1. The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars.
1. Peccatum (vel scelus) Jehudah scripture est in stylo ferri (ferreo) et in ungue adamantino, exaratum super tabulam cordis eorum et ad cornua altarium vestrorum.
The Prophet teaches us here in other words what we have often already seen, -- that the Jews in vain sought refuges, for their sin had so much accumulated that it was very apparent. It indeed often happens, that men fall; but God, who is ever inclined to mercy, forgives them; and they are also often led astray through levity, and thus their sins are not engraven on their hearts. But Jeremiah says, that nothing remained for that nation but to be entirely swept away, because their iniquity was past recovery. Had they been lightly besprinkled with vices, there might have been still a remedy for them; but when their iniquities were engraven on their hearts, on their marrow and bones, what more remained for them? He had said before,
"Can the Ethiop change his skin?" (Jeremiah 13:23)
though the Ethiop may change his skin, and also the panther, yet thou art still like thyself. They had so completely imbibed a contempt for God, and also perverseness, that they could not by any means be restored to a right mind. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet in this passage.
He says that the sin of Judah was written with an iron pen, with the point of adamant; as though he had said, "They are not only slightly imbued with iniquity, for then there might be some healing; but iniquity is engraven on their inmost feelings, as though one had graven it with adamant or with an iron pen." It hence appears, that they were wholly unworthy of pardon, as they were in no way capable of receiving mercy, how much soever God might have been inclined to receive them into favor; for their obstinacy had closed the way of salvation; nor could they apply to themselves the promises, for they require repentance in sinners.
He then adds, It is graven on the table of their heart; as though he had said, that they were so addicted to iniquity, that all their inward parts bore the impressions of it. It hence follows that the Jews were so proved to be guilty, that they in vain contrived evasions, for their own conscience condemned them. At the same time, I consider the Prophet as speaking not only of guilt, but also of sin itself, and of their propensity to evil. He means then that the Jews had not only sinned and transgressed God's law in a way not common, but that they were also so given up to wickedness as to delight in the iniquity that was graven on their hearts. He calls by a metaphor the affections or feelings the tables of the heart: For he compares the heart to tables; as writing appears when cut in stone or brass, so when a sinful impression is made on the hearts of men, iniquity itself may be said to be graven on the tables of the heart.
He afterwards adds, And on the horns of your altars. He had spoken of the heart, he now proceeds farther, -- that there appeared openly an evidence of hidden iniquity. Had he spoken only of their hearts, the Jews might have objected and said, "How canst thou penetrate into our hearts? Art thou God, to examine and try our inward emotions?" But the Prophet adds, that their iniquity was sufficiently known by their altars. He at the same time intimates, that they in vain alleged the name of religion; for under that pretense they especially sinned against God; for they had vitiated his pure worship. And to confirm this very thing he adds --