MORE THOUGHTS ON IDOLATRY: Some of the idols claiming the worship and loyalty of Jeremiah’s friends, who are mentioned by name in his prophecy, were Baal and Asherah. To know something about Baal, check out
As for Asherah, in some sources, a female consort for Baal, check out
Much is made today, in popular and some scholarly literature, of the goddess Asherah, with claims that she was the official female wife or consort of Israel’s YHWH God. Some allege that the Bible has covered up her role and importance as the result of a male-dominated plot to delete the sacred feminine from the sacred text, thereby entrenching the religious and political power of men.
The claim is less than scholarly: the Bible does not cover up the place of Asherah and other male and female fertility deities in ancient Israel’s life. Quite the contrary, many OT passages mention them, but never in a good light. Any Israelites who did worship Asherah as YHWH’s wife or consort (and there were some) did so outside the mainstream of Israel’s faith, flowing from Abraham, through Moses and the prophets.
Male and female fertility gods were a dime a dozen in the ancient Near East. They were often the patron saints of tribes, nations and empire, even of warfare, and not just of nature-sensitive agrarian communities. From the start, the children of Abraham were called to do the countercultural, un-imperial thing, by worshiping one God, who was manifested not in fertility and fertility rites (some of which were lewd and blatantly sexual) but in shalom, in right relationships among God, people and creation, in justice for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the sojourner.
WHY ALL THE JEREMIADS IN JEREMIAH? Was Jeremiah hopelessly depressive? Is the word of God only about disaster, doom and gloom? Chapter 23 could be read as only one more in a line of gloom and doom “jeremiads,” a term coined from Jeremiah and his prophecy. Kings, prophets, priests and people all get warned and admonished in this chapter, as elsewhere.
By contrast, Judeans and Jerusalemites at the time were hearing plenty of hopeful, happy messages from self-styled prophets. And they were wrong. Rather than prophets, they were imperial chaplains and cheerleaders, engaged in boosterism, jingoism and magical thinking, to keep the people morally and spiritually numb and subservient to the ruling political and priestly class.
We must also keep in mind the difference between true covenant faith in YHWH God and magical thinking. The latter is what the false prophets, like Hananiah (ch. 28), were peddling, the belief that, thanks to the formalities of religion, our contrary conduct and innermost motivations can escape their logical consequences. According to Jer. 25: 13-29, these consequences apply to all nations and people.
Biblical covenant faith, by contrast, seeks to bring conduct and character in line with God and his covenant. The faith-full saint accepts the consequences for faithfulness or unfaithfulness as inherent to the moral and spiritual order of the universe, for which the saint is also thankful and accepting.
Yet the backdrop of true hope breaks through the foreground of impending disaster in Jeremiah’s prophecy with the promise of a coming king/shepherd from the lineage of David who will rule justly and regather and restore God’s people (vv.5-7). So there is a Messianic hope in Jeremiah. The name, “The Lord, Our Righteous Savior,” is even akin to the meaning of Jesus’ name, “God Saves.”
Warnings of doom and gloom presuppose a hope that if the people and their leaders repent, the disaster will be averted and shalom will return (26:3). Jeremiah is clear about this many times. Barring that, there is still hope even in captivity and exile, even for the deportees (chapters 24 and 29). The glory of Judah and Jerusalem will be restored even beyond that of pre-exilic times, after the exile (ch. 30), a promise which also needs Christ for complete fulfillment.
Jeremiah 25 and 29: 10 set clearly the duration of the coming Exile: 70 years. Later prophets and leaders in Exile, like Daniel, will return to this prophecy and rely upon it for guidance and inspiration.
Note also the contrast in scope and power between the localized, tribal deities of the nations and the false prophets, and the universal scope and power of Jeremiah’s Sovereign YHWH God, who rules and works through even the enemies of his people, like Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, who appeal to other gods. This was a major contrast to the predominant tribalized religions of the time, perhaps even a new development in the history of world religions.
…is a lament, with some applicability to Jeremiah and the passages of his prophecy that we have read this week. But it is also timeless, in that the people of God often suffer at the hands of the enemies of God. Somewhere in the worldwide church, someone can pray this psalm with integrity. Perhaps all of us have had cause to pray such a lament at one time or another.
We may be scandalized today at the call in verse 5 to “Destroy them, O Lord.” But note that the psalmist is not taking vengeance into his own hands, nor is he requesting help in seeking vengeance. Instead, he is confiding judgment into the hands of God. Because of the immutable moral and spiritual structure of the universe, which is part of God’s universe, “the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” (Prov. 1:32).
As names of God are very important, the psalm centers around two names: “God, my help” and “The One who sustains me.”