Three of Affliction #2 (Matot or Masei)
This is the second of the Three [Haftarot] of Affliction (Aramaic: תלת דפורענותא), describing the destruction of Judah, Jerusalem, and the First Temple in 586 BCE. They are recited on consecutive Shabbatot of the “Three Weeks”, between the fasts of the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av.
Jeremiah 2:4-28, and 3:4 or 4:1-2
Last week’s Haftarah presented Jeremiah’s call to prophecy in 626 BCE, and his Divine mission to warn Judah of imminent destruction and inspire it to return wholly to God. Its concluding verses instructed Jeremiah to remind the people, in God’s Name, of their loyalty to God in the wilderness after the Exodus, and of His promise to destroy those who attack them.
Continuing with the very next verse, this Haftarah is how Jeremiah begins to deliver that message to the entire nation, including its exiled tribes, with particular emphasis on its political and spiritual leaders. Invoking the heavens and even other nations’ loyalty to their false gods, he expresses astonishment at centuries of Israelite ingratitude for God’s kindnesses after the Exodus. With searing images and derision, Jeremiah lambasts the people for their lustful enthusiasm for local idols. Their idolatry betrays God’s kindness, defiles the land He gave them, distances them from His protection, and leads to the Land’s destruction. As in the past, idolatrous allies will not only betray Judah, they will attack it. Contrary to the astonishing suggestion that even repentance cannot help them (v. 22), the Haftarah skips many verses in order to conclude with a tenuous call for repentance.
Verses 2:4-8: Jeremiah reminds Judean and Northern Kingdom exiles that God redeemed them from Egypt, sustained them in the wilderness, and brought them to a good Land- but ungrateful generations of priests, prophets, Torah leaders, and societal leaders have abandoned God and defiled the Land with idolatry.
I [God] brought you to a plentiful country, to eat its fruit and its bounty [but] you came and defiled My land, and made My heritage an abomination.
וָאָבִ֤יא אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ הַכַּרְמֶ֔ל לֶאֱכֹ֥ל פִּרְיָ֖הּ וְטוּבָ֑הּ וַתָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ וַתְּטַמְּא֣וּ אֶת־אַרְצִ֔י וְנַחֲלָתִ֥י שַׂמְתֶּ֖ם לְתוֹעֵבָֽה׃
Verses 2:9-13: For exchanging the source of life, God, for worthless, foreign gods, God will prosecute His people now and in the future. No other nation has committed such a crime; even the heavens are astounded.
Has a nation [ever] exchanged its god, [even though] they are not gods? [Yet] My people exchanged its glory for that which helps not. הַהֵימִ֥יר גּוֹי֙ אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהֵ֖מָּה לֹ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים וְעַמִּ֛י הֵמִ֥יר כְּבוֹד֖וֹ בְּל֥וֹא יוֹעִֽיל׃
Verses 2:14-17: Judah’s own abandonment of God’s path causes Him to abandon Judah, leaving it as prey and victims for Egypt and other ferocious enemies to kill, lay waste, humiliate, and take captives.
Is this not what you have done to yourself [due to] your abandoning the Lord, your God, as He led you in the [i.e., His] way?
הֲלוֹא־זֹאת תַּעֲשֶׂה־לָּךְ עׇזְבֵךְ אֶת־ה' אֱלֹקיִךְ בְּעֵת מוֹלִכֵךְ בַּדָּרֶךְ׃
Verses 2:18-19: Having left God’s path and lost His protection, Judah instead trods paths to Assyria and Egypt to seek security in alliances. Judah’s lack of fear of God and backsliding from Him will cause it to suffer.
And now, what do you [Judah, seek] on the road to Egypt to drink the water of the Shihor [Nile]? What do you [seek] on the road to Assyria to drink the water of [the Euphrates]?
וְעַתָּ֗ה מַה־לָּךְ֙ לְדֶ֣רֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֖וֹת מֵ֣י שִׁח֑וֹר וּמַה־לָּךְ֙ לְדֶ֣רֶךְ אַשּׁ֔וּר לִשְׁתּ֖וֹת מֵ֥י נָהָֽר׃
Verses 2:20-24: God’s “true seed,” His people, lustily abandoned Him for hilltop idols long ago. Their visible tracks in Jerusalem’s Gehinnom Valley betray their denials of idolatry and render useless their attempts to repent.
How do you [Judah] say, "I have not been defiled; I have not gone after the Baalim [idols]"? See your way in the Valley, know what you have done- [like] a lustful young she-camel, determinedly traveling her paths!
אֵ֣יךְ תֹּאמְרִ֞י לֹ֣א נִטְמֵ֗אתִי אַחֲרֵ֤י הַבְּעָלִים֙ לֹ֣א הָלַ֔כְתִּי רְאִ֤י דַרְכֵּךְ֙ בַּגַּ֔יְא דְּעִ֖י מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑ית בִּכְרָ֥ה קַלָּ֖ה מְשָׂרֶ֥כֶת דְּרָכֶֽיהָ׃
Verses 2:25: Judah scorns God’s warning that its actions will cause it to suffer, instead reiterating its love for pursuing idolatry.
[God told you, Judah, to] “withhold your foot from going barefoot and your throat from thirst!” [Yet] you said, "Despair! No! For I love strangers, and I will follow them."
מִנְעִ֤י רַגְלֵךְ֙ מִיָּחֵ֔ף וגורנך [וּגְרוֹנֵ֖ךְ] מִצִּמְאָ֑ה וַתֹּאמְרִ֣י נוֹאָ֔שׁ ל֕וֹא כִּֽי־אָהַ֥בְתִּי זָרִ֖ים וְאַחֲרֵיהֶ֥ם אֵלֵֽךְ׃
Verses 2:26-28: Judah and its temporal and religious leaders consider idols to be their parents and turn to God only as a last resort in times of trouble. God’s mocking reply: Let your idols, as numerous as your cities, save you!
They say to the wood, "You are my father," and to the stone, "You bore us," for they turned their nape to Me and not their face. [Yet] when evil befalls them, they say [to Me], "Arise and save us!”
אֹמְרִ֨ים לָעֵ֜ץ אָ֣בִי אַ֗תָּה וְלָאֶ֙בֶן֙ אַ֣תְּ ילדתני [יְלִדְתָּ֔נוּ] כִּֽי־פָנ֥וּ אֵלַ֛י עֹ֖רֶף וְלֹ֣א פָנִ֑ים וּבְעֵ֤ת רָֽעָתָם֙ יֹֽאמְר֔וּ ק֖וּמָה וְהוֹשִׁיעֵֽנוּ׃
Verses 3:4 , 4:1-2: Despite Judah’s sins, it can and must still return to God. Judah’s fulfillment of its oath to God to act with truth, righteousness, and judgment will cause all nations to regard Israel and God as sources of blessing and glory for them.
You will swear “As the Lord lives” in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. [Then] the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory.
וְנִשְׁבַּעְתָּ חַי־ה' בֶּאֱמֶת בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה וְהִתְבָּרְכוּ בוֹ גּוֹיִם וּבוֹ יִתְהַלָּלוּ׃
With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email email@example.com.