Lecture One Hundred and Thirtieth

Jeremiah 32:35

35. And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

35. Et adificarunt excelsa ipsi Baal, qui erat in valle filii Hinnom (vel, quae erant) ad trajiciendum filios suos et filias suas ipsi Moloch Klml idolo) quod non mandavi ipsis, et non ascendit in cor meum, ad faciendum abominationem hanc, ut peccaret Jehudah (vel, ut peccare facerent Jehudah)


After having complained of the profanation of his own Temple, God now says that the Jews had sinned through another superstition, even because the valley of the son of Hinnom had become to them a temple instead of the true one. God had forbidden in the Law sacrifices to be offered except where he appointed,

"Thou shalt not do so to thy God, but thou shalt come to the place where he has put the memorial of his name."
(Deuteronomy 12:4, 5)

As God then had expressly testified that sacrifices are not acceptable to him except in one Temple, and on one altar, he shews here that the lawful worship had been corrupted by the Jews, even because they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire in honor to Molech. And yet in a former passage he calls him Baal. Hence it appears, as we said yesterday, that the word Baal includes all kinds of idols. For the Jews, no doubt, while they worshipped their Baalim, ever wished to ascribe to the one true God the chief sovereignty, but, at the same time, they devised patrons for themselves, and hence was the multitude of their gods. But Molech was a particular deity, as we learn from other parts of Scripture.

We now, then, perceive the Prophet's meaning, -- that the Jews had not been satisfied with one kind of idolatry, but built high places or altars for themselves; for so do some explain twmb, bemut: hmb beme, means a high place, and is everywhere taken for the groves, as they were called, that is, tall trees. But as mention is tiere made of a valley, some think that the word high-places is not suitable here; therefore they render the word "altars."1 As to the main point, God no doubt condenms the Jews here, because they had dared to set up a foreign mode of worship in the valley of Hinnom, when the Law expressly forbade it. The relative rsa asher, as I have said, may be applied to the altars as well as to Baal. But it seems to me a more suitable meaning, if we say that Baal himself, that is, the idol, was in the talley of Hinnom. Of the passing through the fire, I have spoken elsewhere -- it was a kind of lustration. There is no doubt, however, but that some exceeded the moderation commonly observed, who wished to excel others in the fervor of their zeal; for they actually burned their sons and their daughters, which was a deed the most savage. But they yet thought that it was a service acceptable to God. Others performed their superstition in a milder manner, as they deemed it enough that their children should pass through the fire as a symbol of purification, as also the heathens were wont to purify themselves.2

But the Prophet speaks of sons and of daughters, in order to shew that so great was the intemperate zeal of the Jews, that they not only prostituted themselves before their idols, but also contaminated their offspring with these defilements.

He at last says, that he had commanded no such thing, and that it never came to his mind. We have said elsewhere, that whenever this manner of speaking occurs, God cuts off every handle from objectors, because the superstitious ever have something to allege as a pretense when they are summoned to an account. We know that the Papists, by pretending good intentions, confidently glory against God; and they think that this one pretense is sufficient to defend them against all reproofs; and they think also that the servants of God and the Prophets are too morose and scrupulous when such an excuse does not satisfy them. But God, that he might not tediously contend with the superstitious, assumes this principle, -- that whatever they attempt beyond the Law is spurious, and that, therefore, the inventions of men cannot be defended by any disguise or pretense. Let us then know that true religion is always founded on obedience to God's will; and hence everything devised by men, when there is no command of God, is not only frivolous, but also abominable, according to what was said yesterday respecting the work of the hands; and so here the command of God is set in opposition to all the inventions of men. But as such declarations often occur, I now touch but slightly on this passage.

This doctrine, however, ought to be especially noticed, that is, that there is no need of a long refutation when we undertake to expose fictitious modes of worship, which men devise for themselves according to their own notions, because, after all that they can say, God in one word gives this answer, that whatever he has not commanded in his Law, is vain and mischievous. He then says, that he had not commanded this, and that it had never entered into his mind.

God in the last clause transfers to himself what applies only to men; for it cannot be said with strict propriety of God, that this or that had not come to his mind. But here he rebukes the presumption of men, who dare to introduce this or that, and think that an acceptable worship of God which they themselves have presumptuously devised; for they seek thus to exalt their own wisdom above that of God himself. And we even find at this day that the Papists, when we shew that nothing has proceeded from the mouth of God of all the mass of observances in which they make religion to consist, do always allege that they do not without reason observe what has been commanded by the fathers, as though some things had come into the minds of men which had escaped God himself! We then see that God in this place exposes to ridicule the madness of those, who, relying on their own inventive wits, devise for themselves various kinds of worship; for they seek, as we have said, to be wiser than God himself. We now, then, perceive the force of the expression, when God says that it never came to his mind, because men boast that it had not been contrived without reason, and glory in their own acuteness, as though they were able to appoint a better thing than God himself.

He afterwards says, That they should do this abomination. God now goes farther, and calls whatever he had not commanded an abomination. And this clause confirms what I have before said, that there is no need of long arguments when the question is respecting the inventions of men, for nothing can be approved of in the worship of God but what he has himself commanded. Whatever therefore has proceeded from the notions of men, is not only frivolous and useless, but it is also an abomination; for God so represents it in this place. It is therefore not enough at this day to repudiate and to treat with disdain the fictitious modes of worship in which the Papists so much glory; but if we would prove that we have a true zeal for religion, we must abominate all these fictitious things; for God has once for all declared them to be abominable.

He adds, that Judah might sin, or, that they might make Judah to sin: either is admissible, and there is a twofold reading.3 However this may be, he declares that those who build not on the Law, do nothing but sin, though they may think that they render to God the best service, even because they ought to have begun with this principle, -- to do nothing but according to what the Law prescribes. It follows, --

1 In Jeremiah 7:31, we have "the high places," or elevations, "of Tophet." Blayney thinks that they were artificial mounts thrown up for the purpose of performing some of their superstitious rites. Trees were, no doubt, planted on some of the high places; but there might be mounts without trees. That these high places were in a valley, favor the idea that they were artificial mounts without trees. And it indeed appears from this verse and from Jeremiah 7:31, that the image of Molech was set on the artificial mounts, for it is said that they built or erected these high places for this purpose, -- that they might burn their children to Molech. And, probably, there were several mounts in this valley, in order to accommodate a large number of people. -- Ed.

2 There is no ground for this supposition as to the practice in Tophet; for, in other parts of Scripture, what they did is specifically mentioned. In this very book it is said, that they burnt their children in the fire, Jeremiah 7:31, and that they burnt them as burnt-offerings to Baal, Jeremiah 19:5. See also Deuteronomy 12:31; Ezekiel 23:37. -- Ed.

3 The Keri, ayjxh "to cause to sin," is no doubt the true reading, even the ta before Judah is a proof of it, and it is the meaning given by the versions and the Targ. -- Ed.


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