Vv 1ff: God instructs Jeremiah to enter the Temple itself and preach to the worshippers there, telling them not to trust that the holy Sanctuary will provide them with immunity from the coming onslaught. In verse 4, the phrase "the Sanctuary of HaShem" is repeated three times, alluding to the three annual pilgrim festivals (Rashi). Despite the fact that the people continued to observe the outer forms of divine service as laid down in the Torah, nothing would save them from calamity except a return to the Torah code of justice (vv 5ff). The people cannot steal, murder, fornicate, swear falsely and worship idols and then enter the Temple and call on God's name and expect to be saved.

Vv 12-14: Jeremiah asks the people to reflect that in the time of Eli the High Priest, the presence of the Sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant did not save Israel from disaster at the hands of the Philistines owing to the corruption of Eli's sons (I Samuel ch 4). Just as the Sanctuary in Shilo was destroyed, so even the Temple in Jerusalem would not be spared unless the people repented.

V 16: God tells Jeremiah not even to pray on behalf of the people, because He will not listen.

V 17-18: This is because the entire nation, men, women and children are swept up in a frenzy of idolatry, making "cakes" (or windows? - Midrash) for the "queen of heaven (MELECHETH HASHOMAYIM)". The identity of this idolatrous cult is the subject of various opinions. Rashi holds that a particular planet was considered to be the ruler of the heavens; Metzudas David holds that this was the sun. However, RaDaK states that MELECHETH is not from the root of rulership but rather from MELACHAH, the "WORK of heaven", i.e. ALL the stars and planets. Later religions developed their own versions of thE cult of the "queen of heaven".

V 21: Having descended to such a level of degradation, the people would be better off ceasing the Temple animal sacrifices and eating the meat themselves instead.

V 29: The people should be tearing out their hair in agony and consternation over the evils perpetrated instead of continuing with the idolatrous cults they were following.

V 31 refers to the practice of Molech-worship, in which fathers handed over their children to the priests to be passed through the fire. This is one of the most serious prohibitions of the Torah (Leviticus 20:2ff). It is said that King Ahaz had offered his son Hezekiah to Molech, and the cult was evidently thriving several generations later in the time of Jeremiah.


V 1: "At that time, says God, they will bring out the bones of the kings of Judah ." The rabbis commented that it is a good sign for a person when punishment is exacted from him after his death, such as if he is left unlamented and unburied, or if his body is eaten by a wild animal or gets soaked with rain during his funeral etc. as this atones for his sins (Sifri).

V 3: "And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that will remain of this evil family." Even though the survivors will see how the dead are demeaned, the pain of staying alive will be even greater and they would prefer to be dead (Rashi).

V 6: Metzudas David renders this verse: "Could it be that they will fall through their sins and be unable to arise(as if to say, does repentance not help a person to rise from his decline?) If they return and repent, will not God also return from His burning anger?"

V 8ff: The prophet castigates the people for believing themselves to be so wise and so devoted to the Torah that this would protect them from calamity. Those very "sages" will be put to shame and be broken and captured.

Vv 10-11 are almost an exact repeat of ch 6 vv 13-14. The prophet's way is to go around and around, driving his points home.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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