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Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 30". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ jeremiah-30.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 30". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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Because Of The Certainty Of Future Restoration Jeremiah Is To Record All His Words In A Book (Jeremiah 30:1-3 )
The importance of the words spoken here for recognising the true authorship of the bulk of Jeremiah can hardly be overstated, although we do know that he was assisted in his work by Baruch. For, unless Jeremiah was totally disobedient, we learn here that he added to the ‘book’ (scroll) that he had previously authored (Jeremiah 36:31; Jeremiah 45:1), subsequent prophecies, at least up to the date of the siege of Jerusalem (at least part of the account below appears to be given at a time when there was no reigning Davidic monarch). He would certainly have had plenty of time for writing while he was in the royal guard room, and assuming that he had disciples in Judah, would surely have communicated his prophecies to them. He could then have completed it in Egypt, from where it would be sent to exiles in all parts. Thus apart from minor editing we may see from this that most of the book came directly from Jeremiah. And it is YHWH Who here stresses the necessity for this precisely because of the coming anticipated restoration to the land of both Israel and Judah. Jeremiah’s prophecies were therefore to be an essential part of the restoration, for along with the older prophets, they explained why Judah and Israel had had to go through their sufferings, and yet could still be offered hope.
‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH, saying,’
This is the usual formula with which Jeremiah opens a subsection of his work. and emphasises that what he is writing here consists of a new word of YHWH.
‘Thus speaks YHWH, the God of Israel, saying, “Write you all the words that I have spoken to you in a book.”
With YHWH’s most imposing title being applied, Jeremiah is now called on to write down all the words that YHWH has spoken to him, in a book or scroll. This need for Jeremiah to write down his prophecies has in fact constantly been emphasised (Jeremiah 36:2; Jeremiah 36:28; Jeremiah 45:1), and suggests that he felt under a divine urge to record his prophecies.
“For, lo, the days come, the word of YHWH, that I will turn again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, the word of YHWH, and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they will possess it.”
And the reason for writing down his words is in readiness for the fact that ‘according to the assured word of YHWH’ (twice stressed) the days were coming when YHWH would ‘turn again’ the captivity of His people, both Israel and Judah, and cause them to return to the land of their fathers and possess it. It would be at that stage that they would need Jeremiah’s prophecies of hope. This ‘turning again’ would begin with the return of exiles from Babylon (Ezra 1:1 ff.), but it would continue on through the undocumented period following Malachi to such an extent that, by the time of Jesus Christ, Palestine (Galilee and Judaea) was well populated with people connected with the ‘twelve tribes’ in one way or another (see e.g. Luke 2:36).
SECTION 2 (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 45:5 ). (continued).
As we have seen this Section of Jeremiah from Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 45:5 divides up into four main subsections, which are as follows:
1. Commencing With A Speech In The Temple Jeremiah Warns Of What Is Coming And Repudiates The Promises Of The False Prophets (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 29:32).
2. Following The Anguish To Come Promises Are Given Of Eventual Restoration, Central To Which is A New Covenant Written In The Heart (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26).
3. YHWH’s Continuing Word of Judgment Is Given Through Jeremiah, And Its Repercussions Leading Up To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Revealed (Jeremiah 34:1 to Jeremiah 39:18).
4. Events Subsequent To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Described (Jeremiah 40:1 to Jeremiah 45:5).
We have already commented on Subsection 1). in Jeremiah 4:0. We must now therefore consider subsection 2). This subsection, with its emphatic promises of hope for the future, is the most positive subsection from a long term view in his prophecy.
Subsection 2 (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26 ). Following The Anguish To Come Promises Are Given Of Eventual Restoration, Central To Which Is A New Covenant Written By YHWH In The Hearts Of His People, Together With The Establishment Of The New Jerusalem As The Eternal City (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26 ).
This Subsection places a great emphasis, not only on the coming anguish, but even more on the glorious restoration that will follow. It presents a final picture of a wholly restored nation which has been spiritually transformed.
It may be seen as divided up into two parts on the basis of the phrase ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 30:1; Jeremiah 32:1). (Jeremiah 33:1; Jeremiah 33:19, on the other hand, open with ‘and’ (waw), signifying continuation rather than a new part). The first part deals with promises of glorious restoration and spiritual renewal ending up with the establishment of a new Jerusalem as the eternal city (compare Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5). The second part contains an acted out prophecy in which Jeremiah purchases a piece of hereditary land in order to demonstrate his confidence in the final future of Judah, and gives further assurances of restoration.
Part 1). ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 30:1). Out of the anguish of Israel/Judah is to come restoration, when YHWH will bring His people from all the places of exile to which He has scattered them, and will replant them and build them up in the land, establishing with them a new covenant, written not on stone but in their hearts. All will know Him and all will be made holy, and God’s holy city will be established for ever (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 31:40).
We will now consider this part in detail.
The Dark Days About To Come On Judah, And Already being Experienced by Many From Both Judah and Israel In Exile, Are Vividly Portrayed (Jeremiah 30:4-7 ).
‘And these are the words that YHWH spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah.’
At the time when Jeremiah was speaking Judah was populated, not only by men of Judah and Benjamin, but also by large numbers of refugees and ‘immigrants’ from northern Israel, who for one reason or another, some for religious reasons, and others for political reasons, had taken up their abode in Judah. It thus represented what officially remained of both Israel and Judah in Palestine itself. These words, however, would appear to encompass not only those in Palestine, but also the exiles from both Israel and Judah scattered abroad around the world (Isaiah 11:11).
‘For thus says YHWH,
“We have heard a voice of trembling,
Of fear, and not of peace.”
YHWH declares that all is not well for Israel and Judah, either at home or abroad. From among both peoples comes a voice, not of wellbeing and peace, but of trembling and fear (compare Leviticus 26:36-39). Judah is approaching its final death throes, whilst many of the exiles are experiencing hard times (compare Deuteronomy 28:65-67). ‘We’ probably has in mind YHWH and the heavenly council, although it may simply be an anonymous and impersonal ‘we’.
“Ask you now, and see whether a man travails with child.
Why do I see every man with his hands on his abdomen,
Like a woman in labour pains,
And all faces are turned pale?”
Indeed things are so bad that it is as though even the males in Israel and Judah are in labour pains for they are holding their abdomens in their distress, and their faces have gone deathly white. They are like women undergoing labour pains as a result of the distress in which they find themselves, to such an extent that it makes onlookers ask, ‘are the men also in labour?’.
This depth of suffering suggests either a period near the end of Zedekiah’s reign when the great judgment was looming over them, or the period following when Jerusalem had been destroyed and the land was in darkness and despair.
“Alas! for that day is great,
So that none is like it,
It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he will be saved out of it.”
This idea then leads on to a vivid picture of the anguish that must follow the destruction of Jerusalem and precede the restoration, the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’, which is the period of suffering prior to restoration, a time of trembling and fear in full accordance with the warning given in Leviticus 26:32-45. Note in Leviticus the prominent mention of ‘Jacob’ (Leviticus 26:42), and of ‘faintness’ (Leviticus 26:36) and of the restoration of the covenant (Leviticus 26:42; Leviticus 26:45), all features of this passage. The phrase ‘Jacob’s trouble’ is itself drawn from the warning of ‘trouble’ for a disobedient Israel in Deuteronomy 30:17; and its reference to ‘Jacob’ may be found in Isaiah 43:28; Hosea 12:2. For the idea of their distress and fear compare Deuteronomy 28:65-67.
So their anguish will be because of the dreadfulness of what is coming. It is the time spoken of by Moses and the prophets, the time of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ resulting from their idolatry and the breaking of the covenant (Leviticus 26:32-45; Deuteronomy 28:58-67; Deuteronomy 30:17; Isaiah 43:28; Hosea 12:2). It would result initially in the besieging of Jerusalem with all the human costs that that involved (Deuteronomy 28:52-55), and continue on in the misery of the exiles (Leviticus 26:36-39; Deuteronomy 28:58-67), something never before experienced. The princes of the sanctuary will be profaned and ‘Jacob’ will become a curse (Isaiah 43:28). ‘Jacob’ will be punished according to his ways, and recompensed according to his doings (Hosea 12:2).
And this occurred because the people had rejected YHWH in their hearts, and had gone after other gods and allied themselves with godless nations. Only a remnant would be delivered out of it. (A similar story would repeat itself when the nation rejected Jesus Christ. The Idolatrous Desolator (Abomination of Desolation) would destroy Jerusalem, and the people would be scattered into exile, facing a tribulation the like of which had not ever been known before (Matthew 24:15-21; Luke 21:20-24).).
Jacob (the people of Judah and the exiles of Israel and Judah as still not transformed), would be troubled because of the tumults in the world, as well as because they were strangers in a foreign land. It was not easy living in that area at that time. As we read of the movements of armies and of battles in history we can often tend to overlook the misery and suffering that was being brought on the people in the parts of the world where they took place. Every mile of advance of an army was at a tremendous human cost, as ‘innocent’ people were caught up in the terror that had come upon them. And in mind here are the particularly bad times, probably having in mind the times when the Babylonian kings had to quell rebellions, often in places where many of the exiles were to be found, and that even if they had not themselves been a part of the rebellion. These would most often occur as one king died and was replaced by another, something which would cause friction between contenders, and hopes of freedom (even if hopeless) among tributaries. At such times vengeance could be non-discriminatory. Indeed from what follows it would appear to have especially in mind the tumults that would arise as a result of the activities of the Persians and the Medes as, under Cyrus, they would challenge the mighty Babylonian Empire. It was a day so great and so awful that none could remember anything like it (compare a similar idea in Joel 2:2), and it would cause great trouble to ‘Jacob’, that is, to the exiles in Babylonia, Elam and Assyria, the ‘troubles’ forecast by Moses and the prophets (Deuteronomy 30:17). For such ‘troubles’ for God’s nominal people resulting from rampant idolatry compare Deuteronomy 31:17; Deuteronomy 31:21, and for its being related directly to ‘Jacob’ see Isaiah 43:28; Hosea 12:2. Thus it is the time anticipated by the earlier prophets when YHWH would punish His people for their idolatry. But, unexpectedly, out of it would come deliverance and the opportunity to return home, thanks humanly speaking to the humaneness of Cyrus’ policies, a king whom God had raised up for the purpose. They would be ‘saved out of’ the great troubles that were coming on them and on the world.
There are no good grounds for referring the words here specifically to what we call ‘the end times’ (we do love to think that no one mattered but us and ‘our times’, which incidentally may well turn out not to be the end times) except in so far as Jeremiah probably saw them as the end times followed by final restoration. He would not be expecting a complicated future. (He was not to know that it was the first stepping stone in a long history. The words were intended to apply to the situation in which the people in those days could expect to find themselves. Prophecy is not to be seen as a kind of crystal ball looking into the long distant future and irrelevant to the age in which it was given. Jeremiah was considering what immediately lay ahead. Of course, troubles arose for God’s people throughout all ages, and they would often be seen as ‘beyond compare’, although, of course, from the prophetic perspective their hope each time was that it would then issue in perfect peace for Israel. Thus they hoped that they would be the ‘end time’ troubles. They did not realise that there would be many such times of ‘Jacob’s trouble’, as Daniel in fact brings out, (and also a number of desolations of Jerusalem, e.g. by Nebuchadnezzar, by Antiochus Epiphanes, by Titus) before the end came. They simply knew that before blessing must come trouble because of the sinfulness of God’s people, and that this would be so to the end. Nor could they have visualised the new Israel (Matthew 21:43) that would arise out of such troubles in Jesus’ day, an Israel which would also continue to experience ‘much tribulation’ as the word of God spread throughout the world in accordance with Isaiah 2:3. All of this was awaiting the setting up of the everlasting kingdom when there will be no more trouble.
The Coming Great Deliverance (Jeremiah 30:8-11 ).
One day there will come a time when the yoke of Babylon will be removed, and Israel will be free, and they will serve YHWH their God, and David their king whom YHWH will raise up to them.
“And it will come about in that day,
The word of YHWH of hosts,
That I will break his yoke from off your neck,
And will burst your bonds,
And strangers will make him their bondman no more,
But they will serve YHWH their God,
And David their king, whom I will raise up to them.”
And ‘in that day’, the day when YHWH began to act, the yoke and bonds of Babylon, previously so vividly displayed by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:2 ff.; Jeremiah 28:2), would be broken off their necks (as they had been prematurely from Jeremiah’s neck by Hananiah), and their bonds would be torn asunder (compare Isaiah 10:27), and the result would be that they would no longer be bondmen, restricted in their movements, but at liberty to return home to serve YHWH their God freely, and be ruled over by a Davidide (compare Hosea 3:5; Isaiah 55:4). That this occurred Scripture makes clear. Zerubbabel is the Davidide best known to us from the post-exilic period, but he was not the only one, and we should note the vivid language used by Haggai and Zechariah concerning his reign (Haggai 1:12-14; Haggai 2:2-7; Haggai 2:21-22; Zechariah 4:7-9). From Heaven’s viewpoint his reign was seen as ‘earth shaking’, even if humanly speaking it was ‘a day of small things’. But there would also have been others. All this would, however, culminate in the arrival of the greater ‘Son of David’ Who would establish God’s Kingly Rule on earth (Matthew 12:28; Revelation 12:10), and then establish His throne in Heaven (Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:36; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 3:21), continuing an everlasting rule which would continue over the earth (Revelation 20:4-6) and which would be finalised after His second coming in the everlasting kingdom.
Furthermore this great picture is repeated whenever someone is converted to Jesus Christ. They rise from the captivity of this world, their chains fall off, their hearts become free, and they rise up to follow YHWH their God and the Greater David, Jesus Christ, Whom they have come to know as their King and LORD. It is noteworthy that in the New Testament the Name LORD (YHWH) is applied mainly to Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile the magnanimity of Persian policy would give nations a new freedom, and none more so than Israel and Judah, who were allowed to return home with their religious accoutrements and with assistance from the Persian treasury, and were thus able to establish first the Temple (completed about 516 BC) and a new but impoverished nation, and then finally Jerusalem itself as a ruling city under Nehemiah (about 445 BC), eventually becoming a relatively wealthy independent nation under the Hasmoneans, only to lose it all because of sin.
‘In that day --’ simply indicates ‘the day in which YHWH decides to act’. Such ‘days’ have occurred throughout history.
“Therefore do not be afraid, O Jacob my servant,
The word of YHWH,
Nor be dismayed, O Israel,
For, lo, I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity,
And Jacob will return, and will be quiet and at ease,
And none will make him afraid.”
So Jacob (Judah/Israel) were not to be afraid of the future, nor dismayed at what was to happen around them, for all was in YHWH’s hands. The association of ‘Jacob’ and ‘Israel’ signifying the whole of Judah/Israel is typically Isaianic (Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 10:20 and twenty two times in all) as is the reference to Jacob as His ‘servant’, and it is possibly borrowed from there by Jeremiah. Whatever may have happened to them in the past His purpose towards them for the future was good. On the sure ‘word of YHWH’ they could be certain that they would be ‘saved from afar’, wherever they might be, and their children would be saved also, from the land of their enforced exile, and they would return to their land and find quiet and ease, with none to make them afraid.
This redemption of ‘Jacob’ was a regular feature of Isaiah’s ministry (Isaiah 14:1; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:16). And that is precisely what God did during the centuries after the Exile when His people returned and repopulated Palestine, enjoying many long periods of peace and wellbeing. Whilst we mainly know of the returnees from Babylon we may be sure that many who remained true to YHWH came from other parts as well. It would have been remarkable if they had not. And certainly by the time of Jesus we find an Israel made up of people from many of the tribes, although many had lost their specific identity. There was further fulfilment when Jesus came, leading men into peace and rest (Matthew 11:28-30), and bringing about an even greater redemption for ‘Jacob’ (Mark 10:45). But, of course, the final fulfilment will be in the everlasting kingdom when there will be no more fear.
The mention of ‘their seed’ indicates, however, that it would not be immediate but after a period of time, which ties in with the ‘seventy year’ delay.
“For I am with you,
The word of YHWH,
To save you.
For I will make a full end of all the nations where I have scattered you,
But I will not make a full end of you,
But I will correct you in measure,
And will in no way leave you unpunished.”
For on His own sure word (the word of YHWH) they could know that He was with them and would deliver them, and would make a full end of all the nations among whom they had been scattered (especially Assyria and Babylon). But while He would make a full end of these nations He would not make a full end of Judah/Israel. This final hope was something that He had indeed often promised in the past (Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 5:18). Rather He would correct them ‘in measure’ and punish them in order to remove from them what spoiled them. For towards them His final purpose was of chastisement not final destruction. On the other hand they could not remain wholly unpunished.
That many of the nations among whom they dwelt disappeared as such from history in the inter-testamental period is well known. Assyria also disappeared from the map as such, Elam was no more and ancient Babylon ceased to exist. They were eventually replaced by the powers of Greece and Rome.
The Reason Why Israel/Judah Needed To Be Delivered Was Because Of Their Sufferings, Which Were Grievous Because They Were The Consequence Of Their Sins (Jeremiah 30:12-15 ).
Having made His glorious promises YHWH now turns back to why all this was necessary. As we have seen above this passage contains a deliberate pattern of contrasts, with the fact of the miserable present being contrasted with the glorious future. Their present condition is what prevents God from restoring His people and must first be dealt with before there can be restoration. Their situation has arisen because they were spiritually badly wounded with none to tend them. It was because there was no balm in Gilead, and no physician there (Jeremiah 8:22). It was because all to whom they looked had deserted them. It was because YHWH Himself was dealing with the problem of their sins.
‘For thus says YHWH,
“Your hurt is incurable,
And your wound grievous.
There is none to plead your cause, that you may be bound up,
You have no healing medicines.”
The condition of ‘Jacob’ (Jeremiah 30:10) is seen as being like that of a badly wounded man. Their hurt is incurable by any earthly means. Their wound is bleeding and grievous. And because they have deserted Him there is no one to speak up for them in order that their wounds might be bound up. That is why they have no healing medicines. It is because they have been abandoned by those on whom they had depended. There is a clear similarity between this picture, and the badly diseased Israel of Isaiah 1:5-6.
“All your lovers have forgotten you,
They do not seek you,
For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy,
With the chastisement of a cruel one,
For the greatness of your iniquity,
Because your sins were increased.
They are like a wounded man who has been deserted on the battlefield, with their erstwhile ‘lovers’ having forgotten and abandoned them. No one looks for him or is concerned about him. And so it is with them. The reference to ‘lovers’ may be to their idols, or more likely it may have in mind their erstwhile idolatrous allies among the nations. But the point is that they will not receive any help from anywhere or from anyone. And the reason is because it is YHWH Who has wounded them, acting through their enemy. It is YHWH who has chastised them, acting by means of all the fierceness of a cruel invader (both Assyrian and Babylonian soldiers could be called ‘cruel ones’ because of their total lack of humanity). And the reason they are in this condition is because of the greatness of their iniquity, their inbred evil, and because their sins have continually increased.
“Why do you cry out for your hurt?
Your pain is incurable,
For the greatness of your iniquity,
Because your sins were increased,
I have done these things to you.”
Whenever we get a repetition in Scripture it is because of the necessity of the lesson coming home, and here it is the lesson of Judah and Israel’s extreme sinfulness which is to be repeated almost word for word from Jeremiah 30:14. In Jeremiah 30:14 their wounded state at the hand of YHWH had been described, and we learned that it was because of the greatness of their iniquity, and because their sins were increased, and now they are asked why it is that they are crying out because of the hurt of their wound, and it is again stressed that they are as they are because they are suffering at the hand of YHWH because of the greatness of their iniquity and because their sins had increased. Thus it is saying, ‘Let it be repeated. That was why He had done these things to them.’ And because it is YHWH Who is responsible for their wound, their wound is incurable except by Him.
However, The Nations Too Will Suffer Both Because Of Their Own Deserts And Because They Have Mocked Judah’s God, While On The Other Hand Judah Will Be Restored (Jeremiah 30:16-17 ).
But Israel/Judah will not be alone in their sufferings, for those who are their adversaries will also themselves finally suffer. For they too are deserving of judgment and have sown misery, and what they have sown they will reap. On the other hand, because they have dismissed Zion (God’s people) in derision as of no account, Zion will be restored, in order that they might learn the lesson not to dismiss YHWH’s love and concern.
“Therefore all those who devour you,
Will be devoured,
And all your adversaries, every one of them,
Will go into captivity,
And those who despoil you,
Will be a spoil,
And all who prey on you,
Will I give for a prey.”
So those who devoured them would not go unpunished. They too in their turn would be devoured (those who take to the sword will perish by the sword) because they too were filled with iniquity and had increased in sin. And they too would go into captivity, even mighty Babylon. Those who despoiled them would themselves be despoiled, and those who preyed on them would themselves become a prey. God’s righteous judgment would reach to all. Thus in all their sufferings the people could recognise that it was not they alone who would suffer. Their conquerors too would become the conquered. It was the way of all flesh.
“For I will restore health to you,
And I will heal you of your wounds,
The word of YHWH,
Because they have called you an outcast,
(Saying), ‘It is Zion, whom no man seeks after’.”
The one difference was that one day Judah/Israel’s strength would be restored. They alone of all the nations would be preserved through thick and thin. For YHWH Himself would one day restore health to them and heal their ‘incurable’ wounds, the wounds which He alone could cure because He had inflicted them. This was on the sure word of YHWH. And all this would be because men had derided them and had called them an outcast, and had spoken of them as ‘Zion whom no man seeks after’, because all had turned away from them. The mention of ‘Zion’ suggests that underneath the derision we are to see lying derision at Zion’s God. Judah/Israel themselves had boasted in ‘Zion’. Very well, say the nations, who wants them now?
This mention of Zion is a theme within a theme, for it is preparing for the following chapter when the restoration of Zion will be a feature of the whole restoration (Jeremiah 31:12; Jeremiah 31:23; Jeremiah 31:40). Then indeed men will seek after Zion for His people will be restored. Its mention here in this derogatory fashion is thus preparation for its restoration.
‘Jacob’ Is To Be Restored To Its Former Glory By The Awesome Power Of YHWH. They Will Be His People And He Will Be Their God (Jeremiah 30:18 to Jeremiah 31:1 ).
The restoration of ‘Zion whom no man seeks after’ is now abundantly guaranteed. The city and palace will be rebuilt, thanksgiving and merriment will ring out, and their numbers will multiply. But above all, and in one way or another it will be repeated three times (Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 31:33), He will once more be their God and they will be His people. And all this will be accomplished by the tempestuous power of YHWH.
‘Thus says YHWH,
“Behold, I will turn again the captivity of Jacob’s tents,
And have compassion on his dwelling-places,
And the city will be built on its own hill,
And the palace will be inhabited after its own manner.
And from them will proceed thanksgiving,
And the voice of those who make merry,
And I will multiply them, and they will not be few,
I will also glorify them, and they will not be small.”
The picture here is of complete restoration for Judah/Israel through the activity of YHWH. ‘Jacob’s tents’ (the places where they dwelt) would be ‘turned again’ and restored to their former glory. YHWH would have compassion on their forsaken dwellingplaces. Each city would be built on its own hill (tel, mound), especially Jerusalem, the symbol of them all, and the palace-complex would be re-inhabited as a palace, presumably signifying the restoration of the Davidic house. And from both city and palace would arise thanksgiving and merriment, the sign of a people restored both spiritually and physically. And their numbers would grow more and more so that they would not be few, and He would glorify them (by fruitfulness and prosperity) so that they would not be insignificant.
The fulfilment of this would take a century and more, commencing with the ‘few’ who would return from Babylon, and growing as more and more exiles returned. A great landmark along the way would be the establishment of the Temple, and finally Jerusalem’s own glory would be established by Nehemiah. Jerusalem would once again rule proudly as an independent city, with eventually their own rulers in their own palaces. What followed Nehemiah is mainly hidden from us, only to re-emerge, firstly in the successes of the Maccabees, and the reign of the Hasmonean kings, and then in a prosperous Judaea and Galilee in the time of Jesus, by which time ‘Israel’ were a numerous people. And then the final Son of David came and established the true Israel and the beginnings of the everlasting Kingdom.
“Their children also shall be as beforetime,
And their congregation will be established before me,
And I will punish all who oppress them.”
All would be as before. Their young would again flourish and play in the streets as they had of old (Jeremiah 9:21), and the whole of the people (their ‘congregation’) would be established before Him, while all who oppressed them would be punished. A new Israel would arise out of the old, but this time a chastened and at least partially responsive Israel. It was such a ‘congregation’ that Jesus promised to establish, founded on the words of Peter about His Messiahship as the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:18).
“And their prince shall be of themselves,
And their ruler will proceed from the midst of them,
And I will cause him to draw near,
And he will approach to me,
For who is he who has had boldness,
To approach to me?
The word of YHWH.”
And you will be my people,
And I will be your God.”
Their rulers would be those whom they themselves chose from among them, and would be home-born, and would be one of themselves. And these rulers would approach YHWH directly. This would be something totally new for in previous times the king would approach through the priests. We can contrast how it was said of Joshua, “he shall stand before Eleazar, who will enquire for him in a matter of Urim before YHWH” (Numbers 27:21), and how even David and Solomon could not approach into the immediate presence of YHWH to ask His will, but stood outside the Sanctuary. However, the prerogative of the priests of YHWH would now also belong to those who ruled in Israel. This found a remarkable fulfilment in the Hasmonean priest-king rulers (it is noteworthy that this particular prophecy did not mention David), and even moreso in the twofold ministries of Jesus Christ, especially as portrayed in Hebrews. In Him we have the Priest-Ruler Supreme, One Who was from among themselves and Who had full access into the presence of His Father.
The question ‘who is He who has had boldness, to approach to me?’ can be seen as similar to the later question of Jesus to the rich young ruler, ‘Why do you call Me good?’ It is not denying that the One questioned about is good, or has the right to approach, but rather asking for all to consider the unique credentials of the One about Whom the question was asked.
And the end result will be that the true remnant of Judah/Israel will be His people and He will be their God. This could only ever be so for the remnant who returned to Him in repentance and trust, for all through the Old Testament it was they who formed the true Israel, the Israel within Israel. Thus there are always two Israels in balance, nominal disobedient Israel and true believing Israel. And the final promises are always to true Israel, not to cast-off Israel. The coming of Jesus would bring things to a climax, and the new believing Israel would arise out of the old, with the old cast off (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 21:43; John 15:1-6; Romans 11:17-28; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:11-22; 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 2:9; James 1:1).
“Behold, the tempest of YHWH,
Wrath is gone forth,
A sweeping tempest,
It will burst on the head of the wicked.”
The fierce anger of YHWH,
Will not return,
Until he has carried it out,
And until he has performed the intents of his heart,
In the latter days you will understand it.”
For these words compare Jeremiah 23:19-20. All that was being described would be accomplished by ‘the Tempest of YHWH’ as His wrath went forth, both against His own disbelieving people, and against their adversaries. Like a sweeping tempest it would burst on the head of the wicked, and it would not return or cease until He had carried out the intents of His heart. And towards the end, as it was coming into fulfilment, they would understand it. ‘The latter days’ indicates the latter days of this period in which all this would happen. We, as God’s people, of course understand it more fully for we have seen the arrival of the King, and await the everlasting kingdom.
“At that time,
The word of YHWH,
I will be the God of all the families of Israel,
And they will be my people.”
And the final consequence of all this, and this was the assured word of YHWH, was that YHWH would be God of all the families of Israel (an all-inclusive description taking in both Israel and Judah) and they would be His people. It would be true in the inter-testamental period of all who returned to the land from all the tribes of Israel, coming with a new trust in YHWH, and was seen also as true by the exiles who remained in ‘the dispersion’. God was seen as having re-established Himself as the God of His people. But there was still among them, certainly in the later days prior to Jesus’ coming, (and within His days), bitter fighting and rivalry. It thus became even more true that God was the God of His people when out of the Old Israel a New Israel was born (Matthew 21:43; compare 2 Corinthians 6:16-18), founded on the Apostles and Prophets, its beginnings found in the continuingly expanding believing remnant of Israel in Judaea and Galilee, expanding further to the believers among the dispersion, and then bursting forth in the incorporating of Gentiles into ‘the household of God’ as ‘fellow-citizens’ (Ephesians 2:11-22), all making up ‘the families of Israel’.
Note. It is, of course, a myth to think of Israel as ever having been made up only of actual descendants of Jacob. From the beginning it included servants and retainers of the patriarchs. This was further added to by the ‘mixed multitude’ (Exodus 12:38) who were incorporated into the families of Israel at Sinai, and other foreigners who joined with them in terms of Exodus 12:48. And ‘Israel’, continued to gather up foreigners into the family of Israel all through its long life (e.g. Uriah the Hittite). The idea of ‘descent’ was seen as very flexible, and was on the whole by adoption. Israel was therefore very much a cosmopolitan entity even in the time of Jeremiah, united by its rather frail belief in YHWH, than by ties of descent. The times of exile would result in many ‘Israelites’ being lost to Israel, as they merged into the nations among whom they settled, and thus Israel was constituted more from then on of those who remained loyal to the concept of Israel’s God, both in Palestine and among the dispersion. Thus when the Messiah came the whole of Israel was faced up to its final choice, and a new Israel was born out of those of Israel who truly believed and responded to Him. The rejection of the old while they were still in unbelief was signified by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and made clear by Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 21:43) and by Paul (Romans 11:17-28). The true Jerusalem was now the Jerusalem that was above (Galatians 4:21-31), which was now ‘the city of the living God’ (Hebrews 12:22), and the Temple was now Jesus Christ (John 2:19) and His people (1 Corinthians 3:16 and often). They were now the true Israel, believing Israel, and as always ready to accept into ‘the families of Israel’ all who truly believed, whether Jew or Gentile.
End of note.