Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 31

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verse 1

Jer 31:1

Jeremiah 31:1

At that time, saith Jehovah, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

The first phrase here ties the whole chapter to the times of the Messiah. Both the Northern and Southern Israels will be accepted in the kingdom of Christ, as will everyone else on earth who desires to serve God.

The purposes of a Sovereign God Jeremiah 30:23 to Jeremiah 31:1

The Hebrew chapter division places Jeremiah 31:1 as the last verse of chapter 30. The three verses of this paragraph serve to point to the purpose of God in history. Jeremiah 30:23-24 are almost identical with the threat made against the false prophets in Jeremiah 23:19 f. Here the words apply to the Gentile enemies of Israel and particularly wicked Babylon. The wrath of God like a whirlwind goes forth to execute the intents of His heart. He will not relent until (a) evil has been punished and (b) the families or clans of Israel acknowledge His lordship. Only in the “latter days,” after the judgment against Babylon has been accomplished, will the people of God fully comprehend the sovereign purposes of God. The “latter days” as envisioned by the Old Testament seers commenced with the coming of Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 1:1; Acts 2:16-17; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1; 1 John 2:18.

Verses 2-6

Jer 31:2-6

Jeremiah 31:2-6

Thus saith Jehovah, The people that were left of the sword found favor in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. Jehovah appeared of old unto me, [saying], Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. Again will I build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: again shalt thou be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. Again shalt thou plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy [the fruit thereof]. For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the hills of Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto Jehovah our God.

People that were left of the sword...

(Jeremiah 31:2). Some see this as a reference to the deliverance from Egypt, and others suppose that it refers to the Israelites left after the destruction by Babylon. We prefer the latter understanding because, God did not call Israel to rest in the wilderness of Sinai, but commanded them to enter Canaan. Both explanations are acceptable.

The mention of Ephraim and Samaria in this paragraph show clearly that the Northern kingdom was meant.


Jeremiah 31:2-40

In this second major section of the Book of Consolation the focus is upon the blessings which those who return from exile will enjoy. Both Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah are addressed. Jeremiah 31:2-22 deal mainly with Israel, 23–26 with Judah, and 27–40 with both kingdoms. It is absolutely clear that both kingdoms will return to Palestine and jointly share the blessings of God.

The New Concord Jeremiah 31:2-6

Jeremiah 31:2-6 of chapter 31 are an amplification of the first verse of the chapter. The prophet here paints the picture of the concord and harmony which characterize the relationship between God and His people in that glorious day of restoration. In making his point Jeremiah uses four figures: the divine Lover (Jeremiah 31:2-3), the joyous virgin (Jeremiah 31:4), the satisfied farmer (Jeremiah 31:5), and the anxious watchman (Jeremiah 31:6).

Those who had escaped the sword of the Babylonians have found favor in the eyes of God in the wilderness of exile (Jeremiah 31:2). The last part of Jeremiah 31:2 is extremely difficult to translate. The Hebrew reads literally “going to cause him—Israel—to rest.” Perhaps the meaning is that God will give the true Israel—those who repented in captivity—rest in the land of Canaan. Those Israelites in far off places who have found favor in the wilderness joyously acknowledge the grace of the Lord. Following here the American Standard Version marginal reading which is decidedly superior to the reading “of old.” It is best to regard Jeremiah 31:3 as the words of the nation speaking collectively. In captivity the people discover anew the everlasting love of God. By His grace He has once again drawn His people to Himself. Some commentators have rendered the clause “I have prolonged lovingkindness to you.” But the Hebrew verb is frequently used in the sense of drawing toward oneself. Cf. Hosea 11:4; Isaiah 5:18; Judges 6:4. How wonderful and incomprehensible is the love of God!

The “virgin” who had committed such horrible sins against her divine Husband by idolatrous flirtation is still the precious object of God’s love. He treats her as a pure and chaste virgin. She has been completely forgiven. God will build her up again or make her to prosper. She shall again go forth joyously dancing to the accompaniment of her tabrets or timbrels as young maidens were wont to do (Jeremiah 31:4).

Farmers will plant new vineyards in the hills surrounding Samaria. After waiting the prescribed length of time these farmers would enjoy the fruit of their labors (Jeremiah 31:5). The fruit produced by a tree for the first three years was not to be gathered and that of the fourth year was to be consecrated to God. Only in the fifth year could the owner eat of that fruit. See Leviticus 19:23-25; Deuteronomy 20:6; Deuteronomy 28:30. The present verse uses the technical Hebrew word (chillel) which is used in the law of Moses to indicate the use of fruit by the owner after the waiting period was over. The translation of chillel in the King James Version is unfortunate “shall eat them as common things.” This translation misses the sense of the original.

On the hills men would anxiously be watching for the crescent of the moon which would be a signal for the celebration of the new moon. Freedman has a slightly different interpretation. He thinks the watchmen are looking for the procession of pilgrims from the more distant cities approaching. When they would spot the procession they would signal their own pilgrims to make ready to join the band. The schism between the north and south is over. The Ephramites are anxious to join in the worship of God in Jerusalem. “Come,” they say, “Let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God.” What a beautiful picture of the new relationship which will exist between God and His people. Laetsch makes the point that to go to Zion in the Old Testament prophecy is to join the church of Christ. See Hebrews 12:22 ff. There are many examples in the New Testament of inhabitants of Ephraim or Samaria who were converted to the Lord Jesus Christ. See John 4:1-42; Acts 1:8; Acts 8:5-17; Acts 10:1 ff.

Verses 7-9

Jer 31:7-9

Jeremiah 31:7-9

For thus saith Jehovah, Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout for the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Jehovah, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the uttermost parts of the earth, [and] with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall they return hither. They shall come with weeping; and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by rivers of waters, in a straight way wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.

Save thy people...

(Jeremiah 31:7). This indicates that eternal salvation is the culmination of God’s promises here. The remnant of Israel... (Jeremiah 31:7). This expression forbids any notion that the whole nation of apostate racial Israel were meant to be included in these glorious promises.

In both this and the preceding paragraphs, God assured Israel of his "everlasting love." With the utmost tenderness, God mentioned his fatherhood of Israel, and Ephraim’s being his firstborn. None of this great and everlasting love belonged to racial Israel in any exclusive sense. These wonderful expressions of God’s love are merely the Old Testament counterpart of the great New Testament principle, that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

A New Consolation Jeremiah 31:7-20

Jeremiah 31:7 sets the tone for the four paragraphs which follow. The prophet foresees the day when salvation will be accomplished and a new joy will fill the hearts of God’s people. Jeremiah calls for shouts of joy and praise. It is not clear to whom this exhortation is addressed. The imperatives throughout the verse are in the plural. Jeremiah is probably calling upon all those who love the Lord whether Jew or Gentile to burst forth into joyous strains. Israel is here called “the chief of the nations” because God had chosen them from among all the nations for special privileges and obligations. See Amos 3:2; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 4:7-8. In the verses of this section Jeremiah offers divine consolation to four different groups: the distressed (Jeremiah 31:8-9), the disheartened (Jeremiah 31:10-14), the disconsolate (Jeremiah 31:15-17) and the despondent (Jeremiah 31:18-20).

1. The distressed (Jeremiah 31:8-9)

The journey home from exile would be particularly difficult for certain segments of the population. Nonetheless, those in distress—the blind, the lame, the woman travailing with child—will return with tears of joy and contrition upon their cheeks, and with supplications upon their lips. God will hear their prayers and will lead them in a straight way where there will be no danger of stumbling. He will lead them beside streams of water where they can find refreshment. How careful were the prophets to always include the distressed of humanity in God’s program of salvation and deliverance. The reason for God’s concern for the distressed is clearly stated: “For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My first-born.” It is not entirely clear whether “Israel” in this verse is the entire nation, Judah or the Northern Kingdom. The concept of Israel as the son of God is as old as the accounts of the Exodus (Exodus 4:22). The heavenly Father will not allow His son, the spiritual remnant of the nation, to remain in captivity.

Verses 10-14

Jer 31:10-14

Jeremiah 31:10-14

Hear the word of Jehovah, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off; and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as shepherd doth his flock. For Jehovah hath ransomed Jacob, and redeemed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. And they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow unto the goodness of Jehovah, to the grain, and to the new wine, and to the oil, and to 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. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the 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 Jehovah.

The care of God for his Church in the New Israel of the Messianic kingdom is depicted here. In that age, there was no better way to enumerate these blessings than we find in the agricultural metaphors which abound in this chapter.

2. The disheartened (Jeremiah 31:10-14)

Israel was the flock of God, but during the exile a scattered and miserable flock (cf. Jeremiah 13:17). The day will shortly come, says the prophet, when the Good Shepherd shall seek His own. The Gentiles, the nations, are called upon to “hear the word of the Lord” i.e., to accept His word with a believing heart. Then they in turn are to become proclaimers of the Good News to Israel (Jeremiah 31:10). The Lord will redeem Jacob, the true Israel of God, from the hand of his captor (Jeremiah 31:11). The proclamation of the Gentiles will not be in vain. Together Jews and Gentiles will flow like a mighty stream to Zion. There they will both enjoy the blessings of the Lord—grain, wine, oil, the young of the flock and herd. God’s people will be like a well-watered garden in the midst of a barren waste in that day. What an exquisite picture of the peace, contentment and prosperity of the people of God! Zion shall echo with glad songs of praise. God’s people shall sorrow no more (Jeremiah 31:12). Their mourning shall be turned into joy. Old and young, men and women rejoice together in the joyous deliverance which they have experienced (Jeremiah 31:13). So many sacrifices will be brought to the Temple that the priests, to whom portions of the sacrificial animals belonged (Leviticus 7:31-34), will have more than enough to fill their own needs. The paragraph closes with a declaration which only the child of God who has come to spiritual Zion can appreciate: “My people shall be satisfied with My goodness!”

Verses 15-20

Jer 31:15-20

Jeremiah 31:15-20

Thus saith Jehovah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not. Thus saith Jehovah: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith Jehovah; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for thy latter end, saith Jehovah; and [thy] children shall come again to their own border. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself [thus], Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a calf unaccustomed [to the yoke]: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art Jehovah 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 darling child? for as often as I speak against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my heart yearneth for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith Jehovah.

The great emphasis in this paragraph is upon repentance and the tenderness and forgiveness by which true repentance shall be welcomed by the loving father.

This promise is not a picture of Ephraim’s repentance, but a picture of the welcome that he would have received from God if he had repented. Over and beyond that, it emphasizes the necessity of repentance as a key element in the New Covenant to be announced a moment later. As Jesus expressed it twice in three lines, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish!" (Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5).

As far as the Northern Israel was concerned, there is no Biblical evidence whatever that any such wave of repentance as that suggested here ever happened.

3. The disconsolate (Jeremiah 31:15-17)

With brilliant poetic imagination Jeremiah represents Rachel (Rahel, KJV) in her grave near Bethlehem lifting up her voice in bitter lamentation over the recent fate of her children. Rachel, who had pined for children all her life (Genesis 30:1), died with sorrow in giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:18-19). It is most appropriate that this one who loved children so much should here bemoan the loss of them. The meaning of the name Rachel (“ewe”) adds force to the prophet’s description. He hears the cry of the ewe in Ramah (literally, on the hill-top) bleating for her lambs. Rachel was the mother of Benjamin and Joseph and, through the latter, of Ephraim and Manasseh. As Ephraim was the leading tribe of the north it is likely that Rachel was regarded as the “mother” of Israel, the ideal representative of the northern kingdom. In a bit broader sense, Rachel symbolizes all the mothers of the entire nation who had lost sons through death and deportation.

Rachel is disconsolate because her children are being slain and snatched away. No one can comfort her in this moment of sorrow because her children are not, i.e., they are dead. The following verses seem to indicate that the prophet primarily has in mind the symbolic death of exile. But since many were slain when the Assyrians and Babylonians conquered the people of God, and since many died in captivity in foreign lands, an allusion to literal death cannot be absolutely eliminated from the expression “they are not.” The question arises as to whether Rachel is weeping over the deportations of Israelites to Assyria or of Jews to Babylon. One cannot be absolutely sure. But in view of the fact that Jeremiah 31:18-20 speak exclusively of Ephraim it is likely that it is the early Assyrian deportation which is in mind.

The mention of Ramah raises an exegetical problem. Which Ramah does the writer have in mind and why does he mention the place? TWO places called Ramah are prominent in the Old Testament. Both of them were some miles north of Jerusalem. One Ramah is mentioned in Joshua 18:25 and was five miles north of Jerusalem; the other Ramah, the home town of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:19; 1 Samuel 25:1) about four miles north-west of Jerusalem. Some think that the reference is to another Ramah in the vicinity of Bethlehem which is otherwise unknown in the Old Testament. Still others fed that the term Ramah is not a proper name at all but means simply “a mountain height.” On the whole, however, it is best to regard Ramah as a definite location though it is impossible to determine which of the two places of this name is intended.

Why is Ramah mentioned in this passage? Various suggestions have been made. Some think that Ramah is mentioned because Rachel was buried near there. But nowhere is Ramah explicitly designated as the site of Rachel’s tomb. Others think that Ramah is mentioned because this was the spot at which the exiles were assembled before being slain or deported. The mention of Ramah in Isaiah 10:29 seems to indicate that it was the scene of some special massacre by Sennacherib in the days of king Hezekiah. Jeremiah himself was taken in chains to Ramah (Jeremiah 40:1; Jeremiah 39:11-12). He may have actually heard the women of Israel weeping and wailing as they watched the cruel fate of their sons. Still another view is that Ramah is mentioned only to indicate the distance at which the lamentation was heard. According to this view the weeping originated at Bethlehem but was heard as far away as Ramah. On the whole the last view seems to be the most satisfactory.

Matthew cites Jeremiah 31:15 as being “fulfilled” in the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem by Herod. Because of the inspired statement of Matthew some commentators have argued that Jeremiah 31:15 is a direct prophecy of what would transpire in Bethlehem centuries later. According to Laetsch, Rachel is introduced as bewailing her children because her tomb was located at Bethlehem where the infants were to be slain. However the word “fulfilled” as used in Matthew 2:17 probably only means that the words in Jeremiah aptly express the event which Matthew is recording. The language used by Old Testament writers to describe events of their own or previous times is often so full and rich that it can be appropriately used to describe New Testament events which occurred in similar circumstances and were of similar import. In such cases the language of the Old Testament is said to have been fulfilled in the New Testament. Thus the slaughter of the Bethlehem infants was not the fulfillment of a prediction of Jeremiah, but only of certain words spoken by the prophet. Rachel’s grief was reawakened by the slaughter of the innocent babes of Bethlehem.

The word “fulfilled” does not seem to have the same force in every passage of the New Testament where it occurs. Some time ago J. W. McGarvey suggested that the word was used by Matthew in the second chapter of his Gospel in three different ways. He writes:

The three quotations from the prophets contained in this chapter (6, 15, 18) belong to and illustrate three distinct classes of such quotations which are found in the New Testament, and which especially abound in Matthew. The first, concerning the birth-place of Jesus, is strictly a prediction, for it refers directly to the event. The second, concerning the call out of Egypt, is an example of words used with a double reference, having both a primary and secondary reference and fulfillment. Such predictions are sometimes called typical, because they are originally spoken concerning a type and find another fulfillment in the antetype. The third, concerning the weeping at Bethlehem, is an example in which the event fulfills the meaning of words used by a prophet, though the words had originally no reference at all to this event. It is a verbal fulfillment, and not a real fulfillment, as in the other two cases.

In Jeremiah 31:16-17 God wipes away the tears from the cheek of the disconsolate Rachel. Using the language of the prophet Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:7) Jeremiah assures the mother of Israel that there will be a reward for her work. The “work” refers to the parental weeping for her children. Others take the “work” to be the travail of childbirth. Rachel is not weeping in vain. Her children will one day return to their homeland. Though the present prospects are exceedingly dismal. there is hope for the future of Israel.

Verses 21-22

Jer 31:21-22

Jeremiah 31:21-22

Set thee up waymarks, make thee guide-posts; set thy heart toward the highway, even the way by which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. How long wilt thou go hither and thither, O thou backsliding daughter? for Jehovah hath created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall encompass a man.

O thou backsliding daughter...

(Jeremiah 31:22). This refers to the actual condition of Israel. God here addressed her as Virgin of Israel; but that envisions her status at the time after she receives and obeys the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The glorious promises of the Messianic age most certainly cast their long shadows over these verses.

A woman shall encompass a man...

(Jeremiah 31:22). In a word, we agree with Matthew Henry who followed the patristic interpretation of this passage and referred it to The Incarnation of Christ. Yes, we are aware that practically all of the present crop of commentators reject this interpretation out of hand; but no better interpretation has ever been proposed; and practically all of the current generation of scholars admit that they do not have the slightest idea what the passage means. Moreover the objections that are offered to this very old and satisfactory understanding of the passage have no value at all. For example, Cheyne thought that it was impossible for this to refer to the Virgin Mary’s bearing the Christ in her womb, because, he said, The definite article for woman does not appear, as in Isaiah’s promise that ’The Virgin’ shall conceive. This objection has no weight because the great protoevangel of Genesis 3:15 likewise omits the definite article in the announcement that The seed of woman shall bruise the head of Satan, there being no definite article for woman.

Also, let it be noted that whatever is prophesied here, God called it a "new thing in the earth," a description that cannot possibly apply to any other explanation of this passage that we have ever seen; but it does apply to the virgin birth of the Son of God. Such explanations as, "The female shall protect the strong man, or the woman shall turn the man," or "a woman shall embrace a man," are certainly not any "new thing in the earth." Until the critics who do their best to remove every prophecy of the Son of God from the Old Testament can tell us what this passage means, we shall cling to the only explanation that has ever made any sense at all.

A New Creation Jeremiah 31:21-22

Jeremiah 31:21-22 form a distinct unit within chapter 31. The certainty of restoration is indicated in Jeremiah 31:21 as Jeremiah urges those going into captivity to mark the road they travel into exile so that they might know the return route. They are to erect, as it were, waymarks (stone pillars) and high heaps or signposts to mark the way home. They are to turn their attention to that highway in order that they might be able to retrace their steps. Jeremiah calls upon the “virgin of Israel,” the nation, to return to Palestine (Jeremiah 31:21). “How long,” asks the prophet, “will you hesitate to return to your land?” The backsliding daughter is admonished to put away her rebellious reluctance.

In the last part of Jeremiah 31:22 the prophet holds out a wondrous sign as an incentive to the reluctant nation. The Lord has created a new thing in the earth (or land). These words introduce a miracle which completely reverses ordinary human experience. It is something entirely new, something that had never happened before. “A woman shall compass (or surround) a man.” Many interpretations of these words which have been proposed clearly do not satisfy the requirements of the context. All of the following interpretations have been offered: (1) the woman will become manly in spirit; (2) the woman will keep close to the man; (3) the woman will seek protection from the man. In order to set forth the marvelous prophecy of this verse three questions need to be asked.

