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The captivity of Judah for her sin. Trust in man is cursed; in God is blessed. The deceitful heart cannot deceive God. The salvation of God. The prophet complaineth of the mockers of his prophesy: he is sent to renew the covenant, in hallowing the sabbath.
Before Christ 602.
Jeremiah 17:1. The sin of Judah is written— This chapter is connected with the last thus: "I am now about to make my vengeance manifest upon Judah: their crimes are risen to the greatest height; they even glory in them. They have engraved them as an inscription upon their heart, upon the horns of their altars; as they engrave memorable actions, and the great exploits of heroes, upon stone and brass: so far from forgetting their impiety, they have erected monuments thereof in all places of their country." The prophet seems to allude to a custom of the heathens, who used to suspend certain amulets upon their hearts, on which were engraven the names or symbols of their deities. In like manner the names of these idols were engraved on the horns of the altars: the prophet's meaning is, that the fondness which the Jews had for idolatry was grown so inveterate, that it was scarcely possible to eradicate it, notwithstanding the calamities to which it would expose them. See Act 17:23 and Calmet.
Jeremiah 17:3. O my mountain— Houbigant, following the Vulgate, reads thus, Thy high places are in all thy borders; I will therefore for all thy sins cause thy riches and treasures to be spoiled. According to our interpretation, by my mountain in the field, we are to understand the temple.
Jeremiah 17:5. Cursed be the man, &c.— This alludes to the confidence which the Jews had of assistance from the Egyptians, and their other allies, when threatened by the Chaldeans. By flesh is meant mere mortal man, in opposition to the Almighty; and by arm is meant power or confidence. See Isa 31:1 and Calmet.
Jeremiah 17:6. The heath— See ch. Jeremiah 48:6.
Jeremiah 17:8. Shall not see— Is not sensible when heat cometh, &c.
Jeremiah 17:9. The heart is deceitful, &c.— This passage, divided from the context, and considered as an independent proposition, has been applied in a sense different from the design of the author. This will evidently appear, if we consider the connexion, and the general reason that he is pursuing: for, in the 5th verse, God is introduced as denouncing a woe against all those who fix their ultimate dependence on human power and policy. In the 7th and 8th verses are described the wisdom and happiness of trusting in the Lord, and making him our strength. Then follows the verse that we are considering, which by all the rules of good interpretation (since there is not the least mark of the prophet's beginning a new topic of discourse) must be referred to the same argument, and contain another strong reason against making man our confidence. The heart is deceitful, &c. that is to say, "There may be infinite devices and subtleties in the hearts of men, which thou canst not understand: while they promise thee fair, and make the warmer protestations of affection and zeal for thy service their intentions may be contrary, and their views private and selfish: their resolutions are fickle and mutable, and many little circumstances may prevail with them to change their purposes, and so render their promises vain and delusory. Nay, it is possible for them to arrive at such a pitch of premeditated and desperate wickedness, as to endeavour, even under friendly pretences, to undermine thy interest. Place not, therefore, thy supreme and ultimate confidence in man; but repose it in the unchangeable God; who, as by reason of the perfect and necessary rectitude of his nature, he cannot deceive thee; so, as he is absolute Lord of the universe, and the uncontrollable disposer of all events, he must be able with ease to effect every thing which is necessary for thy security and happiness." See Foster's Sermons, vol. 1: p. 272.
Jeremiah 17:11. As the partridge— As the snipe hatcheth or broodeth upon eggs which she did not lay; such is he who getteth wealth, and not by right. In the midst of his days it shall desert him, and at his end he shall be a fool. See Scheuchzer on 1 Samuel 26:20. Houbigant renders the 12th verse, The ancient throne of glory is taken from our sanctuary.
Jeremiah 17:12. A glorious high throne— As in the preceding verses was set forth the vain dependence of him who seeks to advance himself by indirect methods; so here we are taught the solid foundation which he builds upon, who has recourse to the divine blessing and seeks to recommend himself to the favour of that Being, to whom Israel was taught to look up for support, and whose kingdom from all eternity ruleth over all, even the glorious Jehovah, the true Messiah, the God of spiritual Israel.
