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Jeremiah Proclaims God’s Judgment on the Nation


The word that came to Jeremiah from the L ord: 2Stand in the gate of the L ord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the L ord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the L ord. 3Thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the L ord, the temple of the L ord, the temple of the L ord.”

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.

8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the L ord. 12Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13And now, because you have done all these things, says the L ord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.

The People’s Disobedience

16 As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19Is it I whom they provoke? says the L ord. Is it not themselves, to their own hurt? 20Therefore thus says the Lord G od: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.

21 Thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” 24Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. 25From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; 26yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did.

27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the L ord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.


Cut off your hair and throw it away;

raise a lamentation on the bare heights,

for the L ord has rejected and forsaken

the generation that provoked his wrath.

30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the L ord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 31And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the L ord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. 33The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. 34And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.

Here the Prophet gives a short account of the sermon, in which he severely reproved the people, because his labor had been useless, though he had sharply and severely reproved them. He says then, that he had a command from above to stand at the gate of the Temple. This was indeed usually done by the prophets: but God seems to have intended that this reproof should be heard by all. He says further, that he was commanded to address the whole tribe of Judah

It is hence probable, and what may be easily concluded, that this discourse was delivered on a feast — day, when there was the usual assembly of the people. He could not indeed have made this address on other days; for then the inhabitants of the city only frequented the Temple. But on the feast — days they usually came from the neighboring towns and from the whole country to celebrate God’s rightful worship, which had been prescribed in the law. Since then Jeremiah addressed the whole tribe of Judah, we hence conclude, that he spoke not only to the inhabitants of the city, but also to the whole tribe, which came together to keep the feast — day.

Now the object of his sermon was, to exhort them seriously to repent, if they wished God to be reconciled to them. So the Prophet shews, that God did not regard their sacrifices and external rites, and that this was not the way, as they thought, of appeasing him. For after they had celebrated the feast, every one returned home, as though they all, after having made an expiation, had God propitious to them. The Prophet shews here, that the way of worshipping God was very different, which was to reform their lives.

Make good, he says, your ways and your doings, then will I dwell in this place 189189     Though the ancient versions, except the Vulgate, render the verb to dwell, as an Hiphil, “cause to dwell,“ as in our version, yet Blayney, as well as Calvin, follows the Vulgate, “And I will dwell with you in this place:“ which seems more accordant with the context. Their boast was that God was dwelling with them, as the temple was his temple. Then when Shiloh, in Jeremiah 7:12, is referred to, God says that he set his name there: and no doubt the same thing is meant here. — Ed. This promise contains an implied contrast; for the Prophet intimates, that the people would not long survive, unless they sought in another way to pacify God. “I will dwell, “he seems to say, — in this place, when your life is changed.” It then follows on the other hand, “God will drive you into exile, except you change your life: in vain then do you seek a quiet and happy state through offering your sacrifices. God indeed esteems as nothing this external worship, except it be preceded by inward sincerity, unless integrity of life accompanies your profession.” This is one thing.

Then the Prophet comes closer to them when he says, Trust ye not in words of falsehood. For had not this been expressly said, the Jews might, according to their usual way, have found out some evasion: “Have we then lost all our labor in celebrating our festivals with so much diligence, in leaving our homes and families to present ourselves before God? We have spared no expense, we have brought sacrifices and spent our money; and is all this of no value before God?” For hypocrites always magnify their trumperies, as we find in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, where they expostulated with God, as though he were unkind to them, “We have from day to day sought the Lord.” To this the Lord answered, “In vain ye seek me from day to day and search for my ways.” Hence the Lord disregarded that diligence with which hypocrites sought to render him propitious without real sincerity of heart. It is for the same purpose that the Prophet now adds, Trust ye not, etc. It is an anticipation in order to prevent them from making their usual objection, “What then? Has the Temple been built in vain?” But he says, “Is not God worshipped here in vain? They are words of falsehood, when religious sincerity is absent.”

We hence see that external rites are here repudiated, when men seek in a false way to gain favor before God, and seek to redeem their sins by false compensations, while yet their hearts continue perverse. This truth might be enlarged upon, but as it often occurs in the prophets, I only notice it shortly. It is enough to regard the main point, — that while the Jews were satisfied with the Temple, the ceremonies and the sacrifices, they were self — deceivers, for their boasting was fallacious: “the words of falsehood” are to be taken as meaning that false and vain glorying in which the Jews indulged, while they sought to ward off God’s vengeance by external rites, and at the same time made no effort to return into favor by ameliorating their life.

With regard to the expressions The Temple, etc., some explain them thus, — they were “words of falsehood, “when they said that they came to the Temple; and so the supplement is, “when they said that they came, “for the pronoun demonstrative is plural. 190190     The difficulty in the construction is removed by Blayney, who renders דברי as a participle, as it is in some other places, Psalm 5:6: Psalm 38:3; Psalm 63:11. His version is, —
   Trust ye not in those who speak falsehood, saying, —
The Temple of Jehovah, the Temple of Jehovah, The Temple of Jehovah, are these.

   The Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic, have “the Temple of the Lord” only twice, and the verb is in the singular number, “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord it is.” The verb is the same in the Vulgate, only the words, as in Hebrew, and also in the Targum, are repeated thrice. The paraphrase of the latter is rather singular, — “Trust not in the words of the prophets of falsehood, who say, Before the Temple of the Lord ye worship, before the Temple of the Lord ye sacrifice, before the Temple of the Lord ye offer praise; three times a year ye appear before him.”

   “These” mean, as Gataker thinks, these places or buildings; and Lowth and Blayney think the same. The repetition seems to denote the frequency with which the Jews used the words: they continually boasted of having God’s Temple among them. “The Prophet,“ says Henry, “repeats it, because they repeated it upon all occasions. It was the cant of the times. If they heard an awakening sermon, they lulled themselves asleep again with this, ‘We cannot but do well, for we have the Temple of the Lord among us.’ It is common for those that are farthest from God to boast themselves most of their being near to the Church.” — Ed.
Hence they understand this of the people; not that the Jews called themselves the Temple of God, but that they boasted that they came to the Temple and there worshipped God. But I rather agree with others, who explain this of the three parts of the Temple. There was, we know, the court, then the Temple, and, lastly, the interior part, the Holy of holies, where was the Ark of the Covenant. The prophets often speak of the Temple only; but when they spoke distinctly of the form of the Temple, they mentioned the court, as I have said, where the people usually offered their sacrifices, and then the holy place, into which the priests entered alone; and, lastly, the secret place, which was more hidden, and was called the Holy of holies. It seems then that this passage of the Prophet is to be understood as meaning that the people said that the court, the Temple, and the interior part, were the Temples of God, as though they had a triple Temple.

But we must observe the design of the Prophet, which interpreters have omitted. The Prophet then made this repetition especially, because the Temple was as it were a triple defense to hypocrites, like a city, which, when surrounded, not by one, but by three walls, is deemed impregnable. Since, then, the Jews exalted their Temple, consisting of three parts, it was the same as they set up a triple wall or a triple rampart against God’s judgments! “We are invincible; how can enemies come to us? how can any calamity reach us? God dwells in the midst of us, and here he has his habitation, and not one and single fort, but a triple fort; he has his court, his Temple, and his Holy of holies.” We now then understand why the Prophet made this repetition, and used also the plural number.

Interpreters do not agree as to the meaning of this passage. Some render כי אם, ki am, “But rather, “or, “But.” I indeed allow that it is so taken in many places; but they are mistaken who read כי אם, ki am, as one word; for the Prophet, on the contrary, repeats what he had said, and that is, that God would not be propitious to the Jews except their life proved that they had really repented. The words are sometimes taken as one in Hebrew, and mean “but;” yet in other places they are often taken as separate words, as we found in the second chapter, “Though thou washest thyself with nitre;” and for the sake of emphasis the particle “surely, “is put before “though.” But in this place the Prophet simply means, that the Jews were deceived in seeking to prescribe a law for God according to their own will, as it belongs only to him either to approve or to reject their works. And this meaning is confirmed by the latter part of the verse, for we read not there כי אם, ki am, but אם, am; “If by doing ye shall do judgment;” and then in the same form he adds, “If ye will not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow;” and at last he adds, “Then (a copulative I allow is here, but it is to be taken as an adverb) I will make you to dwell in this place.”

