Jeremiah 7:29
Cut off your hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.
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(29) Cut off thine hair.—Literally, as in 2Samuel 1:10; 2Kings 11:12, thy crown or diadem; but the verb determines the meaning. The word Netzer (“consecration” in the Authorised version) is applied to the unshorn locks of the Nazarite (Numbers 6:7), and from it he took his name. As the Nazarite was to shave his head if he came in contact with a corpse, as cutting the hair close was generally among Semitic races the sign of extremest sorrow (Job 1:20; Micah 1:16), so Jerusalem was to sit as a woman rejected by her husband, bereaved of her children. (Comp. the picture in Lamentations 1:1-3.) The word is applied also to the “crown” of the high priest in Exodus 29:6, the “crown” of the anointing oil in Leviticus 21:12.

O Jerusalem.—The italics show that the words are not in the Hebrew, but the insertion of some such words was rendered necessary by the fact that the verb “cut off” is in the feminine. Those who heard or read the words of the prophet, who so often spoke of “the daughter of Zion” (Jeremiah 6:2), of “the daughter of his people” (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11), of “the betrothed of Jehovah” (Jeremiah 2, 3), would be at no loss to understand his meaning.

Jeremiah 7:29. Cut off thy hair, O Jerusalem — This was commonly practised in the time of great sorrow and mourning. And Jerusalem is here addressed as a woman in extreme misery, and exhorted to take upon her the habit and disposition of a mourner, and to bewail the calamities which were fallen upon her. But some have observed that the Hebrew word נזר, which we translate barely the hair, signifies something more, namely, votive, or Nazarite hair; and they think the prophet alludes to the law concerning Nazarites, (Numbers 6:9,) whereby it was ordered that, if any one should die near them, they should immediately shave off their hair. They suppose, therefore, the sense here is, that so many would be killed in Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, that if there were any Nazarites in the city, they would be all obliged on that account to shave off their hair: by which is signified that a great number of the inhabitants would be slain. And take up a lamentation on high places — Or, for the high places, as some read it; namely, where they had worshipped their idols, and offered their sacrifices, there they must now bemoan their misery. Or the words may, as some suppose, be intended to signify the cries and lamentations of the watchmen, who were placed on high towers and on hills, to observe the country around; and who are represented as seeing, on this occasion, scenes of calamity and slaughter on every side, and continually fresh subjects of alarm. For the Lord hath rejected the generation of his wrath — This sinful generation, who have so highly provoked him. As God is said to reject or cast off his people when he gives them up into the hands of their enemies, so he is said to choose them again at their restoration from captivity, Isaiah 14:1.7:29-34 In token both of sorrow and of slavery, Jerusalem must be degraded, and separated from God, as she had been separated to him. The heart is the place in which God has chosen to put his name; but if sin has the innermost and uppermost place there, we pollute the temple of the Lord. The destruction of Jerusalem appears here very terrible. The slain shall be many; they having made it the place of their sin. Evil pursues sinners, even after death. Those who will not, by the grace of God, be cured of vain mirth, shall, by the justice of God, be deprived of all mirth. How many ruin their health and property without complaining, when engaged in Satan's service! May we learn to relish holy joys, and to sit loose to all others though lawful.Jeremiah summons the people to lament over the miserable consequences of their rejection of God. In the valley of Hinnom, where lately they offered their innocents, they shall themselves fall before the enemy in such multitudes that burial shall be impossible, and the beasts of the field unmolested shall prey upon their remains.

Jeremiah 7:29

The daughter of Zion, defiled by the presence of enemies in her sanctuary, and rejected of God, must shear off the diadem of her hair, the symbol of her consecration to God, just as the Nazarite, when defiled by contact with a corpse, was to shave his crowned head.

Take up a lamentation ... - Or, lift up a "lamentation on the bare hill-sides" Jeremiah 3:2.

29. Jeremiah addresses Jerusalem under the figure of a woman, who, in grief for her lost children, deprives her head of its chief ornament and goes up to the hills to weep (Jud 11:37, 38; Isa 15:2).

hair—flowing locks, like those of a Nazarite.

high places—The scene of her idolatries is to be the scene of her mourning (Jer 3:21).

generation of his wrath—the generation with which He is wroth. So Isa 10:6; "the people of My wrath."

