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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah 13

This thirteenth chapter is complete in itself, and has no direct dependence on what immediately precedes. The mention of the queen-mother in Jeremiah 13:18 (not “queen,” as in the common Version) is favourable to the view that this prophecy dates in the reign of Jehoiachin, who, being a mere child, sat on the throne for three months, while probably the government was actually administered by his mother Nehushta. See 2 Chronicles 36:9, and 2 Kings 24:8. But inasmuch as this was a not uncommon arrangement, (1 Kings 12:13; 2 Kings 10:13, etc.,) this test of the date is by no means conclusive. The consideration of arrangement and of subject-matter is in favour of assigning this chapter to the same general period with the two last preceding.

The great question which confronts us in its interpretation respects the passage whose subject is the linen girdle. Is it historical or simply allegorical? Did the prophet actually do what is ascribed to him, or was this only in inward vision, as Calvin, Rosenmuller, Graf, and others, hold? The chief objection to regarding it as historical is the improbability “that Jeremiah should have twice made a journey to the Euphrates merely to prove that a linen girdle, if it lie long in the damp, becomes spoiled, a thing he could have done much nearer home, and which, besides, everybody knew without experiment.” The distance from Jerusalem to the Euphrates was about two hundred and fifty miles, and for each journey and return nearly a month would be needed. That such a wasteful expenditure of time and life should be made for a result which, when reached, would be a mere symbol, is, as is alleged, improbable and absurd. But this improbability rests upon several unwarrantable assumptions: 1) That Jeremiah was in the vicinity of Jerusalem at the time when he received this command. This, though probable, is by no means certain; especially if, as many believe, this prophecy belongs to the period of Jehoiachin. It is more than possible that Jeremiah was in enforced or voluntary exile from Jerusalem. 2) That two journeys were made from Jerusalem. Even if Jeremiah was at Jerusalem when he first received the command, it is neither stated nor intimated that he returned there after first leaving the girdle. There is no reason why he may not have remained in the vicinity awaiting his Lord’s further commands. 3) That such a journey, if taken, was unnecessary and useless. Even if two such journeys were made, as a means of securing a standing ground from which to deliver the prophecy, who may characterize the expenditure as wasteful and unnecessary? We must not apply the paltry measures of this world to the things of God’s government over men. There are ways of speaking more effectively than by mere words. Such a journey as this, might set before the people the impending ruin as mere words could not do. 4) That the place the Euphrates had no special significance in this symbolism. On the contrary, it was essential. The soiled girdle is not more really significant.

On the whole, then, we conclude that the alleged improbability may not be assumed, and that the considerations bearing against a literal interpretation are inconclusive. The journey of this one man to the Euphrates would not be in vain if it should help to turn to profitable spiritual account the same weary journey of the whole people.

Verse 1

1. Linen girdle “Linen,” as being the appointed dress of the priestly order, and so appropriately symbolical of God’s holy people whom he had selected for his service.

Put it not in water That is, do not wash it, but carry it a soiled and filthy thing, and hence fitly symbolical of a people covered with the filth of their sins.

Verse 4

4. Euphrates The future scene of the captivity. In most other places in the Bible (Jeremiah 51:63; 2 Chronicles 35:20, and perhaps Genesis 2:14, being the only exceptions) this name is associated with Nahar, ( נהר ,) hence some have conjectured that the name is here used in a special sense. For instance, some have conjectured that it is used for Ephrath Bethlehem, with the first weak letter omitted, so that the command would be, Go to Bethlehem. But this is violent and without warrant, and misses the significance of the locality. Ewald conjectures that the word is from the Arabic for water-fissure; “a view,” says Keil, “requiring no serious refutation.”

Verse 7

7. Digged Showing that Jeremiah had filled in with gravel or earth above the girdle, and so concealed it.

Verse 9

9. Mar the pride of Judah This was fulfilled in her physical decay the loss of her temporal greatness.

Verse 10

10. Good for nothing In themselves, and to outward appearance, but really more fit for God’s high purposes than before. Their political existence was virtually terminated; but as instruments of preparation for the coming reign of Messiah they were still to serve an important use.

Verse 11

11. A people… a name… a praise… a glory Observe again here, as in so many other places, the piling up of epithets, as if language must be taxed to the utmost to express what this people are to God. This mode of expressing emphasis illustrates the genius of the Hebrew language, and is specially characteristic of Jeremiah.

Verse 12

12. Every bottle Rather, jar. The same term is used in Isaiah 30:14, and is rendered potter’s vessel. This remark is in the form of a proverb, as if the more certainly to arrest attention.

Verse 13

13. Kings, etc. Four kings in succession were destroyed in the downfall of Jerusalem.

Drunkenness Such impotence as comes from “the wine of the wrath of God.”

Verse 14

14. Dash them one against another See Psalms 2:9, and Revelation 2:27. Not civil war, but indiscriminate destruction, is here foretold.

Verse 15

15. Hear ye, etc. The earnest words of the prophet entreating attention.

Be not proud Because pride would keep them from profiting by the humbling lessons he had given.

Verse 16

16. Before he cause darkness Make haste to seize the path of safety, lest nightfall overtake you and make it impossible.

Dark mountains Literally, mountains of twilight; a double metaphor, suggesting in one figure sin and danger. Mountains were apt to be dangerous to travel, and in the gloom of gathering night especially so.

He turn it into the shadow of death For this is not the twilight which grows into day, but that which goes out in utter darkness.

Verse 17

17. My soul shall weep in secret places Most characteristic language! In it how clearly do we see reflected the heart of this man of God! A true “jeremiad” is not so much the language of gloom and hopelessness as of tenderness and earnest remonstrance. “Secret places” may, perhaps, suggest the present enforced privacy of the prophet.

Verse 18

18. Queen Rather, queen-mother. It seems to have been the custom among many Oriental peoples for the king’s mother to take precedence of his wife.

Principalities The marginal reading is better, your head-tires, even the crown of your glory, shall come down.

Verse 19

19. Cities of the south The region south of Jerusalem.

Shut up Not necessarily by siege, nor by ruins which shall block up the entrances, but by being uninhabited.

2 0

Lift up The verb is feminine, indicating Jerusalem as the object of address. The flock are the dependent cities lying about her.

Verse 21

21. When he shall punish thee This verse should read: What wilt thou (Jerusalem) say if he (Jehovah) shall set over thee, for a head, those whom thou accustomed to be thy bosom friends? The word “punish,” in our version, is quite incorrect. The thought is: You cannot complain of the divinely appointed visitation of these heathen enemies, since you have courted their intimacy.

Verse 22

22. Skirts discovered Lifted so as to expose the person, expressive of ignominy and shame.

Heels made bare Driven into exile as captives and slaves, barefoot and with violence.

Verse 23

23. The hopelessness of Judah’s case consists in the fact that her sin has become her nature. Her momentum in evil is practically resistless. But with God all things are possible.

Verse 24

24. Stubble The broken straw which has to be separated from the wheat after the threshing.

Verses 25-27

25-27. A fearfully vivid statement of the apostasy and idolatry of the people, especially as to the unclean and debasing rites of that idolatry.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/jeremiah-13.html. 1874-1909.