Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The date of this prophecy Jer. 13 is fixed by the mention of the queen-mother Jer 13:18 i. e., Nehushta, the mother of Jehoiachin. We have in it one of those symbolic acts by which great lessons were taught the people more impressively than by words Alter the burning of the scroll in the fourth year of Jehoiakim Jeremiah disappeared from Jerusalem, and did not show himself there again for seven years. In the last few mournful days of Jehoiakim, he was once again seen in the streets of Jerusalem, with his prophetic robe of black camel's hair girt about with this girdle, mildewed and waterstained as the symbol of the pitiable estate of a nation which had rejected its God. His place of refuge may have been near the Euphrates. Many such acts alleged to have been performed by the prophets may have been allegories, but this we believe to have been literally true.
A linen girdle - The appointed dress of the priestly order (Lev 16:4, ...).
Put it not in water - i. e., do not wash it, and so let it represent the deep-grained pollution of the people.
In a hole of the rock - "In a cleft of the rock." As there are no fissured rocks in Babylonia, the place where Jeremiah hid the girdle must have been somewhere in the upper part of the river.
Many days - The seventy years' captivity.
This verse limits the application of the symbol. Only the ungodly and the idolatrous part of the people decayed at Babylon. The religious portion was strengthened and invigorated by the exile Jer 24:5-7.
The reason why the girdle was chosen as the symbol. Similarly, Israel was the people chosen and set apart that in and by them the Holy Spirit might work for the salvation of mankind.
Bottle - jar, the "potter's vessel" of Isa 30:14 : a new symbol, but with the same meaning, the approaching destruction of Jerusalem Jer 13:14.
The kings ... - i. e., his successors in general. In the fall of Jerusalem four kings in succession were crushed.
All orders and degrees of men in the state would be broken in indiscriminate destruction.
Be not proud - Both the symbols were of a nature very humiliating to the national self-respect.
The dark mountains - Rather, "the mountains of twilight." Judah is not walking upon the safe highway, but upon dangerous mountains: and the dusk is closing round her. While then the light still serves let her return unto her God.
And, while ye look ... - Translate, "and ye wait for light, and He turn it (the light) into the shadow of death, yea change it into clouded darkness."
The Lord's flock - The people carried away captive with Jeconiah formed the Jewish Church, as we are expressly told, whereas Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem possessed only the externals of the Church and not its reality. It is for this reason that the seventy years' exile counts from Jeconiah's captivity.
The queen - i. e., "the queen-mother:" the word signifies literally "the great lady." The king's mother took precedence of his wives.
Sit down - The usual position of slaves.
For your principalities ... - Rather, "for the ornaments of your heads, even the crown of your majesty, shall come down."
Shall be shut up - Rather, "are shut up, and no man openeth them." The cities of the Negeb, the southern district of Judah, are blockaded, with no one to raise the siege. The captivity was the inevitable result of the capture of the fortified towns. An army entering from the north would march along the Shefelah, or fertile plain near the seacoast, and would capture the outlying cities, before it attacked Jerusalem, almost inaccessible among the mountains.
Judah shall be ... - Translate, "Judah is ..."
Jerusalem is asked where the cities, which once lay grouped round her, like a goodly flock of sheep, are gone? The question implies blame.
Translate, "What wilt thou say, O Jerusalem, when He, Yahweh, shall set over thee for head those whom thou hast taught to be thy bosom friends?" The foreign powers, whose friendship she has been courting, will become her tyrants.
Made bare - Rather, "ill-used, treated with violence." The long flowing robes worn by ladies of rank, are to be laid aside, that they might do menial work, bare-legged, like slaves. The ill-usage to the heels is the having to tramp barefoot, a thing very painful to women accustomed to the seclusion of the female apartments.
This verse answers the question, May not Judah avert this calamity by repentance? No: because her sins are too inveterate. By the Ethiopian (Hebrew: Cushite) is meant not the Cushite of Arabia but of Africa, i. e., the negro.
Stubble - Broken straw separated from the wheat after the grain had been trampled out by the oxen. Sometimes it was burned as useless; at other times left to be blown away by the wind from the desert.
The portion of thy measures - i. e., "thy measured portion" Job 11:9. Others render it: "the portion of thy lap," the upper garment being constantly used for holding things Rut 3:15.
In falsehood i. e - in idols (see the marginal reference).
Therefore will I - literally, "And I also;" I also must have my turn, I too must retaliate. Compare Nah 3:5.
And thine abominations - "Even thy abominations." The prophet sums up the three charges against Judah, namely, spiritual adultery, inordinate eagerness after idolatry (see the note at Jer 5:7 note), and shameless participation in pagan orgies.
In the fields - "in the field," the open, unenclosed country (see Jer 6:25; Jer 12:4).
Wilt thou not ... once be? - "Or, how long yet ere thou be made clean!" These words explain the teaching of Jer 13:23. Repentance was not an actual, but a moral impossibility, and after a long time Judah was to be cleansed. It was to return from exile penitent and forgiven.