Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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;
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.
And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee,
2. valley of the son of Hinnom—or Tophet, south of Jerusalem, where human victims were offered, and children made to pass through the fire, in honor of Molech.
east gate—Margin, "sun gate," sunrise being in the east. Maurer translates, the "potter's gate." Through it lay the road to the valley of Hinnom (Jos 15:8). The potters there formed vessels for the use of the temple, which was close by (compare Jer 19:10, 14; Jer 18:2; Zec 11:13). The same as "the water gate toward the east" (Ne 3:26; 12:37); so called from the brook Kedron. Calvin translates, as English Version and Margin. "It was monstrous perversity to tread the law under foot in so conspicuous a place, over which the sun daily rising reminded them of the light of God's law."
And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.
3. The scene of their guilt is chosen as the scene of the denunciation against them.
kings—the king and queen (Jer 13:18); or including the king's counsellors and governors under him.
tingle—as if struck by a thunder peal (1Sa 3:11; 2Ki 21:12).
Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;
4. (Isa 65:11).
estranged this place—devoted it to the worship of strange gods: alienating a portion of the sacred city from God, the rightful Lord of the temple, city, and whole land.
nor their fathers—namely, the godly among them; their ungodly fathers God makes no account of.
blood of innocents—slain in honor of Molech (Jer 7:31; Ps 106:37).
They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:
5. commanded not—nay, more, I commanded the opposite (Le 18:21; see Jer 7:31, 32).
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.
6. no more … Tophet—from Hebrew, toph, "drum"; for in sacrificing children to Molech drums were beaten to drown their cries. Thus the name indicated the joy of the people at the fancied propitiation of the god by this sacrifice; in antithesis to its joyless name subsequently.
valley of slaughter—It should be the scene of slaughter, no longer of children, but of men; not of "innocents" (Jer 19:4), but of those who richly deserved their fate. The city could not be assailed without first occupying the valley of Hinnom, in which was the only fountain: hence arose the violent battle there.
And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
7. make void the counsel—defeat their plans for repelling the enemy (2Ch 32:1-4; Isa 19:3; 22:9, 11). Or their schemes of getting help by having recourse to idols [Calvin].
in this place—The valley of Hinnom was to be the place of the Chaldean encampment; the very place where they looked for help from idols was to be the scene of their own slaughter.
And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof.
8. (See on Jer 18:16).
And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.
9. (De 28:53; La 4:10).
Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee,
10. break … bottle—a symbolical action, explained in Jer 19:11.
the men—the elders of the people and of the priests (Jer 19:1; compare Jer 51:63, 64).
And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury.
11. as one breaketh a potter's vessel—expressing God's absolute sovereignty (Jer 18:6; Ps 2:9; Isa 30:14, Margin; La 4:2; Ro 9:20, 21).
cannot be made whole again—A broken potter's vessel cannot be restored, but a new one may be made of the same material. So God raised a new Jewish seed, not identical with the destroyed rebels, but by substituting another generation in their stead [Grotius].
no place to bury—(Jer 7:32).
Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet:
12. make this city as Tophet—that is, as defiled with dead bodies as Tophet.
And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods.
13. shall be defiled—with dead bodies (Jer 19:12; 2Ki 23:10).
because of all the houses—Rather, (explanatory of the previous "the houses … and … houses"), "even all the houses," &c. [Calvin].
roofs—being flat, they were used as high places for sacrifices to the sun and planets (Jer 32:29; 2Ki 23:11, 12; Zep 1:5). The Nabateans, south and east of the Dead Sea, a nation most friendly to the Jews, according to Strabo, had the same usage.
Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people,
14. court of the Lord's house—near Tophet; the largest court, under the open air, where was the greatest crowd (2Ch 20:5).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.
15. her towns—the suburban villages and towns near Jerusalem, such as Bethany.