Jeremiah 13:23
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

New Living Translation
Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil.

English Standard Version
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

New American Standard Bible
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.

King James Bible
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Can the Cushite change his skin, or a leopard his spots? If so, you might be able to do what is good, you who are instructed in evil.

International Standard Version
Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots? Then you who are trained to do evil will also be able to do good.

NET Bible
But there is little hope for you ever doing good, you who are so accustomed to doing evil. Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard remove its spots?

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Can Ethiopians change the color of their skin or leopards change their spots? Can you do good when you're taught to do wrong?

Jubilee Bible 2000
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Likewise ye also cannot do good, being taught to do evil.

King James 2000 Bible
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to doing evil.

American King James Version
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

American Standard Version
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Douay-Rheims Bible
If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots: you may also do well, when you have learned evil.

Darby Bible Translation
Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots? [Then] may ye also do good, who are accustomed to do evil.

English Revised Version
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Webster's Bible Translation
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

World English Bible
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, who are accustomed to do evil.

Young's Literal Translation
Doth a Cushite change his skin? and a leopard his spots? Ye also are able to do good, who are accustomed to do evil.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

13:18-27 Here is a message sent to king Jehoiakim, and his queen. Their sorrows would be great indeed. Do they ask, Wherefore come these things upon us? Let them know, it is for their obstinacy in sin. We cannot alter the natural colour of the skin; and so is it morally impossible to reclaim and reform these people. Sin is the blackness of the soul; it is the discolouring of it; we were shapen in it, so that we cannot get clear of it by any power of our own. But Almighty grace is able to change the Ethiopian's skin. Neither natural depravity, nor strong habits of sin, form an obstacle to the working of God, the new-creating Spirit. The Lord asks of Jerusalem, whether she is determined not be made clean. If any poor slave of sin feels that he could as soon change his nature as master his headstrong lusts, let him not despair; for things impossible to men are possible with God. Let us then seek help from Him who is mighty to save.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Can the Ethiopian change his skin?.... Or, "the Cushite"; either, as the Arabic version, the "Abyssine", the inhabitant of the eastern Ethiopia; properly an Ethiopian, as the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render it; or, the "Chusean Arabian"; the inhabitant of Arabia Chusea, which was nearer Judea than the other Ethiopia, and better known, and which were of a dark complexion. The Targum renders it, the Indian; and so does the Syriac version. In the Misna (i) mention is made of Indian garments, with which the high priest was clothed on the day of atonement; upon which the gloss (k) is, that they were of linen of the country of India; and which is the land of Cush (or Ethiopia), as Jonathan Ben Uzziel interprets Jeremiah 13:23.

"can the Cushite, the Indian, change his skin?''

and it is highly probable, that, in the time of Jeremiah, no other India was known by the Jews but Ethiopia, or Arabia Chusea, and no other black people but the inhabitants thereof, or any other than the Arabians; and, as Braunius (l) observes, it need not be wondered at, that with the Jews, in those times, Ethiopia and India should be reckoned the same country; when with the ancients, whatever was beyond the Mediterranean sea, as Arabia, Ethiopia, and even Judea itself, was called India; so Joppa, a city of Phoenicia, from whence Andromeda was fetched by Perseus, is by Ovid (m) said to be in India; so Bochart (n) interprets the words of the Saracens or Arabians, who are of a swarthy colour, and some black; and indeed have their name from the same word the raven has, which is black; and particularly the inhabitants of Kedar were black, one part of Arabia, to which the allusion is in Sol 1:5. Jarchi interprets the word here by "the moor", the blackamoor, whose skin is naturally black, and cannot be changed by himself or others; hence to wash the blackamoor white is a proverbial expression for labour in vain, or attempting to do that which is not to be done:

or the leopard his spots? a creature full of spots, and whose spots are natural to it; and therefore cannot be removed by any means. Some think a creature called "the ounce", or "cat-a-mountain" is meant, whose spots are many, and of a blackish colour; but the description well agrees with the leopard, which is a creature full of spots, and has its name in the eastern languages, particularly the Chaldee and Arabic, from a word (o) which signifies "spotted", "variegated", as this creature is; so the female is called "varia" by Pliny (p), because, of its various spots; and these spots are black, as the Arabic writers in Bochart (q). The word here used signifies such marks as are made in a body beat and bruised, which we call black and blue; hence some render it "livid", or black and blue spots (r); and these marks are in the skin and hair of this creature, and are natural to it, and cannot be changed; and it is usual with other writers (s) to call them spots, as well as the Scripture:

then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil; signifying that they were naturally sinners, as blackness is natural to the Ethiopian, and spots to the leopard; and were from their birth and infancy such, and had been so long habituated to sin, by custom founded upon nature, that there was no hope of them; they were obstinate in sin, bent upon it, and incorrigible in it; and this is another reason given why the above calamities came upon them. The metaphors used in this text fitly express the state and condition of men by nature; they are like the Ethiopian or blackamoor; very black, both with original and actual sin; very guilty, and very uncomely; and their blackness is natural to them; they have it from their parents, and by birth; it is with them from their infancy, and youth upwards; and very hard and difficult to be removed; it cannot be washed off by ceremonial ablutions, moral duties, evangelical ordinances, or outward humiliations; yea, it is impossible to be removed but by the grace of God and blood of Christ. Their sins are aptly compared to the leopard's spots, which are many and natural, and difficult to get clear off. What is figuratively expressed in the above metaphors is more plainly signified by being "accustomed" or "taught to do evil" (t); which denotes a series and course of sinning; a settled habit and custom in it, founded on nature, and arising from it; which a man learns and acquires naturally, and of himself, whereby he becomes void of fear and shame; and there is a good deal of difficulty, and indeed a moral impossibility, that such persons should "do good": nothing short of the powerful and efficacious grace of God can put a man into a state and capacity of doing good aright, from right principles to right ends, and of continuing in it; for there is no good in such men; nor have they any true notion of doing good, nor inclination to it, nor any ability to perform it: in order to it, it is absolutely necessary that they should first be made good men by the grace of God; that they should be regenerated and quickened by the Spirit of God; that they should be created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and have faith in him; all which is by the grace of God, and not of themselves.

(i) Yoma, c. 3. sect 7. (k) In T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 34. 2.((l) De Vestitu Sacerdot. Heb. l. 1. c. 7. sect. 9. p. 150, 151. (m) "Andromedam Perseus nigris portarat ab Indis". De Arte Atnandi, l. 1.((n) Phaleg. l. 4. c. 2. col. 215, 216. (o) Vid. Golium, col. 2459, 2460. Castel. col. 2321, 2322. (p) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 17. (q) Hierozoic. par 1. l. 3. c. 7. col. 786, 787. (r) "liventee maculas suas", Junius & Tremellius. (s) Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 19. Juvenal. Satyr. 15. (t) "docti malefacere", Montanus; "edocti malefacere", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "qui edocti estis malum", Schmidt.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

23. Ethiopian—the Cushite of Abyssinia. Habit is second nature; as therefore it is morally impossible that the Jews can alter their inveterate habits of sin, nothing remains but the infliction of the extremest punishment, their expatriation (Jer 13:24).

Jeremiah 13:23 Additional Commentaries
Context
Captivity Threatened
22"If you say in your heart, 'Why have these things happened to me?' Because of the magnitude of your iniquity Your skirts have been removed And your heels have been exposed. 23"Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil. 24"Therefore I will scatter them like drifting straw To the desert wind.…
Cross References
Proverbs 27:22
Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.

Isaiah 1:5
Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.

Jeremiah 4:22
"My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good."

Jeremiah 9:5
Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.
Treasury of Scripture

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Ethiopian.

Jeremiah 2:22,30 For though you wash you with nitre, and take you much soap, yet your …

Jeremiah 5:3 O LORD, are not your eyes on the truth? you have stricken them, but …

Jeremiah 6:29,30 The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder …

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: …

Proverbs 27:22 Though you should bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, …

Isaiah 1:5 Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more: …

Matthew 19:24-28 And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the …

accustomed. Heb. taught.

Jeremiah 9:5 And they will deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak …

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