Jeremiah 18

Listen to Jeremiah 18

The Potter and the Clay

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
2 "Arise, and go down to 1the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words."
3 So I went down to 2the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel.
4 And the vessel he was making of clay was 3spoiled in the potter's hand, and 4he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:
6 "O house of Israel, 5can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. 6Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will 7pluck up and break down and destroy it,
8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, 8turns from its evil, 9I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will 10build and plant it,
10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. 11Return, every one from his evil way, and 12amend your ways and your deeds.'
12 "But they say, 13'That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to 14the stubbornness of his evil heart.'
13 "Therefore thus says the LORD: 15Ask among the nations, Who has heard the like of this? The virgin Israel has done 16a very horrible thing.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave the crags of Sirion?[a] Do the mountain waters run dry,[b] the cold flowing streams?
15 17But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to 18false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, 19in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, 20not the highway,
16 making their land 21a horror, a thing 22to be hissed at forever. 23Everyone who passes by it is horrified 24and shakes his head.
17 25Like the east wind 26I will scatter them before the enemy. 27I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity."
18 Then they said, 28"Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, 29for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. 30Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words."
19 Hear me, O LORD, and 31listen to the voice of my adversaries.
20 32Should good be repaid with evil? Yet 33they have dug a pit for my life. 34Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them.
21 Therefore 35deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword; let their wives become childless 36and widowed. May their men meet death by pestilence, their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
22 37May a cry be heard from their houses, when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them! For 38they have dug a pit to take me 39and laid snares for my feet.
23 Yet 40you, O LORD, know all their plotting to kill me. 41Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary

Chapter 18

God's power over his creatures is represented by the potter. (1-10) The Jews exhorted to repentance, and judgments foretold. (11-17) The prophet appeals to God. (18-23)

Verses 1-10 While Jeremiah looks upon the potter's work, God darts into his mind two great truths. God has authority, and power, to form and fashion kingdoms and nations as he pleases. He may dispose of us as he thinks fit; and it would be as absurd for us to dispute this, as for the clay to quarrel with the potter. But he always goes by fixed rules of justice and goodness. When God is coming against us in judgments, we may be sure it is for our sins; but sincere conversion from the evil of sin will prevent the evil of punishment, as to persons, and to families, and nations.

Verses 11-17 Sinners call it liberty to live at large; whereas for a man to be a slave to his lusts, is the very worst slavery. They forsook God for idols. When men are parched with heat, and meet with cooling, refreshing streams, they use them. In these things men will not leave a certainty for an uncertainty; but Israel left the ancient paths appointed by the Divine law. They walked not in the highway, in which they might travel safely, but in a way in which they must stumble: such was the way of idolatry, and such is the way of iniquity. This made their land desolate, and themselves miserable. Calamities may be borne, if God smile upon us when under them; but if he is displeased, and refuses his help, we are undone. Multitudes forget the Lord and his Christ, and wander from the ancient paths, to walk in ways of their own devising. But what will they do in the day of judgment!

Verses 18-23 When the prophet called to repentance, instead of obeying the call, the people devised devices against him. Thus do sinners deal with the great Intercessor, crucifying him afresh, and speaking against him on earth, while his blood is speaking for them in heaven. But the prophet had done his duty to them; and the same will be our rejoicing in a day of evil.

Cross References 41

  • 1. Jeremiah 19:1; 1 Chronicles 4:23; [Zechariah 11:13]
  • 2. Jeremiah 19:1; 1 Chronicles 4:23; [Zechariah 11:13]
  • 3. Jeremiah 13:7
  • 4. [Romans 9:21]
  • 5. Isaiah 45:9; See Romans 9:20-24
  • 6. Job 10:9; Isaiah 64:8
  • 7. Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 42:10
  • 8. Ezekiel 18:21
  • 9. Jeremiah 26:3, 13, 19; Judges 2:18; Jonah 3:10
  • 10. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 11. Jeremiah 35:15; 2 Kings 17:13; Jonah 3:8
  • 12. Jeremiah 7:3; Jeremiah 25:5; Jeremiah 35:15
  • 13. Jeremiah 2:25
  • 14. See Jeremiah 3:17
  • 15. Jeremiah 2:10, 11
  • 16. Jeremiah 5:30
  • 17. Jeremiah 2:13, 32; Jeremiah 17:13
  • 18. Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 10:15; Jeremiah 16:19
  • 19. Jeremiah 6:16
  • 20. [Isaiah 57:14]
  • 21. Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:9, 11, 18; Jeremiah 49:13, 17; Jeremiah 50:13; Jeremiah 51:37; 2 Chronicles 29:8
  • 22. Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:9, 11, 18; Jeremiah 49:13, 17; Jeremiah 50:13; Jeremiah 51:37; 2 Chronicles 29:8
  • 23. Jeremiah 50:13; Lamentations 2:15
  • 24. Job 16:4; Psalms 22:7; Matthew 27:39
  • 25. Gen. 41:6, 23, 27; Exodus 10:13; Job 27:21; Psalms 48:7; Ezekiel 27:26; Hosea 13:15; Jonah 4:8
  • 26. Jeremiah 13:24
  • 27. [Jeremiah 2:27]
  • 28. Jeremiah 11:19
  • 29. [Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 5:13, 31; Jeremiah 6:13]
  • 30. Jeremiah 9:3, 8; Job 5:21; [Psalms 31:20]
  • 31. Psalms 35:1; Isaiah 49:25
  • 32. Psalms 35:12
  • 33. Psalms 35:7; Psalms 57:6; Psalms 119:85
  • 34. [Nehemiah 13:14]
  • 35. Psalms 109:10
  • 36. Psalms 109:9
  • 37. [Jeremiah 20:16]
  • 38. [See ver. 20 above]
  • 39. Psalms 140:5
  • 40. [Psalms 35:22]
  • 41. Nehemiah 4:5

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Hebrew of the field
  • [b]. Hebrew Are foreign waters plucked up

Chapter Summary


This chapter expresses the sovereign power of God ever his creatures, and his usual methods of dealing with them; it threatens destruction to the Jews for their idolatry; and is closed with the prophet's complaint of his persecutors, and with imprecations upon them. The sovereign power of God is expressed under the simile of a potter working in his shop, and making and marring vessels at pleasure, Jer 18:1-4; the application of which to God, and the house of Israel, is in Jer 18:5,6; and is illustrated by his usual dealings with kingdoms and nations; for though he is a sovereign Being, yet he acts both in a kind and equitable way; and as the potter changes his work, so he changes the dispensations of his providence, of which two instances are given; the one is, that having threatened ruin to a nation, upon their repentance and good behaviour he revokes the threatening, Jer 18:7,8; and the other is, that having made a declaration of good to a people, upon their sin and disobedience he recalls it, and punishes them for their wickedness, Jer 18:9,10; then follows a prophecy of the destruction of the Jews in particular, in which they are exhorted to repentance to prevent it; their obstinacy is observed; their folly in departing from God, and worshipping idols, is exposed; and they are threatened with utter ruin, Jer 18:11-17; the conspiracy and evil designs of the Jews against the prophet, their malice and ingratitude, are complained of by him, Jer 18:18-20; his imprecations upon them, and prayers for their destruction, are delivered out in Jer 18:21-23.

Jeremiah 18 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.