Jer 17:1-27. The Jews'
Inveterate Love of Idolatry.
The the Septuagint omits the first four
verses, but other Greek versions have them.
1. The first of the four clauses relates to
the third, the second to the fourth, by alternate parallelism. The
sense is: They are as keen after idols as if their propensity was
"graven with an iron pen (Job 19:24)
on their hearts," or as if it were sanctioned by a law "inscribed with
a diamond point" on their altars. The names of their gods used to be
written on "the horns of the altars" (Ac 17:23). As the clause "on their hearts" refers
to their inward propensity, so "on … altars," the
outward exhibition of it. Others refer "on the horns of …
altars" to their staining them with the blood of victims, in imitation
of the Levitical precept (Ex 29:12; Le 4:7, 18), but "written … graven," would
thus be inappropriate.
table of … heart—which God
intended to be inscribed very differently, namely, with His truths
3:3; 2Co 3:3).
your—Though "their" preceded, He
directly addresses them to charge the guilt home to them in
2. children remember—Instead of
forsaking the idolatries of their fathers, they keep them up (Jer 7:18). This is given as proof that
their sin is "graven upon … altars" (Jer 17:1), that is, is not merely temporary. They
corrupt their posterity after them. Castalio less probably translates, "They remember
their altars as (fondly as) they do their children."
groves—rather, "images of Astarte,"
the goddess of the heavenly hosts, represented as a sacred tree, such
as is seen in the Assyrian sculptures (2Ki 21:7; 2Ch 24:18). "Image of the grove." The
Hebrew for "grove" is Asherah, that is, Assarak, Astarte,
by the green trees—that is, near them:
the sacred trees (idol symbols) of Astarte being placed in the midst of
natural trees: "green trees" is thus distinguished from "groves,"
artificial trees. Henderson, to
avoid taking the same Hebrew particle in the same sentence
differently, "by … upon" translates "images of Astarte on
the green trees." But it is not probable that images, in the form of a
sacred tree, should be hung on trees, rather than near
3. mountain—Jerusalem, and especially
Zion and the temple.
in the field—As Jerusalem was
surrounded by mountains (Ps 125:2), the sense probably is, Ye rely on your
mountainous position (Jer 3:23),
but I will make "My mountain" to become as if it were in a plain
(field), so as to give thy substance an easy prey to the enemy [Calvin]. "Field" may, however, mean all
Judea; it and "My mountain" will thus express the country and
its capital. (Gesenius translates,
"together with," instead of "in"; as the Hebrew is translated in
11:19; Ho 5:6; but this is
not absolutely needed), "the substance" of both of which God "will give
to the spoil."
thy high places—corresponding in
parallelism to "My mountain" (compare Isa 11:9), as "all thy borders," to "the field"
(which confirms the view that "field" means all Judea).
for sin—connected with high places" in
English Version, namely, frequented for sin, that is, for
idolatrous sacrifices. But Jer 15:13
makes the rendering probable, "I will give thy substance … to
… spoil … on account of thy sin throughout all thy
4. even thyself—rather, "owing to
thyself," that is, by thy own fault (Jer 15:13).
discontinue from—be dispossessed of.
Not only thy substance, but thyself shall be carried off to a strange
5. Referring to the Jews' proneness to rely on
Egypt, in its fear of Assyria and Babylon (Isa 31:1, 3).
trusteth—This word is emphatic. We may
expect help from men, so far as God enables them to help us, but we
must rest our trust in God alone (Ps 62:5).
6. heath—In Ps
102:17; Isa 32:11; Hab 3:9,
the Hebrew is translated, "bare," "naked," "destitute"; but as
the parallel in Jer 17:8 is
"tree," some plant must be meant of which this is the characteristic
epithet (Jer 48:6,
Margin), "a naked tree." Robinson
translates, "the juniper tree," found in the Arabah or Great Valley,
here called "the desert," south of the Dead Sea. The "heath" was one of
the plants, according to Pliny (13.21;
16.26), excluded from religious uses, because it has neither fruit nor
seed, and is neither sown nor planted.
not see … good—(Job 20:17).
salt land—(De 29:23), barren ground.
7. (Ps 34:8; Pr 16:20; Isa 30:18). Jeremiah first removed the weeds
(false trusts), so that there might be room for the good grain [Calvin].
8. (Ps 1:3).
shall not see—that is, feel. Answering
17:6; whereas the unbelievers
"shall not see (even) when good cometh," the believer "shall not
see (so as to be overwhelmed by it even) when heat (fiery trial)
cometh." Trials shall come upon him as on all, nay, upon him especially
12:6); but he shall not sink
under them, because the Lord is his secret strength, just as the "roots
spread out by a river" (or, "water-course") draw hidden support from it
careful—anxious, as one desponding
12:29; 1Pe 5:7).
namely, of rain (Jer 14:1); he
here probably alludes to the drought which had prevailed, but makes it
the type of all kinds of distress.
9. deceitful—from a root, "supplanting,"
"tripping up insidiously by the heel," from which Jacob (Ho 12:3) took his name. In speaking of the Jews'
deceit of heart, he appropriately uses a term alluding to their
forefather, whose deceit, but not whose faith, they followed.
His "supplanting" was in order to obtain Jehovah's blessing.
They plant Jehovah for "trust in man" (Jer 17:5), and then think to deceive God,
as if it could escape His notice, that it is in man, not in Him,
desperately wicked—"incurable" [Horsley], (Mic 1:9). Trust in one's own heart is as foolish
as in our fellow man (Pr 28:26).
10. Lest any should infer from Jer 17:9, "who can know it?" that even the
Lord does not know, and therefore cannot punish, the hidden
treachery of the heart, He says, "I the Lord search the heart," &c.
(1Ch 28:9; Ps 7:9; Pr 17:3; Re 2:23).
even to give—and that in order
that I may give (Jer 32:19).
11. partridge—(1Sa 26:20). Hebrew, korea, from a root, "to
call," alluding to its cry; a name still applied to a bustard by the
Arabs. Its nest is liable, being on the ground, to be trodden under
foot, or robbed by carnivorous animals, notwithstanding all the
beautiful manoeuvres of the parent birds to save the brood. The
translation, "sitteth on eggs which it has not laid," alludes to
the ancient notion that she stole the eggs of other birds and hatched
them as her own; and that the young birds when grown left her for the
true mother. It is not needful to make Scripture allude to an exploded
notion, as if it were true. Maurer
thinks the reference is to Jehoiakim's grasping cupidity (Jer 22:13-17). Probably the sense is more
general; as previously He condemned trust in man (Jer 17:5), He now condemns another object of the
deceitful hearts' trust, unjustly gotten riches (Ps 39:6;
49:16, 17; 55:23).
fool—(Pr 23:5; Lu 12:20); "their folly" (Ps 49:13). He himself, and all, shall at last
perceive he was not the wise man he thought he was.
12. throne—the temple of Jerusalem, the
throne of Jehovah. Having condemned false objects of trust, "high
places for sin" (Jer 17:3),
and an "arm of flesh," he next sets forth Jehovah, and His
temple, which was ever open to the Jews, as the true object of
confidence, and sanctuary to flee to. Henderson makes Jehovah, in Jer 17:13, the subject, and this verse predicate,
"A throne of glory, high from the beginning, the place of our
sanctuary, the hope of Israel is Jehovah." "Throne" is thus used for
Him who sits on it; compare thrones (Col 1:16). He is called a "sanctuary" to His
people (Isa 8:14; Eze 11:16). So Syriac and
13. me—"Jehovah." Though "Thee"
precedes. This sudden transition is usual in the prophetic style, owing
to the prophet's continual realization of Jehovah's presence.
all that forsake thee—(Ps 73:27; Isa
written in the earth—in the dust, that
is, shall be consigned to oblivion. So Jesus' significant writing "on
the ground (probably the accusers' names)" (Joh 8:6). Names written in the dust are
obliterated by a very slight wind. Their hopes and celebrity are wholly
in the earth, not in the heavenly book of life (Re 13:8; 20:12,
15). The Jews, though
boasting that they were the people of God, had no portion in heaven, no
status before God and His angels. Contrast "written in heaven," that
is, in the muster-roll of its blessed citizens (Lu 10:20). Also, contrast "written in a book,"
and "in the rock for ever" (Job 19:23, 24).
living waters—(Jer 2:13).
14-18. Prayer of the prophet for deliverance
from the enemies whom he excited by his faithful denunciations.
Heal … save—not only make me
whole (as to the evils of soul as well as body which I am exposed
to by contact with ungodly foes, Jer 15:18), but keep me so.
my praise—He whom I have to praise for
past favors, and therefore to whom alone I look for the time to
15. Where is the word?—(Isa 5:19; Am
5:18). Where is the
fulfilment of the threats which thou didst utter as from God? A
characteristic of the last stage of apostasy (2Pe 3:4).
16. I have not refused Thy call of me to be a
1:3), however painful to me
it was to utter what would be sure to irritate the hearers (Jer 1:4, &c.).; therefore Thou
shouldest not forsake me (Jer 15:15,
to follow thee—literally, "after
thee"; as an under-pastor following Thee, the Chief Shepherd (Ec 12:11;
neither … desired—I have not
wished for the day of calamity, though I foretell it as about to
come on my countrymen; therefore they have no reason for persecuting
thou knowest—I appeal to Thee for the
truth of what I assert.
that which came out of my lips—my
right before thee—rather, "was
before Thee"; was known to Thee—(Pr 5:21).
17. a terror—namely, by deserting me:
all I fear is Thine abandoning me; if Thou art with me, I have no fear
of evil from enemies.
18. destroy … destruction—"break
them with a double breach," Hebrew (Jer 14:17). On "double," see on Jer 16:18.
19-27. Delivered in the reign of Jehoiakim,
who undid the good effected by Josiah's reformation, especially as to
the observance of the Sabbath [Eichorn].
gate of … children of …
people—The gate next the king's palace, called the gate of
David, and the gate of the people, from its being the
principal thoroughfare: now the Jaffa gate. It is probably the same as
"the gate of the fountain" at the foot of Zion, near which were the
king's garden and pool (Jer 39:4; 2Ki 25:4; Ne
2:14; 3:15; 12:37).
20. kings—He begins with the kings, as
they ought to have repressed such a glaring profanation.
21. Take heed to yourselves—literally,
"to your souls." Maurer explains, "as ye
love your lives"; a phrase used here to give the greater weight to the
sabbath—The non-observance of it was a
chief cause of the captivity, the number of years of the latter,
seventy, being exactly made to agree with the number of Sabbaths which
elapsed during the four hundred ninety years of their possession of
Canaan from Saul to their removal (Le 26:34, 35; 2Ch 36:21). On the restoration, therefore,
stress was especially laid on Sabbath observance (Ne 13:19).
Jerusalem—It would have been
scandalous anywhere; but in the capital, Jerusalem, it was an
open insult to God. Sabbath-hallowing is intended as a symbol of
holiness in general (Eze 20:12);
therefore much stress is laid on it; the Jews' gross impiety is
manifested in their setting God's will at naught, in the case of such
an easy and positive command.
23. (Jer 7:24, 26).
24. A part put for the whole, "If ye keep the
Sabbath and My other laws."
25. kings … in chariots—The
kingdom at this time had been brought so low that this promise here was
a special favor.
remain—Hebrew, "be inhabited"
(Jer 17:6; Isa 13:20).
26. plain mountains … south—(Jos 15:1-4). The southern border had extended
to the river of Egypt, but was now much curtailed by Egyptian invasions
(2Ch 35:20; 36:3, 4). The Hebrew for "south" means
dry; the arid desert south of Judea is meant. The
enumeration of all the parts of Judea, city, country, plain, hill, and
desert, implies that no longer shall there be aught wanting of the
integrity of the Jewish land (Zec 7:7).
sacrifices—As in Jer 17:22, one constituent of Judea's prosperity
is mentioned, namely, its kings on David's throne, the pledge of
God being its guardian; so in this verse another constituent, namely,
its priests, a pledge of God being propitious to it (Ps 107:22).
27. burden … in … gates … fire
in the gates—retribution answering to the sin. The scene of
their sin shall be the scene of their punishment (Jer 52:13;