a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

The Linen Loincloth


Thus said the L ord to me, “Go and buy yourself a linen loincloth, and put it on your loins, but do not dip it in water.” 2So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the L ord, and put it on my loins. 3And the word of the L ord came to me a second time, saying, 4“Take the loincloth that you bought and are wearing, and go now to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5So I went, and hid it by the Euphrates, as the L ord commanded me. 6And after many days the L ord said to me, “Go now to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. But now the loincloth was ruined; it was good for nothing.

8 Then the word of the L ord came to me: 9Thus says the L ord: Just so I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own will and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the L ord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen.


Symbol of the Wine-Jars

12 You shall speak to them this word: Thus says the L ord, the God of Israel: Every wine-jar should be filled with wine. And they will say to you, “Do you think we do not know that every wine-jar should be filled with wine?” 13Then you shall say to them: Thus says the L ord: I am about to fill all the inhabitants of this land—the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness. 14And I will dash them one against another, parents and children together, says the L ord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion when I destroy them.


Exile Threatened


Hear and give ear; do not be haughty,

for the L ord has spoken.


Give glory to the L ord your God

before he brings darkness,

and before your feet stumble

on the mountains at twilight;

while you look for light,

he turns it into gloom

and makes it deep darkness.


But if you will not listen,

my soul will weep in secret for your pride;

my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears,

because the L ord’s flock has been taken captive.



Say to the king and the queen mother:

“Take a lowly seat,

for your beautiful crown

has come down from your head.”


The towns of the Negeb are shut up

with no one to open them;

all Judah is taken into exile,

wholly taken into exile.



Lift up your eyes and see

those who come from the north.

Where is the flock that was given you,

your beautiful flock?


What will you say when they set as head over you

those whom you have trained

to be your allies?

Will not pangs take hold of you,

like those of a woman in labor?


And if you say in your heart,

“Why have these things come upon me?”

it is for the greatness of your iniquity

that your skirts are lifted up,

and you are violated.


Can Ethiopians change their skin

or leopards their spots?

Then also you can do good

who are accustomed to do evil.


I will scatter you like chaff

driven by the wind from the desert.


This is your lot,

the portion I have measured out to you, says the L ord,

because you have forgotten me

and trusted in lies.


I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,

and your shame will be seen.


I have seen your abominations,

your adulteries and neighings, your shameless prostitutions

on the hills of the countryside.

Woe to you, O Jerusalem!

How long will it be

before you are made clean?


I have said that there is here a new prophecy; for the Prophet is said to buy for himself a girdle or a belt, or, according to some, a truss or breeches; and as mention is made of linen, this opinion may be probable; but אזור, asur, means not only the breeches which they then wore, but also a girdle or belt, according to what Isaiah says, when, speaking figuratively of Christ’s kingdom, that faithfulness would be the girdle of his loins. (Isaiah 11:5) It, may here, however, be taken for breeches as well as for a girdle. 7070     It is rendered “περίζωμα — a girdle,” by the Septuagint; — “lumbare — a garment for the loins,” by the Vulgate; — “sudarium — a napkin,” by the Syriac; — “cingulum — a girdle,” by the Targum and Arabic. The Hebrew word never means anything but a girdle or belt, as the verb signifies to surround, to bind.
   Calvin makes no remark on the command, not to put it in water before he wore it. Various has been the explanation. The view the Rabbins give is inconsistent with the passage, — that it was to be left dirty after wearing, that it might rot the sooner; for the Prophet is bidden, when commanded to wear it, not to wash it. Grotius and others think that he was to wear it as made, in its rough state, in order to shew the rude condition of the Jews when God adopted them. Venema is of the opinion that in order to shew that is was newly made, and had not been worn by another, nor polluted. Gataker says that the purpose was to shew that nothing was to be done by the Prophet to cause the girdle to rot, as wet might have done so, in order to prove that the rottenness proceeded only from the Jews themselves. Lowth regards it as intended to teach the Jews their corrupt state by nature, so that it was through favor or grace only that God adopted them; and he refers to Ezekiel 16:4. The last, which is nearly the same with the view of Grotius, seems the most suitable. — Ed.

As to the matter in hand, it makes no great difference. The Prophet then is bidden to buy for himself a linen girdle or a linen breeches, and he is also bidden to go to Euphrates, and to hide the girdle in a hole. He is again bidden to go the second time to Euphrates, and to draw the girdle from the hole, and he found it marred. The application follows; for God declares that he would thus deal with the Jews; though he had had them as a belt, he would yet cast them away. As he had adorned them, so he designed them to be an ornament to him; for the glory of God shines forth in his ChurJeremiah The Jews then, as Isaiah says, were a crown of glory and a royal diadem in God’s hand. (Isaiah 62:3) Hence he compares them here most fitly to a belt or a girdle. Though then their condition was honorable, yet God threatens that he would cast them away; so that, being hidden, they might contract rottenness in a cavern of the Euphrates, that is, in Assyria and Chaldea. This is the meaning of the prophecy.

But no doubt a vision is here narrated, and not a real transaction, as some think, who regard Jeremiah as having gone there; but what can be imagined more absurd? He was, we know, continually engaged in his office of a teacher among his own people. Had he undertaken so long a journey, and that twice, it would have taken him some months. Hence contentious must he be, who urges the words of the Prophet, and holds that he must have gone to the Euphrates and hidden there his girdle. We know that this form of speaking is common and often used by the prophets: they narrate visions as facts.

We must also observe, that God might have spoken plainly and without any similitude; but as they were not only ignorant, but also stupid, it was found necessary to reprove their torpidity by an external symbol. This was the reason why God confirmed the doctrine of his Prophet by an external representation. Had God said, “Ye have been to me hitherto as a belt, ye were my ornament and my glory, not indeed through your merit or worthiness, but because I have united you to myself, that ye might be a holy people and a priestly kingdom; but now I am constrained to cast you away; and as a person throws from him and casts a girdle into some hole, so that after a long time he finds it rotten, so it will be with you, after having been hidden a long time beyond Euphrates; ye shall there contract rottenness, which will mar you altogether, so that your appearance will be very different, when a remnant of you shall come from thence:” This indeed might have been sufficient; but in that state of security and dullness in which we know the Jews were, such a simple statement would not have so effectually penetrated into their hearts, as when this symbol was presented to them. The Prophet, therefore, says, that he was girded with a belt, that the belt was hid in a hole near Euphrates, and that there it became marred; and then he adds, so shall it be done to you. This statement, as I have said, more sharply touched the Jews, so that they saw that the judgment of God was at hand.

With regard to the similitude of girdle or breeches, we know how proudly the Jews gloried in the thought that God was bound to them; and he would have really been so, had they been in return faithful to him: but as they had become so disobedient and ungrateful, how could God be bound to them? He had indeed chosen them to be a people to himself, but this condition was added, that they were to be as a chaste wife, as he had become, according to what we have seen, a husband to them. But they had prostituted themselves and had become shamefully polluted with idols. As then they had perfidiously departed from their marriage engagement, was not God freed from his obligations? according to what is said by Isaiah,

“There is no need to give you a bill of divorcement, for your mother is an adulteress.” (Isaiah 1:1)

The Prophet then, in this place, meant in a few words to shake off from the Jews those vain boastings in which they indulged, when they said that they were God’s people and the holy seed of Abraham. “True,” he says, “and I will concede more to you, that you were to God even as a belt, by which men usually adorn themselves; but God adopted you, that you might serve him chastely and faithfully; but now, as ye have made void his covenant, he will cast away this belt, which is a disgrace to him and not an ornament, and will throw it into a cavern where it will rot.” Such is the view we are to take of this belt, as we shall hereafter see more clearly.

The Prophet, by saying that he went to the Euphrates, confirms what he had narrated: he did not indeed mean that he actually went there, but his object was to give the Jews a vivid representation. It is then what Rhetorians call a scene presented to the view; though the place is not changed, yet the thing is set before the eyes by a lively description. 7171     Many agree with Calvin that this was a vision and not an actual transaction, such as Gataker, Lowth, Blayney, Adara Clarke, &c. Henry hesitates, but Scott seems to be strongly in favor of a real transaction. Bochart and Venema hold also the latter opinion, only they think that פרת here does not mean “Euphrates,” but Ephrata, that is, Bethlehem, in Judea; but this cannot be maintained. Lowth refers to an instance where a vision is related as a fact, without any mention being made that it was a vision, that is, Genesis 15:5: God brought Abraham forth and shewed to him the stars; and yet it appears from Jeremiah 13:12 that the sun was not set. Blayney remarks, that “the same supposition of a vision must be admitted in other cases, particularly Jeremiah 25:15-29.” Gataker refers to similar instances in Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:24. It was most probably a vision; and the Prophet related to the people what God had in a supernatural way exhibited to him. — Ed. Thus the Prophet, as the Jews were deaf, exhibited to their view what they would not hear. This is the reason why he says that he went. For the same purpose is what follows, that at the end of many days God had bidden him to take out the girdle Here also is signified the length of the exile. As to the hole in a rock, what is meant is disgrace; for without honor and esteem the Jews lived in banishment, in the same manner as though they were cast into a cavern. Hence by the hole is signified their ignoble and base condition, that they were like persons removed from the sight of all men and from the common light of day. By the end of many days, is meant, as I have said, the length of their exile, for in a short time they would not have become putrified, and except indeed this had been distinctly expressed, they would have never been convinced of the grievousness of the calamity which was nigh them. Hence he says that the days would be many, so that they might contract putridity while hidden in the hole.

VIEWNAME is study