THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I Conclusion:
Oracles to Judah and Jerusalem
The Last Oracles to the Exiles in Egypt
A Prophecy of Comfort for Baruch
Holy and Eternal Father,
The Judaeans living in Egypt presented offerings to a false "Queen of Heaven," and Jeremiah condemned their practice. We, however, have a true Queen of Heaven in Mary of Nazareth, the Jewish woman God chose to bear the Son of God who is also the son of David. She fulfills the office of the Davidic Queen Mother, called the Gebira in Hebrew. Like the Davidic Queen Mothers of old, she is the queen of her divine Son's Heavenly Kingdom. And, since we are baptized as children in the family of God, she becomes our mother. We honor her with our songs and petitions, just as children are commanded to honor their mothers, and as the Davidic Gebira was honored by her son's people and heard their petitions. Mary is the "Woman" of Revelation chapter 12, and we are among "the rest of her children, who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus" (Rev 12:17). Virgin Mary, holy Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
+ + +
Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, addressed the failure of the Judaean
remnant to believe Jeremiah's oracle from God commanding them not to go to
Egypt: What was the reason for this? It was because the Jews were so
arrogant and obstinate. They immediately forgot what God had done for them;
they ascribed his kindness to demons and reckoned that his blessings had come
from them. Even when the sea was divided for them, as they went forth from
Egypt, and while other wonderful things were happening to them, they forgot the
God who was performing these miracles and attributed them to others who were
St. John Chrysostom, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, 5.4.4
The prophets spoke in days of old
To men of stubborn will.
Their message lives and is retold
Where hearts are stubborn still.
From the hymn "The Prophets Spoke in Days of Old" by John E. Bowers
When a Judaean commander and his men murdered Gedaliah, the Judaean governor appointed by the Babylonians, along with his ministers and the Babylonian guard, the people remaining in Judah were afraid for their lives (41:1-3). It was their fear that the Babylonians would blame them and would either slaughter them or take them as prisoners back to Babylon. They went to Jeremiah and asked him to petition Yahweh to tell them what to do. They even swore an oath in Yahweh's name to do whatever He told them (42:1-6). Ten days later, Yahweh told them through His prophet that they must stay in Judah, and He would protect them from the Babylonians. God told them that they must not leave Judah to go to Egypt to seek refuge or they would all die by sword, famine, and plague (Jer 42:1-22).
Unfortunately, the people of the Judaean remnant broke their vow to Yahweh and invoked the self-curse they swore upon themselves when they used Yahweh's Divine Name by refusing to obey the voice of Yahweh (42:5). They announced their determination to go to Egypt despite Yahweh's promises and warnings. They did this because they did not have a relationship with Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. They did not know Him, therefore, they did not have faith in Him or trust His promises.
When Yahweh made a covenant treaty with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus out of Egypt, they became His people, singled out from among all the other nations of the earth. He gave them the Law of the Covenant as a tutor and a guide to teach them to be a holy people of a holy God. Their relationship with Him was continually renewed and enhanced through the liturgy of worship. In the sacrifice of the twice daily worship services, they received atonement as a covenant people for their sins and were sanctified. They also brought their individual sin sacrifices and confessed their sins. God forgave their sins so they could restore communion with Him in their communion/peace offerings and eat a sacred meal within the Sanctuary. These actions strengthened the family bond of the covenant as a holy people ate a sacred meal of thanksgiving (Toda in Hebrew, Eucharistia in Greek) in the presence of their Divine Father.
Since their fathers of Jeremiah's generation failed to teach their children about this holy family connection with Yahweh, and since the people were introduced to the worship of pagan gods, Yahweh became one god among many to them. This lack of understanding and commitment is demonstrated in their request to Jeremiah to petition Yahweh in which they referred to God three times as "Yahweh your God" (42:2, 3, and 5). However, their poor religious formation was not an excuse for their sinful practices.
Why do you go the sacrifice of the Mass? If you are going for what you can get out of it, you are going for the wrong reason. You go to offer your worship and praise to the One True God and for what you can offer of yourself in continuing to build on your relationship with the Most Holy Trinity. You confess your sins in the Penitential Rite to prepare yourself as a holy child of a Divine Father who has come for His loving embrace. Then you listen to God speak directly to you through Sacred Scripture. Finally, in the liturgy of the Eucharist, you are ready to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the Cross. And when you receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, you receive God's greatest gift of love when He joins His life to yours.
