Jeremiah 18 - 20 - Outline of Jeremiah (Book Notes menu page)
Lessons at the Potter's House (ch. 18, 19, 20)
I. The Lesson of Longsuffering Power (18:1-23)
  1. The picture (18:1-4)- The Potter has total power over the clay, and every right to do as he wishes:
    whether to mar {ruin, destroy, cp. Jer 13:7}, or to make a thing of beauty in his eyes.
  2. The Lord's explanation (18:5-10)
    1. His sovereignty is absolute (18:6-7). He is able, and He is right...
    2. His sovereignty considers the free will of man...
      • to choose repentance and blessing (18:7,8)
      • to choose rebellion and cursing (18:9,10)
    The first application of this lesson was to Judah (18:11), but the same principles apply to any nation (18:7), and to every individual (2Tim 2:19-21).
    Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
    Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.
    Mould me and make me after Thy will,
    While I am waiting, yielded and still.
    Have thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
    Hold o'er my being absolute sway!
    Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
    Christ only, always, living in me.
    [Hymn: "Have Thine Own Way," by A. Pollard]
  3. Jeremiah's message (18:11-18)
    1. The Lord's warning and invitation to return, while grace is yet extended. (18:11)
      The warning and invitation were not new. cp. Isa 1:18-20; Jer 17:21-23.
      Neither was their response.
    2. The invitation declined (18:12-17)...
      • by hearts set in their evil ways (18:12) -
        'There is no hope...' ie., of their hearts changing (Jer 13:23).
      • to the horror and astonishment of the nations (18:13-16)...
        When the Gentiles come to know the LORD, they will be astonished that Israel turned from Him (Jer 16:19-21).
           Israel had turned from the Fountain of living waters (Jer 2:13). They had exchanged the Source of Life for empty idols. They had abandoned the proven way (the Truth passed down to them from their godly ancestors, 6:16), and had chosen an unimproved and treacherous way, enroute to their destruction.
      • to judgment already announced (18:17) cp. Jer 13:24
        Because they had turned their backs to Him, He would do likewise, when they cried out to Him in their distress (cp. 2:27,28).
      • with conspiracy against the messenger (18:18)
        When the people said, "There is no hope..." (18:12), they may also have been complaining that Jeremiah's preaching was continually negative. Here, they say that despite his messages to the contrary, they were in good standing religiously, and despite his pronouncements of judgment, the order of society would continue as before. In their mind, Jeremiah's preaching was the real threat to the nation's stability.
        "Ecclesiastical influence is always greatest at the time when conscience is hardened, and unbelief and rebellion shelter themselves behind apostate forms of what God has set up, and thus men try to put to sleep the disquietude which they cannot help feeling." [GWms]
  4. Jeremiah's prayer (18:19-23)
    • He commits his case to the Lord, for deliverance.
    • He commits his enemies to the Lord, for judgment.
      "If it is right for God to punish evil-doers, then it is right to pray Him to do so; and such men having been warned of the consequences... no charge of injustice can be brought for carrying out the decrees of His righteous laws." [GWms]
II. The Lesson of certain Judgment - awful and irreversible (19:1-13)
  1. The setting: A potter's earthen jar, the elders of Judah, in the Valley of the son of Hinnom (19:1,2)
  2. The message:
    1. Judah is on the brink of evil {ie., calamity} at the hand of the Lord (19:3)
    2. Because... (19:4,5) - Here, the Lord repeats what He has said previously (cp. 7:31,32).
      The cause of the calamity was their departure from the Lord {'they have forsaken Me'}, and their devotion to strange gods. They had 'estranged this place' {ie., 'recognized' or 'designated' the valley of Hinnom} for their worship, which included the hideous sacrifice of innocent children to the idols of Baal and Molech.
    3. Therefore... (19:6-9)
      • The catastrophic collapse, of the nation under the Lord's judgment, would overturn the counsel of the people against the Lord and His prophet (19:7; 18:18).
      • Their chosen place of worship, the Valley of the son of Hinnom, which they called Topheth {the place of burning}, would be known as the valley of slaughter (19:6). [GWms suggests that Topheth may have taken its name from, Toph (the HB word for "drum") because of the drums which drowned out the screams of the children committed to the flames.]
             This place, is also known as Gehenna, which in NT times, was a garbage dump where animal carcasses were burned. Jesus used this place as a picture of the desolation of Hell itself (eg., Mat 5:29,30 where "hell" is GK= gehenna {from the HB 'ge-hinnom,' valley of Hinnom}).
      • They would be reduced to eating their children (19:9), in desperation, during the famine caused by the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.
        This horror would be just recompense, for those who fed their children to idols. Deu 28:53-57; Lam 4:10
    4. The concluding illustration (19:10-13)
      Israel's fall, like the breaking of the earthen jar, would be sudden and irreversible.
III. Lessons on the Great Potter's wheel of Life (19:14- 20:18)- as revealed by Jeremiah's persecution:
  1. Vessels to be marred (19:14 - 20:6)
    • Jeremiah's first persecution came as he repeated the message of judgment,
      within the Temple courtyard, after returning from Topheth (19:14,15).
    • Jeremiah's persecution began with organized religion (20:1-6).
      Pashur, a descendant of Immer the priest, would have occupied his office as chief governor {or, chief of security} of the Temple, during the few weeks per year when the priestly course of Immer served (1Chr 24:5,14).
         Pashur 'smote' {ie., beat, flogged} Jeremiah and put him in the stocks in a prominent public place (to shame him). Jeremiah's punishment may have been as prescribed in Deu 25:1-3.
    • Jeremiah's persecution proclaimed God's judgment upon his persecutors (cp. Php 1:27-29).
      • Pashur, is the first person named in Jeremiah's book.
        His naming puts a face on the judgment, showing that judgment is near. His renaming makes it emphatic. Pashur means "Prosperity all around." Magor-missabib means "Terror on every side" (20:3).
      • Pashur is told of specific troubles that would befall him, in the coming captivity.
        He, his family and friends would suffer, because he had 'prophesied lies' (cp. Jer 5:31).
      • Babylon is mentioned, here, for the first time in Jeremiah's prophecies.
        Previously, he had spoken of the conquering power from the north, but had not identified it by name (although Isaiah had done so, 100 years earlier, Isa 39:6,7). The naming of the enemy, shows that the judgment is very near.
  2. A vessel being formed according to the Lord's pleasure (20:7-18) -
    Jeremiah finds himself stretched and distressed, like the clay of a work in progress.
    1. The Potter works through the clay (20:7-8)
      • Thou hast deceived me. - This is not the usual word for deceive. This word usually has the sense of "persuaded" or "convinced." Jeremiah, persuaded by God's Word, was compelled to proclaim it (cp. 1:6-10,17-19). Consider this alternate translation of 20:7...
        "Thou hast persuaded me, O Jehovah, and I am persuaded; Thou hast hardened me, and dost prevail, I have been for a laughter all the day, Every one is mocking at me" [YLT]
      • I cried violence and spoil... - The hearers had rejected and mocked both the message and the messenger of judgment. Jeremiah grieved on both counts.
    2. The Potter works within the clay (20:9-10)
      • Report say they...- Jeremiah's enemies sought occasion against him.
        Perhaps they could trip him in his words or find some punishable violation of the law of which to accuse him. cp. Jer 18:18; Psa 31:13; Luke 11:53,54; 20:20; Mat 26:59,60
      • I will not... speak any more in His name...-
        To avoid the pain of derision, Jeremiah attempted to remain silent. But God's Word was alive and could not be silenced within him. cp. Psa 39:3; Acts 4:20; 17:16; 18:5; 2Cor 5:13-15
    3. The Potter works for the clay (20:11-12) - Jeremiah placed his confidence in Him.
      • Unto Thee have I opened my cause (20:12)-
        Jeremiah knowing that the Lord knew his heart, and would judge him aright (17:9,10), committed himself to the Lord. cp. 1Pet 2:21-23
      • My persecutors shall stumble... fall... (20:11)-
        The Lord would avenge His servant, in due time, and forever.
    4. The clay: confident in the Potter (20:13) - sings a hymn of praise to the Lord.
    5. The clay: despairing in itself (20:14-18) - laments its painful situation...
      • Wherefore came I forth... that my days may be consumed with shame?-
        Jeremiah was not the first godly man to struggle with his lot in life. eg., Job (Job 3:2-12), Elijah (1Kin 19:4), and Jonah (Jon 4:3).
      • The clay has no power in itself, and no right to direct the Potter.
        Neither can the clay discern or comprehend the Potter's purpose (cp. Rom 5:6; 9:16; Eph 2:8-10).
      • Yet, the Lord's purpose will be fulfilled by His own hand, and in His time. Psa 17:15; Eph 2:4-7; 1Joh 3:1-3

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