Jeremiah Chapter 18:1-15 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
Jer 18:1
The sum of what is here taught is, that as the Jews gloried in God’s singular favor, which yet had been conferred on them for a different purpose, even that they might be his sacred heritage, it was necessary to take from them a confidence of this kind; for they at the same time heedlessly despised God and the whole of his law. We indeed know that in God’s covenant there was a mutual stipulation — that the race of Abraham were faithfully to serve God, as God was prepared to perform whatever he had promised; for it was the perpetual law of the covenant, “Walk before me and be perfect,” which was once for all imposed on Abraham, and extended to all his posterity. (Gen_17:1.) As then the Jews thought that God was by an inviolable compact bound to them, while they yet proudly rejected all his prophets, and polluted, and even as far as they could, abolished, his true favorship, it was necessary to deprive them of that foolish boasting by which they deluded themselves. Hence the Prophet was commanded to go down to the potter’s house, that he might relate to the people what he saw there, even that the potter, according to his own will and pleasure, made and re-made vessels.

It seems indeed at the first view a homely mode of speaking; but if we examine ourselves we shall all find, that pride, which is innate in us, cannot be corrected except the Lord draws us as it were by force to see clearly what it is, and except he shews us plainly what we are. The Prophet might have attended to God speaking to him at his own house, but he was commanded to go down to the house of the potter — not indeed for his own sake, for he was willing to be taught — but that he might teach the people, by adding this sign as a confirmation to his doctrine.

Albert Barnes
Jer 18:1
In the first prophecy of the series Jer. 18, the fate of Jerusalem was still undetermined; a long line of kings might yet reign there in splendor, and the city be inhabited forever. This was possible only so long as it was still undecided whether Josiah’s efforts would end in a national reformation or not, and before Jehoiakim threw the weight of the kingly office into the opposite balance. In the present prophecy mercy is still offered to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but they reject it Jer_18:11-12. They have made their final choice: and thereupon follows the third prophecy of “the broken vessel” Jer_19:1-15 in which the utter overthrow of city and kingdom is foretold. We should thus place this prophecy of the potter very early in the reign of Jehoiakim; and that of the broken vessel at the commencement of his fourth year. This internal evidence is confirmed by external proof.

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:1
The word which came to Jeremiah – This discourse is supposed to have been delivered some time in the reign of Jehoiakim, probably within the first three years.

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:2
Go down to the potter’s house – By this similitude God shows the absolute state of dependence on himself in which he has placed mankind. They are as clay in the hands of the potter; and in reference to every thing here below, he can shape their destinies as he pleases. Again; though while under the providential care of God they may go morally astray, and pervert themselves, yet they can be reclaimed by the almighty and all-wise Operator, and become such vessels as seemeth good for him to make. In considering this parable we must take heed that in running parallels we do not destroy the free agency of man, nor disgrace the goodness and supremacy of God.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:2
go down — namely, from the high ground on which the temple stood, near which Jeremiah exercised his prophetic office, to the low ground, where some well-known (this is the force of “the”) potter had his workshop.

Albert Barnes
Jer 18:2
House – i. e., workshop. The clay-field where the potters exercised their craft lay to the south of Jerusalem just beyond the valley of Hinnom. Compare Zec_11:13; Mat_27:10.

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:3
He wrought a work on the wheels – אל האבנים al haabnayim, upon the stones, the potter’s wheel being usually made of such, the spindle of the moving stone being placed on a stone below, on which it turned, and supported the stone above, on which the vessel was manufactured, and which alone had a rotatory motion. The potter’s wheel in the present day seems to differ very little from that which was in use between two and three thousand years ago.

Albert Barnes
Jer 18:3
The wheels – literally, “the two wheels.” The lower one was worked by the feet to give motion to the upper one, which was a flat disc or plate of wood, on which the potter laid the clay, and moulded it with his fingers as it revolved rapidly.

John Calvin
Jer 18:4
He then relates what had been enjoined him, that he descended into the potter’s house; and then he relates what he saw there — that when the potter formed a vessel it was marred, and that he then made another vessel from the same clay, and, as it seems, one of a different form; for there is a peculiar emphasis in these words,as it seemed right in his eyes. The application is afterwards added — cannot I, as the potter, change you, O house of Israel? Doubtless, ye are in my hand as the clay in the hand of the potter;that is, I have no less power over you than the potter over his work and his earthen vessels.

We now see what this doctrine contains — that men are very foolish when they are proud of their present prosperous condition, and think that they are as it were fixed in a state of safety; for in a single moment God can cast down those whom he has raised up, and also raise up on high those whom he has before brought down to the ground. This is even well known by heathens, for moderation is commended by them, which they describe thus — “That no one ought to be inflated in prosperity, nor succumb in adversity.” But no one is really influenced by this thought, except he who acknowledges that we are ruled by the hand of God: for they who dream that fortune rules in the world set up their own wisdom, their own wealth, and their own strongholds. It must then necessarily be, that they always delude themselves with some vain hope or another. Until then men are brought to know that they are so subject to God’s power that their condition can in a single moment be changed, according to his will, they will never be humble as they ought to be. This doctrine therefore was entitled to special notice, especially when we consider how foolishly the Jews had abused the privilege with which God had favored Abraham and all his posterity; it was therefore an admonition altogether necessary. Besides, if we come to ourselves, we shall find that it requires a great effort to learn to humble ourselves, as Peter reminds us, under the mighty hand of God. (1Pe_5:6.)

With regard to the words we must observe that האבנים eabenim, is a word in the dual number. The Prophet no doubt meant the moulds, des moules; for they who render it “wheel” seem not to understand the subject. (193) The Prophet evidently refers to the moulds, made either of stone, or of wood, or of white clay; and this the number sufficiently proves. He then saw the potter with his moulds, avec ses moules,so that when he had formed one vessel it was marred; then he took the same clay and formed another vessel, and that according to his own will. I have already stated why it was necessary for the Prophet to go down to the potter’s house: he did so that he might afterwards lead the Jews to see their own case in a more vivid manner; for we know what a powerful effect a representation of this kind produces, when a scene like this is set before our eyes. Naked doctrine would have been frigid to slothful and careless men; but when a symbol was added, it had much greater effect. This then was the reason why God ordered the Prophet to see what the potter was doing.

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:4
The vessel – was marred in the hands of the potter – It did not stand in the working; it got out of shape; or some gravel or small stone having been incorporated with the mass of clay, made a breach in that part where it was found, so that the potter was obliged to knead up the clay afresh, place it on the wheel, and form it anew; and then it was such a vessel as seemed good to the potter to make it.

John Calvin
Jer 18:6
Now, in the application, we must notice how things correspond: As the clay is at the will and under the power of the potter, so men are at the will of God: God then is compared to the potter. There is indeed no comparison between things which are equal, but the Prophet argues from the less to the greater. Then God, with respect to men, is said to be the potter, for we are the clay before him. We must also notice the variety in what was formed: from the same clay one vessel is made, then another different from the first. These three things that are compared ought to be specially observed. It is then said, cannot I, as the potter, do with you, O house of Israel? God includes here two of these comparisons, he compares himself to the potter, and he compares the people to clay. We know that God has much greater power over men than a mortal man over the clay; for however he may form it into vessels he is yet not the creator of the clay. Then much greater authority has God over men than the potter over the clay. But the comparison, as I have said, is of the greater with the less, as though he had said, “The potter can form the clay at his will; am I inferior to him? or, is not my power at least, equal to the power of the artificer, who is a mortal and of an abject condition?” Then he adds, with you, or to you, O house of Israel? as though he had said, “Trust ye in your own excellency as you please, yet ye are not better than the clay, when ye consider what I am and what I can do to you.”

We have now seen two of the comparisons; the third follows–that God can turn us here and there, and change us at his will. Then how foolishly do men trust in their present good fortune; for in a single moment their condition can be altered, as there is nothing certain on the earth.

But we must bear in mind what I have already stated — that vain was the confidence by which the Jews deluded themselves; for they thought that God was bound to them, and so they promised themselves a state of perpetuity, and, as though they could with impunity despise the whole law, they ever boasted that the covenant, by which God had adopted the seed of Abraham, was hereditary. Now the Prophet shews that the covenant was in such a way hereditary, that yet the Jews ought to have regarded it as it were an adventitious benefit, as though he had said, “What God gave you he can take away at any time; there is then nothing certain to you, except so far as God will be propitious to you.” In short, he reminds them that the whole of their safety depended on God’s gratuitous layout, as though he had said, “Ye have nothing as your own, but what God has conferred on you is at his will and pleasure; he can to-day take away even what he had yesterday given you. What meaneth then this foolish boasting, when ye say that ye are exempted from the common lot of men?”

The Jews might indeed have rightly disregarded all the dangers of the world, for God had gathered them under his own protection; they would indeed have been safe under his guardianship, had they observed mutual faithfulness, so as to be really his people as he had promised to be their God; but as they esteemed as nothing his whole law, and made void the covenant in which they foolishly gloried, the Prophet, as we see, did not without reason shake off that confidence by which they deceived themselves.

We may hence gather a useful doctrine: With regard to the whole race of man there is nothing certain or permanent in this life; for God can change our condition at any time, so as to cast down the rich and the eminent from their elevation, and also to raise up the most despised of men, according to what is said in Psa_113:7. And we know this to be true, not only as to individuals, but also as to nations and kingdoms. Many kings have so increased their power as to think themselves beyond the reach of harm; and yet we have seen that God laid them prostrate as by a sudden whirlwind: so also it has happened to powerful nations. With regard then to the condition of mankind, God shews here as in a mirror, or by a vivid spectacle, that sudden changes are often in the world: which ought to awaken us from our torpor, so that no one of us may dare to promise himself another day, or even another hour, or another moment. This is one thing; but this doctrine has a peculiar application to us; for as God has by a peculiar favor separated us from the rest of the world, so he would have us to depend wholly on his mere good will. Faith indeed ought to be tranquil, nay, it ought to disregard whatever may bring on us any terror or anxiety; but faith, where has it its seat? In heaven. Then courage is required in all the children of God, so that they may with a quiet mind disregard all the changes of the world. But we must see that the tranquillity of faith be well founded, that is, in humility. For as we cast our anchor in heaven, so also, with regard to ourselves, we ought always to he low and be humble. Whosoever then flies in vain confidence boasts in vain of faith, and falsely pretends that he trusts in God. Let it then ever come to our minds, and constantly recur to us, that our condition is not through ourselves safe and secure, but through the gratuitous goodness of God. We now see the application of this doctrine. The Prophet proceeds, —

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:6
Refuting the Jews’ reliance on their external privileges as God’s elect people, as if God could never cast them off. But if the potter, a mere creature, has power to throw away a marred vessel and raise up other clay from the ground, a fortiori God, the Creator, can cast away the people who prove unfaithful to His election and can raise others in their stead (compare Isa_45:9; Isa_64:8; Rom_9:20, Rom_9:21). It is curious that the potter’s field should have been the purchase made with the price of Judas’ treachery (Mat_27:9, Mat_27:10 : a potter’s vessel dashed to pieces, compare Psa_2:8, Psa_2:9; Rev_2:27), because of its failing to answer the maker’s design, being the very image to depict God’s sovereign power to give reprobates to destruction, not by caprice, but in the exercise of His righteous judgment. Matthew quotes Zechariah’s words (Zec_11:12, Zec_11:13) as Jeremiah’s because the latter (Jeremiah 18:1-19:15) was the source from which the former derived his summary in Zec_11:12, Zec_11:13 [Hengstenberg].

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:6
So are ye in mine hand – When a vessel was ruined, the potter did not throw it away, but crushed it together, dashed it back upon the wheel, and began his work afresh, until the clay had taken the predetermined shape. It was God’s purpose that Judaea should become the proper scene for the manifestation of the Messiah, and her sons be fit to receive the Saviour’s teaching and carry the good tidings to all lands. If therefore at any stage of the preparation the Jewish nation took such a course as would have frustrated this purpose of Providence, it was crushed by affliction into an unresisting mass, in which the formative process began again immediately.

Albert Barnes
Jer 18:6
Cannot I do with you as this potter? – Have I not a right to do with a people whom I have created as reason and justice may require? If they do not answer my intentions, may I not reject and destroy them; and act as this potter, make a new vessel out of that which at first did not succeed in his hands?

It is generally supposed that St. Paul has made a very different use of this similitude from that mentioned above. See Rom_9:20, etc. His words are, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” To this every sensible and pious man will answer, Undoubtedly he has. But would any potter make an exceedingly fair and good vessel on purpose to dash it to pieces when he had done? Surely no! And would or could, the God of infinite perfection and love make millions of immortal souls on purpose for eternal perdition, as the horrible decree of reprobation states? No! This is a lie against all the attributes of God. But does not the text state that he can, out of the same lump, the same mass of human nature, make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor? Yes. But the text does not say, what the horrible decree says, that he makes one part, and indeed the greater, for eternal perdition. But what then is the meaning of the text? Why evidently this: As out of the same mass of clay a potter may make a flagon for the table and a certain utensil for the chamber, the one for a more honorable, the other for a less honorable use, though both equally necessary to the owner; so God, out of the same flesh and blood, may make the tiller of the field and the prophet of the Most High; the one in a more honorable, the other in a less honorable employ; yet both equally necessary in the world, and equally capable of bringing glory to God in their respective places. But if the vessel be marred in his hand, under his providential and gracious dealings, he may reject it as he did the Jews, and make another vessel, such as he is pleased with, of the Gentiles; yet even these marred vessels, the reprobate Jews, are not finally rejected; for all Israel shall be saved in (through) the Lord, i.e., Jesus Christ. And should the Gentiles act as the Jews have done, then they also shall be cut off, and God will call his Church by another name. See on Rom_9:22 (note) and below.

John Calvin
Jer 18:7
This is a fuller application of the Prophet’s doctrine; for he had said generally before, that the people were in God’s hand as the clay is in the hand of the potter; but he adds here what is more popular or comprehensive, — that all men are in the hand of God, so that he now favors one nation with his blessing, and then deprives them of it, and that he raises up those whom he had previously brought low.

I have said that this part of the doctrine is more popular or comprehensive, for he refers to repentance. When Paul adduced this similitude, — that we are in the power of God as the clay is in the hand of the potter, he spoke not in so popular a manner: for he did not speak of repentance, but ascended higher and said, that before the world was created, it was in God’s power to determine what he pleased respecting every individual, and that we are now formed according to his will, so that he chooses one and rejects the other. Paul then did not refer to faithfulness nor to repentance, but spoke of the hidden purpose of God, by which he has predestinated some to salvation and some to destruction. (Rom_9:21.) Isaiah also seems to have had the same thing in view; for he says only, “Woe to them who rise up against their Maker.” (Isa_45:9.)

Cannot I determine, saith God, with regard to men, as the potter, who forms the clay as he pleases? We must then maintain this principle, — that men are thus formed according to God’s will, so that all must become mute;. for uselessly do the reprobate make a clamor, object and say, “Why hast thou formed us thus?” Has not the potter, says Paul, power, etc.? This is what must be said of God’s hidden predestination.

But Jeremiah here accommodates his doctrine to the people, that he might shew, that God had by a gratuitous covenant cliosen and adopted the seed of Abraham in such a way, that he could still repudiate the unworthy, even all those who despised so great a favor.

We now see the various applications of this doctrine; God determined, before the creation of the world, what he pleased respecting each individual; but his counsel is hid, and to us incomprehensible. There is here a more familiar application made, — that, God at one time takes away his blessings, and that at another he raises men as it were from death, that he might set them on high, according as he pities those who truly and from the heart turn to him, or is offended with the ingratitude of such as reject his offered favors.

Hence he says, Suddenly will I speak against a nation and against a kingdom, to pull down, to root up, or to extirpate, and to destroy. By saying suddenly, he reminds the Jews of their origin; for what was their condition when the Lord stretched out his hand to them, and brought them from that wretched bondage in which they lived? as though he had said, “Consider from whence God raised you, and then acknowledge that he raised you in a wonderful manner and beyond human expectation; for in the same day ye were of all the most miserable, and of all the most happy; one night not only brought you from death into life, but carried you from the deepest abyss above all earthly happiness, as though ye rode on the clouds.” God then suddenly spoke.

But he refers also to punishment; God speaks of a nation and of a kingdom, to do it good; and he speaks again, in order to pull down, to destroy a nation and a kingdom. How then comes it, that they who seem for a time to flourish and to be most happy, suddenly perish? Because God punishes men for their ingratitude. And how comes it, that they, who were trodden under foot by all, suddenly rise? Because the Lord pities them.

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:7-10
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, etc. – If that nation, against whom, etc. – And at what instant, etc. – If it do evil, etc. – These verses contain what may be called God’s decree by which the whole of his conduct towards man is regulated. If he purpose destruction against an offending person, if that person repent and turn to God, he shall live and not die. If he purpose peace and salvation to him that walketh uprightly, if he turn from God to the world and sin, he shall die and not live.

John Calvin
Jer 18:8
But the Prophet speaks first of punishment; Suddenly, he says, will I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, to pull down, to extirpate and to destroy; that is, even they who seem far from all danger shall find that they are exposed to my judgment. But if a nation,he says, turns from its wickedness, against whom I have spoken, then I will repent of the evil, etc. The Prophet no doubt intended to shut up the mouths of the Jews, who, as we have before seen, continually contended with God; for he could not convince them that the punishments were just which God inflicted on them for their sins. As then they were thus perverse in their wickedness, and hypocrisy also had hardened them the more, the Prophet says here in God’s name, “When I speak against a nation and threaten final ruin, if it repents, I shall be immediately reconciled to it; there is therefore no ground for the Jews to expostulate with me, as though I dealt with them too severely; for they shall find me reconcilable if they repent from the heart.” It follows then, that their obstinacy was the cause why God proceeded in his judgments, for the repentance of God means no other thing than what Scripture says elsewhere, that he is merciful, slow to wrath, and ready to forgive. (Num_14:18; Psa_103:8.) He then here testifies, that nothing hindered the Jews from being in a better state but their own perverseness.

Adam Clarke
Jer 18:8
heir evil — in antithesis to, “the evil that I thought to do.”

repent — God herein adapts Himself to human conceptions. The change is not in God, but in the circumstances which regulate God’s dealings: just as we say the land recedes from us when we sail forth, whereas it is we who recede from the land (Eze_18:21; Eze_33:11). God’s unchangeable principle is to do the best that can be done under all circumstances; if then He did not take into account the moral change in His people (their prayers, etc.), He would not be acting according to His own unchanging principle (Jer_18:9, Jer_18:10). This is applied practically to the Jews’ case (Jer_18:11; see Jer_26:3; Jon_3:10).

Albert Barnes
Jer 18:8
I will repent of the evil … I will repent of the good – All God’s dealings with mankind are here declared to be conditional. God changeth not, all depends upon man’s conduct.

John Calvin
Jer 18:9
On the other hand, he affirms, that the lost are restored, when the Lord speaks suddenly, of a nation and of a kingdom, to build and to plant; as though it was said, — “I will not only forgive, but I am ready to bestow blessings on those whom I had previously rejected as mine enemies.” Then God amplifies his goodness when he says, that he will not only forgive the sins of men, so as freely to pardon them, but that he is ready to bestow on them all kinds of blessings, if they seek to be reconciled to him.

John Calvin
Jer 18:10
Now follows the opposite clause, But if it will do evil before mine eyes, so as not to hear my voice; that is, when a nation has been planted through my kindness, (for this is required by the context,) then I will repent,etc. By this denunciation is meant, that God would tread in the dust those whom he had favored with singular benefits, on account of the abuse made of them; although he had said, “When I promise bountifully and freely to a nation or a kingdom everything that can be wished, except my favor and goodness be rightly received, then I repent of the good done to it.” The meaning is, that the way of pardon is always open, when a sinner turns to God, and that it is in vain for men to boast of God’s promises, except, they in fear and obedience submit themselves to him.

Both these things were necessary; that is, that the Jews should know that God would be entreated if they repented, and that his promises could not be extended to those who were guilty of such gross abuse as a total disregard of his law and his prophets. Then the Prophet mentions here the ordinary course, — that as soon as men repented, they might safely and fully expect good things from God, for he is inclined to mercy; and then, that no nation, however it may excel in gifts, ought to indulge a foolish confidence and to use its present glory as means to despise its giver, for God can take away what he has given. The real import of the whole then is, that we cannot expect to enjoy the benefits which God bestows on us, except we persevere in faithfulness and in the fear of him. It is indeed cmtain that God’s blessings do not depend on worthiness in man; but still he will not have his bounty to be despised, as was the case with the Jews, and at this day it is a common thing in the world. It now follows,–

John Calvin
Jer 18:11
The Prophet is now bidden to turn his discourse to the Jews, that he might apply the doctrine of repentance, to which he had referred; for a doctrine generally stated, as it is well known, is less efflcient. He then contends here, as it were, in full force with his own nation: Saythen to the Jews and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who indeed ought to have shewn the way to others, but were themselves the worst of all, return ye, he says, every one from his evil way. Here God shews, that what he had before stated generally, applied peculiarly to the Jews, — that he is reconcilable when a sinner returns to him, and that they who disregard and despise his goodness cannot possibly escape unpunished.

Return ye, he says, every one from his evil way, and make right your ways; why so? For behold I frame for you an evil, and I think for you a thought;that is, “Vengeance is now prepared and is suspended over your heads, except ye turn in due time; but if ye truly and from the heart repent, I am ready to receive you.” We see how God includes the two things before referred to: He had previously said, “If I speak against a nation, and it turns from its sins, I immediately repent; but when I promise to be a father to a nation or a kingdom, I do not allow myself and my bounty to be despised, which men do when they reject what I offer.” But he now says, Behold, I think, etc.; this refers to the former clause, the threatenings; and then when he adds, Return ye, he promises pardon; for as it has been said elsewhere and often, there can be no exhortation to repentance without a hope of favor, as God cannot be feared, except there be propitiation with him, according to what is said in Psa_130:4 God then shews in this verse, that he was ready to receive the Jews if they repented; but that if they continued perverse as they were wont to be, he would not suffer them to go unpunished, for he thought of evil for them. But this thought included the effect, the execution, as he was the potter, in whose hand and power they were.

Then the Prophet adds what shews how hopeless was the impiety of the people, for all his labor was in vain. It was indeed a monstrous stupidity, when they could not be terrified by God’s threatenings not allured by his kind promises. But the Prophet meant also to shew, that God tried all means to restore the people from ruin to life and salvation, but that all means were tried in vain, owing to the irreclaimable character of the people. I cannot finish the subject to-day; I must therefore defer it till to-morrow.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:11
frame evil — alluding to the preceding image of “the potter,” that is, I, Jehovah, am now as it were the potter framing evil against you; but in the event of your repenting, it is in My power to frame anew My course of dealing towards you.

return, etc. — (2Ki_17:13).

Albert Barnes
Jer 18:11
The word rendered “frame” is a present participle, and is the same which as a noun means “a potter.” God declares that He is as free to do what He will with the Jews as the potter is free to shape as he will the clay.

Devise a device – “I am purposing a purpose.”

John Calvin
Jer 18:12
The Prophet, having related that he had denounced on the Jews the vengeance of God, adds now, how proudly they despised his threatenings. And their sin was on this account enhanced, because a hope of pardon remained for them, provided they returned to God. But the Prophet says, that they expressly refused to do so. They said, נואש nuash, which we render, “It is all over,” though interpreters in general render it, “It is past hope.” We have spoken of this word in chapter second, and the Prophet now repeats the same thing, — that the Jews were obstinately given to superstitions, and also to perverted counsels, thinking that they could well provide for their own safety and drive away all dangers by connecting themselves, at one time with the Assyrians, and at another with the Egyptians. But as the verb יאש iash, may be taken as signifying, to be weary, as we learn from the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes; it may perhaps be not unsuitably rendered here, “We are become weary;” that is, we are unwilling to consume so much labor in vain; for the ungodly took this as a reason for their obstinacy, that they had labored long and much in something or another; and pride hardened them, and they said, “Have we not hitherto labored in vain?” Now this meaning, “We have become wearied,” Does not appear in-suitable, by which they implied, “Thou oughtest to have called us back at the beginning; but now we have nearly finished the whole journey and are not far distant from the goal; it cannot then be that we shall return to the starting place, for it would be absurd for us to spend so much labor in vain and to no purpose.” Nor is this meaning disapproved of by those who regard the word as a noun, “It is weariness,” that is, “It is now too late to reprove us, for we have now followed this way for many years.”