The Mass is a gift of relationship building between you and God. You cannot have any relationship succeed when the only reason for you to be in that relationship is for what you get out of it. No relationship can be built or survive on selfish desires. All true and loving relationships are built on selfless giving and mutual love. The importance of this relationship is why you honor your covenant commitment to worship on the Lord's Day. It is also the reason you come to the table of the Lord God in the sacred meal of the Eucharist. It is the New Covenant Toda; the sacred meal of thanksgiving in your continuing relationship with the Christ who, through His sacrifice of love, saves you from sin and eternal death.
Chapter 43:8-44:30 Jeremiah's Last Oracles to the Remnant in Egypt
Jeremiah told the Judaean remnant they would suffer because of their refusal to listen to Yahweh's command to stay in Judah and to not return to Egypt, the site of their first liberation in the days of Moses (42:15-2). God allowed them to force Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them so that, as an affectionate Divine Father, He might continue to use His prophet to prevent them from falling into total idolatry and to continue to remind them that He only wants what is best for them (43:6-7).
Jeremiah gave the remnant of Judaeans living in Egypt six last oracles from Yahweh in Chapters 43-44. Each oracle, after the usual short introductory phrase, begins with the words "Yahweh God of Israel (with several slight variations) says this," and the oracles are interrupted by two narratives:
Jeremiah 43:8-13 ~ Jeremiah's Ninth Object Lesson and Oracle #1
8 At Tahpanhes the word of Yahweh was addressed to Jeremiah as follows, 9 "Take some large stones and bury them in the cement on the terrace outside the entrance of Pharaoh's palace in Tahpanhes, where the Judaeans can see you. 10 Then say to them, Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: Look, I shall send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and he will place his throne on these stones I have buried, and spread his canopy above them. 11 When he comes, he will defeat Egypt: Those for the plague, to the plague; those for captivity, to captivity; those for the sword, to the sword! 12 He [I] will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn these gods or take them prisoner; like a shepherd wrapping his cloak round him, so he will wrap Egypt round him, and then leave without anyone laying hands on him. 13 He will break the obelisks of [Beth "shemesh = House of the Sun"] the temple of the Sun in Egypt, and burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.'"
[...] IBHE, vol. IV, page 1855.
This oracle probably refers to the Babylonian invasion of 582, about the time that the Judaeans refugees arrived in Egypt. Tahpanhes is the Egyptian border town where the Judaeans refugees first arrived in Egypt (43:7). It is on the eastern delta, bordering the Sinai and on the caravan route leading to regions in the north. It may be that the refugees had to wait in this town until Egyptian officials decided to allow them to enter the country.
God's word in this oracle is not just addressed to the newly arrived Judaean remnant but to all people of Judah living in Egypt since before the destruction of Jerusalem. Those Judaeans who fled to Egypt were listed among the "bad figs" in Jeremiah 24:8, As for the bad figs, the figs so bad as to be uneatable, yes, Yahweh says this, that is how I shall treat Zedekiah king of Judah, his chief men and what is left of Jerusalem: those who remain in this country and those living in Egypt.
where the Judaeans can see you
God commands Jeremiah to perform a task and then to use it as an object lesson in preaching the oracle. It is Jeremiah's ninth object lesson. He must do this in front of the Judaeans because symbolic acts require witnesses.
Question: In Jeremiah's object lesson, what symbolic act is he performing in laying the stones on the terrace of pharaoh's palace, and how is his act related to his oracle concerning King Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Egypt?
Answer: The purpose of setting the stones is to symbolically lay the foundation where Nebuchadnezzar will sit on his throne and under his canopy when he judges Egypt. Jeremiah is to hide the stones so they are not obvious and the Egyptians will not remove them.
10 Then say to
them, Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: Look, I shall send for I shall send
for my servant Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon ...'
Yahweh is summoning King Nebuchadnezzar who is Yahweh's servant because God is using him as His instrument of judgment just as he used the Babylonian king in the judgment against Judah and Jerusalem. For the third time, Nebuchadnezzar is called Yahweh's "servant" in the Hebrew text (see 25:9 and 27:6).
