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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 17

 

 

Verse 1-2

Jeremiah 17:1-2. The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron — Many of the Jews, though living in the habitual commission of the grossest crimes, were, nevertheless, self-righteous, and thought they did not deserve that God should enter into judgment with them in any such way as Jeremiah foretold he would do. Wherefore, said they, hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is our sin? chap. Jeremiah 16:10. Here the prophet tells them their sin was too plain to be denied, and too bad to be excused: that it was written in indelible characters, not only before God, to whose omniscience it lay continually open, but in their own hearts and consciences; as if written with a pen of iron, or an engraving instrument, or the point of a diamond; instruments employed to make durable inscriptions on hard substances. As if he had said, Their sins are as manifest, and the remembrance of them as durable, as the memorable actions which have been engraven on pillars of stone, or tablets of brass, to give them notoriety, and preserve them from oblivion. The expression, it is graven upon the table of their hearts, may also be intended to signify the rooted affection which they had to sin, especially to the sin of idolatry; that it was woven into their very nature, and was as dear to them as that is to us, of which we say, It is engraven on our hearts. In like manner, their idolatrous altars and other monuments of their heathenish superstitions, were undeniable tokens of the corrupt inclinations of their hearts, which were altogether estranged from God and his true worship. Or their sin might be said to be engraven on the horns of their altars, because the blood of the sacrifices which they offered to their idols was sprinkled there, or because their altars had some inscription upon them, declaring to what idol each altar was consecrated. Whilst their children remember their altars — This shows how inveterate they were in this sin of idolatry, that they taught it to their children.


Verse 3-4

Jeremiah 17:3-4. O my mountain in the field — By this expression the prophet is thought, by many interpreters, to intend the temple, which stood on a mountain, called elsewhere, the mountain of the Lord’s house, (Isaiah 2:2,) and the holy mountain. And this, as being the principal part of Jerusalem, is understood as being put, by way of synecdoche, for the whole city. Michaelis paraphrases it thus: “O Jerusalem, which hast long been situate on my chosen mountain, and surrounded by a most fertile country, the land of Canaan.” But Cocceius thinks that the Jewish people are hereby enigmatically compared with the rest of the world, as a mountain situated in the midst of a level plain, and distinguished with a glory which did not belong to the world in general. And it must be acknowledged that nations and princes of great power and eminence are often figuratively called mountains, in regard to their strength and elevation: see Jeremiah 51:25; Isaiah 41:15; Zechariah 4:7. Judah, therefore, in general, as well as Jerusalem in particular, may be here styled God’s mountain, as having been chosen by him, and thereby raised to a degree of elevation above all other people: see a confirmation of this interpretation, Jeremiah 31:23. I will give thy substance, and all thy treasures, to the spoil — Both the products of the country, and the stores of the city, shall be seized by the Chaldeans. Justly are men stripped of that with which they have served their idols, and which has been made the food and fuel of their lusts. And thy high places for sin — You have worshipped your idols on the high places, and now they shall be given for a spoil; in all your borders — See note on Jeremiah 15:13. Observe, reader, what we make an occasion of sin, God will make a matter of spoil; for what comfort can we expect in that wherewith God is dishonoured? And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thy heritage — Shalt intermit the occupation of thy land, as the word שׁמשׂ, here used, signifies, Exodus 23:11. The prophet undoubtedly alludes to the seventh year of release, enjoined by Moses, Deuteronomy 15:1, which law the Jews had a long time neglected out of covetousness, and refused to observe, even after a solemn engagement to the contrary, Jeremiah 34:8, &c. So here the passage implies, that since they would not release their land nor their servants in the sabbatical years, as God had enjoined them, he would dispossess them of the inheritance which he had given them, and the land shall enjoy her sabbaths, according to the prescription of the law: see Leviticus 26:34. And I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not — As a punishment for thy compelling thy servants to serve thee in thy own land, when I enjoined thee to set them at liberty. For ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, &c. — By your idolatries and other sins you have increased my wrath to such a fire that it shall burn for a long time in terrible judgments upon you in this world, and shall burn all such as remain impenitent for ever, in the world to come.


Verse 5-6

Jeremiah 17:5-6. Cursed be the man that trusteth in man — Who places that confidence in the wisdom or power, the kindness or faithfulness of any man or number of men, which ought to be placed in God only; that is, miserable is the man that doth so, for he leans upon a broken reed, which will not only fail him, but will run into his hand and pierce it. It must be observed, however, that the prophet denounces this curse here chiefly with respect to the confidence which the Jews placed in the assistance of the Egyptians and their other allies, when threatened by the Chaldeans. And maketh flesh his arm — Trusts for support or aid in a mere mortal man, termed flesh, to show his weakness and frailty, in opposition to the power of the almighty and immortal God. And whose heart departeth from the Lord — As the hearts of all do who put their trust in man. They may perhaps draw nigh to God with their mouths, and honour him with their lips, but really their hearts are far from him. For he shall be like the heath in the desert — Hebrew, כערערlike the tamarisk, as some render the word, virgultum tenue, humile, fragile, says Buxtorf, a small, low, and weak shrub. Sapless and useless; he shall be barren of solid comfort for the present, and destitute of well grounded hopes for the future. And shall not see when good cometh — Shall not partake of any good; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness — From whence he can derive no profit or consolation; in a salt land, &c. — Barren and unfruitful, Deuteronomy 29:23; 9:45. Observe well, reader, they that trust in their own righteousness and strength, and think they can be saved without the merit and grace of Christ, thus make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper either in graces or comforts; they can neither produce the fruits of acceptable obedience to God, nor reap the fruits of saving blessings from him, but dwell in a dry land.


Verse 7-8

Jeremiah 17:7-8. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord — That lives in continual obedience to him, and relies entirely upon him for every blessing he wants for his body or soul, for himself or others who, under God, are dependant upon him; and whose hope the Lord is — Who makes the Lord’s favour the good he hopes for, and his power the strength he hopes in. Trusting aright in the Lord necessarily implies walking closely with him, and not departing from him in heart. For it is naturally impossible that any one should repose confidence in another for any thing which had been promised under a condition, without a consciousness in himself that he had, at least in some good measure, complied with the condition upon which it was promised. For he shall be like a tree planted, &c. — He shall be prosperous and successful in his counsels and undertakings. He may be compared to a tree planted in a fertile soil, on the bank of a river, to which it extends its roots, and from which it derives abundance of sap and nourishment. And shall not see when heat cometh ου φοβηθησετα οταν ελθη καυμα, say the LXX., shall not fear when heat cometh. They follow the reading of the Hebrew text, which is to be preferred before that of the margin. And shall not be careful in the year of drought — Shall not be solicitous for fear it should lack moisture; that is, in a time when the leaves of trees standing on dry mountainous places are parched and withered, it shall retain its verdure, and continue to yield its fruit. Blaney translates the clause, “And it is not sensible when heat cometh; but its leaf is green, and in a year of drought it is without concern; nor doth it decline bearing fruit.”


Verse 9-10

Jeremiah 17:9-10. The heart is deceitful above all things — This passage, considered in connection with what precedes, may be understood in two points of view: 1st, As assigning a reason why we should not trust in man; namely, because he is not only weak and frail, and therefore may want power to help us in our necessities and distresses, but is also false and deceitful. Or, 2d, As giving us a caution to take care lest we deceive ourselves in supposing we trust in God when really we do not; this being a thing respecting which our own hearts are very apt to deceive us, as appears by this, that our hopes and fears are wont to rise or fall, according as second causes appear to be favourable or adverse. But it is true in the general, that there is greater wickedness in our hearts, by nature, than we ourselves are aware of, or suspect to be there. Nay, and it is a common mistake among mankind to think their own hearts a great deal better than they really are. The heart of man, in his corrupt and fallen state, is false and deceitful above all things; deceitful in its apprehensions of things, calling evil good and good evil, putting false colours upon things, crying peace to those to whom peace does not belong, and cheating men to their own ruin; deceitful in the hopes and promises which it excites and nourishes, and in the assurances which it gives. And desperately wicked — Hebrews ואנשׁ הוא, literally, and desperate, or, as Blaney renders it, it is even past all hope; who can know it? That is, “humanly speaking, there is no possibility that any one should trace it through all its windings, and discover what is at the bottom of it.” In short, it is unsearchable by others, deceitful with reference to ourselves, and abominably wicked; so that neither can a man know his own heart, nor can any one know that of his neighbour. I the Lord search the heart — I am perfectly acquainted with it, and with all the wickedness that lodges in it: all its thoughts, counsels, and designs, however secret; all its intentions, affections, and determinations lie open to my inspection: and my piercing eye penetrates into its inmost recesses. I try the reins — To pass a true judgment on what I discern, and to give every thing therein its true character and due weight. I try the heart, as the gold is tried, whether it be standard weight or not; or, as the prisoner is tried, whether he be guilty or not. And this judgment, which I make of the hearts, is in order to my passing a true judgment upon the man, even to give to every man according to his ways — According to the desert and tendency of them; life to those that have walked in the ways of life, and death to those that have persisted in the paths of the destroyer; and according to the fruit of his doings — The effect and influence which his doings have had on others; or according to what is determined by the word of God to be the fruit of men’s doings, blessings to the obedient, and curses to the disobedient.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 17:11. As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not — Or rather, as the words דגר לא ילדmay be more literally rendered, hatcheth eggs which she did not lay; so he that getteth riches, and not by right — That is, not in a due, regular manner, by the blessing of God upon honest endeavours, but by arts of knavery and injustice; shall leave them in the midst of his days — Though he may make them his hope, he shall not have joy in them, nor the true and lasting possession of them; but they shall be soon taken from him, or he from them. And at his end shall be a fool — That is, he shall evidently appear such. He was indeed a fool all along, and doubtless his conscience often told him so; but at his end his folly will be manifest to all men. Bochart, with a great deal of learning, contends that קרא, here rendered partridge, is not that bird, nor any one known in these parts. Blaney gives it the Hebrew name kore, observing, “that it is a bird which frequents the mountains, and is of no great value, as may be learned from 1 Samuel 26:20. Here it is said to sit upon and hatch the eggs of birds of another species. This want of distinction is common to many sorts of birds; and the partridge is no way remarkable for it. But where it is so done, the young ones, when fledged, are sure to forsake their supposititious dam, and to join with those of their own feather; in which circumstance the point of comparison seems to lie.”


Verse 12

Jeremiah 17:12. A glorious high throne, &c. — “As in the preceding verses was set forth the vain dependance 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.” The temple at Jerusalem, where God manifested his special presence, where his lively oracles were lodged, where the people paid their homage to their sovereign, and whither they fled for refuge in distress, was the place of their sanctuary, and might properly be termed a glorious high throne. It was a throne of holiness, which made it glorious; it was God’s throne, which made it truly high. And it was the honour of Israel that God set up his throne among them. Jeremiah may mention this here partly as a plea with God to show mercy to their land in honour of the throne of his glory; and partly as an aggravation of the sin of the people, in forsaking God, though his throne was among them, and so profaning his crown and the place of his sanctuary.


Verse 13

Jeremiah 17:13. O Lord, the hope of Israel — That is, He in whom alone thy true Israel can hope; all they that forsake thee shall be ashamed — Those who forsake thy law and that rule which thou hast given them, whereby to direct their conversation, will sooner or later be ashamed of such their disobedience. Or, as Lowth paraphrases the words, “Thou hast given many gracious promises to thy people, to encourage them to trust in thee; and they that forsake their interest in thy goodness will find all other expectations fail and disappoint them;” and they that depart from me — From my love and service, says God, and their reliance upon me, shall be written in the earth — Shall have no portion beyond the earth, on which they set their affections. Or, their names and memories shall be soon extinct; like words written in the dust: they shall not be registered among my people, nor shall their names be recorded in the book of life. The expression seems to allude to registers kept of the members of cities or corporations, the privileges of which none can pretend to but they who have their names entered in such registers; because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters — The only certain relief and comfort of any people, the fountain and origin of all the good they can hope for. See note on Jeremiah 2:13.


Verse 14

Jeremiah 17:14. Heal me, O Lord, &c. — Most interpreters understand the prophet as addressing God here in his own behalf. He represents himself as a person wounded, or sick, either with a sense of the dishonour done to God by the sins of the people, or with their reproaches poured upon himself, and he begs of God to heal him, God only having power to do it. Save me, for thou art my praise — It is from thee only that I expect relief and comfort in all my troubles: and as I acknowledge that all the blessings I enjoy come from thee, so it is to thee I return all thanks and praise.


