Verse 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.
Verse 2. "Go down to the pottter'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.
Verse 3. "He wrought a work on the wheels." - µynbah la 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.
Verse 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 smallstone 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.
Verse 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. ix. 20, &c. His words are, "Hath not the potterpower over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" 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 immortalsouls on purpose for eternalperdition, 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 honour, and another to dishonour? Yes. But the text does not say, what the horrible decree says, that he makes one part, and indeed the greater, for eternalperdition. 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 honourable, the other for a less honourable 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 honourable, the other in a less honourable 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 marredvessels, the reprobateJews, are not finally rejected; for all Israel shall be saved in (through) the Lord, i.e., JesusChrist. 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 Romans ix. 22 and below.
"Verses 7-10. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, &c. - If that nation, against whom, &c. - And at what instant, &c. - If it do evil, &c." - 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.
Verse 16. "A perpetual hissing" - twqyr sherikoth. a shrieking, hissing; an expression of contempt.
Verse 17. "I will scatter them as with an east wind" - It is the property of this wind, almost every where, to parch up, blast, and destroygrain and trees, and even cattle and men suffer from it. Hence the old metrical proverb:- "When the wind blows from the east, 'Tis good for neither man nor beast."
"Let us smite him with the tongue" - ON the tongue; so it should be rendered. Lying and false testimony are punished in the eastern countries, to the present day, by smiting the person on the mouth with a strong piece of leather like the sole of a shoe. Sometimes a bodkin is run through the tongue. Blasphemy, calumny, and cursing of parents, are usually punished in that way among the Chinese.
Verse 20. "They have digged a pit for my soul." - For my life; this they wish to take away.
"Stood before thee to speak good for them" - I was their continual intercessor.
Verse 21. "Therefore deliver up their children" - The execrations in these verses should be considered as simply prophetic declarations of the judgments which God was about to pour out on them.
If we consider them in their grammatical meaning, then they are not directions to us to whom our Lawgiver has said, "Love your enemies."