Jeremiah 7

Faulty Religion and Unethical Behavior Will Lead to Judgment

1The Lord said to Jeremiah:
Heb “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord.”
2“Stand in the gate of the Lord’s temple and proclaim
Heb “Proclaim there…” The adverb is unnecessary in English style.
this message: ‘Listen, all you people of Judah who have passed through these gates to worship the Lord.
That is, all those who have passed through the gates of the outer court and are standing in the courtyard of the temple.
Hear what the Lord has to say.
3The Lord God of Israel who rules over all
Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God Israel.”
Compare the use of similar titles in 2:19; 5:14; 6:6 and see the explanation in the study note at 2:19. In this instance the title appears to emphasize the Lord as the heavenly King who drags his disobedient vassals into court (and threatens them with judgment).
says: Change the way you have been living and do what is right.
Or “Make good your ways and your actions.” J. Bright’s translation (“Reform the whole pattern of your conduct”; Jeremiah [AB], 52) is excellent.
If you do, I will allow you to continue to live in this land.
Heb “place” but this might be misunderstood to refer to the temple.
4Stop putting your confidence in the false belief that says,
Heb “Stop trusting in lying words which say.”
“We are safe!
The words “We are safe!” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
The temple of the Lord is here! The temple of the Lord is here! The temple of the Lord is here!”
Heb “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these (i.e., these buildings).” Elsewhere triple repetition seems to mark a kind of emphasis (cf. Isa 6:3; Jer 22:29; Ezek 21:27 [32 HT]). The triple repetition that follows seems to be Jeremiah’s way of mocking the (false) sense of security that people had in the invincibility of Jerusalem because God dwelt in the temple. They appeared to be treating the temple as some kind of magical charm. A similar feeling had grown up around the ark in the time of the judges (cf. 1 Sam 3:3) and the temple and city of Jerusalem in Micah’s day (cf. Mic 3:11). It is reflected also in some of the Psalms (cf., e.g., Ps 46, especially v. 5).
5You must change
The infinitive absolute precedes the finite verb for emphasis.
the way you have been living and do what is right. You must treat one another fairly.
Heb “you must do justice between a person and his fellow/neighbor.” The infinitive absolute precedes the finite verb for emphasis.
6Stop oppressing foreigners who live in your land, children who have lost their fathers, and women who have lost their husbands.
Heb “Stop oppressing foreigner, orphan, and widow.”
Stop killing innocent people
Heb “Stop shedding innocent blood.”
in this land. Stop paying allegiance to
Heb “going/following after.” See the translator’s note at 2:5 for an explanation of the idiom involved here.
other gods. That will only bring about your ruin.
Heb “going after other gods to your ruin.”
7If you stop doing these things,
The translation uses imperatives in vv. 5–6 followed by the phrase, “If you do all this,” to avoid the long and complex sentence structure of the Hebrew sentence which has a series of conditional clauses in vv. 5–6 followed by a main clause in v. 7.
I will allow you to continue to live in this land
Heb “live in this place, in this land.”
which I gave to your ancestors as a lasting possession.
Heb “gave to your fathers [with reference to] from ancient times even unto forever.”

8 “‘But just look at you!
Heb “Behold!”
You are putting your confidence in a false belief
Heb “You are trusting in lying words.” See the similar phrase in v. 4 and the note there.
that will not deliver you.
Heb “not profit [you].”
9You steal.
Heb “Will you steal…then say, ‘We are safe’?” Verses 9–10 are one long sentence in the Hebrew text.
You murder. You commit adultery. You lie when you swear on oath. You sacrifice to the god Baal. You pay allegiance to
Heb “You go/follow after.” See the translator’s note at 2:5 for an explanation of the idiom involved here.
other gods whom you have not previously known.
10Then you come and stand in my presence in this temple I have claimed as my own
Heb “over which my name is called.” For this nuance of this idiom cf. BDB 896 s.v. קָרָא Niph.2.d(4) and see the usage in 2 Sam 12:28.
and say, “We are safe!” You think you are so safe that you go on doing all those hateful sins!
Or “‘We are safe!’ – safe, you think, to go on doing all those hateful things.” Verses 9–10 are all one long sentence in the Hebrew text. It has been broken up for English stylistic reasons. Somewhat literally it reads “Will you steal…then come and stand…and say, ‘We are safe’ so as to/in order to do…” The Hebrew of v. 9 has a series of infinitives which emphasize the bare action of the verb without the idea of time or agent. The effect is to place a kind of staccato like emphasis on the multitude of their sins all of which are violations of one of the Ten Commandments. The final clause in v. 8 expresses purpose or result (probably result) through another infinitive. This long sentence is introduced by a marker (ה interrogative in Hebrew) introducing a rhetorical question in which God expresses his incredulity that they could do these sins, come into the temple and claim the safety of his protection, and then go right back out and commit the same sins. J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 52) catches the force nicely: “What? You think you can steal, murder…and then come and stand…and say, ‘We are safe…’ just so that you can go right on…”
11Do you think this temple I have claimed as my own
Heb “over which my name is called.” For this nuance of this idiom cf. BDB 896 s.v. קָרָא Niph.2.d(4) and see the usage in 2 Sam 12:28.
is to be a hideout for robbers?
Heb “Is this house…a den/cave of robbers in your eyes?”
You had better take note!
Heb “Behold!”
I have seen for myself what you have done! says the Lord.
12So, go to the place in Shiloh where I allowed myself to be worshiped
Heb “where I caused my name to dwell.” The translation does not adequately represent the theology of the Lord’s deliberate identification with a place where he chose to manifest his presence and desired to be worshiped (cf. Exod 20:25; Deut 16:2, 6, 11).
in the early days. See what I did to it
The place in Shiloh…see what I did to it. This refers to the destruction of Shiloh by the Philistines circa 1050 b.c. (cf. Ps 78:60). The destruction of Shiloh is pertinent to the argument. The presence of the tabernacle and ark of the covenant did not prevent Shiloh from being destroyed when Israel sinned. The people of Israel used the ark as a magic charm but it did not prevent them from being defeated or the ark being captured (1 Sam 4:3, 11, 21–22).
because of the wicked things my people Israel did.
13You also have done all these things, says the Lord, and I have spoken to you over and over again.
This reflects a Hebrew idiom (e.g., 7:25; 11:7; 25:3, 4), i.e., an infinitive of a verb meaning “to do something early [or eagerly]” followed by an infinitive of another verb of action. Cf. HALOT 1384 s.v. שָׁכַם Hiph.2.
But you have not listened! You have refused to respond when I called you to repent!
Heb “I called to you and you did not answer.” The words “to repent” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
14So I will destroy this temple which I have claimed as my own,
Heb “over which my name is called.” For this nuance of this idiom cf. BDB 896 s.v. קָרָא Niph.2.d(4) and see the usage in 2 Sam 12:28.
this temple that you are trusting to protect you. I will destroy this place that I gave to you and your ancestors,
Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 22, 25, 26).
just like I destroyed Shiloh.
Heb “I will do to this house which I…in which you put…and to this place which…as I did to Shiloh.”
15And I will drive you out of my sight just like I drove out your relatives, the people of Israel.’”
Heb “the descendants of Ephraim.” However, Ephraim here stands (as it often does) for all the northern tribes of Israel.

16 Then the Lord said,
The words “Then the Lord said” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
“As for you, Jeremiah,
Heb “As for you.” The personal name Jeremiah is supplied in the translation for clarity.
do not pray for these people! Do not cry out to me or petition me on their behalf! Do not plead with me to save them,
The words “to save them” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
because I will not listen to you.
17Do you see
Or “Just look at…” The question is rhetorical and expects a positive answer.
what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
18Children are gathering firewood, fathers are building fires with it, and women are mixing dough to bake cakes to offer to the goddess they call the Queen of Heaven.
The form for “queen” is unusual. It is pointed (מְלֶכֶת [melekhet] instead of מַלְכַּת [malkat]) as though the Masoretes wanted to read the word for “work” (מְלֶאכֶת [melekhet]), i.e., the “hosts of,” a word that several Hebrew mss read and an understanding the LXX reflects. The other ancient and modern versions generally, however, accept it as a biform for the word “queen.”
The Queen of Heaven is probably a reference to the goddess known as Ishtar in Mesopotamia, Anat in Canaan, Ashtoreth in Israel. She was the goddess of love and fertility. For further discussion, see G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26–52 (WBC), 266–68.
They are also pouring out drink offerings to other gods. They seem to do all this just
Heb “to provoke me.” There is debate among grammarians and lexicographers about the nuance of the Hebrew particle לְמַעַן (lemaan). Some say it always denotes purpose, while others say it may denote either purpose or result, depending on the context. For example, BDB 775 s.v. לְמַעַן note 1 says that it always denotes purpose, never result, but that sometimes what is really a result is represented ironically as though it were a purpose. That explanation fits nicely here in the light of the context of the next verse. The translation is intended to reflect some of that ironic sarcasm.
to trouble me.
19But I am not really the one being troubled!”
Heb “Is it I whom they provoke?” The rhetorical question expects a negative answer which is made explicit in the translation.
says the Lord. “Rather they are bringing trouble on themselves to their own shame!
Heb “Is it not themselves to their own shame?” The rhetorical question expects a positive answer which is made explicit in the translation.
20So,” the Lord God
Heb “Lord Yahweh.” The translation follows the ancient Jewish tradition of substituting the Hebrew word for God for the proper name Yahweh.
says, “my raging fury will be poured out on this land.
Heb “this place.” Some see this as a reference to the temple but the context has been talking about what goes on in the towns of Judah and Jerusalem and the words that follow, meant as a further explanation, are applied to the whole land.
It will be poured out on human beings and animals, on trees and crops.
Heb “the trees of/in the field and the fruit of/in the ground.”
And it will burn like a fire which cannot be extinguished.”

21 The Lord said to the people of Judah,
The words “The Lord said to the people of Judah” are not in the text but are implicit in the shift in addressee between vv. 16–20 and vv. 21–26.
“The Lord God of Israel who rules over all
Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.”
See the study notes on 2:19 and 7:3.
says: ‘You might as well go ahead and add the meat of your burnt offerings to that of the other sacrifices and eat it, too!
Heb “Add your burnt offerings to your [other] sacrifices and eat the meat!” See the following [S] for explanation. This is an example of the rhetorical use of the imperative for a sarcastic challenge. Cf. GKC 324 #110.a; cf. Amos 4:4, “Go to Bethel and sin!”
All of the burnt offering, including the meat, was to be consumed on the altar (e.g., Lev 1:6–9). The meat of the other sacrifices could be eaten by the priest who offered the sacrifice and the person who brought it (e.g., Lev 7:16–18, 32). Since, however, the people of Judah were making a mockery of the sacrificial system by offering sacrifices while disobeying the law, the Lord rejected the sacrifices (cf. 6:20). Since they were violating the moral law they might as well go ahead and violate the cultic law by eating the meat dedicated to God because he rejected it anyway.
22Consider this:
Heb “For” but this introduces a long explanation about the relative importance of sacrifice and obedience.
When I spoke to your ancestors after I brought them out of Egypt, I did not merely give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices.
23I also explicitly commanded them:
Verses 22–23a read in Hebrew, “I did not speak with your ancestors and I did not command them when I brought them out of Egypt about words/matters concerning burnt offering and sacrifice, but I commanded them this word:” Some modern commentators have explained this passage as an evidence for the lateness of the Pentateuchal instruction regarding sacrifice or a denial that sacrifice was practiced during the period of the wilderness wandering. However, it is better explained as an example of what R. de Vaux calls a dialectical negative, i.e., “not so much this as that” or “not this without that” (Ancient Israel, 454–56). For other examples of this same argument see Isa 1:10–17; Hos 6:4–6; Amos 5:21–25.
“Obey me. If you do, I
Heb “Obey me and I will be.” The translation is equivalent syntactically but brings out the emphasis in the command.
will be your God and you will be my people. Live exactly the way I tell you
Heb “Walk in all the way that I command you.”
and things will go well with you.”
24But they did not listen to me or pay any attention to me. They followed the stubborn inclinations of their own wicked hearts. They acted worse and worse instead of better.
Or “They went backward and not forward”; Heb “They were to the backward and not to the forward.” The two phrases used here appear nowhere else in the Bible and the latter preposition plus adverb elsewhere is used temporally meaning “formerly” or “previously.” The translation follows the proposal of J. Bright, Jeremiah (AB), 57. Another option is “they turned their backs to me, not their faces,” understanding the line as a variant of a line in 2:27.
25From the time your ancestors departed the land of Egypt until now,
Heb “from the day your ancestors…until this very day.” However, “day” here is idiomatic for “the present time.”
I sent my servants the prophets to you again and again,
On the Hebrew idiom see the note at 7:13.
day after day.
There is some textual debate about the legitimacy of this expression here. The text reads merely “day” (יוֹם, yom). BHS suggests the word is to be deleted as a dittography of the plural ending of the preceding word. The word is in the Greek and Latin, and the Syriac represents the typical idiom “day after day” as though the noun were repeated. Either יוֹם has dropped out by haplography or a ם (mem) has been left out, i.e., reading יוֹמָם (yomam, “daily”).
26But your ancestors
Or “But your predecessors…”; Heb “But they….” There is a confusing interchange in the pronouns in vv. 25–26 which has led to some leveling in the ancient versions and the modern English versions. What is involved here are four levels of referents, the “you” of the present generation (vv. 21–22a), the ancestors who were delivered from Egypt (i.e., the “they” of vv. 22b–24), the “you” of v. 25 which involves all the Israelites from the Exodus to the time of speaking, and the “they” of v. 26 which cannot be the ancestors of vv. 22–24 (since they cannot be more wicked than themselves) but must be an indefinite entity which is a part of the “you” of v. 25, i.e., the more immediate ancestors of the present generation. If this is kept in mind, there is no need to level the pronouns to “they” and “them” or to “you” and “your” as some of the ancient versions and modern English versions have done.
did not listen to me nor pay attention to me. They became obstinate
Heb “hardened [or made stiff] their neck.”
and were more wicked than even their own forefathers.’”

27 Then the Lord said to me,
The words, “Then the Lord said to me” are not in the text but are implicit in the shift from the second and third person plural pronouns in vv. 21–26 and the second singular in this verse. The words are supplied in the translation for clarity.
“When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you. When you call out to them, they will not respond to you.
28So tell them: ‘This is a nation that has not obeyed the Lord their God and has not accepted correction. Faithfulness is nowhere to be found in it. These people do not even profess it anymore.
Heb “Faithfulness has vanished. It is cut off from their lips.”
For the need for faithfulness see 5:1, 3.
29So, mourn,
The word “mourn” is not in the text. It is supplied in the translation for clarity to explain the significance of the words “Cut your hair and throw it away.”
Cf. Mic 1:16; Job 1:20 for other examples of this practice which was involved in mourning.
you people of this nation.
The words, “you people of this nation” are not in the text. Many English versions supply, “Jerusalem.” The address shifts from second masculine singular addressing Jeremiah (vv. 27–28a) to second feminine singular. It causes less disruption in the flow of the context to see the nation as a whole addressed here as a feminine singular entity (as, e.g., in 2:19, 23; 3:2, 3; 6:26) than to introduce a new entity, Jerusalem.
Cut off your hair and throw it away. Sing a song of mourning on the hilltops. For the Lord has decided to reject
The verbs here are the Hebrew scheduling perfects. For this use of the perfect see GKC 312 #106.m.
and forsake this generation that has provoked his wrath!’”
Heb “the generation of his wrath.”

30 The Lord says, “I have rejected them because
The words “I have rejected them” are not in the Hebrew text, which merely says “because.” These words are supplied in the translation to show more clearly the connection to the preceding.
the people of Judah have done what I consider evil.
Heb “have done the evil in my eyes.”
They have set up their disgusting idols in the temple
Compare, e.g., 2 Kgs 21:3, 5, 7; 23:4, 6; Ezek 8:3, 5, 10–12, 16. Manasseh had desecrated the temple by building altars, cult symbols, and idols in it. Josiah had purged the temple of these pagan elements. But it is obvious from both Jeremiah and Ezekiel that they had been replaced shortly after Josiah’s death. They were a primary cause of Judah’s guilt and punishment (see beside this passage, 19:5; 32:34–35).
which I have claimed for my own
Heb “the house which is called by my name.” Cf. 7:10, 11, 14 and see the translator’s note 7:10 for the explanation for this rendering.
and have defiled it.
31They have also built places of worship
Heb “high places.”
These places of worship were essentially open air shrines often located on hills or wooded heights. They were generally connected with pagan worship and equipped with altars of sacrifice and of incense and cult objects such as wooden poles and stone pillars which were symbols of the god and/or goddess worshiped at the sight. The Israelites were commanded to tear down these Canaanite places of worship (Num 33:52) but they did not do so, often taking over the site for the worship of Yahweh but even then incorporating some of the pagan cult objects and ritual into their worship of Yahweh (1 Kgs 12:31, 32; 14:23). The prophets were especially opposed to these places and to this kind of syncretism (Hos 10:8; Amos 7:9) and to the pagan worship that was often practiced at them (Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35).
in a place called Topheth
Heb “the high places of [or in] Topheth.”
The noun Topheth is generally explained as an artificial formation of a word related to the Aramaic word for “cooking stove” combined with the vowels for the word for “shame.” Hence, Jewish piety viewed it as a very shameful act, one that was contrary to the law (see Lev 18:21; 20:2–6). Child sacrifice was practiced during the reigns of the wicked kings Ahaz and Manasseh and apparently during Jeremiah’s day (cf. 2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6; Jer 32:35).
in the Valley of Ben Hinnom so that they can sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire. That is something I never commanded them to do! Indeed, it never even entered my mind to command such a thing!
Heb “It never entered my heart.” The words “to command such a thing” do not appear in the Hebrew but are added for the sake of clarity.
32So, watch out!”
Heb “Therefore, behold!”
says the Lord. “The time will soon come when people will no longer call those places Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom. But they will call that valley
Heb “it will no longer be said ‘Topheth’ or ‘the Valley of Ben Hinnom’ but ‘the valley of slaughter.’
the Valley of Slaughter and they will bury so many people in Topheth they will run out of room.
Heb “And they will bury in Topheth so there is not room.”
33Then the dead bodies of these people will be left on the ground for the birds and wild animals to eat.
Heb “Their dead bodies will be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.”
There will not be any survivors to scare them away.
34I will put an end to the sounds of joy and gladness, or the glad celebration of brides and grooms throughout the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. For the whole land will become a desolate wasteland.”

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