With regard to the main subject, there is but little difference. But the meaning would be clearer were we thus to paraphrase it, “Labor more than enough has been already spent; thou comest then not in due time.”

Isaiah in Isa_57:10, seems to have reproved the Jews for what was praiseworthy, if this declaration of Jeremiah be right; for he spoke thus,
“For ye have wearied yourselves in your ways,” and no one has said נואש, nuash; and Jeremiah reproves them here for having said נואש, nuash. These two places theft seem inconsistent. But when Isaiah spoke thus, he reproved the insensibility of the Jews, for even experience, which is said to be the teacher of fools, had not made them weary; for when they had so often found by their own calamities that they had been at one time deceived by the Assyrians, and at another by the Egyptians, it was an instance of palpable madness not to learn at length by long experience, and to confess, “We have surely labored in vain.” We thus see in what sense Isaiah blamed them for not saying, “It is weariness;” that is, because they did not consider that their labor had been in vain. But our Prophet here has another thing in view, — that the Jews were unwilling to lose their toil, but went on in their course obstinately, for they had hardened themselves so as to persist in their corrupt habit of sinning.

It follows, For after our thoughts we shall go, and every one will do the wickedness of his evil heart?Doubtless they did not thus speak openly, for they did not avowedly boast that they were ungodly and despisers of God: but the Prophet did not regard what they said, but what their conduct proved, for the Jews were wont to set up their own devices and the fallacies of Satan against the word of God. No wonder then that the Prophet charges them with these impious and sacrilegious words, that they resolved to follow their own thoughts, and the wickedness of their own hearts, rather than to submit to God and to obey his word.

We hence see that hypocrites gain nothing by obtruding their vain mummeries, for God cannot be dealt with sophistically or cunningly. Condemnation then awaits all the ungodly, however they may by disguises cover their wickedness; for whatever is contrary to sound doctrine, is a sinful device, a fallacy of Satan, and, in a word, the impiety of a corrupt heart.

Whosoever indeed turns aside from the plain teaching of the prophets, and from the teaching of the law, follow their own thoughts, or the figments of their own hearts. It hence follows that they try evasions in vain, for when they reject pure doctrine they set up their own inventions. In the same sense we are to take the words “his own evil heart,” לבו הרע labu ero; they never confessed that, their heart was evil or wicked, and yet the Prophet charged them with having uttered the words here stated, for he considered, as I have said, what their conduct proved, and not the evasions by which hypocrites usually attempt to deceive God. It now follows —

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:12
no hope — Thy threats and exhortations are all thrown away (Jer_2:25). Our case is desperate; we are hopelessly abandoned to our sins and their penalty. In this and the following clauses, “We will walk after our own devices,” Jeremiah makes them express the real state of the case, rather than the hypocritical subterfuges which they would have been inclined to put forth. So Isa_30:10, Isa_30:11.

John Calvin
Jer 18:13
God shews here that the Jews were become wholly irreclaimable, for they arrived at the highest pitch of impiety, when they were so daring as to reject the salvation offered to them; for what had the Prophet in view but, to extricate them from ruin? God himself by his Prophet wished to secure their safety. How great then was their ingratitude to reject God’s paternal care, and not to give ear to the Prophet who was to be a minister of salvation to them? Now as they were extremely deaf and stupid: God turns to the Gentiles.

Enquire, or ask, he says, among the Gentiles, Has any one heard such a thing?as though he had said, “I will no more contend with those brute animals, for there is no reason in them; but the Gentiles, destitute of the light of knowledge, can be made witnesses of so gross an impiety.” And he says the same thing in Jer_2:10, “Go, pass through the isles and survey the whole world, has any nation forsaken its own gods, and yet they are no gods?”

As though he had said, “Religion so much prevails among wretched idolaters, that they continue steadfast in their superstitions; as they consider it a dreadful thing to change their god, they therefore shun it as a monstrous thing. Hence it is, that they are devoted to their superstitions, for the god whom they have once received, they think it the highest impiety to forsake, while yet they are no gods; but my people have forsaken me, who am the fountain of living water.” Jeremiah repeats now the same thing in other words, that such an example could not be found among heathens.

He then adds, A base thing has the virgin of Israel done. Some indeed render שעררת, shorret, “a monstrous thing,” and it may be thus taken metaphorically, for the verb שער shor, means to count, to think; and this meaning may be adopted here; but as in many places it signifies baseness, I will not depart from that common meaning. He says then, that it was an extremely base thing for the people to forsake him. He does not call the people the virgin of Israel by way of honor, but to augment their reproach. For God, as we have before seen, had espoused the people to himself; and so it was their duty to observe conjugal fidelity, as a virgin espoused by a husband, who ought not to regard any other, for she is not to look for any other after she has pledged her faith. But the people of Israel, who ought to have been as it were the bride of God, sinned most basely, yea, most disgracefully and infamously, when they prostituted themselves to wicked counsels as well as to superstitions. He now adds comparisons, by whichlte more fully exposes their wickedness, —

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:13
(Jer_2:10, Jer_2:11). Even among the heathen it was a thing unheard of, that a nation should lay aside its gods for foreign gods, though their gods are false gods. But Israel forsook the true God for foreign false gods.

virgin of Israel — (2Ki_19:21). It enhances their guilt, that Israel was the virgin whom God had specially betrothed to Him.

horrible thing — (Jer_5:30).

