Jeremiah 17 Commentary

Wrong attitudes and their outcome (17:1-13)

Baal worship has become so much a part of the people’s everyday lives that God sees it as engraved on their hearts. It is so widely practised in Judah that it cannot be removed from the land unless the people themselves are removed (17:1-4). Those who ignore God and trust in themselves are likened to a useless stunted bush that tries to grow in barren ground. Those who trust in God are likened to a healthy green tree that flourishes in well-watered fertile soil (5-8).

Because of the deceitfulness of the human heart, people may not understand their own actions and motives. Only God knows the hidden attitudes of their hearts, and he treats people accordingly (9-10). Those who gain riches by dishonest methods are also deceiving themselves. They will one day lose their riches, just as a bird that hatches eggs stolen from another bird’s nest will lose the young birds when they grow and fly away (11). The only security in life is with the eternal God, whose presence is symbolized in the temple. But even the temple will not save those who turn away from him. The nation’s hope is in a person, not a building (12-13).

Forthright messages (17:14-27)

Jeremiah is still distressed and once more appeals to God for help. His complaint is that the people mock him when they do not see his prophecies come true (14-15). He reminds God that he has done no more than announce the message God has given him. He personally does not wish doom upon the nation. Therefore, he asks God to be his protector against his persecutors (16-18).

One of God’s commands to Jeremiah was that he go around the various city gates and warn the people of Jerusalem not to work on the Sabbath day (19-21). They are not to repeat the sins of their ancestors, but are to keep the Sabbath day holy, according to the covenant (22-23). If the people are obedient to the requirements of the covenant, they will enjoy the blessings promised in the covenant. God will give them prosperity and contentment under the rule of Davidic kings indefinitely (24-26). But if they persist in their disobedience, the nation will be overthrown (27).

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