Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

Many of these figurative acts being either not possible or not probable or decorous seem to have existed only in the mind of the prophet as part of his inward vision (so Calvin). The world he moved in was not the sensible, but the spiritual world. Inward acts were, however, when it was possible and proper, materialized by outward performance; but not always and necessarily so. The internal act made a naked statement more impressive, and presented the subject, when extending over long portions of space and time, more concentrated. The interruption of Jeremiah's official duty by a journey of more than 200 miles twice is not likely to have literally taken place.

Put it upon thy loins ... - expressing the close intimacy wherewith Yahweh had joined Israel and Judah to Him (Jeremiah 13:11).

Linen - implying it was the inner garment next the skin, not the outer one.

Put it not in water - signifying the moral filth of His people, like the literal filth of a garment worn constantly next the skin without being washed (Jeremiah 13:10). Grotius understands a garment not bleached, but left in its native roughness, just as Judah had no beauty, but was adopted by the sole grace of God (Ezekiel 16:4-6, "Neither wast thou washed in water. ... I saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee,


Verses 2-3

So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

Euphrates In order to support the view that Jeremiah's act outward Henderson considers that the Hebrew Euphrates. In order to support the view that Jeremiah's act outward, Henderson considers that the Hebrew "Pratha" or "Phrath" [ pªraataah (H6578), abbreviated from 'epraat] here is Ephratha, the original name of Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem, a journey easy to be made by Jeremiah. The non-addition of the word "river," which usually precedes Phrath, when meaning Euphrates, favours this view. But I prefer the English version. "Euphrates" occurs without "river" added in 2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 51:63. The word is from a root [ paaraah (H6509)] to increase and fructify. The Euphrates is specified as being near Babylon, the Jews' future place of exile.

Hide it there in a hole - typical of the prisons in which the Jews were to he confined.

The rock - some well-known rock. A sterile region, such as was that to which the Jews were led away (cf. Isaiah 7:19). (Grotius.)

Verse 5

So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.

After many days - time enough was given for the girdle to become unfit for use. So in course of time the Jews became corrupted by the pagan idolatries around, so as to cease to be witnesses of Yahweh: they must therefore be cast away as a "married" or spoiled girdle.

Verses 7-8

Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing. No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 9

Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

Mar the pride of Judah - (Leviticus 26:19, I will break the pride of your power").

Verse 10

This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.

Walk in the imagination - rather, obstinacy.

Verse 11

For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

That they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory - (Jeremiah 33:9; Exodus 19:5, "If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people").

Glory - an ornament to glory in.

Verse 12

Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?

A new image.

Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall he filled with wine? - the "bottles" are those used in the East, made of skins; our word hogshead, originally oxhide, alludes to the same custom. As they were used to hold water, milk, and other liquids, what the prophet said-namely, that they should be all filled with wine-was not, as the Jews' taunting reply implied, a truism even literally. The figurative sense, which is what Jeremiah chiefly meant, they affected not to understand. As wine intoxicates, so God's wrath and judgments shall reduce them to that state of helpless distraction that they shall rush on their own ruin (Jeremiah 25:15; Jeremiah 49:12; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:21-22; Isaiah 63:6).

Verse 13

Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David's throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.

Upon David's throne - literally, who sit for lª- David on his throne; implying the succession the Davidic family (so also margin, Jeremiah 22:4, "sitting for David upon his throne").

All - indiscriminately of every rank.

Verse 14

And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

I will dash them one against another - (Psalms 2:9, "Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel;" Revelation 2:27, "As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken in shivers").

Verse 15

Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.

Be not proud - pride was the cause of their contumacy, as humility is the first step to obedience (Jeremiah 13:17; Psalms 10:4).

Verse 16

Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.

Give glory to the Lord - show by repentance and obedience to God that you revere His majesty. So Joshua exhorted Achan to "give glory to God" (Joshua 7:19) by confessing his crime, thereby showing he revered the all-knowing God.

Before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains - image from travelers stumbling into a fatal abyss when overtaken by nightfall (Isaiah 59:9-10; Amos 8:9).

Dark mountains - literally, mountains of twilight or gloom [ haareey (H2022) naashep (H5399)], which cast such a gloomy shadow that the traveler stumbles against an opposing rock before he sees it (John 11:10; John 12:35).

Shadow of death - the densest gloom; death-shade (Psalms 44:19). Light and darkness are images of prosperity and adversity.

Verse 17

But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD's flock is carried away captive.

Hear it - my exhortation.

In secret - as one mourning and humbling himself for their sin, not self-righteously condemning them (Philippians 3:18).

