1. 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;
1. Sic dicit Jehova, Vade et acquire (alii vertunt, posside; et qnh significat utrunque, sed hic non convenit verbum possidendi; acquire tibi) lagenam figuli testaceam, et quidem cum senioribus populi, et cum senioribus sacerdotum:
2. 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. Et egredere ad vallem filii Hinnom, quae est in introitu portae orientalis, (alii vertunt, fictilis,) et clama illic (hoc est, alta voce pronuntia) sermones quos loquutus fuero ad te;
3. 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. Et dices, Audite sermonem Jehovae, reges Jehudah et incolae Jerusalem, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce adduco malum super locum hunc, de quo quisque audierit, tinnient aures ejus.
We see that the Prophet was sent by God to shew the people that there was no firmness in that state of which hypocrites boasted; for God, who had favored the people of Israel with singular benefits, did no less retain them in his own possession than the potter. The Prophet had before shewn to the Jews that the potter formed his vessels as he pleased, and also, that when he had taken the clay and the vessel did not please him, he formed another. This prophecy has a similar import, yet it is different, as we shall presently see. The Prophet is here bidden to buy an earthen vessel of the potter, and at the meeting of the people to break it, that all might understand that they were like earthen vessels, and that being thus admonished of their fragility, they might no longer be proud, as though they possessed a firm and perpetual state of happiness.
The main object of the two visions is, however, the same: for the Jews thought that they were not subject to the common lot of men, because they had been chosen as a peculiar people; nor would they have gloried in vain with regard to that inestimable privilege, had there been a mutual agreement between God and them; but as they were covenant-breakers, their glorying was vain and foolish, in thinking that God was bound to them. For what right had they to claim this privilege? God indeed had adopted the whole race of Abraham, but there was a condition introduced,
|Walk before me and be perfect.| (Genesis 17:2)
When they all had become apostates, the covenant, as to them, was abolished. Then God could not have been called, as it were, to an account, as though he had violated his covenant with them, for he owed them nothing. They had become aliens; for through their wickedness and perfidy they had departed from him. God then designed to show how vain and how false was their confidence, when they said, |We are a holy race, we are God's heritage;| because they had wholly departed from the covenant which God had made with their fathers.
But in the form adopted, as I have said, there is some difference. The Prophet had before introduced the potter to shew that there was no less power in God than in a mortal man, because we are before him as the clay, so that he can form and destroy his vessels as he pleases: but here the Prophet shews, that though the Jews had been formed for a time, and so formed as to have been like an excellent and a beautiful vessel, yet it was not a perpetual condition. And it is probable that when they had heard that God could, like the potter, form and re-form them, they had devised an evasion, according to what men usually do who deal sophistically with God, -- |O, be it so, the potter can from the same clay form both a precious and a worthless vessel; but we are the precious vessel, and God has given us that form; for when he made a covenant with Abraham, he adorned him with this singular distinction: he afterwards brought our fathers out of Egypt, and then there was a better form added; and since at length he raised a kingdom among us with this promise, that the throne of David would be perpetual, it cannot possibly be otherwise than that we are to continue in our state.| Hence the Prophet expresses here more than in the former prophecy, that not only God had the power of a potter in forming his vessels, but that when the vessel is already formed and possesses great splendor, it can again be broken: he stated this lest the Jews should object by saying, that the state in which they were under David and his posterity would be perpetual. He says, |This is nothing: for the earthen vessel, though splendid and elegant in its form, can yet be broken in the third or fourth year no less than at the time when it is formed, and can be broken for ever,| according to what is afterwards implied by the similitude.
We shall proceed now to the words: he says, Go and get for thee an earthen vessel. The Rabbins think the name given to the vessel to be factitious, as the grammarians say, that is, made from its sound; for it appears to have been a flagon or a bottle; and as the bottle has a narrow mouth, it makes this sound, vqvq bakbuk, when we drink from it; and hence they think the name is derived. There is, however, no ambiguity as to the thing itself, that the word means a bottle, not only made of earth, but also either of glass or of wood. By adding the word chrs cheresh, he specifies what but vqvq, bekbek, is a general word. He then adds what is literally, From the elders, and interpreters think that the words |bring with thee| are to be understood; and as to the sense I agree with them, for we shall hereafter see, that in the presence of those who went with him he broke the vessel: it then follows that the elders here spoken of were taken by Jeremiah as his companions; but as m mem, sometimes means |with,| as in the fifty-seventh chapter of Isaiah, (Isaiah 57:8)
|and made thee a covenant with them, mhm|
I take it to be of the same meaning here; and this is doubtless suitable here, for he was to go with the elders of the people and with the elders of the priests
And he adds, Enter into the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is at the entrance of the east gate, rendered by some |of the earthen gate,| for which I see no reason; but I leave this to be examined by those who are more versed in the language. It is indeed thought that s, shin, is changed here into s, samech; but if we take the word as it is, it means |solar,| for chrs cheras, from which chrsyt cherasit, is derived, signifies the sun; and it seems to have been called the solar gate by way of excellency, because it looked toward the rising sun. I do not yet oppose the idea of those who think that the Prophet alludes to chrs, cheresh, of which he had spoken, and that he calls it the east gate, though it was as it were an earthen gate; for the two letters s, shin, and s samech, as it is well known, are closely allied. Cry there, he says, the words which I shall speak to thee.
I come now to the subject: God bids his Prophet to get from the potter an earthen vessel, and to do so in the presence of the elders; for it was necessary to have witnesses in a matter so important; and as the public safety of the people was concerned, it was God's purpose, lest the prophecy should be despised, that there should be present the gravest witnesses, suitable, and, as they say, authorized, or approved; and he calls them the elders of the people and of the priests; and no doubt they were chosen from a great number, even from among the priests who were chief. There were also Levites of the sons of Aaron; but there were then chief priests a large number; but, as they say, it was a turbulent rabble. They were chosen from those first orders who ruled the Church, and Jeremiah calls them the elders of the priests. There were also others chosen from the people who presided over the Church. And we know that there were two public functionaries, or, as they say, a twofold government: the priests were the rulers of the Church with regard to the law, so that their government was spiritual; there were also the elders of the people who managed civil affairs; but there were some things in which they ruled in common. We now then see what the Prophet meant by saying that he was bidden to call witnesses to see what is afterwards stated, and that they were taken partly from the priests and partly from the people.
He says; Enter into the valley of the son of Hinnom. This valley was in the suburbs, and was called tpht Tophet, as we shall hereafter see. It is thought that this name is derived from drums, because they did beat drums when infants were killed, lest their cry should excite any feeling of humanity. But, we shall again say something on the etymology of this word. In this valley they were accustomed to sacrifice and offer their children by casting them into the fire. Many indeed performed this in a different way, by purifying their children and carrying them round the fire, so that they felt only the flame and escaped unhurt. But there were those who wished to shew their zeal above others, whose ambition drove them farther, and they killed their children and then burnt them. But of this matter I have spoken elsewhere, and I shall now only briefly notice it. This opinion is not, what is commonly received; but it seems to me that it may be gathered from many parts of Scripture, that many killed their children, and that some only purified them. However this may have been, God justly abominated the sacrifice; for his will was that sacrifices should be offered only in one place. When any one offered a calf or a lamb in any other place than at Jerusalem, it was a spurious sacrifice; and the Jews ought to have followed what God had prescribed, and not to have done anything presumptuously, for obedience is ever better than any sacrifices.
But here there was a double crime; they left the Temple and sought to obtrude on God sacrifices against his expressed will; and then there was another crime still more atrocious, for they devoted their children to Baalim or to Baal, and not to the only true God. (I pass by now their slaughter and burning.) This then was the reason why the Prophet was commanded to go to this place. How detestable that service was to God appears dear from this, that the prophets give the name of hell to the valley of Hinnom, gy' hnm gia-enom. And we know that at the time of Christ it was the common name for hell; and whenever Christ speaks of Gehenna, he uses the word according to its common acceptation at that time. The word has indeed been corrupted by the Greeks, for it is properly gy' hnm gia-enom. But what does the word mean in the gospel? Hell itself; and whence was its origin? We indeed know how great and how incurable was the madness of those who gave themselves up to their own superstitions; for though the prophets strongly condemned the place, yet the people proceeded in their usual idolatry; it was therefore necessary to give the place a disgraceful name in order to render it more abominable.
It is now added, that the place was by the entrance of the east gate. As it was especially a celebrated gate, and as the sun, rising there, reminded them to behold the light which God had kindled for them in his law, it was a monstrous stupidity proudly to tread, as it were, under foot. the law of God in so renowned a place, and to profane his worship, as though they openly wished to shew that they esteemed as nothing what God had commanded. If any still think that there is an allusion to the word chrs cheresh, before used, I offer no opposition; that is, though this gate was indeed oriental, it was yet as it were an earthen gate.
He says, Cry there, or, proclaim with a clear voice, the words which I shall speak to thee. The Prophet no doubt said this expressly, in order to add more weight to his prophecy. He indeed did nothing but by God's command; but as his authority was not acknowledged by the Jews, he here testifies for their sakes that he would say nothing but what God himself would command. This preface then confirmed the authority of his prophecy, so that the Jews might not reject what he might say, as though it came from Jeremiah himself.
But a general doctrine may be hence gathered, -- that ministers are to bring forward nothing but what they have learnt from God himself. For though Jeremiah was a great man and endued with excellent gifts, yet he was not to bring one word or a syllable as from himself: how great then must be the presumption of those who seek to be superior to him by bringing their inventions, and at the same time demand to be deemed oracles? This passage confirms the doctrine of Peter, who says,
|He who speaks, let him speak the words of God.| (1 Peter 4:11)
He now adds, Hear ye the word of Jehovah. This is a confirmation of the former sentence. We hence see why it was said, Cry, or, with a clear voice proclaim, what I shall say to thee; it was, that they might know that he spake not according to his own ideas as a man, but that he was a celestial herald to proclaim what God commanded. Hear, he says, ye kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. We see how the Prophet did not spare even kings, according to what God had before commanded him, that he should act boldly and shew no respect of persons, (Jeremiah 1:8.) He then faithfully performed his office, as he did not flatter kings, and was not terrified by their dignity and power. But he addressed them first, and then the people, because they who had most grievously sinned, were made rightly to bear the first reproof. We hence see what the next passage means,
|Reprove mountains and chide hills,| (Micah 6:1)
and also this passage,
|I have set thee over nations and kingdoms,| (Jeremiah 1:10)
for heavenly truth ought to bring under subjection, as Paul says, everything high in the world, so that all the pride of man may be subdued. (2 Corinthians 10:5.) Kings indeed do very ill bear to be thus boldly treated; for they wish to be exempt from every law and to be free from every yoke. But if they now acknowledge not their subjection to God's word, they must at last come before his tribunal; and then they shall find how perversely they have abused their power. As to teachers, they ought, small and great, to teach after the example of Jeremiah; they ought to reprove and to rebuke, when necessary, without shewing any respect of persons.
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, and the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing an evil on this place, of which whosoever shall hear, tingle shall his ears. The prophetic word had more power when the Jews were brought to the very place where the event was exhibited, he might have said the same thing in the Temple or in the gate or in the palace of the king but his prophecy would not have been so effectual. We indeed know how much tardiness there is in men in general; but so great was then the obstinacy of the Jews, that however forcibly the truth might have been set forth, yet it was received with so much indifference, that it was neglected. God then intended to shew to them, as it were, the event itself. He says, Jehovah of hosts and the God of Israel; and he used these words, that they might know, as we have stated elsewhere, that they had to do with God, whose power is dreaded even by angels. And in order to shake off their foolish boasting, that they were the children of Abraham, -- |God,| he says, |has sufficient power to chastise you, and the same is the God of Israel, whose name ye falsely and absurdly pretend to profess.| These subjects I only in a brief manner handle, because I have explained them more fully elsewhere.
He says that such a calamity was nigh that place as would make the ears to tingle: when there is a violent noise, our ears are stunned, and there is at the same time a certain tingling or ringing. When a man is killed, or when ten or twelve men are slain, there is a dreadful cry; but in a great tumult occasioned by men perishing, such is the noise that it stuns in a manner the ears, like that which proceeds from cataracts; for the violent noise of the Nile, they say, causes some degree of deafness. So also the Prophet says here, I am bringing, says God, a calamity on this place, which shall not only terrify those who will hear of it, but also render them quite astonished, so that their ears shall tingle, as is the case when there is a violent and dreadful noise. The cause follows --