JEREMIAH CHAPTER 17.
The Jews' Persistent Course in Corruption.
THE REASON FOR JUDAH’S REJECTION. — V. 1. The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, as with a stylus which was used for writing on wax tablets in ancient times, and with the point of a diamond, which was used for etching words into metal surfaces; it is graven upon the table of their heart, deep and ineradicable, with a lasting impression, and upon the horns of your altars, where they wrote the names of their idols, v. 2. whilst their children, the entire nation, remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills, that is, they were so deeply steeped in idolatry that the mere sight of a green tree and of a high hill awoke in them the remembrance of those terrible altars and of the Asherah images which they had erected there. V. 3. O my mountain in the field, Jerusalem, and especially Zion and the Temple, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, into the possession of the enemies, and thy high places for sin, on account of the wickedness of the people, because they had been used for idolatrous sacrifices, throughout all thy borders. V. 4. And thou, even thyself, shall discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee, disowned, cast out of their land; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not; for ye have kindled a fire in Mine anger which shall burn forever. Thus the Jews would lose their inheritance by their own fault, and those who persisted in their godless ways would be subject to the eternal wrath of a holy God, in the same way in which the idolaters of our days will experience it.
THE DEPTH OF THE NATION’S CORRUPTION. — V. 5. Thus saith the Lord, in rebuking the tendency of Judah to rely upon various heathen allies, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, as the Jews did in relying upon Egypt, and maketh flesh his arm, in depending upon the strength of men, and whose heart departeth from the Lord, this fact explaining the reason for such foolish trust in man. V. 6. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, literally, "like a naked one in the wilderness," one destitute of all means of subsistence, and shall not see when good cometh, shall never see good fortune, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, where the lack of water prevents the maturing of crops, in a salt land, where the soil is impregnated with alkali, and not inhabited. Over against such a person the Lord pictures him who conducts himself in agreement with His will. V. 7. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, with the confidence of true faith, and whose hope the Lord is. Cp. Ps. 1, 3. 4. V. 8. For he, utterly unlike the man whose description has just been given, shall be as a tree planted by the waters, where a plentiful supply of moisture insures a luxuriant growth, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, being unaffected by its fiery breath, but her leaf shall be green, on account of her perpetual supply of life-giving water; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, there being no cause to worry even then, neither shall cease from yielding fruit, because the stream at which it is located will never dry up. In order to bring this truth home with particular emphasis, the Lord describes the human heart as it is. V. 9. The heart is deceitful above all things, full of perfidy and treachery, and desperately wicked, profoundly corrupt; who can know it? Who can understand and plumb the depths of its wickedness? This alone is reason enough why no man should place confidence in the ideas of his heart. V. 10. I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, the seat of the innermost desires and feelings, even to give every man according to his ways, as his conduct deserves, and according to the fruit of his doings, in accordance with his deeds, as the expression of his heart's condition. V. 11. As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not, or, "a partridge hatching eggs which it has not laid," so he that getteth riches, and not by right, accumulating unjust wealth, ill-gotten gain, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a tool, the foolishness of his acts appearing at the end of his life. V. 12. A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our Sanctuary, or, in the form of an address directed to the seat of God's majesty, "Thou throne of glory, loftiness from the beginning, place of our Sanctuary!" Zion, where God revealed Himself to His people, where His glory was enthroned above the lid of the Ark, is here regarded as a person, in order to heighten the effect of the appeal, which now turns directly to God. V. 13. O Lord, the Hope of Israel! the God of the covenant being the only one in whom the Jews might expect redemption, all that forsake Thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from Me shall be written in the earth, their names being traced in loose soil or sand, where the writing would soon be obliterated, because they have forsaken the Lord, the Fountain of living waters. Cp. chap. 2, 13. In connection with this the prophet begs the Lord to grant him deliverance from his enemies. V. 14. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed, both making him whole in his distress and keeping him so; save me, and I shall be saved, delivered from the enemies who were seeking his soul; for Thou art my Praise, the object of his confident boasting. Cp. Ps. 71, 6; Deut. 10, 21. V. 15. Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? How is it that His threats are not fulfilled? Let it come now! The enemies challenge the prophet to produce proofs of the truth which he declared he was proclaiming in the name of the Lord. V. 16. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow Thee, he had not left his duties as shepherd in his home town, in precipitous haste for the sake of being Jehovah's special minister, or, he had not withdrawn himself hastily from the Lord's service; neither have I desired the woeful day, Thou knowest, he had not wished that the day of calamity might strike Judah; that which came out of my lips was right before Thee, it was not only known to the Lord, but it was uttered by His express command. V. 17. Be not a terror unto me, causing consternation to strike him; Thou art my Hope in the day of evil, his Refuge in the time of distress. V. 18. Let them be confounded that persecute me, so that they will be heaped with disgrace before him, but let not me be confounded, with his simple trust in the Lord; let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed. Bring upon them the day of evil, the promised destruction, and destroy them with double destruction, literally, "with a double portion in ruin." This was not a prayer of vindictiveness, but of zeal for the honor of the Lord, which was at stake in the attacks made upon His servant. A prayer that the Lord would avenge His honor in punishing His enemies is altogether in order to this day.
THE HALLOWING OF THE SABBATH. — V. 19. Thus saith the Lord unto me, with reference to the flagrant disregard of one of the chief commandments in the form in which it concerned the Jews, Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, probably the main portal of the Temple, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, identified by some as the "Gate of David," or the "Gate of the Fountain," at the foot of Zion, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, in order that this word might be observed at all entrances of the city, v. 20. and say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, its successive rulers, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem that enter in by these gates: v. 21. Thus saith the Lord, Take heed to yourselves, literally, "preserve your souls," guard over your souls, namely, on account of the danger which otherwise threatened their lives, and bear no burden on the Sabbath-day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem, v. 22. neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath-day, neither do ye any work, for all of this was forbidden the Jews under the old dispensation, Ex. 12, 16; 20, 10; Deut. 5,14, but hallow ye the Sabbath-day, as I commanded your fathers, the commandment to keep the Sabbath being insisted upon with great severity by the Lord at that time. V. 23. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, they did not pay the slightest attention to His precepts, but made their neck stiff, in deliberate stubbornness, that they might not hear nor receive instruction, their whole history being a series of examples in proof of this statement. V. 24. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto Me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath-day, but hallow the Sabbath-day to do no work therein, v. 25. then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, the kingdom being restored to its ancient power and splendor, they and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the entire country participating in the benefits given to its capital; and this city shall remain forever, according to the promises made to the patriarchs and kings of old. V. 26. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, in the neighborhood of the capital, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, the northern district of the kingdom, and from the plain, the lowlands toward the Mediterranean Sea, and from the mountains, the hill section of the kingdom, and from the south, the great steppes west and southwest of the Dead Sea, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat-offerings, and Incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, or thank-offerings, the various bloody and bloodless sacrifices of the Jews being thus briefly enumerated, unto the house of the Lord. V. 27. But if ye will not hearken unto Me to hallow the Sabbath-day and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day, that is, if their deliberate desecration of the Sabbath would continue, then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, as the attack of the enemies would succeed, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. Thus the warning of the Lord called the Jews to repentance again and again, for He does not desire the death of sinners, but wants all men to repent of their sins and be saved.