Your pride - (note, Jeremiah 13:15; Job 33:17, "That He may ... hide pride from man").

Flock - (Jeremiah 13:20) people; just as kings and leaders are called pastors.

Verse 18

Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.

King - Jehoiachin or Jeconiah.

Queen - the queen-mother, who, as the king was not more than 18 years old, held the chief power. Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan, carried away captive with Jehoiakim by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:8-15).

Humble yourselves - not an exhortation to humble, but a prophecy, Ye shall be humbled, or brought low (Jeremiah 22:26).

Your principalities - [ mar'ªshowteeykem (H4761), your greatnesses - i:e., all your dignity and family greatness, from ro'sh (H7219), the head] (Buxtorf). Rather, 'your head-ornament' (Maurer). I prefer the former.

Verse 19

The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.

Cities of the south - namely, south of Judea; farthest off from the enemy, who advanced from the north.

Shut up - i:e., deserted (Isaiah 24:10), so that none shall he left to open the gates to travelers and merchants again (Henderson). Rather, shut up so closely by Nebuchadnezzar's forces, sent on before (2 Kings 24:10-11), that none shall be allowed by the enemy to get out (cf. Jeremiah 13:20, "them from the North," i:e., the Babylonians").

Wholly - literally, fully, completely.

Verse 20

Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

Behold them that come from the north - Nebuchadnezzar and his hostile army (Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 6:22).

Where is the flock that was given thee? Jeremiah, amazed at the depopulation caused by Nebuchadnezzar's forces, addresses Jerusalem (a noun of multitude, which accounts for the blending of plural and singular-Your eyes ... thee ... thy flock-and in the Hebrew "lift up-behold," is singular, "lift thou up, behold thou," and yet "your [instead of thins] eyes" follow, and asks where is her population (Jeremiah 13:17, "the Lord's flock") which God had given her?

Verse 21

What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?

What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? For thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief - literally, princes as to headship, or over thy head-namely, the Chaldeans. Maurer translates, 'What wilt thou say when God will set them (the enemies, Jeremiah 13:20) above thee [ yipqod (H6485) `aalayik (H5921)], seeing that thou thyself hast accustomed them (to be) with thee as (thy) lovers in the highest place? (literally, at thy head.)' [ 'alupiym (H441) lªro'sh (H7218)]. Thou canst not say God does thee wrong, seeing it was thou that gave occasion to His dealing so with thee, by so eagerly courting their intimacy. (Compare Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 2:36; 2 Kings 23:29, as the league of Judah with Babylon, which led Josiah to march against Pharaoh-nechoh, when the latter was about to attack Babylon). I prefer the English version, What canst thou say in deprecation of His visiting thee with punishment (margin), seeing that thou thyself hast brought them (the Babylonians) to be captains as chief over thee? (namely, by contracting leagues offensive and defensive with them.)

Sorrows - pains, throes.

Verse 22

And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.

If thou say - connecting this verse with "What wilt thou say?" (Jeremiah 13:21.)

Thy skirts are discovered - i:e., are thrown up so as to expose the person (Jeremiah 13:26; Isaiah 3:17; Nab. 3:5).

Heels made bare - the sandal was fastened by a thong above the heel to the instep. The Hebrew is, 'are violently handled,' or 'torn off;' i:e., thou art exposed to ignominy. Image from an adulteress.

Verse 23

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Ethiopian - the Cushite of Abyssinia. Habit is second nature; as therefore it is morally impossible that the Jews can alter their inveterate habits of sin, nothing remains but the infliction of the extremest punishment, their expatriation (Jeremiah 13:24).

Verse 24

Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.

Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble ... - (Psalms 1:4, "The ungodly are ... like the chaff which the wind driveth away").

By the wind - before the wind.

Of the wilderness - where the wind has full sweep, not being broken by any obstacle.

Verse 25

This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.

Portion of thy measures - the portion which I have measured out to thee (Job 20:29; Psalms 11:6).

Trusted in falsehood - (Jeremiah 13:27) false gods and alliances with foreign idolators.

Verses 26-27

Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.

Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face - rather, 'throw up thy skirts over thy face,' or head; done by way of ignominy to captive women and to prostitutes (Nahum 3:5). The Jews' punishment should answer to their crime. As their sin had been perpetrated in the most public places, so God would expose them to the contempt of other nations most openly (Lamentations 1:8).

Neighings - (Jeremiah 5:8) image from the lust of horses; the lust after idols degrades to the level of the brute.

