18:1 The Lord said to Jeremiah: 1 18:2 “Go down at once 2 to the potter’s house. I will speak to you further there.” 3 18:3 So I went down to the potter’s house and found him working 4 at his wheel. 5 18:4 Now and then 6 there would be something wrong 7 with the pot he was molding from the clay 8 with his hands. So he would rework 9 the clay into another kind of pot as he saw fit. 10
18:5 Then the Lord said to me, 11 18:6 “I, the Lord, say: 12 ‘O nation of Israel, can I not deal with you as this potter deals with the clay? 13 In my hands, you, O nation of Israel, are just like the clay in this potter’s hand.’
1 tn Heb “The word which came to Jeremiah from the
2 tn Heb “Get up and go down.” The first verb is not literal but is idiomatic for the initiation of an action. See 13:4, 6 for other occurrences of this idiom.
3 tn Heb “And I will cause you to hear my word there.”
4 tn Heb “And behold he was working.”
5 sn At his wheel (Heb “at the two stones”). The Hebrew expression is very descriptive of the construction of a potter’s wheel which consisted of two stones joined by a horizontal shaft. The potter rotated the wheel with his feet on the lower wheel and worked the clay with his hands on the upper. For a picture of a potter working at his wheel see I. Ben-Dor, “Potter’s Wheel,” IDB 3:846. See also the discussion regarding the making of pottery in J. L. Kelso, “Pottery,” IDB 3:846-53.
6 tn The verbs here denote repeated action. They are the Hebrew perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive. The text then reads somewhat literally, “Whenever the vessel he was molding…was ruined, he would remold…” For this construction see Joüon 2:393-94 §118.n and 2:628-29 §167.b, and compare the usage in Amos 4:7-8.
7 sn Something was wrong with the clay – either there was a lump in it, or it was too moist or not moist enough, or it had some other imperfection. In any case the vessel was “ruined” or “spoiled” or defective in the eyes of the potter. This same verb has been used of the linen shorts that were “ruined” and hence were “good for nothing” in Jer 13:7. The nature of the clay and how it responded to the potter’s hand determined the kind of vessel that he made of it. He did not throw the clay away. This is the basis for the application in vv. 7-10 to any nation and to the nation of Israel in particular vv. 10-17.
8 tn The usage of the preposition בְּ (bet) to introduce the material from which something is made in Exod 38:8 and 1 Kgs 15:22 should lay to rest the rather forced construction that some (like J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 121) put on the variant כַּחֹמֶר (kakhomer) found in a few Hebrew
9 tn Heb “he would turn and work.” This is an example of hendiadys where one of the two verbs joined by “and” becomes the adverbial modifier of the other. The verb “turn” is very common in this construction (see BDB 998 s.v. שׁוּב Qal.8 for references).
10 tn Heb “as it was right in his eyes to do [or work it].” For this idiom see Judg 14:3, 7; 1 Sam 18:20, 26; 2 Sam 17:4.
11 tn Heb “Then the word of the
12 tn This phrase (literally “Oracle of the
13 tn The words “deals with the clay” are not in the text. They are part of an elliptical comparison and are supplied in the translation here for clarity.