Jeremiah 8:8


“Jeremiah 8:8
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise,
And the law of the Lord is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
Has made it into a lie.”

What does that mean?


If you read the entire chapter you will see that Jeremiah is prophesying to the Israelites who have been in rebellion to God and are not repenting. The interpretations and ordinances of the scribes were not the word of the Lord.


Mere possession of laws is no evidence of virtue.



Some might see this as a reference to the Jewish Scriptures being incorrectly written or corrupted. But the “scribes” of Jeremiah’s time were not copyists of the Jewish religious texts.

The “soferim” or scribes of Jeremiah’s day were professionals who wrote documents for important functions (lawyers—religious and secular, financiers, historians, etc.) in Judah. Some of the soferim or scribes were responsible with the work of being “copyists” of the Mosaic Law. Their familiarity with the Law (because they were making handwritten copies) made them experts of what was written. The soferim class eventually became a teaching class unto itself. By the time of Jeremiah they were more “teacher” than actual scribe.

By the time the Babylonian exile was imminent, the way of many officials of Judah was that of corruption. This included the soferim class which, according to Jeremiah’s pronouncements, had left off attending to the work of copying the Law of Moses or any of the other works which would eventually become Scripture.

The teachings and interpretation of these scribes ran contrary to Scripture. The “lies” that they were copying were not Scripture, which is what you read if you put the text in context:

How can you say, “We are wise,
we have the law of the Lord”?
See, that has been changed into falsehood
by the lying pen of the scribes!

The wise are put to shame,
terrified, and trapped;
Since* they have rejected the word of the Lord*,
what sort of wisdom do they have?–Jeremiah 8:8, 9 New American Bible, Revised Edition; italics added.

Did you notice that they “rejected the word of the Lord”? They left off copying it and were now offering their own “falsehoods” instead.

The JPS Tanakh (a Jewish translation) renders this:

How can you say, “We are wise,
And we possess the Instruction of the Lord“?
Assuredly, for naught has the pen labored,
For naught the scribes!

The wise shall be put to shame,
Shall be dismayed and caught;
See, they reject the word of the Lord,
So their wisdom amounts to nothing.–Italics added.

The reference to the “pen” may be sarcasm as this is a pronouncement against these false teachers. They obviously were no longer scribes in the literal sense for some time, at least not the ones that had anything to do with the “word of the Lord” which the same text says they had “rejected.”

The texts of the Hebrew Scriptures as we have them today were assembled and edited into the form we are now familiar with after the Babylonian exile ended, some 70 years after the events in Jeremiah 8.


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