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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 31

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Jeremiah 31:0


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Israel's Mourning Turned to JoyThe Remnant of Israel SavedThe Book of Consolation(vv. Jeremiah 30:1-40)Israel's Return HomePromise of Recovery for Israel(vv. Jeremiah 30:1-22)
Jeremiah 31:1-6(vv. Jeremiah 31:2-6)Jeremiah 31:1Jeremiah 31:1-6(vv. Jeremiah 31:2-6)Jeremiah 31:1-9Jeremiah 31:1-6(vv. Jeremiah 31:2-6)
Jeremiah 31:2(vv. Jeremiah 31:2)
Jeremiah 31:3-6(vv. Jeremiah 31:3-6)
Jeremiah 31:7-9(vv. Jeremiah 31:7-9)Jeremiah 31:7-9(vv. Jeremiah 31:7-9)Jeremiah 31:7-9(vv. Jeremiah 31:7-9)(vv. Jeremiah 31:7-9)Jeremiah 31:7(vv. Jeremiah 31:7)
Jeremiah 31:8-9(vv. Jeremiah 31:8-9)
Jeremiah 31:10-14(vv. Jeremiah 31:10-14)Jeremiah 31:10-12(vv. Jeremiah 31:10-12)Jeremiah 31:10-14(vv. Jeremiah 31:10-14)Jeremiah 31:10-14(vv. Jeremiah 31:10-14)Jeremiah 31:10-14(vv. Jeremiah 31:10-14)
Jeremiah 31:13-14(vv. Jeremiah 31:13-14)
Mercy On EphraimThe Lord's Mercy On Israel
Jeremiah 31:15-20(vv. Jeremiah 31:15-20)Jeremiah 31:15(vv. Jeremiah 31:15)Jeremiah 31:15-17(vv. Jeremiah 31:15-17)Jeremiah 31:15-17(vv. Jeremiah 31:15-17)Jeremiah 31:15-20(vv. Jeremiah 31:15-20)
Jeremiah 31:16-17(vv. Jeremiah 31:16-17)
Jeremiah 31:18-20(vv. Jeremiah 31:18-20)Jeremiah 31:18-20(vv. Jeremiah 31:18-20)Jeremiah 31:18-19(vv. Jeremiah 31:18-19)
Jeremiah 31:20-22(vv. Jeremiah 31:20-22)
Jeremiah 31:21-22(vv. Jeremiah 31:21-22)Jeremiah 31:21-22(vv. Jeremiah 31:21-22)
Jeremiah 31:21-22(vv. Jeremiah 31:21-22)Future Prosperity Of JudahJeremiah 31:21-22(vv. Jeremiah 31:21-22)The Future Prosperity of God's PeoplePromise of Restoration to Judah
Jeremiah 31:23-26(vv. Jeremiah 31:23c)Jeremiah 31:23-30Jeremiah 31:23-30(vv. Jeremiah 31:23c)Jeremiah 31:23-30(vv. Jeremiah 31:23c)Jeremiah 31:23(vv. Jeremiah 31:23c)
(vv. Jeremiah 31:25)Jeremiah 31:24-25
Jeremiah 31:26(vv. Jeremiah 31:26)
A New CovenantIsrael and Judah
Jeremiah 31:27-30Jeremiah 31:27-28
A New CovenantIndividual Retribution
(vv. Jeremiah 31:29)(vv. Jeremiah 31:29)(vv. Jeremiah 31:29)(vv. Jeremiah 31:29)Jeremiah 31:29-30(vv. Jeremiah 31:29)
The New Covenant
Jeremiah 31:31-34Jeremiah 31:31-34Jeremiah 31:31-34Jeremiah 31:31-37(vv. Jeremiah 31:35-37)Jeremiah 31:31-34
Israel Will Endure
Jeremiah 31:35-37(vv. Jeremiah 31:35-37)Jeremiah 31:35(vv. Jeremiah 31:35)Jeremiah 31:35-36(vv. Jeremiah 31:35-36)Jeremiah 31:35-37(vv. Jeremiah 31:35-37)
Jeremiah 31:36(vv. Jeremiah 31:36)
Jeremiah 31:37(vv. Jeremiah 31:37)Jeremiah 31:37(vv. Jeremiah 31:37)Jerusalem Magnificently Rebuilt
Jeremiah 31:38-40Jeremiah 31:38-40Jeremiah 31:38-40Jeremiah 31:38-40Jeremiah 31:38-40

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Many of these strophes were written in different historical contexts. There is a mixing of references to Israel (the northern ten tribes) and Judah (the southern three tribes). These separate poems are combined in this chapter, which emphasizes the restoration of both.

B. Note the references in Jeremiah 31:0 to:

1. the united seed of Abraham

a. Jeremiah 31:1, Jeremiah 31:2 (i.e., the Exodus)

b. Jeremiah 31:4, Jeremiah 31:21 (“O virgin of Israel”)

c. Jeremiah 31:7 (“for Jacob. . .remnant of Israel”)

d. Jeremiah 31:27 (“the house of Israel and the house of Judah”)

e. Jeremiah 31:33 (“the house of Israel after those days”)

2. Israel

a. Jeremiah 31:5 (“the hills of Samaria”)

b. Jeremiah 31:6 (“the hills of Ephraim”)

c. Jeremiah 31:9 (“Ephraim is My first-born”)

d. Jeremiah 31:15 (“Ramah. . .Rachel”)

e. Jeremiah 31:18, Jeremiah 31:20 (“Ephraim”)

3. Judah

a. Jeremiah 31:12 (“the height of Zion”)

b. Jeremiah 31:14 (“the priests”)

c. Jeremiah 31:23 (“the land of Judah”)

d. Jeremiah 31:23 (“O holy hill”)

C. The unique reference to a “new covenant” is very important. It points toward a new way of being right with YHWH based on faith and repentance, not human performance. Obedience is an evidence of the new relationship but not the means to it (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 2:10). Fallen mankind was unable to please God and follow Him. Substitutionary atonement became the new mechanism for a free and full salvation (cf. Isaiah 53:0; Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21) which issues in Christlikeness (cf. Ephesians 1:4). God now has a people who reflect His character to those who do not yet know Him.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:1-6 1”At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.” 2Thus says the LORD, “The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness- Israel, when it went to find its rest.” 3The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. 4Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, And go forth to the dances of the merrymakers. 5Again you will plant vineyards On the hills of Samaria; The planters will plant And will enjoy them. 6For there will be a day when watchmen On the hills of Ephraim call out, 'Arise, and let us go up to Zion, To the LORD our God.'“

Jeremiah 31:1 “At that time” This refers to Jeremiah 30:23-24 or the words Jeremiah wrote (i.e., Jeremiah 30:1-24).

Notice the covenant terminology (cf. Jeremiah 30:22) and that Judah and Israel are united again (cf. Genesis 17:7-8). This covenant terminology can also be seen in Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:38.

Jeremiah 31:2 This may be an allusion to a new “wilderness wandering period.” The VERB “went to find rest” (BDB 921, KB 1188, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) communicates a reality of peace and YHWH's presence. A different word (BDB 628) is used in Exodus 33:14 and Deuteronomy 28:65, but reflects the same theological concept (cf. Hosea 2:14).

“the sword” The Aramaic Targums have “Egypt's sword,” therefore, the “sword” is a metaphor for death more than a reference to war. This section seems to refer to God's loving acts during the Wilderness Wandering Period.

Jeremiah 31:3 “him” The MT has “me” (cf. NKJV, NJB). The LXX has “him” (cf NRSV). It seems to refer to the descendants of Jacob/Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 7:8).

“I have loved you. . .I have drawn you” Both of these VERBS are Qal PERFECTS.

The word “you” must be a COLLECTIVE FEMININE SINGULAR (twice) because of

1. the context of Jeremiah 31:4 as national renewal and restoration

2. the continuation of the COLLECTIVE FEMININE SINGULAR

“everlasting love. . .lovingkindness” These are covenant terms and promises. God wants His exiled people to know He has not forsaken them.

1. everlasting love - BDB 12 CONSTRUCT 761, see Special Topic: Forever ('olam)

2. lovingkindness - BDB 338, see Special Topic: Lovingkindness (Hesed)

Jeremiah 31:4 The things asserted in Jeremiah 31:4-5 are the very things that were taken with them into the exile.

“O virgin of Israel” This phrase is used several times in the OT (cf. Jeremiah 31:21; Jeremiah 14:17; Jeremiah 18:13; Jeremiah 46:11; Amos 5:2). God's people have committed spiritual adultery (cf. Jeremiah 31:22b). God forgives and restores them. The title “Israel” is used in three ways in this chapter.

1. as a reference to Jacob

2. as the whole nation of his descendants

3. as the northern ten tribes also called Ephraim or Samaria

Jeremiah 31:5 “hills of Samaria” This was the site of the capital of the northern kingdom built by Omri. Jeremiah 31:5-6 speak to the area of the northern tribes, Israel.

“enjoy” This VERB literally means “profane” (BDB 320, KB 319, Piel PERFECT). It is a reference to the OT custom of offering first fruits to God (cf. Leviticus 19:23-25; Deuteronomy 20:6). Here “profane” means “to use for normal consumption.” The first four years' fruit and then the first ripened fruit of the following years were symbolically given to YHWH in order to show His ownership of all the crops. However, here the phrase is metaphorical for a long extended period of peace and abundance (cf. Deuteronomy 28:0).

Jeremiah 31:6 “Ephraim” This is a reference to the northern ten tribes who had by Jeremiah's day already been exiled by Assyria (722 B.C.). It went by several names after the united monarchy under Saul, David, and Solomon split in 922 B.C.

1. Israel (a collective term)

2. Samaria (their capital)

3. Ephraim (their largest tribe)

To keep Ephraim from returning to Zion to worship YHWH, Jeroboam I set up “golden calves” at Bethel and Dan (i.e., alternate sites of temples to YHWH). They were turned into sites of Ba'al worship but now they no longer exist!

Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:7-9 7For thus says the LORD, “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise and say, 'O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel.' 8Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, And I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; A great company, they will return here. 9With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.”

Jeremiah 31:7 Jeremiah 31:7-9 are another poem/strophe. There is a series of IMPERATIVES expressing YHWH's will for the reunified covenant people (Israel/Jacob).

1. sing aloud - BDB 943, KB 1247, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. shout - BDB 843, KB 1007, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. proclaim - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

4. give praise - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel IMPERATIVE

5. say - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE

6. save - BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil IMPERATIVE (this is a prayer to YHWH expressed loudly. The LXX changes the IMPERATIVE to a DECLARATIVE, which makes it the OBJECT of the other IMPERATIVES)

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB“chief of the nations” TEV“the greatest of the nations” JPSOA“at the crossroads of the nations” REB“lead the nations” LXX“the head of the nations”

This imagery goes back to (1) Exodus 4:22; Psalms 2:7, where Israel is YHWH's firstborn or (2) Psalms 18:43, where David is called “the head of the nations.” Both of the above are combined in Psalms 89:27. In Deuteronomy 28:13 Israel is called “the head and not the tail,” which is the same imagery (cf. Isaiah 61:9). This imagery shows the central place of Abraham's descendants (cf. Deuteronomy 26:19) in YHWH's plan for all the earth (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

“the remnant of Israel” In this context it is parallel to “those who survived the sword” of Jeremiah 31:2b. See Special Topic: The Remnant, Three Senses. Jeremiah uses this term (BDB 984) twenty-three times.

Jeremiah 31:8 “I am bringing them from the north country” This reference is to the Assyrian exile of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. The only land route into Palestine from Mesopotamia was from the north because the Arabian Desert was to the east. It became a symbol of invasion, but here is a symbol of hope and restoration.

Notice how the returnees are characterized.

1. from the remote parts of the earth (cf. Isaiah 43:6)

2. the blind (cf. Isaiah 42:16)

3. the lame (cf. Micah 4:6; Zephaniah 3:19)

4. women with children

5. pregnant women

This is in contrast to how they were taken into captivity. Only the strong, middle-aged were taken. The young, the old, the sick, the weak, the leaders were all killed!

Jeremiah 31:9 “with weeping. . . by supplication” Verse Jeremiah 31:9 refers to the repentant nature of the returners (cf. Jeremiah 31:0:7e,9b; Deuteronomy 30:6). This same form appears in Zechariah 12:10 for Israel's repentance and faith in the Messiah.

“walk by streams of water” This imagery describes the new age (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14) of abundance. The desert is transformed into a “watered garden” (cf. Jeremiah 31:12; Isaiah 58:11). This is imagery from Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 35:7-8; Isaiah 41:17-20; Isaiah 43:19-20; Isaiah 49:10-11.

The way home (i.e., highway) will be easy and “without want!” YHWH is bringing His people back to the Promised Land. A new exodus and wilderness wandering period has begun.

“on a straight path in which they shall not stumble” The way home will be smooth and easy. YHWH will prepare the road (physically and spiritually). This is the “highway of holiness” described by Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 49:11; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10).

“I am a Father to Israel” God is spoken of as “Father” (see Special Topic: Fatherhood of God) to the descendants of Abraham. God is spoken of as a husband to them in Jeremiah 11:15 (cf. Hosea 1-3). The Bible uses the most intimate family terms to describe the relationship between God and His people (cf. Hosea 1-3, Hosea 1:11).

It is difficult in this chapter (which seems to combine poems from several periods of Jeremiah's ministry) to know when the terminology refers to the Northern Ten Tribes or to all Israelites (see Contextual Insights, B).

Verses 10-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:10-14 10Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, And say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” 11For the LORD has ransomed Jacob And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. 12”They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, And they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD- Over the grain and the new wine and the oil, And over the young of the flock and the herd; And their life will be like a watered garden, And they will never languish again. 13Then the virgin will 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 give them joy for their sorrow. 14I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the LORD.

This strophe is describing the joyful return of the exiles. The theology is twofold.

1. YHWH exiled them for their sin. He will restore them in their repentance and faith (Jeremiah 31:9).

2. YHWH is sovereign over all nations (cf. Jeremiah 31:10; Deuteronomy 32:8). YHWH, not the non-existent idols of the pagan nations, controls time/history.

Jeremiah 31:10 There are three IMPERATIVES.

1. hear - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. declare - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

3. say - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal IMPERATIVE

The nations must hear YHWH's message of restoration. They must know Him: His love, power, provision! YHWH works with the descendants of Abraham in special ways to inform and attract the descendants of Adam! This is surely the implication of monotheism (see Special Topic: Monotheism) and Genesis 12:3!

“shepherd keeps his flock” This is an OT title for “God” (cf. Psalms 23:0; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-14, Ezekiel 34:31). This title is used of Jesus in John 10:0 (cf. Ezekiel 34:23; Micah 5:4). Attributing OT titles for YHWH to Jesus is a common way for NT writers to confirm the deity of Christ.

1. OT titles of YHWH applied to Jesus

2. OT actions of YHWH applied to Jesus

3. grammatical constructions where God and Jesus are the dual OBJECTS of VERBS or PREPOSITIONS

4. clear statements (cf. John 1:1; John 5:18; John 8:58; John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11; Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1)

Jeremiah 31:11 “ransomed. . .redeemed” These two terms are parallel. Both are metaphors of God's love for fallen humanity. See the Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem.

1. ransom - BDB 804, KB 911, Qal PERFECT, Jeremiah 15:21; Jeremiah 15:21; Hosea 13:14; Micah 6:4; Zechariah 10:8

2. redeem - BDB 145, KB 169, Qal PERFECT, so common in Leviticus, Ruth, Isaiah. Title for YHWH in Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14, but used only twice in Jeremiah, here and Jeremiah 50:34 (also title for YHWH).

Jeremiah 31:12 “on the height of Zion” Zion is one of seven hills on which Jerusalem was built. Mt. Zion was the site of the Jebusite fortress captured by David. He built his palace on this hill.

However, in this context, Zion stands for Jerusalem. The word “height” would refer to Mt. Moriah, the site of the rebuilt temple. The place “God chose His name to dwell” (recurrent phrase in Deuteronomy).

“they shall never languish again” The covenant blessing of Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 28:0 are present and secure (cf. Jeremiah 31:5). In this statement is the promise of no more exiles (cf. Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 60:20; Isaiah 65:17-25)! The new day has come! Was this fulfilled in the post-exilic return? Was that restoration still conditional? Has the new day of a new heart, mind, and spirit arrived? I think this imagery points toward the gospel (initiated covenant) and eschatological fulfillment (consummated covenant).

Jeremiah 31:13-14 Notice the people who were rejoicing.

1. young women (lit. “virgin”)

2. young men

3. old men

4. the priests

5. “my people” (collective term)

Jeremiah 31:12 is related to “the nations” which will be included, but Jeremiah 31:13 relates to the returning exiles. This inclusiveness reminds one of Joel 2:28-29, quoted in the first Apostolic sermon in Acts 2:0.

Jeremiah 31:14 “I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance” This refers to the re-instigation of the sacrificial system. Jeremiah was not opposed to the cultus but wanted faith and ritual (cf. Leviticus 7:32-36), not ritual alone.

Verses 15-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:15-20 15Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” 16Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy. 17There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “And your children will return to their own territory. 18I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back that I may be restored, For You are the LORD my God. 19For after I turned back, I repented; And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated Because I bore the reproach of my youth.' 20Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:15-20 The strophe is addressed to the northern ten tribes. They, too, will participate in YHWH's restoration and new day! The split of the United Monarchy in 922 B.C. was a sad and destructive event, both physically and spiritually. All of the prophets condemned the northern kings. Restoration was the only option.

Jeremiah 31:15 “Ramah” The Hebrew word “height” (BDB 928) is possibly not a reference to a place name. The rabbis see this as a reference to God's hearing in heaven. The MT is not pointed for a place name.

“Rachel” This was Jacob's favorite wife and the mother of Joseph (and, therefore, the grandmother of Ephraim and Manasseh) and Benjamin (cf. Genesis 35:16-18). The rabbis say she was buried by the very road on which the northern tribes were taken into exile by Assyria in 722 B.C. This verse is quoted in Matthew 2:18 concerning Herod's killing of the children of Bethlehem (in order to kill the newborn “King of the Jews” who the Wise Men sought).

Jeremiah 31:16 Rachel should not weep because the exiles from Israel will be brought back to Palestine.

Jeremiah 31:18 “I have surely heard” This is an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB from the same root (BDB 1033, KB 1570) for emphasis. God does hear when we pray (cf. Exodus 3:7).

“Like an untrained calf” This is terminology from Hosea 4:16.

“Bring me back that I may be restored” This is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE (i.e., a prayer to YHWH). The rabbis say that such a radical repentance is involved that only God can give it (i.e., the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34, described in Ezekiel 36:22-38). The divine initiation is stressed in Jeremiah 31:19. This reflects Jeremiah's prayer of Jeremiah 17:12-18.

Jeremiah 31:19 “I smote on my thigh” This is a cultural idiom of grief or shame (cf. Ezekiel 21:12).

Jeremiah 31:20 This verse begins with a question(s). Some translations have

1. no question mark (possibly assuming the question[s] expect a “yes,” LXX, Peshitta, JPSOA, TEV)

2. one question (NJB, REB, NIV)

3. two questions (NASB, NKJV, NRSV)

Verse Jeremiah 31:20 describes YHWH as a loving parent who disciplines His son but still loves him. The discipline is for the purpose of restoration (cf. Hosea 11:8-9; Hosea 14:4-7).

The UBS Handbook on Jeremiah (p. 641) makes the interesting comment, “This verse is God's reply to Israel's statement of repentance, just as Jeremiah 4:1-2 is God's response to Israel's repentance in Jeremiah 3:22-25.”

“dear son. . .delightful child” These statements are parallel. The words (BDB 430 and 1044) express YHWH's love in parental terms. It reminds me of Exodus 19:5-6. There was so much potential in the covenant people, but what a disaster their idolatry caused (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38).

“I have spoken against him” The Hebrew can be interpreted as “of him,” which fits the context better.

“remember. . .have mercy” Both of these are the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB of the same root for the intensity of YHWH's love and forgiveness!

1. I certainly still remember him - BDB 269, KB 269

2. I will surely have mercy on him - BDB 933, KB 1216

Verses 21-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:21-22 21”Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel, Return to these your cities. 22How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth- A woman will encompass a man.”

Jeremiah 31:21-22 There is a series of IMPERATIVES given to the exiles related to their return trip to Palestine.

1. set up for yourselves roadmarks - BDB 662, KB 714, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

2. place for yourselves guideposts - BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. direct your mind to the highway - BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal IMPERATIVE

4. return - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE (twice). This same word is often used of “repentance,” see Special Topic: Repentance in the Old Testament

Notice how the imagery changes.

1. in Jeremiah 31:20 Ephraim is a “son,” a “child” (MASCULINE, cf. Jeremiah 31:9)

2. in Jeremiah 31:21 she is a “virgin of Israel” (FEMININE, cf. Jeremiah 31:4)

Jeremiah 31:21 “roadmarks. . .guideposts” These two terms are rare.

1. roadmarks - BDB 846, usually denotes a grave marker (cf. 2 Kings 23:17; Ezekiel 39:15)

2. guideposts - BDB 1071, found only here in the OT

The third line of the verse shows the context as a “highway” (BDB 700, only here in Jeremiah) so the first two parallel lines must fit this imagery. The exiles are to set their minds to the road that took them into exile (i.e., idolatry), but now to the road (i.e., repentance, faith) that will bring them home.

Jeremiah continued to tell Judah that she would go into exile for 70 years. Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. Here he seems to say to them, mark your path/road as you travel into exile because one day you will return and these markers you set up in grief will become markers of joy on the way home to Palestine!

Jeremiah 31:22 “For the LORD has created a new thing” The mention of “new” (BDB 294) brings the imagery from Isaiah of the Messianic age (i.e., “new covenant,” Jeremiah 31:31-34).

1. new things, Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 48:6

2. new song, Isaiah 42:10 (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3)

3. something new, Isaiah 43:19 (Revelation 3:12)

4. new name, Isaiah 62:2 (cf. Isaiah 56:5)

5. new heavens and new earth, Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22 (cf. 2 Peter 3:13)

Also note Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26 (36:22-38 is a description of the new covenant age).

Note that the same VERB (BDB 135, KB 153) used in Genesis 1:1 is used again of YHWH's creative activity in restoring His people (and through them His eternal redemptive plan). Creation was for fellowship with all humanity (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:8), so too, the restoration of Israel. The Messiah will come from her and for all!

NASB, NKJV, NRSV“A woman will encompass a man” TEV, NET“a woman protecting a man” NJB“the woman sets out to find her husband again” JPSOA“a woman courts a man” REB“a woman will play a man's part” LXX“people will go about in safety” PESHITTA“a woman shall love her husband”

There are many theories (notice no parallel passages) about the meaning of this phrase.

1. reference to Israel's renewed love for YHWH (BDB 686, Poel #1, cf. NJB)

2. women will stand guard on the way home

3. the virgin birth (i.e., Jerome, Calvin)

4. the rabbis say women take on the male characteristics of firmness or strength

5. cultural proverb whose meaning is lost

6. the LXX has “in which people will go about in safety” (i.e., different text)

7. if the thrust is role reversal (i.e., Jeremiah 30:6) then I wonder how much it may relate to the subservience of women in Genesis 3:0, restored to the mutuality of Genesis 1-2? There are many Pentateuch allusions in this chapter.

I like #5. The same VERB and form is used of YHWH's care and protection for Israel in the Wilderness Wandering Period in Deuteronomy 32:10.

Verses 23-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:23-26 23Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Once again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities when I restore their fortunes, 'The LORD bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!' 24Judah and all its cities will dwell together in it, the farmer and they who go about with flocks. 25For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” 26At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.

Jeremiah 31:23-26 These verses are about the restoration of Judah.

1. her cities, Jeremiah 31:24)

2. her capital

3. the temple (i.e., “holy hill”)

Jeremiah 31:24 is difficult in the MT, “and they shall wander,” but in the LXX, “and he shall be raised up with a flock.” The point from the context is that “farmers” and “herdsmen” will dwell together. This may be a veiled allusion to the problem between Cain and Abel, but in the new day there will be no tensions related to vocations.

Jeremiah 31:26 is also difficult. It seems out of place or at least ambiguous as to whom it relates.

1. northern ten tribes

2. all descendants of Abraham (TEV)

3. the prophet receiving revelation (“I,” cf. Jeremiah 30:1)

Jeremiah 31:26 “I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant” This is possibly a reference to (1) the prophet's dream of restoration (Jewish Study Bible marginal note suggests he saw in a dream of the future, much like Abraham in Genesis 15:12-21, p. 990) or (2) a statement of the inhabitants relating to the restored Judah (TEV).

Verses 27-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:27-30 27”Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast. 28As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. 29”In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' 30But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.

Jeremiah 31:27 The verse is using “abundance imagery” from Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Deuteronomy 30:1-10. The fruitfulness of humans, animals, and crops will be restored (cf. Ezekiel 36:9, Ezekiel 36:11; Hosea 2:23).

Notice that Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:31, and 38 all begin with the same introductory formula, “Behold, days are coming,” which denotes the new Messianic age, the age of the Spirit, the age of the “New” (see note at Jeremiah 31:31).

Jeremiah 31:28 This is a series of INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS that describe YHWH's activities of judgment and restoration. This is the prophetic mandate that was given to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:10.

Jeremiah 31:29 “The fathers have eaten sour grapes” This was a proverb (cf. Ezekiel 18:2; Lamentations 5:7) that tried to blame the parent's actions for God's current judgments. Ezekiel 18:0 was written to help explain Deuteronomy 5:9. Yes, families are affected by sin, but God's forgiveness relates to the individual's faith and obedience (cf. Jeremiah 31:30b; Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 24:16).

Verses 31-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:31-34 31”Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33”But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, days are coming” Notice that the same introductory phrase begins three poems in this chapter (Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:31, Jeremiah 31:38),

The question has always been, “When does this new day start?”

1. the return under Cyrus in 538 B.C. (i.e., Ezra, Nehemiah, Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, Joshua)

2. the life of Christ (cf. Hebrews 8:8-12 which quotes this text)

3. the second coming of Christ

The post-exilic period embodied the hope of a new day of faith, but it did not materialize (cf. Malachi). The new internal nature of the covenant based on God's grace and performance, not mankind's, even covenant mankind (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38), was not manifested until the ministry and death/resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The new covenant has been inaugurated with Jesus' first coming and will be consummated at His second coming!

“I will make a new covenant” This is the only mention in the OT of a “new covenant,” although Isaiah 55:3 mentions “an everlasting covenant” (it is possible that Duet. Jeremiah 18:15-19 implies the need of a new covenant with the coming of the new prophet). This would have been very shocking to the Jews. They thought God's covenant with Moses was unconditional and eternal (cf. Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:13, Genesis 17:19; Leviticus 16:34; Leviticus 24:8; Numbers 25:13; 1 Chronicles 16:17; Psalms 105:10; see Special Topic: Forever ['olam]). Isaiah 24:5 says it was broken! Jesus calls His death “the new covenant in My blood,” which links to Moses' words in Exodus 24:8. For “covenant” see Special Topic: Covenant.

“house of Israel. . .house of Judah” The New Covenant would restore unity to the divided kingdom (cf. Jeremiah 31:1-3, Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:33). It will go far beyond that and restore the unity between God and humanity so obvious in Genesis 1-2 (cf. Romans 2:28-29; Romans 3:21-31; Romans 9:24-33; Romans 11:11-24, Romans 11:25; Romans 15:7-16; Galatians 2:0; Galatians 3:0; Ephesians 2:11-13).

Jeremiah 31:32 “not like the covenant which I made with their Father” There is both a continuity and discontinuity between the old covenant and the new covenant. First, it is important to list the different significant covenants.

1. Abraham

2. Moses

3. David

4. new covenant (i.e., Jesus, cf. Hebrews)

The first and third are still in effect, as far as the eternal redemptive plan. The fourth is the fulfillment of that plan. Here are some of the similarities.

1. God initiates it and sets its parameters

2. humans must respond in repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance

3. the Spirit draws humans to respond appropriately (i.e., John 6:44, John 6:65)

The big difference is that the performance model is replaced by a grace model. God still wants a people to reflect and reveal His character to a lost world. However, because of the Fall, His covenant people, with all their privileges (cf. Romans 9:4-5), could not keep the Mosaic covenant. Therefore, God initiates a covenant of grace that uses the Messiah's obedience and sacrifice (cf. Isaiah 53:0; Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21) to fulfill the old covenant and begin a new age characterized by a new heart, a new mind, a new spirit (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38). Internal motivation will replace external laws. But remember the goal is still a Christlike people (i.e., covenant language, cf. Jeremiah 31:33d; Jeremiah 24:7)! The eternal redemptive purpose continues (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

“I took them by the hand” The emphasis here is on God's parenthood (cf. Hosea 11:1-4, Hosea 11:8-9).

“My covenant which they broke” This is a summary of the history of the Jewish nation (cf. Jeremiah 25:4; Jeremiah 33:8; Galatians 3:0; the book of Hebrews).

“I was a husband to them” God uses human relationships to describe His relationship with Israel (cf. Hosea 1-3). See Special Topic: God Described As Human (anthropomorphism).

Jeremiah 31:33 “the house of Israel” Notice that in Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:31 “Israel” refers to the northern ten tribes after the split of the United Monarchy in 922 B.C. The northern ten tribes, led by Jeroboam I, were called

1. Israel (collective term)

2. Samaria (the capital)

3. Ephraim (the largest tribe)

However, here in Jeremiah 31:33 it must refer to its original meaning of the descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. See full note in Contextual Insights, B.

“I will put My law within them” This is analogous to the phrase “circumcise your heart” of Deuteronomy 30:6. It is parallel to the new heart, new mind, and new spirit of Ezekiel 36:22-38. From the NT this refers to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“on their heart” This refers to the entire person (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6; Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 30:14). See Special Topic: Heart.

The Fall of Genesis 3:0 affected human's spiritual orientation and worldview. They came to focus on “self,” not God. This fallenness was the reason that Abraham's descendants could not keep/perform the Mosaic covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 31:29; Joshua 24:19). Therefore, YHWH must give them a new heart (cf. Jeremiah 24:7 and “the circumcised heart,” cf. Deuteronomy 30:6). Then the Scriptures of Deuteronomy 6:6; Deuteronomy 30:11, Deuteronomy 30:14 can be fulfilled. The clearest description of this new orientation and spiritual worldview is

1. OT - Ezekiel 36:22-38

2. NT - Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7

“I will write it” As YHWH wrote the Ten Commandments before Moses on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Exodus 34:1, Exodus 34:28), He now writes on the human heart by His Spirit. The new covenant is a new internal code from a restored image of God! This faith relationship has always been the plan of God (cf. Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:25-26).

Jeremiah 31:34 “for they will all know Me” Notice the play between the IMPERATIVE (BDB 353, KB 390, Qal IMPERATIVE, which relates to the performance model, i.e., the Old Testament) and the IMPERFECT, which relates to the new age, new mind, new heart, new spirit (i.e., new covenant).

There will be an intimate, personal relationship between YHWH and all of His people. This intimacy is illustrated by the Hebrew concept of “know” in Genesis 4:1 and Jeremiah 1:5; Jeremiah 9:24. See Special Topic: Know.

“from the least of them to the greatest of them” This inclusive, “no respecter of persons” language is parallel to Joel 2:28-29 (quoted in Acts 2:17-18). It is used in a negative sense in Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10.

“I will forgive” When God forgives, God forgets (cf. Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Ezekiel 18:22; Ezekiel 33:16; Psalms 103:10-14; Micah 7:19)! What a great truth!

Verses 35-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:35-37 35Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36”If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.” 37Thus says the LORD, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:35-37 YHWH's new covenant is as stable and permanent as the fixed orders (BDB 349) and cycles of creation. Verse Jeremiah 31:37 expresses the positive truth in a negative statement (i.e., conditional expression which cannot be fulfilled).

Verses 38-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 31:38-40 38”Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the city will be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39The measuring line will go out farther straight ahead to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah. 40And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD; it will not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”

Jeremiah 31:38-40 This paragraph is declaring the full restoration of Jerusalem. Not only will the city be rebuilt but expanded. This new city (cf. Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 60:14) will never be

1. plucked up - BDB 684, KB 737, Niphal IMPERFECT

2. overthrown - BDB 248, KB 256, Niphal IMPERFECT

Since the rebuilt Jerusalem of the post-exilic period was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70, this must be interpreted as

1. the promises of God are conditional

2. it points toward the “new Jerusalem” (i.e., heaven) of Revelation 21:1-21 (which also uses “new” imagery)

Jeremiah 31:40 “valley of dead bodies and of the ashes” This phrase refers to the “Valley of the Sons of Hinnom” (cf. Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6), which became the Hebrew contraction for Gehenna. See Special Topic: The Dead, Where Are They? (Sheol/Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus).

This phrase is missing in the LXX. There are some scholars who do not accept this identification because the word used for “valley” (BDB 770) is different than in Jeremiah 31:2 and 19:2,6 (BDB 161). However, the dead bones and ashes seem to demand it.


This is a study guide commentary, whichmeans that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was the prophecy so radical to its hearers?

2. Has this been fulfilled? When?

3. Why is Jeremiah 31:30-34 so significant?

4. What is involved in the New Covenant?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-31.html. 2021.
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