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The Broken Earthenware Jug


Thus said the Lord: Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jug. Take with you some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests, 2and go out to the valley of the son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. 3You shall say: Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to bring such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 4Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah have known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent, 5and gone on building the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind; 6therefore the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter. 7And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth. 8And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. 9And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and all shall eat the flesh of their neighbors in the siege, and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.

10 Then you shall break the jug in the sight of those who go with you, 11and shall say to them: Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. In Topheth they shall bury until there is no more room to bury. 12Thus will I do to this place, says the Lord, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah shall be defiled like the place of Topheth—all the houses upon whose roofs offerings have been made to the whole host of heaven, and libations have been poured out to other gods.

14 When Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, he stood in the court of the Lord’s house and said to all the people: 15Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am now bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their necks, refusing to hear my words.

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Jer 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. bottleHebrew, bakuk, so called from the gurgling sound which it makes when being emptied.

ancients—elders. As witnesses of the symbolic action (Jer 19:10; Isa 8:1, 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 gateMargin, "sun gate," sunrise being in the east. Maurer translates, the "potter's gate." Through it lay the road to the valley of Hinnom (Jos 15:8). The potters there formed vessels for the use of the temple, which was close by (compare Jer 19:10, 14; Jer 18:2; Zec 11:13). The same as "the water gate toward the east" (Ne 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 (Jer 13:18); or including the king's counsellors and governors under him.

tingle—as if struck by a thunder peal (1Sa 3:11; 2Ki 21:12).

4. (Isa 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 (Jer 7:31; Ps 106:37).

5. commanded not—nay, more, I commanded the opposite (Le 18:21; see Jer 7:31, 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" (Jer 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 (2Ch 32:1-4; Isa 19:3; 22:9, 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.

8. (See on Jer 18:16).

9. (De 28:53; La 4:10).

10. break … bottle—a symbolical action, explained in Jer 19:11.

the men—the elders of the people and of the priests (Jer 19:1; compare Jer 51:63, 64).

11. as one breaketh a potter's vessel—expressing God's absolute sovereignty (Jer 18:6; Ps 2:9; Isa 30:14, Margin; La 4:2; Ro 9:20, 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—(Jer 7:32).

12. make this city as Tophet—that is, as defiled with dead bodies as Tophet.

13. shall be defiled—with dead bodies (Jer 19:12; 2Ki 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 (Jer 32:29; 2Ki 23:11, 12; Zep 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 (2Ch 20:5).

15. her towns—the suburban villages and towns near Jerusalem, such as Bethany.