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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.

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.


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