The Letter of Jeremy (Jeremiah)
1 A copy of a letter that Jeremy sent to those who were to be led captives into Babylon by the king of the Babylonians, to give them the message that God commanded him.
2 Because of the sins which you have committed before God, you will be led away captives to Babylon by Nabuchodonosor king of the Babylonians. 3 So when you come to Babylon, you will remain there many years, and for a long season, even for seven generations. After that, I will bring you out peacefully from there. 4 But now you will see in Babylon gods of silver, gold, wood carried on shoulders, which cause the nations to fear. 5 Beware therefore that you in no way become like these foreigners. Don’t let fear take hold of you because of them when you see the multitude before them and behind them, worshipping them. 6 But say in your hearts, “O Lord, we must worship you.” 7 For my angel is with you, and I myself care for your souls. 8 For their tongue is polished by the workman, and they themselves are overlaid with gold and with silver; yet they are only fake, and can’t speak. 9 And taking gold, as if it were for a virgin who loves to be happy, they make crowns for the heads of their gods. 10 Sometimes also the priests take gold and silver from their gods, and spend it on themselves. 11 The will even give some of it to the common prostitutes. They dress them like men with garments, even the gods of silver, gods of gold, and gods of wood. 12 Yet these gods can’t save themselves from rust and moths, even though they are covered with purple garments. 13 They wipe their faces because of the dust of the temple, which is thick upon them. 14 And he who can’t put to death one who offends against him holds a sceptre, as though he were judge of a country. 15 He has also a dagger in his right hand, and an axe, but can’t deliver himself from war and robbers. 16 By this they are known not to be gods. Therefore don’t fear them. 17 For like a vessel that a man uses is worth nothing when it is broken, even so it is with their gods. When they are set up in the temples, their eyes are full of dust through the feet of those who come in. 18 As the courts are secured on every side upon him who offends the king, as being committed to suffer death, even so the priests secure their temples with doors, with locks, and bars, lest they be carried off by robbers. 19 They light candles for them, yes, more than for themselves, even though they can’t see one. 20 They are like one of the beams of the temple. Men say their hearts are eaten out when things creeping out of the earth devour both them and their clothing. They don’t feel it 21 when their faces are blackened through the smoke that comes out of the temple. 22 Bats, swallows, and birds land on their bodies and heads. So do the cats. 23 By this you may know that they are no gods. Therefore don’t fear them. 24 Notwithstanding the gold with which they are covered to make them beautiful, unless someone wipes off the tarnish, they won’t shine; for they didn’t even feel it when they were molten. 25 Things in which there is no breath are bought at any cost. 26 Having no feet, they are carried upon shoulders. By this, they declare to men that they are worth nothing. 27 Those who serve them are also ashamed, for if they fall to the ground at any time, they can’t rise up again by themselves. If they are bowed down, they can’t make themselves straight; but the offerings are set before them, as if they were dead men. 28 And the things that are sacrificed to them, their priests sell and spend. In like manner, their wives also lay up part of it in salt; but to the poor and to the impotent they give none of it. 29 The menstruous woman and the woman in childbed touch their sacrifices, knowing therefore by these things that they are no gods. Don’t fear them. 30 For how can they be called gods? Because women set food before the gods of silver, gold, and wood. 31 And in their temples the priests sit on seats, having their clothes torn and their heads and beards shaven, and nothing on their heads. 32 They roar and cry before their gods, as men do at the feast when one is dead. 33 The priests also take off garments from them and clothe their wives and children with them. 34 Whether it is evil or good what one does to them, they are not able to repay it. They can’t set up a king or put him down. 35 In like manner, they can neither give riches nor money. Though a man make a vow to them and doesn’t keep it, they will never exact it. 36 They can save no man from death. They can’t deliver the weak from the mighty. 37 They can’t restore a blind man to his sight, or deliver anyone who is in distress. 38 They can show no mercy to the widow, or do good to the fatherless. 39 They are like the stones that are cut out of the mountain, these gods of wood that are overlaid with gold and with silver. Those who minister to them will be confounded.
40 How could a man then think or say that they are gods, when even the Chaldeans themselves dishonour them? 41 If they shall see one mute who can’t speak, they bring him and ask him to call upon Bel, as though he were able to understand. 42 Yet they can’t perceive this themselves, and forsake them; for they have no understanding. 43 The women also with cords around them sit in the ways, burning bran for incense; but if any of them, drawn by someone who passes by, lies with him, she reproaches her fellow, that she was not thought as worthy as herself and her cord wasn’t broken. 44 Whatever is done amongst them is false. How could a man then think or say that they are gods? 45 They are fashioned by carpenters and goldsmiths. They can be nothing else than what the workmen make them to be. 46 And they themselves who fashioned them can never continue long. How then should the things that are fashioned by them? 47 For they have left lies and reproaches to those who come after. 48 For when there comes any war or plague upon them, the priests consult with themselves, where they may be hidden with them. 49 How then can’t men understand that they are no gods, which can’t save themselves from war or from plague? 50 For seeing they are only wood and overlaid with gold and silver, it will be known hereafter that they are false. 51 It will be manifest to all nations and kings that they are no gods, but the works of men’s hands, and that there is no work of God in them. 52 Who then may not know that they are not gods?
53 For they can’t set up a king in a land or give rain to men. 54 They can’t judge their own cause, or redress a wrong, being unable; for they are like crows between heaven and earth. 55 For even when fire falls upon the house of gods of wood overlaid with gold or with silver, their priests will flee away, and escape, but they themselves will be burnt apart like beams. 56 Moreover they can’t withstand any king or enemies. How could a man then admit or think that they are gods? 57 Those gods of wood overlaid with silver or with gold aren’t able to escape from thieves or robbers. 58 The gold, silver, and garments with which they are clothed—those who are strong will take from them, and go away with them. They won’t be able to help themselves. 59 Therefore it is better to be a king who shows his manhood, or else a vessel in a house profitable for whatever the owner needs, than such false gods—or even a door in a house, to keep the things safe that are in it, than such false gods; or better to be a pillar of wood in a palace than such false gods.
60 For sun, moon, and stars, being bright and sent to do their jobs, are obedient. 61 Likewise also the lightning when it flashes is beautiful to see. In the same way, the wind also blows in every country. 62 And when God commands the clouds to go over the whole world, they do as they are told. 63 And the fire sent from above to consume mountains and woods does as it is commanded; but these are to be compared to them neither in show nor power. 64 Therefore a man shouldn’t think or say that they are gods, seeing they aren’t able to judge causes or to do good to men. 65 Knowing therefore that they are no gods, don’t fear them. 66 For they can neither curse nor bless kings. 67 They can’t show signs in the heavens amongst the nations, or shine as the sun, or give light as the moon. 68 The beasts are better than they; for they can get under a covert, and help themselves. 69 In no way then is it manifest to us that they are gods. Therefore don’t fear them. 70 For as a scarecrow in a garden of cucumbers that keeps nothing, so are their gods of wood overlaid with gold and silver. 71 Likewise also their gods of wood overlaid with gold and with silver, are like a white thorn in an orchard that every bird sits upon. They are also like a dead body that is thrown out into the dark. 72 You will know them to be no gods by the bright purple that rots upon them. They themselves will be consumed afterwards, and will be a reproach in the country. 73 Better therefore is the just man who has no idols; for he will be far from reproach.