Jeremiah 17
Barnes' Notes
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;
This section Jeremiah 17:1-4 is inseparably connected with the preceding. Judah's sin had been described Jeremiah 16:19 as one of which the very Gentiles will become ashamed. and for which she will shortly be punished by, an intervention of God's hand more marked than anything in her previous history. Jeremiah now dwells upon the indelible nature of her sin.

A pen of iron - i. e., an iron chisel for cutting inscriptions upon tables of stone.

The point of a diamond - The ancients were well acquainted with the cutting powers of the diamond.

Altars - Not Yahweh's one altar, but the many altars which the Jews had set up to Baalim Jeremiah 11:13. Though Josiah had purged the land of these, yet in the eleven years of Jehoiakim's reign they had multiplied again, and were the external proofs of Judah's idolatry, as the table of her heart was the internal witness.

Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.
While their children remember their altars - Perhaps an allusion to their sacrifices of children to Moloch. Present perhaps at some such blood-stained rite, its horrors would be engraven forever upon the memory.

Groves - "Asherahs," i. e., wooden images of Astarte (see Exodus 34:13 note).

O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.
O my mountain in the field - i. e., Jerusalem or Zion, called the Rock of the Plain in Jeremiah 21:13. "The field" is the open unenclosed country, here contrasted with the privileged height of Zion.

Or sin - i. e., because of thy sin.

And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; 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 for ever.
The verb rendered "discontinue" is that used of letting the land rest Exodus 23:11, and of releasing creditors Deuteronomy 15:2 in the sabbatical year. As Judah had not kept these sabbatical years she must now discontinue the tillage of God's inheritance until the land had had its rest. "Even thyself may mean and that through thyself," through thine own fault.

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
In the rest of the prophecy Jeremiah dwells upon the moral faults which had led to Judah's ruin.

For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
Like the heath - Or, "like a destitute man" Psalm 102:17. The verbs "he shall see" (or fear) and "shall inhabit" plainly show that a man is here meant and not a plant.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The river - Or, "water-course" Isaiah 30:25, made for purposes of irrigation.

Shall not see - Or, "shall not fear Jeremiah 17:6." God's people feel trouble as much as other people, but they do not fear it because they know

(1) that it is for their good, and

(2) that God will give them strength to bear it.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
The train of thought is apparently this: If the man is so blessed Jeremiah 17:7-8 who trusts in Yahweh, what is the reason why men so generally "make flesh their arm"? And the answer is: Because man's heart is incapable of seeing things in a straightforward manner, but is full of shrewd guile, and ever seeking to overreach others.

Desperately wicked - Rather, mortally sick.

I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
The answer to the question, "who can know it?" To himself a man's heart is an inscrutable mystery: God alone can fathom it.

Ways - Rather, way, his course of life. The "and" must be omitted, for the last clause explains what is meant "by man's way," when he comes before God for judgment. It is "the fruit," the final result "of his doings, i. e., his real character as formed by the acts and habits of his life.

As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
Rather, "As the partridge hath gathered eggs which it laid not, so ..." The general sense is: the covetous man is as sure to reap finally disappointment only as is the partridge which piles up eggs not of her own laying, and is unable to hatch them.

A fool - A Nabal. See 1 Samuel 25:25.

A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.
Or, "Thou throne ... thou place ... thou hope ... Yahweh! All that forsake Thee etc." The prophet concludes his prediction with the expression of his own trust in Yahweh, and confidence that the divine justice will finally be vindicated by the punishment of the wicked. The "throne of glory" is equivalent to Him who is enthroned in glory.

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
Shall be written in the earth - i. e., their names shall quickly disappear, unlike those graven in the rock forever Job 19:24. A board covered with sand is used in the East to this day in schools for giving lessons in writing: but writing inscribed on such materials is intended to be immediately obliterated. Equally fleeting is the existence of those who forsake God. "All men are written somewhere, the saints in heaven, but sinners upon earth" (Origen).

Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.
Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.
This taunt shows that this prophecy was written before any very signal fulfillment of Jeremiah's words had taken place, and prior therefore to the capture of Jerusalem at the close of Jehoiakim's life. "Now" means "I pray," and is ironical.

As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.
I have not hastened from - i. e., I have not sought to escape from.

A pastor to follow thee - Rather, "a shepherd after Thee." "Shepherd" means "ruler, magistrate" (Jeremiah 2:8 note), and belongs to the prophet not as a teacher, but as one invested with authority by God to guide and direct the political course of the nation. So Yahweh guides His people Psalm 23:1-2, and the prophet does so "after Him," following obediently His instructions.

The woeful day - literally, "the day of mortal sickness:" the day on which Jerusalem was to be destroyed, and the temple burned.

Right - Omit the word. What Jeremiah asserts is that he spake as in God's presence. They were no words of his own, but had the authority of Him before whom he stood. Compare Jeremiah 15:19.

Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
A terror - Rather, "a cause of dismay," or consternation Jeremiah 1:17. By not fulfilling Jeremiah's prediction God Himself seemed to put him to shame.

Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.
Confounded - Put to shame.

Destroy them ... - Rather, break them with a double breaking: a twofold punishment, the first their general share in the miseries attendant upon their country's fall; the second, a special punishment for their sin in persecuting and mocking God's prophet.

Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
This prophecy on the observance of the Sabbath, is the first of a series of short predictions. arranged probably in chronological order among themselves, but in other respects independent of one another. Its tone is mild, and dissuasive rather of future neglect than condemnatory of past misconduct; and it may be assigned to the commencement of Jehoiakim's reign. Its similarity to the prophecy contained in Jeremiah 22:1-5 makes it probable that they were contemporaneous.

Jeremiah 17:19

The gate of the children of the people - Perhaps the principal entrance of the outer court of the temple. Very probably there was traffic there, as in our Lord's time, in doves and other requisites for sacrifice, and so the warning to keep the Sabbath was as necessary there as at the city gates.

And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:
Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;
To yourselves - literally, "in your souls, i. e., in yourselves." They were to be on their guard from the depths of their own conscience, thoroughly and on conviction.

Bear no burden on the sabbath day - Apparently the Sabbath day was kept negligently. The country people were in the habit of coming to Jerusalem on the Sabbath to attend the temple service, but mingled traffic with their devotions, bringing the produce of their fields and gardens with them for disposal. The people of Jerusalem for their part took Jeremiah 17:22 their wares to the gates, and carried on a brisk traffic there with the villagers. Both parties seem to have abstained from manual labor, but did not consider that buying and selling were prohibited by the fourth commandment.

Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.
But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
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;
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, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.
A picture of national grandeur. The prophet associates with the king the princes of the Davidic lineage, who in magnificent procession accompany the king as he goes in and out of Jerusalem.

Shall remain forever - Or, "shall be inhabited forever:" populousness is promised.

And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.
The reward for keeping the Sabbath day holy consists in three things;

(1) in great national prosperity,

(2) in the lasting welfare of Jerusalem, and

(3) in the wealth and piety of the people generally, indicated by their numerous sacrifices.

Bringing sacrifices of praise - Rather, "bringing praise." This clause covers all that precedes.

The verse is interesting as specifying the exact limits of the dominions of the Davidic kings, now confined to Judah and Benjamin. These two tribes are divided according to their physical conformation into

(1) the Shefelah, or low country lying between the mountains and the Mediterranean;

(2) the mountain which formed the central region, extending to the wilderness of Judah, on the Dead Sea; and

(3) the Negeb, or arid region, which lay to the south of Judah.

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; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
Upon disobedience follows the anger of God, which will consume like a fire all the, splendor of the offending city.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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