Jeremiah 19


I want to write a little bit about the next two chapters, Jeremiah 19 and Jeremiah 20 before we look at them in greater detail. In Jeremiah 19, God told him to preach another sermon. He said, ‘Jeremiah, I want you to take a piece of pottery. I want you to carry it with you outside of the city of Jerusalem to the Valley of Ben Hinnom.’

The Valley of Ben Hinnom was the dumping ground of Jerusalem.

There was a continual fire, a perpetual fire, that burned in the Valley of Ben Hinnom. Years later, when Jesus Christ came onto the scene, He might have been looking out over that very valley when He taught the important lessons on Gehenna, the fire of hell, Matthew 5:22.

God said to Jeremiah, ‘Jeremiah, you take that piece of pottery, you invite the leaders of the city, and the religious leaders, to go with you. You go down there to preach a sermon.’

It was in that valley that the kings of Judah had worshipped false gods. It was in that valley that some of the kings of Judah, in their worship of false gods, had actually offered their children as sacrifices to those false gods. Jeremiah went that day and preached the sermon. And it wasn’t a pleasant sermon. It was a sermon about captivity. It was a sermon about destruction. Following the instructions given to him by God, Jeremiah threw the vessel of clay down on the ground, so that it broke into pieces. Then he said, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as the potter’s clay is smashed.’

For over 40 years Jeremiah spoke for God to Judah. For over 40 years he found his life to be difficult. Often, he was disappointed. In Jeremiah’s day, there was a priest who was extremely positive. So, let’s look at what happened after Jeremiah’s sermon, and after the breaking of the flask in the Valley of Ben Hinnom. We have to move to the beginning of the 20th chapter of the book of Jeremiah to look at this.

Verse 1 begins, ‘When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer of the temple of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the LORD’S temple.’

This priest was also the chief officer of the temple the top official. Here is a top priest, a top official, someone who we would expect to be interested in what was in Judah’s future. But rather than hear the message of the Lord, he persecuted the messenger, he rejected the message.

Pashhur was one of the priests who said, peace. And Jeremiah said, there is no peace, the city of Jerusalem is under siege. The people have forgotten God. The people are going to be carried away, into captivity. Still, the priests said peace, when there is no peace. There is power in positive thinking, but positive thinking must consider reality. And the reality for the men of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day was an invasion.

To say peace when there is no peace does not bring peace. Positive thinking must always be considered in the light of what is real. And in the lives of the Jewish people in Jeremiah’s day, it is captivity. Jeremiah is not impressed with this senior priest, or with his message of peace. Jeremiah is obviously concerned about his people, but he is going to be a realist. He is going to think positively, but he is going to be a realist.

Jeremiah needed encouragement. He should have received encouragement from the priests, and the kings, but he found no encouragement from them. The very place he thought that he would find those who would support him, he didn’t find it. And that is when he said that he wanted to quit. He wanted to give up. Remember what he said, speaking of God, in Jeremiah 20:9? ‘But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a burning fire; shut up in my bones.’

He just had to keep on speaking, because of this fire in his bones. Jeremiah’s encouragement just came from God. That is why we find, in Jeremiah 20:13, Jeremiah saying, ‘Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD!’

He found encouragement in God.

I think it would be helpful if translators called a spade a spade! I looked at three different translations and one called this the smashed Potter’s vessel, one called it the smashed Potter’s jar and the third called it the broken Potter’s Flask. But I am sure whether I call it vessel, jar or flask you will know what I am talking about. Whatever we call it this is the symbol or sign of the broken Potter’s jar.

Here we have the parable of the smashed potter’s jar. Jeremiah 18 gave us a picture of God’s patience and ability to correct the imperfect clay. This is a different lesson. The symbol here is a potter’s jar, but it is one that has already been made, already fired and hardened. It was a new jar, one that had only just been purchased, which means that it hadn’t been used and that it was empty. It symbolises the emptiness of this nation, and their failure to turn back to God.

The smashing of the jar symbolises Judah as being a broken nation, no longer God’s people. There was no known way for them to repair this shattered jar, the nation was finished. True, the ‘righteous remnant’ would return, and they would form the nucleus of the new covenant of the coming Messiah.

The message is aimed mostly, at those in high places. Jeremiah calls a kind of committee meeting, and God uses visual aids. We seem to think that Jesus started the use of parables, but they were common in Old Testament times. Those in positions of responsibility are told how it is to be. Jeremiah is speaking here. He breaks the jar and he tells the people that God will break this nation into a state that cannot be fixed. But they don’t have any sympathy.

Jeremiah would be like Humpty-Dumpty, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put it together again. Because of the dead, the Valley of Topheth would have its name changed to the Valley of Slaughter. It will become like a rubbish dump. Some suggest that this was one reason why Golgotha was called the Place of Skulls because of the dead bodies. Jeremiah tells other people, in general, the same message. That is basically the message of this chapter, let’s now look at some of the individual verses.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you, and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.’ Jeremiah 19:1-3

There are other occasions in this book when Jeremiah himself became a part of his message. They are the Linen Belt in Jeremiah 13, God telling him he must not marry, Jeremiah 16, the Potter’s Clay, Jeremiah 18, the yoke around his neck, Jeremiah 27 and his buying a Field, Jeremiah 32.

Two gates led to the Valley of Ben Hinnom.

1. The Fountain Gate in the southeast corner, and

2. The Dung Gate at the southwest corner.

Scholars are not sure which one this refers to. One scholar believes that it was the gate that they used for throwing out their rubbish. If this were the case, the symbol of this is of the proud nation being carried out of the back door to be broken up for rubbish. I add that for interest only, it doesn’t really matter what gate was used.

The Valley of Ben Hinnom was located south of Jerusalem and was the location of the shrine of Molech. This is where their infants were burned as sacrifices to that god. After Josiah defiled the place it was used for burning waste and cremating the bodies of dead criminals. The potter’s field is believed to be a little bit south of this, and it was there that Judas Iscariot committed suicide after betraying Jesus.

‘For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal— something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. So, beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. ‘In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.’ Jeremiah 19:4-9

Verse 4 does not refer to the blood of the infants who were sacrificed to Molech. It is believed to refer to the innocent people who were murdered by Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:16. The high places were built to burn their children as burnt offerings to Baal. This identifies Baal with the horrible Molech.

We are not sure what Topheth means. It is suggested that it means ‘fireplace’. It was one of the names given to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. Whatever it means, it was the place where the shrine of Molech was kept. It will now be known as the Valley of Slaughter. It was in this valley that the Babylonians made their camp. And It was at this scene of slaughter that Babylon came to slaughter God’s people.

This terrible warning is almost a quotation from Deuteronomy 28:53. This is when Moses was warning Israel of their fate if they should give up serving the true God. Jeremiah is warning them that the Mosaic penalty was going to be enforced.

‘Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, and say to them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares the LORD. I will make this city like Topheth. The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth—all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’ Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the LORD’s temple and said to all the people, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’ Jeremiah 19:10-15

This is the perfect example, symbol, of what is going to happen to the nation. This disaster is not going to happen by accident, the nation is going to be deliberately broken. God intended it. Man accomplished it. It wasn’t partially shattered, it was completely smashed.

God’s people had turned their backs on him and worshipped idols by offering up their children to slaughter, to burning. God was now going to do the same to them, by slaughter, by burning, by offering them up to a foreign nation.

This destruction was going to fall upon the city as a whole. This would include the roofs of houses where they had burned incense to ‘all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’

I would imagine that this was only a brief summary of what Jeremiah said in the court of the temple. I say this because, when we come to Jeremiah 20, we find that Pashhur, who was the chief officer of the temple, gets irritated and angry by what Jeremiah was saying. But Jeremiah doesn’t say much in this last verse of chapter 19 so I guess this was just a brief summary of what he said.

This action by Pashhur follows immediately after Jeremiah’s speech in the court of the Lord’s temple and it is this connection between these two chapters that leads some scholars to believe that verses 14-15, should have been the opening verses of the next chapter.

Go To Jeremiah 20



"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."