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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
Jeremiah 31

 

 

Verse 1

At the same time - literally, At that time, i. e., “the latter day.” mentioned in Jeremiah 30:24.


Verse 2

The people which were left of the sword - A promise of the restoration of the ten tribes to their land.

The wilderness - Either the desert which lay between Assyria and Palestine; or more probably an allusion to the wilderness of Mount Sinai.

Found grace … rest - Rather, “shall certainly find grace; I will go to give Israel rest.


Verse 3

Of old - From afar (margin). See Jeremiah 30:10. To the Jew God was enthroned in Zion, and thus when His mercy was shown unto the exiles in Assyria it came from a distant region 2 Chronicles 6:20, 2 Chronicles 6:38.

With lovingkindness … - Rather, I have continued lovingkindness unto thee.


Verse 4

O virgin of Israel - i. e., the whole people (compare Jeremiah 14:17 note).


Verse 5

Shall eat them as common things - Rather, shall eat the fruit. Literally, as in the margin. For three years the fruit of a newly-planted tree was not to be touched, that of the fourth year was consecrated to God, but on the fifth year it was profane, i. e., unconsecrated, and so might be applied to the owner‘s use Leviticus 19:23-25.


Verse 6

This verse anticipates a time when the schism caused by Jeroboam is over. Ephraimite watchmen equally with the tribe of Judah watch for the new moon that they may go up to Jerusalem to keep the appointed Feasts.


Verse 7

Among - Or, because of. Israel is the chief or, first of the nations Deuteronomy 26:19, and Yahweh summons mankind to rejoice, because the remnant of Israel is about to be restored to its old position.


Verse 8

The coasts of the earth - See Jeremiah 6:22 note.

Thither - Really, here. Not to the north country, but to Palestine, where Jeremiah wrote. A company is the word constantly used of Israel at the Exodus Exodus 16:3 as an organized community.


Verse 9

Weeping - For joy, not for sorrow.

Supplications - The conviction that God is guiding them, encourages them to pray.

Ephraim is My firstborn - The house of Joseph is thus to be restored to its old preeminence.


Verse 10

The isles - The coast land of the Mediterranean, used here to show that the most distant countries are to hear and marvel at Israel‘s wonderful restoration.


Verse 12

Omit together. The ten tribes are to flow like a river down from Zion‘s height to their own land, there to reap the rich produce of their tillage. In Jerusalem they would be occupied with religious duties, but after these are rendered to God, they are to disperse each to his own fields.

Sorrow - Rather, languish, pine.


Verse 13

Both gives the idea of the men dancing, which is incorrect. Except at a religious solemnity 2 Samuel 6:14, dancing was confined to women. Render and young men and old rejoice together.


Verses 15-22

The religious character of the restoration of the ten tribes. Chastisement brought repentance, and with it forgiveness; therefore God decrees their restoration.

Jeremiah 31:15

Ramah, mentioned because of its nearness to Jerusalem, from which it was distant about five miles. As the mother of three tribes, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, Rachel is regarded as the mother of the whole ten. This passage is quoted by Matthew (marginal reference) as a type. In Jeremiah it is a poetical figure representing in a dramatic form the miserable condition of the kingdom of Ephraim devastated by the sword of the Assyrians.

Jeremiah 31:16

Rachel‘s work had been that of bearing and bringing up children, and by their death she was deprived of the joy for which she had labored: but by their being restored to her she will receive her wages.

Jeremiah 31:17

In thine end - i. e., for thy time to come (see the Jeremiah 29:11 note).

Jeremiah 31:18

As a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke - literally, like an untaught calf. Compare the Hosea 10:11 note. Ephraim, like an untrained steer, had resisted Yahweh‘s will.

Jeremiah 31:19

After that I was turned - i. e., after I had turned away from Thee. In Jeremiah 31:18 it has the sense of turning to God.

Instructed - Brought to my senses by suffering. The smiting upon the thigh is a sign of sorrow. Compare Ezekiel 21:17.

The reproach of my youth - i. e., the shame brought upon me by sins of my youth.

Jeremiah 31:20

Moved to compassion by Ephraim‘s lamentation, Yahweh shows Himself as tender and ready to forgive as parents are their spoiled (rather, darling) child.

For … him - Or, “that so often as I speak concerning him,” i. e., his punishment.

My bowels are troubled - The metaphor expresses the most tender internal emotion.

Jeremiah 31:21

Waymarks - See 2 Kings 23:17 note.

High heaps - Or, signposts, pillars to point out the way.

Set thine heart - Not set thy affection, but turn thy thoughts and attention (in Hebrew the heart is the seat of the intellect) to the highway, even the way by which thou wentest.

Jeremiah 31:22

Israel instead of setting itself to return hesitates, and goes here and there in a restless mood. To encourage it God gives the sign following.

A woman shall compass a man - i. e., the female shall protect the strong man; the weaker nature that needs help will surround the stronger with loving and fostering care. This expresses a new relation of Israel to the Lord, a new covenant, which the Lord will make with His people (Jeremiah 31:31 following). The fathers saw in these words a prophecy of the miraculous conception of our Lord by the Virgin.


Verse 23

As yet - Or, Again, once move. The prophet now turns to Judah. By the mountain of holiness is meant not the temple only, but all Jerusalem, of which the temple was the most sacred spot, and that by which all the rest was made holy.


Verse 24

Go forth - “Go about.” Judah shall have its settled population and fixed abodes; and shepherds shall move about with their flocks, wherever pasture is to be found.


Verse 25

Sorrowful - Or, languishing Jeremiah 31:12.


Verse 26

The prophet, seeming to himself to awake and look up in the midst of his sleep (whether ecstatic or not we cannot tell), rejoiced in a revelation so entirely consolatory, and unlike his usual message of woe.


Verses 27-34

The prophet shows that the happiness of Israel and Judah, united in one prosperous nation, will rest upon the consciousness that their chastisement has been the result of sins which they have themselves committed, and that God‘s covenant depends not upon external sanctions, but upon a renewed heart.

Jeremiah 31:27

So rapid shall be the increase that it shall seem as if children and young cattle sprang up out of the ground.

Jeremiah 31:29, Jeremiah 31:30

A sour grape - Better, sour grapes. The idea that Jeremiah and Ezekiel (marginal reference) modified the terms of the second Commandment arises from a mistaken exegesis of their words. Compare Jeremiah 32:18; Deuteronomy 24:16. The obdurate Jews made it a reproach to the divine justice that the nation was to be sorely visited for Manasseh‘s sin. But this was only because generation after generation had, instead of repenting, repeated the sins of that evil time, and even in a worse form. justice must at length have its course. The acknowledgment that each man died for his own iniquity was a sign of their return to a more just and right state of feeling.

Jeremiah 31:31

A time is foretold which shall be to the nation as marked an epoch as was the Exodus. God at Sinai made a covenant with His people, of which the sanctions were material, or (where spiritual) materially understood. Necessarily therefore the Mosaic Church was temporary, but the sanctions of Jeremiah‘s Church are spiritual - written in the heart - and therefore it must take the place of the former covenant Hebrews 8:13, and must last forever. The prophecy was fulfilled when those Jews who accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, expanded the Jewish into the Christian Church.

Jeremiah 31:32

Although … - i. e., although as their husband (or, “lord” (Baal, compare Hosea 2:16)) I had lawful authority over them. The translation in Hebrews 8:9 agrees with the Septuagint here, but the balance of authority is in favor of the King James Version.

Jeremiah 31:33

The old law could be broken Jeremiah 31:32; to remedy this God gives, not a new law, but a new power to the old law. It used to be a mere code of morals, external to man, and obeyed as a duty. In Christianity, it becomes an inner force, shaping man‘s character from within.

Jeremiah 31:34

I will forgive their iniquity - The foundation of the new covenant is the free forgiveness of sins (compare Matthew 1:21). It is the sense of this full unmerited love which so affects the heart as to make obedience henceforward an inner necessity.


Verse 35

Divideth … - Rather, stirreth up the sea so that its waves roar.


Verse 36

If those - If these. From the uniformity of God‘s operations in the material world, the prophet deduces the certainty of a similar uniformity in God‘s dealings with man in things spiritual.

A nation - A people. Israel has long ceased to be a nation, but it still exists as a numerous, influential, and distinct people. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jeremiah‘s prophecy receives its Christian application, and Israel becomes the Church, with the promise of perpetual existence. It has no national existence, but its members ought to be a strongly marked people, refusing to be merged in the world, while everywhere they pervade and influence it.


Verse 37

All the seed - Unworthy members of Israel may be cast away, but the race shall never entirely cease to exist.


Verse 38

To the Lord - Or, for Yahweh: for His dwelling in the hearts of a people prepared to be His temple.


Verse 39

Over … Gareb - Or, straight along the hill Gareb. Probably the hill of lepers, outside the old walls, toward the southwest.

Goath - Goah. Unknown.


Verse 40

The whole valley of the dead bodies - Probably some part of the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. Comparing Zechariah 2:4, the conclusion seems evident that Jeremiah‘s words are to be spiritually understood. His city is one that renders holy unto Yahweh what was before unclean. Compare John‘s new Jerusalem Revelation 21:27.

 


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/jeremiah-31.html. 1870.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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