Jeremiah 31:35
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:
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(35, 36) Which giveth the sun for a light by day . . .—The leading thought in the lofty language of this passage is that the reign of law which we recognise in God’s creative work has its counterpart in His spiritual kingdom. The stability and permanence of natural order is a pledge and earnest of the fulfilment of His promises to Israel as a people. The new Covenant of pardon and illumination is to be, what the first Covenant was not, eternal in its duration. We have learnt, through the teaching of St. Paul, while not excluding Israel according to the flesh from its share in that fulfilment, to extend its range to the children of the faith of Abraham, the true Israel of God (Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:11-12).

Jeremiah 31:35-37. Thus saith the Lord, who giveth the sun for a light by day — All the acts here mentioned are such as manifest the divine, almighty power of him who is the Lord of all the hosts of the creation. Which divideth, or, who did divide, the sea — Namely, as the words are generally interpreted, the Red sea, to give the Israelites passage. The original words, however, רגע הים, which occur Isaiah 51:15, where they are translated as here, are by Bishop Lowth rendered, who stilleth the sea, a sense which accords better with the words immediately following, when the waves thereof roar — That is, even when the waves are most tumultuous, and roar most dreadfully, he, with infinite ease, quiets them, and produces a perfect calm. In this sense the same word is interpreted Jeremiah 31:2 of this chapter, and also Jeremiah 50:34. If these ordinances — Hebrew, החקים, these appointments respecting the heavenly bodies and their motions and uses; depart from before me — Be altered or suspended in their operations; then shall the seed of Israel cease from being a nation, &c. — Thus God makes the continuance of the laws of nature a pledge of the continuance of Israel as a people. The prediction implies, 1st, That God would preserve a remnant of them in the country to which they were led captive, and would restore them to their own land; 2d, That there should be another remnant of them, at the beginning of the gospel, called οι Σωζομενοι, the saved, (Acts 2:47,) who, by embracing the faith of Christ, should escape those terrible judgments that should be inflicted upon the main body of that nation; and 3d, That Providence would still preserve them in a body distinct from all other people in the world, in order to their conversion in God’s due time. To this place St. Paul, speaking of the conversion of the Jews in the latter times, seems to refer when he says, The gifts and calling of God [to the Jews] are without repentance, Romans 11:29. If heaven above can be measured, &c. — If the height and extent thereof can be ascertained by men, which is impossible, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel, &c. — That is, I will never cast them all off — a promise which the apostle, (Romans 11:1-2,) proves to have been made good by God, notwithstanding the rejection of the great body of that people.

31:35-40 As surely as the heavenly bodies will continue their settled course, according to the will of their Creator, to the end of time, and as the raging sea obeys him, so surely will the Jews be continued a separate people. Words can scarcely set forth more strongly the restoration of Israel. The rebuilding of Jerusalem, and its enlargement and establishment, shall be an earnest of the great things God will do for the gospel church. The personal happiness of every true believer, as well as the future restoration of Israel, is secured by promise, covenant, and oath. This Divine love passes knowledge; and to those who take hold upon it, every present mercy is an earnest of salvation.Divideth ... - Rather, stirreth up the sea so that its waves roar. 35. divideth … sea when … waves … roar … Lord of hosts … name—quoted from Isa 51:15, the genuineness of which passage is thus established on Jeremiah's authority. The word egd is here ill translated divide, which hath led some interpreters to think that God here hath a respect to his dividing the Red Sea, that the Israelites might pass over, which seemeth not at all here to be intended. The word indeed signifieth to divide, but it also signifieth to quiet and bring to rest, and is so interpreted, Jeremiah 50:34 Isaiah 34:14, and in this very chapter, Jeremiah 31:2, and doubtless were better here translated, which quieteth the sea when the waves thereof roar. All the acts mentioned are acts speaking the Divine almighty power of him who is the Lord of all the regiments in the hosts of the creation.

Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day,.... As he did at first, and still continues it; and which is a wonderful gift of nature he bestows on men, unworthy of such a favour, Matthew 5:45;

and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night; which have a settled regular order and course, in which they move; and whereby they impart the light they borrow from the sun, to enlighten the world by night; which is another favour to the inhabitants of it; see Genesis 1:16;

which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; some refer this, as Kimchi, to the dividing of the Red sea for the Israelites to pass over; but it rather respects an action more frequently done; and should be rendered, which "stilleth", or "maketh the sea quiet" (o); which best agrees with what follows; when it is tumultuous, and threatens the loss of ships and men's lives, and attempts to pass its bounds, he "rebukes it"; so the Targum; and makes it a calm; he stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, Psalm 65:7;

the Lord of hosts is his name; that has all the armies of heaven and earth at his command, and can do whatever he pleases; he, and he only, can do the above things, and does them; and he that can do them, is able to make good the covenant he has made with the house of Israel, and fulfil the promises of it, of which there is an assurance; as well as he is able to secure an interest and a church for himself unto the end of the world, as the following words show.

(o) "quiescere cogit mare, etsi fluctus ejus fremuerunt", Gussetius, p. 778. So some in Gataker; "quo mari interminante sedantur fluctus ejus", Syr. Interpr.

Thus saith the LORD, who giveth {m} the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who divideth the sea when its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:

(m) If the sun, moon and stars cannot but glue light according to my ordinance, so long as this world lasts, so shall my church never fail, neither shall anything hinder it: and as sure as I will have a people, so certain is it, that I will leave them my word forever to govern them with.

35. stirreth up, etc.] The converse sense stilleth (mg.) although representing a Heb. root identical in consonants with that in the text (found e.g. in Jeremiah 50:34, “give rest”) is here indefensible.

35–37. Many hold these vv. to be by a writer of later date than Jeremiah, because (a) the vehemence of their national tone exceeds the prophet’s ordinary form of expression, (b) they present a good many points of contact with 2 Isaiah (Isaiah 40:12; Isaiah 40:26; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24 ff; Isaiah 45:7; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 54:9 f.), (c) Jeremiah 31:37 at any rate seems to have been a marginal gloss, the LXX placing it before Jeremiah 31:35, (d) the style is unmetrical, (e) they can hardly have been spoken by Jeremiah as his climax to the prophecy of the New Covenant. Obviously, however, they might still be a genuine fragment inserted here from another context. On the whole the case remains doubtful.

35–40. See introd. summary to the section.

Verses 35-37. - Guarantee of Israel's national continuance. A marvellous promise, in the face of the Babylonian Captivity. Verse 35. - The ordinances of the moon; i.e. the moon in its appointed changes (comp. Jeremiah 33:23). Which divideth the sea when, etc.; rather, which stirreth up the sea, so that, etc. This is one of the points of content Jeremiah with the latter part of Isaiah (see Isaiah 51:17; and comp. Job 26:12). Jeremiah 31:35The character of the new covenant: "I (Jahveh) give (will put) my law within them, and write it upon their heart." בּקרבּם is the opposite of נתן לפניהם, which is constantly used of the Sinaitic law, cf. Jeremiah 9:12; Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 11:32; 1 Kings 9:6; and the "writing on the heart" is opposed to writing on the tables of stone, Exodus 31:18, cf. Jeremiah 32:15., Jeremiah 34:8, Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 9:11; Deuteronomy 10:4, etc. The difference, therefore, between the old and the new covenants consists in this, that in the old the law was laid before the people that they might accept it and follow it, receiving it into their hearts, as the copy of what God not merely required of men, but offered and vouchsafed to them for their happiness; while in the new it is put within, implanted into the heart and soul by the Spirit of God, and becomes the animating life-principle, 2 Corinthians 3:3. The law of the Lord thus forms, in the old as well as in the new covenant, the kernel and essence of the relation instituted between the Lord and His people; and the difference between the two consists merely in this, that the will of God as expressed in the law under the old covenant was presented externally to the people, while under the new covenant it is to become an internal principle of life. Now, even in the old covenant, we not only find that Israel is urged to receive the law of the Lord his God into his heart, - to make the law presented to him from without the property of his heart, as it were, - but even Moses, we also find, promises that God will circumcise the heart of the people, that they may love God the Lord with all their heart and all their soul (Deuteronomy 30:6). But this circumcision of heart and this love of God with the whole soul, which are repeatedly required in the law (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 10:16), are impossibilities, unless the law be received into the heart. It thus appears that the difference between the old and the new covenants must be reduced to this, that what was commanded and applied to the heart in the old is given in the new, and the new is but the completion of the old covenant. This is, indeed, the true relation between them, as is clearly shown by the fact, that the essential element of the new covenant, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people," was set forth as the object of the old; cf. Leviticus 26:12 with Exodus 29:45. Nevertheless the difference is not merely one of degree, but one of kind. The demands of the law, "Keep the commandments of your God," "Be ye holy as the Lord your God is holy," cannot be fulfilled by sinful man. Even when he strives most earnestly to keep the commands of the law, he cannot satisfy its requirements. The law, with its rigid demands, can only humble the sinner, and make him beseech God to blot out his sin and create in him a clean heart (Psalm 51:11.); it can only awaken him to the perception of sin, but cannot blot it out. It is God who must forgive this, and by forgiving it, write His will on the heart. The forgiveness of sin, accordingly, is mentioned, Jeremiah 31:34, at the latter part of the promise, as the basis of the new covenant. But the forgiveness of sins is a work of grace which annuls the demand of the law against men. In the old covenant, the law with its requirements is the impelling force; in the new covenant, the grace shown in the forgiveness of sins is the aiding power by which man attains that common life with God which the law sets before him as the great problem of life. It is in this that the qualitative difference between the old and the new covenants consists. The object which both set before men for attainment is the same, but the means of attaining it are different in each. In the old covenant are found commandment and requirement; in the new, grace and giving. Certainly, even under the old covenant, God bestowed on the people of Israel grace and the forgiveness of sins, and, by the institution of sacrifice, had opened up a way of access by which men might approach Him and rejoice in His gracious gifts; His Spirit, moreover, produced in the heart of the godly ones the feeling that their sins were forgiven, and that they were favoured of God. But even this institution and this working of the Holy Spirit on and in the heart, was no more than a shadow and prefiguration of what is actually offered and vouchsafed under the new covenant, Hebrews 10:1. The sacrifices of the old covenant are but prefigurations of the true atoning-offering of Christ, by which the sins of the whole world are atoned for and blotted out.

In Jeremiah 31:34 are unfolded the results of God's putting His law in the heart. The knowledge of the Lord will then no longer be communicated by the outward teaching of every man to his fellow, but all, small and great, will be enlightened and taught by the Spirit of God (Isaiah 54:13) to know the Lord; cf. Joel 3:1., Isaiah 11:9. These words do not imply that, under the new covenant, "the office of the teacher of religion must cease" (Hitzig); and as little is "disparity in the imparting of the knowledge of God silently excluded" in Jeremiah 31:33. The meaning simply is this, that the knowledge of God will then no longer be dependent on the communication and instruction of man. The knowledge of Jahveh, of which the prophet speaks, is not the theoretic knowledge which is imparted and acquired by means of religious instruction; it is rather knowledge of divine grace based upon the inward experience of the heart, which knowledge the Holy Spirit works in the heart by assuring the sinner that he has indeed been adopted as a son of God through the forgiveness of his sins. This knowledge, as being an inward experience of grace, does not exclude religious instruction, but rather tacitly implies that there is intimation given of God's desire to save and of His purpose of grace. The correct understanding of the words results from a right perception of the contrast involved in them, viz., that under the old covenant the knowledge of the Lord was connected with the mediation of priests and prophets. Just as, at Sinai, the sinful people could not endure that the Lord should address them directly, but retreated, terrified by the awful manifestation of the Lord on the mountain, and said entreatingly to Moses, "Speak thou with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exodus 20:15); so, under the old covenant economy generally, access to the Lord was denied to individuals, and His grace was only obtained by the intervention of human mediators. This state of matters has been abolished under the new covenant, inasmuch as the favoured sinner is placed in immediate relation to God by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:12.

In order to give good security that the promise of a new covenant would be fulfilled, the Lord, in Jeremiah 31:35., points to the everlasting duration of the arrangements of nature, and declares that, if this order of nature were to cease, then Israel also would cease to be a people before Him; i.e., the continuance of Israel as the people of God shall be like the laws of nature. Thus the eternal duration of the new covenant is implicitly declared. Hengstenberg contests the common view of Jeremiah 31:35 and Jeremiah 31:36, according to which the reference is to the firm, unchangeable continuance of God's laws in nature, which everything must obey; and he is of opinion that, in Jeremiah 31:35, it is merely the omnipotence of God that is spoken of, that this proves He is God and not man, and that there is thus formed a basis for the statement set forth in Jeremiah 31:35, so full of comfort for the doubting covenant people; that God does not life, that He can never repent of His covenant and His promises. But the arguments adduced for this, and against the common view, are not decisive. The expression "stirring the sea, so that its waves roar," certainly serves in the original passage, Isaiah 51:15, from which Jeremiah has taken it, to bring the divine omnipotence into prominence; but it does not follow from this that here also it is merely the omnipotence of God that is pointed out. Although, in rousing the sea, "no definite rule that we can perceive is observed, no uninterrupted return," yet it is repeated according to the unchangeable ordinance of God, though not every day, like the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies. And in Jeremiah 31:35, under the expression "these ordinances" are comprehended the rousing of the sea as well as the movements of the moon and stars; further, the departure, i.e., the cessation, of these natural phenomena is mentioned as impossible, to signify that Israel cannot cease to exist as a people; hence the emphasis laid on the immutability of these ordinances of nature. Considered in itself, the putting of the sun for a light by day, and the appointment of the moon and stars for a light by night, are works of the almighty power of God, just as the sea is roused so that its waves roar; but, that these phenomena never cease, but always recur as long as the present world lasts, is a proof of the immutability of these works of the omnipotence of God, and it is this point alone which here receives consideration. "The ordinances of the moon and of the stars" mean the established arrangements as regards the phases of the moon, and the rising and setting of the different stars. "From being a nation before me" declares not merely the continuance of Israel as a nation, so that they shall not disappear from the earth, just as so many others perish in the course of ages, but also their continuance before Jahveh, i.e., as His chosen people; cf. Jeremiah 30:20. - This positive promise regarding the continuance of Israel is confirmed by a second simile, in Jeremiah 31:37, which declares the impossibility of rejection. The measurement of the heavens and the searching of the foundations, i.e., of the inmost depths, of the earth, is regarded as an impossibility. God will not reject the whole seed of Israel: here כּל is to be attentively considered. As Hengstenberg correctly remarks, the hypocrites are deprived of the comfort which they could draw from these promises. Since the posterity of Israel are not all rejected, the rejection of the dead members of the people, i.e., unbelievers, is not thereby excluded, but included. That the whole cannot perish "is no bolster for the sin of any single person." The prophet adds: "because of all that they have done," i.e., because of their sins, their apostasy from God, in order to keep believing ones from despair on account of the greatness of their sins. On this, Calvin makes the appropriate remark: Consulto propheta hic proponit scelera populi, ut sciamus superiorem fore Dei clementiam, nec congeriem tot malorum fore obstaculo, quominus Deus ignoscat. If we keep before our mind these points in the promise contained in this verse, we shall not, like Graf, find in Jeremiah 31:37 merely a tame repetition of what has already been said, and be inclined to take the verse as a superfluous marginal gloss.

(Note: Hitzig even thinks that, "because the style and the use of language betoken the second Isaiah, and the order of both strophes is reversed in the lxx (i.e., Jeremiah 31:37 stands before Jeremiah 31:35.), Jeremiah 31:35, Jeremiah 31:36 may have stood in the margin at the beginning of the genuine portion in Jeremiah 31:27-34, and Jeremiah 31:37, on the other hand, in the margin at Jeremiah 31:34." But, that the verses, although they present reminiscences of the second Isaiah, do not quite prove that the language is his, has already been made sufficiently evident by Graf, who points out that, in the second Isaiah, המה is nowhere used of the roaring of the sea, nor do we meet with חקּות and חקּים, ישׁבּתוּ מהיות, כּל־היּמים, nor again הקר in the Niphal, or מוסדי ארץ (but מוסדות in Isaiah 40:21); other expressions are not peculiar to the second Isaiah, since they also occur in other writings. - But the transposition of the verses in the lxx, in view of the arbitrary treatment of the text of Jeremiah in that version, cannot be made to prove anything whatever.)

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