Jeremiah responds to all the Judeans (Jer 44:24-44:25)

“Jeremiah said

To all the people

Including all the women.

‘Hear the word of Yahweh!

All you Judeans

Who are in the land of Egypt!

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘You

With your wives

Have accomplished in deeds,

What you declared in words,

Saying.

‘We are determined

To perform the vows

That we have made.

We will make offerings

To the queen of heaven.

We will pour out libations

To her.’

By all means,

Keep your vows!

Make your libations!’”

Jeremiah addressed all the people of Judah and then added all the women, as if they were not people. Jeremiah wanted them to hear the word of Yahweh that he was interpreting. He said that they and their wives had accomplished what they said that they were going to do. They were going to make offerings and libations to the “Queen of heaven,” the Canaanite goddess of fertility, Astarte. Jeremiah’s response to them was to go ahead and keep your vows with your sacrifices and drinks. Just see what happens to you!

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Offerings to the queen of heaven (Jer 44:17-44:18)

“Instead,

We will do everything

That we have vowed.

We will make offerings

To the queen of heaven.

We will pour out libations

To her.

Just as we,

Our ancestors,

Our kings,

Our officials

Did

In the towns of Judah,

In the streets of Jerusalem.

We used to have

Plenty of food.

We prospered.

We saw no misfortune.

But from the time

We stopped making offerings

To the queen of heaven

And pouring out libations

To her,

We have lacked everything.

We have perished

By the sword

And by famine.”

The Judean refugees insisted that they would complete their vows to the queen of heaven. They would make offerings and libations to her just as their ancestors, their kings, and their officials had done in Judah and Jerusalem. When they were making these sacrifices, they had plenty of food and prospered. Since they stopped, they have been lacking everything. They have been dying by the sword and famine. Who then was this queen of heaven? For many Catholics, this might be a veiled reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus, since there are some Catholic churches with that name, Queen of Heaven. However, this is a clear reference to a popular goddess of fertility since Jeremiah had already mentioned this queen in chapter 7. In both places, here and there, this queen of heaven is a reference to the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess Ishtar, or the Canaanite goddess Astarte, the wife of the god Baal. The Greek equivalent would have been the goddess Aphrodite or the Roman goddess Venice, the goddess of love. Thus the practice of worshipping to this fertility “Queen of heaven” was quite popular already in Judah and Jerusalem, before they came to Egypt.

The Chaldeans take Jerusalem (Jer 32:26-32:29)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah.

‘See!

I am Yahweh!

The God of all flesh!

Is anything too hard for me?’

Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh.

‘I am going to give this city

Into the hands of the Chaldeans.

I am going to give this city

Into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon.

He shall take it.

The Chaldeans,

Who are fighting against this city,

Shall come.

They will set this city on fire.

They will burn it.

They will burn the houses

On whose roofs

Offerings were made

To Baal,

Where libations

Have been poured out

To other gods.

They did these sacrifices

To provoke me to anger.’”

Yahweh once again has an oracle for Jeremiah. Yahweh was the God of all flesh. There was nothing too hard for him. He was going to give Jerusalem over to the Chaldeans who were fighting there. He was going to hand the city over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Babylonians and the Chaldeans were going to set the city on fire and burn it down. Thus the houses with the roof tops that had made offerings to Baal or libations to the other gods would be destroyed. These Israelites had offered these sacrifices to provoke Yahweh to anger. They had succeeded.

Jerusalem shall be like Topheth (Jer 19:11-19:13)

“‘In Topheth,

They shall bury

Until there is no more room

To bury people.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Thus will I do to this place,

As well as to its inhabitants.

I will make this city

Like Topheth.

The houses of Jerusalem

Shall be defiled.

The houses of the kings of Judah

Shall be defiled

Like the place of Topheth.

All the houses

Upon whose roofs

Offerings have been made

To the whole host of heaven

Shall be defiled.

Where libations have been poured out

To other gods,

They shall be defiled

Like the place of Topheth.’”

Yahweh says that they will bury people in Topheth until there is no more room there. Then Jerusalem would be like Topheth, mentioned in chapter 7 and earlier in this chapter, a place in Jerusalem where the ancient Canaanites had worshipped and sacrificed children in the valley of Hinnom. Thus this Topheth would not exist any longer, because it would become known just for dead bodies. Now both the house of Judah and Jerusalem would be defiled like Topheth, because there would be so many unclean dead people all around. Further, those places that had roof top offerings and libations to the various heavenly bodies or gods would also be defiled like Topheth.