The present prophecy Jeremiah 19-20 is to be taken in close connection with the preceding. Jeremiah chooses a vessel baked in the fire, and therefore incapable of being re-shaped (compare Jeremiah 18:1, note; Jeremiah 18:6, note). It is the symbol of the obdurate, of those who have taken their final form Revelation 22:11. In solemn procession he must bear the vessel out to the place of doom, the valley of Gehenna. There he was to break the vessel; and just as all the art of the potter would be of no avail to restore the broken fragments, so did God proclaim the final destruction of Jerusalem such as it then was, and of that generation which inhabited it.
Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;Get (i. e., purchase) a potter's earthen bottle - The "bottle" was a flask with a long neck, and took its name from the noise made by liquids in running out.
The ancients - These "elders" were the regularly constituted representatives of the people (see Jeremiah 29:1; Numbers 11:16), and the organization lasted down to our Saviour's time Matthew 26:47. Similarly the priests had also their representatives 2 Kings 19:2. Accompanied thus by the representatives of Church and State, the prophet was to carry the earthen bottle, the symbol of their mean origin and frail existence, outside the walls of Jerusalem.
And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee,The valley ... - See Jeremiah 7:31 note.
The east gate - Others render "the pottery gate." Two gates led into the valley of Hinnom, the Fountain-gate at the southeast corner, and the Dung-gate on the southwest side of Zion; some think that "the east gate" was neither of these, but a small or postern gate, used for throwing out rubbish, the valley having been put to this degrading use from the time that Josiah defiled it 2 Kings 23:10. And thus the mean symbol of a proud nation was carried out through a back door to be broken upon the heaps of refuse already cast there.
And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.Kings - Plural because the message Jeremiah 19:3-9, related not especially to the reigning king, but to the whole royal house.
Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;Have estranged this place - They have not recognized the sanctity of this place, but have treated it as a strange place, by worshipping in it strange gods.
Innocents - i. e., guiltless persons.
They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.
And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.Make void - The verb used here is that from which "bottle" Jeremiah 19:1 is derived, and as it represents the sound made by the water running out, it would be better translated, "pour out." Jeremiah perhaps carried the bottle to Tophet full of water, the symbol in the East of life Isaiah 35:6; Isaiah 41:18, and at these words emptied it before the assembled elders.
And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof.
And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.
Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee,
And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury.Made whole again - literally, "healed." In this lies the distinction between this symbol and that of Jeremiah 18:4. The plastic clay can be shaped and re-shaped until the potter forms with it the vessel he had predetermined: the broken bottle is of no further use, but its fragments are cast away forever upon the heaps of rubbish deposited in Tophet.
Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet:
And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods.Because of all - literally, "with reference to all," limiting the denunciation to those houses whose roofs had been defiled with altars.
Upon whose roofs they have burned incense - See 2 Kings 23:12, note.
Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people,Since it was this repetition of the prophecy in the temple which so greatly irritated Pashur, these two verses ought to be joined to the next chapter.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.