15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.18 But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
19 The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes impressed with her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”
(Jeremiah 44:15-19 NIV)
In yesterday’s text, Jeremiah receives a word from the Lord and confronts the people about their divided religious loyalties and their sin of disobeying the Lord. In today’s passage, the people (both men and women) offer their angry retort to the Lord and Jeremiah.
In verses 16 – 17, the people respond in direct opposition to the Lord’s message. In these two verses, they use the word “will” four times, clearly stating their intention to do the opposite of what the Lord had instructed them to do.
So who was this “Queen of Heaven”? She was some female deity that the Judeans had worshiped since before Josiah’s reformation, probably a Canaanite goddess. Some scholars think it may have been the goddess Ishtar, as a lot of the practices are as described in this and other passages.
These methods involved burning of incense to her, pouring out drink offerings to her, baking cakes in her likeness, and engaging the whole family in these practices (v. 15 and 19). In fact, if you’ll remember, the Lord addressed this worship of the Queen of Heaven back in 7:16-20, noting how every family member was involved in the process – the fathers, mothers, and children. This practice was ingrained into the very fabric of their society, culture, and tradition – the roots of this cultic practice ran very deep.
In yesterday’s text, the Lord tries to help the people “connect the dots” and see that their disobedience to Him was the cause of their woes. In today’s response, the people come to the opposite conclusion – that their failure to worship the Queen of Heaven is what has caused all their pain. In their mind, Josiah’s reformation was the beginning of their downfall, when they were forced to give up the worship of this goddess. They claim to have been better off with her than with God Himself.
So we have to ask ourselves why the people would come to their false conclusion. Bottom line, they were self-centered, not God-centered. They viewed all deities as “good luck charms” to be appeased. They incorrectly assumed that when they stopped their worship of these false gods, their blessings of health, safety, and provision stopped. So in answer to the Lord’s questions of “Why?” from yesterday’s passage, their attitudes and responses were “why not?”
May we hear the call of the Lord to worship no other gods except Him alone. May we not have divided loyalties, putting anyone or anything in front of or equal to Him.
May we be bold and ask the Lord if there is anything that rivals for our attention in our lives and be willing to hear and accept the answer, and to repent if the Lord brings anything to mind.
May we have the Lord as our center, as our worldview, and not that of the world around us. May we see that all good things come only from Him, our protector, and provider.