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7. False Religion Worthless

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2Stand in the gate of the Lord’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. 3Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. 5For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; 6 If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: 7Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.

8Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. 9Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; 10And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? 11Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. 12But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; 14Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. 16Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.

17Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. 19Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? 20Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.

21Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. 22For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: 23But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. 24But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. 25Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: 26Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. 27Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee. 28But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.

29Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath. 30For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. 31And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.

32Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place. 33And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away. 34Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate.

Here again Jeremiah exhorts his own people to lament; and he uses the feminine gender, as though he called the people, the daughter of Sion, or the daughter of Jerusalem. He then, according to a common mode of speaking, calls the whole people a woman. 211211     The emendations of Houbigant, adopted by Blayney, are by no means to be approved; for without the authority of any MSS. or versions, he changes the gender of these verbs in succession. It is a common thing in the prophets to call the people the daughter of Sion: and probably they are here so addressed, because the hair is an ornament to a female, and to cut it off is a token of deep distress. — Ed.

He first bids her to shave off the hair The word נזר, nesar, means the hair, derived from the Nazarites, who allowed their hair to grow: and there may be here a striking allusion to the Nazarites who were sacred to God; as though he had said, “This people are profane, and therefore ought to have nothing in common with the Nazarites.” Hence also is derived נזר, nesar, a crown. Though then the word means the hair, yet the allusion is not to be overlooked, — that this people, rejected by God, are bidden to cut off and to throw away the hair. After the throwing away of the hair there was to be great lamentation; Raise, he says, on high places a lamentation This may seem to be an exhortation to repentance: but as we have seen elsewhere, though the prophets often gave the people the hope of pardon and reconciliation, yet in this place the Prophet no doubt denounces a final judgment, and is a herald of lamentation, because the prevailing impiety was irreclaimable. He does not then perform here the duty of a teacher, but in a hostile manner denounces ruin: for it immediately follows —

For rejected hath Jehovah and forsaken the generation of his wrath The word דור, dur, means an age, not time, but men of the same age: as we call that our generation which now lives in the world, and that which is dead the generation of our fathers, and what succeeds us the next generation. It is indeed true, that the Israelites in every age were worthy of a similar vengeance; but God no doubt shews here, that his vengeance was at hand, for he had long borne with the perverse conduct of the people, and suspended his judgment. As then vengeance was now to be executed, the Prophet calls that age the age of God’s wrath; for we know that the genitive case in Hebrew has often such a meaning as this. Then the age of his wrath means the age or generation devoted to extreme vengeance; for their wickedness against God was extreme, as long as he treated them with forbearance. The longer then he had deferred his judgment, the heavier punishment was at hand. It afterwards follows —

Lest the Jews should murmur and complain that God was too rigorous, the Prophet adds, that they were not given up to destruction without the justest reasons. How so? They had done evil To do evil here means, that they had not offended in one thing, but had given themselves up to wickedness and evil doings. It is the same as though he had said, that they were so corrupt that they were wholly inured to the doing of evil, and had by long use contracted evil habits; for they continually provoked God. But as they flattered themselves, the Prophet reminds them here of God’s judgment: “It is enough, “he says, “that the Judge condemns you; for if ye see not your wickedness nor acknowledge your sin, yet this will not avail you; for God declares that you are guilty in his sight.”

We see that there is an implied contrast between the sight of God and the delusions by which hypocrites soothed themselves, while they made evasions or perversely excused their sins, or sought to escape by circuitous windings. God then shews that his own sight, or knowledge, is sufficient, how blind soever man may be, and however the whole world may connive at their sins.

He adds one kind of sin, that they had set up their abominations 212212     The word means what is unclean and filthy, “their filthy things.” They were the idols which were introduced into the Temple. They did this evil “before his eyes,“ or in his presence, as the Temple was his habitation. They brought idols as it were into his very presence, and thereby literally violated the first commandment, which expressly forbad them to have other gods before him or in his presence. By what means did they evade this explicit command? In the same way as the Church of Rome justifies idolatry, — that idols are helps to devotion: but God regards them as abominations. — Ed. in the Temple. This refers to superstitions. But as we have seen elsewhere, and shall often have to observe, the Prophets frequently reproved sins by mentioning only one sin for the whole. Then what was especially wicked in the people he states, and that was, that the Temple was polluted with superstitions. We have already said, that it was an intolerable sacrilege to pollute the Temple with abominations, which was then the only true Temple in the world: for it was God’s will that sacrifices should be offered to him in that one place; and he had carefully described everything necessary for a right worship. When, therefore, the Jews polluted that very Temple, how abominable was such a profanation? It was not then without reason that the Prophet brings forward what was especially wicked in the people, — that God’s house was polluted with superstitious and many spurious ceremonies, and that there his whole worship was vitiated. The rest to-morrow.

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