Thine abomination on the hills - where, as being nearer heaven, sacrifices were thought most acceptable to the gods.

Wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? - literally, 'thou wilt not be made clean after how long a time yet.' (So Jeremiah 13:23). Jeremiah denies the moral possibility of one so long hardened in sin becoming soon cleansed. (But see Jeremiah 32:17; Luke 18:27.)


(1) God had attached Israel as closely to Him as the linen girdle that Orientals wear upon their loins cleaves to the person of the wearer. The law and the covenant which He gave them, and all the tokens of His favour toward them, were so many ties of intimate union between Him and them; but, by their idolatry and unfaithfulness, they had buried their privileges, like the one talent hidden in the earth by the unprofitable servant; they had mingled with the pagan nations around, and had utterly lost the purity of their high calling in moral filthiness, so as to be like "a marred girdle, profitable for nothing" (Jeremiah 13:7). Let us remember, in the possession of our higher spiritual privileges, that only in so far as we come out from the ungodly world in spirit, and be separate, so as not to touch the unclean thing (2 Corinthians 6:17), do we fulfill the ends of our high calling in Christ, and are indeed that which God designed Israel to be, "a name of joy, a praise, and an honour unto the Lord," before all the world (Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 33:9). But if we bury our souls in earthly fashions, aims, and pleasures, we lose our distinctive character as the people of the Lord, and can only look for the doom of the unprofitable servant-to be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 25:30). Just as salt which has lost its savour is thenceforth good for nothing but to be trodden under foot (Matthew 5:13); so, if inconsistent and carnal while making a high profession, we shall be despised by the very men whose favour we have preferred to that of God, even as apostate Israel was punished by the very world-power for whose sake she had sacrificed the favour of God.

(2) As the wine-bottle is adapted for being filled with wine (Jeremiah 13:12), so men's sins fit them, as vessels of wrath (Romans 9:22), to be filled with "the wine of the wrath of God, poured out without mixture" of mercy (Revelation 14:10). As wine takes away the reason, so God's judgment reduces the reprobate to that state of impotent distraction that they are, like potter's vessels, "dashed one against another" (Jeremiah 13:14), to their mutual destruction.

(3) Pride is the secret spring of the sinner's present obstinacy and ultimate ruin (Jeremiah 13:15; Jeremiah 13:17). He is too proud to humble himself before God - "give glory to the Lord" (Jeremiah 13:16) - by a penitent confession of sin, and a heartfelt repentance and supplication for mercy. Yet God lovingly still appeals to all such even now to turn to Him, while yet the day of grace lasts, and their feet have not yet stumbled into the bottomless abyss. Soon the darkness of eternal night shall close in over the lost: then shall they in vain "look for light," when God shall have turned it into "the shadow of death and gross darkness" (Jeremiah 13:16).

(4) Meanwhile the minister "weeps in secret" for those who will not weep for themselves (Jeremiah 13:17). He feels acutely what blessedness their pride robs them of now and hereafter, and what a terrible future is before them, unless they repent. A harsh and hard spirit toward the unconverted ill becomes those who remember how hard their own heart was naturally, before God of His infinite grace touched and melted it. Tenderness and compassion are the appropriate characteristics of the servants of that loving Saviour who wept over Jerusalem, the city which was so soon about to crucify Him. Like Christ, we should seek by love to gather men to Him, "as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings" (Matthew 23:37), rather than to scatter by a repulsive and denunciatory spirit.

(5) Those calamities are the hardest to bear which, as in the case of Israel's punishment the sinner brings on himself (Jeremiah 13:21). When professing Christians give themselves up to the world, what can they "say" but that God deals in righteous retribution when He assigns them their eternal portion with the worlds? just as Judah, having given herself up to Babylon, had her place of punishment assigned to her in Babylon. If the cause of punishment be asked, in either case the answer is the same - "for the greatness of thine iniquity" (Jeremiah 13:22).

(6) The sinner naturally has no more power to change his heart than the Ethiopian has power to change his skin, or the leopard his spots (Jeremiah 13:23). Sin is the spiritual blackness of the soul. Then habit or "custom" also confirms the wrong bias given by nature, binding the sinner in a twofold indissoluble bond. But Almighty grace can effect for us what we cannot for ourselves. Moral blackness of nature, confirmed by lengthened habit, forms no insuperable obstacle to the all-conquering Spirit. He can and will make the sinner who seeks Him through Christ "whiter than snow" (Psalms 51:7). Let none then despair. Let all repair to the "fountain opened for uncleanness."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-13.html. 1871-8.
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