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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 1

 

 

Verse 1

1. Words — Speeches or discourses. — Most of the prophetical books commence with the title “The word of God;” but those of Jeremiah and Amos are called the “words” of these prophets. For this two reasons have been given: 1) These books contain, along with prophecy, much historical matter; 2) The whole books are historical; even the prophecies being a written record of what was at first delivered in the form of oral discourses. Such matter is in Hebrew often called “words.” See marginal note 1 Kings 11:41; 1 Chronicles 29:29.

Son of Hilkiah — See Introduction.

Anathoth — A city lying one and one fourth hours northeast from Jerusalem, according to Robinson; or three miles, according to Eusebius. This place is first mentioned in Joshua 21:18. “Men of Anathoth” were among those who returned from the captivity. Ezra 2:23; Nehemiah 7:27. It was a priests’ city and had “suburbs.” Joshua 21:18; 1 Chronicles 6:60. It would hence appear that the place was not without consequence; and combining, as it did, what is best in the life of the city and the country, it doubtless contained the ripest fruits of Jewish culture. The conditions there were favourable for producing the great representative man of this period.


Verses 1-3

THE SUPERSCRIPTION, Jeremiah 1:1-3.

The first three verses constitute the general heading of the book. The time described does not cover the whole period of Jeremiah’s life, but rather that of his principal influence on the fortunes of the theocracy. Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are omitted from the list of kings because of their insignificance.


Verse 2-3

2, 3. To whom the word of the Lord came — To whom the spirit of prophecy was imparted.

In the days of Josiah — The sixteenth king of Judah after the separation from it of the kingdom of Israel.

Thirteenth year of his reign — From “the thirteenth year” of Josiah to the eleventh year of Zedekiah was about forty years; namely, eighteen remaining of Josiah’s reign, eleven of Jehoiakim’s and eleven of Zedekiah’s. The closing years of Jeremiah’s life, spent amid the ruins of his own land and in Egypt, are not here included. Josiah, the great reformer, stands out in his line of kings “faithful among the faithless.” Five years after the commencement of Jeremiah’s official career he led the people in a formal renewal of their covenant with Jehovah, and celebrated the occasion by a passover feast perhaps more remarkable and imposing than any other ever celebrated at Jerusalem. Eight years later, when Pharaoh-Necho was on his way to the memorable battle of Carchemish, Josiah went out against him, and being mortally wounded at Megiddo, (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22-24,) died before reaching Jerusalem. For him Jeremiah made public lamentation, “and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day.” 2 Chronicles 35:24-25. Jehoiakim was made king by Pharaoh-Necho, who had deposed his younger brother after a three months’ reign, and carried him in fetters to Riblah. As the Egyptian king was at this time making his expedition against Babylon, he charged his vassal Jehoiakim with the work of collecting a tribute of about $200,000, which he levied on the Jewish people. But Pharaoh met his Waterloo at Carchemish, and the king of Babylon seized upon Palestine as the natural fruit of his victory. He besieged and captured Jerusalem, made the king prisoner, and carried away to Babylon many of the principal inhabitants and some of the sacred vessels of the temple. Among these prisoners were Daniel and his three friends. Jehoiakim, having been subsequently reinstated, remained tributary to the king of Babylon for three years, and then, against the advice and warnings of Jeremiah, rebelled. The Babylonish king being at that time occupied with an Asiatic expedition, sent against the Jews an army composed from several of his allied and tributary peoples, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, who cruelly harassed the country. The misery of the land was extreme. Jehoiakim finally came to a violent and ignominious death, and the greatest dishonour was done to his body, for it was dragged away “beyond the gates of Jerusalem,” and buried “with the burial of an ass.” The times of Jehoiakim were characterized by gross and general corruption. The sacred places became altars of lust. The holy city and even the very temple were filled with abomination. See Ezekiel 8. The character of this most corrupt and foolish of all the kings of Judah is concentrated into two inspired phrases, “his abomination which he did,” (2 Chronicles 36:8,) and “he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.” 2 Kings 24:4. As in the time of Josiah the zeal and faith of the prophet were stimulated and developed, so in that of Jehoiakim he must have been burdened and alarmed by the general and outbreaking wickedness of the people. Jehoiachin, who succeeded his father Jehoiakim, having, after a brief reign of three months, been carried away to Babylon with ten thousand other captives Zedekiah, his uncle, was made king, 599 B.C. He was a fitting successor of Jehoiakim, showing the same characteristics of weakness and wickedness. “He humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet… from the mouth of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 36:12. The cup of Judah’s wickedness was now full, and God’s judgments came swiftly and terribly. Jerusalem was taken and pillaged; the temple burned; the sacred vessels, what remained of them, were taken away; the glory of Jerusalem, as a political capital, finally extinguished, and the captivity fully inaugurated.


Verse 4

JEREMIAH’S INVESTITURE WITH THE PROPHETIC OFFICE, Jeremiah 1:4-19.

4. The word of the Lord came — It was an objective revelation, as is plainly intimated in most cases of prophetic inspiration. It was not, probably, by a voice that addressed the prophet’s physical senses; rather was it spiritually communicated, but was perfectly recognised as from God. It was not the elevation of the prophet’s own religious consciousness by motions from within, but a bringing into this consciousness of something from without.


Verse 5

5. Before I formed thee — Jeremiah was assigned to an extraordinary work. The emphasis and solemnity of this assignment are here indicated by the fulness of the statement. As in the case of Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist, and some others, God’s purpose concerning him antedated his birth. Of course there is in this nothing to imply that this is not true of others, or indeed of all; but Jeremiah is reminded and assured of this, that he may feel himself “girded of God.” There is in the work which God has for men to do an individuality exactly answering to that of the worker. The eminent and notable cases of individual election mentioned in the Bible are but specimens of all. There is in this nothing of fatalism, since the free agent may, and often does, refuse to fill his assigned mission.


Verse 6

6. I am a child — Moses said, (Exodus 4:10, margin,) “I am not a man of words;” but Jeremiah, overwhelmed with the greatness of his work, cries out, “I am a child!” The original word, na’ar, ( נער,) has more scope of meaning than our word “child,” being in one instance, in plain historical prose, applied to Isaac when he was twenty-eight years old; and yet there is reason to think that Jeremiah was called to the prophetical office at an unusually early age. But these words especially reflect his sense of the greatness of the work before a prophet of God at that time; and so, by implication, the unspirituality and corruption of the time. He was young in the presence of hoary abuses. He was weak to cope with giant evils.


Verse 7-8

7, 8. I shall send thee… I am with thee — God sometimes seeks our weakness as well as our strength. Seeming disqualifications may even constitute special fitness: for all real sufficiency is of God. Young or old, wise or foolish, cultured or without culture, it is always enough that God says, “I send thee; I am with thee.”


Verse 9

9. And touched my mouth — A sign and symbol of inspiration, implying that God would reveal his power through Jeremiah’s utterances. But this symbolical act belongs not to the realm of sense, but to that of spirit. Other cases of touching the lips are those of Isaiah 6:6, symbolical of purification; and of Daniel 10:16, symbolical of supernatural strengthening.


Verse 10

10. To root out, and to pull down, etc. — A fearful commission! More unwelcome than that of Jonah! Yet his work was not executive but declarative. He was said to do what he has the commission to declare that God will do. So Christ gave to Peter the declaratory power of binding and loosing, (Matthew 16:19,) that is, the gospel commission of declaring the terms of salvation. And so Jeremiah is to pull down, and to destroy, because he is to be a prophet of evil to his own countrymen. True, this work of demolition was not to be unto ultimate destruction, but for reconstruction; and yet it was to extend to much that was enshrined in the national pride and dear to the national heart. The prophet’s work was to be in some sense the very counterpart of that of Moses. He led the people into political independency; in Jeremiah’s time this independent national life was to terminate. From being a nation they were henceforth to be only a people. The institutions which for many centuries had been the matrix of spiritual ideas in process of unfolding, were now to be cast down and overthrown in order that these same truths might have freedom for further development. And so his mission was also to build, and to plant. The political life of the nation was to terminate for the sake of its religious life. The work of demolition and extirpation was preparatory to planting and building. It was one stage of that violence by which a way was opened for the bringing in of a better hope.

It is worthy of note, that while we have here four terms to set forth the negative aspect of the prophet’s work, there are but two to represent its positive aspect. This indicates the moral condition of the times, and foreshadows the character of the book. Israel was to be humbled and afflicted that the theocracy might be strengthened and elevated. Israel was to go into captivity that the truth of God might be free.


Verse 11

11. What seest thou — A form of question many times used to call attention to a prophetic vision. See especially the book of Zechariah.

A rod of an almond tree — The word שׁקד, “almond,” means primarily wakeful, vigilant, and is applied to this tree because it wakes up to life, and blossoms in January, while the other trees are still in their winter’s sleep. Hence it is a natural symbol of vigilance, and so God uses it to suggest his own ever-wakeful activity. The word מקל, (makkel,) though ordinarily meaning “rod,” is here used in the sense of shoot or twig. Both Gesenius and Furst give to the root form the meaning to germinate. Other examples of the sense which seems to be demanded in this text are, Genesis 30:37; Jeremiah 48:17.


Verse 12

12. I will hasten — Better, I will be watchful over.

My word to perform it — In winter the reign of death over the vegetable kingdom is well nigh universal. The almond wakes to life as a visible token and proof of the mindfulness of God and the sure return of life’s resistless dominion. So now God gives to Jeremiah this token of an activity which will assert his power, and call the nation out of its sinful sleep. But that this watchfulness of God was not for purposes of judgment only is clearly stated in the parallel passage in Jeremiah 31:28.


Verse 13

13. A seething pot — Rather, a caldron. The attributive is participial in form, meaning literally “blown upon,” and hence is here well rendered by “seething.”

The face… is toward the north — Better, from “the north,” and so is seen as if pouring its burning contents over the land.


Verse 14

14. Shall break forth — Literally, shall be opened.

All the inhabitants of the land — Of Judea. The language suggests the universality of the evil.


Verse 15

15. I will call — Literally, I am calling. The present tense shows that the judgment is at the very door, yea, has even now begun. The summons has already gone forth.

The kingdoms of the north — Not only those of Syria, which is the country lying immediately to the north of Palestine, but of the whole region of the Euphrates and the Tigris; for all armies coming from this region would enter Palestine from the north.

Shall set… his throne — Meaning, establish a hostile power, and so implies violence against Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. “The chiefs of these various races come as God’s ministers to hold solemn court, and to give sentence in his name.”


Verse 17-18

17, 18. Gird up thy loins — Fasten up the outer garment with the girdle, so as to be ready for vigorous exertion. Thus was Jeremiah to address himself to his great and urgent work. In God’s promise to him, as given in the concluding portion of this verse, we have a paronomasia which is imperfectly shown in our Version. It is literally, Be not dismayed, (Niphal,) lest I dismay thee, (Hiphil.) If thou, Jeremiah, shalt give way to cowardice or tear, I, Jehovah, will throw thee into terror and dismay; but if thou shall stand firm in the strength of God, I will make thee a defenced city, strong to resist all assaults; an iron pillar, which the storm cannot shatter; and brazen walls, which no missiles can batter down or penetrate. Thou shalt stand against the whole land — its kings, its princes, its priests, and its people. All these, with infernal unanimity, shall conspire against thee, but shall not prevail.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-1.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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