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itself in Jerusalem after all Josiah's efforts,—a species of popular Astarte-worship, ver. 17 f.
Again, their sacrificial service, with its many ceremonies, by which they hoped to pacify Yahveh, can as little help them as the holy place, ver. 21 ff. Better omit their sacrifices altogether. The question of sacrifice was not before the Lord when He made His covenant with Israel under Moses. He sought an obedient people, keeping His holy will. Cf. Micah vi . 6-8. But whenever He made known His will to them, they did not regard Him, as now also they did not receive the prophet's testimony.
Accusation and threatening culminate in vii. 29-viii. 3, where the discourse touches on the darkest point in the history of religion at Jerusalem, the fearful crime of childrenburning in the valley of Hinnom. It is not said that this horrible heathen spectacle was renewed after Josiah's reformation; and although it is not inconceivable, according to the present passage, that such things again occurred under Jehoiakim, still the place Tophet seems, according to this passage and xix. 12, to have been shunned with horror. In any case, however, the prophet regards that abomination as still unexpiated, and the living generation as sharing its guilt, because it has not really severed itself from the heathenism, which bore fruits in flagrant contradiction to the worship of Yahveh. Retribution will not fail. As they had slain children there, they will be slain there. Even those already dead will not escape the doom (viii. 1). As they have indulged in idolatrous dalliance with the stars of heaven, their bones will moulder under the open heaven. And the survivors will be so unutterably miserable (viii. 3), that they will envy the dead their fate.
b. VIII. 4-23. With a new turn of the discourse, the prophet recalls the nation's ruinous perseverance in apostasy from its God. Just as it is unnatural for one who has fallen to the ground not to attempt to rise again, so it is irrational for them to refuse to abandon the deception with which they deceive, not merely God, but also at last themselves (ver. 5). But the knowledge that repentance, neravoia, is necessary, is entirely wanting to them; with wild lust they continue their wandering course without break (ver. 6). More irrational than the birds of heaven, which know well God's ordinances (ver. 7), they seem to themselves to be wise and brag of the possession of divine revelation. But God's holy law, from which they ostensibly draw their wisdom, they deliberately falsified, rejecting His word, which is the source and fulness of all true wisdom (ver. 8). Thus even the possession of a divine Scripture does not secure against the grossest errors when its expounders and preachers are ruled by thirst for glory and gain instead of by God's Spirit. Thus divine revelation is falsified in the hands of those who boast of knowing it. Instead of being a two-edged sword (Heb. iv. 12), inexorably exposing injuries, God's word then becomes a salve covering up the wound superficially (ver. 11). Then no refutation, no putting to shame by word and deed, any longer avails (ver. 12) — a distinguishing feature of such national leaders. The end can only be the sudden downfall of the nation and its guides.
Into these messages of peace the voice of the Lord, reaping the harvest of judgment, strikes in with appalling effect (cf. Joel iii. 13). The northern foe, described more at large in the discourses of Josiah's days, again appears as avenger (ver. 14 ff.). When he comes, the inhabitants of the land will feel that God Himself has given them a bitter, deadly drink, and they will despair. The prophet keenly feels the misery of his people beforehand, and gives vent to his sorrow in a sigh, ver. 8, and a wail, vv. 21-23. Meanwhile he lets us hear the bitter undeceiving and deep despondency of the people in banishment, vv. 19, 20, as well as the voice of the Lord, who reminds them that they have forsaken Him, not He them.
e. Ch. ix. The prophet himself is so disheartened in his work, that he would fain, like Elijah, flee to the wilderness and live there in extreme privation rather than among his own people. This wish (ver. la) shows how little he expects personal gain or follows his own inclination, notwithstanding his patience. If he had his own desire, he would be far away; cf. Ezek. ii. 6. And it is not merely the ruin threatening his people that would drive him away, but the intolerable wickedness and untruthfulness of the people among whom he dwells. As to the universality of this reproach, see after v. 1 ff. They are all adulterers in the literal and wider sense (see on v. 7 f.), a company of deceivers, versed only in lying, strong and powerful only in dishonesty (ver. 2). Since they no longer know God (ver. 2), and do not sincerely wish to know Him (ver. 5), their fidelity to men also has ceased; the tenderest ties of nature do not restrain them from treacherous cruelty (ver. 3). It is a war of all against all, a secret hostility of neighbour to neighbour, such as the prophet experienced in his own family, xii. 6; the better words they use to one another, the worse their disposition, cf. ver. 7. The whole picture is a companion-piece to Micah vii. 5 f.
