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32. Jeremiah Buys a Field

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house. 3For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; 5And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the Lord: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper?

6And Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 7Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. 8So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 9And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. 10And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. 11So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: 12And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

13And I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. 15For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.

16Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the Lord, saying, 17Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: 18Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, 19Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: 20Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; 21And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; 22And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them: 24Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it. 25And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.

26Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, 27Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? 28Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: 29And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord. 31For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, 32Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction. 34But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 35And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

36And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; 37Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: 38And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: 40And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. 41Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. 42For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. 43And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. 44Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the Lord.

After having complained of the profanation of his own Temple, God now says that the Jews had sinned through another superstition, even because the valley of the son of Hinnom had become to them a temple instead of the true one. God had forbidden in the Law sacrifices to be offered except where he appointed,

“Thou shalt not do so to thy God, but thou shalt come to the place where he has put the memorial of his name.”
(Deuteronomy 12:4, 5)

As God then had expressly testified that sacrifices are not acceptable to him except in one Temple, and on one altar, he shews here that the lawful worship had been corrupted by the Jews, even because they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire in honor to Molech. And yet in a former passage he calls him Baal. Hence it appears, as we said yesterday, that the word Baal includes all kinds of idols. For the Jews, no doubt, while they worshipped their Baalim, ever wished to ascribe to the one true God the chief sovereignty, but, at the same time, they devised patrons for themselves, and hence was the multitude of their gods. But Molech was a particular deity, as we learn from other parts of Scripture.

We now, then, perceive the Prophet’s meaning, — that the Jews had not been satisfied with one kind of idolatry, but built high places or altars for themselves; for so do some explain במות, bemut: במה beme, means a high place, and is everywhere taken for the groves, as they were called, that is, tall trees. But as mention is tiere made of a valley, some think that the word high-places is not suitable here; therefore they render the word “altars.” 7575     In Jeremiah 7:31, we have “the high places,” or elevations, “of Tophet.” Blayney thinks that they were artificial mounts thrown up for the purpose of performing some of their superstitious rites. Trees were, no doubt, planted on some of the high places; but there might be mounts without trees. That these high places were in a valley, favor the idea that they were artificial mounts without trees. And it indeed appears from this verse and from Jeremiah 7:31, that the image of Molech was set on the artificial mounts, for it is said that they built or erected these high places for this purpose, — that they might burn their children to Molech. And, probably, there were several mounts in this valley, in order to accommodate a large number of people. — Ed. As to the main point, God no doubt condenms the Jews here, because they had dared to set up a foreign mode of worship in the valley of Hinnom, when the Law expressly forbade it. The relative אשר asher, as I have said, may be applied to the altars as well as to Baal. But it seems to me a more suitable meaning, if we say that Baal himself, that is, the idol, was in the talley of Hinnom. Of the passing through the fire, I have spoken elsewhere — it was a kind of lustration. There is no doubt, however, but that some exceeded the moderation commonly observed, who wished to excel others in the fervor of their zeal; for they actually burned their sons and their daughters, which was a deed the most savage. But they yet thought that it was a service acceptable to God. Others performed their superstition in a milder manner, as they deemed it enough that their children should pass through the fire as a symbol of purification, as also the heathens were wont to purify themselves. 7676     There is no ground for this supposition as to the practice in Tophet; for, in other parts of Scripture, what they did is specifically mentioned. In this very book it is said, that they burnt their children in the fire, Jeremiah 7:31, and that they burnt them as burnt-offerings to Baal, Jeremiah 19:5. See also Deuteronomy 12:31; Ezekiel 23:37. — Ed.

But the Prophet speaks of sons and of daughters, in order to shew that so great was the intemperate zeal of the Jews, that they not only prostituted themselves before their idols, but also contaminated their offspring with these defilements.

He at last says, that he had commanded no such thing, and that it never came to his mind We have said elsewhere, that whenever this manner of speaking occurs, God cuts off every handle from objectors, because the superstitious ever have something to allege as a pretense when they are summoned to an account. We know that the Papists, by pretending good intentions, confidently glory against God; and they think that this one pretense is sufficient to defend them against all reproofs; and they think also that the servants of God and the Prophets are too morose and scrupulous when such an excuse does not satisfy them. But God, that he might not tediously contend with the superstitious, assumes this principle, — that whatever they attempt beyond the Law is spurious, and that, therefore, the inventions of men cannot be defended by any disguise or pretense. Let us then know that true religion is always founded on obedience to God’s will; and hence everything devised by men, when there is no command of God, is not only frivolous, but also abominable, according to what was said yesterday respecting the work of the hands; and so here the command of God is set in opposition to all the inventions of men. But as such declarations often occur, I now touch but slightly on this passage.

This doctrine, however, ought to be especially noticed, that is, that there is no need of a long refutation when we undertake to expose fictitious modes of worship, which men devise for themselves according to their own notions, because, after all that they can say, God in one word gives this answer, that whatever he has not commanded in his Law, is vain and mischievous. He then says, that he had not commanded this, and that it had never entered into his mind.

God in the last clause transfers to himself what applies only to men; for it cannot be said with strict propriety of God, that this or that had not come to his mind. But here he rebukes the presumption of men, who dare to introduce this or that, and think that an acceptable worship of God which they themselves have presumptuously devised; for they seek thus to exalt their own wisdom above that of God himself. And we even find at this day that the Papists, when we shew that nothing has proceeded from the mouth of God of all the mass of observances in which they make religion to consist, do always allege that they do not without reason observe what has been commanded by the fathers, as though some things had come into the minds of men which had escaped God himself! We then see that God in this place exposes to ridicule the madness of those, who, relying on their own inventive wits, devise for themselves various kinds of worship; for they seek, as we have said, to be wiser than God himself. We now, then, perceive the force of the expression, when God says that it never came to his mind, because men boast that it had not been contrived without reason, and glory in their own acuteness, as though they were able to appoint a better thing than God himself.

He afterwards says, That they should do this abomination God now goes farther, and calls whatever he had not commanded an abomination. And this clause confirms what I have before said, that there is no need of long arguments when the question is respecting the inventions of men, for nothing can be approved of in the worship of God but what he has himself commanded. Whatever therefore has proceeded from the notions of men, is not only frivolous and useless, but it is also an abomination; for God so represents it in this place. It is therefore not enough at this day to repudiate and to treat with disdain the fictitious modes of worship in which the Papists so much glory; but if we would prove that we have a true zeal for religion, we must abominate all these fictitious things; for God has once for all declared them to be abominable.

He adds, that Judah might sin, or, that they might make Judah to sin: either is admissible, and there is a twofold reading. 7777     The Keri, החטיא “to cause to sin,” is no doubt the true reading, even the את before Judah is a proof of it, and it is the meaning given by the versions and the Targ.Ed. However this may be, he declares that those who build not on the Law, do nothing but sin, though they may think that they render to God the best service, even because they ought to have begun with this principle, — to do nothing but according to what the Law prescribes. It follows, —

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