Jeremiah 17:13. Shall be written in the earth— "Their name shall be written in the dust, the least wind shall obliterate it." This is a proverbial manner of speaking, parallel to that of the Latins, who, speaking of vain and false promises, say that they are written on water; or, perhaps, to be written upon earth, may be put in opposition with the writing in heaven in the book of life. "The wicked may make themselves a name upon the earth; but this is all their portion; they shall be blotted out of the book of life." See Calmet. Houbigant renders the clause, The rebellious shall be extirpated from the earth, because, &c.
Jeremiah 17:15. Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now— The interval of delay between the delivery of the word of prophesy and its accomplishment has afforded frequently to unbelievers a handle for scoffing at and questioning the truth of it. They want, forsooth, more immediate proofs for their conviction. See Isaiah 5:19. Ezekiel 22:27. Amo 5:18. 2 Peter 3:4.
Jeremiah 17:16. As for me, I have not hastened— But I have not been in haste to outrun thy guidance, &c.] Houbigant translates it, As for me, I do not hasten it, but follow after thee; that is to say, obeying thy counsel and advice.
Jeremiah 17:25. Then shall there enter, &c.— It hence appears, that the judgments denounced against Jerusalem were not irreversible; and from Jeremiah's advice to Zedekiah, chap. Jer 38:17 it may be concluded, that if the king had hearkened to that counsel, the city would not have been destroyed, and he himself might have continued a tributary king under Nebuchadnezzar: see chap. Jer 13:23 and Lowth.
Jeremiah 17:26. And from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south— These divisions of the country belonging to the tribe of Judah may be found, Joshua 15:21; Joshua 15:33; Jos 15:48 and these together with the tribe of Benjamin made up the whole kingdom of Judah, when taken separate from the kingdom of Israel, or of the ten tribes. See the same enumeration, ch. Jeremiah 32:44.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, They seemed to wonder, chap. Jer 16:10 what they had done to deserve such heavy judgments. But surely there was cause abundant given.
1. The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, with the point of a diamond; deep, legible, and lasting are the characters; the love of their iniquities is graven upon their hearts; the horns of the altars of their idols, sprinkled with the blood of their sacrifices, proclaimed their guilt; and their very children, trained up in their idolatrous rites, were evidences against them; or, as they remember their children, so do they their altars, with the same fondness, and as strongly attached to their abominations. Note; The iniquity of sinners is written before God. If the blood of Jesus blot not out the deadly charge, woe unto them in the day when the judgment shall sit, and the books be opened.
2. The charge being proved, judgment is passed on them. The city and temple, called the mountain of the Lord's house, Mic 4:1 are devoted to the spoil, with all their treasures, for the sin of the people throughout the land. The sin was universal, and so would be the desolation. And thou, even thyself, or in thee, those who dwell in the land, or through thyself, the ruin is of thine own seeking, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee, led captive into a strange land, and doomed to hard servitude under their tyrannical conquerors; and this through the fierce anger of the Lord kindled against them, and which would burn against the impenitent among them, not only all their days, but to eternity. Note; If sinners continue hardened under God's present judgments, they will find there but the beginning of sorrows, and the sparks of those everlasting burnings which are kindling for them.
2nd, The Jews often thought by their alliances with the neighbouring nations to gain protection against their invading enemies. This was both their sin, and a chief cause of their ruin.
1. The prophet denounces the curse of God against such as trusted in man, and made flesh their arm, and whose heart departed from the Lord, withdrawing their confidence from him, to place it on worms; which was, to change a rock for a reed. Thus they trusted alternately on the Egyptians and Assyrians, see chap. Jer 2:36-37 to their sad disappointment; or they placed such confidence in their relation after the flesh to Abraham, that they promised themselves security, notwithstanding their faithless departures from Abraham's God. But the consequences would be ruinous; like the heath in the desert, so desolate should they be made, and serve as fuel to the flames of God's wrath, and see no good days, or behold and pine away at the mercies that others should receive, from which they would be excluded, and become as a land parched and uninhabited; their country a desert, and themselves destitute of every comfort. Note; (1.) God is the only worthy object of our faith and hope: human-confidences may fail us, but he never will fail those who perseveringly trust in him. (2.) When we depend on our own doings and duties to recommend us for acceptance with God, instead of trusting on the infinite merit and grace of Jesus, we shall by the issue be convinced of the vanity of our dependence.
2. As miserable as they are who depart from God, so blessed and happy are they, who, renouncing all other grounds of hope, constantly, faithfully, and perseveringly rest their souls on God in Christ alone. They shall be like the tree planted by the rivers, always flourishing and fruitful, firm-rooted, and in the most scorching season watered abundantly. Their profession shall be ornamental, their liability secured; in time of severest temptation they shall be kept from withering, and their fruits of holiness shall abound and abide, till grace ripens into glory.
3. The cause of all departures from God is here laid open. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? Man's nature is fallen; his heart is radically corrupt, all its faculties perverted, and his whole mind and conscience defiled; deceitful above all things; puts false glosses upon sin, which hide its malignity and danger; fancies delights in the ways of indulgence, that are never found; buoys up the vain confidence of the sinner with hopes of impunity and peace, when God hath said, There is no peace! and desperately wicked; not only evil in that mere state of nature, but evil continually and incurably, without the grace of God, desperately set upon sin, without power to abstain from it, or ability to get rid of the bondage of corruption; nay, rather hugging the chains: who can know it? The more we know of ourselves, far from having fathomed the abyss of evil, we discover but the more clearly, that the depths of corruption in man by nature are unfathomable; we can neither understand the number of our errors, nor promise ourselves for a moment, without divine aid, security from the deepest and foulest falls. There is a mystery of iniquity within us by nature, which none can know but God alone, and nothing can cure but his almighty grace; and therefore it were folly to depend on ourselves or others, in whose hearts such deceit and desperate wickedness are naturally so deeply rooted. But I the Lord search the heart; its most secret purposes are known to him: I try the reins, and see the rising thoughts afar off: from him nothing is hid, nothing is secret; and thus all-seeing ought he to be, who is the final Judge of all, and by whose decisions our eternal state must be determined, and every man receive judgment according to truth. Note; (1.) Nothing affords so humbling a consideration to us, as this striking view of our fallen nature; the pride of man must here for ever stand aghast and confounded. (2.) They who place confidence in their own hearts, in their resolutions and purposes, prove how ignorant they are of themselves, and predict only their own falls. (3.) Since at God's awful judgment we must shortly stand to receive our doom, it becomes us daily to be proving ourselves, and begging of God to discover to us our own hearts, that we may now so judge ourselves, as not then to be condemned of the Lord.
4. A heavy charge is laid against them for their covetousness and injustice. They would be rich, and stop at no methods to succeed, right or wrong; but God will not suffer them to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. Though brooding over them, as a partridge on her nest, their riches, like her eggs addled or broken, should afford them no solid satisfaction; and in the midst of their days, when they thought their toils were over, and began to talk of enjoying themselves, they shall be cut off, and leave their wealth all behind, made monuments of the folly of trusting on uncertain riches more than in the living God; and these things are written for our admonition: may we hear and be wise!
3rdly, We have the prophet,
1. Acknowledging how well they deserved to be rejected, who were ungrateful to a God so great and gracious. A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary; in the temple at Jerusalem God had erected his throne, there he manifested his presence, and thither, as to a sanctuary, the guilty might flee, even to the mercy-seat, and there find a hiding-place. O JEHOVAH, the hope of Israel, the never-failing refuge of the faithful, in whom none ever trusted and were confounded; all that forsake thee, basely withdraw their allegiance, turn aside unto idols, or place their dependence on an arm of flesh, they shall be ashamed; their confidences shall fail them, and their iniquities issue in their confusion. They that depart from me, and will not hear the warnings of God in the mouth of his prophet, shall be written in the earth; numbered with transgressors, and trampled upon with contempt; or rather consigned to the grave, cut off in their iniquities, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters, the source of all blessedness; and they who depart from him court their own misery.
2. He prays for himself. Heal me, O Lord; for, though a prophet, he found much infirmity cleaving to him, the effects of which would prove mortal without the powerful efficacy of divine grace: or he was broken-hearted for the sins of the people, and in the view of the evils coming upon them, cries out, Heal me, and I shall be healed: save me, and I shall be saved. God's power was all-sufficient; on this he placed his dependence, and with humble prayer, in God's appointed way, sought the blessing that he wanted: for thou art my praise, the object of it continually, who hitherto had given him abundant matter for his praises, and he trusted would continue to do so. Note; (1.) Every blessing that we need must be sought by the prayer of faith. (2.) Sin is the soul's disease, and will be fatal unless healed by grace. The salvation of eternity must be begun on earth: they who would be saved in heaven, must now be saved below.
