Jeremiah 1 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Jeremiah 1
Pulpit Commentary
The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:
Verse 1. - The words of Jeremiah. This introductory formula only occurs here and in Amos 1:1. The editor of Jeremiah and of Amos deserts the usual phrase ("burden" or , "utterance," "vision," "the word of the LORD which came," etc.) in order to give fuller information concerning the origin of the prophetic writers (but see on ver. 2). On the name Jeremiah, and on the position occupied by Hilkiah, see Introduction. That were in Anathoth. So Vulgate; Septuagint, however (followed by Payne Smith), makes the relative refer to Jeremiah (ὅς κατῴκει). But in this case would not the phrase have been "Jeremiah the priest," etc. (comp. Ezekiel 1:1)? Anathoth was one of the priestly cities (Joshua 21:18); it lay on or near the great northern road (Isaiah 10:30), and has been identified by Dr. Robinson (so also by Lieutenant Conder) with 'Anata, situated on a ridge, an hour and a quarter north-northeast from Jerusalem.
To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
Verse 3. - Unto the end of the eleventh year, etc. The limit is accurate with regard to Jeremiah 1-39. The later prophecies have a superscription of their own (see Jeremiah 40:1.). In the fifth month (comp. Jeremiah lit. 12, 27).
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verses 4-19. - The call of Jeremiah. Verse 4. - Unto me. For the change of person, comp. Ezekiel 1:4.
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Verse 5. - Knew thee; i.e. took notice of thee; virtually equivalent to selected thee (comp. Genesis 39:6; Amos 3:2; Isaiah 58:3; Psalm 144:3). Observe, the predestination of individuals is a familiar idea in the Old Testament (comp. Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 49:1; Psalm 139:16). It was also familiar to the Assyrians: King Assurba-nipal declares at the opening of his ' Annals ' that the gods "in the body of his mother have made (him) to rule Assyria." Familiar, too, to the great family of religious reformers. For, as Dean Milman has truly observed, "No Pelagian ever has or ever will work a religious revolution. He who is destined for such a work must have a full conviction that God is acting directly, immediately, consciously, and therefore with irresistible power, upon him and through him He who is not predestined, who does not declare, who does not believe himself predestined as the author of a great religions movement, he in whom God is not manifestly, sensibly, avowedly working out his pre-established designs, will never be saint or reformer" ('Latin Christianity,' 1:111, 112). Sanctified thee; i.e. set thee apart for holy uses. Ordained; rather, appointed. Unto the nations. Jeremiah's prophecies, in fact, have reference not only to Israel, but to the peoples in relation to Israel (ver. 10; Jeremiah 25:15, 16; Jeremiah 46-49; Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51.?).
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
Verse 6. - Ah, Lord God! rather, Alas, O Lord Jehovah! It is a cry of alarm and pain, and recurs in Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 32:17. I am a child. I am too young to support such an office. The word rendered "child" is used elsewhere of youths nearly grown up (comp. Genesis 34:19; Genesis 41:12; 1 Kings 3:7).
But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
Verse 7. - Thou shalt go, etc. Thoughts of self are altogether out of place in one who has received a Divine commission. Jeremiah's duty is simple obedience. In put-suing this path he cannot but be safe (ver. 8).
Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
Verse 9. - Touched my mouth; literally, caused (his hand) to touch my mouth. Jeremiah had said that he was unskilled in oratory; the Divine answer is that the words which he has to speak are not his own, but those of Jehovah. Two things are obvious:

1. The touching of the lips is not purely metaphorical, as in Psalm 51:15 (comp. Psalm 40:6); it represents a real experience.

2. This experience, however, can only have been a visionary one, analogous to that vouchsafed to Isaiah at the opening of his prophetic ministry. In the grand account given by Isaiah of his inaugural vision (which has evidently influenced the form of the vision of Jeremiah), we read of the same significant act on the part of one of the seraphim. It is the same act, certainly, but it symbolizes, not as here the communication of a prophetic message (comp. Matthew 10:19), but the purification of the lips. Does it not seem as if Isaiah had attained a deeper insight into the spiritual regeneration needed by the prophet than had been granted to Jeremiah? Another point in which Jeremiah's account seems inferior to that of Isaiah is plastic power. Notice how Jeremiah dwells upon the meaning of the words; this is a reflective element which diminishes the poetic power of the narrative. A word may Be added to explain that "visionary" is not here used in opposition to "based on fact." That the two epithets are susceptible of combination is well shown in the vision described by Pere Gratry, in his 'Souvenirs do ma Jeunesse' (pp. 102-105), the reality of which is not in the least impaired in the writer's mind by its thoroughly inward character: "Dens teutes ces seines interieures, je n'imaginais rien... c'etaient de saisissantes et tres-energiques realites auxquelles je ne m'attendais nullement."
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Verse 10. - I have set thee; literally, I have made thee an overseer, or vicegerent (comp. Genesis 41:34; Judges 9:28, where the Authorized Version renders the cognate noun "officer"). To root out... to plant, viz. by pronouncing that Divine judgment which fulfils itself (comp. Jeremiah 5:14; Numbers 23:25; Isaiah 9:8, 9; Isaiah 55:11). As there is so much more threatening than promise in Jeremiah's writings, the destructive side of his activity is expressed by four verbs, the constructive only by two.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
Verses 11-16. - Two trials or probations of Jeremiah's inner sight (2 Kings 6:17). Two visions are granted him, which he is required to describe. The first expresses the certainty of his prophetic revelation; the second indicates its contents. Verse 11. - A rod of an almond tree. The name here adopted for the almond tree is peculiarly suitable in this connection. It means "wakeful;" the almond, blossoming in January, is the first to "wake" from the sleep of winter.
Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.
Verse 12. - I will hasten my word; literally, I am wakeful over my word; alluding to the meaning of the Hebrew word for almond.
And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
Verse 13. - A seething pot. There is a variety of Hebrew words for "pot." The word here used suggests a vessel of large size, since pottage for a whole company of prophets could be cooked in such. a pot or caldron (2 Kings 4:38). From Ezekiel 24:11 we may infer that it was of metal. A "seething pot" in ancient Arabic poetry is a figure for war. The same symbol occurs in Ezekiel 24:3-12, but with a different application. The face thereof is toward the north; rather, toward the south; literally, from the face of the north. The "face" of the pet is the side turned to the prophet. We may suppose the contents to be on the point of boiling over.
Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.
Verse 14. - Out of the north. Previously to the battle of Carchemish, the Babylonians are only mentioned vaguely as a northern people (see Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1, 22; Jeremiah 10:22). Strictly speaking, they were an eastern people from the point of view of Palestine; but the caravan-road which the Chaldaean armies had to take entered Palestine at Dan (comp. Jeremiah 4:15; Jeremiah 8:16), and then proceeded southward. (On the question whether a Scythian invasion is referred to, at least conjointly with the Babylonian, see Introduction.) An evil; rather, the evil; viz. the calamity which in deepening gloom forms the burden of the prophet's discourses. Shall break forth; literally, shall open; i.e. let loose by opening (comp. the use of the same verb in Isaiah 14:17, literally, "looseth not his prisoners homewards;" and Amos 8:5, literally, "that we may open," i.e. "bring forth wheat"). There is, however, some difficulty in explaining the choice of this expression. We might indeed suppose that the caldron had a lid, and that the removal or falling off of this lid is the "opening" referred to by the phrase.
For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.
Verse 15. - I will call; literally, I am calling; i.e. I am about to call. The kingdoms of the north; alluding possibly to the varied origin of the population of Assyria and Babylonia. But more probably it is simply a suggestive phrase, for the wide extent of the hostile empire referred to (comp. Jeremiah 25:9). They shall set every one his throne, etc. The kings, or. the, generals, representing "all the families, etc., shall set up the high seat of power and judicial authority at the broad space within the gate of the city, which constituted the Oriental forum (comp. Genesis 23:10; Joshua 20:4; Job 29:7; Job 31:21). Thither the besieged would have to come to surrender themselves (2 Kings 24:12) and to hear their fate. A similar prediction is made with regard to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 43:9, 10). It is true the seat of authority is there said to be placed at the entrance of the palace, but this was in fact another place where justice was wont to be administered (Jeremiah 22:2, 3). Jerome's view, adopted by Rosenmüller and Nagelsbach, that "to set one's seat" means "to besiege" is against usage, and does not accord with the opening words of ver. 16. There is, however, an element of truth in it. The judgment executed ministerially by the northern kings or generals began with the siege of Jerusalem and the other cities, and hence the words with which the prophet continues. And against all the walls, etc. We should have expected something like "and shall set themselves in array against," etc. (comp. Isaiah 22:7 b); see, however, last note.
And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
Verse 16. - I will utter my judgments; or, I will hold a court of justice upon them; literally, I will speak judgments with them. The expression is peculiar to Jeremiah (comp. Jeremiah 4:12; Jeremiah 12:1; Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:9), and includes both the examination of the accused, and the judicial sentence (see Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:9). All their wickedness, etc. Their "wickedness," i.e. their infidelity to Jehovah, showed itself in burning incense to "other gods," and bowing down to their images. "Burned incense" is, however, too narrow a sense. The root-meaning of the verb is to be fragrant, and the causative conjugations will strictly mean only "to make a sweet odor," whether by the offering of incense or by burnt offerings (comp. Jeremiah 11:12; 2 Kings 23:8, where a causative conjugation is used in the same wide sense here postulated; also Psalm 66:15 and Isaiah 1:13, where the word usually rendered "incense" seems rather to mean "a sweet smoke"). The prophet says, "of other gods" (not "of false gods"), out of consideration for the ignorance of his hearers, to whom Baal and Moloch really were as gods; in fact, that expressive word (cf.) which Isaiah uses ten times to express the unreality of the other so-called gods, occurs only once, and then not in quite the same sense (see Jeremiah 14:14) in Jeremiah. But the prophet's own strict monotheism is proved by such passages as Jeremiah 2:27a; Jeremiah 8:19b; Jeremiah 16:20.
Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
Verse 17. - Gird up thy loins, as an Oriental does before making any kind of physical exertion, whether walking (Exodus 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29), running (1 Kings 18:46), or fighting (Job 12:21). Be not dismayed. A want of confidence on Jeremiah's part will issue in his utter discomfiture by his enemies. "Dismay" in Hebrew has a twofold reference, subjective ("dismay") and objective ("ruin," "discomfiture"). Both references can be illustrated from this verse. (Comp. the command and - ver. 18 - premise to Jeremiah with the command and promise to Ezekiel - 3:8, 9.)
For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
Verse 18. - Brasen walls. The plural is used instead of a collective term for the whole circle of fortifications. In the parallel passage (Jeremiah 15:20) the singular occurs; the same alternation of plural and singular as in 2 Kings 25:10; 1 Kings 3:1. The combination of figures strikingly expresses the invincibility of one whose strength is in his God. The kings of Judah. Why the plural? Most reply, Because Jeremiah would have to do with successive sovereigns. But this meaning would have been just as well conveyed by the singular: "the king of Judah," without any name being added - would moan the king who from time to time happened to be reigning. "Kings of Judah" in Jeremiah seems to have a special meaning, and to include all the members of the royal family, who formed a numerous and powerful class (see on Jeremiah 17:20).

And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.
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