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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 19:10-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 22, 2015

10 Then break the jar in the sight of the men who are with you. 11 Say to them, “This is what the LORD of Armies says: “This is how I will break this city, just as a potter’s jar is broken so that it cannot be made whole again. They will bury people in Topheth until there is no place left to bury. 12 This is what I will do to this place,” says the LORD, “and to those who live here, making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will become defiled like all the houses on whose rooftops they have burned incense to all the host of heaven and poured out drink offerings to other gods. They will all be defiled like that place Topheth.”

What was Topheth? This word occurs ten times in the Bible; eight of these are in Jeremiah, and six are here in this chapter. Some Bible dictionaries propose that the name Topheth comes from a word for “burning” or “cook stove” based on the Aramaic word shapheth “fireplace.” But the word Topheth means “spit” in Hebrew (Job 17:6), and it was evidently a nickname for the Valley of Hinnom, also called Genehnna, where the corpses of condemned criminals were burned along with the city garbage of Jerusalem. The great Jewish grammarian David Kimhi said that “in this loathsome valley fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it” (commentary on Psalm 27:13).

A “high place,” perhaps a sacred or cultic grove for the god Baal, was located in this place (Jeremiah 32:35), and the Israelites had a long history, from the time of Solomon right through to the end of the divided kingdom—more than four hundred years—with idolatry in this place.

God had spared Judah for a very long time, calling them to repentance through the prophets, but now the jar of God’s patience was broken. Jeremiah was commanded to break the clay jar he had had bought from the potter, and Jeremiah did it. A pot like this, once broken, cannot be remade, and the Kingdom of Judah as the people had known it would never be remade. The idea of a kingdom was attempted again a few times, especially under the Maccabees in the intertestamental period (164-64 B.C.). King Herod was not a Jew, but an Edomite set in place by the Romans to rule over the Jews as an insult. God said that Judah was smashed, and that is what happened under the Babylonians. The kingdom was broken, God said, “so that it cannot be made whole again” (verse 11).

Jesus’ disciples thought that the restoration of Judah might be one of the Messiah’s goals, but they were not thinking big enough. Jesus did not come to restore a kingdom (Acts 1:6), and he said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). His kingdom is an eternal kingdom, the everlasting domain of God and all the righteous, saved through faith in Christ and reigning with God in eternity (Revelation 5:10). All of our sins of idolatry, all of our abominations; all of our mistakes are forgiven in Jesus. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us stay away from those sins and those temptations; to keep us safely in the protection of God’s grace through faith. And we know that, broken and smashed pots that we are, we have a place forever with Jesus.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.