The purport of the whole is, — that sacrifices are of no importance or value before God, unless those who offer them wholly devote themselves to God with a sincere heart. The Jews sought to bind God as it were by their own laws: he shews that he was thus impiously put under restraint. He therefore lays down a condition, as though he had said, “it belongs to me to prescribe to you what is right. Away, then, with your ceremonies, by which ye think to expiate your sins; for I regard them not, and esteem them as nothing.” What then is to be done? He now shews then, “If you will rightly order your life, ye shall dwell in this place.”

For yesterday the Prophet exhorted the people to repent; and he employed the sentiment which he now repeats. He commanded the people to come to God with an upright and pure mind; he afterwards added another sentence, “Trust not in words of falsehood, saying, The Temple of the Lord, “etc. He now again repeats what he had said, “If ye will make your ways good.” He shews now more clearly that no wrong was done to the people when God repudiated their ceremonies; for he required a pure heart, and external rites without repentance are vain and useless. This then is what the Prophet had in view: “Though God seems to treat you with great severity, he yet promises to be kind to you, if you order your lives according to his law: is this unjust? Can the condition which is proposed to you by God be liable to any calumnies, as though God treated you cruelly!” This then is the meaning of the Prophet.

If ye will make good your ways, that is, if your life be amended; and if ye will do judgment, etc. He now comes to particulars; and first he addresses the judges, whose duty it was to render to every one his right, to redress injuries, to pronounce what was just and right when any contention arose. If then, he says, ye will do justice between a man and his neighbor, that is, if your judgments be right, without favor or hatred, and if no bribes lead you from what is right and just, while pronouncing judgment on a case between a man and his brother.

Then he adds, if ye will not oppress the stranger and the orphan and the widow This also belonged to the judges: but God no doubt shews here generally, that injustice greatly prevailed among the people, as he condemns the cruelty and perfidy of the judges themselves.

As to strangers and orphans and widows, they are often mentioned; for strangers as well as orphans and widows were almost destitute of protection, and were subject to many wrongs, as though they were exposed as a prey. Hence, whenever a right government is referred to, God mentions strangers and orphans and widows; for it might hence be easily understood of what kind was the public administration of justice; for when others obtain their right, it is no matter of wonder, since they have advocates to defend their cause, and they have also the aid of friends. Thus every one who defends his own cause, obtains at least some portion of his right. But when strangers and orphans and widows are not unjustly dealt with, it is an evidence of real integrity; for we may hence conclude, that there is no respect of persons among the judges. But as this subject has been handled elsewhere, I only touch on it lightly here.

And if ye will not shed, he says, innocent blood in this place Here the Prophet accuses the judges of a more heinous crime, and calls them murderers. They had, however, no doubt some plausible pretences for shedding the blood of the innocent. But the Prophet, speaking here in the name of God and by the dictates of his Spirit, overlooks all these as altogether vain, though the judges might have thought them sufficient excuses. By saying, in this place, he shews how foolish was their confidence in boasting of God’s worship, sacrifices, and Temple, while yet they had polluted the Temple with their cruel murders. 191191     What is to be understood by innocent blood in not only murder, nor principally; but the offering of innocent infants to Moloch, referred to in the 31st verse of this chapter. — Ed.

He then passes to the first table of the law, If ye will not walk after foreign gods to your evil By stating a part for the whole, he condemns every kind of impiety: for what is it to walk after alien gods but to depart from the pure and legitimate worship of the true God and to corrupt it with superstitions? We see then what the Prophet means: he recalls the Jews to the duty of observing the law, that they might thereby give a veritable evidence of their repentance: “Prove, “he says, “that you have repented from the heart.” He shews how they were to prove this, even by observing the law of God. And, as I have said, he refers to the first Table by stating a part for the whole. As to the second Table, he mentions some particulars which were intended to shew that they violated justice and equity, and also that cruelty and perfidiousness, frauds and rapines, prevailed greatly among them.

Then follows the latter part, Then I will make you to dwell, 192192     Calvin departs here from his former rendering in verse 3d. The words mean the same, “Then will I dwell with you.” So the Vulgate.Ed. etc. God sets this clause in opposition to the false confidence of the people, as though he had said, “Ye wish me to be propitious to you; but mock me not by offering sacrifices without sincerity of heart, without a devout feeling; be consistent; and think not that I am pacified by you, when ye come to the Temple with empty display, and pollute your sacrifices with impure hands. I therefore do not allow this state of things; but if ye come on the condition of returning into favor with me, then I will make you to dwell in this place and in the land which I gave to your fathers.” The last part of the verse, from age to age, ought to be connected with the verb, “I will make you to dwell, “שכנתי, shekanti, “I will make you to dwell from age to age, “that is, As your fathers dwelt formerly in this land, so shall you remain quiet in the same, and there shall be to you a peaceable possession; but not in any other place. We must bear in mind the contrast which I noticed yesterday; for he indirectly denounces exile on the Jews, because they had contaminated the land by their vices, and gloried only in their sacrifices. It now follows —

He again teaches what we observed yesterday, — that the glorying of the Jews was foolish, while they boasted of the Temple and of their sacrifices to God. He calls their boastings the words of falsehood, as we have explained, because they wholly turned to a contrary end what God had instituted. It was his will that sacrifices should be offered to him in the Temple — to what purpose? To preserve unity of faith among the whole people. And sacrifices, what was their design? To shew the people that they deserved eternal death, and also that they were to flee to God for mercy, there being no other expiation but the blood of Christ. But there was no repentance, they were not sorry for their sins; nay, as we shall presently see, they took liberty to indulge more in them on account of their ceremonies, which yet ought to have been the means of leading them to repentance. They were then the words of falsehood when they separated the signs from their ends. The reality and the sign ought indeed to be distinguished the one from the other; but it is an intolerable divorce, when men lay hold on naked signs and overlook the reality. There was in the sacrifices the reality which I have now mentioned: they were reminded by the spectacle that they were worthy of eternal death; and then, they were to exercise penitence, and thus to flee to God’s mercy. As there was no account made of Christ, no care for repentance, no sorrow for sins, no fear of God, no humility, it was an impious separation of what ought to have been united.

We now then more clearly see why the Prophet designates as words of falsehood, that false glorying in which hypocrites indulge, in opposition to God, when they would have him satisfied with naked ceremonies. Hence he adds, that they were words that could not profit, as though he had said, “As ye seek to trifle with God, so he will also frustrate your design.” It is indeed certain that they dealt dishonestly with God, when they attempted to satisfy his judgment by frigid ceremonies. He therefore shews that a reward was prepared for them; for they would at length find, that no fruit would come from their false dealings. It follows —

Jeremiah concludes his subject by saying, — that if the Jews had been cast a hundred times into the furnace, they would not be improved, as they would never become softened on account of their hopeless obstinacy. He uses the word silver, by way of concession; for they were not worthy of that name, and we have already seen that there was nothing soft or tender in them.

But the prophets often conceded some things to hypocrites; yet not without some appearance of a taunt, as the case seems to be here. The Jews wished to be regarded as silver, and to appear as such: “Let them then be silver, “that is, “Let them claim the name, by boasting themselves as the holy seed of Abraham; but they are a reprobate silver;” according to what we say, Faux or faux argent; which yet is neither silver nor gold; but the words are used not in their strict meaning, and we afterwards shew that what we have so called is not silver. Even so does the Prophet say, “They are silver in their own esteem, and take pride in the title: but they are a reprobate silver.” How so? For Jehovah has rejected them He shews that it belongs to God to pronounce sentence on men, and that they gain nothing by their vain flatteries, and by securing some esteem in the world: for God alone is the true judge. The Prophet then shews that the Jews were a reprobate silver, in order that they might know that they in vain gloried, while they boasted themselves to be God’s people and heritage. Now follows —

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