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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 17

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verses 1-4

Judah's sin is ineffaceably stamped upon the hearts of the people and on their altars. These four verses are closely connected with the preceding, and show why it is necessary that Judah be cast forth amidst the heathen, by reason of its being perfectly stepped in idolatry. Jeremiah 17:1. "The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen, with the point of a diamond graven on the table of their hearts and on the horns of your altars. Jeremiah 17:2 . As they remember their children, so do they their altars and their Astartes by the green tree upon the high hills. Jeremiah 17:3 . My mountain in the field, thy substance, all thy treasures give I for a prey, thy high places for sin in all thy borders. Jeremiah 17:4 . And thou shalt discontinue, and that of thine own self, from thine inheritance that I gave thee, and I cause thee to serve thine enemies in a land which thou knowest not; for a fire have ye kindled in mine anger, for ever it burneth."

The sin of Judah (Jeremiah 17:1) is not their sinfulness, their proneness to sin, but their sinful practices, idolatry. This is written upon the tables of the hearts of them of Judah, i.e., stamped on them (cf. for this figure Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 7:3), and that deep and firmly. This is intimated by the writing with an iron pen and graving with a diamond. צפּרן , from צפר , scratch, used in Deuteronomy 21:12 for the nail of the finger, here of the point of the style or graving-iron, the diamond pencil which gravers use for carving in iron, steel, and stone.

(Note: Cf. Plinii hist. n. xxxvii. 15: crustae adamantis expetuntur a sculptoribus ferroque includuntur, nullam non duritiem ex facili excavantes.)

שׁמיר , diamond, not emery as Boch. and Ros. supposed; cf. Ezekiel 3:9; Zechariah 7:12. The things last mentioned are so to be distributed that "on the table of their heart" shall belong to "written with a pen of iron," and "on the horns of their altars" to "with the point of a diamond grave." The iron style was used only for writing or carving letters in a hard material, Job 19:24. If with it one wrote on tables, it was for the purpose of impressing the writing very deeply, so that it could not easily be effaced. The having of sin engraved upon the tables of the heart does not mean that a sense of unatoned sin could not be got rid of (Graf); for with a sense of sin we have here nothing to do, but with the deep and firm root sin has taken in the heart. To the tables of the heart as the inward seat of sin are opposed the horns of their altars (at "altars" the discourse is directly addressed to the Jews). By altars are generally understood idolatrous altars, partly because of the plural, "since the altar of Jahveh was but one," partly because of Jeremiah 17:2, where the altars in question are certainly those of the idols. But the first reason proves nothing, since the temple of the Lord itself contained two altars, on whose horns the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled. The blood of the sin-offering was put not merely on the altar of burnt-offering, but also on the horns of the altar of incense, Leviticus 4:7-8; Leviticus 16:16. Nor is the second reason conclusive, since there is no difficulty in taking it to be the altars of Jahveh as defiled by idolatry. This, indeed, we must do, since Josiah had destroyed the altars of the false gods, whereas here the altars are spoken of as existing monuments of idolatry. The question, in how far the sin of Judah is ineffaceably engraven upon the horns of her altars, is variously answered by comm., and the answer depends on the view taken of Jeremiah 17:2, which is itself disputed. It is certainly wrong to join Jeremiah 17:2 as protasis with Jeremiah 17:3 as apodosis, for it is incompatible with the beginning of Jeremiah 17:3, הררי . Ew. therefore proposes to attach "my mountain in the field" to Jeremiah 17:2, and to change הררי into הררי : upon the high hills, the mountains in the field - a manifest makeshift. Umbr. translates: As their children remember their altars...so will I my mountain in the field, thy possession...give for a prey; and makes out the sense to be: "in proportion to the strength and ineffaceableness of the impressions, such as are to be found in the children of idolatrous fathers, must be the severity of the consequent punishment from God." But if this were the force, then כּן could not possibly be omitted before the apodosis; apart altogether from the suddenness of such a transition from the sins of the people (Jeremiah 17:1) to the sins of the children.

