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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Jeremiah 19

In Jeremiah 18, the LORD shows Jeremiah that in sovereign grace it is possible to turn a vessel that is spoiled into a vessel that is usable (Jer 18:4). In Jeremiah 19, the malleable clay has hardened and cannot be reformed into another vessel or jar. Nothing is left but to break it. Jeremiah must say to the elders that their generation will be irreparably broken like a broken jar and its pieces will be taken to Babylon. That generation will not be restored to the land (Jer 19:10-13).

Verses 1-5

The Earthenware Jar

The LORD answers Jeremiah’s prayer, with which the previous chapter ends, by giving him a new commission. Jeremiah is to leave the judgment to the LORD and continue his work despite all the personal distress and suffering. He must go and buy an earthenware jar. He must not do this alone, but he must take with him some elders of the people and elders of the priests, that is, the men with the most responsibility (Jer 19:1). These elders are the direct cause of the misery in which God’s people find themselves. They are leading the people down a path of sin.

The LORD instructs Jeremiah to go to the valley of Ben-hinnom, specifying that this valley is by “the entrance of the potsherd gate” (Jer 19:2). The valley of Ben-hinnom is the garbage dump of Jerusalem south of the city. There the garbage is burned and children are sacrificed to Molech (Jer 7:31-32; Jer 32:35). It is against this background that Jeremiah must speak his words of warning. It is the vivid and also lurid illustration of the result if they do not listen to his words. Then the city will be made like this valley.

Today, we see children being given up to death, so to speak, as a result of the adulterous behavior of the parents. Father and mother who have grown tired of each other are encouraged to ‘enrich’ their lives by visiting dating sites that promote cheating. Such people lack any sense of responsibility for their children. Of course, they themselves vehemently deny this. It is truly astounding how much people can kill their still somewhat natural feelings and with them their children.

A further indication of what awaits Jerusalem if they continue their stubborn disobedience is the name “potsherd gate”. That name is an indication of what will happen to the jar. The jar will be smashed, in shards, and be unusable and also irreparable (Jer 19:11). It is no longer clay from which another jar can be made. In that place, reminiscent of Israel’s breakup, Jeremiah must speak the words the LORD speaks to him.

Jeremiah must begin with the urgent call: “Hear the word of the LORD” (Jer 19:3). That word the leaders of the people want to withhold from the people, they oppose it. Despite that, the word must be addressed to the kings of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that is, to everyone, from high to low. They must all listen to the judgment that God is going to bring upon them. The LORD speaks as “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel”, which further indicates that He is exalted above all powers and that He is their God. Therefore, let them listen carefully to Him and obey His words! What He has to say will make the ears tingle of everyone who hears it (cf. 1Sam 3:11; 2Kgs 21:12).

The reason for the judgment is also given (Jer 19:4). It is a multiple reason. They have forsaken the LORD and filled the city with their idolatry and blood guilt, thereby alienating it from Him. Jerusalem, the city of God, has become a city where the LORD is like a stranger. He no longer knows His city! There is nothing left of His purposes with it. The LORD has been exchanged for Baal to whom they have built the high places to sacrifice their children to it (Jer 19:5). It is something that was never commanded by Him, that was never spoken by Him, that never even entered His mind.

Verses 6-9

The Inevitable Disaster

Through the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD is pointing out to the elders that He will change the names for the garbage dump of Jerusalem, “Topheth” and “Ben-hinnom”, and give “this place”, that is Jerusalem, the name “valley of Slaughter” (Jer 19:6). This change of name has to do with the many who will be killed in Jerusalem. He says He will make void the counsel of His apostate people, for He knows those counsels (Jer 19:7). He will make them void by giving them up to the sword of their enemies. Their carcasses He will expose to the greatest reproach by giving them to the beasts for food.

Of the city he will make an object of desolation and of hissing (Jer 19:8). Instead of being an attractive city, the city will become a dismay to everyone who passes by it. Instead of sacrificing their children to idols (Jer 19:5), they will eat the flesh of their children and neighbors because of the tremendous distress caused by a siege (Jer 19:9; Lev 26:27-29; Deu 28:53; 2Kgs 6:26-29; Lam 4:10). All feeling and sense of natural love are gone. This is due to idolatry.

Verses 10-13

The Destruction of Judah

After the words of judgment Jeremiah has spoken before the ears of the elders who have gone with him, he must now break the jar before their eyes (Jer 19:10). He must immediately communicate the meaning of this on behalf of “the LORD of hosts” (Jer 19:11). The meaning is, that what Jeremiah did to the jar, the LORD will do to the people and the city. It is the same as what the Lord Jesus will do to the nations (Psa 2:9; Rev 2:27).

The breach will be irreparable (Jer 19:12). This then concerns the wicked mass. We see something similar in the cursing by the Lord Jesus of the fig tree, on which there will be no more fruit forever (Mt 21:19). The fig tree is a picture of the wicked mass of the people. To their shame, the corpses will be buried in Topheth, the place where they brought their child sacrifices. The LORD confirms in the most serious way that He will carry out His purpose in judgment regarding the place and its inhabitants by pointing out that He will make that place like Topheth.

All the houses of Jerusalem – a city is made up of houses – including those of the kings of Judah, become as unclean as Topheth because of the many corpses (Jer 19:13). The city becomes one big Topheth, one big garbage dump. This is because they have turned their houses into idol altars. Indeed, on their roofs incense offerings were brought to heavenly bodies and drink offerings to other gods (Jer 32:29; Zep 1:4-5). Their houses thus became high places for Baal, filling the city with abominations, an abomination to the LORD.

Verses 14-15

The Message of Topheth Also in the Court

After Jeremiah has spoken the words of the LORD to the elders in Topheth, he goes into the court of the LORD’s house to address the people present there (Jer 19:14). He speaks the same words of judgment there as he spoke in Topheth. He now speaks on behalf of “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” (Jer 19:15; Jer 19:11). The content of the judgment is what the LORD has spoken. The reason for the judgment is their obstinacy in not listening to His words (cf. Acts 7:51).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 19". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.