Jeremiah 17: 5-8

Douglas McC.L. Judisch

5. Thus has the LORD said:

Cursed is the strong man who trusts in man

and has set up flesh as his arm,

Even as his heart turns away from the LORD.

6. Yea, he has come to be like a shrub in the desert,

For he sees not when good comes;

Yea, he has settled down

in parched places in the wilderness,

in a land of salt which is not inhabited.

7. Blessed is the strong man who trusts in the LORD,

And the LORD is his trust.

8. Yea, he has come to be like a tree planted upon waters;

Even as upon a stream it sends out its roots.

For he fears not when heat comes,

For his leaf shall be green;

Even as in the year of drought he is not anxious,

For he will not cease from producing fruit.

The reading from the Old Testament which is assigned to the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany in Series C of Lutheran Worship consists in four verses of the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, namely, verses 5-8. (The exegesis of these verses below is, assuredly, in no way designed to promote the use in the main service of the week of any such modern selection of gospels and epistles as those suggested in Lutheran Worship. This exegete, on the contrary, would continue to urge, on various grounds, fidelity to the pericopal tradition inherited from the ancient church by the church of the reformation and modified only slightly by the Blessed Reformer of the Church, if one is speaking specifically of the gospels and epistles to be read in the main (eucharistic) service of the week. No comparable series of readings, on the other hand, from the Old Testament was either handed down from the ancient church or bestowed on us by the Blessed Reformer; nor, indeed, is there such a program of readings from the New Testament to be used in all the possible additional offices of any given week. In such cases, therefore, even such a traditionalist as this exegete is able, with consistency, to make use of any pericope drawn from the region of Holy Scripture desired.)



Jeremiah ben-Hilkiah was a priest who was a native of the small town of Anathoth, some six miles northeast of the capital city of Jerusalem, in accordance with the superscription to his book: "The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who are in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin" (1:1). We know more of his life and personality than of any writing prophet of the Old Testament other than Moses (as is noted by this exegete in The Prophetic Books of the Babylonian Exile and the Persian Empire). The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah spanned some seven decades which were closely intertwined with the resurgence and then the ascendancy of city of Babylon, now in the control of the Chaldeans.

For Jeremiah received his call to the prophetic office, already in adolescence, as the Assyrian Empire was just beginning to crumble. The year was, specifically, 627 B.C., in accordance with the second verse of his magnum opus: "the word of the LORD came to be to him in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, the king of Judah in the thirteenth year of his reign" (1:2). The final edition of the Book of Jeremiah appeared around 560 B.C. as the culmination of several previous editions which Jeremiah had published in Judah and Egypt and as the distillation of a prophetic ministry which had spanned at least sixty-seven years (ibid.)

Jeremiah, as previously intimated, received his call in the midst of two significant developments in the year 627 B.C. The Scythian invasion, firstly, of the Near East, between 628 and 626 B.C., sapped the strength of Assyria and so allowed the rise of Chaldean Babylon to preeminence. Thus, the ultra-conservative reformation of King Josiah, between 628 and 622 B.C., became possible in a Judah now free of Assyrian domination. Nineveh itself fell, indeed, to the combined forces of Nabopolassar of Babylon and Kyaxares the Mede only fifteen years later in the year 612 B.C.

Jeremiah's ministry had considerable political significance in the course of the reigns of the last five kings of Judah, namely, Josiah, three of his sons, and one of his grandsons. Josiah himself, although the son of the wicked Amon, was the most pious of all the kings of Judah, reigning for thirty-one years from 640 to 609 B.C. Josiah, to be sure, was but eight years of age when he came to the throne, and he remained for years under the control of syncretistic regents and advisors. Some of the ensuing events of his reign of primary pertinence to the verses currently before us would be the following:

(1.) In 632 B.C., at the age of sixteen, King Josiah came to faith in the One True God.

(2.) Between 628 and 626 B.C. Scythian hordes poured out of Trans-Caucasia through the Near East, sweeping aside Assyrian control and spreading terror wherever they rode. Judah, however, was allowed to regain independence and, indeed, to extend its hegemony over Samaria and Galilee.

(3.) In 628 B.C. King Josiah introduced a reformation in Palestine which came to include the general destruction of Asherah poles, idols, pagan altars, pagan priests, male cultic prostitutes, and, indeed, all the high places throughout Judah and even as far north as Naphtali. Josiah specifically tore down and destroyed Jeroboam's altar at Bethel, burning the bones of its pseudo-priests upon it.

(4.) In 627 B.C., as has been previously noted, Jeremiah received his call to the prophetic office. The Scythians swept through Philistia, leaving Judah terrified but unharmed.

(5.) In 622 B.C. the Josianic Reformation reached its climax at this time. A copy of the Pentateuch, of which any others had evidently been destroyed during the reigns of the preceding two monarchs, was discovered in the temple by Hilkiah, the high priest. On the basis of the Mosaic Law Josiah demanded of all his subjects a rededication the Sinaitic Berith.

(6.) In 609 B.C. the new Pharaoh of Egypt, Necho, undertook to march to the aid of the last remnants of the Assyrian army, commanded by Asshuruballit II, in opposing to the continuing assaults of the Chaldeans. On his way northward Necho was confronted by King Josiah at Megiddo. Josiah died in the ensuing battle, and Jeremiah led the mourning of his death in Judah, which now lost its independence to Egypt and four years later to Babylon.

The Lord's decision to take Josiah to Himself was a sign that his reformation, however thorough-going, had by no means resulted in a nation with the same faith as its king.

This disparity between prince and people explains the continuing denunciations of Judah, even in the reign of Josiah, which dominate chapters 2-20 of the Book of Jeremiah. Josiah, then, stands out as the most godly of all the kings in the history of Israel. All his successors, on the contrary, were lamentably wicked kings, if each in his own individual way:

(1.) The first to follow him on the throne of Judah was his son Jehoahaz, despite being two years younger than Jehoiakim. He was originally called Shallum, as in Jeremiah 22:11 and 1 Chronicles 3:15, where he is called "fourth" although twenty-three years older than Zedekiah. Jehoahaz reigned but three months, in the course of 609 B.C., before his deportation by Pharaoh Necho to Egypt.

(2.) Jehoiakim, originally called Eliakim, was probably the eldest surviving son of Josiah, in view of the lack of any reference in the sacred books to the firstborn Johanan outside of 1 Chronicles 3:15. Jehoiakim ruled Judah from 609 to 598 B.C.

(3.) Jehoiachin was, evidently, originally called Jechoniah, as he is in 1 Chronicles 3 (in verses 16-17) and in Jeremiah (in chapters 24:1; 27:20; 28:4; 29:2), who also calls him Coniah (in chapters 22:24; 22:28; 37:1). Jehoiachin was a son of Jehoiakim and so a grandson of King Josiah. He was "monarch" but three months within the besieged walls of Jerusalem, following his father's ignominious death, as the years turned from 598 to 597 B.C.

(4.) Zedekiah, finally, who was originally called Mattaniah, was the third son of Josiah (as appears from 1 Chronicles 3:15) although, nonetheless, but three years older than his nephew Jehoiachin. He reigned as the final king of Judah from 597 to 586 B.C.

The purpose of Jeremiah in writing the book which bears his name, as already in his preaching, was to summon the Jews throughout the world to repentance and so back to faith in the One True God. The theme, correspondingly, of the Book of Jeremiah may be stated thus: Apostasy from God necessarily brings punishment to Judah in accordance with the provisions of the national berith (the constitution which God had promulgated at Mount Sinai and which Israel had there accepted with all its pentateuchal provisions).

The general style of Jeremiah is simple to such a degree that sometimes, indeed, he is unfairly called careless. In actuality, however, his simplicity of style is the natural expression of a man, quite understandably, beset by grief. The prophecies against the Gentile nations, as well as his Lamentations and the Book of Kings, show that Jeremiah was capable of powerful eloquence when the occasion was conducive. Jeremiah is also quite deliberately repetitious, using the same thoughts, pictures, and words on various occasions. An example which involves the pericope currently before us is the way in which elements of verse 6 of chapter 17 are repeated in verse 6 of chapter 48.

The first and second editions of Jeremiah emerged "in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah" (verse 1:3a1). The years of publication were, more specifically, 605 and 604 B.C. respectively, in the fourth and fifth regnal years of Jehoiakim. For Jeremiah composed his second edition immediately following the destruction, in December of 604 B.C., of his first edition by King Jehoiakim as it was being read aloud to him by Baruch, the prophet's secretary (36: 9-32). The third edition, on the other hand, of the Book of Jeremiah emerged in 586 B.C. following the destruction of Jerusalem by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, to which Jeremiah refers in his superscription with the phrases "the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah" (verse 1:3a2) and "the removing of Jerusalem in the fifth month" (1:3b).

The main fourfold division of the book is straight-forward, although its simplicity is, nevertheless, still confused by many scholars. More subtle, however (and generally missed), is the threefold subdivision of the Judahite Corpus, by far the largest block of material in the book (chapters 2-45). The key to the structure of this material is the recurring reference in the volume to the pivotal fourth year of Jehoiakim (the year of the incorporation of Judah into the Babylonian Empire, in conjunction with various additional events of national and international prominence).

Jeremiah makes special mention in the introduction to his book of "the days of Jehoiakim" (1:3), and three specific citations of the fourth year of this reign appear in the Judahite Corpus (25:1; 36:1; 45:1), each time apparently designating the culmination of a section demarcated according to a pattern which Jeremiah imposed on his material at this particular juncture in the history of Judah. Each of the three divisions of the Judahite Corpus is thereby connected with one of the three signs which figure in the call of Jeremiah in the introduction to his book, which is to say in verses 9, 11, and 13 of chapter 1 respectively. The remaining citation of the fourth year of Jehoiakim (in chapter 46:1) serves to initiate the Gentile Oracles of Jeremiah (chapters 46-51) and ties them, not only to the general superscription to the book (in chapter 1:3-5), but also to the climactic chapter 25 of Jeremiah. For the Gentile Oracles constitute, in effect, an answer to the divine commission in verses 12-28 of chapter 25, while still building thereby on the words of 1:10 which are foundational to the book in toto.

The first of the three sections in the Judahite Corpus revolves around the rationale of the message of Jeremiah, which is to say the divine purpose (1.) to condemn the impenitents in Judah (by the law) and (2.) to console the penitents (by the gospel). The section comprising chapters 2-25 fall more innately into eight subsections on the basis of an introductory formula which, excepting the first two cases, conjoins dabhar ("word") with the prophet's name. In the first two cases "Jeremiah" is replaced by 'elai ("to me"), to which is added in the second case the specification of a date in the reign of Josiah:

(1.) 2:1, "And then the word of the LORD came to be to me, so as to say ..."

(2.) 3:6, "And then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king ..."

(3.) 7:1, "The word which came to be to Jeremiah from with the LORD, so as to say ..."

(4.) 11:1, "The word which came to be to Jeremiah from with the LORD, so as to say ..."

(5.) 14:1, "That which came to be the word of the LORD to Jeremiah on the things of the droughts ..."

(6.) 18:1, "The word which came to be to Jeremiah from with the LORD, so as to say ..."

(7.) 21:1, "The word which came to be to Jeremiah from with the LORD, ..."

(8.) 25:1-2, "The word which came to be on Jeremiah on the whole of the people of Judah in the fourth year to Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, that being the first year to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, which Jeremiah the prophet spoke on the whole of the people of Judah and to the whole of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so as to say ..."

All the material in the first six subsections thus demarcated may be seen, in the traditional way, as emanating from the first eighteen years of the ministry of Jeremiah in the reign of Josiah. Although the latter portion of chapter 13 (whether verses 15-27 or 18-27) is often assigned to the reign of Jehoiachin, the reference to "the queen mother" in verse 18 is generic, as is argued by C.F. Keil, and the exile is, in any case, being predicted rather than recorded.

The prophecy of Jeremiah in the reigns succeeding King Josiah may be divided into seven utterances on the basis of the following phrases which do not necessarily initiate the series of verses to which they pertain:

(1.) "The word which came to be to Jeremiah from with the LORD, when the King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur, the son of Malchiah, and Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah, the priest, so as to say ..." (21: 1, in regard to 21:1-22:9).

(2.) "For thus has the LORD said to Shallum, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, who became king in place of Josiah, his father ..." (22:11, in regard to 22: 10-12).

(3.) "Therefore, thus has the LORD said to Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah ..." (22:18, in regard to 22: 13-19).

(4.) "As I live, such is the oracle of the LORD," to "Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah ..." (22:24, in regard to 22: 20-30).

(5.) "Therefore, thus has the LORD, the God of Israel, said on the shepherds who shepherd my people ..." (23:2, in regard to 23: 1-8).

(6.) "Therefore, thus has the LORD of Hosts said on the prophets" (23:15, in regard to 23: 9-40).

(7.) "The LORD made me see -- yea, behold, two baskets of figs were placed before the temple of the LORD -- after Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had taken into exile Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, and the princes of Judah and the craftsmen and the smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon ... and then the word of the LORD came to be to me, so as to say ..." (verses 1 and 4, with regard to 24: 1-10).

These seven oracles and collections of oracles were clearly added to the first section of the Judahite Corpus of Jeremiah at a time subsequent to the first and second editions of his book, thereby increasing the number of its subsections from the original seven to the eight which are indicated in the outline below.

The specific subsection in which the pericope currently before us occurs (chapters 14-17) falls most naturally into fifteen utterances on the basis of the changes in the speaker of the words. Thus, although the Lord begins the dialogue by describing the droughts which He is sending on Judah in verses 2-6 of chapter 14, Jeremiah prays to the Lord on behalf of his people in verses 7-9. The Lord rejects this petition in verses 10-12. The same alternation of intercession and rejection recurs in verses 13 and 14-19 and, a third time, in verses 19-22 of chapter 14 and 1-9 of chapter 15. There follows a like alternation between complaints of suffering expressed by Jeremiah and the responses thereto by the Lord in verse 10 and verses 11-14 of chapter 15 respectively and, again, in verses 15-18 and the ensuing twenty-one verses (chapters 15:19-16:18) respectively. The final such alternation occurs between prayers of faith arising from Jeremiah and the responses thereto by the Lord in 16:19 and the ensuing thirteen verses (chapters 16:20-17:11) respectively and, again, in verses 12-18 and verses 19-27 respectively of chapter 17.



The following outline thus emerges of the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah in relation to the first main portion of his work, the Judahite Corpus comprising chapters 2-45, and to the verses of his introductory chapter which are most closely connected to the ensuing chapters 2-25:

I. The Introduction (chapter 1)

A. The Superscription (verses 1-3)

1. The prophet's identity and origin (verse 1)

2. The beginning of the prophet's ministry (verse 2)

3. The circumstances of the first three editions of the book (verse 3)

a. Its first and second editions (verse 3a1)

b. Its third edition (verse 3a2-b)

B. The Call of Jeremiah (verses 4-19)

1. His commission (verses 4-8)

a. The divine initiation (verses 4-5)

b. The prophet's reluctance (verse 6)

c. The divine confirmation (verses 7-8)

(1.) The divine reiteration (verse 7)

(2.) The divine reassurance (verse 8)

2. His message symbolized by three signs (verses 9-16)

a. Its rationale: the divine purpose (verse 9-10)

(1.) Its signification (verse 9)

(a.) The nature of the first sign: God touching the prophet's mouth (verse 9a)

(b.) The meaning of the first sign (verse 9b-10a1)

i. In relation to God (verse 9b)

ii. In relation to others (verse 10a1)

(2.) Its essence (verse 10a2-10b)

(a.) To condemn the impenitents of Judah (by the law) (verse 10a2)

(b.) To console the penitents of Judah (by the gospel) (verse 10b: "to build and to plant")

b. Its nature: the divine word (verses 11-12)

c. Its substance: the divine doom (verses 13-16)

3. His commission (1:17-19)

a. The divine reiteration (verse 17)

b. The divine reassurance (verses 18-19)

II. The Message to Judah (chapters 2-45)

A. Its Rationale: The Divine Purpose (chapters 2-25)

1. Words Indicting Judah of Infidelity (chapters 2:1-3:5), Comprising the Introduction to the Section

2. Words Declaring the Sentence of Judah (chapters 3:6-6:30)

3. Words Preached in the Gate of the Temple (chapters 7:1-10:25)

4. Words and Deeds of Covenantal Relation (chapters 11:1-13:27)

5. Words Relating to Droughts in Judah (chapters 14:1-17:27)

a. The Lord's description of the droughts being inflicted on Judah (14: 1-6)

b. The prophet's first intercession (14: 7-9)

c. The Lord's rejection of the intercession (14: 10-12)

d. The prophet's second intercession (14:13)

e. The Lord's rejection of the intercession (14: 14-18)

f. The prophet's third intercession (14: 19-22)

g. The Lord's rejection of the intercession (15: 1-9)

h. The prophet's first grievance (15:10)

i. The Lord's response to the grievance (15: 11-14)

(1.) His reassurance of Jeremiah (15:11)

(2.) His rejection of Judah (15: 12-14)

j. The prophet's second grievance (15: 15-18)

k. The Lord's response to the grievance (15:19-16:18)

(1.) His reassurance of Jeremiah (15: 19-21)

(2.) His restrictions on Jeremiah (16: 1-9)

(3.) His rejection of Judah (16: 10-18)

(a.) Its rationale in sin (16: 10-13)

(b.) Its goal in salvation (16: 14-15)

(c.) Its rationale in sin (16: 16-18)

l. The prophet's expression of faith in the exclusive divinity of the Lord (16:19)

m. The Lord's response (16:20-17:11)

(1.) The assertion of His divinity in opposition to all others (16:20)

(2.) The expression of His divinity in His coming deportation of Judah (16:21-17:4)

(3.) The expression of His divinity in the lives of believers and unbelievers (17: 5-8)

(a.) The life of unbelievers (verse 5-6)

i. A literal description (verse 5)

ii. A figurative description (verse 6)

(b.) The life of believers (verse 7-8)

i. A literal description (verse 7)

ii. A figurative description (verse 8)

(4.) The expression of His divinity in His judging of all of the thoughts and deeds of men (17: 9-11)

n. The prophet's expression of faith (17: 12-18)

(1.) His confession of the goodness and justice of God (17: 12-13)

(2.) His petitions in faith (17: 14-15)

(3.) His dedication to his ministry (17:16)

(4.) His petitions in faith (17: 17-18)

o. The Lord's response (17: 19-27)

(1.) His commission to preach in all the gateways of Jerusalem (17:19)

(2.) His commission to urge observance of the sabbath (17: 20-27)

6. Words and Deeds Relating to Pottery (chapters 18:1-20:18)

7. Words Emanating from the Reigns Succeeding Josiah (chapters 21:1-24:10), Comprising an Appendix to the Original Edition of the Section

a. Words Relating to the Reign of Zedekiah (21:1-22:9)

b. Words Relating to the Reign of Jehoahaz (22: 10-12)

c. Words Relating to the Reign of Jehoiakim (22: 13-19)

d. Words Relating to the Reign of Jehoiachin (22: 20-30)

e. Words Relating to the Reign of the Messiah (23: 1-8)

f. Words Relating to the Reigns of the Sons of Josiah (23: 9-40)

g. Words Relating to the Reigns of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (24: 1-10)

8. Words Emanating from the Fourth Year of Jehoiakim, Comprising the Conclusion to the Section (chapter 25)

B. Its Nature: The Divine Word (chapters 26-36)

C. Its Substance: The Divine Doom (chapters 37-45)

III. The Gentile Oracles (chapters 46-51)

The verses, then, which are the objects of this study constitutes the second of three paragraphs expressing the significance of the exclusive divinity of the One True God. These verses (5-8) and the three (9-11) which follow express the divine omniscience and omnipotence of the Eternal Self-Existing One in a much more general way than does the preceding paragraph (which speaks of His divinity purely in terms of the history of Judah). Only, moreover, in this middle paragraph is there any idea of grace as well as justice as His attribute -- in addition to omniscience and omnipotence.



5. Thus has the LORD said:

Cursed is the strong man who trusts in man

and has set up flesh as his arm,

Even as his heart turns away from the LORD.

The word "cursed" in the translation above renders 'arur, the qal passive participle (masculine singular) of 'rr. Such participles are, indeed, the most common form of 'rr in the Old Testament. Of the total of sixty-three occurrences of the verb the niphal (Malachi 3:9) and hophal (Numbers 22:6) contribute but one each and the piel only seven (Genesis 5:29 and six times in Numbers 5: 18-27) [DCH, 397b-398b; BDB, 76b]. Of the fifty-four instances of the qal forty are passive participles [V.P. Hamilton, TWOT, 75b, in 75a-76a]. Eighteen of these participles are concentrated in the stipulation of the conditional curses attached to the Sinaitic Berith in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. The participle of 'rr, however, already comes to the fore in Genesis 3, as God lays His curse on Satan in verse 14 and on the ground polluted by man in verse 17. Jeremiah himself employs this form of 'rr, as well as here, in chapters 11 (verse 3), 20 (verses 14 and 15), and 48 (twice in verse 10).

Frequently 'rr provides, as here, an antonym to some form of brk (usually again the passive participle), beginning in Genesis 9 (verses 25 and 26) [Hamilton, ibid.]. One may legitimately argue from the Akkadian (especially Assyrian) cognates that the original conception of 'rr is the binding of someone [Hamilton, citing H.C. Brichto and E.A. Speiser]. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, indeed, defines 'rr as "bind with a curse" in contradistinction to qll ("designate as cursed") [KBR, 91a-b], while the Hebrew and English Lexicon also takes note of the connection of "bind" and "curse" in the linguistic background [BDB, 76b]. Thus, one who is cursed is bound in such a way as to keep him from enjoying something. Ordinarily in the Bible, as here, it is the accursed man himself who has so bound himself. Thus, as verses 5 and 6 here state, anyone who trusts in man rather than God deprives himself of the goodness which God is always bestowing on man. He so binds his mind, indeed, that he does not even see the goodness of God.

Jeremiah utilizes two words designating "man" in the second clause of 17:5. The noun gebher carries a connotation of masculinity and strength (resulting in the translation above as "strong man") [BDB, 149], while 'adham is the more generic appellation [BDB, 9]. For 'adham, without further qualification, denotes man as such, descended from Adam, who was given his name by virtue of God's formation of his body from the ground ('adhamah) (Genesis 2:7 and 3:19).

The noun basar ("flesh") stands parallel to 'adham and emphasizes the mortal, indeed sinful, weakness of man as opposed to God (as already in Genesis 6:3). One's "arm" (zroa') is used here, as frequently, as a figure of strength. The "heart" (lebh) represents here, as commonly, the mind and soul of a man (as in Deuteronomy 6: 5-6).

6. Yea, he has come to be like a shrub in the desert,

For he sees not when good comes;

Yea, he has settled down

in parched places in the wilderness,

in a land of salt which is not inhabited.

The phrase "like a shrub" in the translation above renders the noun 'ar'ar with prepositional prefix. (The prefixed kaph, of course, indicates likeness of some kind.) The noun, understood in this way, is a hapax legomenon, although a closely related noun occurs in Jeremiah 48:6.

The word here could, to be sure, be construed as the adjective 'ar'ar being used nominally, as is done in its only appearance in the Old Testament, which falls in Psalm 102:18 (MT, 17 EV). The adjective 'ar'ar clearly derives from the verbal root 'rr, which, like its by-forms 'rh and 'wr, has to do with nakedness [BDB (Root II), 792b]. Thus, 'rh signifies "be naked" or "bare" [BDB, 788b], while 'ur is defined as "be exposed" or "bare" [BDB, 735b (Root II)]. The verb 'rr itself seems to mean more specifically "strip oneself" [BDB (Root II), 792b].

Thus, the adjective 'ar'ar in Psalm 102 means "stripped" or "naked" and so, when used nominally with the article, "the naked one" (even if taken figuratively to speak of those unable to clothe themselves properly). The Hebrew and English Lexicon, indeed, defines the adjective as "destitute" as well as "stripped" and then records it as occurring only in the construct clause "the prayer of the destitute" in Psalm 102:18 (MT) [BDB, 792b]. The Authorized Version, likewise, translates its verse 17 (EV) of Psalm 102 in this way:

He will regard the prayer of the destitute

And not despise their prayer.

The Revised Standard Version and the New King James read in substantially the same fashion. The interpretation, however, of Seybold, which is relayed by The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, is more is line with the customary approach of the Psalter in identifying ha'ar'ar with penitents who were naked aside from a covering of sackcloth [KBR, (II) 887a-b].

C.F. Keil and others have then seen the 'ar'ar here in Jeremiah 17:6 as being the same word with the same substantive usage and same connotation as the adjective in Psalm 102. He maintains that contrary "renderings are merely guesses from the context" and hence of no value [281]. Keil maintains that the reference is to "the destitute man, who lacks all means of subsistence" on the ground, above all, of "he will not see" in the ensuing clause [281-282]. The same relationship, however, obtains between "tree" and "he will not fear" in verse 8. In both cases the a botanical analogy is explained by a more literal assertion, even though in verse 8 there is still figurative language in use (in describing tribulation as "heat" and "drought").

From ancient times, however, some botanical reference has been seen in the second word of Jeremiah 17:6, although such a name could still belong to the same lexical family involving nakedness. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon cites, as well, an occurrence in the Hodayot of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hymns of Qumran (1QH 8:24) [KBR, (II), 887b; DCH, I, 35]. The Septuagint, by employing the term murike or agriomurike, identifies the 'ar'ar here specifically as the tamarisk [KBR, (II), 887b]. The Targum and Syriac, as also the Vulgate (with myrice), follow the same line of direction as the Septuagint [KBR, (II), 887b]. Students of Ugaritic literature have, likewise, assumed the Canaanite cognate 'r'r to be the tamarisk [KBR, (II), 887b]. Syriac lexicographers define 'r'wr' as resina tamariscis and 'r' as tamaris [KBR, (II), 887b].

The Authorized Version, on the other hand, long made "heath" a standard translation in English. Such an understanding, however, would compromise the implication of the solitary existence of the 'ar'ar of Jeremiah 17, since "heath" refers to shrubs covering wasteland (such as the heather of the highlands and moors of Scotland) [OED, 566b]. The Arabic cognate, then, which is likewise 'ar'ar, provides the more probable arboreal candidate, which is to say the juniper.

Thus, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon specifies juniperus oxicedrus and juniperus phoenicea as falling within the sphere of 'ar'ar [KBR, (II), 887b]. The Hebrew and English Lexicon gives "juniper" or "cypress" as the meaning of the nouns in both chapters 17:6 and 48:6 of Jeremiah [BDB, 792b, sub 'aro'er}. Theodore Laetsch, although inclining to a botanical reference of some kind, hesitates between the tamarisk and the juniper [162].

The particular reference of 'ar'ar to the juniper is enhanced by the significance of 'aro'er, which again ends up "in the wilderness" (bammidhbar) in verse 6 of Jeremiah 48 (NKJV):

Flee, save yourselves!

And be like the juniper in the wilderness!

The word 'aro'er, actually, is sufficiently close to 'ar'ar to be called its by-form in The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon [KBR, 883a]. The proximity is such, indeed, as to lead the Hebrew and English Lexicon to treat 'aro'er and 'ar'ar -- unjustifiably, to be sure -- as one word which has been corrupted in one place or the other in the textual transmission of the Book of Jeremiah [BDB, 792b]. While there is no validity at all to such suspicion of the Massoretic Text, the 'ar'ar of Jeremiah 17 and the 'aro'er of Jeremiah 48 doubtless exemplify mere differences in spelling. [The citation of Jeremiah 17:6 in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament as the "only" mention of 'aro'er is presumably a misprint (II, 700a).]

The connection, at any rate, of 'aro'er, in Jeremiah 48:6, with the juniper tree is treated as virtually indubitable by modern lexicographers [KBR, 883a]. Aquila, to be sure, saw therein another reference to the tamarisk (translating with murike), while the septuagintal rendering (hosper ogos agrios) represented, evidently, a textual emendation of the veritas hebraica to 'rodh (meaning "wild ass") [KBR, 883a and 882b]. The Authorized Version again, as in Jeremiah 17, long made "heath" the standard translation in English. Again, however, such an understanding would compromise the implication of the solitary existence of the 'aro'er of Jeremiah 48, in which, certainly, the connotation of isolation is at least as strong as in the 'ar'ar of Jeremiah 17.

As previously stated, then, the connection of 'aro'er with the juniper is now considered secure. There are, indeed, four different towns in the Old Testament called "Aroer" ('aro'er) which are assumed to have received this name from the presence of juniper bushes in the vicinity [KBR, 883a-b]. The most prominent of these sites would be the city of Aroer, on the northern bank of the River Arnon, which marked the southern boundary of Transjordanian Israel. Jeremiah, indeed, applies 'aro'er, as a proper noun, to this well-known site in verse 19 of Jeremiah 48, in the course of his declamations there against the nation of Moab [AV]:

O inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way and espy!

Ask him that fleeth and her that escapeth,

and say, "What is done?"

Although long a Gileadite city [BDB, 792b-793a], on the border between Israel and Moab, Aroer passed into Moabite hands in the days of King Mesha, according to the Moabite Stone [H.G. Andersen, ZPEB, I, 327a].

The juniper, then, to which Jeremiah refers is a shrub with leathery leaves so minute as to be described as scales [R.B. Allen, TWOT, II, 700a; Irene and Walter Jacob, ABD, II, 805b, in 803b-817a]. Its produce is likewise small [Fauna and Flora of the Bible (London: United Bible Societies, 1972), 131]. The so-called Greek Juniper (juniperus phoenicea) is a small pyramidical plant which produces purplish-brown berries rather than true cones [Irene and Walter Jacob, ibid.].

The phrase "in parched places" in the translation above renders the masculine absolute charerim [BDB, 359b]. The plural of charer is serving, syntactically, as an adverbial accusative to indicate, here specifically, the place of the action of the verb. The noun is a hapax legomenon, as is the only related common noun, charchur (defined as "violent heat, fever") in Deuteronomy 28:22 [BDB, 359b]. The meanings, nevertheless, of these two nouns are sufficiently perceptible from the stem chrr, of which they are shoots -- in conjunction, of course, with the respective contexts of the nouns concerned).

The verb chrr occurs ten times in the Old Testament -- thrice in the qal (Job 30:30; Isaiah 24:6; and Ezekiel 24:11), six times in the niphal (Psalms 69:4 and 102:4; Jeremiah 6:29; Ezekiel 15: 4, 15:5, and 24:10), and once in the pilpel (Proverbs 26:21) [BDB, 393a-b, where the classification of the vocable as chiefly poetical may be accepted while rejecting, as usual, its characterization as late]. The basic meaning is "be hot, scorched, burn" in line with the more common cognate chrh, which means "burn" in more figurative reference to anger [BDB, 354a]. Related thereby are the nouns charon and chari meaning "burning anger" and "burning" respectively [BDB, 354b].

The phrase "is ... inhabited" in the translation above renders the feminine singular of the third person of the qal imperfect of yshb. (The masculine singular of the second person of the qal imperfect is, of course, identical in form but clearly inappropriate here.) The feminine of the verb corresponds to the gender of its antecedent in the preceding main clause, 'eretz ("land"). The verb yshb is quite a common verb, occurring some 1090 times in the Old Testament [BDB, 442a, in 442a-443b]. The great majority of these instances are forms of the qal, although there are some occurrences of the hiphil plus but eight of the niphal and two of the pual [BDB, 443a-b].

Although "sit" is the most basic meaning of yshb, the significance of "dwell" based thereon is quite widespread [BDB, 442a-443a]. The qal, however, develops as well a passive significance which is the same as the meaning of the niphal. A land or city is considered to "sit" or "abide seated in its place" when is inhabited [BDB, 443a]. Thus, "be inhabited" emerges as the significance in Jeremiah 17 (verse 25, as well as here in verse 6) and 50 (verses 13 and 39), as also in Isaiah (13:20), Ezekiel (26:20; 29:11; 35:9; and 36:35) and Zechariah (2:8; 9:5; 12:6; and 14: 10-11). The Prophet Jeremiah uses yshb similarly of a palace in chapter 30:18 [BDB, 443a].

7. Blessed is the strong man who trusts in the LORD,

And the LORD is his trust.

The word "blessed" in the translation above renders barukh, the qal passive participle (masculine singular) of brk. Members of the lexical family of brk surface some 415 times in the Old Testament [J.N. Oswalt, TWOT, I, 132a, in 132a-133a]. The nouns of the family include berekh (meaning "knee"), which occurs twenty-five times [DCH, 272a-b], and brakhah (meaning "blessing"), which occurs sixty-nine times [DCH, 272b-273b]. The verb itself can be found some 332 times in the TaNaK [DCH, 267a-272a]. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon distinguishes two separate roots spelled brk, assigning the three instances in which the verb means "kneel" to a stem differing from all the remaining cases [KBR, 159a-b (Root I); 159b-160b (Root II)]. The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, indeed, distinguishes three roots spelled brk, allotting two cases in which the verb is defined as "be strong" to its second root (Psalm 147:13 and Deuteronomy 29: 18, which is misprinted as 19:18) and the three cases in which brk means "kneel" to its third root [DCH, 272b-273a; DCH, 272a]. There is, however, no necessity of such distinctions in etymon. Thus, the Hebrew and English Lexicon treats also these latter five instances as expressions of one and the same root [138b-139b]. The Arabic cognate likewise includes both kneeling and blessing within its integral semantic range [TWOT, I, 132a].

Of the 332 instances, then, of brk in Biblical Hebrew some two thirds of the total are forms of the piel (Oswalt numbering them as 214 [TWOT, I, 132a], while the Hebrew and English Lexicon stipulates 233 [BDB, 138b] and the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon 235 [KBR, 160a]. A sizable majority of the others consists in some seventy-one qal passive participles such as we have here [BDB, 138b]. There remain but one occurrence of the hiphil, three of the niphal (although of considerable importance, in Genesis 12:3, 18:18, and 28:14), twelve of the pual, and seven of the hithpael [BDB, 139a-b]. The only forms of the qal aside from the widely used passive participle are the two cases in which the meaning is "kneel" (Psalm 95:6 and 2 Chronicles 6:13). The single hiphil is the only remaining example of the significance of brk as "kneel" (Genesis 24:11).

There is a reasonable connection between the ideas of kneeling and blessing which combine in brk. For one kneels to bless God, and one kneels to receive blessings from God and others in a position of superiority. Thus, the Hebrew and English Lexicon joins "adore with bended knee" to the general significance of blessing God. One may assume, therefore, that the original conception of brk was giving someone something in connection with kneeling. Men give God praise as they kneel before Him, and men receive goodness from Him before whom they kneel. When men call others "blessed" or bless them, they recognize them as recipients of the goodness of God, or they actually relay His goodness to others by His authority. In Holy Scripture God alone is the source of all blessing.

8. Yea, he has come to be like a tree

transplanted upon waters;

Even as upon a stream it sends out its roots.

For he fears not when heat comes,

For his leaf shall be green;

Even as in the year of drought he is not anxious,

For he will not cease from producing fruit.

This verse represents an elaboration on the third verse of Psalm 1. The prefatory psalm is speaking, like Jeremiah, of the blessedness of the godly man (even if its verse 1 begins with 'ashrey instead of barukh):

Yea, he has come to be like a tree

transplanted upon streams of waters

Which gives its fruit in its time;

Nay, its leaf fades not;

For all that he does he makes prosper.

This verse has already, indeed, served, by way of the reverse, as the basis of the preceding analogy, in verse 6, of the ungodly man with a dessicate shrub of the desert. Here, in verse 8, the first five words come directly from Psalm 1:3, as do the following references to "leaf" or foliage ('aleh) and "fruit" (peri).

The idea of the verse is that the blessedness of the man who has faith in the One True God consists in his continual sustenance by God through His means of grace (His word and sacraments). By virtue of this unceasing reception of divine grace, the man of faith is able to lead a life of continual sanctification despite all the sufferings which he may have to endure in this world on the meantime. The depiction of such hardships as "heat" and "drought" harks back to the calamitous occasion of the whole subsection of the Book of Jeremiah in which the benediction now before us figures (14: 1-6).

The word "transplanted" in the translation above renders the qal passive participle of shthl [BDB, 1060a]. Its derivative shathil means a "transplanted shoot" in Psalm 128:3 [BDB, 1060a]. The verb, too, which occurs but ten times in the Old Testament (always in the qal), consistently concerns the transplanting of trees or vines or shoots thereof. In addition to its place in Psalm 1, its use in Psalm 92 (14 MT, 13 EV) would probably also have been well-known to the contemporaries of Jeremiah. Ezekiel, at any rate, his prophetic contemporary, makes considerable use of the word, specifically in chapters 17 (in verses 8, 10, and 22-23) and 19 (in verses 10 and 13) [H.J. Austel, TWOT, II, 2478a-b]. The use of shathul, therefore, emphasizes the basis of the life of faith in the monergistic work of God. He alone creates in men saving faith in the salvation which has been won for all by the vicarious self-sacrifice of the Messiah.