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Jeremiah 17:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man - This reprehends their vain confidence in trusting in Egypt, which was too feeble itself to help, and, had it been otherwise, too ill disposed towards them to help them heartily. An arm of flesh is put here for a weak and ineffectual support. And he who, in reference to the salvation of his soul, trusts in an arm of flesh - in himself or others, or in any thing he has done or suffered, will inherit a curse instead of a blessing.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 5-18

In the rest of the prophecy Jeremiah dwells upon the moral faults which had led to Judah‘s ruin.

Jeremiah 17:6

Like the heath - Or, “like a destitute man” Psalm 102:17. The verbs “he shall see” (or fear) and “shall inhabit” plainly show that a man is here meant and not a plant.

Jeremiah 17:8

The river - Or, “water-course” Isaiah 30:25, made for purposes of irrigation.

Shall not see - Or, “shall not fear Jeremiah 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.

Jeremiah 17:9

The train of thought is apparently this: If the man is so blessed Jeremiah 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.

Jeremiah 17:10

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.

Jeremiah 17:11

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 1 Samuel 25:25.

Jeremiah 17:12, Jeremiah 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.

Jeremiah 17:13

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).

Jeremiah 17:15

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.

Jeremiah 17:16

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” (Jeremiah 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 Psalm 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 Jeremiah 15:19.

Jeremiah 17:17

A terror - Rather, “a cause of dismay,” or consternation Jeremiah 1:17. By not fulfilling Jeremiah‘s prediction God Himself seemed to put him to shame.

Jeremiah 17:18

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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
He who puts confidence in man, shall be like the heath in a desert, a naked tree, a sorry shrub, the product of barren ground, useless and worthless. Those who trust to their own righteousness and strength, and think they can do without Christ, make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper in graces or comforts. Those who make God their Hope, shall flourish like a tree always green, whose leaf does not wither. They shall be fixed in peace and satisfaction of mind; they shall not be anxious in a year of drought. Those who make God their Hope, have enough in him to make up the want of all creature-comforts. They shall not cease from yielding fruit in holiness and good works. The heart, the conscience of man, in his corrupt and fallen state, is deceitful above all things. It calls evil good, and good evil; and cries peace to those to whom it does not belong. Herein the heart is desperately wicked; it is deadly, it is desperate. The case is bad indeed, if the conscience, which should set right the errors of other faculties, is a leader in the delusion. We cannot know our own hearts, nor what they will do in an hour of temptation. Who can understand his errors? Much less can we know the hearts of others, or depend upon them. He that believes God's testimony in this matter, and learns to watch his own heart, will find this is a correct, though a sad picture, and learns many lessons to direct his conduct. But much in our own hearts and in the hearts of others, will remain unknown. Yet whatever wickedness there is in the heart, God sees it. Men may be imposed upon, but God cannot be deceived. He that gets riches, and not by right, though he may make them his hope, never shall have joy of them. This shows what vexation it is to a worldly man at death, that he must leave his riches behind; but though the wealth will not follow to another world, guilt will, and everlasting torment. The rich man takes pains to get an estate, and sits brooding upon it, but never has any satisfaction in it; by sinful courses it comes to nothing. Let us be wise in time; what we get, let us get it honestly; and what we have, use it charitably, that we may be wise for eternity.
Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (EGW), 1155-6

7. Birds Respond More Quickly Than Men—The swallow and the crane observe the changes of the seasons. They migrate from one country to another to find a climate suitable to their convenience and happiness, as the Lord designed they should. But God's people sacrifice life and health by seeking to gratify appetite. In their desire to accumulate treasure, they forget the Giver of all their blessings. Their health is abused, and their God-given powers are used to carry out their unsanctified, ambitious projects. Their days are filled with pain of body and disquietude of mind because they are determined to follow wrong habits and practices. They will not reason from cause to effect, and they sacrifice health, peace, and happiness to their ignorance (Manuscript 35, 1899). 4BC 1155.1

8 (Matthew 15:9; 22:29). Rejection of Truth Has Produced Present Condition—The prevalence of sin is alarming; the world is being filled with violence as in the days of Noah. Would the world be in its present condition if those who claim to be the people of God had reverenced and obeyed the law of the Lord? It is the rejection of the truth, man's dispensing with the commandments of God, that has produced the condition of things which now exists. God's Word is made of none effect by false shepherds. The decided opposition of the shepherds of the flock to the law of the Lord reveals that they have rejected the Word of the Lord, and have put their own words in its place. In their interpretation of the Scriptures they teach for doctrines the commandments of men. In their apostasy from the truth they have encouraged wickedness, saying, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us.” The words of Christ to the Pharisees are applicable to them. Christ said to these teachers, Ye are both ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God.... 4BC 1155.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 464

I was shown that the follies of Israel in the days of Samuel will be repeated among the people of God today unless there is greater humility, less confidence in self, and more trust in the Lord God of Israel, the Ruler of the people. It is only as divine power is combined with human effort that the work will abide the test. When men lean no longer on men or on their own judgment, but make God their trust, it will be made manifest in every instance by meekness of spirit, by less talking and much more praying, by the exercise of caution in their plans and movements. Such men will reveal the fact that their dependence is in God, that they have the mind of Christ. TM 464.1

Again and again I have been shown that the people of God in these last days could not be safe in trusting in men, and making flesh their arm. The mighty cleaver of truth has taken them out of the world as rough stones that are to be hewed and squared and polished for the heavenly building. They must be hewed by the prophets with reproof, warning, admonition, and advice, that they may be fashioned after the divine Pattern; this is the specified work of the Comforter, to transform heart and character, that men may keep the way of the Lord.... TM 464.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 212-3

We must have less faith in what we can do and more faith in what the Lord can do for us, if we will have clean hands and pure hearts. You are not engaged in your own work; you are doing the work of God. 7T 212.1

More love is needed, more frankness, less suspicion, less evil thinking. We need to be less ready to blame and accuse. It is this that is so offensive to God. The heart needs to be softened and subdued by love. The strengthless condition of our people results from the fact that their hearts are not right with God. Alienation from Him is the cause of the burdened condition of our institutions. 7T 212.2

*****

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 375

The Lord has given to every man his appointed work, and if He places men in positions of responsibility, He will communicate His Holy Spirit to them, giving them efficiency for their work. But the men who are called upon to take long and expensive journeys in order to help others to devise and plan are not themselves in close connection with the God of all wisdom if they put confidence in their own strength and wisdom. If they have not been willing to bear the yoke of Christ, or to learn in His school to be meek and lowly in heart as He was; if they have not learned to lift the burdens God has given them, and to follow wherever He may lead them, what will their expensive trips amount to? What is their wisdom worth? Is it not accounted foolishness with God? TM 375.1

State conferences may depend upon the General Conference for light and knowledge and wisdom; but is it safe for them to do this? Battle Creek is not to be the center of God's work. God alone can fill this place. When our people in the different places have their special convocations, teach them, for Christ's sake and for their own soul's sake, not to make flesh their arm. There is no power in men to read the hearts of their fellowmen. The Lord is the only one upon whom we can with safety depend, and He is accessible in every place and to every church in the Union. To place men where God should be placed does not honor or glorify God. Is the president of the General Conference to be the God of the people? Are the men at Battle Creek to be regarded as infinite in wisdom? When the Lord shall work upon human hearts and human intellects, principles and practices different from this will be set before the people. “Cease ye from man.” TM 375.2

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