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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 31

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

The divine judgment 30:23-31:1

Verse 1

At that future time, namely, the eschatological future (cf. Jeremiah 30:24), the Lord would establish an intimate relationship between Himself and all the families of His people (cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Genesis 17:7; Zechariah 12:10-14). He would finally achieve what His people had always frustrated by their sins.

This verse concludes the material in chapter 30 and serves as a heading for chapter 31. All of chapter 31 describes the national restoration of Israel. This is verse 25 chapter 30 in the Masoretic Hebrew Bible, and Jeremiah 31:2 begins the next chapter.

Verse 2

When the Israelites would seek rest from the attacks of their enemies (cf. Jeremiah 6:16; Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 3:20; Joshua 1:13; Joshua 1:15; Joshua 22:4; Isaiah 63:14), they would find it in the wilderness (cf. Jeremiah 2:2; Revelation 12:14-16). [Note: Another view sees this as a reference to the captivity of the Northern Kingdom (e.g., Thompson, p. 566). Cf. Hosea 2:14-15.] They will find refuge in the wilderness during the Tribulation, as they did following the Exodus (cf. Exodus 14:5-23; Exodus 33:14; Numbers 14:20). But Israel’s ultimate rest will occur in the Millennium when they rest in the Promised Land.

Verses 2-6

Israel rebuilt and planted by a loving God 31:2-6

Verse 3

Assurance of future salvation rests on Yahweh’s eternal commitment and His loving election of Israel (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:9). He had loved it "from afar" in the wilderness following the Exodus, and He would love it "from afar" in the Exile. "Love" and "faithfulness" are both strong covenant terms.

"It is the LORD’s constant commitment to Israel that bridges the generations and makes restoration possible." [Note: Scalise, p. 108.]

Verse 4

The Lord would rebuild His people into a nation that was uniquely His own. He would see her just as appealing as in the time she departed from Egypt, like a virgin. Joy and rejoicing would return to the Israelites who would, however, first experience a silencing of their joy in exile (Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10).

Verse 5

They would return to Samaria and resume their agricultural pursuits, which the Lord, not Baal, would bless with fertility.

Verse 6

Watchmen in the Northern Kingdom would again summon their fellow countrymen to make pilgrimages to God’s chosen city, Jerusalem, to worship Him there. After the kingdom divided, the northern Israelites worshipped at Bethel and Dan, not at Jerusalem. Thus a reunited Israel is in view.

Jeremiah 31:4-6 picture God’s restoration of Israel as a time of renewed joy (Jeremiah 31:4), peace and prosperity (Jeremiah 31:5), and renewed commitment to Yahweh (Jeremiah 31:6).

"This restoration reverses at least six aspects of the judgment suffered by Israel and Judah: no resting place in exile, a nation torn down, celebrations silenced, vines and plants uprooted, watchmen announcing the invading conqueror, and the temple destroyed. The poem also introduces an Israel transformed from a desperate adulteress (Jeremiah 4:30) to a joyful maiden on her way back to God." [Note: Ibid., pp. 109-10.]

Verse 7

In the future, the Israelites would sing joyfully among the chief nations where they dwelt. They would call on Yahweh to save the remaining remnant of His people. Calling on Him to "Save Your people" would bring Him praise because He promised to save them (cf. Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 28:5).

Verses 7-14

Israel’s homecoming 31:7-14

Verse 8

A great number of Israelites of all types would return to the Promised Land from all over the world, not just from the north where they went into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. The disadvantaged as well as the able-bodied would come, even pregnant women and those about to give birth. If the Lord would bring even these dependent types of people back, there was hope for all (cf. Isaiah 35:5-6).

Verse 9

They would return, weeping tears of repentance and praying for the Lord’s favor. He would lead them back tenderly, as a father deals with his firstborn son (cf. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 32:6; Luke 15:11-32), and would make the trip refreshing, pleasant, and safe.

"The designation of Ephraim as the first-born of Jahveh simply shows that, in the deliverance of the people, Ephraim is in no respect to be behind Judah,-that they are to receive their full share in the Messianic salvation of the whole people; in other words, that the love which the Lord once displayed towards Israel, when He delivered them out of the power of Pharaoh, is also to be, in the future, displayed towards the ten tribes, who were looked on as lost." [Note: Keil, 2:21-22.]

Verse 10

The nations also needed to hear that Yahweh would re-gather the flock of people that He had scattered, namely, Israel.

Verse 11

The Lord would purchase His contrary people and set them free from those strong enemies who had held them captive, as He did earlier in the Exodus (cf. Exodus 6:5; Exodus 15:13; Exodus 15:15-17; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26; Isaiah 35:8-10; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 44:22-23; Isaiah 48:20).

Verse 12

Back in Zion, the Israelites would rejoice greatly over the change that Yahweh had made in their condition. They would enjoy all types of bounty (cf. Isaiah 58:11), and they would never languish again. The food and drink mentioned were staples in the Israelite diet. This must refer to eschatological blessing, since the Jews are presently languishing.

Verses 13-14

All ages of people would celebrate because the Lord would change their mourning and sorrow into comfort and rejoicing. The priests would enjoy great abundance of blessing, and all the people would find satisfaction in the Lord for His goodness.

Jeremiah 31:12-14 may be referring to the eschatological banquet that will occur on earth at the beginning of the Millennium (cf. Isaiah 25:6-10). Then the Israelites will appreciate Yahweh as their father (Jeremiah 31:9), shepherd (Jeremiah 31:10), redeemer (Jeremiah 31:11), and king (Jeremiah 31:12). These verses cannot be describing the conditions following the Israelites’ return to the land after the Babylonian Captivity. This is clear from Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Verse 15

The Lord described the Israelite mothers-using the figure of Rachel-weeping for their children who had died because of the Assyrian invasion. [Note: The figure appears again in Matthew 2:17-18 where Rachel, the symbolic mother of all Israelites, weeps for the children that Herod the Great slew. See Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1170, for a brief discussion of Matthew’s use of this figure.] Rachel-being the mother of Joseph (the father of Ephraim and Manasseh), and Benjamin-represented all the Israelites, from the north and the south. Ramah was a town about five miles north of Jerusalem that stood in Benjamin’s tribal territory near the border between Israel and Judah. The exiles stopped at Ramah, and undoubtedly wept there, on their way to exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1). Rachel’s tomb was near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19), south of Jerusalem.

"Rachel’s life story sets her apart from the other Israelite ancestors. She alone had only a grave and never a home in the promised land (Jeremiah 30:3). She died ’on the way’ (Genesis 35:19), and her last words express her sorrow (Genesis 35:18). Not every mother will give up her own life for her child’s (e.g., Jeremiah 19:9; Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10; 2 Kings 6:28-29). Rachel’s death in childbirth makes her deeply credible as an example of the profound extent of a mother’s love. Rachel is a mother who does not forget her children (cf. Isaiah 49:15)." [Note: Scalise, p. 119.]

"The destruction of the people of Israel by the Assyrians and Chaldeans is a type of the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem, in so far as the sin which brought the children of Israel into exile laid a foundation for the fact that Herod the Idumean became king over the Jews, and wished to destroy the true King and Saviour of Israel that he might strengthen his own dominion." [Note: Keil, 2:26. Cf. Matthew 2:18.]

Verses 15-22

The end of Rachel’s mourning 31:15-22

"In this strophe the promise is further confirmed by carrying out the thought, that Israel’s release from his captivity shall certainly take place, however little prospect there is of it at present." [Note: Ibid., 2:23.]

Verses 16-17

The Lord comforted "Rachel" by assuring her that her children would return from exile. All the work she had expended on them was not in vain. There was hope for their future.

Verse 18

Yahweh heard Ephraim, the people of the Northern Kingdom, acknowledging that He had chastened them like an untrained calf. They cried out to Him to restore them because He was their God.

Verse 19

Ephraim repented, and felt humiliated and ashamed of his previous youthful rebellion against the Lord. Slapping one’s thigh, an onomatopoeic expression in Hebrew, was a common expression of remorse, horror, and terror in ancient Near Eastern culture (cf. Ezekiel 21:12). [Note: See Pritchard, ed., p. 108; and Keil, 2:26.]

Verse 20

Yahweh still regarded the people of Ephraim as His dear son and delightful child. Even though He had rebuked him, He still remembered and yearned for him. He would surely have mercy on these people (cf. Hosea 11:1-4; Hosea 11:8-9).

Verse 21

The special object of Yahweh’s love, Israel (cf. Jeremiah 31:4), should give attention to returning to the Promised Land (cf. Isaiah 35; Isaiah 40:3-5; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 41:18-20; Isaiah 42:16; Isaiah 43:1-7; Isaiah 44:3-4; Isaiah 49:9-13).

Verse 22

Israel had wandered from the Lord long enough, as a wayward daughter. He would bring a new thing to pass, namely, Israel’s repentance and return to the land. The last line of this verse may have been a popular proverb describing something very unusual and unexpected. Some interpreters, following the early church father Jerome, have taken it as a prophecy about Mary’s conception of Jesus, but this seems unlikely. Others view it as simply a figure expressing security, here of Israel’s security back in the land. Perhaps the expression points to something amazing and hard to believe that would happen without being explicit about what it would be. Still other interpreters believe the woman represents Israel and the man Yahweh, the point being that the woman who had formerly departed from her Husband would cling to Him in the future (cf. Jeremiah 2:20-21; Hosea 1-3). [Note: E.g., ibid., 2:29-31.] I prefer this view. Another view is that the woman, Israel, will become aggressive and will cling to and overpower warriors among the nations who will oppose her. [Note: Wiersbe, p. 123. See Feinberg, p. 571, and idem, "Jeremiah 31:22: Proverb, Promise, or Prophecy?" Bibliotheca Sacra 123:492 (October 1996): 315-24, and 124:493 (January 1967):16-21, for further discussion.]

"Two things are ’new,’ which have not been seen before in the land: (1) Faithless Israel, who is called a whore in chap. 3, will be taken back by God, even though such a thing is never done (Jeremiah 3:1-2). (2) Mourning will be turned to joy." [Note: Scalise, p. 123.]

Verse 23

Instead of Judah being a target for cursing in the future, as she became because of the Babylonian exile, she would be a subject of blessing. She would become a place where righteousness dwelt, a holy hill.

Verses 23-26

The regathering of Judah 31:23-26

Verses 24-25

Judah would experience great unity at that time because the Lord would satisfy the previously weary residents and refresh those who formerly languished.

Verse 26

Jeremiah awoke from the sleep in which he had received this encouraging revelation from the Lord-feeling revitalized. The revelation was positive, and it encouraged him. Perhaps since sleep is often symbolic of death (cf. Job 14:12; et al.), Jeremiah here may also represent Judah awakening to new life. [Note: Ibid., p. 129.]

". . . this prophecy is the only one in the whole book which contains unmixed comfort, and that it is thus easy to explain why he [Jeremiah] could never forget that moment when, awaking after he had received it, he found he had experienced a sweet sleep." [Note: Keil, 2:33.]

Verse 27

Days would come when the Lord would fill the Promised Land with people and animals once again. The land had become desolate because of the exiles.

Verses 27-30

Future fruitfulness 31:27-30

Verse 28

As Yahweh directed the breaking down of His nation, so He would oversee its building up.

Verses 29-30

In that time of future blessing, people would no longer repeat a popular proverb that said that the children were suffering because of their fathers’ sins. This proverb expressed a popular misconception (cf. Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:2-4). It blamed present trouble on past ancestors inordinately. In that day, everyone would bear the consequences of his own actions. Justice would be obvious then, even though at present it did not seem to be operating. Whereas people do suffer consequences for the sins of their ancestors to a limited extent (corporate responsibility), they much more consistently suffer for their own sins (individual responsibility).

Verse 31

In the future, the Lord will make a new covenant with all the Israelites, specifically the Israelites who had inhabited the Northern Kingdom and those who had inhabited the Southern Kingdom (cf. Jeremiah 32:40; Isaiah 24:5; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 61:8; Ezekiel 16:60; Ezekiel 37:26; Hosea 2:18-20; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8 to Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 12:24). This is the only place in the Old Testament where the term "new covenant" appears, though there are many references to this covenant elsewhere.

"The short passage which develops from the simple announcement in this verse is one of the most important in the book of Jeremiah. Indeed it represents one of the deepest insights in the whole OT." [Note: Thompson, pp. 579-80.]

"The heart of OT theology and of the message of Jeremiah was his teaching on the New covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34." [Note: Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, p. 231.]

Verses 31-34

The New Covenant 31:31-34

Many commentators believe that Jeremiah’s revelation of the New Covenant was his greatest theological contribution. They view it as the high point of the book, the climax of the prophet’s teaching.

"The prophecy of Jeremiah marks a watershed in Hebrew religious and cultic life. From this point onwards there is a significant divergence between what has obtained in the past and what will characterize the future religious observances of Israel." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 138.]

Verse 32

This New Covenant would be different from the Mosaic Covenant, which the Israelites consistently and inevitably broke in spite of Yahweh’s faithful commitment to them. They had worshipped Baal (Heb. ba’al) even though Yahweh had been a faithful husband (Heb. ba’al) to them.

Verse 33

Instead of God’s law being external to them, the Lord would write it on their heart (i.e., mind and will; cf. Jeremiah 17:1). He will do something for them that they cannot do for themselves (cf. Deuteronomy 30:5-6). "Writing on the heart" suggests the removal of written documents and merely human mediators. Having the Lord’s Word in the heart prevents sin and fosters obedience (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18; Psalms 119:11). [Note: See Femi Adeyemi, "What Is the New Covenant ’Law’ in Jeremiah 31:33?" Bibliotheca Sacra 163:651 (July-September 2006):312-21, who concluded that this refers not to the Mosaic Law but to a law yet to be given to Israel by Christ. Ibid., "The New Covenant Law and the Law of Christ," Bibliotheca Sacra 163:652 (October-December 2006):438-52, equated this new law with the Law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2).] David equated having the law written on his heart with desiring to do God’s will (Psalms 40:8)

"It will become part of the nature of God’s people; it will be instinctive. The core of the new covenant is God’s gift of a new heart (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27). Herein lies the sufficient motivation for obeying God’s law." [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 576. Italics mine. Cf. 32:39 [LXX]; Ezekiel 11:19; 18:31; and Wiersbe, p. 123.]

". . . there is no further need of any external means like mutual teaching about God . . ." [Note: Keil, 2:36.]

God would also enter into an intimate relationship with His people as His covenant partners (cf. Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 32:38; Deuteronomy 31; Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 36:28). The old Mosaic Covenant being broken, a new relationship would begin.

"If the sheer grace of God’s election of Israel as covenant partner was apparent in the first covenant making, how much more so in this promise following their history of unfaithfulness and rebellion (Jeremiah 31:32)." [Note: Scalise, p. 133.]

Notice that Jeremiah revealed nothing about human responsibility under the New Covenant. That would come later with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles.

Verse 34

All the Israelites, from the least to the greatest, would also know the Lord intimately, without having to be exhorted to do so.

"The verb know here probably carries its most profound connotation, the intimate personal knowledge which arises between two persons who are committed wholly to one another in a relationship that touches mind, emotion, and will. In such a relationship the past is forgiven and forgotten." [Note: Thompson, p. 581.]

They would know Him in this intimate way because He would forgive their sins and not bring them to memory or judgment any more. True forgiveness, in contrast to the covering of sin that the Old Covenant sacrifices provided, would make intimacy with God possible (cf. Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 37:26).

"The old covenant spoke of a great physical deliverance from Egypt through the blood of lambs and the power of God; the new covenant proclaims a great spiritual deliverance from sin and death through the efficacious blood of the Lamb of God and the power of God. The Passover Feast memorialized the first; the Lord’s Supper memorializes the second." [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 575.]

"In the old covenant, the law with its requirements is the impelling force; in the new covenant, the grace shown in the forgiveness of sins is the aiding power by which man attains that common life with God which the law sets before him as the great problem of life. It is in this that the qualitative difference between the old and the new covenants consists. The object which both set before men for attainment is the same, but the means of attaining it are different in each. In the old covenant are found commandment and requirement; in the new, grace and giving." [Note: Keil, 2:39.]

"Based on similar content and contexts, the following expressions may be equated with the New covenant: the ’everlasting covenant’ in seven passages (Isaiah 24:5; Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 32:40; Jeremiah 50:5) and later in Ezekiel 16:60; Ezekiel 37:26); a ’new heart’ and a ’new spirit’ in three or four texts (Jeremiah 32:39 [LXX]; and later in Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26); and ’a covenant’ or ’my covenant,’ which is placed in the context of ’in that day’ in three passages (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 59:21; Hosea 2:18-20). That makes a total of sixteen or seventeen major passages on the ’New covenant.’

"Still, Jeremiah 31:31-34 was the locus classicus on the subject, as may be seen from several lines of evidence. It was this passage that stimulated Origen to name the last twenty-seven books of the Bible ’the New Testament.’ But it was also the largest piece of text to be quoted in extenso in the NT, vis., Hebrews 8:8-12 and partially repeated a few chapters later in Hebrews 10:16-17. Furthermore, it was the subject of nine other NT texts: four dealing with the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25); two Pauline references to ’ministers of the new covenant’ and the future forgiveness of Israel’s sins (2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 11:27); and three additional references in Hebrews (Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:16; Hebrews 12:24; cf. the two large teaching passages mentioned above)." [Note: Kaiser, Toward an . . ., pp. 231-32.]

There are three basic views concerning the identity of the people with whom God would make this New Covenant and when He would make it. One view is that God will make it with Israel alone when He resumes dealing with that nation as formerly, namely, in the Millennium (cf. Romans 11). A second view is that God made it with the church alone, which advocates of this view (i.e., covenant theologians) say replaces Israel in God’s plans, and He made it at the Cross. A third view is that God made it with Israel at the Cross, and the church, which does not replace Israel, somehow enters into its blessings.

I hold the third of these views. It seems that God made the New Covenant with Israel when Jesus Christ died on the cross (Luke 22:20). The church now operates under this covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:1-14; Hebrews 8:8-12; Hebrews 10:16-17). [Note: The Apostle Paul pointed out seven contrasts between the Old and New Covenants in 2 Corinthians 3:6-11. See other comparisons of the two covenants in Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:15-28; 10:15-18, 28-29; and 12:18-24. E. W. Hengstenberg, "The New Covenant," in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, pp. 237-51, argued that the differences between the old and new covenants were only matters of degree, but this view fails to recognize the profound differences between these two covenants.] However, Israel will enter into the blessings of this covenant, which God promised her, at the time of Israel’s restoration, namely, at the second coming of Christ. [Note: See John F. Walvoord, "The New Covenant," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell, pp. 186-200; J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, pp. 164-77; Rodney J. Decker, "The Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:607 (July-September 1995):290-305; Bruce A. Ware, "The New Covenant and the People(s) of God," in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, pp. 68-97; and Craig A. Blaising, "The Fulfillment of the Biblical Covenants," in Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 179-211. John R. Master, "The New Covenant," in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 93-110, argued for two new covenants, one with Israel and one with the church, as did L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:325. See also Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, pp. 105-25.]

This arrangement resembles one that is possible to set up in a Charitable Lead Unit Trust under the Internal Revenue Code of the United States. Suppose there was a vastly wealthy and generous philanthropist of the magnitude of a Bill Gates. As he prepared his will he bequeathed millions of dollars to various charitable causes that would benefit millions of people all over the world when he died. He also wrote into his will that when his only son reached the age of 21, he would inherit billions of dollars. When this man died, his son was only five years old, so for 16 years he did not enter into his father’s inheritance. However, as soon as the philanthropist died, the millions of dollars he had bequeathed to charity went to work immediately-to help many people.

This illustration shows how the church enters into the blessings of the New Covenant. When Christ established the Lord’s Supper, it was as though He notarized His will; it became official then. The will is the New Covenant. When He died, His "estate" became available to those He chose to profit from it, namely: both Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ. Soon many people around the world, Jews and Gentiles in the church, began to benefit from the blessings of His death. However, God’s chosen people, His son Israel, will not enter into his unique inheritance until the appointed time, namely: the Millennium. Blessings for the church began almost immediately after Christ’s death. Blessings for Israel will not begin until God’s appointed time arrives: Christ’s second coming.

"Perhaps an[other] illustration will help us better understand this duel fulfillment of the new-covenant prophecy. Standing with Jeremiah and Ezekiel at their vantage point in history, we are in a dark tunnel. As we look with them toward the light at the end of the tunnel, we see God making a new covenant with ethnic Israel. We then move through the tunnel and emerge into the light. There ahead of us we see the same scene we saw from afar-God implementing his covenant with ethnic Israel. But now that we have stepped out of the tunnel into the light, our peripheral vision is expanded. To the side of us, incapable of being seen from back in the tunnel, is another scene-God implementing this same covenant with the church of the present era, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. The prophets were not wrong-they simply had ’tunnel vision’ because their focus was on ethnic Israel." [Note: Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p. 196.]

Which blessings of the New Covenant does the church enjoy now and which are for Israel in the future? There are four promises in Jeremiah 31:33-34. The promise of having God’s law written on the heart has been fulfilled to a limited extent. Christians do have an innate desire to please God because of the indwelling Holy Spirit’s ministry, but we do not have the innate understanding of God’s will that God promised here since that was a promise for the Israelites. All people do not know the Lord, from the least to the greatest, now. Second, we have a unique covenant relationship with God as Christians, but we are not the same group that will have a unique covenant relationship with God in the future, namely, the Israelites. Third, all Christians know the Lord to some degree of intimacy now, but we do not all have the depth of relationship with God that He promised the Israelites here. We still need teaching and teachers, but apparently this will not be the case for Israel in the future. Fourth, Christians enjoy complete forgiveness of sins individually, as the Israelites will in the future, but the Israelites will also enjoy complete forgiveness of their corporate sins as the nation of Israel as well. So I would say Christians enjoy all these blessings to some extent, but not to the extent Israel will enjoy them in the future. As the return from exile was a partial fulfillment of the promises of restoration, so the church’s enjoyment of these blessings is only a partial fulfillment of what God promised Israel. [Note: See also Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 620.]

The New Covenant is a branch or outgrowth of the Abrahamic Covenant. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised Abraham a piece of real estate for his descendants, an incalculable number of descendants, and blessing for his descendants and for all people through his descendants (Genesis 12:1-7; et al.). Deuteronomy 29-30, sometimes called the Palestinian Covenant, gave more information about the land God had promised Abraham. The Davidic Covenant gave more information about God’s promises regarding descendants (2 Samuel 7). The New Covenant revealed the particulars of the promised blessing (Jeremiah 31). Each of these later covenants relates to the Abrahamic Covenant organically; each is an outgrowth of it in the progress of revelation. In contrast, the Mosaic (Old) Covenant does not relate organically but "was added" (Galatians 3:19) to explain how the Israelites could maximize the benefits God had promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. Consequently, when God terminated the Old Covenant, it did not eliminate anything He had promised in the Abrahamic, "Palestinian," Davidic, or New Covenants. [Note: I have put "Palestinian Covenant" in quotation marks because Deuteronomy 29-30 does not contain all the features of a typical ancient Near Eastern covenant, as the other covenants mentioned do. Some interpreters prefer to view these chapters as simply more information about the land promises in the Abrahamic Covenant. For a helpful distinction between which items in the New Covenant continue from the Old Covenant and which ones are new, see Kaiser, Toward an . . ., pp. 233-34.]

Verse 35

The Lord reminded His people that He was the one who controlled the course of nature, not Baal. It operated regularly and within His set limits, as He promised Noah it would (cf. Genesis 8:22; Genesis 9:8-17). The sun and moon do not vary from their positions, but the sea appears to operate chaotically, yet the Lord controls them all.

Verses 35-37

Permanent restoration 31:35-37

Verse 36

Future Israel would no more cease from being a special nation in God’s sight than the fixed order of nature would cease. This is strong testimony that the church has not replaced Israel in God’s plans.

Verse 37

If people could thoroughly explore the heavens above or the earth beneath, then the Lord would cast off future Israel because of her sins.

"Looking beyond national Israel for the fulfillment of this prophecy in the church, as a spiritual Israel, fails to grapple with the certainty of the statements in Jeremiah 31:36-37." [Note: Idem, "Evidence from . . ." p. 113.]

Verses 38-39

In the future, Jerusalem would undergo rebuilding for the Lord. It would be built larger than it had been before its destruction by the Babylonians. The tower of Hananel was at the northeast corner of the city (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39; Zechariah 14:10), and the Corner Gate seems to have been on the northwest side of Jerusalem (2 Kings 14:13; 2 Chronicles 26:9; Zechariah 14:10). The locations of the hill of Gareb, and Goah, are uncertain, but they may have been on the west side since this would fill out the picture of the city.

Verses 38-40

The new Jerusalem 31:38-40

Verse 40

The whole new, enlarged city would be devoted to Yahweh, and it would never experience invasion or overthrow again. The valley of the dead bodies probably refers to the Hinnom Valley to Jerusalem’s south and west (cf. Jeremiah 7:31). The Kidron Brook lay on Jerusalem’s east side, and the Horse Gate stood at the southeast corner of the city wall and led out to the Kidron Valley. What had formerly been unclean land, full of dead bodies, would be holy to the Lord. The city’s change in character would be even more remarkable than its change in size.

"Since a literal nation must have an actual geographical location in which to reside, it is now revealed that the capital, Jerusalem, will be rebuilt and expanded-yes, the very city that Jeremiah was before long to see destroyed by the Chaldean army." [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 579.]

The description of rebuilt Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day does not coincide with this picture. Furthermore, the temple that the restoration community rebuilt did not continue to exist (cf. Jeremiah 31:40); the Romans destroyed it in A.D. 70. That this is a description of a heavenly city is unlikely in view of the large amount of detail. Contextual considerations also demand an eschatological rebuilding of the city on the ancient site (cf. chs. 32-33). Ezekiel 40-48 and Zechariah 2, 14 also describe this future (millennial) city.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-31.html. 2012.
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