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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 17

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-27

Jeremiah 17:1 . The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron. Yea, it is deeply written on the heart, as the diamond will write on polished stones, on tablets of brass, or on the brazen altars of Baal. The word altars being plural indicates that idolatrous altars are understood, for the Lord allowed but of one altar.

Jeremiah 17:3 . Oh my mountain in the field. The temple was situate on a mountain, and is called the holy mountain, and the mountain of the Lord’s house. It here stands for Jerusalem and Judea, the land of the worshippers.

Jeremiah 17:5 . Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. This last word refers to the military power of Egypt, whose armies were men, and not God; and whose horses were flesh, and not spirit. Isaiah 31:3. Sending an embassy to Egypt in the day of trouble, was leaving the ancient road of Moses, of Joshua, of Samuel, and all the Judges. And when did David ask the Egyptians to save him? It was despising all the perfections of God, and honouring the Egyptians above their Maker. So they sinned, trusting in Egypt, till their temple was in flames.

Jeremiah 17:9 . The heart is deceitful, in every form of prevarication, beyond all comparison. Who could have believed that the princes of Judah would have sworn at the great passover to keep the covenant of the Lord, when they had secreted their idols at home! Impartial justice however requires, that human nature should be contemplated under a double aspect; first, the grandeur, and secondly, the baseness of man. We fully admit the intellectual glory of man, the noble and virtuous actions which have emanated from the clouds of his character; but for these we are indebted to the grace of the new covenant. On the other hand, what is the character of man, but that of a serpent to destroy the earth by his deadly sting? Here the desperate wickedness of the heart appears: he gives the shouts of havoc against a vanquished foe. What then is this heart but an empoisoned fountain? What are the crimes of man in the crisis of strong temptation? What is his cunning to overreach his neighbor, and to cover his crimes? What are those codes of criminal law, those testamentary bequests by which a dying father does not dare to trust his own children? What are those loud complaints of delinquency in the sacred trusts of lands given for the support of the aged poor, and the endowment of schools? What is the paternal and virtuous public, which suffers these trusts to be thus perverted, but a nation of evil-doers? If the unitarian cannot see original sin developed in the character of man, he must be so blinded by the substitution of philosophy for revelation that he cannot see wood for the trees. Above all, why were Jeremiah and all good men persecuted, and even to an army of martyrs, but because they were good, and because the unregenerate heart is “earthly, sensual, and devilish.” It is full of coils and tortures, like the crooked serpent.

And desperately wicked; who can know it. ענשׁ ânash, denotes severe fines for desperate wickedness, as beating a pregnant woman, so as to cause abortion. Exodus 21:22-27. 2 Chronicles 36:3; 2 Chronicles 36:3. Proverbs 19:19; Proverbs 27:12, 2 Kings 23:33. Let the reader consult those passages for himself. Mr. Parkhurst says, “that this text is badly translated, as ânash is never used in scripture to denote wickedness of any kind!” Though Mr. Parkhurst, with socinian laxity, may believe in the goodness of man’s heart, yet he must admit that the metonymy is a figure of speech which puts one thing for another, as the author for his books: “they have Moses and the prophets.” As Mars for war, Mercury for eloquence, Venus for love. So in the above texts, ânash is put for murder and rebellion. 2 Chronicles 36:3; 2 Chronicles 36:3. How then would Mr. Parkhurst improve the translation?

Jeremiah 17:10 . I the Lord search the heart. Here the Lord gives the answer to the question, who can know it? The rulers of Jerusalem cannot deceive me. I know their hypocrisy, worshipping me in the temple, and Baal on the hills; and after having filled Jerusalem with iniquity and sin, they look to Egypt for aid, being afraid to look to me.

Jeremiah 17:11 . As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not, the young running away with the shell on their head; so those rulers who wrested the lands of the poor, should soon be divested both of lands and of children. Many critics defend the LXX in translating korai by perdix, a partridge. David says that he was hunted as a partridge on the mountains, 1 Samuel 26:20, which the fowlers at night drive into the nets, and take the whole covey.

Jeremiah 17:12 . A glorious high throne was established in paradise, where the fiery sword of the cherubim kept fallen man from the tree of life. The holy patriarchs had altars where they approached the throne of God. The mercyseat was established in the tabernacle and in the temple, towards which Daniel opened his window and prayed. From this throne the Lord gave sentence against the Assyrian army, and at all times made his throne a refuge for his people. This glorious throne, the throne of grace, now fills the christian church. Isaiah 2:6, 60. Zechariah 6:12-13.


We have here the indelible characters of Judah’s sin, the sin of idolatry, and all its consequences. On going to their groves and altars, they often engraved their names on the horns of those altars. Though God had denounced death against the crime, yet they so far dared his justice as to leave there a lasting mark of their sin. But however legibly the sin was written on brass, it was more deeply written on the heart or conscience of the offender.

God pities the errors of man, and long forbears before he strikes. Oh my mountain, the temple, and the people of Judah. Oh how shall I change thy glory to shame, and all thy beauty to desolation. The nature and extent of divine compassion afford the greatest encouragement for the worst of sinners to repent.

The consequence of forsaking God was reliance on Egypt for help. Now, in his eyes, this was a most provoking sin; for he had delivered Israel a hundred times, and by prodigies unknown in any nation. Cursed then be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. We must never place confidence in health, in riches, or in medicine, but in a view subservient to the divine pleasure. They who do so soon wither, their name being written in the earth; while he who trusts in the Lord shall be as a tree planted beside the rivers of water. He shall not see, or rather as the Vulgate reads, he shall not be solicitous when the heat cometh.

In regard to Judah’s apostasy, and their reliance on an arm of flesh, it is said the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The human heart, corrupted by nature and confirmed in sin by habit, deceives by seeking happiness in vain objects and sensual joy. It deceives in the procrastination of repentance, and fails in its vows of reformation. In prosperity it is elated, and rests in transient good. In adversity, it is all despondency and gloom. In intercourse with man, it deceives by selfish passions; and often commits crimes which, in another man, it would abhor and detest as the last of abhorrent deeds. So it is with men who seduce innocence, and with those who get rich, but not by right. Hence the human heart must be made new, and simple, and holy, or it cannot be approved of God.

The last consequence arising from a deceitful and wicked heart, is contempt of the Lord’s word. Where is now, said these rebels, the word of the Lord? Let it now come, oh infatuated prophet. None of thy terrific predictions have come to pass; therefore we have a just right to stone thee. When men are thus hardened against moral sentiments, and against visitations of providence which might be obviously inferred from the perfections of God, it is a sad sign of their being given up to a reprobate mind.

The last prophecy, Jeremiah 17:19, respecting the hallowing of the sabbathday, is a new revelation, which marks the great weight and importance of the subject. It is addressed to the kings, or rather the chief magistrates of Judah, because they were entrusted with the law, and required to enforce obedience. The punishment denounced against the sin is, that they who profaned the day, and defiled the country, should forfeit both the sabbath and the country. The Lord would cut off both the prince and the people. The arguments apply with equal force to the christian church. The men who obstinately defile the sabbath, and thereby insult the worship of their Maker, shall have neither place nor lot in the city and inheritance of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/jeremiah-17.html. 1835.
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