|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:17-20 The Jews took pride in showing zeal for their idols. Let us learn to be earnest in the service of our God, even from this bad example. Let us think it an honour to be employed in any work for God. Let us be as diligent ourselves, and as careful to teach our children the truths of God, as many are to teach the mysteries of iniquity. The direct tendency of this sin is malice against God, but it will hurt themselves. And they shall find there is no escaping. God's wrath is fire unquenchable.
Verse 18. - The children... the fathers... the women. All ages were represented in this idolatrous act, thus justifying the sweeping character of the judgment as described in Jeremiah 6:11. Cakes (comp. Jeremiah 44:19). The word is peculiar (kavvanim), and perhaps entered Palestine together with the foreign rite to which the cakes belonged. Various conjectures have been offered as to their nature, but without any demonstrable ground. Sacrificial cakes were not uncommon. Hosea refers to the luscious raisin-cakes used by idolaters (Hosea 3:1). To the queen of heaven. This title of a divinity only occurs in Jeremiah (here and in Jeremiah 44:17-19, 25). It reminds us, first, of titles (such as "queen of the gods") of the Babylonic-Assyrian goddesses, Bilat (Beltis) and Istar, who, though divided in later times, were "originally but two forms of the same goddess" (Sayce, Transactions of Society of Biblical Archaeology, 3:169). It is, however, perhaps an objection to the view that Bilat or Istar is intended, that neither here nor in Jeremiah 44. is there any allusion to that characteristic lascivious custom which was connected in Babylonia with the worship of Istar (Herod., 1:199). The phrase has, however, another association. It reminds us, in the second place, of the Egyptian goddess Neith, "the mother of the gods." The first mention of "the queen of heaven" in Jeremiah occurs in the reign of Jehoiakim, who was placed on the throne by Pharaoh-Necho, one of the Saite dynasty (Says was the seat of the worship of Neith). If the "queen of heaven" were a Babylonic-Assyrian goddess, we should have looked for the introduction of her cultus at an earlier period (e.g. under Ahaz). But it was in accordance with the principles of polytheism (and the mass of the Jews had an irresistible tendency to polytheism), to adopt the patron-deity of the suzerain. Subsequently Judah became the subject of Nebuchadnezzar; thus it was equally natural to give up the worship of an Egyptian deity. Jewish colonists in Migdol would as naturally revert to the cultus of the Egyptian "mother of the gods" (see Gratz, 'Monatsschrift,' Breslau, 1874, pp. 349-351). The form of the word rendered "queen" being very uncommon, another reading, pronounced in the same way, obtained currency. This should be rendered, not "frame," or "workmanship" (as Authorized Version, margin), but "service." The context, however, evidently requires a person.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The children gather wood,.... In the fields, or out of the neighbouring forest; not little children, but young men, who were able to cut down trees, and bear and carry burdens of wood:
and the fathers kindle the fire; take the wood of their children, lay it in order, and put fire to it; which shows that they approved of what their children did, and that what they did was by their direction and order:
and the women knead their dough; so that every age and sex were employed in idolatrous service, which is here intended; the corruption was universal; and therefore the whole body was ripe for ruin; nor would the Lord be entreated for them: and all this preparation was,
to make cakes for the queen of heaven; the moon, as Abarbinel; which rules by night, as the sun is the king that rules by day; and which was much worshipped by the Heathens, whom the Jews imitated. Some render it,
to the work, or workmanship, of heavens; (q) that is, to the whole host of heaven, sun, moon, and stars, which were worshipped in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem, 2 Kings 23:5. The Targum renders it,
"to the star of heaven;''
and Jarchi interprets it of some great star in the heaven, called the queen of heaven; and thinks that these cakes had the impress of a star upon them; see Amos 5:26 where mention is made of "Chiun, your image, the star of your god". The word "chiun" is akin to the word here translated cakes, and thought to be explained by a star; see also Acts 7:43 but it seems rather to be the moon, which is expressly called by Apuleius (r) the queen of heaven; and often by others Coelestis; and Urania by the Africans, as Tertullian (s) and Herodian (t) affirm; as also Beltis, by Abydenus (u); and Baaltis, by Philo-Byblius, or Sanchoniatho (w); which have the signification of "queen"; and these cakes might have the form of the moon upon them, and be made and offered in imitation of the shewbread:
and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods; not different from the queen of heaven, and the hosts thereof; for to her and them drink offerings were poured out, Jeremiah 44:18 but other gods besides the one, only, living, and true God:
that they may provoke me to anger; not that this was their intention, but so it was eventually.
(q) "operi coelorum", Piscator, Gataker, Cocceius "machinae coelorum", Munster, Tigurine version; so Kimchi and Ben Melech. (r) Metamorph. l. 11. principio. (s) Apologet. c. 24. (t) Hist. l. 5. 1. 15. (u) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 41. p. 456. (w) Apud ib. l. 2. c. 10. p. 38.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. children … fathers … women—Not merely isolated individuals practised idolatry; young and old, men and women, and whole families, contributed their joint efforts to promote it. Oh, that there were the same zeal for the worship of God as there is for error (Jer 44:17, 19; 19:13)!
cakes … queen of heaven—Cakes were made of honey, fine flour, &c., in a round flat shape to resemble the disc of the moon, to which they were offered. Others read as Margin, "the frame of heaven," that is, the planets generally; so the Septuagint here; but elsewhere the Septuagint translates, "queen of heaven." The Phonicians called the moon Ashtoreth or Astarte: the wife of Baal or Moloch, the king of heaven. The male and female pair of deities symbolized the generative powers of nature; hence arose the introduction of prostitution in the worship. The Babylonians worshipped Ashtoreth as Mylitta, that is, generative. Our Monday, or Moon-day, indicates the former prevalence of moon worship (see on Isa 65:11).
that they may provoke me—implying design: in worshipping strange gods they seemed as if purposely to provoke Jehovah.
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