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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 1 (Part Twenty)

Did God Command Sacrifices or Not? 
In many places in the Mosaic Law Jehovah commanded sacrifices. So some find it confusing when Jeremiah, himself a priest acquainted with the Law, wrote "In the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifices." (Jeremiah 7:22 ESV) So did Jehovah's word to Jeremiah contradict Jehovah's word to Moses? 
No, for Jehovah never meant that he didn't command sacrifices, but that they were less importance than obeying him. Jeremiah chapter 7 reveals that the people were "steal[ing], murder[ing], commit[ing] adultery, swear[ing] falsely, mak[ing] sacrifices to Ba'al" and yet standing before Jehovah and saying, “We will be saved.” (Jeremiah 7:9,10) To him such worship was worthless and in fact sinful 
Before Jehovah appeared to Jeremiah, he said through Isaiah, "What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly." (Isaiah 11-13 NASB 
1 Samuel 15:22b (NWT) states: "Samuel then said: “To obey is better than a sacrifice, and to pay attention than the fat of rams." Also Hoses 6:6 (ESV) states: "For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." 
Those prove this interpretation. Jehovah wants sacrifices, but he wants obedience and mercy before those. Otherwise such sacrifices are worthless. Jehovah was simply using the common practice of exaggeration to make that point. There is no contradiction, for the matter can easily be summed up in Proverbs 21:3 (NWT) which states: "To do what is right and just is more pleasing to Jehovah than a sacrifice." There is no contradiction.

Do Sons Get Punished For Their Father's Sins? 
The very idea seems unjust, which is not the main issue here, but the supposed contradiction is. Both will be explained. Exodus 20:5 (WEB) states: "You shall not bow yourself down to them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me." And Jeremiah 31:29,30 (NIV) states: "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.”1 What can be said about this?  
First the context must be brought out. Exodus 20:6 (WEB) states: "[Yahweh is] showing loving kindness to thousands of [generations] who love [him] and keep [his] commandments." Skeptics hardly mention this verse, for it shows that God's mercy is far greater. And it provides the way out for any of the descendants who are punished. Jehovah punishes the descendants of those who hate him when they continue in their father's sins. This is in perfect harmony with what Jeremiah states. But he restores to favor the descendants of sinners who turn to him. 
The Jews viewed themselves as innocent. They still thought they were righteous and simply bore the sins of their ancestors (Isaiah 58:2). While 2 Kings 24:3 does say that "at the commandment of Jehovah came [the exile] upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh” no one reading Jeremiah would assume that this is the only reason why Judah was exiled. Jeremiah pointed out that they had done the same as their fathers. 
There we have it. Jehovah punishes the sons for their fathers sins when they themselves walk in them, but he is all the more merciful, willing to extend his mercy to the thousandth generation (that is to say forever) of those who walk in his ways and whose descendants do the same. There is no contradiction. 

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