Jeremiah 13:4
Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
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(4) Go to Euphrates.—The Hebrew word Phrath is the same as that which, everywhere else in the O.T., is rendered by the Greek name for the river, Euphrates. It has been suggested (1) that the word means “river” generally, or “rushing water,” applied by way of pre-eminence to the “great river” and therefore that it may have been used here in its general sense; and (2) that it may stand here for Ephratah, or Bethlehem, as the scene of Jeremiah’s symbolic actions, the place being chosen on account of its suggestive likeness to Euphrates. These conjectures, however, have no other basis than the assumed improbability of a double journey of two hundred and fifty miles, and this, as has been shown, can hardly be weighed as a serious element in the question. In Jeremiah 51 there can be no doubt that the writer means Euphrates. It may be noted, too, as a coincidence confirming this view, that Jeremiah appears as personally known to Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 39:11. Those who make Ephratah the scene of what is here recorded, point to the caves and clefts in the rocky region between Bethlehem and the Dead Sea as agreeing with the description. On the other hand, the form Prath is nowhere found as substituted for the familiar Ephratah.

A hole of the rock.—Better, cleft. In the lower part of its course the Euphrates flows through an alluvial plain, and the words point therefore to some part of its upper course above Pylæ, where its course is through a valley more or less rocky.

Jeremiah 13:4. Arise, go to Euphrates — God commanded the prophet to go and hide the girdle on the bank of the Euphrates, to signify that the Jews should be carried captive over that river, called the waters of Babylon, Psalm 137:1. In the margin of our ancient English Bibles, it is observed, that, “because this river Perath, or Euphrates, was far from Jerusalem, it is evident that this was done in a vision.” And the generality of the best commentators have been of this opinion; it not being probable that the prophet should have been sent twice upon a journey of such considerable length and difficulty, to the very great loss of his time, merely upon the errands here mentioned, namely, to carry the girdle to the Euphrates, and to fetch it back, when, it seems, every purpose would have been answered altogether as well if the transaction had been represented in vision. Several things, it must be observed, are related in Scripture as actually done, which yet were certainly only performed in visions. One instance we have Jeremiah 25:15-29, where Jeremiah is commanded to take a cup of wine in his hand, and to cause several kings and nations, there enumerated, to drink of it: for it would be a perfect absurdity to believe that he actually went round to all those kings and nations, and made them drink of the contents of his cup. And yet he makes no more distinction in this latter case, than in that now before us, between mental and bodily action. Another remarkable instance we have Genesis 15:5, where the text says, that God brought Abraham forth abroad, and bid him tell the stars; and yet it appears, by a subsequent verse, that the sun was not then gone down. Indeed, in all these cases, and in many more that might be mentioned of a similar kind, it made no difference as to the end God had in view, whether the transactions related were visionary or real; for either way they served equally to represent the events which it was God’s pleasure to make known. See Lowth and Blaney.

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.In a hole of the rock - "In a cleft of the rock." As there are no fissured rocks in Babylonia, the place where Jeremiah hid the girdle must have been somewhere in the upper part of the river. 4. Euphrates—In order to support the view that Jeremiah's act was outward, Henderson considers that the Hebrew Phrath here is Ephratha, the original name of Beth-lehem, six miles south of Jerusalem, a journey easy to be made by Jeremiah. The non-addition of the word "river," which usually precedes Phrath, when meaning Euphrates, favors this view. But I prefer English Version. The Euphrates is specified as being near Babylon, the Jews future place of exile.

hole—typical of the prisons in which the Jews were to be confined.

the rock—some well-known rock. A sterile region, such as was that to which the Jews were led away (compare Isa 7:19) [Grotius].

God having commanded the prophet to procure such a girdle as was before mentioned, and to tie it upon his loins, he a second time comes to him, and commandeth him to take this girdle, and carry it to Euphrates. This was one of the four great rivers that the river out of the garden of Eden divided itself into, Genesis 2:10,14. It was the border of the Promised Land, Genesis 15:18 Deu 1:7 11:24 1 Chronicles 5:9. Reuben’s lot was bounded by it. The prophet was commanded to hide his girdle in the

hole of a

rock in that river. But why there? Were there not other places nearer where the prophet might have hid it? It is judged by some that this command was also to signify unto them that they should be carried out of their own borders into captivity; or rather, that they had corrupted, and were become rotten, by doing after the fashions and manners of the heathens, who lived on the other side of Euphrates always, but having (a hundred years before this) captivated the ten tribes, lived also on this side of it.

Take the girdle which thou hast got, which is upon thy loins,.... Either he is bid to take it off his loins, on which it was; or to go with it on them; seeing the taking it off does not seem absolutely necessary; and go with it to the place directed to in the following words:

and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock; by the river side, where the waters, coming and going, would reach and wet it, and it drying again, would rot the sooner. This signifies the carrying of the Jews captive to Babylon, by which city the river Euphrates ran, and the obscure state and condition they would be in there; and where all their pride and glory would be marred, as afterwards declared.

Take the sash that thou hast bought, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to {a} Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.

(a) Because this river was far from Jerusalem, it is evident that this was a vision, by which it was signified that the Jews would pass over the Euphrates to be captives in Babylon, and there for length of time would seem to be rotten, although they were joined to the Lord before as a girdle about a man.

4. hide it there] in such a way that moisture should have full access to it.

the rock] If an actual visit to the Euphrates is meant, the part referred to “cannot be anywhere near Babylon, where there are no ‘rocks,’ or rather ‘crags’—but in the upper part of its course, above Carchemish, or even above Samosata, where it still flows between rocky sides.” Dr.

Verses 4-6. - After Jeremiah has worn the apron for some time, he is directed to take it to P'rath, and hide it there in a cleft (not "hole") of the rock. A long interval elapses, and he is commanded to make a second journey to the same place, and fetch away the apron. What does this P'rath mean? It is by no means easy to decide. Hardly "the Euphrates,"

(1) because the common prefix, "the river," is wanting, though in so extraordinary a narrative it was peculiarly needed;

(2) because of the length of the journey to Babylonia, which has ex hyp. to be made twice; and

(3) because the Euphrates is not a rocky river. Ewald suggested that "some wet place near Jerusalem" probably had the name of P'rath, and indicates a valley and spring called Forah, about six English miles north-east of Jerusalem. Mr. Birch appears to have hit independently on the same spot, which he identifies with the Parah of Joshua 18:23, about three miles north-east of Anatbeth, and describes as a picturesque gorge between savage rocks, with a copious stream (Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, October, 1880, p. 236). This combination, however, involves an emendation of the text (P'rath into Parah) - logically it involves this, as Mr. Birch has seen; Ewald's comparison of the Arabic furat, sweet water, seems inconsistent with his reference to Parah - for which there does not seem to be sufficient necessity; and it is better to adopt the view of the great old French Protestant scholar, Bochart, that P'rath is a shortened form of Ephrath, i.e. at once Bethlehem and the district in which Bethlehem lay (see 1 Chronicles 2:50; 1 Chronicles 4:4; and perhaps Psalm 132:6). It need hardly be said that the limestone hills of this region afforded abundance of secluded rocks. There may, of course, be at the same time an allusion to the ordinary meaning of P'rath, viz. Euphrates, on the analogy of the allusion in Isaiah 27:12. Those who hold the view here rejected, that P'rath is equivalent to the Euphrates, sometimes suppose that the narrative is a parable or symbolical fiction, such as Luther, Calvin, and others find in Hosea 1, 3, the thing signified being in this case the carrying captive of the people to Babylon; and this seems the best way of making this interpretation plausible. Jeremiah 13:4The spoilt girdle. - Jeremiah 13:1. "Thus spake Jahveh unto me: Go and buy thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, but into the water thou shalt not bring it. Jeremiah 13:2. So I bought the girdle, according to the word of Jahveh, and put it upon my loins, Jeremiah 13:3. Then came the word of Jahveh to me the second time, saying: Jeremiah 13:4. Take the girdle which thou hast bought, which is upon thy loins, and arise, and go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock. Jeremiah 13:5. So I went and hid it, as Jahveh had commanded me. Jeremiah 13:6. And it came to pass after many days, that Jahveh said unto me: Arise, go to the Euphrates, and bring thence the girdle which I commanded thee to hide there. Jeremiah 13:7. And I went to the Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it; and, behold, the girdle was marred, was good for nothing. Jeremiah 13:8. And the word of Jahveh came to me, saying: Jeremiah 13:9. Thus hath Jahveh said, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 13:10. This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the stubbornness of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them and to worship them, it shall be as this girdle which is good for nothing. Jeremiah 13:11. For as the girdle cleaves to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith Jahveh; that it might be to me for a people and for a name, for a praise and for an ornament; but they hearkened not."

With regard to the symbolical action imposed on the prophet and performed by him, the question arises, whether the thing took place in outward reality, or was only an occurrence in the spirit, in the inward vision. The first view seems to be supported by the wording of the passage, namely, the twice repeated account of the prophet's journey to the Phrat on the strength of a twice repeated divine command. But on the other hand, it has been found very improbable that "Jeremiah should twice have made a journey to the Euphrates, merely to prove that a linen girdle, if it lie long in the damp, becomes spoilt, a thing he could have done much nearer home, and which besides everybody knew without experiment" (Graf.). On this ground Ros., Graf, etc., hold the matter for a parable or an allegorical tale, But this view depends for support on the erroneous assumption that the specification of the Euphrates is of no kind of importance for the matter in hand; whereas the contrary may be gathered from the four times repeated mention of the place. Nor is anything proved against the real performance of God's command by the remark, that the journey thither and back on both occasions is spoken of as if it were a mere matter of crossing a field. The Bible writers are wont to set forth such external matters in no very circumstantial way. And the great distance of the Euphrates - about 250 miles - gives us no sufficient reason for departing from the narrative as we have it before us, pointing as it does to a literal and real carrying out of God's command, and to relegate the matter to the inward region of spiritual vision, or to take the narrative for an allegorical tale. - Still less reason is to be found in arbitrary interpretations of the name, such as, after Bochart's example, have been attempted by Ven., Hitz., and Ew. The assertion that the Euphrates is called נהר פּרת everywhere else, including Jeremiah 46:2, Jeremiah 46:6,Jeremiah 46:10, loses its claim to conclusiveness from the fact that the prefaced rhn is omitted in Genesis 2:14; Jeremiah 51:63. And even Ew. observes, that "fifty years later a prophet understood the word of the Euphrates at Jeremiah 51:63." Now even if Jeremiah 51:63 had been written by another prophet, and fifty years later (which is not the case, see on Jeremiah 50ff.), the authority of this prophet would suffice to prove every other interpretation erroneous; even although the other attempts at interpretation had been more than the merest fancies. Ew. remarks, "It is most amazing that recent scholars (Hitz. with Ven. and Dahl.) could seriously come to adopt the conceit that פּרת is one and the same with אפּרת (Genesis 48:7), and so with Bethlehem;" and what he says is doubly relevant to his own rendering. פּרת, he says, is either to be understood like Arab. frt, of fresh water in general, or like frdt, a place near the water, a crevice opening from the water into the land - interpretations so far fetched as to require no serious refutation.

More important than the question as to the formal nature of the emblematical action is that regarding its meaning; on which the views of commentators are as much divided. from the interpretation in Jeremiah 13:9-11 thus much is clear, that the girdle is the emblem of Israel, and that the prophet, in putting on and wearing this girdle, illustrates the relation of God to the folk of His covenant (Israel and Judah). The further significance of the emblem is suggested by the several moments of the action. The girdle does not merely belong to a man's adornment, but is that part of his clothing which he must put on when about to undertake any laborious piece of work. The prophet is to buy and put on a linen girdle. פּשׁתּים, linen, was the material of the priests' raiment, Ezekiel 44:17., which in Exodus 28:40; Exodus 39:27. is called שׁשׁ, white byssus, or בּד, linen. The priest's girdle was not, however, white, but woven parti-coloured, after the four colours of the curtains of the sanctuary, Exodus 28:40; Exodus 39:29. Wool (צמר) is in Ezekiel 44:18 expressly excluded, because it causes the body to sweat. The linen girdle points, therefore, to the priestly character of Israel, called to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). "The purchased white girdle of linen, a man's pride and adornment, is the people bought out of Egypt, yet in its innocence as it was when the Lord bound it to Himself with the bands of love" (Umbr.). The prohibition that follows, "into water thou shalt not bring it," is variously interpreted. Chr. B. Mich. says: forte ne madefiat et facilius dein computrescat; to the same effect Dahl., Ew., Umbr., Graf: to keep it safe from the hurtful effects of damp. A view which refutes itself; since washing does no kind of harm to the linen girdle, but rather makes it again as good as new. Thus to the point writes Ng., remarking justly at the same time, that the command not to bring the girdle into the water plainly implies that the prophet would have washed it when it had become soiled. This was not to be. The girdle was to remain dirty, and as such to be carried to the Euphrates, in order that, as Ros. and Maur. observed, it might symbolize sordes quas contraxerit populus in dies majores, mores populi magis magisque lapsi, and that the carrying of the soiled girdle to the Euphrates might set forth before the eyes of the people what awaited it, after it had long been borne by God covered with the filth of its sins. - The just appreciation of this prohibition leads us easily to the true meaning of the command in Jeremiah 13:4, to bring the girdle that was on his loins to the Euphrates, and there to conceal it in a cleft in the rock, where it decays. But it is signifies, as Chr. B. Mich., following Jerome, observes, populi Judaici apud Chaldaeos citra Euphratem captivitas et exilium. Graf has objected: "The corruptness of Israel was not a consequence of the Babylonish captivity; the latter, indeed, came about in consequence of the existing corruptness." But this objection stands and falls with the amphibolia of the word corruptness, decay. Israel was, indeed, morally decayed before the exile; but the mouldering of the girdle in the earth by the Euphrates signifies not the moral but the physical decay of the covenant people, which, again, was a result of the moral decay of the period during which God had, in His long-suffering, borne the people notwithstanding their sins. Wholly erroneous is the view adopted by Gr. from Umbr.: the girdle decayed by the water is the sin-stained people which, intriguing with the foreign gods, had in its pride cast itself loose from its God, and had for long imagined itself secure under the protection of the gods of Chaldea. The hiding of the girdle in the crevice of a rock by the banks of the Euphrates would have been the most unsuitable emblem conceivable for representing the moral corruption of the people. Had the girdle, which God makes to decay by the Euphrates, loosed itself from him and imagined it could conceal itself in a foreign land? as Umbr. puts the case. According to the declaration, Jeremiah 13:9, God will mar the great pride of Judah and Jerusalem, even as the girdle had been marred, which had at His command been carried to the Euphrates and hid there. The carrying of the girdle to the Euphrates is an act proceeding from God, by which Israel is marred; the intriguing of Israel with strange gods in the land of Canaan was an act of Israel's own, against the will of God.

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