Puzzlement over Jeremiah 7: 21-26


I’m reading a Jewish commentary (Etz Hayyim) that prints Jer 7:21-26 after the first eight chapters of Leviticus.

As a refresher, Leviticus 1-8 covers sacrifices that are to be made and rituals that are to be followed, and finishes with the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests, noting that this was in accordance with what God commanded.

But, hold on, the selection from Jer has God saying that he never commanded Israel about offerings or sacrifice.

This contradiction or apparent contradiction even caused a lot of bewilderment among Jewish scholars, until one of them came up with tentative solution to these apparently conflicting sections of scripture.

Has anyone studied this issue in detail so as to provide some enlightenment about it here?



“I gave them no Command…”

Godly conduct rather than mere external cult was God’s will concerning his people. This bible passage emphasizes that the true essence of eternal devotions must either generate or reveal interior holiness and proper dispositions.

“I gave them no Command…”

A drastic way for God the Father to stress the importance of not treating him like the other Gods and Goddesses whom Mankind foolishly fashioned.

“I gave them no Command…”
Don’t take the sentence for what its worth/at face value. As long as the underlying message is understood, then the bible passage in question does not contradict Leviticus.


A Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, edited by Bernard Orchard et al, and published in 1953, on page 577, regarding Jeremiah 7:22-23, says:
In 22-23 we have the Hebrew idiom of relative denial; God’s essential requirement was obedience to his voice, not mere sacrifices in themselves.

Haydock’s Commentary on Jeremiah 7:22 says, in part:
Ver. 22. I commanded them not: viz., such sacrifices as the Jews at this time offered without obedience; which was the thing principally commanded: so that in comparison with it, the offering of the holocausts and sacrifices was of small account. (Challoner) — The observance of the decalogue would suffice. Victims were to teach internal piety, Leviticus i. (Worthington) — God “brought them out of Egypt, not for the sake of their sacrifices, but that they might…hear his word.” (St. Irenæus, [Against Heresies] iv. 17.) — This was the principal design. See Matthew ix. 13., and Osee vi. 6., and 1 Corinthians i. 17. (Maldonat) (Menochius) (Calmet) — The rules for sacrifices were given after the adoration of the calf, as necessary preservatives against idolatry. (St. Thomas Aquinas, [Summa Theologica] i. 2. q. 102. a. 3.) — Yet the paschal lamb, &c., had been already commanded. (Calmet) — Many such absolute expressions imply a condition or comparison. (Gloss.) (Proverbs viii. 10.)


I won’t repeat my original question, which is stated plainly and can be found above.

Etz Hayyim, by the way, means Tree of Life, which is an affectionate designation in Judaism for the Torah (pentateuch).

I mentioned that the accompanying commentary offered a possible explanation, that is based on timing of when the cultic laws were given by God.

An explanation that I read years ago that was a commentary more directed at the book of Exodus itself is this. God gave Moses the laws of the covenant on Sinai. Of course we know what happened in the incident of the Golden Calf. So, it seems that the cultic laws about offerings and sacrifice were handed down by God as a supplement. You could argue that the Israelites, recently freed from slavery in Egypt, needed something to do, something to make them feel religious, something to make them feel part of a tangible system, to supplement the abstract laws of the decalogue. Building the calf was something they wanted to do and so the offerings and sacrifices were to fill that gap of what they could do.

In Jeremiah’s day, God is, quite frankly, ranting that the people are using the rituals as ends in themselves, without the moral implications being recognized or observed (whose fault was that? sounds like some conditions in the Church today).


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