Jeremiah 1:5
Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.
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(5) I knew thee.—With the force which the word often has in Hebrew, as implying. not foreknowledge only, but choice and approval (Psalm 1:6; Psalm 37:18, Amos 3:2).

I sanctified thee.i.e., consecrated thee, set thee apart as hallowed for this special use.

Ordained.—Better, I have appointed, without the conjunction, this verb referring to the manifestation in time of the eternal purpose.

Unto the nations.—i.e., to the outlying Gentile nations. This was the distinguishing characteristic of Jeremiah’s work. Other prophets were sent to Israel and Judah, with occasional parentheses of prophecies that affected the Gentiles. The horizon of Jeremiah was to extend more widely. In part his work was to make them drink of the cup of the Lord’s fury (Jeremiah 25:15-17); but in part also he was a witness to them of a brighter future (Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:39). It is as though he had drunk in the Spirit of Isaiah, and thought of the true prophet as one who was to be a light of the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6).

In this way, seemingly abrupt, yet probably following on a long process of divine education, was the youthful Jeremiah taught that he was to act a part specially appointed for him in the drama of his nation’s history. He could not see a chance in the guidance that had led him thus far. The call that now came to him so clearly was not the echo of his own thoughts. All his life from infancy had been as that of one consecrated to a special work. Could he stop there? Must he not, like St. Paul, think of the divine purpose as prior to the very germ of his existence? (Galatians 1:15.)

1:1-10 Jeremiah's early call to the work and office of a prophet is stated. He was to be a prophet, not to the Jews only, but to the neighbouring nations. He is still a prophet to the whole world, and it would be well if they would attend to these warnings. The Lord who formed us, knows for what particular services and purposes he intended us. But unless he sanctify us by his new-creating Spirit, we shall neither be fit for his holy service on earth, nor his holy happiness in heaven. It becomes us to have low thoughts of ourselves. Those who are young, should consider that they are so, and not venture beyond their powers. But though a sense of our own weakness and insufficiency should make us go humbly about our work, it should not make us draw back when God calls us. Those who have messages to deliver from God, must not fear the face of man. The Lord, by a sign, gave Jeremiah such a gift as was necessary. God's message should be delivered in his own words. Whatever wordly wise men or politicians may think, the safety of kingdoms is decided according to the purpose and word of God.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.

5. knew—approved of thee as My chosen instrument (Ex 33:12, 17; compare Isa 49:1, 5; Ro 8:29).

sanctified—rather, "separated." The primary meaning is, "to set apart" from a common to a special use; hence arose the secondary sense, "to sanctify," ceremonially and morally. It is not here meant that Jehovah cleansed Jeremiah from original sin or regenerated him by His Spirit; but separated him to his peculiar prophetical office, including in its range, not merely the Hebrews, but also the nations hostile to them (Jer 25:12-38; 27:1-21; 46:1-51:64), [Henderson]. Not the effect, but the predestination in Jehovah's secret counsel, is meant by the sanctification here (compare Lu 1:15, 41; Ac 15:18; Ga 1:15; Eph 1:11).

Before I formed thee in the belly, i.e. womb, Isaiah 46:3. Having spoken before of the time of his call, Jeremiah 1:4, he now speaks of the manner of it.

I knew thee, i.e. approved and appointed thee, as a fit minister for this work. Words of knowledge among the Hebrews note affection, as hath been formerly noted.

I sanctified thee, viz. not with saving grace, though that need not to be excluded; but accordingly I prepared and ordained thee for this public service; and thus with Paul, Galatians 1:15, where both are expressed. See the like use of the word Isaiah 13:3. He speaks thus to Jeremiah, not to the other prophets, because he stood in need of greater and more direct encouragement than they, both in respect of the tenderness of his years, and also of those insuperable difficulties which in those most degenerate and corrupt times he must unavoidably encounter with, which might cause him to decline the work, Jeremiah 1:6.

Unto the nations; either with reference to place, to other nations besides the Jews, as appears, Jeremiah 43 Jer 46 Jer 47, &c, taking the Jews in among them, as Jeremiah 25:17,18, and so

unto may be taken for against, as it is often expressed in those places and elsewhere; or with reference to time, to people of all times, who may be instructed by this book, or whose words are made use of, both by several prophets of the Old Testament, as Daniel, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, &c., and by our Saviour in the New; by Matthew 2:17,18; by Paul, 2 Corinthians 6:18; and by St. John, Revelation 2:23. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee,.... Not merely by his omniscience, so he knows all men before their conception and birth; but with such a knowledge as had special love and affection joined with it; in which sense the Lord knows them that are his, as he does not others, and predestinates them unto eternal life; and which is not only before their formation in the womb, but before the foundation of the world, even from all eternity. The forming of the human foetus is God's act, and a curious piece of workmanship it is; see Psalm 139:15.

And before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; not by infusing holiness into him, but by separating him in his eternal purposes and decrees to the office of a prophet before he was born, and even before the world began; just as the Apostle Paul was separated to the Gospel of God, Romans 1:1, for it follows,

and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations; not to the Israelites only, who Jarchi thinks are so called, because they now followed the usages and customs of the nations; but to the Gentiles, against whom be was sent to prophesy, Jeremiah 46:1 as Egyptians, Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Chaldeans. This ordination of him to be a prophet was not done in time, but in eternity, in the mind and thought of God; he was foreordained to this office before the foundation of the world, of which a declaration was made unto him when he was now called unto it; to which he makes answer.

Before I {g} formed thee in the womb I knew thee; and before thou wast born I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet to the {h} nations.

(g) The scripture uses this manner of speech to declare that God has appointed his minsters to their offices before they were born, as in Isa 49:1, Ga 1:15.

(h) For Jeremiah did not only prophecy against the Jews, but also against the Egyptians, Babylonians, Moabites and other nations.

5. I knew thee] meaning not mere acquaintance, but choice as a consequence of knowledge. The parallelism of contrast, frequent in the poetical books of the Bible, shews this to be the sense of the word in Psalm 1:6, “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish”; cp. Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord”; Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities.”

before thou camest forth] Cp. Luke 1:15; Luke 1:35; also Jdg 13:5.

I sanctified thee] i.e. consecrated or set apart for My service. See Exodus 13:2; Leviticus 27:14 ff., and often elsewhere.

unto the nations] See Intr. Jeremiah 2:3 (b).Verse 5. - Knew thee; i.e. took notice of thee; virtually equivalent to selected thee (comp. Genesis 39:6; Amos 3:2; Isaiah 58:3; Psalm 144:3). Observe, the predestination of individuals is a familiar idea in the Old Testament (comp. Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 49:1; Psalm 139:16). It was also familiar to the Assyrians: King Assurba-nipal declares at the opening of his ' Annals ' that the gods "in the body of his mother have made (him) to rule Assyria." Familiar, too, to the great family of religious reformers. For, as Dean Milman has truly observed, "No Pelagian ever has or ever will work a religious revolution. He who is destined for such a work must have a full conviction that God is acting directly, immediately, consciously, and therefore with irresistible power, upon him and through him He who is not predestined, who does not declare, who does not believe himself predestined as the author of a great religions movement, he in whom God is not manifestly, sensibly, avowedly working out his pre-established designs, will never be saint or reformer" ('Latin Christianity,' 1:111, 112). Sanctified thee; i.e. set thee apart for holy uses. Ordained; rather, appointed. Unto the nations. Jeremiah's prophecies, in fact, have reference not only to Israel, but to the peoples in relation to Israel (ver. 10; Jeremiah 25:15, 16; Jeremiah 46-49; Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51.?). "And it will come to pass: from new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh will come, to worship before me, saith Jehovah." New moons and Sabbaths will still be celebrated therefore; and the difference is simply this, that just as all Israel once assembled in Jerusalem at the three great feasts, all flesh now journey to Jerusalem every new moon and every Sabbath. דּי (construct דּי) signifies that which suffices, then that which is plentiful (see Isaiah 40:16), that which is due or fitting, so that (שׁבת) חדשׁ מדּי (with a temporal, not an explanatory min, as Gesenius supposes) signifies "from the time when, or as often as what is befitting to the new moon (or Sabbath) occurs" (cf., Isaiah 28:19). If (בשׁבת) בחדשׁ be added, בּ is that of exchange: as often as new moon (Sabbath) for new moon (Sabbath) is befitting, i.e., ought to occur: 1 Samuel 7:16; Zechariah 14:16 (cf., 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Kings 10:25; 1 Chronicles 27:1 : "year by year," "month by month"). When we find (בּשׁבּתּו) בּחדשׁו as we do here, the meaning is, "as often as it has to occur on one new moon (or Sabbath) after the other," i.e., in the periodical succession of one after another. At the same time it might be interpreted in accordance with 1 Kings 8:59, בּיומו יום דּבר, which does not mean the obligation of one day after the other, but rather "of a day on the fitting day" (cf., Numbers 28:10, Numbers 28:14), although the meaning of change and not of a series might be sustained in the passage before us by the suffixless mode of expression which occurs in connection with it.
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