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, said the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Like as I have watched over them . . .—Some twenty-three years had passed since the prophet’s call to his office, but the words that called him to it are living still. The very symbolism of the “almond,” with the play upon its meaning, as the “wakeful” or “watching” tree (see Notes on Jeremiah 1:10-11), the very terms in which his two-fold work was painted, are present to his thoughts, yet are seen under a new and brighter aspect. Up to this time his task had been mainly that of a prophet of evil, “rooting out” and “pulling down.” Now he sees before him the happier work of “building up” and “planting.”
to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; which words, as they have an elegance and an agreeableness in their sound, in the original; so they are expressive of the utter overthrow of the city, temple, and nation of the Jews, and of the several troubles and calamities they should be afflicted with:
so will I watch over them; be as careful and diligent, as intent, earnest, and early:
to build, and to plant, saith the Lord; to build their city and temple, and to plant them in their own land. So the church of God is his building, whose foundation he lays, the superstructure of which he rears up, and will complete it in his own time; and it is his plantation, into which he puts his pleasant plants, his plants of renown; which he waters with his Spirit and grace, by the ministry of the word, that they may grow, and become fruitful.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 28. - As I have watched... so will I watch, etc. The allusion is to the twofold commission given to the prophet (Jeremiah 1:10), which was partly to pluck up and to destroy, partly to build and to plant. Jehovah has hitherto been "watchful" (another point of contact with ch. 1; see on Jeremiah 1:12) over the fulfilment of the destructive prophecies; he will now be equally zealous for that of the promises of regeneration. 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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