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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 31

 

 

Verse 1

RESTORATION FOR ALL THE FAMILIES OF ISRAEL, Jeremiah 31:1-40.

1. At the same time — Namely, in the “latter days” of Jeremiah 30:24, when God’s anger shall light on his enemies. Then shall men be made to “discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” Malachi 3:18. Will I be the God, etc. — An all-comprehending promise, carrying in its bosom all possible good — safety, success, victory, glory. And this he will be, not to Judah alone, and not to select and fortunate individuals and families, but to all the families of Israel.


Verse 2

2. The people — Those of Jeremiah’s time, and not, as the language might suggest and as some have thought, of Moses’s time. See Jeremiah 51:50.

Wilderness — Babylon.


Verse 3

3. Of old — Better, as the margin, from afar; in allusion to the sense of distance from God which would be wrought by their material separation from that sanctuary which they had always regarded as the chosen seat and special abode of Israel’s God.

With lovingkindness have I drawn — The marginal reading on this verse is also to be preferred: I have extended, that is, continued, lovingkindness unto thee.


Verse 4

4. Virgin — See on Jeremiah 14:17.

Tabrets — Better, as in the margin, timbrels; a certain drum-like musical instrument, carried or worn especially by women in times of rejoicing. See Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6; Job 21:12; Isaiah 30:32.


Verse 5

5. Mountains of Samaria — Mentioned as the capital and sanctuary of the ten tribes. For many generations they had been exiled from this abode of their strength and pride; but now the promise is, that they shall eat their grapes there as common things; margin, shall profane them. For the first three years after planting the vines the Jews were forbidden to pluck the grapes, and the fruit of the fourth year was to be consecrated to the Lord, (see Leviticus 19:23-25; Deuteronomy 20:6,) so that not until the fifth year could the fruits be eaten as “common things.” This vividly suggests permanence of abode.


Verse 6

6. Watchmen — That is, for the new moon, as marking the beginning of the religious festival. Mount Ephraim is mentioned as another representative section of the territory of the ten tribes. That the cry should be heard here. Let us go up to Zion, betokens a restored unity.


Verse 7

7. Sing… shout… praise — In the next three verses we have a bright and joyous picture of the return of the people. As if in response to the cry of the watchman, the prophet calls for the voice of singing and gladness, for praise and the proclamation of deliverance. The whole passage is one of those vivid emotional passages in which this book so much abounds.


Verse 8

8. The blind and the lame, the woman with child, etc. — Are mentioned as illustrating the completeness of the deliverance. Thither, should be hither.


Verse 9

9. Weeping — For joy, indeed, in view of God’s wonderful goodness in permitting their return; and yet this weeping suggests the dark background of their great sin and sorrow. The rivers of waters represent God’s gracious supply of their need in this desert land.

Ephraim is my first-born — The family of Joseph, as we are told in 1 Chronicles 5:2, was selected for the honour of primogeniture. They were among those who went first into captivity, and are compensated by this distinction in the return. But no disparagement of Judah is intended.


Verse 10

10. Isles — Rather, coast-lands. God will give his people victory and deliverance, not only in the eyes of the nations immediately about them, but even the distant dwellers on the coast-lands of the Mediterranean shall in this hear the word of the Lord.


Verse 11

11. Stronger than he — But not stronger than God.


Verse 12

12. Their soul shall be as a watered garden, in which shall bebeauty, delight, and abundant supply: an inner paradise.


Verse 13

13. Young men and old shall rejoice together — See Zechariah 8:4-5.


Verse 14

14. Satiate — Abundantly satisfy — an image of prosperity. The offerings shall be so numerous that the priests shall scarcely consume the portions which fall to them.


Verse 15

15. A voice was heard — This strophe (Jeremiah 31:15-22) brings to view another side of Israel’s restoration. It was to be not merely political and external, but internal and spiritual. This is set forth in a passage of peculiar tenderness. Rachel, their common mother, is represented as lamenting the loss of her children who have gone into exile; and Ephraim, of these very children, bemoans his sins. In view of these the promise is given from the Almighty that they should come again from the land of the enemy.

Ramah — Probably, as even the Seventy understood, the town of Ramah, which was situated about five English miles to the north of Jerusalem. Why was the lamentation of Rachel heard at Ramah?

1) Most say, because Rachel was buried there, and 1 Samuel 10:2, is quoted in proof of this. But this passage is manifestly inconclusive; for not Ramah, but “Zelzar, in the border of Benjamin,” is mentioned as the locality of Rachel’s sepulchre, and the assumption that this was at Samuel’s native home, and hence Ramah, is most gratuitous. From Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19, we learn that Rachel died “on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem,” and that “there was but a little way to come to Bethlehem,” hence very plainly her tomb was near Bethlehem, which is six miles south of Jerusalem, and not Ramah, nearly as far north. This, too, falls in well with Matthew 2:18.

2) Others say that Ramah is mentioned because here the exiles were assembled preparatory to being carried away. (See Jeremiah 40:1.) But this is weeping, not over those who are to go into captivity, but those who have already gone. Yet the fact that this was the place of rendezvous gives, it must be confessed, special interest to the language.

3) Some have conjectured another Ramah, which was situated to the south of Jerusalem, and so at or near Rachel’s tomb. This conjecture is entirely unsupported, and yet not impossible. The name Ramah (height) is certainly one that would apply to many localities. But the fact of no other Ramah in this general region, which is well identified, stands strongly, if not conclusively, against this conjecture.

4) Others, as Keil, say that the lamentation was heard in Ramah “as the most loftily situated border town of the two kingdoms, whence the wailing that had arisen sounded far and near, and could be heard in Judah.” Rachel is named as the representative of that parental love shown by Israel in the pain felt when the people were lost. This explanation is, on the whole, to be preferred. We ought not, however, to leave out of account the fact, that this height was situated near Jerusalem, and so a voice in Ramah would be heard in the city and country alike.


Verse 16

16. Thy work shall be rewarded — Literally, there is a reward for thy work. Rachel weeps for the loss of her children; hence the reward spoken of must be their restoration.


Verse 18

18. As a bullock unaccustomed — Literally, like an untamed calf. See Hosea 10:11.


Verse 19

19. After that I was turned — “Turned” is equivocal, and may mean either turning away from God or turning to him. Here it is the former.


Verse 21

21. High heaps — Pillars, or signposts.


Verse 22

22. A woman shall compass a man — Numerous explanations of these unusual words have been given; as “The woman shall be changed to a man,” (Ewald;) “The woman shall court the man,” (Hitzig;) “The woman shall keep close to the man,” (Hengstenberg;) “The woman shall turn the man to herself,” (Nagelsbach;) “The woman shall protect the man,” (Gesenius, et al.,) etc. But neither one of them perfectly suits the connexion, and most of them are lexically indefensible. The new thing is, that the woman (Israel) shall compass the man (Jehovah;) that is, embrace him lovingly and trustfully. This is “new” in that it is an intimacy of union surpassing the former times. Such is Jehovah’s condescension, that Israel is permitted to do what Christ forbade to Mary Magdalene when he said, “Touch me not.”


Verse 23

23. As yet — Rather, once more, again.

Mountain of holiness — Jerusalem, including Zion as well as Moriah.


Verse 24

24. Go forth — Rather, go about. The phrase describes the ordinary life of the shepherd going hither and thither in the interest of the flock. The whole verse is a picture of peace and prosperity in contrast with the insecurity and desolation of war.


Verse 26

26. I awaked — The prophet awoke from his sleep of prophetic ecstasy, and its revelations were satisfying and refreshing.


Verse 27

27. Sow… with the seed of man, etc. — Will give a generous harvest of life, so that it will almost seem as if children and cattle sprang from the very ground.


Verse 28

28. Watched — See Jeremiah 1:12, and the note there.


Verse 29

29. They shall say no more, etc. — There is here no incongruity with those passages which describe God as”visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children.” Both are exactly true. The fearfully destructive nature of sin is illustrated in that it casts a blight upon everything it touches. A curse rests on the physical universe and on the processes of nature on account of it. Children suffer the consequences of their parents’ sins, but no being is ever punished for the sins of another. There cannot be punishment for sin without a conscience of sin. If a man dies it will be for his own iniquity.


Verse 31

31. The days come — Days of blessed promise — a period marked as the exodus itself. The contrast between the slavery of Egypt and the freedom and prosperity of Palestine is to be followed by another contrast more notable and blessed.

A new covenant — One spiritual rather than temporal and material; universal and not partial; permanent and not temporary; written on the heart instead of on the tables of stone; the down-beaming of God’s love rather than his law; a covenant of life and not of death. It was “new,” not as different from the old, but as more spiritual and more glorious.


Verse 33

33. I will put my law in their inward parts — So far from being set aside or abrogated, it shall be enthroned and enshrined at the source and centre of life. For the best commentary on these words, see the Sermon on the Mount.


Verse 34

34. I will forgive their iniquity — I will break down the barriers of separation and bring back the lost harmony. The first good thing which the Lord can do to a sinner is to forgive his iniquity.


Verse 36

36. If those ordinances depart — The appeal is to the unchangeableness of nature’s laws as a type and a pledge of the new covenant. Revelation does not begin by casting down nature or arraying itself against it; it postulates nature, and proceeds from it to what is higher and more glorious.

A nation — Rather, a people.


Verse 37

37. If heaven above can be measured, etc. — The illimitableness of the material universe is a type of God’s inexhaustible and boundless love.


Verse 38

38. To the Lord — Not to his honour merely, but for his possession and dwellingplace. From the tower of Hananeel, etc. — The tower of Hananeel was situated at the northeast corner of the city wall, (see Nehemiah 3:1; Zechariah 4:10,) while the gate of the corner probably answered to the present Jaffa gate, near the northwest corner of the city. The expression describes the whole northside, and is equal almost to its whole extent.


Verse 39

39. Gareb — Cannot be certainly identified. Probably the etymology of the word (itching) correctly points to a locality set apart for lepers, and hence outside of the city; perhaps toward the southwest. As to Goath nothing is known.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 31:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-31.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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