Jeremiah 31
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

α. EPHRAIM’S SHARE (31:1–22)

1. The Decree of Restoration


1          At that time, saith Jehovah, I will be God to all the families of Israel,

And they shall be my people.

2     Thus saith Jehovah; the people left of the sword has found grace in the desert.

Up!1 to bring him to rest,2 even Israel.

3     Jehovah appeared unto me from afar.

And I love thee with everlasting love,

Therefore have I in loving-kindness respited thee.3

4     Again will I build thee and thou shalt be built, Virgin Israel;

Again shalt thou adorn thyself with thy tabrets,

And go forth in the dance of those that make merry.

5     Again shalt thou plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria;

The planters shall plant and enjoy the fruit.

6     For there is a day when the watchmen cry on Mount Ephraim,

Arise and let us go up towards Zion, to Jehovah our God.


According to 30:4 the prophet has in the previous passage been addressing Israel and Judah. Now he turns to Israel alone, as far as 31:22, then in Jer 31:23–26 to Judah alone, finally in Jer 31:27–40 to the entire Israelitish nation. After the comprehensive promise (Jer 31:1), which now allots the consolation, assured in 30:22 to the entire nation, especially to the ten tribes; he announces that the residue of Israel has found grace, and that the Lord arises to bring it to rest (Jer 31:2). The people see the Lord approaching from a distance, and telling them that he loves them with an everlasting love, of which the previous respite was a proof (Jer 31:3). Then follows the consolatory promise that the Virgin Israel shall be rebuilt, that she shall again go forth in cheerful dances (Jer 31:4), that vineyards shall again be planted in Samaria, and those who have planted shall enjoy the fruit (Jer 31:5). And not only this. Israel will also again have recourse to the national Sanctuary, and go up for worship to Jerusalem.

Jer 31:1. At that time … my people. The section begins as the previous one had closed. That glorious consolation is again proclaimed specially to the ten tribes, the most ruined and almost lost portions of the people. The alterations and extensions occasioned by its position in the beginning and the inversion mark at the same time the distinction in reference to 30:22.

Jer 31:2-6. Thus saith Jehovah … our God. It is impossible that there can be a reference here to those who were delivered from the captivity in Egypt. Apart from particular objections, the ten tribes did not then obtain a special deliverance, and the whole description relates to the future, as is clear from up! to bring, etc., and still more plainly from Jer 31:4–6. The declarations of these latter verses only particularize what was said in Jer 31:2 and 3. The perfects in Jer 31:2 and 3 are also prophetical.—Has found grace. Israel had fallen into disfavor, now he has again found favor. In the desert the Lord finds the remnant spared by the sword of the enemy. It is certain that the prophet means the north-eastern desert situated between Palestine and the Euphrates. For the escaped of the sword, mentioned in 51:50 are not those which Jer. here has in mind. There he is speaking of Jews, here of those pertaining to the ten tribes. The prophet is thinking of them as they were during the period of their disfavor, oppressed and persecuted by enemies and driven out into the desert. There, in their deepest distress, the Lord finds them. We have however no right to deny that this prophetic picture of the future has its corresponding historical reality in an external, literal sense. Jer 31:3. A dramatic change of persons! The people speak. They see the Lord appear from afar. For He had kept Himself afar off, He had indeed quite disappeared from the sight of the people. Now He is again visible, of course from Zion. Comp. Ps. 14:7; Isa. 49:9 sqq.—And I love. The connection of what Jehovah says with what the people say by means of Vau, and (HITZIG appropriately compares 1 Ki. 20:34) makes the impression that the Lord at once agrees to what is said, confirms it, makes indeed glorious additions to it. Vau therefore=and indeed (comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 111, 1, a) is connected with a collateral causal significance (comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 110, 1, e), since that eternal love is the only ground of the appearance.—On the subject-matter comp. Deut. 7:13; Isa. 54:7, 8; 1 Ki. 10:9.—Build, etc. Build here is to be taken not merely in the sense of building walls, but of restitutio in integrum. Comp. Ps. 28:5; 102:17; Jer. 12:16. [“This metaphor, which may appear harsh in English, is to be explained from the use of the Hebrew word banah, to build, as applied to the building up a family of sons (banim) and daughters (banoth) who are like living stones of the household, built up from the mother, wedded as a Virgin Bride to her husband.” WORDSWORTH.—S. R. A.]—Adorn thyself, etc. Comp. 4:30. The kettle-drum, [or timbrel] is here designated as pertaining to the ornaments of a woman who appears in festal apparel.—Comp. 31:19.—To the rebuilt cities and the restored commonwealth, it is also necessary in order that the people may be happy, that there be agriculture, especially the culture of the vine, the fruit of which rejoiceth the heart of man.—Mountains of Samaria (comp. 1 Ki. 16:24) are the mountains of the northern kingdom generally, in so far as they permitted the culture of the vine. Comp. Jud. 9:27.—Hos. 2:17.—Enjoy the fruit. Jeremiah here refers to the legal enactment, Lev. 19:13–25, that the fruit of newly planted trees should not be eaten at all in the first three years, and in the fourth year they should be holy unto the Lord; not until the fifth year should they be enjoyed ad libitum (comp. SAALSCHUETZ, Mos. Recht. S. 168, 9). This appropriation permitted from the 5th year onwards is designated by the expression הִלֶּלprofanare, in usum profanum convertere. He who has planted a vineyard and has not yet enjoyed the fruit of it is free from service in war, Deut. 20:6. It is also one of the punishments threatened to the ungodly man that he shall plant a vineyard but another shall make it common (Deut. 28:30). In antithesis to this passage it is here promised as an element of blessing that the planter shall also be the profaner or partaker. (מְחַלֵּל). Comp. Isa. 65:21.—For there is a day, etc. All this blessing promised to Israel in Jer 31:4 and 5 shall and will be imparted to them on this account, that the people themselves will return to the service of Jehovah as of old. בִּיFor, Jer 31:6, thus gives the reason of Jehovah’s action (Jer 31:4 and 5) in the behavior of Israel.—Watchmen. There were not only watchmen stationed on lofty eminences (comp. 1 Ki. 17:9; 18:8) to announce danger from enemies (4:6, 19; 6:1, etc.) but also to announce the new moons and feasts. Comp. SAALSCHUETZ, Mos. Recht., S. 387. 401.—The cry then, up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah! sounds again as before the separation. Israel and Judah are again united in the Lord.


[1]Jer 31:2.—הָלוֹךְ. The infinitive absolute is to be taken as an imperative, in the sense of a summons to one’s self. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 92, 2, b.

[2]Jer 31:2.—In להרגיעו the prophet evidently alludes to Deut. 28:65. This Hiphil denotes quietem agere, to make a rest (comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 18, 3). There is indeed no further instance to adduce in favor of the meaning quietum facere, yet, apart from its grammatical admissibility, it rests on a good foundation, partly in the etymology (comp. מַרְגּוֹעַ, Jer. 6:16; מַרְגֵּעַה, Isa. 28:12) partly in the connection.—On the anticipation of the object by the suffix. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 77, 2 and rems. on 9:14.

[3]Jer 31:3.—מָשַׁךְ חֵסֶד in the sense of prolongare gratiam is found in Ps. 36:11; 109:12 coll. 85:6. The sense would also be perfectly appropriate. Then the suffix would have to be taken in the sense of the dative. This use of the suffix is however proved only in the 1st person (ני), and the similar case of the third pers. masc. (יו). For such a use in the 2d pers. we have only the uncertain instance of Isa. 65:5. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 70.—I therefore take מָשַׁךְ with HITZIG and FUERST in the sense of “respite” (Eccles. 2:3). חֶסֶד is the Accus. Instr. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 70, i.

For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
2. The Execution


7          For thus saith Jehovah, Shout joyfully over4 Jacob,

And exult5 over the head of the nations! Sing praises6 aloud and say:

Deliver, O Jehovah, thy people, the remnant of Israel.

8     Behold, I bring them from the North country,

And collect them from the ends of the earth.

Among them are the blind and lame,

The pregnant and the parturient together;

A great assemblage shall they return hither.

9     With weeping shall they come, and with supplication.

I conduct them;7 I lead them to water brooks,

By a straight way in which they shall not stumble:

For I am Israel’s father,

And Ephraim is my first-born son.

10     Hear Jehovah’s word, ye nations,

And proclaim it to the isles afar off,8 and say:

He that scattered Israel will collect him,

And guard him as a shepherd his flock.

11     For Jehovah has redeemed Jacob,

And liberated him from the hand of him who was too strong for him.

12     And they will come and shout on the summit of Zion,

And stream hither to the blessing9 of Jehovah,

For the corn and the new wine and the oil,

And for young lambs and calves:

And their soul shall be as a watered garden;

And they shall not languish any more.10

13     Then will the virgin rejoice in the dance,

And young men with the aged together;

And I will turn their mourning into joy,

And comfort them after their sorrow.

14     And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fat,

And my people shall be full of the blessing, saith Jehovah.


After in the previous strophe the Lord has made known His purpose to liberate and restore Israel, the present strophe goes a step farther. It contains a summons at the head of each of its two halves. The first (Jer 31:7) is addressed to the Israelites themselves, and exhorts them, after the Lord in the foregoing verses, 1–6, has made known His gracious determination, to approach Him now with petitions for its actual execution. It is also at once promised that the Lord will respond to these petitions (Jer 31:8 and 9), for in these verses it is described how they will accomplish their journey from the North country and the most remote lands, a journey which will set in the most glorious light the filial relation of Israel to his God. At the head of the second half (Jer 31:10–14) is a summons to all nations to hear and proclaim the decree which God has formed with respect to His people, that, namely, they shall be liberated (Jer 31:10, 11) and be brought home to a glorious life in joy and abundance on their native soil (Jer 31:12–14).

Jer 31:7-9. For thus saith … first-born son.—For refers not merely to Jer 31:7 but to all that follows. All that is subsequently said of the realization of the divine intentions is a proof of the truth of the promise given in Jer 31:1–6. The summons to exult joyfully is addressed to the individual members of the holy nation. Who else will then supplicate for Israel? The antithesis to Jer 31:10 also favors this view. There the heathen are summoned not to pray for Israel but to proclaim the purpose which the Lord has formed on this account. Israel is called the head of the nations. The prophet depends in this expression on those passages in the Pentateuch where Israel is called the holy nation, the treasure above all people, (Ex. 19:5, 6; Lev. 20:24, 26; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18), the great nation, to which the Deity approaches (Deut. 4:7, 8), the people of inheritance (Deut. 4:20), the highest above all nations (Deut. 26:19); further on prophetic passages which designate the nation as chief of the nations (Am. 6:1 coll. 3:2) as one nation in the earth (2 Sam. 7:23 coll. Numb. 23:9; Deut. 33:28).—Deliver, etc. It is evident that this is meant as an earnest petition from the accusative thy people. By His promise in Jer 31:1–6 the Lord has given the Israelites the right and the courage to supplicate in comfort and in joy for the redemption of their nation. There is, it is true, an assonance in this word to the words of praise הושִׁיעָה נָּא [Hosanna. A.V.: save now. Comp. Matth. 21:9] (Ps. 118:25) which are however not merely words of praise, but according to their verbal significance, are at the same time a petition, and in so far as they are that form of petition which is sure of being heard are at the same time praise. Jer 31:8 and 9 then contain the comforting promise that the petition will be heard. It is as if the Lord in Jer 31:7 had only provoked the petition, in order to announce His readiness to realize the promise given in vers 2–6.—From the North country. As the שֹׁבִים came from the North, the שְׁבָי must also be brought back from the North country. Comp. 3:12, 18; 16:15.—Ends of the earth. Comp. 6:22; 25:32; 50:41.—Among them, etc. The deliverance is to comprise the whole people. The weak and frail will then not be excluded, but be conducted in a manner suited to their circumstances. With tears of joy and contrition, with prayer and supplication to the Lord their God will they retrace their way. Comp. 3:21; 50:4. As in Ps. 45:15; Isa. 55:12, a being led forth with gladness and with peace is spoken of, so here it is said that the Lord will lead Israel with supplication, i. e., in the continued spirit and practice of prayer. Only thus is the symmetry of the construction preserved, according to which a more particular definition is to be given to each verb by means of a prepositional expression.—To water-brooks, in a level and comfortable path, are they to be brought. Comp. Isa. 48:21.—This careful guidance is truly paternal. No wonder; for Jehovah is Israel’s father (comp. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; Jer. 3:19; HERZOG, R.-Enc. XVII.S. 252), and Ephraim is His first-born son. This predicate is ascribed to the whole nation. Exod. 4:22 coll. Deut. 14:1. Here however Ephraim is purposely designated as first-born, in allusion to the preference, which Jacob awarded to the sons of Joseph (Gen. 49:22 coll. 4), and which is distinctly defined in 1 Chron. 5:2, where it is said that Judah obtained the dignity of chief ruler (נָגִיר), but Joseph the birthright (בְּכֹרָה). Comp. DELITSZCH on Gen. 49:3, 4; HERZOG, R.-Enc. XIV., S. 769.

Jer 31:10-14. Hear … saith Jehovah. The nations themselves which held Israel captive and mocked at his expulsion (15:4; 24:9; 29:18), must proclaim the purpose of God to liberate His people. We are here reminded of the edict of Cyrus (Ezr. 1:1 sqq.). This proclamation by those hitherto in power is itself a new and important step towards the realization of the promise given in Jer 31:1–6.—Isles. Comp. EXEG. rems. on 2:10; 25:22.—Scattered. Comp. 15:7–23:3; 29:14.—Observe that the prophet, as in Jer 31:8 and 9 he had described the glory of the return, so now he portrays the glory of the arrival and the prosperity to be expected afterwards.—For the corn. Comp. Deut. 28:51; Joel 1:10; 2:19, etc.—Watered garden. Isa. 58:11.—Then will the virgin, etc. Comp. Jer 31:4. The dances of virgins with men according to our custom are not to be thought of, for such dancing was not practised by the ancients generally and especially not by the Hebrews. (Comp. HERZOG, R.-Enc. XV., S. 414 sqq.). Men’s dances also occur (comp. Jud. 9:27; 2 Sam. 6:14), but in general dancing was regarded as something particularly appropriated to women and especially virgins. (Comp. Exod. 15:20; Jud. 21:21; 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6; WINER, R.-W.-B. s. v. Tanz). Hence the joy in the dance is to be referred to the virgin alone. When it is further said that youths and old men would rejoice with each other, this is to express the general diffusion of the joy. Not only youth, the period addicted to joyousness, but even age shall be infected by the joy, so that all ages and sexes will participate in it. And every rank also! Hence the priests are rendered especially prominent, their share in the sacrifices (Lev. 7:32–34; 9:21) being set forth as particularly fat, i. e. ample and dainty (the eating of fat being strictly forbidden, Lev. 7:23–25).


[4]Jer 31:7.—רנו לי׳. לְ as in Ps. 22:31; 69:6, 27. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., S. 227.—The accus. שִׁמְחָה as הֶמֶדּ in Jer 31:3.

[5]Jer 31:7.—יצהלו. Comp. Isa. 10:30; 12:6; Jer. 5:8; 50:11. The construction with בְּ, as in Isa. 24:14.

[6]Jer 31:7.—On the construction הַשְׁמִיעוּ הַלְלוּ, comp. rems. on 4:5; 13:18.

[7]Jer 31:9.—HITZIG would connect אוֹבִילֵם with what follows because it does not agree with תהנזנים, which does not signify miseratio, clementia. But we need not use the word in this sense. [Comp. EXEG. rems. which, however, do not accord with the rendering given by NAEGELSBACH in the text. HENDERSON and NOYES adhere to the A. V.: and with supplications—wdenotos,ill I lead them.—S. R. A.]

[8]Jer 31:10.—ממרהק. On the construction comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 112, 5, d.

[9]Jer 31:12.—אֶל-טוּב. On אֶל and its interchange with עַל comp. rems. on 10:1—טוּב, in distinction from טוֹב, is never used of moral, but always of material good. Comp. 2:7; Hos. 3:5.

[10]Jer 31:12.—לדאבה עוד. Comp. Jer 31:25, and OLSHAUSEN, S. 532.

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
3. The threefold Turn


15          Thus saith Jehovah: A voice is heard in Ramah,

Lamentation and most bitter crying;

Rachel weeps for her children,

Refusing11 to be comforted for her children, for they are no more.12

16     Thus saith Jehovah: Restrain thy voice from weeping,

And thine eyes from tears:

For there is reward for thy work, saith Jehovah;

And they shall return from the land of the enemy.

17     There is also hope for thy future, saith Jehovah;

And children13 shall return to their border.

18     I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself;

Thou hast chastised me,

And I allowed myself to be chastised like an untrained bullock.

Turn thou me again, that I may turn;

For thou art Jehovah my God.

19     For after my revolt,14 I repent;

And after I have learned to know myself,15 I smite on the thigh:

I blush, I am also ashamed

That I have borne the reproach of my youth.

20     Is then Ephraim a favourite16 son to me or a bosom-child,17

That whenever I speak against him I must still remember him?

Therefore my bowels heave towards him;

I must have pity on him, saith Jehovah.

21     Erect for thyself signals, set up for thyself poles,18

Turn thy mind to the highway, the way thou wentest!

Return, O virgin Israel,

Return to these thy cities.

22     How long wilt thou turn hither and thither,19 thou backsliding daughter?20

For Jehovah has created a new thing on earth:—

The woman shall turn the man.


This strophe causes the return of Israel, set forth before us in prospect, to be seen from another side, viz. as at the same time an inward return to God, or conversion. In a wonderfully touching picture the prophet represents Rachel, the mother of the house of Joseph, as raising a lamentation at Ramah over the tracks of those who are going into exile, as though they were dead (Jer 31:15). Jehovah Himself, however, comforts her; a reward is still to be hoped for her work and comfort for the future, for the return of her children is promised (Jer 31:16 and 17). But is this possible? Yes, for Israel will turn inwardly to the Lord and thus fulfil that condition, which the outward return as a necessary consequence thereof must have. The prophet does this by introducing Ephraim as speaking and causing him to make an honest and hearty confession (Jer 31:18 and 19). On this Jehovah gives us to understand in touching words that His love for Ephraim is deeply rooted and invincible (Jer 31:20). Ephraim consequently receives the command to make all the preparations for return. Thus at the same time the (according to 3:1) entirely new and unheard of case is now realized, that a woman, rejected and shared by other men, brings back her first husband (Jer 31:21 and 22).

Jer 31:15. Thus saith Jehovah … they are no more. With respect to Ramah and the grave of Rachel the greatest obscurity still prevails. My view is as follows: 1. The tomb of Rachel was near Ramah. This definitely follows from this passage and 1 Sam. 10:2. DELITZSCHremarks (Comm. on Genesis, 2te Aufl. ter Theil., S. 53) that Rachel’s weeping is heard in Ramah not because her tomb is in the neighborhood, but because, according to Jer. 40:1, the exiles assembled there, but to this it is opposed (a) that according to 1 Sam. 10:2 the tomb of Rachel was positively near Ramah; and (b) that Rachel’s weeping does not refer to the exiles mentioned in 40:1; for these were Jews, while according to the whole connection of this passage, Rachel bewails the exile of the Ephraimites. 2. Ramah, near which was Rachel’s tomb and where Samuel dwelt (1 Sam. 10:2) was in Benjamin, in the vicinity of Gibeah, north of Jerusalem. This is seen from Jud. 19:13; Isa. 10:29; Hos. 5:8. In Josh 18:25 it is expressly said that Ramah was in Benjamin. The original and complete name is Ramathaim Zophim (רָמָתַיִם צוֹפִים), 1 Sam. 1:1 coll. Jer 31:19. The statement that Ramah was situated on the mountains of Ephraim (Jud. 4:5; 1 Sam. 1:1) is not in contradiction to this, for the southern slopes of the mountains of Ephraim extended thus far. (Comp. HERZOG, R.-Enc. XII. S. 515 [ROBINSON, Bibl. Researches, II. 315–317; 331–334; THOMSON, The Land and the Book, II., 503.—S. R. A.]). It has been objected to the identity of the Ramah of Samuel and the Ramah near Gibeah that Saul in seeking the she-asses took three days in going from Gibeah to Ramah (1 Sam. 9:20), and that David fleeing from Gibeah took refuge in Ramah (1 Sam. 19:18). Even RAUMER (Paläst. S. 219) lays some weight on these objections. [Comp. also SMITH, Bible Dict., s. v. Ramah.—S. R. A.]. As to the first, however, it is clear from 1 Sam. 9:4, 5 that Saul did not follow the direct road, but seeking or pursuing the track of the asses, reached Ramah by a very circuitous route. With respect to the second RUETSCHI (HERZ. R.-Enc., ut sup.) has replied that David did not seek (temporary) protection from the city of Ramah but from Samuel. 3. There is also a Ramah in Gilead (Ramoth, Ramath Mizpeh, Josh. 13:26; 20:8; 21:38, etc.); another south-west from Jerusalem, west of the mountains of Judea (Ramathlebi, Jud. 15:17=Eleutheropolis. Comp. RAUMER, Paläst, S. 185, 6); a third in Naphtali (Josh. 19:36); a fourth in Asher (Josh. 19:29). A fifth place, which sometimes occurs under this name is Ramlah, a city which is not mentioned at all in the Old Testament (unless perhaps in Neh. 11:33), of later origin, and very probably identical with Arimathea, and situated to the west of Jerusalem in the plain of Saron near Lydia (Diospolis). Comp. RAUMER, Paläst., S. 217, 8, 448. There is then no Ramah in the vicinity of Bethlehem! 4. Bethlehem is doubtless also called Ephrath or Ephratah (Mic. 5:1; Ruth 1:2; 1 Sam. 17:12). Now if Rachel’s tomb is in the neighborhood of Ramah it cannot be near Bethlehem, and the Ephratah near which (Gen. 36:16, 19 coll. 48:7) Rachel bore Benjamin and was buried, cannot be Bethlehem.

Now we read in 2 Chron. 13:19 of a place in the neighborhood of Bethel, the name of which according to the, Chethibh is עֶפְרוֹן but according to the Keri עִפְרַין. The latter reminds us of Ἐφραῖμ or Ἐφρέμ, a little town, which, according to JEROME, lay 20 m. p. north from Jerusalem, where Christ remained for some time after the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:54). JOSEPHUS also relates (B. Jud. VI.9, 9) that Vespasian destroyed Βηθηλᾶ τε καὶ Ἐφραῖμ πολίχνια, and then rode to Jerusalem. In Josh. 18:23עָפְרָה is mentioned among the cities of Benjamin. The same name recurs in 1 Sam. 13:17. EUSEBIUS in his Onomast., s. v. Aphra, says: “Esther et hodie vicus Effrem in quinio milliario Bethiis ad Orientem respiciens.” The distances given point to the identity of Ephraim (Ephron) and Ophra. (Comp. ROBINSON, II., S. 333 sqq. [3:124]; RAUMER, S. 189 and 216). Now it is remarkable that the Alexandrian translators in 1 Sam. 13:17 render the name עָפְרָה by Γοφερά, and on the other hand in Josh. 18:23 by Ἐφραθά (Cod. Alex. Ἀφρά). From this it seems to follow that even in very ancient times עפרה and אפרת were interchanged, and that hence not only the הוא בית להם, Gen. 35:19; 48:7, but also the name אפרתה, 35:16, 19; 48:7, is to be regarded as a corruption of the original reading. I had reached this result before GRAF’s treatise on the situation of Bethel and Rama (Stud. u. Krit., 1854, 4., S. 86S) became known to me.—The prophet goes back in spirit to the time when the inhabitants of the kingdom of the ten tribes were led away to Assyria into captivity. Since that time, he says, making use of figurative language, may be heard in Ramah, the greater city near Rachel’s tomb (1 Sam. 20:2), nightly wailing and bitter weeping (6:26). It is Rachel who is weeping for her children. The inhabitants of the kingdom of the ten tribes may be designated children of Rachel, because at their head stands the tribe of Ephraim, which is frequently mentioned as a representative of the kingdom of Israel, Isa. 7:2–5, 8, 9, 17; 11:13; Hos. 4:17, etc.; Jer. 7:15; 31:9, 18, 20. The mother of the ruling tribe appears thus as the personification of the kingdom ruled by it. The spirit of Rachel is the genius of the kingdom of the ten tribes, whom the prophet represents by a bold poetical figure as rising from her tomb by night and bewailing the misery of her children.—Are no more. Comp. Isa. 17:14; Ezek. 26:21.

Jer 31:16 and 17. Thus saith Jehovah . . . their border. The Lord comforts Rachel by promising her a glorious reward for her maternal labor and care, (on restrain thy voice comp. guard thy foot, 2:25. On there is reward comp. 2 Chron. 15:7) viz. her children shall be redeemed from the land of captivity—and by setting before her the consolatory hope for the future, that the children will also return to their native land. On there is also hope comp. 31:11.

Jer 31:18 and 19. I have surely . . . of my youth. These verses give the inner reason of that joyful change: Israel will fulfil the condition required of him by the Lord (3:13 sqq.). First the people express their acknowledgment that the chastisement was necessary for them, for they were like an untamed and untrained bullock (the prophet evidently has in mind Hos. 10:11), but they have also let themselves be chastened and accepted the chastening (5:3). As Jeremiah here generally moves in the same circle of thought as in Jer 3, so especially in what follows, where also as there the idea of turning forms the central point or pivot of his re-presentation.—Turn thou me, etc. The knowledge gained as the result of the chastisement produces a double effect: a positive and a negative. The positive effect consists in the desire to return to Jehovah. Meanwhile the people are well aware that willing is not performing. They therefore pray the Lord that He Himself will turn their hearts to Him, who alone is Israel’s God. (This is the sense of the causal sentence. For thou art, etc.). Then only will they really return. The bodily return is connected with the spiritual in the closest causal relation. Comp. Rems. on שׁוּבי, Jer 31:19, and Lam. 5:21.—Lam. 3:40; Ps. 80:4, 8, 20.—The negative effect, which on their part forms the psychological condition of the positive, and is therefore introduced by for, is the inner turning and cutting loose from all that which had allured Israel, but had yet only brought him to hurt and shame.—The smiting on the side (יְרֵכַיִם ,יָרֵךְduo femina cum natibus, comp. Ezek. 21:17) was a sign of mourning. Comp. WINER and HERZOG, R.-Enc., s. v. Trauer.—I blush, etc. Comp. Isa. 45:16, 17.—The connection of this passage is then as follows: Ephraim has taken the chastening to heart. In consequence he addresses the prayer for power to return to Jehovah, for he has now learned to repent of his turning away from Him, and to be ashamed of the consequences.

Jer 31:20-22. Is then Ephraim . . . the man. Jehovah grants the moving petition. Astonished at surprising Himself, as it were, in such tender feelings towards Ephraim, Jehovah asks Himself if then Ephraim is his favorite son, his darling child (enfant gâté), since often as he has been obliged to bring the severe judgment of rejection upon him, he has yet never been able to forget him.—Speak against. We may compare 2 Chron. 22:10, where it is said of Athaliah that she arose and וַתְּדַבֵּר all the seed royal. But apart from דִּבֵּר being here construed with a single accusative, we have in the parallel passage (2 Kings 11:1) וַתְּאַבֵּד so that it is easy to suspect a mistake. Now דִּבֵּר and נִדְבַּר in the sense of “speak,” are frequently connected with בְּ in different meanings: loqui per aliquem (Num.12. 2), de aliquo (Deut. 6:7; 1 Sam. 19:3; Ps. 119:46 coll. 23), ad aliquem (Numb. 12:8; Hab. 2:1; Zech. 1:9, etc., Numb. 12:2, etc., 1 Sam. 25:39; Cant. 8:8). But it also signifies loqui contra aliquem, Numb. 21:7 coll. Jer 31:5; Ps. 50:20; 78:19. This last meaning corresponds perfectly to the connection here:—Often as I (מִדֵי as in 1 Sam. 18:30; 1 Kings 14:28) speak against him, i. e., cast him from me by a sentence of reprobation, yet I cannot forget him. I am always reminded of him again, and then the old feelings of love and pity are excited anew.—Mybowels. DRECHSLER, correctly remarks on Isa. 16:5, that מֵעִים does not like σπλάγχνα, viscera, include the nobler entrails (the heart). The word does not therefore designate the innermost source of the feelings, but only a place of the external organism where these make themselves specially noticeable. Comp. Cant. 5:4; Job 30:27; Lam. 1:20; 2:11; Isa. 63:15; Jer. 4:19.—The immediate effect of this excitation of love, is that Israel receives directions to make preparations for the journey homewards. Thus persons are to be sent in advance to set up stone pillars as way marks for the coming train, צִיֻןcippus, monumentum; comp. 2 Kings 23:17. Ezek. 39:15.—Israel’s returning by the same road which he came is comforting in two respects, first in itself, second because it is known and easier to retrace.—-The word these, before thy cities, shows unquestionably that the author has his point of view in Palestine, and not in the lands of the captivity. Comp. GRAF, S. 387, Anm.

Turn hither and thither. HITZIG finds in this not incorrectly the collateral idea of delay. This accords well with how long? which expresses a certain degree of impatience. Israel does not respond quickly enough to the invitation to return. The Lord has to drive him. The expression backsliding daughter, occurs besides only in a much later passage, of the people of the Ammonites.—It is surprising, that the Lord in the midst of this assurance of His tenderest love, and after Israel in Jer 31:18 and 19, has manifested such sincere and deep penitence, should utter another word of harsh censure. In this passage there appears to me to be a play upon words. In the section 3:1–4, 2 namely, to which this discourse is most closely related in matter as well as in form, the prophet gives as many variations of the theme שׁוּב as possible, sometimes applying the idea to Israel and Judah in a physical, at others in a spiritual sense. A similar variation though in abbreviated measure is found in 8:4, 5. In this passage also from Jer 31:19 onwards, the idea of שׁוּב forms the main thought. It is, however, variously modified: in Jer 31:16 and 17 the word is referred to bodily return, in Jer 31:18 to spiritual and bodily turning, and in Jer 31:19 to spiritual alienation, in Jer 31:21 again to bodily conditioned by spiritual turning. Now when the prophet in Jer 31:22 calls Israel שׁוֹבֵבָה, would he not thus wish to say that Israel is a person, who makes much of turning, who applies the idea of שׁוּב in every possible way? It appears to me that the prophet with the following sentence goes back again to the conceptions of Jer 3. In the beginning of this chapter he designates it as a crime profaning the land that a man return to his rejected wife, who has meanwhile been another’s. Notwithstanding that Israel is such a wife, Jehovah yet calls her back to Himself. This is the repentance of which our passage speaks. For when the Lord does something which, according to His own law, has been hitherto regarded as inadmissible, this is certainly an exception to the rule, therefore something new and extraordinary. If now we ask how the Lord comes to make such an exception?—the answer is given in 31:20. Israel has done this to the Lord, he is His darling child, whom he cannot forget. Israel is like a magnet which irresistibly attracts the Lord. Israel, the woman, here mentioned by the specific name of the sex נְקֵבָה, causes the Lord to turn to herself, who is also antithetically designated by the word נֶבֶר which sets forth the specific distinction of the male sex. Thus the weak is victorious over the strong. It is not only a new thing that the Lord returns to his desecrated wife, but that this power to bring back proceeds from the weak, so that the strong succumbs to the weak. I therefore take תְּסוֹבֵב in the sense of “ to turn round, to cause to turn back.” Although no passage can be shown where סוֹבֵב is really used in this sense (everywhere where it occurs, it means either circuire, Ps. 26:6; 55:11; 59:7, 15; Cant. 3:2, or circumdare; Deut. 32:10; Ps. 7:8; 32:7, 10; Jon. 2:4, 6), this is only accidental, for there is nothing in the radical meaning which excludes this sense. The root סב which is radically related to שׁוּב has the meaning of turning or returning in the widest sense. And that it may also stand for reverti is shown by the passage, Ps. 71:20, 21, where the verb is interchanged with שׁוּב. It cannot then be denied that תסובב may mean reducit. תִּשׁוֹבֵב would certainly be more suitable, especially as corresponding more exactly to שׁוֹבֵבָח, and it is not indeed impossible that the prophet did originally write תשובב. Neither the שׁובבה, nor in general the importance of the idea שׁוּבּ for the explanation of the whole passage, and particularly the reference to 3:1 being understood, may have occasioned the change into תסובב, unless indeed it is an error of the copyist. It is not, however, at all necessary to alter the reading, since even this, as we have shown, gives the sense required by the connection. It is exceedingly difficult to give the play upon words in the translation, since we have no corresponding word with the same variety of meanings. I know no better rendering now than “thou turn-coat daughter,” though the phrase is not particularly suitable as applied to a nation. This explanation is not a new one. It is essentially that of most of the Rabbins: “Proinde Hebræi hunc locum sic legendum contendunt: femina reducet virum, et hoc est novum in terra, at mulier, quæ passim aliis viris se prostituit, veteris mariti cupida, illum iterum sui amantem obtineat.” MUENSTER. My explanation of שׁוֹבֵבָה only is new, so far as I know, for all the commentators take the word as simply equivalent to שׁוֹבָבָה. The other explanations of the passage whose number is legion, all do violence either to the language or the connection. To mention only the principal ones—the old orthodox explanation, which refer the words “a woman shall compass,” etc., to the birth of the Saviour from a virgin, must take נקבה in the sense of virgin, a meaning which the word never has nor can have. ABARBANEL explains “feminœ viros circumdabunt, i. e., superabunt,” understanding by the women the weak Israelites, by the men their strong enemies. But neither is this a new thing, nor has סובב this meaning. “Femina vertetur in virum” is the translation of ABULMALID, R. TANCHUM, who are followed by LUTHER (in the first editions of his Bible till 1538) and by EWALD among the moderns. The alteration of תְּסוֹבֵב into תְּסוֹבַב, however, or the rendering of the former in a passive sense is forced: the sense also must be such as to agree with the context. The explanation proposed by SCHNURRER, which is adopted by many modern commentators, is “the woman will protect the man,”—but neither corresponds to the connection, nor is it satisfactory in itself. When women protect men, either the men are become women and the women men, or there is no need of any protection.—The explanation given by HITZIG, “femina ambibit virum,” which is found also in CASTALIO and CLERICUS (Vid. GRAF, S. 389) is not inappropriate in meaning, but cannot be justified grammatically. HENGSTENBERG, to whom GRAF attaches himself for want of a better, takes סוֹבֵב in the sense of “to keep one’s self near, to persist in dependence, seeking protection” (Christology, Eng. Tr., II., p. 429). But this rendering is developed from the idea of “surrounding” which cannot be declared of a single person with respect to another. The sense thus obtained is also the reverse of the primary meaning of the words, on which the rendering is based. Radically the explanation of HENGSTENBERG is no other than that the man will surround the woman with his protection, as Meier also actually renders the words in his translation. Besides the larger commentaries, there are many monographs on this passage. Lists of them are found in SEB. SCHMIDT, STARKE, J. D. MICHAELIS, Observ. in Jer., p. 248; ROSENMUELLER; DIETELMAIR in the Engl. Biblework, Tom. IX., S. 543. I add ANDR. DAN. HABICHHORST, Diss, de femina circumdante virum, 1670 and 1677.

[Of English and American commentators, BLAYNEY fenders “a woman shall put to the rout a strong man.” HENDERSON: “Woman shall encompass man,” following however BLAYNEY and CALVIN in his explanation, “Jehovah would make the feeblest of them more than a match for the most powerful of their foes.” WORDSWORTH retains the interpretation of the words, which refers them to the miraculous conception of the Virgin, quoting in favor of this view S. JEROME and JACKSON and PEARSON on the Creed, with references also to JUSTIN MARTYR, CYPRIAN, AUGUSTINE, LUTHER, ŒCOLAMPADIUS, CHEMNITZ, GALATINUS, CALOVIUS, HUETIUS, etc. NOYES translates “the woman shall protect the man,” with the note, “there shall be a state of peace and security, so that those who are regarded as feeble and defenceless, and unfit for war, shall be competent to the defence of the country.” COWLES agrees most closely with NAEGELSBACH, referring “the woman” to the Virgin Israel, the people of God, who “instead of perpetually going about after other lovers, will go about (in the sense of seeking to win the love of) her own divine Lord."—S. R. A.]


[11]Jer 31:15.—מאנה. Comp. 3:3; 5:3; 8:5; 15:18.

[12]Jer 31:15.—כי איננו. As in 11:4 the plural pronoun is referred to a singular, regarded collectively, so here, the case being reversed, the singular pronoun is referred to a plural, regarded as a unity. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 61, 1; Ps. 5:9; Job 24:24; כֻּלּה 8:6, etc.

[13]Jer 31:17.—The article is wanting before בָּנִים, comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 71,3.

[14]Jer 31:19.—אחרי שׁובי. This שׁובי has been commonly taken in the same sense as in Jer 31:18 [A. V.: Surely after that I was turned], which has given rise to great obscurity and to arbitrary attempts to avoid it, as e.g. by VENEMA, who takes שׁוּבּי at once for שׁוּב לִי i. e. after I had come again to myself. The only correct rendering is that of HITZIG and GRAF. They take שׁוּב in the sense of se avertere a Jove. They are justified in this by מְשׁוָּבה (3:6, 8, 11, 12, etc.), שׁוֹבַב (3:14, 22), שׁוֹבְבָה ,שׁוֹבֵבָה (8:6; 31:22), and by the expression שׁוּב מאַהֲרַי י׳ (3:19), which does not indeed occur without the מאחרי in 8:4, but it does in Josh. 23:12. It seems as though the prophet, here also as well an in Jer 3, were endeavoring to bring the idea of שׁוּב into application in as great a variety of meanings as possible.

[15]Jer 31:19.—הורעי. Many commentators take this word in the sense of the passive of הוֹדִיעַ, edocere = to be made wise, to he instructed. But Niph. is only the reflexive or passive of Kal. It means therefore only to be acknowledged or to acknowledge one’s self. The latter signification, in which it moreover appears to be used in no other passage of the Old Testament but this, corresponds perfectly to the connection.

[16]Jer 31:20.—יקיד Hebrew here only; Chald. Ezr. 4:10; Dan. 2:11. It denotes, like יָקָר (15:19; Lam. 4:2, etc). and יְקָר (20:5), what is precious, a jewel.

[17]Jer 31:20.—שׁעשׁועים. Comp. נְטַע שֵׁ‍ֽעֲשׁוּעָיו, Isa. 5:7 coll. Prov. 8:30, 31.

[18]Jer 31:21.—תַּמְרוּרִים from תָמַר, prominuit, related to תֹּמֵר, palmæ truncus, 10:5, and תְּמָרָה, columna, Joel 3:3, occurs here only. All other preparations are comprised in the brief phrase שָׁתִי לִכֵּך וגוֹ׳, Comp. Exod. 7:23; Ps. 48:14.

[19]Jer 31:22.—תתּחמקין. The verb is found only in Cant. 5:6 and connected with עָבַד. The connection requires the meaning of “to turn one’s self away,” with which the only noun derived from it חָמוּק (Cant. 7:2) accords. This can only signify “winding, rounding” (DELITZSCH: the swinging of thy loins). According to the etymology then the Hithp. must have the sense of turning one’s self hither and thither.

[20]Jer 31:22.—הבת השזבבה. Observe that it is שׁוֹבֵבָה, not שׁוֹבָבָה, as in 3:14, 22; Isa. 57:17. The passive form has doubtless the meaning of “turned away, alienated.” The active form must primarily have an active meaning. The Pilel from שׁוּב is primarily objective causative and signifies to make some one or something return, bring back (50:19), restore (Ps. 60:3; 23:3), to render alienated (Isa. 47:10). It may also have a subjective causative meaning: to make a turn, back or away, i. e. to turn one’s self back, to desert. Hiphil has primarily this signification. (Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 18, 3; 1 Ki. 8:47). But the Piel forms also have it (Ew., § 120, c). As now it is decided by the connection in what sense the verb שׁוֹבֵב is to be taken, the meaning of the N. verbate is also thus decided. It may then mean one who brings back, restores, alienates, and also one who turns, deserts. It has the latter meaning in 49:4 and Mic. 2:4.—The Pilel of hollow roots includes also the significance of the Piel (Ewald, § 121 a, coll. § 120). Especially does this word seem to me to involve the idea of שׁוּב in the causative sense, which corresponds to the following תְּסוֹבֵב, i.e., in the sense of reducens (comp. מְשׁוֹבֵב, Isa. 58:12; OLSH., S. 552).

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.

3. The Blessing of the Sanctuary


23          Thus saith Jehovah Zebaoth, the God of Israel:

Yet will they speak this word in the laud of Judah,

And in its cities, when I turn their captivity:

Jehovah bless thee, dwelling-place of salvation [or justice]21

Mountain of the sanctuary!

24     And Judah shall dwell therein and all its cities together,

As husbandmen and those who go forth with flocks.22

25     For I refresh the panting soul,

And every languishing23 soul I satisfy.

26     Upon this I awoke and looked up;

And my sleep had been sweet unto me.


After the prophet had promised the tea tribes spiritual and material prosperity in richest measure, he now does the same with respect to Judah. Judah will also return to his country; the sanctuary, the central point and source of all blessing is again saluted with benedictions (Jer 31:23). The whole land is again inhabited; agriculture and cattle-breeding again flourish (Jer 31:24). For the Lord s disposed to afford help in every distress, satisfaction for every need (Jer 31:25). The prophet received this revelation in a dream. Its joyful import was the cause of his feeling on awaking that his sleep had been sweet (Jer 31:26). He remarks this specially because with no other revelation in a dream had he had a similar experience.

Jer 31:23-25. Thus saith Jehovah . . . satisfy.—When I turn. Comp. on 29:14.—Jehovah bless thee. The words may mean either Jehovah will bless thee, or, Jehovah bless thee. The former bears more of the priestly character, the latter is more appropriate as spoken by the congregation. We find such a benediction specified in Ps. 122:6–9.—Dwelling-place, etc. Comp. 50:7, where, Jehovah himself is so-called.—Mountain, etc., may be in apposition to dwelling-place, etc., and then the expression may either be a designation of the temple alone, or of the whole city of Jerusalem (comp. Isa. 66:20; Zech. 8:3). It may also be taken as an asyndeton, so that then the former will designate the holy city, the latter the temple. Finally the double phrase may designate both at the same time, i. e., the city including the temple, and as there is no reason for excluding either of the two, this may well be the correct rendering. Comp. Ps. 2:6; 48:2 sqq.; Isa. 11:9; Joel 4:17.

Jer 31:25. Therein, i. e., the land, Jer 31:23.—Judah and all its cities. The expression cannot designate Jerusalem and the provincial cities (comp. 11:12), nor the whole and the single parts of the nation, because such a distinction can be made only in abstracto. I therefore think that the prophet really distinguishes the people and the cities. Both sit, dwell, lie in the land. Comp. יָשַׁב30:18; Zech. 2:8; 12:6; 14:10.

Jer 31:25. For I refresh. The perfect is the prophetical perfect. It represents the future fact as already accomplished. For denotes that all that has been previously mentioned is only the realization of the purpose of Jehovah to relieve every distress and need, wherefore the satisfaction of hunger and thirst spoken of in Jer 31:25 is only to be understood as instar omnium. עיף of the thirsty. Comp. Ps. 63:2; 143:6; Prov. 25:25; Job 22:7; Isai. 32:2.

Jer 31:26. Upon this sweet unto me. If we take these words, with CHR. B. MICHAELIS, ROSENMUELLER, UMBREIT and others, as the words of God, we have the altogether crooked sense that Jehovah designates the time, when He was acting as a severe judge, as a time of sweet sleep. If we understand the people as awaking, then we have again the contradictory thought that the time of visitation is compared with a sweet sleep. The explanations of EWALD (quotation from a well-known sang, which is to show that then they will have no more bad dreams), and of GRAF (therefore will it then be said, I awake, etc.), are too artificial, for they require the supplementation of introductory formulas which by no means offer themselves. As the words stand they can be understood only of the prophet. But it is a question, whether it is a real physical sleep or an ecstatic condition resembling sleep, which is spoken of. It is difficult to decide. HENGSTENBERG has declared in favor of the latter (Christology, Eng. Tr. II., 426). But in Zech. 4:1, to which passage HENGSTENBERG appeals, the prophet is awakened to an ecstatic vision. I do not think, moreover, that the ecstatic condition is anywhere directly called sleep, and that he who awakes from it has the feeling of having slept. It cannot be doubted that dreams generally served as the physical means of divine revelation. Comp. rems, on 23:25 and Numb. 12:6; Joel 3:1; 1 Ki. 3:5; 9:2. Jeremiah never tells us elsewhere in what bodily condition he was when he received his revelation, but of this he tells us that he received it in sleep. Why here only such a remark on the outward form of the revelation and the feeling which he had in connection with it? Let us remember that this prophecy is the only uninterruptedly consolatory one in the whole book. Is it not then very intelligible that that moment was never forgotten when, awaking after the reception of this revelation, he had the feeling of an exceedingly sweet and refreshing sleep? I therefore perceive in this brief remark an indication that Jeremiah himself regarded the moment of the reception of this revelation as a point of light in his otherwise rough and laborious prophetic career (comp. 20:7 sqq.). We may indeed truly say that here we stand at the most comforting and brightest point in the prophecies of Jeremiah.—Upon this. על־זֹאת may well mean “upon this,” combining the local and causal senses (comp. 4:28).—Looked up. The prophet mentions that he opened his eyes and saw, to intimate that he was really and fully awake, and that in a fully awake and self-conscious state he had the feeling that his sleep had been sweet. There is, as we know, a half-awaking, which is only apparent and therefore deceptive.—Sweet unto me. Comp. Prov. 3:24; Jer.6:20.


[21]Jer 31:23.—On נָוֶה. Comp. Prov. 3:33; 24:15; for צֶדֶק comp. rems. on 7:5; 9:23.

[22]Jer 31:24.—ונסעו בעדר. Supply אֲשֶׁר before נָסְעוּ. This verb is the technical term for the nomadic mode of life. Comp. Gen. 33:12; 35:21; 46:1, etc.—On בְּ=in medio, i. e., cum. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 112, 5 a.

[23]Jer 31:25.—דאבה. Comp. Jer 31:12. I do not see why this word should necessarily be a participial form. It may be a finite verb with אֲשֶׁר wanting. Comp. 14:1; Isa. 51:1; Ps. 7:16

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.
IV. The Entire Renovation

1. The New Life


27          Behold, the days are coming, saith Jehovah,

When I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah,

With the seed of man and with the seed of beast.

28     And it shall be that as I have been wakeful over them,

To pluck up and to root out,

To pull down, to destroy and to afflict,

So I will be wakeful over them,

To build and to plant, saith Jehovah.

29     In those days it shall no more be said,

The fathers have eaten sour grapes,

And the teeth of the children are blunted.

30     But every one shall die for his own iniquity:—

Every man who eats sour grapes,

His teeth shall be blunted.


Whether Jeremiah fell asleep again at once or whether the following revelation was separated by a longer interval from the previous one is a question which must remain undecided. Both cases are possible. At any rate there is a close logical connection. This and the quotation from 1:10 indicate that this passage by no means takes its origin from a sensibly later period. The prophet who, in Jer 30, had treated of Judah and Israel, in 31:1–22 only of Israel, and in 31:23–26 only of Judah, now again directs his prophetic gaze on both (comp. 3:18; 5:11). He promises the old theocratic blessing of great fruitfulness both of the men and the cattle (Jer 31:27), the absence of all that, is destructive or afflictive, and on the other hand growth and progress on all sides (Jer 31:28). Entering more deeply into the ground of the previous destructive judgment, he sets before them so lofty a position and such energy of general morality that common guilt and solidaric implication of the following generations shall no more be spoken of. But the transgressions would be only exceptional cases, which would hence be no longer injurious to the whole, but only to the single individual (Jer 31:29 and 30).

Jer 31:27 and 28. Behold the days . . . saith Jehovah. On the promise of fruitfulness, comp rems. on 29:6.—I will sow. Comp. Gen. 47:23.—I have been wakeful. Comp. rems. on 1:12, 10; 18:7, 9.

Jer 31:29 and 30. In those days . . . be blunted. The proverb of the sour grapes and blunted teeth, here mentioned for the first time, may have a double meaning. It may mean the fathers have begun to eat sour grapes, but it is the sons only who have had their teeth blunted, i. e. the punishment does not always come immediately on the first, who are guilty, but on those of the second, third and fourth generations. It may also mean that the punishment does not always come on the guilty father, but often only on the innocent son or grandchild. In the latter sense Ezekiel, chap. 18., combats the proverb as a blasphemy of God’s justice. In the former sense however the proverb involves no blasphemy, but expresses only what the law itself declares in the words, I am a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (Exod. 20:5; 34:7: Numb. 14:18; Deut. 5:9; Jer. 32:18; Lam. 5:7). This canon of the divine justice rests on the hypothesis that there is not only an individual but a corporate sin, a sin of families, races generations, nations, states. Of course every such sin, common to many, has its history. It unfolds like every other germ, till it has attained its widest extent and fullest maturity. When the point of maturity is reached the judgment comes. Those who are then living have their teeth blunted, possibly indeed as the less guilty (think of Louis 16., of France)—always, however, as the children of their fathers in the same sense as the expression is used in Matt. 23:31, 32, i. e. as the apple falling not far from the trunk, as the organic continuation and perfection of the moral tendency adopted by the fathers. According to those who understand the proverb only in a bad sense, Jeremiah only declares in this passage “ that Jehovah will not then as now be accused of unrighteousness in an ungodly proverb, but it will be perceived that each one has to suffer for his own guilt (GRAF).” Appeal is made in favor of this explanation to Deut. 24:16. To which I make the following objections: 1. The non-employment of the proverb (in the false sense) proves certainly a correct knowledge of the justice of God, but only elementary, merely negative knowledge. It is not a symptom of greatly advanced knowledge to perceive that God does not punish any innocent person; while according to the whole connection of this passage a period of the highest, prosperity of theocratic life is to be here described, an essential basis of which is a corresponding stage of religious and moral perfection. Comp. Jer 31:18 and 19.—2. The passage Deut. 24:16 is to be regarded not as the norm of divine, but only of human punitive justice. By this declaration that savage custom of the heathen merely was to be guarded against, according to which ob noxam unius omnis propinquitas was to perish. (Comp. Jud. 15:6; HAEVERNICK on Ezek., S. 286). Comp. also 2 Ki. 14:6; 2 Chron. 25:4.—I accordingly do not supply they shall say after but, Jer 31:30, but I regard Jer 31:30 as the declaration of the prophet. The moral level will be so high that only individual transgressions will occur as isolated exceptions from the rule. In general, and as a whole, Israel will be a holy congregation in which the power of the prevailing spirit will not allow the evil proceeding from individuals to extend itself. This will be restricted to the individual author and lead to the ruin of himself alone. Comp. Isa. 60:18, 20. I find here the same view of the moral condition, which the kingdom of God is to attain as the highest stage of its earthly perfection, which lies at the basis of the Sermon on the Mount, and which found its certainly only precursory and passing realization in the apostolic church at Jerusalem. For in Matt. 5:21 sqq., the Lord tells us what will be the prevailing spirit in His Church, and according to what standard any contravention by individuals will be punished, to which Acts v. furnishes a practical commentary. In this view of the passage its connection with what follows is also clear, this passage being a preparation for what the prophet says of the Lord’s new covenant with the Church, and that being an elucidation of the present passage.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:


