Then came the word of the LORD to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,…
Great uncertainty as to the fulfilment of this prophetic parable. Are we bound to assume that it was actually carried out? It is possible, according to some critics (but see Exposition on Jeremiah 46:13), that the accomplishment of the prediction, as of many others, was only contingent. It is very vivid and definite, but that is quite consistent with the intermediate occurrence of circumstances in the spiritual state of the Jewish sojourners that enabled God to cancel it. Just as at this time their disposition may have been alarmingly idolatrous and worldly, so at a later stage it may have changed.
I. WHAT THE PARABLE MAY HAVE SUGGESTED.
1. The contingent certainty of Divine judgment. The action may have represented, not only the sequence of events, but that of principles. If, then, the events did not occur, it would still remain true that, in the kingdom of God. such a dependence of principles is eternal; sin is ever nigh to cursing. So much is this the case, that it may be said to contain the elements of its own punishment, like the stones hidden in the clay.
(1) The stones are hidden in the clay with which, although heterogeneous, they stand in a divinely appointed relation.
(2) The interpretation given by the prophet further strengthened this impression in the minds of the spectators. It was the same power, viz. the Chaldean, which had already scourged Judah, that was to follow the remnant into distant Egypt. The continuity of the judgment with those which preceded it is thus forcibly set forth. Nebuchadnezzar, if or when he came, could not be mistaken for other than a divinely ordained instrument of vengeance. The advantage of such an understanding of the prophecy is obvious - it ceases to have a particular and transitory significance, and becomes at once necessary and universal. We need that lesson graven upon our hearts today: "The soul that sinneth it shall die;" "He that soweth to the flesh," etc.
2. That dependence upon any earthly power is utterly vain. Egypt is dreamt of as a refuge from their woes. Its power, typified by the clay of the kiln or brick field, only overlies the power of God, typified by the Stones. They would be in his hands still, although they knew it not. Through the clay of worldly dependence they must needs fall upon the stones of Divine judgment. Man cannot flee from his Maker. There is no earthly security from the consequences of sin. If the remnant of Judah, pursuing its tendency towards worldly mindedness and idolatry to the bitter end, should persist in putting its trust in the Egyptian power, to whose religion and life it was in such imminent danger of assimilating itself, woe to it! Through Pharaoh even will they be confronted with Nebuchadnezzar yet again. God is the only true Helper and Saviour, and in the practice of holiness and the precepts of true religion is security alone to be found. What assurance company can shield the sinner from the consequences of his misdeeds? And if God be for any man, who can he against him?
II. WHAT THE PARABLE MAY HAVE EFFECTED. It has been conjectured (by Naegelsbach and others) that the symbolic action of Jeremiah and its interpretation so forcibly appealed to the imagination and conscience of the Jews as to change their hearts. That some such consequence as this was intended seems very probable. If it resulted as they suppose, then the judgment was averted which depended upon their misconduct and worldliness. "God repented him of the evil." This is one of the great aims of such teaching - so to affect the heart through the imagination as to subdue its evil tendencies and lead it to the pursuit of righteousness and truth. The crowded Jewish colony of Alexandria may then be taken, not as a refutation of the words of Jeremiah, but as a proof that these words produced their legitimate impression, and brought about a deep and lasting reformation. The lesson of all which is that the relation between sin and its punishment, and the futility of earthly securities and screens from Divine vengeance, cannot be too forcibly represented. God will bless the faithful preaching of his Word, and is infinitely more willing to have mercy than to prove his predictions by allowing men to harden their hearts. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,