Nebuchadnezzar's first successful invasion of Egypt took place in 582 BC. At that time, Egypt was ruled by Pharaoh Amasis. He was a Libyan general serving the Egyptians who murdered and then succeeded Pharaoh Hophra.(1) Nebuchadnezzar's second invasion was in 568-7 BC when Josephus records that he took resident Jews as captives back to Babylon (Antiquities of the Jews, 10.181-82). As a border town, Tahpanhes was probably the first town that was taken by the Babylonians in both invasions.
11 When he comes,
he will defeat Egypt: Those for the plague, to the plague; those for captivity,
to captivity; those for the sword, to the sword!
This little poetic section is an echo of the oracle judgment in Jeremiah 15:2. The judgment will be on Egypt, but the point is that it will also fall on the Judaean immigrants who came to Egypt for refuge. In Babylon, Ezekiel received a prophecy concerning the Babylonian invasion of Egypt in chapters 29-32, and he foretold the disaster at Tahpanhes: At Tahpanhes day will turn to darkness when I shatter the scepters of Egypt there, when the pride of her strength cease ... Such will be the punishments I inflict on Egypt. And they will know that I am Yahweh (Ez 30:18-19).
12 He [I] will
set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn these gods or take
The literal Hebrew text shifts from the divine "I" to the royal "he." Yahweh and Nebuchadnezzar will work together to bring judgment on Egypt and her false gods (see verse 10 where Yahweh and Nebuchadnezzar are named together). The Babylonians will burn down the temples, and they will take back the idols that are not burned to Babylon as trophies of war. It was a common practice, and the Babylonians took items from the Temple in Jerusalem back to Babylon (see Is 46:2; Jer 48:7; Amos 5:26-27; Ezra 1:8-11).
12b like a
shepherd wrapping his cloak round him, so he will wrap Egypt round him, and
then leave without anyone laying hands on him.
In his successful campaign, Nebuchadnezzar will "wrap" himself with the conquered people of Egypt like a shepherd wraps himself in his cloak. Ezekiel foretells the same success for Nebuchadnezzar in Egypt in Ezekiel 29:18-20.
13 He will break
the obelisks of [Beth "shemesh = House of the Sun"] the temple of the Sun in
Egypt, and burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.
The Egyptian temple of the Sun was in On, which the Greeks called Heliopolis, "City of the Sun" (Beth-shemesh in Hebrew). On/Heliopolis was the center of Ra-worship, and today it is part of the city of Cairo. The temple of Ra in On was where Joseph son of Jacob's father-in-law was the chief priest of Ra (Gen 41:44-45). King Josiah tried to eradicate sun worship in Judah during his reforms (2 Kng 23:5, 11; Jer 8:2). The obelisks in verse 13 refer to the sacred pillars for which ancient On/Heliopolis was famous. Obelisks were usually placed at the entrances to Egyptian temples.
Chapter 44: Jeremiah's Last Oracles for the Judaeans
In Chapter 44, the six oracles that began in 43:10 continue. Jeremiah gives the last oracles of his prophetic ministry to the Judaeans living as exiles in Egypt. His final oracle contains a "sign" as evidence that what Yahweh has declared in His oracles will come true. The "sign" is the violent death of Hophra, Pharaoh of 26th Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs. General Amasis betrayed Hophra who was later executed. Amasis succeeded him as Pharaoh Amasis II of Egypt in 570 BC. Then, as prophesied by Jeremiah in his oracle against Egypt, two years later in 568 B.C., the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Egypt. Tens of thousands Egyptians died while thousands more, primarily the skilled and educated elite including priests and artisans, were taken captive and exiled into Babylonian lands to the east. Some Egyptians escaped into the surrounding desert, among them Pharaoh Amasis. Most of the major temples and tombs of the nation were looted and destroyed from Midgol in the eastern Delta to Syene near Elephantine (500 miles south of Thebes). It was the Egyptian holocaust prophesied by Jeremiah (43:10-13; 44:12-30; 47:13-26) and delivered by the Babylonians as retribution for the Egyptians encouraging Babylonia's vassal states to rebel against the empire.
