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FRAMEWORKS: Jeremiah 31: The Hope of Restoration explained


[Preliminary Comment: Where the previous chapter brought new hope, this chapter continues and expands on it in great measure: this restoration covers not only Judah BUT ALSO Israel, the northern kingdom. Watch for the references to ‘Israel' and the wider people more than just Judah.

There is a new relationship with God [v.1] with the survivors [v.2], the Lord's love for His people of old bringing a sure, joyful restoration [v.3-7], His people will be gathered back in their land [v.8-9] so the world will know [v.10-11] and there will be great rejoicing [v.12-14]. While there is present weeping [v.15] it will be turned to joy [v.16]. As the chapter continues watch for the increasing use of descriptions that must include more than just Judah but also the northern kingdom, often using the shorthand, Ephraim – see below.]



v.1 The link with the previous chapter

v.1  ‘At that time,' declares the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.'


v.2 There is yet hope for the survivors

v.2  This is what the Lord says:

‘The people who survive the sword
    will find favour in the wilderness;
    I will come to give rest to Israel.'


v.3-6 Reiteration of the hope of restoration

v.3  The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
v.4  I will build you up again,
    and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your tambourines
    and go out to dance with the joyful.
v.5  Again you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
    and enjoy their fruit.
v.6  There will be a day when watchmen cry out
    on the hills of Ephraim,
“Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.”'


v.7 Sing and praise God for what is coming

v.7  This is what the Lord says:

‘Sing with joy for Jacob;
    shout for the foremost of the nations.
Make your praises heard, and say,
    “ Lord , save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.”

v.8,9 His people WILL be brought back to their land

v.8  See, I will bring them from the land of the north
    and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
    expectant mothers and women in labour;
    a great throng will return.
v.9  They will come with weeping;
    they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
    on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel's father,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn son.


[Comment: Ephraim, the land just north of Judah and Benjamin, may be the symbolic name for the northern kingdom, that was separated off after Solomon, and never recovered spiritually until eventually taken into captivity. Here the Lord is reiterating they are still His people on His heart.]



v.10,11 Tell the world, the Lord WILL redeem His people

v.10  ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you nations;
    proclaim it in distant coastlands:
“He who scattered Israel will gather them
    and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.”
v.11  For the Lord will deliver Jacob
    and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

v.12-14 They will rejoice in their return and the abundance of blessing

v.12  They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
    they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord  –
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
    the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
    and they will sorrow no more.
v.13  Then young women will dance and be glad,
    young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
    I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
v.14  I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
    and my people will be filled with my bounty,'
declares the Lord.


v.15 Yes, is weeping over past and present

v.15  This is what the Lord says:

‘A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.'


[Comments: Ramah [some five miles north of Jerusalem] was associated with grief because it was where Jacob's most-loved wife, Rachel, probably died and was buried. It is also on the path of the invader making his way to Jerusalem from the north, but also – coming – the path of the exiles from the north returning to Jerusalem.]



v.16,17 The weeping will be ended when the people return to Jerusalem from the north

v.16  This is what the Lord says:

‘Restrain your voice from weeping
    and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,'
declares the Lord.
    ‘They will return from the land of the enemy.
v.17  So there is hope for your descendants,'
declares the Lord.
    ‘Your children will return to their own land.


v.18,19 The land had been [will be] ‘disciplined', but will repent

v.18  ‘I have surely heard Ephraim's [just north of Benjamin and Judah] moaning:
    “You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
    and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
    because you are the Lord my God.
v.19  After I strayed,
    I repented;
after I came to understand,
    I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
    because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”

v.20 Yet although exiled, still loved by God, part of ‘Israel'

v.20  Is not Ephraim my dear son,
    the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
    I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I have great compassion for him,'
declares the Lord.


v.21 Put up signs showing them the way back

v.21  ‘Set up road signs;
    put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway,
    the road that you take.
Return, Virgin Israel,
    return to your towns.

v.22 So wander no longer, get ready to come back

v.22  How long will you wander,
    unfaithful Daughter Israel?
The Lord will create a new thing on earth –
    the woman will return to the man.'


[Comment: Commentators speculate over the last line. In prophecy the Lord often referred to Himself as Israel's husband. Maybe this is a simple prophetic reference to the whole of Israel eventually returning to their Lord.]



v.23-26 A vision? The restoration of the land, its cities and its people will be complete

v.23  This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: “The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.”

v.24  People will live together in Judah and all its towns – farmers and those who move about with their flocks.

v.25  I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.'

v.26  At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.


v.27,28 Both northern and southern kingdoms will return

v.27  ‘The days are coming,' declares the Lord , ‘when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals.

v.28  Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,' declares the Lord.


v.29,30 No longer will children suffer because of the sin of their parents

v.29  ‘In those days people will no longer say,

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children's teeth are set on edge.”

v.30  Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes – their own teeth will be set on edge.


v.31.32 A New Covenant is announced

v.31  ‘The days are coming,' declares the Lord,
    ‘when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
v.32  It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,'
declares the Lord.

v.33 The Law will be in the heart

v.33  ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,' declares the Lord.
‘I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

v.34 God will be the Teacher of each person

v.34  No longer will they teach their neighbour,
    or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,'
declares the Lord.
‘For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.'


v.35 This is the all-mighty Creator God who declares this

v.35  This is what the Lord says,

he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar –
    the Lord Almighty is his name:

v.36,37 This is my guarantee my people Israel will never cease

v.36  ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,'
    declares the Lord,
‘will Israel ever cease
    being a nation before me.'

v.37  This is what the Lord says:

‘Only if the heavens above can be measured
    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
    because of all they have done,'
declares the Lord.


v.38-40 Know that Jerusalem WILL be rebuilt [after the coming destruction]

v.38  ‘The days are coming,' declares the Lord, ‘when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.

v.39  The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah.

v.40  The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.'



Continue to Chapter 32