Cut off thine hair; it was a usual token of sorrow among the Jews to cut off the hair, Job 1:20 Isaiah 15:2 Micah 1:16. But here he speaketh either,

1. To Jeremiah; for

O Jerusalem is not in the text; or,

2. To the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and so speaks to them as a woman, whose hair is for an ornament, 1 Corinthians 11:15. Therefore this must needs signify a higher degree of sorrow. Cutting the hair among the ancients did signify,

1. Mourning.

2. Bondage. For the cutting off the hair in servants was a token of subjection; so that this speaks Jerusalem’s mournful condition in her captivity.

Cast it away; it is not to be reserved, as sometimes men and women both do for some use; but to be cast away, and as a thing good for nought. And thus it may agree with the church’s lamentation, Lamentations 5:16; for it is not here exhorted to as a token of repentance, but as a threatening of judgments.

Take up a lamentation on high places: see Jeremiah 3:21. Lift up thy voice on high in lamentation, when thou hast thine eye or thoughts upon the high places where thou wentest a whoring from me, for which thou now goest into captivity.

The generation of his wrath; or, of his overrunning anger, as some render it, i.e. with whom he is extremely vexed, this present generation, that by their provocations have brought themselves under his wrath, Jeremiah 7:18,20, a generation destined to the wrath of God, called elsewhere the people of his curse, Isaiah 34:5, and such as the apostle calls vessels of wrath, Romans 9:22, so far as it concerns the phrase. Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away,.... This supplement is made, because the word is feminine; and therefore cannot be directed to the prophet, but to Jerusalem, and its inhabitants; shaving the head is a sign of mourning, Job 1:20 and this is enjoined, to show that there would soon be a reason for it; wherefore it follows:

and take up a lamentation on high places: that it might be heard afar off; or because of the idolatry frequently committed in high places. The Targum is,

"pluck off the hair for thy great ones that are carried captive, and take up a lamentation for the princes:''

for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath; a generation of men, deserving of the wrath of God, and appointed to it, on whom he determined to pour it out; of which his rejection and forsaking of them was a token: this was remarkably true of that generation in which Christ and his Acts 54ed, who disbelieved the Messiah, and had no faith in him, and spoke lying and blasphemous words concerning him; and therefore were rejected and forsaken by the Lord; and wrath came upon them to the uttermost.

Cut off thy {o} hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the LORD hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his {p} wrath.

(o) In sign of mourning, as in Job 1:20.

(p) Against whom he had just opportunity to pour out his wrath Mic 1:6.

29. hair] lit. (as mg.) crown, Heb. nezer, and used of the long hair worn in fulfilment of the Nazirite’s vow (Numbers 6:7). Jerusalem must now shew by outward sign her faithlessness to her vows of loyalty to her God.

bare heights] See on ch. Jeremiah 3:2.Verses 29-34. - Tophet, the greatest of all abominations; the beginning of the Divine retribution. Verse 29. - Cut off thine hair. The "daughter of Zion," i.e. the community of Jerusalem, is addressed; this appears from the verb being in the feminine. It is a choice expression which the prophet employs - literally, shear off thy crown (i.e. thy chief ornament). The act was to be a sign of mourning (see Job 1:20; Micah 1:16). Some think there is also a reference to the vow of the Nazarite (the word for "crown" being here nezer, which is also the word rendered in Authorized Version, "separation," i.e. "consecration," in the law of the Nazarite (Numbers 6.). But neither in this context nor anywhere else have we any support for the application of the term "Nazarite" to the people of Israel. On high places; rather, on (the) bare hills (see on Jeremiah 3:21). The generation of his wrath; i.e. on which his wrath is to be poured out (comp. Isaiah 10:6). The multiplication of burnt and slain offerings will not avert judgment. Your burnt-offerings add to your slain-offerings. In the case of the זבחים, the greater part of the flesh was eaten at the sacrificial meals by those who brought them. Along with these they might put the burnt-offerings, which were wont to be burnt entire upon the altar, and eat them also. The words express indignation at the sacrifices of those who were so wholly alienated from God. God had so little pleasure in their sacrifices, that they might eat of the very burnt-offerings.

To show the reason of what is here said, Jeremiah adds, in Jeremiah 7:22, that God had not commanded their fathers, when He led them out of Egypt, in the matter of burnt and slain offerings, but this word: "Hearken to my voice, and I will be your God," etc. The Keri הוציאי is a true exegesis, acc. to Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 34:13, but is unnecessary; cf. Genesis 24:30; Genesis 25:26, etc. This utterance has been erroneously interpreted by the majority of commentators, and has been misused by modern criticism to make good positions as to the late origin of the Pentateuch. To understand it aright, we must carefully take into consideration not merely the particular terms of the present passage, but the context as well. In the two verses as they stand there is the antithesis: Not על דּברי did God speak and give command to the fathers, when He led them out of Egypt, but commanded the word: Hearken to my voice, etc. The last word immediately suggests Exodus 19:5 : If ye will hearken to my voice, then shall ye be my peculiar treasure out of all peoples; and it points to the beginning of the law-giving, the decalogue, and the fundamental principles of the law of Israel, in Exodus 20-23, made known in order to the conclusion of the covenant in 24, after the arrival at Sinai of the people marching from Egypt. The promise: Then will I be your God, etc., is not given in these precise terms in Exodus 19:5.; but it is found in the account of Moses' call to be the leader of the people in their exodus, Exodus 6:7; and then repeatedly in the promises of covenant blessings, if Israel keep all the commandments of God, Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 26:18. Hence it is clear that Jeremiah had before his mind the taking of the covenant, but did not bind himself closely to the words of Exodus 19:5, adopting his expression from the passages of Leviticus and Deuteronomy which refer to and reaffirm that transaction. If there be still any doubt on this head, it will be removed by the clause: and walk in all the way which I command you this day (והלכתם is a continuation of the imper. שׁמעוּ). The expression: to walk in all the way God has commanded, is so unusual, that it occurs only once besides in the whole Old Testament, viz., Deuteronomy 5:30, after the renewed inculcation of the ten commandments. And they then occur with the addition (למען תּחיוּן וטוב, in which we cannot fail to recognise the למען ייטב לכם of our verse. Hence we assume, without fear of contradiction, that Jeremiah was keeping the giving of the law in view, and specially the promulgation of the fundamental law of the book, namely of the decalogue, which was spoken by God from out of the fire on Sinai, as Moses in Deuteronomy 5:23 repeats with marked emphasis. In this fundamental law we find no prescriptions as to burnt or slain offerings. On this fact many commentators, following Jerome, have laid stress, and suppose the prophet to be speaking of the first act of the law-giving, arguing that the Torah of offering in the Pentateuch was called for first by the worship of the golden calf, after which time God held it to be necessary to give express precepts as to the presenting of offerings, so as to prevent idolatry. But this view does not at all agree with the historical fact. For the worship of the calf was subsequent to the law on the building of the altar on which Israel was to offer burnt and slain offerings, Exodus 20:24; to the institution of the daily morning and evening sacrifice, Exodus 29:38.; and to the regulation as to the place of worship and the consecration of the priests, Exodus 25-31. But besides, any difficulty in our verses is not solved by distinguishing between a first and a second law-giving, since no hint of any such contrast is found in our verse, but is even entirely foreign to the precise terms of it. The antithesis is a different one. The stress in Jeremiah 7:23 lies on: hearken to the voice of the Lord, and on walking in all the way which God commanded to the people at Sinai. "To walk in all the way God commanded" is in substance the same as "not to depart from all the words which I command you this day," as Moses expands his former exhortation in Deuteronomy 28:14, when he is showing the blessings of keeping the covenant. Hearkening to God's voice, and walking in all His commandments, are the conditions under which Jahveh will be a God to the Israelites, and Israel a people to Him, i.e., His peculiar people from out of all the peoples of the earth. This word of God is not only the centre of the act of taking the covenant, but of the whole Sinaitic law-giving; and it is so both with regard to the moral law and to the ceremonial precepts, of which the law of sacrifice constituted the chief part. If yet the words demanding the observance of the whole law be set in opposition to the commandments as to sacrifices, and if it be said that on this latter head God commanded nothing when He led Israel out of Egypt, then it may be replied that the meaning of the words cannot be: God has given no law of sacrifice, and desires no offerings. The sense can only be: When the covenant was entered into, God did not speak על דּברי, i.e., as to the matters of burnt and slain offerings. על דּברי is not identical with דּברי עולה .על־דּבר are words or things that concern burnt and slain offerings; that is, practically, detailed prescriptions regarding sacrifice.

The purport of the two verses is accordingly as follows: When the Lord entered into covenant with Israel at Sinai, He insisted on their hearkening to His voice and walking in all His commandments, as the condition necessary for bringing about the covenant relationship, in which He was to be God to Israel, and Israel a people to Him; but He did not at that time give all the various commandments as to the presenting of sacrifices. Such an intimation neither denies the divine origin of the Torah of sacrifice in Leviticus, nor discredits its character as a part of the Sinaitic legislation.

(Note: After Vatke's example, Hitz. and Graf find in our verses a testimony against the Mosaic origin of the legislation of the Pentateuch as a whole, and they conclude "that at the time of Jeremiah nothing was known of a legislation on sacrifice given by God on Sinai." Here, besides interpreting our verses erroneously, they cannot have taken into account the fact that Jeremiah himself insists on the law of the Sabbath, Jeremiah 17:20.; that amongst the blessings in which Israel will delight in Messianic times yet to come, he accounts the presenting of burnt, slain, and meat offerings, Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 31:14; Jeremiah 33:11, Jeremiah 33:18. It is consequently impossible that, without contradicting himself, Jeremiah could have disallowed the sacrificial worship. The assertion that he did so is wholly incompatible with the fact recorded in 2 Kings 22, the discovery of the book of the law of Moses in the temple, in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign; and that, too, whether, justly interpreting the passage, we hold the book of the law to be the Pentateuch, or whether, following the view maintained by the majority of modern critics, we take it to be the book of Deuteronomy, which was then for the first time composed and given to the king as Moses' work. For in Deuteronomy also the laws on sacrifice are set forth as a divine institution. Is it credible or conceivable, that in a discourse delivered, as most recent commentators believe, in the beginning of Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah should have spoken of the laws on sacrifice as not commanded by God? For in so doing he would have undermined the authority of the book of the law, on which his entire prophetic labours were based.)

All it implies is, that the giving of sacrifices is not the thing of primary importance in the law, is not the central point of the covenant laws, and that so long as the cardinal precepts of the decalogue are freely transgressed, sacrifices neither are desired by God, nor secure covenant blessings for those who present them. That this is what is meant is shown by the connection in which our verse stands. The words: that God did not give command as to sacrifice, refer to the sacrifices brought by a people that recklessly broke all the commandments of the decalogue (Jeremiah 7:9.), in the thought that by means of these sacrifices they were proving themselves to be the covenant people, and that to them as such God was bound to bestow the blessings of His covenant. It is therefore with justice that Oehler, in Herzog's Realencykl. xii. S. 228, says: "In the sense that the righteousness of the people and the continuance of its covenant relationship were maintained by sacrifice as such - in this sense Jahveh did not ordain sacrifices in the Torah." Such a soulless service of sacrifice is repudiated by Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22, when he says to Saul: Hath Jahveh delight in burnt and slain offerings, as in hearkening to the voice of Jahveh? Behold, to hearken is better than sacrifice, etc. So in Psalm 40:7; Psalm 50:8., Jeremiah 51:18, and Isaiah 1:11., Jeremiah 6:20; Amos 5:22. What is here said differs from these passages only in this: Jeremiah does not simply say that God has no pleasure in such sacrifices, but adds the inference that the Lord does not desire the sacrifices of a people that have fallen away from Him. This Jeremiah gathers from the history of the giving of the law, and from the fact that, when God adopted Israel as His people, He demanded not sacrifices, but their obedience to His word and their walking in His ways. The design of Jeremiah's addition was the more thoroughly to crush all such vain confidence in sacrifices.

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