Jeremiah 7:1. The word of the Lord, &c. — The date of this new sermon is not precisely marked, but it is probable it was delivered not long after the preceding one, and on the following occasion. “Besides the prophets who were commissioned to announce the approaching calamities of Judah and Jerusalem, there were others who took upon themselves to flatter the people with opposite predictions. They taught them to look upon such threats as groundless, since God, they said, would have too much regard to his own honour, to suffer his temple to be profaned, and the seat of his holiness to be given up into the hand of strangers. Jeremiah is therefore commanded openly to reprove the falsehood of these assertions, and to show, by an example in point, that the sanctity of the place would afford no security to the guilty; but that God would assuredly do by his house at Jerusalem what he had done unto Shiloh; and cast the people of Judah out of his sight as he had already cast off the people of Israel for their wickedness.” — Blaney.
Jeremiah 7:2. Stand in the gates of the Lord’s house — Namely, the east gate of the temple, which led directly to it, where he delivered this discourse, before all the people who entered there. And proclaim there this word — Proclaiming signifies both the authority by which he spake, and the divulging of what he spake plainly and boldly. And as it was in so public a place, namely, at the entrance of the court of the people, not of that of the priests, that he uttered this prophecy, so possibly it might be at one of the three feasts, when all the males from all parts of the country were to appear before the Lord in the courts of his house. In that case he would have many collected together to preach to, and that was the most seasonable time to admonish them not to trust in their privileges.
Jeremiah 7:3. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel — As creatures, we are all bound to regard the Lord of hosts; as members of the visible church, the God of Israel; what he said to them he says to us; and it is much the same with that which John the Baptist said to those whom he baptized, Matthew 3:8-9. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say, within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. Amend your ways and your doings — This implies that there had been much amiss in their ways and doings, but it was a great instance of the goodness of God to them, that he gave them liberty to amend, showed them wherein and how they must amend, and promised to accept them upon their amendment. And I will cause you to dwell in this place — Namely, quietly and peaceably. You shall not go into captivity, but a stop shall be put to that which threatens your expulsion. Observe, reader, reformation is the only way, and a sure way to prevent ruin.
Jeremiah 7:4. Trust ye not in lying words — Do not flatter yourselves with an opinion that you can be safe and happy on any other terms than those which God points out. Saying, The temple of the Lord, &c., are these — As much as to say, God hath placed his name here, Jeremiah 7:10, and chose these stately buildings as the place of his peculiar residence, and what reason is there to believe that he will ever forsake it, and give it up to be destroyed by strangers and idolaters? Thus, Jeremiah 18:18, they express their confidence that the law would not perish from the priests, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. And Micah 3:11, they are said to lean on the Lord, saying, Is not the Lord among us? No evil can come upon us. These were the lying words on which they trusted, and against trusting in which the prophet here solemnly cautions them. The Targum intimates that the reason of the three-fold repetition of the words, The temple of the Lord, was, because every Jew was obliged to visit the temple thrice a year. But it seems more likely that they are thus repeated, to express the confident and reiterated boasts of the temple, which were in the people’s mouths, and their extreme vehemence and unreasonable presumption.
Jeremiah 7:5-7. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways, &c. — In these verses the prophet tells them particularly what the amendment was which was necessary that they might escape destruction. It must be a thorough amendment, a universal, continued, persevering reformation; not partial, but entire; not hypocritical, but sincere; not wavering, but constant. They must make the tree good, and so make the fruit good; must amend their hearts and thoughts, and so amend their ways and doings. In particular, 1st, They must be honest and just in all their dealings. They who had power in their hands must thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour, without partiality. They must not, either in judgment, or in matters of contract, oppress the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow — Nor countenance or protect those that did oppress them, nor refuse to do them right when they sought for it. They must not shed innocent blood — And with it defile the temple, the city, and the land wherein they dwelt. 2d, They must keep close to the worship of the true God only, neither walking after other gods, nor hearkening to those that would draw them into communion with idolaters. Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, &c. — Upon this condition I will establish and fix you in this land for ever and ever — That is, from age to age, and you shall possess it, as your fathers did before you, from the days of Joshua until now.
