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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 17

 

 

Verse 1

JUDAH’S SIN INEFFACEABLY RECORDED, Jeremiah 17:1-4.

1. Sin of Judah — Namely, that very sin set forth in the previous chapter, of which even the Gentiles would become ashamed. Origen and Isidore understood by “Judah,” here, Judas Iscariot!

Pen of iron — A sharp-pointed iron stylus, or chisel, used for making inscriptions on tables of wood or stone. Exodus 32:16; Job 19:24. Of course when this was used it was for the purpose of graving it very deeply, so that it could not be easily effaced.

Point of a diamond — In Ezekiel 3:9, and Ezekiel 7:12, the original of diamond is rendered adamant; in every other place it is translated thorn. The sense here is correctly given. Pliny says the ancients were acquainted with the cutting powers of the diamond.

Table of their heart… horns of your altars — The inward seat of sin and its outward expression. God would have his law written on their hearts, but they had written sin instead. The “altars” here are the idolatrous altars which the Jews had set up to Baalim. True, Josiah had destroyed these; but doubtless many of them had been rebuilt and were now standing as the visible proof of Israel’s idolatry, answering to the writing on their hearts. The change of person — their heart… your altars — is such as is common, especially with Jeremiah, and serves to charge home their guilt more directly and personally.


Verses 1-4

Verse 2

2. Whilst their children remember, etc. — Two senses of this verse have been given: 1) That of the common Version, but the first word should be translated “as.” 2) That of Keil — As their children, they remember their altars, that is, as fondly. This is best.

Groves — Rather, their asherahs: wooden images of Astarte, the female divinity answering to Baal.

By the green trees — Literally, upon the “green trees,” the preposition being the same as that before hills. Some explain this difficulty by referring it back to the word “remember;” but this is far from satisfactory.


Verse 3

3. My mountain in the field — Jerusalem, or Zion. (See also Jeremiah 21:13, for another similar designation — “rock of the plain.”) Keil and Nagelsbach construe it as an accusative co-ordinate with substance; others, as in the common version. The term “field” is a comprehensive designation of the land as cultivated, and hence kindred with substance and treasures. Zion is called a “mountain,” both because of its physical elevation and its moral height as the throne and altar of the land.


Verse 4

4. Shalt discontinue — That is, be dispossessed of. Even thyself — By thine own fault, and by that only.


Verse 5

THE SOURCES OF RUIN, Jeremiah 17:5 to Jeremiah 13:5. Cursed… the man — What follows is more general, but doubtless has specific reference to Jewish current history. It sets forth the curse of trusting in man; the blessedness of trusting in God; the deceitfulness of the human heart; and contains a prayer of the prophet for deliverance from his enemies.


Verse 6

6. Heath in the desert — The original of “heath” occurs besides only in

Psalms 102:17, where it is rendered “destitute” man. A similar word in a similar phrase occurs in Jeremiah 48:6. where it is also translated “heath.” Furst, Henderson, Robinson, De Wette, and all the older Versions, understand by the word in this place some sort of shrub, such as the juniper, heath, or tamarisk; but Gesenius, Nagelsbach, Keil, and many others, translate it “a destitute man,” as in Psalms 102:17. This falls in better with the verbs see and inhabit, but the former is more exactly antithetic to the figure in Jeremiah 17:8, and is to be preferred.

Salt land — That is, barren. See Deuteronomy 29:23; Job 39:6; Psalms 107:34.


Verse 7-8

7, 8. Blessed… trusteth — The blessedness of trusting in God heightens by contrast the curse of trusting in man. Mark the particulars of this contrast. One is a solitary, worthless shrub; the other a tree. One is in the desert; the other by the watercourses. One shall not see when good cometh; the other shall not see when heat cometh. One inhabits parched, barren, uninhabitated places; the other has a leaf always green, is unaffected by the year of drought, and does not leave off fruitbearing.

Shall not see — Rather, fear. “See” comes from the marginal reading of the Masoretes, is opposed to the leading ancient Versions, and has nothing to commend it.

By the waters — Literally, watercourses. The reference may be to natural or to artificial channels.


Verse 9

9. The heart is deceitful — The connexion is this: Man trusts in his fellowman in obedience to the natural impulses of his heart, and because he thinks him trustworthy; but “the heart is deceitful.” Our own impulses are crooked and perverse, and, for a similar reason, our fellowmen are untrustworthy.

Desperately wicked — Literally, mortally sick.


Verse 10

10. The ninth verse closes with the question:

Who can know it? — This verse answers it — Only God. He can probe it to the core, and understand all its crookedness and perverseness.

