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1. Call of Jeremiah

1The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: 2to whom the word of Jehovah came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month. 4Now the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 5Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; I have appointed thee a prophet unto the nations. 6Then said I, Ah, Lord Jehovah! behold, I know not how to speak; for I am a child. 7But Jehovah said unto me, Say not, I am a child; for to whomsoever I shall send thee thou shalt go, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak. 8Be not afraid because of them; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith Jehovah. 9Then Jehovah put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and Jehovah said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth: 10see, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. 11Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree. 12Then said Jehovah unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I watch over my word to perform it. 13And the word of Jehovah came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a boiling caldron; and the face thereof is from the north. 14Then Jehovah said unto me, Out of the north evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith Jehovah; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, in that they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. 17Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at them, lest I dismay thee before them. 18For, behold, I have made thee this day a fortified city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. 19And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee, saith Jehovah, to deliver thee.

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Jeremiah begins now to address the people to whom he was sent as a Prophet. He has hitherto spoken of his calling, that the authority of his doctrine might be evident: and he spoke generally; but now he accommodates his teaching specially to the people. Hence he says, that he had a vision, and saw a boiling-pot, whose face was towards the north. By God asking, and the Prophet answering, the design was to confirm the prediction; for if it had been only said that he saw a boiling-pot, and if an explanation of the metaphor had been given, there would not have been so much force and weight in the narrative. But when God is set forth as being present, and explaining what the boiling-pot signified, the prediction becomes more certain: and the Prophet no doubt gave this narrative, in order to shew that God, being as it were present, thereby proved himself to he the Author of this prophecy.

Now the import of the whole is, that the Chaldeans would come to overthrow the city Jerusalem, to take away and abolish all the honor and dignity both of the kingdom and of the priesthood.

This indeed had been previously announced by Isaiah as well as by other prophets; but all their threatenings had been despised. While indeed Isaiah was living, the king of Babylon had secured the friendship of Hezekiah; and the Jews thought that his protection had been opportunely obtained against the Assyrians. But they did not consider that the hearts of men are ruled by the hand of God, and are turned as he pleases: nor did they consider that they had for many years provoked God, and that he was become their enemy. Since, then, all threatening had been despised and regarded with derision, Jeremiah came forth and declared, that the northern nations would come, the Assyrians as well as the Chaldeans. For we know that the one monarchy had been swallowed up by the other; and the Chaldeans ruled over the Assyrians; and thus it happened that the whole eastern empire, with the exception of the Medes and Persians, had passed over to them; and with respect to Judea, they were northward. Hence the Prophet says, that he saw a boiling-pot, having its face towards the north.

By the pot many understand the king of Babylon; but they seem not rightly to understand what the Prophet says: and I could easily disprove their interpretation, but I shall be satisfied with a simple statement of what is true; and the meaning will become evident as we proceed. The pot, then, as it will be presently seen more clearly, is the nation of the Jews: I say this now, as I do not wish to heap together too many things. They are said to be like a boiling-pot, because the Lord, as it were, boiled them, until they were reduced almost to nothing. It is said also, that the face of the pot was towards the north; because there, as Jeremiah immediately explains, was the fire kindled. And the comparison is very apposite; for when a pot is set on the fire, it boils on that side nearest the fire, and all the scum passes over to the other side. Hence he says that it boiled, but so that its mouth was on the north side; for there was the fire, and there was the blowing. In short, God intended to shew to his Prophet, that the people were like flesh which is cast into the pot, boiled, and afterwards burnt, or reduced after a long time almost to nothing. The Prophet saw the mouth or the face of the boiling-pot, and on the side on which it boiled it looked towards the north; hence God, the interpreter of the vision which he presented to his servant, answers and says, From the north shall break forth evil on all the inhabitants of the land, that is, of Judea. In these words God declares, that the fire was already kindled by the Chaldeans and the Assyrians, by which he would boil, as it were, his people like flesh, and at length wholly consume them, as it is commonly the case, when the flesh remains in the pot, and the fire is continually burning, and blowing is also added; the flesh must necessarily be reduced to nothing when thus boiled or seethed. 1515     Most agree with Calvin, that the pot means the Jewish nation; so the learned Gataker in the Ass. Ann., Grotius, Henry, and Scott. There is some difference as to “its face.” The first of these authors, followed by the two last, thinks that the face means the front of the fire or the hearth, and therefore the front of the pot. This face or front was towards the north, signifying that the fuel and the blowing would be from that quarter, as it is afterwards stated. As to the metaphor, the pot, or cauldron, see Ezekiel 11:3, 7; 24:3, 5.
   The version of the Geneva Bible is, “I see a seething-pot looking out of the north;” and the Chaldean army is regarded as the pot: and Blayney, following the marginal reading of our version, has given a similar rendering, “and the face thereof is turned from the north.” But מפני is a preposition, and rendered often, “from before,” and, “before,” (see note on verse 8;) and to say that its face was before the north means the same as towards the north: and this is the rendering of Jun. and Trem , and Piscator, “versus Aquilonem.”

   “The boiling-pot” is a pot “kindled under-ὑποκαιόμενον,” by the Sept The literal rendering of סיר נפוח is, “a pot blown,“ meaning the fire under it. It was a pot set on a fire that was blown, and the front of it was toward the north, from whence the blowing came. The same word as a noun is used by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 6:29, and signifies an instrument for blowing, and is rendered “bellows” in our version. It was then a pot set on a fire that was blown, which intimated the severe calamities which the Jews were soon to endure, as Grotius observes. — Ed.