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Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and
the two tliat here follow. In them the things seen either surpass the limits of human experience (e.g. Ezek. i. 4, etc.), or they appertain to the world of sense in such measure that there is no difficulty in describing them by means of human language (as in the present instances). Further, it may be noticed that symbolic visions are thus to be distinguished from symbolic actiotis; in the former the prophet is but a spectator; in the latter (e. g. the symbol of the linen girdle, Jer. xiii. 1—7) he takes an active part.
/ 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. I)r Tristram (Natural History 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 (sh&kld) is not the ordinary word for an almond tree, but a poetical expression, meaning that which is awake, and referring to the blossoming of this tree as taking place while others are still in their winter sleep. Accordingly the almond tree is made the subject of this vision— an 'emblem of wakefulness and activity,' as is shewn by the interpretation given in ver. 12. The other mode of explanation, which consists in rendering not "rod " but staff, such as is carried by travellers, would quite change the character of the figure, which would then exhibit the Almighty as about to set forth on a journey of vengeance. This is unlikely and forced.
12. / will hasten] Rather, I am wakeful (keep watch, await my opportunity) for. The point of the expression can only be perceived, if we are aware that the Hebrew term is shokM, a participle from the same root as the word for almond tree in the former verse. Since the punishment of captivity inflicted on Manasseh the Lord had not visited upon His people their sins. That period of rest then was like the winter, at the end of which the almond tree was the first to wake. So now the Lord is rousing Himself. The period of trial is rapidly approaching its end, and the punishment so long delayed is about to be at last inflicted. At the same time there is a brighter side too. The Lord is rousing Himself not only to punish but to save. Through Jeremiah's ministry and Josiah's reforms religion is to be kept alive in a remnant of those carried to Babylon, and so the return from captivity shall at last be brought about.
13. a seething pot] The second vision is of a more uniform character than the first. It betokens nothing save disaster, and by it the character of the future in store for the nation is more clearly brought the face thereof is towards the north. Then the Lord said 14 unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. For lo, I will call all the 15 families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at
out. The word sir, here rendered pot, was a large vessel, as it was used in preparing pottage for a considerable number in 2 Kings iv. 38. It was also used for washing (Ps. Ix. 8). Some render instead of "seething" (boiling) blown upon; i.e. a pot placed upon a fire made to burn brightly by blowing. A passage in Job (xli. 20) rather supports this view from the words which follow. "Out of his (leviathan's) nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath Mndletk coals." The figure of a pot boiling over is found also in Arabic poetry to express as here a war carried on with vehemence and ardour.
towards] from the fe.ee of. The pot is leaning away from the north. As the materials on which it is standing are consumed, it settles unevenly, and the southern side sinks. Thus it will presently be overturned, and send its scalding contents in that direction.
14. Out of the north] Interpretation of the second vision. It clearly points to the irruption of a hostile army into Judtea from a northerly direction. Some have taken this army to be the Scythian hordes. For reasons against this view see notes on iv. 6. The true explanation seems to be the following. The boiling pot is the region of Mesopotamia, where four great nations, Babylon, Nineveh, Elam, and Media are engaged in strife. The danger to Judaea had always depended on the fact that it lay on the direct road from the East to Egypt and thus was exposed to attacks by the way on the part of armies directed against the latter power. Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, had broken up Egypt into twelve small states, which had no thought of any foreign contest, and thus the Jews had had some relief from invasion. But besides this, the constant struggles of the four nations above mentioned with one another had the same effect. These constant struggles are the boiling caldron. The contest however gives signs of coming to an end. The caldron is settling down on one side. Victory is declaring for the Chaldaeans of Babylon, and when they have established their superiority, that fury which has hitherto been put forth in strife within Mesopotamia will be directed against the Jews. The boiling contents of the caldron will be poured over Judaea.
an evil] the evil,—the evil which was to be expected, foretold by all the prophets as the result of national sin. shall break forth] shall be opened, shall disclose itself.
15. all the families of the kingdoms] Each kingdom was composed of a mixture of races, here called families. The rendering however may be, all the families, even the kingdoms, in which case kingdoms would be only an explanation of the sense in which the word families is used.
they shall set every one his throne] The chiefs of the combined army, the rulers who are suggested by the word kingdoms, post themselves the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of T6 Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burnt incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of
around the walls of the besieged city. Some take the sense to he that the blockade is thus made more sure. The generals take up their position at all the gates, that none may go out or come in. It is better however to take the word throne, to denote the seat from which judgment is delivered. The function of administering justice, which among us is delegated by the monarch to judges, was in the East exercised by the king in person, and the gate of the city, or rather a large space in its neighbourhood, was reserved free of buildings, and was the ordinary place at which trials were held and sentences declared. Cp. Deut. xvi. 18, xvii. 8; Ruth iv. 1. Here then the rulers of the invader's army, by a figure taken from the familiar proceedings of criminal justice, are said to be about to sit in judgment on the crimes of the people and inflict punishment on the guilty. For the word throne as used to denote the judgment-seat see Ps. ix. 4, cxxii. 5; Prov. xx. 8. The general sense of the verse is that it is not without reason, or as the blind act of ambitious and more powerful nations, that Jerusalem is to be overthrown. That overthrow will take place as a judicial act, as a consequence of wickedness, and after the case has been duly weighed in the balances.
and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah] It is difficult to know whether we should connect this with 'shall come' or 'shall set.' The reason of the ambiguity lies in the fact that Jeremiah mingles the two thoughts of a besieging army and of a judicial sentence and its execution. It is in point of fact by the scaling of the walls of Jerusalem and the capture of the other cities of the country that the sentence is to be carried out, and Jeremiah here as elsewhere (see Introduction, chap. ii. § 8 (d) and note) breaks off his simile or metaphor with abruptness and takes up anew the literal statement.
16. / will utter my judgments against them] Literally, I will speak my Judgments with them. An almost identical phrase in the Hebrew occurs again in this book, when Zedekiah is brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, and it is said that the latter "gave judgment upon him," marginal "spake with him judgments" (xxxix. 5); compare iv. 12.
touching all their wickedness] This is defined in the three clauses that follow, (i) the forsaking of the true God, (ii) the burning of incense to other gods, (hi) the worshipping of images.
other gods] The Greek (Septuagint) and Latin Vulgate translations seem to have felt a difficulty in this expression, since "there is none other God but one." Cp. St Paul "we know that an idol is nothing in the world" (1 Cor. viii. 4). Inasmuch then as the idols worshipped by their own hands. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and i7 arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and 18 an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not ,9 prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.
Gentiles represented things non-existent, beings of fancy only, the Greek and Latin render here gods of foreign nations.
17. Words of encouragement in this and the two next verses. Thou therefore gird tip thy loins] Gather up the lower part of the
flowing Eastern robe. This was done in preparation for (i) a journey (Exod. xii. 11; 2 Kings iv. 29, ix. 1), (ii) a race (1 Kings xviii. 46), (iii) a conflict (Job xxxviii. 3, xl. 7). It implied (1) readiness for effort, (2) energy in action. As the sin of the people was great and manifold, and as the impending danger was not only near but terrible and destructive in its nature, so was it needful that without fear or favour the warning should be given, and that he to whom that warning was entrusted should 'deliver his soul,' and not by apathy or want of boldness involve himself in any way in the people's guilt.
be not dismayed...] The literal rendering would be, be not broken down before them, lest I break thee down before them. There is thus a play upon words in the Hebrew, which can hardly be reproduced in idiomatic English.
18. a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls] Jeremiah was to be fortified by divine strength against the attacks which he should have to confront throughout his prophetic life. When all else was fluctuating and yielding to pressure from within and without, he alone was to represent resistance. The assaults would be severe, and hence the force of the three figures under which he is described. And as Jeremiah would need strength in a pre-eminent degree, so the figures under which it is described are more forcible than that used in the similar case of Ezekiel: "As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not" (Ezek. iii. 9).
chin, Zedekiah. The use of the plural 'kings' shews him that his career is probably to be a long one.
the princes] the chief military and civil officers.
19. As fear on the part of the prophet was to forfeit all claim to God's protecting care of him in the fulfilment of his duty; so here there comes the promise, on the assumed condition of faithfulness to his trust, that his cause should be successful.
they shall not prevail against thee] When we compare portions of
Chap. II. i—13. Under the Figure of Husband and Wife the Lord reminds the People of His Past Favours and charges them with Faithlessness to their First Lcve.
2 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
the subsequent history of Jeremiah, we find that in point of fact the prophet was from time to time thrust aside by his foes. The sense therefore here is shall not finally prevail. Before the prophet's death his cause should be vindicated, his predictions verified, and good seed sown. Compare the nature of the fulfilment of our Saviour's prayer for the Apostle Peter: "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not," Luke xxii. 32. This prayer did not prevent the Apostle from deserting and then denying Christ, although it was abundantly answered in his subsequent history. Even as our Lord's own prayer for His Father's help in the same chapter, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me," was answered not by its removal but by support from heaven; so Jeremiah was to hold his ground not in his own strength, but through the Almighty's constant presence.
Chap. II. 1—13. Under The Figure Of Husband And Wife The Lord Reminds The People Of His Past Favours And Charges Them With Faithlessness To Their First Love.
1. Moreover] And, thus connecting with Jeremiah's Call the words which follow. They form the beginning of a long prophecy extending to the end of Chap. vi.r and which has but one well-marked break, viz. at the end of Chap. iii. 5. More than one opinion has been held as to the time at which these prophecies were delivered. By far the most probable view however is that they form the substance of those which were given during the reign of Josiah. For
(a) The name of Josiah is expressly introduced in connexion with them (iii. 6), and accordingly any other view would require that this should be a later insertion in the text:
(b) The order of the prophecies, though far from chronological throughout the book, yet may be held to be so in any individual case in which there is no reason for the contrary belief, and this is specially probable at the beginning of the book, and where there is no apparent cause for deviation from the order of time:
(c) The character of the prophecies themselves falls in with this. In most cases of the later prophecies we find headings which tell us at what time they were uttered. In this portion we have but one such instance, and that somewhat vague (iii. 6 as referred to above). Again, these chapters seem to be not so much addresses or sermons delivered to the people on distinct and definite occasions as the later