Updated: Jun 19, 2020
As I was spending time with God this morning reading through Jeremiah, a verse stuck out to me that reminded me of a story recorded in John's Gospel. Jeremiah writes this:
"Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water."
Written in the dust? That sounds awfully familiar to what John records in his Gospel. John is describing an event where the Pharisees are trying to have a woman caught in adultery murdered. John writes this:
"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground."
I have always been fascinated by the story written in John 8. I have often wondered what Jesus bent over to write on the ground. So when I stumbled over the verse in Jeremiah this morning, I was encouraged to continue searching. So, if you love theology, this blog is for you. It will be longer than normal, and many may find it boring, but for those of you that enjoy digging deeper, I hope you enjoy this.
1) It must be noted that most ancient manuscripts of the Scriptures do not include John 7:53-John 8:11. Does this discredit the story found in John 8 then? Absolutely not. Even if the story never happened, the content aligns with how Jesus lived and how Jesus encourages us to live. Love our God, and Love our neighbor.
2) Nobody is 100% certain what Jesus wrote on the ground that day, but many believe something along these lines: The names of the Pharisees that were present that day, a list of sins that the individuals had committed that were begging Jesus to stone the woman, a list of the virtues of God, commands to love others and let God be the judge. I have always believed that Jesus wrote down the sins of the Pharisees as a visual comparison for them to understand that we are all fallen and in desperate need of grace... until I read Jeremiah 17:13.
3) Jeremiah 17:13 has many different translations. I will list a few of them below:
NIV: All who turn away from Me will be written in the dirt
NLT: They will be buried in the dust of the earth
CSB: All who turn away from me will be written in the dirt
ESV: Those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth
KJV: They that depart from me shall be written in the earth
NASB: Those who turn away on earth will be written down
NRSV: Those who turn away from you shall be recorded in the underworld
The Hebrew word used for "will be written down" is kathab. Kathab means to write, inscribe, or engrave. So something permanent is happening here. Jeremiah is warning Israel and Judah that turning away from God will have eternal consequences. I think it is also fascinating to note that Genesis records that God created humanity from the dust of the ground (see Genesis 2:7). While it is not the same Hebrew word used when describing the ground that is used in Jeremiah (Genesis uses aphar which means dry earth, dust, powder, ashes), it is still a powerful connection that while we were created from dust, that is not where we shall stay, unless we turn away from God (as noted in Jeremiah 17:13).
4) Lastly, the Pharisees would have been experts in the Hebrew Scriptures. They knew the Hebrew Bible backwards and would spend hours memorizing and studying the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). So as soon as they saw Jesus using any form of imagery to make a point, they were fully engaged. The Hebrew bible uses imagery, poetry, nature, and song to snatch our attention and draw us in. As soon as the Pharisees saw Jesus using the ground, their focus was on Him. Also, if Jesus was referencing a passage from Jeremiah, they would have instantly made the connection.
All of this to say, I believe Jesus was writing down the names of the Pharisees when He bent over to write in the ground. I believe that Jesus was letting the Pharisees know that Jeremiah's words were True. Those that choose to turn away from God will be permanently written down in the eyes of the Father. Those that look to condemn others will be condemned themselves. Those that refuse to love thy neighbor will be forgotten in the Kingdom of God. And because the Pharisees understood the connection Jesus was making and did not want to be permanently forgotten, one by one they dropped their stone (added for emphasis) and left the woman at the feet of Jesus.
So, I pass the question off to you. Are you willing to drop your stone for the sake of the Kingdom?
Commentary by A.R. Fausset
Various Bible Translations