Jeremiah 1:11
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Jeremiah, what see you? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) The word of the Lord . . .—As before, we have the element of ecstasy and vision, symbols not selected by the prophet, and yet, we may believe, adapted to his previous training, and to the bent and, as it were, genius of his character.

The poetry of the symbols is of exquisite beauty. In contrast to the words of terror, in harmony with the words of hope, he sees the almond-bough, with its bright pink blossoms and its pale green leaves, the token of an early spring rising out of the dreariness of winter. The name of the almond-tree (here the poetical, not the common, name) made the symbol yet more expressive. It was the watcher, the tree that “hastens to awake” (shâkêd) out of its wintry sleep, and thus expresses the divine haste which would not without cause delay the fulfilment of its gracious promise, but would, as it were, make it bud and blossom, and bear fruit.

Jeremiah 1:11-12. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me — Probably at the same time, and in the same vision, wherein he was first appointed to his office; saying, What seest thou — Here, by symbolical representations, the meaning of which God immediately interpreted, future things were presented to his view. This method of instruction or information sinks deeper into the mind, and leaves a more lasting impression there, than any mere words can do; and therefore the prophets frequently received communications from God in this way. And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree — Namely, which had leaves, and possibly blossoms on it, like Aaron’s rod; otherwise the prophet could not so readily have discerned of what kind of wood it was. The almond-tree is one of the first that wakes and rises from its winter repose, flowering, in the warm southern countries, in the month of January, and by March bringing its fruits to maturity. From this circumstance, which is mentioned by Pliny, lib. 16. cap. 42, it is supposed to have received its name, שׁקד, shaked, as being intent, and, as it were, on the watch to seize the first opportunity of emitting its buds and blossoms: which is the proper sense of the verb, from which that noun is derived. A branch of this tree, therefore, with buds or leaves, and blossoms upon it, was a proper emblem to denote God’s hastening the execution of the predictions which he declared by this prophet, who lived to see most of his prophecies fulfilled. There is also in the original a remarkable paranomasia, or affinity in sound, between shaked, an almond-tree, and shoked, hastening, which makes the words more striking than they can possibly be in any translation. For not only the nature of the almond-tree, but the very sound of the Hebrew word, which signifies it, denoted God’s hastening to fulfil the prophecies which Jeremiah uttered by his directions. Thou hast well seen — Or, thou hast seen and judged right. Hebrew, הישׂבת לראות, Thou hast done well to see, that is, in seeing so. For I will hasten my word — Literally, I will act like the almond-tree respecting my word; namely, my word of threatening, against Judah and Jerusalem, to perform it.1:11-19 God gave Jeremiah a view of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. The almond-tree, which is more forward in the spring than any other, represented the speedy approach of judgments. God also showed whence the intended ruin should arise. Jeremiah saw a seething-pot boiling, representing Jerusalem and Judah in great commotion. The mouth or face of the furnace or hearth, was toward the north; from whence the fire and fuel were to come. The northern powers shall unite. The cause of these judgments was the sin of Judah. The whole counsel of God must be declared. The fear of God is the best remedy against the fear of man. Better to have all men our enemies than God our enemy; those who are sure they have God with them, need not, ought not to fear, whoever is against them. Let us pray that we may be willing to give up personal interests, and that nothing may move us from our duty.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.

11. rod—shoot, or branch.

almond tree—literally, "the wakeful tree," because it awakes from the sleep of winter earlier than the other trees, flowering in January, and bearing fruit in March; symbol of God's early execution of His purpose; Jer 1:12, "hasten My word" (compare Am 8:3).

This and the boiling caldron, Jeremiah 1:13, is thought to be at the same time, and in the same vision, when he was first appointed to his work.

A rod of an almond tree, viz. that had leaves, and possibly blossoms, on it, like Aaron’s, Numbers 17:8; for without leaves at least it is possible he had not so readily guessed of what kind it had been. This is a tree that blossoms early and speedily, and hence hath its name in Hebrew scaked, signifying watchful, forward, nimble, or quick; and so it may point at either God’s readiness to smite, Jeremiah 1:12, which is described elsewhere by summer fruit, Amos 8:1,2; or Israel’s ripeness to be smitten, as we have the like Ezekiel 7:10,11; or both; this rod being like a portentous comet, showing to Jeremiah the miseries that were at hand, as the death of Josiah, which soon followed this vision, 2 Kings 23:29, and the taxing them by Pharaoh-nechoh, 2 Kings 23:35, and presently after the breaking in of the Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, 2 Kings 24:2, and then the Babylonian captivity, 2 Kings 24:10, which happened in the eighth year of Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 24:12, when Nebuchadnezzar took him with others, and carried them away, about twenty-three years from hence; and about the fortieth year Jerusalem was taken, and the temple burnt. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me,.... At the same time as before:

saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? The Septuagint version leaves out the word "Jeremiah":

and I said, I see a rod of an almond tree; a dry stick, without leaves or fruit upon it, and yet he knew it to be an almond tree stick; though some think it had leaves and fruit on it, by which it was known. The Targum is,

"and I said, a king hastening to do evil I see;''

meaning Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, hastening to bring destruction upon the Jews.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a {m} rod of an almond tree.

(m) He joins the sign with the word, for a more ample confirmation: signifying by the rod of the almond tree, which first buds, the hasty coming of the Babylonians against the Jews.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. I see a rod of an almond tree] The almond tree in Palestine has been compared to the snowdrop with us, as giving one of the first signs of approaching spring. Dr Tristram (Nat. Hist. of the Bible) tells us that at Bethany in the month of January he gathered the blossoms in full bloom. They appear before the leaves open, like those of the peach-tree in England. The Hebrew used here (shâkêd) is not the ordinary word for an almond tree, but a poetical expression, meaning that which is awakening, and referring to the blossoming of this tree as taking place while others are still in their winter sleep. There is a play on the words shâkêd and (Jeremiah 1:12) shôkêd (watching over). Cp. Amos 8:1, where the sight of a basket of summer fruit (kayitz) is to the prophet symbolic of the end (kêtz) which is coming upon his nation.

11, 12. The symbol of the almond tree

It is often supposed that the almond tree and the boiling caldron were seen by the prophet in vision. But it is quite possible that it was an actual almond tree to which Jeremiah’s attention was directed. If so, we may see the prophet musing on the moral deadness and neglect which he beheld around him, as illustrated by nature’s winter sleep. It is borne in upon him, either at the very time of his call or perhaps subsequently, that in spiritual matters no less surely than in nature this state of things must cease. For him “the sight of the tree is more than a coincidence: Nature is a parable of God’s working. Hence he sees in this harbinger of the spring a sign that the hard frost is about to break and new life to spring from the soil.” (Pe. ad loc.)Verses 11-16. - Two trials or probations of Jeremiah's inner sight (2 Kings 6:17). Two visions are granted him, which he is required to describe. The first expresses the certainty of his prophetic revelation; the second indicates its contents. Verse 11. - A rod of an almond tree. The name here adopted for the almond tree is peculiarly suitable in this connection. It means "wakeful;" the almond, blossoming in January, is the first to "wake" from the sleep of winter. The Call and Consecration of Jeremiah to be a Prophet of the Lord. - The investiture of Jeremiah with the prophetic office follows in four acts: the call on the part of the Lord, Jeremiah 1:4-8; Jeremiah's consecration for his calling in Jeremiah 1:9-10; and in two signs, by means of which the Lord assures him of certain success in his work and of powerful support in the exercise of his office (Jeremiah 1:11-19). The call was given by a word of the Lord which came to him in this form: Jeremiah 1:5. "Before I formed thee in the womb I have known thee, and before thou wentest forth from the belly have I consecrated thee, to be prophet to the nations have I set thee. Jeremiah 1:6. Then said I, Ah, Lord Jahveh! behold, I know not how to speak; for I am too young. Jeremiah 1:7. Then said Jahveh to me, Say not, I am too young; but to all to whom I send thee shalt thou go, and all that I command thee shalt thou speak. Jeremiah 1:8. Fear not before them: for I am with thee, to save thee, saith Jahveh. This word came to Jeremiah by means of inspiration, and is neither the product of a reflective musing as to what his calling was to be, nor the outcome of an irresistible impulse, felt within him, to come forward as a prophet. It was a supernatural divine revelation vouchsafed to him, which raised his spiritual life to a state of ecstasy, so that he both recognised the voice of God and felt his lips touched by the hand of God (Jeremiah 1:9). Further, he saw in spirit, one after another, two visions which God interpreted to him as confirmatory tokens of his divine commission (Jeremiah 1:11-19). Jeremiah's appointment to be a prophet for the nations follows upon a decree of God's, fixed before he was conceived or born. God in His counsel has not only foreordained our life and being, but has predetermined before our birth what is to be our calling upon this earth; and He has accordingly so influenced our origin and our growth in the womb, as to prepare us for what we are to become, and for what we are to accomplish on behalf of His kingdom. This is true of all men, but very especially of those who have been chosen by God to be the extraordinary instruments of His grace, whom He has appointed to be instruments for the carrying out of the redemptive schemes of His kingdom; cf. Jeremiah 44:2, Jeremiah 44:24; Jeremiah 49:5; Galatians 1:15. Thus Samson was appointed to be a Nazarite from the womb, this having been revealed to his mother before he was conceived, Judges 13:3. To other men of God such divine predestination was made known for the first time when they were called to that office to which God had chosen them. So was it with our prophet Jeremiah. In such a case a reminder by God of the divine counsel of grace, of old time ordained and provided with means for its accomplishment, should be accepted as an encouragement willingly to take upon one the allotted calling. For the man God has chosen before his birth to a special office in His kingdom He equips with the gifts and graces needed for the exercise of his functions. The three clauses of Jeremiah 1:5 give the three moments whereof the choosing consists: God has chosen him, has consecrated him, and has installed him as prophet. The reference of the words "I have known thee," Calvin limited to the office, quasi diceret, priusquam te formarem in utero, destinavi te in hunc usum, nempe ut subires docendi munus in populo meo. Divine knowing is at the same time a singling out; and of this, choosing is the immediate consequence. But the choosing takes place by means of הקדישׁ, sanctifying, i.e., setting apart and consecrating for a special calling, and is completed by institution to the office. "To be prophet for the nations have I set thee" (נתן, ponere, not only appoint, but install). The sense has been briefly put by Calv. thus: (Jer.) fuisse hac lege creatum hominem, ut suo tempore manifestaretur propheta. לנוים, to the nations equals for the nations; not for Judah alone, but for the heathen peoples too; cf. Jeremiah 1:10, Jeremiah 25:9, 46ff. The Chethibh אצורך should apparently be read אצוּרך, from צוּר, equivalent to יצר; the root-form צוּר, being warranted by Exodus 32:4; 1 Kings 7:15, and being often found in Aramaic. It is, however, possible that the Chet. may be only scriptio plena of אצר, a radice יצר, since the scriptio pl. is found elsewhere, e.g., Hosea 8:12; Jeremiah 44:17; Ezekiel 21:28, etc.
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