Jeremiah Is Shut Up In Prison For Prophesying That Jerusalem Will Be Taken By Nebuchadrezzar (Jeremiah 32:1-5).
The scene now shifts from the rebuilding of the new Jerusalem to the time of the siege of the old Jerusalem, with the enemy camped around the city, and its people within being slowly starved into submission. All could look out over the walls and see the Babylonian siege engines and siege mounds, and all the related activity connected with the besieging of a city. This was relieved for a short time when an Egyptian army arrived to challenge the Babylonians, but that army was soon sent packing, with the siege being resumed. It was not until after this that Jeremiah was shut up, first in prison (Jeremiah 37:4-5; Jeremiah 37:11-13), and then in the court of the guard (Jeremiah 37:21). All efforts would meanwhile be being made to uphold the morale of the slowly starving city, so that Jeremiah’s prophecy that the city would fall would therefore have been seen as little short of treachery, which was one reason why he was subsequently put under guard in the court of the guard in the king’s palace complex.
‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.’
The date was around 588/7 BC. The siege began in c. 589 BC, and was now at its intensest, with hope of help from the Egyptians having faded. It was the time when, as a result of the attempted rebellion of Zedekiah (largely forced on him by his advisers), Nebuchadrezzar had surrounded the city with a view to forcing it into submission. 588/7 BC would be Nebuchadrezzars’s seventeenth year by Babylonian reckoning (omitting the accession year), and therefore the eighteenth year by this reckoning (including the accession year).
‘Now at that time the king of Babylon’s army was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the king of Judah’s house.’
With the city surrounded by the enemy Jeremiah, who was falsely accused of wishing to desert to the enemy (Jeremiah 37:13), had been imprisoned in the palace-complex prison in the court of the guard which was probably retained for the purpose of imprisoning high state officials who fell from grace. It was a far better situation than he had experienced earlier when he had been in what was basically little better than a cess pit (Jeremiah 38:6), a situation which could have proved fatal, and from which he had mercifully been delivered by a friendly party who had appealed to the king on his behalf (Jeremiah 38:7-10). And there in the palace-complex prison he was occasionally consulted surreptitiously even by Zedekiah, and could be visited by his friends and relatives.
‘For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, “Why do you prophesy, and say,
“Thus says YHWH,
Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon,
And he will take it,
And Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans,
But will surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon,
And will speak with him mouth to mouth,
And his eyes will behold his eyes,
And he will bring Zedekiah to Babylon,
And there shall he be until I visit him,
The word of YHWH,
Though you fight with the Chaldeans,
You will not prosper?
We are then given, in words spoken by Zedekiah, the gist of what Jeremiah had prophesied, which was why he had been shut up in prison. This was basically that there was no point in resistance to the Chaldeans as the end was certain, and any resistance to them would not prosper. And that end was that the city would be delivered into the hands of the Babylonians, along with Zedekiah himself. Zedekiah would then be carried off to Babylon, and would at some stage be brought face to face, and eyeball to eyeball, with Nebuchadrezzar, speaking with him mouth to mouth (while no doubt crouched in terror before him. As it turned out this would be the last sight, along with the execution of his sons, that he would see on earth before he was blinded). And he would remain in Babylon until YHWH ‘visited’ him. And this was the sure word of YHWH.
The idea of ‘visiting’ can sometimes signify release or judgment. Here it simply indicates YHWH’s carrying out of His intentions. As there is no record of his release at the time of the release of Jehoiachin it is probable that he was ‘visited’ by death prior to that date. All this is a reminder to us that if we do not pay heed to the word of God we must expect to face the consequences.
Section 2 Subsection 2 Part 2). Having Been Imprisoned During The Siege Of Jerusalem Jeremiah Buys A Piece Of Hereditary Land In Order To Demonstrate Confidence In The Future Of The Land Of Judah, Something Resulting In A Promise Of Restoration And Of The Coming Of The Shoot Of David (Jeremiah 32:1 to Jeremiah 33:16).
The promises of what would happen in ‘coming days’ having been given, Jeremiah is now given an initial earnest (proof of occurrence) that it will happen. This part commences with the defining phrase, ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 32:1), and it describes how Jeremiah is shut up in prison by Zedekiah during the siege of Jerusalem, and yet nevertheless buys a piece of hereditary land on the death of his uncle as a token that Judah still has a future. After prayer he is then assured by YHWH that while Jerusalem must certainly suffer because of its sins and its sinful people must be taken into exile, He will one day restore them again under a Shoot (or Branch) of David through an everlasting covenant (Jeremiah 32:1 to Jeremiah 33:26).
Part 2 is divided up into two sub-parts, both occurring while Jeremiah was in the palace complex prison during the final stages of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and in both of them restoration is promised once the worst is over.
· Sub-Part A. ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --.’ After its destruction Jerusalem will one day be restored, something guaranteed to Jeremiah in a symbolic act of purchasing family land (Jeremiah 32:1-44).
· Sub-part B. ‘Moreover the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the second time --.’ Despite the devastation coming YHWH promises that one day He will restore His people, settle them securely in the land, and will restore the Davidic kingship and the Levitical priesthood in accordance with His covenants made with them (Jeremiah 33:1-26).
Sub-Part A. After Its Destruction Jerusalem Will One Day Be Restored, Something Guaranteed To Jeremiah In A Symbolic Act Of Purchasing Family Land (Jeremiah 32:1-44).
Jeremiah is commanded to buy an hereditary piece of land as a symbol of what YHWH is going to do with regard to Judah. This confuses Jeremiah who cannot understand how such an action ties in with YHWH’s warnings of the near certain destruction of Jerusalem, and he comes before YHWH in prayer, arguing out the pros and cons about whether YHWH intends to deliver His people at the last moment. YHWH replies by confirming that He will cause Jerusalem to be destroyed in the near future, but that one day He will also cause the exiles to return again to their own land. There He will transform them and make with them an everlasting covenant, with land once again being bought and sold in the land of Judah (Jeremiah 32:1-44).
Jeremiah Is Commanded By YHWH To Demonstrate His Confidence In The Future Of Judah By Buying Land From His Cousin Hanamel On The Death Of His Uncle. But Even Jeremiah Is Puzzled By It And It Drives Him To Prayer (Jeremiah 32:6-25).
There is no reason to doubt that Hanamel had taken shelter in Jerusalem and pessimistically saw no future for the land in Anathoth. Among the wealthy (and the family appears to have been comparatively wealthy) it was only those favoured by the Babylonians (and that would include Jeremiah) who could have any hopes of future possession of land. This may have been one reason for passing the land on to Jeremiah. Furthermore in the desperate situation of the siege he may have needed money at hand in order to buy food. Thus it would no doubt have been seen by him as a rather good move to sell it to Jeremiah before he lost it totally to the Babylonians. The price may well, therefore, have been a bargain one, with Jeremiah having the right of redemption because Hanamel had no sons.
It was seen as important in Israel/Judah to keep family land within the wider family (compare the situation in Ruth 3:9-13; Ruth 4:1-12; also Leviticus 25:24 ff.). When it was being sold it must therefore be offered within the family, a custom exemplified here.
‘And Jeremiah said, The word of YHWH came to me, saying,’
We have once again one of Jeremiah’s distinctive markers indicating a new passage. And once again it is intended to remind us that all that Jeremiah spoke was the word that came to him direct from YHWH. The passage may be divided up into:
1. Details of the property transaction (Jeremiah 32:7-15).
2. Jeremiah’s prayer in regard to it once he had completed it (Jeremiah 32:16 onwards).
The Transaction (Jeremiah 32:7-15).
“Behold, Hanamel, the son of Shallum your uncle, will come to you, saying, ‘Buy you my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it’.”
YHWH prepared Jeremiah for the visit that was about to be made to him by telling him about his cousin Hanamel who was desirous of selling family land in Anathoth, Jeremiah’s birthplace. We do not know details of why it was available because normally priestly land could not be sold. But this may have been extra land which had been bought by the family, or had come into it through a female who was of a non-priestly line. And the point was that being family land it had to be offered to the next of kin. As Hanamel’s cousin Jeremiah appears to have been next of kin, Hanamel presumably being childless.
‘ So Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the guard in accordance with the word of YHWH, and said to me, “Buy my field, I pray you, which is in Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption is yours, buy it for yourself.”
Hanamel may have been desperate to sell the field in order to be able to buy food at the very expensive prices for which food was being sold in a siege ravaged city, and it may well be that he was making the offer as a legal formality, convinced in his own mind that Jeremiah would refuse. Or he may have been relying on the fact of Jeremiah’s popularity with the Babylonians as making the offer seem worthwhile, at least to him. He may indeed have considered that, by selling it to Jeremiah, it would in the event of a Babylonian victory still be held in the family. (Knowing that conversely, if Jerusalem was delivered, Jeremiah’s life would not be worth a moment’s purchase). Whatever the reason, just as YHWH had said, he arrived in Jeremiah’s cell in order to make the offer. The phraseology used may well have been a formal one used in such transactions, which would explain why full and seemingly ‘unnecessary’ details of the land (but very necessary in a legal context) were given, with the details having to be fully specified to make the offer valid. It would be legally necessary to distinguish Anathoth in Benjamin from any other possible Anathoth for any who in the distant future might look into the matter.
‘Then I knew that this was the word of YHWH.’
Having been forewarned Jeremiah recognised in this the hand of YHWH. He knew that it was what YHWH had purposed through His word.
‘And I bought the field which was in Anathoth from Hanamel my uncle’s son, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.’
So he went ahead and bought his deceased uncle’s field, at a price agreed at seventeen shekels of silver (literally ‘seven shekels and ten’ which was probably following a legal format, or may have been intended cryptically to indicate the seventy years of captivity). This was not strictly ‘money’ (coins) but a certain weight of silver, which explains why it had to be weighed out. As we know nothing about the size of the piece of land, nor local land values, nor how long it was to the year of yubile, we cannot evaluate the price. But it does indicate that Jeremiah came from a fairly wealthy family and had a fair level of resources available to him even in prison.
‘And I subscribed the deed, and sealed it, and called witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.’
Jeremiah then wrote out the deed and solemnly sealed it, calling witnesses to witness to the payment of the correct price.
‘So I took the deed of the purchase, both that which was sealed, according to the law and custom, and that which was open, and I delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who subscribed the deed of the purchase, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the guard.’
It is apparent that two deeds were in fact completed ‘according to law and custom’, one being left open and one sealed. They were then handed over to Baruch, in the presence of Hanamel, and in the presence of the witnesses mentioned above, and in front of all the Jews who were gathered in the court of the guard. These may well have been supporters of Jeremiah who had gathered there in order to demonstrate that support, and in order to encourage him (and themselves in the light of the siege). Their presence indicates the relative restricted freedom that Jeremiah enjoyed. The transaction was therefore well witnessed. The fact that Jeremiah was buying land may well have become the latest on dit, intriguing the people of Jerusalem, and it would encourage his supporters, even if they did not fully understand it.
Baruch was Jeremiah’s faithful friend and secretary. His importance in a secular sense is brought out by the mention of two forebears, and the fact that his brother Seraiah held an important post in the court of King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 51:59). But his greatest importance undoubtedly lay in the support and help that he continually gave to Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 36:4 he is depicted as acting as his secretary and amanuensis, in Jeremiah 43:3 he is accused of encouraging Jeremiah to preach sedition, and in Jeremiah 36:26 he is seen as sharing his sufferings and perils.
‘And I charged Baruch before them, saying, “Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, Take these deeds, this deed of the purchase which is sealed, and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.’
Then he charged Baruch in the Name of YHWH of hosts to put them in an earthenware jar for preservation into the distant future. The jar would then itself be sealed with pitch in order to preserve the contents, and would have the contents written on the outside in case the deeds ever had to be consulted.
‘For thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, Houses and fields and vineyards will yet again be bought in this land.’
Finally he declared that by this ‘YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel’ was indicating that one day fields and vineyards would once again be sold in the land. On Jeremiah’s part it was a firm statement of faith in the future.
Jeremiah Questions YHWH As To Why He Has Commanded Him To Do This Strange Thing Of Buying Land If The Land Was In Fact Simply Going To Be Taken Over By The Chaldeans. He May Well Have Wondered Whether This Did This Then Mean That YHWH Intended To Intervene At the Last Moment And Save His People (Jeremiah 32:17-25).
Having handed over the deeds of purchase of the land to Baruch, Jeremiah comes to YHWH in prayer, and in the prayer he sums up how he sees the present situation, setting out the pros and cons. On the one hand he sets out his arguments as to why he knows that YHWH could deliver if He so wished, and on the other he acknowledges that YHWH’s thoughts are based on a greater wisdom than his own, that the people are unworthy, and that it does not at present look as though He is going to deliver. He may have intended it to be a challenge to the mighty YHWH to once again act to save His people miraculously, in view of the fact that He has made him, Jeremiah, purchase a piece of occupied land, or to be a query as to why He has called on him to buy such land if He knows that He is not going to deliver His people. Or it may indeed be seen as a combined challenge with both options in mind.
The background to the prayer is that the enemy are at the very gates of Jerusalem and have dug in, building mounds and awaiting Jerusalem’s final submission, seemingly with no intended intervention by YHWH at hand. But as Jeremiah watches this from the city walls he is also conscious of the power of YHWH and of what history has revealed about both His ability and His willingness to save, (He is after all a God Who shows covenant love to thousands), and it would appear that he was thus wondering what YHWH’s final intentions might be at this final stage. (He may well have had in mind the last minute, remarkable deliverance of Jerusalem in the time of Isaiah).
So in his prayer to YHWH in the light of this, he deliberately draws attention to the positive, to His great and creative power, and His ability to do whatever He wants. Nothing, he points out, is too hard for Him. He is indeed the Mighty God of Battle, so he has no doubt that He could deliver if He wished to do so. And he also, possibly hopefully, draws attention to His covenant compassion, although he then immediately contrasts it with His judgment on sinners. He is clearly not wanting to presume.
On the other hand he recognises that He is the One Who is all-wise and sees all men’s actions, and deals with them accordingly. That may count against Judah. On the other hand it could count against their enemies, and he recalls in this regard how God had similarly delivered Israel from Egypt when they were in an impossible situation, because He was aware of the sinfulness of the Egyptians. And had He not done similar things at other times since, even when His people were failing Him? Indeed he underlines how often YHWH has miraculously delivered His people in the past.
On the other hand he also acknowledges that, in spite of YHWH’s past goodness revealed in the giving to His people of a land flowing with milk and honey, YHWH’s people had once again failed Him and had not obeyed His voice or walked in His Law. Indeed they had done nothing of all that He had commanded them. He therefore acknowledges that that is why they are now in this perilous situation, and why siege mounts are visible outside the walls, and why the conditions within the walls of sword, famine and pestilence appear to be ensuring a final enemy victory. That might appear to settle the matter. But then he draws on what he sees as one last glimmer of hope. YHWH has caused him to buy land in Judah almost as though nothing was going on. Does that then mean that YHWH intends to deliver Jerusalem? He may well have been asking, ‘You have acted so in the past, are you now about to do so again, in view of the fact that you have made me buy this land?’ The impression being given by the prayer is that Jeremiah is not quite sure what YHWH intends to do with the result that he has gone over all the facts which could influence such a decision in his prayer. On the one hand he knows that He could deliver them if He so wished, because He is mighty and powerful, and compassionate, and wise, and experienced as a miraculous Deliverer, but on the other he remembers that YHWH sees all that is going on and that YHWH has declared in the past the certainty of the destruction of Jerusalem. On the other hand this last does not appear to tie in with his having required Jeremiah to purchase a piece of land. The question Jeremiah is considering is in his prayer is, will He save or will He judge? (The prayer considers the arguments both ways). No wonder he is puzzled.
The prayer is typical of expanded Hebrew prayer which summarises the whole situation before coming to a conclusion, and in this case initially exalts YHWH as mighty Creator and miraculous Deliverer, before going on to present arguments in depth based on the people’s sinfulness which might cause Him not this time to act in His divine power. We can compare for this kind of discursive prayer Daniel 9:14-19, and elements in Ezra 9:5-15; Isaiah 37:16-20. Note also Jonah 2:2-9 which demonstrates the Hebrew art of introducing into a simple prayer of distress matters of divine moment. This is typical prophetic prayer.
‘Now after I had delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to YHWH, saying,’
We should note here that Jeremiah obeyed first and then prayed afterwards. Our prayers would often be more successful if we learned this lesson. All too often our prayers are hindered because we are not walking in obedience to what God has called on us to do when we pray. But Jeremiah first did what he was told, and then brought his grievance to YHWH. Indeed it was his obedience that gave him grounds for doing so.
“Ah Lord YHWH! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you, who shows covenant love to thousands, and recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them. The great, the mighty God, YHWH of hosts is his name.”
Firstly he draws attention to the positive possibilities. He draws attention to the greatness and all-powerful nature of YHWH, and declares that YHWH is the sovereign ‘Lord’, Who has made the heavens and the earth by His own great power and personal activity. In other words that He is the Great Creator Who is over all things and can therefore do anything that He wants, whether in saving or in judging. For the idea of ‘Your great power and your outstretched arm’ compare Deuteronomy 9:29 where it referred to His intervention in the deliverance from Egypt. Here it refers to His bringing about the very act of creation by His personal act of power.
Indeed he stresses that it needs to be recognised that there is nothing that is ‘too hard’ (extraordinary, difficult) for Him. These words, which are repeated in Jeremiah 32:27, confirming their authenticity, are drawn from Genesis 18:14. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that He could save if He wanted to.
Furthermore he points out that He is also the God of Moses with whom He had made His covenant, for on the one hand, as He had declared to Moses, He shows ‘covenant love’ to thousands (Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:7), and on the other He recompenses to men their iniquity in failing to observe that covenant, both in respect of themselves and of their sinning descendants. Not the contrast between YHWH ‘showing covenant love to thousands’ and those who pour their iniquities ‘into the bosom of their children’. This is the inheritance that they leave their children by having taught them sinful ways. Compare for these descriptions the words of Moses in Exodus 20:5-6; and especially Jeremiah 34:7. From the point of view of his argument this is neutral, leaving YHWH options either way. On the one hand YHWH could respond in compassion, in accordance with His covenant. On the other He could condemn on the basis of their iniquities.
And on top of this he draws out that He is also the God of battle, for He is ‘the great, the mighty God’ (compare Isaiah 9:6), Whose Name is ‘YHWH of hosts’. In all this we have an indication of Jeremiah’s sound knowledge of early Scripture, and a view of YHWH which is in deliberate contrast to Judah’s powerlessness at the hands of the besieging Babylonians. He is making clear that if they are not delivered it will be because YHWH chooses not to deliver them, not because He cannot.
“Great in counsel, and mighty in work, whose eyes are open on all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings,”
He then points out that YHWH is also both all-wise (great in counsel) and all-powerful in His activity (mighty in work), as well as being all-knowing, with His eyes open to all the ways of mere ‘sons of men’, in order that He might reward each according to their deserts, and according to what they have achieved. Thus YHWH knows what is best and he is confident that He will make the right decision. We can compare with his description here the words of David in Psalms 53:2, ‘God looks down from Heaven on the sons of men, to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.’ Thus if He chooses not to intervene on Judah’s behalf it will not be because He is unaware of precisely what is going on.
