Jeremiah 17:5
Thus said the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the LORD.
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(5) Cursed be the man . . .—The words are vehement and abrupt, but they burst from the prophet’s lips as proclaiming the root evil that had eaten into the life of his people. Their trust in an arm of flesh had led them to Egyptian and Assyrian alliances, and these to “departing from the Lord.” The anathema has its counterpart in the beatitude of Jeremiah 17:7. The opening words, Thus saith the Lord, indicate, perhaps, a pause, followed as by a new message, which the prophet feels bound to deliver. It is significant that the prophet uses two words for the English “man.” the first implying strength, and the second weakness.

Jeremiah 17:5-6. Cursed be the man that trusteth in man — Who places that confidence in the wisdom or power, the kindness or faithfulness of any man or number of men, which ought to be placed in God only; that is, miserable is the man that doth so, for he leans upon a broken reed, which will not only fail him, but will run into his hand and pierce it. It must be observed, however, that the prophet denounces this curse here chiefly with respect to the confidence which the Jews placed in the assistance of the Egyptians and their other allies, when threatened by the Chaldeans. And maketh flesh his arm — Trusts for support or aid in a mere mortal man, termed flesh, to show his weakness and frailty, in opposition to the power of the almighty and immortal God. And whose heart departeth from the Lord — As the hearts of all do who put their trust in man. They may perhaps draw nigh to God with their mouths, and honour him with their lips, but really their hearts are far from him. For he shall be like the heath in the desert — Hebrew, כערערlike the tamarisk, as some render the word, virgultum tenue, humile, fragile, says Buxtorf, a small, low, and weak shrub. Sapless and useless; he shall be barren of solid comfort for the present, and destitute of well grounded hopes for the future. And shall not see when good cometh — Shall not partake of any good; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness — From whence he can derive no profit or consolation; in a salt land, &c. — Barren and unfruitful, Deuteronomy 29:23; Jdg 9:45. Observe well, reader, they that trust in their own righteousness and strength, and think they can be saved without the merit and grace of Christ, thus make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper either in graces or comforts; they can neither produce the fruits of acceptable obedience to God, nor reap the fruits of saving blessings from him, but dwell in a dry land.17:5-11 He who puts confidence in man, shall be like the heath in a desert, a naked tree, a sorry shrub, the product of barren ground, useless and worthless. Those who trust to their own righteousness and strength, and think they can do without Christ, make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper in graces or comforts. Those who make God their Hope, shall flourish like a tree always green, whose leaf does not wither. They shall be fixed in peace and satisfaction of mind; they shall not be anxious in a year of drought. Those who make God their Hope, have enough in him to make up the want of all creature-comforts. They shall not cease from yielding fruit in holiness and good works. The heart, the conscience of man, in his corrupt and fallen state, is deceitful above all things. It calls evil good, and good evil; and cries peace to those to whom it does not belong. Herein the heart is desperately wicked; it is deadly, it is desperate. The case is bad indeed, if the conscience, which should set right the errors of other faculties, is a leader in the delusion. We cannot know our own hearts, nor what they will do in an hour of temptation. Who can understand his errors? Much less can we know the hearts of others, or depend upon them. He that believes God's testimony in this matter, and learns to watch his own heart, will find this is a correct, though a sad picture, and learns many lessons to direct his conduct. But much in our own hearts and in the hearts of others, will remain unknown. Yet whatever wickedness there is in the heart, God sees it. Men may be imposed upon, but God cannot be deceived. He that gets riches, and not by right, though he may make them his hope, never shall have joy of them. This shows what vexation it is to a worldly man at death, that he must leave his riches behind; but though the wealth will not follow to another world, guilt will, and everlasting torment. The rich man takes pains to get an estate, and sits brooding upon it, but never has any satisfaction in it; by sinful courses it comes to nothing. Let us be wise in time; what we get, let us get it honestly; and what we have, use it charitably, that we may be wise for eternity.In the rest of the prophecy Jeremiah dwells upon the moral faults which had led to Judah's ruin.5. Referring to the Jews' proneness to rely on Egypt, in its fear of Assyria and Babylon (Isa 31:1, 3).

trusteth—This word is emphatic. We may expect help from men, so far as God enables them to help us, but we must rest our trust in God alone (Ps 62:5).

It was the great sin of this people, for which they are often taxed in holy writ, 2 Chronicles 16:7 28:16,20 Isa 30:1,2 31:1,2, when any danger threatened them for their sins, to make leagues with and flee to foreign idolatrous nations to help and succour them, and to repose a confidence in them, and so bolster up themselves in their wicked and sinful courses, promising themselves deliverance from the dangers that threatened them by the power of their confederates and allies. This sin the prophet here reflecteth upon, that while their hearts

departed from God, they would yet encourage themselves from the hoped-for help of men. The prophet from God declares that such are and shall be cursed, and mentioned man, under the notion of

flesh, to show his frailty and impotency to help against, the mighty power and wrath of God; withal showing us that God alone is the true object of our faith and confidence, as well for the things of this life as those of another life, and that none

whose heart departeth from God can with any security look for any help from the creature. Thus saith the Lord,.... Here begins a new discourse, or part of one; or, however, another cause or reason of the ruin and destruction of the Jews is suggested; namely, their trust in man, or confidence in the creature, which is resented and condemned:

cursed be the man that trusteth in man; as the Jews did in the Egyptians and Assyrians; see Jeremiah 2:36, and in Abraham their father, and in being his seed, as they did in Christ's time; and which was trusting in the flesh; and as all such may be said to do who trust in their natural descent from good men, Matthew 3:9, they also trusted in Moses, in the law of Moses, and in their having, hearing, and obeying it; which pronounces every man cursed that does not perfectly perform it: they trusted in themselves, and in their own righteousness; despised others, and rejected Christ and his righteousness; and brought an anathema upon them, John 5:45 and all such that trust in their own hearts, and in their own works, trust in man, in the creature, in creature acts, and involve themselves in the curse here denounced. The Jews also, to this day, expect the Messiah to come as a mere man, and so trust in him as such; and all those that call themselves Christians, and take Christ to be a mere creature, as the Arians, and a mere man, as the Socinians, may be said to trust in man, and entail a curse upon themselves; though we trust in Christ, yet not as a man, but as he is the true and living God:

and maketh flesh his arm; or his confidence, as the Targum, to lean upon, and be protected by; man is but flesh, feeble, weak and inactive; frail and mortal; sinful and corrupt; and so very unfit to make an arm of, or to depend upon: God, and an arm of flesh, are opposed to each other; as are also rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having confidence in the flesh, 2 Chronicles 32:8,

and whose heart departeth from the Lord: as men's hearts may, under the greatest show of outward religion and righteousness; and as they always do, when they put their trust in such things; every act of unbelief and distrust of the Lord, and every act of trust and confidence in the creature, carry the heart off from God; every such act is a departing from the living God; see Isaiah 29:13.

Thus saith the LORD; {g} Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

(g) The Jews were given to worldly policies and thought to make themselves strong by the friendship of the Egyptians, Isa 31:3 and strangers and in the mean time did not depend on God, and therefore he denounces God's plagues against them, showing that they prefer corruptible man to God, who is immortal, Isa 2:22, Jer 48:6,7.

5–8. See introd. summary to section. The antithesis in these verses is sharply defined, the two courses of human conduct making the men who practise them respectively to fade and to flourish. Cp. Psalm 1:3 f. The passage is pretty clearly an insertion, but almost as certainly is to be ascribed to Jeremiah. Co. suggests as the reason for its being placed here that, as Jeremiah 17:4 was held to refer to the exile, “the man, etc.” was thought to be Zedekiah, who, having relied on the fleshly arm of Egypt, and refusing to listen to God’s warnings through Jeremiah, was deprived of his children, blinded, and imprisoned at Babylon, where he was to pine in solitude.Verses 5-11. - In the higher gnomic or proverbial style. God and man, flesh and spirit, are natural antitheses (comp. Isaiah 31:3; Psalm 56:4). The prayer of the believer is, "Be thou (O Jehovah) their arm every morning;" not Egypt, not Assyria, not any "arm of flesh." In his cry to the Lord: My the day of trouble, which agrees closely with Psalm 28:8; Psalm 59:17; Psalm 18:3, Jeremiah utters not merely his own feelings, but those which would animate every member of his people. In the time of need the powerlessness of the idols to help, and so their vanity, becomes apparent. Trouble therefore drives to God, the Almighty Lord and Ruler of the world, and forces to bend under His power. The coming tribulation is to have this fruit not only in the case of the Israelites, but also in that of the heathen nations, so that they shall see the vanity of the idolatry they have inherited from their fathers, and be converted to the Lord, the only true God. How this knowledge is to be awakened in the heathen, Jeremiah does not disclose; but it may be gathered from Jeremiah 16:15, from the deliverance of Israel, there announced, out of the heathen lands into which they had been cast forth. By this deliverance the heathen will be made aware both of the almighty power of the God of Israel and of the nothingness of their own gods. On הבל cf. Jeremiah 2:5; and with "none that profiteth," cf. Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 14:22. In Jeremiah 16:20 the prophet confirms what the heathen have been saying. The question has a negative force, as is clear from the second clause. In Jeremiah 16:21 we have the Lord's answer to the prophets' confession in Jeremiah 16:19. Since the Jews are so blinded that they prefer vain idols to the living God, He will this time so show them His hand and His strength in that foretold chastisement, that they shall know His name, i.e., know that He alone is God in deed and in truth. Cf. Ezekiel 12:15; Exodus 3:14.
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