Jeremiah vs. Politically Correct Theology
(Jeremiah 7)
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


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,

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.

How strong was the term sheker (reqe$) 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 this term.

Their Sins Listed in General Terms

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.

        "If 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 22:13-19).

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.

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.


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.

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 made
  1. He was standing in the temple at the time of worship and discretion was called for.
  2. He was much older and more refined.
  3. He was smelling the incense on the Baal worshippers who were now coming to the temple of Yahweh and making them feel guilty.
  4. 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.
  5. A combination of the above.
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.

****** 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