Jeremiah 31 – The Glory of the New Covenant
A. The everlasting love of Yahweh for Israel.
1. (1-2) Salvation to Israel in the last days.
“At the same time,” says the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
Thus says the LORD:
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when I went to give him rest.”
a. At the same time: The last verses of the previous chapter identify this time as the latter days (Jeremiah 30:24).
b. I will be the God of all the families of Israel: Jeremiah described the great turning to God and His Messiah foretold in the last days. As Paul wrote, so all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).
c. The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness: The great persecution of the Jewish people in the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7, Revelation 12) will afflict many and not all will survive. Yet the great majority of those who survived will receive God’s grace and rest, finding it in their Messiah Jesus Christ.
2. (3-6) The basis of God’s faithfulness to Israel: His everlasting love.
The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.
You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria;
The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
For there shall be a day
When the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim,
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
To the LORD our God.’”
a. The LORD has appeared of old to me: Jeremiah was careful to set the following words from God in context. They came from a divine appearance, and an appearance anchored in eternity (of old).
b. Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love: God’s great message to Israel was an assurance of His love. Anchored in eternity past, His love for Israel extended to eternity future. It was an everlasting love.
i. God assured Israel of this by starting with Yes. Remarkably, some Christians think that God has said no to an everlasting love for Israel as Israel; that they should now be regarded as the now unchosen chosen people.
ii. “It is not, ‘I have pitied thee,’ nor ‘I have thought about thee,’ but ‘I have loved thee.’ God is in love with you.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “ ‘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.” (Clarke)
iv. This statement was spoken to Israel; but the love it describes is God’s love for every believer. “You must go back beyond your birth, beyond Calvary and Bethlehem, beyond the fall of man and the Garden of Eden, and as you stand looking out into the immensity of eternity, dare to believe that you were loved and chosen in Christ, the object of God’s most tender solicitude and pity.” (Meyer)
c. Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you: Because of God’s everlasting love, His promise remains to draw Israel with His loyal love, His covenant love, His hesed (lovingkindness).
i. The lovingkindness of God draws Israel. He does not force or compel them but draws them in love and compassion. In the bigger picture of God’s redemptive plan, we can say that God’s kindness leads Israel to repentance in the time of Jacob’s trouble.
ii. “The master-magnet of the gospel is not fear, but love. Penitents are drawn to Christ rather than driven.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Lovingkindness: “The term hesed, rendered faithfulness (RSV) or unfailing care (NEB), is impossible to render by one word, but expresses the divine nature as exemplified in the Sinai covenant.” (Harrison)
d. Again I will build you: God’s loyal love to Israel will mean that He restores and builds them, and this is assured (you shall be rebuilt). Israel’s restoration will mean joy, dancing, and abundance. The watchmen of Israel would not need to warn of approaching enemies, but they would welcome pilgrims on their way up to Zion, to the LORD our God.
i. “The watchmen were posted high on vantage points in time of war to warn of an approaching enemy (cf. Jeremiah 6:17). But here the watchman’s call is for a nobler purpose, Up! Let us go up to Zion.” (Thompson)
3. (7-9) The joyful restoration.
For thus says the LORD:
“Sing with gladness for Jacob,
And shout among the chief of the nations;
Proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘O LORD, save Your people,
The remnant of Israel!’
Behold, I will bring them from the north country,
And gather them from the ends of the earth,
Among them the blind and the lame,
The woman with child
And the one who labors with child, together;
A great throng shall return there.
They shall come with weeping,
And with supplications I will lead them.
I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters,
In a straight way in which they shall not stumble;
For I am a Father to Israel,
And Ephraim is My firstborn.”
a. Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: This was news so good that it should not be heard in Israel alone. All the earth should hear of God’s salvation to Israel and give praise for it.
b. Behold, I will bring them: God promised to gather the Jewish people from all over the earth, a gathering so complete that even the blind and the lame come; a great throng shall return there. The there is not merely a returning to Yahweh, it is also a returning to the land. The promise of the land remains for Israel.
i. A great miracle happened in 1948, when Israel was once again established as a Jewish state in their ancient land. As wonderful and miraculous as that was, it does not yet fulfill the glory of this promise. Israel is now gathered in unbelief; this will only be completely fulfilled when Israel comes to faith in Yahweh and His Messiah.
c. They shall come with weeping: In this great restoration of the latter days (Jeremiah 30:24), Israel will return to Yahweh and His Messiah with tears and supplications. As one of the other prophets wrote: And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn (Zechariah 12:10).
i. “I believe in the restoration of the Jews to their own land in the last days. I am a firm believer in the gathering in of the Jews at a future time. Before Jesus Christ shall come upon this earth again, the Jews shall be permitted to go; to their beloved Palestine.” (Charles Spurgeon, in an 1855 sermon)
d. Ephraim is My firstborn: Ephraim here represents Israel as a whole, as in the previous line. Yet it is significant that Ephraim was not the firstborn son of Jacob, yet God regarded him as firstborn. This shows that firstborn referred to more than birth order, it communicates the concept of preeminence.
i. “Ephraim’s condition in blessing will be permanent because Jeroboam’s misleading them from the Lord’s sanctuary will be a thing of the past, when they return to Zion. The breach of many centuries will at last be healed.” (Feinberg)
4. (10-12) Gathering the scattered flock.
“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
And declare it in the isles afar off, and say,
‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the LORD—
For wheat and new wine and oil,
For the young of the flock and the herd;
Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
And they shall sorrow no more at all.”
a. Declare it in the isles afar off: Again, God emphasized that the good news of Israel’s restoration must be proclaimed to all the nations, to the most distant parts of the earth.
i. “Hear and bear witness of the gracious promises that I make to my people; for I would have them noted and noticed.” (Trapp)
b. He who scattered Israel will gather him: The themes are repeated for emphasis. God will not be finished with Israel as Israel until they are gathered again in the land in the latter days.
c. Ransomed him from the hand of the one stronger than he: God promised to rescue the Jewish people from the captivity, held in bondage by those stronger than he, both in a natural and spiritual sense.
i. Redeemed…ransomed: “The verb ‘ransom’ in some contexts refers to freedom after paying off a ransom price. Originally it is a term of commercial law….The verb ‘redeem’ is used often in the context of family obligations. The kinsman was required to redeem the property of a family member, even avenge his death.” (Thompson)
d. They shall come and sing in the height of Zion: Jeremiah pictured a restored, gathered Israel streaming into Jerusalem. They would be rich with the abundance of God’s provision both materially and spiritually (their souls shall be like a well-watered garden).
5. (13-14) The joyful response.
“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy,
Will comfort them,
And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD.”
a. I will turn their mourning to joy: Israel mourned under their exile and captivity, but God promised to turn it to joy. With God’s comfort, all would rejoice together.
b. I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance: The idea is that the priests would have a great abundance because the people were so blessed. The people tithed much because they were blessed much.
i. “Abundant offerings to the priests will reflect the productivity of the land.” (Harrison)
6. (15-17) Rachel weeping.
Thus says the LORD:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”
Thus says the LORD:
“Refrain your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tears;
For your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD,
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope in your future, says the LORD,
That your children shall come back to their own border.”
a. Rachel weeping for her children: Here, the LORD spoke through a poetic image, picturing Rachel (the mother of Benjamin and Joseph, ancestors of prominent tribes of Israel) weeping for her children. She does this from Ramah, near where she was buried (1 Samuel 10:2).
i. “Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, is pictured as weeping in despair over the exiled tribes. To her comes the comforting assurance that her children will be miraculously returned to her.” (Cundall)
b. Because they are no more: In this poetic picture, Rachel rises from her tomb and sees that her descendants have been taken away in exile and captivity. She is grieved, refusing to be comforted.
i. Matthew the Gospel writer understood this as a type or poetic picture of the horrific slaughter of children in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas because of his fear of the birth of the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:16-18).
ii. “Cf. Matthew 2:18, where the words are cited, not as a prophecy but as a type, in connection with the killing of the infants by king Herod.” (Harrison)
c. Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: God gave a remarkable word to poetic Rachel. He commanded comfort to the one who refused to be comforted.
i. “Sorrow and grief do not have the last word, either in Jeremiah or in Matthew. A mother may refuse to be comforted, but God will comfort her nonetheless.” (Ryken)
d. For your work shall be rewarded: God’s comfort to poetic Rachel was not empty. She could be comforted because there was a reward and a restoration. Her children would come back from the land of the enemy. God’s promise of restoration meant that there is hope in your future.
7. (18-20) God embraces a repentant Israel.
“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return,
For You are the LORD my God.
Surely, after my turning, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated,
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him,
I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,” says the LORD.
a. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: Again, the prominent tribe of Ephraim is used as a figure for all of Israel. God says that He heard His people speaking words of humble repentance.
i. Surely heard: “Hebrew, Hearing I have heard; his moans and laments have rung in mine ears.” (Trapp)
ii. “Rachel can dry her tears, for the excellent reason that (in the prophet’s vision) Ephraim has at last begun to mourn not for his fate but for his sins.” (Kidner)
b. You have chastised me, and I was chastised: Israel recognized that their misfortunes were not accidents of blind fate. They were chastisements from the LORD, which they now humbly accepted as if they were an untrained bull that needed to be broken in some sense and brought into submission.
c. Restore me, and I will return: In total dependence upon God, they realized that they could not return to God without His restoring work. They humbly asked God to restore them so they could return.
d. After my turning, I repented: In turning to God, they understood that their behavior had to change. It meant repentance.
e. I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated: Having returned to God, they were ashamed of their past sin and rebellion, of the sins of their youth. In the manner of a person greatly moved or upset, they struck themselves on the thigh.
i. I struck myself on the 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 Ezekiel 21:12.” (Clarke)
f. Is Ephraim My dear son: Jeremiah recorded the wonderful response of God. He received and embraced Israel as His dear son, even as the father in the story of the prodigal son embraced his disobedient son (Luke 15:20).
i. “My dear son, a child in whom I delight or ‘my darling child.’ Yahweh cannot utter his name (speak of him) without remembering him vividly.” (Thompson)
ii. Is he a pleasant child: “Ay sure he is; and never more dear and pleasant than when thus beblubbered.” (Trapp)
g. My heart yearns for him: This is the everlasting love and the lovingkindness spoken of earlier in the chapter (Jeremiah 31:3).
i. My heart yearns for him: “The Hebrew text in the last line reads literally ‘my bowels rumble for him’ but has to be rendered my heart yearns for him. The very vivid anthropomorphism depicts God’s stomach being churned up with longing for his son.” (Thompson)
B. Gathering and planting restored Israel to the land.
1. (21-22) The clear path of restoration.
“Set up signposts,
Set your heart toward the highway,
The way in which you went.
Turn back, O virgin of Israel,
Turn back to these your cities.
How long will you gad about,
O you backsliding daughter?
For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth—
A woman shall encompass a man.”
a. Set your heart toward the highway: Jeremiah pictured a clear road with signposts and landmarks that would guide Israel back to the land and restored relationship with their Covenant God. They would come back to the relationship they once had (the way in which you went), to their first love with God.
i. “Jeremiah now addresses the returning exiles of the northern kingdom. They are to make ample preparation for their homeward journey.” (Feinberg)
b. How long will you gad about, O you backsliding daughter: In light of the great love and restoration of God, it made no sense for Israel to remain in their backslidden condition a moment longer. If this restoration was promised, they should take it by faith immediately instead of waiting for an undefined time in the future to return.
c. A woman shall encompass a man: The best sense of this difficult phrase is that it is a promise that Israel would be so blessed and secure in God’s restoration that even the women among them could protect the men and the people as a whole.
i. “The reference in verse 22, where, in this new situation, ‘a woman protects (Hebrew ‘compass’, as in AV [KJV]) a man’, is best interpreted as signifying the absolute security Israel will enjoy. The menfolk will be able to go about their work, for the risk of attack will be so minimal that security can safely be left to the ‘weaker sex’!” (Cundall)
ii. “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, geber, 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.” (Clarke)
iii. Some try to make the words of 31:22 into a prophecy of the Virgin Birth, but this is unsupported by the text.
2. (23-25) The blessing to be pronounced upon Jerusalem.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “They shall again use this speech in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I bring back their captivity: ‘The LORD bless you, O home of justice, and mountain of holiness!’ And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all its cities together, farmers and those going out with flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”
a. The LORD bless you, O home of justice, and mountain of holiness: The Lord spoke of a coming day when this blessing would be said by the Jewish people as they returned to Zion and came to Jerusalem as pilgrims. This blessing indicates that the government of Israel is transformed and righteously governed by the Messiah, who makes Jerusalem a home of justice, and mountain of holiness.
i. “When the southern kingdom and her cities are restored, the old greeting of those visiting Jerusalem will be heard once more.” (Feinberg)
b. There shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all its cities together, farmers and those going out with flocks: In that day the Jewish people would not only be blessed spiritually, but also materially. They will be restored in both the city and the country.
c. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul: God promised abundance and satisfaction to the empty, tired soul. The soul filled with sorrow would be filled with hope and peace.
3. (26-30) Answering an untrue proverb.
After this I awoke and looked around, and my sleep was sweet to me.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. In those days they shall say no more:
‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.”
a. I awoke and looked around: Apparently, much of the previous prophecy came to Jeremiah as he slept sweetly, perhaps coming to him in a dream.
b. I will sow the house of Israel: God promised to bless and restore the Jewish people, multiplying both their children and their livestock.
c. I will watch over them to build and to plant: Earlier in Jeremiah, God gave the prophet the commission to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant (Jeremiah 1:10). Much of the Book of Jeremiah to this point has been a work of plucking up and breaking down; yet God promised to also build and to plant.
d. They shall say no more: Jeremiah quoted what apparently was a common proverb in his day that promoted the idea that God was punishing Judah for the sins of their forefathers, and they themselves were relatively innocent. God clearly denied this, showing that He will judge individuals for their own sins (Ezekiel 18:1-3).
i. “The proverb quoted here occurs also in Ezekiel 18:2. It seems that the feeling was widespread that the nation was being punished for the sins of past generations and that Yahweh was unjust.” (Thompson)
ii. “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.” (Clarke)
C. The New Covenant.
1. (31-34) The glorious promise of the glorious New Covenant.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, ‘though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
a. The days are coming, says the LORD: What Jeremiah prophesied as God’s faithful messenger was not yet present in his day.
b. I will make a new covenant: God announced that at a time future to Jeremiah’s day, He would make a new covenant. This new covenant would first be with Israel, but it would be not according to the covenant that God made with Israel in the Sinai desert.
i. Throughout the Bible, God reveals His plan of redemption through a series of covenants. After the extended story of the fall and ruin of humanity in Genesis 1-11, the story of the covenants begins.
· The Abrahamic Covenant promised to Abraham and His covenant descendants a land, a nation, and a blessing to extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3).
· The Mosaic or Sinai Covenant gave Israel the law, the sacrifices, and the choice of blessing or curse (Exodus 19).
· The Davidic Covenant that promised an everlasting dynasty, a perfect ruler, and the Promised Messiah (2 Samuel 7).
· God’s plan of redemption through the covenants is completed and perfected in the New Covenant. Over the span of Old Testament passages that announce the new covenant (especially Ezekiel 11:16-20, 36:16-28, and 37:21-28), we see the promises of gathered Israel, of cleansing and spiritual transformation, and the reign of the Messiah.
ii. “The promise relates to a ‘new covenant’ and is a prediction of a radical change in God’s economy (i.e., his dealing with humanity).” (Feinberg)
iii. Jesus specifically instituted this new covenant by His death on the cross, and He specifically instituted the recognition and remembrance of it with the bread and cup of communion (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20). It was future to Jeremiah’s day, but it was put into effect by Jesus and specifically by His work of atoning sacrifice at the cross.
iv. The writer to the Hebrews quotes this passage and develops the theme of the new covenant, especially in contrast to the old (Hebrews 8:8, 8:13, 9:15, and 12:14).
c. My covenant which they broke: A new covenant was promised and needed because Israel did not and could not keep the covenant God made with them at Sinai. That covenant was not designed to be enough; it was preparation for the new covenant to come.
i. “The old covenant had taken a new lease of life in Jeremiah’s early days, when the lost ‘book of the covenant’ was found and read and reaffirmed, to become the blueprint of Josiah’s continuing reformation. Yet everything that we have read in Jeremiah confirms that ‘the law made nothing perfect’, for the response was skin-deep, and died with the death of Joshua. ” (Kidner)
d. I will put My law into their minds, and write it on their hearts: The new covenant brings inner transformation. The law of God was no longer only external; God would change the minds and hearts of those connected to Him by the new covenant.
i. The new covenant does not do away with or renounce the law. It makes the law closer and more important by setting it in the mind and heart, instead of on a stone tablet or page. “It would no longer be like the external one made with the fathers, but spiritual and internal, and based on an intimate knowledge of Jehovah.” (Morgan)
ii. “Obedience to the Law is not a prior condition for entering the New Covenant. Rather, it is one of the promised blessings of the New Covenant.” (Ryken)
iii. “Things required by the law are bestowed by the gospel. God demands obedience under the law: God works obedience under the gospel. Holiness is asked of us by the law: holiness is wrought in us by the gospel.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Here, the heart is written upon in a good, positive sense. “The heart as a writing material is spoken of in Jeremiah 17:1 in relation to sin.” (Thompson)
e. I will be their God, and they shall be My people: The new covenant brings new relationship with God. Those connected to God by the new covenant have personal, close relationship with God that they did not have before: they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
i. Notably, this relationship with God had a personal aspect (they all show know Me). “Probably the most significant contribution which Jeremiah made to religious thought was inherent in his insistence that the new covenant involved a one-to-one relationship of the spirit. When the new covenant was inaugurated by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on Calvary, this important development of personal, as opposed to corporate, faith and spirituality was made real for the whole of mankind. Henceforth anyone who submitted himself consciously in faith to the person of Christ as Saviour and Lord could claim and receive membership in the church of God.” (Harrison)
f. I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more: The new covenant brings true cleansing from sin. The sacrificial system under the old covenant could only cover sin and its guilt; the new covenant brings forgiveness so complete that it could be said that God no longer remembers the sin of those connected to Him through the new covenant.
i. “The new covenant does not envision sinlessness but forgiveness of sin resulting in restoration of fellowship with God.” (Feinberg)
2. (35-37) God’s everlasting love for Israel.
Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for a light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The LORD of hosts is His name):
“If those ordinances depart
From before Me, says the LORD,
Then the seed of Israel shall also cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”
Thus says the LORD:
“If heaven above can be measured,
And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel
For all that they have done, says the LORD.
a. Thus says the LORD: God introduces Himself with extreme descriptions of His incomparable power. He is the One who gives light, the planets and stars, rules over the storms and seas, and commands heavenly armies (LORD of hosts). This statement is clearly given remarkable seriousness.
i. Who gives the sun: “This regularity is the consequence of sovereign, divine will. These ordinances are not laws of nature, but of God.” (Maclaren)
b. If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever: The message from God is both powerful and plain. God will stop thinking of and dealing with Israel as a nation when the sun, moon, and stars stop giving light and when the sea stops roaring. As long as those things continue, God will regard Israel as a nation before Him forever.
c. If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all they have done: For remarkable emphasis, God gave another powerful and plain declaration of the permanence of the Jewish people in His unfolding plan of the ages. Since it is impossible to measure the heavens or search out the foundations of the earth, God will never cast off the seed of Israel – even taking into account all they have done.
i. The New Testament later introduces the idea of spiritual Israel, an important concept: For they are not all Israel who are of Israel (Romans 9:6). The idea of spiritual Israel is significant, but was not and is not in view here in Jeremiah’s prophecy. To claim that God intended for Jeremiah or anyone else of that day to understand this as regarding spiritual Israel and not genetic Israel does great violence to the text and context.
ii. It is impossible to conceive that God could state this principle in any stronger way. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have an enduring role in God’s plan of the ages until the end of the age.
3. (38-40) The restoration of the literal Jerusalem.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that the city shall be built for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The surveyor’s line shall again extend straight forward over the hill Gareb; then it shall turn toward Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down anymore forever.”
a. The city shall be built for the LORD: God announced that the literal city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt, using specific geographic markers to clearly explain that He intended that literal, material Jerusalem be understood and not symbolic or spiritual Jerusalem. All of it shall be holy to the LORD.
i. “Since a literal nation must have an actual geographical location in which to reside, it is now revealed that the capital, Jerusalem, will be rebuilt and expanded — yes, the very city that Jeremiah was before long to see destroyed by the Chaldean army.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The Tower of Hananel was the northeast corner of the city….The Corner Gate probably refers to the one at the northwest corner of the city wall” (Feinberg)
iii. “The sites of Gareb and Goah are unknown, but the verse seems to indicate an extension of the boundary of Jerusalem on the west side.” (Harrison)
iv. “In the broader context of prophecy, this passage will not permit an interpretation that applies it to a spiritual, heavenly, or symbolic Jerusalem. If that were possible, why is it so full of literal detail?” (Feinberg)
b. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down anymore forever: The restoration promised to Israel is not only spiritual; it is also material, extending to the city itself and its permanence.
i. “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, Jeremiah 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.” (Clarke)