Jeremiah 13:1
Thus said the LORD to me, Go and get you a linen girdle, and put it on your loins, and put it not in water.
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(1) A linen girdle.—The point of comparison is given in Jeremiah 13:11. Of all garments worn by man the girdle was that most identified with the man’s activity, nearest to his person. The “linen girdle” was part of Jeremiah’s priestly dress (Exodus 28:40; Leviticus 16:4), and this also was significant in the interpretation of the symbolic act. Israel, represented as the girdle of Jehovah, had been chosen for consecrated uses. The word “get” implies the act of purchasing, and this too was not without its symbolic significance.

Put it not in water.—The work of the priest as a rule necessarily involved frequent washings both of flesh and garments. The command in this case was therefore exceptional. The unwashed girdle was to represent the guilt of the people unpurified by any real contact with the “clean water” of repentance (Ezekiel 36:25). In the “filthy garments” of Joshua, in Zechariah 3:3, we have a like symbolism. This seems a much more natural interpretation than that which starts from the idea that water would spoil the girdle, and sees in the command the symbol of God’s care for His people.

Jeremiah 13:1-2. Thus saith the Lord unto me — The prophet here begins a new discourse. Go and get thee a girdle, &c. — “God explains, at Jeremiah 13:11, what was meant by the symbol of the girdle, or sash, worn about the loins, namely, his people Israel, whom he redeemed of old, and attached to himself by a special covenant; that as a girdle served for an ornament to the wearer, so they should be subservient to the honour and glory of his name. But it is added, They would not hear, or conform to his intentions; therefore, being polluted with the guilt of their disobedience, they were, in that state, and on that very account, to be carried into captivity; conformably to which the prophet was commanded not to put the girdle in water, that is, not to wash it, but to leave it in that state of filthiness which it had contracted in wearing.” So I got the girdle, according to the word of the Lord — That is, according to God’s command. And put it on my loins — Used it as God directed me, not disputing the reason why God commanded me to do such a thing.13:1-11 It was usual with the prophets to teach by signs. And we have the explanation, ver. 9-11. The people of Israel had been to God as this girdle. He caused them to cleave to him by the law he gave them, the prophets he sent among them, and the favours he showed them. They had by their idolatries and sins buried themselves in foreign earth, mingled among the nations, and were so corrupted that they were good for nothing. If we are proud of learning, power, and outward privileges, it is just with God to wither them. The minds of men should be awakened to a sense of their guilt and danger; yet nothing will be effectual without the influences of the Spirit.A linen girdle - The appointed dress of the priestly order (Leviticus 16:4, ...).

Put it not in water - i. e., do not wash it, and so let it represent the deep-grained pollution of the people.


Jer 13:1-27. Symbolical Prophecy (Jer 13:1-7).

Many of these figurative acts being either not possible, or not probable, or decorous, seem to have existed only in the mind of the prophet as part of his inward vision. [So Calvin]. The world he moved in was not the sensible, but the spiritual, world. Inward acts were, however, when it was possible and proper, materialized by outward performance, but not always, and necessarily so. The internal act made a naked statement more impressive and presented the subject when extending over long portions of space and time more concentrated. The interruption of Jeremiah's official duty by a journey of more than two hundred miles twice is not likely to have literally taken place.

1. put it upon thy loins, &c.—expressing the close intimacy wherewith Jehovah had joined Israel and Judah to Him (Jer 13:11).

linen—implying it was the inner garment next the skin, not the outer one.

put it not in water—signifying the moral filth of His people, like the literal filth of a garment worn constantly next the skin, without being washed (Jer 13:10). Grotius understands a garment not bleached, but left in its native roughness, just as Judah had no beauty, but was adopted by the sole grace of God (Eze 16:4-6). "Neither wast thou washed in water," &c.In the type of a linen girdle God prefigureth their destruction, Jeremiah 13:1-11. Under the parable of bottles filled with wine, is foretold their drunkenness with misery, Jeremiah 13:12-14. He exhorteth to prevent these judgments by repentance for their sins, which are the cause thereof, Jeremiah 13:15-27.

