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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 13

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


A.M. 3402. B.C. 602.

This chapter contains a single and distinct prophecy, which, under two symbols, a linen girdle left to rot, and all vessels being filled with wine, foretels the utter destruction that was destined to fall upon the whole Jewish nation, including the individuals of every rank and denomination, Jeremiah 13:1-14 . An exhortation to humiliation and repentance is subjoined, Jeremiah 13:15-21 . And the cause of all the evils is assigned in the general corruption and profligacy of manners that prevailed without prospect of amendment, Jeremiah 13:22-27 . The particular mention of the joint downfall of the king and queen, Jer 13:28, seems to justify the opinion which ascribes this prophecy to the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim whose fate, and that of his queen, is in like manner noticed together, Jeremiah 22:18 .

Verses 1-2

Jeremiah 13:1-2. Thus saith the Lord unto me The prophet here begins a new discourse. Go and get thee a girdle, &c. “God explains, at Jeremiah 13:11, what was meant by the symbol of the girdle, or sash, worn about the loins, namely, his people Israel, whom he redeemed of old, and attached to himself by a special covenant; that as a girdle served for an ornament to the wearer, so they should be subservient to the honour and glory of his name. But it is added, They would not hear, or conform to his intentions; therefore, being polluted with the guilt of their disobedience, they were, in that state, and on that very account, to be carried into captivity; conformably to which the prophet was commanded not to put the girdle in water, that is, not to wash it, but to leave it in that state of filthiness which it had contracted in wearing.” So I got the girdle, according to the word of the Lord That is, according to God’s command. And put it on my loins Used it as God directed me, not disputing the reason why God commanded me to do such a thing.

Verse 4

Jeremiah 13:4. Arise, go to Euphrates God commanded the prophet to go and hide the girdle on the bank of the Euphrates, to signify that the Jews should be carried captive over that river, called the waters of Babylon, Psalms 137:1. In the margin of our ancient English Bibles, it is observed, that, “because this river Perath, or Euphrates, was far from Jerusalem, it is evident that this was done in a vision.” And the generality of the best commentators have been of this opinion; it not being probable that the prophet should have been sent twice upon a journey of such considerable length and difficulty, to the very great loss of his time, merely upon the errands here mentioned, namely, to carry the girdle to the Euphrates, and to fetch it back, when, it seems, every purpose would have been answered altogether as well if the transaction had been represented in vision. Several things, it must be observed, are related in Scripture as actually done, which yet were certainly only performed in visions. One instance we have Jeremiah 25:15-29, where Jeremiah is commanded to take a cup of wine in his hand, and to cause several kings and nations, there enumerated, to drink of it: for it would be a perfect absurdity to believe that he actually went round to all those kings and nations, and made them drink of the contents of his cup. And yet he makes no more distinction in this latter case, than in that now before us, between mental and bodily action. Another remarkable instance we have Genesis 15:5, where the text says, that God brought Abraham forth abroad, and bid him tell the stars; and yet it appears, by a subsequent verse, that the sun was not then gone down. Indeed, in all these cases, and in many more that might be mentioned of a similar kind, it made no difference as to the end God had in view, whether the transactions related were visionary or real; for either way they served equally to represent the events which it was God’s pleasure to make known. See Lowth and Blaney.

Verse 9

Jeremiah 13:9. After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, &c. Or, as some translate the verse, “Will I mar the glory of Judah, and the great honour of Jerusalem.” I will bring down their pride and stubbornness, by making them slaves and vassals to strangers, Lamentations 5:8; Lamentations 5:13. Or, alluding to the transaction about the girdle, “I will transport them beyond the Euphrates; I will bide them in Babylon, as in the hole of a rock, whence they cannot come out. They shall be marred in the midst of the nations, without temple, without sacrifice, without priests, without external worship. I will humble their presumption, and teach them to acknowledge and adore my mercy.”

Verse 11

Jeremiah 13:11. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man Here God shows the prophet why he commanded him to put the girdle about his loins. So have I caused Rather, had I caused; to cleave unto me the house of Israel I had betrothed them to myself in righteousness, and entered into a marriage covenant with them, that they might cleave to me as a wife cleaveth to her husband. By the laws I gave them, the prophets I sent among them, and the favours which, in my providence, I showed them, I brought them near to myself, and allowed them access to me, and intercourse with me, above every other nation. That they might be unto me for a people A peculiar people; that they might have the honour of being called by my name; and for a praise and a glory That I might be glorified by their showing forth my power, goodness, and faithfulness, and all my other glorious perfections to the world, so that I might be honoured and praised through them.

Verse 12

Jeremiah 13:12. Therefore Because the end intended by my goodness has not been answered upon them; thou shall speak unto them this word Thou shall show them the destruction coming upon them by another emblem. Thus saith the Lord, Every bottle shall be filled with wine God’s judgments are often represented under the figure of a cup full of intoxicating liquor: see this metaphor pursued at large, Jeremiah 25:15, &c. To the same purpose God tells them here that as they have all sinned, so should every one have his share in the punishment. And they shall say unto thee, &c. “God, who knew the profaneness of their hearts, foretels the reply they would make to this threatening, that, taking it in a literal sense, they would make a jest of it, as if the words were intended to encourage intemperance, for either they did not or would not understand the drift of them.” Thus Lowth. But Blaney thinks their answer, Do we not know, &c., implies that, by a wilful mistake, they construed his words as “meant to tell them of a plentiful vintage that was coming on, which would fill all their wine-vessels; and of this they claimed to be as good judges as he, from the promising appearance of the vineyards. As if they said, Do you tell us this as a piece of news, or a supernatural discovery? Is it not evident to us as well as to you? The prophet is therefore directed to deal more plainly with them, and to tell them that the wine he meant was not such as would exhilarate, but such as would intoxicate; being no other than what would be poured out of the wine-cup of God’s fury, to the subversion of all ranks and orders of men among them.”

Verses 13-14

Jeremiah 13:13-14. Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants with drunkenness There is a wine of astonishment and confusion, Psalms 60:3. With that wine, saith God, I will fill all orders of persons, kings, priests, prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will dash them one against another I will permit an evil spirit of strife and division to arise among them, as Judges 9:23, so that they shall be set one against another, fathers against their sons, and sons against their fathers, and family against family; so that, having no union among themselves, or friendly co- operation, they shall become an easy prey to their enemies. Thus I will confound and destroy them, as earthen vessels are broken to pieces when they are dashed one against another. The words allude to the earthen bottles which were to be filled with wine, Jeremiah 13:12. I will not pity nor spare, but destroy, &c. For they will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy one another: see Habakkuk 2:15-16. Therefore let them not presume upon my mercy, for I am resolved to show them no mercy, but to bring them to utter ruin, unless a thorough reformation take place.

Verses 15-17

Jeremiah 13:15-17. Hear ye, &c. The prophet proceeds to give them good counsel, which, if it had been taken, the desolation and destruction threatened would have been prevented. Be not proud Pride was one of the sins for which God had a controversy with them, Jeremiah 13:9. Let them mortify and forsake this and their other sins, and God will let fall his controversy with them. Give glory to the Lord your God Glorify God by an humble confession of your sins, by submitting yourselves to him, humbling yourselves under his word, and under his mighty hand; before he cause darkness Before he bring upon you the night of affliction, even his great and heavy judgments. Light is the emblem of joy, and happy times are expressed by bright and pleasant days. On the contrary, calamities and troubles are represented by night and darkness, when every thing looks melancholy and dismal. And before your feet stumble, &c. Before the time come when ye shall be forced to flee by night unto the mountains for fear of your enemies. Or, more generally, before you find yourselves overtaken by the pursuing judgments of God, notwithstanding all your endeavours to outrun and escape from them. And while ye look for light That is, for relief and comfort; he turn it into the shadow of death Involve you in most dismal and terrible calamities, out of which you shall be utterly unable to extricate yourselves. But if ye will not hear Will not submit to and obey the word, but continue to be refractory; my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride Your haughtiness, stubbornness, and vain confidence; and mine eye shall weep sore, &c. Not chiefly, nor so much, because my relations, friends, and neighbours are involved in trouble and distress, but because the Lord’s flock His people, and the sheep of his pasture; are carried away captive Observe, reader, that should always grieve us most by which God’s honour suffers, and the interest of his kingdom is weakened.

Verse 18

Jeremiah 13:18 . Say unto the king and queen That is, to Jehoiachin, called also Coniah, and his mother, who were carried captives to Babylon at the first coming of Nebuchadnezzar; see Jeremiah 22:26; 2 Kings 24:12. Some indeed suppose that Zedekiah and his mother are intended, which does not appear so probable. Humble yourselves By true repentance, and so both give glory to God, and set a good example to your subjects; and sit down Sit down and consider what is coming; sit down and lament your condition. For your principalities shall come down

The honour and power by which you value yourselves, and in which you confide, even the crown of your glory For when you are led away captive, where will the badges of your power and pre-eminence be then? Blessed be God, there is a crown of glory which shall never come down, and which they who humble themselves before God, in true repentance, shall in due time inherit.

Verses 19-21

Jeremiah 13:19-21. The cities of the south, &c. The cities of Judah, which lay in the southern part of Canaan, shall be straitly besieged by the enemy, so that there shall be no going in and out; or shall be deserted by the inhabitants. Or, as some think, the cities of Egypt are intended, from whence the Jews expected succour. These should fail them, and they should find no access to them. Lift up your eyes, &c. He speaks as if their enemies were even then upon their march, nay, so near, that if they did but lift up their eyes and look, they might see them coming. Where is the flock that was given thee? He streaks to the king, representing him under the idea of a shepherd, and the people under that of a flock. Or rather, as the pronouns are feminine, he addresses the daughter of Judah, that is, the city or state. “What wilt thou say, when the Lord shall demand of thee an account of the people committed to thy trust? What wilt thou answer when the sovereign monarch shall see dissipated, diminished, weakened, destroyed, thy beautiful flock,” or, as צאן תפארתךְ rather signifies, the flock of thy glory. In the multitude of people, says Solomon, is the king’s honour. What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? Thou wilt have nothing to say, but be wholly confounded, when God shall visit thee by this sore judgment. Or, when Nebuchadnezzar’s army, sent by God, shall visit thee. For thou hast taught them to be captains, &c. Houbigant renders it, “Since thou hast made them expert against thee, and hast drawn them upon thine own head;” and Blaney, more literally, “Seeing it is thou that teachest them to be rulers in chief over thee.” “Thou hast frequently called them to thy succour, and taught them the way to thy country, whereof they dreamed not before; and not only thus, but by accumulating crimes upon crimes, and filling up the measure of thine iniquity, thou hast drawn down the vengeance of heaven, and put thyself in the power of the Chaldeans.” See Calmet. Some have understood the alliances, contracted heretofore with the Assyrians by Ahaz, and the conduct of Hezekiah toward the ambassadors of the king of Babylon, to be here alluded to. “But I rather think,” says Blaney, “that the wicked manners of the people are principally designed; which put them out of the protection of Almighty God, and rendered them an easy conquest to any enemy that came against them. Thus they taught their enemies to oppress, and to be lords over them; against whom, but for their own faults, they might have maintained their security and independence.”

Verse 22

Jeremiah 13:22. If thou say, Wherefore come these things upon me? Hypocrites will rarely confess their own shame and God’s righteousness, but are ready to expostulate with him, and to inquire why he hath dealt so with them, as if he had treated them unjustly. But, saith God, For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, &c. That is, thou art carried into captivity, stripped and bare, without covering to thy nakedness; it being the barbarous custom of conquerors, in ancient times, to treat their captives with such indignities in conducting them to the place of their intended residence: see note on Isaiah 3:17; and Nahum 3:5. Lowth thinks the words may also allude to the punishment that used to be inflicted upon common harlots and adulteresses, which was to strip them naked, and expose them to the eyes of the world: and thus God threatened he would deal with Jerusalem, upon account of her spiritual fornication.

Verse 23

Jeremiah 13:23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, &c. The word Cushi, here rendered Ethiopian, often signifies Arabian, in the Scriptures; Ethiopia being, by ancient writers, distinguished into Eastern (the same with Arabia) and Western Ethiopia. But here an inhabitant of the latter, that is, of Ethiopia properly so called, seems evidently to be meant, the people of that country, which lay south of Egypt, being much more remarkable than the Arabians for their black colour. It seems hardly necessary to observe to the reader, that Jeremiah does not intend to express here the absolute impossibility of a change taking place in the principles and practices of the ignorant and wicked. “To suppose this, would be to contradict the whole tenor of his writings, and to render insignificant and absurd all his invitations to repentance. Nay, it appears from the last verse of this chapter that he did not suppose the reformation even of this people to be an absolute impossibility. We are therefore to understand this as a proverbial expression, which, like many others in Scripture, is not to be taken in the strictness of the letter; the prophet designing only to express the extreme difficulty of a moral change in habitual sinners, and particularly in those presumptuous and obstinate sinners of Israel to whom his discourse is directed.” Dodd.

Verses 24-25

Jeremiah 13:24-25. Therefore will I scatter them Separate them from one another, and disperse them abroad in that strange and remote country to which they are carried captive; as the stubble, or chaff, rather, that passeth away by the wind That is dissipated and carried far away by a fierce wind: he adds, of the wilderness, to render the declaration the more emphatical, the chaff being more easily and effectually scattered by the wind in an open place, where there are no houses. This is the portion of thy measures from me What thou wilt receive of my hand; because thou hast forgotten me The favours I have bestowed upon thee, and the obligations thou art under to me: of these thou hast no sense, no remembrance; and trusted in falsehood In idols, in an arm of flesh, in the self-flatteries of a deceitful heart.

Verses 26-27

Jeremiah 13:26-27. Therefore will I discover thy skirts Lay thee open to shame and disgrace. See on Jeremiah 13:22. I have seen thine adulteries Thy idolatries; thy inordinate desire after strange gods, which thou hast been impatient to gratify: thy neighings A metaphorical expression taken from horses neighing to each other; the lewdness of thy whoredoms Thy impudence and unsatiableness in the worship of idols, on the hills, in the fields, upon the high places. Wo unto thee, O Jerusalem Miserable art thou, and greater miseries await thee, as the fruit of such practices. Wilt thou not be made clean? The prophet here expresses, in the strongest manner, his desire for the repentance and reformation of this people. The original, מתי עוד , When once? is remarkably emphatical. The aposiopesis, as it is called, or form of speech, by which, through a vehement affection, the prophet suddenly breaks off his discourse, is remarkably beautiful and expressive.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-13.html. 1857.
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