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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 7

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-3

Jer 7:1-3

Jeremiah 7:1-3

The word that came to Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, Stand in the gate of Jehovah’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of Jehovah, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.

Cook spoke of the date of this appeal as follows: "This prophecy was spoken in the first year of Jehoiachim, when the probation of Judah was virtually over, and it constitutes the final solemn appeal to the conscience of the people, and a protest while the new king was still young upon his throne, against the ruinous course upon which he so immediately entered."

Why did Judah so desperately need the stern admonition of the prophet here which, in short, demanded that they immediately and completely change their behavior! Why? They were a nation of evil doers, violating every commandment in the Deca1ogue, and yet frequenting the temple services and making the customary sacrifices, supposing that these external activities would assure their safety and protection from God, no matter what evil deeds they were guilty of.

There was also a wide-spread opinion among the people that as long as the Temple stood the whole nation was guaranteed by God Himself of their safety and security. Ash noted that, "The reforms of Josiah (superficial as they were) had focused attention on the temple, and had apparently created the illusion that God would never let it be destroyed." Also as Robinson observed, "The remarkable deliverance of the city from Sennacherib in 701 B.C. had contributed to the belief that Jerusalem was inviolable."

The correction of such erroneous opinions on the part of the populace was surely one of the purposes of Jeremiah’s address.

The dating of the materials in this section is a vexing problem. Laetsch assigns this section to the days of king Josiah early in the ministry of Jeremiah. However most commentators, on the basis of what they believe is a parallel passage in chapter 26, assign the section (or at least Jeremiah 7:1-15) to the early days of King Jehoiakim. Though one dare not be dogmatic on this point the present writer feels there is nothing in this material that demands a date later than the reign of king Josiah.

Whether the materials in Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3 come from one of Jeremiah’s discourses or from several of them is difficult to determine. In either case the theme of worship unifies the entire section. After a brief introductory note (Jeremiah 7:12) the prophet speaks of (1) presumptuous worship (Jeremiah 7:15); (2) pagan worship (Jeremiah 7:16-20); (3) priorities in worship (Jeremiah 7:21-28); and (4) polluted worship (Jeremiah 7:29 to Jeremiah 8:3).

INTRODUCTION Jeremiah 7:1-3

Acting upon the definite instructions from the Lord (Jeremiah 7:1) Jeremiah went to one of the eight gates of the Temple to deliver a blistering sermon on worship. He is to proclaim the word to “all Judah who are entering these gates to worship the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:2). During the three annual festivals of Israel all the males were obligated to come to the Temple to worship (Leviticus 23:1-44; Deuteronomy 16:1-17).

Later in his ministry Jeremiah preached a sermon similar to the one recorded here in chapter 7. Some commentators have identified this “Temple Sermon” with the sermon preached in chapter 26. Four points of similarity are generally pointed out: (1) Both sermons were preached at the same place, one of the gates of the Temple; (2) both seem to have been preached during some festival; (3) both sermons present the demands for national repentance; and (4) both sermons allude to the destruction of Shiloh. To conclude from this that the sermon of chapter 7 is identical with that of chapter 26 and to therefore assign chapter 7 to the reign of Jehoiakim is pressing the evidence too far. Jeremiah as others chose the Temple gates and courts as the location for public discourse. See Jeremiah 19:14; Jeremiah 35:2; Jeremiah 35:4; Jeremiah 36:5-10; Jeremiah 28:1; Jeremiah 28:5. It would be a priori likely that the prophet would select a festival on more than one occasion as the time to present his message. What better time to reach the masses? As for the theme of repentance, Jeremiah utilized it quite frequently. The allusion to Shiloh was a tremendous illustration that God is no respecter of religious shrines. Jeremiah probably utilized this historical note many times during his ministry. It is the feeling, then, of the writer that chapter 26 represents a later sermon of Jeremiah preached during the days of Jehoiakim. Chapter 7 represents an earlier sermon from the reign of good king Josiah.

Verses 4-7

Jer 7:4-7

Jeremiah 7:4-7

Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your own hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, from of old even for evermore.

Note the triple repetition of "The temple of Jehovah." It appears that the people were using these words as a kind of charm or talisman to protect and bless them even in the pursuit of their wicked ways. As Matthew Henry stated it, "It was the cant of the times; it was in their mouths upon all occasions. If they received bad news, they lulled themselves to sleep again, saying, ’We cannot but do well, we have the temple of the Lord among us."

Jeremiah’s breaking in upon that crowd of arrogant, overconfident, hypocrites with the stinging words of Jehovah, commanding them either to repent or perish must have been resented like a plague of smallpox. "Is it any wonder that this ’temple sermon’ caused a terrific uproar and almost cost Jeremiah his life (Jeremiah 26:7 ff)?"

Shed not innocent blood in this place...

(Jeremiah 7:6). Cook and other scholars believe that the reference here is to, The innocent blood shed there judicially. Of one such judicial murder, Jehoiachim had already been guilty (Jeremiah 26:23). There were probably many other such crimes.

