Jeremiah vs. Politically
Daniel J. Dyke
In Process for my Jeremiah Class
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Jeremiah's "Temple Sermon" stands as one of the
great texts that define for us the prophet's theology. It was preached
early in the reign of Jehoiakim (609-598 BC). It seems to be the
sermon that initially created animosity on all levels of society for the
prophet. It was not the harshness of the message that alienated these
new found enemies, which were numerous, but it was the content--the subtle
and not so subtle comments and implications--that drove them to try and
lynch the prophet.
The setting of the story is intriguing
HIS REACTION TO THE LIE
What did he say? He said the temple of Yahweh
was not inviolate and that the people could not trust in the lie (sheker)
which the leaders preached saying,
"This is the temple of the LORD,
Was this a liturgical chant? The content of
some leader's decree? Whatever it was, Jeremiah was calling it a
lie (sheker). Obviously we only have a brief summary of it,
but read in the context of what he said, it is obvious that it enabled
the people to act immorally (whether that was the intention of the proponents
of the theology or not) and yet feel safe from the chaos that was in the
world around them. They were not safe and neither was the temple.
the temple of the LORD,
the temple of the LORD."
How strong was the term sheker
John Bright has suggested it has no English equivalent unless we resort
to a phrase like "damnable lie." The strength of term can be seen
by reading Jeremiah and seeing the psychological mood of the prophet, what
type of things he called a lie, and the force of the language surrounding
Their Sins Listed in General
What did they think they could do? In verses 5-6 the first list of crimes
is about doing "justice between a man and his neighbor."
This the first group of crimes starts with the oppression of the powerless,
which was a prophetic theme previously developed in the book of Amos against
the northern kingdom of Israel.
ye oppress not the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow."
Starting with the king, social oppression was
the order of the day. After the death of Josiah and deposement of
his brother Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim became an Egyptian Vassal when Pharaoh
Necco returned from trying to aid the Assyrians in their final struggle
against Nabopolassar of Babylon. He remained under Egypt's thumb
from 609-605 BC. During this time he had to pay tribute to
the Egyptians. The people were taxed heavily to raise the tribute.
The second act was that he impressed his own people to build him a new
palace and then refused to pay them for their labors (Cf. Jer
The second, "shed not innocent blood in this place," is reminiscent
of the days of Manasseh's purge, but also could be a reference to relatively
recent events in Jehoiakim's reign. Manasseh had, according to tradition,
killed Isaiah by sawing him in half. Also according to II Kings 21:16,
"Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem
from one end to another." Early in his reign Jehoiakim had done the
same type of thing by having the prophet Uriah put to death.
"Indeed, there was also a man who prophesied
in the name of the LORD, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim;
and he prophesied against this city and against this land words similar
to all those of Jeremiah. When King Jehoiakim and all his mighty
men and all the officials heard his words, then the king sought to put
him to death; but Uriah heard it, and he was afraid and fled and went to
Egypt. Then King Jehoiakim sent men to Egypt: Elnathan the son of Achbor
and certain men with him went into Egypt. And they brought Uriah
from Egypt and led him to King Jehoiakim, who slew him with a sword and
cast his dead body into the burial place of the common people." (Jeremiah
The third, "neither walk after other gods to your
own hurt," again draws the minds of the
people to both Manasseh and Jehoiachim. II Kings 21, the story of
Manasseh, is merely a list of crimes and is properly not a story about
the reign of the king. The list begins with his idolatrous acts with
which he filled the city. It is of interest that although Josiah's
revival had taken away these idolatrous acts of Manasseh, Jehoiakim seems
to have allowed them to reemerge.
THE SECOND LIST OF SINS--MORE
In the second list of sins (7:8-11) begins
by again, a second time, calling the "official theology" a sheker, but
adds "that cannot profit." This list is not a list that would evoke
images of what the king had done, but reached into the lives of the people.
It, like the first list, begins with crimes against man. It sounds
like the second half of the 10 commandments with only coveting left out.
"Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery,
and swear falsely""
What is more explicit is the crimes against God. In addition to following
other gods the name of the main deity they have substituted for Yahweh
is given--Baal! In their religious devotion they have done two things for
these other gods: burned incense to them and walked after them.
The first act is probably pars pro toto (the part for the
whole). Why choose incense burning when the associated acts are so
awful? Things like child sacrifice, sacred prostitution, bestiality,
incest, and self mutilation seem to make incense burning a gross understatement.
Jeremiah is not adverse to using strong language if it fits the situation.
Earlier he had called the nation "a wild ass in heat." He had asked
them to show him a place where they had not been "violated/defiled." (3:1-4)
The word shugal (lfgu$) was the gutter
term for sexual intercourse. It was not pronounced aloud in public reading,
but had a euphemistic term substituted for it. Why did Mr. "I will
say anything" not unleash his tongue? Several suggestions could be
What is particularly heinous is that they would then "come and stand before
me (Yahweh) in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We
are delivered; that ye may do all these abominations?'" It
is doubtful that the quotation was an actual saying of theirs. It
is either just the implication from their acts and their actual words or
a modification of an unknown ritual formula they used. The former
is probably the case.
He was standing in the temple at the time of worship and discretion was
He was much older and more refined.
He was smelling the incense on the Baal worshippers who were now coming
to the temple of Yahweh and making them feel guilty.
He was supposed to speak to those "who entered these gates to worship Yahweh."
The most common act of Yahweh worship was burning the daily incense.
What was the most common act of devotion to Yahweh was now being given
to Baal. The second act of devotion was to "follow
other gods." Again, what was Yahweh's due was given in devotion
to other gods.
A combination of the above.
****** I will pick up more tomorrow*****
11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den
of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, saith Jehovah.
What would happen to them if they did not amend their ways
To the Temple
To Mr. Ziese