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When the invasion from the north came (cf. Jeremiah 7:32-34), the Lord declared, the enemy soldiers would dig up the bodies of kings, princes, priests, prophets, and ordinary citizens (cf. Amos 2:1). Thus they would add insult to injury. The ancients believed that the spirits of unburied people would have no rest in the netherworld. [Note: Graybill, pp. 665-66.] Some of the reason for exhuming these corpses may have been to plunder the graves of the dead, a practice that was common in the ancient Near East. [Note: Feinberg, p. 434.]
"Even in modern times, the opening up of graves and the throwing about of the bones of the departed is practiced as a mark of extreme contempt. In recent wars in the Middle East such desecrations and insult were perpetrated." [Note: Thompson, p. 295, n. 2.]
Astral worship 8:1-3
"The sermon ends (if these verses, still in prose, should be taken with ch. 7) on a note which takes away the last shreds of comfort for those whose hopes or memories are bound up with Jerusalem." [Note: Kidner, p. 51.]
The enemy soldiers would expose these bones to the sun, moon, and stars, which the Judahites had loved, served, followed, consulted, and worshipped.
". . . as if in fulfillment of the desires of the dead, their bones are laid out upon the earth, exposed to the very astral ’powers’ whom once the dead had worshiped. And in the humiliation of the dead, their former heavenly masters were uncaring, complacently shining in the heavens, unconcerned about human fate on the face of the earth. Although in life the citizens of Judah had served these astral deities, offering them affection, soliciting their advice and counsel (much as their modern counterparts might read an astrological chart), in human death the futility of their actions was at last made plain." [Note: Craigie, p. 127.]
Worship of astral deities was popular in the days of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 23:4) and later revived after Josiah’s reforms (Ezekiel 8:16). The land would resemble a boneyard, because there would be few, if any, survivors from Judah to gather up the bones for burial (cf. ch. 37). Human bones would serve as fertilizer for the land instead of animal bones, which were often used for this purpose (cf. Jeremiah 16:4).
The scattered remnant who survived the invasion would consider death a more desirable alternative than life as displaced persons. They would feel this way because the portion of the living would be more miserable than that of the dead (cf. Leviticus 26:36-39; Deuteronomy 28:65-67; 2 Kings 25:5-7; Psalms 137; Revelation 9:6).
Some scholars believe that Jeremiah delivered this entire collection of speeches (Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3) at the temple (cf. Jeremiah 7:1-2). That may or may not be true. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to trace the origin of many of Jeremiah’s undated prophecies, when and where he gave them originally. [Note: For a chart of his dated material, see Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 302]
The Lord commanded Jeremiah to ask the people if it was not normal for people to repent after sinning. After all, when someone falls down, the natural thing is to get up. When one gets lost, he tries to get back on the right way as soon as possible.
Blind complacency 8:4-12
Incorrigible Judah 8:4-10:25
The twin themes of Judah’s stubborn rebellion and her inevitable doom tie this section of miscellaneous messages together. The section contains mostly poetic material, and the prophecies bear the marks of Jehoiakim’s early reign (perhaps shortly after 609 B.C.).
But the people of Jerusalem had behaved unnaturally in continuing in their apostate condition. They insisted on being deceitful, and they refused to return to the Lord, even though they had stumbled and lost their way. This was irrational behavior. There are many occurrences of the Hebrew root shub, "repent," in Jeremiah 8:4-5.
The Lord had heard what the people were saying, which was not right. They were refusing to acknowledge their sin (cf. Jeremiah 5:1-3). They were headed for trouble, like a horse rushing headlong into battle.
The migratory birds that visited Palestine yearly knew instinctively when it was time for them to change direction and fly either north or south, depending on the season. But the Judeans had more specific direction from the Lord in His Word and the promptings of His love. Yet they did not see that it was time for them to change the direction of their lives (cf. Jeremiah 5:22-23). The Judahites were not even as smart as birds.
"In matters spiritual and moral we act with a perversity which is quite unlike our common sense at other levels, let alone the impressive wisdom of our fellow creatures (even the bird-brained, 7a!)." [Note: Kidner, p. 52.]
