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Jeremiah, Chapter 19
The Sign of the Broken Vessel
The Smashed Potter's Vessel
The feature of this little chapter is the indisputable and irreversible cancellation of the status of national Israel as God's Chosen People, a status which, by their wickedness, they forfeited to the New Israel in whom all the glorious prophecies of the fathers would be fulfilled.
It is the parable of the smashed potter's vessel. Chapter 18 revealed God's patience and ability to put up with the imperfections of the clay; but this Chapter brings a far different lesson. It is no longer possible for even the LORD to work with hardhearted, stubborn Israel.
The symbol here is a potter's vessel; one that has been fired and hardened, a perfect symbol of the hardening of Israel, which, as Isaiah stated, had already taken place a full century before Jeremiah came upon the scene (Isa.6).
It was a new vessel, one just purchased, which means that it was empty, which indicated the fact of the emptiness of sinful Israel and their total failure to produce the righteous works that God wanted from them.
The shattering of the vessel symbolized the divorce and casting off of Israel as God's wife and as God's chosen people. There was no way by which such a shattered vessel could be mended or repaired, symbolizing the final, total and irreversible nature of Israel's rejection . . . with one exception, that being the righteous remnant destined to form the New Israel in the Kingdom of the Messiah.
Laden with such a terrible message, the events recorded here resulted in bitter persecution for Jeremiah; and Satan still releases his blasphemies against what is written here, saying that it is not written in Jeremiah's style.
The same sad theme is also the subject of this chapter that was of those before, the approaching ruin of Judah and Jerusalem for their sins. Jeremiah had so often foretold this, and here he has specific full orders to foretell it again. (1). He must set their sins in order before them, as he had often done, especially their idolatry (Jer.19:4-5). (2). He must describe the precise judgments which would now come quickly upon them for these sins (Jer.19:6-9). (3). He must do this in the valley of Hinnom, with great seriousness, and for some specific reasons (Jer.19:2-3). (4). He must summon a company of the elders together to be witnesses of this (Jer.19:1). (5). He must confirm this, and try to affect his hearers with it, by a sign, which was the breaking of an earthen bottle, telling them that they would be dashed to pieces just like a potter's vessel (Jer.19:10-13). (6). When he had done this in the valley of Hinnom, he ratified it in the court of the Temple (Jer.19:14-15). So, the LORD had tried all likely means to awaken this stupid, senseless people to repent, that their ruin might be prevented; but all in vain.
In the first verse of chapter 19, the LORD sends Jeremiah to get an earthen bottle from the potter, and tells him to take elders of the people and of the priests with him as witnesses.
Jeremiah Must Summon the Elders Together
To Be Witnesses of This (Jer.19:1)
Jer. 19:1 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; (KJV)
Go and get a potter's earthen bottle . . . this speech was also delivered sometime in the reign of Jehoiakim. By breaking a potter's earthen bottle or jug, Jeremiah shows his enemies that the Word of the LORD would stand, and that Jerusalem would be taken and ruined, and they all would be carried into captivity. The prophets often taught by symbolic actions as well as by words.
And take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests . . . the ancients of the priests . . . of which there were twenty-four classes which David had established (1 Chron.24:4).
He Must Do This in the Valley of Hinnom,
For Some Specific Reasons (Jer.19:2-3)
Jer. 19:2 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, (KJV)
And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom . . . we shall soon hear why the LORD commanded Jeremiah to go there, rather than to another place, to break this earthen pot. The valley of the son of Hinnom was at this time the place where the horrible worship of Moloch was conducted. The valley was very close to Jerusalem, of which one Hinnom was owner in Joshua's time (Jos.15:8; 18:16). The valley is in Scripture sometimes called Ge-hinnom, from where came the Greek word Gehenna, used by our Saviour for Hell, (Mat.5:22), because of the horrendous torments they there put their children to when they sacrificed them, and of the horrifying screamss they made.
Which is by the entry of the east gate . . . in the Hebrew it is, the sun gate, so called because the sun rises in the east. This valley is said to have lain very near this gate;
And proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee . . . it was there that Jeremiah is commanded to go, and there to proclaim the following words.
Jer. 19:3 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. (KJV)
The LORD wants all thee inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem to hear what Jeremiah is going to say and see what he was about to do.
Behold, I will bring evil upon this place . . . a very great evil (1 Sam.3:11; 2 Ki.21:12).
The which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle . . . this suggests such a shock as when we hear a clap of thunder so close that our head rings and our ears tingle. The destruction that was coming to Israel will be the kind of judgment that will get the full attention of those who are totally unconcerned.
He Must Set their Sins in Order before Them,
Especially Their Idolatry (Jer.19:4-5)
Jer. 19:4 Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; (KJV)
Because they have forsaken me . . . the laws, statutes, and ordinances which God had given them, which directed them both in their religious behavior towards Him, and in their civil lifestyle.
And have estranged this place . . . meaning either the city, or the Temple, which stood close to this valley, or this precise valley, which they had used quite opposite to what God gave it to them for . . . for in it they had paid a religious reverence to idols, strange idols which their fathers knew not, and had filled that place with the blood of those that did not deserve death, either innocent men, or children, that they had there sacrificed to idols; of which he later speaks more specific.
Jer. 19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: (KJV)
They have built also the high places of Baal . . . (Num.22:41)
To burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal . . . the sin in general was idolatry, but a most barbarous and horrific type of it, is mentioned also in:
Jer. 7:31-32 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. 32 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place. (KJV)
Which I commanded not nor spake it . . . Lev. 18:21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. (KJV)
Neither came it into my mind . . . of this barbarous and horrible idolatry God said, he commanded them not, neither came it into his mind. This was so far from it, that God had severely forbid it (Lev.20:2-5), making it a capital crime for any to do it, and for any to conceal others that they knew did it.
Jer. 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (KJV)
This verse and the next one, contains this horrendous sin of these people, along with the punishment which God thought equal to it. He had warned, begged and pleaded, but their hearts would not surrender to Him. The clay had resisted the Hand of the Great Potter for way too long. Very soon the enemy would come and shatter the nation in pieces.
*****Jer. 19:4-5. Because of these things, God says that the valley of the son of Hinnom would soon be known as the valley of slaughter, because as they had killed their children as offerings to Baal and Moloch, God would allow their enemies to kill them there (vs. 6-9). After pronouncing this dreadful judgment on the people of Jerusalem, the LORD instructed Jeremiah to break the clay bottle in the sight of the witnesses.
Jer. 19:6 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter. (KJV)
For the LORD, by His prophet, threatened that this place, anciently in Joshua's time, called The valley of the son of Hinnom, and more recently Tophet, from the noise of drums and tabrets there, while children were burning, would have a new name, and be called The valley of slaughter, because of the multitude of dead bodies that there would be there after the taking of the city, they would be slain and thrown into this valley. It was explained: Jer. 7:32-34 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place. 33 And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away. 34 Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate. (KJV)
He Must Describe the Judgments which now were about to
Quickly come Upon Them for These Sins (Jer.19:6-9)
Jer. 19:7 And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. (KJV)
And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place . . . God would frustrate all their little plans and strategies to avoid His judgments; He will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and there shall be no way of escape for them.
Jer. 16:4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. (KJV)
Jer. 34:20 I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth. (KJV)
Eze. 29:5 And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven. (KJV)
Jer. 19:8 And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof. (KJV)
This is as we had before, and shall see again (Jer.9:9-11; 18:16; 25:18; 49:13; Jer.50:13).
Men's honor and reputation is usually very dear to them, and it was especially so to the Jews, who valued themselves highly on the reputation of their city, their Temple and especially the security they promised themselves from their right in the Holy City and land. The LORD tells them that He will now make them a contempt and ridicule. His terrifying wrath and vengeance He would execute upon them, because His loving kindness and mercy was rejected when they were warned, over and over again, to cast away their sin, repent and return to Him.
