Jeremiah’s summons to change

If a man divorces his wife,
and after she leaves him marries another,
can he return to her again?
Wouldn’t such an act completely corrupt the land?
Yet you have prostituted yourself with many lovers.
Would you return to me?
declares the Lord.
Look to the well-traveled paths[a] and see!
Where haven’t you committed adultery?
On the roadsides you sit in wait for lovers,
like a nomad in the wilderness.
You have corrupted the land
with your cheap and reckless behavior.
That’s why the showers have failed
and the spring rains have ceased.
Still you act like a brazen prostitute[b]
who refuses to blush.
At the same time you say to me,
“My father, my friend since youth,
will you stay angry forever?
Will you continue to be furious?”
This is what you say
while you do as much evil as you possibly can.

During the rule of King Josiah, the Lord said to me: Have you noticed what unfaithful Israel has done? She’s gone about looking for lovers on top of every high hill and under every lush tree. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me, but she didn’t. Her disloyal sister Judah saw this. She[c] also saw that I sent unfaithful Israel away with divorce papers because of all her acts of unfaithfulness; yet disloyal sister Judah was not afraid but kept on playing the prostitute. She didn’t think twice about corrupting the land and committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet even after all this, disloyal sister Judah didn’t return to me with all her heart but only insincerely, declares the Lord. 11 Then the Lord said to me: Unfaithful Israel is less guilty[d] than disloyal Judah.

12 Go proclaim these words to the north and say:

Return, unfaithful Israel,
declares the Lord.
I won’t reject you,
for I’m faithful,
declares the Lord;
I won’t stay angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your wrongdoing:
how you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
and given yourself to strangers
under every lush tree
and haven’t obeyed me,
declares the Lord.
14 Return, rebellious children,
declares the Lord,
for I’m your husband.
I’ll gather you—
one from a city and two from a tribe—
and bring you back to Zion.

15 I will appoint shepherds with whom I’m pleased, and they will lead you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And in those days, when your numbers have greatly increased in the land, declares the Lord, people will no longer talk about the Lord’s covenant chest; they won’t recall or remember it; they won’t even miss it or try to build another one. 17 At that time, they will call Jerusalem the Lord’s throne, and all nations will gather there to honor the Lord’s name. No longer will they follow their own willful and evil hearts. 18 In those days the people of Judah and Israel will leave the north together for the land that I gave their ancestors as an inheritance.

19 I thought to myself, How wonderful it would be
to treat you like children
and give you a beautiful land,
an inheritance unrivaled among the nations.
And I thought, You will call me father,
and you won’t turn away from me.
20 But as a woman betrays her lover,
so you, people of Israel, have betrayed me,
declares the Lord.
21 A voice is heard on the well-traveled paths;[e]
it’s the crying and pleading of the people of Israel,
who have lost their way
and forgotten the Lord their God.
22 Return, rebellious children,
and I will heal your rebellion.
“Here we are; we come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.
23 Surely what happens on the hills[f] is a waste,
as is the uproar on the mountains.
Only in the Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
24 From our youth, shame[g] has devoured
the fruit of our parents’ labor—
their flocks and herds,
as well as their sons and daughters.
25 Let’s lie down in our shame.
Let our dishonor cover us,
for we have sinned against the Lord our God,
both we and our ancestors,
from our youth to this very day.
We have disobeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”


  1. Jeremiah 3:2 Or bare heights
  2. Jeremiah 3:3 Or You have a prostitute’s forehead.
  3. Jeremiah 3:8 LXX, Syr; MT I
  4. Jeremiah 3:11 Or more righteous
  5. Jeremiah 3:21 Or bare heights
  6. Jeremiah 3:23 LXX, Syr, Vulg; MT from the hills
  7. Jeremiah 3:24 Or the shame