Jeremiah 7:1-34

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A new message from YHWH for Jeremiah to proclaim is introduced with the words, “The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH, saying.” The Septuagint does not include this introduction of the “word of YHWH.” (7:1)

After positioning himself at “the gate of the house of YHWH,” probably one of the main gates leading into the temple area, Jeremiah was to proclaim to the people, “Hear [or listen to] the word of YHWH, all you of Judah [residents in the territory of the kingdom of Judah] who are entering these gates to worship [literally, bow down to] YHWH.” The reference to “these gates” could be to all the gates through which one gained access to the temple area. In the Septuagint, this reference is not included. The abbreviated text reads, “Hear the word of the Lord, all Judea.” (7:2)

Jeremiah was to quote “YHWH of hosts” (the God with hosts of angels in his service to carry out his will and purpose), “the God of Israel,” as saying, “Amend [literally, make good] your ways and your doings, and I will let you reside in this place.” The people were thus called upon to change the course they had been taking and to live uprightly. In their dealings with one another, they needed to be honest, kind, and compassionate. If they turned around from their wrong ways and then began to conduct themselves in a manner that YHWH approved, he would let them continue to dwell in the land he had given them. (7:3)

The people of the kingdom of Judah had deceived themselves into thinking that the presence of YHWH’s temple in their realm would spare Jerusalem from being destroyed. Their expressions to this effect were “words of falsehood” and not words that merited trust. Therefore, the people were to be told, “Do not trust in yourselves with words of falsehood, saying, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, these [all the buildings of the temple complex are].” According to the Septuagint, the people are quoted as saying, “The temple of the Lord; it is the temple of the Lord.” Additionally, the Septuagint indicates that the false words would not benefit the people. (7:4)

The word of YHWH through Jeremiah revealed what the people needed to do if they were to continue residing in their God-given land. They had to correct [literally, “make good”] their ways and doings. In a legal dispute, they needed to carry out justice each man with his fellow. (7:5) The people were not to oppress or exploit resident aliens, orphans, and widows nor to shed innocent blood in the land (literally, “this place”). They were not to “go after other gods” (venerating them instead of remaining exclusively devoted to YHWH) and thereby bring calamity upon themselves. (7:6) If the people truly changed their conduct and actions, YHWH promised to let them continue dwelling in the land he had given to their forefathers at a time long previous to limitless time in the future (“from the age and into the age” [LXX]). (7:7)

Through Jeremiah, YHWH censured his disobedient people. “Look, you trust in yourselves with words of falsehood” ― their unfounded trust that having YHWH’s temple in Jerusalem would spare them from calamity. These words would prove to be unreliable and, therefore, would in no way benefit them. (7:8; see the Notes section.)

The people were guilty of theft, murder, adultery, false swearing, burning incense to Baal, and going after other gods that they had not known. (7:9) The question YHWH directed to them through Jeremiah was whether they could engage in these wrong acts, come to the temple and stand before YHWH in the temple, the house upon which his name had been called (and, therefore, belonged exclusively to him), and then say that they would be delivered from calamity even though they had done these abominable things. (7:10; see the Notes section.)

When engaging in ruthless, violent, and other abhorrent deeds, the people proved to be like robbers. Yet they felt secure by reason of the temple and their carrying out the external ceremonies there. In this way, they had transformed the house on which God’s name had been called or the temple that belonged to him into a “den” or “cave of robbers.” In their “eyes,” the temple had become like a safe hideout for lawbreakers. YHWH had seen this; it had not escaped his attention. (7:11; compare Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46.)

Centuries earlier, the tabernacle with the sacred ark of the covenant had been located in Shiloh (a city in the territory of Ephraim situated to the north of Bethel). It was there that YHWH caused his name to reside, for his representative presence was linked to the ark. (Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2) After the Philistines captured the ark, it was never returned to Shiloh, and the place ceased to be the location of YHWH’s representative presence. (1 Samuel 4:1-7:2) So that the unfaithful people might come to see their error in trusting that the temple would assure their safety while they were engaged in lawlessness, they were told to go and see what happened at Shiloh “for the wickedness of [God’s] people Israel.” YHWH withdrew his help and protection from the people and permitted the ark to be captured after it had been brought from Shiloh into the military camp of the Israelites. (7:12; see 1 Samuel 4:1-11.)

In view of the evil “works” or corrupt actions of the people, YHWH provided ample warnings to them and appealed to them to amend their ways. By means of his prophets, he continued to speak to them. As the prophets would get up early to proclaim YHWH’s word or message, he is quoted as saying that he was the one rising early and speaking but that the people did “not listen” or give heed. He continued to call to them through his prophets, but they did “not answer” or respond obediently to the message proclaimed to them. (7:13; see the Notes section.)

