posted on Oct, 28 2016 @ 05:01 PM
“Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note!
Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth;
That I may pardon her” (Jeremiah ch5 v1).
When the Lord was proposing to destroy Sodom (and Gomorrah), Abraham appealed to him to spare the city if a sufficient number of righteous people
could be found there.
He managed to whittle the required number down to ten (Genesis ch18).
So this verse equates the city of Jerusalem with cities which were proverbial for their wickedness, and famous as the victims of deserved wrath.
Jesus makes the same invidious comparison; “But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom than for
you” (Matthew ch11 v24).
Abraham hoped that ten just people might be found in Sodom.
Now the Lord claims that it will be hard enough to find even one in Jerusalem.
What we discover from the charges found in Jeremiah is an almost systematic disobedience of the ten commandments.
They break the first two commandments by their disloyalty and idolatry, which is one of the constant themes of the prophecies.
They worship the Baals “on every high hill and under every green tree”. They worship the sun and the moon and “all the host of heaven”.
“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns,
that can hold no water” (ch2 v13).
“Though they say ‘As the Lord lives…’, yet they swear falsely” (ch5 v2). That is exactly what is meant by “taking the name of the Lord in
This might have been expected, perhaps, from the poor, who had not been fully taught in the laws of the Lord. But no, these faults are found in all
ranks of society, up to the highest (vv4-5).
They bring burdens (that is, goods for sale) in through the gates of the city on the sabbath (ch17 vv19-27).
They commit adultery, trooping to the houses of harlots. They are “well-fed stallions, each neighing for his neighbour’s wife” (vv7-8).
They routinely “bear false witness”;
“Let everyone beware of his neighbour, and put no trust in any brother;
For every brother is a supplanter, and every neighbour goes about as a slanderer.
Every one deceives his neighbour, and no-one speaks the truth” (ch9 vv4-5).
Covetousness gives rise to injustice and oppression;
“For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.
They set a trap; they catch men.
Like a basket full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of wickedness;
They judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy” (ch5 26-28).
One aspect of their oppressive behaviour is that they break the laws which govern the keeping of slaves (but I’m reserving that issue for a separate
The oppression extends to real or virtual murder;
“Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in” (ch2 v34). The point of that last observation is
that only the thief breaking in at night could legally be killed.
It extends to the sacrifice of children, “sending them through the fire to Molech”, an act which combines injustice with idolatry.
This is probably the most serious offence on the list.
The need for greater justice goes right to the top.
So Jeremiah appeals to the kings, who have a particular duty to enforce it;
“Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah, who sit on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates.
Thus says the Lord; Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong to the alien,
the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (ch22 vv2-3).
This passage may have been addressed to Zedekiah, who was well-meaning but weak.
Jeremiah spoke more severely to his predecessor, Jehoiakim, comparing him unfavourably with Josiah their father;
“Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and the needy…
But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practising oppression and violence” (vv15-17).
The people have been behaving in this way because they believed themselves to be immune from judgement, for one reason or another;
“For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly faithless to me, says the Lord.
They have spoken falsely of the Lord, and have said ‘He will do nothing, no evil will come upon us’” (ch5 vv11-12).
They have been encouraged in this complacency by those who had the duty of teaching them otherwise, the priests of the land and the self-appointed
“Every one is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, every one deals falsely.
They have healed lightly the wound of my people, saying ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace” (ch6 vv13-14).
That is, they make false promises that the people will be “at peace” with God, and therefore “at peace” from other dangers, including foreign
“Behold, you trust in deceptive words, to no avail.
Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand
before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say “We are delivered” –only to go on doing all these abominations?”
They should have learned otherwise by observing what happened to Shiloh, and what happened to the northern kingdom.
The ancient sanctuary of Shiloh, which used to hold the ark, was probably destroyed by the Philistines. The kingdom of Israel had been taken into
exile by the Assyrians.
The community of Jerusalem, if they continue to conduct themselves in this way, will experience both.
No, their only hope of true safety is in true repentance;
“For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or
the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will let you dwell in this place, in
the land which I gave of old, to your fathers for ever”. (ch7 vv5-10).