The Books of Life │ Expository Bible Studies │ Christ Assembly

Book of Turning Away

In Jeremiah 17:13, 1See page 1211 of the Study Bible. we read about the people of Judah turning away from the LORD. 2See also Jeremiah 2:13, page 1178 about the two errors of Israel: (1) they have forsaken the fountain of living waters; and (2) they have hewn out broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Daniel 12:1, Page 1411

“O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You ill be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the foundation of living water, even the LORD.

God proclaimed that the sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus; with a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart and on the horns of their altars. 3See Jeremiah 17:1, page 1210 of the Study Bible. God described the effect of Judah’s idolatry upon their hearts and their idolatrous altars of worship. The people of Judah had become utterly corrupt. Their hearts were so hardened that it took an iron stylus with a diamond point to engrave those stony hearts. God then confronted Jeremiah and spoke to him concerning human hearts. God declared the heart more deceitful than all else and desperately wicked; who can understand it? 4See Jeremiah 17:9, pages 1210-1211 of the Study Bible. Jeremiah then responded to God and recognized the LORD on His glorious throne on high from the beginning. In Him alone resides the hope of Israel. Yet, all who forsake the LORD will be put to shame. 5The Hebrew phrase “who forsake You will be put to shame” (“ כָּל-עֹזְבֶיךָ יֵבֹשׁוּ; יסורי”) refers to: (1) the date when people were forsaking the LORD; and (2) a later date when the idolaters will be put to shame. Likewise, those same people were presently turning away on earth from the LORD“ (I understand that placing time restraints upon individual verbs in Hebrew may be problematic. In this case, the verb “they will be put to shame” (“שוֹ בֵי”) occurs as a Qal imperfect. As an imperfect, in this context it apparently refers to a future event. The juxtaposition of perfect with imperfect forms in this verse distinguishes present events from future events. They will be put to shame in the future, but not necessarily at the moment they forsake or turn away from the LORD. Likewise, the verb “they shall be written” (“יִכָּתֵבוּ“) also occurs as a Niphal imperfect, indicating that, in the future, their names will be written down, because they have turned away from the LORD, and in the future they will be put to shame. So, the order of events appears to be: (1) the people committed idolatry; (2) they forsook and turned away from the LORD; (3) their names will be written down; and (4) they will be put to shame. Psalm 69:28, page 921, also has the same Hebrews word for “written” (“בוֵ תָ כִ י“). In Psalm 69:28, the Hebrews Niphal form has a jussive force, indicating that the Psalmist does not want the names of the wicked recorded with the righteous. I pondered whether Jeremiah 17:13 referred back to writing upon the hearts of the people in Jeremiah 17:1. I noticed that Jeremiah 17:13 referred to writing down “names,” and not “sins.” 6Psalm 69:28, page 921, also has the same Hebrew word for “written” (“אַל-יִכָּתֵבוּ“–not written”) concerning a book. In Pslam 69:28, the Hebrew Niphal form has a jussive force, indicating that David, the Psalmist, does not want the names of the wicked recorded with the righteous. The names of the wicked shall be blotted out of the book of life. Psalm 69:28 supports the interpretation that a separate book is in view in Jeremiah 17:13 because the same Niphal verb is used in both places. So, rather than a reflexive meaning of the Niphal (written by themselves or in their own hearts) in Jeremiah 17:3, it seems better to go with a meaning of writing in a book, as described in Psalm 69:28. In Jeremiah 17:1, the “sins” of the people of Judah were written upon their hearts and their altars. In Jeremiah 17:13, God wrote down the “names” of the people who turn away from the LORD. Therefore, I concluded that God wrote a book containing the names of the people who turn away from the LORD, the fountain of living water. I also noticed in Jeremiah 17:13 that the people who forsook and turned away on earth 7The Hebrew term “on earth” (“בָּאָרֶץ“)may be taken to mean that their names were written in the earth (loose soil), but it seems better to me to take the word to mean they forsook the LORD while living on the earth (or in the land of Judah). Symbolically, he referred to their earthly lifetimes. The term occurs in the Hebrew text of Jeremiah 17:13 between the term for “turned away” and “will be written down.” Jeremiah used the same term “on earth” (“בָּאָרֶץ“) to describe not only the land of Benjamin in Judah, but also the desert in Jeremiah 2:6 and the land of exile in Jeremiah 17:4; Jeremiah used the term “in the land” (“בָּאָרֶץ”) more than sixty times, and only in Jeremiah 32:41 does that term seem to mean that God planted the people in the land, perhaps like you would plant a tree. All other uses in Jeremiah seem to support the meaning of describing a geographical place, where people lived or could walk upon the land. Also in Jeremiah 17:1, Jeremiah described writing “upon” (“עַל-לוּחַ“)the tablet of the heart, not “in” the tablet of the heart (see Deuteronomy 6:6, “upon their heart” (“עַל-לְבָבֶךָ“).  Therefore, I prefer the meaning of “on earth” to describe the entire realm of the earth, and to emphasize that these people were living upon the earth at that time, although I understand the primary referent in Jeremiah 17:13 must be the people of God living in Jerusalem and Judah. from the LORD opposed those people, like Jeremiah, who called upon the LORD to heal them and save them. The people who turned away from the LORD said to Jeremiah: “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come now!” Jeremiah prayed that his opponents would be put to shame and dismayed and finally destroyed. Therefore, I concluded further that those who turn away from the LORD are not merely people backsliding for just a while, but they adamantly oppose everyone who seeks healing and salvation from the LORD and deserve eternal destruction. The opponents love their idolatry. God writes down the names of people who forsake Him and turn away from Him, the fountain of living waters.

Book of Turning Away–Summary

1. Forsake the LORD, Turn Away. The defining characteristic of the people written in this Book of Turning Away is that they have forsaken the LORD and turned away from the LORD.
2. Written Down. The Book of Turning Away will be written down at the time (or later) people turn away from the LORD.
3. Content. The Book of Turning Away contains a complete record of all the people who have turned away from the LORD on earth, and forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. This book lists the names of the people of Judah who forsook the LORD during the days of Jeremiah, and perhaps the names of all people on earth who have forsaken the LORD.
3. Book of Turing Away Contrasted. The Book of the Living contains the names of everyone alive on earth at any given time. The Book of Turning Away was written down as (or after) each person turned away from the LORD. So, we know that this Book of Days could not be the same book as the Book of the Turning Away because they were written at different times. Furthermore, the Book of the Living concerns blotting out names and removing names from the Book of the Living. In contrast, the names of people are added to the Book of the Turning Away at or after they fully and finally turn away from God (see the contrast to the names of the righteous added to the Book of the Righteous). Although the Book of the Living bears similarities to the Book of Turning Away, they are not the same. God blots out from the Book of the Living the names of each person who sins, and then that person’s life on earth ends in death. The Book of Turning Away does not indicate that each person turning away immediately died. Of course, their destruction was not far away with the invading army coming soon.

References │ Page Numbers Below Footnotes   [ + ]

1. See page 1211 of the Study Bible.
2. See also Jeremiah 2:13, page 1178 about the two errors of Israel: (1) they have forsaken the fountain of living waters; and (2) they have hewn out broken cisterns that can hold no water.
3. See Jeremiah 17:1, page 1210 of the Study Bible.
4. See Jeremiah 17:9, pages 1210-1211 of the Study Bible.
5. The Hebrew phrase “who forsake You will be put to shame” (“ כָּל-עֹזְבֶיךָ יֵבֹשׁוּ; יסורי”) refers to: (1) the date when people were forsaking the LORD; and (2) a later date when the idolaters will be put to shame. Likewise, those same people were presently turning away on earth from the LORD“ (I understand that placing time restraints upon individual verbs in Hebrew may be problematic. In this case, the verb “they will be put to shame” (“שוֹ בֵי”) occurs as a Qal imperfect. As an imperfect, in this context it apparently refers to a future event. The juxtaposition of perfect with imperfect forms in this verse distinguishes present events from future events. They will be put to shame in the future, but not necessarily at the moment they forsake or turn away from the LORD. Likewise, the verb “they shall be written” (“יִכָּתֵבוּ“) also occurs as a Niphal imperfect, indicating that, in the future, their names will be written down, because they have turned away from the LORD, and in the future they will be put to shame. So, the order of events appears to be: (1) the people committed idolatry; (2) they forsook and turned away from the LORD; (3) their names will be written down; and (4) they will be put to shame. Psalm 69:28, page 921, also has the same Hebrews word for “written” (“בוֵ תָ כִ י“). In Psalm 69:28, the Hebrews Niphal form has a jussive force, indicating that the Psalmist does not want the names of the wicked recorded with the righteous.
6. Psalm 69:28, page 921, also has the same Hebrew word for “written” (“אַל-יִכָּתֵבוּ“–not written”) concerning a book. In Pslam 69:28, the Hebrew Niphal form has a jussive force, indicating that David, the Psalmist, does not want the names of the wicked recorded with the righteous. The names of the wicked shall be blotted out of the book of life. Psalm 69:28 supports the interpretation that a separate book is in view in Jeremiah 17:13 because the same Niphal verb is used in both places. So, rather than a reflexive meaning of the Niphal (written by themselves or in their own hearts) in Jeremiah 17:3, it seems better to go with a meaning of writing in a book, as described in Psalm 69:28.
7. The Hebrew term “on earth” (“בָּאָרֶץ“)may be taken to mean that their names were written in the earth (loose soil), but it seems better to me to take the word to mean they forsook the LORD while living on the earth (or in the land of Judah). Symbolically, he referred to their earthly lifetimes. The term occurs in the Hebrew text of Jeremiah 17:13 between the term for “turned away” and “will be written down.” Jeremiah used the same term “on earth” (“בָּאָרֶץ“) to describe not only the land of Benjamin in Judah, but also the desert in Jeremiah 2:6 and the land of exile in Jeremiah 17:4; Jeremiah used the term “in the land” (“בָּאָרֶץ”) more than sixty times, and only in Jeremiah 32:41 does that term seem to mean that God planted the people in the land, perhaps like you would plant a tree. All other uses in Jeremiah seem to support the meaning of describing a geographical place, where people lived or could walk upon the land. Also in Jeremiah 17:1, Jeremiah described writing “upon” (“עַל-לוּחַ“)the tablet of the heart, not “in” the tablet of the heart (see Deuteronomy 6:6, “upon their heart” (“עַל-לְבָבֶךָ“).  Therefore, I prefer the meaning of “on earth” to describe the entire realm of the earth, and to emphasize that these people were living upon the earth at that time, although I understand the primary referent in Jeremiah 17:13 must be the people of God living in Jerusalem and Judah.