The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.
(2) Write thee all the words . . .—The opening words emphasise the fact that what follows was not spoken at first, like Jeremiah 27, 28, in the presence of the people, but was from the first committed to writing. There is no definite point at which we may be certain that the section ends, and there is room for many conjectures as to interpolations here and there, but the opening of Jeremiah 32 suggests the conclusion that it takes in the whole of Jeremiah 30, 31. The general character of the prophecy, probably in part consequent on the acceptance of the prophet’s teaching by the exiles of Babylon, is one of blessing and restoration, and he is thus led on to the great utterance which, from one point of view, makes him more the prophet of the Gospel even than Isaiah. It is here that we find that promise of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) which both as a word and a fact has been prominent in the history of Christendom.
For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.(3) I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah . . .—The oracle of Jeremiah 29:10-14 becomes, as it were, the text of a new utterance, and that with a wider range more distinctly including the ten tribes of Israel as well as the two of Judah and Benjamin. There is no narrow provincialism in the prophet’s heart. He yearns for the exiles who are far off on the Euphrates; he yearns also for those who are yet farther in Assyria and the cities of the Medes (2Kings 17:6).
For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.(5, 6) Thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling . . .—There is a strange mingling of the divine and human elements in these words. The prophet speaks with the sense that the words are not his own, and yet what he utters is, at first, the expression of his own horror and astonishment at the vision of woe that is opening before his eyes. He sees, as it were, the famine-stricken people, their faces gathering blackness, the strong men giving way to a woman’s anguish, wailing with their hands on their loins. In horror rather than in scorn, he asks the question, What means all this? Are these men in the pangs of childbirth? (Comp. Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 6:24; Jeremiah 13:21.) In Lamentations 2:19-22 we have a fuller picture of a like scene. By some commentators the three verses (5-7) are referred to the alarm caused in Babylon by the advance of Cyrus, and “that day” is the day of his capture of the city, but there seems no sufficient reason for such an interpretation.
For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:(8) For it shall come to pass in that day . . .—Better, And it shall come. Here there comes in the ground of the hope uttered in the words “he shall be saved out of it,” which keeps the prophet from sinking under the burden of his sorrow. The second and third person are strangely mingled. Jehovah speaks to Israel, “thy bonds,” “thy yoke,” and “his yoke” is that of the oppressor, i.e., of the Babylonian ruler, and then, the person changing, “strangers shall no more get service done for them by him” i.e., by Israel. The prophet echoes the words of Isaiah 10:27.
But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.(9) David their king . . .—The name of the old hero-king appears as that of the new representative of the house who is to restore the kingdom. There is to be a second David for Israel, a true king answering to the ideal which he imperfectly represented. Zerubbabel, in whom some interpreters have seen the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s words, was, in his measure, another partial representative of such a king (Haggai 2:21-23). The same mode of speech appears in Hosea 3:5, Isa. Leviticus , 4, and was probably deliberately reproduced by Jeremiah.
Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.(10) Therefore fear thou not.—The higher strain of language into which the prophecy has here risen is indicated by the parallelism of the two clauses in each member of the sentence. The whole verse is poetic in its form. The words have in them something of the ring of Isaiah 41:10.
For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.(11) Though I make a full end of all nations.—On the phrase, see Notes on Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 5:18. It is eminently characteristic of the prophets of Jeremiah’s time (Ezekiel 11:13; Ezekiel 20:17; Nahum 1:8-9). Here the thought, implied elsewhere, and reproduced in Jeremiah 46:28, is expressed more fully than before, that while the destruction of the national life of the heathen nations on whom judgment was to fall should be complete and irreversible, so that Moab, Ammon, Edom, should no more have a place in the history of the world, the punishment of Israel should be remedial as well as retributive, working out, in due time, a complete restitution. In “correcting in measure” we trace an echo of Psalm 6:1 (see Note on Jeremiah 10:24). That thought sustains the prophet in his contemplation of the captivity and apparent ruin of his people. To be left “altogether unpunished” would be, as in the “let him alone “of Hosea 4:17, the most terrible of all punishments.
For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.(12) Thy bruise is incurable . . .—The mind of the prophet dwells on the seeming hopelessness, in words which sound like an echo from his Lamentations (Jeremiah 2:13), in order to enhance the blessedness of the reverent utterance of hope which appears in Jeremiah 30:17.
There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.(13) There is none to plead thy cause . . .—The words bring before us two images of extremest misery—the criminal who, standing before the dread judgment-seat, has no advocate, the plague-stricken sufferer who has no physician. The word is that used of Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16. There, and commonly elsewhere, it is translated “judge.” The second part of the sentence is better rendered, with a different punctuation, by Thou hast no healing medicines for binding up. It continues the symbolism of Jeremiah 30:12, and reproduces that of Isaiah 1:6. There, and in Isaiah 38:21, Hosea 5:13, and probably in Proverbs 3:8, we have indications of the prominence given to external applications such as plasters, bandages, and the like, in the Eastern treatment of disease.
All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.(14) All thy lovers have forgotten thee . . .—The lovers of a nation are, of course, as in Jeremiah 22:20, its allies and tributaries. Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre, had at one time courted the favour of Judah (Jeremiah 27:3). They looked on her now as “smitten of God and afflicted.” He had smitten her as an enemy smites. His chastisement had seemed to imply that she was given over to a deserved destruction. In Jeremiah 40:14; Jeremiah 48:27, Lamentations 4:21, Psalm 137:7, we have traces of this change of feeling.
Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.(15) Why criest thou . . .?—The personification of the previous verse is continued. The prophet looks on Judah—as in Lamentations 1:1-2—as on some forlorn and desperate castaway smitten with pestilence, crying in the agony of her hopelessness; and he reminds her that she is but bearing the righteous punishment of her iniquities. In accepting the law of retribution, as seen in her own sufferings, she might find hope for the future. Her oppressors also would come under that law. The wheel would come full circle, and the devourers would be themselves devoured.
For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.(17) I will restore health unto thee . . .—Literally, I will place a healing plaster on thee. The image of the plague-stricken sufferer is resumed from Jeremiah 30:13. Men had scorned her. The contemptuous term of outcast had been flung at her. She was like Tyre, as a “harlot that had been forgotten” (Isaiah 23:16). There were none who sought her company. No nation courted her alliance. It was as though that extremest misery had touched the heart of Jehovah with pity, even for the adulteress who had forsaken Him. The whole passage brings the history, or the parable, of Gomer very vividly to our memory (Hosea 1-3).
Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.(18) I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents . . .—The promise of restoration takes naturally a material form. The prophet sees the tents of those who still kept up the old nomadic life, pitched once more in the land of Israel (comp. 1Kings 12:16; Jeremiah 35:10), while for those who dwell in towns, city (the Hebrew has no article) and palace shall rise again from their ruins upon their old foundations on the hills of Judah. The verses that follow carry on the picture of restored prosperity—the streets of the city thronged; the joyous procession of triumphant leaders or of bride and bridegroom; the children playing in the market-place (Zechariah 8:5; Matthew 11:16); the Temple-courts filled with the “congregations” of worshippers; the people ruled by their own councillors and princes, and not by the satraps of their conquerors.
And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the LORD.(21) Their nobles.—Literally, His glorious one, as pointing to some single ruler. The word is the same as the “excellent” of Psalm 8:1.
Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me?—The question points to the ruler of the house of David whom the prophet sees in visions—in other words, to the far-off Messiah. So in Isaiah we have a like introduction of the figure of the conqueror, “Who is this that cometh from Edom?” (Isaiah 63:1). As in Isaiah 11:1-3; Isaiah 42:1-4, the dominant thought is that of one who will not be treacherous or faithless, like the degenerate heirs of the house of David whom Jeremiah had known, but one who would “engage” (literally, pledge, or give as security) his heart and soul to the service of Jehovah. In the advent of such a king the true relation between God and His people (Hosea 1:10; Jeremiah 24:7) should yet be re-established. In the words “to approach unto me” we have the germ of the thought that the true King will also be a priest, and will enter, as others could not enter, into the Holy Place (see Note on Jeremiah 35:19, and Numbers 16:5); a priest, such as Psalm 110:4 had spoken of, after the order of Melchizedek.
Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked.(23, 24) Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord . . .—The “wicked” who are thus threatened are the enemies and oppressors of the penitent and rescued people. In the “latter days,” the far-off future (Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Isaiah 2:2), it should be seen that He was their avenger. (See Notes on Jeremiah 23:19-20.) A right division of chapters would probably connect this with the great promise of Jeremiah 31:1.