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Go to Bible: Jeremiah 3
|Jer 3:1||- (top)|
“like an Arab in the desert.” This refers to the custom of some of the Bedouin Arabs who robbed for a living. For millennia the Bedouin Arabs have been known to lie in wait for travelers and then rob them. Pliny the Elder wrote about them some 2000 years ago (Natural History, vi. 28) and many books on the culture and customs of the Bible Lands from the 1800s and 1900s mention the fact.
Jeremiah compares the people of Judah and Jerusalem (and Israel, although Israel had been gone for over 100 years) to an Arab in the desert. Just as the Arab waits for unsuspecting travelers to rob, Judah sits and waits for more idol gods to satisfy her lust.(top)
“Therefore the showers have been withheld.” One of the great lessons of the Bible is that the behavior of people affects the land that they live on. This lesson is throughout the Old Testament (cp. Deut. 11:13-17; 28:1, 12, 15, 22-25, 38-40; Lev. 18:24-25; Ps. 107:33-34; Jer. 3:2-3; 12:4; 23:10; Amos 4:6-10). (See commentary on Lev. 18:25).
“latter rain.” This is the rain that falls at the end of the rainy season which brings the grain to maturity. Without it, the grain will not mature and there will be no harvest. See commentary on James 5:7.
“forehead of a prostitute.” A descriptive metaphor for bold, shameless, committed to sin. The people of Judah were committed to their sin and had no desire to repent.(top)
|Jer 3:4||- (top)|
“Behold.” God now answers the people.(top)
“has prostituted herself there.” This phrase is both literal and figurative. It was common to have Asherah poles on the hills and under the trees (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10; Jer. 17:2), and Asherah was the female consort of the god Baal and was worshipped, among other ways, by “sacred prostitution.” So while the worshippers worshipped the Asherah by literal prostitution, in their hearts they turned away from their covenant with God and thus figuratively played the prostitute against Him by being with other gods.(top)
“I said.” The Hebrew word is “said,” although many commentators assume that God is talking to Himself, and thus translate the phrase as “I thought.” While that may be possible, and in some contexts the Hebrew “said” can mean “said to myself,” it is also possible that God actually “said” something about this situation to His council of spirits. [For more on God’s council of spirits, see commentary on Gen. 1:26].
“she will return to me.” This would be a logical assumption. Sin has consequences, and wise people learn from their mistakes. The cruelty and consequences of sexual sin that is part of most ancient idol worship, along with the lack of the blessings of God the people experienced in day-to-day life, should have been enough consequence that the people of Israel and Judah would have come to their senses and returned to God, but they were hard-headed (“the forehead of a prostitute,” Jer. 3:3) and would not return.
This verse in Jeremiah shows that people have the freewill ability to disobey God and do what they want to in spite of His will and desire. God is not in control of what people do on earth. [For more on God not being in control of what happens on this earth, see commentary on Luke 4:6].(top)
“She saw.” The “she” is Judah. The people of Judah saw Israel’s sin and destruction. Although the Massoretic Hebrew text reads “I saw,” that seems to be a copyist’s error; one Hebrew manuscript, along with the Septuagint and Aramaic texts read “she,” which fits the context.
“sent her away.” The country of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and the people of Israel were deported to Assyria (2 Kings 17:5). However, when the Assyrian army tried to conquer the country of Judah, the godly Hezekiah was king and they were defeated by a miracle (2 Kings 19:35-36).
“divorce.” Israel sinned so egregiously that God divorced her (cp. Isa. 50:1).(top)
“took her prostitution lightly.” The Hebrew is more literally, “the lightness of her prostitution,” but we would express that as she “took it lightly” or in other words, “it mattered very little to her.” Judah was like Israel in that her idolatry and sexual sin mattered little to her, and just as Israel was deported to Assyria, eventually Judah was deported to Babylon, and even after Judah was allowed to return to their homeland during the Persian empire, after they were deported to Babylon there never has been a time when there were as many Jews in Israel as there were scattered abroad. Sadly, much of the modern world is in the same position today. Israel and Judah experienced ruin from Yahweh because they abandoned Him, and people today can expect the same thing.
“stones and with trees.” The pagan idols were made of stone and wood. People today have to be cautious about the same thing. It is easy to make something made of rock (or minerals) or wood or other materials into an idol. People who have a “lucky hat” have an idol made of cloth; and people who think that plastic prayer hands on the dashboard of a car keeps them from being in a wreck also have an idol. Spiritual help comes from God, and if we want His blessing we live godly lives and pray hard. It is fine to have objects that remind us of God or remind us to pray, but we are never to think that spiritual help comes because of the object. Never rely on wood and stone for any help—it is an offence to the One who created those materials.
God says that when you turn to wood and stone objects for help you are committing adultery with them. God is to be our Lover, and when we forsake Him, no matter how innocently or ignorantly, and turn to other things for spiritual help, it hurts Him and affects the blessings we receive from Him.(top)
|Jer 3:10||- (top)|
|Jer 3:11||- (top)|
“toward the north.” Israel had been carried away from their homeland to Assyria, which was north of the land of Israel, so God instructed Jeremiah to speak his prophecy to the north. Although this prophecy is still not fulfilled, it will be, and Israel will return to the Promised Land in the Millennial Kingdom (Jer. 3:18; Ezek. 37:15-28). [For more on the Millennial Messianic Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth].(top)
“scattered your favors.” The Hebrew is literally, scattered your roads, where “roads” has the common use of way of being. In this case God is using it euphemistically to play down the idolatry and sexual sin of His people by simply saying they had scattered their “road” to strangers (see commentary on Jer. 3:6).(top)
|Jer 3:14||- (top)|
|Jer 3:15||- (top)|
“it will not be made again.” Jeremiah 3:16 tells us what ultimately happened or will happen to the ark of the covenant that Moses made (Exod. 25:10-22; 37:1-9). Furthermore, it says that there will not be another ark made for the Temple in the Millennial Kingdom (the Messianic Kingdom on earth). At some point the ark that Moses had made for the Tent of Meeting was destroyed—or it will be destroyed if it is still buried somewhere, which is very unlikely.
In the future Millennial Kingdom, there will be a Temple (Ezek. 40:1-43:27), but it will not have an ark of the covenant inside of it. We know that because Jeremiah 3:16 tells us that the ark will not come to mind or be remembered at that time. The last biblical record of the ark of the covenant is before Babylon conquered Jerusalem, and that, along with the fact that when the Persians conquered Babylon the ark was not returned to Jerusalem with the other treasures from Solomon’s Temple (Ezra 1:7-11), tells us that the ark was most likely destroyed during the Babylonian Captivity; it was likely melted down for its gold.
Supporting evidence that there will not be an ark of the covenant in the Millennial Temple comes from reading and comparing the building of Moses’ Tent of Meeting and Solomon’s Temple with the Millennial Temple. The ark of the covenant is mentioned in connection with both Moses’ Tent and Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:20-21; 2 Chron. 5:2-7), but no ark is mentioned in the Millennial Temple. The obvious reason for Ezekiel not having any information about an ark in the Millennial Temple is what Jeremiah 3:16 says: one will not be built for it.
The ark of the covenant played a significant role in the Old Testament, with the phrase “ark of the covenant” occurring over 40 times. There is a very good reason that an “ark” was necessary under the Old Covenant but not under the New Covenant. The ark of the “covenant” contained the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, which were the very heart of the Old Covenant that God made with Israel (Exod. 25:16; 40:20; Deut. 10:5). Moses’ stone tablets had to be put somewhere, so they were placed into the “ark” of the covenant. The Hebrew word translated “ark” means “chest,” “coffin” or “box,” and our English word “ark” comes from the Latin arca, meaning “chest.” Thus, the “ark of the covenant” could have legitimately been called “the box of the covenant.” It was because the words of the covenant were placed in the “box” that it was called “the ark (box) of the covenant,” or we might even nuance the genitive to be “the ark that contains the covenant.”
But Israel did not keep the “Old Covenant” that they had made with God, so God said He would make a New Covenant with them (Jer. 31:31-34). But whereas the Old Covenant was written on stone tablets that had to be put somewhere, the New Covenant will be written on people’s hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cp. Hebrews 8:10-12), and those hearts cannot be put in a box. Therefore, under the New Covenant, there is no need for a box and there will not be an “ark of the covenant” in the Millennial Temple.
The ark of God was vital under the Old Covenant for different reasons. One of them was that it contained the Ten Commandments, the “words” of the covenant (the Ten Commandments are actually called “the ten words” in the Hebrew text; cp. Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13; 10:4). However, it was also where God dwelt and where He met Israel. Under the Old Covenant, God said He dwelt between the cherubim and over the gold cover of the ark, which was the “mercy seat” (1 Sam. 4:4; Ps. 80:1; cp. Exod. 25:22; Num. 7:89). In the Millennial Kingdom, however, the city of Jerusalem itself will be called, “The Throne of Yahweh” (Jer. 3:17); Yahweh will reign from Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23), through His Son, our Messiah, over the whole earth (Dan. 7:13-14).
A quick overview of the ark of the covenant and where God met His people is as follows: Moses built a Tent of Meeting that had an ark, a box, that contained the words of the covenant. God dwelt over that ark, between the cherubim. Solomon brought that ark into his Temple, and it was there until the Babylonian captivity. In 586 BC, the Babylonians burned the Temple down and the ark disappeared from history.
Then, between approximately 600 BC to 575 BC, God gave Ezekiel, who lived in Babylon, a series of visions about the glory of God. Those visions were related to the ark because that was where God dwelt. Before the Temple was burned down and the ark disappeared, when the Israelites were greatly sinning against God, God showed Ezekiel that the glory of God had left the Temple, then left Jerusalem. First, God’s glory moved to the threshold of the Temple, then to the East Gate of the Temple, then it left the city of Jerusalem and went to the Mount of Olives (Ezek. 10:4, 19; 11:23).
Later, after Solomon’s Temple was burned down, God showed Ezekiel a vision of a new Temple (Ezek. 40-43), which we know as the Millennial Temple. That new Temple did not have an “ark of the covenant,” but the vision God gave to Ezekiel showed the glory of God returning into the Millennial Temple from the east, entering the Temple through the east gate, and filling the entire Temple (Ezek. 43:1, 4, 5; 44:5).
There is no doubt that God gave Ezekiel the vision of the Millennial Temple to give His people hope that He would one day again dwell among them in His Temple. But the Jews did not wait for the Millennial Temple. When they returned from the Babylonian captivity, they built another Temple that we refer to as “the Second Temple,” or “Herod’s Temple.” When the Romans burned that Temple down in 70 AD, however, the Jews again found themselves without a Temple and without a place of worship.
Although the Millennial Temple was yet to be built (and is still in our future), God intensified the hope He gave His people by giving the Apostle John a vision of a New Jerusalem, the Everlasting City. It will be about 1380 miles (2220 kilometers) long, wide, and high (Rev. 21:16), and shaped like a pyramid, no doubt with the throne of God and Jesus at the top and the river of life flowing out from the throne (Rev. 22:1-3). The river of life flowing out from the throne and then down over the city is an amplification of what will happen in the Millennial Kingdom when the river of life will flow from the Millennial Temple and down Mount Zion to the east and to the west (Ezek. 47:1-9; Zech. 14:8). The New Jerusalem, the Everlasting City, will not have an ark of the covenant in it, indeed, it will not even have a Temple (Rev. 21:22). Instead of living in a Temple, God will live among His people (Rev. 21-22).
When God gave Ezekiel the vision of His glory leaving Solomon’s Temple before it was burned down, it is worth noting that He never said where the glory went after it went to the mountain “east” of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives (Ezek. 11:23). Furthermore, when the glory returns to the new Millennial Temple, God never says where it comes from except to say it comes from the “east” (Ezek. 43:1). Significantly, Jesus Christ ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50; Acts 1:9-12), and will return to the Mount of Olives when he returns to earth (Zech. 14:4). Then during his kingdom, he will enter the Temple to offer sacrifices through the east gate of the Temple (Ezek. 46:11-12). Did God somehow honor His Son by associating him with His glory? It seems a distinct possibility.
[For more information about the future Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
“The throne of Yahweh.” Yahweh will reign through His Son and king, Jesus(top)
|Jer 3:18||- (top)|
|Jer 3:19||- (top)|
|Jer 3:20||- (top)|
|Jer 3:21||- (top)|
|Jer 3:22||- (top)|
“are a deception.” The Hebrew word for “deception” is sheqer (#08267 שֶׁקֶר), and it means lie, deception, fraud. The people went up on the mountains to worship their idols (idol temples and worship sites were often on the top of mountains, just like Solomon built worship sites, likely small temples, for Moloch and for Chemosh on the Mount of Olives, the only mountain in Israel east of Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7). The worship, the blessings, and the answers to prayer that people got from their false gods were all a lie.
“that tumult.” The idol worship, the sex and even orgies, and sacrifice that was part of idol worship was just a lot of empty noise to God, just a tumult.(top)
“Shameful Thing.” It is clear from the text that this the wording does not just mean, “your shameful practices,” but rather is being used as a euphemism for the name of an idol god. Due to the fact that the god in mind was a god of human sacrifice, and because Jeremiah 11:13 refers to Baal as “that shameful god, Baal, we know this is a reference to Baal.(top)
|Jer 3:25||- (top)|