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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 1

 

 

Verses 1-3

Jeremiah 1:1-3. Title, ascribing the prophecies which follow to Jeremiah, a man of priestly descent, belonging to Anathoth (see Introduction); his prophetic activity is said to have begun in 626 B.C. (the thirteenth year of Josiah), and to have continued under Jehoiakim (608-597) and Zedekiah (597-586). The present book, however, contains prophecies delivered after "the carrying away of Jerusalem captive" (586 B.C.; cf. 2 Kings 25:8 ff.), viz. in Jeremiah 42-44. Probably 2 was originally the title of this chapter only, and 3 is a later editorial addition. Nothing is known of Jeremiah's father, Hilkiah (perhaps descended from Abiathar; see Introduction), who must not be identified with the Hilkiah named in 2 Kings 22:4 ff.


Verses 4-10

Jeremiah 1:4-10. The Prophet's Call.—The account of this should be compared with similar accounts of the calls of other prophets (see Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:3, Amos 7:12 ff.) and the characteristic differences should be noted. Probably all such experiences, whilst ultimately due to moral and religious conviction, involved abnormal psychical elements; e.g. Jeremiah believed that he heard an external voice, and felt an outward touch. On the general nature of the prophetic consciousness, see H. W. Robinson, Religious Ideas of the OT, pp. 113ff, and the article on "Old Testament Prophecy" in the present work. Jeremiah is told that Yahweh predestined him for a particular life-work before he existed; he was "a thought of God" (Duhm) before the Divine hands shaped his limbs, according to this pattern, in the mystery of the embryo (Psalms 139:13; Psalms 139:15 f.; Job 10 f.; cf. Isaiah 49:1), and he was consecrated to the Divine purpose before he appeared in the world. This purpose is the utterance of Yahweh's message to the nations of the world. Jeremiah shrinks from such a task on the ground of his youthfulness (i.e. he cannot claim from others the respect due to age and experience; cf. Job 32:6). Yahweh, however, bids him think of the Divine authority and strength supporting him; let him but obey, and God is with him. Then the Divine touch appropriates his mouth as the instrument of Yahweh's address to men; Jeremiah is to be an "overseer" of nations, and, according to his prophetic word (because it is really Yahweh's), they will rise and fall.

Jeremiah 1:5. sanctified means "set apart as God's property"; there is no moral reference here.—unto the nations: Judah was a politically insignificant people, but its fortunes were to be decided in the great drama of general history, over which Yahweh was supreme. A prophet for Judah's needs was necessarily in such days a prophet "unto the nations".

Jeremiah 1:6. Child: the Hebrew word should here be rendered "young man" as in Genesis 14:24.

Jeremiah 1:9. The act is not merely symbolic; according to Hebrew ideas of physiology and psychology it would actually affect the organ of speech. This Divine appropriation of Jeremiah's mouth is, however, different from the cleansing of Isaiah's lips by the burning coal (Isaiah 6:7*), though the narrative of the latter may have had a psychological influence on the experience of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:10. set thee: lit. "made thee overseer".


Verses 11-19

Jeremiah 1:11-19. The Two Visions of Judgment.—These form a separate experience, and imply some change of standpoint, since it is now the judgment of Judah through the instrumentality of the nations which is presented to the prophet's eye. The first vision (Jeremiah 1:11 f.) is preparatory; he sees the branch (rod) of an almond tree, and the interpretation of his vision is that this shâkçd stands for the Divine shôkçd, the "watcher" God (who slumbers not nor sleeps, Psalms 121:4), ever wakeful unto judgment. The almond tree is here called the "waker", because of its early (February) blossoming; see Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 318. Such play on words is characteristic of Hebrew thought; it finds a parallel, e.g. in Amos 8:2, where the prophet's vision of a basket of summer fruit (kaitz) suggests that the end (kçtz) of Israel is near. Such visions as these, at least in pre-exilic times, are not merely a rhetorical device; they imply some abnormal psychical experience. The second and principal vision (Jeremiah 1:13 ff.) is of a boiling caldron. The phrase "the face thereof is from the north" is obscure, and might mean either that the caldron was seen north of the prophet, in which case its contents, as they boil over, represent the northern nations as they descend upon Judah, or, more probably (with Duhm, repointing one word) that the fireplace on which the caldron stands is open on the northern side, from which the fire is "kindled". On this latter view, the caldron becomes Judah itself, whose inhabitants suffer from the flames kindled beneath them by the enemy. On either interpretation of the object seen, the emphasis falls on the quarter from which the enemy comes, i.e. the north. These "kingdoms of the north" are doubtless the Scythians (p. 60), who came as far as Syria, intending to invade Egypt (Herod, i. 103-6), about this time, though they did not do what the prophet here expects of them. When he reissued these and similar prophecies in 604 (see Introduction), he transferred his expectations to the Babylonians. The hostile kings set up their thrones (Jeremiah 1:15) to judge the vanquished after the city is taken. Through their agency, Yahweh proceeds to judgment upon Judah (Jeremiah 1:16 mg.), because of the heathen worship appropriated by, or practised along with, the worship of Yahweh in the reign of Manasseh (heathenism which the Assyrian supremacy naturally encouraged). This is the judgment Jeremiah is to declare fearlessly, with a Divinely given strength comparable with that of a fortified city and a bronze wall.

Jeremiah 1:14. shall break forth: read, with LXX, shall be "kindled", i.e. "blown upon", with a play on the Hebrew word for "seething".

Jeremiah 1:15. Omit, with LXX, "families of the".

Jeremiah 1:16. burned incense: "sacrificed".

Jeremiah 1:18. Omit "iron pillar", and read "wall" for "walls", both with LXX.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/jeremiah-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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