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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 1

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. I.

The time, and the calling of Jeremiah: his prophetical visions of an almond-rod and a seething-pot: his heavy message against Judah: God encourageth him with his promise of assistance.

Before Christ 628.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 1:1. The words of Jeremiah This chapter forms an entire section by itself. It contains the call of Jeremiah, and the commission given him by God; the purport of which is explained by two symbolical images. God encourages him to proceed in the execution of it by assuring him of protection and support.


Verse 5

Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed thee, &c.— See Isaiah 49:1-5. We have examples of a similar designation with that mentioned in the text, in St. John the Baptist, and St. Paul.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 1:10. See, I have—set thee over the nations In the style of Scripture the prophets are said to do what they declare shall be done, and therefore Jeremiah is here said to be set over nations, to root out, &c.; because he was authorized to make known the purposes of God, and because these events would follow in consequence of his prophesies. See Isaiah 6:9 and Bishop Newton on the Prophesies, vol. 1.


Verse 11-12

Jeremiah 1:11-12. And I said, I see, &c.— The almond-tree, שׁקד shaked, is so called, because this tree, before all others, first waketh, and riseth from its winter-repose. See Numbers 17:8. It flowers in the month of January, and by March brings its fruit to maturity; that is to say, in the warm southern countries. The forwardness of this fruit-bearing tree is here intimated to us: I see a rod of an almond-tree:—Then said the Lord, Thou hast well seen; for I am hastening, or rather, I am awakening, or watching over, or, on account of my word to fulfil it. So the LXX, u949? γρηγορα ε γω ε πι, and the Vulgate, vigilabo ego super. In the first ages of the world, says the learned author of the Divine Legation, mutual converse was upheld by a mixed discourse of words and actions. Hence came the eastern phrase of the voice of the sign; and use and custom, improving what had arisen out of necessity into ornament, this practice subsisted long after the necessity was over, especially among the eastern people, whose natural temperament inclined them to a mode of conversation which so well exercised their vivacity by motion, and so well gratified it by a perpetual representation of material images. Of this we have innumerable instances in Holy Scripture, and especially in 1 Kings 12:11 and Ezekiel 4. By these actions the prophets instructed the people in the will of God, and conversed with them in signs; but where God teaches the prophet, and, in compliance with the custom of that time, condescends to the same mode of instruction, then the significative action is generally changed into vision, either natural or extraordinary; as in these verses, where the prophet Jeremiah is bid to regard the rod of the almond-tree and the seething-pot. The almond-tree buds and blossoms very early in the spring; and therefore a branch of it, adorned with buds and blossoms, is a proper emblem to denote God's hastening the execution of the predictions which he delivered by his prophet; and accordingly Jeremiah lived to see most of the predictions fulfilled. We must not omit the explanation of this verse given us by Maimonides: "The prophets," saith he, "frequently employed equivocal and metaphorical words, with intent not to signify the thing which is obvious in the first sense of the words, but what is to be collected from another etymology and derivation thereof. Sometimes they see things which represent very different matters from those that they see, and which are implied in another signification of the word, which stands for the things seen. An almond-tree is presented before Jeremiah, and yet no respect is had to that tree, which was only an artificial memorial that God, will hasten or watch over [ שׁקד shoked,] the performance of his words, which is the other sense of the Hebrew word for an almond-tree. Amos (ch. Jeremiah 8:1-2.) sees a basket of summer-fruit; but that had no connexion, except in sound, with the prediction which is implied in that sign; then said the Lord, the end is come upon my people Israel. Sometimes a double reference to different persons is included in the same word. Again, the letters of a word are transposed to form a word which hath no affinity in etymology or sense with the former. Thus Zechariah (ch. Jeremiah 11:7-8.) calls one of his shepherd's staves נעם noam, or delight, to signify the pleasure that God had in his people, and the delight which the people took in God's worship. He calls his other staff חבלים chobelim, bands; in token that the people were חבלים chobelim, because corrupters of God's law, and their souls did mutually בחלה bachelah, abhor each other." See Bishop Chandler's Defence, vol. 1: p. 225.


Verse 13

Jeremiah 1:13. I said, I see a seething-pot A pot that sendeth forth steam. The steam of a boiling-pot very properly represents the judgments of the Almighty, which are often compared to a fire, as the afflictions of the Israelites are to a smoking furnace. The latter part of the verse should be rendered, And the face thereof is turned from the north: that is to say, the steam of it was represented to the prophet is coming from the north; so that the pot or cauldron itself may denote Judea, set on fire, and consumed by an army of Chaldeans, whose country lay to the north of Palestine. See Ezekiel 11:7 and Calmet.


Verse 15

Jeremiah 1:15. And they shall set every one his throne, &c.— The allusion here is to the ancient custom of setting and judging at the gates: "I will send against Jerusalem the princes, to judge, to condemn, to punish it: I will establish a tribunal at each of your gates, where kings shall sit to judge you, attended with soldiers, ready to execute their decrees." The prophesy was fulfilled when this city was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. See ch. Jeremiah 39:3.


Verse 17

Jeremiah 1:17. Be not dismayed, &c.— Be not thou confounded at their presence, lest I confound thee in their presence.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here an account of the prophet's parentage, with the time of his prophesy.

1. He was of the sacerdotal race, the son of Hilkiah, not the high priest, nor of that family, but probably a descendant from Ithamar, of whose line Abiathar was the last high-priest, whose possessions were at Anathoth, (see 1 Kings 2:26.) a city about three miles from Jerusalem, in the tribe of Benjamin.

2. He began to prophesy in the thirteenth year of Josiah, and, no doubt, was a great encourager of that pious king in his work of reformation, and countenanced by him in his labours to bring Israel to repentance: but the attempts of both were fruitless; the people continued hypocritical, even when they pretended to reform, and thus filled up the measure of their iniquities, and brought down those judgments which Jeremiah was commissioned to denounce against them. He continued to prophesy during the wicked reigns of Josiah's successors, when the destruction of the people was hastening apace, till he saw Jerusalem, under Zedekiah, miserably destroyed, and the people enslaved. Note; They who will not be reformed, must be destroyed.

2nd, The designation of the prophet to his office, and God's encouragement of him to proceed in it, are here set forth.

1. His designation. God, before he came forth out of the womb, had sanctified or separated him for this peculiar service, in which he was to be employed, as a prophet unto the nations; not only to the Jews, but to other nations also, against whom his word should go forth. Note; None can minister acceptably before God, whom he hath not first sanctified and ordained.

2. His distress, under the apprehension of his own insufficiency. Ah, Lord God! I cannot, or I know not how to speak, as such an office requires; for I am a child, in weakness, probably also in years, it being certain that he began to prophesy very early. Note; (1.) The work of the ministry is an arduous task; they may well tremble for themselves who are called to undertake it. (2.) It becomes young men especially to entertain a diffidence of their own abilities. No rock so fatal to youth as self-conceit.

3. God encourages him for his work. Say not, I am a child: though never so insufficient of ourselves, we must not draw back when we have God's mission and promise of support: his strength shall be perfected in our weakness.

Three arguments he urges: [1.] I send thee; and under a divine call we may be assured of divine help. [2.] I will instruct thee; whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak; and therefore he should never be at a loss for matter or words. [3.] I am with thee, to uphold thee with my arm, to comfort thee with my presence, to deliver thee from all danger; be not afraid of their faces. He might expect opposition; to be brow-beat, threatened, and insulted on account of his ministry; but he need not fear when God's omnipotence is engaged for him. Note; (1.) If God pleases, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings he can shew forth his praise. (2.) A faithful reprover must expect to meet a frowning world; but we must not fear the faces of men; nor need we; if God's power protect, and his love comfort us, what can man do against us?

4. God gives him a sign to confirm his word to him. The Lord put forth his hand; the Lord Jesus, the God of his holy prophets, who probably appeared now in a human form; and touched my mouth, intimating that it was sanctified, and fitted for his service; and the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words into thy mouth, that he might with freedom and boldness deliver the message that he hath received from his master; and an awful one it was! See, I have set thee over the nations, and over the kingdoms, as a prophet, whose word concerning them would infallibly come to pass; to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down; to pronounce their doom, and foretel the judgments which should overturn them, as a house or a tree rooted up, and thrown down by the whirlwind: and to build and to plant; to prophesy the restoration of the Jews after their captivity; or to call them to repentance, that when others perished through obstinacy, they might be preserved. Note; (1.) The sword of God's word in the mouth of his ministers is more to be feared than the glittering spear. (2.) The same prophetic word which is to some a favour of death unto death, because they harden their hearts against the warnings, becomes through Divine Grace, to the penitent a savour of life unto life.

3rdly, Jeremiah, having received his mission, has here a general view of the great subject of his prophesy, the destruction of the Jews for their sins.

1. Their ruin is represented by two signs, shewing how speedily and terribly it approached. The first is a rod of an almond-tree, which is presented to his view, and which God explains, as signifying that the destruction of the Jews should be very soon, as the almond-tree hastens before any other tree to put forth her blossoms. The other is a seething-pot, with its face toward the north. This pot is Jerusalem, and the fire under it the Chaldeans, as God explains it, assembling out of the north, under the conduct of Nebuchadnezzar, called of God to execute his judgments, coming under the divine direction, and therefore sure to prevail. They shall set up not only their tents as besieging foes, but their thrones as triumphant conquerors, in the gates of Jerusalem, having subdued it, with all the defenced cities of Judah. Note; (1.) God will never want armies to execute his vengeance against a devoted people: at his summons instantly they assemble. (2.) Ministers clearly in the Bible foresee the ruin of sinners, and forewarn them; but too often they will not believe, till too late they feel their doom inevitable.

2. The cause of their ruin is their sins, especially their idolatry. I will utter my judgments against them, pass sentence upon them, and execute it, touching all their wickedness, which was great and aggravated, who have forsaken me, apostatized from God's worship and service, and have burnt incense to other gods; they have worshipped the works of their own hands; gods of their own fancy, and the images of their own making; which argued their stupidity and ignorance to be as strange as their impiety and ingratitude.

3. God directs him how to proceed, and encourages him to be faithful. Gird up thy loins; alluding to the long garments that they wore in the East, which, when they went in haste, they girt about their waist. He must be expeditious and diligent: arise, and speak unto them boldly and resolutely, not intimidated by any fears or danger, all that I command thee, without adding thereto, or diminishing therefrom, however offensive and provoking the message might appear, and however great the personages to whom it must be delivered, to the kings, princes, priests, and people. The dignity of the magistrates does not set them above reproof, nor the sacredness of the sacerdotal office exempt those who dishonour it from rebuke: rather, as their influence and example are so pernicious, and they are chief in the transgression, they deserve the severest scourge. To engage him with boldness and zeal to discharge his mission, God warns and promises. He warns him of his danger, if he proved fearful or faithless: Be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them, and put such marks of his displeasure upon him, as would be his greatest confusion. He promises, if he persisted undismayed in the discharge of his duty, to protect and preserve him safe as a defenced city, strong as an iron pillar, and unshaken as walls of brass. Though all rose up against him, as he might expect they would, kings, priests, and people, yet they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee in every day of danger and difficulty. Note; (1.) The ministers of God must shew no respect to persons when they are delivering his word, nor dare to adulterate the awful truths of God, by softening the expressions, or seeking to make their message less offensive. (2.) It requires much grace to stand against the torrent of ungodliness, and testify to great as well as small the judgments of God. (3.) We have need of every argument to work on our fears, as well as hopes; and all will be little enough to fix us unshaken against the revilings and opposition that we may expect to meet in the zealous discharge of our ministry. (4.) If God be with us, though princes threaten, and priests thunder their anathemas, and the people join the cry, we shall be enabled, unmoved and fearless, to witness to their faces their iniquities, and declare the wrath of God revealed against them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-1.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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