Jeremiah 31:3
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
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(3) The Lord hath appeared of old unto me . . .—The Hebrew adverb more commonly refers to distance than to time. From afar the Lord appeared unto me. The thought is that of a deliverer who hears the cry of his people in the distance, and then draws near to help them. Jehovah enthroned in Zion, or in the heaven of heavens, hears the cry of the exiles by the waters of Babylon or Nineveh.

Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.—Some translators render I have preserved (or respited) thee, others I have continued my loving kindness to thee, as in Psalm 36:10; Psalm 109:12; but the LXX., Vulg., and Luther agree with the English Version, and it finds sufficient support in the meaning of the Hebrew verb and in the parallel of Hosea 11:4.

Jeremiah 31:3-4. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me — The prophet here personifies the Jewish nation, the people spoken of in the foregoing verse, who are introduced as calling to mind how God, in times of old, had manifested himself to the fathers of their nation, and appeared for their deliverance. Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love — These are evidently the words of God addressed to Zion or Jerusalem. As if he had said, The mercies I promised you, as a nation, when I made a covenant with your fathers, shall never fail. My love was not a temporary love, manifested merely to a single generation, but it is an everlasting love, and will continue through all generations. Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee — I have shown my benignity toward you, by taking all opportunities of doing you good, and preventing you, by acts of grace and goodness, to draw you to myself, as your God, from all the idols to which you had turned aside. I have ever dealt graciously with them who fear me, and who hope in my mercy, and will always continue so to do. Again I will build thee, O virgin of Israel — “Thy inhabitants shall be again restored to thee, who shall rebuild their cities and habitations that lay desolate during the time of their captivity.” Perhaps the Jews have the title of virgin of Israel bestowed upon them to imply that, in consequence of their repentance and reformation, “they should be washed from the stains of their former idolatries, so often compared to whoredom in the Scriptures.” — Lowth. Thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets — “All the signs, both of religions and civil joy, shall be restored to thee.” That it was usual for the women of Israel to go forth with tabrets and dancing in times of public rejoicing and prosperity, see Exodus 15:20; Jdg 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:16. These times were now to be renewed.

31:1-9 God assures his people that he will again take them into covenant relation to himself. When brought very low, and difficulties appear, it is good to remember that it has been so with the church formerly. But it is hard under present frowns to take comfort from former smiles; yet it is the happiness of those who, through grace, are interested in the love of God, that it is an everlasting love, from everlasting in the counsels, to everlasting in the continuance. Those whom God loves with this love, he will draw to himself, by the influences of his Spirit upon their souls. When praising God for what he has done, we must call upon him for the favours his church needs and expects. When the Lord calls, we must not plead that we cannot come; for he that calls us, will help us, will strengthen us. The goodness of God shall lead them to repentance. And they shall weep for sin with more bitterness, and more tenderness, when delivered out of their captivity, than when groaning under it. If we take God for our Father, and join the church of the first-born, we shall want nothing that is good for us. These predictions doubtless refer also to a future gathering of the Israelites from all quarters of the globe. And they figuratively describe the conversion of sinners to Christ, and the plain and safe way in which they are led.Of old - From afar (margin). See Jeremiah 30:10. To the Jew God was enthroned in Zion, and thus when His mercy was shown unto the exiles in Assyria it came from a distant region 2 Chronicles 6:20, 2 Chronicles 6:38.

With lovingkindness ... - Rather, I have continued lovingkindness unto thee.

3. Israel gratefully acknowledges in reply God's past grace; but at the same time tacitly implies by the expression "of old," that God does not appear to her now. "God appeared to me of old, but now I am forsaken!" God replies, Nay, I love thee with the same love now as of old. My love was not a momentary impulse, but from "everlasting" in My counsels, and to "everlasting" in its continuance; hence originated the covenant whereby I gratuitously adopted thee (Mal 1:2; Ro 11:28, 29). Margin translates, "from afar," which does not answer so well as "of old," to "in the wilderness" (Jer 31:2), which refers to the olden times of Israel's history.

with loving kindness … drawn—(Ho 11:4). Rather, "I have drawn out continually My loving kindness toward thee." So Ps 36:10, "Continue (Margin, 'Draw out at length') Thy loving kindness." By virtue of My everlasting love I will still extend My loving kindness to thee. So Isa 44:21, "O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me."

The word

saying being not in the original, hath given advantage to some to think that the first words are either the words of some of the people owning that the Lord indeed had of old appeared to and for them, but doubting whether the kindness of God still held toward them; or else complaining that these were old stories. To which the prophet replies by assuring them that God’s love was not a temporary love, manifested to a single generation, but it was an everlasting love; therefore he had drawn them with loving-kindness, he had all along dealt graciously with them, that way attempting to oblige them to that duty which they owed to him: this drawing with loving-kindness he calleth a drawing with the cords of men, Hosea 11:4, who ordinarily are little wrought upon by force, but won by love.

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying,.... Either to the prophet, bidding him say to the church what follows, so Jarchi: or to Christ, who was from eternity with the Father; lay in his bosom; between whom the council of peace was; with whom the covenant was made; and whom God loved before the foundation of the world; and which is observed by him, for the comfort of his people, John 17:24; so Cocceius; but rather they are the words of Israel, or the church, owning the above instances of God's grace and goodness; and that he had greatly appeared to them, and for them, in former times; but then this was a great while ago; and besides, now he hid his face from them, and they were under the tokens of his displeasure, and not of his love; to which the Lord replies, for the word "saying" is not in the text, which makes the following a continuation of the church's speech, though wrongly; since they are the words of the Lord, taking up the church for speaking too slightly and improperly of his love, and in a complaining way:

yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love; not only of old, or a good while ago, but from all eternity, and with a love which will always last, and does, notwithstanding dark and afflictive providences; for this love is like himself, sovereign, unchangeable, and everlasting: "I have loved thee": I, who am the great God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; a God of infinite purity and holiness; do whatever I please in heaven and in earth; and am the Lord that changes not: "have loved"; not love only now, and shall hereafter; but have loved, not for some time past only, but from all eternity, with the same love I now do: "thee" personally, "Jacob, have I loved", Romans 9:13; thee nakedly, and not thine, or for anything done by thee; thee separately and distinctly, and not others; thee a creature, vile and sinful, a transgressor from the womb, and known to be so beforehand; "thee" now openly, and in an applicatory way, through the evidence of the spirit: "with an everlasting love": a love from everlasting, which does not commence in time with faith, repentance, and new obedience; these being the fruits and effects of it; but was from all eternity, as appears from the eternal choice of the persons loved in Christ; from the everlasting covenant made with them in him; from the constitution and setting up of Christ as their Mediator from everlasting; and from the security of their persons and grace in him, before the world began: and this love will endure to everlasting, without any variation or change; nothing can separate from it. The evidence of it follows:

therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee; out of a state of nature; out of Satan's hands; out of the pit wherein is no water, the horrible pit, the mire and clay; unto Christ, his person, blood, righteousness, and fulness, by faith to lay hold upon them; unto his church, and to a participation of the ordinances and privileges of it; to nearer communion with God, and at last will draw to eternal glory. This is the Father's act, and to him it is usually ascribed: it chiefly regards the work of conversion, and the influence of divine grace on that; though it also includes after acts of drawing: it supposes weakness in men; is the effect of powerful and efficacious grace; and is done without offering any violence or force to the will of man, who is drawn with, and not against, his will. This is an instance of the love of God; a fruit and effect of it: it is love that draws a soul to Christ, and is the cause of its coming to him; it is love that reveals him to it, and causes it to come to him; love is then manifested and shed abroad in the heart; a cord of it is let down into it, and with it the Lord draws; it is not by the threats of the law, but by the declarations of grace in the Gospel; the cause of drawing is love, and the manner of it is with it. The Targum of the whole verse is,

"Jerusalem said, of old the Lord appeared to our fathers; prophet, say unto them, lo, I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore have led you with goodness.''

It may be rendered, "I have drawn out", or "extended, lovingkindness to thee" (i); see Psalm 36:10.

(i) "protraxi tibi misericordiam", Vatablus; "protraxi, vel extendi ad te clementiam", Calvin; "extendo erga te benignitatem", Junius & Tremellius; "meam", Piscator.

The LORD appeared {d} of old to me, saying, {e} I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

(d) The people thus reason as though he were not so beneficial to them now as he had been of old.

(e) Thus the Lord answers that his love is not changeable.

3. The Lord appeared of old unto me] It is best to take this as put in the mouth of the people themselves.

of old] rather, as mg. from afar, as the same Hebrew word is rendered ch. Jeremiah 30:10. The people from their distant exile in Assyria think upon God as dwelling upon His accustomed seat, Mount Zion.

with lovingkindness have I drawn thee] mg. have I continued lovingkindness unto thee. Cp. Psalm 36:10 and mg. of Psalm 109:12. But, considering the strong influence of Hosea on Jeremiah, it is perhaps best to retain “have I drawn” (or I draw). Cp. the parallel in Hosea 11:4.

Verse 3. - The Lord hath appeared of old unto me. The Church of the faithful Israel is the speaker. "From afar" (so we ought to render, rather than "of old") she sees Jehovah, with the eye of faith, approaching to redeem her; comp. Isaiah 40:10 and Isaiah 59:20 (only that in these passages it is to Jerusalem, and not to Babylon, that Jehovah "comes" as the Redeemer); also the promise in Jeremiah 30:10, "I will save thee from afar," and Jeremiah 51:50, quoted above. (Septuagint reads "unto him;" but an abrupt change of person is not uncommon in Hebrew.) Saying, Yea, I have loved thee, etc. "Saying" is inserted to make the connection plainer. The genius of Hebrew does not require such a distinct indication of a change of speakers as our Western languages. For other instances of this, see Genesis 4:25; Genesis 26:7; Genesis 32:31; 1 Kings 20:34. With loving kindness have I drawn thee; rather, do I continue loving kindness unto thee. "To continue" is literally, to draw out at length. The idea is the same as that in the great prophecy which follows that of the suffering Saviour, "With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee" (Isaiah 54:8; comp. ver. 10). Jeremiah 31:3The people already see in spirit how the Lord is accomplishing His purpose, Jeremiah 31:2. "From afar (the prophet speaks in the name of the people, of which he views himself as one) hath Jahveh appeared unto me." So long as Israel languished in exile, the Lord had withdrawn from him, kept Himself far off. Now the prophet sees Him appearing again. "From afar," i.e., from Zion, where the Lord is viewed as enthroned, the God of His people (Psalm 14:7), sitting there to lead them back into their land. But the Lord at once assures the people, who have been waiting for Him, of His everlasting love. Because He loves His people with everlasting love, therefore has He kept them by His grace, so that they were not destroyed. משׁך, to draw, keep, restrain; hence משׁך חסד, prolongare gratiam, Psalm 36:11; Psalm 109:12, but construed with ל of a person; here, with a double accusative, to restrain any one, to preserve him constantly by grace.
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