The Book of JEREMIAH
James J. Barker
HE THAT SCATTERED ISRAEL WILL GATHER HIM
- Jeremiah chapter 31 continues the theme of chapter 30 -- the restoration of Israel during the millennial kingdom (31:33).
- We saw in chapter 30 that these prophecies look beyond the return from Babylon. Israel and Judah will be reunited and restored (cf. 30:3; 31: 31). Jeremiah 31:1 refers to "all the families of Israel."
- This chapter deals with restoration, rebuilding, renovation, replanting, repentance, reconciliation, redemption, and regeneration.
IN THE LAST DAYS ISRAEL WILL BE RESTORED
- It is by God's grace that Israel will be restored (31:2).
- It is the LORD'S loving-kindness that will draw their hearts to Himself (31:3). H.A. Ironside said, "Having once set His affections upon them, He will never give them up" (Jeremiah and Lamentations).
- And it is the LORD'S loving-kindness that draws our hearts to God.
- First John 4:10 says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
- Israel will be rebuilt when the Lord returns (31:4; 33:7).
- There was little to make the exiles merry when they were in Babylon (cf. Psalm 137:1-7). But when Israel is restored and rebuilt, they shall dance and make merry (Jer. 31:4, 5; cf. 30:18, 19).
- "And they shall not sorrow any more at all" (31:12b; cf. 31:13).
- Jerusalem will once again the capital of the reunited nation of Israel, and the capital of the whole world (31:6).
- Many Jews will die during the coming tribulation. That is why Jeremiah 30:7 refers to it as "the time of Jacob's trouble."
- Zechariah 13:8 says two thirds of the people shall be cut off and die, "but the third shall be left therein." The one third is the "remnant of Israel" (Jer. 31:7b).
- This is what Romans 11:26 means -- "And so all Israel shall be saved." A remnant will survive the tribulation and will be restored.
- Jeremiah 31:8 describes the regathering of Israel from their present world-wide "Diaspora" (dispersion). "They shall come with weeping" (31:9), i.e., weeping in repentance over their sin of rejecting their Messiah.
- Zechariah 12:10 says, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
- H.A. Ironside said, "As a Father, often grieved but loving still, He will rejoice over them when once more they ask the way to Zion."
- “He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock” (31:10). This is not a temporary restoration, but a prophecy assuring the final and complete restoration of Israel during the millennial kingdom.
IN THE LAST DAYS ISRAEL WILL BE REDEEMED (31:11).
- “For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he” (31:11).
- Since these prophecies are looking beyond the Babylonian captivity, "him that was stronger" refers to the antichrist.
- Verses 12, 13, and 14 refer to the singing and dancing and rejoicing that will take place when Israel is restored and redeemed during the millennial kingdom (cf. 31:4).
- Isaiah 61:3 says, "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness..."
- Chapters 30 and 31 not only deal with the millennial kingdom, but also with the tribulation period ("the time of Jacob's trouble" -- Jer. 30:7) and which will precede it.
- In verses 15-17, the tribulation period is once again referred to. Ramah was about five miles north of Jerusalem. Rachel's lamentation and bitter weeping foreshadowed the chastenings of Israel down through the centuries.
- Merrill Unger says the bitter weeping foreshadow "the chastenings of Israel through the centuries at the hands of her Gentile overlords and tyrants (cf. Matthew 2:17, 18), culminating in the cruelties of the Antichrist in the nation's final time of supreme Tribulation preceding establishment of the Kingdom" (Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament).
- The Holy Spirit applies these words to the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem, under Herod’s cruel edict to kill all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under.
- H.A. Ironside says, "This twofold application of prophecy is very common in Scripture, as witness Peter’s citation from the prophet Joel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The words will have a fuller performance in the last days in connection with the ushering in of the kingdom" (Jeremiah and Lamentations).
- Another example is Hosea 11:1. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." This verse refers to Israel's deliverance from Egypt, and Matthew 2:15 applies it to Jesus and his parents leaving Egypt after the death of Herod.
IN THE LAST DAYS ISRAEL WILL BE REPENTANT
- From verses 18 to 21 the repentance of the ten tribes (Ephraim) is vividly described (cf. 31:9). In the Old Testament, Ephraim is often used to represent the ten northern tribes (31:6, 9, 18, 20).
- Israel's backsliding is referred to frequently throughout the book of Jeremiah (cf. 31:22). Hosea had declared that “Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer” (Hosea 4:16).
- In Jeremiah 31:18, a repentant Israel turns from its backsliding and says to the LORD, "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God."
- Smiting on the thigh (31:19) is an expression symbolizing grief and shame over their sin. The expression is also found in Ezekiel 21:12.
- Jeremiah 31 begins with God's grace (31:2), and God's grace is seen throughout the entire chapter. Here in verse 20, the LORD graciously says, "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD."
- In Jeremiah 31:21, the LORD tells Israel to, "Set thee up waymarks (signposts), make thee high heaps (landmarks): set thine heart toward the highway..." In other words, prepare for your journey home from exile.
- Some Bible teachers believe that verse 22 predicts the virgin birth of Christ. This seems unlikely for many reasons. Isaiah 7:14 is very clear -- "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
- But Jeremiah 31:22 is not clear at all. Furthermore, Matthew 1:23 refers to Isaiah's prophecy, but Jeremiah 31:22 is not mentioned in the New Testament.
- “How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man” (verse 22).
- The "virgin" in Jeremiah 31 is the nation Israel (cf. 31:4, 13, 21). The word "compass" (surround) has nothing to do with the conception of a child.
- Warren Wiersbe says, "It's possible that the statement is a Jewish proverb for an amazing and unthinkable thing" (The Bible Exposition Commentary).
- H.A. Ironside said the virgin birth interpretation "seems to be quite unwarranted and dubiously fanciful" (Jeremiah and Lamentations).
- The woman referred to is the virgin of Israel of the preceding verse (31:21). Ironside said, "Israel, weak as a woman, shall compass, or overcome, the power of the nations. This would harmonize with the context. The verse is confessedly difficult and the meaning obscure."
- Jerusalem could not have been referred to as the “habitation of justice and the mountain of holiness” (31:23b) in Jeremiah's day or in any day since Jeremiah's prophecy, but it will describe Jerusalem in the millennium.
- The Jews will be brought back to their land and these prophecies will be literally fulfilled (31:23-25). They are not being fulfilled today because the Jews are returning to the land, but they are not returning to the Lord (cf. 30:22).
- Jeremiah had been sleeping while these visions of the future restoration of Israel was unfolded to him (31:26). The LORD will repopulate the land of Israel with both men and beasts (31:27).
- After plucking up and breaking down, and throwing down and destroying, and afflicting, the LORD will watch over them to build, and to plant (31:28; cf. 1:10).
- Jeremiah refers to a proverbial saying in verses 29 and 30 -- "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge."
- Ezekiel 18 tells us that this saying had become a common one among the people of Judah. Ironside says, "Blind to their own sins, they attributed their misfortunes to the Lord’s anger because of the evil doings of their fathers. This was far from being the case, as both Ezekiel and Jeremiah testify. Their own sins had drawn down condign judgment. They had eaten the sour grapes, therefore were their teeth set on edge" (Jeremiah and Lamentations).
- Ezekiel 18:4 and 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The restoration of Israel will begin when they confess their sin and get right with God.