My Notes on Jeremiah 17:5-10
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 3, 2012
Jer 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
Cursed be the man that trusteth in man. Setting one’s hope for success, protection, etc., on man (or oneself) rather than on God leads to a curse. The nation had forsaken God by entering into military alliance with pagan nations, an act compared to abandoning fresh springs of water in order to dig a faulty, useless well that retains no liquid (see Jer 2:14-19). This was one of the reasons for the Babylonian exile, and so, as Jer 27:2-7 indicates, any attempt to thwart God’s punishment by alliance with foreigners is doomed to fail. Should the king, Zedekiah, continue on his course, trusting in men, he will become the object of a taunt song (Jer 38:22). See Psalm 146:3-4; Psalm 118:8-9; Acts 4:19).
Jeremiah himself had been warned by God not to trust the people in his own hometown, even his own kin, for they were plotting against him (Jer 12:6) and would come to grief via God’s punishment (Jer 12:21-23).
And maketh flesh his arm. The arm is a symbol of strength, flesh a designation for man, thus: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and seeks strength in man.” Man and flesh stand in parallel, as do trusteth and arm.
Jer 17:6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
He shall be like heath in the desert. The word heath is a translation of the Hebrew כערער, word denoting something naked or destitute. Desert shrubs barely cling to life and when the desert winds of Palestine kick up they soon die. A dead tree in the desert cannot experience the goodness of rain, neither can a cursed man who trust not in the Lord see when good cometh from God. His fate is to remain dead in a parched and salt waste.
Jer 17:7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
Jer 17:8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The beatitude and image and its contrast with verse 6 recalls Psalm 1.
Blessed is the man that trusteth…and whose hope the LORD is. He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, in contrast to the cursed man who trusted in man and human strength and who shall be like the heath in the desert (vs 6). Just as a bush naked and destitute of foliage cannot compare with a well rooted, well watered tree in leaf, so too there can be no real comparison between the blessed man who hopes and trusts in God, and the cursed man who trusts himself and/or his fellow men.
And shall not be careful in the year of drought. Many plants have natural “built in” protection devices to aid them during dry seasons. For example, some conserve water by dropping blossoms and growing smaller blooms. Others begin to feed more extensively through their foliage rather than their roots, thus being able to hydrate better when the only water available is in the form of early morning mist, dew, fog, etc. This can be described metaphorically as plants taking care of themselves. But just as a well watered, well rooted tree would have no need for such precautions, trusting (so to speak) in its supply of water, so too the man who trusts in the Lord has no need to seek supplements from some other source.
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
The heart is deceitful above all things. The Hebrew word translated here as deceitful is עקב. The word originally referred to a rise of land, a knoll. It came to be applied to steeper inclines which were dangerous, treacherous, unpredictable, deadly, thus its extended meaning, is deceitful. It can have the sense of haughtiness or arrogance, and this would fit nicely with the description that the heart is deceitful (elevated, raised or looming up like a treacherous cliff) above all things.
Who can know it? The next verse answer this question.
Jer 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
I the LORD search the heart, it try the reins. The haughty, arrogant, deceitful heart cannot deceive or accomplish treachery against God for it is searched (חקר, penetrated, examined) by God who, in Acts 1:24 is called καρδιογνωστα, “the heart knower”. God also tries (בחן, tests, investigates) the reins (כליות, literally, the kidney, but here, figuratively, the inner man). See Jer 11:20; 12:3.
Even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. The purpose of his searching the heart and trying the reins