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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 31

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-40

This time shall we turn in our Bibles to Jeremiah 31:1-40 .

Now there are those who say that God has cast off Israel as a nation forever, and that all of the blessings, all of the covenants and all of the promises that God made to this nation are now fulfilled in the church. That we have become Israel after the Spirit and being spiritual Israel, God has forsaken the nation itself and is now pouring out all of the blessings that He had promised through His covenant upon the church. Now this teaching creates all kinds of problems as far as your views of eschatology, because immediately it places the church in the Great Tribulation.

Now as we were in the thirtieth chapter of Jeremiah we found out where God speaks of the nation Israel going to be in the Great Tribulation and experiencing that time of Jacob's trouble. But it is our view and strong conviction that the church will not be in the Great Tribulation, inasmuch as the Great Tribulation is the time of God's wrath being poured out upon the church, I mean, upon the world, and the Lord said that we have not been appointed-that is, the church-unto wrath.

So as we get into chapter 31, it is more or less a continuation of chapter 30. For he said,

At the same time ( Jeremiah 31:1 ),

At what time? As you go back to verse Jeremiah 31:24 of chapter 30, he declares, "The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until He has done it, and has performed the intents of His heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it" ( Jeremiah 30:24 ). "At that same time," that would be, then, the latter days.

saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 31:1 ),

When God again restores the nation Israel to a place of divine favor and love. "At that same time, saith the Lord."

will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people ( Jeremiah 31:1 ).

Now, in the ninth chapter of Daniel, Daniel was seeking the Lord concerning the repatriation of the Jews back to their land after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The whole ninth chapter of Daniel begins with the fact that Daniel had been reading the prophecies of Jeremiah and he discovered by the words of Jeremiah that the time that God had ordained the Babylonian captivity was seventy years. And realizing that these seventy years were about over, Daniel began to pray unto the Lord confessing his sins and the sins of the nation and the righteousness of God and the judgment and in this period of seventy years that they have been in exile in Babylon.

And as Daniel was in prayer, the angel of the Lord came unto him and declared unto him that he was highly blessed and favored of the Lord. And that the Lord had said unto Daniel to give to him wisdom and understanding as regards to the nation Israel and its future. And He said, "Know and understand that from the time the commandment that there are seventy sevens that are determined upon the nation Israel, to finish the transgressions, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to complete the prophetic picture, to anoint the most holy One, or the most holy place, and to bring in the everlasting kingdom," seventy sevens. "But know and understand that from the time the commandment goes forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem unto the coming of the Messiah the prince will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens, or sixty-nine seven-year periods or 483 years" ( Daniel 9:25 ). And of course, it was 483 years from the time the commandment went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of Jesus Christ in His triumphant entry. He came 483 years to the day from the commandment went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.

Now that takes care of sixty-nine of the sevens. But we have one seven-year period unaccounted for. He said, "After the Messiah is revealed, He will be cut off without receiving the kingdom or without receiving anything for Himself" ( Daniel 9:26 ) And the Jews will be dispersed, and that is exactly what happened. Christ came at the appointed time, but rather than being anointed, and rather than ushering in at that moment the everlasting kingdom, and rather than completing all of the prophecies, the Messiah was cut off. He did bring reconciliation for our iniquities by His death upon the cross. He has reconciled us to God. And He did make an end of sin. He did finish sin as far as we are concerned, making that reconciliation for us. But the latter three prophecies were not fulfilled and wait a yet future date for fulfillment. The Messiah was cut off. And then He went on to say, "And the prince of the people that shall come will make a covenant with the nation Israel. But in the midst of that seven-year period, he will break the covenant and establish the abomination which causes desolation. And until the end desolation is determined" ( Daniel 9:26 ).

Daniel then went on, told about the seventieth week, but he did make a definite break between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week. And there has been a definite break. When Jesus was cut off, not for Himself but for the people, and when He was cut off without receiving the kingdom, the Jews were dispersed and have been dispersed into all of the world until in the past generation the Zionist movement as they've gone back and are going back to their homeland and have established as of May 1948 a homeland.

