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The Vanity of Putting Trust in the Temple and in the Sacrificial Service, and the Way to Safety and Life - Jeremiah 7-10
This discourse divides itself into three sections. Starting with the people's confident reliance in the possession of the temple and the legal sacrificial worship, Jeremiah in the first section, by pointing to the destruction of Shiloh, where in the old time the sanctuary of the ark of the covenant had been, shows that Jerusalem and Judah will not escape the fate of Shiloh and the kingdom of Ephraim, in case they persist in their stiffneckedness against the Lord their God (Jer 7:1-8:3). For the confirmation of this threatening he goes on, in the second section, further to tell of the people's determined resistance to all reformation, and to set forth the terrible visitation which hardened continuance in sin draws down on itself (Jer 8:4-9:21). To the same end he finally, in the third section, points out the means of escape from impending destruction, showing that the way to safety and life lies in acknowledging the Lord as the only, everlasting, and almighty God, and in seeing the nothingness of the false gods; and, as the fruit of such knowledge, he inculcates the fear of the Lord, and self-humiliation under His mighty hand (Jer 9:22-10:25).
This discourse also was not uttered at any one particular time before the people in the temple, and in the shape in which it comes before us; but it has been gathered into one uniform whole, out of several oral addresses delivered in the temple by Jeremiah upon various occasions in the days of Josiah. According to Jer 26, Jeremiah, at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, and in the court of the temple before the people, uttered the threatening that if they would not hear the words addressed to them by the prophets, nor reform their lives, the Lord would make the temple like Shiloh, and make the city a curse to all nations. For this speech he was found worthy of death by the priests and false prophets, and was saved only through the interference of the princes of the people Now the present discourse opposes to the people's vain confidence in the temple the solemn warning that the temple will share the fate of Shiloh; and hence many commentators, especially Graf and Nהg. , have inferred the identity of this with the discourse in Jer 26, and have referred its composition to the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign. But the agreement of the two chapters on this one point is not sufficient to justify such an inference. Jeremiah is wont often to repeat his leading thoughts in his discourses; and so it is not unlikely that more than once, during the eighteen years of his ministry under Josiah, he may have held up the fate of Shiloh and the sanctuary there, as a warning to the people which built its confidence on the possession of the temple and the performance of the legal cultus. If the foundation even of the first section of the present discourse were to be found in that given in Jer 26, taken in connection with the impression it made on the priests and prophets, with the violent feeling it excited, and the storm against Jeremiah which it called forth, then certainly the continuation of this discourse from Jeremiah 7:16 onwards would have been something different from what we find it. In writing down the discourse, Jeremiah would certainly not have passed immediately from threatening the people with the fate of Shiloh to the repudiation of all intercessory prayers, and to the statement there made as to the sacrificial service. This we mention without entering on the discussion of the other portions of the discourse. In the whole of the rest of the discourse, as continued Jer 8-10, there is not the least trace of hostility against Jeremiah on the part of priests or people, or any hint of anything that would carry us beyond the time of Josiah into the reign of Jehoiakim.
Warning against a False Trust in the Temple and the Sacrificial Service. The temple does not afford protection from the threatened punishment. If Judah does not change its manner of life, the temple will suffer the fate of Shiloh, and Judah will, like Ephraim, be rejected by the Lord (Jeremiah 7:1-Ezra :). Neither intercession on behalf of the corrupt race, nor the multitude of its burnt and slain offerings, will turn aside from Jerusalem the visitation of wrath (Jeremiah 7:16-Hosea :); for the Lord has cast away the hardened sinners on account of their idolatry, and will make Jerusalem and Judah a field of death (v. 29-8:3).
The vanity of trusting in the temple. - Jeremiah 7:1. "The word that came to Jeremiah from Jahveh, saying, Jeremiah 7:2. Stand in the gate of the house of Jahveh, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of Jahveh, all ye of Judah, that enter these gates to worship before Jahveh: Jeremiah 7:3. Thus hath spoken Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel, Make your ways and your doings good, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Jeremiah 7:4. Trust ye not in lying words, when they say, The temple of Jahveh, the temple of Jahveh, the temple of Jahveh, is this. Jeremiah 7:5. But if ye thoroughly make your ways good, and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute right amongst one another; Jeremiah 7:6. Oppress not stranger, fatherless, and widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither follow after other gods to your hurt; Jeremiah 7:7. Then I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land which I have given unto your fathers, from eternity unto eternity. Jeremiah 7:8. Behold, ye trust in lying words, though they profit not. Jeremiah 7:9. How? to steal, to murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offer odours to Baal, and to walk after other gods whom ye know not? Jeremiah 7:10. And then ye come and stand before my face in this house, upon which my name is named, and think, We are saved to do all these abominations. Jeremiah 7:11. Is then this house become a den or murderers, over which my name is named, in your eyes? I too, behold, have seen it, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 7:12. For go ye now to may place which was at Shiloh, where I formerly caused my name to dwell, and see what I have done unto it for the wickedness of my people Israel. Jeremiah 7:13. And now, because ye do all these deeds, saith Jahve, and I have spoken to you, speaking from early morning on, and ye have not heard; and I have called you, and ye have not answered; Jeremiah 7:14. Therefore I do unto this house, over which my name is named, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I have given to you and to your fathers, as I have done unto Shiloh. Jeremiah 7:15. And cast you away from my face, as I have cast away all your brethren, the whole seed of Ephraim."
The gate of the temple into which the prophet was to go and stand, is doubtless one of the three gates of the inner or upper court, in which he could stand and address the people gathered before him, in the outer court; perhaps the same in which Baruch read Jeremiah's prophecies to the people, Jeremiah 36:10 (Schmid, Hitz.). The gates through which the people entered to worship are those of the outer court. The form of address: All Judah, ye who enter, etc., warrant us in assuming that Jeremiah delivered this discourse at one of the great annual festivals, when the people were wont to gather to Jerusalem from the length and breadth of the land.
Jeremiah 7:3-Numbers :
Jeremiah 7:3 contains the central idea of the discourse: it is only morally good endeavours and deeds that give the people a sure title to a long lease of the land. היטיב is not merely, amend one's conduct; but, make one's way good, i.e., lead a good life. The "ways" mean the tendency of life at large, the "doings" are the individual manifestations of that tendency; cf. Jeremiah 18:11; Jeremiah 26:13. "In this place," i.e., in the land that I have given to your fathers; cf. Jeremiah 7:8 and Jeremiah 14:13 with Jeremiah 7:15, Jeremiah 24:5-Joshua :. Positive exhortation to a pure life is followed by negative dehortation from putting trust in the illusion: The temple, etc. The threefold repetition of the same word is the most marked way of laying very great emphasis upon it; cf. Jeremiah 22:29, Isaiah 6:3. "These," these halls, the whole complex mass of buildings (Hitz.), as in 2 Chronicles 8:11; and here המּה has the force of the neuter; cf. Ew. §318, b. The meaning of this emphatic way of mentioning the temple of the Lord is, in this connection, the following: Jerusalem cannot be destroyed by enemies, because the Lord has consecrated for the abode of His name that temple which is in Jerusalem; for the Lord will not give His sanctuary, the seat of His throne, to be a prey to the heathen, but will defend it, and under its protection we too may dwell safely. In the temple of the Lord we have a sure pledge for unbroken possession of the land and the maintenance of the kingdom. Cf. the like discourse in Micah 3:11, "Jahveh is in our midst, upon us none evil can come." This passage likewise shows that the "lying words" quoted are the sayings of the false prophets, whereby they confirmed the people in their secure sinfulness; the mass of the people at the same time so making these sayings their own as to lull themselves into the sense of security.
Jeremiah 7:5-Judges :
Over against such sayings Jeremiah puts that which is the indispensable condition of continued sojourn in the land. כּי , Jeremiah 7:5, after a preceding negative clause, means: but on the contrary. This condition is a life morally good, that shall show itself in doing justice, in putting away all unrighteousness, and in giving up idolatry. With אם begins a list of the things that belong to the making of one's ways and doings good. The adjunct to משׁפּט , right, "between the man and his neighbour," shows that the justice meant is that they should help one man to his rights against another. The law attached penalties to the oppression of those who needed protection - strangers, orphans, widows; cf. Exodus 22:21., Deuteronomy 24:17., Jeremiah 27:19; and the prophets often denounce the same; cf. Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:2; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Psalms 94:6, etc. for ' לא־ת is noteworthy, but is not a simple equivalent for it. Like ου ̓ μή , כ̓ב implies a deeper interest on the part of the speaker, and the sense here is: and ye be really determined not to shed innocent blood (cf. Ew. §320, b). Hitz.'s explanation, that אל is equal to אשׁר לא or אם לא , and that it her resumes again the now remote אם , is overturned by the consideration that אל is not at the beginning of the clause; and there is not the slightest probability in Graf's view, that the אל must have come into the text through the copyist, who had in his mind the similar clause in Jeremiah 22:3. Shedding innocent blood refers in part to judicial murders (condemnation of innocent persons), in part to violent attacks made by the kings on prophets and godly men, such as we hear of in Manasseh's case, 2 Kings 21:16. In this place (Jeremiah 7:7), i.e., first and foremost Jerusalem, the metropolis, where moral corruption had its chief seat; in a wider sense, however, it means the whole kingdom of Judah (Jeremiah 7:3 and Jeremiah 7:7). "To your hurt" belongs to all the above-mentioned transgressions of the law; cf. Jeremiah 25:7. "In the land," etc., explains "this place." "From eternity to eternity" is a rhetorically heightened expression for the promise given to the patriarchs, that God would give the land of Canaan to their posterity for an everlasting possession, Genesis 17:8; although here it belongs not to the relative clause, "that I gave," but to the principal clause, "cause you to dwell," as in Exodus 32:13.
In Jeremiah 7:8 there is a recurrence to the warning of Jeremiah 7:4, under the form of a statement of fact; and in Jeremiah 7:9-1 Kings : it is expanded to this effect: The affirmation that the temple of the Lord affords protection is a sheer delusion, so long as all God's commandments are being audaciously broken. לבלתּי הועיל , lit., to no profiting: ye rely on lying words, without there being any possibility that they should profit you.
