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Under the type of a potter, is shewed God's absolute power in disposing of nations. Judgments threatened to Judah for her strange revolt. Jeremiah prayeth against his conspirators.
Before Christ 605.
Jeremiah 18:1. The word, &c.— We have here a new discourse of Jeremiah. The Lord commands him to go down to a certain potter, where he would cause him to hear his word. God frequently makes use of this comparison of a potter, to point out man's absolute dependence upon him. See Psalms 2:9. Isaiah 45:9. Romans 9:21.
Jeremiah 18:3. On the wheels— Upon the stones. This is the literal signification of עלאּהאבנים al haabnaiim, which the LXX. also render επι των λιθων . There can be no doubt that the machine is intended, on which the potters formed their earthen vessels; and the appellation, οι λιθοι, "the stones," will appear very proper, if we consider this machine as consisting of a pair of circular stones placed upon one another like milstones; of which the lower was immoveable, but the upper one turned upon the foot of a spindle or axis, and had motion communicated to it by the feet of the potter sitting at his work; as may be learned from Sir 38:29. Upon the top of this upper stone, which was flat, the clay was placed, which the potter, having given the stone the due velocity, formed into shape with his hands. The principal difference between this and the wheel in present use seems to be, that, instead of the upper stone, a nut or beam is used of about two feet in length, and one in diameter, the foot of which plays perpendicularly upon the nether stone. This beam serves for an axis to a circular wooden frame, like a wheel, joined to it at the lower end; and on the top of this beam, which is flat, the clay is placed, and the motion given, and the operation performed in the manner above described. It is probable that the upper stone was for convenience shaped not unlike this wheel and beam; and might not improperly have given the name of "the wheel" to the whole machine; but not of "the wheels," as in our English version; there being but one of the stones which had the resemblance of a wheel.
Jeremiah 18:8. If that nation, against whom, &c.— As the threats of God are conditional, when they are suspended by his long-suffering and mercy, or prevented by the amendment of the persons against whom they are denounced; he is said in Scripture to repent: not that the phrase implies that there is any change in Him, but in us; and that his behaviour towards us, provided his denunciations were not conditional, is the same as if he repented, or changed his mind. But see what has been said on this subject in the note on Genesis 6:6.
Jeremiah 18:14. Will a man leave the snow, &c.— Shall one leave the moisture of the field for the snow-water of Lebanon; or shall the running waters be forsaken for the muddy waters? Lowth. The two similitudes in this verse are evidently designed to illustrate the unnatural and absurd conduct of the Jewish nation in deserting their God, and adopting the superstitions of a strange idolatry, in preference to the good old paths which God had ordained for them to walk in. As to the first, Lebanon, it must be observed, was the highest mountain in Israel, lying to the north of it, and having its summit always covered with snow; from the whiteness of which it is supposed to have derived its name. See the accounts of modern travellers referred to, Ancient Univ. Hist. vol. 1: book 1: p. 570 fol. The same circumstance is also recorded by Tacitus, Hist. lib. 5: cap. 6.
Jeremiah 18:15. To vanity, and they have caused them, &c.— To idols, which have caused them, &c.]
Jeremiah 18:18. Come, and let us devise, &c.— "Let us accuse him of being a false prophet; for his threatenings plainly contradict God's promises to his people; whereby we are assured that there shall always be a succession of priests to explain the law, or scribes or learned men to elucidate the more difficult parts of it, and of prophets to instruct the people in the knowledge of futurity." The word מחשׁבוה machashaboth, rendered devices, signifies an accusation. Houbigant thinks that the clause, Let us smite him with the tongue, should rather be rendered, Let us smite him privily; for the enemies of Jeremiah rather consulted how they might kill him, than how they might wound his reputation. Respecting the strong execrations found in the remainder of this chapter, and in other parts of this book, we must refer to what we have said on the similar ones in the book of Psalms. They are not to be considered as the effusion of an unholy zeal, but as simple prophesies.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, God often teaches by similitudes, to make the deeper impression, and that the truths may be better remembered. We have,
1. The prophet sent to the potter's house, and informed that God would instruct him. Instantly obedient, he goes down, and observes the workman turning the wheel, fashioning the vessels, marring and making them according to his pleasure.
2. God's application of the subject. Such absolute power as the potter hath over the clay, hath God over the sons of men. He hath the most incontestible right over us: it were arrogance in us to find fault with his procedure, and folly to oppose what we cannot prevent. According to the counsels of his own will, he may dispose of nations and individuals, and none can say unto him, What doest thou? Absolute and intire submission to his will is our bounden duty: not that he exercises his power in any manner to the impeachment of his justice or mercy. He will be found righteous in all his ways; not only sovereignly great, but infinitely gracious. Even when his threatenings have gone forth against a nation, and their destruction approaches, if they repent and return, he will change the method of his dispensations towards them, remove their fears, and return to them in mercy. On the other hand, if he have spoken by way of promise, to crown a people with every national blessing, to enrich them with good, and prosper all their enterprizes; if they prove ungrateful for his favours, desert his service, and disobey his word, then he will turn the current of his kindness from them, and pour on them the wrath which they have provoked. Note; (1.) All our miseries may be traced from our sins, whether private or public. (2.) God will make his glory to appear; and, though as absolute sovereign none have a right to question him, he will vindicate his ways to man, and appear just when he judgeth.
2nd, The foregoing truths are particularly applied to the Jewish nation. We have,
1. The warning and admonition given to the Jewish people. Evil was on the wheel for them, though the execution was for awhile suspended; and one more invitation given them, to prevent the impending ruin by their speedy and penitent return. Note; God never strikes without warning: they who continue impenitent are inexcusable.
2. Their hardened rejection of the warning. They said, There is no hope; if nothing but parting from their sins would do, they resolved to abide the consequences. Let God do his worst, we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart. Note; Sinners often dare not express themselves with such effrontery in words, yet practically every sinner does it in works, and these speak most strongly.
3. Their monstrous folly and wickedness upbraided. Among the vilest heathen nations were no abominations or insolence found equal to theirs; even the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah; but, horrible to tell! Israel, that virgin daughter, who by her relation to God should have kept herself wholly for him, pure in his ways and worship, has apostatised from him, has forsaken the living God for dumb idols. Will a man, parched with thirst, leave the snow-water of Lebanon which cometh down melted in summer from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken by the thirsty traveller? This would be folly unheard of; yet more egregiously foolish were they; because my people hath forgotten me, the fountain of living waters, to drink at the broken cisterns of idol altars. They have burnt incense to vanity, to wretched deities, who could not profit them: or, in vain they burn incense; their services were an abomination while their sins remained: and they have caused them to stumble in their ways, their idols, or their false prophets, from the ancient paths, the way revealed of old in God's word; or the paths of eternity, which led to glory everlasting, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; a road unknown to the saints of God; a way of wickedness and idolatry, in which they stumbled and fell into the pit of eternal misery; this being the certain and fatal consequence of their ways, to make their land desolate, ravaged by the enemy, and depopulated by famine and the sword; a perpetual hissing, all who passed by expressing their abhorrence of such guilty conduct; astonished at the devastations they beheld, and wagging their head, deriding or upbraiding them. With blasts of displeasure, furious as the east wind, God will scatter them before their enemies, weak as stubble to resist their attacks, and in the day of their calamity turn a deaf ear to their cries, nor cast a look of compassion on their miseries. Note; (1.) Apostates deserve to be upbraided, and they will shortly awake to everlasting shame and contempt. (2.) They who persevere in the ways of sin, must expect no mercy in the day of judgment. God will then mock at their calamities, Proverbs 1:26-28.
3rdly, Behold the treatment which faithful ministers may expect from a disobedient and gainsaying people.
1. Enraged by the rebukes of the prophet, they consult how to destroy him. To cover their malice, they pretend zeal for religion, and would brand him as a false prophet. Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah, to get rid of him and his prophesies; for the law shall not perish from the priest, &c. Notwithstanding his predictions of the cessation of the temple service; of the infatuation of their counsels; and his warnings of the falsehood of their prophets; they flattered themselves that their priesthood should continue, and that their rulers in church and state should consult upon and secure their safety; and that they should see the fulfilment of the visions of peace with which their own prophets flattered them: therefore, said they, Come, and let us smite him with the tongue; either accuse him as a lying prophet before the magistrates, to put him to death, or load him with reproaches, and make him contemptible in the eyes of the people: and let us not give heed to any of his words, but treat him as a deceiver, who speaks not from the Lord, but out of his own heart. Note; (1.) The wicked world is in a confederacy against the true prophets, and none forwarder to shew their malice, than the false and faithless ministers who cannot bear their just rebukes. (2.) To cloak the malice of persecutors, this was the old pretence, to represent the faithful and zealous ministers as men dangerous to the state, and not to be tolerated; or as deluders and enthusiasts, and to be trampled on. (3.) They who dare not encounter the lash of men's tongues, must never think of standing up for God. (4.) Rejection of the servant is an insult on the master. Little do the revilers of Christ's ministers think, that their reproaches light not so much on them as him.
2. He lodges his appeal with God, and begs his interposition on his behalf. He prayed God to take notice of their blasphemies and reproaches, their ingratitude and cruelty, in returning him evil for good, and thirsting for his blood, when God, the searcher of hearts, knew how earnestly he had laboured, how fervently he had prayed, to avert the impending judgments from them. Therefore, in just indignation, he imprecates upon them the vengeance which they had provoked; that death in every tremendous shape might seize both young and old, and their widows, bereaved of husbands and children together, lament the fearful ravages which they beheld; that shrieks and cries might fill the houses, when the enemy, suddenly entering at the breach, massacred and plundered without pity or remorse: for this would be but the just retaliation for the snares that they laid to murder him, which, however secret, God knew and would avenge. Their sin was now unpardonable; he that had often prayed for them, now abandons them to their ruin; not in a spirit of revenge desiring their misery, but in zeal for God's glory, to see that vindicated, waiting their final overthrow, and expecting and desiring that God would deal with them in the time of his anger according to the denunciations which, as his prophet, he had delivered. Note; (1.) Jeremiah was a type of Jesus, thus basely reviled, ungratefully persecuted, and all his prayers returned with blasphemies. (2.) What Jeremiah spoke in the spirit of prophesy must not be pleaded as an example for our imitation. We must pray for those that persecute us, if peradventure God may yet give them repentance. (3.) The persecutors of his prophets will find at last an avenging God; and woe to them against whom those abused ministers of grace stand up to bear witness in a judgment-day!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 18". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13