THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part I: Oracles Against Jerusalem and Judah
(the Oracles of Condemnation)
Jeremiah's Final Appeal and
The Harvest is Over
When we seek Your mercy for the forgiveness of our sins, help us to first remember Jesus' words calling us to practice mercy and forgiveness to others when He said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mt 5:7). Help us to see these words as a call to action so that Your blessings to us may be transformed into blessings to others. However, Lord, also give us the fortitude not to dilute Your call to mercy and forgiveness in an attempt to make ourselves more acceptable to those in bondage to sin that You have called us to help. Give us the fortitude of Jeremiah in sharing the truth of the Gospel of salvation, and help us to do so in a spirit of love and mercy. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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give verdicts for presents, her priests take a fee for their rulings, her
prophets divine for money and yet they rely on Yahweh! "Isn't Yahweh among
us?" they say, "No disaster is going to overtake us." That is why, thanks to
you, Zion will become plough land, Jerusalem a heap of rubble and the Temple Mount
a wooden height.
then made Eliakim son of Josiah king in succession to Josiah his father, and
changed his name to Jehoiakim ... Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he
came to the throne, and he reigned for eleven years in Jerusalem... He did what
was displeasing to Yahweh, just as his ancestors had done.
2 Kings 23:34a, 36a, 37
Chapter 7: Jeremiah's Final Appeal
The obligation to administer justice and to ensure that the people were obedient to their covenant with Yahweh was the duty of the Davidic king. During the reign of King Josiah, he saw that the people were obedient to the commandments of the Law and to the requirements of Temple worship. However, thirteen years after Jeremiah's inaugural oracles (fourteen years as the ancients counted), Josiah was killed by the Egyptians at the Battle of Megiddo in 609 BC, and during the reign of his son Jehoiakim, all the previous evil practices returned (2 Kng 23:36-24:4; Jer 22:13-17).(1) King Jehoiakim (609-598 BC) promoted the worship of "the Queen of Heaven," the goddess Astarte/Ishtar, throughout Judah, and he allowed the building of other pagan altars, even within Yahweh's holy Temple. Additional abominations during his reign included the re-introduction of illicit sacrifices in Temple worship as well as child sacrifice to Baal/Molech in the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem (7:18, 21, 30-31).
Jehoiakim became the king of Judah after the Egyptians deposed his brother in 609 BC (ruled three months) and established him as their vassal. In 605 BC, the Babylonians successfully defeated the armies of the Assyrians and their Egyptian allies at the Battle of Carchemish and became the rulers of Mesopotamia and the Levant, making Jehoiakim a vassal of Babylon. He ruled for eleven years, and when he revolted against his Babylonian overlords, he was taken away in chains to die in Babylon in about 598/7 BC (see Jer 1:3). At that time, he was succeeded by his son, Jehoiachin (2Kng 23:34-24:9; 2 Chr 36:5-9). Jeremiah's oracles in this lesson appear to take place during the years of King Jehoiakim's reign, immediately before the Babylonian conquest of Judah and Jerusalem in 598/7 BC.
Question: What does the return to paganism within a generation
of Josiah's reforms tell us about the people of Judah and Jerusalem? See
Jeremiah's accusations against the citizens of Judah and Jerusalem in 2:22-23
Answer: It is evidence that the people's repentance and covenant renewal was not sincere, as God charged the people at the beginning of Jeremiah's prophetic oracles.
Jeremiah's heart-rending appeals for the people to repent and return to true worship, based on Yahweh's promise that Jerusalem would never fall to their enemy if only the people would confess and demonstrate true repentance, have failed. The people continued their abominable practices (7:9 and 11), and even though they erected pagan idols within the Temple complex (7:30), they still believed that God would not destroy Jerusalem because His Presence dwelled within His Holy Temple (7:4 and 10).
In the call to return to true worship, Chapter 7 is divided into four sections:
God promises salvation is still possible for the Jerusalemites in Chapter 7, but the people must amend their ways. The violations named in Chapter 7, in addition to apostasy from the covenant, idol worship, and the sexual sins named previously, include nine sins (nine is the number of judgment in Scripture):
Jeremiah 7:1-15 ~ The Temple will not Save Them
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh saying, 2 "Stand at the gate of the Temple of Yahweh and there proclaim this message. Say, Listen to the word of Yahweh, all you of Judah who come in by these gates to worship Yahweh. 3 Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Amend your behavior and your actions and I will let you stay in this place. 4 Do not put your faith in delusive words, such as: This is Yahweh's sanctuary, Yahweh's sanctuary, Yahweh's sanctuary! 5 But if you really amend your behavior and your actions, if you really treat one another fairly, 6 if you do not exploit the stranger, the orphan and the widow, if you do not shed innocent blood in this place and if you do not follow other gods, to your won ruin, 7 then I shall let you stay in this place, in the country I gave for ever to your ancestors of old. 8 Look, you are putting your faith in delusive, worthless words! 9 Seal, would you, murder, commit adultery, perjure yourselves, burn incense to Baal, follow other gods of whom you know nothing? "10 and then come and stand before me in this Temple that bears my name, saying: Now we are safe to go on doing all these loathsome things! 11 Do you look on this Temple that bears my name as a den of bandits? I, at any rate, can see straight, Yahweh declares. 12 Now go to the place which used to be mind at Shiloh, where I once gave my name a home; see what I have done to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel! 13 And now, since you have done all these things, Yahweh declares, and refused to listen when I spoke so urgently, so persistently, or to answer when I called you, 14 I shall treat this Temple that bears my name, and in which you put your heart, the place that I gave you and your ancestors, just as I treated Shiloh, 15 and I shall drive you out of my sight, as I did all your kinsfolk, the whole race of Ephraim.'"
In 7:1-15, there is an introduction followed by three Temple oracles in prose:
at the gate of the Temple of Yahweh and there proclaim this message. Say,
Listen to them word of Yahweh, all you of Judah who come in by these gates to
The gate of the Temple may have been the main gate leading into the Temple complex, or it may have been the gate leading from the Courtyard of the Women into the inner courtyard called the Courtyard of the Priests and the location of the altar of sacrifice. It appears the Temple court was Jeremiah's usual place of public appearances (19:14-15; 28:1; 36:5-6). However, his oracles were also delivered at other city gates like the Benjamin Gate (17:19); the Potsherd Gate (19:1-2); and the city gate near the royal palace (22:1-2).
The first oracle in verses 3-7 is a reform oracle in
which Yahweh, through Jeremiah, calls upon the people to amend their sinful
ways if they want to stay in "this place." The question is what is "this
place"? Is it a reference to the Temple, to the city of Jerusalem, or to the
Question: In Jeremiah's court defense in Jeremiah 26:12, where does he testify that he was sent to prophesy?
Answer: Jeremiah says he was sent to prophesy against both the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.
4 Do not
put your faith in delusive words, such as: This is Yahweh's sanctuary, Yahweh's
sanctuary, Yahweh's sanctuary!
The threefold repetition of "Yahweh's sanctuary" or "Yahweh's Temple" is what the people say in the attempt to convince themselves that since this is Yahweh's Temple, He will never allow its destruction. As long as the Temple stood on Mt. Moriah (Mt. Zion), God dwelled among His people in the Holy of Holies and Judah and Jerusalem were secure (see 2 Chr 3:1; Mic 3:11-12).
5 But if
you really amend your behavior and your actions ...
In verse 5, Jeremiah repeats the conditions in verse 3 for the people to "amend their behavior and their actions." Perhaps the repetition is evidence that they are not making any attempt to alter their behavior.
5b if you
really treat one another fairly, 6 if
you do not exploit the stranger, the orphan and the widow, if you do not shed
innocent blood in this place and if you do not follow other gods to your own
Four conditions of amended behavior:
Question: Jesus summed up the content of the Ten
Commandments in Matthew 22:37-39. Which of the Ten Commandments does Jeremiah
refer to in verse 6 and how does the verse apply to Jesus' summary of the
Commandments? See Ex 20:12-17; Lev 19:18; Dt 5:16-21.
Answer: Commandments 1-3 deal with the covenant people's relationship with God and commandments 4-10 address injustices toward one's "neighbor" in the human family. The Jerusalemites violate the third of the Ten Commandment in following other gods and the other commandments concerned with love of neighbor.
7 then I
shall let you stay in this place, in the country I gave for ever to your
ancestors of old.
The condition is, if they change their sinful ways, Yahweh will allow them to remain in the land that He promised in covenant to the Patriarch Abraham (Gen 15:18-21).
Verses 8-11 are the second Temple oracle:
8 Look, you are putting your faith in delusive, worthless words! 9 Seal, would you, murder, commit adultery, perjure yourselves, burn incense to Baal, follow other gods of whom you know nothing? "10 and then come and stand before me in this Temple that bears my name, saying: Now we are safe to go on doing all these loathsome things! 11 Do you look on this Temple that bears my name as a den of bandits? I, at any rate, can see straight, Yahweh declares.
The people are so deluded in their thinking that they practice all manner of sin and still believe, if they attend worship in the Temple, that they can receive forgiveness for their continuing cycle of sins for which they have shown no genuine repentance.
11 Do you
look on this Temple that bears my name as a den of bandits?
Jesus quoted from Jeremiah 7:11 in Matthew 21:13 when He said, "It is written: My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you are making it a den of thieves.'"
After His triumphal ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in 30 AD, Jesus cleanses the Temple a second and third time on that Sunday and again on Monday (Mt 21:10, 12-16 and Mk 11:11-12, 15-17).(2) At both Temple cleansings, Jesus alludes to two passages from Sacred Scripture. The first speaks of Gentiles coming to the House of God, and the second condemns the priesthood and the people before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC for turning God's house into a "den of thieves." Whenever an Old Testament passage is alluded to or quoted in the New Testament, the entire passage must be read in context to understand the significance of the quote or allusion; in this case read from Jeremiah 7:1-15.
Question: Why does Jesus choose to allude to this passage from
Jeremiah and what did Jeremiah mean by those words "a den of bandits?
Answer: It was a warning of judgment for profaning God's house, the Jerusalem Temple. The failed priests had made the Temple into a "den of bandits;" the priests and the people were the "bandits" who were robbing God's house of its sanctity.
This is the third oracle:
14 I shall treat this Temple that bears my name, and in which you put your heart, the place that I gave you and your ancestors, just as I treated Shiloh, 15 and I shall drive you out of my sight, as I did all your kinsfolk, the whole race of Ephraim.'"
Since the divine Presence of God sanctified the Temple, the people believed no earthly power could threaten it (1 Kng 8:10-13).
"Shiloh" in Jeremiah 7:14 was the location of the desert Sanctuary and its Tabernacle in the Promised Land. It was the center of worship from the time of Joshua to the time of the Prophet Samuel (Josh 18:1; Judg 18:31; 1 Sam 1:3-9: 3:19-21). Like the later Temple, the desert Sanctuary was also sanctified by the presence of God (Ex 40:34-35; 1 Kng 8:10-13).
Question: What is the significance of what happened to the
Sanctuary at Shiloh, and what is the significance of what happened to the
"whole race of Ephraim," a reference to the Northern Kingdom of Israel? See 1
Sam 4:3-4, 10-11; Ps 78:56-69, 68; Jer 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9; 2 Kng 17:5-18.
Answer: The priests and the people's offenses against God and His Sanctuary so offended God that He withdrew His protection of the Sanctuary at Shiloh. Israel's enemies, the Philistines, destroyed the Sanctuary and captured the Ark of the Covenant. "Ephraim" refers to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, founded by a prince of Ephraim. God judged the apostasy of the Northern Kingdom and removed His protection. The Assyrians conquered them and took the ten northern tribes into exile, completing the conquest in 722 BC. Jeremiah's warning was that the same judgment that fell on Shiloh and the Northern Kingdom of Israel will fall on the Jerusalem Temple and the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah for the same reasons.
Jeremiah 7:16-20 ~ Alien Idols
16 "You, for your part, must not intercede for this people, nor raise either plea or prayer on their behalf; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Can you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 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 pour libations to alien gods. 19 Is it really me they spite," Yahweh demands, "is it not in fact themselves, to their own confusion? 20 So, Lord Yahweh days this, My anger, my wrath will be poured down on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the countryside and the fruits of the soil; it will burn, and not be quenched.'"
Question: What does Yahweh tell Jeremiah he must not do and why?
Answer: Yahweh tells Jeremiah that he must no longer offer intercessory prayer for the people, because pleading to God for leniency on behalf of a thoroughly sinful and unrepentant people will do no good.
18 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 pour libations to alien gods.
God accuses all ages of society of participating in pagan worship. Children are taught by their apostate parents to make offerings to alien gods.
cakes for the Queen of Heaven ... Astarte/Ishtar was a goddess of love, sexuality, and war in the Mesopotamian pantheon. The goddess was also identified with the planet Venus and therefore referred to as "Queen of Heaven." Biblical scholars suggest the cult of Astarte/Ishtar was imported into Judah from the Assyrians during the reign of Davidic King Ahaz who made a treaty with the Assyrians (736-716 BC; 2 Kng 16:7-18). The cult became prominent under the reign of Josiah's grandfather, King Manasseh (687-642 BC). Scripture records Manasseh worshipped "all the host of heaven," and built two pagan altars in the Temple (2 Kng 21:3-5).
