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In Jeremiah 2-4 Jeremiah spoke of family life and in Jeremiah 5-6 of political life. In this chapter he speaks of religious life.
The speeches in Jeremiah 7-10 are known as the “temple speeches”, which, incidentally, need not all have been spoken on the same occasion. They are a frontal attack on the trust the people place in the temple as the sure protection of Jerusalem against all enemies. These speeches have earned Jeremiah lasting enemies.
Jeremiah 1-6 form a unity. They contain prophecies in the days of Josiah. In Jeremiah 7 we are in a later time. The temple speech in Jeremiah 26, which many commentators believe is the same as here, is given at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim (Jer 26:1). There, the reaction to the preaching is especially highlighted. Jeremiah’s preaching has lasted about eighteen years by then, so that he is around forty years old here.
Jehoiakim is a wicked man. He undoes all the reforms of his father Josiah. He serves idols and leads a life of luxury. This man becomes one of Jeremiah’s greatest enemies. In the midst of his life filled with the satisfaction of his own pleasures, Jeremiah suddenly appears. So far we have read about Jeremiah’s preaching, but not yet of opposition, of reactions. That is going to happen here.
Jeremiah preaches against the temple itself. This is the greatest insult to the Jew. He who attacks the temple attacks the deepest being of the Jew. In this speech, then, lies the seed of the hatred that takes root ever deeper and reveals itself ever more fiercely. The deadly hatred of the Jews about this is also experienced by the Lord Jesus when He speaks of the destruction of the temple (Mt 26:59-68).
The word of the LORD has come to Jeremiah (Jer 7:1), meaning that Jeremiah has been given a commission by the LORD. He is to stand in the gate of the temple – thus ensuring a large audience – and proclaim the word to all who go to the temple to bow down before the LORD (Jer 7:2).
Jeremiah is to proclaim the word to them on behalf of “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” (Jer 7:3). It is as if God is addressing these people in all His greatness to make clear the contrast between what they are doing and Who He is. He knows them through and through. He sees what these people are doing. It appears good, but He knows their motives, and these are not good, nor are their actions. They can be recognized today in people who, when they go to church, believe that they are not all that bad. But God knows their ways and their deeds.
He calls them to repentance. The call is simple, direct and unmistakable. The point is not to keep up appearances that they are going in good ways and doing good deeds, but to really amend their ways and deeds. If they do that, He will let them “dwell in this place”, in Jerusalem, what is not to be taken for granted. The Jews presumptuously do take that for granted. The utterance of a triple “the temple of the LORD” does show how convinced they are of the presence of the LORD in their midst in the temple (Jer 7:4). They believe that because they are God’s people, they have a right to the temple, while they are totally oblivious to the God of the temple.
Jeremiah’s voice thunders against it – surely these words must have sounded like that in their ears – that a temple without Godliness is deception. He tells them that these are lying words of false prophets. They are “deceptive words”, words that sound like a mantra. A mantra is the repetition of words over and over again, giving a person the feeling that the words spoken represent reality. If you repeat something often enough, it is so, they believe.
They feel themselves God’s chosen people. They think they have nothing to fear. Time and again God has delivered His people from the power of hostile nations. Thereby they cling to the promise of the eternal kingship to David (2Sam 7:11-17) and the LORD’s choice of Zion as His earthly dwelling place (Psa 132:13-16). Therefore, in their opinion, nothing can happen to the temple.
Surely under Hezekiah God also worked a great deliverance, didn’t He (2Kgs 19:32-37)? This is, of course, because of the temple that stands there, they reason. How could it ever be surrendered by God? In their superstition, they see the temple as a mascot. It is the same superstition that Hophni and Phinehas have when they take the ark as a mascot into battle against the Philistines (1Sam 4:3-11). They also believe that ‘of course’ God will not let the ark fall into the hands of the Philistines. How wrong they are and how wrong the people of Jerusalem are. Hypocritically they pronounce it three times that this is the temple of the LORD. That is how blinded these people are.
We see this throughout the history of professing Christianity and also in our hearts. The roman catholic church has also thought that nothing can happen to it. Then God gives the work of reformation. The Reformation has thought the same thing. We hear it also in the further reformation, when it is said by some in the so-called ‘brethren movement’: ‘The testimony of the Lord, that is us, isn’t it? The Table of the Lord is with us!’ This is repeated over and over again and people believe it absolutely. When the heart no longer abides with God’s Word and it becomes only an outward religion, God must pronounce His judgment on it. Professing Christianity teaches us that what began faithfully may continue in name, but God can no longer connect with it because it is only outward appearance.
Jeremiah shakes them up from their false security. The LORD does not accept a mere keeping of outward statutes, but true piety. He seeks and “desires truth in the innermost being” (Psa 51:6). Jeremiah holds out to them the ways in which they can truly amend their ways and deeds (Jer 7:5). For this he refers to the words of Moses, to the ancient paths, to the words of the beginning. From these he quotes three precepts. If they act on them, they can show that they are sincere before the LORD.
1. Two precepts deal with the attitude toward one’s neighbor. The first is to truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, without regard to personal interest.
2. The second is that they do not oppress the vulnerable and defenseless, with the worst outgrowth being the shedding of innocent blood, murder, “in this place”, which is the temple (Jer 7:6). These are people who are easy prey for exploiters, for people who know no compassion. The LORD specifically wants His mind toward the weak in His own to be shown (Deu 14:29; Deu 16:11; Deu 24:19; Psa 94:6; Deu 19:10-13; Deu 21:1-9). What they are doing now is diametrically opposed to this.
3. The third precept concerns their attitude toward the LORD. At the moment they still taunt Him by pursuing other gods, which brings ruin on them. When they no longer walk after other gods, they will thereby show that they are serious about serving the LORD (cf. 1Sam 7:3).
The LORD, when He sees these good things with them, will respond (Jer 7:7). He will not then drive them out of Jerusalem and the land, but let them live there. After all, it is the land He gave their fathers. They will continue to live there, “forever and ever”, that is, always. That means that He too will dwell there.
Indifferent to Live God-Fearing Lives
The sharpness of Jeremiah’s words increases. With a powerful “behold” to emphatically draw their attention to it, the LORD’s rebuke is heard once again that the words the people rely on in view of their position are deceitful and therefore it is useless to rely on them (Jer 7:8; Jer 7:4). They are of no use, they have no basis and do not in any way justify their actions or protect them from God’s judgment.
Their actions reveal the true condition of their heart (Jer 7:9). Nothing is present with them of the conditions the LORD had set for them to live in the land forever. They are guilty of violating several of the ten commandments and yet, while living this way, they also dare to express their trust in the temple.
They are even so audacious that they dare to come into God’s house in the presence of God and say there that they are delivered (Jer 7:10). The LORD emphatically points out to them that they are in fact saying that they are using their deliverance as an occasion to commit all kinds of abominations. They are misusing what they have received from the LORD by grace as an opportunity to satisfy their carnal lusts (Gal 5:13; Jude 1:4). But grace is not a license to sin.
By their conduct they make the house of the LORD a den of robbers, where they carry on their criminal business. They think that there they are safe from other robbers who want to take the spoils from them (Jer 7:11a). They have made God’s house a den of robbers, as the Lord Jesus also reproaches them (Mt 21:12-13; Jn 2:13-17; cf. Isa 56:7). They rob the LORD of what is His due and they do the same to their neighbors. The LORD has seen all the abominations His people commit, He says emphatically (Jer 7:11b). Nothing escapes Him.
The Example of Shiloh
The LORD reminds His people of Shiloh (Jer 7:12). Do they think they can claim His presence because they have the temple? Then they should go to Shiloh. They will see a warning example from which we too must learn. In Shiloh, Joshua established the tabernacle (Jos 18:1; Jdg 18:31). There he divided the land by lot. There Samuel began to prophesy (1Sam 1:24b).
Shiloh was the religious center for 300 years, until the days of Eli and Samuel. Then God gives up His dwelling because of the wickedness of His people, although He has made His Name dwell there (Psa 78:60-61; 1Sam 4:11). He will do the same with the temple, also because of their wickedness and disobedience (Jer 7:13-14).
He has tried again and again to bring them to repentance by sending His messengers, His prophets to them. It has all been in vain. He has always been early in sending His prophets to them and speaking to them (Jer 7:25). He has spoken again and again and He has sent again and again (Jer 25:3-4). He did everything He could to bring them back to the right path, the path of blessing. However, they did not want to listen. As zealous and persistent as the LORD has been in sending and speaking, the people have been stubborn in their refusal to obey. The cause of this is their reliance on the temple of God rather than the God of the temple.
