Jeremiah's Fifth Prophecy (or Group of Prophecies). Address at the Temple Gate (Reign of Josiah or Beginning of that of Jehoiakim)
The prophet takes advantage of a solemn gathering of the people at Jerusalem to stand at one of the Temple gates as they pass in, and warns them against their superstitious confidence that the possession of the Temple was itself a charm against danger from without. As immorality had already brought about the overthrow of an older sanctuary (Shiloh) as well as of the Ten Tribes, so shall it be with them. Punishment for the wickedness of leaders and people can only be averted by a speedy amendment of life.
It is possible that these chapters may be an expanded account of the prophecy closely resembling them, which is recorded in Jeremiah 26 as spoken at the commencement of Jehoiakim's reign. But it is more likely that the two occasions are distinct.
1-20. Ceremonies and sacred places shall be no defence.
4. God, said the false prophets, will never allow His Temple to be overthrown: cp. Micah 3:11.
The temple, etc.] The threefold repetition suggests 'the energy of iteration that only belongs to Eastern fanatics' (Stanley, 'Jewish Church,' ii, 438).
5-7. Their tenure of the Temple is conditional on obedience to the covenant made by God with their fathers.
10. We are delivered] By the discharge of this formality we are set free for a return to wickedness.
11. Den of robbers] a place of retreat in the intervals between acts of violence: see Matthew 21:13 and parallel passages.
12. Shiloh] a town of Ephraim, in a central position, chosen by Joshua as the restingplace of the ark and for the Tabernacle. It was a considerable place in the time of the Judges (Judges 21:19, Judges 21:21). Its fall into idolatry was followed by loss of the ark (1 Samuel 4) and subsequent captare and cruel treatment (Psalms 78:58.) Thenceforward it became insignificant, so that Jeroboam, when setting up calves for his rival worship, passed it by.
15. Ephraim] meaning, as often (e.g. Isaiah 7:2), the ten northern tribes in captivity for nearly a century.
16. So in Jeremiah 14:7, when Jeremiah does intercede for them, the prayer is rejected.
18. Queen of heaven] identified either with the moon or with the Assyrian Ishtar, the planet Venus. The Jewish women were specially given to that worship, offering incense and cakes stamped with a representation of the goddess: cp. Jeremiah 44:17.
19. Do they provoke me] Their sin does not provoke God to a mere helpless anger, but to a wrath that is quick to punish and destroy them.
21-28. The moral law has always taken precedence of the ceremonial.
21. Put your burnt offerings, etc.] Multiply your victims ad libitum. It will avail you nought.
22, 23. This need not be more than a forcible oratorical expression, not meaning that no ceremonial laws were given to Israel when brought out of Egypt, but that in the promulgation of the Ten Commandments on Sinai there was no direction concerning sacrifice. These were the only precepts which had the honour of being treasured up in the ark. Thus from the first they were shown to hold the chief place: cp. Isaiah 1:11-14. 'The law of obedience was the earliest law of all (Genesis 2:16.), and the most important; that of sacrifice was of secondary importance' (Deane).
24. Imagination] see on Isaiah 3:17;
27. Jeremiah need not therefore expect that his words will be heeded.
29-34. Where they sinned there shall they be punished.
29. Cut off thine hair] in token of mourning, or as a Nazirite shaved his head after immediate contact with a dead body (Numbers 6:9) to mark defilement. The hair was the mark of consecration of the High Priest (Exodus 29:6) and of the Nazirite (Numbers 6:5). Here it is the mark of Jerusalem as chief city of a consecrated people.
31. Valley of Hinnom] on the W. and S. sides of the city, Tophet being near the E. extremity of the S. reach. The valley had an evil name, (a) as the place of human sacrifices; (b) as defiled by Josiah; (c) as the receptacle of the offal and filth of the city. Hence it afterwards became with the Jewish Rabbis the visible emblem of the place of future punishment, Gehenna: cp. Matthew 5:22. To burn, etc.] in honour of Moloch, often identified with Baal, the sun-god (see on Genesis 22; 2 Kings 16:3).
32. Till there be no place] rather, 'for want of room's (elsewhere). The carnage of war shall extend far beyond the valley.
Some think that the immediate result of this discourse was the trial of the prophet, as recorded in Jeremiah 26:24, when the mob rose against him and he was saved with difficulty.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 7". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany