Jeremiah 17:13
O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake you 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.
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(13) They that depart from me.—The rapid change of person from second to first and first to third is eminently Hebrew.

Written in the earth.—In implied contrast with the name graven on the rock for ever (Job 19:24) are those written on the dust or sand. The Eastern habit of writing on the ground (of which John 8:6 supplies one memorable instance, and which was the common practice in Jewish schools) gave a vividness to the similitude which we have almost lost. For “the fountain of living waters,” compare Note on Jeremiah 2:13.



Jeremiah 17:13
. - Luke 10:20.

A name written on earth implies that the bearer of the name belongs to earth, and it also secondarily suggests that the inscription lasts but for a little while. Contrariwise, a name written in heaven implies that its bearer belongs to heaven, and that the inscription will abide.

We find running throughout Scripture the metaphor of books in which men’s names are written. Moses thought of a book which God has written, and in which his name was enrolled. A psalmist speaks of the ‘book of the living,’ and Isaiah of those who are ‘written among the living in Jerusalem.’ Ezekiel threatens the prophets who speak lies in Jehovah’s name that they ‘shall not be written in the writing of the house of Israel.’ The Apocalypse has many references to the book which is designated as ‘the Lamb’s book of life,’ and which is opened at the final judgment along with the books in which each man’s life-history is written, and only ‘they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ enter into the city that comes down out of heaven.

I. The principle on which the two lists are made up.

It is commonly supposed that the idea of unconditional predestination is implied in the writing of the names in the book of life. There is nothing in the figure itself to lead to that, and the text from Jeremiah suggests, on the contrary, that the voluntary attitude of men to God determines their being or not being inscribed in the book of heaven, since it is ‘they who depart from God’ whose ‘names are written on earth.’

Then, since in the New Testament the book of life is called ‘the Lamb’s,’ we are led to think of Christ as writing in it, and hence of our faith in Him as being the condition of enrolling our names.

II. The significance of the lists.

They are lists of the living and of the dead.

True life is in fellowship with God. The other is the register of the burials in a graveyard.

They are lists of the citizens of two cities.

The idea is that the one class have relations and affinities with the celestial, are ‘fellow-citizens with the saints,’ and have heaven as their metropolis, their mother city. Therefore they are but as aliens here, and should not wish to be naturalised. The other class are citizens of the earthly, belonging to the present, with all their thoughts and desires bounded by this visible diurnal sphere.

They are lists of those who shall be forgotten, and their works annihilated, and of those who shall be remembered and their work crowned.

The names written on earth are swiftly obliterated, like a child’s scrawl on the sand which is washed away by the next tide, or covered up by the next storm that blows about the sand-hills. What a contrast is that of the names written on the heavens, high up above all earthly mutations!

In one sense oblivion soon seizes on us all. In another none of us is ever forgotten by God, but good and bad alike live in His thought. Still this idea of a special remembrance has place, as suggesting that, however unnoticed or forgotten on earth, God’s children live in the true ‘Golden Book.’ Their names are in the book of life. ‘Of so much fame, in heaven expect the meed.’ Ay, and as, too, suggesting how brief after all is the honour that comes from men.

Also, there will be annihilation or perpetuation of their life’s work. Nothing lasts but the will of God. Men who live godless lives are engaged in true Sisyphean labour. They are running counter to the whole stream of things, and what can be left at the end but frustrated endeavours covered with a gloomy pall?

Is your life to be wasted?

They are lists of those who are accepted in judgment, and of those who are not.

Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27.

The books of men’s lives are to be opened, and also the book of life. What is written in the former can only bring condemnation. If our names are written in the latter, then He will ‘confess our names before His Father and the holy angels.’ And He will joyfully inscribe them there if we say to Him, like the man in Pilgrim’s Progress, ‘Set down my name.’ He will write them not only there, but on the palms of His hands and the tablets of His heart.Jeremiah 17:13. O Lord, the hope of Israel — That is, He in whom alone thy true Israel can hope; all they that forsake thee shall be ashamed — Those who forsake thy law and that rule which thou hast given them, whereby to direct their conversation, will sooner or later be ashamed of such their disobedience. Or, as Lowth paraphrases the words, “Thou hast given many gracious promises to thy people, to encourage them to trust in thee; and they that forsake their interest in thy goodness will find all other expectations fail and disappoint them;” and they that depart from me — From my love and service, says God, and their reliance upon me, shall be written in the earth — Shall have no portion beyond the earth, on which they set their affections. Or, their names and memories shall be soon extinct; like words written in the dust: they shall not be registered among my people, nor shall their names be recorded in the book of life. The expression seems to allude to registers kept of the members of cities or corporations, the privileges of which none can pretend to but they who have their names entered in such registers; because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters — The only certain relief and comfort of any people, the fountain and origin of all the good they can hope for. See note on Jeremiah 2:13.17:12-18 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.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).13. me—"Jehovah." Though "Thee" precedes. This sudden transition is usual in the prophetic style, owing to the prophet's continual realization of Jehovah's presence.

all that forsake thee—(Ps 73:27; Isa 1:28).

written in the earth—in the dust, that is, shall be consigned to oblivion. So Jesus' significant writing "on the ground (probably the accusers' names)" (Joh 8:6). Names written in the dust are obliterated by a very slight wind. Their hopes and celebrity are wholly in the earth, not in the heavenly book of life (Re 13:8; 20:12, 15). The Jews, though boasting that they were the people of God, had no portion in heaven, no status before God and His angels. Contrast "written in heaven," that is, in the muster-roll of its blessed citizens (Lu 10:20). Also, contrast "written in a book," and "in the rock for ever" (Job 19:23, 24).

living waters—(Jer 2:13).

The hope of Israel; that is, he in whom alone the true Israel of God can hope.

All they that forsake thee shall be ashamed; those who forsake thy law, and that rule thou hast given them whereby to direct their conversations, first or last will be ashamed of such their disobedience.

And they that depart from me shall be written in the earth; and those that depart from what I have, as thy prophet, revealed to them as thy will, shall have no portion beyond the earth which they seem so fond of; or their names and memories shall vanish, and perish, and be presently extinct, like words written in dust.

Because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters; because they have forsaken thee, who art the alone certain relief and comfort of any people, the fountain and original of all that good they can hope for. O Lord, the Hope of Israel,.... Of all true Israelites; such as are regenerate persons, and true believers in him; Christ is the author and giver of that hope that is in them; the door of it unto them; the object on which it is exercised; the ground and foundation of it, or what gives encouragement to it; and the person they are hoping for; Old Testament saints hoped, waited for, and expected his first coming; and New Testament saints are hoping for his second coming, and to be for ever with him (w):

all that forsake thee shall be ashamed; who forsake him as the Hope of Israel, and place their hope elsewhere; in the creature, in themselves, in their riches, in their righteousness, and profession of religion; such shall be ashamed of their vain hope; whereas a true hope, a hope upon the right object, on Christ the Hope of Israel, makes not ashamed; nor shall the man that has it be ashamed of that. The Targum paraphrases it,

"all who forsake thy worship shall be ashamed;''

for they forsake their own mercies, who forsake the house and ordinances of God, and the assembling of themselves together:

and they that depart from me; the prophet; refusing to hear the word of the Lord by him, which was all one as departing from the Lord. Some render it, "from thee", as the Vulgate Latin and Arabic versions; and so the Targum,

"and the ungodly that transgress thy word;''

whose heart departed from the Lord, as in

Jeremiah 17:1 notwithstanding their show of devotion and religion. Some render the words, "that are chastised by me"; but repent not, and are not reformed thereby; reading not as the Masorites direct, and we, and many others, follow; but according to the letters, and retaining them, (x):

shall be written in the earth; have a name among earthly and carnal men, and be called so, being sensual and carnal, and minding nothing but earth and earthly things; and shall not be written among the living in Jerusalem, or have a name and a place among spiritual men: or they shall be of a short continuance; their memory shall rot; their names be put out for ever; and their memorial perish with them; for things written in the dust do not continue, but are presently destroyed by a puff of wind, or by the treading of the foot upon them; or they shall die, and return to the earth, and be laid in the grave, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; or shall perish eternally, die the second death, being not written in the Lamb's book of life. The Targum is,

"into hell shall they fall.''

The phrase is opposed to a being written, or having names written in heaven, Luke 10:20; which is the same as to be written in the book of life, or to be ordained unto eternal life, Philippians 4:3; and what is the case of such who are not written in heaven, but in earth, may be seen in Revelation 20:15;

because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters; See Gill on Jeremiah 2:13.

(w) the word here used, sometimes signifies a confluence or collection of waters, as in Genesis 1:10 and elsewhere, a place to bathe in; hence Fortunatus Scacchus, in Sacror. Eleaochr. Myrothec. l. 1. c. 23. col. 159. renders it here, "the bath of Israel", the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood is a fountain opened, in which sinners wash, and are cleansed from their sins, Zechariah 13.1. and this agrees with the latter part of the verse, where the Lord is called "the fountain of living water"; so De Dieu, on ch. xiv. 8, observes, the word is so used in Exodus 7.21. and so R. Akiba interprets the words, saying,

"what is "the meaning of it is that which cleanses the unclean; even so God cleanses Israel;''


O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written {m} in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

(m) Their names will not be registered in the book of life.

13. shall be written in the earth] Their names shall be blotted out, unlike those engraved in some enduring material. Ewald restores the parallelism with “shall be ashamed” of the previous clause by an emendation which gives “they that depart from thee in the land shall be put to confusion.” Gi., amending differently, “shall be cut off from the earth.” Cp. Psalm 34:16.

the fountain] See on ch. Jeremiah 2:13.Verse 13. - They that depart from me. The abrupt change of person is extremely harsh; the Vulgate, followed by Ewald and Olshausen, supposes that a final caph has dropped out, rendering, "they that depart from thee." Shall be written in the earth; a contrast to that which is recorded for all time "with a pen of iron" (ver. 1). The fountain, etc.; a favorite phrase of our prophet (see Jeremiah 2:13). Jeremiah 17:7 and Jeremiah 17:8 show the companion picture, the blessings of trusting in the Lord. "That trusteth in Jahveh" is strengthened by the synonymous "whose trust Jahveh is;" cf. Psalm 40:5. The portrayal of the prosperity of him that trusts in the Lord is an extension of the picture in Psalm 1:3-4, of the man that hath his delight in the law of the Lord. The form יוּבל is ἁπ. λεγ., equivalent to יבל, water-brook, which, moreover, occurs only in the plural (יבלי), Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 44:4. He spreads forth his roots by the brook, to gain more and more strength for growth. The Chet. ירא is imperf. from ירא, and is to be read ירא. The Keri gives יראה from ראה, corresponding to the יראה in Jeremiah 17:6. The Chet. is unqualifiedly right, and לא ירא correspond to לא ידאג. As to בּצּרת, see on Jeremiah 14:1. He has no fear for the heat in the year of drought, because the brook by which he grows does not dry up.
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