John Calvin
Jer 18:14
As I have just said, God here enhances the sin of the people by a twofold comparison; for when one can draw water in his own field, and find there a spring, what folly will it be for him to run to a distance to seek water? And then, when water does not spring up near, but flows from a distance in a pure and cold stream, who will not be satisfied with such water? and if he seeks to find the spring, will not all laugh at such madness? Now God was like a living fountain, and at Jerusalem was the spring where the Jews might drink to their full; and God’s blessings flowed also to them as it were through various channels, so that nothing was wanting to them. We then see that here is condemned a twofold madness in the people, that they despised God’s kindness which was near at hand, as though one close to Mount Libanus refused its cold waters, or as though one would not draw water from a river without going to the spring-head. Since then God offered himself to them in every way, and presented his bounty to them, it was a madness extremely base and inexcusable to reject flowing waters and the fountain itself.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:14
Is there any man (living near it) who would leave the snow of Lebanon (that is, the cool melted snow water of Lebanon, as he presently explains), which cometh from the rock of the field (a poetical name for Lebanon, which towers aloft above the surrounding field, or comparatively plain country)? None. Yet Israel forsakes Jehovah, the living fountain close at hand, for foreign broken cisterns. Jer_17:13; Jer_2:13, accord with English Version here. Maurer translates, “Shall the snow of Lebanon cease from the rock to water (literally, ‘forsake’) My fields” (the whole land around being peculiarly Jehovah’s)? Lebanon means the “white mountain”; so called from the perpetual snow which covers that part called Hermon, stretching northeast of Palestine.

that come from another place — that come from far, namely, from the distant lofty rocks of Lebanon. Henderson translates, “the compressed waters,” namely, contracted within a narrow channel while descending through the gorges of the rocks; “flowing” may in this view be rather “flowing down” (Son_4:15). But the parallelism in English Version is better, “which cometh from the rock,” “that cometh from another place.”

be forsaken — answering to the parallel, “Will a man leave,” etc. Maurer translates, “dry up,” or “fail” (Isa_19:5); the sense thus being, Will nature ever turn aside from its fixed course? The “cold waters” (compare Pro_25:25) refer to the perennial streams, fed from the partial melting of the snow in the hot weather.

John Calvin
Jer 18:15
We now perceive the meaning of this passage. It is doubtless natural for all to be satisfied with present blessings, especially when nothing better can anywhere else be found. When one has a fountain in his own field, why should he go elsewhere to drink? This would be monstrous. Dost thou want water? God supplies thee with it; take it from thine own fountain. If one objects and says, “That fountain I dislike; I wish to know whether better waters can be found at a distance.” This we see is a proof of brutal stupidity; for if the water which flows he cold and pure, and he dislikes it, because he wishes to go to the spring, he shews his own folly, whoever he may be. If, for instance, any one at this day would not drink the waters of the Rhone, which flows by here, and would not taste of the springs, but would run to the fountain and spring-head of the Rhone, would he not deserve to perish through thirst? God then shews that the Jews were so void of all sense and reason, that they ought to have been deemed detestable by all; and therefore in the application, when he says, My people have forgotten me, both clauses ought to be repeated. This indeed by itself would have been obscure, or at least not sufficiently explicit; but God here in substance repeats what he had said before, that he is the fountain of living water which was offered to the Jews; and also that his bounty flowed through various channels like living and cold waters. As then the people forgat God they were doubly ungrateful, for they refused to drink of the fountain itself, and disdained the cold and flowing waters, which were not hot to occasion a nausea; they were also pure and liquid, having no impure mixture in them.

He again calls them his people, but for the sake of reproaching them; for the less excusable was their perverseness, when God in an especial manner offered himself to them, and they refused his offered bounty. Had this been done by heathens it would have been no small sin, though God had not favored them with any remarkable privilege, but when the Jews had been chosen in preference to all others, it was as it were a monstrous thing that they forgot God, even him whom they had known. He was unknown to heathens, but he had made himself known to the Jews; hence this forgetfulness, with which the Prophet charged them, could not have proceeded from ignorance, but from determined perverseness.

He afterwards adds, In vain they burn incense to me, since to stumble,etc., (the copulative is to be rendered as a causal particle.) When he says, in vain they burn incense, it is to anticipate an objection. For we know that the Jews trusted in their ceremonial rites, so when they were reproved by the Prophets they had ever ready this answer, “We are the worshippers of God, for we constantly go up to the Temple, and he has promised that the incense which we offer shall be to him a sweet odor.” He at the same time includes under this word all the sacrifices, for it is said generally of them all, “A sweet odor shall ascend before the Lord.” Then by mentioning one thing he denotes all that external worship in which the Jews were sufficiently assiduous. But as the whole was nothing but hypocrisy, when the integrity of the heart was absent, the Prophet here dissipates this vain objection, and says, “In vain do they set forth their ceremonial rites, that they attend very regularly to their sacrifices, and that they do not neglect anything in the external worship of God: it is all in vain,” he says.
This truth is often referred to by the Prophets, and ought to be well known by the godly; yet we see how difficult it is to bring the world to believe it. Hypocrisy ever prevails, and men think that they perform all that is required of them when some kind of religion appears among them. But God, as we have before seen, has regard to the heart itself or integrity; yet this is what the world cannot comprehend. Therefore the Prophets do not without reason so often inculcate the truth, that inward piety, connected with integrity of heart, alone pleases God.

He afterwards mentions the cause — that they made them to stumble in their waysHe means here no doubt the false teachers, who allured the people from the true and simple worship of God, and corrupted wholesome doctrine by their many fictions. And it is a common thing in Hebrew to leave a word, as we have said elsewhere, to be understood: they then made them to stumble, or to fall. The meaning is, that the sacrifices of the people could not be approved by God, because the whole of religion was corrupted. And the crime the Prophet names was, that the people were drawn aside from the right way, that is, from the law, which is alone the rule of piety and uprightness.

But we hence learn how frivolous is the excuse of those who say, that they follow what they have learnt from the fathers, and what has been delivered to them from the ancients, and received by universal consent; for God here declares, that the destruction of the people would follow, because they suffered themselves to be deceived by false prophets.

As to the words in their ways, or in their own ways, interpreters differ, and many apply the pronoun הם, em, to the false Prophets; but I prefer the other view, that they made them to stumble in their right ways, for by errors they led them away from the right course. When therefore he says, in their ways, the words are to be taken in a good sense; for God had pointed out the right way to the people. He then calls the doctrine of the law the ways to which the people had been accustomed. Then follows the expression, the paths of ages, which is to be taken in the same sense. But we must notice the contrast between those paths, and the way not trodden

This brevity may be deemed obscure; I will therefore give a more explicit explanation. The Prophet calls those the ways of the people in which they had been fully taught; and this took away every color of defense; for the people could not object and say that they had been deceived, as though they had not known what was right; for they had not only been taught, but had also been led as it were by the hand, so that the way of the law ought to have been well known by them. Then he adds, the paths of ages; for as the law had not been introduced a short time before, but for many ages, this antiquity ought to have strengthened their faith in God’s law. We now see how these two things bear on what is said, that the Jews, being deceived by false teachers, fellor stumbledin those ways to which they had been accustomed; and then in the paths of ages, that is, in the doctrine long before received, and whose authority had been for many ages established. On the other hand, he says that the Jews had been drawn to paths and to a way not trodden, that is, had been led from the right way into error. And he farther aggravates their sin by saying, that they preferred to go astray rather than to keep the way which had been trodden by their fathers.

But it may be here asked, whether this change in itself ought to be condemned, since we despise antiquity, or rather regard what is right? To this the easy reply is, that the Prophet speaks here in the name of God’ therefore this principle ought to be maintained, that there is no right way but what God himself has pointed out. Had any one else come and boasted antiquity, the Prophet would have laughed to scorn such boasting, and why? for what antiquity can be in men who vanish away? and when we count many ages, there is nothing constant and sure among men. It ought then to be noticed, that God. was the author of that way which the Prophet complains had been forsaken by the people, how the things which follow harmonize together, that the people had strayed from the way which they had long kept; for the Jews, as it has been said, had not followed any men, but God himself, who had been pleased to stretch forth his hand to them and to shew them the sure way of salvation; and we must also observe what sort of people were the fathers, even such as had followed God, and when they had such examples, they ought to have been more and more stimulated to imitate them.

It was therefore an inexcusable wickedness to forsake a way found good by long experience, the way of ages, which had been approved for a long time, and to depart into paths not trodden, for by no example, of the saints who were alone the true fathers, had they been led to devise for themselves new and fictitious modes of worship, and also to depart from the plain doctrine of the law. Had any one answered, that these ways had been long trodden, because they had both the Assyrians and the Egyptians as associates in their superstitions, such an exception could not be admitted, for the Prophet, as I have said, does not speak indiscriminately of any kind of examples, but of the examples of the fathers, who had been ruled and led by the Lord. It follows —

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jer 18:15
Because — rather, “And yet”; in defiance of the natural order of things.

forgotten me — (Jer_2:32). This implies a previous knowledge of God, whereas He was unknown to the Gentiles; the Jews’ forgetting of God, therefore, arose from determined perversity.

they have caused … to stumble — namely the false prophets and idolatrous priests have.

ancient paths — (Jer_6:16): the paths which their pious ancestors trod. Not antiquity indiscriminately, but the example of the fathers who trod the right way, is here commended.

them — the Jews.

not cast up — not duly prepared: referring to the raised center of the road. Calvin translates, “not trodden.” They had no precedent of former saints to induce them to devise for themselves a new worship.

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