He will do to them, the two tribes, the same as He did to the ten tribes, whom He calls “all your brothers” (Jer 7:15). “All the offspring of Ephraim” has been carried away by the Assyrians. The two tribes will fall into the hands of the Babylonians and be taken into exile by them. In the past Shiloh was rejected and the LORD will now reject Zion; in the past the ten tribes were taken away and the LORD will now have the two tribes taken away. That God punished deviation from Him and His Word in the past shows that God will punish deviation from Him and His Word in the present. We must learn from the past (cf. 1Cor 10:6).
Worship of the Queen of Heaven
After the clear depiction of the people’s total disobedience, the LORD has a personal word for Jeremiah that He introduces with the words “as for you”. Jeremiah is told by the LORD not to lift up cry or prayer to Him on behalf of this people or intercede with Him for them (Jer 7:16; cf. Jer 11:14; Jer 14:11-12). They are so stubborn that prayer is useless. God’s purpose is certain. Any approach to God to pray for this people is pointless.
For the true prophet, the point is not the downfall of the people, but their salvation. The true prophet, therefore, in addition to preaching judgment to the people, will at the same time also seek God’s presence in intercession on behalf of that same people (Exo 32:10-11; Amos 7:2-3; 5-6). The fact that the LORD tells him not to intercede with Him does show strongly how earnestly and persistently the prophet prayed. The true prophet is first and foremost an intercessor. How do we look at professing Christianity on which God’s judgment is also coming? Does it make us intercessors, that many will still return to God?
The LORD tells Jeremiah to just look at what is happening in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, that is, in all of Judah and all of Jerusalem (Jer 7:17). Is Jeremiah blind to it? Certainly not, but the LORD lets him know by this that what is happening there is too bad, too terrible to pray for anymore. It shows us the LORD’s relationship to Jeremiah. He involves him in His reasons for forbidding further intercession, so that Jeremiah will agree with Him in this.
The LORD tells Jeremiah what He sees. The whole family – children, fathers, and mothers – are committed to offering sacrifices to idols, one of which is named, “the queen of heaven” (Jer 7:18). We find this title in the abominable idolatry of the roman catholic church, which calls Mary “the queen of heaven” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_of_Heaven – website visited 24-03-2022].
When the children come home, the fathers are ready to set fire to the gathered wood. At the same time, the women are busy kneading dough to make sacrificial cakes. They also pour out drink offerings for other gods. A drink offering indicates joy. They rejoice in their demon-driven worship.
How awful that must be for the LORD! How this puts Him to the side and defies Him. How could it be otherwise than that what they are doing brings Him to anger. Not only that, but they do it to their own shame (Jer 7:19). People who sin always put themselves to shame. Sin may give a temporary pleasure, but it always ends in bitter, endless suffering if sin is not broken with prematurely through repentance and conversion.
Sin affects everything, the whole area where it happens (Jer 7:20; cf. Rom 8:20-22). Therefore, God’s inescapable, purifying judgment must come on it all. God will pour out His “anger” and His “wrath” in full force over all, with no end in sight: they “will burn and not be quenched”. God’s wrath against sin has come to an end for all who believe in the sacrifice of His Son. However, whoever dies in his sin, on him the wrath of God abides forever (Jn 3:36).
To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice
After the flaming condemnation of their idolatry, a word about offering sacrifices follows (Jer 7:21). In light of the above, this is an ironic word. The people are said that it is good to continue bringing their sacrifices and let them eat from it. Let them even add their burnt offerings to it. It will caress their religious feelings and also give them a nice feeling in the stomach. They will have fulfilled their religious duties nicely and will not have become worse off themselves.
But let them also remember that the LORD said nothing about such a sacrificial service to their fathers or commanded anything about it when He led them out of Egypt (Jer 7:22). He did not speak of sacrifices at Sinai, when He gave them His law, but only of obedience. Only after that did He speak of sacrifices. It must be in that order.
Sacrifices only have value if they go hand in hand with a walk in obedience to God’s commandments. That is what the LORD is all about. He has not prescribed sacrifices for the sake of sacrifices as such, but always in connection with an obedient heart. If a wayward life is led, He hates those sacrifices. He is pleased with obedience more than sacrifices (Hos 6:6; Psa 51:16-17; 1Sam 15:22).