Since such a state of things calls for judgment, the prophet's language passes from accusing to mourning, ver. 9 ff. He sorrows for the land, which in spirit he sees already desolate, yet not without again giving every one, who cares to understand, a key to so sad a fate: such misfortune is the penalty for their apostasy and obduracy; cf. i. 16. That the land may at once prepare for a mourning, which will come so certainly and quickly, he calls upon it to summon mourning-women on every side to lament the fate of the destroyed city and vanished nation, ver. 16 ff. But he is not content with this, ver. 19 ff. The whole nation is to become a mourner; all women are to assume this character, for they will all have enough to lament, when horrid death penetrates into the ostensibly impregnable city, and reaps its fearful harvest among young and old.
Finally, in vv. 22 f. and 24 f. follow two oracles, which were perhaps spoken by Jeremiah about the same time, but only took their present place later on the dictating of the book. Now they form a not inapt conclusion. Since all human wisdom (cf. viii. 8 f.) and strength (cf. ix. 2), as well as all riches, will prove futile in the time of judgment, let no one seek his glory, greatness, and safety therein, but only in the knowledge of the Lord (cf. the similar antithesis, xvii. 5 ff.), and especially of the God who exercises love and justice. Whoever knows Him will also do what pleases Him, and so deserve His goodwill. Without such a spirit outward circumcision avails nothing, cf. iv. 4. On the contrary, it directly provokes God's judgment, when inner disposition and moral conduct are not in harmony with the symbol. Nor has even Israel the privilege of this outward right exclusively. In order thoroughly to humble Judah, it figures here among a number of nations who also are circumcised and yet uncircumcised. As those heathen, despite their circumcision, are regarded by the Jews as "uncircumcised," i.e. as impure, so Judah by reason of its disposition is uncircumcised before God, and like the heathen will fall a prey to doom. The prophet's inwardness shows itself here also, where he declares obedience to the outward ordinance in itself worthless, just as a Christian preacher would warn any one against deeming himself a Christian because baptized.
Against Idols, Ch. X. 1-16.
X. 1. Hear ye the word which Yahveh has spoken respecting you, O house of Israel! 2. Thus says Yahveh: Accustom not yourselves to the way of the heathen, and be not terrified at the signs of heaven, because the heathen are terrified at them. 3. For the rules of the nations—nothingness is this; for it is hewn as a tree from the wood, it is a work of the labourer with the axe. 4. They dress it up with silver and gold, they make it fast with nails and hammers
Chapter X. 1-16.
Ver. 1. House of Israel, the northern tribes in a state of exile, as in iii. 11 f., vii. 12, xi. 10. The prophet here addresses them as in iii. 12. Ver. 2. bit ~ltb here only: to learn something, accustom oneself to. Way of the heathen, their mode of life, here mode of worship, cultus, religion; cf. Ms, Acts ix. 2, xix. 9. The signs of heaven as an object of dread are the planetary constellations and other, especially abnormal, phenomena in the starry heaven, from which the heathen, especially the Babylonians and Assyrians, derived their oracles. If the verb only notes the unfavourable signs, the explanation is that fear is the chief characteristic of superstition. Ver. 3. mpn, the rules of faith and superstition. Worship of the stars especially was under definite regulation, and based on calculations and laws. Kin \>2n, emptiness, nothingness is this. As the prophet uttered this word, with which he usually designates the idols (see on ii. 5), he involuntarily calls up the chief form of that heathen delusion, the idol itself, to which the suffix in lJTD refers; the verb as in Deut . xix. 15. On the matter, cf. Isa. xl . 19 ff., xli. 7, xliv. 12 ff.; ivyD (only again in Isa. xliv. 12 in like connection), a cutting tool, axe. Ver. 4. The substance of these images was usually wood. On this gold and silver plate was nailed for ornament (Isa. xl. 19, xxx. 22). They were then nailed to the ground that they might not shake; cf. xli. 7.