The role of the Temple (Jer 7:3-7:4)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

Amend your ways!

Amend your doings!

Let me dwell with you

In this place.

Do not trust

In these deceptive words.

‘This is the temple of Yahweh!

The temple of Yahweh!

The temple of Yahweh.’”

The first part of this pericope sounds like the many other times that Yahweh had spoken to his people. He was the God of Israel with his hosts. The Temple visitors were to amend their ways and what they were doing. Yahweh wanted to dwell with them in his Temple. However, the second verse is a little strange. Yahweh told Jeremiah not to trust the deceptive words about the Temple of Yahweh. In fact, the statement is mentioned 3 times, “Temple of Yahweh”. Was this a reminder to enter the Temple 3 times a day? Was this against the false prophets who told them not to worry, since as long as they had the Temple everything would be fine? Is it a rebuke to those who just loved the majesty and beauty of the Temple? This triple cry about the Temple of Yahweh as deceptive words is not really clear.

The accusation response of Jeremiah (Jer 4:10-4:10)

“Then I said.

‘O Yahweh God!

How utterly you have deceived

This people!

How utterly you have deceived

Jerusalem!

Saying.

‘It shall be well with you.’

Even while the sword

Is at their throat!”

Jeremiah seems to rebuke Yahweh, his God. He claims that Yahweh has deceived him, as well as the people of Judah and Jerusalem. God had told them that all would be well with them, even as the sword of the destroyer was at their throat.

Opposition to worship cults (Isa 66:3-66:4)

“Whoever slaughters an ox is

Like one who kills a human being.

Whoever sacrifices a lamb is

Like one who breaks a dog’s neck.

Whoever presents a cereal offering is

Like one who offers swine’s blood.

Whoever makes a memorial offering

Of frankincense is

Like one who blesses an idol.

These have chosen their own ways.

They take delight in their abominations.

I also will choose to mock them.

I will bring upon them

What they fear.

Because,

When I called,

No one answered.

When I spoke

They did not listen.

But they did

What was evil in my sight.

They chose

What did not please me.”

Yahweh seems to rebuke those who sacrifice animals, saying that killing oxen is like killing humans. If they sacrificed lambs, they are sacrificing dogs. A grain offering was compared to unclean pig’s blood. The use of the frankincense was compared to worshiping idols. They have chosen their own ways that are an abomination to Yahweh. He would continue to mock and punish them because no one answered when he called. No one listened when he spoke. They continued to do evil and not please God.

There will be no more destruction (Isa 54:9-54:10)

“This is

Like the days of Noah to me.

Just as I swore

That the waters of Noah

Should never again

Go over the earth,

I have sworn

That I will not be angry with you.

I will not rebuke you.

The mountains may depart.

The hills me be removed.

But my steadfast love

Shall not depart from you.

My covenant of peace

Shall not be removed.

So says Yahweh,

Who has compassion on you.”

Second Isaiah explains that there would be no more destruction for Israel. Citing the days of Noah, Yahweh has sworn that he would not destroy the earth with water again. Thus he said that he would not be angry or rebuke the people of Israel again. Yahweh says that the mountains and hills could fall, but his steadfast love would remain. His covenant of peace would not be removed, because he had compassion on Israel.

Wakeup call to Jerusalem (Isa 51:17-51:20)

“Rouse yourself!

Rouse yourself!

Stand up!

O Jerusalem!

You have drunk

At the hand of Yahweh

The cup of his wrath.

You have drunk to the dregs

The bowl of staggering.

There is no one to guide her

Among all the children

She has borne.

There is no one to take her

By the hand

Among all the children

She has brought up.

These two things have befallen you.

Who will grieve with you

In this devastation with destruction?

Who will grieve with you

In this famine?

Who will grieve with you

Because of the sword?

Who will comfort you?

Your children have fainted.

They lie at the head of every street

Like an antelope in a net.

They are full of the wrath of Yahweh.

They are full of the rebuke of your God.”

Second Isaiah has a wakeup call for Jerusalem. They had suffered enough, since they were drunk from the cup of Yahweh’s wrath. They drank so much wrath that they were staggering around. No one was guiding them. No one was taking them by the hand, among all the children of Israel. They had been struck by more than two things, devastation, destruction, famine, and the sword. Who would comfort them? Their children have fainted on the streets, like they were antelopes caught in nets. They were filled with Yahweh’s anger and rebuke. They were in bad shape.

The lack of a response (Isa 50:2-50:3)

“Why was no one there,

When I came?

When I called,

Why did no one answer me?

Is my hand shortened,

So that it cannot redeem?

Have I no power to deliver?

By my rebuke,

I dry up the sea.

I make the rivers a desert.

Their fish stink

For lack of water.

They die of thirst.

I clothe the heavens

With blackness.

I make sackcloth their covering.”

