|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:1-4 The sins which men commit make little impression on their minds, yet every sin is marked in the book of God; they are all so graven upon the table of the heart, that they will all be remembered by the conscience. That which is graven in the heart will become plain in the life; men's actions show the desires and purposes of their hearts. What need we have to humble ourselves before God, who are so vile in his sight! How should we depend on his mercy and grace, begging of God to search and prove us; not to suffer us to be deceived by our own hearts, but to create in us a clean and holy nature by his Spirit!
Verse 1. - The sin of Judah, etc. "Judah's sin" is not merely their tendency to sin, but their sinful practices - their idolatry. This is said to be graven upon the table of their heart, for it is no mere form, but carried on with passionate earnestness, and as indelible as if engraved with an iron pen. How unlike, however, is this record to that of which the same expression is used in Job 19:24! With the point of a diamond; or, with a point of adamant (harder than flint, as Ezekiel 3:9 says). Fragments of adamant, says Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 37:15), are sought out by engravers and enclosed in iron; they easily overcome every hardness. Upon the horns of your altars. First of all, what altars are referred to? Those erected for the worship of idols or the two in the temple of Jehovah, which had been defiled by idolatry? And why is the sin of Judah said to be engraved upon the horns of the altars? Probably because the "horns," i.e. the projections at the four upper corners (Exodus 28:2) were smeared with the blood of the victims. The direction in Exodus 29:12 and Leviticus 4:7 was doubtless not peculiar to the ritual of the Law.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron,.... Or an iron tool, such as engravers use in working on hard matter:
and with the point of a diamond; such as glaziers use in cutting their glass; though this is not the word used for a diamond in Exodus 28:18, this word is elsewhere translated an adamant, Ezekiel 3:9. Bothart (h) takes it to be the smiris, which jewellers use in polishing their gems. Jarchi makes mention of a Midrash, or exposition, which explains the iron pen of Jeremiah, and the point of the adamant, or diamond, of Ezekiel, because of what is said of them, Jeremiah 1:18. Kimchi thinks the word "shamir", rendered "diamond", is expressive of the subject matter on which their sin is said to be written, and not of the instrument with which; and then it is to be read thus,
"the sin of Judah is written with an iron pen (with an iron claw, or nail, of which mention is made in some Jewish writings) upon "shamir", or an adamant stone;''
which is no other than their stony heart, as it follows:
it is graven upon the table of their heart; where it is so fixed that it cannot be rooted out, and will never be forgotten by them, but always remembered and desired; for which they have the strongest affections, having a place, and having made deep impressions there: or this may denote the evidence of it in their own consciences, which bore witness to it, and which they could not deny:
and upon the horns of your altars; on which the names of their idols were engraven or inscribed, Acts 17:23, so that their idolatry was notorious; their consciences within, and their altars without, were testimonies of it and besides, the blood of the sacrifices was poured upon the horns of the altar, Leviticus 4:7 and which, as it was done at the offering of sacrifices appointed of God, so very probably at the offering of sacrifices to idols, and which made their sin notorious; yea, even all the sacrifices of the ceremonial law were a standing testimony of their being sinners, and carried in them a confession of sin, and that they were deserving of death, and so were a handwriting against them; for there is no need to limit the sin of Judah here to idolatry, but it may include all their sins; and so the Targum expresses it in the plural number,
"the sins of Judah;''
though, if any particular sin is intended, it seems to be idolatry, by what follows.
(h) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 6. c. 11, col. 842. of which stone, see Dioseorides, Hesychius, & Stephanus in ib.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Jer 17:1-27. The Jews' Inveterate Love of Idolatry.
The the Septuagint omits the first four verses, but other Greek versions have them.
1. The first of the four clauses relates to the third, the second to the fourth, by alternate parallelism. The sense is: They are as keen after idols as if their propensity was "graven with an iron pen (Job 19:24) on their hearts," or as if it were sanctioned by a law "inscribed with a diamond point" on their altars. The names of their gods used to be written on "the horns of the altars" (Ac 17:23). As the clause "on their hearts" refers to their inward propensity, so "on … altars," the outward exhibition of it. Others refer "on the horns of … altars" to their staining them with the blood of victims, in imitation of the Levitical precept (Ex 29:12; Le 4:7, 18), but "written … graven," would thus be inappropriate.
table of … heart—which God intended to be inscribed very differently, namely, with His truths (Pr 3:3; 2Co 3:3).
your—Though "their" preceded, He directly addresses them to charge the guilt home to them in particular.
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