Jeremiah 1:6
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Ah, Lord God!—Better, Alas, O Lord Jehovah! as answering to the Hebrew Adonai Jehovah.

I cannot speak.—In the same sense as the “I am not eloquent” of Moses (Exodus 4:10), literally, “a man of words,” i.e., have no gifts of utterance.

I am a child.—Later Jewish writers fix the age of fourteen as that up to which the term rendered “child” might be used. With Jeremiah it was probably more indefinite, and in the intense consciousness of his own weakness he would naturally use a word below the actual standard of his age; and there is accordingly nothing against assuming any age within the third hebdomad of life. In Genesis 34:19 it is used of a young man old enough for marriage. The words are memorable as striking a note common to the lives of many prophets; common, also, we may add, to most men as they feel themselves called to any great work. So Moses draws back: “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10). So Isaiah cries, “Woe is me! for . . . I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5); and Peter, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Something of the same shrinking is implied in St. Paul’s command to Timothy (1Timothy 4:12). In tracing the whole course of Jeremiah’s work, we must never forget the divine constraint by which he entered on them. A necessity was laid upon him, as afterwards on St. Paul (1Corinthians 9:16).

Jeremiah 1:6. Then said I, Ah, Lord God, &c. — He modestly excuses himself from a consideration of the weight of the work, and the tenderness of his age, as in the next expression. Behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child — We cannot infer from this, that Jeremiah was within the years of what is properly called childhood. For he might call himself a child by way of extenuating his abilities; as Solomon calls himself a little child, 1 Kings 1:7, although at that time he was married, and must have been at least twenty years of age. And the word child, or youth, is elsewhere used of those who were arrived at the first years of manhood.

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.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.

6. From the long duration of his office (Jer 1:2, 3; Jer 40:1, &c.; Jer 43:8, &c.), it is supposed that he was at the time of his call under twenty-five years of age.

child—the same word is translated, "young man" (2Sa 18:5). The reluctance often shown by inspired ministers of God (Ex 4:10; 6:12, 30; Jon 1:3) to accept the call, shows that they did not assume the office under the impulse of self-deceiving fanaticism, as false prophets often did.

Ah! an introductory interjection, making way for his excuse in a way of grief and complaint, endeavouring with all reverence to clear himself of undertaking such a work rashly, it being properly the sigh of one that hath too great a weight upon his shoulders.

I cannot speak; not dumb, as Zacharias, Luke 1:20,22, nor stammering, as Moses, Exodus 4:10,14; but not with that becoming gravity and commanding majesty as is suitable to a prophet; he modestly excuseth himself, from a consideration of the weight of the work, and the tenderness of his age, as in the next expression.

I am a child; either,

1. In years, and so not ripe or apt for the declaring of great things, and that to princes and nobles. Or,

2. In experience, being altogether unskilful in such affairs, not having been used to prophesy, and therefore in neither respect likely to be much regarded.

Then said I, Ah, Lord God!.... The word "Ah", or "Ahah", is used in distress and grief, as Kimchi observes; and is expressive of mourning and complaint, as Jarchi notes; and shows that the prophet was troubled and uneasy at his call, and would gladly have been excused on the following account:

behold, I cannot speak; or, "I know not how to speak" (r); properly and pertinently, politely and eloquently, especially before great personages, kings and princes, and the citizens of Jerusalem, being brought up in a rustic manner in the country. A like excuse Moses made, Exodus 4:10. The Targum is, "I know not to prophesy: for I am a child"; meaning either in knowledge and understanding, or in years; not a mere child, but a "junior", as the Septuagint version renders the word; or a "young man", as the Arabic version; so Samuel and Zechariah were young men, when they first ministered in their office, 1 Samuel 3:1. Abarbinel supposes that Jeremiah was now twelve or fifteen years of age; but it should seem rather that he was more, perhaps twenty years of age; since he seems to have prophesied to the men of Anathoth before he was sent to Jerusalem, Jeremiah 11:21.

(r) "uescio loqui", V. L. Munster, Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius; "non novi loqui", Pagninus, Montanus.

Then said I, {i} Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

(i) Considering the great judgments of God which according to his threatening would come on the world, he was moved with a certain compassion on the one hand to pity them that would thus perish, and on the other hand by the infirmity of man's nature, knowing how hard a thing it was to enterprise such a charge, as in Isa 6:11, Ex 3:21,4:1.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. Jeremiah shews that the prophetic office was not one of his own seeking.

Ah] Rather, Alas! The word in the Hebrew expresses not so much an entreaty that things should be arranged otherwise, as a lament that they are as they are; cp. Joshua 7:7; 2 Kings 3:10. Jeremiah’s position is thus different from that of Moses (Exodus 4:10). The latter pleaded inability, “Oh Lord, I am not eloquent,” while the former acquiesces in the appointment, now announced to have been made so long before, deploring only youth and inexperience (cp. Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 3:15 ff.), and replies to the Almighty in the same spirit as Solomon at the beginning of his reign (1 Kings 3:7).

Lord God] lit. Lord Yahweh (Jehovah). When the Hebrew word Adônai (Lord), which was ordinarily used in reading as a substitute for Yahweh, immediately (as here) precedes that word, the latter was read as God (Elôhîm), and in such cases is printed in E.VV. in capitals.

I cannot speak] meaning, I have not the powers necessary to win a hearing. For the prophet of those days eloquence, natural or acquired, was as necessary as it is for one who would be a popular preacher or prominent statesman now.

I am a child] meaning, a very young man. The length of Jeremiah’s ministry shews that he was very youthful at its commencement. So Isaiah must have been still a young man when he began to prophesy.

Verse 6. - Ah, Lord God! rather, Alas, O Lord Jehovah! It is a cry of alarm and pain, and recurs in Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 32:17. I am a child. I am too young to support such an office. The word rendered "child" is used elsewhere of youths nearly grown up (comp. Genesis 34:19; Genesis 41:12; 1 Kings 3:7). Jeremiah 1:6The divine call throws Jeremiah into terror. Knowing well his too great weakness for such an office, he exclaims: Ah, Lord Jahveh! I know not how to speak; for I am נער, i.e., young and inexperienced; cf. 1 Kings 3:7. This excuse shows that לא יד means something else than לא אישׁ דברים, by which Moses sought to repel God's summons. Moses was not ready of speech, he lacked the gift of utterance; Jeremiah, on the other hand, only thinks himself not yet equal to the task by reason of his youth and want of experience.
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