The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:
The words of Jeremiah - The usual title of the prophetic books is "the Word of the Lord," but the two books of Amos and Jeremiah are called the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely prophecies, but also the record of much which belongs to the personal history of the writers. This title might therefore be translated the "life of Jeremiah" or "acts of Jeremiah," though some understand by it a collection of the prophecies of Jeremiah. One derivation of Jeremiah's name is "God exalteth."
Hilkiah, may have been the high priest of that name.
That were - Or, who was, i. e., dwelt. The meaning is, that Jeremiah was a priest who dwelt at Anathoth.
To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
Came - literally, was (and in Jeremiah 1:4); the phrase implies that Jeremiah possessed God's word from that time onward, not fitfully as coming and going, but constantly.
The thirteenth year of his reign - According to the ordinary reckoning, this would be 629 b.c., but if the Ptolemaic canon be right in putting the capture of Jerusalem at 586 b.c., it would be two years later, namely 627 b.c. However, according to the Assyrian chronology, it would be 608 b.c. It was the year after that in which Josiah began his reforms.
It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
The whole period contained in this verse is no less than 40 years and 6 months, namely, 18 years under Josiah, two periods of 11 years each under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, and 3 months under each of the omitted kings, Jehoahaz and Jeconiah.
In the fifth month - The capture of Jerusalem took place in the fourth month, but its destruction was in the fifth month (see the marginal references), the ninth day of which was subsequently kept as a fast-day Zechariah 7:3.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
This history of Jeremiah's call to his office formed a part of his first address to the people. He claimed to act by an external authority, and to speak not his own words but those of Yahweh; and this even when resisting the divine call (see Jeremiah 15:13; Jeremiah 20:7, Jeremiah 20:14-18).
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Rather, "Before I formed thee in the belly." I approved of thee (as one fit for the prophetic office)," and before thou camest forth from the womb" I made thee holy (dedicated thee to holy uses); I have appointed thee (now by this public call to be) "a prophet unto the nations."
Unto the nations - The privileges contained in this verse are so great as in their full sense to be true only of Christ Himself, while to Jeremiah they belong as being in so many particulars a type of Christ.
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
There is no resistance on Jeremiah's part, but he shrinks back alarmed.
I cannot speak - i. e., "I cannot prophesy," I have not those powers of oratory necessary for success. The prophets of Israel were the national preachers in religious matters, and their orators in political.
I am a child - This implies nothing very definite about Jeremiah's age. Still the long duration of his prophetic mission makes it probable that he was very young when called to the office, as also were Isaiah, Hosea, Zechariah, and others.
But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
Jeremiah suggested two difficulties, the first inexperience, the second timidity. God now removes the first of these. Inexperience is no obstacle where the duty is simple obedience His timidity is removed by the promise given him in the next verse.
Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
Touched - "Made it touch." This was the symbol of the bestowal of divine grace and help, by which that want of eloquence, which the prophet had pleaded as a disqualification, was removed.
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
I have ... set thee over - literally, I have made thee Pakeed, i. e., deputy. This title is given only to these invested with high authority (e. g. Genesis 41:34; 2 Chronicles 24:11; Jeremiah 20:1; Jeremiah 29:26). From God's side, the prophet is a mere messenger, speaking what he is told, doing what he is commanded. From man's side, he is God's vicegerent, with power "to root out, and to pull down."
Root out ... pull down - In the Hebrew, the verbs present an instance of the alliteration so common in the prophets, and agreeable to oriental taste. The former signifies the destruction of anything planted, the latter refers to buildings.
To throw down - More exactly, to tear in pieces. There are four words of destruction, and but two words of restoration, as if the message were chiefly of evil. And such was Jeremiah's message to his contemporaries. Yet are all God's dealings finally for the good of His people. The Babylonian exile was, for the moment, a time of chastisement; it also became a time of national repentance (see Jeremiah 24:5-7).
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
What seest thou? - If we admit a supernatural element in prophecy, visions would be the most simple means of communication between God and man.
A rod of an almond tree - Many translate "a staff of almond wood." The vision would thus signify that God - like a traveler, staff in hand - was just about to set forth upon His journey of vengeance. But the rendering of the King James Version is supported by Genesis 30:37. The word rendered "almond" comes from a root signifying "to be awake;" and as the almond blossoms in January, it seems to be awake while other trees are still Sleeping, and therefore is a fit emblem of activity.
Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
Hasten - Rather, I watch over "my word to perform it."
And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
The first vision was for the support of the prophet's own faith during his long struggle with his countrymen: the second explains to him the general nature of his mission. He was to be the bearer of tidings of a great national calamity about to break forth item the north. He sees a caldron. It was a vessel of metal Ezekiel 24:11, large enough to prepare the meal of a numerous community 2 Kings 4:38, and broad at the top, as it was also used for washing purposes Psalm 60:8. This caldron was boiling furiously.
The face ... - More correctly the margin, i. e toward the south. We must suppose this caldron set upon a pile of inflammable materials. As they consume it settles down unevenly, with the highest side toward the north, so that its face is turned the other way and looks southward. Should it still continue so to settle, the time must finally come when it will be overturned, and will pour the whole mass of its boiling contents upon the south.
Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
Out of the north ... - The caldron represents the great military empires upon the Euphrates. In Hezekiah's time, Nineveh was at their head; but stormed by the armies of Cyaxares and Nabopalassar it is itself now the victim whose limbs are seething in the caldron, and the seat of empire has been transferred to Babylon. But whoever may for the time prevail, the tide of passion and carnage is sure finally to pour itself upon Judaea.
An evil shall break forth - "The evil shall be opened," shall show itself, be disclosed from the north: that special evil, which from the days of Micah M1 Corinthians 3:12 all the prophets had denounced upon the Jews if they lapsed into idolatry. At present the caldron is fiercely boiling upon the Euphrates. As soon as either of the parties struggling there gains the victory it will pour the whole seething mass over other countries in the shape of an invading army (see Jeremiah 25:17-26).
For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.
I will call - I am calling. The judgment has begun. God is summoning His hosts to the war.
Families - The various races by which the provinces of the Babylonian empire were populated.
They shall set every one his throne - The chiefs of these various races come as God's ministers to hold solemn court, and give sentence in His name (see Jeremiah 25:9). They therefore set each one his throne in the usual place for administering justice, namely, the entering in of the gates, where a large open space was always left in cities for the purpose. Viewed in one light war is the boiling caldron of human passion, upset by hazard, and bringing only ruin in its course; in the other it is God sitting in judgment, with the kings of the earth as His assessors, solemnly pronouncing sentence upon the guilty.
Against all the walls ... - Sentence judicially pronounced, the nations come to execute judgment by mounting as enemies upon her walls and storming her cities.
And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
In accordance with the custom of law courts, the crimes of the guilty city are mentioned in the sentence. The charges brought against her are three: first, the desertion of the true God; next, the offering incense to false gods, and, lastly, the making obeisance to, or bowing down 2 Kings 5:18 before images of human workmanship.
Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
Gird up thy loins - A symbol of preparation for earnest exertion, and implying also firm purpose, and some degree of alacrit
Be not dismayed ... - literally, "be not dismayed at their faces, lest I dismay thee before their faces." Naturally despondent and self-distrustful, there was yet no feebleness in Jeremiah's character. There was in him a moral superiority of the will, which made him, at any cost to himself, faithfully discharge whatever his conscience told him was his duty.
For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
Metaphorically the walls and fortifications of the city represent the prophet's power of patiently enduring the attacks of his enemies; while the iron pillar, supporting the whole weight of the roof Judges 16:29; 1 Kings 7:21), signifies that no trials or sufferings would crush his steadfast will.
And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.