Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Hitherto the general tone of Jeremiah’s prophecies has been gloomy. Any gleams of brightness that have from time to time appeared (e.g. Jeremiah 3:14, Jeremiah 16:14 f., Jeremiah 23:3), even if we may assume them to have come from the prophet’s own mouth, have borne but a very small proportion to the long stretches of melancholy foreboding and stern declaration of coming punishment, which have formed the gist of his prophecies. In chs. 30–33 we have a marked change in this respect, and the whole tone here is that of hope. As regards the component parts and dates of the chs. see notes below. We may divide the whole prophecy into three parts. (i) “The triumphal hymn of Israel’s salvation” (Hengst.), 30, 31. (ii) The purchase by Jeremiah of a field in Anathoth with an explanation of the significance of this act, 32. (iii) Promise of restoration of the nation with renewed glory conferred on the house of David and the Levitical priesthood, 33.
Chs. Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 31:40. Promises of national restoration
These chs. form an interruption to the mainly biographical portion of the Book, which otherwise runs on, with short breaks, from ch. 26 to ch. 44 inclusive, while here we have prophetic utterances only. The two chs. form a closely connected whole, and deal with the future of Israel and Judah. Moreover, their subject-matter in its order of thought is evidently arranged with care. Graf, developing hints given by Ewald, and pointing to the prophetic custom illustrated in Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Micah, of closing with a brighter picture and with Messianic hopes, holds these chs. to be the corresponding conclusion of Jeremiah’s Roll as published in its second edition (Jeremiah 36:32). He finds a close link in turns of expression with ch. 3 and other earlier parts of the Book, and so dates these chs. in Jehoiakim’s reign. To this Co. objects that the chs. are composed from a later standpoint, and that they assume the destruction of Jerusalem and the commencement of the exile to have taken place already. He is supported by Du. and Gi. in holding that we have here certain genuine utterances of Jeremiah (e.g. all three agree in accepting Jeremiah 31:2-5; Jeremiah 31:15-20) with much amplification by later hands. Thus Gi. calls the section a “mosaic,” made up, as much of it is, from various passages of Jeremiah and other prophets. The main disagreement among these three commentators is in the case of the very important and striking passage, Jeremiah 31:31-34, which is given up, though very reluctantly, by Du., but retained by the others (see further in notes on that passage). Movers, de Wette, and Hitzig led the way in breaking up the chs. into their component parts. Further, however, they were for attributing the post-Jeremianic parts to the authorship of the second Isaiah, a view which Graf energetically and successfully combated. Stade and Smend went further, maintaining that the whole is post-exilic.
Accepting the view that the date of composition was subsequent to the final overthrow of Jerusalem, and that we have here genuine prophecies of Jeremiah, more or less overlaid with additional matter, we may still enquire why these two chs. of encouragement and hope were interposed in the course of the narrative portion (chs. 26–44) at this point. The answer seems to be (so Co.) that the insertion here was suggested to the compiler as suitable not only by the words in Jeremiah 29:32 (“the good that I will do unto my people”), but by the whole tenor of that ch., as forecasting a future rich in comfort and in the favour of God. A further reason may be that ch. 29 formed a fitting transition, as being itself a combination of prophecy and narrative.
Two points emerge from the discussion as fairly established; (i) that ch. 31, but not ch. 30, contains a large amount of authentic matter, and (ii) that “the compiler felt that the prominence of Northern Israel [ch. 31] threw Judah into the background, and this largely accounts for the additions [ch. 30] which he made.” Pe.
We may summarize the whole section as follows. (i) ch. 30 Jeremiah 30:1-4. Jeremiah is bidden to write all the Lord’s words in a book, for Israel and Judah shall be brought back from captivity. (ii) Jeremiah 30:5-22. Terrors are coming on the world, but Jacob shall be delivered. Israel, though not left unpunished, need not fear the destruction that is coming on the nations. Bitter indeed are her pains by reason of her sins, but, as her despoilers have done to her, so shall it be done to them, while, with city rebuilt and under a ruler rejoicing in Jehovah’s favour, the people shall dwell in prosperity and peace. (iii) Jeremiah 30:23-24. Jehovah shall be fully avenged on the wicked. This will be evident to His people in the end. (iv) ch. 31 Jeremiah 31:1-9. The Northern tribes shall again find favour and Samaria shall be re-inhabited: there follows a vivid picture of the return journey. (v) Jeremiah 31:10-14. Announcement of this restoration to the nations. (vi) Jeremiah 31:15-22. Rachel, lamenting from her grave near Ramah her banished children, is addressed in words of comfort: Ephraim’s penitential mood is welcomed with affection by the Lord; the virgin of Israel is summoned to address herself to the journey. (vii) Jeremiah 31:23-26. Judah also shall be brought back and shall inhabit Zion. (viii) Jeremiah 31:27-30. Jehovah will renew the youth of Israel and Judah; the sons shall no longer suffer for the sins of their progenitors. (ix) Jeremiah 31:31-34. The great prophecy of the New Covenant, whose principle shall be no code of outward ordinances, but an inly operating law, filling all with the knowledge of God. (x) Jeremiah 31:35-40. Israel shall be established in security as Jehovah’s people, and Jerusalem, extended beyond her former limits, shall be holy to the Lord for ever.
At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.1. all the families of Israel] the twelve tribes. Afterwards the Northern kingdom is dealt with (2–22), then the Southern (23–26), and then again both together (27–40).
Jeremiah 31:1-9. See introd. summary to the section. Jeremiah 31:1, virtually a repetition of Jeremiah 30:22, should be joined to the previous ch.
Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.2. Gi., Du. and Co. agree in considering Jeremiah 31:1-6 as, in their main substance, a genuine and early utterance of Jeremiah. The language suggests a date approximately that of ch. 3. Those of the Northern tribes who have survived the slaughter attendant upon their overthrow, and are in the “wilderness” of exile, shall see the Lord, and find favour in His eyes. Their hitherto restless wanderings shall have an end. They shall return to their old home. The verbs are in the “prophetic past.” The prophet describes the reconciliation with Jehovah as already accomplished.
when I went to cause him to rest] or, mg. when he went to find him rest; but better than either (as Jehovah appears still to be the speaker), I will go, that I may cause Israel to rest (so Dr.).
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.3. The Lord appeared of old unto me] It is best to take this as put in the mouth of the people themselves.
of old] rather, as mg. from afar, as the same Hebrew word is rendered ch. Jeremiah 30:10. The people from their distant exile in Assyria think upon God as dwelling upon His accustomed seat, Mount Zion.
with lovingkindness have I drawn thee] mg. have I continued lovingkindness unto thee. Cp. Psalm 36:10 and mg. of Psalm 109:12. But, considering the strong influence of Hosea on Jeremiah, it is perhaps best to retain “have I drawn” (or I draw). Cp. the parallel in Hosea 11:4.
Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.4. will I build thee, and thou shalt be built] For build = make to prosper, see note on Jeremiah 12:16.
O virgin of Israel] The nation is addressed under the figure of a woman, as so often.
tabrets] The tabret or timbrel, the Heb. tôph, the duff or diff of the Arabs, is a hoop on which pieces of brass are often fixed, and over which parchment is extended. It is thus played with the fingers like our tambourine. It was used in early times by the Syrians of Paddanaram (Genesis 31:27), played principally by women (Exodus 15:20; Jdg 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6; Psalm 68:25), but also by prophets (1 Samuel 10:5) and by others (2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8). Peake refers for the place occupied by dancing in the religion of the later (post-exilic) period to an essay by Franz Delitzsch, Iris, pp. 189, 204.
Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things.5. shalt thou plant vineyards, etc.] As for several years these would yield no fruit of value, the words imply a return of settled prosperity.
Samaria] A post-exilic writer would not have mentioned Jerusalem’s rival in such a connexion.
shall enjoy] mg. Heb. profane, or, make common. The fruit borne by a tree for the first three years was not to be gathered, that of the fourth year was to be consecrated to God, while that of the fifth year the owner might eat. See Leviticus 19:23-25; Deuteronomy 20:6; Deuteronomy 28:30. The word which in Deut. (“used,” “use”) expresses the handing over of the fruit to the owner’s use is that here rendered “enjoy.”
For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.6. watchmen] giving signals for the pilgrimage.
let us go up to Zion] for the schism between the Northern and Southern tribes is at an end.
For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.7. for the chief] i.e. Israel; cp. Amos 6:1; or, as mg. at the head, i.e. as leader of the nations thus set free. But it is perhaps best (so Du.) to read on the top of the mountains (for “nations”), as suggested by the mention of them in Jeremiah 31:5-6. Cp. Isaiah 42:11.
O Lord, save thy people] LXX and Targ. read, The Lord hath saved his people. If we adopt that reading, we must understand the verb as the prophetic perfect (hath determined to save). The actual event is still future in Jeremiah 31:8.
7–15. These vv. are probably on the whole post-exilic, having close affinities with 2 Isaiah.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.8. The Lord’s reply to the joyous acclamation. Cp. Isaiah 42:16; Isaiah 40:11.
the blind and the lame, etc.] None shall be omitted. Even those who would naturally have most difficulty in travelling shall return.
hither] to Palestine, where the prophet is now writing.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.9. with weeping] tears of contrition, cp. Jeremiah 3:21. But LXX, “They went forth with weeping, but with consolation will I bring them back,” though giving quite a different turn to the passage, may well be correct. As Peake points out, the LXX are supported by the great prominence given in 2 Isaiah to the comforting of Israel.
by rivers] to rivers. Neither thirst nor roughness of the road shall trouble them as they traverse the desert homewards. Cp. Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 43:19 f., Jeremiah 48:21, Jeremiah 49:10; so Isaiah 40:4 (mg.), Jeremiah 42:16. Cp. also Isaiah 35.
Ephraim is my firstborn] It is remarkable, if this passage be not Jeremianic, that Ephraim should be granted by the writer the title of firstborn. But cp. 1 Chronicles 5:1-3.
Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.10. For the general sense, and in particular for the term “the isles” (See on Jeremiah 25:22), cp. Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 42:10; Isaiah 49:1.
He that scattered Israel will gather him] The nations are instructed that as it was not their doing but God’s, that His people had been subject to a foreign yoke, so now their restoration will be His work alone.
10–14. See introd. summary to the section.
For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.12. shall flow together] The exact sense is not quite plain. Does it continue the picture which the first clause gives us of the returned tribes assembling in joyful worship on the holy mountain, that they may receive the blessings of a fruitful land, or are they likened to a river which pours down from Zion, so that, their religious service over, they go forth to their several abodes to reap the produce of the field, vineyard, and oliveyard? The use of the word in the parallel passages (ch. Jeremiah 51:44; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1) makes the former interpretation to be perhaps on the whole the better of the two.
goodness] viz. the material blessings that follow.
wine] new wine, must. See Joel and Amos (C.B.), p. 179.
sorrow] pine, waste away through listlessness and inactivity, such as they had felt when exiles. Cp. the cognate word in Deuteronomy 28:65 (“pining of soul”).
Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.13. the young men and the old, etc.] For “together” it is best (pointing the MT. differently) to read with LXX “shall rejoice.”
And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.14. satiate] lit. water.
the soul of the priests with fatness] The sacrifices shall be so numerous that the priests and their families shall have more than enough for their share. The priest’s portion was the wave-breast and heave-shoulder (Leviticus 7:31-34). For the soul considered as the seat of desire, cp. Jeremiah 22:28, and in this case of eagerness for food, appetite, Isaiah 56:11, “greedy dogs,” lit. “strong of soul.”
Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.15. This v. is specially familiar to us through St Matt. (Jeremiah 2:17 f.), who quotes it after relating the slaughter of the Innocents at Bethlehem. The prophecy is quoted as an illustration or type. The mourning at Ramah is a forecast of that bitter wailing which shall be raised by the mothers of the slaughtered babes. The geographical connexion of Ramah and Bethlehem cannot be maintained, and depends upon a statement which is probably a gloss in Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7, “Ephrath (the same is Bethlehem).” Ramah is mentioned first in Joshua 18:25, between Gibeon and Beeroth, five miles north of Jerusalem, and is very possibly identical with the birth-place, home, and place of burial of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:19; 1 Samuel 25:1). It was much too far from Bethlehem to be in any way immediately connected with the subject in illustration of which St Matt. quotes the passage. It was at Ramah that the exiles were assembled before departing for Babylon, as described ch. Jeremiah 40:1. The appropriateness of calling upon Rachel to weep in Ramah consists in this, that her tomb (1 Samuel 10:2 f.) was on the N. border of Benjamin, not far from Bethel which was ten miles N. of Jerusalem, and thus apparently in the neighbourhood of Ramah as well. See the whole question discussed, with views of the probable site, in Pal. Explor. Fund Quart. Statement, April 1912, pp. 74 ff. (Clermont-Ganneau and R. A. S. Macalister).
15–17. Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, is heard weeping for her lost sons. She is bidden to dry her tears, for there is hope.
15–22. See introd. summary to the section. These striking vv. may be confidently considered as stamped with Jeremiah’s personality.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.16. thy work shall be rewarded] As children have been in thy life and thy death a subject of pain and grief to thee, and as these thy descendants again have grievously perished, so the recompense for all this trouble now arrives, and thou shalt witness the return of the captives.
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.
I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.18. The Lord declares that He has heard Ephraim confessing that his punishment was the just consequence of his sin, and praying for acceptance.
as a calf unaccustomed to the yoke] that has not been tamed.
I shall be turned] rather I will turn in the neuter sense (not the passive, which modern English usage implies). See Dr. p. 366.
Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.19. after that I was turned] rather (see preceding note), after I turned. Ephraim turns, and his repentance is the completion of his conversion. The Heb. text which seems to underlie the LXX rendering, viz. “after my captivity,” is hardly to be accepted.
instructed] by punishment. Cp. the use of the word “taught” (the same verb in the Hebrew), Jdg 8:16.
I smote upon my thigh] in token of contrition. Cp. Ezekiel 21:12.
the reproach of my youth] the disgrace brought upon me by the sins of my earlier life as a nation.
Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.20. God is represented as the speaker. He asks Himself whether Ephraim is still beloved by Him. The answer is contained in the words that follow. As often as He makes mention of him, His affection towards him is stirred. The picture is of course adapted to human modes of thought and feeling, and represents God as acting in the same way in which a man would, when thinking upon the ingratitude and rebellion of a son, whom he nevertheless cannot but continue to love.
pleasant child] lit. a child of delights, a beloved child.
as often as I speak against him] or, as often as I speak of him.
my bowels are troubled] lit. as mg. sound. The meaning is, my heart yearns. See on Jeremiah 4:19.
Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.21. That the travellers should themselves be bidden to set up signposts has caused needless trouble to some commentators. Israel is bidden to mark out the way for his return, perhaps by pioneers sent in advance.
guide-posts] The Heb. word occurs here only.
set thine heart] The heart in Heb. denotes the seat of the intellect. Hence the sense is, turn thy attention to the way by which thou wentest into exile, that thou mayest retrace thy steps.
How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.22. How long wilt thou go hither and thither] How long wilt thou hesitate to return? A sign follows, in order to induce Israel to complete her reconciliation with her offended God.
backsliding] lit. back-turning, i.e. recusant, apostate.
the Lord hath created, etc.] No explanation that has been given of the latter part of the v. is quite satisfactory. But the sense clearly is that in some way the natural order of things shall be reversed. The best interpretation is perhaps that it shall be the bride that shall court her husband, i.e. “instead of shyly keeping aloof or worse (as hitherto), Israel, Jehovah’s bride, shall with eager affection press around her divine husband” (Cheyne). Another explanation is that such is the Lord’s condescension towards Israel, that He will for her glory allow the natural order to be reversed, and deign to accept protection (of His Temple, services, honour, etc.) at her hands. For this sense of cherishing, protecting, as belonging to the Heb. verb of the clause, we may compare Deuteronomy 32:10, “He (the Lord) led him (Israel) about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye”; and Psalm 32:10, “He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.” Some commentators, by a very slight change in the Heb. vocalisation, obtain the rendering, a woman shall be turned into a man, i.e. shall be given the courage of a man, so that all fear and hesitation on her part may be at an end.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.23. The Lord now turns from Israel (Ephraim) to Judah, and in this and the next two verses promises her like blessing.
again] as was the use in former time.
habitation] homestead; the word rendered “folds” in Jeremiah 23:3, where see note.
mountain of holiness] The expression seems to be used indifferently of the Temple Mountain and of Jerusalem as a whole. See Psalm 2:6; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 27:13, and (especially for Jerusalem) the following: Isaiah 66:20; Daniel 9:16; Zechariah 8:3.
23–26. See introd. summary to the section. The passage resembles 12–14, and is probably later than Jeremiah’s time.
And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks.24. they that go about] opposed to dwellers in fixed habitations, such as the inhabitants of the towns and husbandmen. Cp. Isaiah 30:23.
For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.25. sorrowful] pining, virtually the same word as that rendered “sorrow” in Jeremiah 31:12, where see note.
Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.26. Words put in the mouth of the prophet himself, as they are not suitable either to God or to the exiles. The ecstatic state is here called “sleep,” and as the prophecy had been of so unusually cheering a character, that sleep might well be called sweet.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.27. I will sow … with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast] I will make the people and their cattle to prosper and multiply so fast, that the offspring of both shall seem almost to spring from the ground after the manner of seed sown. Cp. Ezekiel 36:9-11.
27–30. See introd. summary to the section.
And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.28. I have watched over them] The Heb. verb is the same as that of ch. Jeremiah 1:12, where see note.
to pluck up, etc.] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 1:10, Jeremiah 18:7; Jeremiah 18:9. Thus the later and more cheering part of the message for which Jeremiah was ordained is now being delivered by him.
In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.29, 30. The words “The fathers have eaten, etc.” occur also in Ezekiel 18:2, where they are spoken of as a proverb. The people complain that they are being punished for the sins of an earlier generation (perhaps under Manasseh) and murmuring against God’s justice. In the future individual responsibility will be recognised. The earlier view that responsibility for the crime of an individual was as a matter of course shared by all his belongings animate and inanimate alike (see examples in Joshua 7:24 f.; 1 Samuel 22:16-19; 2 Samuel 21:1-9), gradually yielded (see 2 Kings 14:5 f.) as the more enlightened conscience revolted against it. Deuteronomy 24:16 marks the change. But Israel in its protest ignores its own sin. As a matter of fact Jeremiah’s generation were as much involved in guilt, and that of no trifling kind, as their predecessors. See further on the general subject, Peake, Problem, etc. pp. 21 f.
But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:31. a new covenant] which in contrast to that ratified at Sinai, and forfeited by the people’s repeated disobedience, shall have the essential element of stability and permanence.
and with the house of Judah] In the light of Jeremiah 31:33, where no such clause occurs, this is probably a gloss by a scribe who desired that his own tribe should not be omitted from mention. The omission moreover restores the Ḳinah measure.
31–34. See introd. summary to the section. These vv. are quoted in Hebrews 8:9-12. Cp. Ezekiel 37:23-27. We have here the announcement of a new covenant which should supersede that made at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, differing from it (i) in permanence, (ii) in the principle by which it should be maintained unbroken. The Law consisted of duties imposed upon the people from without; the spring of action which should produce willing conformity to the new covenant was to be wholly within. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the people’s hearts being circumcised to love the Lord with all their heart and soul, but here the motive power that belongs to the new dispensation is for the first time made plain. The sense of forgiveness (Jeremiah 31:34) through God’s grace shall call out such a spirit of gratitude as shall ensure a willing service, depending on inward not outward motives, based on love, not fear. The new covenant therefore is at once to replace the old (see Hebrews 8:8-12), but, though new in springs of action, it is to be still the same in substance. Thus the passage forms the climax of Jeremiah’s teaching. The religious failure hitherto consisted in gross and repeated acts of disobedience to the outward ordinances imposed on Israel as a national unit. It was necessary in future to get behind ordinances to the source itself of the evil so as to reach the individual heart. If that heart was attuned to the recognition of its relationship to God, all would thenceforth be right. When the inward hostility to the externally imposed law has been changed to a ready conformity, because that law is recognised as no longer an outside matter, but has become part of the individual’s own personality, then the Divine and human wills become identified. Religion will now have acquired a title, no longer superficial, to the name national; for each individual will be renewed in heart. Thus “while other prophets did much to interpret religion and to enforce its demands, [Jeremiah] transformed the very conception of religion itself” (Peake, I. 46).
The genuineness of the passage has been doubted or denied by various commentators from Movers onwards, and it is rejected, though very reluctantly, by Du., but on grounds which are shewn by Co. to be quite inconclusive. Du. considers it to be the production of an author of late date, zealous for the faithful observance of legal ordinances, and he denies the spiritual character of the conceptions which the words seem plainly to indicate. But the contrast is a marked one between the external nature of the Sinaitic legislation, and the internal change in the individual’s personality, involved in the New Covenant which is to take its place. What was that Sinaitic legislation in Jeremiah’s view? Ch. 7 tells us that it was, in a word, the Decalogue (see specially Jeremiah 31:9), written with the finger of God. These precepts are now to be written in men’s hearts, and so to ensure an intuitive obedience, “the living pulse-beat of an automatic morality” (Co.).
The very brevity of the utterance (even if we admit the possibility of a slight amount of modification by Baruch or others) supports the acceptance of it as genuine. Its date will naturally be the period of the overthrow of the old régime in the destruction of Jerusalem (b.c. 586). Under circumstances such as these the prophet gives utterance to what is surely a sublime triumph of faith, as he raises on the ruins of the old a new and more spiritual structure.
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:32. in the day] See on Jeremiah 7:22.
took them by the hand] with fostering care, as of a father guiding the faltering steps of a young child. Cp. Hosea 11:1-4.
to bring them … Egypt] omitted by Co., as well as the last three words of the v., so restoring the Ḳinah measure.
which my covenant they brake] mg. forasmuch as they brake my covenant. The contrast between “they” and the “I” of the next clause is emphasized in the original.
although I was an husband unto them] mg. lord over them. We should, however, changing one Heb. letter, read (supported by LXX and Syr.) and I abhorred them. Cp. “and I regarded them not” in Hebrews 8:9. Jehovah’s rejection of them was a gradual process, culminating in the overthrow of the Northern and later of the Southern kingdom.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.33. We may compare, in support of Jeremiah’s authorship, ch. Jeremiah 4:4 (“foreskins of your heart”); also Jeremiah 24:7. Moreover, the post-Jeremianic Isaiah 51:7 seems to be a reference to this passage.
I will put my law … heart] thus securing that henceforward no complex system of ordinances will be needed. The inner life, emotional and intellectual alike, will be in full harmony with Jehovah’s will.
and I will be … my people] This relationship, existing under the Old Covenant, shall be restored, but with a new and permanent significance.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.34. They shall each in the future possess, independent of external teaching, the knowledge of God, implanted by Himself in their hearts. Cp. Jeremiah 24:7, and still more clearly Jeremiah 9:24; so Isaiah 54:13.
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:35. stirreth up, etc.] The converse sense stilleth (mg.) although representing a Heb. root identical in consonants with that in the text (found e.g. in Jeremiah 50:34, “give rest”) is here indefensible.
35–37. Many hold these vv. to be by a writer of later date than Jeremiah, because (a) the vehemence of their national tone exceeds the prophet’s ordinary form of expression, (b) they present a good many points of contact with 2 Isaiah (Isaiah 40:12; Isaiah 40:26; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24 ff; Isaiah 45:7; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 54:9 f.), (c) Jeremiah 31:37 at any rate seems to have been a marginal gloss, the LXX placing it before Jeremiah 31:35, (d) the style is unmetrical, (e) they can hardly have been spoken by Jeremiah as his climax to the prophecy of the New Covenant. Obviously, however, they might still be a genuine fragment inserted here from another context. On the whole the case remains doubtful.
35–40. See introd. summary to the section.
If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.36. As soon shall the Divine decrees which regulate the course of nature be dissolved, as Israel be utterly rejected from its status as the people of Jehovah.
Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner.38. Behold, the days come] The word come is omitted in the earliest form of the Heb. text, but probably by an error in copying, as the phrase is a favourite one with Jeremiah. See note on Jeremiah 23:5.
that the city shall be built] The words which follow no doubt express an enlargement of the bounds of the city, but from our ignorance of the exact position of the places named, we cannot speak more definitely. From the mention made of “the tower of Hananel” in Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39; and of “the corner-gate” in 2 Kings 14:13; 2 Chronicles 26:9 (cp. Zechariah 14:10 for both places) we find that the former was at or near the N.E. and the latter the N.W. corner of the city wall.
to the Lord] for His honour.
38–40. These vv. may safely be assumed to belong to post-exilic days, when topographical questions connected with the extent of the city assumed importance. Cp. Zechariah 14. For the position of places here mentioned, see Quart. Statement of Pal. Explor. Fund, Jan. 1912, p. 28.
And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.39. This v., continuing the description from the N. W. corner, takes the W. side of Jerusalem and promises an extension in that direction also towards the valley of Hinnom southwards.
Gareb] Nothing further is known of this name or of “Goah.”
And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.40. valley of the dead bodies] the valley of Hinnom, into which carcases of criminals and of animals were cast. It was also defiled as the scene of human sacrifices offered to Molech (Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 32:35), and to these the “ashes” also seem to refer. So Dr.
the fields] The MT. gives us alternative readings, exhibiting only the slightest difference in spelling, but one of them unknown outside this passage. The other, to be rendered as in E.VV., is in all probability the original one and is found in a kindred context, 2 Kings 23:4.
the horse gate] mentioned Nehemiah 3:28 at the S.E. corner of the Temple courts, 2 Kings 11:16 = 2 Chronicles 23:15.
This verse makes the same announcement as to the S. side of Jerusalem as the earlier ones had done for the N. and W. sides, viz. that it should in the future enclose spaces now considered unclean.