Jeremiah 32:2
For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
32:1-15 Jeremiah, being in prison for his prophecy, purchased a piece of ground. This was to signify, that though Jerusalem was besieged, and the whole country likely to be laid waste, yet the time would come, when houses, and fields, and vineyards, should be again possessed. It concerns ministers to make it appear that they believe what they preach to others. And it is good to manage even our worldly affairs in faith; to do common business with reference to the providence and promise of God.The prison - Or, the guard, a part of the king's palace, probably where the royal guard had its quarters. 2. in … court of … prison—that is, in the open space occupied by the guard, from which he was not allowed to depart, but where any of his friends might visit him (Jer 32:12; Jer 38:13, 28). Marvellous obstinacy, that at the time when they were experiencing the truth of Jeremiah's words in the pressure of the siege, they should still keep the prophet in confinement [Calvin]. The circumstances narrated (Jer 32:3-5) occurred at the beginning of the siege, when Jeremiah foretold the capture of the city (Jer 32:1; Jer 34:1-7; 39:1). He was at that time put into free custody in the court of the prison. At the raising of the siege by Pharaoh-hophra, Jeremiah was on the point of repairing to Benjamin, when he was cast into "the dungeon," but obtained leave to be removed again to the court of the prison (Jer 37:12-21). When there he urged the Jews, on the second advance of the Chaldeans to the siege, to save themselves by submission to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 38:2, 3); in consequence of this the king, at the instigation of the princes, had him cast into a miry dungeon (Jer 38:4-6); again he was removed to the prison court at the intercession of a courtier (Jer 32:7-13), where he remained till the capture of the city (Jer 32:28), when he was liberated (Jer 39:11, &c.; Jer 40:1, &c.). The king of Babylon (as appears from 2 Kings 25:1 Jeremiah 39:1) besieged Jerusalem in the tenth month of the ninth year of Zedekiah, so as he had besieged it some time before the revelation of this prophecy came to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was at that time a prisoner, in a prison within the king’s house. The king could keep him from revealing God’s will to the people, but he could not keep God from revealing himself to him. Prisons hinder us from communion with men, but often contribute to God’s people freer and sweeter communion with him. In the mean time the desperate hardness of this prince and these people’s hearts appear, in that the fear of an enemy besieging them could not awe them from such outrageous acts of persecution. For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem,.... And had done so for some time; for the siege began in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Jeremiah 52:4;

and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house; which showed great stupidity and hardness of heart in the king, and his courtiers, and in the people, to imprison a prophet of the Lord, when surrounded by an enemy's army, and that according to the prediction of the prophet; by which it appeared that he was a true prophet; and they might reasonably expect that the rest of his predictions, which related to the taking of their city, and carrying them captive, would be fulfilled. It is true, indeed, he was in a better prison than before, more honourable, being within the limits of the king's house; and, besides, was not closely confined, but allowed to walk in the court of the prison; and so had a free air to breathe in, and more company to converse with, and could exercise himself by walking about; perhaps he was placed here to keep him from prophesying to the people to their discouragement, and the more to awe him, as he was under the eye of the king and his ministry. Of this prison and its court mention is made in Nehemiah 3:25; it seems to have been for state prisoners.

For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. the court of the guard] not meaning the place where a guard, or body of men, were posted but “a part of the court surrounding the Palace railed off to guard prisoners in, whom it was not desired to throw into the common dungeon” (Dr. ad loc.; see also his note p. 367). Cp. Nehemiah 3:25; Nehemiah 12:39.Verse 2. - In the court of the prison; or, the court of the guard, which adjoined the royal palace (Nehemiah 3:25). The 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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