Jeremiah 7:31 – Does “Silence” Prohibit?

By Wayne Jackson

There are many who repudiate the prohibitive force of the silence of the Scriptures. Though they concede that an action is forbidden if there is a specific “thou shalt not,” they confidently declare that if the Bible is silent upon a particular issue, one is granted the liberty to act. The question thus becomes — does silence have a negating mood?

We believe that a careful consideration of numerous biblical contexts will clearly establish that silence does not grant permission; rather, it forbids. Let us give thought to the following situation.

In Jeremiah 7:29-31, the great prophet of God censured the citizens of the kingdom of Judah for involvement in the idolatry of its pagan neighbors.

“Cut off thy hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the bare heights; for Jehovah hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath. For the children of Judah have done that which is evil in my sight, saith Jehovah: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into my mind.”

The people had worshipped idols (even bringing such into the temple), and had gone so far as to sacrifice their children to heathen gods. These indiscretions belonged to that class of things which Jehovah “commanded not” (31). Underline that phrase for it is very significant.

It is true, of course, that in numerous other Old Testament passages the Lord’s people had been strictly charged not to worship other gods (cf. Ex. 20:3). Prohibitions were clear and forceful. However, in the passage at hand (cf. also Lev. 10:1; Dt. 17:3), the issue is not approached negatively; rather, the reason the Lord gave as to why idols were not to be worshipped because he had “not commanded” such, "neither came it into [his] mind. "

A comparison of these two sorts or contexts, therefore, reveals the following truth. Conduct forbidden, and conduct that is unauthorized, fall into the same category. Both displease God.

Let those who are forever quipping: “Where does the Bible say you can’t…?” reflect soberly on this point. The issue is this: “Where does the Bible authorize your coveted practice?”

Underline, therefore, in the respective passages cited, those telling words “commanded not,” and reference Exodus 20:3, or some similar verse. Then note: “Commanded not” is the equivalent of a negation; silence is prohibitive.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.