Jer. 19:9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them. (KJV)
This was the miserable effects or consequents of the famine with which God had often before threatened them, the just fulfilling of God's Word threatened cannibalism (Lev.26:29; Deut.28:53-57; Jer.19:9; Lam. 2:20; 4:10; Eze.5:10).
Cannibalism is mentioned in the Bible, although there is no direct statement such as, Thou shalt not eat human flesh, the obvious indication from Scripture is that cannibalism is a terrible evil.
He Must Confirm and try to Affect the, by a Sign,
That They Should Be Ruined Like a Potter's Vessel (Jer.19:10-13)
Jer. 19:10 Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee, (KJV)
After Jeremiah had brought the words that the LORD had given him, the earthen bottle (Jer.19:1), he was commanded to carry with him into the valley of the son of Hinnom, where he now was, in the sight of the ancients the priests, Jeremiah was supposed to break the bottle. This symbolical teaching by signs was used much by the prophets.
Jer. 19:11 And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. (KJV)
The LORD of hosts . . . the LORD of armies, this is very properly used here, to let them know that Jeremiah said nothing with his mouth except what he had power by the LORD’S Hand to accomplish, for He indeed is the General of all the armies of His creatures. God, by ordering the prophet to carry no other vessel but one made of earth, had a plan, that upon the breaking of it, would not only show them that He would bruise, wound or damage them greatly, but that He would totally destroy them, so there would be no present remedy. If a vessel of brass, silver, gold, were to be broken, it could be fixed, but an earthen vessel, if shattered, cannot be made whole again.
Even so will I break this people and this city . . . breaking of the bottle was the symbolic representation of the destruction of the city and of the state.
As one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again . . . this may refer to the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, rather than to what was done by the Chaldeans. Jerusalem was healed after 70 years: but nearly 1800 years have gone by since Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Romans; and it was then so broken, that it could not be made whole again.
And they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury . . . He tells them that Tophet, which they had made a place of brutal, barbarous slaughter because of the children killed there for idolatrous sacrifices, would continue being a slaughter-house, but this time under God’s Mighty Hand . . . now, them that had committed that wickedness in it, would be so greatly slain there, that they would need more ground to bury dead in.
Isa. 30:14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit. (KJV)
Jeremiah returned from Tophet, or the valley of Hinnom, and went to the court of the LORD'S house and gave these final words.
Jer. 19:12 Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet: defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods. (KJV)
Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet . . . meaning as defiled with dead bodies as Tophet.
Defiled as the place of Tophet . . . a place of slaughter and burials, a sordid, disgraceful place, where the noise of drums, trumpets, crying and screams shall be heard, as used to be in Tophet. Defiled: (Lev.20:3; 21:1-6; Num.19:11, 16, 22).
Jer. 19:13 And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods. (KJV)
Under the Judaic law, persons and places were defiled by touching dead bodies, or any unclean, filthy thing: God threatened in this way to defile Tophet, as it was said before, it would be filled with dead bodies that would not be buried, lying unburied there. He showed that the above-mentioned judgment of filling places with dead bodies would not be restrained just to Tophet in the valley of Hinnom, but would reach to the dwellings in Jerusalem, both their kings' houses, and the common subjects. The cause that provoked the LORD was their idolatry, because they had also brought these idols into their homes. These houses had flat roofs, and although they did not burn children in sacrifice to idols there, they did pour out drink-offerings to the sun, moon, and stars, and to other idols.
*****The symbolic action of shattering the earthen bottle pictured the utter destruction of Judah as a nation and Jerusalem as a city. In those days it was the custom to break a jar if one wanted to show great hatred of another. He came up behind or near the despised person and smashed the vessel to pieces, thus cursing him as a hopeless ruin. The application to Judah is clearly worded in Jer.19:11-13. God was to going to break this people and their city like the earthen bottle broken by Jeremiah. The breaking would be so complete that they could not be made whole again. They would be so utterly destroyed that people would be buried in Tophet until there would be no place left to bury anyone else. Jerusalem was to become like Tophet, with all the houses of the kings and people becoming defiled. The reason given was the burning of incense upon the housetops to the host of heaven and the pouring out of drink offerings to other gods, and not to the LORD.
When He Had Done This in the Valley, He Confirmed
It in the Court of the Temple (Jer.19:14-15)
Jer. 19:14 Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people, (KJV)
Jeremiah had now fulfilled the mission which God had sent him to Tophet; coming back by God's direction, he stands in the court, which was common to all the people, and where most of them might hear.
Jer. 19:15 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words. (KJV)
Jeremiah assured the people that the LORD would absolutely justify all his words, and would absolutely bring to pass all His threats against that city. And for all this, they had no one to thank but themselves for it, for they had hardened their heart to Him and to His warnings, so that all that Jeremiah had said made no impression on them, nor found any place with them.
Horrendous Idolatry in those days
This horrendous form of idolatry was where they made their sons and daughters pass through the fire to Molech; the place where they did it is called Tophet (Jer.19:6), of which also mention is made (Isa.30:33; Jer.7:31-33). As we speak of idolatry, we must understand what is meant by Baal, Moloch, Tophet, and the valley of the son of Hinnom. There is no doubt that Baal and Molech, or Moloch, mean the same thing; Baal means a lord, Molech a king. They ordinarily called their idols by these names; and also Malcham (Zep.1:5); and it was because of this, the LORD would not be called Baal (Hos.2:16), although He was called Jehovah, Elohim, and Adonai, all which meant lord, as Baal did. Both Baal and Molech seem common names to all idols. There was more than one idol in the house of Baal (2 Ki.10:26). The Ammonites called their principal idol Milcom and Molech, as appears from (1 Ki.11:5; 2 Ki.23:13). It was to this idol that they sacrificed their children. It was a very ancient idolatry, as appeared by the very early law of God against it (Lev.20:3-5). Some say it began in the time of Serug, the father of Nahor (Gen.11:20), and that it had its original from the devil, speaking out of the belly of dead people, commanding this reverence, probably in imitation of God, who to try Abraham's obedience, commanded him to offer up Isaac upon the Mount Moriah (Gen.22:2). We must know there were other sacrifices they offered to Baal: they burnt incense to Baal (2 Ki.23:5); they offered sacrifices and burnt-offerings of beasts (1 Ki.18:26; 2 Ki.10:24), and also to show their great obedience to the devil, they offered their children. What creature they worshipped under this name is not certain, but very probably it was the sun, from (2 Ki.23:5), or some superior being, which they owned as their supreme lord and king, which they, some of them, mistook the sun, moon, and stars to be; they being glorious beings removed out of men's knowledge, so as they had no sufficient means to understand their natures, might, considering their motions, and vast influence they had upon all other creatures, mistake them for animate and supreme beings, to which as they paid other tributes, such as swearing by them (Zep.1:5), burning incense, offering beasts, praying to them. So in imitation of the heathens, and in a pretense of high devotion and reverence in special times, they offered their children. Some think they only made them go through the fire, but did not burn them; and indeed so most of the Scriptures express this abominable idolatry; but some Scriptures speak it plain enough, that they actually burned them: Ps. 106:37-38 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, 38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. (KJV) Eze.16:20-21 Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, 21 That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them? (KJV) . . . This can only mean they were killed, burned alive!
We read of the idolatry of Jeroboam, who worshipped the TRUE God, but by calves set up at Dan and Beth-el. Ahab surpassed this, bringing in the worship of the creatures, worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, under the name of Baal. But, the first in Judah, of whom we read that he made his son to pass through the fire, was Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah (2 Ki.16:3). He was followed by his grandchild Manasseh (2 Ki.21:6). Josiah, the good son of a bad father, defiled the place where this abominable idolatry was committed (2 Ki.23:10). The place where they committed this horrible abomination was the valley of the son of Hinnom, very close to the city, and the precise place was called Tophet. There was a high place built for the idol, and many think that the name Tophet came from their use of a drum or tabret, with which, while the poor children were burning, they made great noises to drown the sound of the children's screams; though others think the word Tophet originally signifies Hell, or the place of the damned, of which this place, both for the torments and screaming in it, was a lively representation.
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