Thus said the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) And get a potter’s earthen bottle.—The word for “get” involves buying as the process. The similitude—one might better call it, the parable dramatised—represents the darker side of the imagery of Jeremiah 18:3-4. There the vessel was still on the potter’s wheel, capable of being re-shaped. Now we have the vessel which has been baked and hardened. No change is possible. If it is unfit for the uses for which it was designed, there is nothing left but to break it. As such it became now the fit symbol of the obdurate people of Israel. Their polity, their nationality, their religious system, had to be broken up. The word for “vessel” indicates a large earthen jar with a narrow neck, the “cruse” used for honey in 1Kings 14:3. Its form, bakbuk, clearly intended to represent the gurgling sound of the water as it was poured out, is interesting as an example of onomatopœia in the history of language.
Take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests.—The elders. and therefore the representatives of the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, were to be the witnesses of this acted prophecy of the destruction of all that they held most precious. The word “take” is not in the Hebrew, but either some such verb has to be supplied. or the verb “go” has to be carried on, “Let the ancients . . . go with thee.”Jeremiah 19:1-2. Go and get a potter’s earthen bottle — The meaning of this emblem is fully explained in the subsequent verses; and indeed the whole chapter requires little more comment than a reference to the passages in the margin. And take of the ancients of the people — Or, take with thee some of the ancients, &c. By these, men of reputation and eminence are meant, probably such as were members of the Sanhedrim. And of the ancients of the priests — The heads of the four and twenty courses: see 1 Chronicles 24:4. Such were the most proper to be witnesses of those things which the prophet was about to say and do. And go unto the valley of the son of Hinnom — A most noted valley, to the east of Jerusalem; which is by the entry of the east gate — By which men entered into the temple; from whence they had a prospect of the valley of Hinnom, which lay south- east of the temple, Joshua 15:8. The Hebrew is שׁער החרסית, the gate Harsith, which some interpret, the dung gate, mentioned Nehemiah 2:13; others, the potters’ gate; the potters’ field being near the temple: see Zechariah 11:13.
The ancients - These "elders" were the regularly constituted representatives of the people (see Jeremiah 29:1; Numbers 11:16), and the organization lasted down to our Saviour's time Matthew 26:47. Similarly the priests had also their representatives 2 Kings 19:2. Accompanied thus by the representatives of Church and State, the prophet was to carry the earthen bottle, the symbol of their mean origin and frail existence, outside the walls of Jerusalem.
Jer 19:1-15. The Desolation of the Jews for Their Sins Foretold in the Valley of Hinnom; the Symbol of Breaking a Bottle.
Referred by Maurer, &c., to the beginning of Zedekiah's reign.
1. bottle—Hebrew, bakuk, so called from the gurgling sound which it makes when being emptied.
ancients—elders. As witnesses of the symbolic action (Jer 19:10; Isa 8:1, 2), that the Jews might not afterwards plead ignorance of the prophecy. The seventy-two elders, composing the Sanhedrim, or Great Council, were taken partly from "the priests," partly from the other tribes, that is, "the people," the former presiding over spiritual matters, the latter over civil; the seventy-two represented the whole people.Under the type of breaking a potter’s vessel is foreshown the desolation of the Jews for their sins committed in the valley of Hinnom and elsewhere.
and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests; the word "take" is rightly supplied by our translators, as it is by the Targum, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions; for these words are not to be connected with the former, as in the Vulgate Latin version; as if the prophet was to get or buy the earthen bottle of the elders of the people, and of the priests; but those who were the greatest and principal men of the city, and of which the Jewish sanhedrim consisted, were to be taken by the prophet to be witnesses of what were said and done, to see the bottle broke, and hear what Jeremiah from the Lord had to say; who, from their years, it might be reasonably thought, would seriously attend to those things, and would report them to the people to great advantage; and the Lord, who sent the prophet to them, no doubt inclined their hearts to go along with him; who, otherwise, in all probability, would have refused; and perhaps would have charged him with impertinence and boldness, and would have rejected his motion with contempt, as foolish or mad.Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. buy a potter’s earthen bottle] The point in ch. 18 (the potter’s clay) was the power of God to alter the destinies of a people at any moment, just as the potter’s work (Jeremiah 19:4) was made “again another vessel.” The special lesson here is that there may come a time in the history of a nation when its persistent obduracy shall demand that the only alteration in its destiny shall take the form of breaking, destruction.
take] The word (supplied in LXX) has fallen accidentally out of the Hebrew text.