The particular sins mentioned here, which God through Jeremiah commanded the Jews to cease from committing, were merely a representative list; and the list will be greatly expanded in later verses. All of these sins of lustful selfishness were the result of Judah’s having first rejected their primary obligation to Jehovah as spelled out in the Mosaic covenant at Sinai. "All of their sins were the consequence of their breach of the covenant and their rejection of God’s sovereignty." We consider this statement from Thompson as a profoundly accurate declaration. Many people seem to be unaware that once man’s primary obligation to Almighty God is either neglected or forsaken, all of the other sins may be expected to follow immediately. They are merely the consequences of man’s violation of that higher obligation to his Creator.

The land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever...

(Jeremiah 7:7). This is the very strongest formula in the Hebrew tongue for a perpetual gift, meaning, ’from forever unto forever.’ Why then do not the Jews still possess the land eternally given to them? Because God never bestows anything unconditionally.

The Jews received the land of Canaan under the terms of a covenant, itself called a covenant of eternity (Genesis 17:7); but that covenant had conditions which the Jews were obligated to observe, as spelled out in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy, with the divine warning that if they rebelled against the covenant God would indeed "pluck them off the land" (Deuteronomy 28:63). In this connection, be sure to read Jeremiah 18:5-10.

The men of Judah, like the majority of all ages, took worship for granted. They were content simply to show up at the Temple and participate in the prescribed ritual. They assumed that God was pleased with their conduct. In the opening paragraph of his Temple sermon Jeremiah attacks this presumptuous attitude toward worship by (1) indicating a fundamental requirement of true worship (Jeremiah 7:3-7,); (2) challenging the fallacious assumption that worship had no bearing on conduct nor vice versa (Jeremiah 7:8-11); and (3) threatening the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the populace (Jeremiah 7:12-15).

A Fundamental Requirement Jeremiah 7:3-7

Jeremiah’s sermon opens with a call for repentance. “Amend (lit., cause to be good) your ways and your deeds”, i.e., change the whole pattern of your conduct. Only if such a fundamental change took place would God continue to allow them to inhabit the land of Judah (Jeremiah 7:3). Jeremiah begs his hearers for their own sake not to give any credence to the superstition that the presence of the Temple of the Lord was a guarantee for the safety of the city. The people were acting as though merely the repetition of the phrase “Temple of the Lord” was some sort of a magical charm to ward off all evil. What a dramatic moment it must have been when Jeremiah thrice repeated the phrase for emphasis gesturing as he did so to the courts and building that were part of the Temple complex (Jeremiah 7:4).

Jeremiah 7:5-7 contain a conditional sentence of which Jeremiah 7:5-6 are the protasis and Jeremiah 7:7 the apodosis. Five conditions for national survival are laid down: (1) Repeating the basic demand of Jeremiah 7:3, they must thoroughly amend their ways and their deeds. (2) They must make sure that justice is executed in the courts (Jeremiah 7:5). (3) They must not oppress the stranger, the orphan and the widow. The Old Testament enjoined Israel to show respect for peoples of other nationalities and races simply because they were fellow human beings. Many Christians have not yet caught up with this passage. There was to be a concern for the weak and for those who had lost their natural protector. No other code of laws from antiquity is marked by such humanity in respect to the unfortunate. (4) Innocent blood must no longer be shed in the land through violence and miscarriage of justice. (5) They must cease to follow after other gods “to their own hurt.” Idolatry would lead deeper and deeper into sin and have dire repercussions both on the national and personal level. If they fulfilled these fundamental requirements God would cause t h e m to continue to dwell in the land. God had given that land to their forefather “for ever and ever.” (lit., from the most remote antiquity to the most distant future). But that divine promise was conditional. If the present generation was to continue to enjoy the land gift of God they must meet the conditions which God specifies here.

Verses 8-11

Jer 7:8-11

Jeremiah 7:8-11

Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods that ye have not known, and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered; that ye may do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, saith Jehovah.

The sins enumerated here constituted violations of the Decalogue as given in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The specific commandments broken were the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, with the necessary inference that the 10th also was broken, stealing and adultery both being a direct result of the covetousness forbidden in the last commandment. As Green noted, "This amounted to a near-total breach of the covenant stipulations."

"Here is further and conclusive evidence of Jeremiah’s deep anchorage in the Mosaic faith."

We are delivered...

(Jeremiah 7:10). The Jews actually believed that merely because they frequented the temple and brought their sacrifices as usual, that, they were fully protected in the commission of every crime in the catalogue, all of this on the mere grounds of their external presentation of themselves before God at the place called by his name. They deluded themselves into thinking they were safe no matter what they did.

Behold, I, even I have seen it, saith Jehovah...

(Jeremiah 7:11). Anchor Bible suggests a paraphrase here: God says, Look! I’m not blind! Of course, I’ve seen it! F12

Is this house. become a den of robbers .....

(Jeremiah 7:11)? These very words were spoken by Christ himself as a solemn indictment of the temple during his personal ministry, Ye made it (the temple) a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13). This is a reference to the blasphemous manner in which the Jews used that temple. The Hebrew word here actually means a robber’s ’cave,’ The figure is that of a den, or cave, or some other supposedly safe and secure place to which robbers retired after each of their crimes. What a terrible misuse of holy religion was this abuse by the Jews.

A Fallacious Assumption Jeremiah 7:8-11

God cannot continue to allow His people to dwell in the Promised Land so long as they continue to trust in deceitful words (Jeremiah 7:8). In Jeremiah 7:4 the prophet has already given an example of the words of the worthless lie. The fact that the Lord has His Temple in Jerusalem will profit them nothing if they continue to live godless lives. The people were engaging in every conceivable sinful activity: stealing, murder, adultery, false swearing, worship of false gods (Jeremiah 7:9). Yet they would come and stand before God in His house and think that because they had expressed this outward concern for the Lord they were completely safe from all harm, The regular visits to the Temple made no difference in the lives of these hypocrites. They went to the services to keep God on their side. As long as He was on their side they could practice their abominations with immunity. What a distortion of religion! What a fallacious assumption! With amazement the Lord asks, “Has this house which is called by My Name become a den of robbers in your eyes?” The Temple had become to the people of Judah no more than a refuge into which they would flee after committing their criminal acts. But God has seen all. He knows their hearts. He is aware of their evil intentions and sinful attitudes. He is not deceived by the outward manifestations of religious zeal.

Verses 12-15

Jer 7:12-15

Jeremiah 7:12-15

But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I caused my name to dwell at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith Jehovah, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not: therefore will I do unto the house which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.

My place which was in Shiloh...

(Jeremiah 7:12). God’s challenge to the Jews because they were trusting in the physical existence of God’s temple in their midst, was blunt and dramatic. Go to Shiloh! My name was once there; but it did not protect Israel in their wickedness; and neither will the current temple protect you. God here prophesied both (1) the destruction of the temple, just like he had destroyed Shiloh, and (2) the carrying away of Judah just as he had already deported the whole seed of Ephraim.

After the conquest of Canaan, the ancient tabernacle was set up at Shiloh, "some eighteen miles north of Jerusalem," where it remained throughout practically the whole period of the Judges. In the days of Eli and Samuel, when Eli’s reprobate sons were actually committing adultery in the temple itself (Yes, there were buildings there also), God permitted the Philistines to ravage and destroy the place and capture the ark of the covenant itself. (See Joshua 18 :l; 22:12; Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 4:1-11).

The Bible has no description of the destruction of Shiloh; but archaeological discoveries during this century (1929) have concluded that it did indeed take place, "After the Battle of Ebenezer by the Philistines about 1050 B.C." Since, after its destruction, "Shiloh was not rebuilt until about 300 B.C.," the ruins of the place were surely evident in Jeremiah’s day witnessing the destruction that took place about a half millennium earlier.

Albright, Thompson, and Unger all make mention of the excavations that have disclosed the destruction of Shiloh. This destruction of Shiloh, where once God’s name was recorded, proved the wretched error of the people in their foolish faith that God was irrevocably committed to the preservation of any place regardless of the moral state of the Chosen People.

"There not only existed the ancient tabernacle at Shiloh, but also substantial buildings as proved by excavations, so it is called ’the temple of Jehovah’ (1 Samuel 1:9)." Evidently, therefore, the Philistines who destroyed Shiloh did not consider the tabernacle valuable enough to be carried away, for it still existed in the days of David, who, when he contemplated building the temple, said, "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth in curtains" (2 Samuel 7:2).

The terrible lesson from Shiloh applies to all generations. No church, however careful to observe the outward forms of holy religion, can be acceptable to God unless the moral character of the people corresponds to their holy profession. No mere formal observances of worship and devotion can take the place of true repentance and sincere worship of God.

A Forceful Threat Jeremiah 7:12-15

If the people of Judah had been more aware of their history they would have been more correct in their theology. In Jeremiah 7:12 Jeremiah attacks the popular false confidence in the Temple by pointing to another sacred sanctuary which had been destroyed. When the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan under Joshua they erected the Tabernacle at Shiloh north of Bethel. Shiloh remained the center of worship for over three hundred years. The old tent which had been transported through the wilderness wanderings was eventually replaced by or perhaps encased in some type of permanent structure which is called a “house” (Judges 18:31; Judges 19:18) or “temple” (1 Samuel 1:9). The historical books of the Old Testament do not specifically mention the destruction of Shiloh. The place was probably captured and destroyed by the Philistine after the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1 ff.) in the days of the judgeship of Eli. On the basis of their excavations archaeologists have dated the destruction at about 1070 B.C. If God not only permitted but even instigated the destruction of the shrine at Shiloh it is sheer folly to think that in the present instance He is under some solemn obligation to preserve Jerusalem.

In spite of the fact that God had earnestly and persistently called the people to repentance, they had not responded to the appeal (Jeremiah 7:13). To emphasize the zeal of the Lord in speaking to His people Jeremiah uses the idiom “rising early and speaking.” It is an expression peculiar to Jeremiah and means that the appeals were oft repeated and eager. In view of this rebuff and rejection God will destroy the Temple in Jerusalem just as he destroyed Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:15). Jeremiah does not deny that the Temple is God’s house; nor does he deny that the Temple had been given to the people of God as a place of worship. But he emphatically denies the conclusion to which the men of Judah had jumped viz., that God would never allow the Temple to be destroyed. History had proved that God was no respecter of sanctuaries. In more recent history Jeremiah finds another analogy. Just as God had cast forth into exile the seed of Ephraim, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, so now He will cast forth the inhabitants of Judah (Jeremiah 7:15). See Isaiah 7:2; Hoses Jeremiah 4:17; Jeremiah 5:1-9 Jeremiah 12:1. The land of Israel belonged to the Lord (Hosea 9:3; Leviticus 25:23) and here the divine Landlord is issuing an eviction notice to His tenants.

Verses 16-20

Jer 7:16-20

Jeremiah 7:16-20

Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? saith Jehovah; [do they] not [provoke] themselves, to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, mine anger and my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.

The repeated prohibition of Jeremiah’s praying any more for Judah is also repeated again in Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11 ff; and from these repetitions, Ash concluded that. "In spite of their iniquity, Jeremiah had been praying for the people." As many a heartbroken parent has discovered, it is nearly impossible to stop praying for a wayward son or daughter, no matter how wicked they might have become.

The meaning of this is simply that, "Persistent idolatry of Judah could only bring upon her as a consequence the curses of the covenant; and that time had now arrived."

To make cakes to the queen of heaven...

(Jeremiah 7:17-18). This pagan goddess originally was worshipped in Canaan.

"The Phoenicians, called the moon Ashtoreth or Astarte, the wife of Baal or Moloch, the king of heaven. This male and female pair of deities symbolized the generative powers of nature; and, from this, came the introduction of so-called sacred prostitution into their worship."

It is impossible, nor is it necessary, to describe the shameful, licentious worship which characterized the idolatry associated with the queen of heaven. Stephen’s mention of Israel’s worshipping "the host of heaven" (Acts 7:42) is a reference to this very goddess, who was also said to be represented by the planet Venus. She was also identified as Ishtar (in Babylon) and the moon-goddess. The attractiveness of this idolatry to Israel was due primarily to the gratification of the lust of the flesh which it abundantly supplied.

Do they provoke me to anger...

(Jeremiah 7:19)? God’s answer is, No, they were only provoking themselves. So it still is. Men fancy that they are breaking God’s commandments; but in reality, they are only breaking themselves! As Dummelow stated it, Their sin did not provoke God to a mere helpless anger, but to a wrath that was quick to punish and destroy them. F20

PAGAN WORSHIP Jeremiah 7:16-20

The worship in Jerusalem was so corrupt that God instructs Jeremiah to cease interceding for the apostates (Jeremiah 7:16). The depravity of the nation is further described (Jeremiah 7:17-19) and again the prophet announces that judgment will be poured out on the nation (Jeremiah 7:20).

A prophet not only represented God to the people, he also represented the people before God through intercessory prayer. Abraham prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-32); Moses prayed for Israel (Exodus 32:11-14; Exodus 17:11; Numbers 14:13-20) as did Samuel (1 Samuel 7:9-10; 1 Samuel 12:17-18; 1 Samuel 12:23). Jeremiah here is told that conditions in Judah were so bad that such prayer was useless. Still Jeremiah prayed and one of his great intercessory prayers is recorded in Jeremiah 14:19-22.

Four words for prayer are used in Jeremiah 7:16. The first Hebrew word, translated “pray,” means to intercede on behalf of someone. God told Abimelech that Abraham would pray for him (Genesis 20:7). In Numbers 21:7 the people ask Moses to intercede on their behalf. Moses interceded on behalf of Aaron (Deuteronomy 9:20). Samuel assured the people that he would not cease to intercede on their behalf (1 Samuel 12:23). The second Hebrew word carries the idea of entreaty or supplication. It is sometimes used of a ringing cry of praise to the Lord. In the present context the word would convey the idea of a loud, vehement prayer. See Psalms 17:1; Psalms 88:2; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:12. The third word, translated “supplication,” is often used synonymously with the preceding word. The fourth word, translated “plead,” literally means “to meet, or encounter with request or entreaty.” Ruth said to Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave you” (Ruth 1:16). Abraham asked the children of Heth to intercede for him with Ephron that he might sell a cave (Genesis 23:8).

Jeremiah 7:17-19 indicate the reason why intercessory prayer on the part of the prophet would be useless. In view of the open and flagrant practice of idolatry in the cities of Judah the prohibition of intercession is justified (Jeremiah 7:17). The entire population is engaged in the service of the false gods. The children gather the wood for the cooking fires; the men kindle the fire and the women bake some kind of sacrificial cakes. The queen of heaven in whose honor all this frenzied activity takes place is probably to be identified with the pagan goddess Astarte or Ashtoreth. This goddess was the Canaanite version of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, the planet Venus. Statuettes of Astarte have been found all over Palestine indicating how wide spread her cult was. The exact nature of the cakes which were baked is unknown as the word used here is found elsewhere only in Jeremiah 44:19. Apparently they were made in the likeness of the goddess Astarte or in the shape of a star which was her symbol. With these pastries liquid refreshment was also served. An ivory carving dating to the eighth century B.C. suggests that the whole ceremony was performed to accompaniment of music played entirely by women.

Jeremiah viewed such open idolatry as deliberate provocation of the Lord. To him it was inconceivable that men could really believe that an object of wood or stone was a god. The only plausible explanation of idolatry was that the people were attempting in some way to hurt God, to provoke Him (Jeremiah 7:18). “Provoke,” one of the Characteristic Words of Jeremiah, is used here for the first time. Though they knew that their idolatry would eventually call forth the wrath of God, they continued to engage in the practice. Like a youngster who engages in all manner of lawlessness in order to show hostility towards his parents, they were really hurting no one but themselves (Jeremiah 7:19). God’s burning wrath is about to be poured forth upon Judah and no one will be able to extinguish it. The cattle, trees and crops will be consumed as well as the wicked apostates of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:20). scripture emphasizes over and over again that all creation suffers because of the sin of mankind (cf. Isaiah 24:4); Hosea 4:3).

Verses 21-28

Jer 7:21-28

PRIORITIES IN WORSHIP Jeremiah 7:21-28

As Jeremiah looks at the current religious observances he sees only perfunctory compliance with outward ritual (Jeremiah 7:21). He reminds his listeners that there are obligations which take priority over such outward acts (Jeremiah 7:22-23). He then points out that through the centuries the people of Israel had been obstinate in their disobedience (Jeremiah 7:24-28).

Jeremiah 7:21-26

Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat ye flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices: but this thing I commanded them, saying, Hearken unto my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in [their own] counsels [and] in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff: they did worse than their fathers.

Add your burnt-offerings to your sacrifices, and eat flesh...

(Jeremiah 7:21). "These words express God’s indignation at the sacrifices of those who were so wicked and alienated from God. God had so little pleasure in their sacrifices, that they might as well eat of the very burnt-offerings themselves." Of course, the Law of Moses had forbidden the worshipper to eat of the burnt-offerings which were to be burned upon the altar; but God placed so little value upon their insincere and hypocritical sacrifices, that he here said, "Why don’t you just go ahead and eat the burnt-offerings also; they are doing you no good anyway!"

We reject all of the critical assertions that God here was declaring that the commanded sacrifices were not necessary, or that it was God’s will to be worshipped with genuine purity of life instead of through offering any kind of sacrifices. What God truly desires is both (1) purity of life and (2) the offering of the sacrifices which he commanded. The effort to eliminate either originates with Satan. "The idea here is that there is no sanctity in offerings brought by unrepentant men."

This thing I commanded them...

(Jeremiah 7:23). The thing stressed here is that hearkening unto God, and obeying his commands, were the very first things God commanded to Israel when he undertook to adopt them as his people. This was required even before the institution of the forms and sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant, and were therefore more important even than the sacrifices; but both were required. Israel’s great failure was that of substituting the lesser of two commandments instead of the greater.

Prior Obligations Jeremiah 7:21-23

By means of a sarcastic imperative Jeremiah urges the men of Judah to increase their already numerous sacrificial offerings. Normally the burnt offerings were wholly consumed on the altar while in other sacrifices (e.g., the peace offering) parts of the animal were eaten by the priests and by those who made the offering. In view of the attitude and actions of the worshipers of Judah their burnt offerings were merely meat and nothing more. They might as well eat the meat of those burnt offerings and thereby derive some benefit from them. The offerings certainly had no religious value (Jeremiah 7:21). Contrary to the popular theology of the day the sacrificial ritual was not the heart and core of their covenant obligations to God.

Jeremiah 7:22 has played an important role in the debate which has raged over the origin of the sacrificial system in ancient Israel. In the Pentateuch sacrifice is instituted by Moses in compliance with the instructions given by God to him in the mount. According to the modern critical view of the Old Testament the so-called priestly legislation of the Pentateuch is a product of the postexilic age, a thousand years after Moses. Jeremiah 7:22 seems on the surface to support the critical contention that Moses did not have anything to do with the sacrificial ritual. The verse seems to deny that the Lord gave any instructions concerning sacrifice at Mt. Sinai. In interpreting this verse several points need be kept in mind:

1. Elsewhere in his book Jeremiah seems to recognize the importance of the sacrificial system. He promises in Jeremiah 17:26 that if the people of Judah will hallow the sabbath then God will continue to permit them to come to Jerusalem “bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meal offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord.” As he looks beyond the destruction of Judah to the Israel of the future he sees the priests more than satisfied with the meat from the abundant sacrificial offerings (Jeremiah 31:14). He specifically predicts that once the captivity is over the men of Judah will “bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 33:11). It is true that these verses say nothing of the origin of the sacrificial system; but they do seem to imply that the Lord and his prophet regard that system with favor. To these passages may be added Jeremiah 33:17-24 which speaks of the covenant with the priests, i.e., that portion of the covenant of Sinai which included the duties and regulations of the priesthood as regards sacrifices.

2. Jeremiah seems to have supported the reforms of king Josiah which included the observance of the Passover ritual (2 Chronicles 35:1-9).

3. Jeremiah was never charged by his priestly and prophetic enemies with opposing the Temple ritual as such.

4. As early as the days of Samuel the principle had been laid down that sacrifice without obedience to God is worthless (1 Samuel 15:22).

5. Context makes it clear that Jeremiah is drawing a contrast between sacrificial ritual and the moral laws of the Decalogue (Jeremiah 7:9). It is of course true that there is no mention of sacrifice among the Ten Commandments.

6. Perhaps the emphasis in the verse is upon the phrase “your fathers.” Those courageous men who by faith had gone out from Egypt were no relation to the present generation of apostates. The verse then would not be denying that commandments concerning sacrifice were given at Mt. Sinai but rather would be denying that such commandments were given to the spiritual progenitors of the present generation.

7. Strictly speaking individuals were not commanded to bring sacrifices in the law of Moses. Burnt offerings and peace offerings were optional (cf. Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 3:1); sin offerings and guilt offerings were only required when transgression had to be expiated.

8. The expression translated “concerning” is actually a somewhat peculiar Hebrew expression occurring only six times in the Old Testament. See Deuteronomy 4:21; 2 Samuel 18:5; 2 Kings 22:13; Psalms 7:1; Jeremiah 7:22; Jeremiah 14:21. When one checks these passages carefully it becomes clear that the expression really means “out of concern for” or “in the interest of,” or “for the sake of.” If this be the case, Jeremiah 7:22 is not denying the existence of Mosaic legislation concerning sacrifice. God is simply saying, “When your fathers came out of Egypt I did not give legislation in the interest of or for the sake of sacrifices.” The verse would then by denying that sacrifice was the chief goal or purpose of God in the Mosaic system.

9. Another possibility is that the denial of Jeremiah 7:22 is not absolute. God did not command their fathers to sacrifice, i.e., to sacrifice as they were currently doing—mere outward form divorced from the practice of piety.

When all of these factors are taken into account Jeremiah 7:22 falls into proper perspective. Jeremiah is not repudiating the Mosaic origin of the sacrificial system; rather he is simply denying that sacrifice is the essence of the Old Testament religion. The fundamental requirement of the Sinai covenant was that of obedience. The people of Israel had to hearken to the divine voice and walk in the divine way if they were to maintain their special relationship to the living God. They must yield to the demands of the Almighty if they would receive His blessing (Jeremiah 7:23). The phrase “that it might be well with you” is characteristic of Jeremiah. Cf. Jeremiah 42:6; Jeremiah 38:20; Jeremiah 40:9. The phrase is also frequent in the book of DeuteronomyThe obedience which God demands is for the ultimate benefit of man.

They hearkened not. but walked in their own counsels ... and went backward and not forward .....

(Jeremiah 7:24). This rebellion had begun almost simultaneously with the crossing of the Red Sea, and also after Sinai. Such behavior after Sinai was incredible! It stresses the prolonged rebellion of Israel, the infinite patience and longsuffering of God, and showing that disobedience was as old as the Exodus itself.

Jeremiah 7:27-28

And thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee. And thou shalt say unto them, This is the nation that hath not hearkened to the voice of Jehovah their God, nor received instruction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.

The Jews believed in salvation "by faith only"; but as Feinberg stated it, "That faith must be joined by works was lost to them; so the time of Jeremiah was a sad epilogue in Judah’s history." God’s warning in these verses alerted Jeremiah to the truth that he would not have any success whatever in turning Israel into the path of righteousness.

Persistent Obstinacy Jeremiah 7:24-28

The people of Israel had a record of obstinacy. They had no desire to listen to the commandments of God. They followed instead the inclinations of their own evil hearts. In relationship to God they had gone backward and not forward (Jeremiah 7:24). In other words they had turned their back to God and not their faces. Religious experimentation always masquerades as progressive development. In the view of Jeremiah, to depart from the old paths of truth and fidelity was retrogressive.

From the days of the Exodus from Egypt God had continually and earnestly communicated with His people through prophets (Jeremiah 7:25). But the people paid no heed to these servants of the Lord. Rather than inclining their ears in the direction of these messengers of God they made their necks hard. Each generation seemed to become more sinful than the preceding one (Jeremiah 7:26). The people will not listen to Jeremiah any more than they listened to his predecessors in the prophetic ministry (Jeremiah 7:27). All he can do is publicly accuse them of obstinacy: “This is the nation which will not hearken to the voice of the Lord their God nor accept correction.” No other nation had been so blessed, so honored, so trained and guided. Yet this is the nation which refuses to heed the word of God. Faith or truth has vanished from their prayers and from their praise (Jeremiah 7:28).

Verses 29-31

Jer 7:29-31

Jeremiah 7:29

Cut off thy hair, [O Jerusalem], and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the bare heights; for Jehovah hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.

Jerusalem is commanded here to go into mourning for herself. When a Nazarite was defiled by touching a corpse, he was required to cut off his hair and to re-consecrate himself; and thus the figure here is that Jerusalem is defiled, God finds no excuse for her; he announces his rejection and forsaking of the Once Chosen race.

God did not execute such a terrible sentence upon Judah without grave and sufficient reasons; some of which were just cited in the matter of their worship of the queen of heaven; but there were additional reasons also.

Jeremiah 7:30-31

For the children of Judah have done that which is evil in my sight, saith Jehovah: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into my mind.

