A Letter to the Captives in Babylon
1 Jeremiah sent a letter to the captives in Babylon. He sent it to the elders, the priests, the prophets, and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This letter was sent after King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the carpenters, and the metalworkers had been taken from Jerusalem.) 3 King Zedekiah of Judah sent Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah to King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah gave them the letter to take to Babylon. This is what the letter said:
4 This is what the LORD All-Powerful, the God of the people of Israel, says to all the people he sent into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and live in them. Settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food you grow. 6 Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters be married. Do this so that they also may have sons and daughters. Have many children and grow in number in Babylon. Don’t become fewer in number. 7 Also, do good things for the city I sent you to. Pray to the LORD for the city you are living in, because if there is peace in that city, you will have peace also.” 8 The LORD All-Powerful, the God of the people of Israel, says, “Don’t let your prophets and those who practice magic fool you. Don’t listen to the dreams they have. 9 They are telling lies, and they are saying that their message is from me. But I didn’t send it.” This message is from the LORD.
10 This is what the LORD says: “Babylon will be powerful for 70 years. After that time, I will come to you people who are living in Babylon. I will keep my good promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. 11 I say this because I know the plans that I have for you.” This message is from 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. 12 Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will search for me, and when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will let you find me.” This message is from 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 and places where I have sent you,” says the LORD, “and I will bring you back to this place.”
15 You people might say, “But the LORD has given us prophets here in Babylon.” 16 But this is what the LORD says about your relatives who were not carried away to Babylon. I am talking about the king who is sitting on David’s throne now and all the other people who are still in the city of Jerusalem. 17 The LORD All-Powerful says, “I will soon bring war, hunger, and disease against those who are still in Jerusalem. And I will make them the same as bad figs that are too rotten to eat. 18 I will attack those who are still in Jerusalem with war, hunger, and disease. And I will cause such pain that all the kingdoms of the earth will be frightened at what has happened to those people. They will be destroyed. People will whistle with amazement when they hear what happened. And people will use them as an example when they ask for bad things to happen to people. People will insult them wherever I force them to go. 19 I will make all these things happen because the people of Jerusalem have not listened to my message.” This message is from 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 didn’t listen.” This message is from the LORD. 20 “You people are captives. I forced you to leave Jerusalem and go to Babylon. So listen to the message from the LORD.”
21 This is what the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah: “These two men have been telling you lies. They have said that their message is from me. I will give these two prophets to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. And he will kill them in front of all you who are captives in Babylon. 22 They will be an example of a terrible way to die. Yes, in the future, when the Jewish captives want something bad to happen to someone, they will say this curse: ‘May the LORD treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, those men the king of Babylon burned in the fire!’ 23 They did very bad things among the people of Israel. They committed the sin of adultery with their neighbors’ wives. They also spoke 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.” This message is from the LORD.
God’s Message to Shemaiah
24 Also give a message to Shemaiah from the Nehelam family. 25 This is what the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says: “Shemaiah, you sent letters to all the people in Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. You also sent letters to all the priests. You sent those letters in your own name and not by my authority. 26 Shemaiah, this is what you said in your letter to Zephaniah: ‘Zephaniah, the LORD has made you priest in place of Jehoiada. You are to be in charge of the LORD’S Temple. You should arrest anyone who acts like a crazy person* crazy person Here, Shemaiah is referring to Jeremiah. See verses 27-28. and acts like a prophet. You should put that person’s feet between large blocks of wood and put neck irons† neck irons A ring made from iron. People put the rings around prisoners, necks. They often fastened a chain to the ring to control the prisoners. on him. 27 Now Jeremiah is acting like a prophet. So why didn’t you arrest him? 28 Jeremiah has sent this message to us in Babylon: You people in Babylon will be there for a long time, so build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what you grow.’ ”
29 Zephaniah the priest read the letter to Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then this message from the LORD came to Jeremiah: 31 “Jeremiah, send this message to all the captives in Babylon: ‘This is what the LORD says about Shemaiah, the man from the Nehelam family: Shemaiah has spoken to you, but I didn’t send him. He has made you believe a lie. 32 Because Shemaiah has done that, this is what the LORD says: I will soon punish Shemaiah, the man from the Nehelam family. I will completely destroy his family, and he will not share in the good things I will do for my people.’ ” This message is from the LORD. “ ‘I will punish Shemaiah because he has taught the people to turn against the LORD.’ ”
*29:26 crazy person Here, Shemaiah is referring to Jeremiah. See verses 27-28.
†29:26 neck irons A ring made from iron. People put the rings around prisoners, necks. They often fastened a chain to the ring to control the prisoners.