The query before the infin. absoll. is the expression of wonder and indignation; and the infinitives are used with special emphasis for the verb. fin.: How? to steal, kill, etc., is your practice, and then ye come....
Breaches of almost all the commandments are specified; first the eighth, sixth, and seventh of the second table, and then two commandments of the first table; cf. Hosea 4:2. Swearing falsely is an abuse of God's name. In "offer odours to Baal," Baal is the representation of the false gods. The phrase, other gods, points to the first commandment, Exodus 20:3; and the relative clause: whom ye knew not, stands in opposition to: I am Jahveh your God, who hath brought you out of Egypt. They knew not the other gods, because they had not made themselves known to them in benefits and blessings; cf. Jeremiah 19:4. While they so daringly break all God's commands, they yet come before His face in the temple which Jahveh has chosen to reveal His name there. ' אשׁר נקרא is not: which bears my name (Hitz.); or: on which my name is bestowed, which is named after me (Graf). The name of Jahveh is the revelation of Himself, and the meaning is: on which I have set my glory, in which I have made my glorious being known; see on Deuteronomy 28:10 and Amos 9:12. We are saved, sc. from all the evils that threaten us, i.e., we are concealed, have nothing to fear; cf. Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18; Amos 3:12. The perfect denotat firmam persuasionem incolumitatis . Chr. B. Mich. By changing נצּלנוּ into נצּלנוּ , as Ewald, following the Syr., reads, the sense is weakened. ' למען עשׂות וגו is neither: as regards what we have done, nor: because = while or whereas ye have done (Hitz.), but: in order to do that ye may do. למען with the infin., as with the perf., has never the signif., because of or in reference to something past and done, but always means, with the view of doing something; English: to the end that. The thought is simply this: Ye appear in my temple to sacrifice and worship, thinking thus to appease my wrath and turn aside all punishment, that so ye may go on doing all these (in Jeremiah 7:9 enumerated) abominations. By frequenting the temple, they thought to procure an indulgence for their wicked ongoings, not merely for what they had already done, but for what they do from day to day.
To expose the senselessness of such an idea, God asks if they take the temple for a den of robbers? "In your eyes" goes with היה : is it become in your eyes, i.e., do ye take it for such? If thieves, murderers, adulterers, etc., gathered to the temple, and supposed that by appearing there they procured the absolution of their sins, they were in very act declaring the temple to be a robbers' retreat. פּריץ , the violent, here: the house-breaker, robber. I, too, have seen, sc. that the temple is made by you a den of thieves, and will deal accordingly. This completion of the thought appears from the context.
Jeremiah 7:12-2 Chronicles :
The temple is to undergo the fate of the former sanctuary at Shiloh. This threat is introduced by a grounding כּי , for. This for refers to the central idea of the last verse, that they must not build their expectations on the temple, hold it to be a pledge for their safety. For since the Lord has seen how they have profaned and still profane it, He will destroy it, as the sanctuary at Shiloh was destroyed. The rhetorical mode of utterance, Go to the place, etc., contributes to strengthen the threatening. They were to behold with their own eyes the fate of the sanctuary at Shiloh, that so they might understand that the sacredness of a place does not save it from overthrow, if men have desecrated it by their wickedness. We have no historical notice of the event to which Jeremiah refers. At Shiloh, now Seilân (in ruins) the Mosaic tabernacle was erected after the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 18:1), and there it was still standing in the time of the high priest Eli, 1 Samuel 1:1-Leviticus :; but the ark, which had fallen into the hands of the Philistines at the time of their victory (1 Sam 4), was not brought back to the tabernacle when it was restored again to the Israelites. In the reign of Saul we find the tabernacle at Nob (1 Samuel 21:2.). The words of Jeremiah 7:12 intimate, that at that time "the place of God at Shiloh" was lying in ruins. As Hitz. justly remarks, the destruction of it is not to be understood of its gradual decay after the removal of the ark (1 Samuel 4:11; 1 Samuel 7:1.); the words imply a devastation or destruction, not of the place of God at Shiloh only, but of the place Shiloh itself. This is clearly seen from Jeremiah 7:14: I will do unto this house (the temple), and the place which I gave to your fathers, as I have done unto Shiloh. This destruction did not take place when the Assyrians overthrew the kingdom of the ten tribes, but much earlier. It may, indeed, be gathered from Judges 18:20, Judges 18:31 (see the comment. on this passage), that it was as early as the time of Saul, during a Syrian invasion. By the destruction of the place of God at Shiloh, we need not understand that the tabernacle itself, with its altar and other sacred furniture (except the ark), was swept away. Such a view is contradicted by the statement in 1 Chronicles 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3, according to which the tabernacle built by Moses in the wilderness was still standing at Gibeon in David's time, and in the beginning of Solomon's reign; cf. with 2 Chronicles 1:5, when the brazen altar of burnt-offering is expressly mentioned as that which was made by Bezaleel. Hence it is clear that the Mosaic tabernacle, with its altar of burnt-offering, had been preserved, and consequently that it must have been moved first from Shiloh to Nob, and then, when Saul sacked this town (1 Sam 22), to Gibeon. The destruction of the place of God in Shiloh must accordingly have consisted in this, that not only was the tabernacle with the altar carried off from thence, but the buildings necessary in connection with the maintenance of the public worship which surrounded it were swept away when the city was plundered, so that of the place of the sanctuary nothing was left remaining. It is clear that about the tabernacle there were various buildings which, along with the tabernacle and its altars, constituted "the house of God at Shiloh;" for in 1 Sam 3 we are told that Samuel slept in the temple of Jahveh (1 Samuel 3:3), and that in the morning he opened the doors of the house of God (1 Samuel 3:15). Hence we may gather, that round about the court of the tabernacle there were buildings erected, which were used partly as a dwelling-place for the officiating priests and Levites, and partly for storing up the heave-offerings, and for preparing the thank-offerings at the sacrificial meals (1 Samuel 2:11-Ecclesiastes :). This whole system of buildings surrounding the tabernacle, with its court and altar of burnt-offering, was called the "house of God;" from which name Graf erroneously inferred that there was at Shiloh a temple like the one in Jerusalem. The wickedness of my people, is the Israelites' fall into idolatry in Eli's time, because of which the Lord gave up Israel into the power of the Philistines and other enemies (Judges 13:1; cf. 1 Samuel 7:3). "These deeds" (Jeremiah 7:13) are the sins named in Jeremiah 7:9. ואדבּר is a continuation of the infinitive sentence, and is still dependent on יען . Speaking from early morn, i.e., speaking earnestly and unremittingly; cf. Gesen. §131, 3, b. I have called you, i.e., to repent, and ye have not answered, i.e., have not repented and turned to me.
I cast you out from my sight, i.e., drive you forth amongst the heathen; cf. Deuteronomy 29:27; and with the second clause cf. 2 Kings 17:20. The whole seed of Ephraim is the ten tribes.
This punishment will be turned aside, neither by intercession, because the people re 2 fuses to give up its idolatry, nor by sacrifice, which God desires not, because for long they have turned to Him the back and not the face, and have not hearkened to His words. - Jeremiah 7:16. "But thou, pray not for this people, and lift not up for them cry and prayer; and urge me not, for I do not hear thee. Jeremiah 7:17. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem? Jeremiah 7:18. The sons gather sticks, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the Queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, to provoke me. Jeremiah 7:19. Provoke they me, saith Jahveh, not themselves, to the shaming of their face? Jeremiah 7:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jahveh, Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out on this place, upon man, upon beast, upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and shall burn, and not be quenched. Jeremiah 7:21. Thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Your burnt-offerings add to your slain-offerings, and eat flesh. Jeremiah 7:22. For I spake not with your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning the matters of burnt-offering or slain-offering. Jeremiah 7:23. But this word commanded I them, saying, Hearken to my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk in the way which I command you, that it may be well with you. Jeremiah 7:24. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, and walked in the counsels, in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and turned to me the back, and not the face. Jeremiah 7:25. Since the day that your fathers went forth of the land of Egypt until this day, I sent to you all my servants the prophets, daily from early morn sending them; Jeremiah 7:26. But they hearkened not to me, nor inclined their ear, and were stiffnecked, and did worse than their fathers. Jeremiah 7:27. And though thou speakest all these words unto them, yet will they not hearken unto thee; and though thou callest unto them, yet will they not answer thee. Jeremiah 7:28. Thus speak to them: This is the people that hearken not unto the voice of Jahveh its God, and that receive not correction. Perished is faithfulness, cut off from their mouth."
The purport of Jeremiah 7:16, that God will not suffer Himself to be moved by any entreaties to revoke the doom pronounced on the wicked people, is expressed by way of a command from God to the prophet not to pray for the people. That Jeremiah did sometimes pray thus, however, we see from Jeremiah 14:19. (cf. Jeremiah 18:20), when to his prayer the same answer is given as we have here, and all intercession for the corrupt race is characterized as in vain. The second clause: lift not up for them crying, i.e., supplicatory prayer, expresses the same, only more strongly; while the third clause: urge me not, cuts off all hope of success from even the most importunate intercession. The reason for this command to desist is shown in Jeremiah 7:17, by a reference to the idolatry which was openly practised throughout the land by young and old, men and women. Each takes part according to strength and capacity: the sons gather wood together, the fathers set the fire in order, etc. The deity so zealously worshipped by the people is called the Queen of heaven, and is mentioned only by Jeremiah. Besides here, there is reference to her in Jeremiah 44:17, where we see that her worship was very diligently cultivated, and that she was adored as the bestower of earthly possessions. ( מלכת is stat. constr., either from the Chald. form מלך , or from מליכה , after the analogy of גּברת , st. constr. of גּבירה ; but perhaps it has מלכת in stat. abs.) This worship was combined with that of the stars, the host of heaven, which especially prevailed under Manasseh (2 Kings 21:5). Thence it may be presumed that the Queen of heaven was one of the deities who came to Western Asia with the Assyrians, and that she corresponds to the Assyrian-Persian Tanais and Artemis, who in the course of time took the place once occupied by the closely related Phoenician Astarte. She is originally a deification of the moon, the Assyrian Selene and Virgo caelestis, who, as supreme female deity, was companion to Baal-Moloch as sun-god; cf. Movers, Phönizier, i. S. 623ff. With this accords the statement of Steph. Byz., that σελήνη is also πήπανον