1. Who is the woman who is the subject of the prophecy? Most commentators assume that the woman is Israel. Support for this interpretation is gained from the allusion to the nation as “the virgin of Israel” in the previous verse and a “backsliding daughter” in the present verse. While this interpretation cannot be absolutely ruled out, another interpretation is altogether possible. Many years before the time of Jeremiah, Isaiah prophesied of a virgin who would miraculously give birth to a child who would be Immanuel (God with us). Is it possible that Jeremiah is referring to that same woman? Certainly a virgin giving birth to a child would fulfill the requirements of this passage which states that the Lord would create a new thing. This particular section of Jeremiah (chapters 30–31) contains several Messianic predictions and thus a reference to the virgin birth of Christ would not be out of place.

2. Who is the man who is the object of the sentence? The Hebrew word used here (gever) is not the ordinary word for a man as a frail being of clay. Rather it is the word for man par excellence, strong, virile, powerful. Commentators commonly reason that if Israel is the woman then the man must be the divine husband or the Lord. It is the view of the present writer that the Man here is none other than the Messiah. Certainly the use of the Hebrew word gever and related words for the Messiah is not without parallel (see Zechariah 13:7).

3. What is involved in the verb that is used here? The Hebrew verb translated “compass” literally means “to surround.” The verb could well describe the fact that a man-child is enfolded in the womb of a woman. It might be argued that this would not be anything new as the context demands. But if the woman mentioned here is the virgin and if the man is that holy thing which was born of her who was to be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35) then certainly this could be a “new thing” created by the Lord Himself.

Verses 23-30

Jer 31:23-30

Jeremiah 31:23-26

Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, Yet again shall they use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity: Jehovah bless thee, O habitation of righteousness, O mountain of holiness. And Judah and all the cities thereof shall dwell therein together, the husbandmen, and they that go about with flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul, and every sorrowful soul have I replenished. Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.

Upon this I awaked...

(Jeremiah 31:26). God’s revelation of this chapter had apparently come to Jeremiah in a dream, one of the various means (Hebrews 1:1) by which God of old spoke to the fathers by the prophets. This explanation was the one accepted by Lindblom. The particular revelation that resulted in the dream’s coming to an end was the prophecy of the return of the remnant of Israel from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah and to the prosperity that would ensue. Much of that promised happiness and prosperity never materialized, because of the failure of the returnees to repent and turn wholeheartedly unto God, as revealed in some of the minor prophets, notably Micah.

Jeremiah 31:27-30

Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, 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 overthrow and to destroy and to afflict, so will I watch over them to build and to plant, saith Jehovah. 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 grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

Behold the days come...

(Jeremiah 31:27). It is amazing how often this or equivalent expressions such as at that time, occur in this chapter, all of which point unerringly to the Age of Messiah for the fulfillment of the revelation recorded here.

Thus saith Jehovah...

(Jeremiah 31:27-28, etc.). Some nineteen times in the forty verses of this chapter this formula appears. The New Covenant that God is announcing here is radically different from anything ever heard of before; and this oft-repeated statement thus saith Jehovah was necessary. As Green said, The sulking cynical captives would be skeptical; and therefore the announcement of it gets a heavy stamp of divine authority: ’this is revelation!’

I have watched over them to pluck up, etc....

(Jeremiah 31:28). This is a reference to what Jeremiah had written in Jeremiah 18:7-10; and if Israel would now truly believe and serve God, all of the great blessings would be poured out upon them.

The fathers have eaten sour grapes, etc....

(Jeremiah 31:29). This seems to have been a popular proverb among the Israelites, because Ezekiel also mentioned it and based upon it a chapter regarding individual responsibility (Ezekiel 18). The people were using this saying, To excuse themselves from responsibility for the predicament they were in, to pass the buck to their forbears, and ultimately to God.

In the Messianic age to come, Jeremiah prophesies here that, "Men will no more accuse God of unrighteousness, as in the wicked proverb, but they will perceive that everyone has to suffer for his own guilt."

New Conditions Jeremiah 31:23-30

After the prophet has promised Ephraim, the ten northern tribes, an abundant material and spiritual blessing from God he does the same for Judah. -When God’s people return from exile completely new conditions will exist throughout the land. Pure religion will be restored. The people will again pronounce blessings upon the sacred sanctuary and the holy city. Throughout the cities of Judah the people will say, “May the Lord, the Habitation of Justice, bless you, O mountain of holiness” (Jeremiah 31:23). In both the title for God and the designation of the holy city[271] the people who return from exile seem to realize the important place of justice and holiness for the first time. On the basis of Jeremiah 50:7 the present writer takes the phrase “Habitation of Justice” to be a title for God. Others regard this as a title for Jerusalem and/or the Temple. The expression “mountain of holiness” or “holy mountain” is used both for the Temple mountain and for Jerusalem itself. See Psalms 2:6; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 27:13; Isaiah 66:20; Daniel 9:16; Zechariah 8:3.

Not only will idyllic conditions exist in the realm of religion but also among the various elements of society. Peace and harmony shall exist between farmers and nomads (Jeremiah 31:24). The weary world shall find rest and the sorrowful will find abundant comfort (Jeremiah 31:25). In Hebrew the verbs are in the perfect or completed state. It is another example of the so-called prophetic perfect which represents future facts as already accomplished.

At this point Jeremiah says something rather unexpected. He declares that he awoke from a deep. There can be little doubt that it is Jeremiah who is speaking in Jeremiah 31:26 for the language would not be appropriate to God or to the exiles. The question is whether real physical sleep is meant or some ecstatic condition resembling sleep. On the whole it is best to think in terms of real sleep for dreams were frequently the channels of communication for divine revelation to prophets. Cf. Genesis 31:10-11; 1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 9:2; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 1:8. Since the prophecies just enunciated were hopeful and comforting it is quite understandable why the prophet describes his sleep as sweet.

It is impossible to tell whether or not an interval of time elapsed between Jeremiah 31:26 and Jeremiah 31:27. Perhaps Jeremiah at once fell asleep again much as a dreamer might go back to sleep after being awakened in order to continue a pleasant dream. At any rate the four verses which follow continue the picture of the new conditions which will exist in the Messianic age.

There is in these verses, first, a promise of fruitfulness. God will make the people and their cattle multiply so fast that it will seem as though they spring up like seed sown in fertile soil (Jeremiah 31:27). It is both Israel and Judah reunited into one people who are the recipients of this promise.

Secondly, there is here a promise of faithfulness. Just as God has been “watchful” over the fulfillment of the prophecies of judgment and destruction, so will He now be equally zealous in fulfilling his promises of restoration (Jeremiah 31:28). In this chapter Jeremiah is beginning to develop that more positive side of his message of which mention was made in his call (Jeremiah 1:10).

Thirdly, there is a promise of fairness. Apparently the people of Jerusalem and the exiles already in Babylon had complained that it was unfair for them to have to suffer for the sins of their fathers. A popular proverb expressed the mood of the people, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the teeth of the children are set on edge.” Such a proverb could only be uttered by a generation blind to their own sin and disobedience and utterly deluded in thinking that they were innocent of all wrong-doing. Ezekiel (chapter 18) attacks this proverb as a blasphemy of God’s justice. On the other hand, Jeremiah is not so much concerned to refute this notion as to merely assert that in the Messianic age people will have no occasion to make such a complaint. There are certain implications and involvements in Jeremiah’s prediction that the sour grapes proverb will no longer be used in the Messianic age.

a) The prophet may be suggesting that individuals in the Messiah’s kingdom will be more sensitive to the sin in their own lives. Unlike the people of Jeremiah’s day they will recognize that divine judgment is their just desert, Thus the prediction here would involve a change of attitude on the part of the people.

b) Similarly, the thought may be that in the Messianic age the absolute justice of God will come to be fully recognized by all members of the covenant people.

c) A further implication of the prediction might be that in the Messianic Age the emphasis will be more upon the individual than upon the community. Individual responsibility will be the mark of the new age. Heretofore the basic unit of responsibility before God was the nation; in the future it would be the individual.

d) Another possible implication of Jeremiah’s prediction would be the holiness of Messianic Israel. The prophet may be saying that the moral level in the Messianic age will be so high that collective or corporate guilt will no longer be possible. Only individual transgression will occur as isolated exceptions from the rule. God will not allow the sins of individuals to permeate the whole. Each individual sinner will suffer the consequences of his own sin.

Verses 31-34

Jer 31:31-34

Jeremiah 31:31


Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

There were several covenants that God made. (1) There was a covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:18; Genesis 9:9); (2) two covenants with Abraham (Genesis 17:2; Genesis 17:10; Genesis 15:18 ff); (3) the covenant of salt (Numbers 18:19; Leviticus 2:13); and (4) the covenant of the everlasting priesthood (Numbers 25:13). However, in Hebrews 8:6-7, this "new covenant" is contrasted with what is called "the first covenant," or "the old covenant," indicating that the new covenant would replace not merely those lesser covenants, but it would take the place of that covenant which was so great and comprehensive, overshadowing all others, that God called it the "first covenant." In short, it was designed to replace the entire religious system of the Jews, including the Decalogue, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the tabernacle ritual, the temple, and the temple services later developed, the statutes, judgments, and commandments, embracing the entire ceremonial and moral constitution of Judaism. Every student needs to identify which covenant was annulled and replaced by the new.

The old covenant identified:

(1) It was the one made with the "house of Israel and with the house of Judah." The mention of the house of Judah is significant, because it distinguished the "old covenant" from the covenant of the priesthood which was made with the house of Levi. It also indicated that all Israel, both the Northern and Southern Israels, were included in the New Covenant.

(2) The old covenant was the one that had the Decalogue in it as a basic component (Deuteronomy 4:13; Hebrews 9:4).

(3) The old covenant was the one God made with Moses (Exodus 34:2; Exodus 34:28).

(4) It was the one God made at the time when Israel came out of Egypt, "in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt" (Jeremiah 31:32).

The nature of the new covenant. It partakes of the nature of all covenants, concerning which Keil declared that, "Every covenant which God concludes with men consists, on the side of God, the assurance of God’s favors and blessings; and on the side of men, it binds them to the keeping of commandments laid upon them."

Time when the new covenant was made. It was made upon the Cross of Jesus Christ when he became the "propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." It was announced upon the Day of Pentecost, exactly fifty days after the resurrection of the Son of God, and it became effective upon that day when three thousand Jews became "the Virgin Israel" accepted the terms of the New Covenant, and by their baptism into Christ, became thereby Charter Members of the New Israel, the Israel of God, the Spiritual Israel, that Other Israel, which succeeded the Old Israel, and is today the Only Israel of God.


We regret that some scholars have missed the truth regarding that New Covenant. Graybill, for example, said that, "The new covenant will not be a new law, the old law was good enough!" The last clause here is a flat contradiction of Hebrews 8:6-7, which declares that if the old law had been faultless God would not have changed it. Furthermore, the notion that the New Covenant got rid of all law is a preposterous error. We have already noted that the "priesthood" was changed when Christ our High Priest was raised from the dead, eternally supplanting the Aaronic priesthood; and the author of Hebrews stated that, "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Hebrews 7:12).

Furthermore, if there is no law of the gospel, or law of Christ, or law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, then there is no such thing as sin, because "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4).

Another gross error is the notion that the New Covenant was stated in the form of a question by Feinberg, "Does the New Covenant efface the distinction between Israel (racial Israel) and the Church (the New Israel)? The answer is a resounding no!" This, of course, is a flat contradiction of Romans 10:12, which declares that "there is no distinction," not even between Gentiles and Jews; and, since Gentiles are in the Church, if one should suppose a distinction between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, it would mean that God has two classes of children in his Church, an utter impossibility.

In the New Covenant all special considerations and privileges of racial Israel were forever lost. Race, today, is totally unimportant, as regards salvation. No person whomsoever can be either saved or lost eternally, upon the basis of any racial consideration whatsoever.

Jeremiah 31:32

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 brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah.

Which my covenant they brake...

(Jeremiah 31:32). The significance of this is beyond all calculation. Israel did not merely strain the covenant, they broke it! Furthermore, there were not any of the promises of that covenant which were designed to be valid unless Israel refrained from breaking the covenant. Notice those tremendous ifs in Deuteronomy 28:1; Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:58, etc.

"Salvation is possible only through the death of Christ; and this is the basis of the New Covenant; and all mankind is thus in view in this covenant." All men of every race and nation are subject to it, with special privileges to none.

Tragically, racial Israel refused to accept this New Covenant and refused to obey it, which is a fact that is very hard for commentators to ignore. For many years, this writer believed that the sacred scriptures teach that, "Israel as a nation will ratify (and accept and obey) this new covenant, after ’the full number of the Gentiles has come in’ (Romans 11:25-27)." We now deny that the scriptures teach this. The error was due to extensive tampering on the part of translators with Romans 11:15. It is true enough that the scriptures do not deny that such a conversion of racial Israel could occur, but there is absolutely no statement whatever that it will occur. See our extensive studies in this whole area in Vol. 6 (Romans) of the New Testament Series, especially at Romans 3 and Romans 11.

Jeremiah 31:33

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people:

Notice that God does not here state that he will cancel or no longer require his law to be observed, but that he will achieve the observance of his holy law by an utterly new method. That new method would be by the means of "the new birth" (John 1:3-7). A new heart would be created in obedient believers, and this would enable a more acceptable obedience to Divine Law. God never envisioned a time when his followers (even Christians) would be able to achieve perfect obedience; and therefore in the great injunction for Christians to pray, one finds the words, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who transgress against us."

Nevertheless, the requirement of holiness is nowhere eliminated or cancelled in the New Testament, but the Lord specifically declared that, "Without holiness, no man shall see God" (Hebrews 12:14).

Jeremiah 31:34

and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.

They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, etc....

(Jeremiah 31:34), Keil and a number of others thought that the principle of men teaching other men the truth about God was here nullified, Because the sinner is placed in direct relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, but we know that Keil cannot possibly be correct in this, since Christ himself ordained that, They shall all be taught of God (John 6:45); and the Great Commission itself commanded that all nations, the whole creation, must be taught.

Of the dozens of scholars whose works we have been privileged to read, only George DeHoff gave the true explanation of what is meant here.

"Under the new covenant of Christ men are taught before they become Christians. Then they obey the gospel. Under the old covenant a child was a Jew as soon as he was born and had to be taught this fact after he was old enough to understand."

The significance of this passage is very great. It means that no untaught person can be a Christian, hence no infants in the true sense are Christians. "Ye must be born again," Jesus said; and all infants have been born only once. Infant membership allows many unregenerated people to grow up in various churches without regard either to their faith or obedience, opening the gate for many outright unbelievers to gain and exercise power in some so-called Christian communions.

Another tremendous untruth sometimes imported into the doctrine of the New Covenant was announced by Payne Smith, as follows: "The Gospel cannot be a formal code guaranteeing certain blessings to those who obey it; because it begins with an offer of unconditional pardon: and it is in the sense of this full unmerited love which so affects the heart as to make obedience henceforth an inner necessity."

Variations of this colossal error are today found in the writings of hundreds of commentators, If indeed, as Smith said, the Gospel is not something which men must obey, why did the greatest of the apostles declare that, "Christ shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire with tens of thousands of his holy angels taking vengeance upon them that know not God, and them that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?" (2 Thessalonians 1:8). If, as Smith said, the human heart is so impressed by unmerited, unconditional forgiveness that it will automatically obey God, why are there so many backsliding Christians?

Furthermore, there is not a line in the whole Bible that even hints that God’s salvation is "unconditional." Did not Jesus Christ say, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved?" (Mark 16:16); and even there, baptism is by no means the only condition, but it stands as a synecdoche for the full catalogue of Christian obligations. Why cannot men think? If salvation is unconditional, God alone is responsible for the loss or salvation of every man who ever lived; but again, an apostle declared, "That every man must give an account of the deeds done in the body" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Let God be true and every man a liar!

The forgiveness of sins is the grand hallmark of the New Covenant. Never before in the history of mankind was there anything like it. When angels sinned, there was no forgiveness; when any of God’s laws were ever violated, there was never any forgiveness; there is no forgiveness in nature; there was not even any forgiveness under the Mosaic Law. Why? Because, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4). In all of those Old Testament passages where forgiveness of sins is promised, the reference is actually to the Messianic age.

Note also that God "remembers no more" the sins that are forgiven, an achievement that sinners themselves cannot accomplish.

A New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-34

The verses translated above are the four most important verses in the book of Jeremiah. Here Jeremiah envisions a time when the covenant between God and Israel instituted at Mt. Sinai will be replaced by a new and better covenant. After giving the promise of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-32) Jeremiah then outlines some of the provisions of that covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

1. The promise of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-32)

The new covenant will be made with reunited Judah and Israel. In Old Testament prophecy the unification of Judah and Israel points to that day when there would be neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female but all the redeemed would be one in Christ Jesus. Both Peter (1 Peter 2:10) and Paul (Romans 9:25 f.) so interpreted the earlier prophecies of Hosea (Hosea 1:10-11) with regard to the restoration of the northern kingdom and the unification of the two kingdoms. Those interpreters who regard the covenant promised by Jeremiah to be something yet future—a covenant between God and national Israel—are proved to be dead wrong by such passages as Hebrews 8:8-12 which quotes at length from Jeremiah 31 and applies it to the Christian dispensation. Paul again and again takes up the matter of the new covenant and emphasizes the distinction between it and the old Sinai covenant (e.g., 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16). Jesus alluded to this new covenant when he instituted the Lord’s Supper by saying “This is my blood of the new testament (covenant) which is shed for many” (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24). In the prophetic view of the future the restoration of Israel reaches its climax with the institution of the new covenant.

Jeremiah 31:32 compares the old covenant to a marriage in which God was the “lord” or husband and Israel was the bride. God being the perfect Husband never gave His bride any cause for desiring the dissolution of the matrimonial connection. But Israel had again and again been unfaithful to the marriage vows, i.e. she had been disobedient to the covenant. See Exodus 32; Numbers 14:16; Psalms 95:8-11; Acts 7:51-60. A new arrangement or agreement between God and His people was therefore necessary.

2. The provisions of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

It was not given Jeremiah to see all that the new covenant would involve. All that the Holy Spirit was concerned to do at this point in time was to reveal in broad outline the basic character of that future covenant. Four statements are made with regard to the promised covenant.

a) “I will place My law within them, and write it on their heart” (Jeremiah 31:33 a). Here is a new spiritual dimension. Heretofore the laws of God had been written on tablets of stone; now they are to be written on the heart. Under the new covenant men will respond to the divine will from inward motivation rather than outward compulsion. Every individual born in Israel was automatically under the law of God; he had no choice in the matter. But one can enter into the new covenant Israel, the church of Christ, only by willingly submitting himself to the command ments of God.

b) “I will be their God and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33 b). Here is a new relationship. Those who enter into the new covenant Israel through faith and obedience will come into a special relationship with God. Peter de scribes the Christian Church as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people of God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). only such as have today the law of God written upon their hearts have this unique relationship to God.

c) “All will know Me from the least to the greatest” (Jeremiah 31:34 a). Infants and small children were members of the old covenant Israel; but this would no longer be true under the new covenant. Every member of the new covenant Israel will know God. The word “know” in Hebrew has the connotation of knowledge derived from personal experience. It is not knowledge about, it is knowledge of. It is the kind of knowledge of which Jesus spoke when He said: “And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To know the Lord is saving faith, that basic and indispensable prerequisite to membership in the new covenant Israel. A Christian will not need to go around to fellow Christians and exhort them to know the Lord. If they are Christians they already have come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. Thus the point of this statement is not that there shall be no longer any need of instruction in religion, but that here will be a directness of access to God for both Jew and Gentile, which did not exist under the old covenant.

d) “I will forgive their sin and their iniquity will I remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34 b). It is not by self-acquired holiness or meritorious works that a man enters the new covenant Israel. It is through the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb without spot and blemish. The basic inadequacy of the old covenant was its failure to provide a perfect sacrifice for sin. The ever-repeated sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadowed and typified that once-for-all perfect sacrifice that took place on the hill called Calvary. The Hebrew verbs in the present verse are in the imperfect state denoting that the forgiveness here predicted will take place again and again as men and women appropriate to themselves the benefits of the Saviour’s sacrifice.

Verses 35-37

Jer 31:35-37

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, so that the waves thereof roar; Jehovah of hosts is his name: If these ordinances depart from before me, saith Jehovah, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith Jehovah: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah.

The perpetuity of God’s Israel is assured by these verses; but it is most certainly the Spiritual Israel in Christ Jesus which dominates the passage. The racial Israel also is represented in the promise that their "seed," that is, not "all" of them shall be cut off, implying, of course, that the vast majority of racial Israel shall indeed be cut off because of rebellion against God. As Keil stated it, "That the whole of Israel cannot perish is no bolster for the sin of a single individual." F17

In this connection, it should always be remembered that it was indeed the racial Israel that provided the nucleus of the Spiritual Israel in the person of the holy apostles and the first great ingathering of Christians. The essential truth in this is that Christ alone is the "True Vine" (John 15:1), that is, the True Israel, and that by virtue of their being "in Christ," in the "true Vine," in the "true Israel," the whole company of the redeemed throughout this dispensation are actually the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

Thus we see the absolute identity of the New Israel (composed of all Christians from every tribe, race and nation) with the old, in this manner achieving the perpetuity of Israel as promised in this chapter. As Paul expressed it in Galatians: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:27-29).

A New Commitment Jeremiah 31:35-37

In view of the establishment of the new covenant with the spiritual Israel of God, the church of Christ, God makes an astonishing commitment. The old covenant was broken by Israel and therefore the nation was rejected by the Lord. This will no more take place under the new covenant. God’s faithfulness in keeping His ordinances in the realm of nature are here offered as a pledge that He will similarly keep His covenant commitments. The sun, moon, and stars daily perform their assigned tasks of governing the day and the night. The waves of the sea never cease their constant ebb and flow, roaring, crashing against the beach (Jeremiah 31:35). As certainly as the laws of nature are inviolable, so certainly shall Israel everlastingly continue as a nation before the Lord (Jeremiah 31:36). To the end of this world God will always have a special people and that people is Israel. The outward form of Israel has changed through the years—a patriarchal family, confederation of tribes, monarchy, hierocracy. At times during those centuries since Jacob and his family migrated to Egypt all formal, outward governmental organization ceased to exist. Israel as a nation ceased to exist in 587 B.C. but Israel as a people survived the destruction of their homeland and deportation to a foreign land. Jeremiah is in the present passage looking to a time when the outward form of Israel would change once again. The Israel he envisions would be a pure theocracy ruled from heaven itself. It would be an invisible kingdom, a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom unlike anything this world has ever known.

Jeremiah 31:37 underscores the same thought as is found in the previous two verses. The heavens above are immeasurable and the earth beneath unsearchable. On the day that man is able to measure the heavens and search out the foundations of the earth—on that day and not before—God will cast off the new covenant Israel as He had the Israel of old. This is equivalent to saying that God will never cast off His people.

Verses 38-40

Jer 31:38-40

Jeremiah 31:38-40

Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that the city shall be built to Jehovah from the tower of Hananel unto the gate of the corner. And the measuring line shall go out further straight onward unto the hill Gareb, and shall turn about unto Goah. And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto Jehovah; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.

Although the name of "the city" to be rebuilt here unto Jehovah is not mentioned, there can be little doubt that Jerusalem is meant; but it is not the old Jerusalem; it is the New Jerusalem, "The Jerusalem which is above, which is our mother" (Galatians 4:24). There are many Old Testament passages which speak of this "rebuilt" Jerusalem, revealing many differences between the old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem that cometh down out of heaven from God. It will be a city without walls; and, as this passage shows, it will be much larger than the old Jerusalem. Also, it shall, as Dummelow noted, "embrace vast areas that were once considered unclean." This, of course, is a symbolical way of showing that the Gentiles shall be included in the inhabitants, along with Jews, and members of all nations.

Another difference between the old and the new Jerusalems is that there is no promise here of the rebuilding of the temple. Jeremiah had indeed prophesied the destruction of the temple; but the New Jerusalem needs no temple. God’s people themselves are the "temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16).

We shall conclude the discussion of this great chapter with the following paragraph from C. F. Keil.

"This image of the New Jerusalem forms a very suitable conclusion to this chapter, which combines in one view both the deliverance from exile and the redemption by the Messiah. It announces the formation of the New Covenant in its beginnings when the Christian church was founded, but at the same time points to the completion of the kingdom of God under the new covenant, in order to show the whole extent of the salvation which the Lord prepares for his people who return to him."

The New City Jeremiah 31:38-40

In the closing paragraph of the chapter Jeremiah looks forward to the building of a new city, the city of the Lord. The geographical details of this passage are not particularly important and may be dealt with summarily.

a) Tower of Hananeel—northeast corner of the city of Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate. See Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39; Zechariah 14:10.

b) Gate of the Corner—northwest corner of Jeru salem. See 2 Kings 14:13; 2 Chronicles 26:9; Zechariah 14:10.

c) Hill of Gareb—location unknown. but if the etymology of the word has any significance (Gareb-itch or leprosy) this hill would be the hill outside the limits of Jerusalem proper where the unclean lepers lived.

d) Goath—location unknown; mentioned only here.

e) Valley of the Carcasses—Probably the Valley of Hinnom. See 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:32-33; Jeremiah 19:11-13.

f) Brook Kidron—a torrent-bed which begins north of Jerusalem, passes the Temple mount and Mount of Olives en route to the Dead Sea.

g) Horse Gate—on the east side of Jerusalem near the Temple. See Nehemiah 3:28; 2 Chronicles 23:15.

For what purpose are these geographical details enumerated? Is it to show that Jerusalem when rebuilt will be somewhat enlarged? This is certainly a prominent theme in prophetic Scripture. That there is some increase in the size of old Jerusalem here in Jeremiah seems fairly obvious from the boundaries which are listed. But lack of information as to the precise position of some of the places named makes it impossible to determine how much gain in space is anticipated. It would seem that the circumference of the city is extended only so far as to include certain spots which were at present regarded as unclean. This is the real point of the passage. Those unclean areas—places once reserved for outcasts, burial grounds, garbage dumps—will be brought within the city limits of the new Jerusalem. Those unclean areas will be transformed, sanctified, cleansed and the entire city will be “holy to the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:40).

Of what Jerusalem is the prophet speaking in this passage? Those commentators who think he speaks here of the spiritual Jerusalem, the church of Christ, are certainly correct. Some rather cogent arguments can be raised in favor of this view.

a) Jeremiah has already alluded to the church as spiritual Jerusalem in Jeremiah 3:17.

b) Nothing is said in this passage about the rebuilding of the Temple although Jeremiah had foretold its destruction as well as that of the city. This omission would be most strange if Jeremiah had in mind the literal city of Jerusalem.

c) The church of Christ is called in the New Testament “Mt. Zion,” “the city of the living God,” “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22).

d) The context of chapter 31 is that of the Messianic Age as has been clearly demonstrated earlier.

e) On the assumption that only literal Jerusalem is in view it would be most difficult to find an appropriate fulfillment for the concept of city-wide sanctification embraced in this passage. The city of which Jeremiah speaks has no need of refuse dumps. It is in itself so thoroughly holy to the Lord that it will have nothing unholy to cast out. On the other hand if Jeremiah is speaking of Messianic Jerusalem he could well be alluding to the incorporation of Gentiles—peoples formerly thought to be unclean and profane—into the church of Christ.

f) The idea that once this city has been built “it will not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever” (Jeremiah 31:40) was certainly not fulfilled in the history of literal Jerusalem. The city of which Jeremiah speaks will be safe from destruction for all eternity. This could only be fulfilled by that kingdom which cannot be moved (Hebrews 12:28).

g) Other prophets speak of the Messianic kingdom under the figure of Jerusalem (e.g., Zechariah 2:1-5; Zechariah 8:3-6).

Restoration of Israel - Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 31:40

Open It

1.What thoughts and feelings would go through your mind if you were told you had an incurable illness?

2. What are the different ways that groups of people celebrate and demonstrate collective joy?

Explore It

3. What did God instruct Jeremiah to do with the words that had been revealed to him? (Jeremiah 30:1-2)

4. What good news summarized God’s plans for the defeated and divided nation? (Jeremiah 30:3)

5. What was the picture of judgment painted by Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 30:4-7)

6. What did Jeremiah predict that Israel would receive instead of its enslavement to foreign nations? (Jeremiah 30:8-9)

7. What two blessings did God say Israel once had and would have again? (Jeremiah 30:10)

8. What would characterize God’s discipline of His own people? (Jeremiah 30:11)

9. What was God’s metaphor for the sinful condition of His people? (Jeremiah 30:12-13)

10. How would the future look different for God’s people and for their enemies? (Jeremiah 30:16-17)

11. What miraculous event would be the occasion for great rejoicing? (Jeremiah 30:18-20)

12. What relationship did God intend to reestablish with all twelve tribes of Israel? (Jeremiah 31:1-2)

13. How did God plan to demonstrate the constancy of His love? (Jeremiah 31:3-6)

14. What picture did Jeremiah paint of the future return of the exiles? (Jeremiah 31:7-8)

15. What attitude did Jeremiah predict for Israel as they returned to the land God had given them? (Jeremiah 31:9)

16. Why did God say He would provide streams of water and a level path? (Jeremiah 31:9)

17. What two key actions did God promise to take on behalf of Israel, allowing them to return to the land? (Jeremiah 31:10-11)

18. What causes for rejoicing would the people of Israel have when God fulfilled His promise? (Jeremiah 31:10-14)

19. What hope for the future did Jeremiah hold out in order to encourage the mourners? (Jeremiah 31:16-17)

20. What hypothetical "conversation" did Jeremiah record between the repentant Ephraim (symbolic of the northern kingdom) and God? (Jeremiah 31:18-20)

21. What would become of the fatalistic proverb that reflected the people’s sense of helplessness and doom? (Jeremiah 31:29-30)

22. What was the new covenant described by Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

23. How did God illustrate the certainty of His preservation of the descendants of Israel? (Jeremiah 31:35-37)

Get It

24. Why was it important for prophecies to be recorded for the future, not just spoken in the present?

25. How is God’s justice balanced with His mercy in the messages of Jeremiah?

26. Given the fact that our sinfulness is incurable, how can we be made right with God?

27. How attainable do peace and security seem in our day?

28. What kind of devotion does God look for in a leader?

29. What sort of behaviors does God model for earthly fathers to imitate?

30. In what sorts of circumstances does it help to know that God is a God of compassion?

31. How would you characterize the people around you with regard to fatalistic outlook?

Apply It

32. Knowing that you can never cure yourself of your sin, how can you express your gratitude to God for His forgiveness?

33. How can you remind yourself of the source of your peace and security each day?

34. How can you imitate God in your role as father, mother, friend, sibling, etc. in a specific situation this week?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Thirty-One

By Brent Kercheville

1 What will happen “at that time” (Jeremiah 31:1-2)? Explain.

2 Carefully read and write down all the promises God makes to Israel in Jeremiah 31:3-9.

3 What will be the attitude and the response of the people when they come (Jeremiah 31:9)? What do we learn?

4 What is God going to do for his people and what will be the response of his people (Jeremiah 31:10-14)?

5 Explain the message in Jeremiah 31:15-16. Read Matthew 2:16-18 and explain how this prophecy was also fulfilled in the days of Jesus.

6 What is God’s great message in this chapter (Jeremiah 31:17-20)?

7 What is God calling for the people to do (Jeremiah 31:21-25)? What is God going to do? Look at verse 25 and

then read Acts 3:19-21. Explain what God is ultimately promising.

8 What is God going to do in the coming days (Jeremiah 31:27-30)? Explain the message.

9 What else is God going to do in the coming days (Jeremiah 31:31-34)? What will be the response of the people?

Read Hebrews 8:1-13. How does the writer of Hebrews apply this prophecy? Explain.

10 What grand promise does the Lord make (Jeremiah 31:35-37)? How should we understand this prophecy? Consider Romans 9:6-8 in your answer.

11 What else will happen in the coming days (Jeremiah 31:38-40)? How is this prophecy fulfilled?


How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him? hat will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 31". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-31.html.
Ads FreeProfile