Jeremiah 44:1-6 ~ Oracle #2
1 The word that came to Jeremiah for all the Judaeans living in Egypt, those that is, living in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph and the territory of Pathros. 2 "Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this, You have seen all the disaster I have brought on Jerusalem and all the towns of Judah, today they lie in ruins and uninhabited. 3 This was because of the wicked deeds they committed to provoke my anger, by going and offering incense and serving other gods whom neither they, nor you, nor your ancestors knew anything about, 4 although I urgently and untiringly sent you all my servants the prophets to say: You must not do this loathsome thing, which I hate. 5 But they would not listen or pay attention, and turn from their wickedness and stop offering incense to other gods. 6 And so my furious anger overflowed, burning down the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, which were reduced to ruins and wasteland, as they still are today.
Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph and the territory of Pathros.
Jeremiah's oracles are for all the Judaeans living throughout Egypt. It is possible that he traveled to these various locations to give his oracles, or the Judaeans from these cities may have come to one location for a festival honoring Astarte/Ishtar, Queen of Heaven.
In verse 2 Yahweh takes responsibility for the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem because He did not intervene to stop the Babylonians. He allowed them to destroy Jerusalem and take the Judaeans captive because of their sins (verse 3). Yahweh reminds the refugees that this happened because the people refused to listen to His oracles urging their repentance sent through His prophets like Jeremiah (verses 3-5).
3 This was because of the
wicked deeds they committed to provoke my anger, by going and offering incense
and serving other gods whom neither they, nor you, nor your ancestors knew
anything about ...
Question: Was the offering of incense a sin? See Ex 30:1-5; 37:25-29; Num 4:11; 1 Kng 6:20; Lk 1:8-9 and Rev 8:3-5.
Answer: No. The issue is not in burning incense but in burning incense to pagan gods. Burning incense was part of the rituals of worship ordained by Yahweh in the desert Tabernacle, the Jerusalem Temple, and in heavenly worship.
In the liturgy of worship, offering incense to Yahweh by the high priest or his priestly representative was a part of the twice daily ritual of worship (Ex 30:7-8; Lev 10:1; 1 Kng 6:20-21; 7:49; 2 Chr 26:16-18; Lk 1:8-9). In St. John's vision Heaven, he saw angels offering incense in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 8:3-5).
Jeremiah 44:7-10 ~ Oracle #3
7 And now, Yahweh, God Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this: Why bring complete disaster on yourselves by cutting yourselves off from Judah, your men, women, children, and babes in arms, so as to leave yourselves no remnant, 8 by provoking my wrath by your actions, offering incense to other gods in Egypt where you have come to settle, as though bent on your own destruction and on becoming a curse and a laughing-stock for all the nations of the earth? 9 Have you forgotten the wicked deeds of your ancestors [fathers], of the kings of Judah and of your princes, your own wicked deeds and those of your wives, committed in the country of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 To this day they have felt neither contrition nor fear; they have not observed my Law or my statutes, which I prescribed for you, as for your ancestors [fathers].
[...] = IBHE, vol. IV, pages 1856-57.
Yahweh uses His prophet again in an attempt to reason with the Judaeans
living in Egypt.
Question: God asks them what two question in verses 7-8 and 9?
They have become a "laughing stock" for other nations because it is widely known that they have abandoned their God and He has punished them with exile. The essence of the question is why they persist on bring evil on themselves (cf. 26:19b; 42:20).
9 Have you forgotten the
wicked deeds of your ancestors [fathers], of the kings of Judah and of your
princes, your own wicked deeds and those of your wives, committed in the
country of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
The evils of the ancestors/fathers is a recurring theme in the Book of Jeremiah and is repeated fifteen times (see 2:5; 3:25; 7:25-26; 9:13; 11:7-8, 10; 14:20; 16:11-12, 19; 19:4-5; 23:27; 34:14; 44:3, 9, 21). The evils of the wives include their patronage of false gods which their husbands permitted. The wives of Solomon, for example, burned incense and set up worship sites to other gods (1 Kng 11:4, 8).
Question: What argument does God make for them to return to
obedience to His commands, and what is the reason they persist in wickedness?
Answer: He asks if they have forgotten what the wicked deeds, the failure to keep the covenant commands, and the failure to repent those deeds that brought disaster on their ancestors, their rulers and their generation of Judaeans. And, do they not realize, if they persist in their sins, including idol worship, that they will experience those same judgments.
They persist in sin because they do not fear offending God. In their obstinacy, they refuse to humble themselves and repent their sins.
Jeremiah 44:11-14 ~ Oracle #4
11 So, Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this: Look, I have determined on disaster and shall destroy Judah completely. 12 I shall take the remnant of Judah who were determined to come to Egypt and settle there, and in Egypt they will perish; they will fall to the sword or perish of famine, from least to greatest, by sword and famine they will die and be an object of execration and horror, a curse, a laughing-stock. 13 I shall punish those who live in Egypt just as I punished Jerusalem: by sword, famine and plague. 14 Of the remnant of Judah which has come to settle in Egypt, not a single one will escape or survive to return to the country of Judah where they long to return and live. For none of them will return, except a few refugees.'"
This oracle is Yahweh's indictment against the Judaean refugees in
Egypt who continue in the same sins as their fathers. The phrase an object
of execration means an object of cursing or denouncement.
Question: What is God's judgment against the Judaeans who went to Egypt to avoid war and suffering, who refused His protection, and who are now seeking the protection of false gods?
Answer: They will suffer the same fate as their fathers in Judah and Jerusalem in the same triple judgment of sword, famine and plague.
For none of them will return, except a few refugees.
In His mercy, God holds out hope for a few righteous refugees, probably to include Jeremiah and Baruch.
In this oracle, the Judaeans determination to go to Egypt despite Yahweh's warning is now matched by Yahweh's determination to bring His divine judgment against them: But Yahweh's face is set against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth (Ps 34:16).
Jeremiah 44:15-19 ~ The Judaean Men and Women Respond to Jeremiah
15 At this, all the men who knew that their wives offered incense to other gods, and all the women who were standing there, a great crowd (and all the people living in Egypt, in Pathros), answered Jeremiah as follows, 16 "We have no intention of listening to the word you have just spoken to us in Yahweh's name, 17 but intend to go on doing all we have vowed to do: offering incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations in her honor, as we and our chief men, in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem: we had food in plenty them, we lived well, we suffered no disasters. 18 But since we gave up offering incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations in her honor, we have been destitute and have perished either by sword or by famine. 19 Besides, when we offer incense to the Queen of Heaven and pour libations in her honor, do you think we make cakes for her with her features on them, and pour libations to her, without our husband's knowledge?"
The refugees' initial silence to Yahweh's question in
verses 7-8 gives way to a spirited response in verses 15-19 once God delivers
the indictment and judgment on the men and their wives in the 4th
oracle. The "Queen of Heaven" is the Assyrian/Babylonian goddess Ishtar, known
in the Levant as Ashtart (by the Greeks as Astarte) and worshipped throughout
the ancient Near East.
Ashtaroth, the plural form of the goddess's name in Hebrew, became a general term for pagan goddesses. This pagan deity was a goddess of sex, fertility, and war whose worship was originally centered in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians and later adopted into Egypt. All forms of sexual perversions were associated with her worship.(2)
Question: How do the Judaean refugees answer
Jeremiah's oracles from Yahweh?
16 "We have no intention
of listening to the word you have just spoken to us in Yahweh's name, 17 but intend to go on doing all we have
vowed to do...
They broke their vow to obey whatever Yahweh told them in 42:6, but now they claim they must continuing offering incense and wine libations to Ishtar in verse 16 because they have vowed to do so.
17b ... offering
incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations in her honor, as we and
our chief men, in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem: we had food
in plenty them, we lived well, we suffered no disasters. 18 But since we gave up offering incense
to the Queen of Heaven and pouring libations in her honor, we have been destitute
and have perished either by sword or by famine.
When their offerings to the goddess stopped in Judah must refer to the time of King Josiah's religious reforms when he destroyed the sites of idol worship and other pagan practices (2 Kng 23:4-7). Their suffering came from the years after Josiah's death when the people returned to pagan practices. The people are indulging in selective historical memory as far as their suffering is concerning.
Question: The people's denial that their blessings in the Promised
Land came from Yahweh and their crediting of their "good life" to a pagan idol
is reminiscent of what similar claims made by their ancestors after the Exodus
out of Egypt? See Ex 16:2-3 and 32:1-4.
Answer: The rebellious Exodus generation expressed the same ingratitude and selective memory:
19 Besides, when we
offer incense to the Queen of Heaven and pour libations in her honor, do you think
we make cakes for her with her features on them, and pour libations to her,
without our husband's knowledge?"
This verse shows how confused or hypocritical the people were concerning their covenant laws. The second of the Ten Commandments stated: You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them (Ex 20:4; Dt 5:8). The women protest that they are keeping the Law because their offerings to Ishtar do not bear her image, and their husbands know about and do not protest their actions. According to the Law, a woman cannot make a vow without her husband's approval (Num 30:6-15).(3)
The women remember the Ten Commandments selectively.
Question: What commandments have they ignored that clearly define their actions in offering incense and libations to the "Queen of Heaven" as a great sin? See Ex Chapter 20 and Dt Chapter 5.
Answer: They are in violation of the greatest of the commandments. The first of the Ten Commandments restricts worship to Yahweh alone! It is forbidden to offer acts of worship to any other gods for their images (the First Commandment in Ex 20:3 and 5 and also in Dt 5:7 and 9).
Question: Does the Catholic practice of
veneration of the Cross, statues of the Virgin Mary or saints violate the
commandment against idols? See CCC 2129-2132; Ex 25:10-22; 26:1;
Num 21:4-9; 1
Kng 6:23-24; 7:23-26.
Answer: The prohibition against images concerns worshipping those images. However, in the Old Testament, God ordained and permitted images associated with His worship or that pointed to the future eternal salvation of the Christ. For example:
These symbolic images pointed to the salvation brought by the Word Incarnate, as Jesus mentions in John 3:14-15 concerning the image of the bronze serpent. In the same way, Catholic statues remind us of the real people who cooperated in God's divine plan for the salvation of humanity. The honor given to an image passes to its prototype, and therefore the veneration of an image venerates not the image itself but the person portrayed in it. It is respectful veneration and not the adoration/worship that is due to God alone (CCC 2132; Council of Nicaea II; Council of Trent; Vatican Council II). If it is wrong to have artistic images to represent these people in our covenant family and to remind us of their dedicated to God and their love for Christ to inspire us, it would also be wrong to have pictures/images of our family members and other loved ones.
Jeremiah 44:20-23 ~ Jeremiah Responds to the Crowd of Judaeans
20 To all the people, men and women, all those who had made this answer, Jeremiah retorted, 21 "The incense you offered in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, you, your ancestors, your kings, your chief men and the people at large; was this not what Yahweh kept remembering, and found so repellent that 22 Yahweh could not endure your misdeeds and your loathsome practices any longer, with the result that your country has become the uninhabited ruin, the object of horror and cursing it is today? 23 Because you offered incense, because you sinned against Yahweh, refusing to listen to the voice of Yahweh, or to observe his Law, his statutes and his decrees, that is why the present disaster has overtaken you."
In this narrative, Jeremiah forcefully responds to the Judaean refugees' excuses for making offerings to the "Queen of Heaven." He corrects their error in believing they received blessings from invoking other gods. He tells them the cause of the suffering of their people and the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem was because they worshipped false gods! That their country is now a ruin in verse 22 is a repeat of the same word from God's oracle in verse 6. Perhaps these Judaeans received poor instruction in the Law and inadequate religious formation.
Question: Does receiving poor instruction in the
faith exempt the Judaeans or a Catholic Christian or any Christian from being
held responsible for their sins? See verse 23.
Answer: No! God obviously does not accept that possibility as an excuse when Jeremiah tells them God will pronounce His judgment against them (verse 23). As adult members of the covenant, they had the responsibility for knowing the laws, statutes, and decrees concerning the practice of their faith, just as New Covenant Christians have the same responsibility for themselves and for teaching their children.
Sending children to religious education classes is not enough. In the Sacrament of Baptism for children, parents and godparents take an oath in God's name to raise the child/children to understand and practice their Catholic faith. This duty includes keeping the Five Precepts of the Church which are the minimal requirements for Catholics (CCC 2041-46; also see Five Precepts and Holy Days). And, as we have learned in our lessons, making a vow in God's name is a very serious matter.
Jeremiah 44:24-28 ~ Oracle #5
24 Further, Jeremiah said to all the people, and particularly to all the women, "Listen to the word of Yahweh, all you Judaeans in Egypt, 25 Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this, You and your wives, what your mouths promised, your hands have indeed performed! You said: We shall punctiliously fulfil the vows we have made and offer incense to the Queen of Heaven and pour libations in her honor. Very well, keep your vows, perform them punctiliously! 26 But listen to the word of Yahweh, all you Judaeans living in Egypt: I swear by my great name, Yahweh says, that my name will no longer be uttered by any man of Judah throughout Egypt; no one will say: As Lord Yahweh lives. 27 No, I am going to keep my eye on them for disaster, not for prosperity, and all the Judaeans in Egypt will perish either by the sword or by famine until they are wiped out. 28 Yet, though few in number, those who escape the sword will return to the country of Judah from Egypt. Then the entire remnant of Judah which has come and settled in Egypt will know whose word comes true, mine or theirs.
Jeremiah addresses the final three oracles to all Judaeans living in Egypt. Notice that the women are singled out for special mention in verse 24, and the text alters between masculine and feminine verbs. It appears the worship of the Queen of Heaven was a family affair. See earlier verses in this section and when God ordered Jeremiah not to continue to intercede for such a sinful people in Jeremiah 7:18, saying, The children collect the wood, the fathers light the fire, the women knead the dough, to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven; and, to spite me, they our libations to alien gods.
26 But listen to
the word of Yahweh, all you Judaeans living in Egypt: I swear by my great name,
Yahweh says, that my name will no longer be uttered by any man of Judah
throughout Egypt; no one will say: As Lord Yahweh lives. 27 No, I am going to keep my eye on them ...
Only Yahweh can swear in His own name. In this oracle, Yahweh swears by Himself that these ungrateful people will completely apostatize from His covenant. He is keeping an eye on the word He swore in His name and on them.
28 Yet, though
few in number, those who escape the sword will return to the country of Judah
from Egypt. Then the entire remnant of Judah which has come and settled in
Egypt will know whose word comes true, mine or theirs.
Yahweh intentionally places His word of hope at the center of the oracle. We can only hope that Jeremiah and Baruch are among those who escape, since Yahweh promised both men His divine protection (Jer 1:17-18; 45:2-5). The fulfillment of Yahweh's prediction of the final destruction of the remnant in Egypt is the proof that His word comes true, but it is proof that is too late for their salvation.
Jeremiah 44:29-30 ~ Jeremiah's Sign and Oracle #6
29 "And here is the sign for you, Yahweh declares, that I shall punish you in this place: so that you will know that the words with which I threaten you will come true: 30 Yahweh says this: Look, I shall hand Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, over to his enemies and to those determined to kill him."
A "sign" has greater significance than its event. It points to a revelation of something in the future. In this case, the "sign" will precede the destruction of the Judaean remnant in Egypt. Jeremiah spoke of Yahweh's signs and wonders in his prayer after he purchased the field in Jeremiah 32:20-21. His purchase was in itself a "sign" that one day Judaeans would return to buy fields and houses in the land of Judah (32:15).
The "sign" refers to Pharaoh Hophra who became pharaoh in 589 BC, was overthrown by Amasis in c. 570 BC, and executed. Nebuchadnezzar's first invasion of Egypt was in 582 BC when Hophra was still the pharaoh. His second invasion in 568 BC, when Amasis was the pharaoh, is described as an Egyptian holocaust by the 5th century BC Greek Historian Herodotus. It is in that invasion that the entire Judaean remnant must have either perished or were taken as captives back to Babylon.
"... just as I handed Zedekiah king of Judah over to his
enemy Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was determined to kill him."
The comparison between King Zedekiah of Judah and Pharaoh Hophra is significant. Both were weak men who made bad alliances, their ministers misled them, and both men fell into the hands of their enemies to die violently.
Chapter 45: A Prophecy for Baruch
Jeremiah 45:1-5 ~ Yahweh Gives Baruch Two Oracles
1 The word that the prophet Jeremiah addressed to Baruch son of Neriah when the latter wrote these words down in a book at Jeremiah's dictation in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's son Josiah, king of Judah. 2 "This is what Yahweh, God of Israel says about you, Baruch! 3 You have been thinking: what disaster for me, and Yahweh has added further grief to my troubles! I am worn out with groaning, and find no relief!' Say to him as follows, 4 Yahweh says this: Now I am knocking down what I have built, am uprooting what I have planted, over the whole country! 5 And you ask for special treatment [seek great things for yourself]! Do not ask, for I am now going to bring disaster on all humanity, Yahweh declares, but you I shall allow to escape with your life, wherever you may go.'" [...] = IBHE, vol. IV, page 1860.
