JEREMIAH CHAPTER 7.
A Warning against false Confidence and Hypocritical Worship.
GODS REQUIREMENT AND PROMISE. V. 1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, the fact that he received his messages by inspiration of God being brought out time and again, saying, v. 2. Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, very likely that which led from the outer court to the Court of Israel, and proclaim there this word, where the worshiping multitudes from the entire country might hear him, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. The address seems to indicate that the sermon here recorded was held at one of the great festivals of the Jews, when great throngs visited the capital and the Temple. V. 3. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, He whose power and mercy the children of Israel had so often experienced. Amend your ways and your doings, their habits of living and the individual acts of their life, and I will cause you to dwell in this place, permitting them to continue their residence in Jerusalem, the seat of the Lord's Temple. V. 4. Trust ye not in lying words, in those words of falsehood which were so often dinned in their ears by their wicked leaders, The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, are these! the various buildings making up the entire Temple. The repetition of the proud cry is intended to picture the sublime self-assurance of the people under the leadership of the false prophets. V. 5. For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings, making a decided stand for a behavior in complete accordance with the holy will of God; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, so that justice is exercised in all conditions of life, toward all men; v. 6. if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, the three points which were emphasized time and again in the Law of God, and shed not innocent blood in this place, throughout Jerusalem and Judah, neither walk after other gods to your hurt, idolatry invariably challenging the punishment of the Lord, provoking Him to righteous anger: v. 7. then will I cause you to dwell in this place, permitting them to continue as inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah, in the land that I gave your fathers, forever and ever, for a long period of uninterrupted possession. The Lord is eager to show His kindness and mercy to all those who will hearken to Him; His blessings, also in temporal goods, are upon those that fear Him.
THE WARNING EXAMPLE OF SHILOH. V. 8. Behold, ye trust in lying words, those of the false prophets, the hypocritical leaders, that cannot profit, which brought only harm and the curse upon them. V. 9. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, the chief idol of the heathen nations round about, and walk after other gods whom ye know not, who have never manifested and proved themselves as the true God did, by His words and works, v. 10. and come and stand before Me in this house, in brazen hypocrisy, cp. Ezek. 23, 39, which is called by My name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? They believed that, in spite of the threats announced by the prophet, they had nothing to fear, that the calamities which Jeremiah insisted were impending would not strike them, that their hypocritical behavior would have no evil consequences. But the Lord has His rejoinder ready. V. 11. Is this house, which is called by My name, the Temple where Jehovah revealed Himself, become a den of robbers in your eyes? a place where they feel safe with their loot, a refuge where they hope to plan further abominations. Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord, namely, the fact that this abuse of the Temple is taking place. V. 12. But go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, namely, when the Tabernacle was erected there, Deut.12,11; Josh. 18, 1, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. Because the northern nation persisted in its idolatrous practices, the Lord not only took away the Tabernacle from Shiloh, but He also brought a complete destruction upon the entire country of the ten tribes. This fact is intended as an example of warning to Judah. V. 13. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, becoming guilty of the various forms of wickedness which He has enumerated in His reproofs, and I spake unto you, rising up early, in His earnest zeal for their welfare, and speaking, but ye heard not, and I called you, but ye answered not, being willfully disobedient and stubborn, v. 14. therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, placing their confidence in the external building, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. As the Lord had ceased to dwell in the midst of the disobedient Israelites, when He took from them His sanctuary, so He would cease to dwell at Jerusalem. V. 15. And I will cast you out of My sight, completely disowning them, as I have cast out all your brethren, descendants of the same forefather, Abraham, even the whole seed of Ephraim, the ten tribes. The evidences of the goodness of the Lord are intended at all times to lead men to repentance.
THE IDOLATRY AND DISOBEDIENCE OF THE JEWS. V. 16. Therefore pray not thou for this people, the Lord expressly forbidding the prophet to make intercession for the reprobate nation, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me; for I will not hear thee. As strong as the prayers of the righteous are in holding back the wrath of God, the time will come when they are unavailing, due to the hardness of men's hearts, which provokes the punishment of the Lord. V. 17. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The wickedness which Jeremiah was obliged to witness wherever he looked was bound to convince him that the course of the Lord was right, that He was fully justified in rejecting all prayers made in behalf of the apostate Jews. The extent of their idolatry is now described. V. 18. The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven, the female goddess Ashtoreth, or Astarte, the counterpart of the male idol Baal, in whose honor the cakes, made of honey, fine flour, and other ingredients, bore a round, flat surface to resemble the disk of the moon, and to pour out drink-offerings, the libations made as sacrifices, unto other gods that they may provoke Me to anger, the expression implying design on their part, the deliberate intention to arouse His wrath. V. 19. Do they provoke Me to anger? saith the Lord. Do they truly believe that they can aggrieve Him by such acts? Will they reduce the bliss which He enjoys? Do they not provoke themselves, bringing grief and sorrow upon their own heads, to the confusion of their own, faces? That is ever the consequence of sin: the perfect blessedness of God is not reduced by man's transgression, but his own peace of mind is disturbed, and he loads grief and sorrow upon himself. V. 20. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Jehovah, the All-powerful: Behold, Mine anger and My fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon Jerusalem, as the center of His nation and from there over the entire land, upon man, and upon beast, on the cattle owned by them, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground, that resulting from its tilling by the hand of man; and it, the fury of the Lord, shall burn and shall not be quenched, the very irrational and inanimate creation being included in the Lord's punishment, in order to strike terror to the heart of men. V. 21. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, still the Lord of those who are truly His Israel, His people, but who here addresses the apostate nation: Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, the former, which were required to be wholly burned, being mingled with the latter, of which only parts were placed on the altar of burnt offerings, and eat flesh. It is a cry of disgust: So far as I am concerned, you may treat the one the same as the other; they are both equally loathsome to Me, since I despise your entire worship. V. 22. For I spake not unto your fathers nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices, it was not His object to establish a mere external worship without true piety of the heart, v. 23. but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people, that being the fundamental principle upon which the entire relation between God and Israel was built up, and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well unto you. All the Jewish rites and ceremonies presupposed faith and obedience on the part of the people. God required no sacrifice, unless it was the outgrowth of obedience grounded in faith. The actual claims of the Moral Law always preceded the ordinances pertaining to the outward form of worship. Cp. 1 Sam. 15, 22. V. 24. But they hearkened not, they ignored the Lord and His precepts entirely, nor inclined their ear, they did not even attempt to listen, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination, the stubbornness, of their evil heart and went backward and not forward, literally, "they were to the back and not to the face," that is, they turned their backs to the Lord. V. 25. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, beginning with Moses, the servant of Jehovah, I have even sent unto you all My servants, the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them, with unremitting diligence and eager kindliness; v. 26. yet they hearkened not unto Me nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck, like a stubborn ox under the yoke, Deut. 31,27; they did worse than their fathers, the later generations, particularly that now addressed, being much farther removed from the true service of Jehovah than the generation of the Exodus. V.27. Therefore thou shall speak all these words unto them, but they will not hearken to thee, Jeremiah would have as little success as the other prophets had had; thou shall also call unto them, but they will not answer thee, being utterly indifferent to the Word of the Lord. V. 28. But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord, their God, being therefore classed with the Gentile nations, nor receiveth correction, hardened to the point that all rebukes make no impression upon them; truth is perished, all reliability, all fidelity is lost, and is cut off from their mouth. There is a fine bit of sarcasm in this phrase, for the Jews confessed the Lord with their mouths only, and not with their hearts. The use of God's name for the purpose of mouth-worship only is a flagrant offense against the Second Commandment and is bound to bring down the wrath of God upon the offenders.
THE JUDGMENT PRONOUNCED V. 29. Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, shearing it off as the sign of the deepest mourning, Jerusalem here being considered a virgin consecrated to the Lord, and cast it away and take up a lamentation on high places, on account of the uncleanness and desecration of her guilt; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath, the people against whom His indignation has been aroused, against whom His anger is burning. V. 30. For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, saith the Lord, things which are loathsome before His eyes; they have set their abominations, altars for the host of heaven and graven images of various idols, 2 Kings 21, 4-7, in the house which is called by My name to pollute it. Cp. chap. 32, 34. V. 31. And they have built the high places of Tophet, idolatrous altars with their sanctuaries at this point, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, southwest of Jerusalem, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, in the terrible child sacrifices made in honor of Moloch; which I commanded them not, neither came it into My heart, He had not even thought of permitting such abominations, much less of sanctioning them, His prohibition being strictly against such practices. Cp. Deut. 17, 3; 12, 31. V. 32. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called , Tophet, nor the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, or Ben-hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, a name applied to it as the result of the great number of burials of Jews slaughtered in the siege of the city; for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place, all available space being occupied by the graves of the fallen. V. 33. And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, the birds of prey, particularly the buzzards, feeding on the unburied corpses, and for the beasts of the earth, and none shall fray them away, no person being present then to frighten them away from their loathsome repast. V. 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, the reference being made to the joyous processions in the Orient in which the bride and the bridegroom are led through the streets, accompanied by bands of musicians and singers; for the land shall be desolate. So completely was the punishment of the Lord carried out upon reprobate Judah for having rejected Him and His mercy.