A Letter to the Captives in Babylon
1This is the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the elders who were among the captives, the priests, and the prophets. He sent it to all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had taken as captives from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2(This letter was sent after all these people were taken away: Jehoiachin the king and the queen mother; the officers and leaders of Judah and Jerusalem; and the craftsmen and metalworkers from Jerusalem.) 3Zedekiah king of Judah sent Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. So Jeremiah gave them this letter to carry to Babylon:
4This is what the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says to all those people I sent away from Jerusalem as captives to Babylon: 5“Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food they grow. 6Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters be married so they also may have sons and daughters. Have many children 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, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also.” 8The Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says: “Don’t let the prophets among you and the people who do magic fool you. Don’t listen to their dreams. 9They are prophesying lies to you, 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 seventy years. After that time I will come to you, and I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. 11I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will 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, 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 all the other people still in Jerusalem, your relatives who did not go as captives to Babylon with you. 17The Lord All-Powerful 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 hated by all the kingdoms of the earth. People will curse them and be shocked and will use them as a shameful example wherever I make them go. 19This is because they have not listened to my message,” says the Lord. “I sent my message to them again and again through my servants, the prophets, but they did not listen,” says the Lord.
20You captives, whom I forced to leave Jerusalem and go to Babylon, listen to the message from the Lord. 21The Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says this about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah: “These two men have been prophesying lies to you, saying that their message is from me. But soon I will hand over those two prophets to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will kill them in front of you. 22Because of them, all the captives from Judah in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the 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 said those lies were a message from me. I did not tell them to do that. I know what they have done; I am a witness to it,” says the Lord.
24Also give a message to Shemaiah from the Nehelamite family. 25The Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says: “Shemaiah, you sent letters in your name to all the people in Jerusalem, to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, and to all the priests. 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. Lock his hands and feet 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 they 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. 32So the Lord says, I will soon punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his family. 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, because he has taught the people to turn against me.’ ”
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