Jeremiah 31


This chapter continues the subject of the preceding in a

beautiful vision represented at a distant period. God is

introduced expressing his continual regard for Israel, and

promising to restore them to their land and liberty, 1-5.

Immediately heralds appear, proclaiming on Mount Ephraim the

arrival of the great year of jubilee, and summoning the people

to gather unto Zion, 6.

Upon which God resumes the speech; and makes such gracious

promises both of leading them tenderly by the way, and making

them happy in their own land, that all the nations of the world

are called upon to consider with deep attention this great

salvation, 7-14.

The scene is then diversified by a very happy invention.

Rachel, the another of Joseph and Benjamin, is represented as

risen from her tomb, in a city of Benjamin near Jerusalem,

looking about for her children, and bitterly lamenting their

fate, as none of them are to be seen in the land of their

fathers, 15.

But she is consoled with the assurance that they are not lost,

and that they shall in due time be restored, 16, 17.

To this another tender and beautiful scene immediately

succeeds. Ephraim, (often put for the TEN tribes,) comes in

view. He laments his past errors, and expresses the most

earnest desires of reconciliation; upon which God, as a tender

parent, immediately forgives him, 18-20.

The virgin of Israel is then directed to prepare for returning

home, 21, 22;

and the vision closes with a promise of abundant peace and

security to Israel and Judah in the latter days, 23-26.

The blessed condition of Israel under the Messiah's reign is

then beautifully contrasted with their afflicted state during

the general dispersion, 27, 28.

In the remaining part of the chapter the promises to the

posterity of Jacob of the impartial administration of justice,

increasing peace and prosperity, the universal diffusion of

righteousness, and stability in their own land after a general

restoration in Gospel tines, are repeated, enlarged on, and

illustrated by a variety of beautiful figures, 29-40.


Dr. Blayney has introduced this and the preceding chapter with

the following excellent observations:-

"There are many prophecies," says he, "in various parts of the

Old Testament, which announce the future restoration of Israel to

their own land, and the complete re-establishment of both their

civil and religious constitution in the latter days, meaning the

times of the Gospel dispensation. These two chapters contain a

prophecy of this kind; which must necessarily be referred to these

times, because it points out circumstances which certainly were

not fulfilled at the return of the Jews from the Babylonish

captivity, nor have hitherto had their completion. For the people

who returned from Babylon were the people of Judah only, who had

been carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar; but here it is

foretold, that not only should the captivity of Judah be restored,

but the captivity of Israel also, meaning those ten tribes which

were carried away before, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and who

still remain in their several dispersions, having never returned,

in a national capacity at least, to their own land, whatever some

few individuals have done. But the terms of the prophecy entitle

us to expect, not an obscure and partial, but a complete and

universal, restoration; when God will manifest himself, as

formerly, the God and Patron of all the families of Israel, and

not of a few only. Again it is promised that, after this

restoration, they should no more fall under the dominion of

foreigners, but be governed by princes and magistrates of their

own nation, independently of any but God, and David their king.

But this was not the case with the Jews who returned from Babylon.

They then indeed had a leader, Zerubbabel, one of their own

nation, and also of the family of David; but both the nation and

their leader continued still in a state of vassalage, and the most

servile dependence upon the Persian monarchy. And when the Grecian

monarchy succeeded, they changed their masters only, but not their

condition; till at length under the Asmonean princes they had for

a while an independent government of their own, but without any

title to the name of David. At last they fell under the Roman

yoke; since which time their situation has been such as not to

afford the least ground to pretend that the promised restoration

has yet taken place. It remains therefore to be brought about in

future under the reign of the Messiah, emphatically distinguished

by the name of David; when every particular circumstance predicted

concerning it will no doubt be verified by a distinct and

unequivocal accomplishment. There is no particular date annexed to

this prophecy, whereby to ascertain the precise time of its

delivery. But it may not unreasonably be presumed to have followed

immediately after the preceding one in which the restoration of

the people from their Babylonish captivity is in direct terms

foretold. From hence the transition is natural and easy to the

more glorious and general restoration which was to take place in a

more distant period, and was designed for the ultimate object of

the national hopes and expectations. Both events are frequently

thus connected together in the prophetic writings; and perhaps

with this design, that when that which was nearest at hand should

be accomplished, it might afford the clearest, and strongest, and

most satisfactory kind of evidence that the latter, how remote

soever its period, would in like manner be brought about by the

interposition of Providence in its due season. But though this

prophecy relates wholly to one single subject, it seems naturally

to divide itself into three distinct parts. The first part, after

a short preface, in which the prophet is required to commit to

writing the matters revealed to him, commences with representing,

in a style of awe and energy, the consternation and distress

which, in some future day of visitation, should fall upon all

nations, preparatory to the scene of Jacob's deliverance,

Jer 31:5-9. Israel is encouraged to confide in the Divine

assurance of restoration and protection, Jer 31:10, 11. He is

prepared previously to expect a severe chastisement for the

multitude of his sins; but consoled with the prospect of a happy

termination, Jer 31:12-17. This is followed by an enumeration at

large of the blessings and privileges to which the Jews should be

restored upon their re-admission into God's favour, Jer 31:18-22.

Again, however, it ifs declared that the anger of JEHOVAH would

not subside till his purposed vengeance against the wicked should

have been fully executed; and then, but not till then, an entire

reconciliation would take place between him and all the families

of Israel, Jer 31:23; 31:1. The second part of this prophecy

begins Jer 31:2, and is marked by a sudden transition to a

distant period of time, represented in a vision, and embellished

with a variety of beautiful scenes and images. God announces the

renewal of his ancient love for Israel; and promises, in

consequence thereof, a speedy restoration of their former

privileges and happiness, Jer 31:2-5. Already the heralds have

proclaimed on Mount Ephraim the arrival of the joyful day; they

summon the people to re-assemble once more in Zion; and promulge

by special command the glad tidings of salvation which God had

accomplished for them. God himself declares his readiness to

conduct home the remnant of Israel from all parts of their

dispersion, to compassionate and relieve their infirmities, and to

provide them with all necessary accommodations by the way,

Jer 31:6-9. The news is carried into distant lands; and the

nations are summoned to attend to the display of God's power and

goodness in rescuing his people from their stronger enemies, and

in supplying them after their return with all manner of good

things to the full extent of their wants and desires,

Jer 31:10-14. Here the scene changes; and two new personages

are successively introduced, in order to diversify the same

subject, and to impress it more strongly. Rachel first; who is

represented as just risen from the grave, and bitterly bewailing

the loss of her children; for whom she anxiously looks about, but

none are to be seen. Her tears are dried up; and she is consoled

with the assurance that they are not lost for ever, but shall in

time be brought back to their ancient borders, Jer 31:15-17.

Ephraim comes next. He laments his past undutifulness with great

contrition and penitence, and professes an earnest desire of

amendment. These symptoms of returning duty are no sooner

discerned in him, than God acknowledges him once more as a darling

child and resolves with mercy to receive him, Jer 31:18-20. The

virgin of Israel is then earnestly exhorted to hasten the

preparations for their return; and encouraged with having the

prospect of a signal miracle wrought in her favour,

Jer 31:21, 22. And the vision closes at last with a promise

that the Divine blessing should again rest upon the land of Judah;

and that the men of Judah should once more dwell there,

cultivating it according to the simplicity of ancient

institutions, and fully discharged from every want, Jer 31:23-26.

In the third part, by way of appendix to the vision, the following

gracious promises are specifically annexed: That God would in time

to come supply all the deficiencies of Israel and Judah; and would

be as diligent to restore as he had ever been to destroy them; and

would not any more visit the offenses of the fathers upon the

children, Jer 31:27-30. That he would make with them a better

covenant than he had made with their forefathers, Jer 31:31-34.

That they should continue his people by an ordinance as firm and

as lasting as that of the heavens, Jer 31:35-37. And that

Jerusalem should again be built, enlarged in its extent, and

secure from future desolation, Jer 31:38-40."

Verse 1. At the same time] This discourse was delivered at the

same time with the former; and, with that, constitutes the Book

which God ordered the prophet to write.

Will I be the God of all the families of Israel] I shall bring

back the ten tribes, as well as their brethren the Jews. The

restoration of the Israelites is the principal subject of this


Verse 2. The people which were left of the sword] Those of the

ten tribes that had escaped death by the sword of the Assyrians.

Found grace in the wilderness] The place of their exile; a

wilderness, compared to their own land.-Dahler. See Isa 40:3.

Verse 3. I have loved thee with an everlasting love]

veahabath olam ahabtich, "and with the old love

I have loved thee." "Also, with a love of long standing have I

loved thee."-Blayney. "But I love thee always."-Dahler. I still

bear to the Jewish people that love which I showed to their fathers

in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in the promised land. Can it be

supposed, by any person seriously considering the context, that

these words are spoken of God's decree of election in behalf of

the Jews? Those who make it such, act most injudiciously on their

own principle; for, how few of the Jews have ever given evidence

that they were the children of God, from their restoration from

Babylon to the present day! The words refer simply to their state

as a people, most wondrously preserved by the providence and mercy

of God, as a standing proof of the Divine authority of the

Scriptures, and as an evidence of God's displeasure against sin.

Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.] "Therefore

have I lengthened out mercy to thee."-Blayney.

C'est pourquoi je t'ai conserve ma grace.-


"Therefore I have preserved my grace to thee."

The exiles, who had not for a long time received any proofs of

the Divine protection, are represented as deploring their state;

but God answers, that though this may seem to be the case, he has

always loved them; and this continued love he will show by

bringing them out of their captivity. However creeds may fare,

this is the sense of the passage; all the context proves this.

Verse 4. O virgin of Israel] Israelites in general; now called

virgin, because restored to their ancient purity.

With thy tabrets] Women in general played on these; they were

used in times of rejoicing, and accompanied with dancing. To these

customs, still preserved, the prophet alludes.

Verse 5. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of

Samaria] This was the regal city of the Israelites, as Jerusalem

was of the Jews.

Shall eat them as common things.] By the law of Moses no man was

permitted to eat of the fruit of his vineyard till the fifth year

after planting. For the first three years it was considered

uncircumcised, unclean, not fit to be eaten; in the fourth year it

was holy to the Lord, the fruit belonged to Him; in the fifth year

he might use it for himself, Le 19:23-25. But in the time here

mentioned the fruit should be considered common-lawful at all

times to be eaten.

Verse 6. For there shall be a day] Literally, for this is the

day, or the day is come. The watchmen-the prophets.

Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion] Let both Israelites and Jews

join together in the worship of the Lord.

Verse 7. The chief of the nations] The same as Jacob or Israel;

for most certainly this people was once the most honourable on the

face of the earth.

O Lord, save thy people] Let the Jews earnestly intercede in

behalf of their Israelitish brethren; or let them rejoice and

praise the Lord, who hath saved the remnant of Israel. So Dr.

Blayney thinks the clause should be understood.

Verse 8. I will bring them from the north country] From Babylon.

From the coasts of the earth] The ten tribes were carried away

partly into Assyria by Tiglath-pileser, and partly into

Mesopotamia and Media by Shalmaneser, 2Ki 15:29; 17:6. Assyria

and Media, being very distant from Palestine, might have been

called, in prophetic language, the coasts of the earth.

The blind and the lame] I will so effectually remove all

difficulties out of the way, so provide for them on the journey,

so supernaturally support their bodies and minds, that the veriest

invalids shall safely proceed to, and happily arrive at, the end

of their journey.

Verse 9. They shall come with weeping] Duly penetrated with a

sense of their sins, they shall deeply deplore them; and, while

weeping for them, earnestly supplicate God to have mercy upon


By the rivers of waters] I will so guide and provide for them in

the arid deserts, that they shall find streams of water whenever

necessary. Every one knows of how much consequence water is to

travellers in the eastern deserts.

Ephraim is my first-born.] Ephraim, being the most considerable,

is often put for the whole of the ten tribes.

Verse 12. And shall flow together] Perhaps this may refer to

their assembling at the three great national feasts, the passover,

pentecost, and tabernacles.

Their soul shall be as a watered garden] Full of the light,

life, and power of God; so that they shall rejoice evermore, pray

without ceasing, and give thanks in every thing.

Verse 14. And I will satiate the soul of the priests] The

worship of God being restored, they shall have their proper share

of the victims brought to the temple.

Verse 15. A voice was heard in Ramah] The Ramah mentioned here,

(for there were several towns of this name,) was situated in the

tribe of Benjamin, about six or seven miles from Jerusalem. Near

this place Rachel was buried; who is here, in a beautiful figure

of poetry, represented as coming out of her grave, and lamenting

bitterly for the loss of her children, none of whom presented

themselves to her view, all being slain or gone into exile. St.

Matthew, who is ever fond of accommodation, applies these words,

Mt 2:17, 18, to the massacre of the children at Bethlehem. That

is, they were suitable to that occasion, and therefore he so

applied them; but they are not a prediction of that event.

Verse 16. They shall come again from the land of the enemy.]

This could not be said of the murdered innocents at Bethlehem;

they never came again; but the Jews, who had gone into captivity,

did come again from the land of their enemy to their own border.

Verse 18. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself] The

exiled Israelites are in a state of deep repentance.

Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised] I was at first like

an unbroken and untoward steer, the more I was chastised the more

I rebelled; but now I have benefited by thy correction.

Turn thou me] I am now willing to take thy yoke upon me, but I

have no power. I can only will and pray. Take the matter into

thy own hand, and fully convert my soul.

Verse 19. After that I was turned] Converted from my sin, folly,

and idolatry.

I repented] To conviction of sin, I now added contrition for

sin. Conviction, in this sense of the word, must precede

contrition or repentance. As soon as a man sees himself lost and

undone, he is convicted of sin; when convicted, he begins to

mourn. Thus contrition follows conviction.

I smote upon my thigh] My sorrow grew deeper and deeper; I smote

upon my thigh through the extremity of my distress. This was a

usual sign of deep affliction. See Eze 21:12. It was the same

among the ancient Greeks. So Homer:-



IL. lib. xv. 113.

"She spake: and with expanded arms, his thighs

Smiting, thus sorrowful, the god exclaimed."




IL. lib. xvi. 124.

"Achilles saw it, smote his thigh, and said -----."


I have often seen persons in deep grief act thus.

Verse 20. Is Ephraim my dear son?] It is impossible to conceive

any thing more tenderly affectionate than this. Let us consider

the whole account. The ten tribes, called here Ephraim, for the

reason before alleged, are represented as acknowledging their

sins. I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself; and in his

lamentation he says, 1. Thou hast chastised me. 2. Though he at

first rebelled against the chastisement, yet at last he submitted

and acknowledged his offences. 3. He turned from all his offenses;

he was converted. 4. After his conversion, ( shubi,) he

repented; after conviction came contrition, as before stated. 5.

Being in a state of godly sorrow, he was instructed,

hivvadei, he got a thorough knowledge of the desperate

wickedness of his heart and life. 6. Having received this

instruction, he was filled with excessive grief; which is

signified here by smiting on his thigh. See above. 7. He finds

that from his youth up he had been sinning against God; and

although his youthful sins had long passed from his memory, yet

the light of God brought them back, and he was ashamed and

confounded at the sight of them. 8. In this state of confusion and

distress God sees him; and, commiserating his state, thus speaks:-

1. Is Ephraim my dear son? Bad as he is in his own sight, and in

the sight of my justice, he is now a penitent, and to me is

precious. 2. However loathsome and disfigured he may be with sin

and sorrow, he is to me a pleasant child-a child of delights; one

in whose conversion I delight, and my angels rejoice. 3. I did

speak against him: ki middey dabberi bo, for "from

the abundance of my speaking in him;" accusing, threatening,

promising, exhorting, encouraging; "I do still earnestly remember

him." God has taken much pains with him, and is unwilling to give

him up; but now that he repents, he has not received the grace of

God utterly in vain. 4. God feels a yearning desire towards him;

hamu meai lo, "my bowels are agitated for him." I

feel nothing towards him but pity and love. When a sinner turns to

God, God ceases to be angry with him. 5. God expresses his

determination to save him; rachem arachamennu, "I will

be affectionately merciful to him, with tender mercy, saith the

Lord." He shall find that I treat him as a father does a returning

prodigal son. So every penitent is sure to find mercy at the hand

of God.

Verse 21. Set thee up waymarks] Alluding to stones, or heaps of

stones, which travellers in the desert set up to ascertain the

way, that they may know how to return. Mark the way to Babylon:

thither ye shall certainly go; but from it ye shall as certainly


Verse 22. A woman shall compass a man] nekebah

tesobeb gaber, "A weak woman shall compass or circumvent a strong

man." This place has given much trouble to Biblical critics. By

many Christian writers it is considered a prophecy of the

miraculous conception of the holy virgin; but as I am sure no

such meaning is in the words, nor in the context, so I am

satisfied no such meaning can be fairly brought out of them.

Houbigant thinks there is a small error in the text, i.e.,

teshobeb, shall return, and not tesobeb, shall

compass. This reading is found in two of Kennicott's MSS., and

he contends that the passage should be read, "The wife shall

return to her husband;" alluding to the conversion of the Jewish

people, called above a backsliding daughter. This makes a good

sense; but I do not see why this should be called a new thing in

the earth. After all, I think it likely that the Jews in their

present distressed circumstances are represented under the

similitude of a weak defenseless female nekebah; and the

Chaldeans under that of a fierce strong man, gaber, who

had prevailed over and oppressed this weak woman. But,

notwithstanding the disparity between them, God would cause the

woman-the weak defenseless Jews, to compass-to overcome, the

strong man-the powerful Babylonians. And this the prophet says

would be a new thing in the land; for in such a case the lame

would take the prey. The context favours both these meanings. Dr.

Blayney gives a sense very near to this: "A weak woman shall

repulse a strong or mighty man." It is most likely a proverbial


Verse 23. The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice] After

their return they shall be remarkably prosperous. Piety and

industry shall go hand in hand; they shall have their

husbandmen, their shepherds, and neatherds, Jer 31:24. And

Jerusalem shall become a righteous city, and the temple shall be a

place of holiness; so the weary there shall have rest, and the

sorrowful shall be abundantly comforted, Jer 31:24, 25.

Verse 26. Upon this I awaked] It appears that the prophecy,

commencing with Jer 30:2 and ending with Jer 31:25 of this

chapter, was delivered to the prophet in a dream. Dahler supposes

it to be a wish; that the prophet, though he could not hope to

live to that time, might be permitted to awake up from his tomb;

and, having seen this prosperity, would be content to return to

his grave.

Verse 27. I will sow-with the seed of man and with the seed of

beast.] I will multiply both men and cattle.

Verse 29. The fathers have eaten a sour grape] A proverbial

expression for, "The children suffer for the offences of their

parents." This is explained in the next verse: "Every one shall

die for his own iniquity." No child shall suffer Divine punition

for the sin of his father; only so far as he acts in the same way

can he be said to bear the sins of his parents.

Verse 31. A new covenant] The Christian dispensation.

Verse 33. After those days] When vision and prophecy shall be

sealed up, and Jesus have assumed that body which was prepared for

him, and have laid down his life for the redemption of a lost

world, and, having ascended on high, shall have obtained the gift

of the Holy Spirit to purify the heart; then God's law shall, by

it, be put in their inward parts, and written on their hearts; so

that all within and all without shall be holiness to the Lord.

Then God will be truly their God, received and acknowledged as

their portion, and the sole object of their devotion; and they

shall be his people, filled with holiness, and made partakers of

the Divine nature, so that they shall perfectly love him and

worthily magnify his name.

Verse 34. And they shall teach no more] It shall be a time of

universal light and knowledge; all shall know God in Christ, from

the least to the greatest; the children shall be taught to read

the New Covenant, and to understand the terms of their salvation.

I will forgive their iniquity] It shall be a time of GENERAL

PARDON; multitudes shall be daily in the Christian Church

receiving the witness of God's Spirit, and in their life and

conversation witnessing a good confession. How wonderfully is this

prophecy fulfilled in the age of Bibles, Sunday schools, and

village preaching.

Verse 36. If those ordinances] As sure as the sun shall give

light to the day, and the moon to the night, so surely shall the

Jews continue to be a distinct people. The same thing is expressed

in other words in the next verse. Hitherto this prophecy has been

literally fulfilled; the Jews are still a distinct people from all

the dwellers upon earth. Every attempt that has been made in any

country to naturalize and unite them with the people of that

country, has proved abortive. The well-circumstanced attempt made

this year (1830) in England, when the strongest interest was

excited in their behalf, has also utterly failed. And why? Because

of God's purpose expressed in Jer 31:35-37 of the

BOOK of the Prophet JEREMIAH.

Verse 38. The city shall be built to the Lord] This cannot mean

the city built after the return from Babylon, for two reasons: 1.

This is to be much greater in extent; 2. It is to be permanent,

never to be thrown down, Jer 31:40. It must therefore mean, if

taken literally at all, the city that is to be built by them when

they are brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles.

The tower of Hananeel] This stood in the northeast part of the

city; from thence the wall proceeded to the corner gate, (probably

the same as the old gate,) thus named from its running out into an

angle in that part.

Verse 39. Upon the hill Gareb] Gareb and Goath are out of the

limits of this city. The latter is supposed to be Golgotha; that

is, the heap of Gotha, which, being the place where our Lord was

crucified, was without the city. These hills were a little to the

north-west of the old city walls: but are destined to be within

the new city. See Dr. Blayney on all these verses.

Verse 40. The whole valley of the dead bodies] The valley of the

son of Hinnom.

And all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of

the horse-gate toward the east] All these places, the fuller's

field, &c., shall be consecrated to the Lord, and become a part of

this new city; so that this will appear to be a city much more

extensive than the city of Jerusalem ever was; and to be suited to

that time, when the people shall have the law written in their

hearts, and God shall have filled the land with the seed of man,

and with the seed of beast. Talia saecla currite! "Make speed, ye

happy times!"

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