, like Jeremiah, had upheld God’s moral law.
* [6:27–30] God appoints Jeremiah to be a “tester” of his people. The passage uses the metaphor of the refining of silver: the silver was extracted from lead ore, but the process in ancient times was inexact, so that sometimes all that was left was a scummy mess, to be thrown out.