Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Jeremiah 19

Verses 1-15

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—See notes to preceding chapter for Chronology, &c. Vide also Introductory Notes to chap. 20.

Geographical References.—Jer . "Valley of the Son of Hinnom," cf. note on chap. Jer 2:31. "The East gate," margin the Sun gate. But the word is not definite; שַׁעַר הַחַרְסוּת. Jerome, Keil, and Henderson suggest the Pottery gate as the true rendering from חָרַס. The word Harsuth occurs nowhere else, and probably is derived from the fact that the refuse from neighbouring pottery works lay about there. The Targum and Kimchi render it dung gate. But the word Harsith occurs in the Talmud for potter's clay. The situation of the Pottery gate cannot be determined, but plainly it opened into the Valley of Hinnom (Jos 15:8). "The potters there formed vessels for the use of the Temple, which was close by (cf. Jer 19:10-14; chap. Jer 18:2; Zec 11:13").—Jamieson. Jer 19:5. "High places of Baal:" cf. chap. Jer 7:31. Jer 19:11. "Bury them in Tophet:" cf. Notes, Geographical and Personal, on chap. Jer 7:31.

Personal Allusions.—Jer . "Ancients of the people and ancients of the priests." The Sanhedrim was composed of seventy-two elders, taken partly from the priests (2Ki 19:2) and partly from the other tribes (Num 11:16; Jos 7:6; 1Ki 8:1), and thus represented the nation. This great council presided over the ecclesiastical and civic affairs of the whole people.

Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Burn their sons with fire:" cf. chap. Jer 7:31. Jer 19:13. "Houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense." On the flat roofs of Oriental houses festivals were held (Jud 16:27), booths were erected at feasts (Neh 8:16), sacrifices were offered to the sun and planets (2Ki 23:11-12; Jer 32:29; Zep 1:5).

Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "A potter's earthen bottle." The bottle was a flask with a long narrow neck, and called בַּקְבֻּק from the gurgling sound made when being emptied. Jer 19:7. "I will make void." The word בַּקּוֹתִי, is used playing upon the symbol-word בַּקְבֻּק; the root of both words being בָּקַק, to pour out. Jer 19:8.—"Desolate"—an astonishment. "Plagues thereof:" lit. blows: plague being here used because regarded as a "blow" direct from God's hand. Jer 19:11. "And they shall bury them in Tophet," &c.—these words, and to the end of verse, are omitted in the Septuagint and by Hitzig, as interpolated from Jer 7:32. Jer 19:13. "Defiled as the place, of Tophet:" lit. shall be the defiled. The better rendering is (as Targum and Speaker's Com.) shall be as the defiled Tophet: or lit., shall be as the place Tophet, the defiled.



God bids His prophet attempt to impress this obdurate and heedless people with another enacted symbol, which was derived again from the potter's craft. This time the symbol assumes a more alarming form.

1. The potter's work is here completed; the vessel is in this instance formed; in chap. 18 it was a vessel in the process of being moulded.

2. The destructive work is here irremediable. In the former symbol the clay was worked again and again till perfected; here the vessel, being completed and baked, is incapable of being reshaped, and is hopelessly shattered, destroyed, and abandoned.

What are the different meanings of these two pottery symbols?

1. The patient working upon the clay, crushing the ill-formed vessel, and skilfully remoulding it till a perfect vessel was obtained, symbolised the Divine process of formation by which God was moulding a people whom He would not abandon till His design in them was realised.

2. The absolute shattering of the potter's bottle now symbolises the complete destruction of that generation of the Jewish people, as useless for God's purposes and contrary to His mind. This vessel, having been baked, could not be formed anew, was beyond reformation, and so must be destroyed.

This prophetic enactment arranges itself into three stages—

I. The solemn exhibition of the doomed vessel.

1. The appropriate spectators. "Ancients of the people and ancients of the priests." They represented the entire tribes, and so did the potter's bottle: it was a symbol of that existing generation. The vessel which was typically used was not an unfinished piece of clay, but a bottle completed and duly hardened; and these "ancients" represented a nation whose usages and temperament were fixed and determined.

2. The scene of its exhibition. "The pottery gate" (see Geog. References, supra). The place where refuse was cast. That gate, opening into the valley of Ben-Hinnom, looked out upon the scene where this people had broken every law of God. Loathsome memorials of the nation's vile criminality lay before these "ancients." It thus justified the doom about to be pronounced, God would break them in pieces. Around their feet, moreover, as they stood "at the entry of the gate," lay shattered fragments of pottery; suggestive of the "evil" (Jer ) God would "bring upon this place" and people; and the degradation also which impended.

3. The explanatory message of woe. (a) All classes were included in the coming woe (Jer ); (b) the doom would excite general amazement—"Ears tingle," (Jer 19:3; Jer 19:8); (c) yet the justice thereof was manifest (Jer 19:4-5); (d) and the ruin would be absolutely desolating and complete (Jer 19:6-10).

II. The irremediable shattering of the vessel.

1. The violent method of its destruction. (a.) Not by accident but by design it was broken. God intended it; man performed it; and it was accomplished with violence. (b.) It was completely shattered. So shall Jerusalem—people and city, the entire generation—be broken to pieces; none, nothing spared. (c.) The destruction was easily and irresistibly effected. They would be powerless to avert the ruin. All "the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem" (Jer ) would have no utility in striving to thwart God's purpose on this "vessel of wrath fitted to destruction." (d.) No ingenuity could repair the ruin: "cannot be made whole again." How dreadful is God's work when He destroys! "None can stay His hand, nor say unto Him, What doest Thou?"

2. The suggestive scene of its destruction. Josiah had swept all the impurities of the nation into the valley of Ben-Hinnom. It was a scene of desecration and doom. The two things were connected—desecration and doom. And this people had become a desecrated people; therefore should they fall in execrable scenes. Loathsome as Tophet was, it would become more horrible still as "the valley of slaughter" (Jer ). The bearing of the case is this, sin explains man's destruction: Tophet testified against the nation's violation of God's claims: Tophet would witness violence upon the offenders: "they shall bury them in Tophet till there be no place to bury them" (Jer 19:11).

III. The reiteration of doom in the temple court.

1. Proclaim to a larger audience. "All the people" (Jer ). In this assembled the greatest crowd (2Ch 20:5). Thus would the solemn predictions, founded upon the symbolic action in Tophet, gain currency over the entire country. None could therefore plead ignorance as an excuse. Nor can we. The doom of iniquity is known—"there is no speech nor language where the voice is not heard."

2. Uttered within the very house of God. Where messages of grace had often been delivered. But "judgment must begin at the house of God." Men must not think to escape the denunciation of sin in God's house.

3. Pronounced upon all transgressors. It was not Jerusalem, "this city," which alone had sinned, but "all her towns." Sinners would gladly pass over on to others the crimes God denounces: but here all are included. For in every instance there had been wilful rejection of God's Word: "they have hardened their necks that they might not hear My words." What need have we to pray to be kept from like "hardness of heart and contempt for God's Word and commandments!"


Jer . The "earthen bottle" was a humiliating symbol of

i. Their mean origin (Gen ; Isa 51:1).

ii. Their frail existence (Deu ; see Homilies on chap. Jer 18:4, &c.).


Jer . "O kings of Judah." Spoken in the plural, because the message (Jer 19:3-9) related not specially to the reigning king, but to the whole royal house. No king of David's line was henceforth to sit upon the throne till He came whose is the true kingdom (Joh 18:37).—Speaker's Com.

Jer . See Homily on chap. Jer 18:15.

Jer ; Jer 19:6. These verses repeat chap. Jer 7:31-32. Vide Notes and Homilies.

Jer . "I will make void," i.e., "I will pour out" (see Lit. Crit. on verse). Neumann suggests that Jeremiah carried to Tophet the bottle full of water, the Oriental symbol of life (Isa 35:6; Isa 41:18), and at these words emptied it in the presence of the ancients.

Jer . See chap. Jer 18:16.

Jer . A description of the siege, (comp. Jer 18:21). For the fulfilment see Lam 2:20; Lam 4:10.


The scene of the people's sin will also be the scene of their punishment. In the time of the good king Hezekiah, Tophet was the place in which the army of Sennacherib perished, when Jerusalem was delivered in consequence of the prayers and the faith of the king. (See Isa ; Isa 33:4; Isa 37:36).

This place, signalised by the merciful intervention of God in favour of Jerusalem, was afterwards polluted by idolatry. (See chap, Jer ; 2Ki 23:10.)

I. The earthen vessel broken in Tophet. That vessel was typical of Jerusalem, which should thus be destroyed.

Its destruction in Tophet was accompanied by the declaration that the place of their idolatry should be the scene of their slaughter. The inhabitants of Jerusalem would be slain by the Chaldeans, and the scene of their idolatrous worship be defiled by their carcases, for there would be no sufficient place to bury them. Comp. Jer .

II. Judas Iscariot perished in the potter's field That traitor was typical of the Jewish nation; symbolising its rejection of Christ; and the Psalmist in his prophecies concerning Judas extends them to the Jewish nation, typified by him. (See Psa ; Psa 109:8-31.)

The analogy between Judas and the Jews was made more awful by the very place in which he came to his miserable end—the potter's field! (Comp. Act with Mat 27:7 and Zec 11:12.) There is reason for thinking that it was near Tophet, or the Valley of Hinnom, which the prophet connects with the potter's house and the potter's gate (Jer 19:2). Both Judas and the potter's earthen vessel, equally types of the Jews, were dashed to pieces [the vessel by God's command] in that place.

Here is subject for devout reflection and solemn meditation.—Wordsworth.

Jer . "Then came Jeremiah from Tophet," &c.

Here commences the record of an incident which runs on connectedly with chap. 21, and should have formed part of the chapter. For general explanations of the facts see Introductory Notes to chap. 21.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.