Ways — Literally, way. Omit the “and” inserted by the translators.


Verse 11

11. Partridge — Literally, the caller. It is uncertain what bird is meant, but the weight of testimony lies in favour of the common version. Sitteth, etc. — Rather, gathereth eggs she hath not brought forth. There is no proof of any such habit on the part of this bird. The saying is probably a proverbial one, and so is accounted for by the existence of the proverb. It is a fit illustration of the folly of the man who accumulates by fraud and treachery, to be finally dispossessed of his ill-gotten gains, and die a fool.


Verse 12

12. Glorious high throne — Here commences a brief but most impressive invocation of Jehovah. The copula should not be used in this verse, as such a cold, dogmatic statement would be here most inappropriate. These phrases are a part of the invocation. As the mind mounts up to God, it first rests on what might be called the externals of his presence, and, through these, approaches his personality. O throne of glory, set on high (literally, loftiness) from the beginning, place of our sanctuary — Jehovah, the hope of Israel.


Verse 13

13. Written in the earth — Where they shall soon disappear. In Exodus 32:32, it is implied that the friends of God have their names written in his book, and in Daniel 12:1, this is called the “book of life.” “Written in the earth” stands in contrast with this book of God’s remembrance.

That depart from me — One of many instances in which the prophet seems to identify himself with Jehovah, so that to leave one would be to leave the other.


Verse 14

PRAYER FOR PROTECTION AND SAFETY, Jeremiah 17:14-18.

14. Heal… save — Here begins the prophet’s prayer for himself, and the paragraph division should come here.


Verse 16

16. A pastor to follow thee — Better, a shepherd after thee.

The woful day — Literally, the day of mortal sickness: the day of judgment and calamity to the city and nation.

Was right before thee — Omit the misleading word “right” inserted by the translators. The meaning is: I have spoken as in God’s presence. No higher claim could be set up by an ambassador of heaven. Did every Christian minister always have as realizing and vivid a sense of God’s presence as of the presence of his fellow men, it would elevate and purify the tone and spirit of his utterances as nothing else could.


Verse 18

18. Let not me be confounded — This prayer for himself becomes here a prayer against his enemies, and yet not so much foes of Jeremiah as of Jehovah. It is not personal hate and vindictiveness which breathes through these words, but love for God and jealousy for his honour.


Verse 19-20

EXHORTATION TO HALLOW THE SABBATH Jeremiah 17:19-27.

19, 20. The connexion here is certainly not close: but the theme introduced is related to the general drift in that it lays bare another of the causes of Judah’s ruin.

Gate of the children of the people — Was this a gate of the city or the temple? As we find elsewhere no intimation of a gate with such a designation, we must fall back on general conjecture. The force of the phrase would seem to be, the people’s gate; and yet it is said that the kings of Judah come in… by these gates. This would suggest a gate into the people’s court of the sanctuary, the priests gaining admission to their court by means of another gate. The “children of the people,” then, must mean the people as distinguished from the priests; or, in other words, the laity. It is possible that even then the traffic by which the temple was defiled in our Lord’s time had commenced, and that there was a violation of the law of the sabbath even at the sanctuary itself.


Verse 21-22

21, 22. Take heed to yourselves — Literally, to your souls.

Bear no burden… neither do ye any work — These are specifications as to the law of the sabbath, suggested, probably, by violations which were common. The bearing of burdens probably refers to market trade and business. It is not unlikely that the country people, as they came to temple-service, were accustomed to “mingle traffic with their devotions;”

and, as has been suggested, the fact that the people of Jerusalem were forbidden to carry burdens out of their houses seems to point to a practice on their part of carrying their wares to the gates for the purpose of traffic with the inhabitants on their holy day.


Verse 25

25. Then shall there enter — A noble picture of national grandeur and prosperity.

Sitting upon the throne of David — Such elevation belongs, in strictness, only to kings, but the term princes is associated, perhaps to give the picture a more popular cast. Riding in chariots and on horses, suggests what, in such case, would be the “undiminished splendour of the rule of David’s race.”


Verse 26

26. They shall come — An answering description of religious grandeur and prosperity. The specifications are such as give completeness to the picture. As to offerings, the two great classes are mentioned, namely, bloody burnt offerings and sacrifices, and unbloody meat offerings and incense. As to localities, we have cities of Judah, places about Jerusalem, land of Benjamin, the plain, the mountains, and the south — showing the universal participation of the people.


Verse 27

27. I kindle a fire in the gates — The very places mentioned as those of disobedience and profanation. God’s punitive judgments always move in the precise path of sin, and will follow it out in all its windings and ramifications.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 17:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-17.html. 1874-1909.

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