Jeremiah 18 Commentary

Lessons from the potter (18:1-23)

A potter can make a lump of clay into whatever shape he wants. He can also change the kind of vessel he is making, if he thinks that conditions require it (18:1-4). As a potter determines the kind of vessel he makes, so God determines the destinies of nations, and this is the lesson that the people of Judah must learn (5-6). He may announce judgments on a nation, but he may withdraw those judgments if the nation repents. On the other hand, he may promise blessings to a nation, but he may withdraw those blessings if the nation rebels (7-10). Jeremiah assures Judah that it can be saved from the coming destruction if it returns to God (11). Judah, however, refuses to change its ways (12).

In turning from God to idols, Judah has done something that is almost unbelievable. Such action is as unnatural as that of a virgin who suddenly turns prostitute, or of a snow-fed mountain stream that suddenly dries up (13-15). Onlookers shake their heads in amazement at Judah’s folly. It can lead only to calamity (16-17).

Some of the Judeans plotted mischief against Jeremiah because of his outspoken criticisms. They refused to acknowledge him as God’s spokesman. They comforted themselves in the assurance that they were loyal followers of the official priests, wisdom teachers and prophets, who, of course, approved of their sinful ways (18). Jeremiah reminds God that he has prayed for these people, and now they are returning evil for good (19-20). As he asks God to fight for him, he prays that God will destroy the plotters and their followers, according to the curse that the law of Moses pronounced upon the rebellious (21-23; cf. Deut 28:15-68).

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