3. He complains of their hardened infidelity. He faithfully delivered the message that he received from God, and they treated it with contempt. Where is the word of the Lord? where are the threatened judgments? they saw no symptoms of their approach, and utterly disbelieved them; and therefore in defiance bade them come. Let it come now, as if they were above all fear, and dared the arm of Omnipotence. Note; When sinners are thus incorrigible, their damnation slumbereth not.
4. Their ill usage and insolent treatment had not discouraged him from the faithful and diligent discharge of his office. I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee; following God's directions, notwithstanding every opposition: neither have I desired the woeful day, or wished to see the miseries that he foretold; but prayed and preached with all his might, that by a timely repentance they might prevent the threatened judgments. And for this he could appeal to the heart-searching God: thou knowest it: that which came out of my lips was right before thee: he spoke exactly according to God's word, with uprightness and simplicity, and was conscious of God's approbation of his conduct. Note; (1.) Whatever treatment we meet with, we must patiently and boldly persist in the work of our ministry. (2.) Many think that the preachers of God's word delight in declaring the terrors of the Lord; but it is the most painful part of their office. (3.) They who have the heart-searching God to appeal to, need not regard the revilings of men.
5. He begs God's protection and support, and that his enemies might be put to confusion. Be not a terror unto me; not only do not confound me before them, but comfort me under their opposition; for more seems to be implied than is expressed. Thou art my hope in the day of evil, I disclaim all other dependence. Let them be confounded; convinced and penitent, or silenced by the infliction of the threatened vengeance; but let me not be confounded by their wickedness, or in the event proved to have spoken falsely. Let them be dismayed, with the sense of their danger; but let me not be dismayed by their revilings or persecutions. Bring upon them the day of evil, at which they scoff: since they will not be reformed, it is but just they should suffer for their impenitence: and destroy them with double destruction; utterly, or beyond all their apprehensions; or by the Chaldeans first, and finally by the Romans: and this he prays, not out of revenge for a private injury done to him, but in zeal for God's glory dishonoured by them. Note; (1.) When God is our hope, we need fear no evil. (2.) If we be faithful, God will never suffer us to be confounded.
4thly, We have in this chapter another and new discourse; the subject relates to the sanctification of the sabbath-day. We have,
1. The places where he must deliver it. In the gate of the king, that all the great men at the court might hear it, whose good example would be very influential, or their bad conduct productive of peculiar evil: and then in all the gates of Jerusalem, that all might hear, and none plead ignorance, from the least to the greatest, where the matter was of such universal concern.
2. The manner is prescribed in which the sabbath-day should be observed. Thus saith the Lord, whom all are bound to obey, and whose word whosoever transgresses doth it at his peril; Take heed to yourselves; where so much depended upon it, they had need be careful: or, take heed to your souls; for nothing is well done in God's sight but what comes from the heart. They must bear no burden, be employed in no servile work of their ordinary calling, in husbandry, traffic, or merchandize; but hallow the sabbath-day, in the diligent and conscientious improvement of those sacred hours in every public and private means of grace, as I commanded your fathers. It was no new commandment, but enjoined from the day on which they were taken into covenant with God, on their deliverance from Egypt, though their fathers had rebelled and smarted for their disobedience to it, whose ill examples they must shun, and be admonished by their suffering, and not be, like them, untractable and disobedient.
3. The blessedness and benefit of observing the divine command would be very great to the nation, and to all who belonged thereunto. Their kings of the royal race of David should continue to reign in splendor, and they be happy under their mild government. Their city and country should prosper exceedingly, religion flourish through the land, God's altar never want sacrifices, nor they the liberal offerings to bring, out of the abundance which God would bestow on them. Note; (1.) True religion is the greatest friend to national happiness. (2.) Nothing has so immediate a tendency to promote universal godliness, as the conscientious observation of the sabbath-day.
4. Disobedience to this injunction would certainly be attended with the most fatal consequences. In just indignation for his slighted sabbaths, the fire of God's wrath would be kindled, nor ever be quenched, till the gates of Jerusalem are in flames by invading foes, the executioners of his vengeance, her palaces laid in smoky ruins, and utter desolations poured out upon all the cities of Judah. Let sabbath-breakers remember, and tremble at the fire of divine vengeance which they provoke.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent