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The Potter and the Clay

18 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will make you hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and saw that he was working at the wheel. But the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled by the potter’s hand; so he made it over, reworking it and making it into another pot that seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” says the Lord. “Look carefully, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might [suddenly] speak concerning a nation or kingdom, that I will uproot and break down and destroy; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will [a]relent and reverse My decision concerning the devastation that I intended to do. Or at another time I might [suddenly] speak about a nation or kingdom that I will build up or establish; 10 and if they do evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will reverse My decision concerning the good with which I had promised to bless them. 11 Now then, say to the men of Judah and to the citizens of Jerusalem, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am shaping a disaster and working out a plan against you. Turn back, each of you from his evil way; correct your habits and change your actions for the better.”’ 12 But they will say, ‘That is hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act in accordance with the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

13 
“Therefore thus says the Lord,
‘Ask now among the nations,
Who has heard of such things?
The virgin Israel
Has done a very vile and horrible thing.
14 
‘Will the snow of [Mount] Lebanon melt and vanish from its rocks [which tower above Israel]?
Will the cold, rushing waters of foreign lands [that flow down from the distant land] be dried up?
15 
‘Yet My people have forgotten Me;
They burn incense to worthless gods,
They have stumbled from their ways
From the ancient roads,
To walk in pathways,
Not on a highway,
16 
Making their land a desolation and a horror,
A thing to be hissed at perpetually;
Everyone who passes by will be astounded
And shake his head [in scorn].
17 
‘I will scatter them like an east wind
Before the enemy;
I will show them My back and not My face
In the day of their disaster [says the Lord].’”

18 Then [my enemies] said, “Come and let us work out schemes against Jeremiah. Surely the law is not going to be lost to the priest [as Jeremiah predicts], nor the counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us strike him with our tongue [by making charges against him before the king], and let us ignore anything he says.”

19 
Pay attention to me, O Lord [and intercede];
Listen to what my adversaries are saying [and are plotting against me]—
20 
Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for me.
Remember [with compassion] that I stood before You
To speak good on their behalf,
To turn Your anger away from them.
21 
Therefore, give their children over to the famine;
Give them over to the power of the sword.
And let their wives become childless and widowed;
Let their men meet death [by virulent disease],
Their young men be struck down by the sword in battle.
22 
Let an outcry be heard from their houses
When You suddenly bring [a troop of] raiders upon them,
For they have dug a pit to capture me
And have hidden snares for my feet.
23 
Yet You, O Lord, know
All their deadly plotting against me;
Do not forgive their wickedness
Or blot out their sin from Your sight.
But let them be overthrown before You;
Deal with them in the time of Your anger.

The Broken Jar

19 Thus says the Lord, “Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests and go out to the Valley of Ben-hinnom (son of Hinnom), which is near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate; and proclaim there the words that I tell you, and 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, “Behold (listen carefully), I am going to bring such disaster on this place that the ears of everyone who hears about it will tingle [in shock]. Because the people [of Jerusalem] have abandoned (rejected) Me and have made this an alien and profaned place by burning sacrifices and incense in it to other gods, that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind (heart); therefore, listen very closely, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when this place shall no longer be called Topheth or the Valley of Ben-hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.(A) I will pour out and nullify the counsel (plans) of [the men of] Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will make their people fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hand of those who seek their lives; and I will give their dead bodies as food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth. I will make this city a desolation and an object of hissing; everyone who passes by it will be amazed and will hiss [in scorn] because of all its plagues and disasters. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and each one will eat one another’s flesh during the siege and distress brought by their enemies and those who seek their lives.”’

10 “Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you, 11 and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “This is the way I will break this people and this city as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it cannot be mended. They will bury [corpses] in Topheth until there is no more room left [in that place] to bury [the dead]. 12 This I will do to this place,” says the Lord, “and to its inhabitants; and I will even make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth, all the houses on whose rooftops incense has been burned to all the host of heaven (sun, moon, stars), and where drink offerings have been poured out to other gods.”’”(B)

14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord’s house and said to all the people: 15 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am going to bring on this city and on all its towns, all the devastation that I have declared against it, because they have become stiff-necked and refused to hear and obey My words.’”

Pashhur Persecutes Jeremiah

20 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest, who was [also] chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were at the upper Benjamin Gate by the house of the Lord.(C) And the next day Pashhur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Magor-missabib (terror on every side). For thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; they will fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon; he will carry them away to Babylon as captives and will slaughter them with the sword. Moreover, I will hand over all the riches of this city, all the result of its labor, all its precious things; even all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will hand over to their enemies, and they will plunder them, and take them away and carry them to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into captivity; you will go to Babylon, and there you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have falsely prophesied.’”

Jeremiah’s Complaint


[Jeremiah said,] O Lord, You have persuaded me and I was deceived;
You are stronger than I and You have prevailed.
I am a laughingstock all day long;
Everyone mocks me.

For whenever I speak, I must shout out;
I shout violence and destruction,
Because the word of the Lord has become to me
A reprimand and a mockery and has brought me insult all day long.

If I say, “I will not remember Him
Or speak His name anymore,”
Then my heart becomes a burning fire
Shut up in my bones.
And I am weary of enduring and holding it in;
I cannot endure it [nor contain it any longer].
10 
For I have heard the whispering and defaming words of many,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
All my familiar and trusted friends,
[Those who are] watching for my fall, say,
“Perhaps he will be persuaded and deceived; then we will overcome him,
And take our revenge on him.”
11 
But the Lord is with me as a dread champion [one to be greatly feared];
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not overcome [me].
They will be completely shamed, for they have not acted wisely and have failed [in their schemes];
Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 
But, O Lord of hosts, You who examine the righteous,
Who see the heart and the mind,
Let me see Your vengeance on them;
For to You I have committed my cause.
13 
Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord!
For He has rescued the life of the needy one
From the hand of evildoers.

14 
Cursed be the day on which I was born;
Do not bless the day on which my mother gave birth to me!
15 
Cursed be the man who brought the news
To my father, saying,
“A son has been born to you!”
Making him very glad.
16 
And let that man be like the cities
Which the Lord overthrew without regret.
Let him hear an outcry in the morning
And a shout of alarm at noon;
17 
Because he did not kill me before my birth,
So that my mother might have been my grave,
And her womb always pregnant.
18 
Why did I come out of the womb
To see trouble and sorrow,
So that my days have been filled with shame?

Jeremiah’s Message for Zedekiah

21 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the priest the son of Maaseiah, saying, “Please inquire of the Lord for us, because [b]Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the Lord will deal [favorably] with us according to all His wonderful works and force him to withdraw from us.”

Then Jeremiah said to them, “Say this to Zedekiah: ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Behold, I will turn back and dull the edge of the weapons of war that are in your hands, [those] with which you fight against the king of Babylon and the [c]Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls; and I will bring them into the center of this city (Jerusalem). I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm in anger, in fury, and in great indignation and wrath. I will also strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they will die of a great virulent disease. Then afterward,” says the Lord, “I will hand over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the virulent disease, the sword, and the famine, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemy, into the hand of those who seek their lives. And he will strike them with the edge of the sword; he will not spare them nor have mercy and compassion on them.”’

“And to this people you (Jeremiah) shall also say, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who remains in this city [of Jerusalem] will die by the sword and by famine and by virulent disease. But he who goes outside and surrenders to the [d]Chaldeans who are besieging you will live, and his life will be like a prize of war to him. 10 For I have set My face against this city to do harm and not good,” says the Lord. “It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon and he will burn it with fire.”’

11 “And concerning the royal house of the king of Judah [you shall say], ‘Hear the word of the Lord, 12 O house of David, thus says the Lord:

“Administer justice in the morning,
And rescue the one who has been robbed from the hand of his oppressor,
That My wrath will not roar up like fire
And burn so [hotly] that none can extinguish it,
Because of the evil of their deeds.

13 
“Understand this, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
O rock of the plain,” says the Lord
“You who say, ‘Who will come down against us?
Or who will enter into our dwelling places?’
14 
“But I will punish you in accordance with the [appropriate] consequences of your decisions and your actions,” says the Lord.
“I will kindle a fire in your forest,
And it will devour all that is around you.”’”

Warning of Jerusalem’s Fall

22 Thus says the Lord, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak this word there: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, you who sit on the throne of David—you and your servants and your people who enter by these gates. Thus says the Lord, “Execute justice and righteousness, and rescue the one who has been robbed from the hand of his oppressor. And do no wrong; do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then kings will enter through the gates of this palace, sitting in David’s place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people. But if you will not hear and obey these words, I swear [an oath] by Myself,” says the Lord, “that this house will become a desolation.”’” For thus says the Lord in regard to the house of the king of Judah:

“You are [as valuable] to Me as [the green pastures of] Gilead [east of the Jordan]
Or as the [plentiful] summit of Lebanon [west of the Jordan],
Yet most certainly [if you will not listen to Me] I will make you a wilderness,
And uninhabited cities.

“For I will prepare and appoint destroyers [to execute My judgments] against you,
Each with his weapons;
And they will cut down your [palaces built of] choicest cedars
And throw them in the fire.

“Many nations will pass by this city; and each man will say to another, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this great city?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because the people ignored and abandoned the [solemn] covenant with the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.’”

10 
Do not weep for the dead or mourn for him;
But weep bitterly for the one who goes away [into exile],
For he will never return
And see his native country [again].

11 For thus says the Lord in regard to Shallum (Jehoahaz) the [third] son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father and who went from this place, “Shallum will not return here anymore; 12 he will die in the place where they led him captive and not see this land again.

Messages about the Kings

13 
“Woe (judgment is coming) to him who builds his house by [acts of] unrighteousness
And his upper chambers by injustice,
Who uses his neighbor’s service without pay
And does not give him wages [for his work],
14 
Who says, ‘I will build myself a spacious house
With large upper rooms,
And cut out its [wide] windows,
And panel it with cedar and paint it vermilion.’
15 
“Do you think that you become a king because you have much more cedar [in your palace than Solomon]?
Did not your father [Josiah], as he ate and drank,
Do just and righteous acts [being upright and in right standing with God]?
Then all was well with him.
16 
“He defended the cause of the afflicted and needy;
Then all was well.
Is that not what it means to know Me?”
Says the Lord.
17 
“But your eyes and your heart
Are only intent on your own dishonest gain,
On shedding innocent blood,
On oppression and extortion and violence.”

18 Therefore thus says the Lord in regard to [e]Jehoiakim the [second] son of Josiah, king of Judah,

“The relatives will not lament (mourn over with expressions of grief) for him:
‘Alas, my brother!’ or, ‘Alas, sister,’ [how great our loss]!
The subjects will not lament for him:
‘Alas, master!’ or ‘Alas, majesty [how great was his glory]!’
19 
[f]He shall be buried with the burial of a donkey—
Dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
20 
“Go up [north] to Lebanon and cry out,
And raise your voice in [the hills of] Bashan [across the Jordan];
Cry out also from [g]Abarim,
For all your lovers (allies) have been destroyed.(D)
21 
“I spoke to you in your [times of] prosperity,
But you said, ‘I will not listen!’
This has been your attitude and practice from your youth;
You have not obeyed My voice.
22 
“The wind [of adversity] will carry away all your shepherds (rulers, statesmen),
And your lovers (allies) will go into exile.
Surely then you will be ashamed and humiliated and disgraced
Because of all your wickedness.
23 
“O inhabitant of [Jerusalem, whose palaces are made from the cedars of] Lebanon,
You who nest in the cedars,
How you will groan and how miserable you will be when pains come on you,
Pain like a woman in childbirth!(E)

24 “As I live,” says the Lord, “though [h]Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet [ring] on My right hand, yet would I pull you (Coniah) off. 25 And I will place you in the hand of those who seek your life and in the hand of those whom you fear, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the [i]Chaldeans. 26 I will hurl you and the mother who gave you birth into another country where you were not born, and there you will die. 27 But as for the land to which they long to return, they will not return to it.

28 
“Is this man [King] Coniah a despised, broken jar?
Is he a vessel in which no one takes pleasure?
Why are he and his [royal] descendants hurled out
And cast into a land which they do not know or understand?
29 
“O land, land, land,
Hear the word of the Lord!

30 Thus says the Lord,

‘Write this man [Coniah] down as childless,
A man who will not prosper (succeed) in his lifetime;
For not one of his descendants will succeed
In sitting on the throne of David
Or ruling again in Judah.’”

Footnotes

  1. Jeremiah 18:8 Lit repent of.
  2. Jeremiah 21:2 In Hebrew there are two ways of spelling the name of the ruler of Babylon resulting in two English variations: Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadrezzar. Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean Dynasty, more commonly known as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, ruled Babylon from 605-562 b.c. He conquered Jerusalem in 597 b.c.
  3. Jeremiah 21:4 The Chaldeans dominated and ruled Babylonia from 625 b.c., until their empire fell in 539 b.c., but they were known as early as 1000 b.c. as an aggressive, tribal people in the southern region of Babylonia. They were highly skilled in both the science of astronomy and the pseudo-science of astrology. They kept meticulous records of celestial motion and correctly calculated the length of a year to within just a few minutes. Babylon, their capital city, was the center of trade and learning in the western part of Asia. The classical literature of the Chaldeans was written in cuneiform, but the common language, both written and spoken in Babylon, was Akkadian increasingly influenced by Aramaic.
  4. Jeremiah 21:9 The Chaldeans became the dominant people in Babylonia when Merodach-baladan declared himself king of Babylon. The words “Chaldean” and “Babylonian” are used interchangeably.
  5. Jeremiah 22:18 Originally named Eliakim, he was renamed Jehoiakim by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt and placed on the throne of Judah after Neco deposed and imprisoned Jehoiakim’s younger brother, King Jehoahaz (also called Shallum), because Jehoahaz was allied with Babylon instead of Egypt.
  6. Jeremiah 22:19 Jehoiakim was killed during Babylon’s second attack. His body was desecrated and thrown out as food for scavengers.
  7. Jeremiah 22:20 A range of mountains southeast of Palestine.
  8. Jeremiah 22:24 Also known as Jeconiah and Jehoiachin.
  9. Jeremiah 22:25 The ruling tribe of Babylonia whose capital city was Babylon.

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