Thursday, February 28, 2013

Notes on Jeremiah 18-20

The Potter and the Clay (Jeremiah 18)
This chapter contains another object lesson for the prophet (cf. 13:1-11).

-In 18:1-4 Jeremiah is told to go to the house of a potter and observe. He saw the potter take a spoiled piece of clay and rework it.
-In 18:5-11 he learns the meaning of this object lesson. Israel is clay in the potter’s hand, and if spoiled can be destroyed (cf. 1:10). However, if the nation repents, God will relent.
-18:12-17 explain how the people respond to such warnings: “This is in vain!” Indeed, Israel has committed the unprecedented sin of forgetting their own God and veering off track to worship other gods (cf. 2:11). And so God will turn His back on His people.
-Not only do the people reject God’s word, in 18:18 we learn that they are plotting against Jeremiah. The three classes of people who should have been leading the people in the way of the Lord (priests, wise men, prophets) are in fact failing the people. This leads to another of Jeremiah’s laments (18:19-23).

The Broken Flask (Jeremiah 19)
Jer. 19 contains another object lesson involving pottery.

-In 19:1, Jeremiah is told to purchase an earthenware flask (Heb. baqbuq), and take it to the leaders of the people in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (the southern boundary of Jerusalem). In verse 10, Jeremiah is told to break the flask, and you can probably guess what this means!
-In 19:2-9 the Lord tells the people that this valley will be renamed “the Valley of Slaughter”, as the people fall by the sword before their enemies. This will happen because the people have committed the gross sins of idolatry, murder, and child sacrifice. And so the Lord will “make void” (Heb. baqqoti) their plans, probably a pun with the word for flask in v. 1. So great will be the calamity that the people will be reduced to cannibalism (see Deut. 28:53; 2 Kings 6:24-31; Jer. 52:6).
-In 19:10-15 Jeremiah breaks the flask to act out how God will break the people. This was apparently done in the temple area itself (cf. the sermon in Jer. 7, and the Lord’s actions in the temple in Matt. 21:12-17).

The Persecution of Pashhur (Jeremiah 20)
Throughout the book we have seen warnings about plots against Jeremiah. Here for the first time he is actually harmed.

-In 19:1-2 Jeremiah is arrested and beaten by a priest named Pashhur (cf. 1 Chron. 9:12; not to be confused with the Passhur in 21:1).
-When Jeremiah was released, he told him that his name would no longer be “Pashhur,” but Magor-Missabib, which means “Terror on Every Side” (19:3-6). Further, the city would be plundered by the Babylonians (named for the first time), and Pashhur and all the people would be carried off to Babylon.
-The final section of this chapter (20:7-18) contains another of Jeremiah’s laments. As is typical of this sort of prayer, the mood ebbs and flows from despair to hope. In 20:7-10 Jeremiah accuses the Lord of deceiving him and prevailing against him, perhaps by giving him an impossible task. Yet Jeremiah feels compelled to speak God’s word, even though his opponents say that Jeremiah is the one who has “Terror on Every Side,” and hope that Jeremiah be deceived and overcome (cf. v. 7). In 20:11-13, Jeremiah feels confident that the Lord will fight for him and take vengeance on his enemies (cf. 11:20). But the chapter concludes with utter despair (20:14-18), in language reminiscent of Ecc. 5:3-5 or Job 3. The book began with the Lord saying He had plans for Jeremiah while he was in the womb (1:5). Now Jeremiah wishes he had died in the womb!


  1. Thanks for sharing your notes. I was interested in your thoughts on Jeremiah's lament in chapter 20. When I studied this before I was taken aback by J.B. Coffman's thoughts:

    "That Jeremiah indeed, during his torture at the hands of Pashhur, felt deserted even by God Himself could not be called a sin; for the Holy Christ himself cried from the Cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? But the solemn imprecations and curses leveled against the day he was born, which was a blessing, and a day of rejoicing, must fall into the category of sinful words which every thoughtful person must deplore. Still, we are sure that God forgave him."

    I believe Coffman goes too far here in rendering judgment on Jeremiah. Like yourself, I find similar words of despair voiced by other faithful men (although I think you meant Ecc. 6:3-5 instead of 5:3-5).

  2. Hey buddy
    I agree with you. The Psalms contain similar language as well. I think it is reassuring to know that God wants us to pour out our heart to Him, even when at times the hurt is overwhelming.