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Jeremiah 18:1 The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh saying- It has been truly commented about this chapter: “Whenever a piece of pottery turned out  imperfect the potter would take the clay and make it into something else. God says that this is the principle behind His actions. If He says He is going to build up a nation but the nation disobeys Him the prophecy will not be fulfilled. Equally, if He says He is going to destroy a nation and the nation repents, He will not carry out His intention”. Hence if Israel turned from their way, "I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them" (Jer. 26:3). Earlier Israel had known God's breach of promise, the altering of His purpose, in that those who were to enter Canaan actually didn't (Num. 14:34).

Jeremiah 18:2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words-
The revelation of God's truth often requires an initial act of obedience, in this case, going to the potter's house. "Potter" is the same word first used in Gen. 2:7 about God forming Adam from the dust. Clearly God is the potter or former, both of individuals and nations. The word is repeatedly used in later Isaiah of how God formed Israel, and would form them again as a new creation upon their return from exile in Babylon (Is. 44:24; 45:9; 64:8 etc.). Jeremiah had been reminded at the start of his ministry that he personally had been formed by God (Jer. 1:5). It is also used of how God "frames" or literally 'potters' evil or good in the life of His collective people (:11). The 'going down' could suggest there was a potter who worked in the valley near the temple; Zech. 11:13 suggests there was a potter who worked there or even within the temple. And the potter's field was effectively purchased with the blood of Christ, for Judas spent that blood money on buying the potter's field, this one which Jeremiah visited. See on Jer. 19:2.

Jeremiah 18:3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he was making a work on the wheels-
To 'make a work' is literally 'to work a work' and is the language of creation (Gen. 2:2,3). On :2 I noted the word for "potter" is that used in the Genesis creation (Gen. 2:7 etc.). So there was the hint here at a new creation. The only other time we find the Hebrew word translated "wheels" is in Ez. 1:16 of the birthing stools upon which women gave birth- another hint at new creation.

'Working the work' is a phrase very often used about the restoration of Jerusalem (Neh. 4:16,17,21; 6:3,9,16; 11:12; 13:10; Hag. 1:14 etc.). The Kingdom could have been restored and a new creation come about from the exiles. But this too was not to happen. The clay misbehaved in the hands of the Divine potter. In the immediate context here, the term has just been used of how Judah 'worked work' on the Sabbath (Jer. 17:22,24), instead of allowing God to work. Not working their own work, keeping the Sabbath, was a sign of covenant relationship with God. God wanted to use people who could not 'work work' (Ez. 15:3,5). To trust in their own works and not allow His working was therefore effectively a breaking of covenant relationship.

Jeremiah 18:4 When the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made of it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it-
"Marred" has a moral dimension to it, translated "corrupt" in Gen. 6:11-13, where the corrupt eretz had to be destroyed. The Jews were "corrupted" (Jer. 6:28 s.w. "marred"). It is the word used about how the linen girdle of Jeremiah was "marred" in figurative captivity in Babylon (Jer. 13:7,9), and yet that marred girdle was still going to be used. And we have that same message here; Judah was to be destroyed / marred because they had marred themselves, but then a new nation was to be created. What "seemed good to the potter" is again a creation allusion; for God saw what He had made and it seemed very good to Him.

Jeremiah 18:5 Then the word of Yahweh came to me saying-
This interpretation may have come immediately as Jeremiah watched the potter, or somewhat later after he had had time to work it out for himself; in which case this subsequent revelation was only confirming him in his own conclusions.

Jeremiah 18:6 House of Israel, can’t I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel-
God has prepared us exactly to respond to His hand. We were born at a certain point in time, formed / pottered by Him with our prehistory, gene pool history etc., so that we can respond. Any lack of response to His hand is therefore highly culpable. God could work a new vessel from the clay of Judah, as He wanted to do in the time of Moses. By grace He didn't totally destroy them, didn't grab a new piece of clay, but rather tried to rework the existing clay. Even though in Jer. 15:6 God had said that His hand would now destroy Israel. But in fact He attempted to rework them.

Jeremiah 18:7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation or kingdom-
God had earlier "in an instant" (s.w.) stated that He would immediately destroy Israel (Ex. 33:5; Num. 16:21,45), but this didn't happen because of Moses' intercession. Ezra perceived the connection, using this word to speak of how "for a little moment" (s.w.) the exiles had a chance to change the verdict. God speaks, but there is a gap between the statement and the fulfillment. We all live within that gap, as Judah were- and there is therefore an intensity to the need for repentance to change the otherwise certain outcome. 

To pluck up and to break down and to destroy it- The 'plucking up' is the word used of how Judah would be plucked up out of their land for their disobedience to the prophetic word (Dt. 29:28; 2 Chron. 7:20). And as the Gentiles plucked up / out Israel from their land, so those nations would be plucked up (Jer. 12:14,15,17). Likewise the building and planting specifically refers to the restoration of Israel after their plucking up (Jer. 24:6; 31:28,40; 42:10). It was God through His word who would do these things; but that possibility worked through the preacher and proclaimer of that word. Therefore in Jer. 1:10, Jeremiah is presented as the one who would do these things. This is the enormous power delegated to all to this day who preach His word; we really can save people, plant them in the Kingdom by sowing the seed of the Kingdom; and those who refuse will be plucked up.

Jeremiah 18:8 If that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them-
Jeremiah's message as the Babylonian armies approached Jerusalem had stressed that if the Jews repented, then God would repent of the evil He was planning to bring upon them (Jer. 18:8,10; 26:3,13). The Jews did not repent, and so Jerusalem was taken and Zedekiah deported. Even at this thirteenth hour, God said to the Jewish forces that remained at large outside Jerusalem and who were about to flee to Egypt: "If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down. . . for I repent Me of the evil that I have done unto you"" (Jer. 42:10). What a God we have! Although Israel had not repented, the Angel repented to the extent of changing His pre-requisite for repenting of bringing more evil on them. And so God changed this from returning wholeheartedly to the Law, to merely remaining in the land of Israel rather than fleeing to Egypt. What of us? Jer. 31:18,19 tops all for such encouragement: "Turn thou Me (said Ephraim), and I shall be turned. . . I (God in the Angel)  was turned, I repented"- and therefore God repented too! God was prepared to relent (Jer. 18:8; 26:3,13,19; 42:10), and yet He says in Jer. 4:28 that He will not. This is not self-contradiction, but rather a reflection of the depth of how God's compassion is finally greater than His judgment of sin. The whole mental and emotional trauma made God weary of all the relenting, so deeply did He feel it (Jer. 15:6).

Due to Moses’ prayer, “the Lord repented of the evil which he had said he would do unto his people” (Ex. 32:14 RV). Yet these are the very words of Jer. 18:8- if a nation repents, then God will repent. But in this case, God accepted the singular prayer of Moses.

Jeremiah 18:9 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation or kingdom, to build and to plant it-
This was the case with the people of Judah. God had promised to build and plant them in a restored, Messianic kingdom in Israel (Jer. 31:28; 42:10; Ez. 36:36). But this was all conditional upon them continuing to obey His voice, otherwise He would change His plans (Jer. 18:9,10). Jeremiah had been given the power to speak the words of both destruction and building and planting (Jer. 1:10).

Jeremiah 18:10 If they do that which is evil in My sight, that they not obey My voice, then I will repent of the good, with which I said I would benefit them-
This is exactly what happened in Jer. 42:10. The remnant left in the land could have been built and planted, into a new restored Kingdom of God in Israel. But they fled into Egypt.

Jeremiah 18:11 Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, Thus says Yahweh: Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return you now each one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your doings-
"Frame" is the word translated "potter" in :2. The call to repentance was intensely individual, to "each one". "Devise a device" is the very phrase used of how Judah's response to this was to "devise a device", to make a plot, to kill Jeremiah and stop his words, as they thought, from coming true (:18). This was perversity in the extreme. They thought they could match God's plot with their own. No wonder they could not be further worked with.

Jeremiah 18:12 But they say, It is in vain; for we will walk after our own devices, and we will do everyone after the stubbornness of his evil heart-
They preferred their thoughts or devices to God's (:11). Whether or not they said these words, this was how God read their hearts, as saying these words. The choice was between walking after God's word, or walking after their own hearts. This is where God's word is not like any other literature. It is to take a grip upon the human heart and to inculcate a way of thought which is contrary to our own natural heart or thinking. This points up the danger of using the Bible simply to reinforce our own natural ideas, whilst disregarding the rest. "Stubbornness" also can mean "imagination". Dt. 29:19 speaks directly of Judah at this time- when they heard the words of the curses for disobedience, they would think they would still have peace because they walked in the imaginations [s.w. "stubbornness"] of their own hearts. The false prophets were preaching exactly such "peace" (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). The heart [mind] is a fountain of imagination, of fantasy, and it is this which can be redirected by the influence of God's word and Spirit upon the human heart. But the sense of "stubbornness" in the Hebrew word for "imagination" shows that by exercising our own imaginations without the influence of God's word, we become set in those ways of thought, until they come to define us.

Jeremiah 18:13 Therefore thus says Yahweh: Ask now among the nations, who has heard such things; the virgin of Israel has done a very horrible thing-
No god of the nations made such huge effort with their people. It was all supposedly a simplistic matter of yes / no obedience, and receiving blessings or cursings. Yahweh was far more complex in His workings, and always seeking to save and bless His people despite their disobedience. But they refused even that. "The virgin of Israel" leads us to expect that the "very horrible thing" she did was an act of immorality, sexual unfaithfulness to their God. And that is indeed how the term is always used elsewhere (Jer. 5:30,31; 18:13; 23:14; Hos. 6:10). By forming alliances with other nations and serving their gods, they had been unfaithful to the God who wanted to marry them; for that is the implication of a virgin being unfaithful.

Jeremiah 18:14 Shall the snow of Lebanon fail from the rock of the field? Shall the cold waters that flow down from afar be dried up?-
It ought to have been natural for Israel to respond to such amazing grace and love; but their refusal of it was as unnatural as gushing melt water on a slope suddenly drying up. Likewise any refusal of God's love is a conscious fighting against Him, clay resisting His forming hand.

Jeremiah 18:15 For My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to false gods-
The allusion is to Dt. 32:18, where Israel "forgot God who formed you", and we have shown on :2 that a "potter" is literally a 'former'. But Israel claimed to worship Yahweh; yet they forgot or were oblivious to the real implications of Him. We too can go through a semblance of worship whilst having effectively forgotten our God.

And they have been made to stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths, to walk in byways, in a way not built up- At the restoration, these rocky paths were to be made smooth. Is. 57:14 teaches that a level way must be made amongst the Jewish people, i.e. the stumbling blocks and ‘valleys’ must be removed from their path. “Cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people” is therefore a command to God’s people to undo the generations of false shepherding which Israel have experienced: “They have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up” (Jer. 18:15 s.w. “cast…up” in Is. 57:14). Once we have prepared the way in this sense, then the highway is in place over which the Lord Jesus will return. This is how vital our work is for the Jewish people.

Jeremiah 18:16 To make their land an astonishment and a perpetual hissing; everyone who passes thereby shall be astonished and shake his head-
But the land was not perpetually mocked. As explained on Jer. 10:18, many remained in the land and it was not left totally desolate. In wrath God remembered mercy, and there is also the factor of intercession and repentance of a minority to be taken into account.

Jeremiah 18:17 I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back and not the face in the day of their calamity-
This is what was done to the Egyptians at the Red Sea, driven back by an east wind. God showed them His back, so that they were in darkness and could not reach the Israelites. But out of that destruction there was to arise a new people, redeemed from Babylon after the pattern of Israel's deliverance from Egypt. That was the Divine hope and program, although it never really came true at that time as it could have done.

At the time when Moses doubts whether he really has found grace, the God who speaks to Moses face to face then turns and shows Moses only His back parts (Ex. 33:11,20,22). This is alluded to in Jer. 18:17 and there interpreted as being a sign of God's anger- to turn away His face and show His back parts. God was so angry with Moses' disbelief in His grace. And that was the problem with Judah at this time.

Jeremiah 18:18 Then they said, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words-
"Devise a device" is the very phrase used in :11 of God's device to destroy Israel. But Judah's response to this was to "devise a device", to make a plot, to kill Jeremiah and stop his words, as they thought, from coming true. They satisfied themselves that Jeremiah was a false prophet, and the false prophets were the true prophets. They considered Jeremiah a renegade priest; the priests' duty was to teach God's word, and the rest of the priests taught the words of the false prophets in the name of Yahweh. Ez. 7:26 alludes to these words, saying that the law would perish from these priests.

Jeremiah 18:19 Give heed to me, Yahweh, and listen to the voice of those who contend with me-
Jeremiah was aware of what they were saying, perhaps because God revealed it to him in :18. He asks for his words to be heard, and also the words of his enemies. This is an example of where our situation is heard by God as a prayer. The words of our enemies are heard as if they are words addressed to God, requiring Him to respond to them. We therefore shouldn't be so steamed up about them.

Jeremiah 18:20 Shall evil be recompensed for good? For they have dug a pit for my soul. Remember how I stood before You to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them-
Seeing the world through the eyes of both God and man- Jeremiah said that God’s wrath was his wrath, “I am full of the wrath of God” (Jer. 6:11), and yet he stood before God “to turn away thy wrath from them” (Jer. 18:20). Hence the huge psychological tension within the prophets. ‘Standing before the Lord’ refers to prayer- Ps. 106:23; Ezra 9:15; Jer. 15:1; 18:20. To live a life standing before the Lord is to live a life of prayer. Hence David and Paul say that prayer can be continual- in that life becomes a lived out prayer, with the practice of living in the presence of God. And straight away we ask ourselves, in lives just as busy as those of David and Paul, whether our self-talk, our minute by minute inner consciousness, is “before the Lord”... or merely the sheer and utter vapidity of the modern mind. Jeremiah's intercession for those who hated him was heard by God, and He turned away His wrath from them. And yet they sought to kill Jeremiah. This was typical of the work and experience of the Lord Jesus.

Jeremiah 18:21 Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and give them over to the power of the sword; and let their wives become childless and widows; and let their men be slain of death, and their young men struck of the sword in battle-
When Jeremiah's wishes here came true, he spends the book of Lamentations lamenting it, referring to these very words. We must be so careful what we pray for, especially if it is imprecation against others, lest it come true. He therefore lamented his own prayer at length.

Jeremiah 18:22 Let a cry be heard from their houses, when You shall bring a troop suddenly on them; for they have dug a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet-
The sudden nature of Jerusalem's fall is emphasized (Jer. 4:20; 6:26; 15:8; 18:22); she was to fall as Babylon would "suddenly" fall (Jer. 51:8). Jerusalem fell predictably after a siege, there were no great surprises that she fell. It was not a sudden fall that came out of left field, unexpectedly. And yet that is the implication of the prophecies. Babylon was reveling in prosperity when the Medes unexpectedly took the city; but the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon was totally expected and inevitable. Yet the fall is spoken of as "sudden". It could be that a potential "sudden" invasion and destruction of Jerusalem was projected by God, but the intercession of the few faithful, or the repentance of a tiny remnant, changed this possible outcome of their sin. So many different possibilities of judgment are given, ranging from a quarter destruction to total destruction of people and even all animal life. This reflects the open nature of God's working with His people, setting up various potentials in order to be fully responsive to human freewill decisions.

Jeremiah 18:23 Yet, Yahweh, You know all their counsel against me to kill me-
They falsely claimed prophetic revelation to kill Jeremiah as he was a false prophet (:18; see on Jer. 19:7.

Don’t forgive their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from Your sight; but let them be overthrown before You; may You deal with them in the time of Your anger- When Jeremiah's wishes here came true, he spends the book of Lamentations lamenting it, referring to these very words. We must be so careful what we pray for, especially if it is imprecation against others, lest it come true. He therefore lamented his own prayer at length. Jeremiah here is the very opposite of Moses, who pleaded that the people who despised him would have their sin blotted out. And yet Jeremiah also comes over as at times far too positive about Israel, complaining that God's judgments were too harsh. He may have been bi-polar, or simply going through the mood swings that were perhaps inevitable to anyone who was representative of both God and Israel. And his internal conflict between these two poles, of judgment and grace, also reflected those within God, as brought out in Hosea, where His "repentings" are unbearable for Him (Hos. 11:8). See on Jer. 20:13.