Jeremiah 7:22 -- By: J. A. Motyer
TynBull 1:1 (Summer 1956) p. 3
The interpretation of this verse which has been commonly given has made Jeremiah a downright opponent of ritual worship as such, even to the point of denying that it corresponds in any way to the will of God. Some have been content to leave it so, taking the verse as implying that ritual legislation came later than the prophet; others have suggested the expedient that Jeremiah was thinking only of the Decalogue, which contains no ritual prescriptions. Neither of these is satisfactory--the second, if for no other reason than that the Decalogue was promulgated in the setting of Sacrifice. The following note desires to offer a few suggestions which may aid the understanding of the verse.
(1) Negatively, the context makes clear what the words cannot mean, e.g. vv. 9-10 do not condemn the people for coming to stand before Yahweh in the Temple (for the possible ritual significance of the verse here, see, e.g. Lev. 9:5) because Yahweh disapproves of sacrifice, but because the show of worship was accompanied by a general iniquity of life. Verse 11 calls the Temple “this house which is called by My Name”--an unlikely designation if Yahweh heartily disowned all that was done there! Verse 12 speaks of Shiloh as “My place,” and related its destruction not to the practice of sacrifice but to the wickedness of Israel. Jeremiah does not seem to be opposed to sacrificial worship as such--the point could be proved at length in writings. If 7:22, really evidences an opposition to such worship, then it is an isolated outburst, and we must hold that Jeremiah spoke in haste, and without due consideration.
(2) This expedient is not necessary, for, turning to the positive teaching of the verse, we find it to be capable of a perfectly simple explanation. The preposition translated “concerning” is ‘al dibhrei. Basically, this expresses
TynBull 1:1 (Summer 1956) p. 4
the notion of “cause.” See BDB dabhar 8: “reason, cause.”) There are therefore, two broad translations of the preposition: (1) “Because of”— looking back to that which gives rise to a certain state of affairs as a cause gives rise to an effect; and (2) “For the sake of”—looking forward to the end at which a certain action aimed, and out of desire for which it was performed. These are the basic translations of the words; they can only mean “concerning” in so far as the proper meanings can shade off into that vaguer meaning. Thus, e.g. in
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