Baruch receives the two oracles close to the time when he wrote out the scroll of Jeremiah and read it to the assembly of Israel in the Temple in 605 BC (see Jer 36:1-32). The writing down and reading of the scroll was the easy part. However, after King Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll, Jeremiah and Baruch had to go into hiding to save their lives. It is at this point that Baruch began to lament his condition in linking his life to Jeremiah's mission. He did not voice his discomfort, but God read his thoughts.
Through Jeremiah God gives the scribe two oracles: mixing
an oracle of judgment with an oracle of salvation. The oracle of judgment is
for Judah and the nations, but also it contains a rebuke for Baruch.
Question: What is the rebuke?
Answer: God tells Baruch there are greater events taking place than the discomfort, loss of ambitions, and fears of a single scribe. Baruch is being self-centered in thinking he deserves special treatment when all Judaeans are under the curse of divine judgment.
God reminds Baruch in verse 4 that He also suffers in having to "knock down" what He "built" and "uproot" what He "planted" in the land of Israel/Judah. What God tells Baruch reminds us of what Jesus told His disciples during His homily at the Last Supper when He said that they will share in His sufferings: Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too ... (Jn 15:20). However, Jesus also told His disciples to be brave and faithful in the face of persecution: In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world (Jn 16:33).
Question: The rebuke is followed by what promise
Answer: Yahweh promises to protect him and to preserve his freedom and his life.
Like God's promise of salvation to Ebed-melech who saved Jeremiah from starvation in the cistern (Jer 39:15-18), God will also save Baruch because of his friendship and service to Jeremiah. God does not forget any act of kindness and mercy. He punishes the guilty and rewards the just in every generation.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: The Judaean women argued that they weren't breaking a commandment because their cakes to the "Queen of Heaven" didn't have an image of the goddess on the offering. They were rationalizing their sin and at the same time ignoring other commandments. Can you give examples of how some Christians commit the same irrational excuses for their sins or supporting sins that are legal according to civil law today?
Question: Do Catholics defy the Ten Commandments by worshipping a "Queen of Heaven," an abuse for which Yahweh condemned the Judaeans? What is the difference between their Judaean's worship of a pagan goddess and the Catholic veneration (special honor) of Jesus' mother as the Davidic Gebira who is the queen of His heavenly Kingdom and the mother of the Kingdom of the Church? See the document " The Blessed Virgin Mary: The Queen Mother of the New Davidic Kingdom" and Catechism citation 966: "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sins, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians: In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but you were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 966 [quoting Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950); Revelation 19:16; and from the Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition.
Answer: The Virgin Mary's role and title are completely different from the Hebrew title for the pagan goddess "Queen of Heaven" [Strong's Concordance H4446]. Mary is the Gebira [Strong's Concordance H1377], the mother of the Davidic king, Jesus Christ. And, as the queen of her son's heavenly kingdom, it is a title she deserves. See the references to the Gebira in Jeremiah 13:18 and 29:2, and also in 1 Kng 11:19; 15:13; 2 Kng 10:13; 2 Chr 15:16. See the document: "The Blessed Virgin Mary: Queen Mother of the New Davidic Kingdom."
1. Excavations at the site believed to be ancient Tahpanhes uncovered the ruins of a fortified residence built with an extensive pavement. Archaeologist speculated it was used as a public square. The archaeologist who found it, Sir Flinders Petrie, believed he found the site of Jeremiah's object lesson in Jer 43:8-11 (Petrie, 1886).
2. Archaeologists discovered many figurines of this goddess in excavations in Judah and surrounding ancient nations. The number from Judah alone is currently numbered as 822 with over 400 from excavations in Jerusalem (Lundbum, vol. III, page 163).
3. A clay mold used to make cakes with the image of a nude female goddess was discovered by archaeologists in the ruins of a royal kitchen in the Mesopotamian city of Mari (Lundbom, vol. III, page 164).
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2017 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson: