JEREMIAH CHAPTER 31
The restoration of Israel published, Jeremiah 31:1-14. Rachel mourning is comforted, Jeremiah 31:15-17. Ephraim repenting is brought home, Jeremiah 31:18-21. Christ promised, Jeremiah 31:22-26. His care over the church, Jeremiah 31:27-30. His new covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34. The stability and enlargement of the church, Jeremiah 31:35-40.
When the Lord’s anger shall turn, he having performed all the thoughts of his heart upon the wicked Israelites, he will declare himself not unmindful of the covenant which he made with Abraham and his seed, but will be their God, and they shall be the people of his favour, whom he will protect and bless. It is uncertain whether Israel here is to be taken in a more large sense, as it signifieth the whole twelve tribes, or only Judah, being that part of Israel which was before spoken of.
God confirmeth the aforementioned promises, and his people’s hope and faith in them, by minding them of what he had anciently done for this very people. Though God did, in the journey which the Israelites had from Egypt to Canaan, cut off many of them by the sword for their iniquities, some by the Amalekites, Exodus 17:8, some by the swords of their brethren for the idolatry they committed about the golden calf, Exodus 32:28; yet those that survived that and other judgments found favour in God’s eyes while they were going to Canaan the land of rest, or while God, going before them, brought them into Canaan. God paralleleth his future providences and gracious purposes with his past gracious providences.
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.
As upon their being carried into captivity both their civil state and church, which either of them were as a building framed together, were broken and pulled down, and they were scattered here and there, like the stones of a building pulled down; so God’s bringing them again together, and cementing them by a political and ecclesiastical government, is fitly compared to a building. The calling them the
virgin Israel doth not signify that the body of that people had not been defloured by idolatry, but either signifies that this promise only concerned such as had kept their virginity; or else (which it may be is more probable) Israel is here called a virgin with relation to the following words, they being virgins which were wont to go out with tabrets, 1 Samuel 18:6, and to dance in the time of their mirth and jollity, Exodus 15:20 Jude 11:34. The virgins are said to be adorned with their tabrets, or timbrels, either (as some think) because they were wont to tie scarfs or ribands about them, or because they looked comely with these instruments of music in their hands, or should use them in a more handsome and comely manner than they had done before, when they used them at unseasonable times. That which is here prophesied is, a merry, joyful, pleasant time to this people, when their mirth should become them; or the restoration of their religions festivals, at which they used instruments of music to express their inward spiritual joy and gladness. The prophets, 1 Samuel 10:5, came from the high place with a tabret, &c.
Samaria was the metropolis of the ten tribes, called so from Shemer, who owned the hill: Omri king of Israel bought it, and built Samaria upon it. Mountains in many places are judged the most convenient places for vineyards, being free from shades, and most exposed to the sun. God promiseth them a liberty to plant, and that they should enjoy their plantations, eating them as common things, which they could not do till the fifth year, as appears from Leviticus 19:23-25. The three first years it was to be accounted by them as uncircumcised, that is, unclean; in the fourth year it was to be holy to the Lord; in the fifth year they might eat the fruit of it, as any common thing that was not unclean, nor yet devoted and consecrated to the Lord.
Mount Ephraim was a part of the lot of the ten tribes is out of question. Whether by
watchmen be to be understood state sentinels set to give warning of dangers approaching, or keepers of vineyards, seemeth not much material. It is said they should call upon men to go up to Zion, that is, to the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, to worship the Lord. The only question is, what time tills prophecy was fulfilled. For though Judah returned from the captivity of Babylon, yet the ten tribes (that we read of) never returned. Some think that it was fulfilled in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, when though the body of the ten tribes returned not, yet many particular persons of those tribes did return and join themselves with those who returned out of the captivity of Babylon, and rebuilt both the city and the temple. Besides, it appeareth from Josephus, 1.13. cap. 5.8, that the Demetrii gave Samaria, Galilee, and Perea to the Jews. But the best interpreters judge that this prophecy was fulfilled under the gospel; for both Galilee and Samaria received the gospel, as appeareth from Acts 8:1,5,9,14 9:31.
This grave, authoritative preface,
Thus saith the Lord, seemeth to be prefixed to put the people of God out of fear of the accomplishment of the good things he had before promised and prophesied of. The verse in itself is either an exhortation to those amongst the Jews who feared God, or to the heathen, to sing and rejoice on the behalf of the Jews, to whom God would certainly show such mercy as they might
sing for; before they had it in their hands, they might both publish the thing that it should certainly be, and also bless God for it. But withal he minds them that there would be occasion for prayer as well as praise, there would be a
remnant of Israel that would have at least no present share in these mercies, through their impenitency, unbelief, and hardness of heart. Hereby minding us that we ought not so to rejoice in our good things, as to forget those who are no sharers with us. The best of God’s people’s lot, while they are in this life, is such as will show them a need of prayer as well as praise.
By the north country, is unquestionably meant Babylon, and the land of the Chaldeans, and those places which were northward of Jerusalem; and by the
coasts of the earth, all other parts into which any of the Jews had been driven. The meaning of this is, that nothing should hinder such from returning as had a mind to return; blind men that could not see their way, and lame persons, who had no strength to walk in it, though they saw it, and women with child, in regard of their heaviness, and women travailing, in regard of their pain, are persons more unfit to travel long journeys than any others; but saith God, I will make such provision, that some under those circumstances shall come. That these phrases must be interpreted only into this general sense appears, because such persons in a literal sense could not come. And though some worthy interpreters understand it in a spiritual sense, of ignorant and impotent persons, and such as are laden with the burden of their sins, and of coming to Christ, it seems not to be the primary sense of the text.
They shall come with weeping; some think that it had been better translated, They went weeping; for though the verb be the future tense in the Hebrew, yet that tense hath often the signification of the preterperfect tense; thus it answereth, Psalms 126:5,6, He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, &c.; but there is no need of it here, for there is a weeping for joy, as well as for sorrow, as we have it in the instances both of Jacob and Joseph, Genesis 29:11 43:30; and thus the text correspondeth with that, Zechariah 12:10, I will pour upon them the Spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn. Weeping also here may be understood for their past sins. I will cause them to walk, by the rivers of waters; and they shall have no want as they had when they came out of Egypt, through the wilderness, where they often wanted water.
In a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; neither shall they have any rough ways, nor turn backward and forward, as God made them to do in their passage through the wilderness.
For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born; for as I have the affection of a father for all Israel, so will I show the care and kindness of a father to them, and use them as a man useth his first-born; so God anciently called the Jews, Exodus 4:22, they being the first of all nations, whom God owned and took into covenant, and who owned God, and worshipped the true and living God only.
God willeth his promises of good to his people to be published and declared beforehand, and that not to them only, but to other people, that the hand of his providence, when he brings them to pass, may be more conspicuous, and it may be undeniably owned to be the work of God, being no more than what he had foretold long before. God is not only the author of those judgments which come upon his people, but of their mercies; and his power in scattering them is enough to confirm us in a belief of his power to gather them. He will not only gather them, but keep and protect them when gathered; and thus God showeth himself their Shepherd: it is the work of a shepherd not only to call and gather his sheep together, but to watch over them, protect, and keep them, when they are so gathered together.
Because of the certainty of Divine prophecies and promises, things in them are often said to be already done which are not to be fulfilled of many years after. The sense is, God will as certainly do it as if he had already done it; for whether it be understood of a deliverance from Babylon, or of the salvation of the gospel by Christ, which by a metaphor is often also called redeeming and ransoming, it was to be accomplished long after this time. By
him that was stronger than he, some understand the Chaldeans, others understand the devil (interpreting the text of the spiritual redemption of God’s people by the blood of Christ, being the ransom given for them); but undoubtedly the text is literally to be understood of their deliverance from Babylon, though (as the apostle saith) all these things happened to them in a figure. In their deliverance, as well from Babylon as Egypt, they were types of the deliverance of God’s people from spiritual Babylon and Egypt by Christ, as well as in their entering into Canaan they were (as the apostle proveth, Heb 3 Heb 4) types of the saints entering into heaven, of which Canaan was a type.
The particular phrases in this verse must not be strained, nor do they need a particular explication, all signifying but one thing, viz. the happy and prosperous state the Jews should be in after their return from the captivity, both as to their religious and civil state.
The height of Zion may either signify Jerusalem, or the temple more especially, where those that returned, as well those of the ten tribes as those strictly of Judah, should come and sing praises to God; and should there come to beg of God good things upon the account of his goodness, owning him as the God of their mercies, whether of a spiritual or temporal nature; such as corn, wine, oil, and an increase of their cattle, both flocks and herds. And they should be a beautiful, flourishing, growing people, like
a watered garden that looks cheerly, and in which things grow and thrive (for soul doth not seem here to be taken for men’s spiritual and immortal part, but for the whole man). And they shall be sorrowful no more in that manner as they have been, and for that age and generation were; or many years: see Isaiah 35:10. Some think that under these expressions is also promised the spiritual joy which the true Israel of God should have under the gospel, and the eternal joy they shall have in heaven, when, and not before, all tears shall be wiped from their eyes; for in a strict sense it was not fulfilled to the Jews, who at the taking of their city by the Romans, sixty years after Christ, met with more sorrow than they had ever before met with.
This verse containeth only a further variety of expressions, all signifying the same thing, viz. their happy state for some time after the captivity. We may understand the dancings here of all sorts of people, either of their religious rejoicing in their holy festivals, (for under the Old Testament in their religious rejoicing they used these external expressions of joy, as appears from Psalms 150:4, and from David’s dancing before the ark,) or of their civil joy, where dancing was more usual: the last words of the verse expound all the former.
priests some understand the ministers of the gospel, whom God here promiseth liberally to provide for; or rather, by giving a success to their ministry, and letting them see the fruit of their labours, make to rejoice: in which metaphorical sense I should rather interpret it, applying it first to the priests of the Jews after the captivity, of whom it is said, Ezra 6:16, that they kept the feast of the dedication of the second temple with joy; and Ezra 6:22, the Lord had made the people joyful. Nor were the people for a short time only satisfied with the Lord’s goodness. In a secondary typical sense it may also signify the spiritual success and rejoicing of good ministers under the gospel, and the spiritual joy of believers. This rejoicing is metaphorically expressed by fatness, with allusion to the rift of the sacrifices under the law. It is a usual thing for God by his prophets to express New Testament duties and privileges by phrases borrowed from the worship of God under the Old Testament. See Isaiah 66:22,23.
Interpreters are much divided in the sense of these words, whether they should refer to the slaughter of the Jews belonging to the ten tribes, upon their being captivated by the Assyrians, or to the slaughter of the Jews, upon the siege and taking of the city by the king of Babylon, or to Herod’s killing the infants in Bethlehem. Certain it is, the evangelist, Matthew 2:18, applieth them unto the latter; but whether the evangelist’s application of it be as a literal fulfilling of the prophecy, or by way of allusion, or no, is the question. Those that think that it is primarily to be understood of the slaughter of the infants, urge,
1. That Matthew 2:18, so applies it.
2. That women’s mourning for children seems rather to be for the loss of infants, (as was there,) than expressive of the mourning of all sorts of people, in a general desolation.
3. That the place of the mourning seems to hint it; for Ramah was near to Bethlehem, and contained under the coasts about Bethlehem, mentioned by the evangelist.
4. The words
because they were not they think make for them; for by being carried into captivity, they did not cease to be, though they ceased to be in that happy estate they were in before.
5. Because they think that this is here propounded as a sign of his coming, upon whose coming these promises of felicity to the Jews should be fulfilled. These reasons are not unanswerable; for,
1. Matthew may apply it only by way of allusion, speaking of such a providence, when such a thing should happen as happened before; in which sense particular texts of Scripture are in Scripture often said to be fulfilled, though they had their fulfilling before.
2. Rachel here doth not signify a single person, no, nor a particular sex, but is brought in as a common parent, lamenting the loss of her offspring.
3. Ramah was indeed near Bethlehem, but it was a city in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25 1 Kings 15:17. Rachel was, buried betwixt it and Bethlehem, Genesis 35:19 1 Samuel 10:2; and it was also the place where Nebuzaradan, after he had taken Jerusalem, disposed of his prisoners, as we read, Jeremiah 40:1 4. Though the greater part of the Jews were not slain, but carried into captivity; yet doubtless many were slain, and those left alive were not as to her, being now carried out of Canaan into a strange land.
5. Although the promises in this chapter made to the Jews were more eminently and fully made good under the kingdom of Christ; yet it may be doubted whether any of these promises were primarily and solely fulfilled to them under the kingdom of Christ, but literally before that time, though more fully and largely then. In Ramah therefore a voice was heard, that is, in Canaan, and particularly in Ramah, where Nebuzaradan, Jeremiah 40:1, disposed of the prisoners he had taken, setting some at liberty, (as Jeremiah in particular,) ordering others to death, and carrying the rest away to Babylon, which caused a bitter weeping and lamentation.
Rachel weeping for her children: Rachel is here brought in, having been buried near that place, as if she were risen up from the grave, and lamented the Jewish nation, which came out of her loins, (for so Benjamin did, which was one of the two tribes that made the kingdom of Judah,) all the people of which tribe are properly enough called her children. Rachel here signifieth all the Benjamitish women who descended from Rachel.
Refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not; and, like a passionate woman, she refused all arguments of comfort, because her children either were not absolutely, being slain by the pestilence, the famine, and the sword of the king of Babylon, or were no longer her children, being transplanted and removed into Babylon. So as I take this text literally and primarily to refer to the lamentation for the miseries the people suffered, upon the king of Babylon’s taking the city; to which mourning Matthew alludeth, there being a lamentation like this when Herod caused the infants of two years old to be slain in Bethlehem, and in the coasts about Bethlehem, of which Ramah was one.
The prophet in this and the following verses is brought in as one appointed of God to quiet and comfort the Rachel before mentioned, calling to her to quiet herself, and not to mourn so excessively, for God would recompense her for her afflictions, which are here understood by the term
work (as some think); but the Hebrew word leo is hardly found in Scripture taken for affliction: others therefore apply it to Rachel, for whose piety’s sake God would show mercy to her children, as a reward of grace, though not of debt. The best interpreters think that the terms of work and reward are here used only to express the succession of a comfortable state to their miserable state in captivity, (as the wages use to follow the work,) which should make them amends for their long time of affliction; and so it is expounded by the last words of the verse.
And again here, where, by
end, is meant the end of the seventy years, and the words are but a repetition of the promise of the return of the Jews out of the captivity of Babylon, of which the prophet had often before assured them, and here only repeats it as an argument why they should not be immoderately afflicted; for their affliction was not endless, nor their captivity for ever; they should return again into their own land.
The prophet in this verse showeth the change that should be wrought in the hearts of the Israelites preceding this turn out of their captivity. God had made an ancient promise to this people in their enemies’ hands, Leviticus 26:40-42, If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that they also have walked contrary unto me; and that also I have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The Lord, to show his faithfulness to his word, and also to mind them of what must first be done before the aforementioned promises could be fulfilled, and made good to them, and to quicken them to their duty, speaks of a thing yet to come as of a thing past, foretelling that before their deliverance should come he should hear Ephraim, that is, the ten tribes, or rather, those of all the twelve tribes that feared the Lord, bemoaning or bewailing their miserable state, or themselves, both for that and their sins, which had brought them into such a state, and acknowledging not only what God had done unto them, that it was he who had chastised them, and that justly; for they were as wanton bullocks not used to the yoke, which ordinarily are very unruly when they are first put into it, but by use are more quiet under it; and praying to God that he would both change their hearts and also their state; for without him it could never be done, and by him it would be done easily; and to this purpose laying a claim to God as their God, and owning him as their God, promising him that though other lords had ruled over them, yet hereafter he alone should be owned, acknowledged, worshipped, and obeyed by them.
We must consider that we are not in a history or a narration of things done, but in a prophecy foretelling what should come to pass. The prophet foretelleth that before this promised deliverance should come, the Israelites should be in another temper, that their uncircumcised hearts should be humbled, they should accept of the punishment of their sins, confess God’s justice and righteousness, and their own wantonness and unruliness, pray unto God to change their hearts, which would never else be changed, and change their conditions, which would depend upon that change of their hearts, laying claim to God as their God, who had promised, Deuteronomy 30:1,2, that when the blessings and the curses spoken of Deu 28 Deu 29 should come upon them, and they should call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord had driven them, if they returned unto the Lord their God, and obeyed his voice, according to all that he commanded them, they and their children, with all their heart, and all their soul; that then the Lord their God would turn their captivity, and have compassion on them, &c. Now, saith Ephraim,
after I was turned, after God had changed our hearts, we
repented and changed our practices; after that God had instructed us, either by his prophets, or by briers and thorns, by our afflictions, or by his Holy Spirit, we smote upon our thighs in testimony of our sorrow and affliction, Ezekiel 21:12. Then I was ashamed and confounded for my sins, understanding that I did but bear the just punishment of the sins which I had long ago committed, in the time of my wantonness, rebellion, and disobedience to God. This is expressed by the term youth, because ordinarily men and women’s youth is their time of wantonness; persons ordinarily growing more considerate and sober as years increase upon them. Thus the prophet foretelleth that God would prepare this people for mercy. In the next verses he showeth how ready God’s ear would be to hear.
Interpreters run into a very great variety in their explications of this text; that which seemeth to be the cause of it is, that, amongst the Hebrews, affirmative interrogations are notes of the vehement denial of the thing as to which the question is propounded, which leads some to interpret these words into a denial that Ephraim was his
dear son, or a
pleasant child, and denying the truth of his professed repentance. But certainly this is quite contrary to the whole scope of the prophet. The reverend author of the English Annotations hath observed, that the affirmative interrogation sometimes in Scripture doth imply a negative, for the negative particle is suppressed, and h is put for alh so that, Is Ephraim my dear son? here, is the same with, Is not Ephraim my dear son? He gives for instances 1 Samuel 2:27,28, where did I? plainly is the same with did I not? So Job 20:4, where we have supplied not, Knowest thou not, &c.? So Jeremiah 3:6, where, Hast thou seen? is the same with, Hast thou not seen? So Ezekiel 20:30 Amos 6:2. So that though the particle prefixed h be an affirmative particle, yet it is often put for Nld and signifieth negatively, the negative being suppressed and to be understood. I have also sometimes thought that even here it may be fairly enough interpreted, Is Ephraim now become my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? Is his heart turned? So is mine. For since I spake against him, or with him, or of him, I do earnestly remember him, ydbd ydj Ar. Montanus translateth it, from the sufficiency of my speaking with him; the reason of the difference is, yd signifies to suffice, and it signifies time. I see no reason to vary from our translation, since, or from the time, as the same particle signifieth, 1 Samuel 18:30 1 Kings 14:28 Isaiah 28:19, I spake against him by my threatenings, I do remember him with the affection and compassion of a father.
My bowels are troubled for him, is as much as, I have pitied him; as the bowels of parents are turned and troubled for their children in calamities; therefore, saith God, I will certainly show him favour.
The latter part of this verse expounds the former. Thou shalt (saith God) return again to these cities which thou now leavest, therefore take good notice of the way thou seest, set up some marks by which thou mayst know it again; make thee pillars of some high heaps of stone in the way, which thou mayst know again when thou comest at them; mind well the way that the Assyrians and the Babylonians carried thee, for thou shalt come back the same way. Further to assure them they should return, he calls to them
to turn again, and doubleth his words, for the further confirmation of the thing.
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, Deuteronomy 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.
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: these prophecies of the restoration of the Jews are very ordinarily prefaced with these two attributes of God; the one of which asserts his power to do the thing promised; for what cannot be done by the Lord of hosts? the other asserting his goodness or good-will to this people, because he is their God, related to them, in covenant with them: ability and love, or good-will to us, being the two pillars of our faith and confidence in God, which requireth no more than that we should be assured that the person whom we trust is able and willing to do what we trust to him for.
Yet they shall use, & c.: the particle bbo seemeth better translated, Jeremiah 31:5, yet again they shall use, &c. The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. Three things the prophet here foretelleth.
1. That the cities which had formerly been the habitations of bloody, unjust, cruel men, should become the habitations of men who should do justice to all.
2. That the city which stood upon Mount Zion, and had formerly been a habitation of idolaters, and other unholy persons, should become a place in which men should in a due and holy manner serve and worship the true God.
3. That they should be so famous both for justice and holiness, that men should take notice of it, and wish them well under that notion; and upon that account, as they had for their sins been made a curse and a proverb, so upon their reformation they should be for a blessing. By this we may observe that those who would be blessed by God and men, must be just towards men, and holy towards God.
This whole verse is but an expression of their peaceable state after their return; they should live innocently and peaceably. Jeremiah 33:12.
I have here is of the same significancy with I will, as ordinarily in prophetical promises, which are the words of Him who calleth the things that are not as if they were, and would have his people look upon the things which he hath promised to do as certain as if they were already done. The words are only a promise to the same sense as before, that God would give his people abundance of ease and plenty, and wipe all tears from their eyes.
Either this revelation was made to Jeremiah in a dream, from whence he awaking, looked about him; and he was very well pleased with his sleep at that time, because of the gracious promises concerning Judah which the Lord had in that dream revealed to them. Or else in a vision, upon the sight and hearing of which he was as well pleased as a man that had slept quietly, and had had no ill and unpleasing, but sweet and delightful, dreams while he slept.
That is, I will exceedingly multiply them, both with men and with cattle: they are now laid waste, their men are destroyed, or gone into other lands, their profitable beasts are destroyed, and killed up; but it shall not be so always, I will again plant them, and there shall be as great plenty of either as if they were sown. The multiplying both of men and of beasts in nations is God’s blessing.
Nothing can produce in God a change of counsels, purposes, and decrees, for he is not as man that he should lie or repent, he is the God that changeth not, but men’s reformation may produce in him a change of providential dispensations. God is here set out as a man that is vindictive, and his vindictive nature prompts him to watch all opportunities of doing hurt to the person against whom he is set. There is no fury nor revenge in God, but what he doth is justice; but here an angry God is set out as taking all opportunities to punish sinners, as if he had watched for them, whereas he never slumbereth nor sleepeth: but the time of their reformation and his favour being come, God promiseth to be as diligent to do them good, which is here expressed by the metaphorical notions of planting and building them, as he was before to execute his justice upon them.
That is, We are punished for our fathers’ sins; which yet God may justly do; and none questioneth the justice of man in the case, depriving children of their patrimonial estates for their parents’ treasons; nor more than God threateneth in the second commandment, God indeed, Ezekiel 18:2, seemeth displeased at their use of this proverb; but the reason is, because they so used it as to acquit themselves, intimating they were guiltless, and suffered only for the sins of their parents, whereas that was false; otherwise the punishment of children for the sins of their parents was no more than God had threatened, Exodus 20:5 34:7 Jeremiah 15:4. But, saith God, your captivity shall, as to you, expiate your parents’ guilt past, and you shall no more say so.
But yet (saith God) you must not think that sinners shall escape my vengeance; but if men commit iniquity, they shall die; no man’s teeth shall be set on edge but his only who hath eaten the sour grape.
The apostle’s application of this, Hebrews 8:8-10, puts us out of doubt that this promise referred to the gospel times. It was not only made with the Jews, but all those who should be ingrafted into that olive; but it is said to be made with them, either as those two terms signify the whole church, with whom that covenant was made (they being the whole church which God had upon the earth at that time); or because they were the only people that had broken the first covenant, the Gentiles being strangers at that time to the covenant of promise, Eph 2 12, covenants being usually renewed upon one party’s violation of them; or because it was at first made with the Jews, though it concerned also those that were afar off, even as many as the Lord should call, Acts 2:39. Neither is it called the new covenant because it was as to the substance new, for it was made with Abraham, Genesis 17:7, and with the Jews, Deuteronomy 26:17,18. And it was then confirmed by the blood of Christ, though not actually shed, yet as he was
the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, whose blood was typified by the blood of the paschal lamb, and of all those living creatures killed for sacrifice, but upon many other accounts, thus enumerated by divines.
1. Because it was new in the notion of a testament, not confirmed by the actual death of Christ till gospel times.
2. Because it was revealed and preached after a new manner, more fully and particularly, plainly and clearly.
3. Because it had no such mixture of promises of temporal blessings as it had when first made with the laws.
4. Nor was the ceremonial law any part of it, as it was to the Jews, who were obliged to approve themselves God’s people by a strict observance of that.
5. It was in the publication extended both to Jews and Gentiles, which the former was not.
6. In regard of the efficacy of the Spirit attending the publication of it, in a much fuller and larger manner, with the distribution of its gifts and graces, enabling souls to fulfil it.
See more in the English Annotations upon this subject.
Not in substance differing from it, but in circumstances vastly differing, as was showed before, and is further declared afterward. The covenant which God made with the Jews when they came out of the land of Egypt, was on God’s part the law which he gave them, with the promises annexed to their observation of it; on their part (which made it a formal covenant) their promise of obedience to it, of which see Exodus 24:7,8 Deu 26:17,18. This covenant God saith he made with them when they were an impotent, weak people, the care of whom he took upon him, and led them as a parent leadeth the feeble child by his hand. None must imagine that this covenant did not contain the promise of pardon, through the blood of the Messiah, upon their application to him, for to what purpose else was it confirmed by blood? Exodus 24:8. Which covenant they are said to have broken, not because of every disobedience to the law of God, for so every one daily breaketh it, but by their gross and eminent sinnings, so oft repeated and continued in without repentance; and more particularly by their idolatry, which is compared to whoredom, which breaketh the covenant and bond of marriage, and causeth God to say unto a people, Lo Ammi, You are not my people. And this covenant-breaking is aggravated from God’s kindness to them, and care of them; who had for them the love, and declared the care, of a husband, and gave them no temptation to go a whoring from him.
With the house of Israel; that is, with those Israelites indeed, who shall be without guile, (as Christ saith of Nathanael, John 1:47) with those who are (as the apostle speaks, Romans 2:29. Jews inwardly, by the circumcision of the heart and Spirit, spoken of and promised by God, Deuteronomy 30:6. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts: in the times of the gospel, God’s law is not abrogated and made void. Christ himself came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; but it is written in the hearts of God’s true Israel by the finger of the Spirit, not in tables of stone only; and they become obedient to it, not from compulsion and force, but from their secret approbation of it, and acknowledgment of it, as holy, just, and good, the delight they take in it after the inward man, Romans 7:22. But some may object, How was this a new covenant? Did not God of old write his law in the hearts of his people? Did not David, and other the servants of God, (of whom we read in the Old Testament,) serve God out of a principle of love and delight in his law?
Answ. Undoubtedly David and others did so, and the law of God was wrote in their hearts, but it was by virtue of this new covenant, from the free and efficacious grace of God. Mr. Calvin, I think, judgeth right, that the prophet’s design here is to express the difference betwixt the law and the gospel. The first showeth duty; the latter bringeth along with it the grace of regeneration, by which the heart is changed, fitted, and enabled for and unto duty. All under the time of the law that came to salvation were saved, not from the law, or by that, but by the gospel, and this new covenant; but this was not evidently exhibited, neither was the regenerating grace of God so common, under the time of the law, as it hath been under the gospel, which maketh it look like a new covenant with men, though it was the same covenant which God was always in with his people; for what difference is there between the terms of the covenant as recited here, Jeremiah 24:7 30:22, and as made with Abraham? Genesis 17:7 Deuteronomy 30:6. It is further observable, that God maketh the writing the law in people’s hearts his own work. There were no need of God’s putting his law into men’s inward parts, if they had such an inward power (as some talk of) of themselves to do it, and could write it there with a pen of their own making. The papists allow God a share in this work, only give man himself the greatest share. Others indeed give God nothing but the honour of giving man a reasonable soul, furnished with such a power, and that he hath done to heathens as well as those within the pale of the church, and the preaching of the gospel; and to those within the church, a further aid and assistance to them than heathens have to use their natural power well. But let any understanding person judge whether this be probably the sense of this text, or comprehensive of all within the covenant which God hath made with his people; or supposing this were true, what that is which differeth one man living under the gospel from another, but himself; and whether by this doctrine man be not made a god to himself that is, the principal cause of all spiritual and eternal good, which how it comporteth with the honour and glory of God, or with this text, and many others of like nature, I do not understand.
This must not be so interpreted as if under the gospel there should be no more need of ministerial teaching, for Christ himself sent out his apostles to preach; nor yet as if there should be no more need of brotherly teachings, by instruction or conception; the contrary is commanded, Colossians 3:16. It is only an expression signifying the increase of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord, that should be after the pouring out of the Spirit: we have such expressions 1 John 2:27. The learned author of our English Annotations thinks this phrase signifies, that under the gospel there should be a greater measure of means of knowledge, and of knowledge got by that means, and of clearness of understanding in persons, or ability to conceive things revealed, and a greater number of persons that should be enlightened with the saving knowledge of God. Others say, that by knowing the Lord is to be understood the first knowledge of God; Christians should not need be taught the first rudiments: but the apostle speaks otherwise, Hebrews 5:12. Others by knowledge understand the fear of the Lord. God saith, they should all know him; but it must not be understood of the same degree and measure, but in a degree of sufficiency for the duties which God expected from them upon their notion and apprehension of God. God makes the root of all this grace to be the free pardon and remission of their sins.
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.
There are ordinances of worship, which are God’s laws relating to his worship; and ordinances of justice, which are God’s laws for the executing civil justice; and ordinances of nature, which are God’s establishments for the working of natural causes in their order; these are those here spoken of, which shall hold and continue to the dissolution of the world, the continuance of which God pawneth as a pledge of the continuance of Israel as a nation all the days, (so it is in the Hebrew,) that is, many days, or all the days they shall keep close with him, or which he hath appointed. If we interpret it (as in our version)
for ever, it must be understood not of Israel according to the flesh, but of the church, the true Israel of God, which shall never fail.
That is, I will never cast off all the seed of Israel, (which promise the apostle, Romans 11:1,2, proveth to have been by God made good, notwithstanding the rejection of the great body of that people,) for none but God can either measure the heavens, or pierce to the centre of the earth.
That is, it shall be built round, as largely as ever. We read of this
tower of Hananeel, Nehemiah 3:1 12:39 Zechariah 14:10; it was in the south, or rather the eastern part of the city. We read of the
gate of the corner, 2 Kings 14:13 Zechariah 14:10; most agree that it is in the north-cast part of the city.
That is, it shall be built round about upon its old foundations: see Ne 3. We are ignorant of the ancient situation of the city, so are the Jews themselves, therefore it is vain to pretend to an exact skill in these names of places; some say
Gareb signifies a scab, and the hill had its name from leprous persons lying there.
The whole valley of the dead bodies; a valley so called (as some think) from the multitude of Sennacherib’s army slain there; or, (as others think,) from the bodies of malefactors put to death at Golgotha, (which was near,) cast or buried there.
And of the ashes; so called (as is thought) from the ashes of the sacrifices carried thither. Some think that
the horse gate had its name from the king’s horses led out at it. The sum is, the whole city shall be built.
Shall be holy unto the Lord; all these places shall be parts of the holy city, and God’s name shall be sanctified, and he shall be worshipped in them all; and the city for a long time shall abide, and
not be plucked up, nor thrown down; for we know after many years it was plucked up by the Romans. If we interpret the word
for ever of a perpetuity, the church of God must here be understood, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail, as Christ hath promised.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent