New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Jeremiah 19:1 Thus said Yahweh, Go and buy a potter’s earthen bottle, and take some of the elders of the people and of the elders of the priests- This meant a return visit to the potter of Jer. 18:2. The priests he took with him may well have been his own relatives, and those of Jer. 18:21-23 who were intent upon killing Jeremiah because his message about the potter hit home too hard. And now he was asked to repeat such teaching, to this same group.

Jeremiah 19:2 and go forth to the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate Harsith, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell you-
I suggested on Jer. 18:2 that it was in a muddy part of this valley that the potter was working and had his field. LXX has "read" for "proclaim", suggesting these words of prophecy were given to Jeremiah and he or Baruch wrote them down before he read them out. The "gate Harsith" is GNB "The potsherd gate". The gate which led to the valley of Hinnom was known by this name because potters worked there, and the fragments of their broken vessels, remnants of pottery projects that hadn't worked out, were strewn around the place. "Harsith" is literally "potsherd". All this spoke of the broken projects of so many of God's people; and their worship of idols in that valley of the potter was the cause for all the failures. No wonder this same valley where rubbish such as potsherds were thrown and burnt, known in the New Testament as Gehenna, became the Lord's symbol of choice for total destruction of those who fail to be formed by God into His chosen vessels.

Jeremiah 19:3 and say, Hear the word of Yahweh, kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring evil on this place, which whoever hears, his ears shall tingle-
God is repeatedly presented as the ultimate source of "evil". There is no radical evil in the cosmos outside of His control. There is no cosmic Satan figure; all "evil" is under His control, and performed by His Angelic "armies" manifested through human armies used by them, as the Babylonians were at this time.

Jeremiah 19:4 Because they have forsaken Me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it to other gods that they didn’t know, they and their fathers and the kings of Judah; and have filled this place with the blood of innocents-
"Know" in its Hebraic sense refers to relationship. They worshipped gods with whom they had no relationship, even if (as explained on Jer. 14:1-5) they 'knew' and learnt how to worship them, they did not "know" them in terms of relationship. No idol of whatever form can provide the genuine, dynamic relationship which is possible between Yahweh and His people.

Jeremiah 19:5 and have built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons in the fire for burnt offerings to Baal; which I didn’t command, nor spoke it, neither came it into My mind-
God describes the word which He inspires as coming into His mind- as if it occurs to Him, and then He inspires men with it. Although God is outside time, this mustn't lead us to conclude that He is somehow static and unfeeling; He reveals Himself as accommodating Himself to men to the extent that He has feelings of joy at the moment of our repentance (consider the Father rushing out to the returning son) and sorrow and anguish at the times of our apostasy (consider the Almighty "rising early and sending" the prophets). Although He is outside time, yet He limits His omniscience (as He evidently limits His omnipotence). It could even be that although He could see every possible future and foresee our behaviour well before our birth, He somehow ignores this possibility. This is why He is described as being disappointed at Israel's level of response to His love, shocked at their sins, surprised at their perversions (e.g. Jer. 19:5; 32:35).

Jeremiah 19:6 therefore, behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that this place shall no more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of Slaughter-
LXX: "This place shall no more be called, The fall and burial-place of the son of Ennom, but, The burial-place of slaughter". The valley of Hinnom was known from before the Israelites entered Canaan (Josh. 15:8), so Ennom must have been a Canaanite who died there, perhaps 'fell' in battle there, and was buried there. Instead of commemorating the fall of the Canaanites, it would now remember the fall of the Israelites there. 

Jeremiah 19:7 I will nullify the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life: and their dead bodies will I give to be food for the birds of the sky, and for the animals of the earth-
In the very place of idol worship, there was false teaching. This was because the priests and false prophets were in league (Jer. 18:18) and their specific counsel was to murder Jeremiah (Jer. 18:23). They falsely claimed prophetic revelation to kill Jeremiah as he was a false prophet (Jer. 18:18
). It was the men of Anathoth, Jeremiah's home town, his own relatives who were also priests, who sought his life (Jer. 11:21). Their punishment was to be that the Babylonians would seek their lives, and slay them. What they intended to do to Jeremiah would be done to them. But in a low moment, Jeremiah lost his faith in this (see on Jer. 20:10).

Jeremiah 19:8 I will make this city an astonishment, and a hissing; everyone who passes thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues-
The hissing and mocking was because Jerusalem had been praised in David's psalms (e.g. Ps. 48:2; 50:2) as the joy of the whole earth and perfect in beauty (Lam. 2:15). Those Psalms of David were well known; for David after the Bathsheba incident had vowed to preach the good news of Yahweh's grace to the entire world. He had done so through his Psalms. His music ministry had been successful; the nations knew the songs about Zion being the joy of the whole earth and the perfection of beauty. And so they mocked it as it lay in ruins.

Jeremiah 19:9 I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters; and they shall eat each one the flesh of his friend, in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies, and those who seek their life, shall distress them-
This was more relevant to AD70 than to the Babylonian siege. This was because these prophecies were reapplied and rescheduled to the Romans, as they will likewise come to their ultimate term in the last days.

Jeremiah 19:10 Then you shall break the bottle in the sight of the men who go with you-
The religious and civil leadership (:1).

Jeremiah 19:11 and shall tell them, Thus says Yahweh of Armies: Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel-
The world will be broken to shivers, "as the vessels of a potter" (Rev. 2:26). But this is in fact quoting Jeremiah's words concerning the breaking of the individual believer who is rejected at the last day (Jer. 18:4-6; 19:11). The point of the Lord's quotation is surely that those He rejects will share the world's condemnation.

That can’t be made whole again- The broken earthen bottle which was smashed couldn't be made whole again- apparently. But the miracle of grace was that like the useless burnt vine branch of Ez. 15 and the marred linen girdle buried by the Euphrates, the smashed bottle, like Ezekiel's dry bones vision, could be made whole again. The stripes upon the suffering servant could 'heal' Israel (s.w. "made whole", Is. 53:5). Jeremiah had preached as much, that being made whole again was possible (Jer. 3:22; 30:17; 33:6 s.w.). The rhetorical question of Lam. 2:13 "Zion... who can heal you / make you whole again?" (s.w.) had its answer in Yahweh.

And they shall bury in Topheth, until there is no place to bury- I have noted several times that the prophesied judgments in Jeremiah differ from each other; he has also predicted that there would be such mass destruction that there would be nobody to bury the dead, for all would be slain (Jer. 14:16). But Jer. 19:11 speaks of burying bodies in Topheth. These different scenarios didn't all come true. There were various prophetic options, according to the exact measure of Israel's repentance and Jeremiah's intercession; or perhaps, simply according to the pity which Yahweh would finally show this sinful people.

Jeremiah 19:12 Thus will I do to this place, says Yahweh, and to its inhabitants, even making this city as Topheth-
All the once holy city would become as the burial place in Topheth. The Jews had always been careful to bury bodies outside of the city, lest it be defiled; but the whole city would become a place of dead bodies.

Jeremiah 19:13 and the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah, which are defiled, shall be as the place of Topheth, even all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the army of the sky, and have poured out drink offerings to other gods-
As noted on :12, the Jews had always been careful to bury bodies outside of the city, lest it be defiled; but the houses within the city would become full of dead bodies. Those houses had been built on the back of fraud. They would be destroyed along with the temple, and the historical records of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem emphasize that the "great houses" were also destroyed. We note too the extent of their idolatry; not just in Topheth, but on the roofs of their private homes. They were like a sexually obsessed woman; they worshipped every possible idol or god, hoping for some material benefit from it.

Jeremiah 19:14 Then came Jeremiah from Topheth, where Yahweh had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of Yahweh’s house and said to all the people-
LXX "And Jeremias came from the place of the Fall". The sin of Judah is presented as that of Adam, and the way Zedekiah flees to the east and Judah are sent out of the land to the east continues the similarities.

Jeremiah 19:15 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring on this city and on all its towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it; because they have made their neck stiff, that they may not hear My words
- The significance of bringing the evil pronounced is in the fact that  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. But they had stiffened their neck. To really hear God's words requires humility, a bowing of the neck, and a willingness to change the well trodden paths of habitual reactions, a softness and flexibility which doesn't come naturally.