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If you return, O Israel,

says the L ord,

if you return to me,

if you remove your abominations from my presence,

and do not waver,


and if you swear, “As the L ord lives!”

in truth, in justice, and in uprightness,

then nations shall be blessed by him,

and by him they shall boast.

3 For thus says the L ord to the people of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem:

Break up your fallow ground,

and do not sow among thorns.


Circumcise yourselves to the L ord,

remove the foreskin of your hearts,

O people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,

or else my wrath will go forth like fire,

and burn with no one to quench it,

because of the evil of your doings.


Invasion and Desolation of Judah Threatened

5 Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say:

Blow the trumpet through the land;

shout aloud and say,

“Gather together, and let us go

into the fortified cities!”


Raise a standard toward Zion,

flee for safety, do not delay,

for I am bringing evil from the north,

and a great destruction.


A lion has gone up from its thicket,

a destroyer of nations has set out;

he has gone out from his place

to make your land a waste;

your cities will be ruins

without inhabitant.


Because of this put on sackcloth,

lament and wail:

“The fierce anger of the L ord

has not turned away from us.”


9 On that day, says the L ord, courage shall fail the king and the officials; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded. 10Then I said, “Ah, Lord G od, how utterly you have deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ even while the sword is at the throat!”


11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— 12a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.


Look! He comes up like clouds,

his chariots like the whirlwind;

his horses are swifter than eagles—

woe to us, for we are ruined!


O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness

so that you may be saved.

How long shall your evil schemes

lodge within you?


For a voice declares from Dan

and proclaims disaster from Mount Ephraim.


Tell the nations, “Here they are!”

Proclaim against Jerusalem,

“Besiegers come from a distant land;

they shout against the cities of Judah.


They have closed in around her like watchers of a field,

because she has rebelled against me,

says the L ord.


Your ways and your doings

have brought this upon you.

This is your doom; how bitter it is!

It has reached your very heart.”


Sorrow for a Doomed Nation


My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!

Oh, the walls of my heart!

My heart is beating wildly;

I cannot keep silent;

for I hear the sound of the trumpet,

the alarm of war.


Disaster overtakes disaster,

the whole land is laid waste.

Suddenly my tents are destroyed,

my curtains in a moment.


How long must I see the standard,

and hear the sound of the trumpet?


“For my people are foolish,

they do not know me;

they are stupid children,

they have no understanding.

They are skilled in doing evil,

but do not know how to do good.”



I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;

and to the heavens, and they had no light.


I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,

and all the hills moved to and fro.


I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,

and all the birds of the air had fled.


I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,

and all its cities were laid in ruins

before the L ord, before his fierce anger.

27 For thus says the L ord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.


Because of this the earth shall mourn,

and the heavens above grow black;

for I have spoken, I have purposed;

I have not relented nor will I turn back.



At the noise of horseman and archer

every town takes to flight;

they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;

all the towns are forsaken,

and no one lives in them.


And you, O desolate one,

what do you mean that you dress in crimson,

that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold,

that you enlarge your eyes with paint?

In vain you beautify yourself.

Your lovers despise you;

they seek your life.


For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,

anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,

the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,

stretching out her hands,

“Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!”


By these words Jeremiah confirms what the latter part of the preceding verse contains: nor was it for the sake of elucidating his subject that he enlarged on it; but when he saw his own nation so hard and almost like stones, he employed many words and set forth in various ways what he might have expressed in one sentence: and what he taught would have been often coldly received, had he not added exhortations and threatenings. It was on this account that he now expresses in other words what he had previously said, I have heard, he says, the voice as of one in labor This hearing, no doubt, is to be taken consistently with the representation which had been made to him; for Jeremiah could not hear in a way different from others; but he speaks according to the discovery made to him of the approaching judgment of God, which was then unheeded by the people; and he had this discovery, that he might by such a representation as this make it known to them. He then says, that he had heard, as though he had witnessed already all that was to come. He then exaggerates the evil; for he puts distress, צרה, tsere, instead of “voice,” קול, kul; and then he mentions, as an instance of greater pain, a woman bringing forth her first — born, instead of a woman in labor. Then Jeremiah means, that final ruin was nigh that people who could not then be restored from their sinful courses; but he intimates, as also the Spirit speaks in other places, that their destruction would be sudden; while they would be saying, Peace and security, sudden destruction would come upon them. (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) And so the Prophet now declares, that the Jews in vain hardened themselves against God, as though their ruin was not approaching, for their sorrow would come suddenly. As a woman may be cheerful at meat or at her leisure, and may be suddenly seized with the pain of labor, so also the Prophet shews, that the Jews had no reason to think that they could escape God’s vengeance by a false confidence, for their destruction would come upon them unexpectedly.

He sets forth at the same time, as already said, the greatness or the extremity of their grief by this similitude, The voice of the daughter of Sion, who complains, etc.; for the relative may be here added. Some take the verb to be in the second person, “Thou wilt lament and extend, “or rend, “thy hands;” but this is not suitable, because the third person is immediately used, “thy hands.” Then what he says is, that the voice of the daughter of Sion would be an evidence of her extreme grief, for she would lament; and he adds, at the same time, the smiting of the hands. This verb is variously rendered; but as פרש, peresh, means properly to rend or to divide, I think the Prophet expresses the posture of a woman in grief; for she usually smites her hands together and as it were divides them by putting the fingers between one another. Some render the word “expand, “for the hands are divided when raised up. As to what is meant, there is nothing ambiguous in the Prophet’s words; for his object is to shew, that God’s vengeance would be so dreadful, that the Jews would lament, not in an ordinary measure, but like women, when in the extreme pain of labor.

He then concludes by saying, Woe to me, for failed has my soul on account of murderers Here the Prophet intimates, that all the rest were blind in the midst of light, yet God’s judgment, which the ungodly and wicked laughed at, or at least disregarded, was seen clearly by him. His soul, he says, fainted for the slain; and yet no one had hitherto been slain: but by this mode of speaking, he shews, that he had as it were before his eyes what was hid from others, and hence their hearts were not affected. 127127     This latter part is differently taken by most. It is considered to be the confession of the daughter of Sion. The whole verse is remarkably striking, —
   For the voice as of one in travail have I heard, The distress as of one giving birth to a first-born, The voice of the daughter of Sion; Who pants for breath, who spreads her hands, — “Wo now to me, For melted has my soul because of murderers.”

   It is a common thing in Hebrew to omit the relative “who,“ before a verb in a future tense, especially when it means the present time. The scene is described as present. The passage might be expressed in Welsh without the relative. “Who pants for breath,” is rendered by Horsley, “that draweth her breath short;” and he adds, “The passage is a most affecting picture of the last struggles of a woman expiring in labor.” — Ed.
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