Jeremiah 17:2-3

Jeremiah 17:2 is plainly meant to be a fuller and clearer disclosure of the sins written on the tables of Judah's heart, finding therein its point of connection with Jeremiah 17:1. The verse has no verbum finit ., and besides it is a question whether "their children" is subject or object to "remember." The rule, that in calm discourse the subject follows the verb, does not decide for us; for the object very frequently follows next, and in the case of the infinitive the subject is often not mentioned, but must be supplied from the context. Here we may either translate: as their sons remember (Chald. and Jerome), or: as they remember their sons. As already said, the first translation gives no sense in keeping with the context. Rashi, Kimchi, J. D. Mich., Maur., Hitz. follow the other rendering: as they remember their children, so do they their altars. On this view, the verb. fin. יזכּרוּ is supplied from the infin. זכר , and the two accusatives are placed alongside, as in Isaiah 66:3 after the participle, without the particle of comparison demanded by the sense, cf. also Psalms 92:8; Job 27:15. Näg. calls this construction very harsh; but it has analogues in the passages cited, and gives the very suitable sense: Their altars, Astartes, are as dear to them as their children. Hitz. takes the force to be this: "Whenever they think of their children, they remember, and cannot but remember, the altars to whose horns the blood of their sacrificed children adheres. And so in the case of a green tree upon the heights; i.e., when they light upon such an one, they cannot help calling to mind the Asherahs, which were such trees." But this interpretation is clearly wrong; for it takes the second clause על עץ as object to זכר , which is grammatically quite indefensible, and which is besides incompatible with the order of the words. Besides, the idea that they remember the altars because the blood of their children stuck to the horns of them, is put into the words; and the putting of it in is made possible only by Hitz.'s arbitrarily separating "their Astartes" from "their altars," and from the specification of place in the next clause: "by the green tree." The words mean: As they remember their children, so do they their altars and Asherahs by every green tree. The co-ordination of Asherahs and altars makes it clear that it is not sacrifices to Moloch that are meant by altars; for the Asherahs have no connection with the worship of Moloch. Näg. 's assertions, that אשׁרים is the name for male images of Baal, and that there can be no doubt of their connection with child-slaughtering Moloch-worship, are unfounded and erroneous. The word means images of Asherah; see on 1 Kings 14:23 and Deuteronomy 16:21. Graf says that ר ' על־עץ does not belong to "altars and Asherahs," because in that case it would need to be ר ' עץ תּחת , as in Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:13; Isaiah 57:5; Deuteronomy 12:2; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10, but that it depends on זכר . This remark is not correctly expressed, and Graf himself gives על a local force, thus: by every green tree and on every high hill they think of the altars and Asherahs. This local relation cannot be spoken of as a "dependence" upon the verb; nor does it necessarily exclude the connection with "altars and Asherahs," since we can quite well think of the altars and Asherahs as being by or beside every green tree and on the hills. At the same time, we hold it better to connect the local reference with the verb, because it gives the stronger sense - namely, that the Jews not merely think of the altars and Asherahs which are by every green tree and upon the high hills, but that by every green tree and on the high hills they think of their altars and Asherahs, even when there are no such things to be seen there. Thus we can now answer the question before thrown out, in what respects the sin was ineffaceably engraven on the horns of the altar: It was because the altars and images of the false gods had entwined themselves as closely about their hearts as their children, so that they brought the sin of their idolatry along with their sacrifices to the altars of Jahveh. The offerings which they bring, in this state of mind, to the Lord are defiled by idolatry and carry their sins to the altar, so that, in the blood which is sprinkled on its horns, the sins of the offerers are poured out on the altar. Hence it appears unmistakeably that Jeremiah 17:1 does not deal with the consciousness of sin as not yet cancelled or forgiven, but with the sin of idolatry, which, ineradicably implanted in the hearts of the people and indelibly recorded before God on the horns of the altar, calls down God's wrath in punishment as announced in Jeremiah 17:3 and Jeremiah 17:4.

"My mountain in the field" is taken by most comm. as a name for Jerusalem or Zion. But it is a question whether the words are vocative, or whether they are accusative; and so with the rest of the objects, "thy substance," etc., dependent on אתּן . If we take them to be vocative, so that Jerusalem is addressed, then we must hold "thy substance" and "thy treasures" to be the goods and gear of Jerusalem, while the city will be regarded as representative of the kingdom, or rather of the population of Judah. But the second clause, "thy high places in all thy borders," does not seem to be quite in keeping with this, and still less Jeremiah 17:4: thou shalt discontinue from thine inheritance, which is clearly spoken of the people of Judah. Furthermore, if Jerusalem were the party addressed, we should expect feminine suffixes, since Jerusalem is everywhere else personified as a woman, as the daughter of Zion. We therefore hold "my mountain" to be accusative, and, under "the mountain of Jahveh in the field," understand, not the city of Jerusalem, but Mount Zion as the site of the temple, the mountain of the house of Jahveh, Isaiah 2:3; Zechariah 8:3; Psalms 24:3. The addition בּשׂדה may not be translated: with the field (Ges., de W., Näg. ); for בּ denotes the means or instrument, or an accessory accompanying the principal thing or action and subservient to it (Ew. §217, f. 3), but not the mere external surroundings or belongings. Näg. 's assertion, that בּ , amidst = together with, is due to an extreme position in an empirical mode of treating language. בּשׂדה means "in the field," and "mountain in the field" is like the "rock of the plain," Jeremiah 21:13. But whether it denotes "the clear outstanding loftiness of the mountain, so that for it we might say: My mountain commanding a wide prospect" (Umbr., Graf), is a question. שׂדה , field, denotes not the fruitful fields lying round Mount Zion, but, like "field of the Amalekites," Genesis 14:7, "field of Edom" (Genesis 32:4), the land or country; see on Ezekiel 21:2; and so here: my mountain in the land (of Judah or Israel). The land is spoken of as a field, as a level or plain (Jeremiah 21:13), in reference to the spiritual height of the temple mountain or mountain of God above the whole land; not in reference to the physical pre-eminence of Zion, which cannot be meant, since Zion is considerably exceeded in height of the highlands of Judah. By its choice to be the site of the Lord's throne amid His people, Mount Zion was exalted above the whole land as is a mountain in the field; and it is hereafter to be exalted above all mountains (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1), while the whole land is to be lowered to the level of a plain (Zechariah 14:10). The following objects are ranged alongside as asyndetons: the Mount Zion as His peculiar possession and the substance of the people, all their treasures will the Lord give for a prey to the enemy. "Thy high places" is also introduced, with rhetorical effect, without copula. "Thy high places," i.e., the heights on which Judah had practised idolatry, will He give up, for their sins' sake, throughout the whole land. The whole clause, from "thy high places" to "thy borders," is an apposition to the first half of the verse, setting forth the reason why the whole land, the mountain of the Lord, and all the substance of the people, are to be delivered to the enemy; because, viz., the whole land has been defiled by idolatry. Hitz. wrongly translates בּחטּאת for sin, i.e., for a sin-offering.

