Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“Thus saith the Lord, Go and get a potter’s earthen bottle (jar), and take of
the ancients (elders) of the people, and of the ancients (elders) of the
It is generally
accepted that these leaders were the Sanhedrin or governing council of that
day, made up of priests and tribal rulers.
In chapter 18
the vessel was marred while the clay was still wet and pliable on the wheel so
that the potter could reshape it; but here it was baked and hardened, and
therefore impossible to reshape. That baked vessel was a most appropriate
figure of what Judah had become: hardened against God, and therefore fit only
to be smashed and cast away as worthless.
As is made clear
in verses 10 and 11, the earthen jar represents rebellious Judah; and the
command to Jeremiah to take with him the elders of the people and the priests
to see the smashing of the jar, is simply the announcement of the fact that
God was assuring the leaders of the people that the threatened judgment was
unavoidable: their failure to repent in God’s time had sealed the nation’s
“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,”
The valley of
Hinnom, or “the valley of the son of Hinnom,” lying south and west of
Jerusalem was associated in Jeremiah’s time with the worship of Molech, and
the continual fires burning there in connection with its later use as a place
for the burning of the bodies of criminals, animals, and waste in general,
eventually led to its being regarded as a figure of hell, the Latin name
Gehenna being the basis in fact for the common English name of hell.
Its being “by
the entry of the east gate” has a further bad connotation, for in Scripture
the east is always associated with sin and departure from God.
“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
“... this place”
is Jerusalem, God’s destruction of which was warranted by the evil things
Judah did in the valley of Hinnom, the impending judgment upon Judah and
Jerusalem being so terrible that the very account of it would cause the ears
of the hearers to figuratively tingle.
“Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged (desecrated) 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;”
As noted above,
the valley of
Hinnom was the place where they worshiped Molech,
“the blood of innocents”referring to the terrible practice of burning their
own children in sacrifice, the numbers of those sacrifices being indicated by
the alternative translation of the latter part of the verse “have drenched
this valley with the blood of innocents.”
Were it not
recorded in Scripture it would be impossible to believe that those who had
once worshiped Jehovah could have departed so far from Him as to do something
as cruel and vile as this. Yet the vast majority of those who constitute
Christendom today are doing the same thing; they too are worshiping idols:
money, pleasure, education, sex being but four of the many false gods before
whom they bow. And they too are guilty of virtually burning their children in
connection with the worship of these present-day idols, for their failure to
teach their children the knowledge of God, dooms the vast majority of those
children to die unconverted, and thus suffer eternally in the unquenchable
flame of the terrible lake of fire. How accurately our twenty-first century
world is depicted in the conduct of ancient Israel and Judah, whose
destruction at God’s hand is simply the foreshadowing of the now imminent
Tribulation judgments that are about to consume this present evil world.
“They have built also the high places (shrines) 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.”
the only false god worshiped. They had built shrines for the worship of
numerous idols, and were burning their infant sons alive in sacrifice to these
imaginary gods! The depths of depravity to which men estranged form God may
sink surpasses the wildest vagary of imagination.
God had never
commanded Israel or Judah to offer human sacrifices, but the monstrous crime
appears to have been impelled by the activity of man’s corrupt mind reasoning
that if the prescribed animal sacrifices were good, then human sacrifice was
better. There is always terrible danger in going beyond what God commands, or
in doing what He hasn’t commanded. Moses, for example, was forbidden to enter
Canaan because having been commanded to strike the rock once in Ex
17:6, but simply to speak to it on the second occasion Nu 20:7-13, he
went beyond what had been commanded and struck it. (Moses’ disobedience
spoiled one of God’s types, for the rock stricken once is a figure of Christ’s
being smitten at Calvary, and Moses’ striking the rock the second time was
implying typologically that Christ could die twice).
Nadab and Abihu were also stricken dead for taking fire for their censers from
a place other than the alter of burnt offering, Le 10:1-2 their sin being that
they acted without having been commanded by God to do so.
“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
a spitting (as an object of contempt), the name presumably pointing to the
contempt brought upon God’s name by Judah’s idolatry in that valley; but He
was about to execute judgment that would destroy the offenders, end the
contempt, vindicate His name, and cause it to be glorified amongst the heathen
who would witness His destruction of those who had held Him up to contempt.
Nor would the
place continue to be called The valley of the son of Hinnom. All previous
names would be forgotten in view of the terrible slaughter about to take place
in that same valley where apostate Judah had so dishonored Him. Slain by the
Babylonians whom He would bring against His rebellious people, their carcases
would lie in the valley unburied to become food for wild animals and birds of
prey. (Hinnom, incidentally means to make self drowsy: behold them).
Judah’s activity in that valley had indeed made her drowsy spiritually, but
she was about to experience a terrible awakening, first in hell, and then
eternally in the lake of fire, beheld for ever by angels, saints, demons, and
sinners like herself, as a testimony to the awful folly of trifling with God.
“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.”
“... make void”
is also translated “empty out; pour away; drain,” the thought expressed being
that God was about to pour as out of an earthen jar, all Judah’s plans and
hopes, and to deprive her of the ability to understand wisdom, i.e., His Word;
the empty jar, Judah, then being smashed to pieces by Babylon.
“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.”
Jerusalem would become such a desolation as to evoke
the amazement and derision of all who beheld the ruin of the once beautiful
city. The imminent Tribulation judgments will leave today’s evil world a
scene of similar destruction.
“And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their
daughters, and they shall eat everyone the flesh of his friend in the siege
and straitness (confinement, disability), wherewith their enemies, and they
that seek their lives, shall straiten (oppress, distress) them.”
was fulfilled to the letter during the siege of the city by the Babylonians,
and again in the Roman siege in AD 70; as it will possibly be also in the
“Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee,”
“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 Topheth till there be no place
finality of the judgment that would destroy both the city and that wicked
generation of Judah is demonstrated in the impossibility of ever remaking the
smashed earthen vessel used to represent them. The slaughter would be so
great as to make normal burial impossible: the corpses would simply be thrown
into the valley of Topheth (Hinnom), the scene of their idolatry and
immolation of their infants to Molech.
A more horrible
scene is difficult to imagine; but he is spiritually blind who fails to see in
the rotting bodies of the former idolaters lying amongst the idols they had
once worshiped, a dramatic picture of the end of every unbeliever.
“Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants
thereof, and even make this city as Tophet:”
in ruins, and filled with rotting corpses, would be also a virtual Tophet,
having been also the scene of the hypocritical travesty to which the worship
of Jehovah had been reduced by the people of Judah, their foolish belief being
that the maintenance of that empty religious Temple ritual absolved them from
all guilt, enabling them to sin with impunity.
wickedness of today’s world is impelled by a similar false confidence: an
occasional hour in “church” absolves from all penalty.
“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.”
of Jerusalem not only worshiped the idols in the valley of Tophet (Hinnom),
they also worshiped the sun, moon, and stars from their own rooftops, setting
up altars there upon which to burn incense and offer drink offerings to these
imaginary gods. It was for this that their houses, which they themselves had
defiled by their idolatry, would be defiled by God’s causing them to die in
their houses by the sword of the enemy, and their corpses being left there to
“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,”
“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
had already communicated to the leaders he now announced to all the people.
introduction to the prophet’s message “... the Lord of hosts, the God of
Israel” should have left the people in no doubt of the ability of Jehovah to
execute every threat uttered; but a people long accustomed to sin, and having
rejected the knowledge of Him recorded in their own Scriptures, had neither
eyes to see nor ears to hear, so that they must perish.
So is it with
today’s Christendom. She too has spurned the knowledge of God, and must
therefore also perish in the coming Great Tribulation.