Q. In Jeremiah 41:5 it says about 80 men from Shechem, Shiloh & Samaria arrived to worship at the temple of the Lord. They had shaved their beards, torn their clothes, cut themselves & had brought with them grain offerings and frankincense. I know some eastern religions cut themselves, but I didn’t know God was also worshiped this way. Does this phrase mean something other than what it appears to mean?
A. The Temple of the Lord had just been destroyed by the Babylonians and these men had come to mourn the loss. Leviticus 19:28 forbids cutting oneself as a sign of mourning as these men had done. But the places from which they had come were all in the former Northern Kingdom where pagan religions had been practiced before its conquest by Assyria. Their outward signs of mourning were a mixture of Jewish and Pagan tradition. Later people like these would come to be known as Samaritans, considered to be apostate by the Jews.