In the New Testament, the word Gehenna, a synonym for "hell" is derived from the "valley of the son of Hinnom," that infamous ravine south of Jerusalem where the brazen statue of Molech was situated, and which was the scene of Judah’s child-sacrifices to that pagan deity. Josiah had defiled it; but apparently Jehoiachim had rededicated it; and, as Feinberg stated it, "This passage reveals that their children were actually burned."

Which I commanded not...

(Jeremiah 7:31). Of course, God disclaimed any such thing as the sacrifice of children as having any connection whatever with what he had ordained. Let it be noted here that going beyond what God has commanded for his worship proved a great disaster for Judah; and we do not believe that modern Protestantism in going beyond what God has commanded in such things as the worship of God with man-made instruments of music can possibly be pleasing to God. (See Revelation 22:18; Acts 17:25; and 2 John 1:9).

The have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name...

(Jeremiah 7:30). 2 Kings 21:5 records the acts of Manasseh in this desecration; but it leaves us wondering if the vulgar immorality of the pagan worship was actually perpetrated in the temple itself in connection with the pagan deities thus installed. The strong inference would appear to favor the actual practice of licentiousness in the temple itself.

"Thus Israel revealed her deep degradation by introducing into the house of her God such unspeakable practices as ritual prostitution and other fertility rites."

The horrible practices just mentioned, along with the incredible sacrifices of their sons and daughters to Molech, shouted to high heaven for the vengeance of God against such practices. Matthew Henry commented that Judah, "Burned their children alive, killed them, killed them in the most cruel manner imaginable, to honor and appease those idols that were devils and not gods."

IV. POLLUTED WORSHIP Jeremiah 7:29 to Jeremiah 8:3

Again Jeremiah takes up the subject of paganized worship. He speaks of the present defilement of the population of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:29), of the Temple (Jeremiah 7:30) and of the land of Judah (Jeremiah 7:31). Then Jeremiah describes the destruction which will come as a result of the polluted worship: defilement of the sanctuaries (Jeremiah 7:32-33), desolation of the land (Jeremiah 7:34) and desecration of the dead (Jeremiah 8:1-3).

The Present Defilement Jeremiah 7:29-31

In Jeremiah 7:29 Jeremiah resorts to one of his most devastating oratorical devices, the sarcastic imperative. He urges the daughter of Jerusalem to shave off her long hair as a sign of mourning and take up a lamentation. The Hebrew word usually refers. to the long hair of a Nazarite. But here the word seems to have lost Its primary meaning land refers to the long, unshorn hair of a woman.The present generation has been rejected and forsaken by God. In ancient times the divorce of a woman was a very sad affair since the former wife was left destitute. For her innumerable acts of spiritual adultery the daughter of Zion has been divorced by God. She should realize her plight and lament it. This is the generation which will experience the wrath of the living God (Jeremiah 7:29).

Denial of apostasy was impossible for it was open and flagrant. The abominations of heathendom, the cult objects used in pagan cults, had been set up in the Temple of the Lord. Manasseh built altars for all the hosts of heaven in the two courts of the Temple. He even went so far as to set an image of the Canaanite goddess Asherah in the Temple (2 Kings 21:5-7). This was the height of insolence, the crowning act of apostasy. The Temple of the Lord was defiled by the presence of these pagan images and cult objects (Jeremiah 7:30). Furthermore they had built special high places in the valley of the son of Hinnom where human sacrifice was openly practiced. Since the days of Joshua this valley near Jerusalem had been known as the valley of the son of Hinnom. See Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16 The meaning and etymology of the word Topheth are uncertain. It seems to be akin to a word meaning fireplace. Most likely the Topheth was the pit in which human victims were burned. Cf. Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20-21; 2 Kings 23:10. Such human sacrifices were to the god Moloch who sometimes generically is called Baal (Jeremiah 19:5). God had never commanded the wretched practice of offering children as burnt offerings and never did He condone it (Jeremiah 7:31).

Verses 32-34

Jer 7:32-34

Jeremiah 7:32-34

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that it shall no more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of Slaughter: for they shall bury in Topheth, till there be no place [to bury]. And the dead bodies of this people shall be food for the birds of the heavens, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall frighten them away. Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land shall become a waste.

The horrible slaughter in the valley of Hinnom doubtless took place when Jerusalem fell to Babylon. "Where once the people had butchered their children, they themselves would be butchered and exposed to the birds of prey, left unburied and exposed."

There are overtones here that suggest the cataclysmic Judgment of the Last Day that shall terminate the probation of Adam’s race (Revelation 18:23-24).

The polluted worship of the people of Judah will be punished in a most decisive way. A disaster will befall Judah in which so many people will be slain or die that even the pagan shrines will be converted to cemeteries. The valley of the son of Hinnom will be renamed the valley of slaughter because of the vast numbers that will be buried there (Jeremiah 7:32). The very spot where they had tried to court the favor of a pagan deity by offering their own children as burnt offerings will become a permanent monument to the folly of idolatry. But even this huge valley will not provide enough room for burial places for all the slain. Many corpses will be left unburied. The birds and beasts of prey will come and feast upon the decaying flesh and no one will be left to drive them away (Jeremiah 7:33). Jeremiah 7:33 echoes the threat of Deuteronomy 28:26. In antiquity the lack of proper burial was the worst indignity which could befall a man. The thought of a corpse exposed to the elements of nature horrified the ancient Hebrews.

