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Answering The Atheist
July 31, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 31

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Did God command the Israelites to make him burnt offerings? Several verses say that He did command burnt offerings (Ex 8:27; 10:25; 20:24; 29:16-18), but Jeremiah 7:22 says that He did not command burnt offerings. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
God's covenant with the people of Israel was not about the sacrifices and burnt offerings. Granted, when God called them forth from Egypt, it was that they might make sacrifice to Him (Ex 8:27; 10:25), but that was not the axis of the covenant which He would establish with them. What was the first thing the Lord said to Israel after bringing them out of Egypt? Note, "If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you." (Ex 15:26; cf. Ex 19:5; Jer 7:23; 11:4, 7). He desired faithful obedience from the people.

The Lord is not saying through Jeremiah that He did not command the sacrifices, but simply that His commandment to the people was not merely to bring sacrifices, but to live holy. God's people in Jeremiah's day conducted themselves wickedly, as their forefathers had done (Jer 7:24). Note, "Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place... Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it... Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger." (Jer 7:3, 11, 17-18). And yet they still brought burnt offerings to the Lord (Jer 6:20; 7:21).

Bringing the burnt offerings, without living a life uprightly before the Lord was useless. God did not command their forefathers to bring the burnt offering and live as they wanted. The command to sacrifice was contingent upon them choosing to walk obediently to the Lord. If they would not, then God did not want their sacrifices (Jer 6:20; 7:21; Isa 11:1; Hos 8:13; Am 5:21).

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible