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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 13

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XIII.

In the type of a linen girdle, hidden at Euphrates, God prefigureth the destruction of his people. Under the parable of bottles filled with wine, he foretelleth their drunkenness in misery: he exhorteth to prevent their future judgments; he sheweth that their abominations are the cause thereof.

Before Christ 602.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 13:1. Go, and get thee a linen girdle The prophet here begins a new discourse. He himself gives us an explanation of the meaning of the symbolical action here related. See the note on ch. Jeremiah 1:11. He is commanded not to put the girdle into water, to clean it, in order to signify that the people of Israel had contracted such spots by their idolatry, as would not be washed away.


Verse 4

Jeremiah 13:4. Go to Euphrates Many commentators have doubted respecting this particular, and have not thought it possible that the prophet should thus have gone backwards and forwards to the banks of the Euphrates; accordingly they have given different interpretations of the word. Bochart supposes that Euphrata is meant; and all the difficulty, says Houbigant, will be removed, if you read it, פרת pherath, according to the Hebrew, thereby understanding some neighbouring place, where Jeremiah might commodiously hide his girdle, and bring it back again at the command of the Lord. See Boch. in Phaleg. Dissert. de Transportatione Jesu Christi in Montem, p. 954. But I apprehend there is no reason to take these symbolical actions in the letter. Many of them unquestionably passed in vision; and it is most probable, that the present was of this sort. In this view the parable loses none of its force; and we may then with propriety understand the Euphrates to be literally meant, which certainly best agrees with the parable, and is significative of the nation to which this apostate people was to be carried captive. See Dr. Waterland's Script. Vind. part. 3: p. 72.


Verse 9

Jeremiah 13:9. After this manner will I mar the pride, &c.— Will I mar the glory of Judah, and the great honour of Jerusalem. See Jeremiah 13:11. "I will transport them beyond Euphrates; I will hide 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. So have I caused So had I caused.


Verse 12

Jeremiah 13:12. Every bottle shall be filled with wine The 13th and 14th verses fully explain this. We have before had occasion to observe, that it is frequent in the language of Scripture to express God's judgments under the figures of wine, a cup, drunkenness, &c. Accordingly God here declares, that as they have all sinned, so every one shall have his share in the punishment. See Isaiah 29:9; Isaiah 51:21. Jeremiah 25:27; Jeremiah 51:7. Lamentations 4:21.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 13:16. Give glory to the Lord That is to say, "Confess your faults, and humble yourselves under his mighty hand, before he bring upon you the night of affliction; before the time come, when ye shall be forced to fly by night unto the mountains for fear of the enemy." See Calmet.

The dark mountains The mountains of gloominess. By ףּנשׁ הרי harei nasheph, I imagine those caverns and holes in the mountains are meant, which the Jews were wont to make use of for burying-places; the gloomy shade of which probably gave rise to that expression which we meet with both here and elsewhere, "the shadow of death." The prophet Isaiah makes use of much the same images, Isaiah 59:9-10.


Verse 17

Jeremiah 13:17. But if ye will not hear it The prophet declares, that after having done all he could to cause the people to return to their duty, without success, nothing farther would remain for him, but to lay aside his public character, and secretly bewail their obstinacy and contempt of God's word.


Verse 18

Jeremiah 13:18. Say unto the king, and to the queen That is, to Joachin and his mother, who were carried captives into Babylon at the first coming of Nebuchadnezzar. See 2 Kings 24:15. Others suppose that Zedekiah and his mother are addressed. We may read the latter clause, For the crown of your glory is fallen, or shall fall from your heads.


Verse 19

Jeremiah 13:19. The cities of the south shall be shut up "The cities in the southern parts of Judaea shall be shut up, because there shall be no inhabitants. All the lot of Judah, heretofore so beautiful, so well-peopled, so full of fine cities, shall be desolate." Some understand this of Egypt, which lay to the south of Judaea, and which was to be shut against, and to afford the Jews no succour. But the first interpretation seems the best, and most agreeable to the context. See Calmet.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 13:20. Lift up your eyes, &c.— "Ye people of Judah, behold and reconnoitre the Chaldean army, coming against you from the north." The next words are addressed to the king and queen; see Jeremiah 13:18. He represents them under the idea of a shepherd, and the people under that of a flock. "What will you say when the Lord shall demand of you an account of the people committed to your trust? What will you answer, when the sovereign monarch shall see dissipated, diminished, weakened, destroyed, thy beautiful flock, or flock of thy glory?" which is explained by Proverbs 14:28.


Verse 21

Jeremiah 13:21. For thou hast taught them, &c.— Houbigant renders it, Since thou hast made them expert against thee, and hast drawn-them upon thine own head. "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.


Verse 22

Jeremiah 13:22. Thy skirts discovered, &c.— See Isaiah 20:4; Isaiah 47:2-3. Houbigant reads, And thy heels galled [with irons.]


Verse 23

Jeremiah 13:23. Can the Ethiopian, &c.— Jeremiah does not mean hereby to express the absolute impossibility of a moral change; such as that in nature, whereof he speaks. 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 very chapter, that he did not suppose the reformation of this people 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 these presumptuous and obstinate sinners of Israel, to whom his discourse is directed. Archbishop Tillotson remarks, "That this expression, Can the Ethiopian, &c. is much to be mitigated, will appear, by considering some other like passages of Scripture; as where our Saviour compares the difficulty of a rich man's salvation, to that which is naturally impossible,—to a camel's passing through the eye of a needle: nay, he pitches his expression higher, and doth not only make it a thing of equal, but of greater difficulty: I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And yet, when he comes to explain this to his disciples, he tells them, that he only meant that the thing was very difficult; How hard is it for those that have riches to be saved! And in another place,—For those that trust in riches, and that it was not impossible: but, speaking according to human probability, with men this is impossible, but not with God. In like manner we are to understand this high expression, which is very hyperbolical,—Can the Ethiopian, &. that is to say, This moral change of men, settled and fixed in bad habits, is very difficult, though, as the Archbishop goes on to shew, there is still ground to hope that it may be done. And when we consider the Christian religion, and the power of divine grace, there is all the reason in the world to believe that it will be done, when we heartily set about it, and use every necessary and proper endeavour. See his Sermons, vol. 2: p. 166.


Verse 24

Jeremiah 13:24. By the wind of the wilderness "The most vehement storms to which Judaea was subject came from the great desert country to the south of it." See Bishop Lowth's Note on Isaiah 21:1.


Verse 27

Jeremiah 13:27. Woe unto thee, &c.— The prophet here expresses in the strongest manner his hopes and his desires for the repentance and reformation of this people. The original is remarkably emphatical, עד מתי אחרי acharei mathai od, when once? The aposiopesis is peculiarly beautiful and expressive.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, They who stopped their ears against the prophet's words, have now a sign before their eyes, if any means might be found to fasten conviction upon their hearts. We have,

1. The sign. A linen girdle, or sash, which the prophet is commanded to procure and wear; and which would be the more taken notice of, as his rough garments were unused to be bound with such finery. No water must touch it; but when worn awhile, he must go to the river Euphrates, and hide it in a hole in the rock, where, by the rising and falling of the river, it would become wet and dry, and rot the sooner. After a while he is sent to fetch it thence, and found it spoiled and rotten. Interpreters are divided concerning this matter, whether it was only done in vision, as Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:24 or real. The former seems more generally received, because of the length of the way, and the time required to be spent in the journey, when his presence at home was so necessary.

2. The explanation. God had chosen Israel, and caused them to cleave unto him, as a girdle about the loins of a man; intimating how near and dear they were to him; brought into a state of most intimate communion with him, permitted to enter into the courts of his house, favoured with his presence, and engaged by innumerable favours to cleave to him in all fidelity and love, that they might be to him for a people, a peculiar people; for a name renowned in the earth, and to shew forth his praise and glory; and thus, like the curious girdle of the ephod, be ornamental to their profession, and an honour to their holy religion. But they would not hear; and therefore he threatens to mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem, especially elated with having the temple in the midst of her; but the higher their pride rose, the lower shall their fall be. Since they had corrupted their ways by wickedness, and refused to hear the words of God's prophets, following their own vain imaginations, and sunk into abominable idolatries, God will utterly consume them, and make them vile as that girdle of rags. Note; (1.) The greater the mercies are that we enjoy, the greater are our obligations to be faithful. (2.) God's service is the highest honour; and while we are most solicitous to glorify him, we at the same time gain for ourselves that great name which is worth our ambition. (3.) It is folly to pretend a relation to God as his people, if we are not to him for a praise. (4.) Whatever we are proud of, whether parts, gifts, station, wealth, or power, God regards such self-complacence with abhorrence; and what turned angels into devils, will make men who imitate their sins companions in their sufferings.

2nd, We have,

1. Another judgment threatened, under the figure of bottles filled with wine. They were filled with drunkenness, and they shall be filled with wrath: not understanding the prophet's meaning, they seem to ridicule it; Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine; this is not such a strange thing that it need be ushered in with such pomp, as thus saith the Lord God of Israel; but let them wait the explanation, and it will be found momentous; for God threatens to fill all the inhabitants of the land, king, priests, prophets, and people, high and low, with drunkenness, with a spirit of infatuation, which will have the same effect upon them as wine; their counsels shall be confounded, they shall stagger, be weak as a drunken man, and be made sick with smiting; dashed one against another with intestine quarrels, they shall help forward their own ruin, even the fathers and the sons together; I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them with an utter destruction. Note; Drunkards are chief among those whose damnation slumbereth not.

2. An admonition given them of God, to humble themselves before it was too late. Be not proud, above being taught, or too stubborn to bend to reproof. Yea, the king and queen are called upon to set their subjects the example, and to sit down in the dust; and there, confessing their sins, and acknowledging the justice of their sufferings, to give glory to God before he come forth in judgment, and cause darkness, giving them up to the Babylonish captivity; and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, or the mountains of gloominess; referring to the afflictions which they should suffer; and while ye look for light, a gleam of prosperity, and assistance from their confederates, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness, overwhelming them with their calamities and disappointments, and sinking them in despair. For, unless they prevented their doom by a timely repentance, it is determined that your principalities shall come down, all the power and dignity in which they prided themselves and confided, even the crown of your glory, plucked from the king's head with all the ensigns of royalty, and he, among the rest, led into an inglorious captivity. Note; (1.) They who are too proud to bend, are not too high to be broken. (2.) If sinners will not give God glory by their penitence, he will glorify himself in their perdition. (3.) There is no escaping God's judgments by attempting to fly from them; the only door of hope is in humiliation to fly to him. (4.) The vain hopes of sinners will serve but to aggravate their misery, and to increase their confusion. (5.) It becomes those who are most exalted to set the gracious example; kings are not too great to sit in the dust, when God calls to weeping and mourning for the sins of the land.

3. The prophet expresses the unspeakable grief that it would give him to see them reject the divine admonitions. If ye will not hear it, and obey, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; to some lonely solitude he would retire, and pour out his griefs before God, since it was vain to expostulate with them. That pride and stubbornness of which they would not repent, he with tears would bewail, and weep sore for those desolations which they would not believe, nor seek to avert, because the Lord's flock, for such they had once been, is carried away captive; and hereby God would be dishonoured and blasphemed, which especially affected the prophets heart. Note; (1.)They who know the terrors of the Lord themselves, cannot but tremble for those who appear insensible of their danger. (2.) The sins of their people cause many an aching heart to God's ministers, and they mourn exceedingly over those whom they cannot reform.

4. Their ruin was inevitable. Their cities (which lay south of Babylon) shall be shut up, either besieged, or left without inhabitant, and their captivity be complete. In Jehoiakim's time some were carried away, but in Zedekiah's none shall be left. The terrible army of invaders is already in view, coming from the north. Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock? once so distinguished with every mark of God's favour and regard, and the glory of the whole earth, now dispersed and scattered, and their place is no more found. What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? how speechless would they be found before God, when by the Chaldean sword he should arise to visit their iniquities? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee; having invited them into their country formerly, and thereby opened a door for their conquests, 2 Kings 16:7. Shall not sorrows take thee as a woman in travail? sorrows, sudden, terrible, and unavoidable, would then seize on this devoted Judea. Note; (1.) They who have the charge of others committed to them, parents, magistrates, and especially ministers, should often think of the solemn account which they must one day give before the great Shepherd and Bishop of Souls. (2.) They who have rejected God's admonitions will be speechless in the day of their visitation.

3rdly, It is here foretold, as before, that captivity awaited them, when naked and barefoot they should be led away, confounded and ashamed before their conquerors. In this miserable case,

1. They are represented as inquiring into the cause of their calamities: If thou say in thine heart, for God knows what passes there, Wherefore come these things upon me? either quarrelling with their afflictions and fretting against the Lord, or driven by the severity of their sufferings penitently to inquire into their cause.

2. God answers them, For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare. God had not laid on them more than they had deserved; for their iniquities were great and numberless, and they utterly incorrigible: the black Ethiopian as soon might change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as they be reclaimed from their abominations, which habit and custom had ingrained, and made a second nature; or learn that good which their prophets inculcated. God had been forgotten by them, and their confidence placed on falsehood, the broken reed of Egyptian aid. Their idolatries and adulteries had been multiplied on every hill, in every field, openly and without a blush; therefore they might easily perceive the cause of their ruin. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem: for these things they are scattered as stubble before the wind of the wilderness, the Chaldean army; and this is their lot, and the portion assigned them of God, in just judgment for such impieties and impenitence. Note; (1.) God never lays upon sinners more than they deserve, but in all his judgments will be justified. (2.) Every man by nature is born like the sooty Ethiopian, black in original sin; and by practice and habit the stain is still deeper fixed in the soul. Not all the waters of the ocean can change the hue; no labours or attempts of man to cleanse himself by natural means are of any avail; the fountain of a Redeemer's blood alone can wash this Ethiopian white, and change this leopard's spots. (3.) Inveterate habits are very difficult to be conquered; but if we sincerely seek for divine grace, we shall find it all-sufficient.

3. The prophet expostulates once more with them; dangerous as their case was, it might not be yet utterly desperate; wilt thou not be made clean? shall no intreaty prevail, when the fountain is yet open, and God's patience waits; when shall it once be? surely it was now high time to bethink themselves, when ruin was almost at the door. Note; (1.) The reason why sinners perish is, because they will not come to Christ that they may have life. (2.) We must be made clean, or we can never enter God's holy place in heaven. (3.) God waits long upon sinners, and expostulates with them on their delays; and they who disappoint his patience will be left without excuse. (4.) Most men resolve sometime or other to repent; but, putting it off to a distant day, death surprises them in their sins.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-13.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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