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Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Jeremiah

Jeremiah 8 KJV

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Well, when that army comes, many who are living will die. We saw that in the last few verses. But in addition to consequences for those who are alive at that time, there will be consequences even for those who are dead. We see this in Jeremiah 8:1-2 where we’re told that all of the bodies of the people who committed idolatry in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and had subsequently died would be exhumed.

8:1 ¶ [At that time/When that time comes], saith the LORD, they shall [bring/dig] out

the bones of the kings of Judah, and
the bones of his princes, and
the bones of the priests, and
the bones of the prophets, and
the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem,

out of their graves:

2 And they shall spread them before

the sun, and
the moon, and all
the [host of heaven/stars/celestial bodies],

whom they have [loved/adored], and
whom they have served, and
after whom they have [walked/gone/paid allegiance], and
whom they have sought [i.e., guidance], and
whom they have worshipped:

they shall not be gathered, nor be buried;

they shall be for [dung/manure] upon the face of the earth.

How fitting that the gods whom the idolaters worshipped in life would stand as motionless and silent as they always did when the idolaters lived and worshipped them.

So, when Babylon comes, the bodies of those who live will be killed. The bodies of those who have died will be exhumed. And all of that mess would be scattered on the ground in a very ignoble and undignified way.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Exile

But there would be some in the group of the living who would not die, but rather continue to live. They wouldn’t die when Babylon comes, but rather they’d be exiled – sent out of the land of Judah. It would be a small group, but there would be people who didn’t die at the hands of Babylon. And we learn of their mindset in Jeremiah 8:3.

3 And death shall be [chosen/preferred] rather than life by all the [residue/remnant] of them that remain of this evil family,

which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, [i.e., God will leave some alive, but it will be hard for them]

saith the LORD of hosts.

Those who would die would have no choice. And those who lived would have no choice but to be sent away from Judah. And life would be so hard for them that they would prefer to die if they had the choice.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | A Break

Now, once more we have a change of subject starting in Jeremiah 8:4. I know that as I study through this material and prepare to present it, I get to points where I can hardly keep on whatever particular thought is being presented. Like here, I’ve been describing dead bodies and death and bones being dug up and people preferring to die rather than living – and it’s all getting very heavy for me! I don’t want to think about it anymore. I want a break.

And it seems like God shares that sentiment – or at least he graciously stoops to meet the abilities of his people to hear of such non-stop awful news.

I think additionally, God is wanting to vindicate himself. We hear of all the horrendous things he’s going to do to his people and we can start to feel like he’s too severe. We might think – “But God, is it really that bad? Are you sure you can’t give them a little more time to repent? Do your people really deserve this kind of harsh severe treatment?

Well, the Lord gives us a break and he answers those questions in Jeremiah 8:4-7. When it comes down to it, he has given his people all sorts of time to repent, but they absolutely refuse to do it.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Time and Refusal to Repent

4 Moreover thou shalt say unto them,

Thus saith the LORD;

Shall [they/men] fall, and not [arise/get up again]?

shall [he/one] [turn away/go the wrong way] [shub], and not [return/repent/turn around] [shub]?

The answer the Lord is looking for in Jeremiah 8:4 is “no”. No, if people fall they get back up. If someone takes the wrong turn and goes the wrong way, they’ll notice and turn back to the right way.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Fallen

Well, then, Jeremiah 8:5-6…

5 Why then is this people of Jerusalem [slidden back/turned away] [shub] [by/in] a [perpetual/continual] [backsliding/apostasy] [meshubah]?

they hold fast [i.e., to their] deceit, they refuse to [return/turn back to me] [shub].

6 I [hearkened/have listened] and heard [i.e., listened very carefully],

but they spake not [aright/what is right/honestly]:

no man [repented/regretted] [nacham – console/repent ½ and ½ in KJV] him of his wickedness, saying, [What have I done?/I have done wrong!]

every one turned to his [i.e., own wayward] course, as the horse [rusheth/charges/charges recklessly] into the battle.

It’s only natural to change course and correct your way when you’ve strayed directionally. Then the question God wants to know is why is Judah not changing course away from their sin and toward him? It’s unusual and contrary to what should be happening.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Contrary to Animals

And it’s contrary – this lack of change in direction is contrary to even the way that animals act, according to Jeremiah 8:7.

7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her [appointed times/seasons/time to move on];

and the [turtle/turtledove] and the [crane/swift] and the [swallow/thrush/crane] [observe/recognize] the time of their [coming/migration];

but my people know not the [judgment/ordinance/requirement] of the LORD.

Animals know when it’s time to move on – when it’s time to change course and change direction. But these very people of Judah who were made in God’s own image and had that as an advantage over the animals – they didn’t correct their course from serving sin to serving the Lord sincerely.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Wise?

And yet, even though the people of Judah were proving themselves to be even more senseless than brute beasts, yet they claimed to be wise. And it’s that claim that God refutes in Jeremiah 8:8-13.

8 How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us?

Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.

And that last statement is saying either the pen of the scribe made the “Law” into a lie by the lies the scribes were writing or that the scribe writes in vain because people won’t listen.

Either way, the Law is rendered useless, either by the behavior of the one who copies that Law or by the unwillingness of the people to listen.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Religious Leaders

I tend to think it’s the former – that the scribes and religious leaders are lying and thereby nullifying the effect of what they’re copying because of their ungodly behavior and teaching, primarily because this section seems to be a rebuke to the religious leaders of the day as we’ll see in the next few verses – starting in Jeremiah 8:9.

9 The wise men [are/will be] [ashamed/put to shame],

they [are/will be] [dismayed/dumbfounded] and [taken/caught/brought to judgment]:

lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD;

and what wisdom is in them?

With no true wisdom from above any so-called wisdom that the wise men supposedly possessed was all fiction. It was worldly wisdom, not true wisdom.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Unwise

And therefore, the Lord would need to deal with these unwise wise men as he says in Jeremiah 8:10.

10 Therefore will I give their wives unto others,

and their fields to [them that shall inherit them/new owners]:

for every one from the least [i.e., important/significant] even unto the greatest is [given to covetousness/greedy for gain],

from the prophet even unto the priest every one [dealeth falsely/practices deceit]. [cf. 6:12-15]

Jeremiah 8:10 starts with the punishment for these supposed wise men. What they have – the good things that God had given them – would be taken from them and given to others.

And then the Lord gave one part of the reason for this punishment. Not only had these religious leaders nullified God’s Law through their lawlessness. But they also were greedy for gain and lied in order to obtain the objects of their desire. That’s what the Lord revealed in Jeremiah 8:10.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Reasons for Punishment

And the Lord continues to offer reasons why he needed to punish those unwise wise men in Jeremiah 8:11.

11 For they have healed the [hurt/brokenness] of [the daughter of my people/my dear people] [slightly/superficially],

saying, [Peace, peace/everything will be alright] [shalom shalom] [i.e., emphasis]; when [there is no peace/everything is not alright].

Let me observe a few things about this verse.

First of all, notice the statement “peace, peace”. There’s a place in the book of Jeremiah where the people say “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord”. I told you that they did this to emphasize the Temple and its importance and the faith they were putting in it. And repetition in Hebrew often communicates emphasis. I told you that when something was repeated twice in Hebrew, it was in order to emphasize the thing. And I never gave you any proof. But here’s some proof. Peace, peace! they say. The emphasis of the religious leaders of Judah right before the judgement of God fell on them was peace.

This sounds like what we’re told in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. They’ll be saying “peace and safety”. And that’s when sudden destruction will come. The Day of the Lord! Out of nowhere!

So, that’s the first thing I wanted to lead us in observing.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Sounds Similar

Second, we’ve heard this before. Jeremiah 8:10-12 is very similar to Jeremiah 6:12-15. I’ll read them both.

KJV Jeremiah 6:12 And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD.

13 For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

14 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.

KJV Jeremiah 8:10 Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them:

for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

11 For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

12 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.

I don’t think we need to make much of the fact that these two groups of verses are very similar. It’s the same author – God. It’s the same messenger – Jeremiah. It’s the same group of people – Judah. And it’s the same message – I need to punish you for your unrepentant sin. So, you can expect the message and even the way in which it’s stated to sound fairly similar along the way.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Next

Then we’ll just read Jeremiah 8:12 without much comment and then end with Jeremiah 8:13.

12 Were they ashamed when they had committed [abomination/such disgusting things]?

nay, they were not at all ashamed,

neither could they blush:

therefore shall they [fall/die] [among/just like] [them/others] [that fall/who have died]:

in the time of their [visitation/punishment] they shall be [cast down/brought down/brought to ruin],

saith the LORD.

13 I will surely [consume/snatch away] them, saith the LORD:

there shall be
no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree, and
the leaf shall [fade/wither];

and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.

As Job said, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. The Lord had given much to his sinful people. And just as it was his gracious choice to give those things, so too is it his prerogative to take them back. And that’s just what he promises to do here. To take the good gracious gifts he’d given the religious leaders — as well as everyone else because — they refused to look past the gifts, to the giver of those good gifts.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Defeat for Deceit

And now in Jeremiah 8:14-9:26 we have this message: Defeat for Deceit. God will threaten Judah with defeat. And one major factor the Lord points to for sending that defeat is their deceit.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Sober Warnings

And as you may remember – and if you don’t remember then you can at least imagine – that God has been issuing some pretty sobering threats to the people of Judah.

And that’s why the people in Jeremiah 8:14-15 are portrayed as despairing.

KJV Jeremiah 8:14 [Someone, the people?, says…]

Why do we sit still?

assemble yourselves,

and let us enter into the [defenced/fortified] cities,

and let us [be silent/perish/at least die fighting] [damam – KJV silence, cut off, cut down] there:

[for/since] the LORD our God hath [put us to silence/doomed us/condemned us to die] [damam],

and given us [water of gall/poisoned water] to drink,

because we have sinned against the LORD.

15 We [looked/waited] for [peace/good fortune], but no good came;

and for a time of [health/healing/relief], and behold [trouble/terror]!

So, as always when we see the people being portrayed in this book as saying or doing something – especially when it seems to contradict everything we know about them – then you just have to wonder if the Lord intends us to think that they actually said or did what is being reported.

Or is the Lord wanting to give the people an example of how they should respond?

Or is he simply portraying the people as saying or doing something just to heighten the urgency and terror of the situation? I think that’s what he’s doing. Using the people’s statements to highlight the impending terror of the situation.

So, here’s how that would work. The message of the book of Jeremiah is Submit to God’s Authority and Live. In particular, in this section from Jeremiah 7-10 the people need to submit to that authority by Practicing Ritual from Righteous Hearts and Lives. But they refuse.

And that’s why so much of these four chapters is given to God threatening his people. He wants them to turn from their sin. And he’s using all sorts of means to communicate the impending danger they face if they refuse to repent – if they refuse to turn from their sins.

And here’s one more way that God is communicating the urgency – the Lord is portraying a time when the people will flee to their fortified cities because of an unnamed foreign enemy which is invading their land. They will likely die in those cities at the hands of the enemies. And this is all happening because of thein sin.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Suspense Mounts

And the suspense mounts as the people are alerted to the coming of this enemy some time in the near future in Jeremiah 8:16.

16 The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan [far north]:

the whole land [trembled/quakes/tremble with fear] at the sound of the neighing of his [strong ones/stallions];

for they are come, and [have devoured/are coming to destroy] the land, and all that is in it;

the city, and those that dwell therein.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Opposite of Personification

Now, in Jeremiah 8:17 the Lord uses a literary device that’s the opposite of personification. Personification is the assigning of human qualities to something that is non-human. The Sun in the sky being compared to a strong man who runs in a race – that’s personification. But in Jeremiah 8:17 the Lord represents this coming conquering kingdom of Babylon – comprised of humans – as if they were animals. Snakes, in particular.

17 For, behold,

I [i.e., the Lord] will send [i.e., an enemy that will be like] serpents, [cockatrices/Adders] [tsiphngoni – adder, viper, cockatrice], among you, which will not be charmed,

and they shall [bite/inflict fatal wounds on] you, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Reaction

And so, based on the defeat which is promised to Judah at the hands of this foreign enemy, I think we have Jeremiah reacting in Jeremiah 8:18-19 to the future reality of this coming enemy.

18 When I would [comfort/heal/cure] [hapax legomenon] myself [against/beyond] sorrow, my heart is faint in me.

19 Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people [because of them that dwell/(nothing)] in a far country:

Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her?

So, Jeremiah says that he has tried to comfort himself in the midst of these really troubling realities.

Do you know what that’s like? To try to find some comfort in the midst of the chaos that seems to be enveloping your nation?

Jeremiah knew what that was like. And he wasn’t very successful at it. That’s what he says in Jeremiah 8:18. It didn’t help to try to comfort himself.

Why? Jeremiah 8:19 has Jeremiah recounting that his people are lamenting that the Lord has seemed to abandon them. And remember, this is the section – Jeremiah 7-10 – where the people are making such a big deal about the Temple being among them and how that was going to ensure that they could keep sinning without any consequences. Somehow that Temple was going to provide protection for them. After all, thought they, the Lord surely wouldn’t destroy his own Temple!

And here they are in Jeremiah 8:19 again focusing on the Lord being in their midst. But here they’re portrayed as being disillusioned. They had hoped for the Lord to protect them. After all, he was in their midst – he was “in Zion”. He was “in here”. But here they are – under siege by the enemy. And the enemy is winning. And it’s all because they’ve sinned against the Lord and would not repent.

And that’s why Jeremiah is unable to comfort himself. The people would still clutch their vain hope that they could sin all they wanted because the Lord was in their midst. When in reality it’s the exact opposite. The closer the Lord is to a people, the more holy he requires them to be.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Reason for Defeat

And actually, the Lord cuts to the chase at the end of Jeremiah 8:19 where he breaks in and reveals the big reason the people would experience this defeat at the hands of their enemies.

Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with [strange/foreign] [vanities/idols] [hebel]?

The Lord isn’t looking for an answer as if he didn’t know it already. He’s directing the people back to the real reason that they were in trouble. They provoked him to anger with idols.

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Self-Pity

And instead of really dealing with their sin – like the kind God just pointed out – the people are shown as engaging in a kind of whimsical self-pity in Jeremiah 8:20.

20 The harvest [in the spring] is past, the summer is ended, and we are not [saved/delivered].

And because of the people’s ignoring God’s threats and instead engaging in this whimsical self-pity and not really dealing with the issue, Jeremiah responds.

And the way he does is very informative for us. We live in times like Jeremiah’s. We live in the midst of a society that rejects God and refuses to repent. We live in times marked as best I can tell by chastening from God. How should we respond to these things?

Jeremiah 8 KJV | Response from the Porphet

Jeremiah does two things. First, he genuinely mourns his people’s situation. He’s not like Westboro Baptist Church and glorying in the destruction of his people. Jeremiah certainly wouldn’t have been amongst the idiots that picket funerals these days. He genuinely grieved for his sinful fellow-citizens. That’s one way we too should respond. We’ll get to his second response in just a little bit. First, let’s read Jeremiah’s response of genuine grief for his people’s situation in Jeremiah 8:21-9:1.

21 For the [hurt/brokenness] of the daughter of my people am I [hurt/broken];

I [am black/mourn/go about crying and grieving];

[astonishment/dismay] hath [taken hold on/overwhelmed] me.

22 Is there no [balm/medicinal ointment] in Gilead; is there no physician there?

why then is not the health of the daughter of my people [recovered/been restored]?

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