Refuting the Missionaries: Jewish Interpretations of Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu)

* Jeremiah 23.5

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth."

Christian Claim: This righteous branch refers to Jesus, who is king, messiah, and god of the Jewish people and all peoples. Only he will execute judgement and justice in the world.

Jewish Refutation: This verse in Jeremiah makes it clear that the "branch" will be a "king." The only reference to Jesus as a king in the Christian Bible is the inscription that the Romans allegedly placed on top of Jesus' cross, which supposedly read: "Jesus, King of the Jews." He was rejected by the Jews of his day, and was certainly not their king. Likewise, he did not prosper. The Christian Bible tells us that he was denounced wherever he went, and had no place to lay his head to rest.

Furthermore, in John 12.47, we find the following:

"And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."

Jesus openly declared that he was not to be considered the judge of mankind.

Jesus was not the "branch" of king David. His genealogical records related in the Christian Bible do not indicate he had any connection at all with king David's lineage.

* Jeremiah 31.15

"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."

Christian Claim: Matthew insists (in chapter 2, verses 17 and 18 of his Gospel) that Jeremiah 31.15 was fulfilled during the time that Jesus was in Egypt.

Jewish Refutation: This verse is in no way a reference to Jesus. "Rachel weeping for her children" refers to the wife of Jacob, and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, who was weeping for her children who were taken captive to Egypt. Jeremiah witnessed the Babylonian exile, and exclaimed that Rachel was weeping for the exile of her children, not the killing of her children by Herod. In the verses that follow (Jeremiah 31.16-17), the prophet comforts his people, and tells them that there is hope, and that their sufferings will eventually come to an end, and their children will again be redeemed.

In addition, Ramah is mentioned in that verse, and not Bethlehem. Bethlehem belonged to Judah (Micah 5.2), and Judah was born of Leah, not Rachel (Genesis 29.31-35). If anyone was to be weeping for Jesus and the children of Bethlehem, it should have been Leah.

It is not only the context of Jeremiah 31.15 that is not compatible with the story related in the Christian Bible of Herod's alleged decree, but an examination of the historicity of that event reveals that in all probability, it simply did not occur. It is highly unlikely that in the meticulous accounts of Flavius Josephus, for example, such an event would have been omitted. Josephus wrote extensively of Herod's abuses, and depicted him in an evil light. If Herod ever made such a decree to kill all the Jewish male infants, it would have been mentioned as one of the more cruel acts that Herod committed.

In addition, if Luke's account of Jesus' birth is to be considered authoritative, then Herod was dead before Jesus was even born.

* Jeremiah 31.31

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah."

Christian Claim: This is one of the foundational verses of the Christian religion. It states that G-d would make a new covenant in the world, and that the laws dictated in the Jewish Bible will, at the time when the new covenant will be implemented, be replaced by the law written on the people's "inward parts."

Jewish Refutation: Jews do not understand Jeremiah 31.31 as referring to any new covenant. We understand that verse as speaking of a "renewed" covenant that is yet to be implemented.

The complete Jewish refutation to the new covenant concept that Christianity teaches is provided in the section "Eternal vs New Covenant" in Part II of this FAQ.

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