1 This is a copy of the letter sent by Jeremiah to the people of Jerusalem just before they were captured by the Babylonian king and taken to Babylon. It contains the message that God had commanded Jeremiah to give them.
The People Face a Long Captivity
2 You have sinned against God. That is why you are about to be taken away as prisoners to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. 3 You will remain there in exile for many years, as long as seven generations; then God will lead you peacefully home from Babylon.
4 There in Babylon you will see gods made of wood, silver, and gold—gods which people carry on their shoulders and which fill the heathen with fear. 5 You must be careful never to imitate those Gentiles. Don't let their gods fill you with fear when you see them being carried in procession and being worshiped. 6 Instead, say to yourselves, “It is you alone, Lord, that we must worship.” 7 God's angel will be there with you; he will take care of you.
The Helplessness of Idols
8 Their idols are plated with silver and gold and have tongues that were carved by woodworkers. But they are not real gods, and they cannot speak. 9 The people make gold crowns and put them on the heads of their gods, as if these idols were girls who love jewelry. 10 Sometimes the priests steal the silver and gold from their gods and spend it on themselves; 11 they even give some of it to the temple prostitutes. People take these gods of wood, silver, and gold, and put clothes on them, as if they were human. 12 But even though the gods are dressed in purple robes like kings, they still cannot keep themselves from being tarnished or protect themselves from termites. 13 When dust from the temple settles on their faces, someone has to wipe it off for them. 14 Like human judges they hold scepters in their hands, but they have no power to punish anyone who wrongs them. 15 Sometimes they have daggers and axes in their hands, but they cannot protect themselves from being destroyed in war or from being carried off by thieves. 16 All of this proves that they are not gods—do not worship them.
17 Those gods sitting in their temples are as useless as a broken bowl. Their eyes are filled with the dust that people kick up when they come in. 18 The priests fortify the temples with doors and bars and bolts, so that thieves cannot break in. The gods are locked up as securely as a prisoner about to be executed for a crime against the king. 19 The priests light lamps for the gods, far more than they need for their own use, but the idols can't see even one of them. 20 Their insides are eaten away by termites, just like the wooden beams of the temple, and their clothing is destroyed, but they don't even know it. 21 Their faces are blackened by the smoke in the temple. 22 Bats, swallows, and other birds perch on them, and even cats sit on them. 23 All of this proves that they are not gods—do not worship them.
24 These idols have been plated with gold to make them beautiful, but they do not shine unless someone polishes them. When they were being poured into molds, they felt nothing. 25 It makes no difference how high a price is paid for them; they are still unable to breathe. 26 See how useless they are! They can't walk on their own feet, but must be carried around. 27 Even those who take care of them are embarrassed when one of their gods falls to the ground and has to be picked up again. When someone stands one of them in a certain place, it cannot move, and if it is leaning over, it can never straighten itself up. Offering gifts to them is like giving gifts to a corpse. 28 Priests sell what is sacrificed to their gods and use the money on themselves. And the wives of the priests preserve the sacrifices with salt for later use, instead of sharing them with the poor and helpless. 29 Even women who are having their monthly period or women who have just given birth are allowed to touch the sacrifices. All of this proves that they are not gods—do not worship them.
30 How can they ever be called gods, when women are allowed to make offerings to these things made of wood, silver, and gold? 31 The priests even sit in the temples when they are in mourning, with torn clothes and shaved, uncovered heads. 32 The priests roar and shout in the presence of their gods as if they were taking part in a funeral feast. 33 They take the clothing off their gods and give it to their wives and children. 34 It doesn't matter whether a person helps or harms these gods, since they cannot pay him back. They are not able to make anyone a king or to dethrone him, 35 and they cannot make a person wealthy or give him any money. If someone makes a vow to them but does not keep it, they will never make him pay. 36 They can never rescue a person from death, and they never help a weak person against one who is strong. 37 They cannot restore sight to the blind or save anyone in distress. 38 They cannot offer any mercy or give help to widows or orphans. 39 These things made of wood and covered with silver and gold are as powerless as stone taken from the mountains; and the people who worship them will be put to shame. 40 How can anyone think that they are gods or call them gods?
The Foolishness of Worshiping Idols
The Babylonians bring dishonor on their own gods. 41 When someone cannot speak, they take him to the temple and ask Bel to give him the power of speech, as if Bel could understand anything. 42 But even when the people realize that their gods cannot help, they are stupid enough to go on worshiping them. 43 Not only that, but women wrap cords around themselves and sit alongside the road burning incense and offering themselves as prostitutes. When one of them is taken off for sex, she returns to ridicule the woman next to her who was not beautiful enough to be chosen. 44 Everything about these idols is false. How can anyone think that they are gods or call them gods?
45 Woodworkers and goldsmiths make these gods, so they can never be anything other than what these people want them to be. 46 Even their makers do not live long lives, so how are they able to create gods? 47 These people leave nothing but deceit and disgrace as an inheritance for future generations. 48 When wars and disturbances come, the priests plan where they can go into hiding with their gods. 49 These idols are helpless in the face of wars and disturbances. Why can't people realize that these idols are not gods?
50 These idols are nothing more than wood covered with silver and gold; one day it will be clear that they are really not gods at all. 51 All nations and kings will realize that idols are nothing more than the work of human hands. They do not have the power of a god, 52 and anyone should know that they are not really gods.
53 These gods can never make anyone a king or bring rain. 54 They can't make decisions about their own affairs or give justice to someone who has been wronged; they can do absolutely nothing. They are as useless as crows flying around in the air. 55 When a temple catches on fire, the priests run away to save themselves, while the gods made of wood and covered with silver and gold are left to burn like wooden beams. 56 They can't fight kings or go to war against enemies. How can anyone believe that they are gods?
57 These gods of wood, covered with silver and gold, cannot protect themselves from thieves and robbers 58 who take off the silver and gold and the gods' clothing and walk away with all of it. The gods can do nothing to stop them. 59 Anything from a courageous king to a useful piece of pottery is better than a false god. Even a door is better than a false god; a door at least protects the things in the house. Even a wooden pillar in a palace is better than a false god.
60 God provided the sun, the moon, and the stars to give light, and they obey him. 61 The same is true of lightning and wind. The lightning can be seen far and wide, and the wind blows everywhere. 62 When God commands clouds to spread out over the whole world, they obey. 63 When God sends down fire from heaven to burn up mountains and forests, it does what it is told. Idols cannot do these things—they can't even do a good imitation. 64 Why should they be called gods, when they are not able to help us or harm us in any way? 65 You know that they are not gods—do not worship them.
66 These gods have no power over kings; they cannot pronounce curses on them or grant them blessings. 67 They cannot produce for the nations any signs in the sky; they cannot shine like the sun or the moon. 68 Even wild animals are better off than these idols; animals can at least run from danger to protect themselves. 69 So it is absolutely clear that they are not gods—do not worship them.
70 These gods of theirs, made of wood and covered with silver and gold, are about as helpful as a scarecrow in a cucumber patch; they are no protection at all. 71 They do as much good as a thorn bush in a garden; instead of keeping birds away, they provide a perch for them. These gods are like a dead body thrown out into the darkness. 72 The purple linen robes they wear rot away, so we know that they are not gods. Finally they will be eaten by termites, and then no one anywhere will have any use for them.
73 The righteous person has an advantage over others; he does not own any idols, and they can never make a fool of him.