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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 7

 

 

Introduction

Jeremiah 1 - chapters 1 to 10.

A (Very) Brief History Of The Time Of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah began his ministry prior to the discovery of the Law Book in the Temple in the reign of the godly king Josiah, and he continued his ministry throughout the remainder of Josiah’s life, until that life was sadly cut short when Josiah sought to prevent the Egyptian forces under Pharaoh Necho from going to the aid of a dying Assyria in 609 BC. During that period Judah had enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity with their enemies being too preoccupied elsewhere to trouble them, and with fervent religious reform taking place at the centre in Jerusalem, a reform which, however, as Jeremiah knew, had not reached the hearts of the people, for they still hankered after the old Canaanite syncretism of YHWH with Baal. Conformity was thus outward, not inward, and the old hill top sanctuaries did not remain unused, even though that use had to be in secret.

Assyria indeed, which had for a hundred years and more been the dominating force in the area, was by this time fighting a rearguard action for its very life against the combined forces of Babylonia and the Medes (Nineveh had fallen in 612 BC), and was on its last legs. Indeed Josiah’s intervention may well have been the final nail in their coffin, delaying the Egyptian forces long enough to prevent them aiding Assyria in time, thus ensuring Assyria’s final defeat. (Egypt had seen the threat that would follow that defeat). But, in spite of Josiah’s reforms, religiously speaking things had not been going well in the heartland of Judah, for idolatry and disobedience to the covenant had become too well engrained among the people to be easily removed and was still flourishing, so that Jeremiah had constantly to be engaged in seeking to bring the people back to a response to the Law and to the true worship of YHWH (chapters 1-20), warning them of invaders who would be coming from the north (either the Scythians or the Babylonians, or both) if they did not. He respected Josiah greatly and mourned his death (2 Chronicles 35:25).

The fall of Assyria left a power vacuum in which a resurgent Egypt sought to establish its control over Palestine, Syria and beyond, establishing a base at Carchemish, and becoming initially determinant of who would rule Judah, removing Jehoahaz and replacing him with his brother Jehoiakim. After the freedom enjoyed under Josiah this was a bitter blow for Judah, and, along with the fact of Josiah’s untimely death, appeared to many to indicate that what Josiah had sought to achieve had failed.

But Egypt was not to be triumphant for long. They had not reckoned with the power of Babylon and its allies, and four years after the death of Josiah they were decisively beaten by the Babylonian army at Carchemish, and then at Hamath. As a result the Pharaoh retired behind his own borders licking his wounds. Meanwhile Babylon took over the jurisdiction of Judah, and Jehoiakim had to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. The first part of Jeremiah’s work covers this whole period, initially of Josiah’s successful reign, tainted by the stubbornness of the people, and then of the reign of Jehoiakim who took Judah back to the old evil ways of syncretism and Baal worship.

Jeremiah continued to prophesy during the reign of Zedekiah, and even afterwards, and he thus ministered during the period described in 2 Kings 21-25 and 2 Chronicles 33-36. Contemporary with him were the prophets Zephaniah and Habakkuk before the Exile, and Ezekiel and Daniel subsequently.

The First Judean Exile To Babylon Including Daniel (c.605 BC).

As a result of Josiah’s intervention and death the Egyptians on their return journey took control of Judah, and Jehoahaz, who had reigned for a mere three months, was carried off to Egypt, being replaced by the weak Jehoiakim, who in spite of the heavy tribute required by Egypt, squandered money needlessly on a new palace complex, built by forced labour, for which he was castigated by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:13-19). He was no doubt trying to prove how grand he was, as weak men will. At the same time the religious reforms, such as they were, were falling by the wayside, and even the Temple itself was being affected (Jeremiah 7:16-18; Jeremiah 11:9-13; etc., compare Ezekiel 8). Judah had become disillusioned with YHWH, partly as a result of the death of Josiah, with the result that the prophets who did speak up against the decline were harassed, or even put to death (Jeremiah 26:23).

As we have seen, for a while it appeared that Judah would continue to be tributaries of a resurgent Egypt. But in a decisive battle in 605 BC at Carchemish, followed by another at Hamath, the Egyptians were badly mauled by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar, with the result that Babylon took control of Judah and Jerusalem, and on the surrender of the latter without resistance, deported the first load of exiles to Babylon, including Daniel and his three friends. Judah was now firmly in Babylonian hands.

Judah’s Folly In The Face Of Jeremiah’s Warnings.

It is perhaps understandable, however, that the leaders of Judah were not too happy about paying tribute to Babylon. They had after all hoped that the defeat of Assyria would cause their problems from the north to cease, and they had no real awareness of the might of the Babylonians. Furthermore, in spite of Judean backsliding with regard to the covenant (chapter 26), the belief had grown that the Temple of YHWH was inviolate and that YHWH would never allow it to be destroyed, a belief fostered by its earlier deliverance under Hezekiah (a belief flatly rejected by Jeremiah - Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 26:6). Had it not after all survived when the other great religious centres in Israel and Syria had collapsed and been destroyed? They felt that in worshipping YHWH alongside Baal, they had got the balance right. Thus, in spite of the sacking of Ashkelon (which shook Judah deeply - Jeremiah 47:5-7), and with the encouragement of false prophets, and the political influence of an Egypt which had by then stopped the advance of the Babylonians before they reached the borders of Egypt, inflicting heavy losses on them in a ‘drawn’ battle, and causing Nebuchadnezzar to withdraw to Babylon, Jehoiakim finally withheld tribute, very much against the advice of Jeremiah (chapter Jeremiah 25:9-11; Jeremiah 27:8; Jeremiah 27:11). Jeremiah was consequently looked on as a traitor. Humanly speaking we can understand Jehoiakim’s decision. It must have appeared to everyone as though Egypt had demonstrated their equality with, if not their superiority over, Babylon. Babylon would surely be more careful in future.

Jeremiah Puts His Prophecies On Record.

It was during this period that a rejected Jeremiah, with the assistance of Baruch his ‘secretary’ (whose name has been found on a seal as ‘belonging to Berek-yahu, son of Neri-yahu (Neriah), the scribe’), first gathered his prophecies into a book-roll (Jeremiah 36:2-4), but on these being read to the people by Baruch (Jeremiah 36:5-10) they were seized and cut up by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:23), who thereby showed his contempt for them. As a result Jeremiah and Baruch had to go into hiding (Jeremiah 36:26). Nothing daunted Jeremiah then wrote down a longer version (Jeremiah 36:28 ff), and meanwhile his efforts to turn the nation to YHWH in the face of persecution were unceasing (sections of chapters 21-49, see e.g. 25-26, 35-36, 45).

The Second Judean Exile, Including The New King Jehoiachin (c. 597 BC).

Inevitably the powerful Babylonians, having recuperated, once again arrived at the gates of Jerusalem, determined to take revenge on Jehoiakim, and Jehoiakim apparently gave himself up, along with some of the Temple treasure, probably thereby hoping to preserve his son’s life. Nebuchadnezzar’s intention was to carry him off in fetters to Babylon, but although this intention is stated it is never actually said to have been fulfilled (2 Chronicles 36:6 ff.; Daniel 1:1-2). Jeremiah may in fact be seen as suggesting otherwise (Jeremiah 22:19). Meanwhile his eighteen year old son Jehoiachin had become king in a city under siege and only reigned for three months, during which time frantic negotiations would have been taking place with the Babylonians. When he did surrender to them he was carried off to Babylon, along with the influential queen mother and further exiles, and even more Temple treasure. He was replaced, at the instigation of Nebuchadnezzar, by Zedekiah, his uncle. (This had no doubt all been part of the agreement reached).

The Third And Final Judean Exile And The Destruction Of The Temple (587 BC).

The reign of Zedekiah was one of continual intrigue, and in the face of it Jeremiah made himself unpopular by constantly warning of the folly of rebelling against the Babylonians (Jeremiah 27:12-22), only to be seen once again as a traitor and to be harshly dealt with. No one would listen to him as negotiations continued with Egypt, and inevitably, when Zedekiah withheld tribute the Babylonians once again surrounded Jerusalem. After a failed attempt by Egypt to intervene Jerusalem was taken and Zedekiah, his sons having been slain before his eyes, was blinded and carried off to Babylon, along with what was left of the paraphernalia of the Temple. Jerusalem itself was sacked. All that Jeremiah had prophesied had come true (these prophecies are intermingled in chapters 21-49, see e.g. Jeremiah 21:1 to Jeremiah 22:30; Jeremiah 23-24, 28-34, 37-39).

The Aftermath.

Nebuchadnezzar then appointed Gedaliah as governor of what remained of Judah, giving Jeremiah (whom he saw as loyal) the option of remaining in Judah or going with him to Babylon. Jeremiah chose to remain in Judah. (See chapters 40-42). But within a short period Gedaliah had been assassinated by ruthless opponents (Jeremiah 41:1-2), and the remnants of the people, fearful of repercussions from Nebuchadnezzar, and against the advice of Jeremiah (chapter 41-42), fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them (Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 44), rejecting YHWH’s offer of the restoration of the covenant. There Jeremiah prophesied the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 43:8 ff.). He probably died in Egypt. There are two traditions concerning what did happen to him, but neither of them can be seen as reliable. The first was that that he was stoned to death by the people at Tahpanhes in Egypt (so Tertullian, Jerome, and Epiphanius), and the second, in accordance with an alternative Jewish tradition, was that he was finally carried off with Baruch to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of the conquest of Egypt, in the 27th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. We have no way of knowing whether either have any truth in them.

The Message Of The Book For Our Day.

At first sight it might appear that much of Jeremiah’s prophecy has little to do with us. It appears to be directed at a rebellious Judah which was about to suffer awful consequences as a result of their sins, and we may even begin to find the emphasis as almost tedious and unnecessary. Why preserve writings which were so repetitive and emphasised a judgment long past?

The first reason is because they proved true. Jeremiah’s writings were preserved because in the end they provided an explanation of what had happened to Judah. He had proved to be right after all. Thus his promises of hope also became a basis for the future.

The second reason is because they reveal to us the nature of God. They bring out His holiness and the awe in which He should be held. It is true that God is merciful. But only to those who put their trust in Him and walk with Him. For all others He will one day be their judge.

Thus there is also a third reason why we should recognise the book as important and that is because we are in a similar position today. We may not have hanging over us the threat of Babylonian supremacy, but we do certainly have hanging over us the threat of God’s judgment in one way or another. Whether this will come (somewhat ironically) in the form of an Islamic revival or in the form of the effects of climate change or even finally in the form of the second coming of Christ, it is a certainty for the future. And we therefore also need to listen to the warnings of Jeremiah in order to be ready for what is coming on us. It is the same attitude of mind which brought judgment on Judah that is widespread in society today. Our idols may take a different form, but they have equally replaced God as the objects of our worship, and the immorality and unacceptability of many of our lives is clearly reflected in his prophecies. Every chapter should therefore come home to us as a warning to be ready for what is coming, for come it surely will.

(The idea that there will be a second chance after His second coming is based on false exegesis of Scripture and is not to be relied on. The truth is that His coming will call time on any opportunity to repent. Then men and women who have not responded to Him will face only a judgment which will be far worse than anything that came on Judah).

A General Overview Of The Book.

The prophecies of Jeremiah are not presented in strict chronological order, even though those which came in the time of Josiah do appear to come in the first part of the book. The first twenty chapters contain prophecies given partly in the time of Josiah and partly in the time of Jehoiakim, for the message to the people under both kings was very much the same (even though the kings themselves were very different), ‘turn from your idols, and begin to walk in accordance with the covenant, or disaster will come on you’. These chapters may well have made up a good part of the book of prophecies put together by Jeremiah, which was cut up by Jehoiakim, and re-written and expanded by Jeremiah through Barak his amanuensis and assistant (Jeremiah 36:4 ff). There is no good reason for doubting that all the prophecies which are in the book are genuinely his prophecies. As will be apparent he prophesied over a long period of time, and faced severe difficulties because his message was unpopular, and it is because of those difficulties, emphasised in chapters 26-45, that we know more about him than any other prophet after Moses.

Much of Jeremiah’s prophecy is in ‘Hebrew verse’ (as with the Sermon on the Mount and with most of the prophets), but we must beware of just seeing it as poetry. The purpose of Hebrew verse was in order to aid memory, and provide emphasis by means of repetition. It did not detract from the seriousness or validity of what was said. It was spoken very directly to the heart.

As will be apparent in the commentary Jeremiah was familiar both with the Law of Moses and the early historical books, which reflect that Law. As a popular presentation of the Law, Deuteronomy, with its emphatic emphasis on blessing and cursing, appears to have been especially influential. But it would be a mistake to ignore the influence of the remainder of the Law of Moses, and especially of Leviticus 26 with its parallel warnings similar to those of Deuteronomy 28. Jeremiah was familiar with the whole Law.

With the above in mind the book can be divided into three main Sections, which are found inserted between an introduction and a conclusion:

1. INTRODUCTION. Introductory opening chapter, which describes Jeremiah’s call by YHWH (Chapter 1).

2. SECTION 1. A number of general prophecies against Judah in the days of Josiah and Jehoiakim, including, in the final chapters, words spoken to Zedekiah (chapters 2-25).

3. SECTION 2. Biographical details from the life of the prophet and details of how he coped with his maltreatment, leading up to the fall of Jerusalem and its aftermath in the rejection of the offer of a new covenant (chapters 26-45).

4. SECTION 3. Prophecies against foreign nations (chapters 46-51).

5. CONCLUSION. Concluding appendix (chapter 52).


Verses 1-15

Judah Must Not Trust In The Presence Of The Temple For Security Because As A Result Of Their Evil Ways YHWH Intends To Do To The Temple What He Did To His House At Shiloh, Destroy It (Jeremiah 7:1-15).

As a result of the amazing deliverance of Jerusalem with its Temple from the Assyrians in the time of Hezekiah, and what had in contrast happened to neighbouring temples, the myth had grown up that the security of Jerusalem was guaranteed by the presence of the Temple among them. Their view had become that YHWH would not allow His Temple to be destroyed so that the Temple was inviolable. In consequence they had gained the false confidence that they too would be secure in Jerusalem, whatever their behaviour. In this passage therefore YHWH calls on Jeremiah to dispel that myth and make clear to all Judah that such dependence was totally false. Indeed the truth was that unless they repented He intended to do to the Temple precisely what He had done to His previous house at Shiloh (something that they had overlooked), allow it to be utterly destroyed.

On the basis of Jeremiah 26:1 it is accepted by many that these words were spoken at the commencement of the reign of Jehoiakim in around 609 BC. They argue that the similarities are too striking to be ignored. Others, however, disagree and argue that the similarities are not such as to demand that the incidents are the same and that Jeremiah might well have given the substance of this message a number of times, even in the time of Josiah. It is then especially pointed out that here there is no indication of a violent response by the priests, something which is very prominent in chapter 26. That is seen as indicating the restraining hand of Josiah. Furthermore, they say, here the message was given in the gate of YHWH’s house, while in chapter 26 it was in the court of YHWH’s house

Jeremiah 7:1

‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH, saying,’

For the idea behind these words see Jeremiah 1:4, (the word of YHWH came to me saying’); Jeremiah 2:4, (hear you the word of YHWH --); Jeremiah 3:6, (moreover YHWH said to me in the days of Josiah the king’). It was introductory to a new series of prophecies. And it stressed that what Jeremiah was proclaiming was the true word of YHWH.

Judah Are Called On To Change Their Ways.

Jeremiah 7:2

“Stand in the gate of YHWH’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of YHWH, all you of Judah, who enter in at these gates to worship YHWH.’ ”

Jeremiah was called on to stand in the gate of YHWH’s house. This was probably the gate that led into the inner court, (the court that would later become the court of the priests), and it may well have been seen as a place for the making of proclamations. He was probably looking outwards from the raised gateway towards the crowds gathered in the outer court, presumably during one of the main feasts of Israel.

Jeremiah 7:3

“Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.’ ”

His words commenced with a call from YHWH of hosts, as ‘the God of Israel’, addressed to what remained of ‘Israel’, requiring them to amend their ways, accompanied by an assurance that if they did so He would enable them to continue dwelling in the land, and in Jerusalem. So even at this point there was hope for them if they truly repented.

‘In this place.’ That is, in this land, compare Jeremiah 7:7; Jeremiah 7:20. Alternately in context it might indicate the Temple, repointing the text to read, ‘I will dwell with you in this place’. For this place’ compare the stress in Deuteronomy 12 on ‘the place which YHWH your God will choose’.

There Is No Point In Their Relying On The Inviolability Of The Temple.

Jeremiah 7:4

“Do not trust in lying words, saying, ‘The temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, are these.’ ”

But if they were to continue dwelling in the land it would be necessary for them to cease deceiving themselves into thinking that somehow the presence of the Temple of YHWH made Jerusalem inviolable, and that YHWH would not allow His holy hill to be approached by the enemy. There was no point in their continually saying, “‘The temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH are these (miscellany of buildings)” as though that could keep the enemy at bay by continual emphasis, unless they also amended their ways, for such thinking was invalid. Compare Micah 3:11 where the heads of Judah, the priests and the prophets also erroneously claimed, ‘Is not YHWH in the midst of us? No evil will come on us.’

The threefold repetition of ‘the Temple of YHWH’ possibly indicates Jeremiah’s weariness with constantly hearing the false prophets declaring Judah’s inviolability because of the presence of the Temple of YHWH in that he is bringing out that they keep on saying it again and again. ‘Are these.’ That is, are all these buildings, furniture and courts making up the Temple complex.

Alternately it may be intended as a sardonic comparison with the ‘holy, holy, holy’ of the Seraphim as depicted in Isaiah 6:3 (and repeated in Revelation 4:8). Instead of drawing attention to the holiness of YHWH, they were concentrating their hopes on the physical presence of what was virtually a mascot. Indeed the words may have formed part of a self-comforting liturgy by which they assured themselves of their own security.