The people were claiming that they knew God’s Word and were obeying it. However, it was only because their experts in the Law had perverted it that they could say such a thing (cf. 2 Peter 3:16). The scribes kept official records, copied important documents, and taught the people the Law.
The Lord’s Word through Jeremiah had exposed these "wise men." They had rejected the Lord’s Word, and that was not "wise."
Since all the spiritual leaders, from the least to the greatest, lived for money and persisted in their deceit, the Lord would give their wives and fields to new owners, namely, the invaders (cf. Deuteronomy 28:30).
"Dark is the day when people reject God’s Word. Darker it is when the ministers of the Word betray their holy commission. [Note: Jensen, p. 40.]
Those in positions of spiritual leadership had provided panaceas for the people by telling them that all was well, but all was far from well.
These leaders were not in the least ashamed of their conduct, not even enough to blush. Therefore the Lord would cause them to fall when the rest of the people fell in the coming invasion (cf. Jeremiah 6:12-15).
"Could men reach a stage of apostasy where they would never repent? Yes they could, and Judah had reached that point [cf. Hebrews 6:4-6]." [Note: Thompson, p. 301.]
This passage is a scathing indictment of Judah’s spiritual leaders.
The Lord also declared that He would snatch the Judahites from their land. He had gone forth among His people to gather a harvest of righteousness, but all He found on His vines and fig trees was withered leaves, and no grapes or figs (cf. Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 6:9; Isaiah 5:2; Matthew 21:18-19; Luke 13:6-9; John 15:2). Consequently, He would remove their former blessings.
The fruitless nation 8:13-17
Jeremiah invited his fellow countrymen to go with him to the walled cities where they could resist the invader for at least a little longer before they perished. He recognized that the coming judgment was from the Lord because the people had sinned so greatly. He compared their judgment to being given poisoned water ("gall" AV) to drink.
The people had waited for the peace and healing that the false prophets kept promising (Jeremiah 8:11), but it never came. Instead, "terror" had overtaken them.
The invader could be heard approaching from the north (like a horde of Tolkienian Orks). The people living at Dan, Israel’s northernmost city, heard the army coming first. The whole earth shook because of the number and strength of the advancing army. This army’s objective was to consume everything in the land, including Jerusalem and its citizens.
The enemy would be like a batch of poisonous snakes that no one could charm, that would bite the people fatally (cf. Numbers 21:6-9).
Jeremiah’s grief over Jerusalem 8:18-9:1
The prospect of this catastrophic invasion overwhelmed Jeremiah with sorrow. It made him weak, and he could not get over his anguish.
He could hear his people in captivity crying out bitterly. They would be longing for Jerusalem where their God was, their true King. Why was He not helping them? They remembered Him, appalled that they had provoked Him by worshipping images and idols.
The time for divine deliverance had come and gone. The Lord had left them exposed to judgment, as grain left standing after the harvest.
"It would appear that we have here a popular proverb used in daily life when men encountered a hopeless situation from which no deliverance or escape seemed possible. Jeremiah pictured the people of Judah as having passed by one opportunity after another to repent of their rebellious ways and so be delivered or saved (Heb. nosha’) from coming judgment." [Note: Ibid., p. 306.]
Jeremiah was all broken up over the broken condition of his people. Dismay had seized him, and he could not stop mourning.
Gilead, east of the Jordan River, was a source for healing balsam, but no healing was forthcoming for Judah. This is the source of the traditional American spiritual "There Is a Balm in Gilead."
"The balm referred to is the resin or gum of the storax tree. It was used medicinally (cf. Genesis 37:25; Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8; Ezekiel 27:17)." [Note: Feinberg, p. 439. See also P. J. King, Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion, pp. 153-54.]
No physician was on the horizon either, even though Yahweh was Israel’s Great Physician (Exodus 15:26). The prophet marveled that Israel’s Great Physician had not provided healing for His people, but he knew that their affliction was judgment for their sins.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 8". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
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