7 “Even the stork in the heavens
Knows her appointed times;
And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
Observe the time of their coming.
But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord.
8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise,
And the law of the Lord is with us’?
Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.
9 The wise men are ashamed,
They are dismayed and taken.
Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord;
So what wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:7-9)
the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood:
Verse 8 is being quoted by an increasing number of Muslims as proof that the Jewish scholars have been corrupting the text of their scriptures.
For all Bible study (as for studying any other book) it is important to look at the context of each passage we want to understand.
What exactly is it that these scribes are doing?
If you read the larger context you will see clearly that the scribes, priests and prophets are telling the people that everything is okay, that the Law is being kept, and that there will be peace because “God is with us”, His people. But they are lying. It doesn’t say their lying pens are making the Torah into a lie by altering its text. It says they are writing things that are false as though they came from God’s law and teaching them to the people.
These lying teachers are telling the people “peace, peace” although the true prophet tells them there is no peace and will be no peace. God has announced His judgment on Jerusalem for its idolatry and disobedience. The enemies are coming and God will NOT help. This verse has nothing to do with altering the books, it has to do with teaching false practices and giving false prophecies and saying these are based on the Lord’s law. The law of God which clearly speaks of punishment for sin is disregarded and the people are told about the promises of God’s goodness — which are in the Law too, but each has its conditions.
“Having” the Law is no advantage whatsoever if you don’t obey it. The end result is the same as if you don’t even have it. This is the consistent message of the Bible in many, many places.
For example you might have a detailed look at a similar address of judgment against the scribes by Jesus in Matthew 23. Let me explicitly quote a few verses here. Jesus starts out his harsh words of condemnation (taking up nearly all of chapter 23) with:
2 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Lord Jesus would never have told the people to listen to the teachers of the Law if the very law they were teaching had not been unchanged and as pure as it was given by God. No, textual corruption was not an issue at all. It is always the question of how we react and what we do with the law that we know.
“For behold, I will send serpents among you,
Vipers which cannot be charmed,
And they shall bite you,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:17)
Such were the Chaldeans—crafty as serpents, full of the venom of cruelty wherever they came! There was no way of charming them as a serpent may be charmed. They came on a deadly errand and thoroughly did they perform it.