One of the most remarkable evidences of the corruption of men’s hearts is that they can have a high estimate of ‘holy things’, and even of a holy God, and yet not recognise the demand that it lays on them to be equally ‘holy. (‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’). They have the ability to appreciate God’s holiness and believe that it offers them some kind of protection, especially from people ‘worse’ than they are, while at the same time excusing themselves from the need to be equally holy. As long as by their own standards they are not guilty of what they see as major sins (even when in fact they are, but they see it as excusable in their case) they consider that they have done all that can reasonably be expected of them, while at the same time being hard on those who stir up their consciences or do things that they cannot condone. They hate those who make them feel guilty and they ‘condone the sins they are inclined to, by condemning those they have no mind to.’ And then they think that all is well. They overlook the fact that at the centre of the Scriptural conception of the holiness of YHWH is the idea morally speaking that He is pure and beyond reproach, (as is revealed by His covenant), and that He requires the same of His people. They forget that, as Psalms 24 makes clear (compare also Psalms 15), only what is truly pure and righteous is acceptable in His presence. It was because of this strange spiritual blindness that they were able in this situation to have a high view of The Temple and its importance to God, without it having any real moral effect on their lives. It was the folly of such thinking that Jeremiah was seeking to bring home to them.On The Other Hand If They Do Amend Their Ways They Will Be Inviolate.

Jeremiah 7:5-7

“For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if you thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbour; if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own hurt, then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, from of old even for evermore.”

What was needed was for them to genuinely amend their ways and doings, by submitting to God’s covenant and ensuring that people obtained true justice in the everyday affairs of life, that the more helpless in society were not oppressed or being taken advantage of (something very important to God - see Jeremiah 27:19; Exodus 22:21 ff.; Deuteronomy 24:17 ff.; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:2; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Psalms 94:6, etc.), that the blood of innocent people was not being shed (by judicial murder, by attacks on the righteous, including the prophets, and by general violence), and that idolatry, which could only cause them harm, was being put to one side. If they did this, walking in accordance with His covenant, He would then ensure that they were able to continue dwelling in the land continually for ever, the land which He had given to their forefathers from of old. The corollary was that being allowed to live in the land depended on covenant obedience.

‘To your own hurt.’ This covered all the failures mentioned, not just the last one, compare Jeremiah 25:7.

‘From of old even for evermore.’ This could theoretically be translated ‘from everlasting to everlasting.’ It could not be literally true, for the land had not existed from everlasting, nor would it exist for evermore. Thus it includes within it the seed idea of the new heavens and the new earth, where Abraham and his descendants will receive ‘a better country’ (Hebrews 11:10-14), thus ensuring that His final promises of the land to them will be fulfilled in a way better than they could ever have dreamed of.

But In Spite Of Their False Confidence This Will Not Apply If They Continue In Their Sins.

Jeremiah 7:8

“Behold, you trust in lying words, which cannot profit.”

But the problem was that instead they believed in the words of false teachers and false prophets, words which said otherwise, giving them assurances based on false premises. Such words could not possibly be profitable for them, for they would simply hasten their destruction.

Jeremiah 7:9-10

“Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered,’ that you may do all these abominations?”

The Hebrew text is a little more stark. ‘To steal, to murder and commit adultery, to swear falsely and to burn incense to Baal, and to walk after other gods that you have not known, and then you come and stand before me in this house which is called by My Name, and say “we are delivered” so that you may do all these abominations.’ The unspoken comment required is that ‘it is preposterous!’

So the basic question was, did they really think that they could continue stealing, murdering, committing adultery, giving false testimony (for these four compare Hosea 4:2 and Exodus 20:13-16), and burning incense to Baal in the Temple and in their high places, and walking after other gods, (compare Exodus 20:3-5) thus breaking so many of the stipulations in His covenant, and then come and stand before Him in the house which was called by His Name and claim that He would deliver them? If so they had a strange idea of YHWH, for He abominated all these things and would rather bring them into account for them.

‘The house which is called by My Name.’ The fact that it was called by His Name made it ‘holy’, because it connected it with the very nature of God as revealed in His Name, so that only those who were compatible with God in that way could be welcomed there (Psalms 15; Psalms 24), simply because the behaviour of those who worshipped there reflected on His Name and reputation. To worship in YHWH’s house was a serious matter, for the worshippers of any god revealed by their lives the nature of that god. Thus in the house which was called by His Name unrepentant and disobedient sinners were not welcome (compare Isaiah 57:15). It was for the true-hearted only.

‘Burning incense to Baal.’ The burning of incense to Baal took place in all the high places and under every green tree. It was the popular expression of Canaanite worship similar to the burning of joss sticks at high places in many Asian countries today. I remember myself often going up the small mountain behind my flat in Hong Kong island, and coming to a natural sanctuary formed by a rock formation where joss sticks were still smouldering, left by local people. It was a ‘high place’ well known to all the locals, and indeed for miles around. But in Palestine ‘high places’ could also be artificial ones set up in cities, and a number of incense altars where such offerings were made have been discovered there.

The ‘gods that they had not known’ were presumably the Assyrian and Babylonian gods (e.g. the queen of heaven in Jeremiah 7:18; compare also Ezekiel 8), and other gods not familiar in the land of Canaan, but introduced into the Temple from outside, partly but not wholly as a political requirement, although the description may also have included the Canaanite pantheon.

It is one of the evidences of the fallen state of man that he does actually think that God does not really mind about his sins, and that he can continue in them blatantly while still retaining a relationship with God, and that in spite of God’s declaration that it is not so. They go on about God’s active love and forgiveness, and overlook the fact that both are dependent on repentance because of God’s antipathy to sin. They forget that by His nature God cannot be fully merciful to the unrepentant. He can give them sun and rain, but He cannot give them forgiveness. What was to happen to Judah was to be a lesson for all time that God really does mind about our sins, sufficiently to allow such an extreme judgment to come on those who, in spite of being supposedly His people, broke His commandments.

The Question Was, Did They Really See His House As A Thieves’ Den?

Jeremiah 7:11

“Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, says YHWH.”

He therefore asks them whether in fact they saw the house which was called by His Name as a ‘den of robbers’, a den of covenant breakers, a place where those who were planners of mischief were welcome? That was the impression that they were giving. For they gathered there as people who were corrupt and dishonest, as though they had a right to be there in spite of their failings. Did they really think that He, YHWH, could be a companion of thieves and blatant sinners? Was this not very much the opposite of what was revealed in the Psalms, where it says ‘who shall ascend into the hill of YHWH, and who shall stand in His holy place? Even he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to what is vain (any form of idolatry especially included) nor sworn deceitfully in matters related to his neighbour’ (Psalms 24:3-5). The truth was that only the pure in heart and the penitent (Isaiah 1:11-18; Isaiah 57:15) could find a welcome in His house, whilst they were the very opposite.

And yet it was that kind of attitude (seeing His house as a gathering place for evil men) that YHWH, in all His holiness, had plainly seen in them. He could see that they really did think that it did not matter how they behaved, or what possessed their hearts, as long as they followed the recognised Temple rituals. They seemingly did think that His house would welcome even those who were violent and dishonest and had no intention of relinquishing those ways, as long as they offered the appropriate sacrifices. Well, they were in for a rude awakening.

Let Them Consider What Had Happened To Shiloh.

Shiloh where YHWH’s Tabernacle had been established for a considerable time had been familiar with such behaviour. There too the worship of YHWH had been corrupted (see 1 Samuel 2:12-36). And let them consider what had happened there.

Jeremiah 7:12

“But go now to my place which was in Shiloh, where I caused my name to dwell at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.”

Let them just consider what had happened to His former house at Shiloh where he had caused His Name to dwell. Shiloh was the first major centre at which the Tabernacle had been established for a long time. It had been established there by Joshua once the initial conquest was over and had continued there throughout the period of the Judges up to Samuel (Joshua 18:1; Joshua 18:8-10; Joshua 19:51; Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:3; etc.). They should recall that the people who had worshipped at Shiloh had had a similar view of things, and see what had happened there. He had caused it to be destroyed because of the wickedness of His people, a precedent which boded ill for the Temple. The destruction of Shiloh is not actually described elsewhere in Scripture, but it is implied by the fact that when Samuel, who had been brought up in the Tabernacle at Shiloh, ministered to the people after the Philistines had been driven back, it was not at Shiloh, but elsewhere, while the Tabernacle furniture itself next turned up at Nob (1 Samuel 21:6). Shiloh simply disappeared from history without mention.

Because They Have Refused To Listen To Him He Will Destroy The Temple And Send Them Into Exile.

Jeremiah 7:13

“And now, because you have done all these works, says YHWH, and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer.”

And now, because they had ‘done all these works’ and demonstrated that they were even worse than those who had worshipped at Shiloh, in that they had stolen, murdered, committed adultery, sworn falsely, and burned incense to Baal, walking after other gods that they had not known (Jeremiah 7:9), and refusing to listen to His continual pleading through the prophets, He would now act against them. ‘Rising up early’ indicates the great effort that He had made to speak to them (compare Jeremiah 7:25). And He then emphasises how He had repeatedly spoken to them and called them and had had no reply, indicating quite clearly that their unresponsiveness was not because they had had no opportunity.

“Rising up early and ---,” indicating urgency, is a favourite phrase of Jeremiah’s and is unique to him (compare Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 25:3-4; Jeremiah 26:5; Jeremiah 29:19; Jeremiah 32:33; Jeremiah 35:14-15; Jeremiah 44:4)

Jeremiah 7:14

“Therefore will I do to the house which is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.”

And one way in which He would act against them would be by destroying the Temple and the land which He had given them, in the same way as He had destroyed Shiloh. They had made it a den of robbers and He would treat it as such. It is difficult for us to appreciate the enormity in the eyes of the people of Jerusalem of what Jeremiah was saying. Not only was belief in the inviolability of the Temple firmly rooted deep in their hearts, but they also considered that they were special to YHWH (in spite of their continuing disobedience, which they dismissed as unimportant as long as they maintained the Temple ritual) and that He had a special place for them in His purposes. How then could He destroy them as He had destroyed Shiloh? It was unthinkable.

Jeremiah 7:15

“And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, even the whole seed of Ephraim.”

And YHWH then informed them that not only would He destroy both their Temple and their land as He had Shiloh, but He would also cast the people themselves out of His sight as He had cast ‘the whole seed of Ephraim’ (all the people of northern Israel which, especially in its reduced form, had been known as ‘Ephraim, centring on Mount Ephraim and being named after the most influential of the northern tribes) out of His sight. And all knew what that meant. It meant captivity and exile.


Verses 1-25

Subsection 3. In This Subsection Jeremiah Admonishes The People Concerning The False Confidence That They Have In The Inviolability Of The Temple, And In Their Sacrificial Ritual, And After Chiding Them, Calls On Them To Recognise The Kind Of God That They Are Dealing With (Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 10:25).

Commencing with what will be the standard introductory words up to chapter 25, ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 7:1; compare Jeremiah 11:1; Jeremiah 14:1; Jeremiah 18:1; Jeremiah 21:1), Jeremiah in this section admonishes the people concerning the false confidence that they have in the inviolability of the Temple, and in their sacrificial ritual, accompanying his words with warnings that if they continued in their present disobedience, Judah would have to be dispersed and the country would have to be despoiled (Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3). He therefore chides the people for their obstinacy in the face of all attempts at reformation (Jeremiah 8:4 to Jeremiah 9:21), and demonstrates to them what the path of true wisdom is, that they understand and know YHWH in His covenant love, justice and righteousness, vividly bringing out the folly of idolatry when contrasted with the greatness of YHWH. The section ends with the people knowing that they must be chastised, but hoping that YHWH’s full wrath will rather be poured out on their oppressors.


Verses 16-28

YHWH Explains To Jeremiah Why He Sees His People As Having Gone Beyond What Was Acceptable, And What The Consequences Must Inevitably Be, Because They Have Constantly Refused To Hear His Voice (Jeremiah 7:16-28).

Jeremiah was called on no longer to pray for the people of Judah because there was no longer any possibility that such a prayer would be heard (compare Jeremiah 14:11; and note Jeremiah 18:19-23). And the reason for that was because of their total addiction to idolatrous worship, including that of ‘the Queen of Heaven’ (compare Jeremiah 44:17). This has been identified by some in terms of Ashtoreth/Ishtar/Astarte although it is nowhere said so. However, numerous clay plaques depicting naked female images have been discovered in Palestine from the bronze and iron ages, and an Egyptian stele at Bethshean speaks of Anath, Baal’s sister, as the Queen of Heaven. The consequence of all this was that they had brought on themselves total ‘confusion’. That indeed was why YHWH’s anger was about to be poured out on the whole land, including man, animals, trees and crops in a way which could not be prevented (‘it will not be quenched’).

For at the very root of the problem was the fact that they had refused to hear Him to obey Him or to walk in His ways. It was such activity that had always been His first priority. Thus their offerings and sacrifices, which had always been of secondary importance, were in vain. And this situation had been exacerbated even more by the fact that He had sent to them His servants the prophets, to whom also they had refused to listen, just as they would now not listen to Jeremiah. That is why they are to be branded as the people who would not listen to the voice of YHWH their God, truth having been cut off from their mouths.

Jeremiah Is Not Even To Pray For ‘This People’ Because Of The Terrible Things That They Are Doing.

Jeremiah 7:16

“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up cry nor prayer for them, nor make intercession to me, for I will not hear you.”

In a threefold manner YHWH now called on Jeremiah no longer to pray for the people of Judah because He simply would not listen to him. The end had been reached and mercy was no longer available. ‘Do not pray -- nor lift up cry or prayer -- nor make intercession’. Note the advancement in intensity, with intercession involving personal involvement. It was an emphatic statement for which there was to be no exception. It is a reminder to us that although God is continually longsuffering, there regularly comes a time when, because of people’s intransigence, He finally brings things to a conclusion, in order to begin again. It happened for the people in the time of Noah, with the Flood (Genesis 6:7). It happened for the Canaanites when, after waiting for four hundred years for them to repent (Genesis 15:16), He finally sent in the Israelites to destroy them. It had happened for Israel when it had continually refused to listen to His prophets, so that Samaria had been destroyed and they had at last been exiled. Now it had happened to Judah, who could thus only await their certain end.

Jeremiah 7:17

“Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?”

God recognised the shock that this strange request not to pray for the people must have been to Jeremiah and so He makes clear His reasons, asking him to consider what he can see with his own eyes, the activities of the people in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. The whole land is involved.

Jeremiah 7:18

“The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings to other gods, so that they may provoke me to anger.”

All were involved. The children gather the wood, the fathers kindle the fire, the women knead the dough. All are concerned in making cakes for the Queen of Heaven, as well as pouring out drink-offerings to other gods, thus provoking Him to anger. While the formal worship of YHWH continued in the Temple, and they paid lip service to it, it was these other gods and goddesses, accompanied by their depraved practises, who took all of the people’s attention and affection, and because the celebrations were carried out indoors they had no doubt escaped Josiah’s attempts at reformation. They could no longer blatantly offer blood sacrifices to such gods, but cake-offerings and drink-offerings were a different matter

While this is the first mention of the Queen of Heaven individually (compare also Jeremiah 44:17-25), worship of the queen of heaven may well have been prominent in Israel in the days of Amos (consider Amos 5:26 where mention is made of ‘the star god’ - there was no Hebrew word for goddess), and it may have been encouraged in Judah by Manasseh, through the worship of ‘the host of Heaven’ (2 Kings 21:3).

Some, however, would repoint malkat (queen) as meleket, signifying ‘heavenly handiwork’, thus having more in mind ‘the host of Heaven’ (2 Kings 21:3), the very worship of the stars which Josiah had sought to quell (2 Kings 23:5).

But What They Are Doing Will Rebound On Themselves.

Jeremiah 7:19

“Do they provoke me to anger?” says YHWH, “is it not themselves (who were being provoked), to the confusion of their own faces?”

The words in brackets are not in the Hebrew text but are required for the sense. That was the way in which men wrote. YHWH’s question was rhetorical. They had certainly succeeded in provoking Him to anger. But what they also needed to recognise was that what they were doing was provoking confusion (shame) to their own faces, bringing shame and ignominy on themselves (compare Jeremiah 3:25, where they had recognised that fact, but had failed to make it good, so that they were without excuse because they were continuing to do it). By their folly they were putting themselves beyond the pale.

Jeremiah 7:20

“Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH, Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, on man, and on beast, and on the trees of the field, and on the fruit of the ground, and it will burn, and will not be quenched.”

As a result (‘therefore’) their Sovereign Lord YHWH had now determined to pour out His wrath on the whole land, involving all of nature, man, beast, trees and crops. The land itself would burn with unquenched fire, a regular picture of final judgment (compare Isaiah 34:10; Isaiah 66:24), although here not said to be ‘for ever’.

Adding More Offerings Will Be A Waste Of Time For What He Requires is Obedience.

Jeremiah 7:21

‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt-offerings to your sacrifices, and eat you flesh.”

The people would no doubt have argued that they were still fulfilling their obligations with regard to offerings and sacrifices, and so ‘YHWH of hosts, God of Israel’ calls on them sarcastically to add to them as much as they liked, and to partake of them all, even the burnt offerings which were strictly for YHWH only and had to be wholly burned up. The implication is that such restrictions had become irrelevant because He no longer saw them as being offered to Him. And the implication was that it would do them no good, because this was not YHWH’s prime requirement.

Note that it is YHWHof hostsWho says this, the One Who not only controls the hosts that will come against them, but is also over all the hosts of Heaven. Before Him the Queen of Heaven was a nonentity, simply another star. (compare ‘He made the stars also’ - Genesis 1:16).

Jeremiah 7:22-23

“For I did not speak to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices, but this thing I commanded them, saying, ‘Listen to my voice, and I will be your God, and you will be my people, and walk you in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ ”

This is not saying that they were unaware of the idea of sacrifices, for not only would that have been unlikely for people who had been living in Egypt, but in fact the offering of sacrifices to YHWH had been one of the reasons for their wanting to leave Egypt, and such sacrifices were their first thought when they rebelled against YHWH and set up the golden calf. Rather it is pointing out that what had been YHWH’s stress immediately after they left Egypt was not that they should offer to Him burnt offerings and sacrifices, but that they should listen to His voice, recognise Him as their God and obey His commandments. In other words He was emphasising that obedience was more important than sacrifices.

What they should now recognise was what had been His prime concern on delivering them from Egypt. It had not been to command them to offer offerings and sacrifices (even though that had been the originally idea cited for leaving Egypt, and would have been a priority in other religions), but to command them to hear His voice and obey His commandments. It was this latter that had come immediately on leaving Egypt, whilst the regulations concerning offerings and sacrifices had come some long time after. Thus His original command immediately after the deliverance of the Red Sea had been (as found in Exodus 15:25-26), ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of YHWH and will give ear to His commandments (compare ‘listen to My voice --- and walk in all the way that I command you’), and will keep all His statutes, (the statute and ordinance given in Jeremiah 7:25 b) I will put on you none of these diseases which I have put on the Egyptians (compare ‘that it may be well with you’), for I am YHWH Who heals you.’ Thus He had revealed from the beginning that what He was primarily concerned to receive from them was obedience to His commandments, and that it was that on which their well being would depend. Note also in Jeremiah 7:24-26 the twice repeated ‘inclined their ear’, which parallels with ‘give ear to His commandments’ in Exodus 15:26. It is thus clear that YHWH’s words here in Jeremiah contain clear echoes of Exodus 15:26, whilst it was Exodus 15:26 that was spoken while they were still in the throes of their first love (Jeremiah 2:2).

And these words had then been further confirmed in Exodus 19:5 where He had stated that ‘if they obeyed His voice’ and kept His covenant they would be ‘a unique treasure to Him from among all peoples’ --- and ‘a holy nation’, and that covenant had then been seen as prominently including the ten words (Exodus 20:1-18). Note also that in Deuteronomy 5:33 alone do we find the phrase ‘you shall walk in all the way which YHWH your God has commanded you’ (compare ‘walk you in all the way that I command you’), and that that was also spoken in the context of the giving of the ten words.

Thus what YHWH is saying here is that once they had left Egypt, purportedly to offer offerings and sacrifices, it was not that which had been His first concern, but their willingness to listen to Him, obey His commandments and walk in His ways.

Jeremiah 7:24

“But they did not listen, nor inclined their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backwards, and not forwards.”

And what had followed had been that they had not listened, or inclined their ear, nor had they walked in all the way that He had commanded them. Rather they had walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their own evil hearts and had gone backwards and not forwards. In other words their hearts had gone backwards to Egypt (as witness the moulten calf) and all its connections with idol worship, rather than forwards in obedience to their covenant with YHWH.

He Has Given Them Plenty Of Opportunity To Repent But They Refuse To Listen.

Jeremiah 7:25

“Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them,”

And from the day that their fathers had come out of Egypt right up to this point in time, He had sent to them all His servants the prophets, ‘daily rising up early and sending them’. The idea of ‘rising up early’ (compare Jeremiah 7:13) was not intended to be taken literally but as being in order to emphasise the urgency that had been behind His sending them. (He did not literally arise each morning and send a prophet a day). His supply of prophets had been constant, with Jeremiah now being the most recent one to be on their case. That there had been prophets other than Moses before the time of Samuel comes out in Numbers 11:25-29; Judges 4:4; Judges 6:8.

Jeremiah 7:26

“Yet they did not listen to me, nor did they incline their ear, but made their neck stiff. They did worse than their fathers.”

But they had not listened, nor inclined their ear (compare Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 34:14; Jeremiah 44:5; Exodus 15:26). Rather they had stiffened their necks (see Jeremiah 19:15; and compare 2 Kings 17:14), stubbornly refusing to hear and holding back on obedience. Thus they had done even worse than their fathers.

Jeremiah 7:27

“And you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you, you shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.”

So while Jeremiah was to speak all these words to them He was not to be surprised when they did not listen and did not respond to his call. For the wording compare Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 35:17; see also Isaiah 65:12; Isaiah 66:4.

They Are Therefore Marked Off As The Nation Which Will Not Listen.

Jeremiah 7:28

“And you shall say to them, “This is the nation which has not listened to the voice of YHWH their God, nor received instruction. Truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.”

And he was then to declare to them, “This is the nation which has not listened to the voice of YHWH their God, nor received instruction. Truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.” In other words He was to make clear that they had as a whole adamantly failed to listen to the voice of YHWH, and had not received His instruction, the consequence being that as far as they were concerned truth was dead, and all that they spoke was lies.


Verse 29

Having Described His People As Having Deceived Minds And Stiff Necks YHWH Now Calls On Them To Mourn Over Their Rejection By Him Because Of Their Doings, And Illustrates In Detail How Far They Have Gone From Him, Whilst Warning Again Of The Consequences (Jeremiah 7:29 to Jeremiah 8:3).

YHWH now turns from the question of their general disobedience and idolatry, to their particular disobedience in reference to their especially evil behaviour with regard to idols in that they have set up their abominations in the House of YHWH, and have done even worse (if that were possible) in the Valley of Topheth where they have offered their children as sacrifices to idols, something which He had not commanded and had not (and would not have) even remotely considered. He calls on them to lament because, as a result, He was going to make the Valley of Topheth a place of slaughter and death in that it would become a place for burying huge numbers of dead and a place where the bones of kings and princes, priests and prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, would be exposed before the sun, moon and stars that they had worshipped, as though they were criminals, whilst those evil people who survived the massacre and went into exile would seek death rather than life.

Jeremiah 7:29

“Cut off your hair (O daughter of Zion) and cast it away,

And take up a lamentation on the bare heights,

For YHWH has rejected and forsaken,

The generation of his wrath.”

The command to ‘cut off’ is in the feminine, suggesting that here the call is to ‘the daughter of Zion’ (Jeremiah 6:23), that is, the inhabitants of Jerusalem. YHWH calls on her to mourn and lament by cutting off her hair (her ‘crown’ - nzr - compare Numbers 6 where it indicates consecration) and casting it away. This may signify that she is to do this because she has already cast away her glory (her crown) or that, having been rejected by YHWH, she is to cast off the sign of her consecration to Him, in the same way as a Nazarite cut off his hair and cast it away when he had broken his vow. Either way it is a way of signifying great loss.

And she is to take up her lamentation on the ‘bare heights’, the very place where they had offered incense at their high places (Jeremiah 3:2). In other words instead of indulging in their riotous sex-ridden festivals they were to humiliate themselves and mourn and weep (compare Job 1:20), because rather than facing blessing their future was dismal. And this was because YHWH had rejected and forsaken them, as a result of the fact that they were the generation at which His wrath was directed. ‘The generation of His wrath’ probably signifies the generation on which YHWH had decided the punishment must fall for all the failures of the past which had aroused His wrath, because they had now reached the point of no return.

Jeremiah 7:30

“For the children of Judah have done what is evil in my sight, the word of YHWH, they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it.”

The fault of the children of Judah was depicted as threefold:

· Firstly they had done evil in His sight, including their worship of the Queen of Heaven, something confirmed by the infallible word of YHWH.

· Secondly they had set their abominations (Asherah images/poles; etc.) in the very house that was called by His Name, an act of great blasphemy.

· Thirdly they had built high places in Topheth in order to offer their children as sacrifices to the gods, thus committing mass murder and sacrilege.

The three activities together indicated a totality of evil.

‘They have done evil in His sight.’ They had turned after other gods, they had worshipped Baal on the high hills, they had worshipped the Queen of Heaven in their houses, and they had regularly broken the covenant by their ways, and it had all been done in front of His very eyes. ‘For all things are open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13).

‘They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My Name.’ They had even gone so far as to set up abominations in His house, the house that bore the very Name of YHWH. It is clear from this that (unless it is simply referring to their past history, which is not likely as otherwise the fact that it was ion the past might have been commended) they had images or pagan pillars or pagan altars in the Temple itself, which suggests that this was written in the time of Jehoiakim (or Zedekiah) because Josiah had previously cleared the Temple of such things in the twelfth year of his reign (2 Chronicles 34:4) prior to Jeremiah’s call. This was thus a new act, causing gross offence to YHWH, and demonstrating that they had failed to learn the lessons of the past, but were instead repeating them.

Jeremiah 7:31

“And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.”

But even worse they had built the high places of Topheth. ‘Topheth’ may mean ‘the hearth’ (tephath with the vowels altered to the vowels of bosheth = shame) indicating that it was a place of burning. The high places were erected there for the purpose of offering their children as human sacrifices ‘in the fire’. This was against all that YHWH had taught. It was ‘beyond His imagination’. He had of course once called Abraham to sacrifice his son, but only so that He could teach the lesson that such sacrifice was not required (Genesis 22).

Topheth was in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, an ancient valley known by that name in the time of Joshua (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16), probably after its owner. This valley was also used for the burning of refuse, something which eventually made it a symbol of God’s fiery judgment (Gehenna = ge hinnom = the valley of Hinnom). To look over the walls of Jerusalem at night at the refuse fires continually burning far below in the valley must have been an awesome sight and readily recalled God’s fiery judgment.

Elsewhere Jeremiah linked these sacrifices with the worship of Baal (‘lord’), see Jeremiah 19:5, although in most of the Old Testament they are connected with the fierce Ammonite god named Molech (melech = king, altered to take the vowels of bosheth = shame) who was worshipped throughout the area (e.g. 2 Kings 23:10). This suggests a certain syncretism between the two gods, which may well have taken place because Molech was called ‘Lord Melech’ = Baal Melech = ‘Lord King’.

Jeremiah 7:32

“Therefore, behold, the days come, the word of YHWH, that it will no more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of Slaughter, for they will bury in Topheth, until there is no place left for burying.”

Because of these evil sacrifices which took place there the name of the valley would in the future be changed to ‘the valley of Slaughter’. This would be because it would be used as a convenient burial ground, but so great would be the numbers to be buried there as a result of the coming invasion that it would be filled up with graves so much so that there would be no room for any more. It was certainly fitting that those who sacrificed their own children there in such a terrible manner should find themselves buried, or even left unburied, in the place where they had done it.

Jeremiah 7:33

“And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the heavens, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away.”

But worse. Many alive at that time would be slain without there being room to bury them, with the result that their dead bodies would be flung on the ground and left for the vultures, and for scavenging beasts like the jackal. Such exposure was usually the fate of criminals and was looked on as the ultimate disgrace. And because the living would all be in exile there would be no one left to scare such scavengers away (contrast 2 Samuel 21:10). This would be a literal fulfilment of the curse in Deuteronomy 28:26, (which should be consulted).

Jeremiah 7:34

“Then will I cause to cease from 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 the land will become a waste.”

At that time YHWH would remove all joy from the people. The voice of mirth and gladness, and the voice of the bride and bridegroom, would be heard no more in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, because the whole land would have been laid waste. Bride and bridegroom were especially mentioned because they were seen as representing the pinnacle of human happiness. But even they would have no cause for rejoicing. It was also at weddings that men knew the highest level of merriment, when the wine flowed freely, even for the poor. But there would be none now, for there would be nothing to celebrate. It may also be as an indication that life had come completely to a halt. Marriage would simply become a reminder of what had been.

Jeremiah 8:1

“At that time, the word of YHWH, they will bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves,”

Furthermore at that time the bones of those who had brought all these problems on Judah, the kings, the princes, the priests, the prophets, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be brought out of their graves and spread over the valley in order to desecrate them. The dishonouring of the dead in this way was a common practise in the Ancient Near East, although nor usually in such numbers. While we are not told anywhere that Nebuchadnezzar actually did this, it was, however, certainly compatible with someone who could kill a man’s sons before his eyes before blinding him permanently, as he did with Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7). Indeed, as we learn in Daniel, he was mentally ill (Daniel 4:33) something which, despite superficial appearances, would not be something that just came and went. He had probably suffered from it in a milder form for many years, and was quite possibly a manic depressive (there are many traces of such an illness in his actions).

While the looting of grave treasures may have been part of the reason for the opening of graves, the widespread nature of what would happen indicates that that was not to be seen as the main reason. The main reason was probably so that the nations would see what happened to persistent rebels and would fear. Charles II of England inexcusably did the same thing to his enemies. Such evil was not limited to ancient Babylon. Compare also 2 Samuel 21:10, something which was the responsibility of revengeful Gibeonites.

Jeremiah 8:2

“And they will spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, which they have loved, and which they have served, and after which they have walked, and which they have sought, and which they have worshipped. They will not be gathered, nor be buried, they will be for dung on the face of the earth.”

The irony of the situation would be such that these people who had encouraged the worship of the sun, moon and stars, and had shown such devotion towards them, would themselves have their bones spread out before them, and would ‘discover’ that they could do nothing to help them. They had loved them and served them, and walked after them and sought them, and worshipped them. Now they would be shamed before them, while the sun, moon and stars shone blandly down on them, unable to offer any assistance. Nor would anyone gather up their bones. They would be left to lie there until they became so much compost to renew the soil.

Jeremiah 8:3

“And death will be chosen rather than life by all the residue who remain of this evil family, who remain in all the places where I have driven them, the word of YHWH of hosts.”

And the case would not be any better for those who survived. Any who survived the slaughter would be driven into exile in one way or another (into Egypt and Babylon), and many would then prefer death to life because of the misery of their situation (compare the vivid language in Deuteronomy 28:64-67). Life would be seen as worse than death. And all this would be in accordance with the sure word of YHWH of hosts.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/jeremiah-7.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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