18 This is the word the Lord spoke to Jeremiah: “Go down to the potter’s house. I will give you my message there.” So I went down to the potter’s house. I saw him working at the potter’s wheel. He was making a pot from clay. But something went wrong with it. So the potter used that clay to make another pot. He used his hands to shape the pot the way that he wanted it to be.
Then the Lord spoke his word to me: “Family of Israel, can’t I do the same thing with you?” says the Lord. “You are like the clay in the potter’s hands. There may come a time when I will speak about a nation or a kingdom. I might say I will pull that nation up by its roots. Or I might say I will pull that nation down and destroy it. But if the people of that nation are sorry for the evil they have done, I would change my mind. I would not carry out my plans to bring disaster to them. There may come another time when I will speak about a nation. I might say that I will build up and plant that nation. But if I see it doing evil by not obeying me, I would change my mind. I would not carry out my plans to do good for them.
“So, say this to the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem: ‘This is what the Lord says: I am preparing disaster for you right now. I am making plans against you. So stop doing the evil you are doing. Change your ways and do what is right.’ But the people of Judah will answer, ‘It won’t do any good to try! We will continue to do what we want. Each of us will do what his stubborn, evil heart wants!’”
So this is what the Lord says:
“Ask the people in other nations this question:
‘Have you ever heard anything like this?’
The people of Israel have done a horrible thing.
The snow on the mountains of Lebanon
never melts from the rocks.
Its cool, flowing streams
do not dry up.
But my people have forgotten me.
They make offerings to worthless idols.
This makes them stumble in what they do.
They stumble about in the old ways of their ancestors.
They walk along back roads
and on poor highways.
So Judah’s country will become an empty desert.
People will not stop making fun of it.
They will shake their heads as they pass by.
They will be shocked at how the country was destroyed.
I will scatter them before their enemies
as a strong east wind blows things away.
At that awful time they will not see me coming to help them.
They will see me leaving.”
Then the people said, “Come, let’s make plans against Jeremiah. Surely the teaching of the law by the priest will not be lost. And the advice from the wise men will still be with us. We will still have the words of the prophets. So let’s ruin him by telling lies about him! We won’t pay attention to anything he says.”
Lord, listen to me.
Listen to what my accusers are saying!
Good should not be paid back with evil.
But they have dug a pit in order to kill me.
Lord, remember that I stood before you
and asked you to do good things for these people.
I asked you to turn your anger away from them.
So now, let their children starve.
Let their enemies defeat them with swords.
Let their wives lose their children and husbands.
Let the men from Judah be put to death.
Let the young men be killed in battle.
Let them cry out in their houses.
Bring an enemy against them suddenly.
Let all this happen because my enemies have dug a pit to trap me.
And they have hidden traps for me to step in.
Lord, you know
about their plans to kill me.
Don’t forgive their crimes.
Don’t erase their sins.
Make them fall from their places.
Punish them while you are angry.
19 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. Go near the front of the Potsherd Gate. Take some of the elders of the people and priests with you. There speak the words I tell you. Say, ‘King of Judah and people of Jerusalem, listen to this message from the Lord. This is what the Lord of heaven’s armies, the God of Israel, says: I will soon bring a disaster on this place! Everyone who hears about it will be amazed and full of fear. I will do this because the people of Judah have quit following me. They have made this a place for foreign gods. They have burned sacrifices to other gods. They did not worship these gods long ago! Their ancestors didn’t worship these gods. The kings of Judah filled this place with the blood of the innocent people. The kings of Judah have built places to worship Baal. There they burn their sons in the fire to Baal. I did not speak about it or tell them to do that. I never even thought of such a thing. Now people call this place the Valley of Ben Hinnom or Topheth. But watch out! The days are coming, says the Lord, when people will call this place the Valley of Killing.
“‘At this place I will ruin the plans of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The enemy will chase them. And I will let the people of Judah be killed with swords. I will make their dead bodies food for the birds and wild animals. I will completely destroy this city. People will make fun of it and hiss at it. And they will shake their heads when they pass by Jerusalem. They will be shocked when they see how the city was destroyed. An enemy army will surround the city. They will not let anyone go out to get food. The people will become so hungry they will eat the bodies of their own sons and daughters. And then they will begin to eat each other.’”
The Lord said, “While the people with you are watching, break that jar. Then say this: ‘The Lord of heaven’s armies says: I will break this nation and this city just as someone breaks a clay jar. It cannot be put back together again. The dead people will be buried here in Topheth. We will bury bodies until there is no more room. This is what I will do to these people and to this place, says the Lord. I will make this city like Topheth. The houses in Jerusalem and the king’s palaces will become as unclean as this place, Topheth. This is because the people worshiped false gods on the roofs of their houses. They worshiped the stars and burned incense to honor them. They gave drink offerings to false gods.’”
Then Jeremiah left Topheth where the Lord had told him to prophesy. He went to the Lord’s Temple, stood in the courtyard and said to all the people: “This is what the Lord of heaven’s armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘I said I would bring disaster to Jerusalem and the villages around it. I will make it happen soon! This is because the people are very stubborn. They do not listen at all to what I say.’”