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Jeremiah's Letter to the People of Judah in Babylonia
1-2 # 2 K 24.12-16; 2 Ch 36.10. I had been left in Jerusalem when King Nebuchadnezzar#29.1,2 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2. took many of the people of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylonia as prisoners, including King Jehoiachin,#29.1,2 Jehoiachin: Hebrew “Jeconiah” (see the note at 24.1). his mother, his officials, and the metal workers and others in Jerusalem who were skilled in making things. So I wrote a letter to the priests, the prophets, the leaders, and the rest of our people in Babylonia. 3I gave the letter to Elasah and Gemariah,#29.3 Elasah and Gemariah: Hebrew “Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah.” two men that King Zedekiah#29.3 Zedekiah: See the note at 1.3. of Judah was sending to Babylon to talk with Nebuchadnezzar. In the letter, I wrote 4that the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said:
I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. Now I tell you 5to settle there and build houses. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them. 6Get married and have children, then help your sons find wives and help your daughters find husbands, so they can have children as well. I want your numbers to grow, not to get smaller.
7Pray for peace in Babylonia and work hard to make it prosperous. The more successful that nation is, the better off you will be.
8-9Some of your people there in Babylonia are fortunetellers, and you have asked them to tell you what will happen in the future. But they will only lead you astray with their dreams.#29.8,9 their dreams: Hebrew “your dreams.” And don't let the prophets fool you, either. They speak in my name, but they are liars. I have not spoken to them.
10 # 2 Ch 36.21; Jr 25.11; Dn 9.1,2. After Babylonia has been the strongest nation for 70 years, I will be kind and bring you back to Jerusalem, just as I have promised. 11I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. 12You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. 13#Dt 4.29,30; Ws 6.12,13. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you 14and accept your worship. Then I will gather you from all the nations where I scattered you, and you will return to Jerusalem.
15You feel secure, because you think I have sent prophets to speak for me in Babylonia.
16-19But I have been sending prophets to the people of Judah for a long time, and the king from David's family and the people who are left in Jerusalem and Judah still don't obey me. So I, the Lord All-Powerful, will keep attacking them with war and hunger and disease, until they are as useless as rotten figs. I will force them to leave the land, and all nations will be disgusted and shocked at what happens to them. The nations will sneer and make fun of them and use the names “Judah” and “Jerusalem” as curse words.
And you have not obeyed me, even though 20I had you taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. But you had better listen to me now. 21-23You think Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah are prophets because they claim to speak for me. But they are lying! I haven't told them anything. They are also committing other horrible sins in your community, such as sleeping with the wives of their friends. So I will hand them over to King Nebuchadnezzar, who will put them to death while the rest of you watch. And in the future, when you want to put a curse on someone, you will say, “I pray that the Lord will kill you in the same way the king of Babylonia burned Zedekiah and Ahab to death!”
A Message for Shemaiah
24-25The Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, told me what would happen to Shemaiah,#29.24,25 Shemaiah: Hebrew “Shemaiah, who came from the town of Nehelam.” who was one of our people in Babylonia. After my letter reached Babylonia, Shemaiah wrote letters to the people of Jerusalem, including the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, and the other priests. The letter to Zephaniah said:
26After the death of Jehoiada the priest, the Lord chose you to be the priest in charge of the temple security force. You know that anyone who acts crazy and pretends to be a prophet should be arrested and put in chains#29.26 in chains: See the note at 20.2. and iron collars. 27Jeremiah from the town of Anathoth is pretending to be a prophet there in Jerusalem, so why haven't you punished him? 28He even wrote a letter to the people here in Babylonia, saying we would be here a long time. He told us to build homes and to plant gardens and grow our own food.
29When Zephaniah received Shemaiah's letter, he read it to me. 30Then the Lord told me what to write in a second letter 31to the people of Judah who had been taken to Babylonia. In this letter, I wrote that the Lord had said:
I, the Lord, have not chosen Shemaiah to be one of my prophets, and he has misled you by telling lies in my name. 32He has even talked you into disobeying me. So I will punish Shemaiah. He and his descendants won't live to see the good things I will do for my people. I, the Lord, have spoken.
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A Letter to the Jews in Babylon
1Jeremiah the prophet sent a letter to the people taken as captives to Babylon. He sent it to the elders who were among the captives, the priests and the prophets. And he sent it to all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2(This letter was sent after all these people were taken away: Jehoiachin and the queen mother; the officers and leaders of Judah and Jerusalem; and the craftsmen and metalworkers.) 3Zedekiah king of Judah had sent Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah to King Nebuchadnezzar. So Jeremiah gave the letter to them to take to Babylon. This is what the letter said:
4This is what the Lord of heaven’s armies, the God of Israel, says to all those people he sent away from Jerusalem as captives to Babylon: 5“Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food you grow. 6Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons. Let your daughters be married so they may also have sons and daughters. Have many children and grow in number in Babylon. Don’t become fewer in number. 7Also do good things for the city where I sent you as captives. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living. If there is peace in that city, you will have peace also.” 8The Lord of heaven’s armies, the God of Israel, says: “Don’t let your prophets and the people who do magic fool you. Don’t listen to their dreams. 9They are prophesying lies. And they are saying that their message is from me. But I did not send them,” says the Lord.
10This is what the Lord says: “Babylon will be powerful for 70 years. After that time I will come to you who are living in Babylon. I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. 11I say this because I know what I have planned for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future. 12Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me. And I will listen to you. 13You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! 14I will let you find me,” says the Lord. “And I will bring you back from your captivity. I forced you to leave this place. But I will gather you from all the nations. I will gather you from the places I have sent you as captives,” says the Lord. “And I will bring you back to this place.”
15You might say, “The Lord has given us prophets here in Babylon.”
16But the Lord says this about the king who is sitting on David’s throne now. And I’m also talking about all the other people still in Jerusalem. These are your relatives who did not go to Babylon with you. 17The Lord of heaven’s armies says: “I will soon send war, hunger and terrible diseases against those still in Jerusalem. I will make them like bad figs that are too rotten to eat. 18I will chase them with war, hunger and terrible diseases. I will make them a hated people by all the kingdoms of the earth. People will speak evil of them. They will be shocked when they hear what has happened. And people will use them as a shameful example wherever I make them go. 19This is because those in Jerusalem have not listened to my message,” says the Lord. “I sent my message to them again and again. I used my servants, the prophets, to give my messages to them. But they did not listen,” says the Lord.
20You captives, I forced you to leave Jerusalem and go to Babylon. So listen to the message from the Lord. 21The Lord of heaven’s armies says this about Ahab son of Kolaiah. And he says it about Zedekiah son of Maaseiah: “These two men have been prophesying lies to you. They have said that their message is from me. But I will hand over those two prophets to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. And Nebuchadnezzar will kill them in front of you who are captives in Babylon. 22Because of this, all the captives from Judah will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab. The king of Babylon burned them with fire.’ 23They have done evil things among the people of Israel. They are guilty of adultery with their neighbors’ wives. They have also spoken lies. And they said those lies were a message from me, the Lord. I did not tell them to do that. I know what they have done. I am a witness!” says the Lord.
24Also give a message to Shemaiah. He is from the Nehelamite family. 25The Lord of heaven’s armies, the God of Israel, says: “Shemaiah, you sent letters to all the people in Jerusalem. And you sent letters to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. You also sent letters to all the priests. You sent those letters in your own name. 26You said to Zephaniah, ‘The Lord has made you priest in place of Jehoiada. You are to be in charge of the Temple of the Lord. You should arrest any madman who acts like a prophet. You should lock the hands and feet of that person between wooden blocks. And put iron rings around his neck. 27Now Jeremiah from Anathoth is acting like a prophet. So why haven’t you arrested him? 28Jeremiah has sent this message to us in Babylon: You will be there for a long time. So build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what you grow.’”
29Zephaniah the priest read the letter to Jeremiah the prophet. 30Then the Lord spoke his word to Jeremiah: 31“Send this message to all the captives in Babylon: ‘This is what the Lord says about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Shemaiah has prophesied to you, but I did not send him. He has made you believe a lie. 32Because Shemaiah has done that, this is what the Lord says: I will soon punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite. He will not see the good things I will do for my people, says the Lord. None of his family will be left alive among the people. This is because he has taught the people to turn against me.’”