Just as YHWH did to Shiloh, he decreed to do to his temple in Jerusalem (the “house upon which [his] name had been called” and in which the people “trusted” as assuring their safety) and to the “place” or the land he had given to them and to their forefathers. (7:14) YHWH would cast out the people before his “face” or his presence. They would experience what had happened to their “brothers,” fellow Israelites of “all the offspring of Ephraim,” the dominant tribe of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and that came to represent all the people of the realm. Survivors of the military conquest would be ripped away from their land and taken into exile. (7:15)

In view of the persistent lawlessness of the people, YHWH instructed Jeremiah not to pray for them. This command was emphasized with repetition. “Do not pray for this people and to not lift up a [pleading] cry for them and a prayer, and do not intercede with me, for I will not listen to you.” Any prayer, supplication, or intercession for the people would be in vain. The Septuagint rendering differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text, but the thought is basically the same. “Do not pray concerning this people, and do not petition [or consider it deserving] to show them mercy, and do not vow, and do not approach me concerning them, for I will not listen.” (7:16)

To indicate to Jeremiah that prayer for the people would be inappropriate, YHWH is quoted as raising the question, “Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” (7:17) Idolatry had become a family affair. The “sons” gathered firewood for the idolatrous ritual, the “fathers” lit the fire, and the women or wives kneaded dough to make “cakes for the queen of the heavens” (probably a fertility goddess and astral deity like Ashtoreth [Ashtart] or Ishtar). According to the Septuagint, the women made “cakes for the host of heaven.” Drink offerings were poured out to other gods (foreign or strange gods [LXX]), provoking YHWH to anger. (7:18) The rhetorical questions that follow indicate that what the people were doing was even more shameful than provoking YHWH to anger. “Is it I whom they vex [or provoke to anger]?” They did indeed, but what they were doing to themselves was even more vexing or hurtful. “Is it not themselves [they are vexing] to their shame of face” or to their own dishonor? They disgraced themselves when venerating nonexistent deities that could in no way benefit them but that made them objects of YHWH’s wrath. (7:19)

“Therefore,” the Lord YHWH, on account of the idolatrous practices and wayward conduct of his people, declared, “Look, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place [the entire land, including Jerusalem and the temple], on man [the “earthling” or the people collectively (men or people [LXX])] and on beast [beasts (LXX)], and on the tree [every tree (LXX)] of the field, and on the fruit [or produce] of the ground, and it [my anger] will burn and not be extinguished.” (7:20)

“YHWH of hosts [that is, YHWH with hosts of angels in his service], the God of Israel,” is identified as the source of the message directed to the wayward people. “Add your holocausts to your sacrifices, and eat flesh.” Holocausts or whole burnt offerings were to be consumed upon the altar, with no portion of the meat being eaten by the offerer. The sacrifices of the people were unacceptable to YHWH and ceased to be something sacred. Therefore, the people might as well have treated even the whole burnt offerings as ordinary meat to eat or as sacrifices from which they were entitled to partake. (7:21)

“In the day,” or at the time, YHWH brought the “fathers” or ancestors of the people out of the land of Egypt, he did not initially give them any command concerning holocausts and sacrifices. (7:22) Through Moses, he gave them the command to obey his voice. If they did so, he would be their God, and they could be his people. It would go well for them, provided they walked “in all the way” (or conducted themselves according to the manner) that he commanded them. The first record of a command with similar wording is in Exodus 15:26. This relates to a time after the Israelites left Egypt and entered the wilderness of Shur, where they complained about the bitter water they could not drink. (7:23)

The people did not listen to the words of YHWH through the prophets he sent to them “nor did they incline their ear” to pay attention and to heed what was said to them. After the Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness, they repeatedly disregarded YHWH’s word through his prophet Moses. From the time of Moses clear down to that of Jeremiah, they “walked” or conducted themselves according to their own “counsels (or their own plans that were contrary to God’s will) and “in the stubbornness of their evil heart.” In their inmost selves or their mental disposition, they were bent on doing what was divinely disapproved. Their defiant or stubborn resistance to God’s way may here be described as being to the back and not “to the face.” This could mean that the people failed to move forward in the right direction and went backward (or turned their backs on YHWH), pursuing a course of disobedience and disrespect toward YHWH. Modern translations vary in the meanings their renderings convey. “They have gone backward, not forward.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) They “looked backward rather than forward.” (NRSV) “They turned their backs and not their faces to me.” (REB) They “got worse rather than better.” (NJB) “Whenever I wanted them to go one way, they always went the other.” (CEV) According to the Septuagint, they came to be “for the rear and not for the front.” (7:24)

“From the day” or the time YHWH led the Israelites out of Egypt down to the “day” of the then-living generation, he sent his “servants the prophets” to them. The prophets daily proclaimed the word of YHWH and rose early to carry out their prophetic service. Therefore, the words attributed to YHWH indicate that he rose early and sent the prophets. Modern translations, however, commonly do not render the concluding phrase as applying to YHWH but as applying to the prophets whom he sent. “Day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets.” (NIV) “I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.” (NRSV) “I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.” (NAB) “According to the Septuagint, he sent the prophets “by day,” and also sent them “at daybreak.” (7:25)

During all the time YHWH sent his prophets to the people, they did not listen to him, paying no attention to the messages he conveyed to them through his prophets. The people did not “incline their ear” to be attentive and to act on what they heard. “They hardened their neck,” defiantly and stubbornly refusing to be obedient, and did evil to a greater extent than their “fathers” or ancestors. (7:26)

Jeremiah was to speak all the words YHWH made known to him, but the people would not listen to him. They would not respond to his calling to them, apparently his calling to them to stop their lawless ways and to become exclusively devoted to YHWH. (7:27; see the Notes section.)

Jeremiah was instructed to tell the people, “This is the nation that did not listen to the voice of YHWH their God and did not accept discipline.” They did not obey him, and they refused to respond to correction. Among them, “truth” or faithfulness had perished. It had been “cut off from their lip.” In all respects, including their words, the people proved to be untrustworthy. (7:28)

Apparently Jerusalem is represented as a woman. The calamity that would befall the city, the inhabitants, and the people in the entire realm of the kingdom of Judah would occasion bitter lamentation. Therefore, Jerusalem personified is directed to take on the appearance of a woman in mourning, cutting off her hair and tossing it and raising lamentation on the treeless heights. The reason for her misery would be YHWH’s rejection and abandonment of the “generation of his fury,” his people who had incurred his anger for their stubborn and defiant course of unfaithfulness to him. (7:29; see the Notes section.)

The “sons of Judah,” or the people in the realm of the kingdom of Judah, had done “evil” in the “eyes” of YHWH or in his sight. At his temple, or the “house” upon which his name had been called as exclusively belonging to him, they had set up their “abominations” or idols and thus defiled the sacred precincts. (7:30; compare Ezekiel 8:5-17.)

“In the valley of the son of Hinnom” (commonly identified with a valley that is located on the south and the southwest of Jerusalem), the people had erected the “high places of Topheth,” or sites in an area of the valley for idolatrous worship, including the gruesome practice of child sacrifice. There in Topheth, the people burned both sons and daughters. Never had YHWH commanded them to carry out this form of worship nor did it come into his “heart” or his thought that he would have them do this as a ceremonial rite for him. (7:31; see the Notes section.)

“Therefore,” on account of the abominable practices of the people, YHWH decreed that “days” or the time would be coming when the place where sons and daughters were sacrificed would no more be called “Topheth” (shrine [or altar] of Topheth [LXX]) and the “valley of the son of Hinnom,” Instead, the place would become known as the “valley of the slaughter.” During the conquest of Jerusalem, the number who would perish would be so great that the people would have to do burying in Topheth, possibly because there would be no other available “place” or location. As suggested by the words that follow, the meaning of the phrase about there being no “place” could be that space would be too limited in Topheth to bury all the corpses. (7:32) Dead bodies would be cast into the area and become food for carrion-eating birds and beasts, and no one would frighten these creatures or chase them away. (7:33)

YHWH is quoted as saying that he would end all exultation and rejoicing in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. No more would there be the joyous occasion when the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride could be heard. All the land would become a desolated place. (7:34)


The Septuagint rendering of verse 8, though basically including the same wording, differs somewhat from the meaning the extant Hebrew text conveys. It says, “But if you trust in words of falsehood from which you will not benefit.” The thought then continues in the verses that follow.

In verse 10, the Septuagint indicates that, on account of their wrong practices, it went bad for the people. When they came to the temple and stood before God there, at the house upon which his name had been called, they claimed, “We have distanced ourselves from doing all these abominations.”

Verse 13 in the Septuagint contains a shorter reading than does the extant Hebrew text. “And now, because you did all these works, and I spoke to you and you did not listen to me, and I called you and you did not answer.”

The Septuagint does not include any corresponding wording for the extant Hebrew text found in verse 27.

With apparent reference to Jerusalem personified, verse 29 of the Septuagint includes the words, “And take lamentation upon [your] lips.” It also says that the Lord rejected and cast away the generation “doing these things” (that is, engaging in acts of disobedience).

Lexicographer H. F. W. Gesenius thought the meaning of Topheth (verses 31 and 32) to be “place of burning” or “place of graves.”