God’s design, by what is recorded in this chapter, is by two types, as in two glasses, to let the people understand by the prophet how he looked upon them, and what they were in his eyes, and also what he would do unto them, and they might expect from him; to this purpose he directeth the prophet to procure himself a girdle, not woollen, but linen, made of flax, or the like, and to put it not upon his clothes, but upon his loins, to signify (as some think) that this people were a people whom God had made near to him. He commands him not to put it in water, to soften it, as some think; linen newly made, before it is wetted in water, being rough; and this they conceive the prophet was forbidden, for a further type of the stiffness, and roughness, and stubbornness of this people. Others think, to typify that God was no cause of this people’s rotting and growing corrupt.

Thus saith the Lord unto me,.... In a vision, and by the spirit of prophecy: when this was said is not certain, very likely in the reign of Jehoiakim; the prophet gives an account of what had been done, the present tense is put for the past.

Go and get thee a linen girdle; or, "a girdle of linens" (l); a girdle made of flax or fine linen, which the prophet had not used to wear; and having none, is bid to go, perhaps from Anathoth to Jerusalem, to "get" one, or "buy" one: this girdle represents the people of the Jews in their more pure and less corrupted state, when they were a people near unto the Lord, and greatly regarded by him, and had a share in his affections; when they cleaved unto him, and served him, and were to his praise and glory: "and put it upon thy loins"; near the reins, the seat of affection and desire, and that it might be visible and ornamental; denoting what has been before observed: "and" or

but put it not in water or, "bring it not through it" (m); meaning either before he put it on his loins; and the sense is, that he was not to wash it, and whiten it, but to wear it just as it was wrought, signifying that those people were originally taken by the Lord of his own mercy, and without any merits of theirs, rough, unwashed, and unpolished as they were: or else, after he had wore it, as Jarchi, when it was soiled with sweat; yet not to be washed, that it might rot the sooner: and so may design the corrupt and filthy state of this people, and the ruin brought thereby upon them, which was not to be prevented.

(l) "cingulum linorum", Montanus. (m) "sed per aquam non duces eam", Schmidt.

Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
1. a linen girdle] Linen, not woollen, garments were appointed for priestly wear. See e.g. Exodus 28:42. It was thus the fittest material for that which should symbolize the people of God.

put it not in water] He is not to soften it for greater comfort in wearing, or, with more direct bearing on the spiritual significance of the figure, he is to keep it at first separate from that which was to be the cause of its being marred, and so to symbolize Israel in its earlier independence and in the sunshine of Jehovah’s favour.

Ch. Jeremiah 13:1-11. The acted symbol of the linen girdle

This ch. consists of five sections, quite independent of one another. The first two are in poetic prose, and the remaining in Ḳinah metre. Three questions arise in respect to this first section: (i) Does it relate a real transaction or a vision? (ii) What is the application of the symbol? (iii) To what date may we refer it?

As regards (i) we may state that Du. rejects with scorn the passage, as non-Jeremianic, considering it as childish, and as a later insertion. Most commentators, however, refuse to accept this view. If we accept the view that the transaction was real, where was it carried out? Some think that the Heb. Pěrath, rendered elsewhere Euphrates (though generally “the river” is prefixed to it), may have here meant Parah (Joshua 18:23), now Wady Fara, a town in a rocky valley three miles N.E. of Anathoth, chosen by Jeremiah for this purpose because its name suggested that of the actual river. Gi. and Erbt, however, understand Euphrates, the latter making the prophet perform the double journey (one of 300 or 400 miles) with the aim of enforcing by act what he had failed to do by his words. But it is more natural to consider that the transaction was of a subjective character, taking place in the prophet’s mind only, and then announced by him as a picturesque method of illustrating the truth which he sought to bring home. As regards (ii), Judah shall be humiliated by exile. She has been in closest intimacy with her God, but, owing to her becoming corrupt in religion and morality, He has been compelled to cast her off. See on Jeremiah 13:9-11. As to (iii) we may place the date early in Jeremiah’s ministry, seeing that idolatrous corruption was already at that time in vigorous being. It is, however, by no means impossible that the date may fall within Jehoiakim’s reign.

The section may be subdivided as follows.

(i) Jeremiah 13:1-7. The prophet, in obedience to the Lord’s command, procures, in vision or reality, a linen waist-cloth, which has not yet been washed, and after wearing it a while, covers it up in a rocky cavity on the banks of Euphrates, and after a long interval, returns thither, digs it out, and finds that it is spoilt and useless. (ii) Jeremiah 13:8-11. The meaning of the symbol. The self-esteem of the nation shall be crushed, because of their idolatrous ways. As a waist-cloth clings to the person of the wearer, so had Jehovah given Israel the glorious position of close and constant attachment to Himself, but they had utterly slighted the honour.Verses 1-11. - The entire people of the Jews is like a good-for-nothing apron. Verse 1. - A linen girdle; rather, a linen apron. "Girdle" is one of the meanings of the Hebrew ('ezor), but is here unsuitable. As Ver. 11 shows, it is an inner garment that is meant, one that "cleaveth to the loins of a man" (in fact, περίζωμα of the Septuagint, the lumbare of the Vulgate). The corresponding Arabic word, 'izar, has, according to Lane, the meaning of "waist-wrapper.' Israel was to Jehovah in as close a relation spiritually as that in which the inner garment referred to is to him who wears it materially. There is an Arabic proverb which well illustrates this: "He is to me in place of an 'izar" (Freytag, 'Studium der Arab. Spraohe,' p. 298). "A linen apron" may perhaps be specified, because linen was the material of the priestly dress (Leviticus 16:4), and Israel was to be spiritually" a kingdom of priests." But this is not absolutely necessary. The common man used linen in his dress as well as the priest; the only difference between them was that the priest was confined to linen garments. But an ,' apron" would in any case naturally be made of linen. Linen; literally, flax (a product of Judah, Hosea 2:5). Put it not in water. The object of the prohibition is well stated by St. Jerome. It was at once to symbolize the character of the people of Israel, stiff and impure, like unwashed linen, and to suggest the fate in store for it (Ver. 9). The execution of the judgment on Judah and its enemies. - As to this passage, which falls into two strophes, Jeremiah 12:7-13 and Jeremiah 12:14-17, Hitz., Graf, and others pronounce that it stands in no kind of connection with what immediately precedes. The connection of the two strophes with one another is, however, allowed by these commentators; while Eichh. and Dahler hold Jeremiah 12:14-17 to be a distinct oracle, belonging to the time of Zedekiah, or to the seventh or eighth year of Jehoiakim. These views are bound up with an incorrect conception of the contents of the passage-to which in the first place we must accordingly direct our attention.

Jeremiah 12:7

"I have forsaken mine house, cast out mine heritage, given the beloved of my soul into the hand of its enemies. Jeremiah 12:8. Mine heritage is become unto me as a lion in the forest, it hath lifted up its voice against me; therefore have I hated it. Jeremiah 12:9. Is mine heritage to me a speckled vulture, that vultures are round about it? Come, gather all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour! Jeremiah 12:10. Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, have trodden down my ground, have made the plot of my pleasure a desolate wilderness. Jeremiah 12:11. They have made it a desolation; it mourneth around me desolate; desolated is the whole land, because none laid it to heart. Jeremiah 12:12. On all the bare-peaked heights in the wilderness are spoilers come; for a sword of Jahveh's devours from one end of the land unto the other: no peace to all flesh. Jeremiah 12:13. They have sown wheat and reaped thorns; they have worn themselves weary and accomplished nothing. So then ye shall be put to shame for your produce, because of the hot anger of Jahve."

Jeremiah 12:14. "Thus saith Jahveh against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the heritage which I have given unto my people Israel: Behold, I pluck them out of their land, and the house of Judah will I pluck out of their midst. Jeremiah 12:15. But after I have plucked them out, I will pity them again, and bring them back, each to his heritage, and each into his land. Jeremiah 12:16. And it shall be, if they will learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name: As Jahveh liveth, as they have taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built in the midst of my people. Jeremiah 12:17. But if they hearken not, I will pluck up such a nation, utterly destroying it, saith Jahve."

Hitz. and Graf, in opposition to other commentators, will have the strophe, Jeremiah 12:7-13, to be taken not as prophecy, but as a lament on the devastation which Judah, after Jehoiakim's defection from Nebuchadnezzar in the eighth year of his reign, had suffered through the war of spoliation undertaken against insurgent Judah by those neighbouring nations that had maintained their allegiance to Chaldean supremacy, 2 Kings 24:2. In support of this, Gr. appeals to the use throughout of unconnected perfects, and to the prophecy, Jeremiah 12:14., joined with this description; which, he says, shows that it is something complete, existing, which is described, a state of affairs on which the prophecy is based. For although the prophet, viewing the future with the eyes of a seer as a thing present, often describes it as if it had already taken place, yet, he says, the context easily enables us in such a case to recognise the description as prophetic, which, acc. to Graf, is not the case here. This argument is void of all force. To show that the use of unconnected perfects proves nothing, it is sufficient to note that such perfects are used in Jeremiah 12:6, where Hitz. and Gr. take בּגדוּ and קראוּ as prophetic. So with the perfects in Jeremiah 12:7. The context demands this. For though no particle attaches Jeremiah 12:7 to what precedes, yet, as Graf himself alleges against Hitz., it is shown by the lack of any heading that the fragment (Jeremiah 12:7-13) is "not a special, originally independent oracle;" and just as clearly, that it can by no means be (as Gr. supposes) an appendix, stuck on to the preceding in a purely external and accidental fashion. These assumptions are disproved by the contents of the fragment, which are simply an expansion of the threat of expulsion from their inheritance conveyed to the people already in Jeremiah 11:14-17; an expansion which not merely points back to Jeremiah 11:14-17, but which most aptly attaches itself to the reproof given to the prophet for his complaint that judgment on the ungodly was delayed (Jeremiah 12:1-6); since it discloses to the prophet God's designs in regard to His people, and teaches that the judgment, though it may be delayed, will not be withheld.

Jeremiah 12:7-12

contain sayings of God, not of the prophet, who had left his house in Anathoth, as Zwingli and Bugenhagen thought. The perfects are prophetic, i.e., intimate the divine decree already determined on, whose accomplishment is irrevocably fixed, and will certainly by and by take place. "My house" is neither the temple nor the land inhabited by Israel, in support whereof appeal is unjustly made to passages like Hosea 8:1-14; Hosea 1:1-11; Hosea 9:15; Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 9:9; but, as is clearly shown by the parallel "mine heritage," taken in connection with what is said of the heritage in Jeremiah 12:8, and by "the beloved of my soul," Jeremiah 12:7, means the people of Israel, or Judah as the existing representative of the people of God (house equals family); see on Hosea 8:1. נחלתי equals עם נחלה, Deuteronomy 4:20, cf. Isaiah 47:6; Isaiah 19:25. ידדוּת, object of my soul's love, cf. Jeremiah 11:15. This appellation, too, cannot apply to the land, but to the people of Israel - Jeremiah 12:8 contains the reason why Jahveh gives up His people for a prey. It has behaved to God like a lion, i.e., has opposed Him fiercely like a furious beast. Therefore He must withdraw His love. To give with the voice equals to lift up the voice, as in Psalm 46:7; Psalm 68:34. "Hate" is a stronger expression for the withdrawal of love, shown by delivering Israel into the hand of its enemies, as in Malachi 1:3. There is no reason for taking שׂנאתי as inchoative (Hitz., I learned to hate it). The "hating" is explained fully in the following verses. In Jeremiah 12:9 the meaning of העיט צבוּע is disputed. In all other places where it occurs עיט means a bird of prey, cf. Isaiah 46:11, or collective, birds of prey, Genesis 15:11; Isaiah 18:6. צבוּע, in the Rabbinical Heb. the hyaena, like the Arabic s[abu'un or s[ab'un. So the lxx have rendered it; and so, too, many recent comm., e.g., Gesen. in thes. But with this the asyndeton by way of connection with עיט does not well consist: is a bird of prey, a hyaena, mine heritage? On this ground Boch. (Hieroz. ii. p. 176, ed. Ros.) sought to make good the claim of עיט to mean "beast of prey," but without proving his case. Nor is there in biblical Heb. any sure case for צבוּע in the meaning of hyaena; and the Rabbinical usage would appear to be founded on this interpretation of the word in the passage before us. צבע, Arab. s[aba'a, means dip, hence dye; and so צבע, Judges 5:30, is dyed materials, in plur. parti-coloured clothes. To this meaning Jerome, Syr., and Targ. have adhered in the present case; Jerome gives avis discolor, whence Luther's der sprincklight Vogel; Chr. B. Mich., avis colorata. So, and rightly, Hitz., Ew., Graf, Ng. The prophet alludes to the well-known fact of natural history, that "whenever a strange-looking bird is seen amongst the others, whether it be an owl of the night amidst the birds of day, or a bird of gay, variegated plumage amidst those of duskier hue, the others pursue the unfamiliar intruder with loud cries and unite in attacking it." Hitz., with reference to Tacit. Ann. vi. 28, Sueton. Caes. 81, and Plin. Hist. N. x. 19. The question is the expression of amazement, and is assertory. לי is dat. ethic., intimating sympathetic participation (Ng.), and not to be changed, with Gr., into כּי. The next clause is also a question: are birds of prey round about it (mine heritage), sc. to plunder it? This, too, is meant to convey affirmation. With it is connected the summons to the beasts of prey to gather round Judah to devour it. The words here come from Isaiah 56:9. The beasts are emblem for enemies. התיוּ is not first mode or perfect (Hitz.), but imperat., contracted from האתיוּ, as in Isaiah 21:14. The same thought is, in Jeremiah 12:10, carried on under a figure that is more directly expressive of the matter in hand. The perfects in Jeremiah 12:10-12 are once more prophetic. The shepherds who (along with their flocks, of course) destroy the vineyard of the Lord are the kings of the heathen, Nebuchadnezzar and the kings subject to him, with their warriors. The "destroying" is expanded in a manner consistent with the figure; and here we must not fail to note the cumulation of the words and the climax thus produced. They tread down the plot of ground, turn the precious plot into a howling wilderness. With "plot of my pleasure" cf. 'ארץ חמדּה, Jeremiah 3:19.

In Jeremiah 12:11 the emblematical shepherds are brought forward in the more direct form of enemy. שׂמהּ, he (the enemy, "they" impersonal) has changed it (the plot of ground) into desolation. It mourneth עלי, round about me, desolated. Spoilers are come on all the bare-topped hills of the desert. מרבּר is the name for such parts of the country as were suited only for rearing and pasturing cattle, like the so-called wilderness of Judah to the west of the Dead Sea. A sword of the Lord's (i.e., the war sent by Jahveh, cf. Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 6:25) devours the whole land from end to end; cf. Jeremiah 25:33. "All flesh" is limited by the context to all flesh in the land of Judah. בּשׂר in the sense of Genesis 6:12, sinful mankind; here: the whole sinful population of Judah. For them there is no שׁלום, welfare or peace.

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