Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentJEREMIAH 7
JEREMIAH'S TEMPLE SERMON
Another title of this chapter would be, "Repentance the Only Hope of Israel." God commanded Jeremiah to stand in the gate, or entrance, to the Temple and to denounce the grievous sins and debaucheries of the people, probably upon one of the great festive occasions when the crowds were thronging to the temple.
How strange it is that the people denounced by this address were the very people of whom it might be supposed that they were the true worshippers of God. The symbolism is dramatic. The temple itself was a stronghold of false priests, "a den of thieves and robbers," even as Christ referred to it at a far later date. The picture is startling. Jeremiah, the true preacher of God's Word, cannot get into the temple at all. He must stand in the gate, on the steps, at the entrance!
We shall observe the following chapter divisions. First, there is a statement of the case against Judah, coupled with a reiteration of the Law of God and a ringing command for the people of God to repent of their apostasy (Jeremiah 7:1-7). Then there is a further description of the people's apostasy and of their rejection of God's Word (Jeremiah 7:8-12). This is followed by the announcement of God's judgment against them (Jeremiah 7:13-15). There follows an attack against the false worship of the Queen of Heaven (Jeremiah 7:16-20). The prophet denounced their supposition that sacrifices could be substituted for true obedience to God's Word (Jeremiah 7:21-28). The chapter concludes with a vehement condemnation of the sacrifice of children to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom, and other evil practices (Jeremiah 7:29-34).
The word that came to Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, Stand in the gate of Jehovah's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of Jehovah, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
Cook spoke of the date of this appeal as follows:
"This prophecy was spoken in the first year of Jehoiachim, when the probation of Judah was virtually over, and it constitutes the final solemn appeal to the conscience of the people, and a protest while the new king was still young upon his throne, against the ruinous course upon which he so immediately entered."F1
Why did Judah so desperately need the stern admonition of the prophet here which, in short, demanded that they immediately and completely change their behavior! Why? They were a nation of evil doers, violating every commandment in the Deca1ogue, and yet frequenting the temple services and making the customary sacrifices, supposing that these external activities would assure their safety and protection from God, no matter what evil deeds they were guilty of.
There was also a wide-spread opinion among the people that as long as the Temple stood the whole nation was guaranteed by God Himself of their safety and security. Ash noted that, "The reforms of Josiah (superficial as they were) had focused attention on the temple, and had apparently created the illusion that God would never let it be destroyed."F2 Also as Robinson observed, "The remarkable deliverance of the city from Sennacherib in 701 B.C. had contributed to the belief that Jerusalem was inviolable."F3
The correction of such erroneous opinions on the part of the populace was surely one of the purposes of Jeremiah's address.
Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbor; if ye oppress not the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither 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.
Note the triple repetition of "The temple of Jehovah." It appears that the people were using these words as a kind of charm or talisman to protect and bless them even in the pursuit of their wicked ways. As Matthew Henry stated it, "It was the cant of the times; it was in their mouths upon all occasions. If they received bad news, they lulled themselves to sleep again, saying, `We cannot but do well, we have the temple of the Lord among us.'"F4
Jeremiah's breaking in upon that crowd of arrogant, overconfident, hypocrites with the stinging words of Jehovah, commanding them either to repent or perish must have been resented like a plague of smallpox. "Is it any wonder that this `temple sermon' caused a terrific uproar and almost cost Jeremiah his life (Jer. 26:7ff)?" F5
Shed not innocent blood in this place
(Jeremiah 7:6). Cook and other scholars believe that the reference here is to, The innocent blood shed there judicially. Of one such judicial murder, Jehoiachim had already been guilty (Jeremiah 26:23).F6 There were probably many other such crimes.
The particular sins mentioned here, which God through Jeremiah commanded the Jews to cease from committing, were merely a representative list; and the list will be greatly expanded in later verses. All of these sins of lustful selfishness were the result of Judah's having first rejected their primary obligation to Jehovah as spelled out in the Mosaic covenant at Sinai. "All of their sins were the consequence of their breach of the covenant and their rejection of God's sovereignty."F7 We consider this statement from Thompson as a profoundly accurate declaration. Many people seem to be unaware that once man's primary obligation to Almighty God is either neglected or forsaken, all of the other sins may be expected to follow immediately. They are merely the consequences of man's violation of that higher obligation to his Creator.
The land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever
(Jeremiah 7:7). This is the very strongest formula in the Hebrew tongue for a perpetual gift, meaning, `from forever unto forever.' Why then do not the Jews still possess the land eternally given to them? Because God never bestows anything unconditionally.F8
The Jews received the land of Canaan under the terms of a covenant, itself called a covenant of eternity (Genesis 17:7); but that covenant had conditions which the Jews were obligated to observe, as spelled out in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy, with the divine warning that if they rebelled against the covenant God would indeed "pluck them off the land" (Deuteronomy 28:63). In this connection, be sure to read Jer. 18:5-10.
Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods that ye have not known, and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered; that ye may do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, saith Jehovah.
The sins enumerated here constituted violations of the Decalogue as given in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The specific commandments broken were the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, with the necessary inference that the 10th also was broken, stealing and adultery both being a direct result of the covetousness forbidden in the last commandment. As Green noted, "This amounted to a near-total breach of the covenant stipulations." F9
"Here is further and conclusive evidence of Jeremiah's deep anchorage in the Mosaic faith."F10
We are delivered
(Jeremiah 7:10). The Jews actually believed that merely because they frequented the temple and brought their sacrifices as usual, that, they were fully protected in the commission of every crime in the catalogue, all of this on the mere grounds of their external presentation of themselves before God at the place called by his name.F11 They deluded themselves into thinking they were safe no matter what they did.
Behold, I, even I have seen it, saith Jehovah
(Jeremiah 7:11). Anchor Bible suggests a paraphrase here: God says, Look! I'm not blind! Of course, I've seen it!F12
Is this house. become a den of robbers ..
(Jeremiah 7:11)? These very words were spoken by Christ himself as a solemn indictment of the temple during his personal ministry, Ye made it (the temple) a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13). This is a reference to the blasphemous manner in which the Jews used that temple. The Hebrew word here actually means a robber's `cave,' F13 The figure is that of a den, or cave, or some other supposedly safe and secure place to which robbers retired after each of their crimes. What a terrible misuse of holy religion was this abuse by the Jews.
But go ye now unto 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. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith Jehovah, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not: therefore will I do unto the 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 did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.
My place which was in Shiloh
(Jeremiah 7:12). God's challenge to the Jews because they were trusting in the physical existence of God's temple in their midst, was blunt and dramatic. Go to Shiloh! My name was once there; but it did not protect Israel in their wickedness; and neither will the current temple protect you. God here prophesied both (1) the destruction of the temple, just like he had destroyed Shiloh, and (2) the carrying away of Judah just as he had already deported the whole seed of Ephraim.
After the conquest of Canaan, the ancient tabernacle was set up at Shiloh, "some eighteen miles north of Jerusalem,"F14 where it remained throughout practically the whole period of the Judges. In the days of Eli and Samuel, when Eli's reprobate sons were actually committing adultery in the temple itself (Yes, there were buildings there also), God permitted the Philistines to ravage and destroy the place and capture the ark of the covenant itself. (See Josh. 18:l; 22:12; Judg. 21:19; 1 Sam. 1:9,24; 4:1-11).
The Bible has no description of the destruction of Shiloh; but archaeological discoveries during this century (1929) have concluded that it did indeed take place, "After the Battle of Ebenezer by the Philistines about 1050 B.C."F15 Since, after its destruction, "Shiloh was not rebuilt until about 300 B.C.,"F16 the ruins of the place were surely evident in Jeremiah's day witnessing the destruction that took place about a half millennium earlier.
Albright, Thompson, and Unger all make mention of the excavations that have disclosed the destruction of Shiloh. This destruction of Shiloh, where once God's name was recorded, proved the wretched error of the people in their foolish faith that God was irrevocably committed to the preservation of any place regardless of the moral state of the Chosen People.
"There not only existed the ancient tabernacle at Shiloh, but also substantial buildings as proved by excavations, so it is called `the temple of Jehovah' (1 Samuel 1:9)."F17 Evidently, therefore, the Philistines who destroyed Shiloh did not consider the tabernacle valuable enough to be carried away, for it still existed in the days of David, who, when he contemplated building the temple, said, "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth in curtains" (2 Samuel 7:2).
The terrible lesson from Shiloh applies to all generations. No church, however careful to observe the outward forms of holy religion, can be acceptable to God unless the moral character of the people corresponds to their holy profession. No mere formal observances of worship and devotion can take the place of true repentance and sincere worship of God.
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. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 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 unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? saith Jehovah; [do they] not [provoke] themselves, to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, mine anger and my wrath 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.
The repeated prohibition of Jeremiah's praying any more for Judah is also repeated again in Jer. 11:14 and 14:11ff; and from these repetitions, Ash concluded that. "In spite of their iniquity, Jeremiah had been praying for the people."F18 As many a heartbroken parent has discovered, it is nearly impossible to stop praying for a wayward son or daughter, no matter how wicked they might have become.
The meaning of this is simply that, "Persistent idolatry of Judah could only bring upon her as a consequence the curses of the covenant; and that time had now arrived."F19
To make cakes to the queen of heaven
(Jeremiah 7:17-18). This pagan goddess originally was worshipped in Canaan.
"The Phoenicians, called the moon Ashtoreth or Astarte, the wife of Baal or Moloch, the king of heaven. This male and female pair of deities symbolized the generative powers of nature; and, from this, came the introduction of so-called sacred prostitution into their worship."
It is impossible, nor is it necessary, to describe the shameful, licentious worship which characterized the idolatry associated with the queen of heaven. Stephen's mention of Israel's worshipping "the host of heaven" (Acts 7:42) is a reference to this very goddess, who was also said to be represented by the planet Venus. She was also identified as Ishtar (in Babylon) and the moon-goddess. The attractiveness of this idolatry to Israel was due primarily to the gratification of the lust of the flesh which it abundantly supplied.
Do they provoke me to anger
(Jeremiah 7:19)? God's answer is, No, they were only provoking themselves. So it still is. Men fancy that they are breaking God's commandments; but in reality, they are only breaking themselves! As Dummelow stated it, Their sin did not provoke God to a mere helpless anger, but to a wrath that was quick to punish and destroy them.F20
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat ye flesh. 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: but this thing I commanded them, saying, Hearken unto my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in [their own] counsels [and] in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff: they did worse than their fathers.
Add your burnt-offerings to your sacrifices, and eat flesh
"These words express God's indignation at the sacrifices of those who were so wicked and alienated from God. God had so little pleasure in their sacrifices, that they might as well eat of the very burnt-offerings themselves."F21
Of course, the Law of Moses had forbidden the worshipper to eat of the burnt-offerings which were to be burned upon the altar; but God placed so little value upon their insincere and hypocritical sacrifices, that he here said, "Why don't you just go ahead and eat the burnt-offerings also; they are doing you no good anyway!"
We reject all of the critical assertions that God here was declaring that the commanded sacrifices were not necessary, or that it was God's will to be worshipped with genuine purity of life instead of through offering any kind of sacrifices. What God truly desires is both (1) purity of life and (2) the offering of the sacrifices which he commanded. The effort to eliminate either originates with Satan. "The idea here is that there is no sanctity in offerings brought by unrepentant men."F22
This thing I commanded them
(Jeremiah 7:23). The thing stressed here is that hearkening unto God, and obeying his commands, were the very first things God commanded to Israel when he undertook to adopt them as his people. This was required even before the institution of the forms and sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant, and were therefore more important even than the sacrifices; but both were required. Israel's great failure was that of substituting the lesser of two commandments instead of the greater.
They hearkened not. but walked in their own counsels ... and went backward and not forward ..
(Jeremiah 7:24). This rebellion had begun almost simultaneously with the crossing of the Red Sea, and also after Sinai. Such behavior after Sinai was incredible! It stresses the prolonged rebellion of Israel, the infinite patience and longsuffering of God, and showing that disobedience was as old as the Exodus itself.F23
Verses 27, 28
And 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. And thou shalt say unto them, This is the nation that hath not hearkened to the voice of Jehovah their God, nor received instruction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.
The Jews believed in salvation "by faith only"; but as Feinberg stated it, "That faith must be joined by works was lost to them; so the time of Jeremiah was a sad epilogue in Judah's history."F24 God's warning in these verses alerted Jeremiah to the truth that he would not have any success whatever in turning Israel into the path of righteousness.
Cut off thy hair, [O Jerusalem], and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the bare heights; for Jehovah hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.
Jerusalem is commanded here to go into mourning for herself. When a Nazarite was defiled by touching a corpse, he was required to cut off his hair and to re-consecrate himself; and thus the figure here is that Jerusalem is defiled, God finds no excuse for her; he announces his rejection and forsaking of the Once Chosen race.
God did not execute such a terrible sentence upon Judah without grave and sufficient reasons; some of which were just cited in the matter of their worship of the queen of heaven; but there were additional reasons also.
Verses 30, 31
For the children of Judah have done that which is evil in my sight, saith Jehovah: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it. 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 commanded not, neither came it into my mind.
In the New Testament, the word Gehenna, a synonym for "hell" is derived from the "valley of the son of Hinnom," that infamous ravine south of Jerusalem where the brazen statue of Molech was situated, and which was the scene of Judah's child-sacrifices to that pagan deity. Josiah had defiled it; but apparently Jehoiachim had rededicated it; and, as Feinberg stated it, "This passage reveals that their children were actually burned."F25
Which I commanded not
(Jeremiah 7:31). Of course, God disclaimed any such thing as the sacrifice of children as having any connection whatever with what he had ordained. Let it be noted here that going beyond what God has commanded for his worship proved a great disaster for Judah; and we do not believe that modern Protestantism in going beyond what God has commanded in such things as the worship of God with man-made instruments of music can possibly be pleasing to God. (See Rev. 22:18; Acts 17:25; and 2 John 1:9).
The have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name
(Jeremiah 7:30). 2 Kings 21:5 records the acts of Manasseh in this desecration; but it leaves us wondering if the vulgar immorality of the pagan worship was actually perpetrated in the temple itself in connection with the pagan deities thus installed. The strong inference would appear to favor the actual practice of licentiousness in the temple itself.
"Thus Israel revealed her deep degradation by introducing into the house of her God such unspeakable practices as ritual prostitution and other fertility rites."F26
The horrible practices just mentioned, along with the incredible sacrifices of their sons and daughters to Molech, shouted to high heaven for the vengeance of God against such practices. Matthew Henry commented that Judah, "Burned their children alive, killed them, killed them in the most cruel manner imaginable, to honor and appease those idols that were devils and not gods."F27
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that it shall no more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of Slaughter: for they shall bury in Topheth, till there be no place [to bury]. And the dead bodies of this people shall be food for the birds of the heavens, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall frighten them away. 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 become a waste.
The horrible slaughter in the valley of Hinnom doubtless took place when Jerusalem fell to Babylon. "Where once the people had butchered their children, they themselves would be butchered and exposed to the birds of prey, left unburied and exposed."F28
There are overtones here that suggest the cataclysmic Judgment of the Last Day that shall terminate the probation of Adam's race (Revelation 18:23-24).
Footnotes for Jeremiah 7
1: Canon F. C. Cook, Jeremiah, p. 157.
2: Anthony L. Ash, Psalms (Abilene, Texas: A.C.U. Press, 1987), p. 91.
3: WR, p. 480.
4: Matthew Henry's Commentary, p. 450.
5: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 62.
6: Canon F. C. Cook, Jeremiah, p. 167.
7: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 279.
8: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 370.
9: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 62.
11: E. Henderson, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Company, 1851), p. 50.
12: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition), p. 56.
13: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 281.
14: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), 429.
16: Hans Kjaer, Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society, article, "The Excavation of Shiloh." Vol. 10, 1930), pp. 87-174.
17: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 371.
18: Anthony L. Ash, Psalms (Abilene, Texas: A.C.U. Press, 1987), p. 95.
19: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 284.
20: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 462.
21: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 161.
22: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 665.
23: Anthony L. Ash, Psalms (Abilene, Texas: A.C.U. Press, 1987), p. 97.
24: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 432.
25: Ibid., p. 422.
26: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 293.
27: Matthew Henry's Commentary, p. 456.
28: JKP, p. 38.