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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Jeremiah 18

 

 

Verses 1-10

THE SEVEN DISCOURSE

( Jeremiah 18-20)

As these three chapters appear under a common superscription of the longer form, which does not recur till chap21, they are evidently to be regarded as a connected whole. They have in fact an internal connection, although they cannot by any means be considered as a rhetorical whole, or as a connected discourse. Two historical facts are here set before us, which are internally related, but are different as to time, and probably also as to their original record, to which are also attached both prophetic indications and subjective effusions. The first historical fact is the incident with the potter, related in Jeremiah 18. As in this chapter the impending judgment is still announced in the same general manner as before, the Chaldeans not yet being mentioned as the instrument, it is manifest that it must have been written before the decisive turning-point reported in Jeremiah 15, viz, before the battle of Carchemish in the 4th year of Jehoiakim. On the other hand chh19. and20. were written after this crisis. For in Jeremiah 20:4 we read “I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon.” Jeremiah does not speak thus till after that decisive battle. It is also noteworthy, that the prophet in Jeremiah 20:2 is called יִרְמְיָהוּ הַנָּבִיא, not simply ירְמְיָהוּ, which mode of expression likewise prevails only after the great crisis. (Comp. Jeremiah 25:2; Jeremiah 28:5; Jeremiah 28:10-12; Jeremiah 28:15, etc.) It follows definitively that chh19,20 belong to the time of Jehoiakim from the circumstance that in the reign of Zedekiah, not Pashur, but Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah, appears to be invested with the dignity of temple-officer (comp. Jeremiah 29:26 coll. Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 52:24), and moreover as the successor of Jehoiada, which renders the probability that Pashur no longer held this office under Zedekiah so much the greater, especially if we consider that Jeremiah 29 belongs to one of the first years of Zedekiah (see the Introd. to Jeremiah 29) Pashur, who in Jeremiah 20:4 sqq. is threatened with being carried away captive to Babylon, had most probably met this fate with king Jehoiakim and that numerous company which is spoken of in Jeremiah 29:1 and 2 Kings 24:12-14.—Notwithstanding therefore that Jeremiah 18 belongs to an earlier period than chh19,20 they are placed together because both are based on symbolic actions, of which the productions of pottery form the substratum. In Jeremiah 18 the clay on the potter’s wheel first fails, but is then immediately formed anew; in Jeremiah 19 the vessel is ready-made, which being poured out is then (irreparably Jeremiah 19:11) broken by the prophet. Both actions are of such a character as to set before the people that the Lord has not only the power but the will to destroy them. Nevertheless there is a great difference between the two actions, the first having a parænetic, the second more of a declarative character, as will be shown in the exposition. Graf is of opinion that Jeremiah 19:1-13 was written down at the same time with Jeremiah 18, because the event narrated in Jeremiah 20:1 sqq, is related to the prophecy in Jeremiah 7:30 sqq. as Jeremiah 26:1 to her Jeremiah 7:12, and since the discourse in Jeremiah 7 sqq. belongs to the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, so also the prophecy in Jeremiah 19:1-13, and the event recorded in Jeremiah 20:1-6 must belong to this time. But the latter was not recorded till afterwards, like all the narratives from the life of Jeremiah. The lyrical passage Jeremiah 20:7-13 has no connection with the preceding context. But it may have been composed under the impression of the shameful treatment which Jeremiah had received in the temple, or subsequently in remembrance of this and other persecutions. The five verses, Jeremiah 20:14-18, are said to be an independent fragment, an amplification of Jeremiah 15:10, which was perhaps composed in consequence of the same occurrences, and were put here on this account, or only on account of its agreement with Jeremiah 18:7-8. To this I have to object; 1. It is an unnatural supposition that Jeremiah 19:1-13 was written before Jeremiah 19:14 to Jeremiah 20:6. For both passages are so closely connected that we cannot conceive what could have occasioned the prophet to defer the relation in Jeremiah 19:14, etc, after having recorded the previous facts, together with the prophecy connected with them. The narrative Jeremiah 19:14, etc, was certainly recorded after the prophet had already begun to call himself הַנָביאי׳, but only because the prophecy itself belongs to this later period. This is not identical with Jeremiah 7:30-34 and does not therefore belong to the first years of Jehoiakim. The agreement in particular words and phrases corresponds only to the general usage of Jeremiah, to repeat himself frequently and extensively, and in different connections by no means justifies the assumption of identity. 2. The passage Jeremiah 20:7-13 is closely connected with the previous context, as is especially seen in the words מָגוֹר מִסָּביב (comp. the Comm. on Jeremiah 20:10); it is not however an objective and official word of God, but a memorial of subjective thoughts and feelings, which then moved the prophet, and thus bears to some extent the character of a private record. 3. The case is the same with Jeremiah 20:14-18. This passage also is of an entirely subjective and private nature. To strike it out or explain it as only patched on accidentally is to deny the dualism which must undoubtedly have prevailed in the mind of the prophet. To transpose it from this place and set it before Jeremiah 20:7 (as Ewald does, in this however opposed by Graf) would be to disturb the natural course and the clear picture of the inner feelings of the prophet. For it is only too probable that in those troubled times a troubled frame of mind finally became predominant.

I am therefore of opinion that Jeremiah 18. belongs to the period before, chh19. and 20 to the period after, the fourth year of Jehoiakim, that the passages however being of related contents were placed in juxtaposition in the collection of prophecies; further, that Jeremiah 19:1 to Jeremiah 20:6 is to be regarded as a closely connected whole, on which follows as an appendix a subjective effusion of double and contradictory purport, by which however we obtain a true picture of the prophet’s then prevailing state of mind.

The discourse may be divided as follows:

THE SYSMBOLS OF POTTERY

First Symbol: the clay and potter, Jeremiah 18

1. The parable of the potter and its interpretation in a negative sense, Jeremiah 18:1-10.

2. The interpretation of the parable in a positive sense, Jeremiah 18:11-17.

3. The manner in which the people receive the word of the prophet, and his petition to the Lord for protection from their hostility, Jeremiah 18:18-23.

Second Symbol:—the broken vessel, chaps19,20

1. The symbolic action and its interpretation, Jeremiah 19:1-13.

2. Opposition and punishment of Pashur, Jeremiah 19:14 to Jeremiah 20:6.

3. Appendix. The prophet’s joy and sorrow, Jeremiah 20:7-18.

a. Through sorrow to joy, Jeremiah 20:7-13.

b. For the present sorrow only. The prophet curses the day of his birth, Jeremiah 20:14-18.

___________

Jeremiah 18-20

THE SYMBOLS OF POTTERY

First Symbol:—the clay and potter

Chap18

1. The parable of the potter and its interpretation in the negative sense

Jeremiah 18:1-10

1, 2 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord [Jehovah], saying, Arise and go down to the potter’s house and there I will cause thee to hear my words 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the 4 wheels. And the vessel which he was making[FN1] of [as] clay[FN2] was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to 5 make it. then the word of the Lord [Jehovah] came to me, saying,

6 Cannot I do to you as this potter does,

O house of Israel? saith Jehovah.

Behold as the clay in the hand of the potter,

So are ye in my hand, O house of Israel!

7 Suddenly I speak against a nation and against a kingdom,

To extirpate and exterminate and to destroy:

8 If now this nation, against which I have spoken, turn from its wickedness,

I repent of the evil which I thought to do unto it.

9 And suddenly I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom,

To build and to plant:

10 If now it does that which is evil[FN3] in my eyes,

So that it hears not my voice,

I repent of the good wherewith I promised to benefit it.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The prophet receives the command to go into the potter’s house, to receive there a revelation from the Lord. He obeys and is a witness how the clay is spoiled in the hands of the potter, as he works on the wheel, and how he immediately forms a new vessel out of the clay ( Jeremiah 18:1-4). Hereupon the prophet receives the word of the Lord: As the clay is in the hand of the potter, so is Israel in the hand of the Lord ( Jeremiah 18:5-6). As the Lord by penitence and conversion is dissuaded from the accomplishment of His threatenings, so by evil-doing He may be prevented from performing His gracious promises ( Jeremiah 18:7-10).

Jeremiah 18:1-4. The word … to the potter to make it. The superscription is like that in Jeremiah 7:1; Jeremiah 11:1.—האנים, wheels. The meaning of the word, which occurs besides only in Exodus 1:16 cannot be doubtful in this passage. With respect however to Exodus 1:16, it was the object of a literary controversy. Comp. Böttcher in Winer’sZeitsch. f. wiss. Theol, Bd. II, H. 1, S. 49 ff.; Rettig, Böttcheru.Redslob, Stud. u. Krit., 1834; Benary, Berlin, Jahrbb., 1841; Ernst Meier, Stud. u. Krit, 1842. [For a description and diagram of the wheel, see Gesen. Lex, s. v.]—As seemed good. Comp. Jeremiah 27:5.

Jeremiah 18:5-10. Then the word … to benefit it.—On as the clay in the hand of the potter comp. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:7; Wisdom of Solomon 15:7; Sirach 36:13; Romans 9:21.—Suddenly, Jeremiah 18:7; Jeremiah 18:9, is evidently not to be referred to the proximate verb, but to the main thought, i.e., to the apodosis. The mode of expression is paratactic. In our syntactic mode it would be: Suddenly, if I have spoken against a nation … and this nation turn, I will repent, etc. Comp. Naegelsb.Gr., § 111, 1, Anm. Moreover, the word refers evidently to the rapidity with which the potter changes the form of the clay. Observation may be recommended as the best commentator on this passage.—To extirpate. Comp. Jeremiah 1:10.—Against which I spoke is not to be referred to wickedness, but to nation.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Jeremiah 18:4.—ונשׁחת. The perfects נִשְׁחַת and שָׁב signify that these facts are not to be regarded as co-ordinate points in the course of the narrative, but as further developments of the עֹשֵׂה מְלָאכָה, from which it is not necessary to assume that the word designates more than a single act (Hitzig, Graf). The form וַיָּשָׁב is used (as ex. gr., Genesis 26:17) for the reason that the word does not contain the main idea, but a subordinate one attached as it were by the preceding perfect. Comp. Genesis 29:2 sqq.; Isaiah 6:3; Daniel 8:4; Ewald, § 342 b; Naegelsb. Gr., § 84, b; § 95 g, Anm.

FN#2 - Jeremiah 18:4.—כחמר ו׳. These words have been unjustly suspected by different translators, transcribers, and commentators. They are not a gloss from Jeremiah 18:6, but doubtless chosen with reference to this verse. The intention is to set forth prominently the puactum saliens by similarity of expression in the historical narrative and the application. The כְּ is to be regarded as Kaph veritatis = as clay, i.e., as he is accustomed to do to the clay. Comp. Jeremiah 15:19; Naegelsb. Gr., § 112, 5, c. [Wordsworth: As clay sometimes fails in the hand of the potter.—Henderson. “בַּחֹמֵר with ב instead of כ, is found in the text of fifty-eight MSS, has originally been in several more, and is now in five more by correction. It is likewise exhibited in seventeen printed editions, and alone makes sense.”—S. R. A.].

FN#3 - Jeremiah 18:10.—הרעה. The Masoretes would read חָרַע, according to the usage which prevails elsewhere without an exception (comp. Numbers 32:13; Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7; Judges 3:12, etc.; 1 Kings 11:6; 1 Kings 14:22; Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 32:30, etc.). The reading of the Chethibh Isaiah, however, evidently occasioned by הטובה after, and רעתו before it.


Verses 11-17

2. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE IN THE POSITIVE SENSE

Jeremiah 18:11-17

11 And now speak indeed[FN4] to the men of Judah,

And to[FN5] the inhabitants [citizens] of Jerusalem, saying,

Thus saith Jehovah: Behold!

I frame evil against you, and think thoughts against you:

Turn ye now, each from his evil way,

And reform your ways and your works.

12 But they will say: No use![FN6] but our thoughts we will follow,

And will practise, each according to the obstinacy[FN7] of his wicked heart.

13 Therefore thus saith Jehovah:

Inquire now among the nations, who hath heard the like?

The virgin Israel hath done a very horrible thing.[FN8]

14 Ceases[FN9] from the rock of the field the snow of Lebanon?

Or do the strong,[FN10] cool, rippling waters dry up?

15 That my people forgat me and burned incense to vanity,

And made them stumble in their ways, the ancient paths,[FN11]

To walk in roads of an unleveled way,

16 To make their land a desolation,

An object of everlasting derision?[FN12]

He who only passes through will be astounded at it,

And will shake his head.[FN13]

17 Like the east wind will I scatter them before the enemy;

Back not face will I show them in the day of their fall.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

After it had been shown in Jeremiah 18:5-10 that the Lord was not bound by His promises with respect to the people, but has as much freedom as the potter with respect to the clay, He now makes the positive application of this parable. He declares what, like a potter, he is about to form, viz., calamity. The expression יוֹצֵר, Jeremiah 18:11, is the only point in which this strophe supports itself on the preceding parable, for in what follows there is no further reference to it. To the brief application and exposition of this word, is attached an exhortation to repentance and reformation ( Jeremiah 18:11 b), to which the people answer with stubborn rejection ( Jeremiah 18:12). On account of this unheard of ( Jeremiah 18:13), and unnatural apostasy ( Jeremiah 18:14-15), desolation, dispersion and flight are again announced to the people as the divine punishment ( Jeremiah 18:16-17).

Jeremiah 18:11-12. And now speak … wicked heart.—And now introduces the transition, after the basis has been laid for the proper object of the discourse. It has been shown that the Lord can form what He will, it is now positively declared, that He will frame evil.—I frame (יוצר). In the transferred sense the word is used also in Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26; Isaiah 46:11; Jeremiah 33:2.—Think. Comp Jeremiah 49:30. The words from turn to way, are found verbatim in Jeremiah 25:5; Jeremiah 35:15. In the last passage is found also the rest of the verse with the exception of דרביבם, your works. Comp. Jeremiah 7:3; Jeremiah 26:13.

Jeremiah 18:13-17. Therefore thus … day of their fall. From the peremptory declaration which Israel made in Jeremiah 18:12, it is concluded that this nation has rendered itself guilty of unfaithfulness, the like of which is found neither in history ( Jeremiah 18:13), nor in nature ( Jeremiah 18:14).—Inquire now. Comp. Jeremiah 2:10-11.—Virgin. Comp. Amos 5:2; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:21.—Ceases, etc. According to the connection the prophet can only mean to adduce a fact in natural history which forms a parallel to the historical fact that a nation has never forsaken its gods. In general it is plain that he has chosen, as the example from natural history, the perennial connection of the snow on Lebanon, and of the fresh abundant springs, with the צוּר שָֹׁדַי. But what is this? Disregarding the various arbitrary and forced explanations, two views may be here considered. According to one it is Mt. Zion, according to the other, Mt. Lebanon itself. It is in favor of the former1. That Zion in Jeremiah 17:3 appears under the designation בַשָּׂדֶה, and in Jeremiah 21:13 as צוּר הַמִּישׁוֹר. 2. That in Psalm 133:3 also the dew of Hermon, which descends on Mt. Zion, is spoken of, and in Proverbs 25:23 it is said: the north wind brings [Eng. Vers.: driveth away] rain3. That the expression snow of Lebanon intimates that the rock of the plain is not identical with Lebanon. On the other hand it may be objected to this explanation: 1. That a connection between the snow of Lebanon and the springs of Zion is very dubious. In a bold poetical figure the extension of the dew of Hermon over the whole land even to Zion, may be spoken of, but here a fact in natural history is treated of, which must have been familiar to the Israelites, and which must have set before them a clear representation of natural and most intimate union. Now other traces show that the Israelites acknowledged the sea to be the true and proper source of rain and moisture for the land, which it also is in fact (comp. 1 Kings 18:44-45; Luke 12:54; Winer, R. W. B, s. v, Winde;Raumer, Paläst. S. 91). Hence in Palestine the rainy winds are the West and South-west, which the Arabs also call the “fathers of the rain.” In Proverbs 25:23 the north-west wind is probably to be understood by רוּחַ צָפוֹן, since the north wind, as with us, is cold, producing frost ( Job 37:9-10; Sirach 43:20). 2. In Jeremiah 17:3הררי בֹשׂדה is a designation of the whole land, for it is not=my mountain set in the plain (as antithesis between mountain and plain) but my mountain together with the plain (antithesis between the sanctuary and the rest of the country inhabited and cultivated by men. Comp. the Comm.). The passage Jeremiah 21:13 also does not enter into comparison with this. For there evidently not Mt. Zion, but the house of David, is to be understood, of which it is said that it is like a rock in a valley, eminent above the surrounding level, whereby it is intended to designate, not the topographical position of Zion, but the relation of the king’s house to his subjects3. That it is not said, Ceases the snow from the rock of the field, from Lebanon? but ceases the snow of Lebanon? etc., is certainly remarkable and in other circumstances would be a strong proof that the prophet wished to distinguish the rock and the mountain. For Lebanon alone presented to them the picture of a snowcapped mountain, and all the snow they had came from it. Add to this, that Lebanon was originally an appellative and signifies albedo (comp. Alpes, which were so called ab albis nivibus) whence there appears to me to be a play upon words in Lebanon: the Lebanon snow and the white snow. The absence of the article favors this, for if Lebanon were regarded merely as a proper name, it would require the article. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 71, 4 b. [So Henderson.—S. R. A.].—In favor of the other view, according to which צוּר שָׂדַי is Lebanon itself, Isaiah 1. that the perennial snow of a mountain, like Lebanon, which though in a hot climate is never free from snow, and on which the snow seems to have lost its peculiar quality of disappearing rapidly, is particularly adapted to serve as an emblem of the most faithful adherence. It seems as though Tacitus had this passage in view, when he wrote (Hist. V, 6): “Præcipuum montium Libanum erigit, mirum dictu, tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque nivibus. Idem amnem Jordanem alit fanditque.” Comp. J. D. Mich, Observ. in Jer., p161.—Add to this that2. the expression used of Lebanon seems particularly appropriate in this connection. For not only may Lebanon be mentioned as an isolated far-looking summit, but especially also as a protecting wall for the plains, which wards off the northerly storms and at the same time mitigates the heat. And is not this “protecting wall of the plains” an excellent emblem of the צוּר עוֹלָמִים, which is spoken of in Isaiah 26:4, and of the צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל, in Isaiah 30:29? The snow never forsakes the צור שׂדי, but Israel, changeable as the snow, easily forsakes the צור עולמים!—Dry up. The meaning of tearing out, uprooting, which נָתַשׂ includes, is not inappropriate if taken in the figurative sense. The change into יִנָּשְׁתוּ [dry up], which perhaps lies at the basis of the old translations, with the exception of the Vulgate, and which is supported on Isaiah 19:5; Isaiah 41:17; Jeremiah 51:30, is therefore unnecessary.—Waters. The wealth of springs on Lebanon is well known. The traveler Korte assures us that nowhere did he see such large and numerous springs as on Lebanon. Vid.Raumer, Paläst, S. 30. In Song of Solomon 4:15 also the rippling waters of Lebanon are used as a comparison. The thought of the prophet is that as the snow covers Lebanon perpetually above, so the flow of waters at its foot is also perpetual. For the snow is the source of the springs. The expression therefore seems to have been chosen purposely to indicate the connection between the snow and the waters of Lebanon. An uprooting of the waters would be caused by the cessation of the snow. Comp. Hitzig on the passage.—Cold (קָרִים, comp. Proverbs 25:25; Proverbs 17:27) needs no change; the meaning “cold” is perfectly appropriate.—Rippling, נזלים, comp. Exodus 15:8; Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 78:16; Proverbs 5:15; Song of Solomon 4:15.—That my people, etc. This gives the reason why the questions in Jeremiah 18:13-14 have been put. Since the people have forgotten Him ( Jeremiah 2:32), the Lord looks about to see whether anything similar occurs elsewhere. Comp. Psalm 8:5.—Made them stumble. The nominative is the collective idea of the idols designated by שָׁוְא, vanity. [Henderson: false prophets and idolatrous priests.—S. R. A.] Comp. 2 Chronicles 28:23.—When Hitzig and Graf maintain that the old ways were not good, for even the fathers of the Israelites had sinned from ancient times by idolatry ( Jeremiah 2:32; Jeremiah 7:25-26; Jeremiah 11:10), they forget that the good ways are more ancient than the people of Israel. Even if Israel since the exodus from Egypt had not served the Lord (which after Jeremiah 2:2 not withstanding Jeremiah 7:25 is not to be maintained too unconditionally), yet the way of Jehovah was the way everlasting ( Jeremiah 6:16), and Israel’s true and proper way, for their fathers at any rate served the God who from them is called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the fathers’ way is de jure that of the children.—To walk, etc., is the immediate and first consequence of the effect designated by made to stumble, while to makea desolation, Jeremiah 18:16, denotes the mediate consequence.—Like the east wind. Comp. Exodus 14:21; Psalm 48:8; Isaiah 27:8; Hosea 13:15; John 4:8.—Back, etc. Comp. Jeremiah 2:27.

Footnotes:

FN#4 - Jeremiah 18:11.—[Henderson: I charge thee. Blayney: I pray thee.—S. R. A.]

FN#5 - Jeremiah 18:11.—On the change of אֵל to עַל, comp. Textual Note 2 on Jeremiah 10:1.

FN#6 - Henderson: It is hopeless. Blayney: It is a thing not to be hoped.]

FN#7 - Jeremiah 18:12.—שְׁררוּת. The expression is found here only as the object of עשׂה, elsewhere always with בְ or אחרי after הלד (comp. Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 9:13; Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 11:8; Jeremiah 13:10; Jeremiah 23:17).

FN#8 - Jeremiah 18:13.—שׁעררת. This form is found here only. Comp. Hosea 6:10; Jeremiah 5:30; Jeremiah 23:14.

FN#9 - Jeremiah 18:14.—There is no other instance of the construction in יַֽעֲוֹב מִן ו׳, for עזב is used transitively even in Genesis 24:27. Should we not perhaps read מְצוֹר instead of מִצוּר? מָצוֹר is not merely circumvallatio, but also munimentum, arx, turris. Comp. Habakkuk 2:1. Gesen. Thes., p1161.

FN#10 - Jeremiah 18:14.—Instead of זָרִים, which certainly affords no satisfactory meaning, the LXX. seems to have read זִדִיִם, the proud, splendid. So also Meier in comparison with מַיִם יֶידוֹנִים, Psalm 124:5. Ewald (and after him Graf) derives זָרִים from זָרַר, to press. This word, however, signifies constrinxit, compressit, and the meaning to press forth is a bare assumption. If the word is to be altered, it is then better to agree with Meier. [“זָרִים from זוּר, to compress, straiten, is descriptive of streams, as contracted within narrow channels, while descending through the gorges and defiles of the rocks. The use of the verb נָזַל. Arab, nazal, ىنن ل discendit loco, confirms this view.” Henderson. Hitzig renders “strange,” as coming from afar, in the sense of the A. V, and refers to the unknown source of the pool of Siloam, etc.—S. R. A.]

FN#11 - Jeremiah 18:15.—The form שָׁבוּל here only in the Chethibh; שָׁבִיל Psalm 77:20. The word does not recur.

FN#12 - Jeremiah 18:16.—שׁרוקת. This form here only; שׁריקת in Judges 5:16. In Jeremiah שְּׁרֵקָת only occurs elsewhere: Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 25:18; Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 51:37.

FN#13 - Jeremiah 18:16.—יניד בראשׁו. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 69, 1. Anm. 2. The expression occurs here only. Comp. Psalm 44:15; Psalm 22:8; Psalm 109:25.


Verses 18-23

3 THE MANNER IN WHICH THE PEOPLE RECEIVE THE WORD OF THE PROPHET, AND HIS PETITION TO THE LORD FOR PROTECTION FROM THEIR HOSTILITY

Jeremiah 18:18-23

18 And they said: Come, let us devise plans 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 give no heed to any of his words.

19 Give thou heed, O Jehovah, to me!

And listen to the voice of my adversaries.[FN14]

20 Shall then evil be recompensed for good,

For they have digged a pit for my soul?

Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them,

And to turn away thy wrath from them.

21 Therefore deliver up their children to famine,

And give them over to the hands of the sword;

And let their wives be childless and widowed,

But let their men be sacrifices of death,

Their youths be slain by the sword in battle.

22 Let a cry be heard from their houses,

When thou bringest the murderous troop suddenly upon them;

Because they have digged a pit to take me,

And laid snares for my feet.

23 But thou, O Jehovah, knowest all their murderous plans against me;

Cover not up their iniquity,

Nor blot out[FN15] their sin before thy face;

That they may be[FN16] overthrown[FN17] before thee;

And in the time of thy wrath act against them.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Here, as before, the prophet represents his adversaries as answering his faithful admonitions with words of personal enmity. Comp. Jeremiah 11:19; Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 17:15. And as in these passages he always prayed that the Lord would avenge him, so here, but in stronger measure. (Vide infra Doctr, and Ethical No13, and the Exegetical rems. on Jeremiah 20:14). After showing the hostile disposition of his opponents, he turns in supplication to the Lord ( Jeremiah 18:19-23). In this prayer he beseeches the Lord to give heed to his and to his adversaries’ speeches ( Jeremiah 18:19), and observe above all that they would recompense good with evil, while he has always sought their highest welfare from God ( Jeremiah 18:20). Therefore the Lord may permit death and destruction to come upon those who have digged a pit and laid snares for him ( Jeremiah 18:21-22); he is not to forgive these murderous associates their iniquity, but to overthrow them, and let them feel His anger ( Jeremiah 18:23).

Jeremiah 18:18. And they said … any of his words.—Let us devise (נהשׁבה ו׳) as in Jeremiah 11:19 coll. Jeremiah 18:11.—For the law, etc. The meaning must be: We do not need this Jeremiah, for without him we shall always have priests to instruct us ( Malachi 2:7), wise men to advise us, prophets to proclaim to us the word of the Lord. Comp. Comm. on Jeremiah 8:8-10; Ezekiel 7:26. It is of course presupposed that the instruction, etc. will be in accordance with their views.—With the tongue. That these smitings with the tongue (comp. Jeremiah 9:2; Jeremiah 9:7; Psalm 64:4, etc.) had the death of the prophet for their object is evident from Jeremiah 18:23.

Jeremiah 18:19-23. Give thou heed … act against them. Observe the antithesis between Give no heed in Jeremiah 18:18 and give thou heed in Jeremiah 18:19.—Shall then evil. On the subject-matter comp. Jeremiah 14:7-21; 2 Maccabees 15:12-14. In Jeremiah 18:14 we read: “ὁ φιλάδελφος οὗτός ἐστιν πολλὰ προσευχόμενος περὶ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ τῆς ἁγίας πόλεως, Ἴερεμίας τοῦ θεοῦ προφήτης.”—How I stood. Comp. Jeremiah 15:1.—Into the hands. This expression is found also in Psalm 63:11; Ezekiel 35:5; it is used in the sense of in potestatem, which meaning has various gradations. Comp. 2 Kings 12:12; Job 16:11; Jeremiah 33:13 with 1 Chronicles 6:16 (into service); 1 Chronicles 15:2-3; 1 Chronicles 15:6; 2 Chronicles 23:18; Ezra 3:10 (in service, under the hands, according to the direction); 2 Chronicles 29:27 (on the foundation).—Sacrifices of death. Comp. Comm. on Jeremiah 15:2.—Because, etc.Kimchi supposes that the enemies had attempted to administer poison to the prophet; R. Salomo, with many other Rabbins, that they had accused him of adultery, others of blasphemy. Comp. Jeremiah 18:18.—Cover not up. Comp. Psalm 109:14; Isaiah 2:9.—In the time of thy wrath. Not of grace, i.e., of gracious disposition, but in the moment of wrath, is the Lord to appear and act against them—Act, עשׂה, in the absolute sense, as in Jeremiah 14:7 : Jeremiah 39:12; Daniel 11:7 coll Daniel 8:4; Daniel 11:3; Daniel 11:36.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Jeremiah 18:2. “What is the prophet of God to learn in the house of the potter? How shall this be his Bible or his school? But God chooses the foolish things to confound human wisdom ( 1 Corinthians 1:27).” Cramer. [“An orator would never choose such an instance for the purpose of making an impression on his audience; still less for the purpose of exhibiting his own skill and liveliness. It must be for business, not for amusement, that such a process is observed.”—“What we want in every occupation is some means of preserving the continuity of our thoughts, some resistance to the influences which are continually distracting and dissipating them. But it is especially the student of the events of his own time, of the laws which regulate them, of the issues which are to proceed from them, who has need to be reminded that he is not studying a number of loose disconnected phenomena, but is tracing a principle under different aspects and through different manifestations. A sensible illustration, if we would condescend to avail ourselves of it, would often save us from much vagueness and unreality, as well as from hasty and unsatisfactory conclusions.” Maurice.—S. R. A.]

2. On Jeremiah 18:6 sqq. Omne simile claudicat. Man is not clay, though he is made of clay ( Genesis 2:7). Consequently in Jeremiah 20:8; Jeremiah 20:10 the moral conditions are mentioned, which by virtue of his personality and freedom must be fulfilled on the part of Prayer of Manasseh, in order that the divine transformation to good or bad may take place. If the clay is spoiled on the wheel, it cannot help it. It is probably only the potter’s fault. Nothing then is here symbolized but the omnipotence of God, by virtue of which He can in any given case suppress whole kingdoms and nations, and transform them with the same ease and rapidity as the potter rolls up the spoiled vessel into a ball of clay, and immediately gives it a new form. It would be well for all to convince themselves, by witnessing the process, of the wonderful ease with which the potter forms the clay on the wheel.

3. On Jeremiah 18:6-10. “Cogitet unusquisque peccata sua, et modo illa emendet, cum tempus est. Sit fructuosus dolor, non sit sterilis pœnitudo. Tanquam hoc dicit Deus, ecce indicavi sententiam, sed nondum protuli. Prœdixi non fixi. Quid times, quia dixi? Si mutaveris, mutatur. Nam scriptum Esther, quod pœniteat Deum. Numquid quomodo hominem sic pœnitet Deum? Nam dictum est: si pœnituerit vos de peccatis vestris, pœnitebit me de omnibus malis, quæ facturus eram vobis. Numquid quasi errantem pœnitet Deum? Sed pœnitentia dicitur in Deo mutatio sententiæ. Non est iniqua, sed justa. Quare justa? Mutatus est reus, mutavit judex sententiam. Noli terreri. Sententia mutata Esther, non justitia. Justitia integra manet, quia mutato debet parcere, quia justus est. Quomodo pertinaci non parcit, sic mutato parcit.” Augustin, Sermo 109. De Tem ad medium.

4. On Jeremiah 18:6-10. “Comminationes Dei non intelligendæ sunt absolute, sed cum exceptione pœnitentiæ et conditione impœnitentiæ. Promissiones itidem non sunt absolute sed circumscriptæ cum conditione obedientiæ, tum exceptione crucis. God stipulates everywhere for the cross.” Comp. Deuteronomy 28. Förster.

5. On Jeremiah 18:6-10. “Præscientia et prædictio Dei non injicit absolutam eventus necessitatem rebus præscitis ac prædictis.” Förster.

6. On Jeremiah 18:8. “O felix pœnitentium humilitas! Quam potens es apud omnipotentem.” Bernard of Clairvaux.

[On Jeremiah 18:8-10. “I apprehend that we shall learn some day that the call to individual repentance, and the promise of individual reformation, has been feeble at one time, productive of turbulent, violent, transitory effects at another, because it has not been part of a call to national repentance, because it has not been connected with a promise of national reformation. We may appeal to men by the terrors of a future state; we may use all the machinery of revivalists to awaken them to a concern for their souls; we may produce in that way a class of religious men who pursue an object which other men do not pursue (scarcely a lass selfish, often not a less outward object):—who leave the world to take its own course;—who, when they mingle in it, as in time they must do for the sake of business and gain, adopt again its own maxims, and become less righteous than other men in common affairs, because they consider religion too fine a thing to be brought from the clouds to the earth, while yet they do not recognise a lower principle as binding on them. But we must speak again the ancient language, that God has made a covenant with the nation, and that all citizens are subjects of an unseen and righteous King, if we would have a hearty, inward repentance, which will really bring us back to God; which will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the children to the fathers; which will go down to the roots of our life, changing it from a self-seeking life into a life of humility and love and cheerful obedience; which will bear fruit upwards, giving nobleness to our policy and literature and art, to the daily routine of what we shall no more dare to call our secular existence.” Maurice.—S. R. A.]

7. On Jeremiah 18:10. “God writes as it were a reflection in our heart of that which we have to furnish to Him. For God is disposed towards us as we are disposed towards Him. If we do well, He does well to us; if we love Him, He loves us in return; if we forsake Him, He for sakes us. Psalm 18:26.” Cramer. [“Sin is the great mischief maker between God and a people; it forfeits the benefits of His promises, and spoils the success of their prayers. It defeats His kind intentions concerning them ( Hosea 7:1), and baffles their pleasing expectations from Him. It ruins their comforts, prolongs their grievances, brings them into straits, and retards their deliverances. Isaiah 49:1-2.” Henry—S. R. A.]

8. On Jeremiah 18:12. “Freedom of the Spirit! Who will allow himself to be brought into bondage by the gloomy words of that singular Prayer of Manasseh, Jeremiah? Every one must be able to live according to his own way of thinking.” Diedrich, The prophet Jeremiah and Ezekiel briefly expounded. 1863, S. 59.—This is the watchword of impiety in all times. If in truth everyone bears the divinity within him, then it is justified. But since every man bears within him only a θεϊόντι, a divine germ or spark, a point of connection for the objectively divine, and at the same time a point of connection for the diabolical, it is a hellish deception when one supposes he must follow his ingenium. For the question Isaiah, whether the voice from within is the voice of God or the voice of the devil. Here it is necessary to try ourselves and to open an entrance to the divine sun of life, so that the divine life-germ in us may be strengthened, and enabled to maintain its true authority.

9. On Jeremiah 18:14. On the summits of the high mountains, even in tropical countries, the snow does not entirely melt, and therefore the mighty cool springs at their feet never dry up. With those men only does the pure white snow of divine knowledge and godly fear never melt, whose heads are elevated above the steam and vapor of earthly cares and passions, into the pure clear air of heaven. And they it Isaiah, from whose bodies flow streams of living water ( John 7:38).

10. On Jeremiah 18:18. Consult the treatise of Luther: How a minister should behave when his office is despised?

11. On Jeremiah 18:18. (Come and let us smite him with the tongue, etc.). “It is indeed uncertain whether this is said by the preachers or by the whole people; but this is certain, that such actions are performed daily by those teachers, who know no other way of stopping the mouth of a servant of Jesus. ‘And not give heed to any of his words.’ This is au pis aller. If we can do him no harm, we will stop our ears, and he shall not convince us.” Zinzendorf.

12. On Jeremiah 18:19. (Give heed to me, O Lord). “This takes place in two ways. A teacher is looked at by the eye which is as flames of fire. He is also guided by the same eye, which looks on all lands, to strengthen those whose hearts are towards the Lord. No child can rest more securely in the cradle, while the nurse is looking for any fly that might disturb it, than a servant of the Lord can, to whom God gives heed.” Zinzendorf.

13. On Jeremiah 18:20. “It is a pleasing remembrance, when a teacher considers that he has been able to avert divine judgments from his people. It is also an undeniable duty. The spirit of Job, Moses, Jeremiah,, Ezra,, Nehemiah, Paul in this respect is the true spirit of Jesus Christ. He is a miserable shepherd who can give up his sheep and look on with dry eyes, while the fold is being devastated. Not to mention that teachers are now-a-days, by the salaries which they receive from their congregations, brought into the relation of servitude, and besides the regular obligation of the head are laid under indebtedness, as hospitals and other institutions, to pray for their founders. They give themselves the name of intercessors and thus bind themselves anew to this otherwise universal duty of all teachers.” Zinzendorf. But when the servant of God receives “odium pro labore, persecutio pro intercessione,” this is “the world’s gratitude and gratuity.” Förster.

14. On Jeremiah 18:21-23. With regard to this prayer against his enemies Calvin remarks, “this vehemence, as it was dictated by the Holy Spirit, is not to be condemned, nor ought it to be made an example of, for it was peculiar to the Prophet to know that they were reprobates.” For the prophet, he says, was (1) “endued with the spirit of wisdom and judgment, and (2) zeal also for God’s glory so ruled in his heart, that the feelings of the flesh were wholly subdued, or at least brought under subjection; and farther, he pleaded not a private cause.—As all these things fall not to our lot, we ought not indiscriminately to imitate Jeremiah in this prayer: for that would then apply to us which Christ said to His disciples, ‘Ye know not what spirit governs you ( Luke 9:55).’ ” In general the older Comm. agree in this. Oecolampadius says tersely: “Subscribit sententiæ divinæ.” Förster also says that originally such a prayer is not allowed, but that to the prophet, who by the divine inspiration was certain of the “obstinata et plane insanabilis malitia” of his hearers, it was permitted as “singulare et extraordinarium aliquid.” The Hirschberger Bibel also explains the words as a consignment to the divine judgment, since God Himself has several times refused to hear prayer in their behalf ( Jeremiah 14:13-14), and they themselves could not endure it ( Jeremiah 20:18). Vide Neumann II. S. 15.—Seb. Schmidt says plainly, “Licet hominibus impiis et persecutoribus imprecari malum, modo ejusmodi imprecationes non fiant ex privata vindicta, et conditionatæ sint ad constantem eorum impietatem. Nisi enim ejusmodi imprecationes etiam piis essent licitæ, propheta non imprecatus esset persecutoribus gravissimam pœnam hanc.” I believe that it is above all to be observed that Jeremiah does not announce these words ( Jeremiah 20:18-18) as the word of Jehovah. It is a prayer to the Lord, like Jeremiah 20:7-18. That which was remarked on Jeremiah 20:14-18, on the Old Testament character of the prayer, applies here also and in a higher degree. For here as there we may set a good share of the harshness to the account of the rhetoric. The standard of judgment may be found in Matthew 5:43. Many ancient Comm. ex. gr. Jerome, who regard the suffering prophet as a type of the suffering Saviour, point out the contrast between this prayer of Jeremiah’s against his enemies and the prayer of Christ for His enemies ( Luke 23:34). The only parallel adduced from the New Testament is 2 Timothy 4:4. But there it is ἀποδώσει (according to the correct reading of Tischendorf) not ἀποδώῃ (Text. Rec., Knapp).

15. On Jeremiah 19:1. “If man were only a Platonic αὐτάνθρωπος, and did not dwell in the flesh, but were pure spirit and soul, as the Schwenkfelder dreamed a man might be, he would not need such visible signs.—But because man consists of body and soul, God uses, together with the Holy Ghost, the word and Sacrament and other signs.” Cramer.

16. On Jeremiah 19:6-9. Μεγάλων ἀδικημάτων μεγάλαι εἰσὶ τιμωρίαι παρὰ τὸν θεόν. Herodotus. Vide Förster, S. 106.

17. On Jeremiah 19:10-11. What is more easily broken in pieces than an earthen vessel? Equally easy is it for the hand of the Almighty to break in pieces the kingdoms of men. And if He spared not the kingdom of Judah, whose king was a son of David and the people the chosen nation, shall He spare the kingdoms of the heathen, none of which can point to any prophecy in its behalf, like that which we read in 2 Samuel 7:16? Comp. Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:14; Daniel 4:22; Daniel 4:29; Daniel 5:21; Sirach 10:4; Sirach 10:8; Sirach 10:10; Sirach 10:14.

18. On Jeremiah 19:11-13. This prophecy was not completely fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. For Jerusalem was restored after this destruction. The second destruction, by the Romans, must then be regarded as the definitive fulfillment. Comp. Jerome ad loc.—Tophet was used by the inhabitants of Jerusalem for idolatrous purposes. In consequence, the fires of Tophet set Jerusalem on fire, and again the corpses which filled Jerusalem extended even to Tophet, and by reciprocal calamity Tophet became like Jerusalem and Jerusalem like Tophet.

19. On Jeremiah 20:1-2. “ Ἡρώων τέκνα πήματα. Honores mutant mores.” Förster. “Quod hic fuit tormentum, illic erit ornamentum.” Augustin.

20. On Jeremiah 20:3-6. “ Mark, who is the stronger here: Pashur or Jeremiah? For1. Jeremiah overcomes his sufferings by patience, 2. He is firm in opposition to his enemy and does not allow himself to be terrified by his tyranny, but rebukes him to his face for his sins and lies.” Cramer.

21. On Jeremiah 20:3-6. Pashur’s punishment consists in this, that he will participate in the terrible affliction and be a witness of it, without being able to die.—He is a type of the wandering Jew.

22. On Jeremiah 20:7-12. The prophet could say with a good conscience that he had not pressed into this office. It was his greatest comfort that the Lord had persuaded and overpowered him, when resisting, and that afterwards the fire within kindled by the Lord compelled him to speak. Thus he at last becomes so joyful, that in the midst of his sufferings he sings a hymn on his deliverance.

Lord Jesus, for Thy work divine,

The glory is not ours, but Thine;

Therefore we pray Thee stand by those,

Who calmly on Thy word repose.

23. On Jeremiah 20:14-18. “When the saints stumble this serves to us; 1. for doctrine: we see that no man is justified by his own merits; 2. for ἔλεγχος, i. e. for the refutation of those, who suppose that there are ἀναμάρτητοι; 3. for ἐπανόρθωσις, if we follow Ambrose, who called to the emperor Theodosius: ‘Si Davidem imitatus es peccantem, imitare etiam pœnitentem;’ 4. for παιδεία, that he who stands take heed that he do not fall; 5. for παρηγορία, that he who has fallen may after their pattern rise again.” Förster.

24. On Jeremiah 20:17-18. “The question Isaiah, Does a man do right in wishing himself dead? Answer: He who from impatience wishes himself dead like Job, Elijah, Jonah, Tobias, and here Jeremiah, does wrong, and this is a piece of carnal impatience. But when we think of the wicked world and the dangerous times in which we live and on the other hand of the future joy and glory, and therefore desire with Simeon and Paul to be released, we are not to be blamed.” Cramer.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. The 18 th homily of Origen has for its text Jeremiah 18:1-16 and Jeremiah 20:1-7. The 19 th has Jeremiah 20:7-12.

2. On Jeremiah 18:1-11. Comfort and warning, implied in the fact that the threatenings and promises of the Lord are given only conditionally: 1. The comfort consists in this, that the threatened calamities may be averted by timely repentance2. The warning in this, that the promises may be annulled by apostasy.

3. On Jeremiah 18:7-10. Comp. the Homiletical on Jeremiah 17:5-8.

4. On Jeremiah 18:7-11. “How we should be moved by God’s judgments and goodness: that each, 1. Should turn from his wickedness; 2. should reform his heart and life.” Kapff, Passion, Easter and Revival Sermons. 1866.

5. [On Jeremiah 18:12. “The sin, danger and unreasonableness of despair. The devil’s chief artifices are to produce either false security and presumption or despair. Despair Isaiah 1. sinful, (a) in itself, (b) because it is the parent of other sins, as is seen in the cases of Cain, Saul, and Judges 2. It is dangerous3. It is groundless, because (a) we still enjoy life and the means of grace, (b) of the long-suffering character of God, (c) of the universality of the scheme of redemption, (d) of the person, character and invitations of Christ, (e) of many instances of final salvation.” Payson.—S. R. A.]

6. On Jeremiah 18:18-20. Text for a Sermon on the Anniversary of the Reformation. Opposition of the office which has apparent authority to that which has true authority; 1. The basis of the opposition: the assertion of the infallibility of the former office2. The mode of the opposition; (a) in not being willing to hear, (b) in the attempt to destroy the latter by violence3. The result of the opposition is nugatory, for (a) the Lord hears the voice of the opposers to judge them, (b) He gives heed to His servants to protect them.

7. On Jeremiah 20:7-13. The trial and comfort of a true minister of the Word; 1. The trial: (a) scorn and derision; (b) actual persecution2. The comfort: (a) the Lord put him in office and maintains him in it; (b) that the Lord will interpose for His servants and. thus, (1) help His cause to victory, and (2) save their persons.

Footnotes:

FN#14 - Jeremiah 18:19.—יריבי. The word is found besides only in Isaiah 49:25; Psalm 35:1.

FN#15 - Jeremiah 18:23.—תמחי. Comp. תִּזְנִי, Jeremiah 3:6. The form is anomalous for תֵּמַח ( Nehemiah 13:14). Comp. Olsh. § 257, e, Anm.; Ewald, § 224, c.

FN#16 - Jeremiah 18:23.—ויהיו. The Chethibh is וְהָיוּ. The Masoretes did not wish the series of jussive or imperative forms to be interrupted.—The word expresses the result, that they lie overthrown. Accordingly this sentence concludes the series of negative petitions; in conclusion follows the positive request: at the time of thy wrath, etc. It is evident that the change proposed by the Keri is unnecessary.

FN#17 - Jeremiah 18:23.—מבשׁלים points back to Jeremiah 18:15. The form here only. Comp. Psalm 9:4; Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 20:11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 18:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/jeremiah-18.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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