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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 45

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-5

VIII

THE LIFE OF JEREMIAH DURING THE LATTER HALF OF THE REIGN OF JEHOIAKIM

Jeremiah 18-20; 22-23, 25; 35-36; 45

We have already described some of the events that occurred during the reign of Jehoiakim and this period, but we group them together in this chapter and discuss them more in detail. These prophecies may have been written by Baruch at the time they were uttered or at Jeremiah’s dictation. Some of them may have been written later and one of them was doubtless written by Jeremiah himself. They comprise the chapters given at the head of this chapter. We shall take them up in the order there given. It is quite probable that some of these prophecies and events occurred a little subsequent to 604 B.C., or after the roll was written and then burned by the king. We cannot fix with any certainty the events of Jeremiah’s life in chronological order. The chapters of this book are grouped with no regard to the order of events in the life of the prophet. In fact, the book makes no claim whatever to be a biography.


We have here in these chapters some lessons from the potter, the prophet’s message to the kings, the princes, the priests, and the shepherds of Israel, as well as the prophets of Judah; prophecies against the neighboring nations; the incident of the writing and the reading of the roll of prophecy; and admonitions to Baruch, his scribe.


We have the story of the potter in Jeremiah 18:1-4. Jeremiah had been preaching about twenty years and had used, as we have seen, a great many illustrations, a great many figures to make forceful his teachings and illustrate them, so that they would show the workings of divine providence in Israel. One day when he was sitting in the city meditating as to what he should say to the people, what he should use as an illustration so that they would feel the weight of their doom and rejection, suddenly an inspiration comes to him to go down into the lower part of the city from where he was sitting, down into the valley, the valley between Zion and Mount Moriah, called the Tyroean valley, or it may have been the valley of Hinnom. So he goes down and notices a potter sitting at his work. While he watches him, there leaps into his mind and heart a great idea, and he draws an illustration from the potter and his works. In this he is like Jesus who drew many of his illustrations from the common things of life and the affairs of men about him.


Jeremiah watched the potter. He saw him place a lump of clay on his wheel and with his deft fingers begin to mold and fashion it into a piece of pottery, and while he is attempting to fashion it into a beautiful piece, it crumbles and goes to pieces. It would not respond to his treatment. It was too crude for the fine purpose he had in mind, and so it crumbled and fell. It would not adjust itself to the ideal of the potter, and so he could not make the vase he had intended. He did not throw it away but picked it up again and began to mold it into another pattern not so beautiful or fine. He made this one but it was a poorer grade, a more common piece of pottery. We find this recorded in Jeremiah 18:1-4.


In the application (Jeremiah 18:5-12) Jeremiah brings before our minds one of the most beautiful lessons, illustrating divine sovereignty and human freedom, to be found in the Bible. The application shows the relation of the human will to the movement of divine power. He says, Jeremiah 18:6, “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith Jehovah. Behold, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel." That is a weighty expression; that nations are clay in God’s hand, as individuals are; the world is but a lump of clay in God’s hands to be fashioned as he wills. "As the clay is in the potter’s hands, so are ye in my hand." He goes on to explain the import of that truth: "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it [that was the mission of Jeremiah to the nation of Israel and to the surrounding nations] ; if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."


This brings us face to face with a great truth in human life; a great fact that must be considered in order to understand the mysteries of divine providence. We can apply the truth to ourselves and ought to do so. It is a statement that in the event that a nation changes its conduct, or repents, God changes his attitude, not that he changes his will, but that he wills to change. Repentance in the main is a change of the will, that is, repentance in man is a change of the mind, or will, but repentance in God is the will to change. So God changes his attitude toward men when they repent. That is the way it is with the potter; he wills to fashion the clay according to his plan, but when it will not adjust itself to his ideal, then he changes his plan and fashions it as best he may. The idea is this, if the potter cannot make the best kind of a vessel out of the clay, he will do the next best thing. How mightily this truth applies to individuals. He uses the materials we give him. He does the best he can to train us as we submit to his leading. Thus, this principle, as illustrated by the potter and his clay, applies to us in our daily lives. It is only as we are pliable that God can work with us and through us.


In Jeremiah 18:10 he says, "If they do that which is evil in my sight then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them." Now, that is the same idea as set forth in repenting and not doing evil. If we change, he will, in harmony with his changelessness, change, too. He will do with us as we do with him. Jonah said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed." That was God’s prophecy concerning that wicked city. After all that threatening, God did not do it because they repented, and Jonah was angry and disappointed. He wanted the city to be destroyed. The city repented, and then God repented, too, and thus the change was in the city and in God. Here in Jeremiah 18:11 he says, "Behold I frame evil against you; return every one from his evil ways."


Then in Jeremiah 18:14 he draws lessons from nature. He shows how constant nature is. He says, "Shall the snow of Lebanon fail from the rock of the field? or shall the cold waters that flow down from afar be dried up?" He fixes his eyes on the snow-capped Lebanons or Hermon, and he sees that the snows are there perpetual according to the laws of nature. That snow as it melts is the source of the rivers of Damascus and the winding Jordan and they never dry up. Their source is stable; it faileth not. These streams run perpetually. He says in verse Jeremiah 18:15: "My people have forgotten me, they have burned incense to false gods; they have been made to stumble in their ways." They are unstable but nature is not, and God is not, and thus he describes their defection from him.


As a result of this preaching the people begin to devise plans for taking Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:18). They decide that his preaching must stop. They must get rid of him. They concocted a scheme against him once before and he was saved from their trap. Now they concoct another scheme. They said, "Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for [even though he be dead] the law shall not perish from the priests, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words." Now what is the use of listening to this preacher of calamity? We have the law. We will not lose the book of wisdom. We will always have these with us. Then Jeremiah begins to pray to the Lord to punish these plotters, verses Jeremiah 18:19-20: "Give heed to me, O Lord, . . . Shall evil be recompensed for good? Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them," and now they plan to kill me.


He had been standing there and preaching the truth to these men and now he fears the Lord is going to let them kill him. He says, "I have tried to help them. I would give my life to save them. And now this is what they are doing." He prays that God will punish them; that he will give them over to the sword and destroy their children. "Let their women become childless." Now, was that an expression of mere bitterness? No! It was not mere human anger; it was a deep sense of outraged justice. Verse Jeremiah 18:23: "Jehovah, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me; forgive not their iniquities, neither blot out their sin from thy sight." That reminds us of Psalm 109. It seems contrary to the spirit of Christ, yet it reminds one of the spirit of Jesus when he says to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?"


We have here another lesson from the potter (Jeremiah 19:1-13). Jeremiah is told to go and buy an earthen bottle made also by a potter. He bought it. We do not know what sort; it may have been a good one. Then the Lord said, "Take of the elders of the people, and of the elders of the priests; and go forth into the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate of Harsith, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee." That place was just outside the walls of the city, the place where the rubbish was thrown, perhaps where the potters and their factories were. Now, go down there, Jeremiah, with that vessel.


This is what he was to say: "Hear ye the word of Jehovah, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; . . . Behold, I will bring evil upon this place." Then he goes on to give the reasons. They had worshiped idols continually. They had done evil repeatedly. "This place," as a result, "shall no longer be called the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the place of slaughter." Verse Jeremiah 19:8: "I will make this city an astonishment, and a hissing." Destruction shall come. "Every one that passeth by shall be astonished and hiss and they shall eat the flesh of their children." Then he took the elders and the priests and in their presence he broke the bottle to pieces. Then he said, "As I have broken this bottle, so will Jehovah break in pieces this city, so that it cannot be put together again." The lesson is seen in Jeremiah 19:11: "It cannot be made whole again." As that bottle is destroyed forever, so will I destroy this nation and I will destroy it forever, as far as human power is concerned.


Immediately after this incident Jeremiah comes back to the Temple and repeats the warning he had given, to the elders and the priests: "I stood in the courts of the Lord’s house and said to all the people, I will bring upon this city and this people all the evils that I have pronounced against them, because they have made their necks stiff that they hear not my words." There are no people on earth so sure of doom as those who have simply made up their minds that they will not hear. These are they who are deaf by choice. These people had gone so far that they would not even listen. Of course, then, they could not hear. Even now sometimes people simply make up their minds that they will not hear and there is no hope for them.


Pashhur was the chief officer in the Temple. He was himself a prophet but a false one. He heard the words of Jeremiah and noted that threat. It enraged him. He set upon Jeremiah and struck him and put him in the stocks, till the following day. His smiting probably refers to whipping on the soles of his feet with the bastinado. He then put him in the stocks. His hands and feet put through openings in planks, he is forced into a stooping position. His head perhaps was put through a wooden stock or pillory. This is the first physical violence that Jeremiah had suffered.


"Then said Jeremiah unto him, the Lord hath not called thee Pashur, but Magor-missabib." "Pashur" means a man in quietness or peace, and "Magor-missabib" means terror all around. Mr. Pashur, your name must be changed. You are going to be a terror to yourself. That is your fate. Thy friends shall fall by the sword and thine eyes shall behold it. "For thus saith Jehovah, I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon and he shall carry them captive to Babylon and shall slay them with the sword. I will give them the treasures of the Temple and this city. This shall happen to you and your friends who prophesy falsely." And so they did. Very soon Mr. Pashur was taken captive to Babylon and died, surrounded by terrors. The rest of this chapter contains Jeremiah’s lamentation. We studied this in the chapter on "The Life and Character of Jeremiah." I called attention to that section where Jeremiah cursed the day in which he was born. He accused God of alluring him into prophesying and then deserting him. Then God led him step by step out of his despondency and up to the plane of praise and joy.


About this time, when Jeremiah was at liberty, a great many enemies had overrun the land of Palestine and the people had flocked to Jerusalem for protection. Among this host came the Rechabites. When Jehu was carrying on his revolution he met Jonadab who had founded this order, or sect, of the Rechabites and invited him into his chariot. They were noted for three things: They vowed not to live in houses; to have no vineyards; and to drink no wine forever. This class of people took refuge in Jerusalem; Jeremiah goes to these Rechabites, takes their leaders into the Temple and sets bottles of wine before them.


Note Jeremiah 35:3 (Jeremiah writes, this himself): "Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, . . . and I brought them into the house of Jehovah." He goes on: "And I set before the sons of the Rechabites bowls of wine, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine. "But they said, We will drink no wine; for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father, commands us." They were faithful to the commands of their ancestor. Jeremiah seized upon this occasion as a basis for addressing the people. He goes on to say that Jonadab had commanded this people so and so. "They kept that command, but ye would not obey God who commanded you to serve him." He outlines the punishment that will come upon the people, but makes a promise unto the sons of Jonadab, verse Jeremiah 35:19: "Therefore saith the Lord of hosts, . . . Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever."


He inculcates the principle of righteousness and justice in Jeremiah 22:1-9. The king is to be the instrument of righteousness and justice. There is no doubt that Jehoiakim, the vassal of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, sat on the throne. Jeremiah appeals to him to do right and be just. In Jeremiah 22:4 he says, "If you do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants and his people. But if ye will not do these things, I swear by myself, that this house shall come to desolation." And thus he goes on with his message of destruction. He repeats it over and over again.


The fate of Shallam, or Jehoahaz, is described in Jeremiah 22:10-22: "Weep for him that goeth away; for he shall return to his native land no more." Then a charge against Jehoiakim is found in Jeremiah 22:13-23. This king was a heartless tyrant. He had a passion for building. He had a magnificent palace. He built by using the people unjustly. He was without conscience or principle: "Woe unto him that buildeth a house with unrighteousness." The son of this king succeeded him and the prophet goes on to describe the ruin coming upon this house (Jeremiah 22:20-23).


Then follows judgment on Jehoiachin (Jeremiah 22:24-30). This was doubtless written after the death of Jehoiakim. Jehoiachin was taken to Babylon, and it may have been written immediately preceding that event. We cannot be sure as to the exact time this section was penned. Verse Jeremiah 22:24: "As I live, saith Jehovah, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim were a signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence." He then goes on to describe the fate of the house; how Jehoiachin with his mother should be cast out and die in a foreign land, never to return to Judah. The king was to have no heir to sit upon his throne.


The message of Jeremiah 23:1-8 is one regarding the princes, or shepherds. These princes of Judah and Jerusalem are spoken of as the shepherds of the people. They were the political and civil shepherds. God called them the shepherds of his pasture. He charged them with neglect of duty: "Therefore saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Ye have scattered my flock." They had not provided them spiritual pasture. But a time is coming when they shall come together again and shall have good shepherds. Jeremiah 23:5 is a messianic prophecy: "I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, . . . Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely."


The prophet’s own title of Jeremiah 23:9-40 is, "Concerning the Prophets." We discussed this in a former chapter. We showed Jeremiah’s charge against these false prophets. They were caterers and time-servers. They preached what the people wanted them to preach. They felt the pulse of the people and then shaped their messages accordingly.


The prophecy of Jeremiah 25 is a prophecy concerning Judah and the surrounding nations. This was in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, 604 B.C., after Jeremiah had been preaching twenty-three years. Note some details here:


1. In Jeremiah 25:1-14 Jeremiah predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would take Palestine, Judah, and Jerusalem; that he would lead them captive to Babylon; that there should be desolation; that this nation should serve the king of Babylon seventy years; that when the seventy years was accomplished, then Jehovah would punish the king of Babylon, and that nation for their iniquity and their land should be a desolation forever.


2. Jeremiah 25:15-26 show that the cup of the wrath of Jehovah must be drunk by all the nations surrounding Judah. He said that they should drink the cup of the wine of his fury. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, shall drink it; the land of Uz, the Philistines, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, Sidon, those of the Grecian Archipelago, Dedan, Tema, Buz, Arabia, Zimri, Elam, the Medes, and Sheshack shall drink of it.


3. Jeremiah 25:27-29 show that the nations must drink it. This is the substance of that passage. The doom is inevitable. The last part of the chapter, verses 30-38, gives a description of the conquest of the Babylonians, and the terrible destruction which should come upon the nations.


An account of the writing, reading, burning, and rewriting of the roll is given in Jeremiah 36:1-32. This is an interesting incident. In the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, 604 B.C., the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and told him to write his prophecy. Doubtless the persecution was so intense that he had to stop preaching. Jeremiah was a faithful prophet, but be could not preach any more in the open, and so the Lord told him to write his prophecies in a book, or roll. That was a wonderfully wise suggestion. If Paul had not been imprisoned two years at Caesarea, it is possible Luke would not have written his Gospel. If the same great apostle had not suffered his Roman imprisonment, we would doubtless never have had his matchless epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews. If Bunyan had not gone to jail, doubtless Pilgrim’s Progress would never have been written. And so it is here, if Jeremiah had not been persecuted, we would in all probability never have had his written prophecy. He ordered Baruch to write it down as he dictated it to him. It was the substance of his twenty-three years of ministry. How long he was in writing it, we do not know, doubtless some months. After he had written it the next thing was to read it to the people. We cannot go into details. Here is the story in substance: Baruch took the roll and went to the Temple where the people passed, stood in the door with the princes and the friends of Jeremiah at his back and read the prophecy. It made a deep impression on the princes and the people. It had a different effect on others. They resented it and hated Jeremiah the more. Some of them went and told the king about it. In brief, he had it brought to him. Jehudi read it and the king cut it to pieces and soon every shred of it was a heap of ashes. Then he ordered the arrest of Jeremiah, but he had securely hidden himself. Then Jeremiah and Baruch wrote the prophecies again.


We have certain admonitions of Jeremiah to Baruch in Jeremiah 45. After all his heroism this man Baruch grew despondent. This faithful scribe who had stood by Jeremiah through all his troubles now becomes troubled. We are told about it in chapter Jeremiah 45:3: "Thus didst thou say, Woe is me, for Jehovah hath added sorrow to my pain." Jeremiah tells him that the Lord breaks down that which he has planted: "Behold, I will pluck up this whole land." Baruch, have you thought that there were great things coming to you? Did you expect better things? "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." I am going to bring evil upon this whole land. You are not going to be a great man but your life is going to stand. What fine advice that was to this faithful secretary and scribe. Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. Your life will be spared, that is enough.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the subject of this chapter of this INTERPRETATION? And what are the dates of these several chapters of Jeremiah?

2. What, in general, are the contents of these chapters?

3. What is the story of the potter in Jeremiah 18:1-4?

4. What is the prophet’s application of the incident of the potter to Israel and what, in particular, is the meaning of God’s repentance here toward Israel for good or evil? (Jeremiah 18:5-12.)

5. What is the lesson here drawn from nature by the prophet? (Jeremiah 18:13-17.)

6. What is the result of the prophet’s preaching (Jeremiah 18:18) and what his response? (Jeremiah 18:19-23.)

7. What is the second incident of the potter’s vessel and what its application? (Jeremiah 19:1-13.)

8. What is the prophet’s message in the Temple immediately following the second lesson from the potter’s vessel?

9. Give an account of Pashhur’s persecution.

10. Who were the Rechabites, what were their characteristics and what was the lesson enforced by Jeremiah based upon their history?

11. Who addressed in Jeremiah 22:1-9 and what is the message to him?

12. Who is spoken of in Jeremiah 22:10-12 and what is there said of him?

13. What is the charge against Jehoiakim and what is the result (Jeremiah 22:13-23)?

14. What is the contents of Jeremiah 22:24-30?

15. What is the message of Jeremiah 23:1-8 and how are the shepherds here characterized?

16. What is the prophet’s own title of Jeremiah 23:9-40 and what is the charge of Jeremiah here against these false prophets?

17. What is the prophecy of Jeremiah 25 and what are the essential points noted?

18. Give an account of the writing, reading, burning, and rewriting of the roll (Jeremiah 36:1-32).

19. What are the admonitions of Jeremiah to Baruch in Jeremiah 45 and what is their lesson?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 45". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/jeremiah-45.html.
 
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