For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough 

18:1.  “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,”


18:2.  “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.”


Jeremiah may have wondered why it was necessary for him to go to the potter’s house to receive a message from God, but as the sequel discloses the truth of the message was emphasized far more dramatically by what happened there than it would have been if conveyed simply in words.  This confirms the need of looking beyond the literal language of the OT in an effort to find the deeper spiritual truth being conveyed in its typological language.


18:3.  “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.”


18:4.  “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”


The potter shaping the lump of clay is clearly a type of God Himself working with Judah which is portrayed here under the figure of clay in the hand of the potter.  The vessel that became marred while the potter was shaping it, is a type of Judah become marred and corrupted through idolatry and countless other sins; but it is to be remembered that the marred lump of clay represents that generation of Judah addressed by the prophet, and that was about to be destroyed. 


The same lump of clay taken off the wheel represents that present generation of Judah about to be taken off the wheel of time and carried away in death.  Its removal from the wheel, and its return to the potter’s hands, represents the end of God’s dealings with that particular generation; but his putting it back on the wheel portrays His taking up another generation of Judah, out of which He will yet make another perfect vessel, that vessel being the repentant believing remnant that will emerge from the Great Tribulation as the new Israel that will inherit millennial blessing.


18:5.  “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,”


18:6.  “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?  saith the Lord.  Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”


The prophet was to remind that generation of Judah that rebellion against God was utter folly, for their refusal to be obedient and therefore blessed, made them the objects of His righteous anger, but in no way hindered Him from taking up another generation that would be obedient, thereby glorifying Him, and making themselves the heirs of eternal blessing.


18:7.  “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;”


18:8.  “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.”


This is the simple declaration of the fact that all a nation or an individual has to do to avoid becoming the object of God’s judgment is to heed His warning, repent, and forsake the sin that has provoked His anger; but it is to be noted that the repentance must come within the time that God has allotted.  Repentance delayed beyond that time limit is worthless, as it is written, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3, and again, “He, that being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.  Rebellious Judah had crossed over that invisible line, and had thereby sealed her doom.


Relative to God’s repenting, the mention of it is an anthropopathism, i.e., the ascription of human passions or feeling to a thing or being not human, e.g., God.  He never has to repent, for the need of repentance implies a former wrong judgment, something impossible to the omniscient God.  His perfect foreknowledge of all things renders impossible His ever making a wrong judgment.


18:9.  “And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;”


18:10.  “If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”


This is the converse of the predication discussed above.  Even though God may have spoken good concerning a nation, it has to be always understood that blessing is contingent on obedience.  Disobedience nullifies every Divine promise of blessing.


18:11.  “Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Behold I frame (am preparing) evil against you, and devise a device (preparing a plan) against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.”


This has to be understood in context.  It does not mean that that generation of Judah might even at that late date have saved themselves by repenting.  As discussed already it was too late to save themselves from physical destruction, but those individuals who would repent would save their souls, and undoubtedly some of them did.  An example of such salvation is that of the convicted murderer awaiting execution, who repents and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, thereby ensuring the salvation of his soul, but not delivering him from having to die physically, the legal penalty of his crime.


18:12.  “And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.”


“And they said ...” is used here, not as the declaration of something already said, but as the expression of what God foreknew would be their response.  The people would ignore the warning, mock God’s messenger, and continue to live according to the dictates of their own evil minds, until the moment when the foretold judgment overtook them - when escape would be impossible, and repentance worthless because coming too late.


18:13.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.”


Not even the heathen were guilty of dishonoring their imaginary gods.  The very thought of doing anything against the perceived wishes of those gods would have struck terror into the hearts of their votarists; yet Israel, whom God had espoused to Himself to be His bride, had no compunction about impudently treating Him with contempt, and thus exposing Him to the contempt of the heathen.


18:14.  “Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field?  or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?”


Judah’s madness is likened to that of a man who would be so foolish as to depart from the fertile land of the plains at the foot of Lebanon, the melting snow of which furnished an unfailing supply of clear cold water for that land. 


“... the rock of the field” is a synonym for Lebanon which is here likened to a rock rising up in the middle of a field; and the “waters that come from another place,” i.e., Lebanon’s waters coming from “another place,” the mountain sides, in sharp contrast with those from the usual place: the other streams which dried up in summer when the water was most needed.


The mighty Lebanon mountains are a figure of the eternal omnipotent God; and their never failing supply of water, a type of His assured blessings poured out on all who obey His “good, and acceptable, and perfect” will.


18:15.  “Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;”


Judah had forgotten God and all His past goodness, and had turned aside from the path of obedience to give to idols - mere figments of their evil imaginations - the worship that belonged to Jehovah alone.  Judah’s idolatry was worse than that of the heathen because Israel was the only nation that had been given the knowledge of God, and she had deliberately chosen to abandon that knowledge.


It is unclear whether the “they (who) caused them to stumble” were the idols, their own wicked minds, or their evil prophets and priests, and the matter isn’t important, though it seems that the reference is to their own evil prophets and priests.  What was a matter of life or death was that they had forsaken God Who had the power to bless or destroy them eternally.


“... in a way not cast up” was a bypath instead of a constructed or well marked highway, the highway being a type of the way laid down in Scripture; and the bypath, a type of the way which sinful men prefer to that way of righteousness.


18:16.  “To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; everyone that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.”


The people’s disobedience would cut off God’s blessing so that their land would become a desolate waste that would cause any who passed through it to be horror-struck, or to express their derision of the people whose sin had caused Jehovah to send such destruction.


“... perpetual” as used here usually means “for ever,” and is therefore hard to understand in view of the fact that in the Millennium the land is to be exceedingly fruitful.  The meaning therefore may be that the hissing will continue until the end of this age, the Millennium being as it were the prelude to the eternal state in which there will be a new heavens and a new earth.


18:17.  “I will scatter them as with an (the) east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back and not the face, in the day of their calamity.”


The east wind mentioned here was the dreaded destructive scorching Sirocco that blew in from the desert, and it is used here to portray the devastation that would result from the invasion of the land by the Babylonians.  Desolation and death would lie everywhere in their wake.  And as Judah had turned their backs upon God when He had blessed them, so would He turn His back to them when their continued rebellion compelled Him to exchange judgment for blessing. 


The lesson in this is that he who fails to repent and avail himself of God’s mercy within God’s allotted time, dooms himself irrevocably to eternal destruction.


18:18.  “Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law  shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet.  Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.”


The first part of this verse is also translated, “Let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah,” “Let us get rid of Jeremiah,” and the second part, “We shall not fail to get advice about it from the priests;, or counsel from the sages, or some inspiration from the prophets,” “The priest will not run short of instruction without him, nor the sage of advice, nor the prophet of the word,” “We have our own priests and wise men and prophets,” “There will still be priests to guide us, still wise men to advise, still prophets to proclaim the word.”


The second sentence is also translated, “Let us make use of his words for an attack on him,” “Let us hit him with his own tongue; let us listen carefully to every word he says,” “Let us smite him with the tongue, making a charge against him to the king, and let us not pay any attention to his words,” “Let us invent some charges against him....”


No spiritual mind will have difficulty seeing in this the foreshadowing of the evil plotting of the Jewish rulers against the Lord Jesus Christ.


18:19.  “Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.”


These are the words of Jeremiah imploring the Lord to take note of the evil being plotted against him for no other reason than that he had been faithful in proclaiming God’s truth to the sinful people, as was the Lord Jesus Christ in a later day.


18:20.  “Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul.  Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.”


He pleads that their purposed evil against him might not be permitted since he had never sought anything for them except good, and he reminds the Lord how he had pleaded on their behalf that the judgment purposed against them might be withheld.  This surely recalls the Lord’s cry from the cross on behalf of His tormentors and murderers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Lk 23:34.


18:21.  “Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.”


Everything Jeremiah prayed for was granted in terrible measure when the Babylonians invaded the land; and when this age of grace is succeeded by the seven year Tribulation era which will conclude the age of law that has been interrupted by the past two thousand years of grace, there will be the same awful requittal of rebellion against God.


18:22.  “Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet.”


18:23.  “Yet, Lord, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.”


This continues to portray the dramatic difference between what was fitting for the age of law, and what is appropriate to this age of grace, see Mt 5:43-48.


The cry that was soon to ring out from their houses was that of terror and lamentation as they found themselves brought face to face with death at the hand of the merciless Babylonians.  What they had planned for God’s servant came upon themselves in far more terrible measure than they could ever have imagined.  And so will it be with every sinner who dies unrepentant, the cries of terror first uttered on their departure from earth and arrival in hell, will echo eternally in the terrible torment of the lake of fire.

[Jeremiah 19]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough