Jeremiah 17


This chapter begins with setting forth the very strong bias

which the people of Judah had to idolatry, with the fatal

consequences, 1-4.

The happiness of the man that trusted in Jehovah is then

beautifully contrasted with the opposite character, 5-8.

God alone knows the deceitfulness and wretchedness of the heart

of man, 9, 10.

The comparison of a bird's hatching the eggs of another of a

different species, which will soon forsake her, is highly

expressive of the vanity of ill-acquired riches, which often

disappoint the owner, 11.

The prophet continues the same subject in his own person,

appeals to God for his sincerity, and prays that the evil

intended him by his enemies may revert on their own heads,


The remaining part of the chapter is a distinct prophecy

relating to the due observance of the Sabbath, enforced both by

promises and threatenings, 19-27.


Verse 1. The sin of Judah] Idolatry.

Is written with a pen of iron] It is deeply and indelibly

written in their heart, and shall be as indelibly written in their

punishment. Writing with the point of a diamond must refer to

glass, or some vitrified substance, as it is distinguished here

from engraving with a steel burine, or graver. Their altars show

what the deities are which they worship. There may be reference

here to the different methods of recording events in those

days:-1. A pen or stile of iron, for engraving on lead or wood. 2.

A point of a diamond, for writing on vitreous substances. 3.

Writing on tables of brass or copper. 4. Writing on the horns of

the altars the names of the deities worshipped there. This is


In several parts of India, and all through Ceylon, an iron or

steel pen is used universally; with these the natives form the

letters by incisions on the outer rind of the palm leaf. Books

written in this way are very durable. This pen is broad at the

top, has a very fine sharp point, and is sharp at one side as a

knife, to shave and prepare the palm leaf. A pen of this

description now lies before me.

Verse 2. Whilst their children remember] Even the rising

generation have their imagination stocked with idol images, and

their memories with the frantic rites and ceremonies which they

saw their parents observe in this abominable worship.

Verse 3. O my mountain in the field] The prophet here addresses

the land of Judea, which was a mountainous country, De 3:25;

but Jerusalem itself may be meant, which is partly built upon

hills which, like itself, are elevated above the rest of the


Verse 5. Cursed be the man that trusteth in man] This reprehends

their vain confidence in trusting in Egypt, which was too feeble

itself to help, and, had it been otherwise, too ill disposed

towards them to help them heartily. An arm of flesh is put here

for a weak and ineffectual support. And he who, in reference to

the salvation of his soul, trusts in an arm of flesh-in himself or

others, or in any thing he has done or suffered, will inherit a

curse instead of a blessing.

Verse 6. He shall be like the heath in the desert] kearar;

or, like a blasted tree, without moisture, parched and withered.

Shall not see when good cometh] Shall not be sensible of it: the

previous drought having rendered it incapable of absorbing any

more vegetable juices.

A salt land] Barren; and therefore unfit to be inhabited.

Verse 8. As a tree planted by the waters] Which is sufficiently

supplied with moisture, though the heat be intense, and there be

no rain; for the roots being spread out by the river, they absorb

from it all the moisture requisite for the flourishing vegetation

of the tree.

Shall not see when heat cometh] Shall not feel any damage by

drought, for the reason already assigned. It shall be strong and

vigorous, its leaf always green; and shall produce plenty of fruit

in its season.

Verse 9. The heart is deceitful] akob halleb, "the

heart is supplanting-tortuous-full of windings-insidious;" lying

ever at the catch; striving to avail itself of every favourable

circumstance to gratify its propensities to pride, ambition, evil

desire, and corruption of all kinds.

And desperately wicked] veanush hu, and is wretched,

or feeble; distressed beyond all things, in consequence of the

wickedness that is in it. I am quite of Mr. Parkhurst's opinion,

that this word is here badly translated as anash is never used

in Scripture to denote wickedness of any kind. My old MS. Bible

translates thus:-Schrewid is the herte of a man: and unserchable:

who schal knowen it?

Who can know it?] It even hides itself from itself; so that its

owner does not know it. A corrupt heart is the worst enemy the

fallen creature can have; it is full of evil devices,-of deceit,

of folly, and abomination, and its owner knows not what is in him

till it boils over, and is often past remedy before the evil is

perceived. Therefore trust not in man, whose purposes are

continually changing, and who is actuated only by motives of


Verse 10. I the Lord search the heart] The Lord is called by his

apostles, Ac 1:24, καρδιογνωστης,

the Knower of the heart. To him alone can this epithet be

applied; and it is from him alone that we can derive that

instruction by which we can in any measure know ourselves.

Verse 11. As the partridge] kore. It is very likely that

this was a bird different from our partridge. The text Dr. Blayney

translates thus:-

(As) the kore that hatcheth what it doth not lay

(So is) he who getteth riches, and not according to right.

"The covetous man," says Dahler, "who heaps up riches by unjust

ways, is compared to a bird which hatches the eggs of other fowls.

And as the young, when hatched, and able at all to shift for

themselves, abandon her who is not their mother, and leave her

nothing to compensate her trouble, so the covetous man loses those

unjustly-gotten treasures, and the fruit of his labour."

And at his end shall be a fool.] Shall be reputed as such. He

was a fool all the way through; he lost his soul to get wealth,

and this wealth he never enjoyed. To him also are applicable those

strong words of the poet:-

"O cursed lust of gold! when for thy sake

The wretch throws up his interest in both worlds.

First starved in this, then damned in that to come."


Verse 12. A glorious high throne] As he is cursed who trusts in

man, so he is blessed who trusts in GOD. He is here represented as

on a throne in his temple; to him in the means of grace all should

resort. He is the support, and a glorious support, of all them

that trust in him.

Verse 13. Written in the earth] They shall never come to true

honour. Their names shall be written in the dust; and the first

wind that blows over it shall mar every letter, and render it


Verse 14. Heal me-and I shall be healed] That is, I shall be

thoroughly healed, and effectually saved, if thou undertake for


Thou art my praise.] The whole glory of the work of salvation

belongs to thee alone.

Verse 15. Where is the word of the Lord?] Where is the

accomplishment of his threatenings? Thou hast said that the city

and the temple should both be destroyed. No such events have yet

taken place. But they did take place, and every tittle of the

menace was strictly fulfilled.

Verse 16. I have not hastened from being a pastor] Dr. Blayney

translates thus: "But I have not been in haste to outrun thy

guidance." I was obliged to utter thy prediction; but I have not

hastened the evil day. For the credit of my prophecy I have not

desired the calamity to come speedily; I have rather pleaded for

respite. I have followed thy steps, and proclaimed thy truth. I

did not desire to be a prophet; but thou hast commanded, and I


Verse 17. Be not a terror unto me] Do not command me to predict

miseries, and abandon me to them and to my enemies.

Verse 18. Let them be confounded] They shall be confounded.

These words are to be understood as simple predictions, rather

than prayers.

Verse 19. The gate of the children of the people] I suppose the

most public gate is meant; that through which there was the

greatest thoroughfare.

Verse 20. Ye kings of Judah, and all Judah] This last clause is

wanting in eight of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., in the

Arabic, and some copies of the Septuagint.

Verse 21. Take heed to yourselves and bear no burden] From this

and the following verses we find the ruin of the Jews attributed

to the breach of the Sabbath; as this led to a neglect of

sacrifice, the ordinances of religion, and all public worship, so

it necessarily brought with it all immorality. This breach of the

Sabbath was that which let in upon them all the waters of God's


Verse 24. If ye diligently hearken unto me] So we find that

though their destruction was positively threatened, yet still

there was an unexpressed proviso that, if they did return to the

Lord, the calamities should be averted, and a succession of

princes would have been continued on the throne of David,

Jer 17:25, 26.

Verse 27. But if ye will not hearken] Then their sin lay at

their own door. How fully were they warned; and how basely did

they reject the counsel of God against themselves!

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