(1) And get a potter’s earthen bottle.—The word for “get” involves buying as the process. The similitude—one might better call it, the parable dramatised—represents the darker side of the imagery of Jeremiah 18:3-4. There the vessel was still on the potter’s wheel, capable of being re-shaped. Now we have the vessel which has been baked and hardened. No change is possible. If it is unfit for the uses for which it was designed, there is nothing left but to break it. As such it became now the fit symbol of the obdurate people of Israel. Their polity, their nationality, their religious system, had to be broken up. The word for “vessel” indicates a large earthen jar with a narrow neck, the “cruse” used for honey in 1 Kings 14:3. Its form, bakbuk, clearly intended to represent the gurgling sound of the water as it was poured out, is interesting as an example of onomatopœia in the history of language.
Take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests.—The elders. and therefore the representatives of the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, were to be the witnesses of this acted prophecy of the destruction of all that they held most precious. The word “take” is not in the Hebrew, but either some such verb has to be supplied. or the verb “go” has to be carried on, “Let the ancients . . . go with thee.”
By the entry of the east gate.—The Hebrew word is obscure. The Authorised Version adopts a doubtful etymology, connecting the word with the sun (so “sun gate” in the margin) and therefore with the East. Luther, with the Vulgate and most modern scholars, renders it as “the potter’s gate,” or more literally, the gate of pottery. The LXX. treats it as a proper name, and gives “the gate Kharsith.” No such fate appears in the topographical descriptions of Nehemiah 2, 3; and the two gates which led into the valley of Hinnom were the Fountain and the Dung gate (Nehemiah 3:13-15). Hence it has been inferred that this was a small postern gate leading into the valley just at the point where it was filled with rubbish, possibly with broken fragments like those which were now to be added to it. On this supposition the connection both of the name of the gate and its use with the symbolism of the prophet’s act may have determined the command which was thus given him.
His ears shall tingle.—The phrase, occurring as it does in 1 Samuel 3:11, in the prophecy of the doom of the earlier sanctuary, seems intentionally used to remind those who heard it of the fate that had fallen on Shiloh. The destruction of the first sanctuary of Israel was to be the type of that of the second (Psalm 78:60; Jeremiah 7:14). The phrase had, however, been used more recently (2 Kings 21:12).
The blood of innocents.—The words seem at first to refer to the Molech sacrifices, which had made the valley of Hinnom infamous. These, however, are mentioned separately in the next verse, and the prophet probably spoke rather here, as in Jeremiah 2:34; Jeremiah 7:6, of the “innocent blood” with which Manasseh had filled Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:16; 2 Kings 24:4, where the same word is used).
Because of all the plagues thereof.—The word is used in its wider, and yet stricter, sense as including all the blows or smitings (as in Isaiah 14:6) that are thought of as coming from the hand of God.
Upon whose roofs they have burned incense.