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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 26

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-24

VI

SERMONS ON THE TEMPLE WORSHIP

Jeremiah 7-10; 26

These events occurred in the earliest half of the reign of Jehoiakim, about 607 or 606 B.C. Though the nation was going back to idolatry, the Temple ceremonies and sacrifices were carried on with great zeal and elaborateness. The people seemed to put their trust in the Temple rather than in God who dwelt therein. They believed that the sacrifices themselves availed much, and that their salvation was secure, if they performed these services. The relation of their conduct to their worship did not seem to trouble them. Jeremiah heard God’s call to preach to them in the very Temple itself, to preach to the multitude of worshipers that thronged these courts. He seized upon the occasion of a great feast, when the multitude was the greatest and addressed the throng on the necessity of a better life with their worship. Jeremiah was in the Temple that is called the house of Jehovah. There was unquestionably a large concourse of people gathered together. Some suggest that the purpose of that assembly may have been to consider means of defense in the face of impending disaster upon the nation. It may have occurred sometime when Jehoiakim had been compelled to pay tribute to a foreign king.


Jeremiah speaks to the people a message of warning: "Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place." Then he gives them some very suggestive advice, some very earnest words of warning: "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah." That is very suggestive. It is a warning to people who are trusting in the external, the ceremonial and the ritual; that these avail nothing where the spirit and the heart are lacking. They believed, because they had the Temple of Jehovah and kept up its ceremonies, that it would stand for ever and that God would protect them for the Temple’s sake. Jeremiah prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed. Less than twenty years afterward these words of the prophet were fulfilled. The Temple was destroyed. But these people said, "It is impossible that this temple should be destroyed, for it is the temple of Jehovah." They were saying, "The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah!" This is a blow against all heathen religions, and also the Roman Catholic religion. The people were trusting in the ceremonies and externals: "The temple of Jehovah! The temple of Jehovah! The temple of Jehovah!" The prophet demanded that they change their life; that they turn from their wickedness, else the Temple would be no good to them.


The prophet here charged them with all kinds of sin: with falsehood, with lying, with deceit, with murder, and with idolatry of various kinds. They were like the Negro woman who was accused of a certain sin and when asked, "How can you do that?" she replied: "Well, I never lets that interfere with my religion." These people divorced morals and religion. They never let their religion interfere with their conduct. Furthermore, the prophet charged them with making their beautiful Temple, in which they were trusting, a "den of robbers." That is the same condition that Jesus found about 600 years later. He said, "Ye have made my Father’s house a den of thieves." The people were saying, "It is impossible for the Temple to be destroyed; God will defend his house." But the prophet reminds them that God did destroy his house: Remember the days of Eli and his sons, and Samuel yonder at Shiloh; that God destroyed Shiloh where the tabernacle was then. This is the only direct reference we have to the destruction of Shiloh. The ark of the covenant was captured, and the tabernacle is heard of later as stationed at Gibeon and later on was stored in the Temple. God destroyed their dwelling place at Shiloh and he can destroy it in Jerusalem. That is the lesson here.


The result of that sermon is recorded in Jeremiah 26. In that chapter Jeremiah or Baruch writes down what the prophet had said, not the same words exactly but the substance of it. The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of Jehovah. Then they, the ecclesiastical leaders, began a persecution. They were the parties that were directly concerned, because they administered the Temple worship and services, and if the Temple were to be destroyed, they would be out of work, and thus they took offense at the words of Jeremiah. They did not enjoy his going around and threatening the destruction of their church house and thus put them out of business.


Now, it was the same in the days of Christ. It was the ecclesiastical leaders who began the persecution against him. It was the chief priests, the scribes and the rabbis that were aroused because he rebuked them for burying the law under their traditions. So it was here. These priests and prophets (false prophets) were enraged at this kind of preaching and they laid hold of Jeremiah and said, "Thou shalt surely die." The persecution of Stephen is a parallel case. They attempted to prove against Stephen the charge that he had spoken against the Temple; that he had spoken blasphemous words against Moses and against "This holy place." The Sanhedrin asked him, "Are these things so?" He admitted the statement and that was sufficient charge in their minds. But he went on to prove to them that God might be worshiped without a Temple; that he had been worshiped in many places besides Jerusalem. That was adding crime to crime, and so they killed him.


Jeremiah was in the hands of the priests and prophets, and was in imminent danger. They were about to kill him, but there was another class of men, not there at the time, but they heard of it. These were the princes of Judah who heard the confusion, hurried from the king’s house to the house of Jehovah, and heard these priests and prophets about their charges against Jeremiah, saying that he was worthy of death. Jeremiah made his defense (Jeremiah 7:12). His defense was that Jehovah sent him to prophesy. He says that God commanded him to say to them that they must amend their ways. Then he went on to say that he had told them the truth and that he was in their hands; that they could do with him as they would, "Only know ye for certain that, if ye put me to death, ye will bring innocent blood upon this city and upon yourselves and the inhabitants of the land, for God hath sent me to say these things to you." Jeremiah did not take back a word.


There is no doubt that if it had not been for the princes and the people who were on his side he would have immediately been put to death. Certain elders of the land rose up and spake to the people. They said, "No, don’t be rash. You remember that Micah, the prophet, prophesied that Zion should be destroyed, and although he prophesied thus, Hezekiah, the king, and the people did not put him to death." These men remind us of Gamaliel. Then they tell the story of another occasion. He did not fare so well as Micah. There was a different king upon the throne. Jehoiakim was now at the helm. He it was who with wicked hands took the prophecy of Jeremiah, God’s holy message, and cut it to pieces and burned it. He did not stop till he put the prophet, Uriah, to death. He fled to Egypt but the king brought him back and executed him.


The outcome of this was that Jeremiah was saved. He eacaped these enraged priests and prophets through the influence of the princes. They were men of influence and power, and they took his part in the face of his enemies. He had a particular among the princes, Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, who was chiefly instrumental in rescuing him. Intercession for this people is now useless, Jeremiah 7:16: "Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me." Jeremiah could not save Judah and Jerusalem. No man could do it. Not even Jesus Christ could save the wicked land and city in his day. Savonarola could not save Florence. So the day of opportunity had passed for Jerusalem.


Their idolatry is described in Jeremiah 7:17-20: "Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?" This was in the reign of Jehoiakim. It could not have occurred in the reign of Josiah. "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven," probably Ashtoreth. They made cakes doubtless in the shape of that queen, as we, in our childhood, made cakes in the shape of men. So they made their cakes in honor of their heathen goddess. Jeremiah 7:19-20 show the result of such conduct.


The import of Jeremiah 7:21-26 is that the basis of the law is obedience, not ceremony. In Jeremiah 7:21 is a touch of sarcasm: "Add your burnt offerings." This is like Isaiah and Amos, who exhort the people to increase their religious efforts that were but dead forms. Amos says, "Come to Gilgal and transgress."


Jeremiah 7:22 says, "I spake not unto your fathers, when I brought them out of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices: this is the thing that I commanded them saying, Hearken unto my voice." Now, the critics take that as one of their strong points. They maintain that it plainly says that ceremonial legislation of the Pentateuch was not given by Moses but that it was written later. They refer to this with great boldness saying, "Does not Jeremiah, the prophet, plainly say that God did not speak unto Moses or the fathers concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices down in Egypt or in the wilderness?" When Israel came out of Egypt, the nature of the covenant made between God and Israel was as follows: "If ye will obey my voice and keep my covenant, then indeed ye shall be mine own possession from among the peoples, and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). And we are told in Jeremiah 7:8 that the people promised, saying, "All the words of Jehovah we will do." Now, the basis of that covenant on the part of Israel was obedience. The basis on God’s part was grace. "If ye will obey my voice," is an expression of grace, an overture that is not deserved. It is free and voluntary on God’s part. "If ye will do what I tell you, I will be to you all that is needed." The people said, "We will obey the covenant."


So it was made, and Jeremiah was right when he said, "I spake not to your fathers in the wilderness concerning sacrifices and burnt offerings, but this I said, Obey my voice." The Ten Commandments were given as a standard of obedience and faith. They showed the people wherein they might obey God’s voice. The condition is there laid down and their acceptance implies faith and love on their part. That is the foundation principle of Christianity itself. In this passage it is clear that Jeremiah makes a great contrast between ceremony and obedience.


Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:27-28) goes on to describe the unbroken disobedience of the people. They had continued in disobedience ever since they had been in the land of Canaan. Next we have the lament of Jeremiah over the destruction, Jeremiah 7:29-34: "Cut off thy hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation. The people have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name. They have burned their sons and their daughters in the fire, therefore behold the days shall come that it shall no more be called the valley of Topheth, nor the valley of Himom, but the valley of slaughter. The dead bodies of this people shall be food for the birds of the heavens and for the beasts of the earth. Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth and gladness, the bridegroom and the bride, for the land shall become a waste."


In Jeremiah 8:1-3 Jeremiah shows that these barbarians who were coming, were going to be so ruthless that they would not stop with the killing of the living, but they would break open the graves of the kings of Judah, the princes, the mighty men and the prophets and would tear their bodies out of their graves and desecrate them. Now, that was the highest indignity on an Oriental, for the grave of his dead is sacred. Yet these barbarians would go even to that extremity.


In Jeremiah 8:4-9 the prophet again exposes the wickedness of the people and points to the exile that is not to be averted. Many similar passages we have already examined. There are repetitions in Jeremiah. They would not repent and obey the word of the Lord, therefore this punishment is coming. "How do ye say, We are wise, and the Law of Jehovah is with us?" "Our scribes have been reading the Law until they have mastered it." That is just what they did in the days of Jesus. They had covered up the commandments of the Law by their traditions. They had added many things, too. In verse Jeremiah 8:12 he asks, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abominations? Nay, they were not ashamed." Then Jeremiah described the enemy approaching: "The snorting of the horses is at the gate," and so he goes on with his description of the foe coming upon the land. In Jeremiah 18:22 we have that lament which we have already studied before: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." "Oh, that my head were a fountain of water that I might weep rivers of tears!"


We have a graphic picture in Jeremiah 9:3-9: "They bend their tongues as a bow is bent." A bow is made to bend. That is the purpose for which it is made. The idea is that they use their tongues as if they were made for lying. They speak falsehood as if that was the main use of the tongue. The people are so corrupt that they lie as if that were the normal way of speaking.


The picture of Jeremiah 9:10-16 is a picture of the impending devastation. Note the language of the prophet in Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 9:13, Jeremiah 9:16: "And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant . . . And the Lord saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein; . . . I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them." The call of Jeremiah 9:17-22 is a call for the female mourners. They are called upon to mourn and lament because of the destruction: "Call for the mourning women that they may come, and for the skillful women. Let them take up a wailing for us." There was soon an occasion for it.


The contrast of Jeremiah 9:23-24 is a contrast between true and false glorying. Here is a marvelous text and a great subject: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth me." What is he to glory in? Not in human power and worth but in the knowledge of Jehovah who is powerful and loving. That is like the apostle Paul who said, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ." There was no cross of Christ in Jeremiah’s time, but the idea is much the same. The knowledge of God, such a God as Jehovah, is the summum bonum of life, the highest object of human glorying.


The prophecy of Jeremiah 9:25-26 is a prophecy of the punishment of the nations. Some of the heathen nations were to be punished with Judah, and the prophecy of Jeremiah 10:1-16 is a prophecy concerning idols, a distinct prophecy. It is a description of the idols of the heathen nations, a magnificent portrayal of the vanity of heathen worship, in contrast with the glorious worship of Jehovah. The critics claim that this passage was not written by Jeremiah, but long after him. It is very much like Isaiah 40-44, and they claim that it was not written till after those chapters were written, between 400 and 200 B.C. Now, that is a mere guess. Isaiah wrote chapters Isaiah 40-44 and Jeremiah wrote this later. He was probably writing to the exiles. Though God’s people were in Babylon, Jeremiah addressed this passage to them to exhort them to remain faithful to Jehovah in the midst of heathen worship.


Now, it is significant that Jeremiah 10:11 is in Aramaic, not Hebrew. There are many explanations by critics and scholars of this phenomenon. Some say that it is a corruption of the text. Others that it is a marginal note crept into the text. Others say that it is an instruction given to the exiles in Babylon, which is highly probable. They spoke Aramaic and not Hebrew. So this passage would enable them to have a ready argument to meet the advocates of idol worship. In the Aramaic the people would understand it, and could readily use it in argument for their own worship.


We have a prophetic picture in Jeremiah 10:17-25. In this section he pictures the coming exiles. The people are bidden to gather together their wares and belongings, and prepare to go into exile. There was a time when their punishment might have been averted but it is too late now. The hour has come, the shepherds are worthless, the foe approaches from the North. Their heathen neighbors who have done great evil against the nation of Israel shall be punished. The prophet asks Jehovah to pour out his wrath upon them.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the date and occasion of these prophecies?

2. What warning did Jeremiah here announce, and what remedy did he prescribe?

3. What charge did the prophet prefer against them, what example in their history did he cite and what it-s lesson?

4. What is the result of this sermon as recorded in Jeremiah 26 and what the final outcome? Discuss fully.

5. How is the doom of Jerusalem indicated in Jeremiah 7:16 and what other similar cases?

6. How is their idolatry described in Jeremiah 7:17-20 and what the result?

7. What the import of Jeremiah 7:21-26, what the critics’ contention with respect to it, and what the reply?

8. How is their disobedience described in Jeremiah 7:27-28, what the lamentation of Jeremiah and what the prophecy here of their doom?

9. What great indignity here prophesied against the people of Judah and Jerusalem?

10. What is the prophet’s message, warning and lamentation in Jeremiah 8:4-9:2?

11. What is the picture of Jeremiah 9:3-9?

12. What is the picture of Jeremiah 9:10-16?

13. What is the call of Jeremiah 9:17-22?

14. What is the contrast of Jeremiah 9:23-24?

15. What is the prophecy of Jeremiah 9:25-26?

16. What is the prophecy of Jeremiah 10:1-16, what say the entice of this passage and what the reply?

17. What is the prophetic picture in Jeremiah 10:17-25?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 26". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/jeremiah-26.html.
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