How does sin make you feel? How does your sin affect those around you? Do you even give thought to your sins?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at the Wicked Hebrew Women in Jeremiah as well as the Women Who Wept for Tammuz in Ezekiel and we see how even well meaning women can lead others away from the Lord.
Chapter 44 is where Jeremiah addresses the wickedness of the Hebrew men and women living in Egypt, but in order to fully understand what’s going on, we need to understand why they’re even in Egypt. So let’s start at the beginning.
The time period that Jeremiah lived in was a difficult time for the Israelite people. They had gone from a strong independent nation to a remnant of survivors. This was due to their failure to obey and serve God. Because of their worship of other gods, the true God had given them up to their enemies. Jerusalem had fallen and the remaining remnant was scared of the raging wars around them.
In chapter 42 the people came to Jeremiah and asked him what they should do. They requested he pray to God and ask Him where they should go and what they should do. In 42:5-6, they say, “Let the LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the LORD your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.”
So for ten days Jeremiah prayed until God gave him the word.
He called everyone together and he told them that God wanted them to stay put where they were, and He would take care of them. Then he warned them that if they disobeyed and went to Egypt seeking safety, that war and famine would come to them there and they would die there.
The same people who had vowed to do whatever the Lord told them to do, promptly ignored God’s words, and moved to Egypt, bringing Jeremiah with them.
In the first part of Jeremiah 44, the prophet is in Egypt, reminding the people of what had happened in Jerusalem, how they had rejected God and worshipped other gods, and what had happened as a result. He pointed out the wickedness of both the men and women who refused to humble themselves and give up their idol worship. Then he told them again what would happen to them in Egypt. He said they would all die except for a few fugitives.
When the story switches from Jeremiah’s warning to the people’s response, we see the full impact of the women. Jeremiah 44:15 says, “Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah.” The crowd tells him they aren’t listening to him because their life is made better by worshipping the Queen of Heaven rather than the Lord of Lords.
In verse 19 the women speak directly and say, “when we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”
Jeremiah reminds them that their problems came from the idol worship, but they refuse to listen.
In the end, he gives his final words of what will happen to them, addressing all the people, and all the women.
Now, I normally just address one woman or one group of women, but I want to jump to Ezekiel to chapter 8 verse 14 where Ezekiel goes to the north gate of the Lord’s temple and sees women sitting on the steps weeping for Tammuz. He uses this as an example of just how wicked God’s people had become. I include it today because both of these passages address well-meaning women worshipping in the wrong way.
It’s interesting that in this passage Jeremiah singles out the women. While it appears that both men and women were guilty of idol worship, the women seem to have taken the lead. When addressed by the prophet, however, they shift the blame onto their husbands, saying they knew what was going on and didn’t try to stop it.
So what exactly was it that the women were doing? Back in Deuteronomy, Moses had warned the people of the danger of worshipping the sun, moon, stars, and all the host of heaven. And yet, it remained a problem throughout the generations. Solomon had even created a shrine for the Sidonian goddess. When the Israelites left Jerusalem and moved to Egypt, they would have been surrounded by idol worship. It was easy for them to immerse themselves in this, convincing themselves they were doing the right thing.
The Queen of Heaven is associated with fertility. Perhaps the women thought by showing her honor, they could grow their remnant of Jews into a great nation again.
They associated the Queen of Heaven with ease and prosperity and the Lord of Lords with condemnation and punishment. They took the path that appeared to lead to their happiness and ignored Jeremiah’s passionate warnings. They invited their husbands to join in or at least support their misplaced loyalty to this false god.
Although men are called to be the spiritual leaders, women often set the tone for the spirituality in their families. How many examples do we have of Bible kings who were led astray by their idol worshipping wives or mothers? When the women lose their spiritual strength, they take the men and children down with them.
That’s what happened in Ezekiel. God shows Ezekiel the extent of the depravity, revealing how the women sat at the temple gates and mourned the death of Tammuz. Tammuz was the Babylonian god of fertility. Each year the women mourned the death of Tammuz when he went down into the underworld. Then they rejoiced with his return.
In each of these cases, the women created their own personalized worship, taking bits and pieces of whatever worked for their purposes. They sought a prosperity gospel, choosing to follow whoever they thought could give them what they wanted. Unfortunately, it’s a plan that can only lead to failure. We don’t get to pick and choose our religion. Either we’re all in, or we’re out. We can’t halfway follow God. Jeremiah and the other prophets made it clear what happens when we try that. It never works out the way we expect.
What about you? Have you lost track of the true God? Have you been influenced by the world around you, thinking that if you follow the world’s teaching, it will lead to the happiness you’re seeking? Are you guilty of mixing in pagan principals into your worship then wondering why it’s not working?
We live in a time much like that of Jeremiah. We’ve watered down our religion to the point it’s no longer recognizable. We’ve given into the worldly pressures, thinking we’re heading upward when in reality, we’re slipping further and further from the Truth.
My heart breaks for the generation led astray by Christians who got caught up in worship and beliefs that sound good but are not biblical. Perhaps you’re one of those who blindly followed a so-called Christian and got burned when you discovered they weren’t who they claimed to be. Or maybe you’re guilty of losing your way and leading others astray in the process.
Wherever you are, it’s not too late to turn around. Jeremiah gave the Hebrews an escape clause. He warned them to return to Jerusalem and to their worship of the Lord, and He would watch over them and take care of them. They didn’t listen, preferring instead to do what seemed best in their own eyes. Please don’t make that same mistake.
I challenge you to seek the truth. Don’t get your wisdom from the world. Find it instead in the Word. Flee from the political agenda that is being preached as a moral compass. Instead, take it to the Bible and see whether it lines up with God’s teaching.
In our pressure to conform and fit in with the world, Christians have begun celebrating sin so that we don’t appear judgmental. In doing so, we’re doing a great disservice to those involved in the sin. As Christians, it is not our call to blend in with society. We should stand out. We have higher standards to live by than the world. Make sure that you are living a godly life based on biblical teaching and not creating a feel-good religion based on pagan policies. We do not want to be guilty of leading others astray by our misplaced intentions.
Lord God, what a challenging time we find ourselves in, where it’s so easy to be led astray by teaching that sounds right, but is so wrong. Please open our eyes to the truth. Lead us away from worldly influences that will only lead to death. Forgive us for our eagerness to follow what sounds good but is in reality evil. Give us wisdom and guide us in our search for truth. Grant us the courage to stand up for what is right when those around us are mocking us. We love You. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Backstory: Jeremiah 42-23
Their Story: Jeremiah 44, Ezekiel 8:13-15
Bible Study Review
- Why were the Hebrews in Egypt?
- What was their response to Jeremiah’s warnings?
- What were the women doing that was wrong?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did Jeremiah single out the women?
- What other Bible story does this remind you of, where men and women blamed each other?
- Why did the women ignore Jeremiah’s warnings?
- Do you ever ask for advice then ignore it?
- Are you seeking the good life whatever the cost?
- What kind of spiritual example are you setting for your families?
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