Verses 15-18

Jeremiah 17:15-18. Behold, they say unto me — Scoffing at me, as if I had denounced threatenings in thy name, without any order or direction from thee: Where is the word of the Lord? — Like the scoffers, mentioned by St. Peter, 2 Peter 3:4, saying, Where is the promise of his coming? This has been the practice of all wicked men, hardened in their sinful courses, and resolved to go on in them: they put the evil day far from them, and scoff at all denunciations of divine wrath. Let it come now — So said these scoffers, daring the vengeance of God, and challenging him to execute the judgments he had threatened. As for me, I have not hastened, &c. — Dr. Waterland translates this clause, “But as for me, I have not forced or intruded myself upon thee for a pastor.” To the same sense the Geneva translation interprets the words. According to which reading the prophet solemnly appeals to God that he had not intruded himself into the office of a prophet, nor had been desirous of an employment that foreboded so much evil to others, and brought a great deal of trouble upon himself. The words in the Hebrew, however, are literally as our translation expresses them, and may be paraphrased thus, “As I did not seek the office of a prophet, so when thou wast pleased to call me to it I did not decline it.” The LXX, render it, εγω δε ουκ εκοπιασα κατακολουθων οπισω σου, I have not been weary of following thee. Neither have I desired the woful day — Namely, the day of the accomplishment of his prophecies. Though, when it came, it would prove him to have been a true prophet, which they had questioned, and would be the avenging of him upon his persecutors, and therefore, on those accounts, he might have been tempted to desire it; yet, as it would be a woful day to Jerusalem, he deprecated it, and could appeal to God that he wished it might never come. That which came out of my lips was right before thee — That is, it exactly agreed with what I had received from thee. Be not a terror unto me — Amidst all the terrors, with which mine adversaries threaten me, let me still find comfort in thee; and let not any apprehension of being forsaken by thee be added to my other fears. Let them be confounded, &c. — See notes on Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 16:18.


Verses 19-24

Jeremiah 17:19-24. Thus saith the Lord, Go, &c. — Here we evidently have a distinct prophecy, which the prophet was commanded to deliver most probably soon, if not immediately, after the foregoing. Stand in the gate of the children of the people — By which It seems is meant the gate most frequented by the people; being that nearest the palace, where the kings of Judah held their most solemn courts of judicature, or by which they ordinarily went out of the city, and returned into it. And say, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah — The word of the Lord equally concerns the highest and the lowest, the greatest princes as well as the meanest subjects. Thus saith the Lord, Take heed to yourselves — The Hebrew is, Take heed to your souls, intimating that the sanctification of the sabbath is an important thing, wherein the welfare of men’s souls is concerned. Neither carry forth a burden, &c. — See notes on Nehemiah 13:15-22. Neither do ye any work — Servile work was forbidden to be done upon their solemn festivals, Leviticus 23:8; Leviticus 23:35, much more upon the sabbath days. But hallow ye the sabbath days — “The sabbath was instituted as a sign or token of God’s covenant with his people, Exodus 31:13, and the observance of it was the distinguishing character of a Jew, whereby he declared himself to be a worshipper of the true God, who made heaven and earth, and ordained the sabbath day as a memorial of the creation. So that for the Jews to profane the sabbath, was in effect to renounce their share in God’s covenant.”


Verses 25-27

Jeremiah 17:25-27. Then shall there enter into the gates of this city, &c. — “From hence it appears,” says Lowth, “that the judgments denounced against Jerusalem, at least as far as they threatened the city with utter destruction, were not irreversible. And from Jeremiah’s advice to Zedekiah, Jeremiah 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. It is true, that in several other chapters of this prophecy, God, upon foresight of the Jews’ impenitence, pronounces a peremptory sentence upon them. See note on Jeremiah 4:28.” From the land of Benjamin — See notes on Jeremiah 1:1; Jeremiah 6:1. And from the plain, and from the mountain — “These divisions of the country belonging to the tribe of Judah may be found, Joshua 15:21; Joshua 15:33; Joshua 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 Jeremiah 32:44.” Bringing burnt-offerings and sacrifices, &c. — The sum of these three verses is, that if they would sanctify the Lord’s sabbath, observing also all the other parts of God’s law, which are doubtless included, they should either continue in, or be restored unto, their ancient, civil, and ecclesiastical state. Their city and temple should be preserved; 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. But if you will not hearken unto me — Here the Lord denounces a threatening the reverse of the former promise, which should be executed upon their acting contrary to the duty to which that promise was annexed. God would destroy their city by fire; their highest and noblest structures should be burned down: and though the hand of the enemy should do this, yet God should order them to do it; so that it should be a fire of his kindling, and therefore should not be likely to be quenched till it had effected the purpose for which God appointed it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-17.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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