Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The words of Jeremiah - The usual title of the prophetic books is "the Word of the Lord," but the two books of Amos and Jeremiah are called the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely prophecies, but also the record of much which belongs to the personal history of the writers. This title might therefore be translated the "life of Jeremiah" or "acts of Jeremiah," though some understand by it a collection of the prophecies of Jeremiah. One derivation of Jeremiah's name is "God exalteth."
Hilkiah, may have been the high priest of that name.
That were - Or, who was, i. e., dwelt. The meaning is, that Jeremiah was a priest who dwelt at Anathoth.
Came - literally, was (and in Jer 1:4); the phrase implies that Jeremiah possessed God's word from that time onward, not fitfully as coming and going, but constantly.
The thirteenth year of his reign - According to the ordinary reckoning, this would be 629 b.c., but if the Ptolemaic canon be right in putting the capture of Jerusalem at 586 b.c., it would be two years later, namely 627 b.c. However, according to the Assyrian chronology, it would be 608 b.c. It was the year after that in which Josiah began his reforms.
The whole period contained in this verse is no less than 40 years and 6 months, namely, 18 years under Josiah, two periods of 11 years each under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, and 3 months under each of the omitted kings, Jehoahaz and Jeconiah.
In the fifth month - The capture of Jerusalem took place in the fourth month, but its destruction was in the fifth month (see the marginal references), the ninth day of which was subsequently kept as a fast-day Zac 7:3.
This history of Jeremiah's call to his office formed a part of his first address to the people. He claimed to act by an external authority, and to speak not his own words but those of Yahweh; and this even when resisting the divine call (see Jer 15:13; Jer 20:7, Jer 20:14-18).
Rather, "Before I formed thee in the belly." I approved of thee (as one fit for the prophetic office)," and before thou camest forth from the womb" I made thee holy (dedicated thee to holy uses); I have appointed thee (now by this public call to be) "a prophet unto the nations."
Unto the nations - The privileges contained in this verse are so great as in their full sense to be true only of Christ Himself, while to Jeremiah they belong as being in so many particulars a type of Christ.
There is no resistance on Jeremiah's part, but he shrinks back alarmed.
I cannot speak - i. e., "I cannot prophesy," I have not those powers of oratory necessary for success. The prophets of Israel were the national preachers in religious matters, and their orators in political.
I am a child - This implies nothing very definite about Jeremiah's age. Still the long duration of his prophetic mission makes it probable that he was very young when called to the office, as also were Isaiah, Hosea, Zechariah, and others.
Jeremiah suggested two difficulties, the first inexperience, the second timidity. God now removes the first of these. Inexperience is no obstacle where the duty is simple obedience His timidity is removed by the promise given him in the next verse.
Touched - "Made it touch." This was the symbol of the bestowal of divine grace and help, by which that want of eloquence, which the prophet had pleaded as a disqualification, was removed.
I have ... set thee over - literally, I have made thee Pakeed, i. e., deputy. This title is given only to these invested with high authority (e. g. Gen 41:34; Ch2 24:11; Jer 20:1; Jer 29:26). From God's side, the prophet is a mere messenger, speaking what he is told, doing what he is commanded. From man's side, he is God's vicegerent, with power "to root out, and to pull down."
Root out ... pull down - In the Hebrew, the verbs present an instance of the alliteration so common in the prophets, and agreeable to oriental taste. The former signifies the destruction of anything planted, the latter refers to buildings.
To throw down - More exactly, to tear in pieces. There are four words of destruction, and but two words of restoration, as if the message were chiefly of evil. And such was Jeremiah's message to his contemporaries. Yet are all God's dealings finally for the good of His people. The Babylonian exile was, for the moment, a time of chastisement; it also became a time of national repentance (see Jer 24:5-7).
What seest thou? - If we admit a supernatural element in prophecy, visions would be the most simple means of communication between God and man.
A rod of an almond tree - Many translate "a staff of almond wood." The vision would thus signify that God - like a traveler, staff in hand - was just about to set forth upon His journey of vengeance. But the rendering of the King James Version is supported by Gen 30:37. The word rendered "almond" comes from a root signifying "to be awake;" and as the almond blossoms in January, it seems to be awake while other trees are still Sleeping, and therefore is a fit emblem of activity.
Hasten - Rather, I watch over "my word to perform it."
The first vision was for the support of the prophet's own faith during his long struggle with his countrymen: the second explains to him the general nature of his mission. He was to be the bearer of tidings of a great national calamity about to break forth item the north. He sees a caldron. It was a vessel of metal Eze 24:11, large enough to prepare the meal of a numerous community Kg2 4:38, and broad at the top, as it was also used for washing purposes Psa 60:8. This caldron was boiling furiously.
The face ... - More correctly the margin, i. e toward the south. We must suppose this caldron set upon a pile of inflammable materials. As they consume it settles down unevenly, with the highest side toward the north, so that its face is turned the other way and looks southward. Should it still continue so to settle, the time must finally come when it will be overturned, and will pour the whole mass of its boiling contents upon the south.
Out of the north ... - The caldron represents the great military empires upon the Euphrates. In Hezekiah's time, Nineveh was at their head; but stormed by the armies of Cyaxares and Nabopalassar it is itself now the victim whose limbs are seething in the caldron, and the seat of empire has been transferred to Babylon. But whoever may for the time prevail, the tide of passion and carnage is sure finally to pour itself upon Judaea.
An evil shall break forth - "The evil shall be opened," shall show itself, be disclosed from the north: that special evil, which from the days of Micah Mic 3:12 all the prophets had denounced upon the Jews if they lapsed into idolatry. At present the caldron is fiercely boiling upon the Euphrates. As soon as either of the parties struggling there gains the victory it will pour the whole seething mass over other countries in the shape of an invading army (see Jer 25:17-26).
I will call - I am calling. The judgment has begun. God is summoning His hosts to the war.
Families - The various races by which the provinces of the Babylonian empire were populated.
They shall set every one his throne - The chiefs of these various races come as God's ministers to hold solemn court, and give sentence in His name (see Jer 25:9). They therefore set each one his throne in the usual place for administering justice, namely, the entering in of the gates, where a large open space was always left in cities for the purpose. Viewed in one light war is the boiling caldron of human passion, upset by hazard, and bringing only ruin in its course; in the other it is God sitting in judgment, with the kings of the earth as His assessors, solemnly pronouncing sentence upon the guilty.
Against all the walls ... - Sentence judicially pronounced, the nations come to execute judgment by mounting as enemies upon her walls and storming her cities.
In accordance with the custom of law courts, the crimes of the guilty city are mentioned in the sentence. The charges brought against her are three: first, the desertion of the true God; next, the offering incense to false gods, and, lastly, the making obeisance to, or bowing down Kg2 5:18 before images of human workmanship.
Gird up thy loins - A symbol of preparation for earnest exertion, and implying also firm purpose, and some degree of alacrit
Be not dismayed ... - literally, "be not dismayed at their faces, lest I dismay thee before their faces." Naturally despondent and self-distrustful, there was yet no feebleness in Jeremiah's character. There was in him a moral superiority of the will, which made him, at any cost to himself, faithfully discharge whatever his conscience told him was his duty.
Metaphorically the walls and fortifications of the city represent the prophet's power of patiently enduring the attacks of his enemies; while the iron pillar, supporting the whole weight of the roof Jdg 16:29; Kg1 7:21), signifies that no trials or sufferings would crush his steadfast will.