1 If you return, O Israel, says the Lord,
if you return to me,
if you banish your loathsome idols from my sight
and do not go astray,
2 and if you swear, “As the Lord lives!”
in truth, in justice, and in uprightness,
then the nations will bless themselves by him
and will glory in him.
3 For these are the words of the Lord to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.
4 For the sake of the Lord be circumcised
and remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will leap forth like fire
and burn with no one to quench it
because of your evil deeds.
Invasion from the North[a]
5 Announce it in Judah;
proclaim it in Jerusalem.
Blow the trumpet throughout the land;
shout aloud the command,
Let us flee to the fortified cities!”
6 Raise the signal to proceed toward Zion!
Flee for safety! Do not delay!
For I am bringing disaster from the north
as well as immense destruction.
7 A lion has come forth from its lair
the destroyer of nations has set forth.
He has left his lair
to make your towns a wasteland;
they will be in ruins and uninhabited.
8 Therefore, wrap yourselves in sackcloth,
beat your breasts and wail,
because the blazing anger of the Lord
has not turned away from us.
9 On that day, says the Lord,
the courage of the kings and the princes will fail;
the priests will be horrified
and the prophets will be astounded.
10 Then I said, “Alas, Lord God,
you completely deceived the people and Jerusalem
when you promised that we would have peace,
for now the sword is held at our throats.”
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem:
A scorching wind comes forth from the desert heights
and sweeps down on my people,
although not to winnow or to cleanse.
12 A wind far too strong for that
will come forth at my bidding,
and I myself will pass judgment on them.
13 Behold, he advances
like storm clouds;
like a whirlwind are his chariots.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
Disaster threatens us. We are lost.
14 Cleanse your heart of all wickedness
so that you may be saved.
How long will you allow evil thoughts to lodge within you?
15 A voice from Dan[b] declares the news
proclaiming disaster from Mount Ephraim.
16 Announce this to the nations,
make it known to Jerusalem:
Besiegers are coming from a distant land,
shouting their war cry against the cities of Judah.
17 They surround her like watchmen guarding a field
because she has rebelled against me, says the Lord.
18 Your conduct and your evil deeds
have brought this upon you.
How bitter is your punishment!
It has pierced the depths of your heart.
19 How great is my anguish
that causes me to writhe in pain!
I cannot keep silent in my agony
as my heart beats wildly.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet
and that of the battle cry.
20 One disaster follows upon another;
the entire land lies in ruins.
My tents are suddenly destroyed,
everything that offered me shelter.
21 How long must I see the standard raised
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 My people are fools;
they do not know me.
They are senseless children
who have no semblance of understanding.
They are skilled in the practice of evil
but they do not know how to do good.
23 I looked at the earth,
and it was a formless wasteland;
I gazed at the heavens,
but I could not discern any light.
24 I looked at the mountains,
and they were quaking,
while all the hills moved back and forth.
25 I looked, but I could not see anyone;
even the birds of the air had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fertile land had become a desert;
all of its towns lay in ruins
before the Lord, before his blazing anger.
27 Thus says the Lord:
The entire land will be a desolate waste,
but I will not destroy it completely.
28 Because of this the earth will mourn
and the heavens above will grow dark.
For I have spoken and made clear my intention,
and I will not relent or turn back.
29 At the shouts of horsemen and archers
every city takes to flight.
Some people crawl into the thickets
while others scale the rocks.
All the cities are abandoned,
with no one to live in them.
30 What are you doing, you who are doomed,
by clothing yourself in purple,
adorning yourself with ornaments of gold
and shading your eyes with cosmetics?
You are beautifying yourself in vain,
for your lovers despise you,
and they only seek your life.
31 I hear cries like those of a woman in labor,
the anguished groans of one bearing her first child.
They are the screams of daughter Zion gasping for breath
as she stretches forth her hands and cries out,
“Woe is me; I am dying.
I sink exhausted before my murderers.”
- Jeremiah 4:5 The nation has grown stubborn in its degradation; now the symbol of the boiling pot (Jer 1:13) is about to be made real. Punishment is at hand. It is impossible to determine whether the prophet is speaking of the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Scythians, or even some other army.
- Jeremiah 4:15 Dan: the northernmost city of Palestine.