31          Behold, the days are coining, saith Jehovah,

When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah:

32     Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers

In the day that I took them by their hand,24

To lead them forth out of the land of Egypt;

Which my covenant they broke;

And yet I was their husband, saith Jehovah.

33     But this is the covenant which I will make

With the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah:

I will put my law within them, and write it on their heart,

And I will be their God and they shall be my people.

34     And a man will no more teach his neighbor,

Nor a man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah!

For all will know me from25 the least to the greatest, saith Jehovah:

For I will forgive their sin,

And their iniquity I will remember no more.

35     Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for light by day,

And the laws of the moon and stars for light by night,

Who exciteth the sea so that its waves roar,

Jehovah Zebaoth is his name:

36     If these laws perish before me, saith Jehovah,

The seed of Israel will also cease to be a nation before me forever.

37     Thus saith Jehovah, When the heavens above are measured,

And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,

Then will I also reject the whole seed of Israel

For all that they have done, saith Jehovah.

38     Behold, the days are coming,26 saith Jehovah,

When the city shall be built for Jehovah,

From the tower of Hananeel to the corner-gate.

39     And the measuring-line27 shall go forth further,

Straight out to the hill Gareb and turn towards Goath.

40     And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes,

And all the land28 to the brook Kedron,

To the corner of the horse-gate towards the east,

Shall be holy unto Jehovah,

And shall no more be devastated nor destroyed forever.


This prophecy reaches its acme in the promise of a new covenant (Jer 31:31). This new covenant is the foundation of the moral condition set before us in Jer 31:29 and 30. For the essence of the new covenant, in distinction from the old, which was broken (Jer 31:32), will be an inward central union with God (Jer 31:33), the consequence of Which will be, that on the part of men, outward instruction will be superfluous, the ground of which, on the part of God, is His forgiving love (Jer 31:34). This covenant has two further characteristics: 1. it will be eternal, as the eternal ordinances of nature (Jer 31:35–37); 2. it will also have in its train the penetration of the natural sphere with the elements of holy life. Jerusalem will be inwardly so holy to the Lord that even the unholy places, which the city has hitherto had, like all other cities, in its suburbs, will now, as being sanctified, be reckoned to the city itself (Jer 31:38–40).

Jer 31:31, 32. Behold … Jehovah. Here also the prophet’s discourse extends to both halves of the nation. The Lord will conclude a new covenant with the whole of Israel (32:40; 50:5; Isa. 55:3). This new covenant stands in contrast to the old, which the Lord made with the fathers of the Israelites “in the day when He took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” Wrong as it would be to understand by this “day” the stay at Sinai, equally so would it be to restrict it to the day of the exodus (Exod. 12:51; 13:3, 4). Two things pertain to the conclusion of a covenant, a performance and a condition or requirement; the concluding of the covenant between Jehovah and the people Israel then lasted through the whole period of the Mosaic legislation, just as long as the bringing forth out of Egypt lasted. The manuduction ends only with the promised land, and from the day of the exodus to the day of his death Moses did not cease to give laws to the people (Exod. 12 to Deut. 32). Since now there is no grammatical necessity of taking “day” in a literal sense (comp. Isa. 11:16; 2 Sam. 21:12; 22:1), we are justified in understanding by the covenant of Jer 31:32 that covenant which Jehovah concluded through the mediation of Moses in different acts (Deut. 29:1; comp. KURTZ, Gerch. d. A. B. II., S. 522 [History of the Old Covenant] with the people Israel, and required as its condition the keeping of the Torah (comp. בְּחוֹצִאוֹDeut. 29:24; 28:1 sqq.; 13 sqq.).—Which my covenant. Which is at any rate to be referred to my covenant, since this is also the main conception in the previous clause of the sentence.—They is emphatic: they broke the covenant, not I. It was the weak side of this covenant that it could be broken, and had God made this only, there might have been a doubt either as to His omniscience or His holy love. The first covenant, however, was only preliminary, preparatory and typical.—And yet I was their husband. The LXX., which translates 3:14κατακυριεύσω ὑμῶν, here has ἠμέλησα αὐτῶν . So likewise in Heb. 8:9. From the context we should certainly expect an idea corresponding to broke, i. e. a word by which Jehovah’s relation to the covenant-breakers would be designated. Meanwhile grammatical considerations require us to take בָּעַל in the meaning, which it has everywhere else, namely=to possess, and indeed (predominantly) as spouse. But we cannot, with HENGSTENBERG, take the sentence and yet I, etc., as a promise (I will marry them), for that would be an anticipation of the turn of thought beginning with But, in Jer 31:33; we must rather, with EWALD, regard it as an antithetical statement of a fact: and yet I was (or: while I was their husband). Thus the emphasis rests on the idea of husband, and the sense is: it is not a covenant concluded inter pares, which each of the contracting parties may renounce, which they have broken, but a marriage alliance in which they represent the woman, who is never justified in desiring the dissolution of the matrimonial connection, or in effecting it. [“Probably the true rendering is, and therefore I rejected them (from bâal, to refuse, to loathe). See the Syriac, POCOCKE (Port. Mosis, pp. 5–10, GESENIUS, 130, and Mr. TURPIE’S valuable work, ‘The Old Testament in the New’, pp. 251, 252).” WORDSWORTH.—S. R. A.].

Jer 31:33 and 34. But this is … remember no more. כִּי is “for,” but in the sense of “but,” because it corresponds to not, in Jer 31:32. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 110, 4.—Those days. It is not said these, for this would be the days of the present, while the word used refers to more distant days, to those namely, which will precede the turn to good, the שׁוּכ שְׁכוּת (Jer 31:16 sqq.).—I will put, etc. The prophet evidently has in view the stone tables of the Law, on which the ten “words,” the kernel of the Torah, were written. This law of commandments (Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14) externally imposed on men by a subordinate mediator (Gal. 3:19), was ἀσθενὴς καὶ ἁνωφελής (Heb. 7:19), wherefore it is also said of it οὐδὲν ἐτελείωσεν (Heb. 7:19). It was only to render men conscious how far the human subject in and of himself was in a condition to satisfy the demands of a holy God, i. e the law was to produce conviction of sin (Rom. 3:20). Only a heart in which the law has been livingly written and in which it dwells, i. e. only a human will, which has become one with the divine will, and thus free, can continue in covenant with God (32:40; 24:7; Ezek. 11:19; 2 Cor. 3:3). Only where this takes place is God truly the man’s God, and the people God’s people. To be God is to be the most exalted being, therefore the highest good, the source and end of life. Only where God is thus for man, is He truly his God. And a people only which stands in this relation to God, is truly God’s people (comp. 7:23).—HENGSTENBERG is of opinion that between the old and new covenants there is only a quantitative not a qualitative difference. “Parallel to the passage under consideration is the promise of God of the pouring out of the Spirit, Joel 3:1, 2 (2:28, 29), so that what we remarked on that passage is applicable here also … As under the New Covenant generally in its relation to the Old there is nowhere an absolutely new beginning but always a completion only … so in reference to the communication of the Spirit, Joel puts only abundance in the place of scarcity, many in the place of few” [Christology, Eng. Tr. II., p. 439]. It is true no legal enactment of the Old Covenant is declared false in the New (Matth. 5:17–19); it is true that men knew even under the Old Covenant that the law, in order to be fulfilled must not be merely externally before the eyes, or merely in the head, but that it must be in the heart (Deut. 30:6; Ps. 40:9; Prov. 3:1–3). But this Old Testament having-in-the-heart, which is spoken of in the passages cited, is quite a different thing from that which Jeremiah means in this passage. There were many God-fearing Jews who had the law at heart, and in their heart, and who loved the Lord with all their strength, but was one of them justified by this observance of the law? We shall recur to this again directly.

Jer 31:34. No more teach, etc. THEODORET says, τῶν δὲ ῥητῶν τούτων τέ τέλος ὁ μέλλων δὸξεται βίος. We have however no intimation that the prophecy of Jer 31:34 will be fulfilled at another time than that which is spoken of before and afterwards. No passage can be shown in which the Old Testament prophets make predictions concerning the heavenly state. The prophet therefore sets before his hearers a period of terrestrial development in which the illumination of the Spirit (Joel 3:1, 2; John 6:45) will lead each of himself to the essentially correct knowledge of God. Reciprocal furtherance is certainly not thus denied.—For all will, etc. In these words the prophet indicates the proper basis of the gifts of grace previously named. So also the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews understands the passage, quoting 10:16 sqq. (in distinction from 8:7 sqq.) so that after διδοὺς νόμονς μου ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς he directly adds the concluding words of Jer 31:34, καὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν καὶ ἀνομιῶν αὐτ͂ῶν οὐ μὴ μυησθήσομαι ἔτι. Only where the real (not merely ideal and hypothetical) forgiveness of sins conditioned by the true atoning sacrifice is imparted (comp. Heb. 10:1–4), can there be the communication of the spirit of adoption (Gal. 3:2, 6), and thus true knowledge, and the true walk according to God’s will. And herein also consists the most radical objective difference between the Old Covenant and the New, in the former all is shadow and type, the latter only has the essence of the good things itself (Heb. 10:1). Not till the sacrifice was offered on the cross was the veil of the temple rent, and the way of access to God actually opened. Now even if Moses and Elias be pointed to (Matth. 17:3), it is certain that no one received the knowledge of the “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16) before the death and resurrection of our Lord. John was more than a prophet, and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (Matth. 11:9 sqq.) The for before I will forgive is therefore to be well observed. Here also we learn the meaning of כָּרָתַּי בדית. It is without doubt incorrect to take it in the sense of “constituere, to establish, make arrangements,” for everywhere else it signifies to conclude a covenant. But where God concludes a covenant it is always at the same time He who works the will and the execution, whence also in this passage gifts of God only are mentioned. At the same time we are neither justified nor in a condition to give a definite historical date for the conclusion of the New Covenant. If we should designate the day of the crucifixion as on the part of God the moment when He entered into the New Covenant relation, yet on the part, of mankind there would then be no corresponding date of acceptance. In the fact that the Covenant is in the most exalted sense granted, lies also the necessity of its acceptance. God does not give His Son for an uncertainty. The taking is included in the giving. In fact the measure of the covenant members becomes full by the successive accession of individual believers.

Jer 31:35-37. Thus saith … Jehovah. Not only by its inwardness, but, also, closely connected with this by its eternal duration, is the New Covenant distinguished from the Old. The Old was broken by Israel and the nation therefore rejected by Jehovah. This will no more take place under the New Covenant. This will be as it were a second ordinance of nature. It will be as immovable as the great laws of nature.—Who giveth the sun, etc. The prophet has Gen. 1:14 in view. Comp. Ps. 136:8. The expression and the laws, etc., seems to be a reminiscence of Job 38:33, which comes out more plainly in 33:25.—Who exciteth the sea, etc., is taken from Isai. 51:15. There the might of the Lord, as it has been displayed in the wonders of history and of nature in general, is set forth for the comfort of Israel. Here all the emphasis lies on the idea of the fixedness and stability of the ordinances of nature, which God has created. That God can excite the mighty ocean is rather a proof of His power than-an instance of the inviolate order of nature, and it is hence probable that the expression originated with Isaiah.

Jer 31:36. If these laws, etc. As certainly as the laws of nature are inviolable, so certainly shall Israel everlastingly continue as a nation before the Lord (33:20–26; Ps. 89:37, 38). The question is natural here: why then has Jehovah raised the eternal continuance of the people of Israel as it were to the rank of a law of nature? The answer is given in Jer 31:37, (which does not feebly hobble after, as GRAF supposes), not however with a solution of the problem, but with the declaration that the ground of the historical fact is as secret as the heavens above us are immeasurable, and the earth beneath us in its profoundest depths is unsearchable. Comp. 33:22, 26.

Jer 31:38-40. Behold the days … forever.—Tower of Hananeel. This tower designates, as is acknowledged, the North-East corner of Jerusalem. It is also mentioned in Zech. 14:10; Neh. 3:1; 12:39. The corner-gate (comp. 2 Ki. 14:13; 2 Chron. 26:9, and also שַׂעַד הַפִּנִּיםZech. 14:10) designates the North-West corner. Vid. RAUMER, Paläst. S. 290. By these two points then the northern limit of the city is defined. As the tower of Hananeel and the corner tower were part or the fortifications of the city, there seems to be no further extension on this side—Straight out, ננדו accus. of motion to the question whither? To its opposite, i. e., straight out. Comp. Am. 4:3; Josh. 6:5, 20.—Gareb occurs here only as the name of a place, as the name of a person in 2 Sam. 23:38; 1 Chron. 11:40. The meaning of the word must according to נָרָכscabies, (Lev. 21:20; 22:22) be “scabby, leprous.” In accordance with the other localizations, this must mean, as GRAF has shown, the South-West corner. What Goath (נעָה) is, is quite uncertain. The word occurs were only. The Chald. has בְּרֵכַת עֶנְלָא (cowpond) the Syr. lormeto, i.e., rocky hill, by which it seems to have understood the projecting rock of the castle Antonia (HITZIG, FUERST). VITRINGA and HENGSTENBERG take it as = נל נועתה, i. e., Golgotha. But both the etymology and topography are very uncertain. The valley of corpses and ashes is without doubt the vale of Hinnom in the South, for that was the place where all the refuse of the city ran or was carried. (Comp. Comm. on 19:2). פֶנֶר is the unburied cadaver of men and beasts (41:9; Gen. 15:11), דֶּשֶׁן is especially the ashes of burnt fat (Lev. 1:16; 4:1). It is better to regard it as the ashes of the offal, burned without the camp, than of the sacrifices burned on the altar (flesh, skin, dung, Lev. 4:11, 12; 7:17, 19; 8:17, 32; 9:11; 16:27; 19:6) and clothing (Lev. 13:52, 55, 57). The horse-gate was on the East of the city by the temple (Neh. 3:18; 12:39, 40). So far as we can perceive in general from these local determinations, the subject is not primarily, as in Ezek. 48:15 sqq. an extension of the city. For the gain in space according to the boundaries mentioned is relatively insignificant. Only in the South-West, South, and at any rate in the South-East, are some small portions added to the city. The main point is that by this extension the places which were unholy will be rendered holy. They were the purlieus of the city. If even these places are added to the city, it shows that the city no longer needs such places. It is in itself so thoroughly holy to the Lord that it will have nothing unholy to cast out. Nothing unclean will enter (Rev. 21:27), therefore nothing unclean will proceed from it. It will be thoroughly sanctified and enlightened, therefore safe from destruction to all eternity.


[24]Jer 31:32.—On the punctuation of הֶ‍ֽהֶזקוּ comp. OLSHAUSEN, § 192 f.

[25]Jer 31:34.—On לְמִן comp. rems. on 7:7, 25.

[26]Jer 31:38.—בָאִים, which is wanting in the Chethibh, but is supplied by the Keri, is nowhere else lacking in the formula, so frequent in Jeremiah. There is probably then a scriptural error.

[27]Jer 31:39.—Instead of קָוה the Masoretes would read קָו (here as in 1 Ki. 7:23; Zech. 1:16). Although קָו is the usual form, the form קָוֶה (comp. שָׂדֶה) is however not to be discredited.

[28]Jer 31:40.—A word שְׁרֵמָה does not occur, nor is a root שָׁרַם to be found. We are therefore obliged to read with the Masoretes שְׁדֵמוּת. (Comp. Isa. 37:27; 16:8; Hab. 3:17; Deut. 32:32; 2 Ki. 23:4).

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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