the elders of the priests] The expression occurs 2 Kings 19:2. They are called “the chiefs of the priests” in 2 Chronicles 36:14.Verse 1. - A potter's earthen bottle. Dr. Thomson speaks of the extreme cheapness and brittleness of the common pottery of Palestine (comp. Isaiah 30:14). The ancients of the people. The natural popular representatives (comp. Exodus 3:16; 2 Samuel 19:11; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 20:7). It was an announcement concerning the whole people that Jeremiah was about to make. The ancients of the priests (comp. 2 Kings 19:2). Jeremiah 18:18. "Then said they: Come and let us plot schemes against Jeremiah; for law shall not be lost to the priest, and counsel to the wise, and speech to the prophet. Come and let us smite him with the tongue and not give heed to all his speeches. Jeremiah 18:19. Give heed to me, Jahveh, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me! Jeremiah 18:20. Shall evil be repaid for good, that they dig a pit for my soul? Remember how I stood before Thee to speak good for them, to turn away Thy wrath from them! Jeremiah 18:21. Therefore give their sons to the famine and deliver them to the sword, that their wives become childless and widows, and their men slaughtered by death, their young men smitten by the sword in battle. Jeremiah 18:22. Let a cry be heard from their houses, when Thou bringest troops upon them suddenly; for they have digged a pit to take me and laid snares for my feet. Jeremiah 18:23. But Thou Jahveh knowest all their counsels against me for death: forgive not their iniquity and blot not out their sin from before Thy face, that they be overthrown before Thee; in the time of Thine anger deal with them."
Even the solemn words (Jeremiah 18:15-17) of the prophet were in vain. Instead of examining themselves and reforming their lives, the blinded sinners resolve to put the troublesome preacher of repentance out of the way by means of false charges. The subject of "and they said" is those who had heard the above discourse; not all, of course, but the infatuated leaders of the people who had. They call on the multitude to plot schemes against him, cf. Jeremiah 11:18. For they have, as they think, priests, wise men, and prophets to give them instruction out of the law, counsel, and word, i.e., prophecy - namely, according to their idea, such as advise, teach, and preach otherwise than Jeremiah, who speaks only of repentance and judgment. Recent scholars render תּורה doctrine, which is right etymologically, but not so when judged by the constant usage, which regards the Torah, the law, as containing the substance of all the doctrine needed by man to tell him how to bear himself towards God, or to make his life happy. The Mosaic law is the foundation of all prophetic preaching; and that the speakers mean תּורה in this sense is clear from their claiming the knowledge of the Torah as belonging to the priests; the law was committed to the keeping and administration of the priests. The "counsel" is that needed for the conduct of the state in difficult circumstances, and in Ezekiel 7:26 it is attributed to the elders; and "speech" or word is the declarations of the prophets. On that subject, cf. Jeremiah 8:8-10. To smite with the tongue is to ruin by slanders and malicious charges, cf. Jeremiah 9:2, Jeremiah 9:4,Jeremiah 9:7, where the tongue is compared to a lying bow and deadly arrow, Psalm 64:4., Psalm 59:8, etc. That they had the prophet's death in view appears from Jeremiah 18:23; although their further speech: We will not give heed to his words, shows that in the discourse against which they were so enraged, he had said "nothing that, according to their ideas, was directly and immediately punishable with death" (Hitz.); cf. Jeremiah 26:6, Jeremiah 26:11. Against these schemes Jeremiah cries to God in Jeremiah 18:19 for help and protection. While his adversaries are saying: People should give no heed to his speeches, he prays the Lord to give heed to him and to listen to the sayings of his enemies. "My contenders," who contend against me, cf. Jeremiah 35:1; Isaiah 49:25. - In support of his prayer he says in Jeremiah 18:20 : Shall evil be repaid for good? cf. Psalm 35:12. In his discourses he had in view nothing but the good of the people, and he appeals to the prayers he had presented to the Lord to turn away God's anger from the people, cf. Jeremiah 14:7., Jeremiah 18:19-22. (On "my standing before Thee," cf. Jeremiah 15:1.) This good they seek to repay with ill, by lying charges to dig a pit for his soul, i.e., for his life, into which pit he may fall; cf. Psalm 57:7, where, however, instead of שׁוּחה (Jeremiah 2:6; Proverbs 22:14; Proverbs 23:27), we have שׁיחה, as in Jeremiah 18:22, Chet. - He prays the Lord to requite them for this wickedness by bringing on the people that which Jeremiah had sought to avert, by destroying them with famine, sword, and disease. The various kinds of death are, Jeremiah 18:21, distributed rhetorically amongst the different classes of the people. The sons, i.e., children, are to be given up to the famine, the men to the sword, the young men to the sword in war. The suffix on הגּרם refers to the people, of which the children are mentioned before, the men and women after. On הגּר על ידי ח, cf. Ezekiel 35:5; Psalm 63:11. "Death," mentioned alongside of sword and famine, is death by disease and pestilence, as in Jeremiah 15:2.
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