Jeremiah 31:22
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.
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(22) How long wilt thou go about . . .?—The word describes the restless pacing to and fro of impatient, unsatisfied desire. The backsliding daughter—i.e., the adulterous yet now penitent wife—is described, like Gomer in the parable or history of Hosea 2:7, as hesitating between her lovers and her husband.

A woman shall compass a man.—The verse is obscure, and has received very different interpretations. It will be well to begin our inquiry with the meaning which the translators attached to it. On this point the following quotation from Shakespeare is decisive :—

“If I can check my erring love, I will;

If not, to compass her I’ll use my skill.”

Two Gentlemen of Verona, ii. 4.

To “compass” is to woo and win. And this gives, it is believed, the true meaning. The Hebrew verb (which presents a striking assonance with the word for “backsliding”) means literally “to go round about,” and this (as in Psalm 26:6; Psalm 32:7; Psalm 32:10) as an act of reverential tenderness and love. In the normal order of man’s life, the bridegroom woos the bride. In the spiritual relationship which the prophet has in view, this shall be inverted, and Israel, the erring but repentant wife, shall woo her Divine husband. The history of Gomer in Hosea 2:14-20 again presents a striking parallel. A like inversion of the normal order is indicated, though with a different meaning, in Isaiah 4:1, where the seven women might be said to “compass” the one man. It may be noticed that the words used express the contrast of the two sexes in the strongest possible form. A female shall compass (i.e., woo) a male, possibly as emphasising the fact that what the prophet describes was an exception to the normal order, not of human society only, but of the whole animal society. By some interpreters (Ewald) the words are rendered “a woman shall be turned into a man;” meaning that the weak shall be made strong, as a kind of contrast to the opposite kind of transformation in Jeremiah 30:6; but this gives a far less satisfactory meaning, and the same may be said of such translations as “the woman shall protect the man,” and “a woman shall put a man to flight.” The notion that the words can in even the remotest degree be connected with the mystery of the Incarnation belongs to the region of dreams, and not of realities; and, lacking as it does the support of even any allusive reference to it in the New Testament, can only be regarded, in spite of the authority of the many Fathers and divines who have adopted it, as the outgrowth of a devout but uncritical imagination. The word used for “woman,” indeed, absolutely excludes the idea of the virgin-birth.

Jeremiah 31:22. How long wilt thou go about — Or, go out of the right way, or follow thine own imaginations, O thou backsliding daughter — Thou that didst formerly revolt from thy sovereign Lord, and decline from his worship and service, going after idols, and seeking help from foreign nations, instead of applying to him for it; and who now seemest to loiter when God calls thee to return homeward out of a strange country. The expression is often used of Israel, or the ten tribes: see Jeremiah 3:6-12 : and of Judah and Israel together, ibid., Jeremiah 31:14; Jeremiah 31:22; both being comprehended under the title of the virgin of Israel, in the foregoing verse. For the Lord hath created, or doth create, a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man — It is difficult to say, with any certainty, what this obscure passage means. Several ancient Jews expounded it of the Messiah, and most Christian interpreters understand it of the miraculous conception of the child Jesus in the womb of the virgin. “Taking the words in this sense they properly import,” as Lowth justly observes, “a new creation, and such as is the immediate work of God. And that such a prophecy concerning the conception of Christ may not be thought to come in here abruptly, it is to be observed, that as the coming of the Messiah is the foundation of the promises, both of the first and second covenant; so it contains the most powerful arguments to persuade men to obedience: and the covenant, of which Christ was to be the Mediator is plainly foretold and described in the 31st and three following verses of this chapter.” Blaney, however, thinks the original words, נקבה תסיבב גבר, cannot by any construction be brought to imply any such thing as the miraculous conception above mentioned. “Admitting,” he says, “that the word תסובב may signify shall encompass, or, comprehend in the womb, and that גבר, instead of an adult, or, strong man, (which the word generally means,)

may also signify a male child; yet the words, all taken together, still import no more than that a woman shall conceive, or contain, a male child: but this is nothing new or extraordinary, and therefore I presume it not the sense intended.” Being of opinion that the word, which we translate compass, or encompass, may signify to cause to turn about, or repulse, he renders the clause, “A woman shall put to the rout a strong man,” judging it to be a proverbial form of speech, denoting, “The weaker shall prevail over the stronger,” an expression equivalent to, one shall chase a thousand. Now this, says he, it must be confessed, is in itself new and unusual, and contrary to the ordinary course of nature; and accordingly it is ascribed to the interposing power of God, who is said therein to create a new thing, or, in other words, to work a miracle. Interpreting the passage in this sense, he explains its connection with the context as follows: “The virgin of Israel is exhorted not to turn aside, or decline the invitation given her to return, as she might, perhaps, be disposed to do through dread of the power of enemies, who would oppose her deliverance. For her encouragement she is told, that she had no reason to be apprehensive of the superior strength of any enemies, since God would work a miracle in her favour, and enable her, though apparently weak, to overcome and prevail against all their opposition.” By an interpretation nearly allied to this, many understand the passage as being a promise that the Jewish Church in its time, and afterward the gospel church, should prevail over all its enemies; though comparing the fewness and weakness of the church’s members with the multitude of her enemies, and the greatness of their power, it seemed as strange a thing as for a woman to prevail against a strong and mighty man.

31:21-26 The way from the bondage of sin to the liberty of God's children, is a high-way. It is plain, it is safe; yet none are likely to walk in it, unless they set their hearts towards it. They are encouraged by the promise of a new, unheard-of, extraordinary thing; a creation, a work of Almighty power; the human nature of Christ, formed and prepared by the power of the Holy Ghost: and this is here mentioned as an encouragement to the Jews to return to their own land. And a comfortable prospect is given them of a happy settlement there. Godliness and honesty God has joined: let no man think to put them asunder, or to make the one atone for the want of the other. In the love and favour of God the weary soul shall find rest, and the sorrowful shall find joy. And what can we see with more satisfaction than the good of Jerusalem, and peace upon Israel?Israel instead of setting itself to return hesitates, and goes here and there in a restless mood. To encourage it God gives the sign following.

A woman shall compass a man - i. e., the female shall protect the strong man; the weaker nature that needs help will surround the stronger with loving and fostering care. This expresses a new relation of Israel to the Lord, a new covenant, which the Lord will make with His people (Jeremiah 31:31 following). The fathers saw in these words a prophecy of the miraculous conception of our Lord by the Virgin.

22. go about—namely, after human helps (Jer 2:18, 23, 36). Why not return immediately to me? Maurer translates, as in So 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 (Ho 2:6, 7). Maurer, A woman shall protect (De 32:10, Margin; Ps 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, &c.) 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 (Lu 1:35; Heb 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 Lu 1:39, 42, 44, with Jos 21:11) or else in Nazareth, "in the territory" of Israel, to whom Jer 31:5, 6, 15, 18, 21 refer; His birth was at Beth-lehem (Mic 5:2; Mt 2:5, 6). As the place of His nativity, and of His being reared (Mt 2:23), and of His preaching (Hag 2:7; Mal 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 Isa 7:14). The Virgin Mary's conception of Messiah in the womb answers to the "Virgin of Israel" (therefore so called, Jer 31:21), that is, Israel and her sons at their final restoration, receiving Jesus as Messiah (Zec 12:10). (7) The reference to the conception of the child Messiah accords with the mention of the massacre of "children" referred to in Jer 31:15 (compare Mt 2:17). (8) The Hebrew for "man" is properly "mighty man," a term applied to God (De 10:17); and to Christ (Zec 13:7; compare Ps 45:3; Isa 9:6) [Calovius]. That the Jews are here meant by the

backsliding daughter is out of question; but what going about is here intended is not so plain. Some interpret it of their running after idols; some, of their seeking help from foreign nations, instead of applying themselves unto God; others, of their wandering up and down in captivity. But the greater difficulty is about this

new thing, which the Lord saith he will

create in the new earth, a woman compassing a man; some by women understanding feeble persons that should prevail against strong men. But the two interpretations of this difficult passage, which seem most reasonably to contend for preference, are,

1. The interpretation of those who think it contains a promise both of the Jewish church in its time, and of the gospel church after the Jewish church’s period, prevailing, over all its enemies, whether temporal or spiritual; though, considering the paucity of the church’s members, with the multitude of its enemies, and their power, it seemed as strange a thing as for a woman to prevail against a strong and mighty man. This the learned author of the English Annotations judgeth the true and genuine sense of these words.

2. Others interpret this woman to be the Virgin Mary, who was to enclose in her womb the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom the converted Jews were to adhere; which sense neither Mr. Calvin nor our learned English Annotator approve of. But it being the received sense of very many interpreters, it is fit we should hear their reasons, which are,

1. They urge the particle yk for God, they say, here gives the reason why the Jews should desire to return into the country of Judea, because the Messias was to be born there.

2. They urge the term created, the body of Christ being not begotten by man, but created by God, though of the flesh of the Virgin.

3. They say this indeed was a new thing. It was a new thing for a virgin to become a mother, still remaining a virgin, and to be the mother of him who was God blessed for ever, though not the mother of the Divine nature; for so Christ answered the type of Melchisedec, without father as man, without mother as God.

4. All other encompassings of a man they say were as well out of Judea as in it, this was in Judea only.

5. The word translated woman in Scripture they say always signifies a particular individual woman, which could be no other than the Virgin.

6. They say the whole context refers to benefits coming by Christ, therefore he must certainly be the man here intended.

7. They urge that this prophecy follows Jeremiah 31:15, which, Matthew 2:8, is applied by the evangelist to Herod’s murder of the infants upon the birth of Christ. But on the other side it is objected,

1. That the verb bbo is never used in Scripture to signify such an encompassing.

2. That the word translated a man, signifying a strong man, doth not properly agree to an infant in the mother’s belly. But it is again replied,

1. That this is not the only word in Scripture that is but once read in the same sense.

2. That the Word signifieth any encompassing, and may be properly applied to the Virgin’s womb encompassing an infant. And for the word translated man, they say it is applied to a new-born infant, Job 3:3 Isaiah 9:6; that it is applied to God, Deu 10:17, and to Christ, Zechariah 13:7, compared with Matthew 26:31. In a matter wherein so many learned men are divided, it is enough for me to give their opinions and reasons, leaving my reader to his own judgment, in a matter wherein neither his faith nor holiness are much concerned; for the question is not concerning the thing, whether Christ was encompassed in the womb of a woman, which is plain enough from other scriptures, but only whether that be the sense of the phrase here.

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter?.... From place to, place, from country to country, from one kingdom to another, as the Jews do to this day; and not return unto the Lord, and David their king, and to their own country? Or, "how long wilt thou be foolish" (a)? in backsliding from the Lord; in slighting the written word; neglecting the promises and prophecies, the exhortations, cautions, and instructions therein given; in adhering to and extolling the traditions of the elders, even above the Scriptures; in pertinaciously rejecting the Messiah, next prophesied of; all which folly the Jews are still guilty of, and continue in. So the word signifies in the Arabic language (b);

for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man; a mighty one, a mighty man, the man Jehovah's fellow; conceived, contained, and encompassed, in the womb of the virgin, the woman, whose seed he was to be of, and of whom he was: this was a "new", unheard of, extraordinary thing, a "creation", a work of almighty power! the human nature of Christ was formed and prepared by the power of the Holy Ghost, without the help of man; and this now is mentioned as an argument and an encouragement to the Jews to return to their own land, since the Messiah is born there of a virgin, as it was foretold he should. This seems to be the true and genuine sense of the words, and other senses weak and impertinent; as when they are made to refer to the heroic spirit in some women superior to men; to the unusual practice of women suing to men for marriage; and to the people of Israel returning to the Lord from their apostasy. So the Targum,

"for, behold, the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth and the people of the house of Israel have given themselves up to the law.''

And very foreign are the senses which some Christian interpreters give of this passage; as when they interpret it of the Jews conquering and oppressing their enemies; or of the Jewish church seeking after God, her husband, when separated from him; or of the Christian church, though weak, resisting her mighty persecutors by her confession of faith, and overcoming them; or of the church under the New Testament embracing Christ; which indeed is preferable to the other, and especially to that Popish one of the eucharist containing the body of Christ (c); but the true sense is what is before given: and even some of the Jewish doctors themselves have acknowledged, that the Messiah is here intended. In an ancient (d) book of theirs, on mention of these words, it is added,

"this shall be in the time of the Messiah, which will be on the sixth day;''

that is, the sixth millennium And elsewhere (e) "a woman shall compass a man"; says R. Hona, in the name of R. Ame, this is the King Messiah. So says R. Joshua ben Levi (f),

"he, that is, God, heals with the same he wounds; so will you find in Israel, they sinned by a virgin, and were punished in virgins, Ezekiel 23:1; so he comforts them by a virgin, according to Jeremiah 31:21; "turn again, O virgin of Israel", &c. "a woman shall compass a man". R Huna, in the name of R. Idi and R. Joshua, said, that this man is the King Messiah, of whom it is said, Psalm 2:7, "this day have I begotten thee" (g).''

(a) "quamdiu fatua eris?" Majus apud Stockium, p. 358. (b) "mente laboravit, stultus fuit", Golius, col. 653. "et dementer, more fatui egit", Camus & Giggeius apud Castel. col. 1289. Arab. "fatuatus, nugatus fuit, ineptiit", Schindler, col. 603. (c) Vid. Erlmanni, "novum omnium novorum", &c. ad Jeremiah 31.22. in Thesaur. Dissert. Theolog. Philolog. tom 1. p. 851. (d) Zohar in Gen. tom. 13. 4. (e) In Abarbinel. Mashmiah Jeshuah, fol. 37. 4. (f) Apud Moses Hadarsan in Gen. c. 41. Vid. Galatin. de Arcanis Cath. Ver. l. 7. c. 14. p. 52, 526. (g) See my book of the "Prophecies of the Messiah", &c. p. 100, 101.

How long wilt thou wander about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created {d} a new thing in the earth, A woman shall encompass a man.

(d) Because their deliverance from Babylon was a figure of their deliverance from sin, he shows how this would be procured that is, by Jesus Christ, whom a woman would conceive and bear in her womb. Which is a strange thing in earth, because he would be born of a virgin without man or he means that Jerusalem which was like a barren woman in her captivity would be fruitful as she that is joined in marriage and whom God blesses with children.

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.

Verse 22. - How long wilt thou go about? We must suppose the Israelites to be hesitating whether to set out on their journey or not. They are now admonished to put away their rebellious reluctance, and a special reason for this is added. The Lord hath created - i.e. hath decreed to create - a new thing in the earth (or, in the land); comp. Isaiah 43:19 which suggests that a complete reversal of ordinary experience is indicated, as indeed the word create of itself prepares us to expect. And what is this promise granted as a sign to reluctant Israel? A woman shall compass a man; i.e. instead of shyly keeping aloof, or worse (as hitherto), Israel, Jehovah's bride, shall, with eager affection, press around her Divine husband. The phrase, however, is extremely difficult. Of other explanations, the most plausible philologically is that of Schnurrer and Gesenius, "a woman shall protect a man" (comp. Deuteronomy 32:10). The part of a sentinel, pacing round and round his charge, seems most unfitted for a woman. When enemies are abroad, it is the men's natural duty to perform this part for the women. But in the coming age, the country shall be so free from danger that the places of men and women may safely be reversed. But would a paradox of this kind be likely to be uttered in this connection? Surely a clearer statement would be necessary to remove the reluctance of the Israelites. Vers. 19, 20 suggest that Ephraim needed reassurance as to the attitude of Jehovah towards him. The promise of ver. 22, as explained above, would give precisely the needed strength and comfort. The exposition of St. Jerome and other Fathers, that the birth of Christ from a virgin is referred to, is altogether inadmissible,

(1) because the nouns which form the subject and the predicate respectively indicate sex, not age, and the first in particular cannot be tortured so as to mean "virgin;" and

(2) there is no article to confine the reference to any particular persons. Jeremiah 31:22Changing of sorrow into joy, because Ephraim will turn to the Lord, and the Lord will lead him back. - Jeremiah 31:15. "Thus saith Jahveh: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not. Jeremiah 31:16. Thus saith Jahveh: Restrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for there is a reward for thy work, saith Jahveh, and they shall return from the land of the enemy. Jeremiah 31:17. And there is hope for thy latter end, saith Jahveh, that children shall return to thy border. Jeremiah 31:18. I have certainly heard Ephraim complaining, Thou hast chastised me and I was chastised, like a calf not tamed. Turn me that I may turn, for Thou, O Jahveh, art my God. Jeremiah 31:19. For, after I return I repent, and after I have been taught I smite upon [my] thigh; I am ashamed, yea, and confounded, because I bear the reproach of my youth. Jeremiah 31:20. Is Ephraim a son dear to me, or a child of delight, that, as often as I speak against him, I do yet certainly remember him? Therefore my bowels move for him; I shall surely pity him, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 31:21. Set thee up way-marks, put up posts for thyself; set thine heart to the highway, the road [by which] thou camest: return, O virgin of Israel, return to these cities of thine. Jeremiah 31:22. How long wilt thou wander about, O backsliding daughter? For Jahveh hath created a new [thing] in the earth: a woman shall encompass a man."

In this strophe the promise is further confirmed by carrying out the thought, that Israel's release from his captivity shall certainly take place, however little prospect there is of it at present. For Israel will come to an acknowledgment of his sins, and the Lord will then once more show him His love. The hopeless condition of Israel is dramatically set forth in Jeremiah 31:15.: Rachel, the mother of Joseph, and thus the ancestress of Ephraim, the chief tribe of the Israelites who had revolted from the royal house of David, weeps bitterly over the loss of her children, the ten tribes who have been carried away into exile; and the Lord addresses consolation to her, with the promise that they shall return out of the land of the enemy. "A voice is heard" (נשׁמע, participle, to show duration). The "voice" is more fully treated of in the second part of the verse: loud lamentation and bitter weeping. There is a difficulty connected with בּרמה. The lxx took it to be the name of the city Ramah, now called er-Râm, in the tribe of Benjamin, five English miles north from Jerusalem, on the borders of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel (1 Kings 15:17), although this city is elsewhere written with the article (הרמה), not only in the historical notices found in Jeremiah 40:1, Joshua 18:25; Judges 4:5, etc., but also in prophetical addresses, as in Hosea 6:8; Isaiah 10:29. In this passage it cannot be a mere appellative ("on a height"), as in 1 Samuel 22:6; Ezekiel 16:24; nor can we think of Ramah in Naphtali (Joshua 19:36, also הרמה), for this latter city never figures in history like the Ramah of Samuel, not far from Gibeah; see on Joshua 18:25 and 1 Samuel 1:1. But why is the lamentation of Rachel heard at Ramah? Most expositors reply, because the tomb of Rachel was in the divinity of Ramah; in support of this they cite 1 Samuel 10:2. Ngelsbach, who is one of these, still maintains this view with the utmost confidence. But this assumption is opposed to Genesis 35:16 and Genesis 35:19, where it is stated that Rachel died and was buried on the way to Bethlehem, and not far from the town (see on Genesis, l.c.), which is about five miles south from Jerusalem, and thus far from Ramah. Nor is any support for this view to be got from 1 Samuel 10:2, except by making the groundless assumption, that Saul, while seeking for the asses of his father, came to Samuel in his native town; whereas, in the account given in that chapter, he is merely said to have sought for Samuel in a certain town, of which nothing more is stated, and to have inquired at him; see on 1 Samuel 10:2. We must therefore reject, as arbitrary and groundless, all attempts to fix the locality of Rachel's sepulchre in the neighbourhood of Ramah (Ngelsbach); in the same way we must treat the assertion of Thenius, Knobel, Graf, etc., that the Ephratah of Genesis 35:16, Genesis 35:19, is the same as the Ephron of 2 Chronicles 13:19, which was situated near Bethel; so, too, must we deal with the statements, that Ephratah, i.e., Bethlehem, is to be expunged from the text of Genesis 35:9 and 48 as a false gloss, and that the tradition, attested in Matthew 2:18, as to the situation of Rachel's sepulchre in the vicinity of Bethlehem, is incorrect. Nor does the passage of Jeremiah now before us imply that Rachel's sepulchre was near Ramah. Rachel does not weep at Ramah over her lost children, either because she had been buried there, or because it was in Ramah of Benjamin that the exiles were assembled, according to Jeremiah 40:1 (Hitzig, and also Delitzsch on Genesis 35:20). For it was the Jews who were to be carried away captive that were gathered together at Ramah, whereas it was over Israelites or Ephraimites that had been carried into exile that Rachel weeps. The lamentation of Rachel is heard at 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. Nor does she weep because she has learned something in her tomb of the carrying away of the people, but as their common mother, as the beloved spouse of Jacob, who in her married life so earnestly desired children. Just as the people are often included under the notion of the "daughter of Zion," as their ideal representative, so the great ancestress of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh is here named as the representative of the maternal love shown by Israel in the pain felt when the people are lost. The sing. כּי איננּוּ signifies, "for not one of them is left." - This verse is quoted by Matthew (Matthew 2:18), after relating the story of the murder of the children at Bethlehem, with the introductory formula, τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ ̓Ιερεμίου: from this the older theologians (cf. Calovii Bibl. illustr. ad Jer. l.c.) conclude that Jeremiah directly prophesied that massacre of the children committed by Herod. But this inference cannot be allowed; it will not fit in with the context of the prophecy. The expression ἐπληρώθη, used by Matthew, only shows that the prophecy of Jeremiah received a new fulfilment through that act of Herod. Of course, we must not reduce the typical reference of the prophecy to that event at Bethlehem simply to this, that the wailing of the mothers of Bethlehem over their murdered children was as great as the lamentation made when the people were carried into exile. Typology rather assumes a causal connection between the two events. The destruction of the people of Israel by the Assyrians and Chaldeans is a type of the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem, in so far as the sin which brought the children of Israel into exile laid a foundation for the fact that Herod the Idumean became king over the Jews, and wished to destroy the true King and Saviour of Israel that he might strengthen his own dominion. Cf. Fr. Kleinschmidt, die typolog. Citate der vier Evangelien, 1861, S. 10ff.; Fairbairn's Typology, fifth edition, vol. i. pp. 452-3.]

The Lord will put an end to this wailing. "Cease thy weeping," He cries to the sorrowing ones, "for there is a reward for thy labour" (almost identical with 2 Chronicles 15:7). פּעלּה is the maternal labour of birth and rearing of children. The reward consists in this, that the children shall return out of the land of the enemy into their own land. Jeremiah 31:17 states the same thing in parallel clauses, to confirm the promise. On the expression "hope for thy latter end," cf. Jeremiah 29:11. בּנים without the article, as in Hosea 11:10, etc.; cf. Ewald, 277, b. This hope is grounded on the circumstance that Israel will become aware, through suffering, that he is punished for his sins, and, repenting of these sins, will beseech his God for favour. The Lord already perceives this repentant spirit and acknowledgment of sin. ואוּסר does not mean "I had myself chastised," or "I learned chastisement" (Hitzig), but "I was chastised," like an untamed calf, i.e., one not trained to bear the yoke and to endure labour. On this figure, cf. Hosea 10:11. The recognition of suffering as chastisement by God excites a desire after amelioration and amendment. But since man cannot accomplish these through his own powers, Israel prays, "Lead me back," sc. from my evil way, i.e., turn me. He finds himself constrained to this request, because he feels regret for his apostasy from God. אחרי שׁוּבי in this connection can only mean, "after I turned," sc. from Thee, O Lord my God; on this meaning of שׁוּב, cf. Jeremiah 8:4. הוּדע, to be brought to understanding through punishment, i.e., to become wise. To smite the thighs is a token of terror and horror; cf. Ezekiel 21:17. On בּשׁתּי וגם נכלמתּי cf. Isaiah 45:16. "The shame of my youth" is that which I brought on myself in my youth through the sins I then committed. On this confession generally, cf. the similar one in Jeremiah 3:21. - Thereafter the Lord replies, Jeremiah 31:20, with the question, whether Ephraim is so dear a son to Him that, as often as He has spoken against him, i.e., uttered hard words of condemnation, He still, or again, thinks of him. ילד שׁעשׁעים, "a child of delight," whom one fondles; cf. Isaiah 5:7. The clause explanatory of the question, "for as often as," etc., is taken in different ways. דּבּר may signify, "to speak about one," or "to speak against one," or "to pay addresses to one," i.e., to court him: 1 Samuel 25:39; Sol 8:8. Hitzig applies the last meaning to the expression, and translates, "as often as I have paid my suit to him;" according to this view, the basis of the representation of Jahveh's relation to the people is that of a husband to his wife. But this meaning of the verb does not by any means suit the present context, well established though it is by the passages that have been adduced. Ephraim is here represented as a son, not a virgin to whom Jahveh could pay suit. Hence we must take the expression in the sense of "speaking against" some one. But what Jahveh says against Ephraim is no mere threatening by words, but a reprimand by deeds of judgment. The answer to the question is to be inferred from the context: If the Lord, whenever He is constrained to punish Ephraim, still thinks of him, then Ephraim must be a son dear to Him. But this is not because of his conduct, as if he caused Him joy by obedience and faithful attachment, but in consequence of the unchangeable love of God, who cannot leave His son, however much grief he causes his Father. "Therefore," i.e., because he is a son to whom Jahveh shows the fulness of His paternal love, all His kindly feelings towards him are now excited, and He desires to show compassion on him. On המוּ מעי cf. Isaiah 16:11 and Isaiah 63:15. Under "bowels" are included especially the heart, liver, reins, the noblest organs of the soul. The expression is strongly anthropopathic, and denotes the most heartfelt sympathy. This fellow-feeling manifests itself in the form of pity, and actually as deliverance from misery.

The Lord desires to execute this purpose of His everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:21. Israel is required to prepare himself for return, and to go home again into his own cities. "Set thee up way marks." ציּוּן, in 2 Kings 23:17 and Ezekiel 39:15, "a tombstone," probably a stone pillar, which could also serve as a way-mark. תּמרוּרים is not from מרר as in Jeremiah 31:15, but from תּמר, and has the same meaning as תּימרה, Joel 3:3, Talm. תּמּוּר, a pillar, Arab. t̀âmîrun, pl., cippi, signa in desertis. "Set thy heart," i.e., turn thy mind to the road, the way you have gone (on הלכתּי see Jeremiah 2:20), not, that you may not miss it, but because it leads thee home. "Return to these cities of thine." "These" implies that the summons issues from Palestine. Moreover, the separate clauses of this verse are merely a poetic individualization of the thought that Israel is to think seriously of returning; and, inasmuch as this return to Palestine presupposes return to the Lord, Israel must first turn with the heart to his God. Then, in Jeremiah 31:22, follows the exhortation not to delay. The meaning of התחמּק is educed from Sol 5:6, where חמק signifies to turn one's self round; hence the Hithpael means to wander about here and there, uncertain what to do. This exhortation is finally enforced by the statement, "Jahveh creates a new thing on earth" (cf. Isaiah 43:19). This novelty is, "a woman will encompass a man." With regard to the meaning of these words, about which there is great dispute, this much is evident from the context, that they indicate a transformation of things, a new arrangement of the relations of life. This new arrangement of things which Jahveh brings about is mentioned as a motive which should rouse Ephraim ( equals Israel) to return without delay to the Lord and to his cities. If we keep this in mind, we shall at once set aside as untenable such interpretations as that of Luther in his first translation of 1532-38, "those who formerly behaved like women shall be men," which Ewald has revived in his rendering, "a woman changing into a man," or that of Schnurrer, Rosenmller, Gesenius, Maurer, "the woman shall protect the man," or that of Ngelsbach, "the woman shall turn the man to herself." The above-mentioned general consideration, we repeat, is sufficient to set aside these explanations, quite apart from the fact that none of them can be lexically substantiated; for סובב neither means to "turn one's self, vertere," nor to "protect," nor to "cause to return" (as if סובב were used for שׁובב). Deuteronomy 32:10 is adduced to prove the meaning of protection; but the word there means to go about fondling and cherishing. Neither the transmutation of the female into a male, or of a weak woman into a strong man, nor the protection of the man by a woman, nor the notion that the strong succumbs to the weak, forms an effectual motive for the summons to Israel to return; nor can we call any of them a new creative act effected by Jahveh, or a new arrangement of things. But we must utterly reject the meaning of the words given by Castle, le Clerc, and Hitzig, who apply them to the unnatural circumstance, that a woman makes her suit to a man, even where by the woman is understood the virgin of Israel, and by the man, Jahveh. Luther gave the correct rendering in his editions of 1543 and 1545, "the woman shall encompass the man," - only, "embrace" (Ger. umfangen) might express the sense better than "encompass" (Ger. umgeben). נקבה is nomen sexus, "femella, a female;" גּבר, a "man," also "proles mascula," not according to the sexual relation ( equals זכר), but with the idea of strength. Both in the choice of these words and by the omission of the article, the relation is set forth in its widest generality; the attention is thereby steadily directed to its fundamental nature. The woman, the weak and tender being, shall lovingly embrace the man, the strong one. Hengstenberg reverses the meaning of the words when he renders them, "the strong one shall again take the weak into his closest intercourse, under his protection, loving care." Many expositors, including Hengstenberg and Hitzig of moderns, have rightly perceived that the general idea has been set forth with special reference to the relation between the woman, Israel, and the man, Jahveh.

Starting with this view, which is suggested by the context, the older expositors explained the words of the conception and birth of Christ by a virgin; cf. Corn. a Lapide, Calovii Bibl. ill., Cocceius, and Pfeiffer, dubia vex. p. 758ff. Thus, for example, the Berleburger Bibel gives the following explanation: "A woman or virgin - not a married woman - will encompass, i.e., carry and contain in her body, the man who is to be a vanquisher of all and to surpass all in strength." This explanation cannot be set aside by the simple remark, "that here there would be set forth the very feature in the birth of Christ by a virgin which is not peculiar to it as compared with others;" for this "superficial remark" does not in the least touch the real point to be explained. But it may very properly be objected, that סובב has not the special meaning of conceiving in a mother's womb. On this ground we can also set down as incorrect the other explanation of the words in the Berleburger Bibel, that the text rather speaks of "the woman who is the Jewish Church, and who, in the spirit of faith, is to bear Christ as the mighty God, Isaiah 9:6, in the likeness of a man, Revelation 12:1-2." However, these explanations are nearer the truth than any that have been offered since. The general statement, "a woman shall encompass (the) man," i.e., lovingly embrace him - this new relation which Jahveh will bring about in place of the old, that the man encompasses the wife, loving, providing for, protecting her - can only be referred, agreeably to the context, to change of relation between Israel and the Lord. סובב, "to encompass," is used tropically, not merely of the mode of dealing on the part of the Lord to His people, the faithful, - of the protection, the grace, and the aid which He grants to the pious ones, as in Psalm 32:7, Psalm 32:10; Deuteronomy 32:10, - but also of the dealings of men with divine things. אסובבה מזבּחך, Psalm 26:6, does not mean, "I will go round Thine altar," in a circle or semicircle as it were, but, "I will keep to Thine altar," instead of keeping company with the wicked; or more correctly, "I will surround Thine altar," making it the object of my care, of all my dealings, - I will make mine own the favours shown to the faithful at Thine altar. In the verse now before us, סובב signifies to encompass with love and care, to surround lovingly and carefully, - the natural and fitting dealing on the part of the stronger to the weak and those who need assistance. And the new thing that God creates consists in this, that the woman, the weaker nature that needs help, will lovingly and solicitously surround the man, the stronger. Herein is expressed a new relation of Israel to the Lord, a reference to a new covenant which the Lord, Jeremiah 31:31., will conclude with His people, and in which He deals so condescendingly towards them that they can lovingly embrace Him. This is the substance of the Messianic meaning in the words. The conception of the Son of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary is not expressed in them either directly or indirectly, even though we were allowed to take סובב in the meaning of "embrace." This new creation of the Lord is intended to be, and can be, for Israel, a powerful motive to their immediate return to their God.

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