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11. Covenant Is Broken

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 3And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, 4Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: 5That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O Lord. 6Then the Lord said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them. 7For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. 8Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not. 9And the Lord said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.

11Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them. 12Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble. 13For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal. 14Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble. 15What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest. 16The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. 17For the Lord of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.

18And the Lord hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings. 19But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered. 20But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause. 21Therefore thus saith the Lord of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand: 22Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine: 23And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.

As the words are concise, this passage is in various ways perverted by interpreters: brevity is commonly obscure. But the explanation almost universally received is this, — that the Prophet in this sense, think also that the Temple is called his house, on account of his concern for religion, for which he was very zealous. As then he had preferred God’s Temple to all earthly things, they think that he thus spoke, What has my beloved to do in mine house? But Jonathan much more correctly applies the words to God; and doubtless, whoever wisely considers the Prophet’s words will wonder that so many learned men have been mistaken on a point by no means doubtful. God then, no doubt, speaks here; and he calls his people beloved on account of their adoption.

But the expression is ironical: we cannot think otherwise when we consider how great was the impiety of the people, and how unworthy they were of such an honor on account of their ingratitude. It is yet not strange that they were called beloved, as in other places, for they had been chosen by God. They were in a similar way called “upright” in the song of Moses; and yet Moses, in that very song, declared how wickedly they had departed from their God. (Deuteronomy 32:15) But he called them “upright” in reference to God; for though men do not answer to their vocation, yet the counsel of God remains firm, and can never be changed by the wickedness of men. Though then all had then become apostates, yet God did not suffer his covenant to be abolished, Hence Paul, in speaking of the Jews, in Romans 11:28, when almost all had become the bitterest enemies to the gospel, and had, through their unfaithfulness, wholly forfeited their privileges, so as to become aliens, yet says that they were beloved on account of their fathers:

“For you,” he says, “they are indeed for a time enemies;”

which means, that God designed to give their place to the Gentiles, and to adopt them; and yet that, on account of his covenant, they remain, and will remain beloved, that is, with regard to the first adoption.

I shall quote no other similar passages, for it is enough to understand the real meaning of the term: What then has my beloved to do in my house? which means, “Why do the Jews now pretend to come to the Temple to sacrifice to me? Why do they profess themselves to be my people? What have they to do with my house?” that is, “What have they to do with anything like holiness?” Hence he indirectly touches the Jews in two ways, — that they bad precluded themselves from the advantage of offering sacrifices in the temple, — and that it was an increase of their crime, that while they were God’s friends, that is, when he bestowed on them his favor, and embraced them as a father his own children, they yet carried on war with him as his avowed enemies, according to what is elsewhere said,

“Ah! I will take vengeance on mine enemies.” (Isaiah 1:24)

We now see that this meaning is the most suitable. God shews that his temple was polluted by the Jews, when they thoughtlessly rushed there to offer their sacrifices; What have you, he says, to do with my house? Nearly the same thing is said in the first chapter of Isaiah; for God there contemptuously reproves the Jews because they trod the pavement of his temple: “I truly do not owe you anything; ye indeed come to my courts, but for what purpose? Ye only wear out the pavement of my temple: Stay then at home, and think not that I am bound to you because ye come to the temple.” So also in this place, What has my beloved to do with my house? He concedes to them the title Beloved, as though he had said, “Ye are, it is true, beloved, and ye think that God is bound to you; for, relying on the covenant which I made with your father Abraham, ye always continue to make this boasting — ‘We are the people of God and his heritage; we are a holy nation and a royal priesthood’ — Beloved ye are,” he says, “but what have you to do with my Temple?”

Then he adds, For she has done abomination with many The gender is here changed, for the relative is feminine: but this mode of speaking is everywhere common, as the people are represented to us under the character of a woman. Then he in effect says, “Behold the daughter of my people hath done abomination with many.” The Jews were not to enter the Temple except they remained as it were fixed in its pure worship; for as it was the only true Temple, and had in it the only true altar, so they ought to have worshipped none but the only true God, and also to have observed one rule only in worshipping him. But he says here that they had done abomination; and thus he charged them with those impious devices, those spurious forms of worship which they had adopted, and thus departed from what had been prescribed to them; for abomination is set here in opposition to the law. He says further, that they did this with many. We hence see that the gate of the Temple was closed against them, for the Temple could not be separated from the law, nor yet from God, to whom it was dedicated The Jews, having forsaken the law, and adopted innumerable idols, thrust themselves into the Temple; and hence we see the reason why God complains that they still came to the Temple: “As then they have done abomination, and done it with many, they have no more anything to do with my law.” The Temple was a visible image of the one true God, and also the holy receptacle of his law. They despised the law, and gloried in innumerable gods: they sought thus to blend the sanctity of the Temple with a multitude of gods, and with their own depravations and devices.

He says afterwards, that the flesh of the sanctuary had passed away from them: The flesh of the sanctuary have passed away Some apply this to all the faithful, according to that saying,

“Silent before God let all flesh be,” (Habakkuk 2:20)

but this is forced, and without meaning. He speaks no doubt of sacrifices, and says, that the flesh of the sanctuary, that is, sacrifices, had departed from the people. They no doubt still offered sacrifices very regularly; but God did not accept their sacrifices, because they had corrupted his true worship. This then is the reason why he says that the flesh of the sanctuary had departed from the people, as in other places he denies that it was offered to him. At the same time the Jews wished sacrifices to be regarded as offered to him, and doubtless they boldly referred to them in opposition to the prophets. But God did not accept them, though they sought thus to render him as it were a debtor. “It is not to me,” he says, “that ye offer your sacrifices, but to idols.” So also in this place he says, The flesh of the sanctuary is taken away from them; for their sacrifices had become polluted. They were then nothing but putrid carcases; for victims, ought to have been offered in the Temple; but they had polluted the Temple, so that it had become a den of robbers, and like a dunghin, in short, a brothel, as Scripture speaks elsewhere. There was then now, doubtless, no flesh of the sanctuary; 4444     “Holy fleshes,” κρέα ἅγια, carnes sanctae, is the version of the Septuagint and Vulgate, and “holy flesh” is the Syriac; but the Targum has “the worship of my sanctuary.” Blayney renders it “holy flesh.” The word קדש means holy, or holiness, and מקדש is the sanctuary. — Ed that is, no lawful sacrifice, such as God approved.

Let us then know that hypocrites, as soon as they depart from the true worship of God, do nothing that can avail them, though they may busy themselves much, and even weary themselves in worshipping God, for all that they offer is abominable. If then we desire to render to God such services as he will accept and approve, let us regard this truth — that obedience is more valued by him than all sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22)

He adds another complaint, — that when they did evil, they gloried in it. And there is a causal particle introduced, Because, he says, thou gloriest when thou hast done evil The Prophet no doubt means, that they had by no means a right to contend, because they had not only corrupted true religion, but were also proud of their superstitions, and despised God, and set up their own devices against his law. But it was an intolerable thing for men to attempt to subject God to their own will, or rather to their own fancies. Indeed, the faithful do not so purely and so perfectly sacrifice to God, but that some vices are mixed with their offerings; but God nevertheless receives what they offer, though there be some mixture of defilement. How so? Because they acquiesce not in their own performances, but, on the contrary, aspire after purity, though they do not attain it; but when hypocrites exalt themselves against God, and proudly despise his teaching, and prefer their own inventions, and dare even to set up these against his authority, it is doubtless a diabolical presumption, such as contaminates what would otherwise be most holy. 4545     This verse has been variously rendered and explained. The versions all differ, and the Targum too; and none of them seem to render the original correctly. Blayney, following the Septuagint, has introduced corrections, but not authorized by any MSS. There is no different reading of any consequence. The literal rendering I consider to be as follows: —
   15. What, as to my beloved, is in my house her doing? Is not her plotting with many? — Yea, the holy flesh do they take away from thee; When thou doest evil against me, then thou exultest.

   The word for “plotting” does not mean “lewdness,” or “abomination,” as rendered by all the versions, but devising, contriving, scheming, machinating; the reference is to the scheme of uniting the worship of God with the worship of idols. The Targum gives the idea, “they have taken counsel to sin greatly.” All the versions agree in giving a Hiphil meaning to יעברו, cause to pass from — to remove or take away. The “many” who advocated the worship of idols took away the holy flesh — the sacrifices, and took them away from her, “the beloved,” as, when given to idols, they would be of no benefit. The words, כי רעתכי, are literally, “when thy evil is against me.” It is a similar mode of expression with קמי, “those who rise up against me,” (2 Samuel 22:40.) Though it was an evil against God, yet they exulted in what they did. — Ed
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