JEREMIAH CHAPTER 18.
The Symbol of the Clay and the Potter.
THE PARABLE OF THE POTTER. — V. 1. The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, v. 2. Arise and go down to the potter's house, his workshop being located in the lower part of the city, near the clay-pits, and there I will cause thee to hear My words, in a special message intended for the people of Judah. V. 3. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels, literally, "on the disks," for the potter's lathe consisted of two horizontal wooden plates, the lower one larger than the upper, the clay being molded into shape on the upper disk. V. 4. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter, it was spoiled in the making, due to some mischance; so he made it again another vessel, using the same lump of clay over again, as seemed good to the potter to make it. This was the incident which the Lord used as the basis of His parable. V. 5. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, v. 6. O house of Israel, the entire nation being addressed, as including the true Church of God, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord, namely, in discarding a people that had proved unfaithful to His call and choosing others in its stead. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel, still in a position to be molded if they but heeded His call. V. 7. At what instant, namely, in a moment of time, when the nation least expects it, I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it, threatening extermination: v.8. if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, giving heed to His warnings, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them, in accordance with His long-suffering and mercy, according to which He does not desire the death of the sinner. V. 9. And at what instant, with the same suddenness, I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it, having arranged to carry out a plan of blessing upon it, to give it a position of power and authority above others: v. 10. if it do evil in My sight, that It obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them, the obstinacy and wickedness of such a people depriving it of the blessings which the Lord would freely have vouchsafed all its members. It is man's own fault if he does not become a partaker of the benefits which God's kindness and mercy would like to bestow upon all men.
THE PARABLE FURTHER APPLIED. — V. 11. Now, therefore, go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in announcing the intention of the Lord on the basis of the nation's behavior, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I frame evil against you, shaping it as the potter shapes the clay on his wheel, and devise a device against you, a plan to work destruction; return ye now, every one, from his evil way and make your ways and your doings good, so that all their doings would bear the inspection of His holy eyes. V. 12. And they said, once more stubbornly refusing to heed the warning of the Lord, There is no hope, or, "No use!" But we will walk after our own devices, following after the wicked designs of their own mind, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart, abandoning themselves entirely to their sins and to the penalty placed upon them by God. V. 13. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, in expressing His horror over such behavior as here exhibited by Judah, Ask ye now among the heathen who hath heard such things. The virgin of Israel, the Lord's betrothed, in whose case one would not have believed such shameless indecency possible, hath done a very horrible thing, an act which was abominable in His sight. V. 14. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? literally, ''Will the snow of Lebanon desert the rock of the mountain range?" the point of comparison being in the fact that the snow of the mountains is perennial. Or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? Will the strange, cold, rippling waters, fed by the glaciers of Hermon, dry up? As the snow covers the summits of Lebanon with a perpetual mantle, so the flow of waters at its foot is perpetual, there is no interruption, the connection between the two is unbroken. All the more reprehensible, then, is the conduct of the people of Judah. V. 15. Because My people hath forgotten Me, they have burned incense to vanity, to the idols, which are nothing in the sight of God, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, thus leaving the way of the conduct prescribed by God in ancient days, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up, where proper progress was impossible; v. 16. to make their land desolate and a perpetual hissing, an object of eternal derision and loathing; every one that passeth thereby, taking note of the desolation which had come upon the former rich land, shall be astonished, be rigid with astonishment, and wag his head, in a gesture expressing malicious enjoyment of their misfortune. V. 17. I will scatter them as with an east wind, a violent wind from the desert, before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity, this being done in just retribution upon them, for they had turned their backs to Him and refused Him obedience, chap. 2, 27. This threat on the part of God filled the reprobates with fury, which was promptly directed against Jeremiah, His faithful servant. V. 18. Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah, planning wicked designs against his person and life; for the Law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. The meaning evidently is this, that they had no need of Jeremiah, the prophet of doom, since they would always have priests to instruct them, wise men to advise them, and prophets to proclaim to them the Word of the Lord, men, moreover, more to their liking, who would not be forever harping on the subject of repentance and judgment. Come and let us smite him with the tongue, making life unbearable for him by defamation, shortening his life by the grief caused him by this manner of dealing with him, and let us not give heed to any of his words, this being another way in which they intended to show their spite. The prophet, therefore, raises his voice in an earnest appeal to God. V. 19. Give heed to me, O Lord, listening attentively to his cry for deliverance and protection, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me, taking note of those who oppose him in his work. V. 20. Shall evil be recompensed for good? namely, by the fact that the evil plans of his adversaries would be successful. For they have digged a pit for my soul, where they hoped to catch him unawares. Remember that I stood before Thee to speak good for them, in an earnest intercession in their behalf, cp. chap. 14, 7 ff., and to turn away Thy wrath from them, pleading that the Lord would not visit their iniquity upon them. V. 21. Therefore, because they disregarded all attempts to bring them to their senses and increased in wickedness from day to day, deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword, the sword, in the Hebrew, being regarded as possessing hands to perform its murderous work; and let their wives be bereaved of their children and be widows, losing also their husbands, with whom they were one in wickedness; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle. V. 22. Let a cry be heard from their houses, as the attacking forces enter, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them, namely, the murderous hordes of the invaders; for they have digged a pit to take me and hid snares for my feet, as the fowler does for the bird. V. 23. Yet, Lord, Thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me, being fully aware of their murderous plans against Jeremiah. Forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from Thy sight, indulgently overlooking their wickedness, but let them be overthrown before Thee; deal thus with them in the time of Thine anger. This appeal, altogether in the manner of the imprecatory psalms, was inspired by the zeal of the prophet for the honor of Jehovah, since the opponents stubbornly refused to listen to reason and to the warnings of God which called them to repentance.