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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
Jeremiah 8

 

 

Verse 16

No hope for an idolatrous people (7:16-8:3)

God now tells Jeremiah that it is useless for him to persist in praying for the safety of the Judeans. They have so given themselves to idolatrous practices that nothing can save them from God's judgment. Throughout the cities and towns of Judah people worship foreign gods, but in the process they harm themselves (16-19). The harm will be much greater when God's judgment falls on them (20).

While openly worshipping heathen gods, the people also offer sacrifices to Yahweh. The offering of sacrifices was part of the religious system God gave to Israel through Moses, but the first thing God demanded of his people was always obedience (21-23). Israel's history shows that sacrifices will never save a stubborn and disobedient people from punishment (24-26).

Most of the people will ignore the prophet's warnings, but he must persist in announcing God's message (27-28). Jeremiah tells the people to shave off their hair as a sign of mourning for the death that is soon to overtake their nation (29). They have brought idolatrous practices into God's temple, and just outside Jerusalem they have established a site for the heathen practice of sacrificing children to the god Molech (30-31). But the place where they have slaughtered their children will become a dump for their own corpses. There they will rot in the sun and be eaten by foul birds (32-34; cf. 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10).

Not satisfied with butchering the helpless people, the invaders will do all they can to heap disgrace upon Judah. They will even drag out the bones of the nation's honoured dead from their tombs and scatter them like garbage on the ground. But such disgrace is preferable to the horror that will be experienced by people who live through those days (8:1-3).

Tophet and the Valley of Hinnom

The place where the Judeans offered their children as burnt sacrifices was the Valley of Ben Hinnom, on the southern side of the city. The valley got its name from the son of Hinnom (the Hebrew ben meaning 'son') who at one time probably owned the land that stretched along the valley. The name Tophet seems to have meant 'place of burning' and was used originally in relation to the place in the Valley of Hinnom where people burnt their children as sacrifices. This was also the place where people from Jerusalem dumped broken pottery (see 19:1-2). In time it became a public garbage dump and fires burnt there continually.

When transliterated from Hebrew to Greek, 'Valley of Hinnom' (Hebrew: ge-hinnom) becomes gehenna. This was the word that Jesus used for the place of final punishment of the wicked, and is commonly translated 'hell' (Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:33). The Valley of Hinnom was associated with judgment and burning (see 7:31-32; 19:4-7), and therefore gehenna became a fitting word to denote the place or state of eternal punishment (Mark 9:43-48; cf Matthew 18:8-9; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 20:15).


Verses 4-17

Sin and its punishment (8:4-17)

It is natural for a person who falls to pick himself up again, but the people of Jerusalem who have fallen spiritually make no attempt to return to God (4-6). It is natural for a bird to obey the laws of instinct and know the time to migrate, but the people of Jerusalem do not know the laws of God or when to return to him (7).

The teachers of the law, the wisdom teachers, the priests and the prophets have all led the people astray. Instead of denouncing wrongdoing, they have told the people there is nothing to fear. They work solely for the benefits they hope to receive for themselves, but their gains will all be lost (8-11). Their behaviour is shameful, though they themselves feel no shame. They are supposed to be servants of God, but they are as useless as fruit trees that bear no fruit (12-13).

When the enemy invades, the people will realize that this is God's judgment on them because of their sin, but it will then be too late. There will be no safety for them, not even inside the walled cities. They have deceived themselves and now they must bear the consequences (14-15). The prophet sees them shaking with fear as the enemy armies descend on them from the north (16-17).


Verses 18-22

Mourning for Judah (8:18-9:22)

The prophet is overcome with grief as he foresees the tragic end of the nation. The people wonder why God their King does not save them. God replies that it is because of their idolatry. They now realize that they can no longer expect his salvation (18-20). Nothing can heal Judah's spiritual sickness now; the end has come. And nothing can heal the wounds of grief in Jeremiah's heart as he sees his people suffer (21-22).

Jeremiah is unable to express the extent of his grief. He feels he could weep for ever (9:1). On the other hand, he knows that the judgment is fitting. As he returns to consider the sinful city in which he lives, he wishes he could leave it and go to some quiet resting-place in the country (2).

Since Judah's society is characterized by lies and deceit (3-6), God warns that it is heading for a fiery judgment (7-9). The prophet foresees the desolation in Judah, with its cities ruined, its pasture lands destroyed, and its people either killed or taken captive to a foreign land (10-11).

If anyone asks why the land has been desolated (12), the answer is that the people have turned away from Yahweh and followed heathen gods. They have turned away from the law of God and followed their own stubborn hearts (13-16). In their distress and sorrow the people invite the professional mourners to come and wail over the dead city (17-19). This time, however, the mourning is real. Rich and poor, young and old die alike. Their corpses lie unburied in the streets and fields (20-22).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Jeremiah 8:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/jeremiah-8.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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