The warnings to Judah continue to this set of chapters, but their tone has changed a touch. Before, they were threatening. If you don’t stop doing this, I will do this. Now they are declaring what’s to come. There are fewer mentions of a possible redemption and more reminders that all these things befell Israel already. Also, the last set had God trying to get them to see how betrayed he felt by comparing them to cheating wives. This time, God is being more direct. He is explaining to them exactly what they did and why it is not only unacceptable, but stupid for them to continue to leave Him behind and chase after false gods.
Here in the beginning of the chapter, God begins again by asking them to not just repent, but exactly what to repent for and what to stop doing. Personally, I love the plea. It’s some things we could stop doing in our country too:
5“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, 7then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
We could use some better justice, an absence of oppression, and an end to the killing. I like how He includes in the 6th verse about “going after other gods to your own harm”. This isn’t just about them rejecting God, but the practices of some of these other gods include human sacrifices.
18The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.
This verse made me pause a second too. I figured queen of heaven wasn’t right. There’s never been a mention that God has a companion up there, so who is this? I googled it and came to a Wikipedia page and Catholic magazine article that both said this (and future references within this book) is actually referring to a goddess that people were worshiping and bringing sacrifices to.
I have to say that one of those things that keeps irritating me as I go through the Bible is talking about women like property. I don’t care if they are the “most valuable” of property. Women are people. Property are things. We are not things. Nevertheless, there’s a mention in this chapter at verse 10 of women as property:
10Therefore I will give their wives to others
and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
I would understand if the sentiment was more of a “convince them to leave you for other men” kind of thing, but it’s clearly not. It also doesn’t appear that one husband is any better than the next either, so it’s a loss for women in general. Still, whose punishment is this?
I guess if all the men are terrible, maybe He’s giving them to better men? Even if that’s true, though, it doesn’t make up for much. There’s a whole of choice for women that wasn’t there and verses like this just don’t help. In my opinion.
Who are the mourning women?
17Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Consider, and call for the mourning women to come;
send for the skillful women to come;
18let them make haste and raise a wailing over us,
that our eyes may run down with tears
and our eyelids flow with water.
19For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
because they have cast down our dwellings.’”
20Hear, O women, the word of the LORD,
and let your ear receive the word of his mouth;
teach to your daughters a lament,
and each to her neighbor a dirge.
21For death has come up into our windows;
it has entered our palaces,
cutting off the children from the streets
and the young men from the squares.
22Speak: “Thus declares the LORD,
‘The dead bodies of men shall fall
like dung upon the open field,
like sheaves after the reaper,
and none shall gather them.’”
Are these the women that are to be taken from their husbands like property? Or is it that the women will go to different husbands because these husbands will be dead? I guess if the men are dead, it only makes sense for the women to go to other men, but what men? Perhaps the men are from another land and the women go to them because the women are not being held liable for what happened and deserving happiness?
This is one of those places where a little extra information on the women’s side would be helpful for us today, but given that the warnings of imminent destruction weren’t heeded, I’m going to go ahead and assume these weren’t people that had care left to give. The chapter does go on to mention that God intends to punish those “uncircumcised in heart” along with those who are in nations that don’t circumcise in general. Does this make a men’s only issue?
There’s a part of me that wants to make it a men’s only issue, but everyone suffers in exile, so the women are just getting lumped in for no reason other than having the misfortune to be born into Judah at this time? I wish had more answers or a concrete feeling about it, but I don’t.
Chapter ten continues the sentiment of the others without any specific mention of women or feminine references.