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Judah’s Sin and Punishment


The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen; with a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts, and on the horns of their altars, 2while their children remember their altars and their sacred poles, beside every green tree, and on the high hills, 3on the mountains in the open country. Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your sin throughout all your territory. 4By your own act you shall lose the heritage that I gave you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.



Thus says the L ord:

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals

and make mere flesh their strength,

whose hearts turn away from the L ord.


They shall be like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see when relief comes.

They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.



Blessed are those who trust in the L ord,

whose trust is the L ord.


They shall be like a tree planted by water,

sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes,

and its leaves shall stay green;

in the year of drought it is not anxious,

and it does not cease to bear fruit.



The heart is devious above all else;

it is perverse—

who can understand it?


I the L ord test the mind

and search the heart,

to give to all according to their ways,

according to the fruit of their doings.



Like the partridge hatching what it did not lay,

so are all who amass wealth unjustly;

in mid-life it will leave them,

and at their end they will prove to be fools.



O glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,

shrine of our sanctuary!


O hope of Israel! O L ord!

All who forsake you shall be put to shame;

those who turn away from you shall be recorded in the underworld,

for they have forsaken the fountain of living water, the L ord.


Jeremiah Prays for Vindication


Heal me, O L ord, and I shall be healed;

save me, and I shall be saved;

for you are my praise.


See how they say to me,

“Where is the word of the L ord?

Let it come!”


But I have not run away from being a shepherd in your service,

nor have I desired the fatal day.

You know what came from my lips;

it was before your face.


Do not become a terror to me;

you are my refuge in the day of disaster;


Let my persecutors be shamed,

but do not let me be shamed;

let them be dismayed,

but do not let me be dismayed;

bring on them the day of disaster;

destroy them with double destruction!


Hallow the Sabbath Day

19 Thus said the L ord to me: Go and stand in the People’s Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, 20and say to them: Hear the word of the L ord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 21Thus says the L ord: For the sake of your lives, take care that you do not bear a burden on the sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. 22And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the sabbath or do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. 23Yet they did not listen or incline their ear; they stiffened their necks and would not hear or receive instruction.

24 But if you listen to me, says the L ord, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but keep the sabbath day holy and do no work on it, 25then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall be inhabited forever. 26And people shall come from the towns of Judah and the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the L ord. 27But if you do not listen to me, to keep the sabbath day holy, and to carry in no burden through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates; it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.


The Prophet teaches us here in other words what we have often already seen, — that the Jews in vain sought refuges, for their sin had so much accumulated that it was very apparent. It indeed often happens, that men fall; but God, who is ever inclined to mercy, forgives them; and they are also often led astray through levity, and thus their sins are not engraven on their hearts. But Jeremiah says, that nothing remained for that nation but to be entirely swept away, because their iniquity was past recovery. Had they been lightly besprinkled with vices, there might have been still a remedy for them; but when their iniquities were engraven on their hearts, on their marrow and bones, what more remained for them? He had said before,

“Can the Ethiop change his skin?” (Jeremiah 13:23)

though the Ethiop may change his skin, and also the panther, yet thou art still like thyself. They had so completely imbibed a contempt for God, and also perverseness, that they could not by any means be restored to a right mind. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet in this passage.

He says that the sin of Judah was written with an iron pen, with the point of adamant; as though he had said, “They are not only slightly imbued with iniquity, for then there might be some healing; but iniquity is engraven on their inmost feelings, as though one had graven it with adamant or with an iron pen.” It hence appears, that they were wholly unworthy of pardon, as they were in no way capable of receiving mercy, how much soever God might have been inclined to receive them into favor; for their obstinacy had closed the way of salvation; nor could they apply to themselves the promises, for they require repentance in sinners.

He then adds, It is graven on the table of their heart; as though he had said, that they were so addicted to iniquity, that all their inward parts bore the impressions of it. It hence follows that the Jews were so proved to be guilty, that they in vain contrived evasions, for their own conscience condemned them. At the same time, I consider the Prophet as speaking not only of guilt, but also of sin itself, and of their propensity to evil. He means then that the Jews had not only sinned and transgressed God’s law in a way not common, but that they were also so given up to wickedness as to delight in the iniquity that was graven on their hearts. He calls by a metaphor the affections or feelings the tables of the heart: For he compares the heart to tables; as writing appears when cut in stone or brass, so when a sinful impression is made on the hearts of men, iniquity itself may be said to be graven on the tables of the heart.

He afterwards adds, And on the horns of your altars. He had spoken of the heart, he now proceeds farther, — that there appeared openly an evidence of hidden iniquity. Had he spoken only of their hearts, the Jews might have objected and said, “How canst thou penetrate into our hearts? Art thou God, to examine and try our inward emotions?” But the Prophet adds, that their iniquity was sufficiently known by their altars. He at the same time intimates, that they in vain alleged the name of religion; for under that pretense they especially sinned against God; for they had vitiated his pure worship. And to confirm this very thing he adds —

Jeremiah 17:2

2. Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.

2. Secundum recordari filios ipsorum (hoc est, cum memores erunt filii ipsorum) altarium ipsorum et lucorum ipsorum super arborem frondosam, super colles excelsos.


Interpreters seem not to me to have perceived the design of the Prophet here, at least they have not clearly explained the subject. He proceeds, as I think, with what he said at the end of the last verse, — that the iniquity of Judah was graven on the altars, or on the horns of the altars: how was this? even because they transmitted to posterity whatever they devised as to their ungodly forms of worship. How then was iniquity graven on the horns of the altars? even because it was not a temporary wickedness only, when the Jews cast aside the Law and followed their corrupt superstitions; but, on the contrary, their iniquity flowed down, as it were, by a hereditary right, to their posterity. Justly then does Jeremiah accuse them, that they were not only led away into evil through the whole course of their own lives, but that they also corrupted their children, for they left to them memorials of their own superstitions.

Some give this explanation, “As they remember their children, so also their altars;” as though the Prophet had said, that idolaters burnt with such ardor, that they held the altars dedicated to their idols as dear to them as their own children. But this view seems too forced. I then have no doubt but that the Prophet here amplifies their wickedness, when he says, that it was graven on the horns of the altars; for their posterity remembered the superstitions, which they had received from their fathers. He mentions also their groves; 170170     The word rendered “groves,” means also idols. See 2 Kings 23:6, where “grove” in our version must mean an idol. What follows here, “near the green tree,” shews clearly that “idols,” or images, are the things meant; and such is the version given by Venema and Horsley.Ed. for on or near every shady tree they built altars; and also on all high hills. It follows —

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