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Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 18

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

Verse 1

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

Go down - namely, from the high ground on which the temple stood, near which Jeremiah exercised his prophetic office, to the low ground, where some well-known (this is the force of "the") potter had his workshop

Verse 3

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

Wheels, [ haa'aabªnaayim (H70)] - literally, 'on both stones.' The potter's horizontal lathe consisted of two round plates, the lower one larger, the upper smaller; of stone originally, but afterward of wood. On the upper the potter moulded the clay into what shapes he pleased. They are found represented in Egyptian remains. In Exodus 1:16 alone is the Hebrew word found elsewhere, but in a different sense.

Verse 4

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred - spoiled "Of clay" is the true reading, which was corrupted into 'as clay' (margin) through the similarity of the two Hebrew letters [beth (b) and kaph (k)], and from (Jeremiah 18:6) "AS the clay."

Verse 5

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? - refuting the Jews' reliance on their external privileges as God's elect people, as if God could never cast them off. But if the potter, a mere creature, has power to throw away a marred vessel, and raise up other clay from the ground, a fortiori, God, the Creator, can cast away the people who prove unfaithful to His election, and can raise others in their stead (cf. Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:20-21). It is curious that the potter's field should have been the purchase made with the price of Judas' treachery (Matthew 27:9-10): a potter's vessel dashed to pieces (cf. Psalms 2:8-9; Revelation 2:27), because of its failing to answer the maker's design, being the very image to depict God's sovereign power to give reprobates to destruction, not by caprice, but in the exercise of His righteous judgment. Matthew quotes Zechariah's words (Zechariah 11:12-13) as Jeremiah's, because the latter (Jeremiah 18:1-23; Jeremiah 19:1-15) was the source from which the former derived his summary in Jeremiah 11:12-13 (Hengstenberg).

Verse 7

At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;

At what instant - in a moment, when the nation least expects it. Hereby he reminds the Jews how marvelously God had delivered them from their original degradation - i:e., In one and the same day ye were the most wretched, and then the most favoured of all peoples (Calvin).

Verse 8

If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil. Their is emphatically in antithesis to "the evil that I thought to do."

I will repent. God herein adapts Himself to human conceptions. The change is not in God, but in the circumstances which regulate God's dealings: just as we say the land recedes from us when we sail forth, whereas it is we who recede from the land (Ezekiel 18:21; Ezekiel 33:11). Gods unchangeable principle is to do the best that can be done under all circumstances; if, then, He did not take into account the moral change in His people (their prayers, repentance, turning from their evil way, etc.), He would not be acting according to His own unchanging principle (Jeremiah 18:9-10). This is applied practically to the Jews' case (Jeremiah 18:11; see Jeremiah 26:3). So in the case of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).

Verses 9-10

And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 11

Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.

Behold, I frame evil - alluding to the preceding image of "the potter," - i:e., I, Yahweh, am now as it were the potter "framing evil against you;" but in the event of your repenting it is in my power to frame anew my course of dealing toward you.

Return ... - (2 Kings 17:13).

Verse 12

And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.

They said, There is no hope - thy threats and exhortations are all thrown away Jeremiah 2:25). Our case is desperate; we are hopelessly abandoned to our sins and their penalty. In this and the following clauses, "We will walk after our own devices," Jeremiah makes them express the real state of the case, rather than the hypocritical subterfuges which they would have been inclined to put forth. So Isaiah 30:10-11.

Verse 13

Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.

Ask ye now among the pagan, who hath heard such things? - (Jeremiah 2:10-11.) Even among the pagan it was a thing unheard of that a nation should lay aside its gods for foreign gods, though their gods are false gods. But Israel forsook the true God for foreign false gods.

Virgin of Israel - (2 Kings 19:21). It enhances their guilt, that Israel was the virgin whom God had specially betrothed to Him.

Horrible thing - (Jeremiah 5:30).

Verse 14

Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?

Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon? - Is there any man (living near it) who would leave the snow of Lebanon - (i:e., the cool melted snow water of Lebanon, as he presently explains), which cometh from "the rock of the field?" (a poetical name for Lebanon, which towers aloft above the surrounding field, or comparatively plain country). None. Yet Israel forsakes Yahweh, the living fountain close at hand, for foreign broken cisterns. Jeremiah 17:13; Jeremiah 2:13, accord with the English version here. Maurer translates, 'Shall the snow of Lebanon cease from the rock to water (literally, forsake) my fields?' (the whole land around being peculiarly Yahweh's.) Lebanon means the white mountain; so called from the perpetual snow which covers that part called Hermon, stretching northeast of Palestine.

The cold flowing waters that come from another place - that come from far, namely, from the distant lofty rocks of Lebanon. Henderson, translates, 'the compressed cold flowing waters' [ zaariym (H2114), from zuwr (H2114), to compress] - namely, contracted within a narrow channel while descending through the gorges of the rocks; "flowing" may in this view be rather "flowing down" (Song of Solomon 4:15). But the, parallelism in the English version is better, "which cometh from the rock,' "that cometh from another place."

Be forsaken - answering to the parallel, "Will a man leave?" Maurer translates [ yinaatªshuw (H5428), 'dry up,' or 'fail' naatash (H5428) is thus identified with naashat (H5405), to fail] (Isaiah 19:5); the sense thus being, Will nature ever turn aside from its fixed course? [But naatash (H5428) means to tear away.] Translate, 'Shall the cold flowing waters from afar be forcibly torn away?' The English version takes the Hebrew as equivalent to [ naaTash (H5203)] to forsake-a legitimate though rare usage. The "cold waters" (cf. Proverbs 25:25) refer to the perennial streams fed from the partial melting of the snow in the hot weather.

Verse 15

Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;

Because - rather, And yet; in defiance of the natural order of things.

My people hath forgotten me - (Jeremiah 2:32). This implies a previous knowledge of God, whereas He was unknown to the Gentiles: the Jews' forgetting of God, therefore, arose from determined perversity.

They have caused them to stumble - namely, the false prophets and idolatrous priests have caused the people to stumble.

From the ancient paths - (Jeremiah 6:16): the paths which their pious ancestors trod. Not antiquity indiscriminately, but the example of the fathers who trod the right ways, is here commended.

In a way not cast up - not duly prepared: referring to the center raised of the road. Calvin translates, 'not trodden.' They had no precedent of former saints to induce them to devise for themselves a new worship.

Verse 16

To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.

To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing - which the Lord foretold Solomon would be the result of national apostasy: "Everyone that passeth by shall be astonished, and shall hiss" (1 Kings 9:8), in sign of contempt. That which was to be only the event is ascribed to the purpose of the people, although altogether different from what they would have been likely to hope for. Their purpose is represented as being the destruction of their country, because it was the inevitable result of their course of acting.

Everyone that passeth by shall be astonished, and shall wag his head - in mockery (2 Kings 19:21). As the Jews "that passed by wagged their heads" in derision of the Messiah on the cross (Matthew 27:39), so they themselves, in just retribution, were doomed to be objects of the same derision, wagging, of the head. As "wag ... head" answers to "hissing," so "astonished" answers to "desolate;" for which, therefore, Munster, etc., rather translate [lishamaah] 'to make their land an object of wonder' (Jeremiah 19:8).

Verse 17

I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.

I will scatter them as with an east wind - literally, 'I will scatter them as an east wind (scatters all before it): a most violent wind (Job 27:21; Psalms 48:7; Isaiah 27:8). Thirty-two MSS. read (without as) 'with an east wind.'

I will show them the back, and not the face - just retribution: as "they turned their back unto me ... not their face (Jeremiah 2:27).

Verse 18

Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, 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.

Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish - (Jeremiah 11:19). Let us bring, a capital charge against him as a false prophet; 'for he foretells that this land shall be left without priests to teach the law, Malachi 2:7; without the wise - i:e., scribes, to explain its difficulties: and without prophets to reveal God's will; whereas it is certain that the law shall not perish from the prophet, etc.; since God has made these a lasting institution in His Church, and the law declares they shall never perish (Leviticus 6:18; Leviticus 10:11: cf. Jeremiah 5:12). (Grotius.)

The wise - scribes and elders joined to the priests Perhaps they mean to say, we must have right on our side, in spite of Jeremiah's words against us and our prophets, as Hananiah, Shemaiah, etc. (Jeremiah 28:15-16; Jeremiah 29:25, Jeremiah 29:32; 18:31 ); "for the law shall not perish," etc. I prefer Grotius' explanation.

Come, and let us smite him with the tongue - by a false accusation (Psalms 57:4; Psalms 64:3; Psalms 12:4; Psalms 50:19). For the tongue (is the translation of the margin - i:e., for his speaking against us.) 'In the tongue' - i:e., let us kill him, that he may speak no more against us (Castalio). I prefer the English version.

Verse 19

Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.

Give heed to me, O Lord - contrasted with "let us not give heed to any of his words" (Jeremiah 18:18). Since they give no heed to me, do thou, O Lord, give heed to me and let my words at least have their weight with me.

Verse 20

Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.

Shall evil be recompensed for good? In the particulars here specified Jeremiah was a type of Jesus Christ (Psalms 109:4-5; John 15:25).

They have digged a pit for my soul - my life; me (Psalms 35:7). I stood before thee to speak ... for them, and to turn away thy wrath - so "Moses, His chosen, stood before Him in the breach, to, turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them" (Psalms 106:23; cf. Ezekiel 22:30). So Jesus Christ, the antitype of previous partial intercessors (Isaiah 59:16).

Verse 21

Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.

Pour out their blood by the force of the sword - literally, upon the hands of the sword. So Ezekiel 35:5, margin. Maurer, with Jerome, translates, 'deliver them over to the power of the sword.' (But cf. Psalms 63:10, margin; Isaiah 53:12. ) In this prayer he does not indulge in personal revenge, as if it were his own cause that was at stake; but he speaks under the dictation of the Spirit, ceasing to intercede, and speaking prophetically, knowing they were doomed to destruction as reprobates; for those not so, he doubtless ceased not to intercede. We are not to draw an example from this, which is a special case.

Let their men be put to death - or, as in Jeremiah 15:2, 'perish by the death-plague' (Maurer).

Men ... young men. Horsley distinguishes the former as married men past middle life; the latter, the flower of the unmarried youth.

Verse 22

Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet.

Let a cry be heard from their houses - by reason of the enemy bursting in; let their houses be no shelter to them in their calamities (Calvin).

For they have digged a pit to take me - (Jeremiah 18:20; Psalms 57:6; Psalms 119:85, "The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law").

Verse 23

Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.

Forgive not - (Psalms 109:9-10; Psalms 109:14). Denouncing the doom of their foreseen impenitence, not a prayer that they might be impenitent, and therefore not forgiven. So in the case of the enemies of the antitype, Messiah, in Ps


Neither blot out their sin - image from an account book (Revelation 3:5; Revelation 20:12).

Let them be overthrown before thee - hypocrites suppose God is not near, so long as they escape punishment; but when He punishes they are said to stand before Him, because they can no longer flatter themselves they can escape His eye (cf. Psalms 90:8).

Deal thus with them - exert thy power against them (Maurer).

In the time of thine anger - though He seems to tarry, His time shall come at (Ecclesiastes 8:11-12; 2 Peter 3:9-10).


(1) God has absolute power over us, as the potter has over the clay which he fashions and moulds as He pleases (Jeremiah 18:2-6). This consideration sets aside all reliance on merely outward religious privileges, as if God could not cast off those who, for the time being, like the Jews of old, are favoured with them, and adopt others in their stead. Because of unbelief the Jews were broken off, and the Gentile Church stands solely by faith (Romans 11:20). If an earthly potter can at will throw away a marred vessel, much more can the great God dash to pieces those of His creatures who have failed to answer the design for which He created them.

(2) He always acts on a fixed principle of wisdom, goodness, and justice, and does nothing through arbitrary caprice. His unchangeable principle is to deal goodness to the penitent, wrath to the impenitent (Jeremiah 18:7-10). And though we must not think to fathom all the reasons of His dealings as our absolute sovereign, we know that the sinner has life or death offered to him, and dependent on the course he takes; so that whosoever may be lost will lay all the blame on themselves, while the saved will attribute their salvation wholly to God's grace (Jeremiah 18:11).

(3) It is Satan's favourite plan either to keep sinners in a state of presumptuous self-confidence, full of hope as to eternity when they have no well-grounded hope; or else, when these false hopes have been dashed away to persuade them to despair of conversion and salvation, and to say, "There is no hope" (Jeremiah 18:12), we are hopelessly abandoned to our sins and their awful consequence. But let the sinner remember, 'While there is life there is hope:' it is never too late, on this side of the grave, to turn heartily to the Saviour.

(4) The ungodly fancy it liberty to walk after their own devices;" but slavery to one's own lusts, and "the imagination of the evil heart" is the worst slavery of all. As the wicked Jews "devised devices against" God's servant (Jeremiah 18:18), God in righteous retribution declares, "Behold, I devise a device against you" (Jeremiah 18:11). While they would "not give heed to any, of Jeremiah's words" (Jeremiah 18:18) God "gave heed to His servant's prayers, and marked how they "recompensed evil for good," and plotted against the life of the very man who "stood before God to speak good for them, and to turn away God's, wrath from them" (Jeremiah 18:20).

(5) But the Jews' unnatural conduct to Jeremiah is far surpassed in guilt by those who, by their back-slidings, "crucify to themselves afresh, and put to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6,) the great Intercessor. Truly may He say, "For my love they are mine adversaries" (Psalms 109:4-5); for such "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27).

(6) Let us beware of ever "forgetting" the love of God our Saviour (Jeremiah 18:15), and of "stumbling from the ancient paths," which patriarchs, prophets, and apostles have trodden, to walk in ways of our own devising! Let us rather ever keep close to the "well of living, waters, streams from Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4:15), "cold flowing" as "the snow" (Jeremiah 18:14), for the refreshment of those souls that live by the faith of the Son of God.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-18.html. 1871-8.
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