I’ve watched and studied a video that was sent to me a while back, and I’ve been responding to it as I’ve listened to, studied, and meditated on each part. In a nutshell, the video claims that there are corruptions in Scripture, we do not have the original Torah of Moshe, and animal sacrifices and the eating of meat are an abomination, a religion of blood and death.
One of the chief verses used near the beginning of this video teaching (and mentioned a few times throughout) is Jeremiah 7:22. I’ll quote it here along with verse 21:
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices:” (Jeremiah 7:21-22, KJV)
“My people, some sacrifices you burn completely on the altar, and some you are permitted to eat. But what I, the LORD, say is that you might as well eat them all. I gave your ancestors no commands about burnt offerings or any other kinds of sacrifices when I brought them out of Egypt.” (Jeremiah 7:21-22, GNB)
I give two translations here at ends of the spectrum. KJV for a more word-for-word reading and GNB for a more meaning-for-meaning reading.
The two men in the video I mentioned cite this text as proof that YHWH doesn’t want animal sacrifices, and that YHWH didn’t give commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices when He brought Israel out of Egypt.
The problem with this understanding is
(1) How do they know Jeremiah 7:21-22 isn’t a corruption? They began their video with an erroneous understanding of Jeremiah 8:8 (claiming that the Bible has scribal corruption throughout and can’t be trusted), yet it’s always the verses they want to be in there that aren’t corrupt. It’s the ol’ pick-and-choose game. You see a verse that seems to speak positively about animal sacrifices - IT’S CORRUPT. You see a verse that seems to speak negatively about animal sacrifices - IT’S LEGIT.
(2) There are clear texts showing that YHWH indeed DID speak to the Israelites commands about animal sacrifices when He brought them out of Egypt. The Pesac is the prime example here. The very command that catapulted the Israelites out of Egypt included a command to sacrifice a year-old male lamb, put its blood on the doorframe of one’s house, and eat the meat (Exodus 12:3-14, 26-28). So not only did YHWH command a sacrifice when He brought Israel out of Egypt, it was actually the primary command. The Pesac animal sacrifice was the means through which deliverance and freedom from Egypt came.
A text to go along with this is found in Exodus 20 just after the giving of the Ten Commandments. We generally stop reading at verse 17 of that chapter, because it’s the finale commandment. We see that the chapter continues, but we figure it’s less meaningful commentary after the ten commands come to a close. If we just kept reading, we would see this:
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.” (Exodus 20:22-24, KJV)
“The LORD commanded Moses to tell the Israelites: "You have seen how I, the LORD, have spoken to you from heaven. Do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gold to be worshiped in addition to me. Make an altar of earth for me, and on it sacrifice your sheep and your cattle as offerings to be completely burned and as fellowship offerings. In every place that I set aside for you to worship me, I will come to you and bless you.” (Exodus 20:22-24, GNB)
Verse 22 specifically says “YHWH said” or “YHWH commanded.” It was a relay to Moshe to give to the people of Israel, and what follows is a “shall not” and a “shall.” The “shall not” is to make gods of silver and gold to rival (or probably depict) YHWH. In contrast, what you “shalt make” (in YHWH’s honor) is an altar of earth. Upon that altar He commands sacrifices, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, and He mentions sheep and cattle. He says that if they do this He’ll come and bless them.
Catch that: YHWH will bless the people of Israel for building an altar of earth and sacrificing animals on that altar. The purpose of animal sacrifices isn’t the main scope of this essay/rebuttal, but let me briefly say that the animal sacrifices were gifts brought to YHWH, and a means of drawing near unto the Great King with something costly. The Israelites were farmers and herdsmen. Their greatest possessions were their flocks and herds. Sheep and goats were good for clothing, milk (and meat), and cows were good for milk, plowing, pulling, threshing grain (and meat). They gave their firstlings (order and rank) to YHWH, as well as tithed their animals. YHWH let them keep all the rest which was far more (quantity wise) in comparison to what He asked from them.
Getting back to the main point: How do we reconcile Jeremiah 7:21-22 with Exodus 12 and Exodus 20? Jeremiah has YHWH saying He did NOT command burnt offering and sacrifice when He brought Israel out of Egypt. Exodus has YHWH saying He DID command burnt offering and sacrifice when He brought Israel out of Egypt.
The fellows on the video just throw out the texts in Exodus as being corrupted. I’m not at all comfortable with doing this, and I even believe a person who is comfortable with doing this is either (1) badly deceived and falling into a state of unbelief, or (2) completely deceived and headed to Gehenna. I say this because a dismissal of the words of YHWH in His Torah is a grave sin. It’s pretty much saying, “I hate you YHWH” with your actions, and is a direct, blatant violation of Deuteronomy 4:2.
Instead, we should seek to slow down and harmonize the texts together. If we believe they are BOTH the words of YHWH then we should be able to use Scriptural study skills to determine the meaning from each context.
First off, the texts in Exodus precede the text in Jeremiah. Jeremiah references back to the time of the removal from the land of Egypt so he’s obviously writing that after Exodus has taken place. As we read the texts in Exodus (chapters 12 and 20) we see clear commands about animal sacrifices. There’s nothing vague at all. Slaughter the Pesac, YHWH says (Ex. 12:6, 21). Build an altar of earth and on it sacrifice your sheep and oxen (Ex. 20:24). The entire context in these Scriptures is the direct command of YHWH.
So what is YHWH saying through the prophet Jeremiah? I’m not comfortable at all to just dismiss this text. What I want people to do is slow down and examine it in context.
If you go back to Jeremiah 7:1, you’ll see that YHWH is reprimanding the Israelites. He’s calling them to amend their ways (vs. 3) and not trust in the Temple for their salvation (vs. 4). Oftentimes the people of Israel used tangible items as somewhat of a talisman. Here they figured if they had the Temple, and could come and offer sacrifice, they would be alright.
I’m reminded of one time I heard of a person getting baptized and calling it “fire insurance.” In their mind, they thought that their baptism made everything else okay. They could pretty much do whatever they wanted to do and just trust in their baptism. Baptism is a beautiful thing according to many Scriptures, but to use baptism as a replacement for a life of holiness is filthy.
Jeremiah 7:5-6, 9 tell us some of things Israel was committing. They were not executing just judgment, and they were oppressing strangers, the orphans, and the widows. That was probably the group that was getting shorted in judgment. They were also shedding innocent blood (somehow), and committing theft, murder, adultery, and perjury. That’s quite a list of sins - big sins. Yet, they would come and stand before YHWH in the house called by His name (the Temple; 7:10).
In Jeremiah 7:12-14 we see YHWH telling the Israelites who went to worship in Jerusalem not to get the big head, because He could and would do the same thing to it/them as He did to Israel of a past time in Shiloh. Bible readers know what happened to Shiloh back at the time of 1 Samuel, under the “leadership” of Eli the priest. It wasn’t pretty. It ended with Ichabod - the glory (of YHWH) was gone.
Now look at verses 17-20 of this chapter. It appears that through all of this the Israelites where offering up cakes to a false goddess termed the “Queen of Heaven.” So there was idolatry in the mix. They had one foot at the temple and the other foot in an idol’s “temple.” YHWH was terribly angry (vs. 20).
It’s in this vein that verses 21-22 are spoken. YHWH, in His anger, is telling the Israelites to keep their animal sacrifices they are giving to Him for themselves. He doesn’t want them. He goes so far to say that He didn’t command them about burnt offerings and sacrifices when he delivered them from Egypt.
What YHWH is doing is speaking comparatively here. The meaning is that YHWH’s overall commandment is obedience. He prefers obedience over sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). He doesn’t want disobedience coupled with bringing a sacrifice to the Temple, in the same way that He wouldn’t want baptism coupled with disobedience. Imagine for a minute that your spouse (for the married folk) claimed to love you, but you found out they’d been committing adultery against you for a year or so. Then when you confronted them about it, they said, “But I’m baptized, I’m good.” That’s nonsense.
Comparative speaking can be found in other texts of Scripture. Think about Genesis 45:8 where Joseph told his brothers, “It was not you who sent me here, but the Almighty.” Yet Joseph’s brothers did send him there. They were the ones who threw him into a pit and sold him to some traders which eventually led to his time in Egypt. Joseph’s point though is comparative; although his brothers did all this to him, ultimately it was YHWH who had it planned out for a greater purpose.
The same thing can be said for Exodus 16:8 where Moshe tells the Israelites, “Your murmurings aren’t against us but against YHWH.” Yet Exodus 16:2 says the whole congregation murmured against Moshe and Aharon. So which one is right? Both are, but ultimately when Israel murmured against the prophet and priest of YHWH they were murmuring against YHWH. Moshe spoke comparatively in verse 8.
Other examples can be given, but this is sufficient. Jeremiah 7:21-22 means that sacrifices mean nothing if they aren’t brought from a pure heart. What YHWH ultimately desires is obedience (Jer. 7:23). When we serve Him, and then bring a sacrifice, it is acceptable. Just like with our baptism. None of us live perfectly without sin, but when our lifestyle is one of overall obedience and dedication, we can indeed look back to our baptism for the forgiveness of sin (along with on-going repentance).
Albert Barnes’ puts it nicely in his commentary: “The meaning is, Increase your sacrifices as you will. Add burnt-offering to peace-offerings. All is in vain as long as you neglect the indispensable requirements of obedience and moral purity.”
As does Jamieson-Fausset-Brown: “Not contradicting the divine obligation of the legal sacrifices. But, ‘I did not require sacrifices, unless combined with moral obedience’ (Ps 50:8; 51:16, 17). The superior claim of the moral above the positive precepts of the law was marked by the ten commandments having been delivered first, and by the two tables of stone being deposited alone in the ark (De 5:6). The negative in Hebrew often supplies the want of the comparative: not excluding the thing denied, but only implying the prior claim of the thing set in opposition to it (Ho 6:6). "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (1Sa 15:22). Love to God is the supreme end, external observances only means towards that end.”
Matthew Poole has this to add: “It is evident in Scripture that they [sacrifices] have been of Divine institution ever since Adam, Genesis 4:3,4. As to the meaning of the words, God doth not condemn them, or deny them, save only comparatively in respect of obedience, not so much these as obeying his commands, 1 Samuel 15:22 Hosea 6:6, i.e. mercy rather than sacrifice. Negatives are often put for comparatives, Genesis 45:8 Exodus 16:8 John 5:45. Hence the Hebrew is, the matter of burnt-offerings; for sacrifices were not instituted for themselves, but for other uses, and to be signs of faith in his promises, and obedience to his commands, as in the next verse, where the condition, promise, and end are all set down.”
The fellows in the video I mentioned at the beginning are sorely wrong. They haven’t read Jeremiah closely, and they have thrown out the commands given by YHWH in Exodus. This is a fearful thing. They are leading people astray from the direct commands of YHWH. I encourage all to go back and re-examine matters as these, doing a diligent job at studying and believing all of Scripture, not just the parts you want or like.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.