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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 18

 

 

Verse 1

1. The word which came, etc. — A general title of the ensuing three chapters, which should be taken together as constituting a single section. This section consists of two parts; distinct, but mutually complementary. The first (chap. 18) contains the parable of the potter and the misshapen vessel; the second (chapters 19, 20) gives an account of the breaking of the pitcher, and of the warnings and persecutions which followed.


Verses 1-4

THE FIGURE OF THE POTTER, Jeremiah 18:1-4.


Verse 2

2. Go down — Suggesting the location of the potter’s house or workshop in some valley near the city. The precise spot was in the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, the place made famous forever by the prophecy of Zechariah, (Zechariah 11:13,) the fulfilment of which is recorded by Matthew.


Verse 3

3. Wheels — Literally, the two wheels. The potter’s lathe consisted of two frames or wheels revolving horizontally. Of these the lower was the larger, and was worked by the foot to give motion to the upper one. Upon this the potter placed his clay, and shaped it, as it rapidly revolved, with his fingers.


Verse 4

4. The vessel… was marred, etc. — The meaning simply is: If the vessel was marred, he made again another vessel of it. Some MSS., instead of the reading of clay — literally, in clay — have as clay, and this reading, which is given in the margin of the Authorized Version, is adopted by Nagelsbach. But on no ground whatever is it to be preferred.


Verse 5-6

INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE, Jeremiah 18:5-10.

5, 6. Cannot I do… as this potter — In the application of the emblem used, God refutes the dependence of the Jews on their outward election. As the potter crushes the misshapen vessel in order that it may be refashioned, so Jehovah crushes by affliction his wayward and rebellious people, in order that his purpose as to their mission may not be frustrated.


Verses 7-9

7, 9. At what instant… at what instant — These phrases are correlative, like the now… now, of Jeremiah 18:11.


Verse 8

8. Repent — The strongest type of anthropopathic language applied to God, just as we ascribe the qualities of animate beings to inanimate; as “The sun rises;” “The shore recedes.”


Verse 10

10. I will repent of the good — How fearful an illustration of this did God furnish in this very place. They who bought this potter’s field with the price of innocent and holy blood, furnish by so doing an historically perpetual and most sad and impressive instance of a potter’s vessel dashed to destruction.


Verse 11

APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE, Jeremiah 18:11-17.

11. Frame — The Hebrew word here is kindred with that for potter, so that the continued reference to the illustration already given is more specific than appears in the Authorized Version.


Verse 12

12. No hope — See on Jeremiah 2:25.


Verse 13

13. Heathen — Literally, nations. The word is steadily used as standing over against Israel. Hence the version is good.

Virgin of Israel — See on Isaiah 1:8; Jeremiah 14:17.


Verse 14

14. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon… from the rock of the field? etc. — Two questions arise on this passage: How shall it be translated, and how interpreted?

I. Two translations have been proposed which are worthy of notice: —

1. That of Noyes, after Michaelis, Rosenmuller, Neumann, Maurer, and others: Shall the snow from the rock of Lebanon (snow of Lebanon from the rock) forsake my fields? 1) But in this the phrase, “from the rock,” is harsh and unmeaning. It adds nothing to the sense, and is, certainly, a clumsy expression for “rock of Lebanon.” 2) It mentions Lebanon as the source of the water supply of Palestine, while, in other passages, the sea is so mentioned.

2. That of Keil and Nagelsbach: Will the snow of Lebanon cease from the rock of the field? This is the simplest and most strictly grammatical rendering, and is clearly to be preferred.

II. Two interpretations of this last translation have been given.

1. By “the rock of the field” Mount Zion is meant. In favour of this may be considered: 1) Mount Zion is so called in Jeremiah 17:3, while in Jeremiah 21:13, the kindred phrase, “rock of the plain,” is applied to it.

2) In Psalms 133:3, the “dew of Hermon,” the conspicuous and representative mountain of the Lebanon group is spoken of as “descending upon the mountains of Zion.” 3) The structure of the sentence clearly forbids us to identify the “rock of the field” with Lebanon. But, as bearing against this view, we should note: 1) The application of this phrase to Mount Zion, in another passage, is not conclusive as to its meaning here, though it does create an affirmative presumption. 2) The bold figure in Psalms 133, in which the dew of Hermon is said to come down upon the mountains of Zion, is no sufficient justification of the assumption that there was supposed to be a connexion between the snow of Lebanon and the springs of Jerusalem. If such a notion as this prevailed, either among the many or the few, we ought to find some notice of it in other places. 3) The word “Lebanon” in this place, is rather an appellative than the name of a locality: As the Lebanon snow, etc. The same remark also applies to the passage above alluded to, in which the “dew of Hermon” is mentioned.

2. By the phrase “rock of the field,” Lebanon is meant. 1) This is the natural interpretation. The snow of Lebanon is the snow that rests on Lebanon, and gives it its name — Lebanon=white mountain — and it can leave only the place where it is. Hence, the “rock of the field” is “Lebanon.” 2) This being the natural view, it is in order now to note that no considerations such as are mentioned above bear with conclusive force against it and in favour of any other. 3) This gives a sense at once intelligible and impressive. Just as appeal was once made to the bow in the heavens, which was not a symbol but only a sign of God’s covenant, so here “the prophet appeals to the unchangeableness of one of nature’s most beautiful phenomena — the perpetual snow on the summits of Lebanon” — as a fit token of man’s unchanging faithfulness to God, the source of all gracious supply. 4) This view is strongly confirmed by the remainder of the verse, with which it is in perfect harmony.

Or shall the cold flowing waters, etc.? — Literally, shall the strange, cool, trickling waters be plucked up? (dried up?) By “strange” waters are meant those that come from afar, whose sources are hidden — a phrase seemingly appropriate to the wealth of springs in Lebanon. The epithet “cold” is also suggestive of these. The general idea is that of faithfulness or constancy. The cool, perennial mountain springs, that seem to flow forth from an unwasting fulness, stand in vivid contrast with the deceitful brooks which are so characteristic of Palestine, and which have already been referred to as a symbol of idolatrous trusts. No fitter emblem of the ever-flowing stream of God’s bounty can be found in the range of material nature than the strange, cool, trickling waters of the Lebanon springs.

Thus do both members of this difficult verse blend in a most appropriate and expressive symbolism. The “rock of the field” points to the Rock of eternity. The sublime vision of perpetual snow resting on its summit symbolizes that glory which the Eternal as a garment wears. And that equally characteristic feature, the mountain stream, whose waters flow on ever conscious of their distant snowy fountains, is happily expressive of the never-failing stream of the divine beneficence. The appeal is to the constancy of these. Is not nature true in her friendships? Does she not stand always visible and always faithful? Do not her streams of beneficent supply pour forth unceasingly? Even so is God to his people; but they turn away from him to follow after vanity, and “make their land desolate and a perpetual hissing.”


Verse 15

15. They have caused — The construction here is impersonal — men have caused, etc. In all probability the reference is to Judah’s false prophets and false priests who really made her to err. Jeremiah 5:31. The idols in themselves were powerless for either good or evil.

Ancient paths — Literally, paths of eternity: those ways which are laid in truth and so are changeless.

Not cast up — Raised up so as to be above the reach of the floods.


Verse 16

16. Wag his head — Rather, shake his head, a sign, not of contempt, but pity.


Verse 18

THE RECEPTION OF THIS DISCOURSE, Jeremiah 18:18-23.

18. This verse sets forth the effect of Jeremiah’s words on the people. Law shall not perish, etc. — We have no need of this prophet of evil; we have the law and our priests.

Smite him with the tongue — A really characteristic Hebrew phrase.


Verse 21

21. Pour out their blood, etc. — Literally, pour them out upon thee hands of the sword; that is, give them up to its power.


Verse 22

22. From their houses — To the terrors of war and famine are added the sack and pillage of the city.


Verse 23

23. Thou knowest all their counsel — A comprehensive summing up of the whole prayer. For some excellent observations on Jeremiah’s imprecatory prayers, see Keil in his Commentary on this place.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 18:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-18.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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