Jer 18.1-23 is a prophecy that tells us about the sovereign power of Yehovah over his creatures and creation and how he deals with them. He discusses the coming destruction of Judah for their idolatry and it has Jeremiah’s complaint about his enemies and what he would like to see happen to them. God’s power over his creatures is illustrated with a metaphor about the potter and the clay.
v 1…The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying,
v 2…”Arise and go down (from his house or the Temple area) to the potter’s house (near Tophet south of the city), and there I will announce my words to you.”
v 3…Then I went down to the potter’s house and there he (the potter is a type of Yehovah here) was making something (like God working on Israel) on the wheel (literally “both stones” and symbolizes time).
v 4…But the vessel (Israel) that he was making of clay was spoiled (as he was working; Israel was spoiled by idolatry) in the hand of the potter. So he remade it into another vessel as it pleased the potter to make (a future generation; a believing remnant, will be put back on the wheel of time).
v 5…Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,
v 6…”Can I not, O house of Israel (twelve tribes), deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord (Yehovah). “Behold (see for yourself), like the clay in the potter’s handd, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
v 7…At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it (he reminds Israel how he delivered them from a nation he uprooted to be the people of God),
v 8…If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent (this is an anthropomorphism which gives human qualities to God; his plan and foreknowledge leaves room for this and he is never wrong in his judgments) concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it (like Assyria in Jonah for instance).
v 9…Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it (like he did with Israel),
v 10…If it does evil in my sight by not obeying my voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it (by withholding any benefit to them to do good).
v 11…So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity (evil) against you and devising a plan against you (like the potter who plans his vessel). Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”‘
v 12…But they say, ‘It’s hopeless, for we are going to follow our own plans (no use in talking to them, Jeremiah’s efforts would go unheeded), and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart (God knew their hearts and this is what they expressed in their actions).’
v 13…Therefore, thus says the Lord, ‘Ask now among the nations (non-Jewish pagans), who ever heard the like of this (of Israel’s shameful acts of idolatry and unfaithfulness to their God)? The virgin Israel (were never under the yoke of another nation until they committed spiritual adultery with other gods) has done a most appalling thing.
v 14…Does the snow of Lebanon forsake the rock of the open country (no, it is continually occurring)? Or is the cold flowing water from a foreign land ever snatched away (No, there is no interruption; the sense is, Israel should no more have left the living water of God’s word than the snow and the water have failed to flow from the mountains to the fields below).
v 15…For my people have forgotten me (the fountain of living waters-Jer 17.13), they burn incense to worthless gods and they have stumbled in their ways, from the ancient paths (the Torah-Jer 16.16), to walk in bypaths not on a highway (a new, unbeaten path and very dangerous),
v 16…to make their land a desolation, an object of perpetual hissing (which is a drawing in of the breath when men shudder in loathing and hatred); everyone who passes by it will be astonished and shake his head (in exultation).
v 17…Like an east wind I will scatter them (Babylon his tool) before the enemy; I will show them my back and not my face in the day of their calamity (he will not regard their cries for help).”
v 18…Then they (unbelieving Judah) said, “Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah. Surely the law (Torah) is not going to be lost to the priest, nor counsel to the sage (the Ketuvim), nor the divine word to the prophet (the Nevi’im-this verse is the breakdown to the three realms of Jewish thought in the Scriptures, where we get “Tanak” from-see Ezek 7.26 also. They were saying they had other priests, sages and prophets besides Jeremiah, so we will seek the word of the Lord from them). Come on and let us strike at him with our tongue, and let us give no heed to any of his words.”
v 19…Do give heed to me (Jeremiah can go to Yehovah for help if nobody listens), O Lord, and listen to what my opponents (those who contend with me) are saying!
v 20…Should good be repaid with evil (he only meant good for them)? For they have dug a pit for me (for my soul). Remember how I stood before thee (to intercede for them) to speak on their behalf, so as to turn away thy wrath from them.
v 21…Therefore (since they won’t listen), give their children over to famine, and deliver them up to the power of the sword; and let their wives become childless and widowed. Let their men be smitten to death, their young men struck down by the sword in battle (he ceases to intercede because he knows they are now doomed).
v 22…Man an outcry be heard from their houses (because of the entrance of the enemy into the city), when thou suddenly bringest raiders upon them (Babylon); for they have dug a pit to capture me and hidden snares for my feet (a just retaliation).
v 23…Yet thou, O Lord, knowest all their deadly designs against me (no matter how hidden or how secret their plans, Yehovah knows); do not forgive their iniquity or blot out their sin from thy sight. But may they be overthrown before thee; deal with them in the time of thine anger (these curses are not because Jeremiah has some personal vengeance or agenda to settle, but because they refused to listen to Yehovah and are his enemies, and they have rejected the salvation that he has offered, so let his wrath come)!