Our reading today begins with YHWH giving instructions to Jeremiah. He is to go to the gate of the Temple and address the people (7:2). The message will begin with a call to repentance (v. 3). God will relent from the coming disaster if they turn back to Him. The “deceptive words” are likely from the mouths of the false prophets (v. 4). Popular belief was that since YHWH dwelt in the midst of Judah, the people were safe from harm. God says here that is not the case. They need to live out their faith in Him by executing justice (v. 5), and by ceasing their oppressions and their worship of false gods (v. 6), and if they do, God will relent and preserve them (v. 7).
But God knows they want the lie and not the truth (v. 8). They believe they can sin, even worshiping other gods (v. 9), but as long as they perform their outward worship at the Temple they will be okay (v. 10). God asks, has His dwelling place become a place of robbers (v. 11)? This is talking about taking from God what is rightfully His and going after other gods. Christ quotes this when He cleanses the Temple (Matt 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46) because those there were worshiping the god of money.
God then invites Judah to go to Shiloh in Israel where the Tabernacle dwelt for many years (v. 12 – see Josh 18:1). He wants them to see what happened to Israel because of their idolatry. The point is that God’s presence was taken away from them, and they were taken from the land. God will now do the same to Judah because of their refusal to repent (v. 13). He will remove His presence from them and take them from the land (vv. 14-15).
God then tells Jeremiah not to try to intercede for Judah (v. 16). Jeremiah sees their worship of false gods (vv. 17-18). They have earned what they are about to get (v. 19): destruction (v. 20). The point of verses 21-23 is that God’s command to those He saved was not about burnt offerings or sacrifices, it was about obedience. As long as they obeyed Him, He would be their God. They have not obeyed (v. 24). And God has called for repentance from the very beginning (v. 25)! And they have only gotten worse (v. 26)!! So God calls Jeremiah to prophesy that He has forsaken them (v. 29), but warns him that they will not listen to the truth (v. 27).
God then describes some details of the worship Judah has offered to other gods (vv. 30-31): the high places and the sacrifice of their own children (v. 31). Even worshiping false gods in the Temple (v. 30)! He then gives a sobering warning of the coming destruction (vv. 32-34). The place where Judah worshiped their gods will become a mass grave because of the death count (v. 32). There will be so many dead that they won’t even bother burying the bodies (v. 33). Judah will become a wasteland (v. 34 – see 2:15, 4:7, 20).
Chapter 8 begins with a description of the bones of Judah’s kings, leaders, prophets, and priests – along with all who lived in Jerusalem – being brought out of their tombs (8:1) and being spread out before the celestial bodies they worshiped falsely (v. 2). While not everyone described here was guilty of worshiping false gods, the idea is that the totality of Judah has been rejected by God. He will do to them what He had Josiah do to the idolaters during his reign (see 2 Kings 23:4-20). We see the tie-in with the valley of Topheth and the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (7:32 – see 2 Kings 23:10) and the mistreatment of the bones of the idolaters (8:2 – see 2 Kings 23:16). God is retroactively declaring all of Judah guilty of idolatry. And the judgment is a fate worse than death (v. 3).
In verses 4-6, God again talks of Judah’s refusal to repent. He uses the word for “turn” six times here to make a point. They turn and do not turn again (v. 4). They turned away; they perpetually turned away (translated “backsliding” in the ESV), and refused to turn back (v. 5). They turned their own way (v. 6). Like birds that instinctually migrate year after year, Judah instinctually rejects God (v. 7). Claiming to be wise, they became fools (vv. 8-9 – see Rom 1:22-23). And they are all the same (v. 10 – see 5:4-5). The prophets spoke lies (v. 11 – see 6:14) and will be punished (v. 12 – see 6:15). God again uses the metaphor of harvested grapes to describe the coming captivity (v. 13 – see 6:9).
In verse 14, God speaks as one of the people when they realize – far too late – that He is judging them. And they will blame God for it (v. 15)! Verses 16 describes the Babylonian army. The serpents in verse 17 represent judgment from God for the people speaking against Him (see Num 21:5-6). In verse 18, Jeremiah laments once again over the coming judgment. Verse 19 begins a conversation between the people and God. They ask why He has left them. He counters by asking why they went after other gods. In verse 20 the people realize their false confidence (see 7:10). Verses 21-22 continue Jeremiah’s lament.