The term, "Queen of Heaven," is only found in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 7:18 and in 44:17, 18, 19 and 25. Some have accused the Catholic Church of using a pagan title in referring to the Virgin Mary as "Queen of Heaven," but the use of the title is entirely different. In addition, the Hebrew word in this verse and the Hebrew word used for the Davidic Queen mother is also different. A woman who was the mother of a Davidic king bore the Hebrew title Gebira/Gebirah, identifying her as the Queen Mother and the most important person in her son's kingdom. In her role fulfilling the office of Gebira, the king's mother acted as an intercessor between her people and the king her son (1 Kng 2:13-19). In addition to the title of "Intercessor/Mediatrix" (CCC 969), Mary also deserves the titles "Mother of Christ," "Mother of God," "Mother of the Living," "the New Eve," "Daughter of Zion," "Ark of the New Covenant," and "Handmaid of the Lord" (see CCC 411, 466, 494-5, 509, 511, 510, 726, 963-70, 2676).
Question: At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, when did Mary
take up her role as an intercessor? See Jn 2:1-12.
Answer: When Jesus and Mary attended the wedding at Cana, she interceded with her son when the wine was depleted. Jesus then fulfilled His mother's request and performed His first public miracle by turning the water in stone vessels into wine.
Question: Why does the Virgin Mary deserve the title "Queen of
Heaven" in the sense of a Davidic Queen? See Lk 1:31-33.
Answer: Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, now rules from His heavenly kingdom. Mary, who is Jesus' mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, is now in Heaven in body and in spirit where she continues her role as intercessor for the people of God. She continues her role not as an earthly queen, but as the Queen/Gebira of Heaven.
See the document on the Virgin Mary's role as the Davidic Queen Mother.
19 Is it really me they
spite," Yahweh demands, "is it not in fact themselves, to their own confusion?
20 So, Lord Yahweh days
this, "[Look!] My anger, my wrath will be poured down on this place, on man and
beast, on the trees of the countryside and the fruits of the soil; it will
burn, and not be quenched."
Scripture frequently records that the worship of false gods, in violation of the first commandment, provokes Yahweh to anger (for example, Dt 32:16, 21; 2 Kng 21:6, 15; 22:17; Jer 8:19; 11:17; 25:6). The worship of Astarte/Ishtar has provided God's wrath. Yahweh asks the rhetorical question: "Do the people not provoke Him with worshipping the Queen of Heaven?" Then He answers, of course they do, but they shame themselves in doing so which is even worse.
In verse 20, the fiery judgment of 4:4, my wrath will leap out like a fire and burn with no one to quench it, is pronounced unconditionally.
Jeremiah 7:21-26 ~ Worship without Sincerity
21 "Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this, Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat all the meat. 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I said nothing to them, gave them no orders, about burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 My one command to them was this: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people. In everything, follow the way that I mark out for you, and you shall prosper. 24 But they did not listen, they did not pay attention; they followed their own devices, their own stubborn and wicked inclinations, and got worse rather than better. 25 From the day your ancestors left Egypt until today, I have sent you all my servants the prophets, persistently sending them day after day. 26 But they have not listened to me, have not paid attention; they have deliberately resisted, behaving worse than their ancestors.'"
Jeremiah is still speaking the words of Yahweh but in prose and not the oracle in poetic form. The subject is again abuse of Temple worship as in 6:20, and the criticism of insincere worship is the same.
Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat all the meat.
"Burnt offerings" in verse 21 refers to the olah, the whole burnt offering or holocaust in which an entire animal was offered to Yahweh and consumed on the altar fire. The "sacrifices" refers to the zebah, the partly-burnt offering where the priest offered the fat and kidneys of the animal on the altar fire, and God shared the rest of the animal with His people in a sacred meal. Priests and their families ate the sin sacrifices, but the offerer, his family and friends ate the communion/ peace sacrifices (see Ex 20:24; Lev 6:1-2; Lev17/24-7:10/40; Lev 7:11/1-7/17; Dt 27:6-7).
Question: What is the accusation of abuse in altar sacrifices?
Answer: The abuse of legitimate worship is that, instead of offering the entire animal in the burnt offerings, the people are eating all the meat as in a communion/peace offering and apparently not even offering the fat and kidneys on the altar fire.
22 For when I brought
your ancestors out of Egypt, I said nothing to them, gave them no orders, about
burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 My
one command to them was this: Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and
you shall be my people. In everything, follow the way that I mark out for you,
and you shall prosper.
Immediately after the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, there were no commands concerning altar sacrifice. The Israelites only had to be obedient to the commands of Yahweh as He led them through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. It wasn't until the ratification of the covenant treaty at Sinai that God ordered the sacrifices of the first burnt offerings and communion sacrifices. It was at the end of the ceremony that Moses, Aaron, Aaron's two sons, and seventy elders as representatives of the people ate the first sacred communion meal in the Presence of God (Ex 24:5-11).
24 But they did not
listen, they did not pay attention; they followed their own devices, their own
stubborn and wicked inclinations, and got worse rather than better.
Question: What was the first illicit sacrifice offered by the Israelites following "their own devices" and their "wicked inclinations"? See Ex 32:1-6.
Answer: It was in making the Golden Calf idol and making burnt offerings and communion sacrifices to it at Mt. Sinai while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments and the first articles of the Law.
The rebellion of the Golden Calf resulted in God's first judgment against Israel when three thousand men perished (Ex 32:19-29). The Israelites, according to Jeremiah's oracle, did not learn from that judgment. They continually committed the same sins of idol worship and apostasy from the covenant down through the generations, despite God sending them His holy prophets, like Jeremiah, to remind them of the consequences of breaking their covenant oath and abandoning Yahweh their God.
Jeremiah 7:27-29 ~ The Threat of Exile
27 "So you will tell them all this, but they will not listen to you; you will call them, but they will not answer you. 28 Then you are to say to them, This is the nation that will neither listen to the voice of Yahweh its God nor take correction. Sincerity is no more, it has vanished from their mouths. 29 Cut off your tresses, throw them away! On the bare heights raise a dirge, for Yahweh has rejected, has abandoned, a brood that enrages him!'"
The prose continues from the previous passage until verse 29 that returns to the poetic form. Yahweh tells Jeremiah that despite his warning the people will not listen, and therefore they will not repent. When this happens, he is to tell the people to cut their hair and sing a lament as acts of mourning because, as they have abandoned Yahweh, He has abandoned them.
Jeremiah 7:30-34 ~ The Threat of Divine Judgment for all Forms of Idolatrous Worship
30 "Yes, the people of Judah have done what displeases me," Yahweh declares. "They have set up their Horrors in the Temple that bears my name, to defile it, 31 and have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, to burn their sons and daughters: a thing I never ordered, that had never entered my thoughts. 32 So now [Look] the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when people will no longer say Topheth or Valley of Ben-Hinnom, but Valley of Slaughter. Topheth will become a burial ground, for lack of other spaces; 33 the corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the sky and the animals of earth, and there will be no one to drive them off. 34 I shall silence the shouts of rejoicing and mirth and the voices of the bridegroom and bride, in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the country will be reduced to desert." [...] = literal Hebrew; IBHE, vol. IV, page 1755.
These verses return to the prose format. "Their Horrors in the Temple" are pagan altars set up by King Jehoiakim. He also reintroduced child sacrifice in the valley south of Jerusalem, like his great-grandfather Manasseh (see 2 Kng 21:1-16). The Hebrew word topheth means "incinerator and refers to where children were sacrificed in honor of Baal/Molech. The word was also associated with the cemetery where the child sacrifices dedicated to Baal/Molech were buried in urns (Lev 18:21; Is 30:33 and Jer 32:35). It was because of the abomination of child sacrifice practiced by the Canaanites that Yahweh used the Israelites as His instrument of divine justice to drive the Canaanites out of the land. The Israelites/Judahites are now as wicked as the people who were driven out. God warned the Israelites just before the conquest of Canaan, if the day came when they committed the same sins as the Canaanites, He would also drive them from the land.
Verse 32 is the first time Jeremiah uses the phrase "Look/Behold the days are coming." The same phrase is repeated six times in 7:32; 9:25; 16:14; 23:5, 7 and in 31:31, and no other prophet except Jeremiah uses it.
Jehoiakim was a wicked king, repeating all the sins of idol worship introduced by his great-grandfather Manasseh. Therefore, God withdrew His protection, and he (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) sent armed bands of Chaldaeans, Aramaeans, Moabites and Ammonites against him; he sent these against Judah to destroy it, in accordance with the word which Yahweh had spoken through his servants the prophets. That this should happen to Judah was due entirely to Yahweh's anger; he had resolved to thrust them away from him because of Manasseh's sins and all that he had done, and also because of the innocent blood which he had shed, flooding Jerusalem with innocent blood. Yahweh would not forgive (2 Kng 24:2-4).
Nebuchadnezzar (Nabu-Kudur-Usur) was the son of the founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire that succeeded that of Assyria and ruled from 605-562 BC. His first expedition into Judah and subjugation of the people took place in 605 BC when he forced King Jehoiakim to surrender his kingdom and became a vassal of Babylon. When Jehoiakim revolted in about 598/7 BC, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him. Loaded him with chains and took him to Babylon. To Babylon Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the objects belonging to the Temple of Yahweh and put them in his palace in Babylon (2 Chr 36:6-7).
Chapter 8: The Harvest is Over
"Harvest is over, summer at an end, and we have not been saved!"
Jeremiah finally admits to himself that his appeals for repentance are futile "the people refuse to repent and are completely lost in their sins. They prefer to bow down to Astarte, the "Queen of Heaven." Astarte was the principal goddess of the Canaanite pantheon whose worship was accompanied with the most degrading forms of immorality (7:18). And in the valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem, children were burnt alive to Baal/Molech (7:31-32). False prophets give the people false hope that the city will not fall (8:10-11). As Jeremiah speaks of the impending desolation of Judah as if it has already happened (8:20), the false prophets' undermine his message; it is one of Jeremiah's most difficult problems.
Chapter 8:1-3 contains a 2-part prophecy in verses 1-2 and in verse 3.
Chapter 8:4-23/9:1 is divided into four or five parts depending on the translation:
Jeremiah 8:1-3 ~ Prophecy of the Desecration of Tombs
1 "When that time comes, Yahweh declares, "the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its chief men, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, will be taken from their tombs. 2 They will be spread out before the sun, the moon, the whole array of heaven, whom they have loved and served, followed, consulted and worshipped. They will not be gathered or reburied but left lying on the surface like dung. 3 And death will seem preferable to life to all the survivors of this wicked race, wherever I have driven them," Yahweh Sabaoth declares.
This passage is another prose section. "When that time comes" in verse 1 is a continuation of 7:34, I shall silence the shouts of rejoicing and mirth and the voices of the bridegroom and bride, in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the country will be reduced to desert."
Question: What is the two-part prophecy of verses 1-3? Who are the "they" of verse 2?
Answer: "They" are the soldiers of the conquering army from the north:
The prophecy concerning the desecration of the tombs of Jerusalem, including the tombs of the kings, civil and spiritual leaders, and the ordinary people was what often happened when the soldiers who conquered a city ravaged the tombs looking for grave goods that might be valuable. Afterward, the bones of the dead were simply left exposed.
Jeremiah 8:4-9 ~ Israel's Perversity and the False Teaching of Priests and Scribes
4 "You are to tell them, Yahweh says this: If someone falls, can he not stand up again? If people stray, can they not turn back? 5 Why does this people persist in acts of infidelity, why does Jerusalem persist in continuous infidelity? They cling to illusion, they refuse to turn back. 6 I have listened attentively: they have never said anything like that. Not one repents of wickedness saying: What have I done? Each one keeps returning to the course like a horse charging into battle. 7 Even the stork in the sky knows the appropriate season; turtledove, swallow and crane observe their time of migration. But my people do not know Yahweh's laws! 8 How can you say, "We are wise, since we have Yahweh's Law?" Look how it has been falsified by the lying pen of the scribes! 9 The wise are put to shame, alarmed, caught out because they have rejected Yahweh's word. What price their wisdom now?'
The poetic form continues in verses 4-23. The three poems in 8:4-7, 13-17, and 9:1-8 continue to expand upon God's previous indictments against the people as He asks six rhetorical questions concerning the people's foolish behavior (twice in verse 4, in verse 5, 6, 8 and 9). Yahweh commands Jeremiah to tell the people it is never too late to repent and turn back to Him, even in the midst of the city's destruction. The illusion they cling to is that they can survive on their own, or that at the greatest time of crisis God will deliver the city as He did when the Assyrians surrounded the Jerusalem with their army during the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Kng 19:35-37). They forget that the deliverance in the time of Hezekiah was because of the people's sincere repentance, whereas at this time, "Not one repents of wickedness" or denies their sins (verse 6b).
7a Even the stork
in the sky knows the appropriate season; turtledove, swallow and crane observe
their time of migration. But my people do not know Yahweh's laws!
Other creatures, created by God, have the innate sense of self-preservation to migrate at the right season in response to the laws of nature, but God's people do not respond to Yahweh's laws and therefore do not know how to preserve their lives.
7b Look how it
has been falsified by the lying pen of the scribes! 9 The wise are put to shame, alarmed, caught out
because they have rejected Yahweh's word. What price their wisdom now?'
8 How can you say, "We are wise, since we have Yahweh's Law?" Look how it has been falsified by the lying pen of the scribes! 9 The wise are put to shame, alarmed, caught out because they have rejected Yahweh's word. What price their wisdom now?'
"The wise" are the chief priests who were the spiritual leaders charged with leading the people in God-ordained Temple worship. "The wise" are also the scribes, the teachers of the Law, who instructed the people in faithful obedience to the covenant (see Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees in Mt 23:13-26 and Lk 20:45-47).
In their interpretation of the Law, the scribes were lying to the people concerning right and just conduct by excusing sinful acts of disobedience that amounted to rebellion against the covenant. The members of the clergy today who deny the sins of abortion and the sexual immorality of fornication and homosexuality are also falsifying the Word, and the same question must be asked of them: "What price their wisdom" at judgment? St. Paul wrote the wisdom of men is foolishness to God (1 Cor 1:19-21; quoting Ps 33:10 and Is 29:14).
Jeremiah 8:10-12 ~ Repetition of the Abuses of the Conquerors
10 "So I shall give their wives to other men, their fields to new masters, for, from the least to greatest, they are all greedy for gain; prophet no less than priest, all of them practice fraud. 11 Without concern they dress the wound of the daughter of my people, saying, "Peace! Peace!" whereas there is no peace. 12 They should be ashamed of their loathsome deeds. Not they! They feel no shame, they do not even know how to blush. And so as others fall, they too will fall, will be thrown down when the time for punishing them comes," Yahweh says.
Verses 10-12 are a duplication of Jeremiah 6:12-15. The Greek Septuagint translation does not repeat this passage. See the commentary on this passage in the previous lesson.
Jeremiah 8:13-17 ~ Threats Against Judah the Vine
13 "I shall put an end to them, Yahweh declares, no more grapes on the vine, no more figs on the fig tree only withered leaves: I have found them people to trample on them! 14 Why are we sitting still? Mobilize! Take to the fortified towns and there fall silent, since Yahweh our God means to silence us by giving us poisoned water to drink because we have sinned against him. 15 We are hoping for peace; no good came of it! For the time of healing; nothing but terror! 16 From Dan you can hear the snorting of his horses; at the neighing of his stallions. The whole country quakes; they are coming to devour the country and its contents, the town and those that live in it." 17 Yes, now I am sending you poisonous snakes against which no charm exists; and they will bite you, Yahweh declares.
Yahweh is speaking through Jeremiah in verse 13; then in
verses 14-16 Jeremiah articulates the people's response, followed by Yahweh's
final answer in verse 17.
Question: How is the vine metaphor one of the symbolic images of the prophets and which of the four parts of that symbolic image is reflected in the passage? See the handout on the Symbolic Images of the Prophets from Lesson 1.
Answer: In Part I of the Vineyard/Fig tree imagery of the prophets, Israel is God's fruitful vine/fig tree, planted in the good soil of the Promised Land and destined to produce the "good fruit" of righteous service to Yahweh. In Part II, when the covenant people are in rebellion against God, the "vines" grow wild and fail to produce good "fruit." In Part III, God exercises His divine judgment. The "weeds" (enemies) overgrow the vineyard and destroy it. Jeremiah's imagery in this passage is the image of divine judgment in Part III.
In verses 14-16, Jeremiah articulates the people's response to the warnings "they acknowledge that they need to get ready and to seek refuge in the fortified towns. The "poisoned water" they are forced to drink because of their sins in verse 14 may be a reference to:
The curse of "poisoned water" will be mentioned again in Jeremiah 9:15.
because we have sinned against him. This confession is the first time the people admitted committing sins against God; it will be repeated in 14:20.
15 We are hoping
for peace; no good came of it! For the time of healing; nothing but terror!
Jeremiah laments that he was not able to find healing for the people instead of the terror of war.
16 From Dan you
can hear the snorting of his horses; at the neighing of his stallions. The
whole country quakes; they are coming to devour the country and its contents,
the town and those that live in it."
Jeremiah uses hyperbole to suggest the advancing army can be heard as far away as the northern border of Israel. They are coming to consume the entire country and everything in it.
17 Yes, now I am
sending you poisonous snakes against which no charm exists; and they will bite
you, Yahweh declares.
Using the metaphor of poisonous snakes for the advancing enemy recalls:
Jeremiah 8:18-23/9:1 ~ The Prophet Jeremiah Laments over the Fate of Jerusalem
18 Incurable sorrow overtakes me, my heart fails me. 19 Hark, from the daughter of my people the cry for help, ringing far and wide throughout the land! Is Yahweh no longer in Zion, her King no longer there?" (Why have they provoked me with their idols, with their futile foreign gods!" 20 "Harvest is over, summer at an end, and we have not been saved!" 21 The wound of the daughter of my people wounds me too, all looks dark to me, terror grips me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead anymore? Is no doctor there? Then why is there no progress in the cure of the daughter of my people? 23/9:1 Who will turn my head into a fountain, and my eyes into a spring of tears, that I can weep day and night over the slain of the daughter of my people?
This poem is a three-way dialogue among Jeremiah, the people, and Yahweh. In the previous poem, Yahweh spoke at the beginning and the end with Jeremiah speaking in the center for the people. In this lament, Jeremiah speaks at the beginning (verses 18) and the end (verse 23), with Yahweh speaking in the center (verse 19), and Jeremiah speaking for the people speaking in the center (verses 20-22). When Jeremiah speaks for himself, he uses "I" and "my," but when he speaks for the people he uses "we" and "us" (8:14, 20).
Jeremiah laments that God the Great King no longer
resides with His people in the Promised Land (verse 19).
Question: What is Yahweh's response to Jeremiah's claim that He no longer resides with His people Zion?
Answer: The reason is that the people have provoked Him with their love of false idols.
Jeremiah continues that for the people the "harvest is over" and the "summer at an end" (verse 20), just as their time for repentance is over and it is the end of their summer of hope! These words may suggest that it is the time of the year in the liturgical calendar when the people were supposed to celebrate the pilgrim feast of Tabernacles and the fruit harvest, in the early fall.
21 The wound of
the daughter of my people wounds me too, all looks dark to me, terror grips me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead
anymore? Is no doctor there? Then why is there no progress in the cure of the
daughter of my people?
Gilead was an area in the highlands of the Transjordan (east side of the Jordan River), between the Yarmuk River in the north and the Arnon River in the south. The "balm of Gilead" was an aromatic resin believed to have healing qualities. There is no healing balm and no doctor to heal Jerusalem of her pain and suffering. There is no hope because she is a patient who is "sick unto death!"
23/9:1 Who will
turn my head into a fountain, and my eyes into a spring of tears, that I can
weep day and night over the slain of the daughter of my people?
It is from this part of Jeremiah's lament that he bears the title "the weeping prophet." He weeps continually over the suffering of his people with his tears flowing like a fountain or an ever-flowing spring. Jeremiah may be referring to the Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Judah and the surrender of Jerusalem in 597 BC, after Jehoiachin's rebellion. At that time, many of his people were taken away into exile into Babylonian lands. It was the second gathering of exiled citizens of Jerusalem and Judah, with the first deportation taking place in 605 BC when the Babylonians first invaded Judah and made King Jehoiachin a vassal. The third and final exile and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon will take place a decade later in 587 BC.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Jeremiah 7:18, 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 pour libations to alien gods. In this verse, God accuses all parts of society in Jeremiah's time of participating in pagan worship and abandoning Yahweh. Children are taught by their parents to make offerings to alien gods, to ignore the teachings of divine Law, and to apostatize from God's holy covenant. What are our obligations as Christians to bring our children up in the New Covenant universal Church of the Savior, to have faith in the Most Holy Trinity, and to cling without compromise to the teachings of Jesus Christ? How do we prevent the growth of "generational sin" in our families when we have to choose between our children's or other family member's temporal happiness versus their choices that risk their eternal salvation and the spiritual health of the family? We should remember God's words to Moses: Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love [hesed] to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin, yet letting nothing go unchecked, and punishing the parent's fault in the children and in the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation! Exodus 34:6-7 (underlining added for emphasis).
1. Josiah's reforms were credited to him as being sincere, and God promised His divine judgment would not fall upon Judah and Jerusalem until after his death (see 2 Kng 23:24-27).
2. The first Temple cleansing was in the first year of Jesus' ministry in John 2:13-22.
3. Also see snake imagery in Amos 5:19 and 9:3.
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Catechism references for this lesson (* indicates that Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the catechism citation):