“Who set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even to this day, both in Israel and among men, and made yourself a name, as at this day,”
Furthermore he points out that He is a God of continuing wonders and miracles. He initially established signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and has continued to produce such signs and miracles ‘to this day’. In mind here are no doubt the miraculous deliverances in Joshua (e.g. Jeremiah 10:8-14), Judges (e.g. Jeremiah 5:19-21), 1 Samuel (e.g. Jeremiah 7:8-11), 2 Kings (e.g. Jeremiah 13:4-5), and especially miraculous deliverances from sieges such as are found in 2 Kings 7, 19, to say nothing of displays of YHWH’s powers among the nations (‘among men’) in the form of earthquakes, storms and other ‘miraculous’ events (e.g. Joshua 10:8-14; Judges 5:19-21; 1 Samuel 7:8-11). Indeed thereby He had made a Name for Himself. There was thus plenty of precedent for YHWH’s intervention, had He wished to do so. But now YHWH appeared to be silent.
“And brought forth your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terror,”
With the same strong hand and outstretched arm that He had used in creating, He had also personally delivered His people out of Egypt, by means of signs and wonders, His strong hand and outstretched arm, and great terrors. There could be no doubt therefore of His ability to save should He desire to do so. Babylon was no mightier than ancient Egypt.
“And gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey,”
And it was He Who had demonstrated His love for His people by giving them the land that they now possessed (the very land which Jeremiah had bought a portion of), a good and worthwhile land. It had been His gift to them, on the basis of His promises to their forefathers. (In this lay possible hope).
“And they came in, and possessed it, but they did not obey your voice, nor did they walk in your law. They have done nothing of all that you commanded them to do. Therefore you have caused all this evil to come on them.”
And the result was that they had come in and possessed it. Victory and territory had been secured with YHWH’s help. But then had arisen the problem. They had not obeyed His voice or walked in His Law. Indeed they had done nothing of what He had commanded them. They had flagrantly disobeyed Him. And by doing so they had forfeited any right to the land. (That appeared to cancel out the possible hope).
“Behold, the mounds, they are come to the city to take it, and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence, and what you have spoken is come about, and, behold, you see it.”
Then he calls on YHWH to consider what lies before His very eyes. The siege mounds of the Babylonians have been built up outside the city walls, because they have come there to take the city, and it has already for all practical purposes been given into their hands because the city is almost consumed with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence as YHWH had previously warned. Death and weakness were therefore everywhere, as YHWH Himself could see. It was in no position to consider resisting.
“And you have said to me, O Lord YHWH, Buy you the field for money, and call witnesses, whereas the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.”
On the other hand, having considered YHWH’s power to deliver, in contrast with the present situation of the city, he still has cause for perplexity. What, he asks, is YHWH’s intention in view of the fact that He has called on Jeremiah to buy a piece of land in the presence of witnesses (something which appeared to suggest that the land still had a future)? On the one hand he has obeyed YHWH and has bought the land, and on the other YHWH is delivering the city into the hands of the Chaldeans. This did not appear to make sense.
This is a perfect example of praying through a problem, by listing the pros and cons of the situation and considering the alternatives. The pros are that God is all-powerful and all-wise and mighty enough to deliver, and often acts graciously. The cons are that the people are totally undeserving and disobedient to the covenant, and thus subject to its curses. The question then was what YHWH’s reaction was going to be in the light of all the facts.
Note On Jeremiah’s Depictions Of God.
In chapter 10 Jeremiah had depicted God, in stark contrast with idols, as:
· Unique, so that there was none like Him, great and with a Name great in might (Jeremiah 10:6).
· To be feared as King of the nations, superior to all who have authority over the nations (Jeremiah 10:7).
· The true God, the living God, the everlasting King, before Whose wrath the earth trembles, so that the nations cannot stand up against His indignation (Jeremiah 10:10).
· The One Who has made Heaven and earth, establishing the earth by His wisdom and stretching out the heavens by His understanding (Jeremiah 10:12).
· The One Who brings into being and controls storm, tempest, lightning, rain and wind (Jeremiah 10:13).
· The One Who is the Former of all things (Jeremiah 10:16).
Now in this passage he has expanded on that view, and brought it into historical context in the light of His dealings with men. Thus:
· He made Heaven and earth by His great power and by His outstretched arm (Jeremiah 32:17 a).
· Nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17 b).
· He shows covenant love to thousands (Jeremiah 32:18 a).
· He recompenses iniquity on the sinful and their descendants (Jeremiah 32:18 b).
· He is the great, the mighty God and YHWH of hosts is His Name (Jeremiah 32:18 c).
· He is great in counsel, and mighty in His activity (Jeremiah 32:19 a).
· His eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men to give to all what they deserve because of their ways and actions (Jeremiah 32:19 b).
· He set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and had continued to do so to this day, making Himself a reputation both among His own people and among the nations (Jeremiah 32:20).
· He brought His people out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terror (Jeremiah 32:21).
· He had given to them the land that He had promised to their forefathers, a land flowing with milk and honey (Jeremiah 32:22).
· He had brought evil on them, in the form of the Babylonians, because they had not obeyed His voice, nor walked in His Law, nor done anything of what He had commanded (Jeremiah 32:23).
Note how perfectly each list is suited to its context. The one contrasting Him with man-made idols, the other establishing His ability to act in history, with power, wisdom, understanding and discretion, while keeping in mind the deserts of His people in the face of His goodness towards them.
YHWH’s Answer Is Unequivocal. It Is True That Nothing Is Too Hard For Him, But That Must Be Seen As Precisely The Reason Why He Was Delivering The City Into The Hands Of The Chaldeans. For He Will Also Later Cause His People To Return From Exile So That Land Will Once Again Be Bought And Sold In Judah (Jeremiah 32:26-44).
YHWH answers both of the questions that are preying on Jeremiah’s mind. On the one hand He stresses that He does intend to deliver the city into the hands of the Chaldeans because of all their iniquity (Jeremiah 32:28-35), and on the other He draws out that He does intend one day to deliver them again and restore them to the land, so that they might buy and sell land once again (Jeremiah 32:36-44). Thus both of Jeremiah’s options are to be seen as true. And that is because NOTHING is too hard for YHWH.
‘Then came the word of YHWH to Jeremiah, saying,’
Observing His servant’s perplexity YHWH graciously comes to Jeremiah with the final answer to his questions.
“Behold, I am YHWH, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?”
He confirms that Jeremiah is quite correct in having said that nothing is too hard from Him because He is ‘the God of all flesh’, the Universal Lord, with complete authority over all men. For the phrase ‘of all flesh’ compare Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16.
Jerusalem Will Be Destroyed Because Of The People’s Gross Sinfulness (Jeremiah 32:28-35).
“Therefore thus says YHWH, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he will take it,”
And it is on this basis that He intends to give the city into the hands of the Chaldeans (another name for the Babylonians, or possibly in this case Nebuchadrezzar’s choice troops) and into the hands of Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, who will consequently take it. Note that it is because YHWH so chooses that it will happen. It will happen just as He has determined.
“And the Chaldeans, who fight against this city, will come and set this city on fire, and burn it, with the houses, on whose roofs they have offered incense to Baal, and poured out drink-offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.”
YHWH then deigns to explain why He has made this choice. It is because the flat roofs of the houses had become mini-sanctuaries to Baal and to other gods, with incense being offered there to Baal, and drink offerings poured out to other gods. It was because it had become a hive of idolatry, provoking Him to anger. That was why He had brought in the Chaldeans, in order that they might purge the city with fire. The smoke of burning buildings would replace that of incense. The next few verses will expand on YHWH’s grievances in detail.
“For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done only what was evil in my sight from their youth, for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, the word of YHWH.”
He accuses the people of both Israel and Judah of having done ‘only what was evil in my sight from their youth’. The idea is not that none ever performed a good action, but that even in their good actions their motives were wrong. Their whole attitudes and trends of life had been contrary to His will. Note how ‘the children of Israel and the children of Judah’ are summarised as ‘the children of Israel’ in the one sentence. ‘The work of their hands’ includes their overall disobedience and evil activity, but may well partly have in mind the idols that they had made for themselves with their own hands. And this was the sure word of YHWH.
‘From their youth’ probably indicates that they had done it from the earliest days in the wilderness (compare Jeremiah 2:2), although alternatively it may indicate that they had sinned grievously even before they were adults.
“For this city has been to me a provocation of my anger and of my wrath from the day that they built it even to this day, that I should remove it from before my face, because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
What is more the whole city of Jerusalem had provoked Him to anger constantly from its very beginnings, both from when it was a Jebusite city, combined with suburbs built by Benjamin and Judah, and from when David and Solomon had rebuilt and extended it. (Even David had brought YHWH’s wrath on it through his behaviour with Bathsheba, and by his later arrogance and dilatoriness, combined with the misbehaviour of the people (2 Samuel 11, 24)). They had done it to so severely that it was beyond redemption to such an extent that He was now determined to remove it from before His face. Furthermore the blame was to be shared by all, for it fell on the people of both Israel and Judah, their kings, their princes, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. None were exempt from blame (compare Jeremiah 5:1-9). All had provoked His anger.
“And they have turned to me the back, and not the face, and though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction.”
Indeed they had rudely turned their backs on Him rather than looking Him in the face (i.e. had given Him perfunctory recognition while at the same time treating Him for all intents and purposes as though He was not there by worshipping idols). Compare Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 7:24. And they had done this despite His great efforts to bring them back to Himself, and His efforts to instruct them. Once again we have the Jeremaic expression, ‘rising up early and teaching them’ signifying great effort. God had done all that He could but they had not listened.
