Jeremiah 13
Pulpit Commentary
Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
Verses 1-11. - The entire people of the Jews is like a good-for-nothing apron. Verse 1. - A linen girdle; rather, a linen apron. "Girdle" is one of the meanings of the Hebrew ('ezor), but is here unsuitable. As Ver. 11 shows, it is an inner garment that is meant, one that "cleaveth to the loins of a man" (in fact, περίζωμα of the Septuagint, the lumbare of the Vulgate). The corresponding Arabic word, 'izar, has, according to Lane, the meaning of "waist-wrapper.' Israel was to Jehovah in as close a relation spiritually as that in which the inner garment referred to is to him who wears it materially. There is an Arabic proverb which well illustrates this: "He is to me in place of an 'izar" (Freytag, 'Studium der Arab. Spraohe,' p. 298). "A linen apron" may perhaps be specified, because linen was the material of the priestly dress (Leviticus 16:4), and Israel was to be spiritually" a kingdom of priests." But this is not absolutely necessary. The common man used linen in his dress as well as the priest; the only difference between them was that the priest was confined to linen garments. But an ,' apron" would in any case naturally be made of linen. Linen; literally, flax (a product of Judah, Hosea 2:5). Put it not in water. The object of the prohibition is well stated by St. Jerome. It was at once to symbolize the character of the people of Israel, stiff and impure, like unwashed linen, and to suggest the fate in store for it (Ver. 9).
So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.
And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,
Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
Verses 4-6. - After Jeremiah has worn the apron for some time, he is directed to take it to P'rath, and hide it there in a cleft (not "hole") of the rock. A long interval elapses, and he is commanded to make a second journey to the same place, and fetch away the apron. What does this P'rath mean? It is by no means easy to decide. Hardly "the Euphrates,"

(1) because the common prefix, "the river," is wanting, though in so extraordinary a narrative it was peculiarly needed;

(2) because of the length of the journey to Babylonia, which has ex hyp. to be made twice; and

(3) because the Euphrates is not a rocky river. Ewald suggested that "some wet place near Jerusalem" probably had the name of P'rath, and indicates a valley and spring called Forah, about six English miles north-east of Jerusalem. Mr. Birch appears to have hit independently on the same spot, which he identifies with the Parah of Joshua 18:23, about three miles north-east of Anatbeth, and describes as a picturesque gorge between savage rocks, with a copious stream (Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, October, 1880, p. 236). This combination, however, involves an emendation of the text (P'rath into Parah) - logically it involves this, as Mr. Birch has seen; Ewald's comparison of the Arabic furat, sweet water, seems inconsistent with his reference to Parah - for which there does not seem to be sufficient necessity; and it is better to adopt the view of the great old French Protestant scholar, Bochart, that P'rath is a shortened form of Ephrath, i.e. at once Bethlehem and the district in which Bethlehem lay (see 1 Chronicles 2:50; 1 Chronicles 4:4; and perhaps Psalm 132:6). It need hardly be said that the limestone hills of this region afforded abundance of secluded rocks. There may, of course, be at the same time an allusion to the ordinary meaning of P'rath, viz. Euphrates, on the analogy of the allusion in Isaiah 27:12. Those who hold the view here rejected, that P'rath is equivalent to the Euphrates, sometimes suppose that the narrative is a parable or symbolical fiction, such as Luther, Calvin, and others find in Hosea 1, 3, the thing signified being in this case the carrying captive of the people to Babylon; and this seems the best way of making this interpretation plausible.
So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.
Verse 6. - After many days. To allow time for the apron to become rotten.
Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.
Verse 7. - I went... and digged. The apron, then, had been covered with a thick layer of earth.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verses 8-11. - Explanation of the symbol. Could there be a greater humiliation for Judah and Jerusalem than to be compared to a rotting linen apron? The hard things said of this evil people in Ver. 10 must of course be understood with the limitations indicated in the note on Jeremiah 9:15, 16. Imagination should (as usual) be stubbornness. The explanation in Ver. 11 is a strong argument for the rendering "apron" (see above, on Ver. 1).
Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.
This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.
For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.
Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?
Verses 12-14. - Here another symbol is introduced - a symbolic phrase rather than a symbolic action. The first symbol referred to the people as a whole; the second represents the fate of the individual members of the people. The words, Thus saith the lord God of Israel, are omitted in the Septuagint, and certainly the form of the following phrase seems hardly worthy of so solemn an introduction. Every bottle. It is an earthenware bottle, or pitcher, which seems from Ver. 13 to be meant (comp. Isaiah 30:14), though the Septuagint renders here ἀσκός. The kings that sit upon David's throne; rather, that sit for David upon his throne; i.e. as David's heirs and successors. The plural "kings" is to include all the kings who reigned during the final period of impending ruin. With drunkenness. The effect of the "wine-cup of [the Divine] fury" (Jeremiah 25:15). Dash them one against another. This is merely the development of the figure of the pitchers; not a prediction of civil war. The pitchers, when cast down, must of course fall together into pieces.
Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David's throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.
And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.
Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.
Verses 15-19. - An admonition to seize upon the only means of escape.
Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.
Verse 16. - Give glory, etc. Let your tribute to your King be that of humble submission to his will. The precise application of the phrase must be derived from the context (comp. Joshua 7:19; Malachi 2:2). Upon the dark mountains; rather, upon mountains of twilight. A "mountain" is an image of a great obstacle (Zechariah 4:7; Matthew 21:21). As Judah is walking along, the hitherto even tenor of his way gives place to huge mountains wrapped in an impenetrable dusk, over which he will stumble and fall if he does not repent in time.
But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD'S flock is carried away captive.
Verse 17. - Should all admonitions be in vain, Jeremiah will return (like Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:35) and give vent to his sorrowful emotion. The Lord's flock. Jehovah is likened to a shepherd (comp. Zechariah 10:3).
Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.
Verse 18. - The extent of the calamity shown in individual instances. For the fulfillment, see 2 Kings 24:15. After a reign of three months, the young prince and his mother were carried to Babylon. And to the queen; rather, and to the queen-mother (literally, the mistress). It will be noticed that, except in two cases, the names of the mothers of the reigning kings of Judah are scrupulously mentioned in the Books of Kings. This and the title of "mistress" are indications of the high rank they enjoyed in the social system. In the case of Asa, we are told that he removed his mother, Maachah, from her position as "mistress," or queen-mother, on account of her idolatry (1 Kings 15:13). The political value of the station is strikingly shown by the ease with which Athaliah, as queen-mother, usurped the supreme authority (2 Kings 11.). From an historical point of view, the "queen-mother" of the Jews is a most interesting personage; she is a relic of the primitive age in which relationship was reckoned with regard to the mother (so with the Accadians, Etruseans, Finns, etc.). It should be added, however, that once (viz. 1 Kings 11:19) the same title, "mistress," is applied to the queen-consort. Humble yourselves, sit down; rather, sit down in abase-sent; i.e. take the station suitable for your abased circumstances (comp. Isaiah 47:1). Your principalities; rather, your head. ornaments.
The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.
Verse 19. - The rendering of the Authorized Version is substantially right, as the events referred to are obviously future. The tense, however, in the Hebrew, is the perfect - viz. that of prophetic certitude. Jeremiah sees it all in prophetic vision, as if it were actually taking place. The cities of the south; i.e. of the dry, southern country of Judah, called the Negeb - shall be [are] shut up - i.e. blocked up with ruins (as Isaiah 24:10) - and none shall open them (openeth them), because all Judah will have been carried captive. (For fulfillment, see Jeremiah 34:7.)
Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?
Verses 20, 21. - The captivity being still (in spite of the perfect tense) a thing of the future, the prophet can seek to awaken the conscience of the careless under-shepherd by showing how serf-caused is his (or rather her) punishment. Verse 20. - Lift up your eyes. The verb is fern. sing., the pronoun (in suffix form) masc. plu, - a clear indication that the person addressed is a collective. Probably the "daughter of Zion" is intended, which, in a certain sense, might be called the "shepherd" or leader of the rest of the nation. From the north. Again this horror of the north as the source of calamity (see on Jeremiah 14).
What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?
Verse 21. - What wilt thou say, etc.? The rendering of the verse is uncertain, though the Authorized Version undoubtedly requires correction. The alternatives are, What wilt thou say when he shall appoint over thee (but thou thyself hast trained them against thee) familiar friends as thy head? and, What wilt thou say when he shall appoint over thee those whom thou hast taught thy familiar friends as thy head? The rendering "familiar friends" is justified by Psalm 55:13; Proverbs 16:28; Proverbs 17:9; Micah 7:5. The "captains" of Authorized Version, or rather "tribal chiefs," is unsuitable.
And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.
Verse 22. - Thy heels made bare; rather, treated with violence. The fate held out to the daughter of Zion (trained to walk about with "tinkling ornaments," Isaiah 3:18) is to plod wearily along with bare feet (comp. Isaiah 47:1).
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.
Verse 24. - As the stubble. "The word means not what we call stubble, but the broken straw which had to be separated from the wheat after the corn had been trampled out by the oxen. Sometimes it was burnt as useless; at other times left to be blown away by the wind coming from the desert, on which see Jeremiah 4:11; Job 1:19" (Payne Smith).
This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.
Verse 25. - The portion of thy measures; i.e. thy measured portion. But it is probably safer to render, the portion of thy garment, the upper garment being used instead of a bag to hold anything (comp. Ruth 3:15; 2 Kings 4:39). In falsehood; i.e. in false gods (Jeremiah 16:19).
Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.
Verse 26. - Therefore will I, etc. But the Hebrew is much more forcible, "And I also," etc., implying, as Calvin remarks (comp. Proverbs 1:26), a certain retaliation. Upon thy face; an allusion to Nahum 3:5.
I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?
Verse 27. - I have seen, etc. The Hebrew is again more forcible than the English. It runs, "Thine adulteries and thy neighings," etc. l (this is an exclamation as it were; then more reflectively)," I have seen thine abominations." Neighings; i.e. passionate craving for illegitimate objects of worship (comp. Jeremiah 2:24, 25; Jeremiah 5:8). In the fields. The Hebrew has the singular. The "field," as usual, means the open country. Wilt thou not, etc.? rather, How long ere thou be made clean? In Ver. 23 the prophet had vehemently declared his people to be incorrigible. But, like the tender Hoses, he cannot continue to hold such gloomy thoughts; surely Israel, God's people, must eventually be "made clean!" But this can only be as the result of judicial affliction, and these afflictions will be no slight or transient ones.

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