The cities of Judah met the same fate as Topheth. All the normal sounds of joy and mirth will be removed. The entire land becomes a desolation (Jeremiah 7:34). The word translated “desolation” is used only of places which, having once been inhabited, have fallen into ruin. It is a gloomy picture indeed which the prophet paints of the future destruction.

Not only will the enemies of Judah leave the dead unburied (Jeremiah 7:33) they will also violate the graves of those who had been interred. In search of valuables the Babylonians will ransack the sepulchers of the leading citizens of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:1) and scatter their bones across the face of the ground. All the hosts of the heavens which the men of Judah had worshiped in life will helplessly look down upon this act of desecration (Jeremiah 7:2). The Biblical account of the fall of Jerusalem does not record the fulfillment of this particular prediction; but there can scarcely be any doubt that the ruthless Babylonians acted in the manner here described. The apocryphal book of Baruch (Jeremiah 2:24 f.) does allude to acts of desecration at the fall of Jerusalem.

For those who escape the destruction of Jerusalem and go into exile life will be so miserable that they will wish they were dead (Jeremiah 7:3). Practically nothing is known about the Jews who scattered into the neighboring countries of Syria-Palestine during the war with Babylon. Something of the despair of the Jewish exiles in Babylon shortly after 587 B.C. can be seen in Psalms 137. Time, of course, softened the utter despair of the exiles. The deportation to Babylon was for them a tremendous religious shock. They were forced to rethink their whole theology. As the exiles changed their mind and their heart in respect to God their lot improved. They adjusted to their surroundings and many of them actually prospered in exile. Jeremiah 7:3 must be describing the initial reaction of those who were carried away captive. Laetsch views Jeremiah 7:3 as a conditional threat which was unfulfilled because of the repentance of the exiles.

False Religion Worthless - Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3

Open It

1. What circumstances tend to lull people into complacency?

2. When can you say that who you are (your race, nationality, family, etc.) or who you know (influential friends) have helped you get ahead?

Explore It

3. In what specific place did God tell Jeremiah to deliver his prophecy? (Jeremiah 7:1-2)

4. What did the people need to do in order to continue to live in their land in peace? (Jeremiah 7:2-3)

5. What had the people been taking for granted as a sign of their permanent standing with God? (Jeremiah 7:4)

6. What specific changes was God looking for in the behavior of the people of Israel? (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

7. How was Israel demonstrating double-mindedness in relation to God? (Jeremiah 7:9-10)

8. What did God say about the attitude the people had developed toward the temple? (Jeremiah 7:11)

9. How did the former worship place at Shiloh provide an example for Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day? (Jeremiah 7:12-15)

10. Why did God tell Jeremiah not even to pray for the people? (Jeremiah 7:16-18)

11. Who suffered the greatest harm from the evil deeds of Israel? (Jeremiah 7:19)

12. How long had God been trying to communicate that He was more interested in the attitude of the heart than in empty actions? (Jeremiah 7:21-26)

13. By what symbolic action was Jeremiah to demonstrate God’s rejection of the people? (Jeremiah 7:28-29)

14. What was going on at Topheth that was detestable to God? (Jeremiah 7:30-31)

15. What event did Jeremiah predict for Topheth in the future? (Jeremiah 7:32-34)

16. What horrible things did Jeremiah say would happen under the "sun and the moon and all the stars of heaven" which the people had made into gods? (Jeremiah 8:1-2)

17. What curse would all the survivors of the invasion have in common? (Jeremiah 8:3)

Get It

18. Why was the gate of the temple a particularly appropriate place for Jeremiah to speak what God had revealed to him?

19. What ways do we have of changing outwardly but not inwardly?

20. What messages in the church and the world around us might lull us into a false sense of security with respect to a righteous God?

21. Who gets hurt the most when we turn away from God?

22. Why can there be no exemptions from God’s righteous standards?

23. Why would it be difficult to deliver a message you had been warned in advance would be poorly received?

24. How do modern day people "look to the sun, moon and stars"?

25. How do you think God views our modern fascination with astrology?

26. How can a place become detestable to God?

Apply It

27. How can you explain the problem with astrology to someone who consults horoscopes?

28. How could you strengthen your resolve this coming week to share God’s Word when you need to, regardless of how it may be received?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Seven

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is the warning in Jeremiah 7:1-4?

What did the people think about the temple?

What do we learn from this?

2 What does God promise (Jeremiah 7:5-7)? What do we learn?

3 What is God’s message in Jeremiah 7:8-15? Where is verse 11 quoted in the New Testament and what was its meaning?

4 What does God tell Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:16-20)? What do we learn from this? What New Testament passage teach similarly?

5 What is repeatedly said about this people in Jeremiah 7:21-29? What did God tell them? What is the warning of verse 24 that our culture needs to hear today?

6 What sins are the people condemned for committing in Jeremiah 7:30-34?

7 What principle does God declare in Jeremiah 7:31?

TRANSFORMATION:

How does this relationship change your relationship with God? What did you learn about him? What will

you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 7". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-7.html.
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