Chapter seventeen continues the back-and-forth conversation between God and Jeremiah regarding the coming judgment on Judah. If Jeremiah had any hope that the people would turn from their idolatry, God’s declaration that it was engraved on their hearts crushed it (Jeremiah 17:1-4).
Jeremiah 17:5-11 contains a series of proverb-like statements from God regarding people in general, rather than direct condemnations of Judah. Those who place their trust in people rather than God will receive his curse (Jeremiah 17:5-6), while those who do trust in him will receive his blessing (Jeremiah 17:7-8). The reference to a blossoming tree is a common description of those who rely on God (see Psalm 1:1-2; Isaiah 61:3). Because the human heart is spiritually sick, who can know whether a person is trusting in God? God can, because he reads hearts and rewards or punishes justly (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Wealth gathered unjustly cannot be counted on (Jeremiah 17:11). 1
In Jeremiah 17:12-18 Jeremiah again asked for God’s protection. His enemies had challenged his messages, because God was not yet moving against Judah like he promised. Jeremiah acknowledged that Jehovah was his only refuge and reminded God that these were God’s messages that the people were rejecting Jeremiah for. In an outburst of holy anger, he asked for God to act, bringing destruction on the rebels.
The chapter concludes with Jeremiah 17:19-27 in which God gave another reason for Judah’s demise. As if their idolatry and false prophecy was not enough, they people had forgotten God’s command to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, NASB). This neglect had led them to forget who God really was, which resulted in their turning to other gods. All of these indictments were related, and God held them all against his people. He had Jeremiah deliver this message from all the gates of Jerusalem so that not only the citizens, but also the travelers, would hear him.
- This proverb fits well with others of its kind from Psalms and Proverbs. Although there is not necessarily guaranteed action against unjust gains in the modern world, the general principle of the proverb still holds true. In the majority of cases, ill-gotten wealth (embezzlement, larceny, etc.) is still punished harshly. ↩