Jeremiah 17:4

And thou shalt discontinue from thine inheritance. There is in שׁמטתּה an allusion to the law in Exodus 23:11, to let the ground lie untilled in the seventh year, and in Deuteronomy 15:2, to let loans go, not to exact from one's neighbour what has been lent to him. Because Judah has transgressed this law, the Lord will compel the people to let go their hold of their inheritance, i.e., He will cast them out of it. וּבך seems strange, interposed between the verb and the "from thine inheritance" dependent on it. The later Greek translators (for the entire passage Jeremiah 17:1-4 is wanting in the lxx) render it μόνη , and Jerome sola. Ew. therefore conjectures לבדד , but without due reason, since the translation is only a free rendering of: and that by thyself. J. D. Mich., Gr., and Näg. propose to read ידך , on the ground of the connection wrongly made between שׁמט and ידו , to let go his hand, Deuteronomy 15:2, given in Ges. Lex. s.v. For ידו in this case is not object to שׁמט , but belongs to משׁה , hand-lending; and in Deuteronomy 15:3 ידך is subject to תּשׁמט , the hand shall quit hold. וּבך sig. and that by thee, i.e., by thine own fault; cf. Ezekiel 22:16. Meaning: by thine own fault thou must needs leave behind thee thine inheritance, thy land, and serve thine enemies in a foreign land. On the last clause, "for a fire," etc., cf. Jeremiah 15:14, where is also discussed the relation of the present Jeremiah 17:3 and Jeremiah 17:4 to Jeremiah 15:13-14. For ever burns the fire, i.e., until the sin is blotted out by the punishment, and for ever inasmuch as the wicked are to be punished for ever.

Verses 5-27

Further Confirmation of this Announcement in General Reflections concerning the Sources of Ruin and of well-being. - This portion falls into two halves: a. On the sources of ruin and of well-being (Jeremiah 17:5-18); b. On the way to life (Jeremiah 17:18-27). The reflections of the first half show the curse of confidence in man and the blessings of confidence in God the Lord, Jeremiah 17:5-13; to which is joined, Jeremiah 17:14-18, a prayer of the prophet for deliverance from his enemies.

Jeremiah 17:5-6

"Thus saith Jahveh: Cursed is the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm, while his heart departeth from Jahveh. Jeremiah 17:6 . He shall be as a destitute man in the wilderness, and shall not see that good cometh; he shall inhabit parched places in the desert, a salt land and uninhabited. Jeremiah 17:7 . Blessed is the man that trusteth in Jahve, and whose trust Jahveh is. Jeremiah 17:8 . He shall be as a tree planted by the water, and shall by the river spread out his roots, and shall not fear when heat cometh; his leaves shall be green, and in the year of drought he shall not have care, neither cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:9 . Deceitful is the heart above all, and corrupt it is, who can know it? Jeremiah 17:10. I Jahveh search the heart and try the reins, even to give every one according to his way, according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:11. The partridge hatCheth the egg which it laid not; there is that getteth riches and not by right. In the midst of his days they forsake him, and at his end he shall be a fool. Jeremiah 17:12. Thou throne of glory, loftiness from the beginning, thou place of our sanctuary. Jeremiah 17:13. Thou hope of Israel, Jahveh, all that forsake Thee come to shame. They that depart from me shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the fountain of living water, Jahveh."

Trust in man and departure from God brings only mischief (Jeremiah 17:5 and Jeremiah 17:6); trust in the Lord brings blessing only (Jeremiah 17:7, Jeremiah 17:8). These truths are substantiated in Jeremiah 17:9-13, and elucidated by illustrations.

Trust in man is described according to the nature of it in the second clause: he that maketh flesh his arm, i.e., has strength. Flesh, the antithesis to spirit (cf. Isaiah 31:3), sets forth the vanity and perishableness of man and of all other earthly beings; cf. besides Isaiah 31:3, also Job 10:4; Psalms 56:5. In Jeremiah 17:6 we are shown the curse of this trusting in man. One who so does is as ערער in the steppe. This word, which is found beside only in Psalms 102:18, and in the form ערוער Jeremiah 48:6, is rendered by the old translators by means of words which mean desert plants or thorny growths (lxx ἀγριομυρίκη ; Jerome, myrice; similarly in Chald. and Syr.); so Ew., arid shrub; Umbr., a bare tree. All these renderings are merely guesses from the context; and the latter, indeed, tells rather against than for a bush or tree, since the following clause, "he shall not see," can be said only of a man. So in Psalms 102:18, where we hear of the prayer of the ערער . The word is from ערר , to be naked, made bare, and denotes the destitute man, who lacks all the means of subsistence. It is not the homeless or outcast (Graf, Hitz.). He shall not see, i.e., experience that good comes, i.e., he shall have no prosperity, but shall inhabit "burnt places," tracts in the desert parched by the sun's heat. Salt-land, i.e., quite unfruitful land; cf. Deuteronomy 29:22. לא תשׁב is a relative clause: and which is not inhabited = uninhabitable. Dwelling in parched tracts and salt regions is a figure for the total want of the means of life (equivalent to the German: auf keinen grünen Zweig kommen ).

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Jeremiah 17:7 and Jeremiah 17:8 show the companion picture, the blessings of trusting in the Lord. "That trusteth in Jahveh" is strengthened by the synonymous "whose trust Jahveh is;" cf. Psalms 40:5. The portrayal of the prosperity of him that trusts in the Lord is an extension of the picture in Psalms 1:3-4, of the man that hath his delight in the law of the Lord. The form יוּבל is ἁπ . λεγ . , equivalent to יבל , water-brook, which, moreover, occurs only in the plural ( יבלי ), Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 44:4. He spreads forth his roots by the brook, to gain more and more strength for growth. The Chet. ירא is imperf. from ירא , and is to be read ירא . The Keri gives יראה from ראה , corresponding to the יראה in Jeremiah 17:6. The Chet. is unqualifiedly right, and לא ירא correspond to לא ידאג . As to בּצּרת , see on Jeremiah 14:1. He has no fear for the heat in the year of drought, because the brook by which he grows does not dry up.

Jeremiah 17:9

To bring this truth home to the people, the prophet in Jeremiah 17:9 discloses the nature of the human heart, and then shows in Jeremiah 17:10 how God, as the Searcher of hearts, requites man according to his conduct. Trust in man has its seat in the heart, which seeks thereby to secure to itself success and prosperity. But the heart of man is more deceitful, cunning than all else עקב , from the denom. עקב .moned , to deal treacherously). אנוּשׁ , lit., dangerously sick, incurable, cf. Jeremiah 15:18; here, sore wounded by sin, corrupt or depraved. Who can know it? i.e., fathom its nature and corruptness. Therefore a man must not trust the suggestions and illusions of his own heart.

Jeremiah 17:10-11

Only God searches the heart and tries the reins, the seat of the most hidden emotions and feelings, cf. Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 12:3, and deals accordingly, requiting each according to his life and his doings. The ו before לתת , which is wanting in many MSS and is not expressed by the old translators, is not to be objected to. It serves to separate the aim in view from the rest, and to give it the prominence due to an independent thought; cf. Ew. §340, b. As to the truth itself, cf. Jeremiah 32:19. With this is joined the common saying as to the partridge, Jeremiah 17:11. The aim is not to specify greed as another root of the corruption of the heart, or to give another case of false confidence in the earthly (Näg. , Graf); but to corroborate by a common saying, whose truth should be obvious to the people, the greater truth, that God, as Searcher of hearts, requites each according to his works. The proverb ran: He that gains riches, and that by wrong, i.e., in an unjust, dishonourable manner, is like a partridge which hatches eggs it has not laid. In the Proverbs we often find comparisons, as here, without the כּ similit.: a gainer of riches is a partridge ( Rephuhn, properly Röphuhn from röpen = rufen, to call or cry); a bird yet found in plenty in the tribe of Judah; cf. Robinson, Palestine. All other interpretations are arbitrary. It is true that natural history has not proved the fact of this peculiarity of the partridge, on which the proverb was founded; testimonies as to this habit of the creature are found only in certain Church fathers, and these were probably deduced from this passage (cf. Winer, bibl. R. W., art. Rebhuhn). But the proverb assumes only the fact that such was the widespread popular belief amongst the Israelites, without saying anything as to the correctness of it. "Hat Chet h and layeth not" are to be taken relatively. דּגר , the Targum word in Job 39:14 for חמּם , fovere, sig. hatch, lit., to hold eggs close together, cover eggs; see on Isaiah 34:15. ילד , to bring forth, here of laying eggs. As to the Kametz in both words, see Ew. §100, c. The point of the comparison, that the young hatched out of another bird's eggs forsake the mother, is brought out in the application of the proverb. Hence is to be explained "forsake him:" the riches forsake him, instead of: are lost to him, vanish, in the half of his days, i.e., in the midst of life; and at the end of his life he shall be a fool, i.e., the folly of his conduct shall fully appear.

Jeremiah 17:12-13

In Jeremiah 17:12 and Jeremiah 17:13 Jeremiah concludes this meditation with an address to the Lord, which the Lord corroborates by His own word.

Verse 12 is taken by many ancient comm. as a simple statement: a throne of glory, loftiness from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. This is grammatically defensible; but the view preferred by almost all moderns, that it is an apostrophe, is more in keeping with the tension of feeling in the discourse. The "place of our sanctuary" is the temple as the spot where God sits throned amidst His people, not the heaven as God's throne: Isaiah 66:1. This the pronoun our does not befit, since heaven is never spoken of as the sanctuary of Israel. Hence we must refer both the preceding phrases to the earthly throne of God in the temple on Zion. The temple is in Jeremiah 14:21 called throne of the כּבוד יהוה , because in it Jahveh is enthroned above the ark; Exodus 25:22; Psalms 80:2; Psalms 99:1. מראשׁון has here the sig. of מראשׁ , Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 48:16: from the beginning onwards, from all time. Heaven as the proper throne of God is often called מרום , loftiness; cf. Isaiah 57:15; Psalms 7:8; but so also is Mount Zion as God's earthly dwelling-place; cf. Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 20:40. Zion is called loftiness from the beginning, i.e., from immemorial time, as having been from eternity chosen to be the abode of God's glory upon earth; cf. Exodus 15:17, where in the song of Moses by the Red Sea, Mount Zion is pointed out prophetically as the place of the abode of Jahveh, inasmuch as it had been set apart thereto by the sacrifice of Isaac; see the expos. of Exodus 15:17. Nor does מראשׁ always mean the beginning of the world, but in Isaiah 41:26 and Isaiah 48:16 it is used of the beginning of the things then under discussion. From the place of Jahveh's throne amongst His people, Jeremiah 17:13, the discourse passes to Him who is there enthroned: Thou hope of Israel, Jahveh (cf. Jeremiah 14:8), through whom Zion and the temple had attained to that eminence. The praise of God's throne prepares only the transition to praise of the Lord, who there makes known His glory. The address to Jahveh: Thou hope of Israel, is not a prayer directed to Him, so as to justify the objection against the vocative acceptation of Jeremiah 17:12, that it were unseemly to address words of prayer to the temple. The juxtaposition of the sanctuary as the throne of God and of Jahveh, the hope of Israel, involves only that the forsaking of the sanctuary on Zion is a forsaking of Jahveh, the hope of Israel. It needs hardly be observed that this adverting to the temple as the seat of Jahve's throne, whence help may come, is not in contradiction to the warning given in Jeremiah 7:4, Jeremiah 7:9. against false confidence in the temple as a power present to protect. That warning is aimed against the idolaters, who believed that God's presence was so bound up with the temple, that the latter was beyond the risk of harm. The Lord is really present in the temple on Zion only to those who draw near Him in the confidence of true faith. All who forsake the Lord come to shame. This word the Lord confirms through the mouth of the prophet in the second part of the verse. יסוּרי , according to the Chet., is a substantive from סוּר , formed like יריב from ריב (cf. Ew. §162, a); the Keri וסוּרי is partic. from סוּר with ו cop. - an uncalled-for conjecture. My departers = those that depart from me, shall be written in the earth, in the loose earth, where writing speedily disappears. ארץ , synonymous with עפר , cf. Job 14:8, suggesting death. The antithesis to this is not the graving in rock, Job 19:24, but being written in the book of life; cf. Daniel 12:1 with Exodus 32:32. In this direction the grounding clause points: they have forsaken the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13); for without water one must pine and perish. - On this follows directly,

Jeremiah 17:14-16

The prophet's prayer for rescue from his enemies. - Jeremiah 17:14. "Heal me, Jahveh, that I may be healed; help me, that I may be holpen, for Thou art my praise. Jeremiah 17:15. Behold, they say to me, Where is the word of Jahveh? let it come, now. Jeremiah 17:16. I have not withdrawn myself from being a shepherd after Thee, neither wished for the day of trouble, Thou knowest; that which went forth of my lips was open before Thy face. Jeremiah 17:17. Be not to me a confusion, my refuge art Thou in the day of evil. Jeremiah 17:18. Let my persecutors be put to shame, but let not me be put to shame; let them be confounded, but let not me be confounded; bring upon them the day of evil, and break them with a double breach."

The experience Jeremiah had had in his calling seemed to contradict the truth, that trust in the Lord brings blessing (Jeremiah 17:7.); for his preaching of God's word had brought him nothing but persecution and suffering. Therefore he prays the Lord to remove this contradiction and to verify that truth in his case also. The prayer of Jeremiah 17:14, "heal me," reminds one of Psalms 6:3; Psalms 30:3. Thou art תּהלּתי , the object of my praises; cf. Psalms 71:6; Deuteronomy 10:21. - The occasion for this prayer is furnished by the attacks of his enemies, who ask in scorn what then has become of that which he proclaims as the word of the Lord, why it does not come to pass. Hence we see that the discourse, of which this complaint is the conclusion, was delivered before the first invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans. So long as his announcements were not fulfilled, the unbelieving were free to persecute him as a false prophet (cf. Deuteronomy 18:22), and to give out that his prophecies were inspired by his own spite against his people. He explains, on the contrary, that in his calling he has neither acted of his own accord, nor wished for misfortune to the people, but that he has spoken by the inspiration of God alone. ' לא אצתּי cannot mean: I have not pressed myself forward to follow Thee as shepherd, i.e., pressed myself forward into Thy service in vain and overweening self-conceit (Umbr.). For although this sense would fall very well in with the train of thought, yet it cannot be grammatically justified. אוּץ , press, press oneself on to anything, is construed with ל , cf.Josh. Jeremiah 10:13; with מן it can only mean: press oneself away from a thing. מרעה may stand for מהיות , cf. Jeremiah 48:2, 1 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 15:13: from being a shepherd after Thee, i.e., I have not withdrawn myself from following after Thee as a shepherd. Against this rendering the fact seems to weigh, that usually it is not the prophets, but only the kings and princes, that are entitled the shepherds of the people; cf. Jeremiah 23:1. For this reason, it would appear, Hitz. and Graf have taken רעה in the sig. to seek after a person or thing, and have translated: I have not pressed myself away from keeping after Thee, or from being one that followed Thee faithfully. For this appeal is made to places like Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 28:7; Psalms 37:3, where רעה does mean to seek after a thing, to take pleasure in it. But in this sig. רעה is always construed with the accus. of the thing or person, not with אחרי , as here. Nor does it by any means follow, from the fact of shepherds meaning usually kings or rulers, that the idea of "shepherd" is exhausted in ruling and governing people. According to Psalms 23:1, Jahveh is the shepherd of the godly, who feeds them in green pastures and leads them to the refreshing water, who revives their soul, etc. In this sense prophets, too, feed the people, if they, following the Lord as chief shepherd, declare God's word to the people. We cannot in any case abide by Näg. 's rendering, who, taking רעה in its literal sense, puts the meaning thus: I have not pressed myself away from being a shepherd, in order to go after Thee. For the assumption that Jeremiah had, before his call, been, like Amos, a herd of cattle, contradicts Jeremiah 1:1; nor from the fact, that the cities of the priests and of the Levites were provided with grazing fields ( מגרשׁים ), does it at all follow that the priests themselves tended their flocks. "The day of trouble," the ill, disastrous day, is made out by Näg. to be the day of his entering upon the office of prophet - a view that needs no refutation. It is the day of destruction for Jerusalem and Judah, which Jeremiah had foretold. When Näg. says: "He need not have gone out of his way to affirm that he did not desire the day of disaster for the whole people," he has neglected to notice that Jeremiah is here defending himself against the charges of his enemies, who inferred from his prophecies of evil that he found a pleasure in his people's calamity, and wished for it to come. For the truth of his defence, Jeremiah appeals to the omniscience of God: "Thou knowest it." That which goes from my lips, i.e., the word that came from my lips, was נך פּניך , before or over against thy face, i.e., manifest to Thee.

Jeremiah 17:17-18

On this he founds his entreaty that the Lord will not bring him to confusion and shame by leaving his prophecies as to Judah unfulfilled, and gives his encouragement to pray in the clause: Thou art my refuge in the day of evil, in evil times; cf. Jeremiah 15:11. May God rather put his persecutors to shame and confusion by the accomplishment of the calamity foretold, Jeremiah 17:18. תּהיה pointed with Tsere instead of the abbreviation תּהי , cf. Ew. §224, c. הביא is imperat. instead of הבא , as in 1 Samuel 20:40, where the Masoretes have thus pointed even the הביא . But in the Hiph. the i has in many cases maintained itself against the ç, so that we are neither justified in regarding the form before us as scriptio plena , nor yet in reading הביאה . - Break them with a double breach, i.e., let the disaster fall on them doubly. "A double breach," pr. something doubled in the way of breaking or demolition. שׁבּרון is not subordinated to משׁנה in stat. constr., but is added as accus. of kind; cf. Ew. §287, h.

Jeremiah 17:19-25

Of the hallowing of the Sabbath. - Jeremiah 17:19. "Thus said Jahveh unto me: Go and stand in the gate of the sons of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all gates of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 17:20. And say unto them: Hear the word of Jahveh, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all inhabitants of Jerusalem, that go in by these gates: Jeremiah 17:21. Thus hath Jahveh said: Take heed for your souls, and bear no burden on the Sabbath-day, and bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 17:22. And carry forth no burden out of your houses on the Sabbath-day, and do no work, and hallow the Sabbath-day, as I commanded your fathers. Jeremiah 17:23. But they hearkened not, neither inclined their ear, and made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor take instruction. Jeremiah 17:24. But if ye will really hearken unto me, saith Jahveh, to bring in no burden by the gates of the city on the Sabbath-day, and to hallow the Sabbath-day, to do no work thereon, Jeremiah 17:25. Then shall there go through the gates of the city kings and princes, who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ad this city shall be inhabited for ever. Jeremiah 17:26. And they shall come from the cities of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the lowland, from the hill-country and from the south, that bring burnt-offering and slain-offering, meat-offering and incense, and that bring praise into the house of Jahveh. Jeremiah 17:27. But if ye hearken not to me, to hallow the Sabbath-day, and not to bear a burden, and to come into the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day, then will I kindle fire in her gates, so that it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and not be quenched."

The introduction, Jeremiah 17:19, shows that this passage has, in point of form, but a loose connection with what precedes. It is, however, not a distinct and independent prophecy; for it wants the heading, "The word of Jahveh which came," etc., proper to all the greater discourses. Besides, in point of subject-matter, it may very well be joined with the preceding general reflections as to the springs of mischief and of well-being; inasmuch as it shows how the way of safety appointed to the people lies in keeping the decalogue, as exemplified in one of its fundamental precepts. - The whole passage contains only God's command to the prophet; but the execution of it, i.e., the proclamation to the people of what was commanded, is involved in the nature of the case. Jeremiah is to proclaim this word of the Lord in all the gates of Jerusalem, that it may be obeyed in them all. The locality of the gate of the sons of the people is obscure and difficult to determine, that by which the kings of Judah go and come. בּני עם seems to stand for בּני העם , as the Keri would have it. In Jeremiah 25:23 and 2 Kings 23:6, "sons of the people" means the common people as opposed to the rich and the notables; in 2 Chronicles 35:5, 2 Chronicles 35:7., the people as opposed to the priests and Levites, that is, the laity. The first sig. of the phrase seems here to be excluded by the fact, that the kings come and go by this gate; for there is not the smallest probability that a gate so used could have borne the name of "gate of the common people." But we might well pause to weigh the second sig. of the word, if we could but assume that it was a gate of the temple that was meant. Näg. concludes that it was so, on the ground that we know of no city gate through which only the kings and the dregs of the people were free to go, or the kings and the mass of their subjects, to the exclusion of the priests. But this does not prove his point; for we are not informed as to the temple, that the kings and the laity were permitted to go and come by one gate only, while the others were reserved for priests and Levites. Still it is much more likely that the principal entrance to the outer court of the temple should have obtained the name of "people's gate," or "laymen's gate," than that a city gate should have been so called; and that by that "people's gate" the kings also entered into the court of the temple, while the priests and Levites came and went by side gates which were more at hand for the court of the priests. Certainly Näg. is right when he further remarks, that the name was not one in general use, but must have been used by the priests only. On the other hand, there is nothing to support clearly the surmise that the gate יסוד , 2 Chronicles 23:5, was so called; the east gate of the outer court is much more likely. We need not be surprised at the mention of this chief gate of the temple along with the city gates; for certainly there would be always a great multitude of people to be found at this gate, even if what Näg. assumes were not the case, that by the sale and purchase of things used in the temple, this gate was the scene of a Sabbath-breaking trade. But if, with the majority of comm., we are to hold that by "people's gate" a city gate was meant, then we cannot determine which it was. Of the suppositions that it was the Benjamin-gate, or the well-gate, Nehemiah 2:14 (Maur.), or the gate of the midst which led through the northern wall of Zion from the upper city into the lower city (Hitz.), or the water-gate, Nehemiah 3:26 (Graf), each is as unfounded as another. From the plural: the kings of Judah (Jeremiah 17:20), Hitz. infers that more kings than one were then existing alongside one another, and that thus the name must denote the members of the royal family. But his idea has been arbitrarily forced into the text. The gates of the city, as well as of the temple, did not last over the reign of but one king, Jeremiah 17:21. השּׁמר בּנפשׁות , to take heed for the souls, i.e., take care of the souls, so as not to lose life (cf. Malachi 2:15), is a more pregnant construction than that with ל , Deuteronomy 4:15, although it yields the same sense. Näg. seeks erroneously to explain the phrase according to 2 Samuel 20:10 ( נשׁמר בּחרב , take care against the sword) and Deuteronomy 24:8, where השּׁׁמר ought not to be joined at all with בּנגע . The bearing of burdens on the Sabbath, both into the city and out of one's house, seems to point most directly at market trade and business, cf. Nehemiah 13:15., but is used only as one instance of the citizens' occupations; hence are appended the very words of the law: to do no work, Exodus 12:16; Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14, and: to hallow the Sabbath, namely, by cessation from all labour, cf. Jeremiah 17:24. The remark in Jeremiah 17:23, that the fathers have already transgressed God's law, is neither contrary to the aim in view, as Hitz. fancies, nor superfluous, but serves to characterize the transgression censured as an old and deeply-rooted sin, which God must at length punish unless the people cease therefrom. The description of the fathers' disobedience is a verbal repetition of Jeremiah 7:26. The Chet. שׁומע cannot be a participle, but is a clerical error for שׁמוע ( infin. constr. with ( scriptio plena ), as in Jeremiah 11:10 and Jeremiah 19:15. See a similar error in Jeremiah 2:25 and Jeremiah 8:6. On "nor take instruction," cf. Jeremiah 2:30.

In the next verses the observance of this commandment is enforced by a representation of the blessings which the hallowing of the Sabbath will bring to the people (Jeremiah 17:24-26), and the curse upon its profanation (Jeremiah 2:27). If they keep the Sabbath holy, the glory of the dynasty of David and the prosperity of the people will acquire permanence, and Jerusalem remain continually inhabited, and the people at large will bring thank-offerings to the Lord in His temple. Hitz., Graf, and Näg. take objection to the collocation: kings and princes (Jeremiah 2:25), because princes do not sit on the throne of David, nor can they have other "princes" dependent on them, as we must assume from the "they and their princes." But although the ושׂרים be awanting in the parallel, Jeremiah 22:4, yet this passage cannot be regarded as the standard; for whereas the discourse in Jer 22 is addressed to the king, the present is to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, or rather the people of Judah. The ושׂרים is subordinate to the kings, so that the sitting on the throne of David is to be referred only to the kings, the following ושׂריהם helping further to define them. "Riding" is to be joined both with "in chariots" and "on horses," since רכב means either driving or riding. The driving and riding of the kings and their princes through the gates of Jerusalem is a sign of the undiminished splendour of the rule of David's race.

Jeremiah 17:26

Besides the blessing of the continuance of the Davidic monarchy, Jerusalem will also have to rejoice in the continued spiritual privilege of public worship in the house of the Lord. From the ends of the kingdom the people will come with offerings to the temple, to present thank-offerings for benefits received. The rhetorical enumeration of the various parts of the country appears again in Jeremiah 32:44. The cities of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem denote the part of the country which bordered on Jerusalem; then we have the land of Benjamin, the northern province of the kingdom, and three districts into which the tribal domain of Judah was divided: the Shephelah in the west on the Mediterranean Sea, the hill-country, and the southland; see on Joshua 15:21, Joshua 15:33, and Joshua 15:48. The desert of Judah (Joshua 15:61) is not mentioned, as being comprehended under the hill-country. The offerings are divided into two classes: bloody, burnt and slain offerings, and unbloody, meat-offerings and frankincense, which was strewed upon the meat-offering (Leviticus 2:1). The latter is not the incense-offering (Graf), which is not called לבונה , but קטרת , cf. Exodus 30:7., although frankincense was one of the ingredients of the incense prepared for burning (Exodus 30:34). These offerings they will bring as "praise-offering" into the house of the Lord. תּודה is not here used for זבח תּודה , praise-offering, as one species of slain-offering, but is, as we see from Jeremiah 33:11, a general designation for the praise and thanks which they desire to express by means of the offerings specified.

Jeremiah 17:27

In the event of the continuance of this desecration of the Sabbath, Jerusalem is to be burnt up with fire, cf. Jeremiah 21:14, and, as regards the expressions used, Amos 1:14; Hosea 8:14.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/jeremiah-17.html. 1854-1889.
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