Here is, I. A loud call to weeping and mourning. Jerusalem, that had been a joyous city, the joy of the whole earth, must now take up a lamentation on high places (Jer. 7:29), the high places where they had served their idols; there must they now bemoan their misery. In token both of sorrow and slavery, Jerusalem must now cut off her hair and cast it away; the word is peculiar to the hair of the Nazarites, which was the badge and token of their dedication to God, and it is called their crown. Jerusalem had been a city which was a Nazarite to God, but now must cut off her hair, must be profaned, degraded, and separated from God, as she had been separated to him. It is time for those that have lost their holiness to lay aside their joy.
II. Just cause given for this great lamentation.
1. The sin of Jerusalem appears here very heinous, nowhere worse, or more exceedingly sinful (Jer. 7:30): “The children of Judah” (God’s profession people, that came forth out of the waters of Judah, Isa. 48:1) “have done evil in my sight, under my eye, in my presence; they have affronted me to my face, which very much aggravates the affront:” or, “They have done that which they know to be evil in my sight, and in the highest degree offensive to me.” Idolatry was the sin which was above all other sins evil in God’s sight. Now here are two things charged upon them in their idolatry, which were very provoking: (1.) That they were very impudent in it towards God and set him at defiance: They have set their abominations (their abominable idols and the altars erected to them) in the house that is called by my name, in the very courts of the temple, to pollute it (Manasseh did so, 2 Kgs. 21:7; 23:12), as if they thought God would connive at it, or cared not though he was ever so much displeased with it, or as if they would reconcile heaven and hell, God and Baal. The heart is the place which God has chosen to put his name there; if sin have the innermost and uppermost place there, we pollute the temple of the Lord, and therefore he resents nothing more than setting up idols in the heart, Ezek. 14:4. (2.) That they were very barbarous in it towards their own children, Jer. 7:31. They have particularly built the high places of Tophet, where the image of Moloch was set up, in the valley of the son of Hinnom, adjoining to Jerusalem; and there they burnt their sons and their daughters in the fire, burnt them alive, killed them, and killed them in the most cruel manner imaginable, to honour or appease those idols that were devils and not gods. This was surely the greatest instance that ever was of the power of Satan in the children of disobedience, and of the degeneracy and corruption of the human nature. One would willingly hope that there were not many instances of such a barbarous idolatry; but it is amazing that there should be any, that men could be so perfectly void of natural affection as to do a thing so inhuman as to burn little innocent children, and their own too, that they should be so perfectly void of natural religion as to think it lawful to do this, nay, to think it acceptable. Surely it was in a way of righteous judgment, because they had changed the glory of God into the similitude of a beast, that God gave them up to such vile affections that changed them into worse than beasts. God says of this that it was what he commanded them not, neither cam it into his heart, which is not meant of his not commanding them thus to worship Moloch (this he had expressly forbidden them), but he had never commanded that his worshippers should be at such an expense, nor put such a force upon their natural affection, in honouring him; it never came into his heart to have children offered to him, yet they had forsaken his service for the service of such gods as, by commanding this, showed themselves to be indeed enemies to mankind.
2. The destruction of Jerusalem appears here very terrible. That speaks misery enough in general (Jer. 7:29), The Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath. Sin makes those the generation of God’s wrath that had ben the generation of his love. And God will reject and quite forsake those who have thus made themselves vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. He will disown them for his. “Verily, I say unto you, I know you not.” And he will give them up to the terrors of their own guilt, and leave them in those hands. (1.) Death shall triumph over them, Jer. 7:32, 33. Sin reigns unto death; for that is the wages of it, the end of those things. Tophet, the valley adjoining to Jerusalem, shall be called the valley of slaughter, for there multitudes shall be slain, when, in their sallies out of the city and their attempts to escape, they fall into the hands of the besiegers. Or it shall be called the valley of slaughtered ones, because thither the corpses of those that are slain shall be brought to be buried, all other burying places being full; and there they shall bury until there be no more place to make a grave. This intimates the multitude of those that shall die by the sword, pestilence, and famine. Death shall ride on prosperously, with dreadful pomp and power, conquering and to conquer. The slain of the Lord shall be many. This valley of Tophet was a place where the citizens of Jerusalem walked to take the air; but it shall now be spoiled for that use, for it shall be so full of graves that there shall be no walking there, because of the danger of contracting a ceremonial pollution by the touch of a grave. There it was that they sacrificed some of their children, and dedicated others to Moloch, and there they should fall as victims to divine justice. Tophet had formerly been the burying place, or burning place, of the dead bodies of the besiegers, when the Assyrian army was routed by an angel; and for this it was ordained of old, Isa. 30:33. But they having forgotten this mercy, and made it the place of their sin, God will now turn it into a burying place for the besieged. In allusion to this valley, hell is in the New Testament called Gehenna—the valley of Hinnom, for there were buried both the invading Assyrians and the revolting Jews; so hell is a receptacle after death both for infidels and hypocrites, the open enemies of God’s church and its treacherous friends; it is the congregation of the dead; it is prepared for the generation of God’s wrath. But so great shall that slaughter be that even the spacious valley of Tophet shall not be able to contain the slain; and at length there shall not be enough left alive to bury the dead, so that the carcases of the people shall be meat for the birds and beasts of prey, that shall feed upon them like carrion, and none shall have the concern or courage to frighten them away, as Rizpah did from the dead bodies of Saul’s sons, Dt. 28:26; Thy carcase shall be meat to the fowls and beasts, and no man shall drive them away. Thus do the law and the prophets agree, and the execution with both. The decent burying of the dead is a piece of humanity, in remembrance of what the dead body has been—the tabernacle of a reasonable soul. Nay, it is a piece of divinity, in expectation of what the dead body shall be at the resurrection. The want of it has sometimes been an instance of the rage of men against God’s witnesses, Rev. 11:9. Here it is threatened as an instance of the wrath of God against his enemies, and is an intimation that evil pursues sinners even after death. (2.) Joy shall depart from them (Jer. 7:34): Then will I cause to cease the voice of mirth. God had called by his prophets, and by less judgments, to weeping and mourning; but they walked contrary to him, and would hear of nothing but joy and gladness, Isa. 22:12, 13. And what came of it? Now God called to lamentation (Jer. 7:29), and he made his call effectual, leaving them neither cause nor heart for joy and gladness. Those that will not weep shall weep; those that will not by the grace of God be cured of their vain mirth shall by the justice of God be deprived of all mirth; for when God judges he will overcome. It is threatened here that there shall be nothing to rejoice in. There shall be none of the joy of weddings; no mirth, for there shall be no marriages. The comforts of life shall be abandoned, and all care to keep up mankind upon earth cast off; there shall be none of the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, no music, no nuptial songs. Nor shall there be any more of the joy of the harvest, for the land shall be desolate, uncultivated and unimproved. Both the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem shall look thus melancholy; and when they thus look about them, and see no cause to rejoice, no marvel if they retire into themselves and find no heart to rejoice. Note, God can soon mar the mirth of the most jovial, and make it to cease, which is a reason why we should always rejoice with trembling, be merry and wise.