τι τῷ ἄστρω παραπλήσιον . The offerings which, acc. to this verse and Jeremiah 44:19, were brought to her, are called כּוּנים , a word which would appear to have come to the Hebrews along with the foreign cultus. By the lxx it was Grecized into χαυῶνας , for which we find in glossators and codd. καυῶνας and χαβῶνας . They were, acc. to the Etymol. magn. and Suidas, ἄρτοι ἐλαίῳ ἀναφυραθέντες or λάχανα ὄπτα (? cooked vegetables); acc. to Jerome, χαυῶνας , quas nos placentas interpretati sumus . In any case, they were some kind of sacrificial cakes, which Vitr. put alongside of the πόπανα of Aristophanes and Lucian; cf. the various interpretations in Schleussner, Lexic. in lxx s.v. χαυών . These cakes were kindled on the altar (cf. מקטּרים , Jeremiah 44:19) as a kind of Minchah (meat-offering), and with this Minchah a libation or drink-offering ( נסכים ) was combined. הסּך corresponds to לעשׂות , so that ל has to be repeated; cf. Jeremiah 44:19, Jeremiah 44:25, where we find libations poured out to the Queen of heaven. In the 18th verse the expression is generalized into "other gods," with reference to the fact that the service of the Queen of heaven was but one kind of idolatry along with others, since other strange gods were worshipped by sacrifices and libations. To provoke me; cf. Deuteronomy 31:29; Deuteronomy 32:16, etc.
But instead of vexing Him (Jahveh) they rather vex themselves, inasmuch as God causes the consequences of their idolatry to fall on their own head. אתם is used reflexively: se ipsos; cf. Ew. §314, c; Gesen. §124, 1, b. For the cause of the shame of their face, i.e., to prepare for themselves the shame of their face, to cover their face with shame; cf. Jeremiah 3:25. - For (Jeremiah 7:20) because of this idolatrous work, the wrath of the Lord will pour itself over the land in the consuming fire of war (cf. Jeremiah 4:4 with Jeremiah 5:17, Nahum 1:6, etc.), so as to cut off men and beasts, trees and fruit.
The multiplication of burnt and slain offerings will not avert judgment. Your burnt-offerings add to your slain-offerings. In the case of the זבחים , the greater part of the flesh was eaten at the sacrificial meals by those who brought them. Along with these they might put the burnt-offerings, which were wont to be burnt entire upon the altar, and eat them also. The words express indignation at the sacrifices of those who were so wholly alienated from God. God had so little pleasure in their sacrifices, that they might eat of the very burnt-offerings.
To show the reason of what is here said, Jeremiah adds, in Jeremiah 7:22, that God had not commanded their fathers, when He led them out of Egypt, in the matter of burnt and slain offerings, but this word: "Hearken to my voice, and I will be your God," etc. The Keri הוציאי is a true exegesis, acc. to Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 34:13, but is unnecessary; cf. Genesis 24:30; Genesis 25:26, etc. This utterance has been erroneously interpreted by the majority of commentators, and has been misused by modern criticism to make good positions as to the late origin of the Pentateuch. To understand it aright, we must carefully take into consideration not merely the particular terms of the present passage, but the context as well. In the two verses as they stand there is the antithesis: Not על דּברי did God speak and give command to the fathers, when He led them out of Egypt, but commanded the word: Hearken to my voice, etc. The last word immediately suggests Exodus 19:5: If ye will hearken to my voice, then shall ye be my peculiar treasure out of all peoples; and it points to the beginning of the law-giving, the decalogue, and the fundamental principles of the law of Israel, in Ex 20-23, made known in order to the conclusion of the covenant in 24, after the arrival at Sinai of the people marching from Egypt. The promise: Then will I be your God, etc., is not given in these precise terms in Exodus 19:5.; but it is found in the account of Moses' call to be the leader of the people in their exodus, Exodus 6:7; and then repeatedly in the promises of covenant blessings, if Israel keep all the commandments of God, Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 26:18. Hence it is clear that Jeremiah had before his mind the taking of the covenant, but did not bind himself closely to the words of Exodus 19:5, adopting his expression from the passages of Leviticus and Deuteronomy which refer to and reaffirm that transaction. If there be still any doubt on this head, it will be removed by the clause: and walk in all the way which I command you this day ( והלכתם is a continuation of the imper. שׁמעוּ ). The expression: to walk in all the way God has commanded, is so unusual, that it occurs only once besides in the whole Old Testament, viz., Deuteronomy 5:30, after the renewed inculcation of the ten commandments. And they then occur with the addition ( למען תּחיוּן וטוב , in which we cannot fail to recognise the למען ייטב לכם of our verse. Hence we assume, without fear of contradiction, that Jeremiah was keeping the giving of the law in view, and specially the promulgation of the fundamental law of the book, namely of the decalogue, which was spoken by God from out of the fire on Sinai, as Moses in Deuteronomy 5:23 repeats with marked emphasis. In this fundamental law we find no prescriptions as to burnt or slain offerings. On this fact many commentators, following Jerome, have laid stress, and suppose the prophet to be speaking of the first act of the law-giving, arguing that the Torah of offering in the Pentateuch was called for first by the worship of the golden calf, after which time God held it to be necessary to give express precepts as to the presenting of offerings, so as to prevent idolatry. But this view does not at all agree with the historical fact. For the worship of the calf was subsequent to the law on the building of the altar on which Israel was to offer burnt and slain offerings, Exodus 20:24; to the institution of the daily morning and evening sacrifice, Exodus 29:38.; and to the regulation as to the place of worship and the consecration of the priests, Ex 25-31. But besides, any difficulty in our verses is not solved by distinguishing between a first and a second law-giving, since no hint of any such contrast is found in our verse, but is even entirely foreign to the precise terms of it. The antithesis is a different one. The stress in Jeremiah 7:23 lies on: hearken to the voice of the Lord, and on walking in all the way which God commanded to the people at Sinai. "To walk in all the way God commanded" is in substance the same as "not to depart from all the words which I command you this day," as Moses expands his former exhortation in Deuteronomy 28:14, when he is showing the blessings of keeping the covenant. Hearkening to God's voice, and walking in all His commandments, are the conditions under which Jahveh will be a God to the Israelites, and Israel a people to Him, i.e., His peculiar people from out of all the peoples of the earth. This word of God is not only the centre of the act of taking the covenant, but of the whole Sinaitic law-giving; and it is so both with regard to the moral law and to the ceremonial precepts, of which the law of sacrifice constituted the chief part. If yet the words demanding the observance of the whole law be set in opposition to the commandments as to sacrifices, and if it be said that on this latter head God commanded nothing when He led Israel out of Egypt, then it may be replied that the meaning of the words cannot be: God has given no law of sacrifice, and desires no offerings. The sense can only be: When the covenant was entered into, God did not speak על דּברי , i.e., as to the matters of burnt and slain offerings. על דּברי is not identical with דּברי עולה על־דּבר are words or things that concern burnt and slain offerings; that is, practically, detailed prescriptions regarding sacrifice.
The purport of the two verses is accordingly as follows: When the Lord entered into covenant with Israel at Sinai, He insisted on their hearkening to His voice and walking in all His commandments, as the condition necessary for bringing about the covenant relationship, in which He was to be God to Israel, and Israel a people to Him; but He did not at that time give all the various commandments as to the presenting of sacrifices. Such an intimation neither denies the divine origin of the Torah of sacrifice in Leviticus, nor discredits its character as a part of the Sinaitic legislation.
(Note: After Vatke's example, Hitz. and Graf find in our verses a testimony against the Mosaic origin of the legislation of the Pentateuch as a whole, and they conclude "that at the time of Jeremiah nothing was known of a legislation on sacrifice given by God on Sinai." Here, besides interpreting our verses erroneously, they cannot have taken into account the fact that Jeremiah himself insists on the law of the Sabbath, Jeremiah 17:20.; that amongst the blessings in which Israel will delight in Messianic times yet to come, he accounts the presenting of burnt, slain, and meat offerings, Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 31:14; Jeremiah 33:11, Jeremiah 33:18. It is consequently impossible that, without contradicting himself, Jeremiah could have disallowed the sacrificial worship. The assertion that he did so is wholly incompatible with the fact recorded in 2 Kings 22, the discovery of the book of the law of Moses in the temple, in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign; and that, too, whether, justly interpreting the passage, we hold the book of the law to be the Pentateuch, or whether, following the view maintained by the majority of modern critics, we take it to be the book of Deuteronomy, which was then for the first time composed and given to the king as Moses' work. For in Deuteronomy also the laws on sacrifice are set forth as a divine institution. Is it credible or conceivable, that in a discourse delivered, as most recent commentators believe, in the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah should have spoken of the laws on sacrifice as not commanded by God? For in so doing he would have undermined the authority of the book of the law, on which his entire prophetic labours were based.)
All it implies is, that the giving of sacrifices is not the thing of primary importance in the law, is not the central point of the covenant laws, and that so long as the cardinal precepts of the decalogue are freely transgressed, sacrifices neither are desired by God, nor secure covenant blessings for those who present them. That this is what is meant is shown by the connection in which our verse stands. The words: that God did not give command as to sacrifice, refer to the sacrifices brought by a people that recklessly broke all the commandments of the decalogue (Jeremiah 7:9.), in the thought that by means of these sacrifices they were proving themselves to be the covenant people, and that to them as such God was bound to bestow the blessings of His covenant. It is therefore with justice that Oehler, in Herzog's Realencykl. xii. S. 228, says: "In the sense that the righteousness of the people and the continuance of its covenant relationship were maintained by sacrifice as such - in this sense Jahveh did not ordain sacrifices in the Torah." Such a soulless service of sacrifice is repudiated by Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22, when he says to Saul: Hath Jahveh delight in burnt and slain offerings, as in hearkening to the voice of Jahveh? Behold, to hearken is better than sacrifice, etc. So in Psalms 40:7; Psalms 50:8., Jeremiah 51:18, and Isaiah 1:11., Jeremiah 6:20; Amos 5:22. What is here said differs from these passages only in this: Jeremiah does not simply say that God has no pleasure in such sacrifices, but adds the inference that the Lord does not desire the sacrifices of a people that have fallen away from Him. This Jeremiah gathers from the history of the giving of the law, and from the fact that, when God adopted Israel as His people, He demanded not sacrifices, but their obedience to His word and their walking in His ways. The design of Jeremiah's addition was the more thoroughly to crush all such vain confidence in sacrifices.
But they have not regarded that which was foremost and most cardinal in the law. They hearkened not, sc. to my voice; and instead of walking in the ways commanded, they walked in the counsels of the stubbornness of their evil heart. בּמעצות is stat. absol., and בּשׁררוּת is co-ordinated with it in apposition, instead of being subordinated; cf. Ew. §289, c. The lxx have not seen their way to admit such a co-ordination, and so have omitted the second term; and in this, Movers, Hitz., and Graf have followed them, deleting the word as a mere gloss. As to "the stubbornness of their evil heart," see on Jeremiah 3:17. יהיוּ לאחור , they were backwards, not forwards, i.e., they so walked as to turn to me the back and not the face. היה with ל expresses the direction or aim of a thing. The subject to these clauses is the Israelites from the time of Moses down to that of Jeremiah. This is shown by the continuation of the same idea in Jeremiah 7:25 and Jeremiah 7:26. From the time the fathers were led out of Egypt till the present time, God has with anxious care been sending prophets to exhort and warn them; but they have not hearkened, they have made their neck hard, i.e., were stiffnecked, and did worse than their fathers, i.e., each succeeding generation did more wickedly than that which preceded it. On למן היּום , (the period) from the day...until...cf. the remarks on Haggai 2:18. The ל gives to the mention of the time the value of an independent clause, to which that which is said regarding that time is joined by ו consec. יום is adverbial accusative: by the day, i.e., daily, in early morn, i.e., with watchful care sending (on this expression, see at Jeremiah 7:13). יום acquires this sense, not in virtue of its standing for יום יום , but by reason of its connection with the two infinitives absoll.
Just as little will they listen to Jeremiah's words. ודבּרתּ with ו consec. is properly: Speak to them, and they will not hearken to thee, for: Even if thou speakest to them, they will not hearken to thee.
Hence the prophet will be bound to say to them: This is the people that hath not hearkened to the voice of God. On this Chr. B. Mich. makes this remark: Etsi adhortationibus tuis non obedient, tamen, ut sciant quales sint et quae paenae ipsos maneant, dicas eis . Perished or gone is faithfulness, and cut off out of their mouth. They have violated the fidelity they owed to God, by not hearkening to His voice, by breaking all His commandments (cf. Jeremiah 7:23 and Jeremiah 7:9). "Out of their mouth" is used instead of "out of the heart," because they continually make profession with their mouth of their devotion to God, e.g., swear by Jahveh, but always lyingly, Jeremiah 7:2.
Therefore the Lord has rejected the backsliding people, so that it shall perish shamefully. - Jeremiah 7:29. "Cut off thy diadem (daughter of Zion), and cast it away, and lift up a lamentation on the bald peaked mountains; for the Lord hath rejected and cast out the generation of His wrath. Jeremiah 7:30. For the sons of Judah have done the evil in mine eyes, saith Jahveh, have put their abominations in the house on which my name is named, to pollute it; Jeremiah 7:31. And have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of Benhinnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire; which I have not commanded, neither came it into my heart. Jeremiah 7:32. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jahveh, that they shall no longer say, Tophet and Valley of Benhinnom, but, The valley of slaughter; and they shall bury in Tophet for want of room. Jeremiah 7:33. And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of heaven and the beasts of the earth, with no one to fray them away. Jeremiah 7:34. And I make to cease out of 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 a waste shall the land become. Jeremiah 8:1. At that time, saith Jahveh, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah and the bones of his princes, the bones of the priests and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves. Jeremiah 8:2. And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, which they have loved, and which they have served, after which they have walked, and which they have sought and worshipped: they shall not be gathered nor buried; for dung upon the face of the earth shall they be. Jeremiah 8:3. And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue which is left of this evil race, in all the places whither I have driven them that are left, saith Jahveh of hosts."
In these verses the judgment of Jeremiah 7:20 is depicted in all its horror, and the description is introduced by a call upon Zion to mourn and lament for the evil awaiting Jerusalem and the whole land. It is not any particular woman that is addressed in Jeremiah 7:29, but the daughter of Zion (cf. Jeremiah 6:23), i.e., the capital city personified as a woman, as the mother of the whole people. Cut off נזרך , thy diadem. There can be no doubt that we are by this to understand the hair of the woman; but the current opinion, that the words simply and directly means the hair, is without foundation. It means crown, originally the diadem of the high priest, Exodus 29:6; and the transference of the same word to the hair of the head is explained by the practice of the Nazarites, to wear the hair uncut as a mark of consecration to the Lord, Numbers 6:5. The hair of the Nazarite is called in Numbers 6:7 the consecration ( נזר ) of his God upon his head, as was the anointing oil on the head of the high priest, Leviticus 21:12. In this sense the long hair of the daughter of Zion is called her diadem, to mark her out as a virgin consecrated to the Lord. Cutting off this hair is not only in token of mourning, as in Job 1:20; Micah 1:16, but in token of the loss of the consecrated character. The Nazarite, defiled by the sudden occurrence of death near to his person, was bound to cut off his long hair, because by this defilement his consecrated hair had been defiled; and just so must the daughter of Zion cut off her hair and cast it from her, because by her sins she had defiled herself, and must be held as unconsecrate. Venema and Ros. object to this reference of the idea to the consecrated hair of the Nazarite: quod huc non quadrat, nec in faeminis adeo suetum erat ; but this objection is grounded on defective apprehension of the meaning of the Nazarite's vow, and on misunderstanding of the figurative style here employed. The allusion to the Nazarite order, for the purpose of representing the daughter of Zion as a virgin consecrated to the Lord, does not imply that the Nazarite vow was very common amongst women. Deprived of her holy ornament, Zion is to set up a lament upon bare hill-tops (cf. Jeremiah 3:21), since the Lord has rejected or cast out (Jeremiah 7:30) the generation that has drawn His wrath down on it, because they have set idols in the temple in which He has revealed His glory, to profane it. The abominations are the image of Asherah which Manasseh set up in the temple, and the altars he had built to the host of heaven in both the courts (2 Kings 21:5, 2 Kings 21:7). Besides the desecration of the temple of the Lord by idolatry, Jeremiah mentions in Jeremiah 7:31, as an especially offensive abomination, the worship of Moloch practised in the valley of Benhinnom. Here children were burnt to this deity, to whom Manasseh had sacrificed his son, 2 Kings 21:6. The expression "high altars of Tophet " is singular. In the parallel passages, where Jeremiah repeats the same subject, Jeremiah 19:5 and Jeremiah 32:35, we find mentioned instead high altars of Baal; and on this ground, Hitz. and Graf hold התפת in our verse to be a contemptuous name for Baal Moloch. תּפת is not derived from the Persian; nor is it true that, as Hitz. asserts, it does not occur till after the beginning of the Assyrian period, since we have it in Job 17:6. It is formed from תּוּף , to spit out, like נפת from נוּף ; and means properly a spitting out, then that before or on which one spits (as in Job 17:6), object of deepest abhorrence. It is transferred to the worship of Moloch here and Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 19:13., and in 2 Kings 23:10. In the latter passage the word is unquestionably used for the place in the valley of Benhinnom where children were offered to Moloch. So in Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 19:13 (the place of Tophet), and Jeremiah 19:14; and so also, without a doubt, in Jeremiah 7:32 of the present chapter. There is no valid reason for departing from this well-ascertained local signification; "high altars of the Tophet" may perfectly well be the high altars of the place of abominable sacrifices. With the article the word means the ill-famed seat of the Moloch-worship, situated in the valley of Ben or Bne Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem. Hinnom is nomen propr. of a man of whom we know nothing else, and בּן בּני הנּום ) is not an appellative: son of sobbing, as Hitz., Graf, Böttcher explain (after Rashi), rendering the phrase by "Valley of the weepers," or "of groaning, sobbing," with reference to the cries of the children slain there for sacrifices. For the name Ben-hinnom is much older than the Moloch-worship, introduced first by Ahaz and Manasseh. We find it in Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16, in the topographical account of the boundaries of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. As to Moloch-worship, see on Leviticus 18:21 and Ezekiel 16:20. At the restoration of the public worship of Jahveh, Josiah had extirpated Moloch-worship, and had caused the place of the sacrifice of abominations in the valley of Ben-hinnom to be defiled (2 Kings 23:20); so that it is hardly probable that it had been again restored immediately after Josiah's death, at the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign. Nor does the present passage imply this; for Jer. is not speaking of the forms of idolatry at that time in favour with the Jews, but of the abominations they had done. That he had Manasseh's doings especially in view, we may gather from Jeremiah 15:4, where the coming calamities are expressly declared to be the punishment for Manasseh's sins. Neither is it come into my heart, i.e., into my mind, goes to strengthen: which I have not commanded.
Therefore God will make the place of their sins the scene of judgment on the sinners. There shall come days when men will call the valley of these abominations the valley of slaughter, i.e., shall make it into such a valley. Where they have sacrificed their children to Moloch, they shall themselves be slaughtered, massacred by their enemies. And in this valley, as an unclean place (Jeremiah 19:13), shall they be buried "for want of room;" since, because of the vast numbers of the slain, there will be nowhere else to put them.
Even the number of the dead will be so great that the corpses shall remain unburied, shall become food for beasts of prey, which no one will scare away. This is taken almost literally from Deuteronomy 28:26.
Thus the Lord will put an end to all joyfulness in life throughout the land: cf. Hosea 2:13; Ezekiel 26:13. The voice of the bridegroom and the bride is a circumlocution for the mirth of marriage festivities; cf. 1 Macc. 9:39. All joy will be dumb, for the land shall become a waste; as the people had been warned, in Leviticus 26:31, Leviticus 26:33, would be the case if they forsook the Lord.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah 7". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29