Second Isaiah continues with this rebuke of Yahweh. Why was no one there to greet him when he came? Why was no one listening to him when he called? Is he no longer capable of redeeming them? Has he lost his power? After all, he dries up the seas and turns the rivers into deserts. Their fish would stink and die because of a lack of water. He could command the heavens to turn black and put on sackcloth.

King Hezekiah sends people to Isaiah (Isa 37:2-37:4)

“The king sent Eliakim,

Who was in charge of the palace,

Shebna the secretary,

With the senior priests,

Covered with sackcloth,

To the prophet Isaiah,

Son of Amoz.

They said to him.

‘Thus says King Hezekiah.

This day is a day of distress.

This day is a day of rebuke.

This day is a day of disgrace.

Children have come to birth.

But there is no strength to bring them forth.

It may be that Yahweh your God

Heard the words of Rabshakeh,

Whom his master,

The king of Assyria,

Has sent to mock the living God.

Will you rebuke the words

That Yahweh your God has heard?

Therefore,

Lift up your prayer

For the remnant that is left.’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. King Hezekiah decided to send his consultants, Eliakim, Shebnah, and the senior priests to the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz. Notice that Joah the recorder did not go, but instead senior priests went. They would all be wearing sackcloth because things were in distress and disgrace. In an interesting metaphor, they say that women are coming to the moment of childbirth, but have no strength to bring their children into the world. They mentioned that perhaps Yahweh had heard the mocking words of Rabshakeh, as the king of Assyria’s representative mocked the living God. How would you rebuke him? They wanted prayers for the “remnant.” This theme of the faithful few left behind occurs quite often in Isaiah.

 

The great sea thunder to come (Isa 17:12-17:14)

“O the thunder of many people!

They thunder

Like the thundering of the sea!

O the roar of nations!

They roar

Like the roaring of mighty waters!

The nations roar

Like the roaring of many waters.

But he will rebuke them.

They will flee far away.

They will be chased

Like chaff on the mountains

Before the wind.

They will be chased

Like whirling dust

Before the storm.

At evening time,

Behold terror!

Before morning,

They are no more.

This is the fate

Of those who despoil us.

This is the lot

Of those who plunder us.”

Here Isaiah warns of a coming thundering water deluge. Many people will come like thunder. They will roar like roaring mighty waters of the sea. However, Yahweh will rebuke them. They will flee like chaff in front of a mountain wind or like whirling dust before a storm. At night, they will say that terror is coming. But by morning, they will be gone. They will be no more since those who wanted to plunder and destroy them will disappear. This could be an allusion to the Assyrians attempt to capture Jerusalem around 701 BCE as told in 2 Kings, chapters 18-19.

The devastation of the land of Ephraim (Isa 17:4-17:6)

“‘On that day,

The glory of Jacob

Will be brought low.

The fat of his flesh

Will grow lean.

It shall be

As when reapers

Gather standing grain.

Their arms harvest the ears.

It shall be

As when one gleans

The ears of grain

In the Valley of Rephaim.

Gleanings will be left in it,

As when an olive tree is beaten.

Two or three berries

On the top of the highest bough

Will be left.

Four or five on the branches

Of a fruit tree

Will be left.’

Says Yahweh

God of Israel.”

Here is another oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, but about Ephraim of northern Israel. This rebuke is against Jacob, not Damascus. There is a reference to the Valley of Rephaim, which is northwest of Jerusalem in the Ephraim territory. Thus this land of Ephraim will be devastated. The fat animals will grow lean. All that will be left are the gleanings of left over grain that the pickers left behind. The olive trees will only have a few berries that were too difficult to pick, since all the others would have been shaken out of the trees. There will only be a few branches on any trees. There will not be much left after this day of destruction in northern Israel.

Religious hypocrites (Isa 1:13-1:16)

“I cannot endure

Solemn assemblies

With iniquity.

I cannot endure

New moon convocations.

I cannot endure

Sabbath convocations.

My soul hates

Your new moon celebrations.

My soul hates

Your appointed festivals.

They have become a burden to me.

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread forth your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you.

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves!

Make yourselves clean!

Remove the evil

Of your doings

From before my eyes.

Cease to do evil!”

Yahweh via Isaiah continues to reject all convocations and assemblies for the new moon and the various festivals, even for the Sabbath because of their iniquity. What a striking turn of events! The kings and priests loved these assemblies for fulfilling the law in the Torah. Isaiah and Yahweh seem to be calling out the hypocrisy of these worship assemblies where evil iniquitous people gathered for these festivals. Yahweh could not endure them any longer. His soul hated them. He was weary of their burden on him.   He was going to hide his eyes and not listen to their prayers. Then in surprisingly priestly language he talks about the unclean bloody hands that need to be washed. Somehow the idea of clean and unclean was acceptable. However, these worshippers had to change their evil habits. They had to cease to do evil. Maybe, this rebuke against offerings and festivals was not absolute.