31:1 At that time I will be the God of all the clans of Israel
and they will be my people.
I, the LORD, affirm it!”
Israel Will Be Restored and Join Judah in Worship, 2-22
31:2 The LORD says,
“The people of Israel who survived
death at the hands of the enemy
will find favor in the wilderness
as they journey to find rest for themselves.
31:3 In a far-off land the LORD will manifest himself to them.
He will say to them, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.
That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.
31:4 I will rebuild you, my dear children Israel,
so that you will once again be built up.
Once again you will take up the tambourine
and join in the happy throng of dancers.
31:5 Once again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria.
Those who plant them
will once again enjoy their fruit.
31:6 Yes, a time is coming
when watchmen will call out on the mountains of Ephraim,
“Come! Let us go to Zion
to worship the LORD our God!” ’ ”
31:7 Moreover, the LORD says,
“Sing for joy for the descendants of Jacob.
Utter glad shouts for that foremost of the nations.
Make your praises heard.
Then say, ‘LORD, rescue your people.
Deliver those of Israel who remain alive.’
31:8 Then I will reply, ‘I will bring them back from the land of the north.
I will gather them in from the distant parts of the earth.
Blind and lame people will come with them,
so will pregnant women and women about to give birth.
A vast throng of people will come back here.
31:9 They will come back shedding tears of contrition.
I will bring them back praying prayers of repentance.
I will lead them besides streams of water,
along smooth paths where they will never stumble.
I will do this because I am Israel’s father;
Ephraim is my firstborn son.’ ”
31:10 Hear what the LORD has to say, O nations.
Proclaim it in the faraway lands along the sea.
Say, “The one who scattered Israel will regather them.
He will watch over his people like a shepherd watches over his flock.”
v10 ‘Reader, the whole body of the Gentile Christendom is specially addressed in this text. There is no evading this conclusion on any fair interpretation of Scripture. We ourselves are among the “nations” to whom Jeremiah speaks. Upon us devolves a portion of the duty which he here sets forth…It is a voice to all Christendom. And what does the voice say? It bids us proclaim far and wide the will of God concerning the Jewish nation. It bids us keep one another in memory of God’s past and future dealings with Israel.” He that scattered Israel will gather him” [cf. Jer. 33:7‐9].’ (J.C. Ryle, Coming events and present duties)
31:11 For the LORD will rescue the descendants of Jacob.
He will secure their release from those who had overpowered them.
31:12 They will come and shout for joy on Mount Zion.
They will be radiant with joy over the good things the LORD provides,
the grain, the fresh wine, the olive oil,
the young sheep and calves he has given to them.
They will be like a well-watered garden
and will not grow faint or weary any more.
31:13 The LORD says, “At that time young women will dance and be glad.
Young men and old men will rejoice.
I will turn their grief into gladness.
I will give them comfort and joy in place of their sorrow.
31:14 I will provide the priests with abundant provisions.
My people will be filled to the full with the good things I provide.”
31:15 The LORD says,
“A sound is heard in Ramah,
a sound of crying in bitter grief.
It is the sound of Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted, because her children are gone.”
v15 Rachel was the younger wife of Jacob, and the mother of Joseph, Gen 35:24. Her weeping symbolises the grief over the Assyrian exile of the northern tribes and the later Babylonion exile of the southern tribes.
31:16 The LORD says to her,
“Stop crying! Do not shed any more tears!
For your heartfelt repentance will be rewarded.
Your children will return from the land of the enemy.
I, the LORD, affirm it!
31:17 Indeed, there is hope for your posterity.
Your children will return to their own territory.
I, the LORD, affirm it!
31:18 I have indeed heard the people of Israel say mournfully,
‘We were like a calf untrained to the yoke.
You disciplined us and we learned from it.
Let us come back to you and we will do so,
for you are the LORD our God.
v18 Ephraim – stands for all Israel.
31:19 For after we turned away from you we repented.
After we came to our senses we beat our breasts in sorrow.
We are ashamed and humiliated
because of the disgraceful things we did previously.’
31:20 Indeed, the people of Israel are my dear children.
They are the children I take delight in.
For even though I must often rebuke them,
I still remember them with fondness.
So I am deeply moved with pity for them
and will surely have compassion on them.
I, the LORD, affirm it!
31:21 I will say, ‘My dear children of Israel, keep in mind
the road you took when you were carried off.
Mark off in your minds the landmarks.
Make a mental note of telltale signs marking the way back.
Return, my dear children of Israel.
Return to these cities of yours.
31:22 How long will you vacillate,
you who were once like an unfaithful daughter?
For I, the LORD, promise to bring about something new on the earth,
something as unique as a woman protecting a man!’ ”
Judah Will Be Restored, 23-26
31:23 The LORD God of Israel who rules over all says,
“I will restore the people of Judah to their land and to their towns.
When I do, they will again say of Jerusalem,
‘May the LORD bless you, you holy mountain,
the place where righteousness dwells.’
31:24 The land of Judah will be inhabited by people who live in its towns
as well as by farmers and shepherds with their flocks.
31:25 I will fully satisfy the needs of those who are weary
and fully refresh the souls of those who are faint.
31:26 Then they will say, ‘Under these conditions I can enjoy sweet sleep
when I wake up and look around.’ ”
Israel and Judah Will Be Repopulated, 27-28
31:27 “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will cause people and animals to sprout up in the lands of Israel and Judah. 31:28 In the past I saw to it that they were uprooted and torn down, that they were destroyed and demolished. But now I will see to it that they are built up and firmly planted. I, the LORD, affirm it!”
The Lord Will Make a New Covenant with Israel and Judah, 29-34
31:29 “When that time comes, people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but the children’s teeth have grown numb.’ 31:30 Rather, each person will die for his own sins. The teeth of the person who eats the sour grapes will themselves grow numb.
31:31 “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 31:32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the LORD. 31:33 “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the LORD. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people.
“A new covenant” – Calvin: ‘Now as to the new covenant, it is not so called, because it is contrary to the first covenant; for God is never inconsistent with himself, nor is he unlike himself…God could never have made a new, that is, a contrary or a different covenant….God has never made any other covenant than that which he made formerly with Abraham, and at length confirmed by the hand of Moses . . . Let us now see why he promises to the people a new covenant. It being new, no doubt refers to what they call the form . . . But the substance remains the same. By substance I understand the doctrine; for God in the Gospel brings forward nothing but what the Law contains.’
v32 Though I was a husband to them –
Jeremiah, Hebrews, and supercessionism. This passage is quoted in Heb 8:8f from the LXX, which renders this phrase, ‘so I had no concern for them’. According to Jesper Svartvik, the original Heb indicates a relationship between the Lord and his people that he wants to continue, whereas the LXX (followed by the writer to the Hebrews) suggests a relationship that the Lord has terminated due to Israel’s unfaithfulness. Svartvik further explains that the relevant term in the original Hebrew is ba‘al, ‘which can be translated as “to be a husband,” “to be faithful,” “to be the Lord.”’ The word in the Greek of the LXX and Hebrews is amelein, ‘meaning “to ignore,” “not to care about,” “to abandon.”’
The best explanation of the difference between the Hebrew and Greek texts is that either the translators of the Septuagint were translating from a Hebrew manuscript that contained a different word or that the translators misread the manuscript that they were reading—the translator might have misread ba‘al as the word ga‘al (“to despise,” “to abandon”).
If Hebrews is based on ga‘al, then those who use Heb 8:9 as a cornerstone of their [supercessionist] theology are silently claiming that the Hebrew text in Jer 31:31-32 is inferior to the text of the Septuagint. It is not a question of being “biblical” or “unbiblical” but rather a choice between two biblical manuscript traditions. Hence, readers should ask themselves whether ba‘al (“to be faithful”) or ga‘al (“to despise”) best represents how the God of Israel is described in the biblical texts in general and in Jeremiah in particular.
31:34 “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the LORD. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”
The Lord Guarantees Israel’s Continuance, 35-37
31:35 The LORD has made a promise to Israel.
He promises it as the one who fixed the sun to give light by day
and the moon and stars to give light by night.
He promises it as the one who stirs up the sea so that its waves roll.
He promises it as the one who is known as the LORD who rules over all.
31:36 The LORD affirms, “The descendants of Israel will not
cease forever to be a nation in my sight.
That could only happen if the fixed ordering of the heavenly lights
were to cease to operate before me.”
31:37 The LORD says, “I will not reject all the descendants of Israel
because of all that they have done.
That could only happen if the heavens above could be measured
or the foundations of the earth below could all be explored,”
says the LORD.
Jerusalem Will Be Enlarged, 38-40
31:38 “Indeed a time is coming,” says the LORD, “when the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt as my special city. It will be built from the Tower of Hananel westward to the Corner Gate. 31:39 The boundary line will extend beyond that, straight west from there to the Hill of Gareb and then turn southward to Goah. 31:40 The whole valley where dead bodies and sacrificial ashes are thrown and all the terraced fields out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far north as the Horse Gate will be included within this city that is sacred to the LORD. The city will never again be torn down or destroyed.”