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

19:1.  “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 priests;”


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 doom.


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,”


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.


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.”


“... 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.


19:4.  “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.


19:5.  “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.”


Molech wasn’t 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).


Aaron’s sons 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.


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.”


Tophet means 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.


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.”


“... 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.


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.”


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.


19:9.  “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.”


This prediction 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 Great Tribulation.


19:10.  “Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee,”


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 Topheth till there be no place to bury.”


The dreadful 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.


19:12.  “Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet:”


Jerusalem, lying 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.


The brazen wickedness of today’s world is impelled by a similar false confidence: an occasional hour in “church” absolves from all penalty.


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.”


The inhabitants 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 rot.


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,”


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.”


What Jeremiah had already communicated to the leaders he now announced to all the people.


This 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.

[Jeremiah 20]


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