Jeremiah 3

Chapter 3

1 [a]If a man divorces his wife,
and she leaves him
and marries another man,
does he have the right to return to her?
Would not that land be completely defiled?
But, says the Lord,
you have been unfaithful with many lovers,
and yet you would return to me?
2 Lift up your eyes to the barren heights
and recall whether there is any place
that you have not offered your body to another.
By the waysides you waited for lovers
like an Arab in the desert.
You defiled the land
with your harlotry and wickedness.
3 Therefore, the rain showers were withheld
and the spring rains have not fallen.
Yet you have the brazen boldness of a prostitute,
and you refuse to blush with shame.
4 Not so long ago you addressed me,
“My Father, the beloved friend of my youth,
5 will you be angry with me forever
and continue your wrath toward me to the end?”
This is how you speak,
but you continue to be obstinate
and to do every evil you can.

Judah and Israel. 6 During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me: Have you seen what that faithless Israel has done, how she went to the top of every high hill and under every green tree and there played the harlot? 7 But I truly believed that after she had done all this, she would return to me. However, she did not return, and her faithless sister Judah saw this. 8 She also saw that I had sent that faithless Israel away with a decree of divorce because of all of her acts of adultery.

However that faithless sister Judah was not frightened; she too went off and played the harlot. 9 In her eagerness to sin, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stones and pieces of wood. 10 Despite all this, her faithless sister Judah did not return to me with sincerity of heart but only as a show of pretense, says the Lord.

11 Promises of Restoration. Then the Lord said to me: Compared with the traitorous Judah, faithless Israel has proved to be less guilty. 12 Go forth and proclaim these words toward the north, saying:

Return, rebel Israel, says the Lord.
I will not look upon you in anger.
For I am merciful, says the Lord;
my wrath will not continue forever.
13 Simply acknowledge your guilt
and your rebellion against the Lord, your God,
how you prostituted yourself with strangers
under every green tree
and refused to listen to my voice,
says the Lord.

14 [b]Return, rebellious children, says the Lord, for I am your Master. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 Over you I will appoint shepherds after my own heart, and they will direct you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and grown numerous in the land, says the Lord, they will no longer say in those days, “The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.” They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or realize that it is gone, or make another.

17 When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called the throne of the Lord, and all the nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they stubbornly follow their own evil inclinations. 18 In those days the house of Judah will unite with the house of Israel, and together they will come from the land of the north to the land that I gave to your fathers as a heritage.

Call for Conversion

19 [c]I then gave consideration
as to how I would treat you as sons
and give you a pleasant land,
the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.
Further, I thought that you would call me “Father” and never cease to follow me.
20 But like a woman who is unfaithful to her husband,
so you have been unfaithful to me,
O house of Israel, says the Lord.
21 A cry on the bare heights is heard,
the plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,
because they have perverted their ways
and forgotten the Lord, their God.
22 Return, you rebellious children,
and I will forgive your faithlessness.
Here we are! We are returning to you,
for you are the Lord, our God.
23 The hills are truly a delusion,
as is the tumult on the mountains.
Truly in the Lord, our God alone
is the salvation of Israel.
24 Ever since we were young,
Baal has devoured everything
for which our fathers toiled:
their flocks and their herds,
their sons and their daughters.
25 Let us lie down in our shame
and let our dishonor cover us.
For we have sinned against the Lord, our God,
we and our ancestors,
from our youth even to this very day,
and we failed to obey the voice of the Lord, our God.


  1. Jeremiah 3:1 “Return” is the key word in the following oracles, which have to do with both the return from exile and the return to God. Jeremiah is a pitiless censor of his people’s sins, but he will not give up the hope of conversion.
  2. Jeremiah 3:14 To the promise of a return of the exiles from the north, a redactor has added this later oracle, which looks to the entire people.
  3. Jeremiah 3:19 The song of conversion, which began in verses 1-15, continues here.

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