Jeremiah 16

Chapter 16[a]

Warning to Jeremiah. 1 The following word of the Lord then came to me: 2 You shall not take to yourself a wife or have sons and daughters in this place. 3 For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and about the mothers who give birth to them and the fathers who beget them in this land: 4 They shall perish from deadly diseases. Unlamented and unburied, they will be like dung spread over the ground. They will perish by sword and by famine, and their corpses will serve as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.

5 The Lord then continued: Do not enter a house of mourning; do not go there to lament or offer words of comfort. For I have withdrawn my blessing from this people, says the Lord, as well as my love and my mercy. 6 Both the powerful and the lowly will perish in this land, without burial or lamentation. There will be no gashing or shaving of the head for them. 7 [b]No one is to break bread with the mourners to comfort them in their bereavement or offer them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or mother.

8 Nor are you to enter a house where people are feasting and sit with them to eat and drink. 9 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: In your lifetime, and before your very eyes, I will banish from this place the cries of joy and gladness, the voices of bridegroom and bride.

10 When you relate all these words to the people, they will ask you, “Why has the Lord decreed that all these evils are to befall us? What evil have we done? What sin have we committed against the Lord, our God?” 11 Then you will give them this answer: This will occur because your ancestors abandoned me, says the Lord, and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. 12 And you have behaved even more wickedly than your ancestors. For each one of you stubbornly follows his own wicked inclinations and refuses to listen to me. 13 Therefore, I will cast you out of this land into a land that is completely unknown to you or your ancestors. There you can serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no further favor.

14 The Israelites Return. However, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites up out of the land of Egypt,” 15 but rather, “As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had driven them.” For I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their ancestors.

16 Twice the Punishment. Now I will send for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they will catch them. After that, I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down from every mountain and every hill, and from the crevices of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are focused on all their ways: they are not hidden from my sight, nor does their iniquity escape my gaze. 18 And I will doubly repay them for their iniquity and their sin, since they have polluted my land with their detestable idols and filled my heritage with their abominations.

The People’s Conversion

19 O Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
my refuge in times of distress,
the nations will come to you
from the ends of the earth and say,
“Our fathers inherited nothing but false gods,
idols that are worthless and without power.”
20 Can men make their own gods?
These are not gods in any way.
21 Therefore, I intend to give my people knowledge;
this time I will teach them
about my power and my might,
and then they will know
that my name is the Lord.


  1. Jeremiah 16:1 Like Hosea’s marriage (see Hos 1:3), Jeremiah’s celibacy had fed the public’s curiosity. The prophet lived alone and took part in neither funerals nor festivities. He wanted to make it understood that this was no longer a time for establishing families or for gathering for feasts. In order to temper the severity of this oracle, an editor has introduced a more comforting passage regarding the return of those who would be scattered (v. 14f); these verses have their more appropriate setting in Jer 23:7-8. And in order to end on an optimistic note, three verses have been added (vv. 19-21) that foretell the conversion of the nations and are inspired by Isa 45:14.
  2. Jeremiah 16:7 The practices described here were connected with mourning.

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