Jeremiah 1:11
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.
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(11) The word of the Lord . . .—As before, we have the element of ecstasy and vision, symbols not selected by the prophet, and yet, we may believe, adapted to his previous training, and to the bent and, as it were, genius of his character.

The poetry of the symbols is of exquisite beauty. In contrast to the words of terror, in harmony with the words of hope, he sees the almond-bough, with its bright pink blossoms and its pale green leaves, the token of an early spring rising out of the dreariness of winter. The name of the almond-tree (here the poetical, not the common, name) made the symbol yet more expressive. It was the watcher, the tree that “hastens to awake” (shâkêd) out of its wintry sleep, and thus expresses the divine haste which would not without cause delay the fulfilment of its gracious promise, but would, as it were, make it bud and blossom, and bear fruit.

Jeremiah 1:11-12. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me — Probably at the same time, and in the same vision, wherein he was first appointed to his office; saying, What seest thou — Here, by symbolical representations, the meaning of which God immediately interpreted, future things were presented to his view. This method of instruction or information sinks deeper into the mind, and leaves a more lasting impression there, than any mere words can do; and therefore the prophets frequently received communications from God in this way. And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree — Namely, which had leaves, and possibly blossoms on it, like Aaron’s rod; otherwise the prophet could not so readily have discerned of what kind of wood it was. The almond-tree is one of the first that wakes and rises from its winter repose, flowering, in the warm southern countries, in the month of January, and by March bringing its fruits to maturity. From this circumstance, which is mentioned by Pliny, lib. 16. cap. 42, it is supposed to have received its name, שׁקד, shaked, as being intent, and, as it were, on the watch to seize the first opportunity of emitting its buds and blossoms: which is the proper sense of the verb, from which that noun is derived. A branch of this tree, therefore, with buds or leaves, and blossoms upon it, was a proper emblem to denote God’s hastening the execution of the predictions which he declared by this prophet, who lived to see most of his prophecies fulfilled. There is also in the original a remarkable paranomasia, or affinity in sound, between shaked, an almond-tree, and shoked, hastening, which makes the words more striking than they can possibly be in any translation. For not only the nature of the almond-tree, but the very sound of the Hebrew word, which signifies it, denoted God’s hastening to fulfil the prophecies which Jeremiah uttered by his directions. Thou hast well seen — Or, thou hast seen and judged right. Hebrew, הישׂבת לראות, Thou hast done well to see, that is, in seeing so. For I will hasten my word — Literally, I will act like the almond-tree respecting my word; namely, my word of threatening, against Judah and Jerusalem, to perform it.

1:11-19 God gave Jeremiah a view of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. The almond-tree, which is more forward in the spring than any other, represented the speedy approach of judgments. God also showed whence the intended ruin should arise. Jeremiah saw a seething-pot boiling, representing Jerusalem and Judah in great commotion. The mouth or face of the furnace or hearth, was toward the north; from whence the fire and fuel were to come. The northern powers shall unite. The cause of these judgments was the sin of Judah. The whole counsel of God must be declared. The fear of God is the best remedy against the fear of man. Better to have all men our enemies than God our enemy; those who are sure they have God with them, need not, ought not to fear, whoever is against them. Let us pray that we may be willing to give up personal interests, and that nothing may move us from our duty.What seest thou? - If we admit a supernatural element in prophecy, visions would be the most simple means of communication between God and man.

A rod of an almond tree - Many translate "a staff of almond wood." The vision would thus signify that God - like a traveler, staff in hand - was just about to set forth upon His journey of vengeance. But the rendering of the King James Version is supported by Genesis 30:37. The word rendered "almond" comes from a root signifying "to be awake;" and as the almond blossoms in January, it seems to be awake while other trees are still Sleeping, and therefore is a fit emblem of activity.

11. rod—shoot, or branch.

almond tree—literally, "the wakeful tree," because it awakes from the sleep of winter earlier than the other trees, flowering in January, and bearing fruit in March; symbol of God's early execution of His purpose; Jer 1:12, "hasten My word" (compare Am 8:3).

This and the boiling caldron, Jeremiah 1:13, is thought to be at the same time, and in the same vision, when he was first appointed to his work.

A rod of an almond tree, viz. that had leaves, and possibly blossoms, on it, like Aaron’s, Numbers 17:8; for without leaves at least it is possible he had not so readily guessed of what kind it had been. This is a tree that blossoms early and speedily, and hence hath its name in Hebrew scaked, signifying watchful, forward, nimble, or quick; and so it may point at either God’s readiness to smite, Jeremiah 1:12, which is described elsewhere by summer fruit, Amos 8:1,2; or Israel’s ripeness to be smitten, as we have the like Ezekiel 7:10,11; or both; this rod being like a portentous comet, showing to Jeremiah the miseries that were at hand, as the death of Josiah, which soon followed this vision, 2 Kings 23:29, and the taxing them by Pharaoh-nechoh, 2 Kings 23:35, and presently after the breaking in of the Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, 2 Kings 24:2, and then the Babylonian captivity, 2 Kings 24:10, which happened in the eighth year of Jehoiachin, 2 Kings 24:12, when Nebuchadnezzar took him with others, and carried them away, about twenty-three years from hence; and about the fortieth year Jerusalem was taken, and the temple burnt.

Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me,.... At the same time as before:

saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? The Septuagint version leaves out the word "Jeremiah":

and I said, I see a rod of an almond tree; a dry stick, without leaves or fruit upon it, and yet he knew it to be an almond tree stick; though some think it had leaves and fruit on it, by which it was known. The Targum is,

"and I said, a king hastening to do evil I see;''

meaning Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, hastening to bring destruction upon the Jews.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a {m} rod of an almond tree.

(m) He joins the sign with the word, for a more ample confirmation: signifying by the rod of the almond tree, which first buds, the hasty coming of the Babylonians against the Jews.

11. I see a rod of an almond tree] The almond tree in Palestine has been compared to the snowdrop with us, as giving one of the first signs of approaching spring. Dr Tristram (Nat. Hist. of the Bible) tells us that at Bethany in the month of January he gathered the blossoms in full bloom. They appear before the leaves open, like those of the peach-tree in England. The Hebrew used here (shâkêd) is not the ordinary word for an almond tree, but a poetical expression, meaning that which is awakening, and referring to the blossoming of this tree as taking place while others are still in their winter sleep. There is a play on the words shâkêd and (Jeremiah 1:12) shôkêd (watching over). Cp. Amos 8:1, where the sight of a basket of summer fruit (kayitz) is to the prophet symbolic of the end (kêtz) which is coming upon his nation.

11, 12. The symbol of the almond tree

It is often supposed that the almond tree and the boiling caldron were seen by the prophet in vision. But it is quite possible that it was an actual almond tree to which Jeremiah’s attention was directed. If so, we may see the prophet musing on the moral deadness and neglect which he beheld around him, as illustrated by nature’s winter sleep. It is borne in upon him, either at the very time of his call or perhaps subsequently, that in spiritual matters no less surely than in nature this state of things must cease. For him “the sight of the tree is more than a coincidence: Nature is a parable of God’s working. Hence he sees in this harbinger of the spring a sign that the hard frost is about to break and new life to spring from the soil.” (Pe. ad loc.)

Verses 11-16. - Two trials or probations of Jeremiah's inner sight (2 Kings 6:17). Two visions are granted him, which he is required to describe. The first expresses the certainty of his prophetic revelation; the second indicates its contents. Verse 11. - A rod of an almond tree. The name here adopted for the almond tree is peculiarly suitable in this connection. It means "wakeful;" the almond, blossoming in January, is the first to "wake" from the sleep of winter. Jeremiah 1:11The Confirmatory Tokens. - The first is given in Jeremiah 1:11 and Jeremiah 1:12 : "And there came to me the word of Jahveh, saying, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, I see an almond rod. Then Jahveh said to me, Thou hast seen aright: for I will keep watch over my word to fulfil it." With the consecration of the prophet to his office are associated two visions, to give him a surety of the divine promise regarding the discharge of the duties imposed on him. First, Jeremiah sees in spirit a rod or twig of an almond tree. God calls his attention to this vision, and interprets it to him as a symbol of the swift fulfilment of His word. The choice of this symbol for the purpose given is suggested by the Hebrew name for the almond tree, שׁקד, the wakeful, the vigilant; because this tree begins to blossom and expand its leaves in January, when the other trees are still in their winter's sleep (florat omnium prima mense Januario, Martio vero poma maturat. Plin. h. n. xvi. 42, and Von Schubert, Reise iii. S. 14), and so of all trees awakes earliest to new life. Without any sufficient reason Graf has combated this meaning for שׁקד, proposing to change שׁקד into שׁקד, and, with Aquil., Sym., and Jerome, to translate מקּל שׁקד watchful twig, virga vigilans, i.e., a twig whose eyes are open, whose buds have opened, burst; but he has not even attempted to give any authority for the use of the verb שׁקד for the bursting of buds, much less justified it. In the explanation of this symbol between the words, thou hast seen aright, and the grounding clause, for I will keep watch, there is omitted the intermediate thought: it is indeed a שׁקד. The twig thou hast seen is an emblem of what I shall do; for I will keep watch over my word, will be watchful to fulfil it. This interpretation of the symbol shows besides that מקּל is not here to be taken, as by Kimchi, Vatabl., Seb. Schmidt, Ngelsb., and others, for a stick to beat with, or as a threatening rod of correction. The reasons alleged by Ngelsb. for this view are utterly inconclusive. For his assertion, that מקּל always means a stick, and never a fresh, leafy branch, is proved to be false by Genesis 30:37; and the supposed climax found by ancient expositors in the two symbols: rod-boiling caldron, put thus by Jerome: qui noluerint percutiente virga emendari, mittentur in ollam aeneam atque succensam, is forced into the text by a false interpretation of the figure of the seething pot. The figure of the almond rod was meant only to afford to the prophet surety for the speedy and certain fulfilment of the word of God proclaimed by him. It is the second emblem alone that has anything to do with the contents of his preaching.
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