John T. Willis

Friday, June 03, 2011

Yahweh's New Covenant to Remarry his two wives Israel and Judah into one people--Jeremiah 31:31-40

The next two hope oracles in Jeremiah 30-33 appear in Jeremiah 31:31-40. These two oracles announce Yahweh's promises already stated in Jeremiah 30:1-31:29. This blog contains a brief discussion of the two oracles in Jeremiah 31:31-40.

I. Yahweh will soon remarry his unfaithful wives North Israel and South Judah. Jeremiah 31:31-37.
a. Yahweh declares he will make a NEW COVENANT. This "new covenant" clearly stands in bold contrast to the following reminder that Yahweh had made a former covenant with his people when he brought them out of Egypt--see Exodus 4:21-23; Hosea 2:14-15. 31:31-32.
b. North Israel and South Judah had "broken" that covenant. The word "covenant" CAN mean a CONTRACT negotiated by two people or groups of people. This is CLEARLY NOT the idea in Jeremiah 31:32, BECAUSE Yahweh remarks: "though I was THEIR HUSBAND."
As in several biblical texts, a "covenant" is a relationship, in this case, a marriage relationship. The word "covenant" appears with this idea in Malachi
2:13-14; Hosea 2:18-20; Ezekiel 16:8-9. Yahweh married Israel at the exodus from Egypt in the time of Moses, Israel became unfaithful to God in the land of Canaan to forsake Yahweh to worship Baal and other gods and make alliances with other nations, Yahweh divorced Israel by bringing the Assyrians to overthrow North Israel in 721 BCE and by bringing the Babylonians to overthrow Judah in 587 BCE. NOW, Yahweh declares that he will rewoo and remarry his former unfaithful wife. 31:31-32.
c. Jeremiah 31:31-37 picks up and continues the biblical account in 3:6-11. Earlier, in 721 and 587 BCE, Yahweh DIVORCED his two wives North Israel through the Assyrians and South Judah through the Babylonians, according to Jeremiah 3:6-11, but NOW Yahweh will remarry his TWO WIVES, "the house of Israel and the house of Judah," as Jeremiah 31:31 clearly announces. This announcement pertains to the return of the penitent, faithful Israelites exiles from Babylon to the land of Canaan to rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel and Joshua, restore the law under Ezra, and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem from 536 to 445 BCE. 31:31-32.
d. Yahweh SPECIFICALLY emphasizes FOUR aspects of the future "covenant" between Yahweh and his people North Israel and Judah.
1. Yahweh will put his law within his people, and will write it on their hearts. 31:33a-b. This is EXACTLY the same thing that Yahweh did when he gave his people the law at Mount Sinai in the days of Moses--Deuteronomy 6:6; 11:18.
2. Yahweh will be their God and they shall be God's people. 31:33c. This is EXACTLY the same thing Yahweh did when he entered into his marital relationship with his chosen people--Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 7:6; 27:9-10.
3. Yahweh declares that all those who turn to him will KNOW him. 31:34a-b. The word "know" here is NOT an intellectual concept here and usually throughout the Bible. The word "know" means a spiritual concept. "Know" means "enter into and sustain an intimate, daily, personal relationship with" another person. This is a marital term. Adam "knew" Eve his wife--Genesis 4:1. This certainly does not mean that Adam intellectually "knew" 450 facts ABOUT Eve. On the contrary. This means that Adam had an intimate, daily, personal relationship with his wife Eve. Jeremiah uses this word often in this sense, as emphasized in several previous blogs. See for example Jeremiah 9:6; 22:16.
4. Yahweh assures his penitent people that he will FORGIVE their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. 31:34c-d. This is EXACTLY what God did for his people when they repented and returned to Yahweh--Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:19-20; Psalms 51; 103:3.
e. That which is NEW in the "covenant" which Yahweh announces in Jeremiah 31:31 is NOT a different set of promises or commandments from God, but a different, future relationship from the past from a divorce between Yahweh and his sinful people and his chosen people Israel to a restoration of God's people in the land of Canaan.
f. The author of Hebrews quotes and gives a different slant on the meaning of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Hebrews 8:8-13; 10:16-18. As studied previously, this again raises the question of HOW the author of Hebrews uses Jeremiah. It is helpful to recall that Hebrews 1:5 "re-applies" 2 Samuel 7:14 to refer to Jesus Christ at the right hand of God after his resurrection rather than to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:6-10; 28:3-6. The author of Hebrews is not using the Old Testament as a literal one-to-one prediction-fulfillment, but he is using the texts in Jeremiah as a midrash or possibly typologically or allegorically.
g. Yahweh explains clearly that Yahweh's presence and restoration of his marital relationship with his wife Israel in the future is as sure as the "fixed order" of t he heavens and the earth. 31:35-37.

II. Yahweh promises that he will restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Jeremiah 31:38-40.
a. Yahweh solemnly promises the dejected Israelite exiles in Babylon that he will REBUILD the city of Jerusalem "from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate to the hill Gareb and shall then turn to Goah." 31:38-39. Historically, this occurs in the days of Nehemiah--Nehemiah 1-12.
b. Yahweh will make sacred or holy the regions of Jerusalem in which the Babylonians earlier slaughtered many people, and declares that Jerusalem "shall never again be uprooted or overthrown." 31:40. Here again, Jeremiah uses the familiar terms of "uproot" and "overthrow"--Jeremiah 1:10; 12:17; 18:7; 24:6; 31:28.

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

John Willis


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