John T. Willis

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I have loved you with an everlasting love--Jeremiah 30:18-31:14

As we continue our journey through Jeremiah, in the hope oracles in Jeremiah 30-33, Jeremiah 30:18-31:14 relate three hope oracles. The ideas in this section are quite similar to the ideas in Jeremiah 30:1-17. [Consult the previous blog on the Book of Jeremiah]. Note that these hope oracles describe Yahweh as "father" and "shepherd."

I. Yahweh will restore the fortunes of his exiled people. Jeremiah 30:18-22.
a. Yahweh promises he will restore the fortunes of Jacob=Israel, have compassion on his dwellings, rebuild the city [probably Jerusalem], and set the citadel on its rightful site. God's people will be thankful and joyful. 30:18-19.
b. Yahweh will also punish all who oppress his people, and establish a "prince" or "ruler" among God's people. This prince or ruler is probably Zerubbabel. The penitent exiles will be God's people, and they will be their God. 30:20-22.

II. Yahweh promises he will restore the exiles to the land of Canaan. Jeremiah 30:23-31:9.
a. Like several other hope oracles, this oracle begins with a doom announcement. "The storm of the Lord" is approaching, a declaration which originally occurred shortly before the fall of Judah in 587 BCE. 30:23-24 is identical with 23:19-20. There are many doublets throughout the Book of Jeremiah. Yahweh's "wrath," Yahweh's "fierce anger" will take place UNTIL Yahweh has carried out his purposes. "In the latter days," a common term in the Hebrew Bible for the unknown future, the readers will understand what Yahweh is doing. 30:23-24.
b. "At that time," Yahweh will re-unite all his people and they shall be Yahweh's people. See 30:22. Those who have survived the "sword" of the Babylonians have found "grace." Prior to this, the people felt Yahweh was "far away." But Yahweh reassures them:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
The fundamental message of the Hebrew Bible, in fact, the entire Bible, is God's steadfast love and faithfulness. 31:1-3.
c. Yahweh announces to the Judean exiles in Babylon that he will BUILD his people, make them merry, they shall PLANT vineyards on the mountains of Samaria, and sentinels or watchmen will call everyone to go up to Zion, to Yahweh. 31:4-6.
d. Yahweh through Jeremiah to call on his hearers: "Save, O Yahweh, the remnant of Israel." Yahweh promises that he will bring his penitent people "from the land of the north"=Babylon [see Jeremiah 1:13-16; 25:8-9]: the blind and the lame, women who are about to give birth to children, to return to the land of Canaan. Yahweh will let them walk by brooks of water in a straight path, because Yahweh is their FATHER to Israel, and Ephraim=Israel is Yahweh's firstborn. A common metaphor of God throughout the Hebrew Bible is "father." See Exodus 4:21-23; Psalm 103:13. 31:7-9.

III. Yahweh summons the nations to declare that Yahweh is about to gather his scattered people from foreign nations to be reunited in the land of Canaan. Jeremiah 31:10-14.
a. Jeremiah summons the nations to hear Yahweh's message. Yahweh had formerly "scattered Israel" because of her sins. But now, Yahweh will "gather" Israel "as a SHEPHERD [gathers] a flock" of sheep. 31:10.
b. Yahweh has "ransomed," "redeemed" Jacob=Israel from the Babylonians, who were too strong for God's people. Consequently, God's people will come and rejoice over Zion because of God's blessings of "the grain, the wine, and the oil," the three common terms for plenty (see for example, Hosea 2:8; Joel 1:10; 2:19, 24; Haggai 1:11. Young men and women will rejoice. Yahweh will give the priests his blessings and will satisfy Yahweh's bounty. 31:11-14.

The promises of these hope oracles are the same as those announced in Jeremiah
30:1-17. As already announced, in the next two blogs on Jeremiah, we will discuss the question of How the New Testament uses the Old Testament in preparation for studying the rest of Jeremiah 31 [namely 31:15-40].

Share YOUR aspirations and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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