Now Jesus having made reference to Daniel's prophecy in Matthew 24:1-51 in response to the question of the disciples, "What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?" He said, "Now when you see the abomination of desolation that was spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, then flee to the wilderness" ( Matthew 24:15-16 ). What is the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet? Is when the antichrist, this prince of the people that shall come, will come into the temple and stand in that holy place of the temple and creates the abomination of desolation by declaring that he is God, stopping the daily prayers and sacrifices, and demanding that he be worshipped as God. Paul the apostle speaks of this in the second chapter of Thessalonians, how that he will stand in the temple of God declaring himself to be God and demanding to be worshipped as God.

Now Jesus gave this as part of the sign of the end of the age and His coming. And He is talking again to the Jews and He said, "When you see this happen, and let him who reads understand, then flee to the wilderness. Pray that your flight will not be on the Sabbath day or the new moon. Don't bother to go home to get your clothes, just get out of there as quickly as you can" ( Matthew 24:15-20 ). Of course in Revelation, we are told that God will give them wings of the angel to bear them to the wilderness place where they will be nourished for three-and-a-half years. So there is one seven-year period in which God is going to be dealing with the nation Israel once again. Seventy sevens were determined on the nation; sixty-nine of them have been fulfilled. We are still waiting for the seventieth seven to be determined, or that seventieth seven to be fulfilled. It will not be fulfilled until the church is taken out of here.

Right now God's Spirit is resting upon the church and the church is God's instrument upon the earth. But the Lord is going to take His church out and when He does, then He will put His Spirit again upon the nation Israel and He'll begin to deal with them once more nationally. God has not cast off Israel forever. God is going to deal with them yet and they shall yet become the covenant people of God. The seven years that God is dealing with them will be a time, as Jeremiah writes here in the thirtieth chapter, of Jacob's trouble. It's not going to be an easy period. It's going to be very difficult. They are going to be driven from their land once again. And there's going to be another holocaust, unfortunately, as Satan vents his anger against these people who were God's instrument of bringing the Messiah into the world. And through the antichrist will seek to make war against Israel to destroy these people completely. So at the end of that seven-year period, then Jesus will return again and they will receive, recognize and honor Him as their Savior, as their Messiah, as their Lord, and we will be united with them in the kingdom as we serve the Lord.

So, "At that same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel and they shall be My people."

Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee ( Jeremiah 31:2-3 ).

So God speaks of His love for Israel, an everlasting love. And with lovingkindness He has drawn them.

Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria ( Jeremiah 31:4-5 ):

Now that's the West Bank. So notwithstanding all of the political hassle that's being made over it, now it's still going to be Israel's. And they're going to plant vines there in Samaria in the West Bank.

the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things. For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God ( Jeremiah 31:5-6 ).

When Christ comes and establishes the kingdom and sits there upon His throne on mount Zion.

For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the north country [Russia], and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travails with child together: a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn ( Jeremiah 31:7-9 ).

That's an interesting statement for God to declare that Ephraim was His firstborn, because we remember from the story that Manasseh was actually the firstborn. They were twins and Manasseh... or no, they were brothers, Joseph's sons. And Manasseh was the older and yet God said Ephraim is My firstborn. So firstborn does not mean the first to be born as far as a space of time, but it means first in prominence or has the pre-eminence of those that were born. And that causes us to understand other scriptures which are used by the Jehovah Witnesses to try to prove that Jesus is not the Son of God or is not God manifested in the flesh.

Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd does his flock ( Jeremiah 31:10 ).

Now this is God's promise. He says, "Proclaim it! I scatter them, but I'm going to gather them again."

For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, there'll be wheat, and wine, and oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all ( Jeremiah 31:11-12 ).

That glorious day when they are received again and joined unto God and to His Son Jesus Christ.

Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD. Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children and refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not ( Jeremiah 31:13-15 ).

Now Matthew in the New Testament takes this as a prophecy of Herod killing all of the children two years old and under at the time of the birth of Christ, in order that he might destroy the king that was born that the wise men from the east came looking for him. "And Joseph being warned by the angel in a dream to flee to Egypt with the child had left Bethlehem and Herod had ordered all of the children two years and under to be slain in Bethlehem, that," Matthew said, "the prophecy might be fulfilled which declared, 'Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are not'" ( Matthew 2:13 , Matthew 2:17-18 ). And so he sees that as a prophecy of this period in which Herod ordered the slaying of the children.

Now I would not in reading through this see that this was a prediction of that event. But I accept that it is, because Matthew by the Holy Spirit declares that it is. And the New Testament is really the best commentary we have on the Old Testament. And it is interesting to me in the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ how these things are just sort of hid here and yet those enlightened by the Holy Spirit suddenly see them and they see their fulfillment in the Lord. And just in reading this in its context we are really talking about a yet future event, and yet, by the Holy Spirit Matthew says this was fulfilled and was a prediction of Herod's slaying of the innocent children.

Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy ( Jeremiah 31:16 ).

So God promises the restoration, coming out from the land of the enemy.

And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border ( Jeremiah 31:17 ).

So you've got hope. You're going to be coming back again into the borders of the country.

I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself declaring; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely will have mercy upon him, saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 31:18-20 ).

Now listen how God speaks about a wayward son Ephraim. Not as this, "I cast him off forever. I'm through with him. I disinherit him. I disown him." But God did speak of the judgment that was going to come upon him. "I spoke against him, but I earnestly remember him still." And actually, "I inwardly am groaning for him. And I will surely have mercy upon him."

Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. How long will you go about, O you backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness ( Jeremiah 31:21-23 ).

This will be again declared, "Oh, the Lord bless thee." And He says, "I will use this speech in the land of Judah in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity, as they declare, 'The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.'"

Now, of course, there is also another thing here and that is in this present-day re-gathering into Israel, the use again of the Hebrew language. After they returned from the Babylonian captivity, Hebrew was not the general language in Israel any longer. But they spoke Aramaic and they spoke Greek. But they did not really speak Hebrew. Only the scholars, the scribes and all, spoke Hebrew. All of the children growing up in Babylon in the two generations in Babylon the kids didn't bother to learn the Hebrew language. And so they just were, of course, were in the Babylon schools and playing with their boyfriends and girlfriends and all there in Babylon, and they just picked up the Aramaic and of course that became the language when they returned, the common language. But it is interesting as a part of the modern Zionist movement was when in their return to the land they established again Hebrew as the national language of the land. Everybody learns Hebrew when they go back and they speak Hebrew there. And so they're again using this speech of Hebrew and declaring, "The Lord bless thee," in Hebrew, "O habitation of justice."

And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in the cities thereof together, husbandmen, shepherds who will be going forth with their flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house ( Jeremiah 31:24-27 )

As he thought about this, Jeremiah awoke as God was speaking to him these things, and it was just a beautiful thing to realize God's restoration of the people. He was facing... they were facing, then, their destruction. And yet God took him beyond the dark period of history that was right upon them and out to the end really and the glorious restoration of God's grace and love upon the people.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 31:27-28 ).

Now if you go back to the first chapter of Jeremiah when God is calling Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry, the Lord said unto Jeremiah, verse Jeremiah 31:10 of chapter 1, "See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant." So he was to prophesy that destruction that was going to come upon these people. And now God declares, "I've watched over them to pluck them up, to break them down, to throw them down, to destroy and to afflict, but I will also watch over them to build and to plant." So God's restoration of His work with the nation Israel.

In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be on edge ( Jeremiah 31:29-30 ).

Now they had this proverb, and basically the proverb was trying to blame the fathers for all of the calamities instead of accepting responsibility yourself.

When I was a kid it was all the responsibility for the bad things that went on were laid on the kids. We were held responsible for those things that we were doing. When I became an adult then they changed. They said it was all the parents' fault. So I've got sort of got it both directions. Got it when I was a kid, and now I'm getting it when I'm an adult, as they blamed now the adults for all of the problems with the children. They say that personality equals heredity, environment, and time. And the formula that they use is P=HET. Personality equals heredity, environment, and time. And there's quite a discussion now on how much is heredity, how much is environment, and how much making up your personality. But it always seems that there is that endeavor to throw the blame for my faults onto somebody else. Man does not like to take responsibility for his own actions. And if I can blame someone else for what I've done wrong, I'm always looking for a scapegoat. I'm always looking for someone to blame. For you see, I'm so perfect that if these other environmental things weren't around me, I could be a perfect person. But it's all of these annoyances and all that are around me that create this loss of temper and create these dumb things that I do. It's not really my fault. It's the kids have got the TV on too loud in the other room and that's why I dropped the vase and broke it. It wasn't really that I'm just a clumsy oaf; it was their fault, you know. And we're always looking for someone to blame for our own weaknesses or our own failures.

