Jeremiah 32 – The Property Purchase from Prison
A. Buying a field as a sign for the future.
1. (1-2) Jerusalem under siege.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.
a. In the tenth year of Zedekiah: Zedekiah was the last king before the final conquest of the Babylonians over Judah, and the final conquest began in his tenth year. Jeremiah wrote this even as Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem. It was an almost unbelievably stressful crisis for the whole city.
i. “According to Jeremiah 39:1 the siege of Jerusalem began in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign. It was raised for a short period when Egyptian forces approached Jerusalem (Jeremiah 37:5), but was imposed once more when the Egyptians decided against battle.” (Harrison)
b. Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison: With Nebuchadnezzar’s army outside Jerusalem’s walls, Jeremiah was inside the walls of the royal prison (in the king of Judah’s house).
i. “The courtyard of the guard, probably a stockade (cf. Nehemiah 3:25), was the part of the palace area set apart for prisoners. (Friends could visit them there.) The soldiers who guarded the palace were quartered there.” (Feinberg)
2. (3-5) Why Jeremiah was in prison.
For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape from the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face, and see him eye to eye; then he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall be until I visit him,” says the LORD; “though you fight with the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed”’?”
a. I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon: This was the message that got Jeremiah thrown into prison. King Zedekiah didn’t like that Jeremiah told people that the Babylonians would succeed in conquering the city that Zedekiah and others tried so hard to defend. It was a message of defeat, that though you fight with the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed.
i. “Even though Zedekiah witnessed the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s predictions, he was angry enough to imprison him, as if this could alter what was happening. Such is the irrationality of unbelief.” (Feinberg)
b. Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape from the hand of the Chaldeans: Jeremiah not only prophesied that Jerusalem would be conquered, but also that the king would be captured. This was obviously displeasing to the king, so he put Jeremiah into prison.
i. And shall speak with him face to face, and see him eye to eye: “This was no small punishment to Zedekiah, that he must look him in the face from whom he had so perfidiously revolted, even against oath; and hear his taunts, before he felt his fingers. How, then, will graceless persons do to stand before the King of kings, whom they have so greatly offended, at that great day?” (Trapp)
3. (6-12) The property deal from prison.
And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.”‘ Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. So I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money—seventeen shekels of silver. And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison.
a. Buy my field which is in Anathoth: God told Jeremiah that his cousin Hanamel would visit him in prison and ask him to buy a field in their hometown of Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1). God told Jeremiah that Hanamel would offer it to him on the basis of the right of redemption – that the land was to remain in the family, and must therefore be offered to Jeremiah before anyone else (as in Ruth 4:6).
i. Anathoth was about three miles outside Jerusalem. With Babylonian armies surrounding Jerusalem, the enemy already occupied Anathoth. Jeremiah was offered the purchase of land that was already under Babylonian control.
ii. “It has been suggested that Hanamel was short of money due to the siege and that this sale was an obvious solution to this need. But the land itself, at Anathoth, was utterly worthless, since it was already in the hands of the Babylonians, and Jerusalem’s days were numbered. Only a fool would buy, or expect another to buy, in such circumstances!” (Cundall)
iii. “Now, this was a strange purchase for a rational man to make. Prudence could not justify it; it was purchasing an estate which was utterly valueless.” (Spurgeon)
b. Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD: It happened just as God told Jeremiah it would happen. His cousin came and offered him the land, because Jeremiah had the right of inheritance for this land. From this remarkable fulfillment, Jeremiah knew it was the word of the LORD.
i. “Was there ever a more insensitive prison-visitor?” (Kidner)
ii. The right of inheritance: “According to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 25:25-34), the Promised Land was a sacred inheritance. Property was not to leave the family. God did not want his people to go outside their bloodline to get help. If they fell into debt, one of their own kin was supposed to redeem their property.” (Ryken)
iii. “This passage reveals that the ancient laws of land tenure were still followed in Judah in spite of its apostasy.” (Feinberg)
iv. “It is possible that others closer to Hanamel had refused to redeem the property and that Jeremiah as a more distant kinsman had to be called in (Ruth 3:9-13; 4:1-12). In such disturbed times few relatives would exercise their rights in this respect.” (Thompson)
iv. Jeremiah bought the land when no one else would because he knew that this was the word of the LORD: “It would seem that the word of Jehovah came to him as an impression, as it so often comes to us. We often have impressions which seem to be from the Lord. Let us rest assured that what He commands He will make possible. When the call is followed by the open door, we need have no hesitation.” (Morgan)
c. So I bought the field from Hanamel: Because God so clearly told him to do it, Jeremiah bought a piece of property that was, in normal terms, an unwise investment. The Babylonian army occupied Anathoth, surrounded the walls of Jerusalem, and was ready to complete their conquest of the area. Jeremiah knew they would succeed, and when they did, his title to the land would be useless because the Babylonians would soon control everything. Yet he bought the property anyway.
i. The keepers of the prison and everyone else must have thought Jeremiah was crazy. Hanamel must have thought this was the easiest and best seventeen shekels of silver he ever made, especially when people needed every bit of money possible to buy food at the much higher prices during a siege.
ii. It may be that cousin Hanamel took advantage of Jeremiah in this situation by challenging him to match his actions to his words. He had prophesied that the land would be restored and blessed; if he really believed it, then he should be happy to buy this land. Hanamel challenged Jeremiah to put his money where his mouth was. One way or another, Jeremiah did what God told him to do – even if he doubted it a short time later (Jeremiah 32:24-25).
iii. “Jeremiah was commanded by God to do this because he was really preaching by what he did. The preacher must believe in what he preaches; and it may be that he will be called to do something which will be to his people the best possible proof that he really does believe it.” (Spurgeon)
d. In the presence of witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison: The property purchase itself was strange; it was even stranger in that the deal was conducted from prison. Still, Jeremiah completed the deal according to their legal customs.
i. The purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: “The proper legal procedures were observed as though the land were at peace. The deed consisted of a sealed copy comprising the contract and the conditions of sale as well as an open copy.” (Harrison)
ii. “If the practice was that of the Jewish community at Elephantine in Egypt in the late fifth century BC, the contract was written out on papyrus and was then folded over several times, tied, and sealed. This was the closed official copy. An unsealed copy was attached to it for consultation… Similar ‘title deeds’ have been discovered in the Judean desert.” (Thompson)
4. (13-15) The lesson of the property deal from prison: God will restore.
“Then I charged Baruch before them, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days.” For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”’
a. Then I charged Baruch before them: Jeremiah 32 is the first mention of this Baruch, the son of Neriah (Jeremiah 32:12). Baruch was a scribe and an assistant to Jeremiah. Jeremiah spoke to him so that others would hear and be instructed.
b. Put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days: Jeremiah told Baruch to preserve and hide the title deed and details of the transaction so that they could be read later. This was something of a time capsule, holding items meant to be read in the future.
i. “The form of the transaction is interesting (cf. Leviticus 25:25-28), particularly the storage of the deeds in earthenware jars to ensure their preservation, a feature vividly illustrated in the preservation of the Dead Sea scrolls in similar containers for over 2,000 years.” (Cundall)
ii. “To buy land overrun by the world’s conqueror, and then to take elaborate care of the title-deeds was a striking affirmation, as solid as the silver that paid for it, that God would bring his people back to their inheritance.” (Kidner)
c. Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land: This was God’s promise, and the purpose for an otherwise foolish property purchase. Through revelation Jeremiah was absolutely sure that the Babylonians would conquer Jerusalem and Judah; yet he was also certain God would restore. The property purchase from prison was an expression of confident trust in God’s promise that the land would be possessed again.
B. The prophet prays to understand.
1. (16-23) A prayer declaring the greatness of God and the failure of His people.
“Now when I had delivered the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying: ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings. You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel and among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day. You have brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terror; You have given them this land, of which You swore to their fathers to give them—“a land flowing with milk and honey.” And they came in and took possession of it, but they have not obeyed Your voice or walked in Your law. They have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have caused all this calamity to come upon them.’”
a. I prayed to the LORD: After the prison property transaction, Jeremiah prayed regarding the matter. He began with a sigh, directed to Yahweh: Ah, Lord GOD!
i. “His heart began to boil with unbelief and carnal reasonings; he therefore setteth himself to pray down those distempers. As a man may sleep out his drunkenness, so he may pray away his perturbations.” (Trapp)
ii. “And what a prayer! What weight of matter, sublimity of expression, profound veneration, just conception, Divine unction, powerful pleading, and strength of faith! Historical, without flatness; condensed, without obscurity; confessing the greatest of crimes against the most righteous of Beings, without despairing of his mercy, or presuming on his goodness: a confession that, in fact, acknowledges that God’s justice should smite and destroy, had not his infinite goodness said, I will pardon and spare.” (Clarke)
b. Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power: In his prayer, Jeremiah recognized and praised the great power of God, confessing the truth, there is nothing too hard for You.
i. “Surely if God could make the heavens and the earth by his great power and by his stretched-out arm, He could easily bring it to pass that the Chaldeans should recede from the land, Israel again inhabit it, and the purchase and tenure of property be unhindered.” (Meyer)
c. You show lovingkindness to thousands: Jeremiah recognized the mercy and love of God.
d. Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways: Jeremiah recognized the justice and judgment of God.
e. You have brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt: Jeremiah recognized the particular love, favor, and work of God toward His people Israel. They were special objects of His power, mercy, and love.
i. You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day: “Oresius writeth that the tracks of Pharaoh’s chariot wheels are yet to be seen at the Red Sea. Fides sit penes authorem.” (Trapp)
f. They have not obeyed Your voice or walked in Your law: In contrast to the great love and goodness of God – especially as expressed toward Israel – Jeremiah noted the rebellion and disobedience of the same people who were the special object of His favor. This rebellion and disobedience was the reason for the great calamity to come upon them.
2. (24-25) Prayer for understanding.
‘Look, the siege mounds! They have come to the city to take it; and the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword and famine and pestilence. What You have spoken has happened; there You see it! And You have said to me, O Lord GOD, “Buy the field for money, and take witnesses”!—yet the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’”
a. Look, the siege mounds! Jeremiah’s loving familiarity with God is seen in the way he felt he had to show God the siege works of the Babylonians surrounding Jerusalem.
b. Sword and famine and pestilence: This was life in an ancient city under siege. Some died by the sword at the walls of the city. Many others died from famine because food supplies were never refreshed. Many also died from pestilence as disease worked its way through the closed-up city.
c. Buy the field for money, and take witnesses: It was hard for Jeremiah to understand why God told him to make the property purchase from prison. The Chaldeans were certainly going to conquer the city and the region. Even if God could restore His people to the land, they didn’t deserve it. This didn’t make much sense to Jeremiah, but he did the right thing: he looked to God and prayed for understanding.
i. “It was not a sign of Jeremiah’s faith, for he was perplexed, while obedient. The sign was in the command; it was God’s sign to His servant.” (Morgan)
C. Promise of judgment, promise of restoration.
1. (26-35) The promise of judgment.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it. And the Chaldeans who fight against this city shall come and set fire to this city and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs they have offered incense to Baal and poured out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke Me to anger; because the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done only evil before Me from their youth. For the children of Israel have provoked Me only to anger with the work of their hands,’ says the LORD. ‘For this city has been to Me a provocation of My anger and My fury from the day that they built it, even to this day; so I will remove it from before My face because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me to anger—they, their kings, their princes, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And they have turned to Me the back, and not the face; though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction. But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’
a. I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me: In response to the prayer of Jeremiah, God first affirmed His power and might in the same terms as Jeremiah prayed. Jeremiah said to the Lord, there is nothing too hard for You (Jeremiah 32:17). God replied back to His praying servant, Is there anything too hard for Me?
i. “We look upon the church at home in the present day. It is steeped in worldliness, and smothered with false doctrine. Lo! the many have turned aside from the gospel, and given themselves up to a thousand errors: how can the evil be cured? It is to be cured; it must be cured; it shall be cured, for thus saith Jehovah- ‘Is anything too hard for me?’” (Spurgeon)
b. I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans: God affirmed again the promise made many times before. Jerusalem and Judah would fall to the Babylonians. God did not tell Jeremiah to buy the land because Jerusalem wouldn’t be conquered.
c. On whose roofs they have offered incense to Baal and poured out drink offerings to other gods: God reminded Jeremiah of all the sins of Judah and Jerusalem that invited the punishment of God. All these sins – mainly idolatry of different forms – were a provocation of God’s anger.
i. For this city has been to Me a provocation of My anger and My fury from the day that they built it: “Actually, Solomon completed the building of the city, and he was the first of all Israel’s kings to fall into idolatry.” (Feinberg)
ii. I taught them, rising up early and teaching them: “From the frequent reference to this, we may naturally conclude that morning preaching prevailed much in Judea. ” (Clarke)
iii. They set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it: “The height of the nation’s impiety was reached when the people set up their idols in the temple of God himself. Their obscene symbols had been removed during Josiah’s reforms. But they were reintroduced in the years of apostasy after Josiah’s reign (cf. Jeremiah 7:30; 2 Kings 23:4, 6; Ezekiel 8:3-11).” (Feinberg)
d. To cause their sons and daughters to pass through the fire to Molech: Their idolatry went so far that they actually participated in the Canaanite cult of child sacrifice. Even King Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3) and King Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6) took part in this horrific practice.
i. There is little or none archaeological evidence for child sacrifice among the Israelites of this period. This means that either the practice was very rare or diligently covered up. This may be God’s way of saying that even if the practice was rare, it was an abomination to Him.
ii. “The high places witnessed the most important rite of Molech cultic worship, namely the offering of human sacrifice (cf. Jeremiah 19:5; Leviticus 18:21).” (Harrison)
iii. Nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination: “So abhorrent was this practice that the Lord by a strong anthropomorphism says that it had never entered his mind that his favored people would stoop so low.” (Feinberg)
2. (36-41) The promise of restoration, fulfilled in the new covenant.
“Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’
a. Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries where I have driven them: The same God who promised and fulfilled judgment also promised and would fulfill restoration. One was as sure as the other. Yet these promises, beginning here with the promise to gather Israel from the nations back into their own land, looked beyond what was fulfilled in the return under Ezra and Nehemiah some 70 years after the Babylonian exile. These are promises of the new covenant, as previously described in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
i. “I have driven them (Jeremiah 32:37) is a prophetic perfect, since the exile has still not taken place.” (Harrison)
b. They shall be My people, and I will be their God: As with other new covenant passages, God promised a personal and close relationship with His people under the new covenant.
c. I will give them one heart and one way: As with other new covenant passages, God promised inner transformation that would bring blessing to successive generations (for the good of them and their children).
d. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good: A further aspect of the new covenant is that the disposition of God towards His people would be changed; instead of judgment, He would rejoice over them to do them good. God was so zealous to accomplish this that He promised to perform it with all My heart and all My soul.
i. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: “Not only will the covenant be new, as promised there, but everlasting.” (Kidner)
ii. What is unsaid in this passage but detailed in other passages in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, is that this change of disposition is due to the atoning work of the Messiah, where His righteousness is granted to His people by faith.
iii. With all My heart and all My soul: “See how God puts his whole heart to the work when he is blessing his people. When he forgives sin, it is with his whole heart and soul. May we, with our whole heart and soul, repent of our sin; and then, with all our heart and soul, serve the Lord!” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Our God does not give us his mercies off-hand, as we see a man fling a penny to a beggar. No, no, he blesses us with his whole heart, and with his whole soul.” (Spurgeon)
3. (42-46) Connecting the promises to Jeremiah’s purchase of land.
“For thus says the LORD: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them. And fields will be bought in this land of which you say, “It is desolate, without man or beast; it has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” Men will buy fields for money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South; for I will cause their captives to return,’ says the LORD.”
a. Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised: The principle is repeated for the sake of emphasis. When Jeremiah spoke this prophecy, the Babylonian armies surrounded Jerusalem and were about to conquer the city – that was sure. It was just as sure that God would bring on them all the good He had promised.
b. Men will buy fields for money: When God brought the restoration – either the near restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah or the ultimate restoration under the new covenant – life would be so safe and secure in Israel that real estate transactions would again happen as normal.
i. In the land of Benjamin: “Benjamin may have been mentioned first because of the property of Jeremiah at Anathoth.” (Feinberg)