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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Jeremiah 31

 

 

Verse 1

Jeremiah 31:1-40. Continuation of the prophecy in the thirtieth chapter.

As in that chapter the restoration of Judah, so in this the restoration of Israel‘s ten tribes is foretold.

At the same time — “In the latter days” (Jeremiah 30:24).

the God of — manifesting My grace to (Genesis 17:7; Matthew 22:32; Revelation 21:3).

all … Israel — not the exiles of the south kingdom of Judah only, but also the north kingdom of the ten tribes; and not merely Israel in general, but “all the families of Israel.” Never yet fulfilled (Romans 11:26).


Verse 2

Upon the grace manifested to Israel “in the wilderness” God grounds His argument for renewing His favors to them now in their exile; because His covenant is “everlasting” (Jeremiah 31:3), and changes not. The same argument occurs in Hosea 13:5, Hosea 13:9, Hosea 13:10; Hosea 14:4, Hosea 14:5, Hosea 14:8. Babylon is fitly compared to the “wilderness,” as in both alike Israel was as a stranger far from his appointed “rest” or home, and Babylon is in Isaiah 40:3 called a “desert” (compare Jeremiah 50:12).

I went to cause him to rest — namely, in the pillar of cloud and fire, the symbol of God‘s presence, which went before Israel to search a resting-place (Numbers 10:33; Isaiah 63:14) for the people, both a temporary one at each halt in the wilderness, and a permanent one in Canaan (Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 3:20; Joshua 21:44; Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 3:11).


Verse 3

Israel gratefully acknowledges in reply God‘s past grace; but at the same time tacitly implies by the expression “of old,” that God does not appear to her now. “God appeared to me of old, but now I am forsaken!” God replies, Nay, I love thee with the same love now as of old. My love was not a momentary impulse, but from “everlasting” in My counsels, and to “everlasting” in its continuance; hence originated the covenant whereby I gratuitously adopted thee (Malachi 1:2; Romans 11:28, Romans 11:29). Margin translates, “from afar,” which does not answer so well as “of old,” to “in the wilderness” (Jeremiah 31:2), which refers to the olden times of Israel‘s history.

with loving kindness … drawn — (Hosea 11:4). Rather, “I have drawn out continually My loving kindness toward thee.” So Psalm 36:10, “Continue (Margin, ‹Draw out at length‘) Thy loving kindness.” By virtue of My everlasting love I will still extend My loving kindness to thee. So Isaiah 44:21, “O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me.”


Verse 4
thou shalt be built — The combination of the active and passive to express the same fact implies the infallible certainty of its accomplishment. “Build,” that is, establish in prosperity (Jeremiah 33:7).

adorned with … tabrets — (1 Samuel 18:6). Or, “adorn thyself with thy timbrels”; used by damsels on occasions of public rejoicings (Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34). Israel had cast away all instruments of joy in her exile (Psalm 137:4).

dances — holy joy, not carnal mirth.


Verse 5

Samaria — the metropolis of the ten tribes; here equivalent to Israel. The mountainous nature of their country suited the growth of the vine.

eat … as common — literally, “shall profane,” that is, shall put to common use. For the first three years after planting, the vine was “not to be eaten of”; on the fourth year the fruit was to be “holy to praise the Lord withal”; on the fifth year the fruit was to be eaten as common, no longer restricted to holy use (Leviticus 19:23-25; compare Deuteronomy 20:6; Deuteronomy 28:30, Margin). Thus the idea here is, “The same persons who plant shall reap the fruits”; it shall no longer be that one shall plant and another reap the fruit.


Verse 6

The watchmen stationed on eminences (types of the preachers of the gospel), shall summon the ten tribes to go up to the annual feasts at Jerusalem (“Zion”), as they used to do before the revolt and the setting up of the idol calves at Dan and Beer-sheba (Ezekiel 37:21, Ezekiel 37:22).

Mount Ephraim — not one single mountain, but the whole mountainous region of the ten tribes.

our God — from whom we formerly revolted, but who is now our God. An earnest of that good time to come is given in the partial success of the gospel in its first preaching in Samaria (John 4:1-42; Acts 8:5-25).


Verse 7

The people are urged with praises and prayers to supplicate for their universal restoration. Jehovah is represented in the context (Jeremiah 31:1, Jeremiah 31:8), as promising immediately to restore Israel. They therefore praise God for the restoration, being as certain of it as if it were actually accomplished; and at the same time pray for it, as prayer was a means to the desired end. Prayer does not move God to grant our wishes, but when God has determined to grant our wishes, He puts it into our hearts to pray for the thing desired. Compare Psalm 102:13-17, as to the connection of Israel‘s restoration with the prayers of His people (Isaiah 62:1-6).

for Jacob — on account of Jacob; on account of his approaching deliverance by Jehovah.

among — “for,” that is, on account of, would more exactly suit the parallelism to “for Jacob.”

chief of the nations — Israel: as the parallelism to “Jacob” proves (compare Exodus 19:5; Psalm 135:4; Amos 6:1). God estimates the greatness of nations not by man‘s standard of material resources, but by His electing favor.


Verse 8

north — Assyria, Media, etc. (see on Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:18; Jeremiah 23:8).

gather from … coasts of … earth — (Ezekiel 20:34, Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 34:13).

blind … lame, etc. — Not even the most infirm and unfit persons for a journey shall be left behind, so universal shall be the restoration.

a great company — or, they shall return “in a great company” [Maurer].


Verse 9

weeping — for their past sins which caused their exile (Psalm 126:5, Psalm 126:6). Although they come with weeping, they shall return with joy (Jeremiah 50:4, Jeremiah 50:5).

supplications — (Compare Jeremiah 31:18, Jeremiah 31:19; Jeremiah 3:21-25; Zechariah 12:10). Margin translates “favors,” as in Joshua 11:20; Ezra 9:8; thus God‘s favors or compassions are put in opposition to the people‘s weeping; their tears shall be turned into joy. But English Version suits the parallelism best.

I will cause … to walk by … waters … straight way — (Isaiah 35:6-8; Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 49:10, Isaiah 49:11). God will give them waters to satisfy their thirst as in the wilderness journey from Egypt. So spiritually (Matthew 5:6; John 7:37).

Ephraim — the ten tribes no longer severed from Judah, but forming one people with it.

my first-born — (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Romans 9:4). So the elect Church (2 Corinthians 6:18; James 1:18).


Verse 10

The tidings of God‘s interposition in behalf of Israel will arrest the attention of even the uttermost Gentile nations.

He that scattered will gather — He who scattered knows where to find Israel; He who smote can also heal.

keep — not only will gather, but keep safely to the end (John 13:1; John 17:11).

shepherd — (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:12-14).


Verse 11
from … hand of … stronger — No strength of the foe can prevent the Lord from delivering Jacob (Isaiah 49:24, Isaiah 49:25).


Verse 12

height of Zion — (Ezekiel 17:23).

flow — There shall be a conflux of worshippers to the temple on Zion (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1).

to the goodness of … Lord — (See Jeremiah 31:14). Beneficence, that is, to the Lord as the source of all good things (Hosea 3:5), to pray to Him and praise Him for these blessings of which He is the Fountainhead.

watered garden — (Isaiah 58:11). Not merely for a time, but continually full of holy comfort.

not sorrow any more — referring to the Church triumphant, as well as to literal Israel (Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 65:19; Revelation 21:4).


Verse 13
old — (Zechariah 8:4, Zechariah 8:5).


Verse 14

my goodness — (Jeremiah 31:12).


Verse 15

Ramah — In Benjamin, east of the great northern road, two hours‘ journey from Jerusalem. Rachel, who all her life had pined for children (Genesis 30:1), and who died with “sorrow” in giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:18, Genesis 35:19, Margin; 1 Samuel 10:2), and was buried at Ramah, near Beth-lehem, is represented as raising her head from the tomb, and as breaking forth into “weeping” at seeing the whole land depopulated of her sons, the Ephraimites. Ramah was the place where Nebuzara-dan collected all the Jews in chains, previous to their removal to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1). God therefore consoles her with the promise of their restoration. Matthew 2:17, Matthew 2:18 quotes this as fulfilled in the massacre of the innocents under Herod. “A lesser and a greater event, of different times, may answer to the single sense of one passage of Scripture, until the prophecy is exhausted” [Bengel]. Besides the temporary reference to the exiles in Babylon, the Holy Spirit foreshadowed ultimately Messiah‘s exile in Egypt, and the desolation caused in the neighborhood of Rachel‘s tomb by Herod‘s massacre of the children, whose mothers had “sons of sorrow” (Ben-oni), just as Rachel had. The return of Messiah (the representative of Israel) from Egypt, and the future restoration of Israel, both the literal and the spiritual (including the innocents), at the Lord‘s second advent, are antitypical of the restoration of Israel from Babylon, which is the ground of consolation held out here by Jeremiah. The clause, “They were not,” that is, were dead (Genesis 42:13), does not apply so strictly to the exiles in Babylon as it does to the history of Messiah and His people - past, present, and future. So the words, “There is hope in thine end,” are to be fulfilled ultimately, when Rachel shall meet her murdered children at the resurrection, at the same time that literal Israel is to be restored. “They were not,” in Hebrew, is singular; each was not: each mother at the Beth-lehem massacre had but one child to lament, as the limitation of age in Herod‘s order, “two years and under,” implies; this use of the singular distributively (the mothers weeping severally, each for her own child), is a coincidence between the prophecy of the Beth-lehem massacre and the event, the more remarkable as not being obvious: the singular, too, is appropriate as to Messiah in His Egyptian exile, who was to be a leading object of Rachel‘s lamentation.


Verse 16

thy work — thy parental weeping for thy children [Rosenmuller]. Thine affliction in the loss of thy children, murdered for Christ‘s sake, shall not be fruitless to thee, as was the case in thy giving birth to the “child of thy sorrow,” Benjamin. Primarily, also, thy grief shall not be perpetual: the exiles shall return, and the land be inhabited again [Calvin].

come again — (Hosea 1:11).


Verse 17

hope in … end — All thy calamities shall have a prosperous issue.


Verse 18

Ephraim — representing the ten tribes.

bemoaning himself — The spirit of penitent supplication shall at last be poured on Israel as the necessary forerunner of their restoration (Zechariah 12:10-14).

Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised — In the first clause the chastisement itself is meant; in the second the beneficial effect of it in teaching the penitent true wisdom.

bullock unaccustomed to … yoke — A similar image occurs in Deuteronomy 32:15. Compare “stiff-necked,” Acts 7:51; Exodus 32:9, an image from refractory oxen. Before my chastisement I needed the severe correction I received, as much as an untamed bullock needs the goad. Compare Acts 9:5, where the same figure is used of Saul while unconverted. Israel has had a longer chastisement than Judah, not having been restored even at the Jews‘ return from Babylon. Hereafter, at its restoration, it shall confess the sore discipline was all needed to “accustom” it to God‘s “easy yoke” (Matthew 11:29, Matthew 11:30).

turn thou me — by Thy converting Spirit (Lamentations 5:21). But why does Ephraim pray for conversion, seeing that he is already converted? Because we are converted by progressive steps, and need the same power of God to carry forward, as to originate, our conversion (John 6:44, John 6:65; compare with Isaiah 27:3; 1 Peter 1:5; Philemon 1:6).


Verse 19

after that I was turned, I repented — Repentance in the full sense follows, not precedes, our being turned to God by God (Zechariah 12:10). The Jews‘ “looking to Him whom they pierced” shall result in their “mourning for Him.” Repentance is the tear that flows from the eye of faith turned to Jesus. He Himself gives it: we give it not of ourselves, but must come to Him for it (Acts 5:31).

instructed — made to learn by chastisement. God‘s Spirit often works through the corrections of His providence.

smote upon … thigh — (Ezekiel 21:12). A token of indignant remorse, shame, and grief, because of his past sin.

bear … reproach of … youth — “because the calamities which I bore were the just punishment of my scandalous wantonness against God in my youth”; alluding to the idols set up at Dan and Beth-el immediately after the ten tribes revolted from Judah. His sense of shame shows that he no longer delights in his sin.


Verse 20

Is Ephraim my dear son? etc. — The question implies that a negative answer was to be expected. Who would have thought that one so undutiful to His heavenly Father as Ephraim had been should still be regarded by God as a “pleasant child?” Certainly he was not so in respect to his sin. But by virtue of God‘s “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) on Ephraim‘s being “turned” to God, he was immediately welcomed as God‘s “dear son.” This verse sets forth God‘s readiness to welcome the penitent (Jeremiah 31:18, Jeremiah 31:19), anticipating his return with prevenient grace and love. Compare Luke 15:20: “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion,” etc.

spake against — threatened him for his idolatry.

remember — with favor and concern, as in Genesis 8:1; Genesis 30:22.

bowels … troubled for him — (Deuteronomy 32:36; Isaiah 63:15; Hosea 11:8) - namely, with the yearnings of compassionate love. The “bowels” include the region of the heart, the seat of the affections.


Verse 21

waymarkspillars to mark the road for the returning exiles. Caravans set up pillars, or pointed heaps of stones, to mark the way through the desert against their return. So Israel is told by God to mark the way by which they went in leaving their country for exile; for by the same way they shall return.

highway — (Isaiah 35:8, Isaiah 35:10).


Verse 22

go about — namely, after human helps (Jeremiah 2:18, Jeremiah 2:23, Jeremiah 2:36). Why not return immediately to me? Maurer translates, as in Song of Solomon 5:6, “How long wilt thou withdraw thyself?” Let thy past backslidings suffice thee now that a new era approaches. What God finds fault with in them is, that they looked hither and thither, leaning on contingencies, instead of at once trusting the word of God, which promised their restoration. To assure them of this, God promises to create a new thing in their land, A woman shall compass a man. Calvin explains this: Israel, who is feeble as a woman, shall be superior to the warlike Chaldeans; the captives shall reduce their captors to captivity. Hengstenberg makes the “woman” the Jewish Church, and the “man” Jehovah, her husband, whose love she will again seek (Hosea 2:6, Hosea 2:7). Maurer, A woman shall protect (Deuteronomy 32:10, Margin; Psalm 32:10) a man, that is, You need fear no foes in returning, for all things shall be so peaceful that a woman would be able to take man‘s part, and act as his protector. But the Christian fathers (Augustine, etc.) almost unanimously interpreted it of the Virgin Mary compassing Christ in her womb. This view is favored: -

(1) By the connection; it gives a reason why the exiles should desire a return to their country, namely, because Christ was conceived there.

(2) The word “created” implies a divine power put forth in the creation of a body in the Virgin‘s womb by the Holy Ghost for the second Adam, such as was exerted in creating the first Adam (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 10:5).

(3) The phrase, “a new thing,” something unprecedented; a man whose like had never existed before, at once God and man; a mother out of the ordinary course of nature, at once mother and virgin. An extraordinary mode of generation; one conceived by the Holy Ghost without man.

(4) The specification “in the land” (not “earth,” as English Version), namely, of Judah, where probably Christ was conceived, in Hebron (compare Luke 1:39, Luke 1:42, Luke 1:44, with Joshua 21:11) or else in Nazareth, “in the territory” of Israel, to whom Jeremiah 31:5, Jeremiah 31:6, Jeremiah 31:15, Jeremiah 31:18, Jeremiah 31:21 refer; His birth was at Beth-lehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:6). As the place of His nativity, and of His being reared (Matthew 2:23), and of His preaching (Haggai 2:7; Malachi 3:1), are specified, so it is likely the Holy Spirit designated the place of His being conceived.

(5) The Hebrew for “woman” implies an individual, as the Virgin Mary, rather than a collection of persons.

(6) The restoration of Israel is grounded on God‘s covenant in Christ, to whom, therefore, allusion is naturally made as the foundation of Israel‘s hope (compare Isaiah 7:14). The Virgin Mary‘s conception of Messiah in the womb answers to the “Virgin of Israel” (therefore so called, Jeremiah 31:21), that is, Israel and her sons at their final restoration, receiving Jesus as Messiah (Zechariah 12:10).

(7) The reference to the conception of the child Messiah accords with the mention of the massacre of “children” referred to in Jeremiah 31:15 (compare Matthew 2:17).

(8) The Hebrew for “man” is properly “mighty man,” a term applied to God (Deuteronomy 10:17); and to Christ (Zechariah 13:7; compare Psalm 45:3; Isaiah 9:6) [Calovius].


Verse 23

Jerusalem again shall be the metropolis of the whole nation, the seat of “justice” (Psalm 122:5-8; Isaiah 1:26), and of sacred worship (“holiness,” Zechariah 8:3) on “Mount” Moriah.


Verse 24

Judah … cities … husbandmen … they with flocks — Two classes, citizens and countrymen, the latter divided into agriculturists and shepherds, all alike in security, though the latter were to be outside the protection of city walls. “Judah” here stands for the country, as distinguished from its cities.


Verse 25

The “weary, sorrowful,” and indigent state of Israel will prove no obstacle in the way of My helping them.


Verse 26

The words of Jeremiah: Upon this (or, By reason of this) announcement of a happy restoration, “I awaked” from the prophetic dream vouchsafed to me (Jeremiah 23:25) with the “sweet” impression thereof remaining on my mind. “Sleep” here means dream, as in Psalm 90:5.


Verse 27

He shows how a land so depopulated shall again be peopled. God will cause both men and beasts in it to increase to a multitude (Ezekiel 36:9-11; Hosea 2:23).


Verse 28

(Jeremiah 44:27). The same God who, as it were (in human language), was on the watch for all means to destroy, shall be as much on the watch for the means of their restoration.


Verse 29

In those days — after their punishment has been completed, and mercy again visits them.

fathers … eaten … sour grape … children‘s teeth … on edge — the proverb among the exiles‘ children born in Babylon, to express that they suffered the evil consequences of their fathers‘ sins rather than of their own (Lamentations 5:7; Ezekiel 18:2, Ezekiel 18:3).


Verse 30

(Galatians 6:5, Galatians 6:7).


Verse 31
new covenant with … Israel … Judah — The new covenant is made with literal Israel and Judah, not with the spiritual Israel, that is, believers, except secondarily, and as grafted on the stock of Israel (Romans 11:16-27). For the whole subject of the thirtieth and thirty-first chapters is the restoration of the Hebrews (Jeremiah 30:4, Jeremiah 30:7, Jeremiah 30:10, Jeremiah 30:18; Jeremiah 31:7, Jeremiah 31:10, Jeremiah 31:11, Jeremiah 31:23, Jeremiah 31:24, Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:36). With the “remnant according to the election of grace” in Israel, the new covenant has already taken effect. But with regard to the whole nation, its realization is reserved for the last days, to which Paul refers this prophecy in an abridged form (Romans 11:27).


Verse 32
the covenant that I made with … fathers — the Old Testament covenant, as contrasted with our gospel covenant (Hebrews 8:8-12; Hebrews 10:16, Hebrews 10:17, where this prophecy is quoted to prove the abrogation of the law by the gospel), of which the distinguishing features are its securing by an adequate atonement the forgiveness of sins, and by the inworking of effectual grace ensuring permanent obedience. An earnest of this is given partially in the present eclectic or elect Church gathered out of Jews and Gentiles. But the promise here to Israel in the last days is national and universal, and effected by an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:33, Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 11:17-20), independent of any merit on their part (Ezekiel 36:25-32; Ezekiel 37:1-28; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:23-28; Zechariah 12:10; 2 Corinthians 3:16).

took … by … hand — (Deuteronomy 1:31; Hosea 11:3).

although I was an husband — (compare Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:8). But the Septuagint, Syriac, and St. Paul (Hebrews 8:9) translate, “I regarded them not”; and Gesenius, etc., justify this rendering of the Hebrew from the Arabic. The Hebrews regarded not God, so God regarded them not.


Verse 33

will be their God — (Jeremiah 32:38).


Verse 34

True, specially of Israel (Isaiah 54:13); secondarily, true of believers (John 6:45; 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 John 2:20).

forgive … iniquity … remember … no more — (Jeremiah 33:8; Jeremiah 50:20; Micah 7:18); applying peculiarly to Israel (Romans 11:27). Secondarily, all believers (Acts 10:43).


Verse 35
sea when … waves … roar … Lord of hosts … name — quoted from Isaiah 51:15, the genuineness of which passage is thus established on Jeremiah‘s authority.


Verse 36

a nation — Israel‘s national polity has been broken up by the Romans. But their preservation as a distinct people amidst violent persecutions, though scattered among all nations for eighteen centuries, unamalgamated, whereas all other peoples under such circumstances have become incorporated with the nations in which they have been dispersed, is a perpetual standing miracle (compare Jeremiah 33:20; Psalm 148:6; Isaiah 54:9, Isaiah 54:10).


Verse 37

(Compare Jeremiah 33:22).

for all that they have done — namely, all the sins. God will regard His own covenant promise, rather than their merits.


Verse 38

tower of Hananeel — The city shall extend beyond its former bounds (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39; Zechariah 14:10).

gate of … corner — (2 Kings 14:13; 2 Chronicles 26:9).


Verse 39

measuring-line — (Ezekiel 40:8; Zechariah 2:1).

Gareb — from a Hebrew root, “to scrape”; Syriac, “leprosy”; the locality outside of the city, to which lepers were removed.

Goath — from a root, “to toil,” referring to the toilsome ascent there: outside of the city of David, towards the southwest, as Gareb was northwest [Junius].


Verse 40
dead — Tophet, where the bodies of malefactors were cast (Isaiah 30:33), south of the city.

fields … Kidron — so 2 Kings 23:4. Fields in the suburbs reaching as far as Kidron, east of the city.

horse gate — Through it the king‘s horses were led forth for watering to the brook Kidron (2 Kings 11:16; Nehemiah 3:28).

for ever — The city shall not only be spacious, but both “holy to the Lord,” that is, freed from all pollutions, and everlasting (Joel 3:17, Joel 3:20; Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:10, Revelation 21:27).

 


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/jeremiah-31.html. 1871-8.

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the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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