jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and without remedy. who can understand it?”
explanation and commentary on jeremiah 17:9
A person’s heart can be corrupt, or it can be good and useful, depending on what has been put into it, and if it is being guided by the truth. human beings are created in the image of god with the faculty of reason. in the fallen world, with fallen flesh, ruled by the prince of darkness, being guided by the heart by default is beyond foolish.
The heart is a conglomeration of what has been put into it, and part of the discipleship process to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the will of God, his will, his good, pleasing and perfect” (ro 12:2). by renewing the mind, the heart is cleansed of evil and falsehood and filled with truth. one way to be carried away by the deceitful heart is not to give energy to seek the kingdom of god and his justice. to seek the kingdom is to consider the godliness of one’s thoughts and actions, refraining from those that are not of god, and devoting oneself to those that are. in this way, the heart will become a useful tool. emotions will serve the believer instead of leading the believer to foolishness.
god promises through the prophet ezekiel to give a new heart, a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone (ez 36:26), and says that he will write his laws on our hearts (jer 31:33) so that let us know him and follow his ways. if it weren’t for god’s intervention, then the heart would be beyond cure.
breakdown of the key parts of jeremiah 17:9
#1 “the heart…” this can refer to many things, but in this context, it is the seat of the soul, emotions, and desires.
#2 “…is more deceitful than all things…” To be led by the heart is to be led by lust or emotionalism. in the relationship between the heart and the mind, particularly the renewed mind, it is the mind that must guide the heart. as a follower, the heart is useful and adds to the richness of life. emotions are a good thing if they are put in their rightful place. they can be a true reflection of what is happening. the rightly guided heart can enrich love, joy, godly sorrow, and any other emotion in its proper context. but if it is allowed to lead an unregenerate mind, or even a renewed but lazy mind, it will lead to folly or sin.
#3 “…and without cure.” this is true for the heart aside from god’s intervention. but god will give a new heart and write his laws on it through the process of salvation and sanctification.
#4 “who can understand it?” understanding the physical anatomy and function of the organ that is the human heart is infinitely easier than understanding the spiritual/emotional aspects. Theologians and human behaviorists struggle to understand it, but God, who designed it all, understands perfectly and has found a way to cleanse even the most deceitful hearts through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ.
jeremiah expert summary
biblical translations of jeremiah 17:9
nvi the heart is deceitful above all things and without remedy. who can understand?
nlt the human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. who really knows how bad it is?
esv the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand?
rvr the heart is more than all things deceitful, and wicked in the extreme; who will know?
nkjv deceitful is the heart above all things, and desperately wicked; who can tell?