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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3375. B.C. 629.

In this chapter, which forms an entire section by itself, we have,

(1,) A general inscription or title of this book; with the time of the continuance of Jeremiah’s public ministry, Jeremiah 1:1-3 ,

(2,) His call to the prophetic office, his modest objection against it answered, and an ample commission given him for the execution of it, Jeremiah 1:4-10 .

(3,) The visions of an almond-tree and a seething-pot, signifying the approaching ruin of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 1:11-16 .

(4,) Encouragement given him to go on undauntedly in his work, in an assurance of God’s presence with him, Jeremiah 1:17-19 .

Verses 1-2

Jeremiah 1:1-2. The words of Jeremiah That is, the sermons or prophecies, the contents of which he received from God, that he might declare them unto the people, and which are comprised in this book under his name. See on Isaiah 2:1. The son of Hilkiah Some have supposed this to have been Hilkiah the high-priest, by whom the book of the law was found in the temple, in the reign of Josiah; but for this opinion there is no better ground than his being of the same name, which was not an uncommon one among the Jews; whereas, had he been in reality the high-priest, he would doubtless have been mentioned by that distinguishing title, and not put upon a level with the priests of an ordinary and inferior class. Besides this, Hilkiah dwelt at Anathoth, which was indeed one of the cities allotted to the priests, but not the place of residence of the high-priest, who always lived at Jerusalem. It may be observed here, that Jeremiah, being of the family of Aaron, would have been a teacher of the people even if he had not been called to the extraordinary office of prophesying. To whom the word of the Lord came Not only a charge and commission to prophesy, but also a revelation of the things themselves which he was to deliver; in the days of Josiah That young but good king, who, in the twelfth year of his reign, began a work of reformation, applying himself with all sincerity and diligence to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the groves, the images, and the high places, 2 Chronicles 34:3. Now the very next year was this young prophet seasonably raised up to assist and encourage the young king in that good work. And it might have been expected that, by the joint efforts of such a prince and such a prophet, both young, and likely to continue long to be useful, such a complete reformation would have been effected, as would have prevented the ruin of the church and state. But, alas! it proved quite otherwise: and their united labours, with respect to the generality of their countrymen, only served to aggravate their guilt and accelerate their destruction.

Verse 3

Jeremiah 1:3. It came also Namely, the word of the Lord, as Jeremiah 1:2; in the days of Jehoiakim Called at first by Josiah, Eliakim, 2 Kings 23:34. It must be observed, that Jehoahaz, who reigned before him, (2 Kings 28:8,) and Jehoiakim, who succeeded him, are not mentioned here, because each of them reigned only three months, and could hardly be said to be established in the government. Unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah The meaning is, that he prophesied not only during the reigns of Josiah and Jehoiakim, but also during the whole reign of Zedekiah, which was eleven years: unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive That great event of which he had so often prophesied. He continued, indeed, to prophesy after that, (Jeremiah 40:1,) but the computation of the time is here made to end with that event, because it was the accomplishment of many of his predictions: and from the thirteenth year of Josiah to the captivity was just forty years. It is observed from Dr. Lightfoot, that as Moses was forty years a teacher of the Israelites in the wilderness, till they entered into their own land; Jeremiah was so long a teacher in their own land before they were sent into the wilderness of the heathen: and he thinks that therefore a special mark is set upon the last forty years of the iniquity of Judah, which Ezekiel bore forty days, a day for a year, because, during all that time, they had Jeremiah prophesying among them, which was a great aggravation of their impenitency.

Verses 4-5

Jeremiah 1:4-5. Then the word of the Lord came unto me With a satisfying assurance to himself, that it was the word of the Lord, and not a delusion. Before I formed thee in the belly That is, the womb. Having spoken before on the time of his call, he now speaks of the manner of it. I knew thee That is, I had thee in my view, or approved thee as a fit minister for this work, in the same sense as it is said, Acts 15:18, Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world; he contemplated the plan of them, and approved it in his mind, before he created and brought them into being. I sanctified thee I set thee apart in my counsel for executing the office of a prophet. We have examples of a similar designation with that mentioned here, in John the Baptist and St. Paul, as the reader will see if he consult the texts referred to in the margin. And ordained thee a prophet unto the nations He speaks thus to Jeremiah, not to the other prophets, because he stood in need of greater encouragement than they, both in respect to the tenderness of his years, and the difficulties which he was to encounter. And ordained thee a prophet to the nations To other nations besides the Jews.

Verse 6

Jeremiah 1:6. Then said I, Ah, Lord God, &c. He modestly excuses himself from a consideration of the weight of the work, and the tenderness of his age, as in the next expression. Behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child We cannot infer from this, that Jeremiah was within the years of what is properly called childhood. For he might call himself a child by way of extenuating his abilities; as Solomon calls himself a little child, 1 Kings 1:7, although at that time he was married, and must have been at least twenty years of age. And the word child, or youth, is elsewhere used of those who were arrived at the first years of manhood.

Verses 7-8

Jeremiah 1:7-8. But the Lord said unto me, &c. God refuses to accept of his excuse, and renews his commission to him to execute the prophetic office. Thus God refused to accept the excuse of Moses, made on a like occasion. See Exodus 6:30; and Exodus 7:1-2. Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee This is not so much a command as a promise: as much as to say, I will enable thee, notwithstanding thy youth, to go with proper boldness to those to whom I send thee, and to declare my commands with that dignity and precision wherewith they ought to be uttered. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee, &c. The style of God’s commission to his prophets and messengers commonly runs in these words, I am with thee, (see the margin,) importing that God, who sent them, would enable them to discharge the office he had committed to them, and would give them strength proportionable to the work in which they engaged. To reprove the faults of all persons, of the high as well as the low, the rich as well as the poor, with that plainness and impartiality which the prophets used, required a more than ordinary degree of courage, as well as of prudence, for which cause the promise of God’s presence with them was particularly necessary, to encourage them in the discharge of their duty.

Verses 9-10

Jeremiah 1:9-10. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth This appeared to the prophet to be done in his vision; whereby he was taught that the divine help should go along with him, that the gift of utterance should be bestowed upon him, and that he should be able to declare the divine commands in a proper spirit and manner: compare Isaiah 6:7; and Isaiah 51:16. Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth By the seeing of this symbolical action in his vision, and the hearing of these words, Jeremiah could not but be assured that he should be able to speak in the proper language of a prophet, or with words becoming his office, and that he should have that firmness and boldness given him which were necessary for the purpose. Jeremiah does not indeed equal Isaiah in eloquence of speech, but he seems to have been no way inferior to him in firmness of mind. See, I have this day set thee over the nations Namely, to speak to them in my name, for this is all that is meant here by being set over them. To root out and to pull down, &c. In the style of Scripture the prophets are said to do what they declare shall be done; and therefore Jeremiah is here said to root out, &c., because he was authorized to make known the purposes of God, and because the events here mentioned would follow in consequence of his prophecies. See Isaiah 6:9; and Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, vol. 1.

Verses 11-12

Jeremiah 1:11-12. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me Probably at the same time, and in the same vision, wherein he was first appointed to his office; saying, What seest thou Here, by symbolical representations, the meaning of which God immediately interpreted, future things were presented to his view. This method of instruction or information sinks deeper into the mind, and leaves a more lasting impression there, than any mere words can do; and therefore the prophets frequently received communications from God in this way. And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree Namely, which had leaves, and possibly blossoms on it, like Aaron’s rod; otherwise the prophet could not so readily have discerned of what kind of wood it was. The almond-tree is one of the first that wakes and rises from its winter repose, flowering, in the warm southern countries, in the month of January, and by March bringing its fruits to maturity. From this circumstance, which is mentioned by Pliny, lib. 16. cap. 42, it is supposed to have received its name, שׁקד , shaked, as being intent, and, as it were, on the watch to seize the first opportunity of emitting its buds and blossoms: which is the proper sense of the verb, from which that noun is derived. A branch of this tree, therefore, with buds or leaves, and blossoms upon it, was a proper emblem to denote God’s hastening the execution of the predictions which he declared by this prophet, who lived to see most of his prophecies fulfilled. There is also in the original a remarkable paranomasia, or affinity in sound, between shaked, an almond-tree, and shoked, hastening, which makes the words more striking than they can possibly be in any translation. For not only the nature of the almond-tree, but the very sound of the Hebrew word, which signifies it, denoted God’s hastening to fulfil the prophecies which Jeremiah uttered by his directions. Thou hast well seen Or, thou hast seen and judged right. Hebrew, הישׂבת לראות , Thou hast done well to see, that is, in seeing so. For I will hasten my word Literally, I will act like the almond-tree respecting my word; namely, my word of threatening, against Judah and Jerusalem, to perform it.

Verse 13

Jeremiah 1:13. I see a seething-pot Or, a pot boiling. The steam of this boiling pot represented God’s judgments, which are often compared to a fire, as the afflictions of Israel were to a smoking furnace. Genesis 15:17. And the face thereof was toward the north The steam was represented to the prophet as raised by a fire, or driven by a wind coming from the north. Thus interpreted, the pot or caldron denoted Judea or Jerusalem, expressed by the same figure, Ezekiel 11:3; Ezekiel 11:7; Ezekiel 24:3. But the Hebrew פניו מפני צפונה , seems to be more exactly rendered by Blaney; The face thereof is turned from the north, or, as it is expressed in the margin, from the face of the north. For it appears from the next verse, that the evil was to come from the north; and therefore the steam, which was designed for an emblem of that evil, must have issued from that quarter. According to this interpretation, the pot denoted the empire of the Chaldeans, lying to the north of Judea, and pouring forth its multitudes like a thick vapour.

Verses 15-16

Jeremiah 1:15-16. For lo, I will call Or, I am upon calling, or, about to call; all the families of the kingdoms of the north By these seem to be meant the different nations who were subject to Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar, and who served in their armies, such as the Medes, Armenians, Chaldeans, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, and Syrians. The kings of Assyria were formerly troublesome to the Jews, chiefly under Ahaz and Hezekiah; but they do not seem to be spoken of here, but only those people who, from the thirteenth year of Josiah, when Jeremiah had this vision, grievously harassed Judea, until the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, to whom the kings of the north were either tributaries or auxiliaries. And they shall set every one his throne, &c. To set up a throne in, or over, any place, denotes taking full possession of it, as appears from Jeremiah 43:10; Jeremiah 49:38: but, by thrones here, seats, pavilions, or tents pitched, may be intended; and so this prophecy was fulfilled when the city was taken by Nebuchadnezzar: see Jeremiah 39:3. And I will utter my judgments against them Namely, against the Jews, for this is spoken of them, and not of the kings or people, mentioned in the foregoing verse; touching their wickedness Then I will no longer speak unto them by my prophets, whose threatenings they have disregarded; but the judgments which I will bring upon them shall declare their wickedness, and the vengeance due unto them for it.

Verse 17

Jeremiah 1:17. Thou therefore gird up thy loins Prepare to do the work to which I call and appoint thee. For, it being the custom of the eastern people to wear long garments, which they girded about their loins when any business required great activity or expedition; by thus speaking the Lord enjoins his prophet to use all possible vigour and intention of mind as well as of body, that he might execute, with diligence and despatch, the office which God had assigned him. And arise Another expression of the same meaning. And speak all that I command thee Hebrew, shall command thee. Be not dismayed at their faces Discover no fear, and conceal no message; lest I confound thee The Hebrew verb is the same in both parts of the sentence, which may be literally rendered thus: Be not confounded at their faces, (namely, when thou appearest in their presence,)

lest I confound thee before them. God exhorts him not to be dismayed at the scoffs and ill treatment he should meet with from hardened sinners, especially from those who thought their power and authority set them above reproof, and would bear them out in whatsoever they did: see Ezekiel 11:6. He tells him it is better to bear the reproaches of men than the reproofs of God, who would call him to a strict account how he discharged his duty.

Verses 18-19

Jeremiah 1:18-19. For I have made thee this day a defenced city That is, from this day I will so defend thee that they shall be no more able to hurt thee than they would be if thou wast in a strongly-fortified and impregnable city. And brazen walls Which cannot be broken or battered down with any force. Against the whole land, against the kings, &c. All its inhabitants in general; intimating that, though men of all degrees should set themselves against him, yet God would support him against them all, and would carry him through his work, although his troubles would not only be great, but long, extended through several kings’ reigns. And they shall fight against thee Shall oppose thee, and manifest much hostile hatred against thee; but they shall not prevail They shall not be able, by all their devices, to shorten thy days, or to prevent thy executing the charge given thee. For I am with thee, to deliver thee I will show my power in protecting and delivering thee out of all thy troubles, when thy adversaries shall become a prey to their enemies.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-1.html. 1857.
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