Jeremiah 17:12
A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.
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(12) A glorious high throne . . .—The verse is better taken in connection with the following, and not, as the interpolated “is” makes it, as a separate sentence, the nouns being all in the vocative. Thou throne of glory on high from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary, the hope of Israel, Jehovah . . . The thoughts of the prophet rise from the visible to the eternal temple, and that temple is one with the presence of Jehovah. The term “throne” is applied to Jerusalem in Jeremiah 3:17; practically, to the ark of the covenant in Psalm 80:2; Psalm 99:1; to the throne in heaven in Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 7:9; Psalm 9:4; Psalm 11:4.



Jeremiah 17:12

I must begin by a word or two of explanation as to the language of this passage. The word ‘is’ is a supplement, and most probably it ought to be omitted, and the verse treated as being, not a statement, but a series of exclamations. The next verse runs thus, ‘O Lord! the hope of Israel, all that forsake Thee shall be ashamed’; and the most natural and forcible understanding of the words of my text is reached by connecting them with these following clauses: ‘O Lord! the hope of Israel,’ and, regarding the whole as one long exclamation of adoring contemplation, ‘A glorious throne,’ or ‘Thou glorious throne, high from the beginning; the place of our sanctuary, O Lord! the hope of Israel.’

I. If we look at the words so, we have here, to begin with, a wonderful vision of what God is.

‘A glorious throne,’ or, as the original has it, ‘a throne of glory,’- which is not quite the same thing-’high from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary.’ There are three clauses. Now they all seem to me to have reference to the Temple in Jerusalem, which is taken, by a very natural figure of speech, as a kind of suggestive description of Him who is worshipped there. There is the same kind of use of the name of a place to stand for the person who occupies or inhabits it, in many familiar phrases. For instance, ‘The Sublime Porte’ is properly the name of a lofty gateway which belonged to the palace in Constantinople, and so has come to mean the Turkish Government if Government it can be called. So we talk of the ‘Papal See’ having done this or that, and scarcely remember that a ‘see’ is a bishop’s seat, or, again, the decision of ‘the Chair’ is final in the House of Commons. Or, if you will accept a purely municipal parallel, if any one were told that ‘the Town Hall’ had issued a certain order, he would know that our authorities, the Mayor and Corporation, had decreed so and so. So, in precisely the same way here, the prophet takes the outward facts of the Temple as symbolising great and blessed spiritual thoughts of the God that filled the Temple with His own lustre.

‘A glorious throne’-that is grand, but that is not what Jeremiah means-’A throne of glory’ is the true rendering. And to what does that refer? Now, in the greater number of cases, you will find that in the Old Testament, where ‘glory’ is ascribed to God, the word has a very distinct and specific meaning, viz. the light which was afterwards called the ‘Shekinah,’ and dwelt between the cherubim, and was the symbol of the divine presence and the assurance that that presence would be self-revealing and would manifest Himself to His people. So here the throne on which glory rests is what we call the mercy-seat within the veil, where, above the propitiatory table on which once a year the High Priest sprinkled the blood of sacrifice, and beneath which were shut up the tables of the covenant which constituted the bond between God and Israel, shone the Light in the midst of the darkness of the enclosed inner shrine, the token of the divine presence. The throned glory, the glory that reigns and rules as King in Israel, is the idea of the words before us. It is the same throne that a later writer in the New Testament speaks of when he says, ‘Let us come boldly to the Throne of Grace.’ For that light of a manifested divine presence was no malign lustre that blinded or slew those who gazed upon it, but though no eye but that of the High Priest dared of old to look, yet he, the representative and, as it were, the concentration of the collective Israel, could stand, unshrinking and unharmed, before that piercing light, because he bore in his hand the blood of sacrifice and sprinkled it on the mercy-seat. So was it of old, but now we all can draw near, through the rent veil, and wall rejoicingly in the light of the Lord. His glory is grace; His grace is glory.

This, then, is the first of Jeremiah’s great thoughts of God, and it means-’The Lord God omnipotent reigneth,’ there is none else but He, and His will runs authoritative and supreme into all corners of the universe. But it is ‘glory’ that is throned. That is equivalent to the declaration that our God has never spoken in secret, in the dark places of the earth, nor said to any seeking heart, ‘Seek ye My face in vain.’ For the light which shone in that Holy Place as His symbol, had for its message to Israel the great thought that, as the sun pours out its lustre into all the corners of its system, so He, by the self-communication which is inherent in His very nature, manifests Himself to every gazing eye, and is a God who is Light, ‘and in whom is no darkness at all.’

But reigning glory is also redeeming grace. For the light of the bright cloud, which is the glory of the Lord, shines still, with no thunder in its depths, nor tempests in its bosom, above the mercy-seat, where spreads the blood of sprinkling by which Israel’s sins are all taken away. Well may the prophet lift up his heart in adoring wonder, and translate the outward symbol into this great word, ‘The throne of glory; Jehovah, the hope of Israel.’

Then the next clause is, I think, equally intelligible by the same process of interpretation-’High from the beginning.’ It was a piece of the patriotic exaggeration of Israel’s prophets and psalmists that they made much of the little hill upon which the Temple was set. We read of the ‘hill of the Lord’s house’ being ‘exalted above the tops of the mountains.’ We read of it being a high hill, ‘as the hill of Bashan.’ And though to the eye of sense it is a very modest elevation, to the eye of faith it was symbolical of much. Jeremiah felt it to be a material type, both of the elevation and of the stable duration of the God whom he would commend to Israel’s and to all men’s trust. ‘High from the beginning,’ separated from all creatural limitation and lowness, He whose name is the Most High, and on whose level no other being can stand, towers above the lowness of the loftiest creature, and from that inaccessible height He sends down His voice, like the trumpet from amidst the darkness of Sinai, proclaiming, ‘I am God, and there is none beside Me.’ Yet while thus ‘holy’-that is, separate from creatures-He makes communion with Himself possible to us, and draws near to us in Christ, that we in Christ may be made nigh to Him.

And the loftiness involves, necessarily, timeless and changeless Being; so that we can turn to Him, and feel Him to be ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ No words are needed, and no human words are anything but tawdry attempts to elaborate, which only result in weakening, these two great thoughts. ‘High-from the beginning.’

The last of this series of symbols, even more plainly than the other two, refers originally to the Temple upon the hill of Zion; and symbolically, to the God who filled the Temple. He is ‘the place of our sanctuary.’ That is as though the prophet would point, as the wonderful climax of all, to the fact that He of whom the former things were true should yet be accessible to our worship; that, if I might so say, our feet could tread the courts of the great Temple; and we draw near to Him who is so far above the loftiest, and separate from all the magnificences which Himself has made, and who yet is ‘our sanctuary,’ and accessible to our worship.

Ay! and more than that-’Lord! Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.’ In old days the Temple was more than a place of worship. It was a place where a man coming had, according to ancient custom, guest rights with God; and if he came into the Temple of the Most High as to an asylum, he dwelt there safe and secure from avengers or foes.

‘The place of our sanctuary,’ then, declares that God Himself, like some ancestral dwelling-place in which generation after generation of fathers and children have abode, whence they have been carried, and where their children still live, is to all generations their home and their fortress. The place of our sanctuary implies access to the inaccessibly High, communion with the infinitely Separate, security and abode in God Himself. He that dwelleth in God dwelleth in peace. These, then, are the points of the prophet’s vision of God.

II. Note, further, the soul rapt in meditation and this vision of God.

To me, this long-drawn-out series of linked clauses without grammatical connection, this succession of adoring exclamations of rapture, wonder, and praise, is very striking. It suggests the manner in which we should vivify all our thoughts of God, by turning them into material for devout reverence; awe-struck, considering meditation. There is nothing told us in the Bible about God simply in order that we may know it. It is all meant to be fuel to the fire of our divine affection; to kindle in us the sentiments of faith and love and rapturous adoration. It is easy to know the theology of the Old and the New Testaments, and a man may rattle over the catalogue of the divine ‘attributes,’ as they are called, with perfect accuracy, and never be a hair the better for knowing all of them. So I urge, on you and on myself, the necessity of warming our thoughts and kindling our conceptions of what God is until they melt us into fluidity and adoration and love.

I believe that there are few things which we Christian people more lack in this generation, and by the lack of which we suffer more, than the comparative decay of the good old habit of frequent and patient meditation on the things that we most surely believe. We are so busy in adding to our stock of knowledge, in following out to their latest consequence the logical effects of our Christianity, and in defending it, or seeking to be familiar with the defences, against modern assaults, or in practical work on its behalf, that the last thing that a great many of us do is to feed upon the truth which we know already. We should be like ruminant animals who first crop the grass-which, being interpreted, means, get Scripture truth into our heads-and then chew the cud, which being interpreted is, then put these truths through a second process by meditation on them, so that they may turn into nourishment and make flesh. ‘He that eateth Me,’ said Jesus Christ {and He used there the word which is specially applied to rumination}, ‘shall live by Me.’ It does us no good to know that God is ‘the Throne of Glory, high from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary,’ unless we turn theology into devotion by meditation upon it. ‘Suffer the word of exhortation ‘-in busy, great communities like ours, where we are all driven so hard, there is need for some voices sometimes to be lifted up in pressing upon Christian people the duty of quiet rumination upon the truths that they have.

III. We may see in our text, further, the meditative soul going out to grasp God thus revealed, as its portion and hope.

As I have already said, the text is best understood as part of a series of exclamations which extends into the following verse. If we take account of the whole series, and regard the subsequent part of it as led up to, by the part which is our text, we get an important thought as to what should be the outcome of the truths concerning God, and of our meditative contemplation of them.

My relation to these truths is not exhausted even when I have meditated upon them, and they have touched me into a rapture of devotion. I can conceive that to have been done, and yet the next necessary step not to have been taken. What is that step? The next verse tells us, when it goes on to exclaim, ‘O Lord! the hope of Israel.’ I must cast myself upon Him by faith as my only hope, and turn away from all other confidences which are vain and impotent. So we are back upon that familiar Christian ground, that the bond which knits a man to God, and by which all that God is becomes that man’s personal property, and available for the security and the shaping of his life, is the simple flinging of himself into God’s arms, in sure and certain trust. Then, every one of these characteristics of which I have been speaking will contribute its own special part to the serenity, the security, the godlikeness, the blessedness, the righteousness, the strength of the man who thus trusts.

But such confidence which makes all these things my own possessions, which makes Him ‘a throne of glory,’ to which I have access; which makes Him a place in which I dwell by this exercise of personal faith; which makes Him my hope, has for its other side the turning away from all other grounds of confidence and security. The subsequent context tells us how wise it is thus to turn away, and what folly it is to make anything else our hope except that ‘throne of glory.’ ‘They that depart from Me shall be written in the earth,’ because ‘they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.’ If we say, ‘O Lord! Thou art my hope,’ we shall have the ‘anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, which entereth within the veil,’ and fixes on Him who is within it, the throned Grace between the cherubim, our Brother and our Hope. So we may dwell in God, and from the secure height of our house look down serenely on impotent foes, and never know the bitterness of vain hopes, nor remove from the safe asylum of our home in God.

Jeremiah 17:12. A glorious high throne, &c. — “As in the preceding verses was set forth the vain dependance of him who seeks to advance himself by indirect methods; so here we are taught the solid foundation which he builds upon who has recourse to the divine blessing, and seeks to recommend himself to the favour of that Being, to whom Israel was taught to look up for support, and whose kingdom, from all eternity, ruleth over all.” The temple at Jerusalem, where God manifested his special presence, where his lively oracles were lodged, where the people paid their homage to their sovereign, and whither they fled for refuge in distress, was the place of their sanctuary, and might properly be termed a glorious high throne. It was a throne of holiness, which made it glorious; it was God’s throne, which made it truly high. And it was the honour of Israel that God set up his throne among them. Jeremiah may mention this here partly as a plea with God to show mercy to their land in honour of the throne of his glory; and partly as an aggravation of the sin of the people, in forsaking God, though his throne was among them, and so profaning his crown and the place of his sanctuary.

17:12-18 The prophet acknowledges the favour of God in setting up religion. There is fulness of comfort in God, overflowing, ever-flowing fulness, like a fountain. It is always fresh and clear, like spring-water, while the pleasures of sin are puddle-waters. He prays to God for healing, saving mercy. He appeals to God concerning his faithful discharge of the office to which he was called. He humbly begs that God would own and protect him in the work to which he had plainly called him. Whatever wounds or diseases we find to be in our hearts and consciences, let us apply to the Lord to heal us, to save us, that our souls may praise his name. His hands can bind up the troubled conscience, and heal the broken heart; he can cure the worst diseases of our nature.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.12. throne—the temple of Jerusalem, the throne of Jehovah. Having condemned false objects of trust, "high places for sin" (Jer 17:3), and an "arm of flesh," he next sets forth Jehovah, and His temple, which was ever open to the Jews, as the true object of confidence, and sanctuary to flee to. Henderson makes Jehovah, in Jer 17:13, the subject, and this verse predicate, "A throne of glory, high from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary, the hope of Israel is Jehovah." "Throne" is thus used for Him who sits on it; compare thrones (Col 1:16). He is called a "sanctuary" to His people (Isa 8:14; Eze 11:16). So Syriac and Arabic. It is much more hard to give an account of the connexion of these words with the former, than of their sense considered absolutely in themselves. Some would have them the words of the people, reckoning up another vain ground of their confidence, because they had amongst them the temple of the Lord, which we know was what they mightily gloried in. Others would have them the words of the prophet owning his and the good Jews’ confidence to be only in God, and themselves to worship God not in groves or high places, but only in that place which he had chosen to be worshipped in, even in his sanctuary or temple. Many other conjectures there are, but these two seem to me the most probable.

A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. The temple, which was a sanctified place, where the holy God dwelt, his holy worship was observed, and his holy people met together. Here, from the beginning of its erection, from the time of its dedication, the Lord took up his residence; the glory of the Lord filled the house; he set up his throne in it, a high and glorious one; he dwelt between the cherubim, over the mercy seat, typical of the throne of grace. Kimchi and Ben Melech observe that R. Samuel Ben Tibbon is of opinion that the "caph" of similitude is here wanting; and that it should be interpreted thus, "as a glorious high throne", &c.: heaven is the high and glorious throne, where the Lord sits and reigns; and the temple or sanctuary bore some likeness and resemblance to it; it was a figure of it; and every place where God is worshipped, and grants his presence, is no other but "the house of God, and the gate of heaven"; and therefore it was great wickedness and ingratitude in the Jews, who were so highly favoured of God, to forsake him, his house, his worship, his word and ordinances, as the following verses show; and which suggest another reason of their destruction. The words in connection with the following verse may be read thus,

"and thou, whose glorious high throne the place of our sanctuary is, O Lord, the Hope of Israel, &c.''

A glorious {l} high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.

(l) Showing that the godly ought to glory in nothing, but in God who exalts his, and has left a sign of his favour in his temple.

12, 13. These verses, the third of the small group of isolated pieces (see above) which compose this sub-section, are probably to be taken in close connexion, the whole of Jeremiah 17:12 being in form an invocation of the Temple as the scene of God’s visible glory, but in reality an address to Himself. O Lord, throne of glory, exalted from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary, hope of Israel, all that forsake thee, etc. In Jeremiah 17:13, ch. Jeremiah 14:8 supplies the beginning, and ch. Jeremiah 2:13 the end, while the v. also reminds us of Isaiah 1:28 f. The two vv. may be safely held to be an insertion by an editor of the Book.

Verses 12, 13. - An address to Jehovah in two parts, the first specially referring to the temple regarded as the sacramental symbol of the Divine presence (comp. Psalm 5:7), the second to Jehovah himself. It seems to us, no doubt, singular thus practically to identify, Jehovah and his temple; but the prophet s meaning is that God can only be addressed in so far as he has revealed himself. The temple was not, strictly speaking, the "Name or revelation of God, but it was "the place of the Name of Jehovah," and in the language of strong feeling might be addressed as if it were really the Divine Name. The disciples of the incarnate Name were familiar with the idea that their Master was in some sense the antitype of the temple (Matthew 12:6; John 2:19). In proposing this explanation, it has been tacitly assumed that the Authorized Version, A glorious high throne... is the place of our sanctuary, is wrong. Grammatically, indeed, it is not indefensible; but it is a weak rendering in such a context. Render, therefore, Thou throne of glory, a height from the beginning, thou place of our sanctuary, thou hope of Israel, Jehovah. The temple is called "the throne of thy glory" in Jeremiah 14:21; "height" is a common synonym for heaven (Psalm 7:8, Hebrew; Isaiah 57:15, Hebrew), but is also applied to Mount Zion (Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 20:40, quoted by Keil), which is also in Isaiah 60:13 called, "the place of my sanctuary." By adding the concluding words of the address (at the opening of ver. 13), the prophet prevents the suspicion that he attached importance to the mere outward buildings of the temple, like those formalist Jews, whose words are quoted in Jeremiah 7:4. Jeremiah 17:12In Jeremiah 17:12 and Jeremiah 17:13 Jeremiah concludes this meditation with an address to the Lord, which the Lord corroborates by His own word.

Verse 12 is taken by many ancient comm. as a simple statement: a throne of glory, loftiness from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. This is grammatically defensible; but the view preferred by almost all moderns, that it is an apostrophe, is more in keeping with the tension of feeling in the discourse. The "place of our sanctuary" is the temple as the spot where God sits throned amidst His people, not the heaven as God's throne: Isaiah 66:1. This the pronoun our does not befit, since heaven is never spoken of as the sanctuary of Israel. Hence we must refer both the preceding phrases to the earthly throne of God in the temple on Zion. The temple is in Jeremiah 14:21 called throne of the כּבוד יהוה, because in it Jahveh is enthroned above the ark; Exodus 25:22; Psalm 80:2; Psalm 99:1. מראשׁון has here the sig. of מראשׁ, Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 48:16 : from the beginning onwards, from all time. Heaven as the proper throne of God is often called מרום, loftiness; cf. Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 7:8; but so also is Mount Zion as God's earthly dwelling-place; cf. Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 20:40. Zion is called loftiness from the beginning, i.e., from immemorial time, as having been from eternity chosen to be the abode of God's glory upon earth; cf. Exodus 15:17, where in the song of Moses by the Red Sea, Mount Zion is pointed out prophetically as the place of the abode of Jahveh, inasmuch as it had been set apart thereto by the sacrifice of Isaac; see the expos. of Exodus 15:17. Nor does מראשׁ always mean the beginning of the world, but in Isaiah 41:26 and Isaiah 48:16 it is used of the beginning of the things then under discussion. From the place of Jahveh's throne amongst His people, Jeremiah 17:13, the discourse passes to Him who is there enthroned: Thou hope of Israel, Jahveh (cf. Jeremiah 14:8), through whom Zion and the temple had attained to that eminence. The praise of God's throne prepares only the transition to praise of the Lord, who there makes known His glory. The address to Jahveh: Thou hope of Israel, is not a prayer directed to Him, so as to justify the objection against the vocative acceptation of Jeremiah 17:12, that it were unseemly to address words of prayer to the temple. The juxtaposition of the sanctuary as the throne of God and of Jahveh, the hope of Israel, involves only that the forsaking of the sanctuary on Zion is a forsaking of Jahveh, the hope of Israel. It needs hardly be observed that this adverting to the temple as the seat of Jahve's throne, whence help may come, is not in contradiction to the warning given in Jeremiah 7:4, Jeremiah 7:9. against false confidence in the temple as a power present to protect. That warning is aimed against the idolaters, who believed that God's presence was so bound up with the temple, that the latter was beyond the risk of harm. The Lord is really present in the temple on Zion only to those who draw near Him in the confidence of true faith. All who forsake the Lord come to shame. This word the Lord confirms through the mouth of the prophet in the second part of the verse. יסוּרי, according to the Chet., is a substantive from סוּר, formed like יריב from ריב (cf. Ew. 162, a); the Keri וסוּרי is partic. from סוּר with ו cop. - an uncalled-for conjecture. My departers equals those that depart from me, shall be written in the earth, in the loose earth, where writing speedily disappears. ארץ, synonymous with עפר, cf. Job 14:8, suggesting death. The antithesis to this is not the graving in rock, Job 19:24, but being written in the book of life; cf. Daniel 12:1 with Exodus 32:32. In this direction the grounding clause points: they have forsaken the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13); for without water one must pine and perish. - On this follows directly,

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