Running through the prophecies of Jeremiah has been a savage critique of the society that the now idolatrous nation of Judah was building. The poor, the widow, the orphan, and the refugee were being overlooked and left vulnerable. Here in this chapter Jeremiah brings this theme to the fore and reveals something shocking about the heart that was behind these social abuses.
Thus says the Lord: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. For thus says the Lord concerning the house of the king of Judah:
“‘You are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
yet surely I will make you a desert,
an uninhabited city.
I will prepare destroyers against you,
each with his weapons,
and they shall cut down your choicest cedars
and cast them into the fire.
“‘And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”’”
Weep not for him who is dead,
nor grieve for him,
but weep bitterly for him who goes away,
for he shall return no more
to see his native land.
For thus says the Lord concerning Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went away from this place: “He shall return here no more, but in the place where they have carried him captive, there shall he die, and he shall never see this land again.”
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
and does not give him his wages,
who says, ‘I will build myself a great house
with spacious upper rooms,’
who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar
and painting it with vermilion.
Do you think you are a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
declares the Lord.
But you have eyes and heart
only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.”
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah