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Yahweh told Jeremiah to take some of Judah’s elders and senior priests and to go and purchase a potter’s earthenware water-jar (Heb. baqbuq). The Hebrew word is onomatopoetic, suggesting the sound the water made as it poured out of the bottle. These jars, which archaeologists have found in abundance, range in size from four to 10 inches in height, and they have very slim necks. [Note: Feinberg, p. 495.] Perhaps these leaders were willing to accompany Jeremiah, even though he was very unpopular (cf. Jeremiah 20:1-2; Jeremiah 20:10; et al.), because they wanted to gather incriminating evidence against him.
The broken jar object lesson 19:1-20:6
This message to the people involved another symbolic act (cf. Jeremiah 13:1-11). This incident may have occurred between 609 and 605 B.C.
"In ch. 18 God explains to Jeremiah that sovereign grace is able to take the marred vessel (Israel) and remake it a vessel of usefulness (Jeremiah 19:4). But to the elders, in ch. 19, the prophet declares that their generation will be irreparably destroyed like a smashed fragile vessel, and the fragments taken to Babylon. That generation of the nation was not restored to the land (Jeremiah 19:10-13)." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 789.]
The prophet was then to go to the section of the Hinnom Valley just south of Jerusalem that was near the Potsherd Gate and deliver the message that the Lord would give him. The Potsherd Gate seems to have been another name for the Dung Gate, which was one of the southern gates to the city leading into the Hinnom Valley below (cf. Nehemiah 2:13; Nehemiah 3:13-14; Nehemiah 12:31). Evidently people disposed of their broken pottery and other refuse outside this gate.
The prophet was to call everyone in Jerusalem to hear the Lord’s message, from the kings to the ordinary citizens. Israel’s God-Almighty Yahweh-was about to bring a calamity of unheard of severity on Jerusalem (cf. 1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:12).
The calamity would strike because the people had forsaken Yahweh and had turned the valley of Hinnom, and all Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 21:12), into a place of heathen worship-including child sacrifice (cf. Jeremiah 7:31). Their forefathers did not do this, and Yahweh had never commanded these atrocities.
Because of these sins, the Lord predicted that the place would receive a new name: the Valley of Slaughter. It’s previous names were the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and Topheth (lit. fireplace or hearth; cf. Jeremiah 7:31-32; Isaiah 30:33). A change of name in the Old Testament frequently signified a change of function (cf. Genesis 17:5; Genesis 17:15; et al.).
The Lord would also turn the wise advice of the people of Judah and Jerusalem into foolishness. As they had worshipped "nothings" there, so their wisdom would come to nothing. Their enemy would also defeat and slaughter them there, as they had slaughtered their innocent children. No one would bury their dead bodies, but they would become food for carrion birds (vultures) and wild animals, since they had killed similar animals there to worship the idols (cf. Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 16:4; Jeremiah 34:20; Deuteronomy 28:26).
Yahweh would also destroy Jerusalem so that everyone who passed its ruins would whistle in amazement because of the devastation (cf. Jeremiah 18:16; 1 Kings 9:8; Lamentations 2:15-16; Ezekiel 27:36; Zephaniah 2:15).
The siege of Jerusalem would be so bad that the residents would eat their own children, and one another, rather than die of starvation (cf. Jeremiah 11:1-8; Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57; 2 Kings 6:26-29; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10). This was compensation for their having taken human life to worship pagan idols. Being consumed by cannibals was a typical curse for treaty-breakers in the ancient Near East, as was lack of burial (Jeremiah 19:7). [Note: See D. R. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets, pp. 62-63, 68-69.]
Jeremiah was to break his jar in the sight of his hearers as a symbolic act, and was to announce that in similar fashion, the Lord would destroy the people and the city. They would not be able to recover from this catastrophe any more than one could repair a shattered earthenware jar. The only burial places would be in Topheth. The "fireplace" would become a cemetery.
Earlier the Lord implied that He would reshape the nation if the people repented, as a potter reshapes a vessel under construction on the wheel (Jeremiah 18:1-2). But now Judah was a hardened vessel incapable of changing. All the Lord could do with it now was break it.
"If there is nothing so workable as a clay pot in the making, there is nothing so unalterable as the finished article." [Note: Kidner, p. 78.]
Yahweh would also make Jerusalem a place of fire "like Topheth," and its people a sacrifice, as well, because all the people, from the ordinary citizens to the kings, had turned their houses into altars dedicated to pagan gods. The presence of corpses would make the city unclean. The people had offered burnt offerings and poured out drink offerings on their flat rooftops to astral deities and other idols (cf. Jeremiah 7:16-20; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5). Archaeologists have discovered cuneiform texts at Ras Shamra (east of Cyprus on the west coast of Syria) that contain instructions for offering sacrifices to astral gods on flat rooftops. [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 112.]
Jeremiah then returned from Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom to the temple courtyard. There he preached to the people that the Lord was about to bring this calamity on Jerusalem and the towns of Judah because they had stubbornly refused to repent (cf. Acts 7:51).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 19". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18