Jeremiah – Chapter 18

The Potter's Wheel

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d spoke to Jeremiah and told him to go to the house of a certain potter. When he got there, Jeremiah found the potter working on his pottery wheel. The clay pot he was making got ruined, so he just made it over again. G-d said to Jeremiah, “Just as this potter did to his vessel, I can do to Israel. I can exile and destroy a nation and, when they repent, I can stop punishing them. I can establish a nation and if they do evil, I can stop benefitting them. So tell the people of Judah that I plan to punish them and that they should return from their evil ways.” G-d gave them this opportunity, even though He already knew that they wouldn’t even try to improve, preferring to indulge their desires.

G-d said to look among the nations to see if there was anything ever so shameful as a people choosing to reject a source of pure water (metaphorically referring to G-d Himself). The people have forgotten G-d and sacrifice to idols. They claimed that the path of Torah was full of obstacles, so they chose a new path that they hadn’t known before. Their evil will cause the land to become desolate and everyone who sees it will shake their head. G-d will scatter them before their enemies and will not save them.

The people plotted against Jeremiah. They thought, “So what if we do him in? The Torah won’t be lost and there are other prophets. In fact, they’ll probably give us better prophecies than Jeremiah! Let’s not even listen to him!” Jeremiah prayed to G-d to listen to him rather than to his detractors, who seek to destroy him. He asks G-d to remember that he originally prayed on their behalf, in an attempt to save them. Now that they tried to kill him, however, all bets are off – their children will fall to the famine and the sword and their wives will be widows. A great cry will be heard from their houses because G-d will bring the enemy upon them. G-d knows all about their plot and Jeremiah asks that He not overlook it. He prays that his enemies fall at the time of G-d’s wrath.

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