Yirmiyahu Seven: Contradiction

“[If] you do not oppress a stranger, an orphan, or a widow, and you do not shed innocent blood in this place, and you do not follow other gods for your detriment, I will allow you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave your forefathers from days of yore to eternity (Jeremiah 7:6-7).” It seems to me that there’s an inherent contradiction between the sentiments in these two verses. The first one seems to say that the ongoing connection of the people to the land is based on the continued fulfillment of a social contract. The people need to be mindful of the weak and potentially oppressed amongst them, and cannot take advantage of those who society could most easily wind up abusing. This is a lovely sentiment, and there’s a lot to say about the bare-bones meaning, as well as the interpretations that we can take from this God-given protection of the most vulnerable members of a population. Each of these people would have lacked influence and protectors in an ancient culture, which makes me think about who in our society today requires an extra level of protection from potential mistreatment.

But in the second verse, God reemphasizes that the connection to the land is eternal. It is once again shared that the land was given to the ancestors of the Israelites, and is vowed to the people in perpetuity. So does that mean that, based on the historical connection of the people, even if they violate the contract of the first verse, they’ll still get to keep the land? My interpretation is that the land is promised to the people no matter what. However, in order to remain worthy of this gift, the people need to hold up their end of the bargain and work to create a society that deserves this inheritance. It’s kind of like Israeli society today. The land belongs to the State of Israel, but in order to remain justly in power, there needs to be a social democracy in place in the land.

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