Jeremiah 18:4
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
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(4) Of clay.—The reading in the margin, which gives “as clay,” must be regarded as a clerical error, originating, probably, in the desire to bring the text into conformity with Jeremiah 18:6, that in the text of the Authorised Version being confirmed by many MSS. and Versions.

He made it again.—Literally, and more vividly, he returned and made. As we read, we have to remember that what is narrated in a few words implied a long train of thoughts. The prophet went by the impulse which he knew to be from God to the “field” in the valley of Hinnom; he stood and gazed, and then as he watched he was led to see in the potter’s work a parable of the world’s history: God as the great artificer, men and nations as the vessels which He makes for honourable or dishonourable uses (2Timothy 2:20; Romans 9:21).

18:1-10 While Jeremiah looks upon the potter's work, God darts into his mind two great truths. God has authority, and power, to form and fashion kingdoms and nations as he pleases. He may dispose of us as he thinks fit; and it would be as absurd for us to dispute this, as for the clay to quarrel with the potter. But he always goes by fixed rules of justice and goodness. When God is coming against us in judgments, we may be sure it is for our sins; but sincere conversion from the evil of sin will prevent the evil of punishment, as to persons, and to families, and nations.The wheels - literally, "the two wheels." The lower one was worked by the feet to give motion to the upper one, which was a flat disc or plate of wood, on which the potter laid the clay, and moulded it with his fingers as it revolved rapidly. 4. marred—spoiled. "Of clay" is the true reading, which was corrupted into "as clay" (Margin), through the similarity of the two Hebrew letters, and from Jer 18:6, "as the clay." That which we read

of clay may be read, (as our margin tells us,) as clay; that is, while it was yet clay it was spoiled in the potter’s hand, so as he did not think fit to go on with his design as to the form of the vessel, but made it into another form, such as he liked best.

And the vessel that he made of clay,.... Which is the matter the vessel is made of:

was marred in the hand of the potter; while he was working it; either it fell, as the Septuagint version renders it, out of his hands, or from the beam on which it was laid; or was spoiled by some means or other, so that it was not fit for the purpose he first intended it: or the words should be read, according to some copies, "and the vessel was marred which he made, as clay in the hand of the potter" (r); while it was clay; or moist, as Jarchi interprets it; and while it was in his hands, forming and fashioning it:

so he made it again another vessel; put it into another form and shape it would better serve:

as seemed good to the potter to make it; just as he pleased, and as his judgment in his art directed him; he having power over the clay to mould it as he would, and as it best answered so to do.

(r) "sed corruptum est vas quod ille ficiens (erat) sicud lutum (solet) in manu figuli", Schmidt, Montanus. So Abarbinel; and thus it is read in the margin of our Bibles.

And the vessel that he made of {a} clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make it.

(a) As the potter has power over the clay to make what pot he will, or to break them, when he has made them: so have I power over you to do with you as seems good to me, Isa 45:9, Ro 9:20,21.

4. in the hand of the potter] rather, as LXX, in his hands, thus avoiding harshness. “The potter” has doubtless crept into MT. from being a marginal gloss. Its admission to the MT. drew with it, through the influence of the wording of Jeremiah 18:6, the addition of the Hebrew for “of the clay,” which accordingly is also absent from LXX. For illustrations drawn from the potter’s art cp. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:8; Wis 15:7; Sir 33:13. Pe. also compares Browning’s Rabbi Ben-Ezra (25 to end). St Paul’s employment of the figure (Romans 9-11) is quite different from Jeremiah’s, as the former uses it in application to God’s absolute right to dispose the fortunes of his creatures for good or evil.

Verse 4. - And the vessel that he made, etc.; rather, And whensoever the vessel... was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel Jeremiah 18:4The emblem and its interpretation. - Jeremiah 18:2. "Arise and go down into the potter's house; there will I cause thee to hear my words. Jeremiah 18:3. And I went down into the potter's house; and, behold, he wrought on the wheels. Jeremiah 18:4. And the vessel was marred, that he wrought in clay, in the hand of the potter; then he made again another vessel of it, as seemed good to the potter to make. Jeremiah 18:5. Then came the word of Jahveh to me, saying: Jeremiah 18:6. Cannot I do with you as this potter, house of Israel? saith Jahveh. Behold, as the clay in the hand of the potter, so are ye in mine hand, house of Israel. Jeremiah 18:7. Now I speak concerning a people and kingdom, to root it out and pluck up and destroy it. Jeremiah 18:8. But if that people turns from its wickedness, against which I spake, the it repents me of the evil which I thought to do it. Jeremiah 18:9. And now I speak concerning a people and a kingdom, to build and to plant it. Jeremiah 18:10. If it do that which is evil in mine eyes, so that it hearkens not unto my voice, then it repents me of the good which I said I would do unto it."

By God's command Jeremiah is to go and see the potter's treatment of the clay, and to receive thereafter God's interpretation of the same. Here he has set before his eyes that which suggests a comparison of man to the clay and of God to the potter, a comparison that frequently occurred to the Hebrews, and which had been made to appear in the first formation of man (cf. Job 10:9; Job 33:6; Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:7). This is done that he may forcibly represent to the people, by means of the emblem, the power of the Lord to do according to His will with all nations, and so with Israel too. From the "go down," we gather that the potteries of Jerusalem lay in a valley near the city. האבנים are the round frames by means of which the potter moulded his vessels. This sig. of the word is well approved here; but in Exodus 1:16, where too it is found, the meaning is doubtful, and it is a question whether the derivation is from אבן or from אופן, wheel. The perfecta consec. ונשׁחת and ושׁב designate, taken in connection with the participle עשׂה, actions that were possibly repeated: "and if the vessel was spoilt, he made it over again;" cf. Ew. 342, b. עשׂה , working in clay, of the material in which men work in order to make something of it; cf. Exodus 31:4.

(Note: Instead of בּחמר several codd. and editt. have כּחמר, as in Jeremiah 18:6, to which Ew. and Hitz. both take objection, so that they delete כחמר (Ew.) or כּחמר בּיד היּוצר (Hitz.) as being glosses, since the words are not in the lxx. The attempts of Umbr. and Nag. to obtain a sense for כּחמר are truly of such a kind as only to strengthen the suspicion of spuriousness. Umbr., who is followed by Graf, expounds: "as the clay in the hand of the potter does;" whereto Hitz. justly replies: "but is then the (failure) solely its own doing?" Ng. will have כ to be the כ verit.: the vessel was marred, as clay in the hand of the potter, in which case the כחמר still interrupts. But the failure of the attempts to make a good sense of כחמר does in no respect justify the uncritical procedure of Ew. and Hitz. in deleting the word without considering that the reading is by no means established, since not only do the most important and correct editions and a great number of codd. read בּחמר, but Aquila, Theodot., the Chald, and Syr. give this reading; Norzi and Houbig. call it lectio accuratiorum codicum, and the Masora on Jeremiah 18:6 and Job 10:9 confirms it. Cf. de Rossi variae lectt. ad h. l. and the critical remarks in the Biblia Hal. by J. H. Michaelis, according to which כחמר plainly made its way into the present verse from Jeremiah 18:6 by the error of a copyist; and it can only be from his prejudice in favour of the lxx that Hitz. pronounces כחמר original, as being "the reading traditionally in use.")

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