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Jeremiah is sent to call for true repentance, to prevent the Jews' captivity: he rejecteth their vain confidence, by the example of Shiloh: he threateneth them for their idolatry: he rejecteth the sacrifice, of the disobedient: he exhorteth to mourn for their abominations in Tophet, and declares the judgements for the same.
Before Christ 600.
Jeremiah 7:1-2. The word that came to Jeremiah— We have here a new discourse, which reaches to the 13th chapter, wherein the prophet declaims against the vices of Judah and Jerusalem, particularly their hypocrisy and false confidence in their religious principles; delivering also some threats against Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the people of Arabia: see chap. Jeremiah 9:26. Jeremiah pronounced this discourse at the east gate of the temple, which led directly to it, before all the people who entered there. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 7:4. The temple of the Lord are these— These gates, in which Jeremiah was commanded to stand: so in the Gospel our Savour says, See you all these things? pointing to the temple, of which one stone was not to be left upon another. The threefold repetition of the temple of the Lord, expresses great vehemence, and an extreme presumption in these people. The prophet in apostrophizing Judaea, chap. Jer 22:29 makes use of a like threefold repetition.
Jeremiah 7:10. We are delivered to do— We are delivered, though we have done, &c. The old version of 1611 renders it, We have been delivered, though we have done, &c.
Jeremiah 7:12. But go ye now unto my place which was in 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, by divine appointment no doubt; and there it continued for a long space of time until the days of Samuel. It was during this residence, that the Israelites received that signal defeat from the Philistines, when the ark of God was taken, as related 1Sa 4:10-11 the pathetic description of which disaster made by the Psalmist, Psa 78:60-64 has caused it to be generally believed, that an allusion to it was likewise designed upon this occasion. But a due consideration of the context will, I think, lead us rather to conclude in favour of 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. Rising up early, &c.— See 2 Chronicles 36:15. The phrase means, "making all possible haste, and using every endeavour, continually and carefully preventing you with my remonstrances: I employed, with all possible attention, severity, and softness, promises and threats; but all to no purpose."
Jeremiah 7:15. Even the whole seed of Ephraim— The ten tribes, who were sent into captivity in the reign of Hezekiah, the great-grandfather of Josiah, under whom Jeremiah prophesied.
Jeremiah 7:16. Therefore, pray not thou, &c.— This is not said to Jeremiah, because God would not have him affected with love for his country; but to assure him, that if he prayed it would be in vain, as he had determined to punish the incorrigible sins of the Jews. These expressions, however, admirably mark out the efficacy of the prayers of believers for sinners. See Eze 32:30 and Houbigant.
Jeremiah 7:18. To the queen of heaven— The queen of heaven was the moon; the same as Astarte or Ashtaroth. The prophet here describes the whole family as busied in preparing their sacrifices and superstitious rites to this idol. Houbigant renders the words other gods, very properly, by strange gods; and Jeremiah 7:19. Do they aggrieve me, saith the Lord, and not themselves [rather], to the confusion of their own faces?
Jeremiah 7:21-23. Put your burnt-offerings, &c.— Houbigant renders this, Put together your burnt-offerings with your peace-offerings; and eat their flesh. The meaning is, "Eat your sacrifices yourselves, your burnt-offerings and your peace-offerings. I am equally regardless of one and the other. I have nothing to do with them; nor can ever accept offerings from people of so superstitious and so rebellious a disposition. To be acceptable to me, they must be presented with an humble and obedient heart." 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 at all; but, that he did not insist so much upon sacrifice, as upon obedience to the commands of the moral law; or at least that the former derived all their efficacy from the latter. Others however, and among these Grotius, lay the emphasis upon the words, in the day; that is to say, "At the time when I first brought you out of Egypt; when the laws respecting sacrifices were not delivered, though such as respected obedience were then and ever in full force." Sacrifices, which were but parts of duty, are here opposed to intire 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 to say, the shadow is opposed to the substance, apparent duty to real, hypocrisy and empty shew to sincerity and truth. Now the thing which God required and insisted upon, was obedience to his voice in every thing; and he laid no stress upon sacrifices, any further than as considered as parts of true obedience. 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 that 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. The mere opus operatum, or outward work of offering up sacrifices, from a corrupt heart, was no sacrificing to God, any more than the fasting for strife and debate, Zechariah 7:5. Isa 58:4-7 was a fasting to God. Such sacrifices God detested, as being a semblance only of duty, and not the duty required; a corruption and profanation of a holy rite, rather than a just and proper conformity to it. Sacrifices so profaned, carried more of human corruption than of divine institution in them, being a kind of mock worship which man had contrived, and not the true worship which God had enjoined. See Waterland's Script. Vind. part 3: p. 68 and Amos 5:25.
Jeremiah 7:24. And went backward, &c.— And they turned from me, and not towards me, (Jeremiah 7:25.). Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt, unto this day. And I sent unto them, &c.
Jeremiah 7:27. Therefore, &c.— And when thou shalt speak all these things unto them, they will not hearken unto thee.
Jeremiah 7:29. Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem— See Job 1:20. Isa 15:2 and Ezekiel 27:31. Jerusalem is here addressed as a woman under 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. Instead of, Take up a lamentation on high places, some read, for the high places; see Jeremiah 7:31-32. To cut off the hair was a mark of extreme grief: the custom was usual among the Pagans also. Achilles, as well as his soldiers, cut off their hair at the funeral of Patroclus. Mr. Pope is of opinion, that this custom of cutting off the hair was not only in token of sorrow, but perhaps had a concealed meaning,—that as the hair was cut from the head, and was never more to be joined to it: so was the dead for ever cut off from the living, never more to return. See his note on Il. 23. ver. 164 and Peters on Job, p. 315. The last words of the verse may be rendered, A most provoking generation; or a generation which hath much angered him.
Jeremiah 7:31. The high places of Tophet— The valley of Hinnom, or of the son of Hinnom, was near Jerusalem, and was the scene of those horrid sacrifices which the Israelites, in imitation of their idolatrous neighbours, made of their Children to Moloch. Tophet was the particular spot in the valley where the fires were made, into which the poor innocent victims were thrown; and is supposed to have derived its name from the drums and tabrets, which were beaten in order to drown the children's cries. The high places, במות bamoth, were in all probability artificial mounts, or tumuli, thrown up about the place for the purpose of performing some of the rites with which these sacrifices were accompanied; or from which the persons assembled might command a view of the dreadful spectacle.
Jeremiah 7:32. But The valley of slaughter— The reason of this name is given in the words immediately following; for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place:—"Till it is intirely filled, and there is no vacant space left." Houbigant and the Vulgate render the last clause, And they shall bury in Tophet, because there shall be no place; "Every other place shall be full of carnage, and Tophet shall become the slaughtering-place of Jerusalem. There those dead bodies shall be cast out, to which they shall not deign to grant sepulture. 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 most perfect accomplishment 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 vallies 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. Josiah began to pollute Tophet, by casting filth into it, and scattering there the dust and ashes of the idols which he had broken to pieces and burned; See 2 Kings 23:10. Compare this with chap. 19: where 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. In chap. Jer 31:40 he calls it, The valley of the dead bodies. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 7:34. Then will I cause to cease, &c.— "There shall be no more marriages; no more shall the voice of mirth and rejoicing be heard; or the sound of musical instruments, which usually attends this sort of festivals." See Pindar's third Pythian Ode, line 30.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, This chapter begins a new sermon and prophesy, designed, as the former, to lead the people to repentance.
1. Directions are given to the prophet what to speak, and where to deliver his message. He must proclaim the word of the Lord, without adding thereto, or diminishing therefrom; and stand in the gate of the house of the Lord, the most frequented place, where those who came up to worship might hear; probably at one of the three great festivals, when the concourse was greatest. Note; (1) A large auditory is desirable, where the words of truth are dispensed. (2.) We must not be afraid of being censured for extravagant zeal: when in general the ministers of the sanctuary are careless, we cannot be faithful without being singular.
2. The general contents of his discourse are, an exhortation to repentance, with a gracious promise annexed. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, at whose command, and by whose authority, he speaks, the God of Israel, whom they, as his people, are peculiarly bound to obey; Amend your ways, and your doings; make a thorough change in them, for they are at present utterly perverse; and I will cause you to dwell in this place; to enjoy their land, and the temple service, and not remove into captivity, as would infallibly be the case if they continued impenitent.
3. He specifies the particulars, which immediately, heartily, and thoroughly, must be amended; and they are summed up in two points, as being their grand evils, oppression and idolatry. They must be just; their magistrates impartial; no allowed dishonesty permitted in their dealings; the fatherless and widows must not be injured, nor innocent blood any more defile the land; and all false gods must be utterly rejected and abhorred: then God will make their abode in the good land given to their fathers both safe and lasting. Note; God only saith to the sinner, Do thyself no harm: all that he requires of us is purely for our own good and happiness.
4. He rebukes their vain confidence, and urges them no longer to trust in their formal duties and external privileges. The false prophets magnified the outward service of the temple, as if in this all godliness consisted; and they readily embraced a religion which rested in mere externals of worship, and required no inward mortification of sin. The temple of the Lord was ever in their mouths, their boast and confidence; and while thrice a-year they attended there, they thought they fulfilled their duty. But alas! these were lying words, a delusive hope, which could not profit them, while they looked no further than the ritual service, and exercised no faith in the Messiah, which alone gave it any efficacy, and especially while all their sins continued unrepented of, and indulged. Will ye steal? or, ye do steal. He expostulates on their absurdity, and charges them with abominations. They continued in murder, theft, perjury, adultery, idolatry; and yet dared appear before God in the temple, as if their sacrifices could atone for their crimes; and impudently affected still to pass for true servants and worshippers of God; saying in their words, or, which spoke as loud, in their actions, we are delivered to do all these abominations; either they thought themselves at liberty to sin, after they had appeared at the temple with their sacrifices; or, that having been delivered so long, they might go on still with impunity in their iniquities. This with deepest indignation God beholds, and upbraids them with. Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? as robbers take refuge in their den, so did they in the temple, thinking to cover their enormities with the cloak of ceremonies and sacrifices; but vain before God were these wretched coverings. Behold, I have seen it, saith the Lord, their hypocrisy great as their impiety. Note; (1.) Many pride themselves in a form of godliness, who are strangers to the power of it; and, while they boast of the church, and their attendance thrice in a year at the Lord's table, are in fact the farthest from the kingdom of God. (2.) To plead the sacrifice of Christ for sin, as a licence to continue in it, is the most detestable abuse of Gospel grace. (3.) Few dare avow what, notwithstanding, their conduct evidently declares. (4.) The guise of godliness may pass upon men, but no hypocrisy can be concealed from the heart-searching God.
5. He sets before them, for their admonition, and to shew the vanity of their hopes, the destruction of Israel, notwithstanding the tabernacle once pitched in Shiloh. Let them go thither, and read, on the ruins of this once-famed abode of God's ark, the insufficiency of that protection, when the wickedness of the worshippers, and of the priests, provoked God's wrath against them, Jos 18:1. 1 Samuel 4:4-11. Psa 78:60-67 and such would be their doom, since such had been their sins. With like abominations they had offended God, and equally deaf to the repeated admonitions of God's prophets had they been; therefore the temple and city of Jerusalem shall become as Shiloh, a desolation, and God will cast off the whole people of Judah, as he had already done by their brethren of Israel, who were gone long since into captivity. Note; (1.) God's judgments on others are warnings to us to avoid their ways, if we would escape their punishment. (2.) They who follow the examples of sinners will surely suffer with them. (3.) They who are cast off from God are truly miserable, and must, as the necessary consequence, be shortly cast down into hell.
2nd, Their own prayers and services were so hypocritical and abominable, that no good could be expected from them; but the prophet still continued their advocate, and his prayers were usually more or less availing; but God will cut off from them every resource.
1. He is forbidden to pray for them. Much as the prophet had their salvation at heart, God's decree is fixed, prayer comes too late, their ruin is determined. Note; (1.) They who preach to sinners must pray for them; yea, though they revile and persecute. (2.) In a desperate state is that people, concerning whom God refuses to be intreated, and shuts up the mouths of his prophets.
2. God assigns the reasons for his prohibition; their impudent iniquities, and incorrigible obstinacy. Openly, in the cities of Judah, yea, in the very streets of Jerusalem, under the prophet's eye, unawed by his presence, and unaffected with his warnings, they performed their idolatrous rites, offering meat-offerings and drink-offerings to the queen of heaven, the moon, consecrated for a goddess, and to their other idols; and in this work all ages and sexes joined; so universal was the corruption spread! The very children gathered the wood, while their fathers kindled the fire, and the women kneaded the cakes, to provoke God to anger. See how carefully idolaters initiated betimes their children in the service of their idols; shall we be less solicitous to instruct ours in the knowledge of the living God? Could they so freely part with their bread and wine in these detestable rites; and shall not we more liberally in God's service break our bread to the hungry, and open our bottle to the thirsty?
3. He threatens them with the dire consequences of this conduct. Do they provoke me to anger? No: such perturbation as we feel, enters not into the Eternal Mind. Or does he receive any damage by their wickedness? No: as their goodness could not add to his self-sufficient bliss and happiness, neither can their wickedness take from it. The hurt that they do is only to themselves, bringing upon their own heads swift destruction. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place; a deluge of wrath, such as swept away the world of the ungodly, or which fell upon devoted Sodom. The temple and city shall be utterly destroyed; both man and beast be consumed; and the very trees and fruits of the ground devoured by the fire of divine wrath. It shall burn with irresistible fury, and shall not be quenched. And herein we have an awful representation of the punishment of all the wicked in hell, who depart accursed into everlasting fire.
3rdly, As they placed so much dependance on their sacrifices to procure their acceptance with God, God will have them know that these are insignificant and vain, while they mistook their end, and perverted their institution. Put your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh; either give over such vain oblations, and use them rather at your own tables; or add never so many or expensive offerings, and pretend never so religiously to eat them before the Lord; they are utterly unacceptable, while the love and power of sin remain unsubdued in your hearts. For,
1. Obedience, not sacrifice, is the great thing which God requires. The ten commandments were first delivered to their fathers in the wilderness; and, though sacrifices were afterwards instituted, it was not for their own sake, but in order to lead them by faith to the great Antetype, whose atonement was therein represented; exclusive of which, they were utterly useless and unacceptable. The principal part, therefore, of the Sinai covenant was, Obey my voice; and to this the promise was annexed, I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; protecting them from their enemies, and preserving them in the possession of the promised land; and as long as they thus carefully walked in all God's ways, so long it should be well with them, and prosperity continually attend them.
2. Disobedience to the moral law is their great offence, and this had been their case from their very coming out of Egypt to that day. Their fathers and they had together rejected God's law, to walk after the imagination of their own evil heart; and, instead of advancing in the ways of holiness and happiness, turned back into the paths of sin and misery, and this in opposition to long and repeated warnings, brought them from those divinely-appointed ministers, whom God from time to time raised up to admonish them of the evil and danger of their ways. Instead of amending, every generation grew worse, and more hardened, till the measure of their iniquities now rose to the brim; therefore the prophet is commanded to speak all these words unto them; those charges of their rebellion and obstinacy, and those warnings of their impending ruin. Not that these would have any effect; God foretels him, that they would not hearken, nor answer to his calls: but, to leave them inexcusable in their wickedness, thou shalt say unto them. This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, which relation aggravated their disobedience; nor receiveth correction; they will not be taught by the word, nor reclaimed by the rod: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth; they are false and faithless to God and man; nothing but lies, insincerity, and hypocrisy, are to be found among them, and therefore nothing but ruin to be expected. Note; We must not cease to admonish sinners, though we see no prospect of reclaiming them; we must speak, if but for a testimony against them.
4thly, Jerusalem, in the prospect of her approaching desolations, is called upon to cut off her hair, in token of deepest mourning, Job 1:20 and on the high places, the scene of her abominations, to lift up an exceeding bitter cry, as rejected of God, devoted to wrath, and given up into the hands of her cruel enemies.
1. Her sin is exceeding sinful. They have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord; continued in a course of open and daring impiety: particularly their abominable idolatries provoked him, which they had carried to such an enormous height, that in God's own house they had dared to set up their images, and rear their altars, as if they designed on purpose to defile that holy place; and their sacrifices were as horrid and inhuman as their deities were detestable. They built the high places of Tophet, where Moloch's hated image stood, and, deaf to the cries of nature, and the shrieks of murdered infants, their parents, lost to every feeling of natural affection, burnt their children in the fire. It is said, that this was performed by heating the brazen idol red hot, and then the parent laid the child on his arms, while the priests beat drums to drown the horrid shrieks and cries: sacrifices which God never commanded, and such as he never thought of enjoining his worshippers. Note; When sin has hardened the heart, it is amazing to what a pitch of barbarity and inhumanity men may go.
2. The vengeance denounced for this is exceedingly terrible. Tophet, the scene of these abominations, shall shortly change its name for the valley of slaughter, or of the slain; for there shall multitudes fall by the sword, or be carried thither to be buried; multitudes so great, that graves shall be wanting for them, and the unburied corpses lie for meat to the fowls of heaven, and beasts of the earth, and not a man left to carry them away. Deserted now are the streets of Jerusalem; no voice of joy is heard, no congratulations of the bride or bridegroom, but the sound of mournful lamentations; or the land is become so desolate, that none are left to weep, and more melancholy silence reigns. Note; God will soon change sinful mirth into everlasting mourning: we need rejoice with trembling.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 7". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29