The people had asked (Jer. 16:10), What is our iniquity, and what is our sin? as if they could not be charged with any thing worth speaking of, for which God should enter into judgment with them; their challenge was answered there, but here we have a further reply to it, in which,
I. The indictment is fully proved upon the prisoners, both the fact and the fault; their sin is too plain to be denied and too bad to be excused, and they have nothing to plead either in extenuation of the crime or in arrest and mitigation of the judgment. 1. They cannot plead, Not guilty, for their sins are upon record in the book of God’s omniscience and their own conscience; nay, and they are obvious to the eye and observation of the world, Jer. 17:1, 2. They are written before God in the most legible and indelible characters, and sealed among his treasures, never to be forgotten, Deut. 32:34. They are written there with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond; what is so written will not be worn out by time, but is, as Job speaks, graven in the rock for ever. Note, The sin of sinners is never forgotten till it is forgiven. It is ever before God, till by repentance it comes to be ever before us. It is graven upon the table of their heart; their own consciences witness against them, and are instead of a thousand witnesses. What is graven on the heart, though it may be covered and closed up for a time, yet, being graven, it cannot be erased, but will be produced in evidence when the books shall be opened. Nay, we need not appeal to the tables of the heart, perhaps they will not own the convictions of their consciences. We need go no further, for proof of the charge, than the horns of their altars, on which the blood of their idolatrous sacrifices was sprinkled, and perhaps the names of the idols to whose honour they were erected were inscribed. Their neighbours will witness against them, and all the creatures they have abused by using them in the service of their lusts. To complete the evidence, their own children shall be witnesses against them; they will tell truth when their fathers dissemble and prevaricate; they remember the altars and the groves to which their parents took them when they were little, Jer. 17:2. It appears that they were full of them, and acquainted with them betimes, they talked of them so frequently, so familiarly, and with so much delight. 2. They cannot plead that they repent, or are brought to a better mind. No, as the guilt of their sin is undeniable, so their inclination to sin is invincible and incurable. In this sense many understand Jer. 17:1, 2. Their sin is deeply engraven as with a pen of iron in the tables of their hearts. They have a rooted affection to it; it is woven into their very nature; their sin is dear to them, as that is dear to us of which we say, It is engraven on our hearts. The bias of their minds is still as strong as ever towards their idols, and they are not wrought upon either by the word or rod of God to forget them and abate their affection to them. It is written upon the horns of their altars, for they have given up their names to their idols and resolve to abide by what they have done; they have bound themselves, as with cords, to the horns of their altars. And Jer. 17:2 may be read fully to this sense: As they remember their children, so remember they their altars and their groves; they are as fond of them and take as much pleasure in them as men do in their own children, and are as loth to part with them; they will live and die with their idols, and can no more forget them than a woman can forget her sucking child.
II. The indictment being thus fully proved, the judgment is affirmed and the sentence ratified, Jer. 17:3, 4. Forasmuch as they are thus wedded to their sins, and will not part with them, 1. They shall be made to part with their treasures, and those shall be given into the hands of strangers. Jerusalem is God’s mountain in the field; it was built on a hill in the midst of a plain. All the treasures of that wealthy city will God give to the spoil. Or, My mountains with the fields, thy wealth and all thy treasures will I expose to spoil; both the products of the country and the stores of the city shall be seized by the Chaldeans. Justly are men stripped of that which they have served their idols with and have made the food and the fuel of their lusts. My mountain (so the whole land was, Ps. 78:54; Deut. 11:11) you have turned into your high places for sin, have worshipped your idols upon the high hills (Jer. 17:2), and now they shall be give for a spoil in all your borders. What we make for a sin God will make for a spoil; for what comfort can we expect in that wherewith God is dishonoured? 2. They shall be made to part with their inheritance, and shall be carried captives into a strange land (Jer. 17:4): Thou, even thyself (or thou thyself and those that are in thee, all the inhabitants), shall discontinue from thy heritage that I gave thee. God owns that it was their heritage, and that he gave it to them; they had an unquestionable title to it, which was an aggravation of their folly in throwing themselves out of the possession of it. It is through thyself (so some read it), through thy own default, that thou art disseised. Thou shalt discontinue, or intermit, the occupation of thy land. The law appointed them to let their land rest (it is the word here used) one year in seven, Exod. 23:11. They did not observe that law, and now God would compel them to let it rest (the land shall enjoy her sabbaths, Lev. 26:34); and yet it shall be not rest to them; they shall serve their enemies in a land they know not. Observe, (1.) Sin works a discontinuance of our comforts and deprives us of the enjoyment of that which God has given us. Yet, (2.) A discontinuance of the possession is not a defeasance of the right, but it is intimated that upon their repentance they shall recover possession again. For the present, you have kindled a fire in my anger, which burns so fiercely that it seems as if it would burn for ever; and so it will unless you repent, for it is the anger of an everlasting God fastening upon the immortal souls, and who knows the power of that anger?