He has spoken of obedience and the blessing that comes with it, that He will be their God and they will be His people (Jer 7:23). If they would go the way He has commanded them, they would prosper. However, they did not listen, but walked according to the promptings of their hard, depraved heart (Jer 7:24). Instead of going forward they have gone backward. The LORD has done everything possible to make His people walk in the right way and in the right direction.
From the very beginning, He has sent His prophets every day to point out to His people that obedience to Him is the way of blessing (Jer 7:25). He left nothing unused to point them to that path. But the people did not listen and even made it worse than their fathers (Jer 7:26).
The Message of Jeremiah rejected
The LORD instructs Jeremiah to speak everything He says to him to the people, with the staggering announcement that the people will not listen (Jer 7:27; cf. Isa 6:9-10). What perseverance and comfort Jeremiah needed to not throw in the towel! Imagine a service with the principal telling you that it is useless. What use is it then? Only love and appreciation for the Principal Himself and a clear view of His interests can then provide the necessary motivation.
Jeremiah must not only speak, but he must also call to them. However, there will be no answer. This apathy is terrible for someone who brings God’s Word to a people he loves and wants so badly to bring back to God’s heart.
Jeremiah, therefore, must present to the people the conclusion that they do not listen to the LORD and do not accept correction (Jer 7:28). The book of Proverbs frequently points out the folly of rejecting correction (Pro 1:7; Pro 5:12; Pro 13:18; Pro 15:5; 10; 32). Discipline has had no effect. It is a terrible observation: the “truth has perished” and no longer comes from their mouth. There is with them only hypocrisy and insincerity. They are caught in the lie, without the desire to be freed from it.
Lamentation About the Desolation of Judah
The people are called to shave themselves bare (Jer 7:29). The woman’s long hair – this is about “the daughter of Zion” – is her honor, her ornament, and indicates her dedication to the man, here to the LORD (1Cor 11:15). If she cuts it off, it is a disgrace to her (1Cor 11:6b). That disgrace must be borne by the people. The people must cut off the hair and thereby remove and reject the outward sign of dedication to the LORD. Outward dedication has value only if it is the representation of the mind of the heart. It has become clear that the people are no longer dedicated to the LORD in anything, but on the contrary have totally removed themselves from the LORD.
In Israel, a person can consecrate himself to the LORD as a Nazirite for a certain period of time. As an outward sign, he must then let his hair grow (Num 6:5). The LORD wants His whole people to consecrate themselves to Him. But Jerusalem must be shaved bald because she has defiled herself. She must not pretend to be dedicated to the LORD. The city is not dedicated to God and is no longer an ornament to Him.
Jeremiah is instructed to complain that the LORD has rejected and forsaken Jerusalem because the city has aroused His wrath because of her behavior. There are several reasons for this wrath. First, there is the evil of the abominable idols that the Judeans have set up in the temple, “in the house which is called by My name” (Jer 7:30). God has been tarnished in His honor. The people have defied Him by placing abominations in His house and defiling His house in the grossest way (2Kgs 21:5; 2Kgs 23:4-7). It is truly rude and deeply offensive to cast Him aside in this way, to dishonor Him in this way. They do with His house what they want.
Even beyond that they commit the grossest sins (Jer 7:31). It is truly awful to note that they did not dedicate their sons and daughters to God, but to idols. This happened during the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh (2Kgs 16:3; 2Kgs 21:6). None of this has any connection whatsoever with the LORD and what is in His heart. It is totally foreign to Him and to what He asks of His people.
The judgment on the abominable practices is poignantly told by the LORD to Jeremiah. The sacrificial valley will be called “the valley of the Slaughter”, where all will be buried who have been affected by God’s judgment (Jer 7:32). The place where they sacrifice their children will become an open mass grave where their own dead bodies will be thrown away. There they will be food for predators (Jer 7:33). This is an unprecedented defamation for a Jew. There will be no one left to frighten those beasts away when they feast on the bodies (Deu 28:26).
Then no sound of joy will be heard from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem (Jer 7:34), which are now full of expressions of joy for “the queen of heaven” (Jer 7:17-18). The LORD also causes to cease the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. The joy of a wedding includes the happy prospect of the birth of children. But a people who sacrifice their children to idols have lost any right to such a joyful prospect.
There is no hope that Judah and Jerusalem will be repopulated. Any joy has vanished; there is a deadly, terrifying silence, with no prospect of change. By repeating the words “the voice of” over and over again, the prophet makes the message especially poignant.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20