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Contents of ch. xvii. 19-27. Enforcement of the Sabbath law, with corresponding promises and threats.
Independent as to form and contents, this section is unconnected with what precedes and follows. It gives a proof how Jeremiah, in the time of Josiah, after the discovery of the book of the law, pressed home "the words of this covenant" (xi. 1 ff.) to the hearts of the Judaeans. The exhortation given is to earnest observance of the Sabbath law, which belonged to the chief laws of the Sinaitic covenant, but was slighted even by the fathers to their hurt, and at present was so disregarded that Jeremiah (like Nehemiah afterwards, Neh. xiii. 15 ff.) had to dissuade the people in the city gates from coming with burdens into the city to market, an incident reminding us of Christ's purifying of the temple. This passage shows how the prophet, with all the inwardness and spirituality of his conception of God's kingdom, yet regarded the chief outward commands given by God in the old covenant as inalienable, and desired them to be strictly carried out for the people's good. He stands altogether on the ground of the Mosaic law, especially the Deuteronomic, of which the appended promises and threats remind us (cf. Deut. xxvii.-xxx. 'with Jer. xvii. 25-27); save that the promise is here freely shaped by the prophet. Its form is determined by the standing-place of Jeremiah at the chief gate of the city, by which the princes as well as the populace go in and out. If the Sabbath is kept, the stately processions of king and nobles shall publish the prosperity and power of the country, while the crowds approaching on all sides with rich gifts for the temple will evidence the divine blessings abundantly poured on the land. In the opposite case the palaces of Jerusalem will become a prey to the flames. The fact that the prophet, who elsewhere as a rule represents the judgment as a doom scarcely to be avoided, here makes the fate of his people
depend on their attitude to this command, is to be understood from xi. 1 ff. This question forms a part of his proclamation of the ancient covenant-law; but the Sabbath-law was then, as still later in exilian days (cf. Isa. lvi. 2, lviii. 13), a touchstone of the people's obedience, of its entire religious attitude to God. That later, when its outward, punctilious observance had become a customary thing, while yet the nation did not submit to the inward chastening of God's Spirit, it could not secure the safety and welfare of the nation, is easily understood.
The Doctrine Of The Potter And The Clay, Ch. Xviii.
XVIII. 1. The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahveh as follows: 2. Arise and go down to the house of the potter, and I will there cause thee to hear my words. 3. Then I went down to the house of the potter, and behold, he was working at the potter's wheels. 4. And the vessel which he made was spoilt (as clay in the potter's hand is wont); so he again made another vessel of it, as it seemed good in the potter's eyes to do. 5. Then came the word of Yahveh to me as follows: 6. Have I not power to do to you like this potter, O
Ver. 2. Go down, the potter's workshops lying low in one of the valleys round the city, where clay was found, perhaps towards the valley of Hinnom, where to-day clay is still found; see on xix. 1. nDC seldom for DC Ges. § 90. 26; Eng. § 88. Ver. 3. D'33Kn, the two wheels, of which the under one is turned (in Palestine to-day with the foot, in ancient Egypt with the left hand), and thus sets in motion the upper one, which is joined with it by a piece of wood, and on which the lump of clay is laid. The right hand rounds off the outer face of the vessel, while the left, inserted in the mass, gradually enlarges the hollow. See Thomson, Land and Book, p. 520. Ver. 4. nnC3l, the form, intimates that it occurred not once only, but from time to time. The reasons of this mishap, which may be observed to-day as the prophet describes it, may be various. Perhaps the potter took too little clay for the form intended; or there may have been a grain of sand in the finger of the left hand, which in the turning made a furrow in the vessel's face; or a part of the clay in the washing and kneading was not brought to the right consistency; too hard or too soft places preclude uniformity of shape. Alongside lDrn is another, less suitable reading, iDm. According to Hitzig, the whole clause icro WTl T3 was taken from ver. 6; Ewald omits at least icro. Ver. 6. The figure of the potter and vessel is similarly applied house of Israel? is Yahveh's oracle. Behold, like the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel! 7. As soon ns I speak respecting a nation and a kingdom to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy, 8. and the same nation turns from its wickedness, respecting which I spoke, then I repent of the evil which I thought to do to it. 9. As soon as I speak respecting a nation and a kingdom to build and to plant, 10. and it does what is evil in my eyes in not hearkening to my voice, then I repent of the good which I spoke to benefit it with.
11. And now say to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as follows: Thus said Yahveh: Behold I frame evil against you and devise a plan against you. Turn now every one from his evil ways and be diligent in good ways and works. 12. But they say: It is no use, for we will follow our own thoughts, and we will carry out every one the perverseness of his evil heart. 13. Therefore thus has Yahveh said: Ask now among the heathen: Who has heard such things? the virgin of Israel has committed horrible things. 14. Does the snow of Lebanon disappoint on the rock of the fields? Or are foreign waters—cool, gushing—
to God and men elsewhere, although without the special reference of Jeremiah's parable in ver. 4: Job x. 9, xxxiii. 6 (cf. Gen. ii. 7); Isa. xxix. 16, xlv. 9, Ixiv. 7; Wisd. xv. 7; Ecclus. xxxvi. 13 (see xxxiii. 12 f.); Kom. ix. 21. Ver. 7. Wi, properly, a moment = the one time and in another moment (ver. 9), and so synonymous with DyD. "To pluck up," etc., see on i. 10. Ver. 11. "W, with distinct reference to the fashioner above: I form, project. 2VTI, in malum partem, as in ver. 18 and xi. 19. The admonition, as in vii. 3, 5. Ver. 12. But they say, in tense like Ezek. xxxiii. 17, 20. Their language runs as in
ii. 25. "To walk after the perverseness of his heart," as in
iii. 17. Ver. 13. Cf. ii. 10. n'TW=rnvw, v. 30. On rfon3, see under xiv. 17. Ver. 14. The snow of Lebanon disappoints not, foreign waters flow ever cool, and fresh, and abundant; but my people has forgotten me. Phenomena of nature, which are stable and trustworthy, are contrasted with the fickleness of the nation. In the first clause the snow itself may be meant, which does not go away from the lofty rock (cf. on Hc, xvii. 3), so that the latter would be the peak of Lebanon. But we prefer the reference to the water streaming from the rock of the dried up? 15. For my people has forgotten me, they burn incense to vanity; they have made them fall in their ways, eternal paths, to walk in steep places, in ways unmade; 16. to lay waste their land for eternal hissing; whoever passes by will be astounded and shake (his) head. 17. Like an east wind I will scatter them before the foe, I will look upon them with the back and not the face in the day of their destruction.
18. Then they said: Come, let us devise schemes against
field, so that such rocks are meant as are found near Banias and elsewhere at the foot of Lebanon. The Lebanon snow disappoints not, vanishes not from such a rock, i.e. feeds without ceasing the water flowing therefrom. D'lt, artificially interpreted (by Ewald, Graf, Cheyne): rushing waters; better, splendid, proud, to be read D'J'W (so perhaps LXX). But alongside the Lebanon snow we expect in the parallel clause a geographical qualification. They are foreign waters, such as the neighbourhood of Lebanon and Syria has; on the other hand, Canaan has them in far less abundance and freshness (2 Kings v. 12). Jeremiah lays special stress on this feature in connection with ver. 13. Whereas the waters of foreigners are faithful, God's own people is to be compared to their own failing wadis. Ver. 15. The subject to Dibc3'i is to be supplied from after 2 Chron. xxviii. 23. ifa!? or Sn^, Kethib; Keri b'3B>, nearer to the Arabic. In contrast to the eternal paths, i.e. the ways prepared by God from the beginning of history, acceptable to Him and salutary for His people, stand the nu'nJ, steeps, i.e. toilsome, perilous footpaths, a way not thrown up, no accustomed high-road. Ver. 16. nBe* when said of a country, rigid desert, desolation; yet the context plainly suggests the meaning horror (stiffness with fear); cf. xxix. 18, and often. npntj' (Kethib with i), elsewhere in Jeremiah njrie>, hissing, not so much in malicious sport as in terror at the judgment smiting the place. TU, Hiphil, to shake, like rJn, Job xvi. 4, a sign of surprise or disapproval; on the other hand, TO, xvi. 5, of sympathy. Ver. 17. The east wind, often mentioned as specially fierce, Ts. xlviii. 7; Job xxvil 21; Isa. xxvii. 8; Ezek. xxvii. 26; cf. " desert wind," Jer. xiii. 24. As they turned the back to the Lord instead of the face (ii. 27), so the Lord will do to them at the time when they need Him and wish to see His gracious countenance. Ver. 18. Cf. xi. 19. The priest communicates the Torah to the people, theocratic instruction