JEREMIAH CHAPTER 1.
THE SUPERSCRIPTION. — V. 1. The words of the word of the Lord came in the days of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin, this being one of the four cities within the territory of Benjamin allotted to the Kohathites, Josh. 21, 18; v. 2. to whom Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. V. 3. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem, that is, of its inhabitants, captive in the fifth month. Note that Jeremiah expressly claims divine authority and inspiration for his prophecies, insisting that it is the Word of the Lord which he recorded. He omits the names of Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin from his list, since they reigned only three months each, and his title intends to specify in a general way only. "Since Jeremiah labored from the thirteenth year of Josiah, consequently eighteen years under Josiah, and eleven years each under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, he ministered altogether, including the six months under the kings omitted, forty years in the midst of the theocracy." Jeremiah was a member of a lowly family, and yet the Lord called him to a very important position as chief adviser of kings. God often chooses the weak, base, and despised things to confound the mighty. 1 Cor. 1, 27-29.
THE CALL AND COMMISSION OF THE PROPHET. — V. 4. Then, namely, at the time designated in the introduction, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, v. 5. Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, before ever his conception had taken place, the Lord had destined him to be His prophet; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, separating and consecrating him, setting him apart for the sacred office, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations, not only to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, but to other nations as well. Jeremiah's choice of his calling was not the result of meditation and reflection, of a false enthusiasm and ecstasy, but of a supernatural revelation, of a selection on the part of God, which was in no way influenced by any ability or disposition on the prophet's part. V. 6. Then said I, with some realization of the difficulty and danger of the divine commission. Ah! Lord God, behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child, a young man below the age at which the Israelites took an active part in public work. The sensitive nature of Jeremiah shrank back from a position which would expose him to public criticism. The work of the ministry is a good work, 1 Tim. 3, 1, but it is attended by difficulties which the average person appreciates only in rare instances. Well may a timid person shrink back from its ordeal. V. 7. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child, in an effort to make his youth and inexperience an excuse for refusing to follow the Lord's call; for thou shall go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. It was not a matter to be argued, but the Lord, by a categorical declaration of His will, commissioned Jeremiah. No matter to which nations and princes the Lord would bid him go, he was cheerfully to declare God's counsel and will, regardless of any show of hostility. V. 8. Be not afraid of their faces, in an excess of awe which would interfere with the effectiveness of his message; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. He thus imparted the necessary courage to His servant to enable him to stand before the mighty of the world. Cp. Matt. 10, 16-22. V. 9. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, this, of course, being a symbolical act experienced by Jeremiah in a vision, its meaning being that God Himself would give His servant the right utterance, would inspire him to proclaim His message in its full truth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth. The Lord made the individuality of Jeremiah the instrument of His eternal wisdom in making His will known to men. V. 10. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, the naturally timid and fearful prophet being appointed to their oversight, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, to extirpate, exterminate, and eliminate, and to throw down, to pronounce the divine judgment upon His enemies, to build and to plant, by announcing God's mercy and grace to all who heeded His call. The conditions in Judah were such at that time as to provoke threatenings and rebukes on the part of the Lord rather than promises of grace and mercy. V. 11. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? Jehovah wanted to give His prophet some signs confirming his call. And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree, a shoot or branch of the tree which was the first to awaken to life after the winter's sleep and was therefore a symbol of wakefulness. V. 12. Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen; for I will hasten My word to perform it, literally, "wakeful (or intent) shall I, on My part, be with regard to My words to do them," the allusion to the wakeful tree thus being justified. V. 13. And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? a second vision being vouchsafed the prophet. And I said, I see a seething pot, one of the large kettles used to prepare vegetables for many guests; and the face thereof is toward the north, so that its contents threaten to be emptied from that side. V. 14. Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth, out of a great and wide opening, upon all the inhabitants of the land. A boiling kettle is an Oriental symbol of a raging war, and since Babylon was regarded by the people of Judah as situated toward the north, it was clear that the Lord prophesied the Babylonian invasion. V. 15. For, lo, I will call all the families, the tribes or clans, of the kingdoms of the North, saith the Lord, all the great chieftains of the Chaldeans uniting in an effort to overthrow Judah; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, the conquering princes establishing their tribunals of justice in the place set aside for this purpose of old, thereby taking over the administration of the land, and against all the walls thereof round about and against all the cities of Judah, thereby laying siege to all the fortified cities of the land in a successful campaign. V. 16. And I will utter My judgments against them, the wicked inhabitants of the land, touching all their wickedness, pronouncing their condemnation and doom, who have forsaken Me and have burned incense unto other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. Thus the Lord, by His stern judgments and punishments, would visit His wrath upon the apostate Jews for their idolatry, the sin which, like the unbelief of today, is the essence and summary of disobedience. The symbols having been explained, the Lord now adds an admonition to Jeremiah to fulfill the duties of his office with fearless zeal. V. 17. Thou, therefore, gird up thy loins, like a soldier or a man on a journey, to remove every hindrance in traveling, and arise and speak unto them all that I command thee, the fact of his being the Lord's messenger and representative once more being stressed; be not dismayed at their faces, shrinking back before them, lest I confound thee before them, so that he would be rejected, crushed, and overcome before them. V. 18. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defensed city, one fortified most strongly, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, enduing him with strength which no power of the enemies would be able to overcome, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land, all of whom would unite to oppose his message and warning. V. 19. And they shall fight against thee, a fact of which Jeremiah was to be aware from the outset, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee, this assurance serving as the source of the prophet's strength in the coming trials. It has happened more than once in the history of the Church that practically a single man was obliged to stand against the enmity of the mighty ones of the earth and of the masses of people as well, but that he maintained his righteous cause in the power of the Lord.