Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 32:1-44. Jeremiah redeems a piece of property belonging to his family. The significance of his act
A considerable part of this ch. is believed by most recent commentators to be a later addition to the historical nucleus of the narrative as found in Jeremiah 32:6-15. Thus we may consider the following vv. as more or less probably accretions, Jeremiah 32:1-5 (introductory), 17–23 (the earlier part of Jeremiah’s prayer), 28–35 (Jehovah’s denunciation of the people’s idolatry). See the notes on these passages.
The ch. may be summarized as follows. (i) Jeremiah 32:1-5. Introductory account of the circumstances under which the events of the ch. occurred. (ii) Jeremiah 32:6-15. The prophet is invited by his kinsman, Hanamel, to exercise his right as next of kin to buy his field at Anathoth, and recognises it as his duty to do so, having already received a Divine communication announcing the object of his kinsman’s coming. He executes the purchase with due legal formalities, and charges Baruch to secure the preservation of the deeds; inasmuch as he has Jehovah’s promise that, in spite of present circumstances, land tenure shall again become secure. (iii) Jeremiah 32:16-27. The prophet addresses Jehovah, the omnipotent, the merciful, the all-knowing, the Deliverer and Preserver of His people in past times, who now for their disobedience are in imminent danger from the Chaldaeans. Can it be that normal security will ever return? The Lord answers that nothing is too hard for Him. (iv) Jeremiah 32:28-35. The Lord enumerates the people’s sins, idolatry and human sacrifices, and declares that the city shall be sacked as requital for its polluting practices. (v) Jeremiah 32:36-44. Nevertheless, the people shall be brought back from Babylon, and enjoy Jehovah’s favour, and secure possession of their land.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.1. Jeremiah’s own circumstances and those of the State are given first with great particularity in order that it may be brought out that it is in spite of the gloomiest appearances that his faith in the future is thus firm.
the tenth year of Zedekiah] The siege had commenced in his ninth year (Jeremiah 39:1), but the Chaldaeans, hearing that an Egyptian army was approaching, had departed for a time (Jeremiah 37:5). Jeremiah took advantage of this to leave Jerusalem, in order to visit his property at Anathoth, was charged with falling away to the Chaldaeans, and in spite of his denial was imprisoned (Jeremiah 37:11-15). The stringency with which he was at first treated was after a while relaxed on his petitioning the king to that effect (Jeremiah 37:20, Jeremiah 38:28). He was still, however, “shut up in the court of the guard” (Jeremiah 32:2). This part of the narrative therefore is somewhat subsequent in date to those incidents above referred to which are recounted later.
1–5. Introductory account of the historical position.
For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house.2. the court of the guard] not meaning the place where a guard, or body of men, were posted but “a part of the court surrounding the Palace railed off to guard prisoners in, whom it was not desired to throw into the common dungeon” (Dr. ad loc.; see also his note p. 367). Cp. Nehemiah 3:25; Nehemiah 12:39.
For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;3. For] Gi. and Co. supported by LXX render Where, to which Du. also inclines. Not so Dr.
3–5. These vv. form a parenthetical explanation, so that Jeremiah 32:6 is to be connected immediately in sense with Jeremiah 32:2.
And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes;4. This v. occurs again in almost the same words at ch. Jeremiah 34:3, where see note.
And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the LORD: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper?5. until I visit him] The words are in themselves ambiguous and they with the rest of the v. are lacking in the LXX.
And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,6–15. See introd. summary to the section.
Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.7. Hanamel the son of Shallum thine uncle] The distinct statement in Jeremiah 32:8-9 however that Hanamel was Jeremiah’s first cousin makes it necessary to refer the word uncle of this v. to Shallum, and to consider the word for son in Jeremiah 32:12 to have been accidentally omitted by a Heb. copyist.
Anathoth] See Intr. p. x.
the right of redemption is thine to buy it] According to the law, as formulated in Leviticus 25:24 f.; Ruth 4:6, if land was, or was about to be, sold, the nearest of kin, in this case Jeremiah, had a right to purchase or re-purchase it as the case might be, so that it should not pass from one family to another. For the system of land tenure (although it is doubtful whether the laws regulating it were ever reduced to practice) see HDB. IV. 325 a.
So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.8. which … Benjamin] absent from LXX and under the circumstances obviously a superfluity.
the right of inheritance is thine] We infer that Hanamel had no children.
