In the previous chapter we saw the freedom of God demonstrated by what Jeremiah saw and heard at the potter’s house. God could take a nation formerly appointed for blessing and judge it if it turned to wickedness, and God could bless a nation formerly appointed for judgment and bless it if it turned from its wickedness. Sadly, Judah did not turn to God in repentance. The clay had settled. Opportunities for reprieve were rejected. The disposition of the people was fixed. And as a result, God was going to use pottery once again to make His point. So, the LORD said to Jeremiah (vs.1a):
“1b Go and get a potter’s earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests. 2 And go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the Potsherd Gate; and proclaim there the words that I will tell you.” (vs.1b-2)
Jeremiah’s first assignment was to get an earthen flask – a bottle that had a wide body and a long neck. In Hebrew this piece of pottery was named a baqbuq, an onomatopoeic term that depicted the sound of the liquid as it came out of the vessel. If you say the word five times fast you’ll see the onomatopoeic element of it on display. (Seriously, try it.) Now, unlike the clay on the potter’s wheel this was a finished project. It was what it was. It was brittle and unalterable (humanly-speaking). It would serve as an appropriate prop for the sign act that Jeremiah was to perform.
His next assignment was to gather the appropriate audience, some of the elders of the people and priests, and bring them to the appropriate place, the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. We’ve come across this place before in our reading through Jeremiah. It was here that the people of Israel sacrificed their children in the fire (Jer. 7:31) – thus it was a fitting place for the scathing rebuke that was coming. Not to mention when its name was carried over into the Greek it was Gehenna, the word that Jesus used to describe hell (cf. Mt. 5:22). Furthermore, this place was near the entry of the Potsherd Gate – the place where broken pottery would be discarded.
So whereas in the previous chapter Jeremiah took a field trip to the potter’s house, in this chapter he led a class trip to the ‘garbage dump.’ When they arrived Jeremiah was to proclaim the message God gave him and say, “Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” (vs.3a). Notice, this was a message for all, the rulers and the ruled alike. And the message began like this: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle’” (vs.3b).
That last phrase likely stirred up some bad memories. God used the same expression when He spoke to Samuel about the forthcoming disaster at Shiloh (1 Sam. 3:11). Don’t confuse ‘ear tingling’ with ‘ear tickling.’ The former is an expression that denotes astonishment – and not in a good way. It’s as though people would hear about the catastrophe brought upon Judah and Jerusalem and say, ‘No… You’re kidding me… I can’t believe it.’
And before Jeremiah described the coming catastrophe or acted out the impending disaster, he first explained why the disaster was coming:
4 “Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, nor the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocents 5 (they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind),
What a threefold description of Judah’s wickedness. The people forsook God (vs.4a), the people flagrantly worshiped other gods (vs.4b, 5a), and the people offered their children as child sacrifices (vs.4c, 5b). Their behavior made the holy land an “alien place” (vs.4b) – in particular the valley of Tophet (aka “the Valley of Hinnom”) which had high places built within it (Jer. 7:31), had become a place “filled” with the “blood of the innocents”, a place where little children were slaughtered with shocking brutality.
Does such wickedness not warrant judgment? It’s as though we are to read and be convinced of how appropriate the coming depiction of God’s wrath is (Jer. 19:6-12). As an aside, we ought to tremble at the fact that the Valley of Hinnom has nothing on the total number of abortions performed in the United States since Roe vs. Wade in 1973. At the time of this writing, the number approaches close to 60,000,000. Horrific. A sterile, office as opposed to a garbage dumb, doesn’t make the ‘sacrifice’ any more acceptable.
Concerning the sacrifice of children, God put His dismay and displeasure in no certain terms – He didn’t command it nor did it even come into His mind (vs.5c). God used such a strong expression to communicate how far such behavior was from His will. If someone were to say, ‘Well didn’t God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?’ He did, but as the account goes – the angel of the LORD told Abraham to stay his hand (Gen. 22:2,12). God did not want Isaac sacrificed; he wanted Abraham’s faith demonstrated and the sacrifice of His own Son foreshadowed. That was the sacrifice that God had in His mind, never the sacrifice of fallen children whose deaths could provide no atonement or propitiation. Only one Son that was given could cleanse sinners from the wickedness of God-abandonment, idol-worship, and child-sacrifice. His blood is sufficient enough to wash any man or woman clean from all stains, including the ones left from Hinnom and the operating room.