By the type of breaking an earthen vessel, Jeremiah is to predict the destruction of Judah.
Verses 1-9 The prophet must give notice of ruin coming upon Judah and Jerusalem. Both rulers and ruled must attend to it. That place which holiness made the joy of the whole earth, sin made the reproach and shame of the whole earth. There is no fleeing from God's justice, but by fleeing to his mercy.
Verses 10-15 The potter's vessel, after it is hardened, can never be pieced again when it is broken. And as the bottle was broken, so shall Judah and Jerusalem be broken by the Chaldeans. No human hand can repair it; but if they return to the Lord he will heal. As they filled Tophet with the slain sacrificed to their idols, so will God fill the whole city with the slain that shall fall as sacrifices to his justice. Whatever men may think, God will appear as terrible against sin and sinners as the Scriptures state; nor shall the unbelief of men make his promise or his threatenings of no effect. The obstinacy of sinners in sinful ways, is their own fault; if they are deaf to the word of God, it is because they have stopped their ears. We have need to pray that God, by his grace, would deliver us from hardness of heart, and contempt of his word and commandments.
Jeremiah 19:1-15 . THE DESOLATION OF THE JEWS FOR THEIR SINS FORETOLD IN THE VALLEY OF HINNOM; THE SYMBOL OF BREAKING A BOTTLE.
Referred by MAURER, &c., to the beginning of Zedekiah's reign.
1. bottle--Hebrew, bakuk, so called from the gurgling sound which it makes when being emptied.
ancients--elders. As witnesses of the symbolic action ( Jeremiah 19:10 , Isaiah 8:1 Isaiah 8:2 ), that the Jews might not afterwards plead ignorance of the prophecy. The seventy-two elders, composing the Sanhedrim, or Great Council, were taken partly from "the priests," partly from the other tribes, that is, "the people," the former presiding over spiritual matters, the latter over civil; the seventy-two represented the whole people.
2. valley of the son of Hinnom--or Tophet, south of Jerusalem, where human victims were offered, and children made to pass through the fire, in honor of Molech.
east gate--Margin, "sun gate," sunrise being in the east. MAURER translates, the "potter's gate." Through it lay the road to the valley of Hinnom ( Joshua 15:8 ). The potters there formed vessels for the use of the temple, which was close by (compare Jeremiah 19:10 Jeremiah 19:14 , Jeremiah 18:2 , Zechariah 11:13 ). The same as "the water gate toward the east" ( Nehemiah 3:26 , 12:37 ); so called from the brook Kedron. CALVIN translates, as English Version and Margin. "It was monstrous perversity to tread the law under foot in so conspicuous a place, over which the sun daily rising reminded them of the light of God's law."
3. The scene of their guilt is chosen as the scene of the denunciation against them.
kings--the king and queen ( Jeremiah 13:18 ); or including the king's counsellors and governors under him.
tingle--as if struck by a thunder peal ( 1 Samuel 3:11 , 2 Kings 21:12 ).
4. ( Isaiah 65:11 ).
estranged this place--devoted it to the worship of strange gods: alienating a portion of the sacred city from God, the rightful Lord of the temple, city, and whole land.
nor their fathers--namely, the godly among them; their ungodly fathers God makes no account of.
blood of innocents--slain in honor of Molech ( Jeremiah 7:31 , Psalms 106:37 ).
5. commanded not--nay, more, I commanded the opposite ( Leviticus 18:21 ; see Jeremiah 7:31 Jeremiah 7:32 ).
6. no more . . . Tophet--from Hebrew, toph, "drum"; for in sacrificing children to Molech drums were beaten to drown their cries. Thus the name indicated the joy of the people at the fancied propitiation of the god by this sacrifice; in antithesis to its joyless name subsequently.
valley of slaughter--It should be the scene of slaughter, no longer of children, but of men; not of "innocents" ( Jeremiah 19:4 ), but of those who richly deserved their fate. The city could not be assailed without first occupying the valley of Hinnom, in which was the only fountain: hence arose the violent battle there.
7. make void the counsel--defeat their plans for repelling the enemy ( 2 Chronicles 32:1-4 , Isaiah 19:3 , Isaiah 22:9 Isaiah 22:11 ). Or their schemes of getting help by having recourse to idols [CALVIN].
in this place--The valley of Hinnom was to be the place of the Chaldean encampment; the very place where they looked for help from idols was to be the scene of their own slaughter.
9. ( Deuteronomy 28:53 , Lamentations 4:10 ).
10. break . . . bottle--a symbolical action, explained in Jeremiah 19:11 .
the men--the elders of the people and of the priests ( Jeremiah 19:1 ; compare Jeremiah 51:63 Jeremiah 51:64 ).
11. as one breaketh a potters vessel--expressing God's absolute sovereignty ( Jeremiah 18:6 , Psalms 2:9 , Isaiah 30:14 , Margin; Lamentations 4:2 , Romans 9:20 Romans 9:21 ).
cannot be made whole again--A broken potter's vessel cannot be restored, but a new one may be made of the same material. So God raised a new Jewish seed, not identical with the destroyed rebels, but by substituting another generation in their stead [GROTIUS].
no place to bury--( Jeremiah 7:32 ).
12. make this city as Tophet--that is, as defiled with dead bodies as Tophet.
13. shall be defiled--with dead bodies ( Jeremiah 19:12 , 2 Kings 23:10 ).
because of all the houses--Rather, (explanatory of the previous "the houses . . . and . . . houses"), "even all the houses," &c. [CALVIN].
roofs--being flat, they were used as high places for sacrifices to the sun and planets ( Jeremiah 32:29 , 2 Kings 23:11 2 Kings 23:12 , Zephaniah 1:5 ). The Nabateans, south and east of the Dead Sea, a nation most friendly to the Jews, according to STRABO, had the same usage.
14. court of the Lord's house--near Tophet; the largest court, under the open air, where was the greatest crowd ( 2 Chronicles 20:5 ).
15. her towns--the suburban villages and towns near Jerusalem, such as Bethany.