Jeremiah 18:4, Marred in the Potter’s Hands

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

//Today’s verse is a little parable presented by God as a lesson to Jeremiah. While we often think of the clay as being us as individuals, flawed and in need of remaking by God, this isn’t really what God was saying. God compared the clay vessel to the nation of Israel, not to individuals.

God was saying he would ball up the clay and start over, forming a new Israel. But is a corporate (rather than individual) understanding enough to explain how the vessel could be marred in God’s hands? Isn’t God perfect? How could there be a mar in the shaping of Israel, if God is doing the shaping?

I’m not a potter. But I understand foreign substances can get in the clay, causing imperfections which, when the pot is fired, will cause it to crack. A potter who recognizes this after beginning to throw must remove the foreign substance and start over. But this just doesn’t seem to fit the analogy. Instead, Jeremiah observed a very common routine: the potter begins, doesn’t like the way it is turning out, balls it up, and begins again … perhaps several times on the same vessel.

If Jeremiah is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians as the “starting over point,” then God did indeed ball Israel up and begin anew, after his first attempt was flawed. But this hardly acknowledges an omnipotent God.

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