Scripture Text – Jeremiah 30-33
These chapters describe the glory of the dawning of a new day for the people of Israel, not only for the exiles in Babylon but also for the Jewish people in the latter days before the Lord returns. Jeremiah’s prophecy comprises both the near and far future.
Reconciliation: A New People
Please read Jeremiah 31:1-30 for the background to this section.
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A nation is more than its land and cities; it’s people living together, working together, and worshiping together. Jeremiah describes the people of God and the new things the Lord would do for them. He first spoke about a united nation, then to Israel, and finally to Judah.
A united people (Jeremiah 31:1, 27-30). Because of the sins of Solomon and the foolishness of his son Rehoboam, the Jewish nation divided and became Israel and Judah, the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom (2 Kings 11–12). But in the last days, the Lord will gather His people, unite them, and be “the God of all the families of Israel.” In fact, God compared Israel and Judah to seed that will be sown in the land and produce one harvest, not two.
Jeremiah’s ministry included breaking down and plucking up as well as building and planting (Jeremiah 1:10); up to this point, it had been primarily the former. In the future, however, God will build and plant so the people and the land could be restored. There would be no more “blaming the fathers” for what happened (Ezekiel 18:1–4, 19–23; Deuteronomy 24:16), for each person will take responsibility for his or her own sins. This principle certainly had application to the remnant that returned to the land after the Captivity, for it was the failure of individuals to obey God that caused the ruin of the nation. If the kings and priests had been like Josiah and Jeremiah, the nation could have been saved.
A restored Israel (Jeremiah 31:2–20). The name “Ephraim” is a reference to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, whose capital was at Samaria. The people of the Northern Kingdom were captured in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians, who brought other peoples into the land so as to produce a mixed race (2 Kings 17). When the people of Judah returned to their land from the Captivity, they would have nothing to do with the Samaritans (Ezra 4:1–4; Nehemiah 2:19–20; 13:28), a practice that persisted into New Testament times (John 4:9). Subsequently, the Samaritans established their own religion, temple, and priesthood, and this alienated the Jews even more.
The promises recorded in this chapter don’t apply to Ephraim/Israel after the Captivity, because the Samaritans weren’t a part of the rebuilding of the land. These promises apply to the scattered Ten Tribes in the end times when God will call the Jews together and restore them to their land. Then there will be one nation, and the Samaritans will worship, not on Mt. Gerizim, but on Mt. Zion (see also John 4:20–24). Jeremiah pictured God summoning His family and gathering His flock, leading them out of the desert into the fruitful garden. Since none of this happened after the Captivity, we can assume it will occur in the end times when Ephraim repents and turns to the Lord. As you read these promises, notice the emphasis on singing, praise, and joy.
Matthew later referred to verses 15–17 (Matthew 2:16–18). Rachel was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and Joseph was the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two leading tribes in the Northern Kingdom (Genesis 30:22–24). Jeremiah heard Rachel weeping at Ramah, where the Jewish prisoners were assembled for their long journey to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1). Her descendants through Joseph had been captured by the Assyrians, and now her descendants through Benjamin (the Southern Kingdom) were going to Babylon. Her labor as a mother had been in vain! (Remember, Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.) But God assured her that both Ephraim and Judah will be restored, and therefore her sacrifices will not have been in vain.
A restored Judah (Jeremiah 31:21–26). On the way to Babylon, God instructed the Jews to remember the roads and set up markers along the route, for the people would use those same roads when they return to their land. Jeremiah pictured Judah as a silly girl, flitting from lover to lover, and now summoned home. (See Jeremiah 2:1–2, 20; 3:1–11.) According to the Law, a daughter who prostituted herself should have been killed (Leviticus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:21), but God would do a new thing: He would welcome her home and forgive her!
The phrase “a woman shall compass a man” literally means “to surround with care, to shield”; it’s used of God’s care for Israel in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 32:10). The word used for “man” literally means “a strong man, a champion,” so the “new thing” God does is make the women so strong that they protect the men! (Keep in mind that this was a strongly masculine society.) In other words, their return won’t be a parade of weak stragglers; they will return like warriors, including the women, who were considered too weak in that day to fight. Picture Israel today and the women who take part in the military now!
This is a picture of that future regathering of the people of Israel in the end times. They will enjoy a renewed land, where the citizens will bless their neighbors in the name of the Lord.
To Be Continued