And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.9. that was in Anathoth] Omit with LXX.
weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver] The shekel weighed about 220 of our grains. The amount may appear small (about £2. 6s. 6d. of our money), but we do not know the size of the field. It is clear from the aim of the whole transaction that it was a fair price in ordinary times. We must remember also that in those days the purchasing power of silver was much greater. Araunah’s threshing floor, oxen, and implements were bought at a time of great prosperity for fifty shekels (2 Samuel 24:24).
And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.10. And I subscribed the deed] The following will explain the particulars of Jeremiah’s action as given here and in the next vv. “Contracts stamped upon clay tablets have been found in Babylonia, enclosed in an envelope of clay, on the outside of which an exact duplicate of the contract was impressed (see an illustration in Maspero, The Dawn of Civilization, p. 732): if in course of time any disagreement arose, and it was suspected that the outside text had been tampered with, the envelope was broken in the presence of witnesses to see if the inside text agreed with it or not. Earthen jars containing such duplicate contracts have been excavated at Nippur (Peters, Nippur; II. 198).” Dr. ad loc. See further in Johns, Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts, and Letters, pp. 10 f.
sealed it] not in our sense of adding a seal to a signature (“under one’s hand and seal”), but sealed up, closed securely.
So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:11. both that which was sealed … and that which was open] but not implying two documents to be kept separate. They were the two parts of a whole. See on Jeremiah 32:10.
according to the law and custom] better, with mg. containing the terms and conditions. The former Dr. however renders the injunction, viz. to the seller, bidding him hand over the property, while the latter are the conditions on which it is purchased.
And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.12. Baruch] the first mention of the prophet’s faithful amanuensis.
mine uncle’s son] See on Jeremiah 32:7. From this v. together with ch. Jeremiah 51:59 we gather that Seraiah, chief chamberlain to Zedekiah, was Baruch’s brother.
in the court of the guard] See on Jeremiah 32:2.
And I charged Baruch before them, saying,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.15. “It is not the only time in the history of States and Churches that he who has been denounced as a deserter and traitor [see note on the tenth year of Zedekiah, Jeremiah 32:1] becomes in the last extremity the best comforter and counsellor. Demosthenes, who had warned his fellow countrymen in his earlier days against their excessive confidence, in his later days was the only man who could reassure their excessive despondency. Stanley’s J. Ch. II. 465.
For an illustration of the above transaction from Roman history see Intr. p. xviii.
Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the LORD, saying,16. I prayed unto the Lord] Jeremiah still felt a difficulty in reconciling the obvious import of the transaction which he had just carried out at the Lord’s command with that overthrow which at the command of the same Lord he had so frequently announced to the guilty city. This difficulty he expresses in Jeremiah 32:24 f. which (against Du.), unlike the earlier portion of the invocation, are in all probability genuine. Jeremiah 32:17-23 (see introd. notes) (a) are to a large extent made up of expressions found elsewhere in this Book and in Deut., (b) bear a marked resemblance to Nehemiah 9:5-38, and (c) in their elaboration are quite out of proportion to the brevity of the prayer that succeeds them. The passage, however, is in itself a fine composition, setting forth in order Jehovah’s attributes in general (Jeremiah 32:17-19), His dealings with His people in particular (Jeremiah 32:20-22), and Israel’s sinfulness and its penalty (Jeremiah 32:23).
16–27. See introd. summary to the section.
Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:17. thy stretched out arm] Here, as in Jeremiah 27:5, referring to creation. Elsewhere the expression has to do with Jehovah’s acts of deliverance (e.g. Jeremiah 32:21; Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34). Cp. the similar phrase used of punishment in Jeremiah 21:5.
hard] lit. as mg. wonderful. Cp. Genesis 18:14.
Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name,18. recompensest the iniquity of the fathers] an allusion to the Decalogue (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). See on Jeremiah 31:29.
into the bosom] The Eastern garment formed at the bosom numerous folds, which served as a pocket. Cp. Ruth 3:15; Proverbs 17:23, and for the phrase itself Psalm 79:12; Isaiah 65:6.
Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings:
Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day;20. which didst set] Cp. Deuteronomy 6:22; Nehemiah 9:10.
even unto this day] a difficult expression. Perhaps we should understand before these words, and hast continued them (signs and wonders).
And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror;21. Almost the same as Deuteronomy 26:8. For the terror caused to neighbouring nations by the miracles attendant upon the Exodus cp. Exodus 15:14; Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 4:34.
And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey;22. a land flowing with milk and honey] See Jeremiah 11:5, and for the whole v. cp. Nehemiah 9:22-35.
And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them:
Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it.24. the mounts] See on ch. Jeremiah 6:6.
are come unto the city] The enemy have pushed them forward so that they already reach to the walls.
is given] The thing is virtually done, there being a complete blockade, and no hope of rescue for the starving population within.
And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.25. The two things, the state of the city and God’s command, are placed side by side that their apparent inconsistency may be most strikingly shewn.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,26–35. See introd. summary to the section. The vv. after 27, purporting to give the Lord’s reply to Jeremiah’s question as to the fitness of his action in purchasing the field, bear fully the marks of a later addition. Their substance indeed is quite in harmony with other prophecies in the Book, and they consist to a large extent of Jeremianic expressions. On the other hand, they are quite unnatural in this context. See further in note on Jeremiah 32:36-44.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it:28. thus saith the Lord] A formula only suitable to introduce an utterance by the prophet himself is here assigned to the Divine speaker.
And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger.
For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.30. from their youth] from their earliest times; cp. Hosea 11:1. In Jeremiah 2:2 the Exodus time is spoken of as the youth of Israel.
for the children … the Lord] omitted in LXX and probably a gloss, for otherwise why should its reference, in spite of the preceding clause, be confined to the Northern tribes? “Israel” can hardly be used in the wide and restricted senses in the same v.
For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,31. from the day that they built it] a somewhat loose expression (as it existed in Canaanitish times; see 2 Samuel 5:6 ff.) for its earliest days as an Israelitish city.
Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.32, 33. These vv. are akin to Jeremiah 2:26 f., Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 7:25, Jeremiah 11:17, Jeremiah 25:3 f.
And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.33. though I taught them, etc.] This verb and the two participles following are infinitives in the Heb. (as in ch. Jeremiah 7:9, where see note), and there was a teaching of them, etc.
But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it.34, 35. See on Jeremiah 7:30-31, in the main identical with these vv. In addition it is to be remarked that here Baal and Molech are identified. Molech is probably only a variant or distortion of the word melech, king, in order to express contempt or abhorrence by giving to the consonants the vowels of bosheth, shame (cp. Ishbosheth, 2 Samuel 2:8, for Eshbaal, 1 Chronicles 8:33). Apparently this title of king “was in use among the Phoenicians and especially at Byblus; and Philo of Byblus writes of the god of his city, whom he calls Cronus, that he sacrificed his own son. Of this deity Diodorus says, ‘The Carthaginians had a brasen statue of Cronus, with hands extended upwards, but with the palms bent downwards towards the earth, so that the child who was laid upon them rolled into a pit of fire below.’ Now since Cronus was a god of the Underworld where ‘no rays of the sun penetrated and no wind blew’ (Homer, Iliad 8:479 ff.), i.e. was a god of the Dead, it is quite probable that the deity whom the Semites called Melech was also a god of the Shades. Such a god would naturally be supposed to have the desire of peopling his realm, and human sacrifices would seem to be acceptable to him. Thus Melech seems to be the designation of a deity like the Babylonian Nergal (2 Kings 17:30), the god of pestilence, war, and the country of the dead.” Barnes on 1 Kings 11:5 C. B.
And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence;36. thus saith the Lord] See on Jeremiah 32:27.
ye say] better, with LXX, thou (Jeremiah) sayest, referring to his words in Jeremiah 32:24. The MT. may have arisen from the influence of Jeremiah 33:10.
36–44. See introd. summary to the section. There seems much more to be said for the genuineness of this group of vv. in the main than for that of the previous one, though here too (see note introducing the section) there is far from a general acceptance of them by commentators. They have comparatively little in common with other passages as regards phraseology, and they are more relevant to the question which Jeremiah had asked (Jeremiah 32:24 f.). Jeremiah 32:37 (which speaks as though a general dispersion had already taken place) and Jeremiah 32:43 (referring to the land as already desolate) are perhaps the least defensible parts of the subsection.
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:
And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:39. that they may fear me for ever … after them] The words seem suggested by those of Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:24.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.40. that they shall not depart] better, that it turn not away.
Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.41. I will plant them] See on Jeremiah 24:6.
For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.
And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.
Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.44. in the land of Benjamin, etc.] See on Jeremiah 17:26.