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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 1

 

 

Verses 1-19

Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee. In the creation God knew the nature and designations of every creature, whether of plants, or of living beings. He assigned laws and abodes to each, and food according to all his pleasure. The Creator is the disposer of all his creatures. Cyrus, John the baptist, and St. Paul were called from the womb, as was Jeremiah. And a confidence in God’s particular knowledge, foresight and care, should greatly encourage and comfort ministers in their work. On the other hand, we must never decipher the depths of providence so far in favour of ourselves as to hurt another: that would be to sap the whole foundation of moral obligation, and make God the author of crime. Let us be content to say, “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.”

I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Chiefly to Judah, but occasionally to the Egyptians, to the Philistines, to the Moabites, to the Ammonites, to the Idumeans, and to the Syrians of different names. Isaiah had the like commission, and those prophets caused their warning voice to be heard among all these nations as opportunities were afforded.

Jeremiah 1:9. The Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. Jeremiah in vision saw the hand, and felt the touch. The juvenile prophet required those strong and paternal supports of a Father and a God.

Jeremiah 1:11. A rod of an almond tree. In the early ages of the world the poverty of language and of ideas rendered it necessary that men should aid their discourse by actions or signs; hence the eastern phrase, the voice of the sign. The Hebrew prophets employed these signs, or significant actions, both to illustrate, and to impress the subject of their predictions on the mind. The Lord also, condescending to this primitive mode of instruction, frequently revealed not only the truth which was to be delivered, but the sign by which it was to be accompanied or illustrated. 1 Kings 12:11. Ezekiel 4. Thus the rod of the almond tree and the seething pot were exhibited in vision to Jeremiah. The rod was an instrument of punishment; but in the almond tree which blossoms in January and bears fruit in March, when other trees do but begin to bud, there is an intimation that God would bring forward and hasten his word, as much as the almond tree is in advance of all other trees in its season: Jeremiah 1:12. MOSES BEN MAIMON discovers a further illustration in the name of the tree presented in vision. The Hebrew name of the almond is שׁקדshaked, from שׁקדshakad, to hasten, to be in advance; the hastening tree, from its blossoming so early in the year. Hence in the vision there is a paronomasia, or play upon the word, which the versions cannot readily convey. “Jeremiah, what seest thou? I see the rod of a hastening tree.—Thou hast well seen; for I will hasten my word to perform it.” The prophets, says this learned author, frequently employ equivocal and metaphorical expressions, with an intent, not to convey the obvious sense of the words, but that which may be collected from their etymology and derivation. Sometimes they see things which convey ideas different from what they see, and which are implied in another signification of that word which stands for the thing seen. Thus an almond tree [SHAKED] is presented before Jeremiah, and yet scarcely any respect is had to that tree, which was only an artificial memorial that God would hasten, [SHOKED] or watch over, the performance of his word, which is the other sense of the Hebrew word for an almond tree. Maim. Mor. Nev. 11:29.

Jeremiah 1:13. A seething pot—whose face is from the north. Hebrews The cauldron of war, Ezekiel 24:3, was already boiling, and sending forth its steam towards Judea. The Chaldeans were preparing to overflow the land, and the fury of the invading army is justly compared to columns of vapour from a boiler of great magnitude.

REFLECTIONS.

How good and gracious is the Lord! He left not himself at any time without witness in his church. While the young and pious Jeremiah was serving his God, the Messiah in person called and commissioned him as the first of prophets in his age. And the excuses of this holy youth from wane of eloquence, and want of years, not only mask his modesty and consciousness of the glory of the work, but also that the prophetic mission was altogether divine. Judah was now blessed with a young king, and a young prophet. Oh that they had been worthy of shepherds so divine.

We have next the support and comfort which the Lord gave this diffident youth with regard to the reality of his call. Like some other extraordinary messengers, he was designated to the work from his birth. Accordingly, God had gathered, consecrated, or sanctified him to the high mission of his ministry. Consequently, we should give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, with regard both to exterior offices and eternal glory, always remembering that Eli forfeited his priesthood, and Saul his throne by disobedience; and that St. Paul says, I keep my body under, lest after I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

We have also the exterior comfort which God gave to the diffident prophet. Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to deliver thee. Every minister who receives encouraging promises from the Lord in the commencement of his ministry, should hold them fast to the end of life. And this promise was literally fulfilled to Jeremiah, when all the princes of Judah sought his life.

Next we have the high and extensive powers of the sacred ministry. I have set thee over nations and kingdoms, to root out and to plant, to pull down and to build up. So it happened to every man, to every city, and to every nation, according to Jeremiah’s word, as we shall see in the history before us. Hence ministers, knowing whom they serve, must eradicate error, and pull down the strongholds of wickedness with a high voice. Commissioned from God, they hold the sentences of the wicked in their hand, who ought to tremble under the power of the word.

This mission of the prophet was accompanied with a double vision, an almond tree which blossoms among the first of trees, to mark the proximation of God’s judgments; and the seething pot or immense boiler with its face smoking from the north, importing that the northern kings, now tributary to Babylon, should assemble around Jerusalem, and that its criminal inhabitants should be as the meat designated for consumption. What an awful portrait of the judgments of God! May it teach us to tremble at sin as at the severest stroke of divine displeasure.

From the two last verses of this chapter we learn, that the exercise of the ministry among the unregenerate is a wrestling, a contest, and a warfare. Hence we should be careful not to give the wicked any advantage against us: and considering them as a people in full revolt against God, they must alternately be reduced to obedience by the arms of justice and of mercy. Seriousness and fidelity should distinguish the struggle, as it must assuredly terminate in crowns of glory, or in chains of darkness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/jeremiah-1.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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