Study of Jeremiah, Chapters 19-20 Jeremiah’s Shattered Clay Pot

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Can you even imagine ever experiencing such despair that you would turn to cannibalism?  That would require some really dire times in life, wouldn’t it?  That is not something I can comprehend in my mind, but God was about to reduce the people of Judah to.

Jeremiah 19:1-9Jeremiah 19:1-9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 1 Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests; 2 And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee, the east...: Heb. the sun gate 3 And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. 4 Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; 5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: 6 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter. 7 And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof. 9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.  

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1 This is what the LORD said to me:  “Go and buy a clay jar.  Then ask some of the leaders of the people and of the priests to follow you.  2 Go out through the Gate of Broken Pots to the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and give them this message.  3 Say to them, ‘Listen to this message from the LORD, you kings of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem!  This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says:  I will bring a terrible disaster on this place, and the ears of those who hear about it will ring!
4 “‘For Israel has forsaken me and turned this valley into a place of wickedness.  The people burn incense to foreign gods idols never before acknowledged by this generation, by their ancestors, or by the kings of Judah.  And they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children.  5 They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal.  I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!  6 So beware, for the time is coming, says the LORD, when this garbage dump will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.
7 “‘For I will upset the careful plans of Judah and Jerusalem.  I will allow the people to be slaughtered by invading armies, and I will leave their dead bodies as food for the vultures and wild animals.  8 I will reduce Jerusalem to ruins, making it a monument to their stupidity.  All who pass by will be astonished and will gasp at the destruction they see there.  9 I will see to it that your enemies lay siege to the city until all the food is gone.  Then those trapped inside will eat their own sons and daughters and friends.  They will be driven to utter despair.’

We see the parable of the clay pot used in Chapter 18 continued on in Chapter 19, with God instructing Jeremiah to purchase a clay pot.  Reflecting back to Chapter 7, we can remember that Ben-Hinnom was the garbage dump of Jerusalem, and also a place of child sacrifice.  God is about to turn this valley into the Valley of Slaughter.  The ones that were responsible for the deaths of the children would lose their own life in this place.
This was not something that God wanted to do, but had no choice left.  The people’s idolatrous ways against God had gotten way out of hand and it had to be dealt with.  People would be in such despair, with no food available, that they would revert to cannibalism, even eating their own children.
This message that Jeremiah delivered happened twice; during the Babylonian invasion when Titus destroyed Jerusalem, and then again during the Babylonian siege.

Jeremiah 19: 10-15Jeremiah 19: 10-15
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee, 11 And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. be made...: Heb. be healed 12 Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet: 13 And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods. 14 Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people, 15 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.  

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10″As these men watch you, Jeremiah, smash the jar you brought.  11 Then say to them, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says:  As this jar lies shattered, so I will shatter the people of Judah and Jerusalem beyond all hope of repair.  They will bury the bodies here in Topheth, the garbage dump, until there is no more room for them.  12 This is what I will do to this place and its people, says the LORD.  I will cause this city to become defiled like Topheth.  13 Yes, all the houses in Jerusalem, including the palace of Judah’s kings, will become like Topheth – all the houses where you burned incense on the rooftops to your star gods, and where liquid offerings were poured out to your idols.'”
14 Then Jeremiah returned from Topheth, the garbage dump where he had delivered this message, and he stopped in front of the Temple of the LORD.  He said to the people there, 15 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says:  ‘I will bring disaster upon this city and its surrounding towns as I promised, because you have stubbornly refused to listen to me.'”

When Jeremiah broke the clay pot, he was demonstrating what was going to happen to Judah.  Once a nation had become so hardened that they would not respond to God, there was nothing left for God to do but to break the pot.  They were beyond reconstruction.  They were going to be destroyed as God had promised.



We have all been in that place, you know…the one where we feel that we have done what we were supposed to, but no one seems to appreciate it, or even listening?  We may even experience the feeling of being unpopular, as Jeremiah did when he preached at the Temple.

Jeremiah 20:1-6Jeremiah 20:1-6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 1 Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD. 3 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib. Magormissabib: that is, Fear round about 4 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. 5 Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon. 6 And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.  

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1 Now Pashhur son of Immer, the priest in charge of the Temple of the LORD, heard what Jeremiah was prophesying.  2 So he arrested Jeremiah the prophet and had him whipped and put in stocks at the Benjamin Gate of the LORD’S Temple.
3 The next day, when Pashhur finally released him, Jeremiah said, “Pashhur, the LORD has changed your name.  From now on you are to be called ‘The Man Who Lives in Terror.’  4 For this is what the LORD says:  ‘I will send terror upon you and all your friends, and you will watch as they are slaughtered by the swords of the enemy.  I will hand the people of Judah over to the king of Babylon.  He will take them captive to Babylon or run them through with the sword.  5 And I will let your enemies plunder Jerusalem.  All the famed treasures of the city – the precious jewels and gold and silver of your kings – will be carried off to Babylon.  6 As for you, Pashhur, you and all your household will go as captives to Babylon.  There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you prophesied that everything would be all right.'”

Pashhur was an official that was responsible for keeping order within the Temple (we will see more of their duties in chapter 29:26-27).  He was a priest that was also pretending to be a prophet.  When he heard what Jeremiah was preaching at the Temple, he had him beaten and locked up.  Sometimes, the truth is hard to swallow, but it is our reaction to the truth that truly shows where our heart is at.  Pashhur didn’t recognize that what Jeremiah had to say had come directly from God.  He imposed his authority on Jeremiah and by doing this, Pashhur showed what he thought was an act of leadership was really an act of cowardice.
When Jeremiah is released the next day, he tells Passhur that the LORD changed his name.  His new name is an indicator of how Judah will soon be surrounded by Babylonian invaders.  God sends a very clear message to Judah:  you and your friends will experience terror; you will watch slaughter by the enemy; by handing them over the enemy they will either be held captive there or killed; and all of their precious treasures will become property of Babylon.  God finishes His message directly at Pashhur:  he and his family, and anyone that he falsely told that everything would be alright, will end up in Babylon in captivity, where they will die and be buried.

Jeremiah 20:7-18Jeremiah 20:7-18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. was deceived: or, was enticed 8 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. 9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. 10 For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. All...: Heb. Every man of my peace 11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. 12 But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. 13 Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers. 14 Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. 15 Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. 16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; 17 Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. 18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?  

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7 O Lord, you misled me,
and I allowed myself to be misled.
You are stronger than I am,
and you overpowered me.
Now I am mocked every day;
everyone laughs at me.
8 When I speak, the words burst out.
“Violence and destruction!” I shout.
So these messages from the LORD
have mad me a household joke.
9 But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD
or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
I can’t do it!
10 I have heard the many rumors about me.
They call me “The Man Who Lives in Terror.”
They threaten, “If you say anything, we will report it.”
Even my old friends are watching me,
waiting for a fatal slip.
“He will trap himself,” they say,
“and then we will get our revenge on him.”
11 But the LORD stands beside me like a great warrior.
Before him my persecutors will stumble.
They cannot defeat me.
They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated.
Their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 O LORD of Heaven’s Armies,
you test those who are righteous,
and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.
Let me see your vengeance against them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
13 Sing to the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
For though I was poor and needy,
he rescued me from my oppressors.
14 Yet I curse the day I was born!
May no one celebrate the day of my birth.
15 I curse the messenger who told my father,
“Good news – you have a son!”
16 Let him be destroyed like the cities of old
that the LORD overthrew without mercy.
Terrify him all day long with battle shouts,
17 because he did not kill me at birth.
Oh, that I had died in my mother’s womb,
that her body had been my grave!
18 Why was I ever born?
My entire life has been filled
with trouble, sorrow, and shame.

We can feel the ambivalence that Jeremiah is experiencing.  He fluctuates between total despair, praise, and repulsion of himself.  Can we not relate to this at any depth? We have all been here.  So down on ourselves, but yet there is hope.  Jeremiah recognizes that although he is persecuted for his words, that God is always by his side.  He also finds that when he tries to withhold God’s message, that it lights him on fire…as deep as his bones!  When we catch on fire for Christ, we will be unstoppable regardless of what people say or think!
When we read this passage, knowing how godly Jeremiah was, it should make us realize that if someone like Jeremiah could feel this way, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in a weak or fragile state of mind.  No matter where we are in our life, God is ever present; loving and forgiving us in good times, and bad.

Written by Mary Hudak-Collins

Mary Hudak-Collins

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