And so this proverb became a very current, popular thing. And so they say, "Well, you know, my teeth are set on edge because my father ate sour grapes. And so my teeth are sharp and on edge, you know." And blaming their fathers for their problems. He said, "That's a proverb they're not going to be using anymore. Every man's going to be responsible for his own action." And in truth, we are each of us when we stand before God, we're responsible for our own actions. We can't say, "Well, my dad was a mess. I couldn't relate to you as a father because my dad was such a horrible father, you know." That won't go. You're going to have to answer to God for what you've done. You are responsible for what you have done.

Now, there have been religious groups that have tried to take responsibility off of you. And they say, "Well, we'll be your shepherd, you know, and we'll be responsible for you." People really gathered after them like everything because we like to escape responsibility for our own actions. People say, "Well, it's the devil that made you do it, you know." Oh, that's great, make him responsible. No, I am responsible for what I do and I'm going to have to answer to God for what I have done. And when I come before God, I can't say, "Well, my dad ate sour grapes. That's why my teeth were on edge." I'll have to just answer to God for what I am, for what I've done, even as you are going to have to answer to God and you can't find a scapegoat. You can't lay the blame on anybody else. Every man will answer for himself.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith the LORD ( Jeremiah 31:31-32 ):

I'm going to make a new covenant. Not like the covenant that I made.

Now what was the covenant that He made with them? When they came out of Egypt, they came to mount Sinai and there God gave them the law and God said when He gave them the law, "He that doeth these, he that liveth by these things and doeth them shall be My people." So the covenant that God made with them first was a covenant that was predicated upon their obedience to that law. Now they broke that covenant, God said. They didn't obey the law. God gave to them the Ten Commandments; they broke them. They did not keep them. So God said, "I'm going to make a new covenant with them. In that day I'll make a new covenant. Not like the old covenant that was predicated upon their obedience and their faithfulness to obey the law. And I will be their God and they will be My people, and so forth, if they live by these things and do these things."

But what is the new covenant?

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people ( Jeremiah 31:33 ).

That is, I will give them a change of attitude within. I will give them a change of heart. It will not be an outward law that is forcing me obedience, but now it is a new covenant where God writes His law in my heart by creating in me a new nature. Now that's, of course, exactly what God has done for us. That's what Christianity is all about. Jesus said, "You've got to be born again. You were born of the flesh, but you've got to be born of the Spirit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Don't marvel that I say you've got to be born again" ( John 3:3 , John 3:6-7 ). You need to have this new nature. And when you have this new nature, God then writes His law in your heart. You have a whole new desire, a whole new... You have such a change. It's from within and the desire for the things of the Lord as He writes His law upon my heart. And this new covenant that God has established with us through Jesus Christ, it's the same thing-the change of nature. Born again by the Spirit, a new nature after Christ Jesus.

And it is so important that we be born again, because we cannot keep that first covenant that God established. The law, we've all broken it. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So God has established this new covenant. The old covenant was established upon man's faithfulness to obey the law. The new covenant is established upon God's faithfulness to justify us by our faith in Jesus Christ. The old covenant failed because it was predicated upon man. The new covenant will stand because it is predicated upon God's work.

And so we have this new covenant that God has established with us and also will establish with the house of Israel in that day. They are still trying to relate to God under the old covenant, but not completely. They no longer have any sacrifice, which was required of God to put away their sins. And so they're still seeking to relate to God outside of the covenant through Jesus Christ whereby our sins are taken away.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more ( Jeremiah 31:34 ).

What a glorious covenant. God having forgiven our iniquities, not remembering our sins.

Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divides the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever ( Jeremiah 31:35-36 ).

If you will stop the day and the night, the ordinances of the moon and the stars and all, then Israel will cease from being a nation before the Lord.

Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel even to the gate of the corner. And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall encircle it to Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever ( Jeremiah 31:37-40 ).

It is interesting these hills and so forth that are described here as being a part of the city of Jerusalem are indeed all within the city of Jerusalem today. The city has been expanded out to these areas that are referred to here in Jeremiah.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-31.html. 2014.
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