“But they set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it.”
And to cap it all they had even set up idols in YHWH’s own house, the house which was called by His Name, thus defiling it. Compare the similar statement in Jeremiah 7:30. This included an alter to the hosts of heaven, and certainly an Asherah image. It also included vessels for Baal which suggest that a pillar to Baal was also set up. See 2 Kings 16:10-12; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:6.
“And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech; which I did not command them, nor did it come into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
But even possibly worse than that was that they had committed a sin so horrible that YHWH did not even want to bring it to mind, in that they had set up high places of Baal in the Valley of Hinnom and had caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech. In Jeremiah 19:5 this is described as ‘burning their sons as burnt offerings to Baal’, so that there is no doubt that child sacrifice was involved. Molech was the fiery god of the only half-civilised Ammonites, and had clearly been conjoined with Baal in this form of worship (Baal means ‘Lord’, Molech means ‘King). And not only had YHWH not commanded it, but He could not even bear to think of it.
However, Once Jerusalem Has Been Destroyed And A Reasonable Period Has Elapsed, YHWH Will Restore His People To Their Land And Will Once Again Be Their God, Giving Them A New Heart To Fear Him For Ever, And He Will Make An Everlasting Covenant With Them Plating Them In The Land So That They Will Once Again Buy And Sell Property, As He Had Promised To Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:36-44).
YHWH promises that whilst it was true that Jerusalem would be given into the hands of the king of Babylon after enduring great suffering, nevertheless he would one day gather them from all the countries to which He had driven them, and would give them true and steadfast hearts that would fear Him for ever, and would make an everlasting covenant with them (clearly the covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34) that He would never again turn away from following them in order to do good, having put constancy in their hearts. He would plant them again in the land, and bring good on them. And fields would once again be bought and sold in the land.
Looking ahead Jeremiah no doubt saw this in terms of one final once-for-all development on their being restored to the land, for that would be his hope, and he was not called on to proclaim what was beyond his ability to comprehend. But as with all prophecy it has to be taken piece by piece and applied to what has happened and what will happen. God’s panorama is very large and very lengthy, and He has plenty of time. Certainly the people would begin to return to the land within fifty years, and gradually that trickle would become a flood, repopulating Palestine ready for the coming of Christ. Over that time He would once again be their God, and they would be His people. And a good number of them would have restored faith and restored hearts, and would enjoy a certain level of security. But it would not then have the completeness described here, for what is described here could only be fulfilled in eternity, when the hearts of God’s people are set towards good everlastingly, and their security also is eternal. No experience on earth could accomplish this (not even a so-called Millennium).
Nor could YHWH’s everlasting covenant be given in this fashion to sinful men living on earth, under whatever circumstances. It requires hearts which have been made perfect, ‘the spirits of righteous men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23). And this will only be found in the heavenly kingdom and the new Heaven and the new earth.
Thus the promise is very much a down to earth one of the present, while at the same time having an eternal perspective. It combines near and far. Many of God’s people did return from many countries preparing for the first coming of the Messiah. And many would be transformed. And an even greater transformations would take place once the Messiah had come and He had drenched His people with the Holy Spirit. They would indeed have a new heart and a new spirit. And the perfection described here would be incipient within them, in preparation for their eternal future. But the final fulfilment has undoubtedly to await that eternal future. And no fictitious Millennium (unknown to Jesus, Paul and Peter) is required.
“And now therefore thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, concerning this city, of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence’,”
We have here YHWH’s response to Jeremiah’s puzzled condition. Jeremiah had indeed prophesied that Jerusalem would be given into the hand of the King of Babylon accompanied by sword, famine and pestilence, the three accompaniments of war, for which see Jeremiah 32:24. But what he must not overlook was what was to follow.
“Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries, where I have driven them in my anger, and in my wrath, and in great indignation, and I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely,”
For it was YHWH’s intention to gather His people from all the countries where He had driven them ‘in His anger, and wrath and great indignation’ (a threefold combination bringing out the greatness of His fury). And He would bring them back to this place and cause them to dwell in safety.
While we are later only given glimpses of the beginning of this return (in Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc), there is really no reason to doubt that the Palestine of Jesus’ time did contain peoples who had returned from many countries, and who then dwelt there in comparative safety. And given the constant contact that had been maintained with other exiles, and the deep faith of many in exile, it was inevitable. We do not have to look to a future return of a moribund Israel for the fulfilment of this promise.
“And they will be my people, and I will be their God,”
Again there can be no doubt that re-established Israel did see themselves as YHWH’s people, and YHWH as their God. Nor can we doubt that God saw it in the same way, for He sent His Son among them seeking ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 10:6). But there was also undoubtedly a deeper fulfilment in the formation of the early church of true believers after Christ’s resurrection (2 Corinthians 6:16). But in all cases there would be false among the true. Thus its final complete fulfilment awaits the time when all half-heartedness will be done away and His people are finally His for ever (Revelation 21:3).
“And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them,”
Here we find a repetition of the promise of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). It is a guarantee that once such a change of heart has taken place it can never be reversed. They will fear Him for ever. ‘For He Who has begun a good work in them will confirm it until the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). ‘He will confirm them to the end, for He is faithful Who promised’ (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). It represents a ‘fear of the Lord’ which is permanent and cannot be taken away (although a spurious and temporary fear of the Lord is possible). Such a fear of the Lord must have been present in His true people from earliest times. We need not doubt that Adam came to it. And it was central to the Christian Gospel, so that Jesus could say, ‘They will never perish and none will pluck them from My hand’ (John 10:28). And in a good number of cases it would be passed on to their children, but only when they also truly believed.
“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.”
A few moments’ thought will bring home the fact that this everlasting covenant could not be given to any ordinary nation. For no ordinary nation could ever be composed of people of whom not one would ever turn from Him. It was certainly not true of Israel after the return from exile, for in the end many of them rejected our Lord Jesus Christ, although that nation certainly contained some of whom it was true, those of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:38). Nor is it true of so-called Israel today. Indeed the only nation like this described in Scripture is the new nation created by Jesus (Matthew 21:43) composed of all who truly believe in Him. They are the ones whom He has promised to keep and maintain for ever (John 6:37; John 6:39; John 10:27-28; 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 1:24). For His salvation is for those for whom He ‘works in them to will and do of His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13), and for whom He is their Saviour.
But even in this new nation there are undoubtedly those who do ‘depart from Him’ for a time. It is only in eternity that we will discover complete steadfastness by all. Thus there are a number of partial fulfilments, but only one final complete fulfilment.
And this reference of it to eternity ties in with the fact that it is an everlasting covenant. No manipulating of the Hebrew can make this mean any other than ‘everlasting’, for that is the point of the promise. It will be unfailing for ever. And that requires an eternal kingdom.
“Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.”
This is certainly not true of modern so-called Israel. He can hardly be said to have planted them in the land with His whole heart and His whole soul, and they are undoubtedly demonstrating attitudes which are not of God. They are there still largely in unbelief, and they have already planted themselves there. (Jeremiah always speaks of a return following repentance, and modern so-called Israel has not repented, otherwise they would have come to believe in Jesus Christ). It thus mainly has in mind the restoration after the exile. YHWH did rejoice over them to do them good, as He assures both Haggai and Zechariah, and He did plant them in the land with His whole heart and His whole soul. But again in the end it applies finally to the new Heaven and the new earth where Abraham will receive the promises made to him for ever, in the better country, that is the heavenly (Hebrews 11:10-14).
“For thus says YHWH, In the same way as I have brought all this great evil on this people, so will I bring on them all the good that I have promised them.”
The certainty of the future is underlined. The initial fulfilment was undoubtedly after the Exile. Having brought evil on them He did in the future bring good on them. But it was necessarily limited. Thus the final fulfilment awaited the establishment of the new nation of Matthew 21:43, and even then only as finalised in eternity. Thus Jeremiah was prophesying beyond what he could possibly comprehend. What he did know was that YHWH was promising the very best for all who were His own.
“And fields will be bought in this land, of which you say, ‘It is desolate, without man or beast. It is given into the hand of the Chaldeans’.”
The buying of fields did, of course, become common after the Exile, even though at this time it must have seemed unlikely that it would ever do so. The fields would no longer be desolate.
“Men will buy fields for money, and subscribe the deeds, and seal them, and call witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the hill-country, and in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South, for I will cause their captivity to return, the word of YHWH.”
YHWH wanted to root His promises in a genuine hope to which the people of Jeremiah’s time could look forward. And thus He promised that just as Jeremiah had bought land at Anathoth, so would men in the future buy fields in the land for silver, and would like Jeremiah subscribe to deeds and seal them. The land thus had a future, and this future would not be restricted but would be true over the whole land. The mention of the ‘land of Benjamin’ stresses that such purchases will take place in the very part of the land where Jeremiah had made his purchase. Interestingly there is overall no specific mention of the northern kingdom, but we must remember that Jeremiah was making his promises very much to the nation of his time, and that nation did not possess the northern kingdom. The ‘cities of the South’ were of course the cities in the Negeb. The hill country and the lowlands covered the remainder of Judah, the cities of Judah being added in for good measure. The mention of Jerusalem is an assurance that one day it will be restored, as it was by Nehemiah. And all this would be because, on the certain and sure word of YHWH, their captivity would be returned. The exiles would come home.
‘For I will cause their captivity to return, the word of YHWH.’ Note that this is a uniting thematic phrase connecting together chapters 32 and 33. See Jeremiah 33:7; Jeremiah 33:11; Jeremiah 33:26.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 32". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany