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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 17:11

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 27, 2014

11 Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
      are those who make a fortune unjustly.
Midway through life the fortune will be lost
  and in the end, they will be fools.

Every Medieval reference to the partridge that I have been able to find quotes or assumes knowledge of this passage. The proverb Jeremiah cites here refers to the qore’, a species of partridge. The partridge (famous from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) is related to birds like the grouse and the pheasant. The chukar or rock partridge was a game bird favored in Palestine in Biblical times. 1 Samuel 26:20 mentions a partridge “in the mountains,” but this is probably a different bird, the sand partridge common to the desert of En Gedi. The henna bush (Song of Solomon 1:14) produces a small fruit filled with seeds favored by partridges.

Jeremiah seems to be using a non-Biblical proverb that was known among the Jews, that a partridge hatched the (stolen?) eggs of other birds—but that the chicks would run back to their real mothers after hatching. Although stealing eggs has not (as far as I know) been observed in modern times, the saying might have come from the strange behavior of the chukar partridge. The female often lays two clutches of eggs, one for the male to sit on, but when the chicks hatch they usually go back to the hen and do not stay with the rooster. Note that Jeremiah does not say that the partridge stole the eggs. This was a medieval interpretation of the passage.

Jeremiah applies this the same way Solomon does, that “a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22). The Lord will give to his people what they need, and even if an unbeliever tries to hide his wealth, the Lord knows about it and might use it anyway. This is what happened to the great wealth of the Egyptians when Israel left Egypt in the exodus. They plundered the Egyptians—and the Egyptians actually gave away their belongings to the Israelites when they left (Exodus 12:36).

Whatever the Lord has given to you, be thankful for it. Appreciate the gifts you have and use them to God’s glory. But most of all, appreciate the gospel of Jesus’ forgiveness. That’s a fortune that will never be lost, because you keep it treasured up in the vault of your heart.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.