Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This section Jer 17:1-4 is inseparably connected with the preceding. Judah's sin had been described Jer 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 Jer 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.
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 Exo 34:13 note).
O my mountain in the field - i. e., Jerusalem or Zion, called the Rock of the Plain in Jer 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.
The verb rendered "discontinue" is that used of letting the land rest Exo 23:11, and of releasing creditors Deu 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.
In the rest of the prophecy Jeremiah dwells upon the moral faults which had led to Judah's ruin.
Like the heath - Or, "like a destitute man" Psa 102:17. The verbs "he shall see" (or fear) and "shall inhabit" plainly show that a man is here meant and not a plant.
The river - Or, "water-course" Isa 30:25, made for purposes of irrigation.
Shall not see - Or, "shall not fear Jer 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 train of thought is apparently this: If the man is so blessed Jer 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.
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.
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 Sa1 25:25.
Jer 17:12, Jer 17:13
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.
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).
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.
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" (Jer 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 Psa 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 Jer 15:19.
A terror - Rather, "a cause of dismay," or consternation Jer 1:17. By not fulfilling Jeremiah's prediction God Himself seemed to put him to shame.
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.
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 Jer 22:1-5 makes it probable that they were contemporaneous.
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.
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 Jer 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.
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.
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.
Upon disobedience follows the anger of God, which will consume like a fire all the, splendor of the offending city.