Jeremiah 31:1. At the same time, namely, as the last words of the preseding chapter, in the latter day. Here the subject is glorious, and the language sublime.
Jeremiah 31:3. I have loved thee with a perpetual love. So Montanus, Pagninus, and the Munster bible read. This reading is also fully admitted by our Poole. See his Synopsis. Dilectione perpeta dilexi te. This is God’s grand promise of strong consolation to the church in her time of long captivity and trouble. Messiah is the speaker here, who appeared of old for the salvation of his people, and who will appear again. He has loved them even as the Father loved him.
Jeremiah 31:5. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria, once polluted with the high places of Baal. The vine, like the bramble, delights in rich but rocky soil. Words of comfort, and comfort for the latter day.
Jeremiah 31:6. Arise ye and let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God. The targum reads, “Arise, you who desire the years of consolation,” that is, the coming of Christ and his kingdom, as foretold by the prophets. Isaiah 11. Micah 4. Whenever Jeremiah refers to this hope, he is brief and delicate in his words. But the hope of Israel, their Saviour in the time of trouble, was like the rising sun, ever kept before the faithful in the ancient church.
Jeremiah 31:14. I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness. When a nation or people are favoured with prosperity, they should be liberal to their pastors, in proportion as God has been bountiful to them.
Jeremiah 31:15. Rachel weeping for her children. This tenderest of mothers was interred between Ramah and Bethlehem. Now, after the city was taken, Jeremiah was carried with the Jews, in chains to the camp at Ramah, and liberated by Nebuzaradan: chap. 40. Hence there was a bitter weeping by the Benjamites; and Rachel, who died in giving Benjamin birth, is by a fine figure of speech brought up from her grave to weep for her children, and to move heaven by tears to give the subsequent promises of grace. But there were other occasions of weeping for Rachel; namely, when Herod slew the infants at Bethlehem, when Titus took Jerusalem, and when Adrian utterly made it a ruin.
Jeremiah 31:19. After I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh. This action designates the sublime of grief, or the sublime of anger. In such cases the blow would be too severe on the breast. When Ephraim remembered the glory he once enjoyed, now followed with servitude and shame, his anguish was too great for words to utter. Also when Ezekiel saw the sword devouring Jerusalem, he was directed to “smite upon his thigh:” Ezekiel 21:12.
Homer, Iliad 15., ascribes this action to a god of martial race. “Both his thighs he smote with his strong hands. I must revenge my slaughtered son, at the ships of the Argives. I must revenge my son in death, should dreadful fate decree my fall. Should I, transfixed by Jove’s red bolt, lie blasted amidst the dead, and roll at large in dust and blood.”—Macpherson.
This action is twice ascribed to Achilles. Once under imaginary wrongs, he smote his thigh and declared, if Greece in future should call for his aid, Greece should call in vain. Afterwards, being reconciled, when the Greeks had sustained a sore defeat, he smote on his thigh, and roused the chiefs to arms. Iliad 16.
Jeremiah 31:22. The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth; a woman shall compass a man. Hebrews נקבה תסובב גבר nekaibah tesobaib geber; a weak or little woman (that is, a woman not come to her full growth) shall compass a man; the Latin fæmella is so understood. The word geber, not only denotes a man, but a mighty one. The prophet uses here the same word as Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6. El Gibber, the mighty God. The woman designates a virgin; modesty forbids us to think otherwise. The word denotes also an individual, being never used in scripture for the female sex in general. It likewise denotes a supernatural conception; else how could her pregnancy be called a new thing in the earth. It is called a creation in the earth, even in Ephraim, and not in Babylon. It is noted as already done: The Lord hath created. So Isaiah: “Unto us a child is born.” This Son is the Hope of Israel, the Healer of Ephraim; a Son given for a Covenant to the people, to pardon their sins, to take impenitent hardness from their hearts, and put his law in their inward parts. He was to call the gentiles, that all might know him from the least to the greatest. The Lord of Hosts is his name. Such is the language of all the prophets. And what but the Messiah could comfort Ephraim in all his anguish, as stated in Jeremiah 31:6. On this point, the elder rabbins and christian doctors are agreed. In their book, Midrash Tillim, rabbi Huna quotes a saying of rabbi Idi, on the second Psalm, who says, when speaking of the Messiah’s sufferings, “God, when his hour is come, shall create him with a new creation, as indeed is indicated in the words, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee.” These words, being often cited by the ancient rabbins, and twice by St. Paul, sufficiently indicate the depths of glory they contain.
The Arians are all at work here. But no fault can be found with the Hebrew text, nor variation of readings. Grotius admits that the christian fathers cite this text to prove the nativity of Christ of the virgin Mary, but adds,—to me, it is not proved. Houbigant, playing the usual game, suspects that there is a small error in the text, and would read, “The wife shall return to her husband.” This is hardly decent, after Jeremiah in the verse before had called her a virgin. Blaney loses himself in the labyrinth of twenty turns, concerning a weak and feeble woman. A fourth adds, that though “christian writers consider this as a prophecy of the miraculous conception of the holy virgin, I am sure no such meaning is in the text, nor in the context. It is most likely a proverbial expression.”—What! Did Jeremiah in all his anguish totally forget the promise of a Saviour! Hear, oh heavens, and give ear, oh earth!
Jeremiah 31:29. The fathers have eaten sour grapes. This is a Hebrew proverb, equivalent to a more recent one: “like father, like son.” In judicial punishment the son does not suffer for the sins of the father. See Exodus 20:5.
Jeremiah 31:31. A new covenant, not so much in substance as in circumcision of the heart. Deuteronomy 30:6. The gospel was preached to the Jews of old, as well as to us; but the covenant is new in the abolition of sacrifices. New, as a law of unexampled love, of glory, grace, and remission of sins. New, in regard of gifts and graces shed down on the church. New, in regard of the removal of the veil, bringing life and immortality to light. New, in regard of its confirmation by the blood of Christ—a covenant of peace, never to be superseded.
Jeremiah 31:32. Although I was a husband to them. Hebrews I rejected them. So the Hebrew is rendered, Leviticus 26:43; but Hebrews 8:9, I regarded them not. Jerome reads, Ego neglexi eos, I neglected them.
Jeremiah 31:34. They shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, from the disciple to the teacher. The gospel was to begin with the poor of Galilee, and the poor saints in Judea, as the Lord said by Hosea: “I will leave a poor and an afflicted people in the midst of thee, and they shall trust in the Lord.”
Jeremiah 31:38-39. The city shall be built to the Lord. The tower of Hananeel was on the northern corner of the city, and the valley was eastward. Gareb was mount Calvary on the west, and Goath was not far distant.
Jeremiah 31:40. The whole valley of the dead bodies. The valley of the son of Hinnom, reaching to the Kedron.
It shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever. The language is here too strong to be restricted to Nehemiah’s rebuilding the city; for that was often taken, and totally thrown down by the Romans. We must therefore understand the passage as a sublime prediction of the city which Israel shall build on their final restoration, or of the new-testament church. See the general reflections at the end of Isaiah.
The recal of the Jews from Babylon, with their final restoration, is the result of God’s perpetual love from one generation to another. God loved Jacob, and preferred him to the blessing; and to this day there has always been a remnant of his seed, beloved of heaven, for whose sake the nation has been spared.
He promises them on their return, every blessing of national prosperity, and of millennial glory; fruitful vineyards, a crowded sanctuary, and the voice of weeping changed for joy. Here he joins Isaiah in many places, as may be traced by the marginal references.
While God bids Rachel refrain her voice from weeping, and her eyes from tears, he promises to heal the sorrows of Ephraim, or the ten tribes carried captive by the bloody Assyrians. Oh yes; for when heaven pours bliss into our cup, it is in such abundance as to make it overflow. Ephraim was almost extinguished in war before his captivity. Ephraim was almost extinguished by death in servitude, and by intermarrying with the heathen; yet God collected a scattered remnant in the eye of his mercy. The Lord would bring these by the rivers of water, yea the blind should see their way, the lame should walk, and pregnant women should travel stoutly home. On looking at the map of Palestine, it will be seen that there was a desert to cross: hence a spiritual gathering must surely be understood to follow the temporal assembling of the nation.
The call of Ephraim follows his repentance. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. As this noble animal makes two or three efforts to break his ropes, and then lies down groaning in anger and despair before he tamely draws with his fellow, so the carnal heart of man revolts against the kind afflicting rod. Then he quietly submits to be saved in God’s way, then he is lowly in his own eyes, and God calls him his pleasant child.
The prophet next launches more fully into evangelical times, and says that the daughter of Zion, who had been as an unnoticed virgin, should become his bride. Anger yielding to love, he bids her set up waymarks, that the wayfaring man though a fool, or rather, unacquainted with the road, might pass from hill to hill to the mountain of holiness. Thus she gained the Lord by her suit; and yet in another sense, the Lord gained her by his grace.
All this glory and grace was confirmed to Israel by a covenant; yea a new covenant founded on better promises, and in the hands of a glorious Mediator. All iniquity should be forgiven, as stated in Psalms 32:1. A new heart on which the pure and perfect love of God should be written. And “our love to God,” says Matthew Henry on this text, “must be sincere, hearty, and fervent. It must be a superlative love, a love strong as death. It must be an entire love; he must have the whole soul, and be served with all the heart. We must love nothing besides the Lord, but what we love for his sake, and in subordination to his pleasure.” Preacher, see that you do not lower this standard.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany