JEREMIAH CHAPTER 17
The captivity of Judah for her sin, Jeremiah 17:1-4. Trust in man cursed; in God, blessed, Jeremiah 17:5-8. The deceitful heart and most secret practices are known to God, Jeremiah 17:9-11. The salvation of God, Jeremiah 17:12-14. The prophet complaineth of the mockers of his prophecies, Jeremiah 17:15-18. Of keeping the sabbath, Jeremiah 17:19-27.
There is much arguing amongst those that are critical about the true signification of words, what is here signified by dyjv which we translate a diamond; most agree that it doth not signify a diamond, (not used in engraving,) but that by the pen of iron, and the point of a diamond, are meant some tools with which they were wont to engrave things upon hard substances; it may be made in a figure resembling the claw of a bird, as the word seemeth to import.
It is graven upon the table of their heart; it is graven in their hearts; they are so accustomed to sin, so inured to idolatry, that there is no hope of any reclaiming them. For how can they that are accustomed to do evil, do well?
And upon the horns of your altars; nor is it a thing done in secret, but it is written, or painted, or engraven upon the horns of their altars. God’s altar was foursquare, and at each corner there was a rising part made of brass something high, these were called the horns of the altar. See Exodus 27:2 Ezekiel 43:15,16. Now their sin is either said to be engraven or published upon the horns of the altar, because the blood of the sacrifices which they offered to idols was sprinkled there, or because their altars had some inscription upon them, declaring to what idol that altar was consecrated, as the altar of Athens had.
This showed how inveterate they were in this sin of idolatry, that they taught it their children, and their children remembered their idolatrous altars and the groves where they were wont to worship idols by the green trees, as they did also upon the high hills; so their sin was derived from one age to another. Others think that the phrase rather expresseth their fondness of their idols, and think it should be read, as their children they remember, &c.; that is, they loved their idols and their idolatrous services as they loved their children, which also was true; yea, they that made their children pass through the fire to Molech loved them better than their children.
O my mountain in the field; O Mount Zion; for though Jerusalem stood in a plain, yet it was at the foot of a hill, and part of it was built upon the side of the hill, upon the top of which hills Were many pleasant fields. Or, O Judah; which was a country full of mountains. God calls it his mountain, because of the particular favour he had to this country. He threateneth to give all the riches of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem as a spoil, and all the high places where they had committed idolatry throughout all their country into the enemies’ hands.
In the word
discontinue there is a secret promise that they should again come and possess and inherit their land; they should not lose their inheritance, but only discontinue their possession and occupation of it. Some learned authors considering that the same word is here used which is used Exodus 23:11, in the law concerning the sabbatical rest, when they were to let the land rest, and lie still, Leviticus 26:34, think this text hath a reference to that, and the meaning is, Thou shalt discontinue thy ploughing and tilling the land; and go into thine enemies’ country, and serve them in a land of which thou hast no knowledge; because by thine idolatry and other sins thou hast increased my wrath into such a fire, as shall burn for a long time, for so the word for ever is oft taken, Exodus 21:6 Deuteronomy 15:17 Psalms 89:1 Isaiah 34:10.
It was the great sin of this people, for which they are often taxed in holy writ, 2 Chronicles 16:7 28:16,20 Isa 30:1,2 31:1,2, when any danger threatened them for their sins, to make leagues with and flee to foreign idolatrous nations to help and succour them, and to repose a confidence in them, and so bolster up themselves in their wicked and sinful courses, promising themselves deliverance from the dangers that threatened them by the power of their confederates and allies. This sin the prophet here reflecteth upon, that while their hearts
departed from God, they would yet encourage themselves from the hoped-for help of men. The prophet from God declares that such are and shall be cursed, and mentioned man, under the notion of
flesh, to show his frailty and impotency to help against, the mighty power and wrath of God; withal showing us that God alone is the true object of our faith and confidence, as well for the things of this life as those of another life, and that none
whose heart departeth from God can with any security look for any help from the creature.
The sum is, he shall not thrive, nor prosper, but
be like the heath, by which is meant some barren shrub or tree, about which the various guesses of interpreters (which the reader that is curious may find in the English Annotations) are but uncertainties, and this planted in the wilderness too, which is a barren soil, which tree or plant is never the better for all the moisture that comes from heaven, nor for all the beams of the sun; but stands in a dry and salt place, not inhabited by people. The scope is, to let us know that sinners who depart from God, and do not place their confidence in him in times of danger, but trust in creature aids and assistances, shall miss of these very good things which they might have had if they had expected them from him, from whom alone they could have been obtained.
Trusting in the Lord necessarily implieth also a walking close with him, and not in heart departing from him; for it is naturally impossible that any should repose a confidence in another for any good things, which that other hath promised under any condition, without some satisfaction in himself that he hath in some measure fulfilled the condition upon which the promise is made. But that man that truly trusteth and hopeth in the Lord is and shall be a blessed man.
The sum is, he shall be prosperous and successful in his counsels and undertakings; like a tree planted by the side of a river, which is not affected with drought, but in a time when the leaves of trees standing in dry mountainous places parch and wither, its leaves hold their greenness, and its colour is not altered by drought, neither doth it cease from yielding fruit, but bringeth forth much fruit when other trees are wholly unfruitful.
The words translated
desperately wicked, are very variously translated, fraudulent, perverse, supplanting. He speaks to the Jews, that they might not lean too much to their own counsels, fancies, or understandings; but it is a proposition true concerning the hearts of all the sons and daughters of men; there is nothing so false and deceitful as the heart of man; deceitful in its apprehensions of things, in the hopes and promises which it nourisheth, in the assurances that it gives us, &c.; unsearchable by others, deceitful with reference to ourselves, and abominably wicked, so that neither can a man know his own heart, neither can any other know our hearts.
Lest these hypocrites should pretend that their hearts were not departed from God, or should say, Who then can judge us if none knoweth the heart? saith God, Though no creature knoweth the heart of another fellow creature, yet I know the hearts of all creatures, I search the secret thoughts, and counsels, and designs of all my creatures; for I will judge them according to their thoughts and the secret motions and affections of their souls, according to all their ways, and the fruit of their doings. You cannot therefore mock me, and tell me your hearts are not departed from me.
As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not: it is no wonder if we cannot be certain as to the sense of these words so far as they concern natural history, when we are not certain what bird it is to which they relate; we translate the word partridge; others will have it the cuckow; but certain it is that it is the same word which we translate partridge, 1 Samuel 26:20, and cuckows use not to be much hunted after. How the partridge is said to sit on eggs, and hatch them not, is yet a greater question. It may be occasioned so many ways, viz. either sitting upon windeggs, or being killed before the eggs are hatched, or having its eggs destroyed by the male partridge, or by some dog or other vermin, or its nest being found having her eggs taken from her, that it is hard to determine which the prophet means. Of all other I least approve of that which Jerome makes the sense, though the thing be true, (if we may believe Cassiodorus, and several natural historians, Aldrovandus, &c.,) that partridges have such a love and desire to hatch young ones, that having lost their own eggs, they will steal the eggs of other partridges and hatch them, which birds being hatched, the young ones, knowing the cry of their proper dams, hearing them call, leave the partridge that hatched them (which is one thing quoted by Aldrovandus to show the sagacity of that bird): but if this were the sense, the words would be, As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them, but enjoyeth them not, whereas they are hatcheth them not; that is, having lost them, either by some man that hath taken them from her, or by some vermin or wild beast. So he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool; so he that getteth an estate by oppression, or any cozenage, or unrighteous actions, shall lose it again before he cometh to die; and when he comes to die, shall understand what a fool he was to take so much pains to no more purpose.
It is much more hard to give an account of the connexion of these words with the former, than of their sense considered absolutely in themselves. Some would have them the words of the people, reckoning up another vain ground of their confidence, because they had amongst them the temple of the Lord, which we know was what they mightily gloried in. Others would have them the words of the prophet owning his and the good Jews’ confidence to be only in God, and themselves to worship God not in groves or high places, but only in that place which he had chosen to be worshipped in, even in his sanctuary or temple. Many other conjectures there are, but these two seem to me the most probable.
The hope of Israel; that is, he in whom alone the true Israel of God can hope.
All they that forsake thee shall be ashamed; those who forsake thy law, and that rule thou hast given them whereby to direct their conversations, first or last will be ashamed of such their disobedience.
And they that depart from me shall be written in the earth; and those that depart from what I have, as thy prophet, revealed to them as thy will, shall have no portion beyond the earth which they seem so fond of; or their names and memories shall vanish, and perish, and be presently extinct, like words written in dust.
Because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters; because they have forsaken thee, who art the alone certain relief and comfort of any people, the fountain and original of all that good they can hope for.
Most interpreters here understand the prophet speaking in these words to God for himself; he represents himself to God as a person wounded or sick, either with his sense of God’s dishonour by the sins of the people, or with their reproaches or threatenings, and beggeth of God to heal him, he being he in whose hand or power it was to heal him, and who could certainly do it. The argument is in those words, for thou art my praise, he whom alone I have reason to praise for mercies already received, to whom alone I owe all my good things.
They say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? scoffing at me, as if I had threatened them in thy name without any order or direction from thee, as the scoffers mentioned by Peter, 2 Peter 3:4, said, Where is the promise of his coming? This hath been the practice of all wicked men hardened in their sinful courses, and resolved to go on, to put the evil day far from them, and to scoff at all denunciations of God’s judgments, Isaiah 5:19 Amos 5:18.
Let it come now; daring the vengeance of God, and challenging God to damn them, or to execute the vengeance with which he threateneth them.
I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: that the words contain the prophet’s appeal to God upon some reproaches cast upon him by this wicked people, as if he had thrust himself into the prophetical office, is evident, and reasonably well agreed by interpreters; but they are divided about the sense of the word wxua which yet always in Scripture signifies to make haste, or to urge, or press; the sense seemeth to be this: Lord! as I did not seek the office of a prophet, so when thou wert pleased to call me to it, I did not decline to be a pastor after thee.
Neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest; neither (saith he) have I desired to be a prophet of these sad tidings, those woeful miseries which thou hast made me thy messenger to foretell.
That which came out of my lips was right before thee; I have spoken nothing but what was right in thy sight, being what thou commandedst me to deliver as from thee, and so I know was right in thy sight.
Though these rebellious wicked men affright and terrify me, yet, Lord, be not thou a terror to me, own and defend me as thy prophet; for thou alone art he in whom I place my hope and trust in a day of trouble.
That is, with abundant destruction. Concerning these prayers of the prophet against his enemies, See Poole "Jeremiah 11:20".
Most think that here begins a new prophecy, and therefore this verse should have began a new chapter. The prophets were often commanded to publish such revelations as they had from God, either at the gates of the city, or the gates of the temple, Jeremiah 7:2 19:2. It is not agreed what this particular gate was at which the kings of Judah were wont most ordinarily to come in and go out, but the prophet was also commanded to publish it in all the gates of Jerusalem, that all might take notice of it.
The word of the Lord equally concerneth the highest and the lowest, the greatest princes as well as the meanest subjects.
Take heed to yourselves; the Hebrew is, Take heed to your souls, intimating to us that the sanctification of the sabbath is a great thing, wherein the welfare of our souls is concerned.
This command for the sanctification of the sabbath was given Exodus 20:8, repeated Exodus 23:12 31:14,15 Le 19:3 23:3 Deuteronomy 5:12,15 Eze 20:12: the bearing of burdens forbidden was such as was for profit; for in some cases it was lawful to carry burdens for the saving the lives of men or beasts, and some learned men justify the poor sick man carrying his bed when he was cured, not only from the command of Christ alone, who could authorize him to it though against the rule of the law, but because he had no further occasion himself to be there, and was not obliged by the law of the sabbath to leave his bed behind him, himself going away; but no unnecessary burdens, no trading burdens, might on the sabbath day be either carried out of the gates of the city, or out of the gates of any of their private houses.
The Jews were a very covetous people, and their covetousness as well as their other lusts were temptations to them to profane the Lord’s sabbaths, Nehemiah 13:19 Ezekiel 20:2.
The sum of all these three verses is, that if they would sanctify the Lord’s sabbath, they should either continue in, or be restored unto, their ancient, civil, and ecclesiastical order, they should have kings and princes in their former order and splendour, and men should come from all parts of the country bringing their usual sacrifices and offerings to the temple, and those of all sorts. Some think this promise is to be understood synecdochically, one principal part of the law of God, and such a one as was in their power to obey, being put for the whole law of God. Those who desire to be satisfied in the niceties as to the terms and places here mentioned, may find satisfaction in the English Annotations upon this verse. The general sense is no more than that both their city and their temple, their civil and ecclesiastical state, should continue and flourish in that order wherein it was.
A threatening quite contrary to the former promise, upon their acting contrary to the duty to which that promise was annexed. God would destroy their city; it should be burned with fire, and the highest and noblest structures should be burned; and though the hand of the enemy should do this, yet God should order them to do it, so as it should be a fire of his kindling, and therefore not like to be quenched, till it had effected that thing for which God so kindled it.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany