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Jeremiah 7-9 Listen
These folks are two faced (Jeremiah 7:1-28)
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
2 Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD.
3 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
4 Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.
5 For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour;
6 If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:
7 Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.
8 Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.
9 Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;
10 And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?
11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.
12 But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.
13 And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not;
14 Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.
16 Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.
17 Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
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, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
19 Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?
20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.
21 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh.
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:
23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.
25 Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:
26 Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.
27 Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.
28 But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.
Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. After the death of Josiah (609 B.C.), there were no more God-fearing kings of Judah. This prophetic word was obviously given after Josiah's death...a time when wickedness prevailed in Judah.
Jeremiah emphasizes the evil that exists in the land of Judah/Jerusalem. They act like they have a reverence toward God, but they are just as actively serving the false gods - making sacrifices to them as well. Yet they had a superstition about the temple itself which Jeremiah addresses in verse 4, "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these." Apparently the people believed that God would not allow an enemy to come into Jerusalem and defile the temple. Incidentally, in verses 12-14 Jeremiah reminds them that the presence of the old tabernacle didn't prevent the destruction of Shiloh (I Samuel 4:1-11, see notes; Psalm 78:60-64, see notes). Jeremiah then points out their history of disregard for the one true God. So, should Jeremiah pray for his people? NO! God says in verse 16 that the people are so sinful in their disregard for God that they cannot have intercession without turning from their sin. Now there's a lesson we can learn. You really should not pray that God will reward bad conduct, should you?
There's something else that's very interesting about this chapter. Look at these verses:
Jeremiah 7:5 For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour;
Jeremiah 7:6 If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:
Jeremiah 7:7 Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.
Now follow closely on this issue. God had already declared 100 or so years earlier through Isaiah's prophecy that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians because of her sin. (Click here to read the notes on Isaiah 39.) Yet, here we find Jeremiah pleading with the people through prophecy on behalf of God to amend their ways, after which God will "cause you to dwell in this place...for ever and ever." Was Jeremiah's invitation legitimate? Of course it was, but God knows everything; he knew the people would reject. However, let's not lose sight of the fact that they could have repented.
Let's understand - these Jews were two timing God. On the one hand, they showed a token reverence toward God, but then they reverenced other gods as well, even the "queen of heaven" in verse 18. Who is the "queen of heaven?" Here's what Easton writes regarding her identity:
Ashtoreth: the moon goddess of the Phoenicians, representing the passive principle in nature, their principal female deity; frequently associated with the name of Baal, the sun-god, their chief male deity (Judg. 10:6; 1 Sam. 7:4; 12:10). These names often occur in the plural (Ashtaroth, Baalim), probably as indicating either different statues or different modifications of the deities. This deity is spoken of as Ashtoreth of the Zidonians. She was the Ishtar of the Accadians and the Astarte of the Greeks (Jer. 44:17; 1 Kings 11:5, 33; 2 Kings 23:13). There was a temple of this goddess among the Philistines in the time of Saul (1 Sam. 31:10). Under the name of Ishtar, she was one of the great deities of the Assyrians. The Phoenicians called her Astarte. Solomon introduced the worship of this idol (1 Kings 11:33). Jezebels 400 priests were probably employed in its service (1 Kings 18:19). It was called the queen of heaven (Jer. 44:25).
God had no tolerance for the spiritual adultery that Judah/Israel committed. When everything is said and done and Judah has fallen, the reason for their fall is because they violated one commandment - the exclusive worship of the one true God. And there it is in verse 23, "But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you." However, we see in verses 24-26 that Israel had a history of declining to make Jehovah their exclusive God...all the way back to their release from Egypt.
God prepared Jeremiah for the eventual rejection of his message in verse 27, "Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee." Despite all of Jeremiah's warning, he knew from God that the people of Jerusalem would not be repenting.
And then the unthinkable (Jeremiah 7:29-8:3)
7:29 Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the LORD hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.
30 For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the LORD: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it.
31 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.
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, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place.
33 And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away.
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 shall be desolate.
8:1 At that time, saith the LORD, they shall 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:
2 And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth.
3 And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts.
The Jews took pagan idols right into the temple of God in Jeremiah's day. As a result of this extreme wickedness, they would be slain in the Valley of Hinnom.
Hinnom: a deep, narrow ravine separating Mount Zion from the so-called Hill of Evil Counsel. It took its name from some ancient hero, the son of Hinnom. It is first mentioned in Joshua 15:8. It had been the place where the idolatrous Jews burned their children alive to Moloch and Baal. A particular part of the valley was called Tophet, or the fire-stove, where the children were burned. After the Exile, in order to show their abhorrence of the locality, the Jews made this valley the receptacle of the offal of the city, for the destruction of which a fire was, as is supposed, kept constantly burning there.
But wait! There's more. When the Babylonians arrive, Jeremiah prophesies that they will exhume the bodies of their dead ancestors and throw them into the heap of bones in that valley for burning as well - the ultimate humiliation. The Jews were particular about their remains after death. Remember Joseph's bones? They carried them to Canaan per Joseph's instructions prior to his death (Joshua 24:32, see notes; Hebrews 11:22, see notes). The Valley of Hinnom would become a location of a great slaughter of the inhabitants of Judah/Jerusalem when the Babylonians destroy the city (586 B.C.).
Another interesting aspect of "Hinnom" is worth noting here. There are three Greek words in the New Testament translated "hell" in the King James Version of scripture. "Hades" is translated "Hell" 11 times, "Tartaroo" is translated "Hell" only in II Peter 2:4 (see notes), and "Gehenna" is translated "Hell" 12 times. "Gehenna" is the transliteration of Greek from Hebrew for "valley" (Hebrew: "ga") and "Hinnom." So, the Greek word "Gehenna" means "Valley of Hinnom" as transliterated directly from the Hebrew. Therefore, the word translated "Hell" half the time in the New Testament makes reference figuratively to the perpetually-burning garbage dump in Judah that had at times been used to sacrifice their children to false gods. What a picture! Would it then be appropriate to say that "Hell" is God's garbage dump for lost souls?
More on Judah's wickedness (Jeremiah 8:4-17)
4 Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?
5 Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
6 I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.
7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.
8 How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.
9 The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?
10 Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
11 For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
12 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.
13 I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.
14 Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.
15 We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!
16 The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein.
17 For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.
After King Josiah of Judah, it had gotten increasingly wicked there. Jeremiah just can't say enough about it. And...they aren't ashamed of their wickedness; they seem almost proud of it. Jeremiah pours on the details of their impending judgment. Here's the story in a nutshell regarding them in verse 5, "Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return."
Jeremiah is stricken with grief (Jeremiah 8:18-22)
18 When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.
19 Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?
20 The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
Well, this confirms what we always knew - God hates idolatry. Here's the big question in verse 19, "Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?" There's the deal breaker - idolatry and the worship of the gods they represent. Jeremiah takes the news very hard in these verses.
Notice verse 22, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" The balm referred to is the resin or gum of the storax tree. This balm was famous for its medicinal value. Jeremiah knows that the spiritual balm for the people is to turn back to God.
1 Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
2 Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.
3 And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.
4 Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.
5 And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.
6 Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the LORD.
7 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?
8 Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.
9 Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
10 For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.
11 And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.
12 Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?
13 And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;
14 But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:
15 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.
16 I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.
17 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:
18 And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.
19 For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.
20 Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing, and every one her neighbour lamentation.
21 For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.
22 Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman, and none shall gather them.
23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
25 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
26 Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
Here's another chapter of the same - destruction from God at the hands of the invading Babylonians because of Judah's rejection of God. "Haven't we heard enough?" you might say. Keep in mind; these passages were a series of stand-alone prophecies that were delivered over a period of, perhaps, several years. Judah's spiritual condition did not change, so neither did the substance of the prophecies from Jeremiah to those wicked-acting people.
So...do the people of Judah get a free pass on their rejection of God? No! Notice verse 9, "Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" He goes on to say in verse 11, "And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant." Unrepented disobedience against God has a price. And their deportation is seen in verse 16, "I will scatter them also among the heathen..." When Judah fell to the Babylonians, the influential Jews were deported 600 miles east to Babylon. As a matter of fact, we have a list of those who were deported in I Chronicles 9:1-34 (see notes).
Toward the end of this chapter in verses 23-26, we see that righteousness is not a compliance issue, but a heart issue. Jeremiah describes the God-rejecting Israelites who may practice the rite of circumcision, but without respect to a covenant with God. That's no good. It's not even sufficient that Israel/Judah practice circumcision merely as an issue of compliance with tradition. It only counts before God when it is done from the heart out of a love and respect for God. This reinforces a principle we saw back in Genesis through Deuteronomy: It's a heart thing! Virtually all the Israelites in the wilderness kept the law of Moses; they were stoned to death if they refused. But some kept the law from their hearts; these were those who were justified by faith - a faith relationship with God. So, through all the ages of man including today, there are people who practice godly-looking rituals, but unless they are performing those out of a love and faith relationship with the one true God, they are in vain. And...that's the point Jeremiah is making here in chapter 9. The circumcised of Judah/Jerusalem will fall just like the uncircumcised of "Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab."