Mere begins another section of prophecy, ending with the ninth chapter. It opens with exhorting to amendment of life, without which the confidence of the Jews in their temple is declared vain, 1-11. God bids them take warning from the fate of their brethren the Israelites, who had been carried away captive on account of their sins without any regard to that sacred place, (Shiloh,) where the ark of God once resided, 12-15. The iniquities of Judah are so great in the sight of God that the prophet is commanded not to intercede for the people, 16; the more especially as they persisted in provoking God by their idolatrous practices, 17-20. The Jewish sacrifices, if not accompanied with obedience to the morallaw, are of no avail, 21-24. Notwithstanding the numerous messages of mercy from the time of the exodus, the people revolted more and more; and have added to their other sins this horrible evil, the setting up of their abominations in the temple of Jehovah; or, in other words, they have encumbered the Mosaic economy, which shadowed forth the glorious truths of Christianity, with a heterogeneous admixture of the idolatrous, impure, and cruel rites of heathenism; consequently, the whole land shall be utterly desolated, 25-34.
Verse 2. "Stand in the gate of the Lord's house" - There was a show of publicworship kept up. The temple was considered God's residence; the usual ceremonies of religion restored by Josiah were still observed; and the people were led to consider the temple and its services as sacred things, which would be preservatives to them in case of the threatened invasion.
Verse 4. "The temple of the Lord" - In the Chaldee the passage stands thus: - "Do not trust in the words of lyingprophets, which say, Before the temple of the Lord ye shall worship; Before the temple of the Lord ye shall sacrifice; Before the temple of the Lord ye shall adore; thrice in the year ye shall appear before it." This the Targumist supposes to have been the reason why the words are here thrice repeated. They rather seem to express the conviction which the people had, that they should be safe while their temple service continued; for they supposed that God would not give it up into profanehands. But sacred places and sacred symbols are nothing in the sight of God when the heart is not right with him.
Verse 5. "If ye throughly amend your ways" - Literally, If in making good ye fully make good your ways. God will no longer admit of half-hearted work. Semblances of piety cannot deceive him; he will not accept partial reformation; there must be a thorough amendment.
Verse 15. "The whole seed of Ephraim." - Taken here for all the ten tribes, that of Ephraim being the principal.
Verse 16. "Therefore pray not thou for this people" - They have filled up the measure of their iniquity, and they must become examples of my justice. How terrible must the state of that place be, where God refuses to pour out the spirit of supplication on his ministers and people in its behalf!
Verse 18. "The children gather wood" - Here is a description of a whole family gathered together, and acting unitedly in idolatrous worship. 1. The children go and collect wood, and bring it to the place of sacrifice. 2. The fathers lay it in order, and kindle a fire. 3. The mother and her maids knead dough, make their batch, and out of it form cakes, and bake them for the honour of the queen of heaven; most probably the moon, though perhaps not exclusive of the sun and planets, generally called the host of heaven.
Verse 21. "Put your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh." - I will receive neither sacrifice nor oblation from you; therefore you may take the beasts intended for sacrifice, and slay and eat them for your common nourishment. See on ver. 29.
Verse 23. "This thing commanded I them-Obey my voice" - It was not sacrifices and oblations which I required of your fathers in the wilderness, but obedience; it was to walk in that way of righteousness which I have commanded; then I should have acknowledged them for my people, and I should have been their God, and then it would have been well with them.
But to my commands, 1. They hearkened not-paid no regard to my word.
2. They inclined not the ear-showed no disposition to attend to my counsels. 3. They walked in the imaginations of their evilheart-followed its irregular and impure motions, rather than the holy dictates of my Spirit.
4. They went backward and not forward. Instead of becoming more wise, obedient, and holy, they grew more corrupt; so that they became more profligate than their fathers.
Verse 28. "Nor receiveth correction" - They have profited neither by mercies nor by judgments: blessings and corrections have been equally lost upon them.
Verse 29. "Cut off thine hair" - ūrzn yzg gozzi nizrech, shear thy nazarite. The Nazarite was one who took upon him a particular vow, and separated himself from all worldly connections for a certain time, that he might devote himself without interruption to the service of God; and during all this time no razor was to pass on his head, for none of his hair was to be taken off. After the vow was over, he shaved his head and beard, and returned to society. See Num. vi. 2, &c., and the notes there.
Jerusalem is here considered under the notion of a Nazarite, by profession devoted to the service of God: but that profession was empty; it was not accompanied with any suitable practice. God tells them here to cut off their hair; to make no vain pretensions to holiness or religion; to throw off the mask, and attempt no longer to impose upon themselves and others by their hypocritical pretensions. On the same ground he orders them, ver. 21, to devote to common use the animals destined for sacrifice; and to make no more vain shows of religion while their hearts were not right with him. Dr. Blayney thinks the address is to the prophet, who was a Nazarite by virtue of his office, and who was called to cut off his hair as a token of mourning for the desolations which were coming upon his people. That cutting off the hair was a sign of distress and mourning may be seen, Ezra ix. 3; Isaiah xv. 2; chap. xli. 5, &c. But I think the other the more natural construction.
"On high places" - That the lamentation may be heard to the greater distance.
Verse 31. "Tophet-in the valley of the son of Hinnom" - Tophet was the place in that valley where the continual fires were kept up, in and through which they consecrated their children to Moloch.
Verse 32. "The valley of slaughter" - The place where the slaughtered thousands of this rebellious people shall be cast, in order to their being burnt, or becoming food for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, ver. 33. These words are repeated, and their meaning more particularly explained, chap. xix. 6-15.
Verse 34. "Then will I cause to cease-the voice of mirth" - There shall no longer be in Jerusalem any cause of joy; they shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, for the land shall be totally desolated. Such horrible sins required such a horrible punishment. And they must be horrible, when they move God to destroy the work of his own hands.