Jeremiah 7:8-11. Behold, ye trust in lying words — Uttered by your false prophets, who promise you peace, and sooth you up in your impenitence. Will ye steal, murder, &c. — Jeremiah does not charge them with the transgression of the ritual law of Moses, but with the breach of the weightier matters of the moral law. Thus the prophets showed the Jews a more excellent way of serving God than by relying upon external ceremonies of their worship, which might have prepared their minds for the reception of the gospel. And come and stand before me, &c. — Will ye be guilty of the vilest immoralities, even such as the common interest, as well as the common sense, of mankind must reprobate? Will ye swear falsely? — A crime which all nations have always held in abhorrence? Will ye burn incense to Baal? — A dunghill deity, that sets up as a rival with the great Jehovah; and, not content with that, will you walk after other gods too, whom ye know not — And by all these crimes put a daring affront upon the Lord of hosts? Will you exchange a God, of whose power and goodness you have had such long experience, for gods of whose ability and willingness to help you know nothing? And when you have thus done the most you can to affront and insult the infinite and eternal Jehovah, your creator and preserver, your governor and judge, will you have the effrontery and impudence to come and stand before him in this house, which is called by his name, and in which his name is called upon, under a pretence of worshipping and serving him — stand before him as servants, waiting his commands, as suppliants, expecting his favour? Will you act in open rebellion against him, and yet rank yourselves among his subjects, among the best of them? By this it would seem you think that either he doth not discover, or doth not dislike your wicked practices; to imagine either of which is to put the highest indignity possible upon him. It is as if you should say, We are delivered to do all these abominations — If they had not the face to say this in so many words, yet their actions spoke it aloud. God had many times delivered them, as they could not but acknowledge, and had been a present help to them when otherwise they must have perished. By these means he designed to bring them to himself; by his goodness to lead them to repentance; but they, resolving notwithstanding to persist in their abominations, said, in effect, in direct contradiction to God’s true intent, in showing them this kindness, that he had delivered them to put them again into a capacity of rebelling against him. Will ye, says the prophet, interpret the deliverances God hath formerly vouchsafed you, as so many licenses to commit new crimes? Or, do you think, when you offer your propitiatory sacrifices, that they will wipe away the guilt of all your past offences, and that you may securely return to your former wicked practices, having such a certain and easy method of obtaining pardon? Is this house, &c., become a den of robbers in your eyes? — Do you think it was built, not only to be a rendezvous of, but a place of shelter to, the vilest malefactors; who perform an outward service to me there, that they may continue the more securely in their sins? Mark well, reader, those that think to excuse themselves in unchristian practices, with the Christian name, and sin the more boldly and securely, because there is a sin-offering provided, do in effect make God’s house of prayer a den of thieves; as the priests did in Christ’s time, Matthew 21:13. But could they thus impose upon God? no, Behold, I have seen it, saith the Lord — Have seen the real iniquity through the counterfeit and dissembled piety. Though men may deceive one another with the show of devotion, yet they cannot deceive God.
Jeremiah 7:12. But go ye now to Shiloh — Shiloh was the place where, upon the first coming of the Israelites into Canaan, the tabernacle, in which was the ark of God’s presence, was set up; and there it continued for a long space of time, even until the days of Samuel. It was during this period that the Israelites, as a punishment of the iniquitous and scandalous lives of the priests and people, received that signal defeat from the Philistines, when the ark of God was taken, as related 1 Samuel 4:10, &c., the pathetic description of which disaster, given by the psalmist, Psalms 78:60-64, has caused it to be generally believed, that an allusion to it was likewise designed here by Jeremiah. “But a due consideration of the context,” Blaney thinks, “will lead us rather to conclude that the prophet refers to a more recent event, the vestiges of which were still fresh to be seen. Shiloh was in the tribe of Ephraim, and this place, once so favoured and sanctified by God’s particular residence, had shared the fate of the rest of the kingdom of Israel, and was become a scene of misery and ruin. This they might literally go and see at present; and this, says God, have I done because of the wickedness of my people Israel. In which words Israel, meaning the ten tribes, is acknowledged to have been God’s people no less than Judah; and Shiloh, it is observed, had once enjoyed the same privileges, which now belonged to the temple at Jerusalem. But as God spared not Shiloh, but made it the victim of his wrath, so he says he would do to Jerusalem and her temple; and would cast off Judah for their wickedness from being his people, in like manner as he had already cast off their brethren, whom he distinguishes by the name of the children of Ephraim.”
Jeremiah 7:13-15. And now, because ye have done all these works — Either the same, or as bad, or worse than Israel did when the tabernacle was at Shiloh; and particularly those mentioned Jeremiah 7:9. And I spake unto you, rising up early, &c. — A metaphor taken from persons who, being diligent in their business, are wont to rise up early; as if he had said, I not only spoke to you by my prophets, but they, in my name, made all possible haste, and used all possible diligence to reclaim you, continually and carefully preventing you with remonstrances; employing with all possible attention severity and softness, promises and threats; but all to no purpose. Therefore, &c. — Because you have added this, your obstinate rejecting of all admonitions and warnings, to the rest of your provocations, will I do unto this house, which is called by my name — This sumptuous temple, of which you boast, and in which you trust for protection and preservation; the place which I gave to you and to your fathers — Upon condition of your obedience, Psalms 105:44-45, and therefore may justly, upon the breach of the condition, take from you again; as I have done to Shiloh — See Jeremiah 7:12. And I will cast you out of my sight — You shall have my presence with you and watchful eye over you no more; but I will send you into captivity to Babylon, as I did your brethren into Assyria. See on 2 Kings 17:6-18. He terms the Israelites their brethren here, to remind them that they both proceeded from the same stock, and therefore had no reason to expect but they should both fare alike, seeing their sins were alike: even the whole seed of Ephraim — The ten tribes, called often by this name, because the tribe of Ephraim was the most numerous and potent of them all, and Jeroboam, their first king, was of that tribe.
Jeremiah 7:16. Therefore pray not thou for this people — God had been wont to suffer himself to be prevailed with to spare his people by the mediation of his servants, as of Moses, Exodus 32:11; Exodus 32:14; Numbers 14:19-20; but now he will admit of no intercession. See also chap. Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel 14:20. Nothing but a universal reformation, which God foresaw would not take place, could preserve the Jews from that captivity and desolation which he had threatened to bring upon them. This decree of God to destroy them, unless they repented and were reformed, being irrevocable, the prophet is forbid to interpose by his prayers for the reversing of it. But still he might beseech God not to proceed to an utter destruction of his people, but, in remembrance of his covenant with Abraham and his seed, might spare a remnant, and accordingly we find he did pray to that effect, Jeremiah 14:7-9.
Jeremiah 7:17-19. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah — Thou canst not pass along the streets, but thou must needs be an eye witness of their abominations, committed openly and publicly in the face of the sun, without either shame or fear; and in the streets of Jerusalem — In both city and country. This intimates both that their sins were evident and could not be denied, and that the sinners were impudent and would not be reclaimed: they committed their wickedness even in the prophet’s presence and under his eye; he saw what they did, and yet they did it; which was an affront to his office, and to God, whose minister he was, and bid defiance to both. The children gather wood — Here God shows how busily they were employed, from the youngest to the oldest, for their idolatry. Every one in the family did something toward it. To make cakes to the queen of heaven — That is, the moon, either in an image, or in the original, or both. They worshipped her probably under the name of Astarte, or Ashtaroth, being in love, it seems, with the brightness with which they saw the moon walk, and thinking themselves indebted to her for her benign influences, or fearing her malignant ones, Job 32:26. The worship of the moon was much in use among the heathen nations, and, as appears from Jeremiah 44:17-19, many of the Jews were so attached to it, that they could not be reclaimed from it: no, not when destruction had come upon their country for that and other species of idolatry. We may observe, that the word מלכת, here rendered queen, may signify regency, as Blaney translates it, and therefore may include the whole host of heaven: but queen is the more common and proper signification of the word, and most probably here means the moon only: they, however, worshipped the sun and stars also. That they may provoke me to anger — Which is the direct tendency of their sin, though they may not propose to themselves such an end in the committing it. Do they provoke me to anger? — Do they think to grieve me, and trouble my infinite and eternal mind, as if they could hurt me by their wickedness? They are deceived: I am without passion, and can be without their offerings. Do they not provoke themselves, &c. — Will they not themselves feel the hurt, and reap the fruits of their conduct? Will not the arrow which they shoot against heaven recoil upon their own guilty heads? Will not their sins turn at last to their own utter confusion?
Jeremiah 7:20. Therefore thus saith the Lord — And what he saith he will not unsay, nor can all the world withstand its execution. Hear it therefore and tremble. Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place — As the flood of waters was poured upon the old world, or the shower of fire and brimstone upon Sodom; since they will provoke me, let them feel the effects of their conduct. They shall soon find, 1st, That there is no escaping this deluge of wrath, either by fleeing from it, or fencing against it. It shall be poured out on this place — Though it be a holy place, the Lord’s house. It shall reach both man and beast — Like the plagues of Egypt; and, like some of them, shall destroy the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground — Which they had designed and prepared for Baal, and of which they had made cakes to the queen of heaven. They shall find, 2d, That there is no extinguishing it: it shall burn and shall not be quenched — Prayers and tears, forms and ceremonies of worship, and ritual observances of whatever kind, shall then avail nothing, to prevent that total destruction which it shall produce.
Jeremiah 7:21-28. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel — And let Israel hear when their God speaks — Put your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh — The burnt-offerings, after they were flayed, were to be consumed wholly upon the altar, Leviticus 1:9; whereas, in the sacrifices of the peace-offerings, only the fat was to be burned upon the altar; part of the remainder belonging to the priests, and the rest being the portion of the offerer, to be eaten with his friends in a kind of religious feast. But here the prophet tells the Jews that they may eat the flesh of their burnt-offerings as well as that of their peace-offerings; that he was equally regardless of the one and the other, and would have nothing to do with them; and that he would never accept offerings from people of so disobedient and refractory a disposition; that to be acceptable to him they must be presented with an humble and obedient mind. “This leads plainly to the interpretation of the next verses, which are by no means to be taken separately, as if God had not required burnt-offerings and sacrifices at all; but that he did not insist so much upon them as on obedience to the commands of the moral law; or, at least, that the former derived all their efficacy from the latter.” See note on 1 Samuel 15:22. “Sacrifices,” says Dr. Waterland, on this passage, “which were but part of duty, are here opposed to entire and universal obedience. Now the thing which God required, and chiefly insisted upon, was universal righteousness, and not partial obedience, which is next to no obedience, because not performed upon a true principle of obedience. God does not deny that he had required sacrifices: but he had primarily and principally required obedience, which included sacrifices and all other instances of duty as well as that: and he would not accept of such lame service as those sacrifices amounted to; for that was paying him part only in lieu of the whole. Or we may say, that sacrifices, the out-work, are here opposed to obeying God’s voice; that is, the shadow is opposed to the substance, apparent duty to real hypocrisy, and empty show to sincerity and truth. Sacrifices separate from true holiness, or from a sincere love of God, were not the service which God required; for hypocritical services are no services, but abominations in his sight: he expected, he demanded, religious devout sacrifices; while his people brought him only outside compliments, to flatter him; empty formalities, to affront and dishonour him. These were not the things which God spake of, or commanded: the sacrifices he spake of were pure sacrifices, to be offered up with a clean and upright heart. Those he required, and those only he would accept of as real duty and service.”
Jeremiah 7:29. Cut off thy hair, O Jerusalem — This was commonly practised in the time of great sorrow and mourning. And Jerusalem is here addressed as a woman in extreme misery, and exhorted to take upon her the habit and disposition of a mourner, and to bewail the calamities which were fallen upon her. But some have observed that the Hebrew word נזר, which we translate barely the hair, signifies something more, namely, votive, or Nazarite hair; and they think the prophet alludes to the law concerning Nazarites, (Numbers 6:9,) whereby it was ordered that, if any one should die near them, they should immediately shave off their hair. They suppose, therefore, the sense here is, that so many would be killed in Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, that if there were any Nazarites in the city, they would be all obliged on that account to shave off their hair: by which is signified that a great number of the inhabitants would be slain. And take up a lamentation on high places — Or, for the high places, as some read it; namely, where they had worshipped their idols, and offered their sacrifices, there they must now bemoan their misery. Or the words may, as some suppose, be intended to signify the cries and lamentations of the watchmen, who were placed on high towers and on hills, to observe the country around; and who are represented as seeing, on this occasion, scenes of calamity and slaughter on every side, and continually fresh subjects of alarm. For the Lord hath rejected the generation of his wrath — This sinful generation, who have so highly provoked him. As God is said to reject or cast off his people when he gives them up into the hands of their enemies, so he is said to choose them again at their restoration from captivity, Isaiah 14:1.
Jeremiah 7:30-31. They have set up their abominations, &c. — They have set up images and altars for idolatrous worship even in my temple, and the courts near it. This seems to be spoken of what was done in the times of Manasseh, or Amon, 2 Kings 21:4; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Chronicles 33:4. And they have built the high places of Tophet — To burn their sons and their daughters in the fire. Concerning this unnatural and cruel custom of burning their children, by way of sacrifice to Moloch, which was derived from the Canaanites, see notes on Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23:10; Isaiah 30:33. Which I commanded them not — But, on the contrary, expressed the greatest detestation of it, and forbade it under the severest penalties: see Leviticus 20:1-5. The words are spoken by the figure called meiosis, by which a great deal less is expressed than is implied; a way of speaking frequent in Scripture. Thus, Deuteronomy 17:3, God, speaking of the worship of the host of heaven, adds, Which I have not commanded, meaning, which I expressly forbade. So God, reproving the idolatry of the Jews, says, Isaiah 65:12, They choose things wherein I delighted not, that is, which I utterly abhorred. And Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:8) calls idols, things that do not profit, meaning, that their worship was not only insignificant, but likewise extremely wicked and destructive. Thus St. Paul expresses the vilest sins, by calling them things which are not convenient, Romans 1:28.
Jeremiah 7:32-34. It shall be no more called Tophet, but The valley of Slaughter — King Josiah first of all defiled this place, as the text speaks, 2 Kings 23:10; that is, polluted it by burying dead bodies in it, by casting filth into it, and scattering there the dust and ashes of the idols which he had broken to pieces and burned. And afterward, when great numbers died in the siege of Jerusalem, and the famine that followed upon it, it became a common burying-place of the Jews: see Jeremiah 19:6. Whereby was fulfilled that prophecy of Ezekiel 6:5, I will lay the dead carcasses of the children of Israel before their idols. They shall bury in Tophet till there be no place — Till it be entirely filled, and there be no vacant place left. The Vulgate reads this clause, “They shall be buried in Tophet, because there shall be no place,” which reading Houbigant approves. “The time shall come when there shall be so great a slaughter in Jerusalem, that, the graves being insufficient to bury the dead, they shall be forced to throw them into Tophet, and leave them without interment. This prediction received its last and perfect completion in the war of Nebuchadnezzar against the Jews, and that of the Romans against the same people. Josephus informs us, that in this latter war an infinite number of dead bodies were thrown over the walls, and left in the valleys round the city; insomuch, that Titus himself, beholding this spectacle, could not help lifting up his hands to heaven, and calling God to witness that he had no part in these inhuman practices.” In chap. 19., Jeremiah “repeats the same threatenings with more latitude and force; declaring that Tophet shall become the lay-stall of Jerusalem, and that Jerusalem herself shall be reduced to the condition of Tophet; that is to say, polluted and filled with dead bodies.” And in Jeremiah 31:40, he calls it the valley of the dead bodies. Then will I cause to cease the voice of mirth, &c. — All kinds and degrees of mirth shall cease, all places shall be filled with lamentation and wo, their singing shall be turned into sighing, and they shall lay aside all things that are for the comfort of human society. The voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride — Persons will have no encouragement to marry when they see nothing but ruin and desolation before their eyes.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 7". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany