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Jeremiah 17


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

The Deceitful Heart Judah's Sin and Punishment Judah's Contaminated Worship The Sin and Punishment of Judah Judah's Sin
17:1-4 17:1-4
    A Group of Wisdom Sayings Various Sayings Trust in God
        The Heart Is Devious
        A Proverb
    Confidence in the Temple and Yahweh   God's Ways Are High
  Jeremiah Prays For Deliverance A Prayer For Vengeance Jeremiah Asks the Lord for Help Jeremiah's Third Personal Lament
17:14-15 17:14-18
The Sabbath Must Be Kept Hallow the Sabbath Day Observance of the Sabbath On Observing the Sabbath Judah and the Sabbath
17:19-23 17:19-23
17:19-27 17:19-23 17:19-23
17:24-27 17:24-27
  17:24-27 17:24-27

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus;
With a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart
And on the horns of their altars,
2As they remember their children,
So they remember their altars and their Asherim
By green trees on the high hills.
3O mountain of Mine in the countryside,
I will give over your wealth and all your treasures for booty,
Your high places for sin throughout your borders.
4And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance
That I gave you;
And I will make you serve your enemies
In the land which you do not know;
For you have kindled a fire in My anger
Which will burn forever.

17:1-4 These verses are missing in the Septuagint.

17:1-2 This is an idiomatic way of asserting the unrepentant nature of Judah's idolatry.

The three metaphors used are

1. engraved with an iron stylus with a diamond (BDB 1038) point-no way to erase the message (cf. Job 29:24)

2. on the tablet of the heart-the innermost thoughts and personality (cf. Pro. 3:3; 7:3); this was the place that the new covenant would abide (cf. 31:31-34)

3. on the horns of their altars-in Hebrew rituals this is an allusion to the altar of sacrifice (cf. Exod. 27:2) and/or incense altar (cf. Exod. 30:2) in the temple. "Horns" were a symbol of power. They lifted the sacrifice to YHWH. This was where the blood was smeared (cf. Lev. 16:18).

Verse 2 shows that Jeremiah is using "altars" in an idolatrous sense. The fertility gods of Canaan were worshiped on hills, under trees, (cf. 3:6), or on specially built stone platforms (see Special Topic: Fertility Worship in the ANE at 2:20). The intensity of Judah's devotion to Ba'al and Asherah is seen in the phrase "as they remember their children."

17:3 "O mountain of Mine in the countryside" This refers to the temple. But it was not in the countryside, rather in the capital of Jerusalem. Jeremiah must be alluding to the future, complete destruction of the capital and temple (cf. 9:11; 26:18; Micah 3:12). What a shocking statement to these Judeans! Even the temple treasures will be taken (cf. 15:13; 20:5).

The alternate interpretation is that this refers to Ba'al worship on the high hills throughout Judah. Both interpretations are possible. However, Ba'al/Asherah platforms did not have horned altars, nor did their worshipers keep "treasures" at the rural sites.

17:3-4 These verses are similar to 15:13-14.

17:4 Exile is surely coming (cf. 15:14; 27:12-13) because of their idolatry. YHWH is furious, jealous, and committed to judgment.

For "fire" (cf. 15:14) see Special Topic at 4:4.

The last line of v. 4 is hyperbolic. Jeremiah's hearers/readers understood this genre; moderns do not! See D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

▣ "forever" See Special Topic at 7:7

5Thus says the Lord,
"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
7Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
8For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit."

17:5-8 This strophe is theologically and idiomatically related to Psalm 1. Here "bless" is BDB 138 (to kneel), but in Psalm 1 it is BDB 80 (to be happy).

17:5 "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind" The word "curse" (BDB 76, KB 91, Qal passive participle) is used in an exclamatory sense in 11:3; 17:5; 20:14,15; 48:10 [twice]; Deut. 27:15-26. It denotes the opposite of YHWH's blessing.

The term "trust" (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperfect) means "a sense of security." These trusted in political alliances and national armies (cf. 46:25) instead of their covenant God (i.e., Ps. 118:8-9; 146:3).

This verb is common in Jeremiah used of Judah trusting in different things (cf. 5:17; 7:14; 12:5; 13:25; 48:7; 49:4), but not in YHWH Himself (cf. Ps. 62:8; 115:9-11; Isa. 26:3-4; 30:15). To trust YHWH brings security and rest.

▣ "heart" See Special Topic at 4:19.

▣ "whose heart turns away from the Lord" Remember these were covenant people who worshiped regularly at the temple in Jerusalem. Yet, they also worshiped at the altars of the Canaanite fertility gods (cf. Deut. 11:16; 17:11, 17; 29:18-20; 30:17). This was not ignorance but purposeful rebellion!

17:6 "bush" This word (BDB 792, KB 887) is found only twice in the OT, both in Jeremiah (cf. 48:6). A similar root is found in Ps. 102:17 and is translated "destitute" (NASB margin, "naked"). The NASB translates it "juniper" in 48:6. KB translates it as "tamarisk." The UBS Fauna and Flora of the Bible sees it as juniper (p. 131, REB) and does not even list it with the article on tamarisk (p. 182).

JPSOA, REB"good"

The word (BDB 375 III) means "a good thing," "benefit," or "welfare." In Deut. 28:12 the same root (BDB 373 II) refers to "rain," which makes sense in this context.

▣ "a land of salt" See Deut. 29:23 where this phrase is used of YHWH's judgment.

17:7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord" This proverb (BDB 138, KB 159, Qal passive participle) is a recurrent theme of the Psalms! It is the theological opposite of "cursed." Both are exclamatory! There are only two kinds of people.

1. those who trust in YHWH (not just the things He gives) - v. 7

2. those who trust in humanity (humanism, nationalism) - v. 5

The results of each are very different (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28; Psalm 1; Matthew 5).


9"The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
10I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.
11As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid,
So is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly;
In the midst of his days it will forsake him,
And in the end he will be a fool."

17:9-11 This is the recurrent message of Scripture after the Fall of Genesis 3 (cf. Gen. 6:5,11,12,13; Rom. 3:9-18).

The metaphor of "sinfulness" as "sickness" (BDB 60, cf. 30:12; Isa. 1:5-6; 17:11; Micah 1:9) is found in the Hebrew concept of abundance/health vs. poverty/sickness (cf. v. 14; 14:19; Deuteronomy 27-28; Job; Ps. 103:1-5; Isa. 1:5-6; 53:4-6). The book that has helped me in this area, written by a charismatic author is Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel.


TEV, REB"deceitful"

This word (BDB 784 I) comes from "heel" or "footprint." It is used of Jacob's birth (cf. Gen. 25:26; 27:36). It is used in 9:4 and translated "craftily" or "supplanter" (another reference to Jacob's treatment of Esau).

17:10 "I, the Lord, search the heart" See note at 11:20.

▣ "Even to give to each man according to his ways" YHWH is an ethical god. He created a moral universe. There are consequences to choices! We reap what we sow (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; I Cor. 3:8; II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; II Tim. 4:14; I Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).

There is a conflict between human (v. 5) and the spiritual (v. 7), which is expressed well in Rom. 8:1-11.

17:11 As the proverb goes, a partridge sits on other birds' eggs (cf. NIV). This may have developed from the large number of eggs that partridges lay (rabbinical proverb). However, when the young hatch and develop they leave the false parent. Those who succeed by unrighteous means will also be abandoned by them.

The bird "partridge" (BDB 896) is discussed in UBS', Fauna and Flora of the Bible, p. 64. Colors, gems, trees, flowers, and animals of the ANE are often difficult to specify with certainty. Usually, however, the allusions, idioms, and metaphors which use them are understandable.

▣ "fools" This is the only occurrence of this noun (BDB 614) in Jeremiah, though the verb occurs in 14:21. This is a common term in Wisdom Literature, but it does occur in

1. Deut. 32:6, 21

2. I Sam. 25:25; II Sam. 3:33; 13:13

3. Isa. 32:5-6

4. Ezek. 13:3


12A glorious throne on high from the beginning
Is the place of our sanctuary.
13O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You will be put to shame.
Those who turn away on earth will be written down,
Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.
14Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed;
Save me and I will be saved,
For You are my praise.
15Look, they keep saying to me,
"Where is the word of the Lord?
Let it come now!"
16But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You,
Nor have I longed for the woeful day;
You Yourself know that the utterance of my lips
Was in Your presence.
17Do not be a terror to me;
You are my refuge in the day of disaster.
18Let those who persecute me be put to shame, but as for me, let me not be put to shame;
Let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed.
Bring on them a day of disaster,
And crush them with twofold destruction!

17:12-18 Notice of all the English translations listed at the beginning of each chapter only NASB sees vv. 12-18 as a separate strophe. All others start a new strophe at v. 14.

This is another of Jeremiah's laments/confessions. Verses 12-14 may be an introduction to Jeremiah's prayer. It seems to be another way to express v. 10.

17:12 This refers to the temple in Jerusalem. The "Holy of Holies" contained the Ark of the Covenant, where YHWH symbolically dwelt. It symbolized YHWH's covenant with Abraham's seed (cf. 14:21). One day all the earth would come and meet Him here (cf. 3:17).

See Special Topic: The Ark of the Covenant at 3:16.

17:13 "O Lord, the hope of Israel" See note at 14:8.

The Judeans are characterized as:

1. all who forsake (BDB 736, KB 806, Qal participle) You

2. those who turn away (BDB 693, KB 747, Qal passive participle, Qere reading) on earth (the UBS Text Project gives the Qere vocalization a "B" rating)

Notice the consequences of their actions.

1. will be put to shame

2. will be written down (cf. 17:1; i.e., in the book of deeds, see Special Topic below)

These consequences are the result of forsaking (Qal perfect) YHWH, who is described as "the fountain of living water" (cf. 2:13; Ps. 36:9).


NASB, LXX". . .on earth will be written down"
NKJV"Shall be written in the earth"
NET"will be registered in the underworld"
TEV, REB "They will disappear like names written in the dust"
TEV(footnote)"go to the world of the dead"
JPSOA"Shall be doomed men"

There seem to be two ways to interpret this phrase.

1. those who reject YHWH will be recorded in the book of deeds

2. those who reject YHWH will be registered in the lists of the dead in Sheol ("earth," ץרא [see Special Topic at 6:18-19], seen as coming from Ugaritic root for "underworld," see AB, p. 118)


17:14 Jeremiah begins his lists as prayer requests to YHWH.

1. heal me - BDB 950, KB 1272, Qal imperative

2. and I will be healed - Niphal imperfect used in a cohortative sense

3. save me - BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative

4. and I will be saved - BDB Niphal cohortative

"Healing" is a metaphor for forgiveness, see note at v. 9. "Saving" is a metaphor for physical deliverance. Jeremiah felt the need of strength and assurance in both the spiritual and physical realms. Humans are creatures of both (cf. Gen. 2:7).

▣ "For You are my praise" Jeremiah's strength and assurance were in YHWH (cf. Deut. 10:21; Ps. 109:1). There is no other source (cf. v. 17b; 16:19).

17:15 This is the Judean's response to Jeremiah's message. YHWH's delay was misinterpreted (cf. Isa. 5:19; Rom. 2:4; II Pet. 3:3-7). The delay of judgment was so that they might repent and return to YHWH. They accused Jeremiah of being a false prophet (cf. Deut. 13:1-5; 18:20-21), but he was a true prophet (cf. Deut. 18:19)! They will die!

▣ "Let it come now!" This verb (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) catches the arrogance and unbelief of these Jerusalemites/Judeans. They do not fear YHWH's spokesperson or YHWH Himself!

17:16 Jeremiah describes his own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

1. I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You (see textual note below)

2. I have not longed for the woeful day (i.e., judgment day, invasion, exile)

3. my message was Your message (i.e., in/from Your presence)


JPSOA, NIV"I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You"
Peshitta, NRSV,
NET"Yet I never urged you to send disaster"

The problem is not the first verbal "pressed" (BDB 21, KB 23, Qal perfect), but the following participle.

1. MT, רעה, "from a shepherd" - BDB 944, KB 1258, Qal participle

2. suggested, מרעה, "from evil," from root רעע - BDB 949, KB 1269


17:18 Jeremiah (in typical Eastern language) lists his request against those of his own people who opposed him and his message.

1. let those who persecute me be put to shame - BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. let them be dismayed - BDB 369, KB 365, Qal - BDB imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. bring on them a day of disaster - BDB 97, KB 112, Hiphil imperative

4. crush them with twofold destruction - BDB 990, KB 1402, Qal imperative

Jeremiah was in a spiritual/physical struggle for the minds and hearts of the covenant people. YHWH wanted to use them in His eternal redemptive plan for all humans (cf. 3:17; 4:2; 16:19-21). This type of hyperbolic prophetic poetry seems so violent and aggressive to moderns. But there are falsehoods, spiritual deceptions, satanic alternatives to truth (cf. Eph. 4:14)!

▣ "twofold destruction" This is an idiom which denotes "complete and full" destruction (cf. Isa. 40:2; Jer. 16:18; Rev. 18:6).

19Thus the Lord said to me, "Go and stand in the public gate, through which the kings of Judah come in and go out, as well as in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20and say to them, 'Listen to the word of the Lord, kings of Judah, and all Judah and all inhabitants of Jerusalem who come in through these gates: 21Thus says the Lord, "Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. 22You shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. 23Yet they did not listen or incline their ears, but stiffened their necks in order not to listen or take correction."'"

17:19-27 YHWH responds to Jeremiah's prayer by focusing on covenant obedience, specifically Sabbath observance. Judah would be blessed or cursed based on her obedience (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-29). This one command represented all the Mosaic legislation.

The Judeans knew this but YHWH would remind them through Jeremiah's proclamation at a specific gate of the temple used by the king.

Their response is recorded in vv. 23 and 27. Verses 24-27 function as a parallel strophe.

YHWH wanted to bless (cf. vv. 25-26) Judah so that the world might come to know Him (see Special Topic at 1:5), but they would not (cf. Ezek. 26:22-32).

17:20 "listen" The term (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative) means to hear so as to do (i.e., Deut. 4:1; 5:1; 6:3,4)! It is repeated in vv. 23, 24 (intensified), 27. This is similar to James 1:23-27. True faith involved heart, head, and hand!

17:21 "take heed for yourselves" The MT is literally an idiom, "take heed for the sake of your lives." The verb (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Niphal imperative) denotes careful listening (cf. Deut. 4:9,15,23; 6:12; 8:11; Josh. 23:11).

17:23 "stiffened their necks" See note at 7:26. They were unwilling to hear and respond!

24"But it will come about, if you listen attentively to Me," declares the Lord, "to bring no load in through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but to keep the sabbath day holy by doing no work on it, 25then there will come in through the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on 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 will be inhabited forever. 26They will come in from the cities of Judah and from the environs of Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the lowland, from the hill country and from the Negev, bringing burnt offerings, sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing sacrifices of thanksgiving to the house of the Lord. 27But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched."'"

17:24 "if you listen attentively to Me" The imperfect verb is intensified by the infinitive absolute of the same root (BDB 1033, KB 1570).

17:25 "forever" See Special Topic at 7:7.