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2. The restoration of Judah and Jerusalem chs. 32-33
The second part of the Book of Consolation (chs. 30-33) is entirely prose material, not mainly poetry as were chapters 30-31. It describes conditions just before the fall of Jerusalem, not conditions quite a while before then (chs. 30-31). And it deals mainly with the future restoration of Judah and Jerusalem, not primarily that of the Northern Kingdom (chs. 30-31).
A challenge to Jeremiah’s faith ch. 32
All of chapter 32 centers around one event in Jeremiah’s life. By this time he had given many prophecies about the restoration of Israel to her land. Something happened that challenged his faith in those promises. This chapter records what happened and how the prophet responded.
A message came to the prophet from the Lord about 587 B.C., the year before Jerusalem fell.
Jeremiah’s purchase of land 32:1-15
This was another of Jeremiah’s symbolic acts (cf. Jeremiah 16:1-4; Jeremiah 18:1-12; Jeremiah 19:1-2; Jeremiah 19:10-11; Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 28:17; Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 51:59-64).
Jerusalem was then under siege by the Babylonians, and Jeremiah was imprisoned in the court of the guard somewhere in the king’s palace complex. This appears to have been a guarded yard similar to a modern prison yard. Chapters 37-38 provide more historical background.
King Zedekiah had imprisoned Jeremiah for preaching, in the Lord’s name, that Yahweh was about to turn Jerusalem over to Nebuchadnezzar who would take possession of it. Zedekiah would not escape, Jeremiah had said, but would face Nebuchadnezzar who would take him captive to Babylon (cf. 2 Kings 25:4-7). There he would remain until the Lord visited him, evidently with death. Jeremiah had preached that fighting against the Chaldeans would be fruitless, which sounded like treason.
The Lord told Jeremiah that his cousin Hanamel would offer to sell him a field in Anathoth, Jeremiah’s hometown, just a few miles northeast of Jerusalem. [Note: Hanamel’s name does not appear elsewhere in the Old Testament.] Jeremiah had the right to buy it according to the laws of redemption (Leviticus 25:25-31; cf. Ruth 4:1-12).
Sure enough, Hanamel visited his cousin in prison and made Jeremiah the offer, confirming the Lord’s message. Hanamel probably wanted to sell his property before he left the land as an exile. The handwriting was on the wall and he could read the signs of the times. To try to sell a piece of confiscated property to a relative in prison reflects insensitivity at best and total contempt at worst. He was offering to sell Jeremiah a piece of the battlefield! Perhaps Hanamel was one of those kinsmen that the Lord told Jeremiah would hate him (cf. Jeremiah 11:19-23; Jeremiah 12:6).
". . . was there ever a more insensitive prison-visitor?" [Note: Kidner, p. 112.]
This offer constituted a test of Jeremiah’s faith in the promises of restoration, that the Lord had given him, and an opportunity to give witness to that faith. Anathoth was already in Babylonian hands when Jerusalem was under siege. Imagine being offered property to buy that you could not take possession of, or had no hope of ever using!
Jeremiah bought the field for 17 shekels (about seven ounces) of silver. Since we do not know the size of the field or anything else about its condition, we cannot tell if this was a fair price. Jeremiah signed and sealed the deed with witnesses and exchanged the money with his cousin. This would have been viewed as a very foolish thing to do since the Babylonians had taken possession of all the land around Jerusalem by this time.
"Since the early, doubt-ridden days [Jeremiah 15:18; Jeremiah 20:7] he has learnt, and still teaches the rest of us, to recognize the hidden hand of God in what befalls him, from whatever human quarter it may arise." [Note: Ibid.]
Then Jeremiah gave the original purchase document and a copy of it to Baruch ("Blessed") in the sight of all the people who were present. Archaeologists have unearthed similar duplicate deeds in the ancient Near East, one sealed and the other unsealed. [Note: See Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 141.]
Jeremiah instructed Baruch to store the documents in an earthenware jar, so they would last a long time. These jars were undoubtedly similar to the ones in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved and discovered two millennia later, still in fairly good condition. The jars were usually sealed with pitch. The Lord had revealed to Jeremiah that the Israelites would again buy and sell land in Judah. In spite of the imminent captivity, they would return to the land and resume life as usual eventually.
Shortly after Jeremiah gave Baruch the purchase deed, he prayed to the Lord.
Jeremiah’s prayer 32:16-25
The prayer begins with a long ascription of praise to Yahweh (Jeremiah 32:17-23), and concludes by expressing incredulity that the Lord had commanded His servant to buy the land in Anathoth (Jeremiah 32:24-25; cf. Nehemiah 9:6-37; Daniel 9:4-19). [Note: This prayer and the ones in Nehemiah 9 and Daniel 9 are similar in that they all contain praise, confession, and lament.]
Citing God’s creation of the cosmos as evidence that nothing was too difficult for Him, Jeremiah acknowledged God’s extreme covenant loyalty and the justice of His punishment of Judah. Not even restoring Israel to her land and making the property in Anathoth valuable to the Israelites again was too difficult for Yahweh, Jeremiah believed.
God is wise and strong, fully aware of all that happens, and just in giving everyone what he or she deserves. This is a classic statement of how God judges: according to people’s deeds, what they really do rather than what they intend or promise to do. The basis of divine judgment is human works (cf. John 6:27-29; Revelation 22:12).
Yahweh had established His reputation of being powerful in the Exodus, both among the Israelites and among all people.
He had given the Israelites the good land of promise, as He had sworn to the patriarchs.
The Israelites had taken possession of the land but had not obeyed the Lord: whether in spoken messages from prophets, or in the written Torah (instruction). Consequently all the calamities that the Israelites were facing had come upon them.
Calamity had culminated in the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian soldiers. They were about to capture the city, in fulfillment of what the Lord had warned His people about, but He was fully aware of present conditions.
Yet the Lord had commanded Jeremiah to buy the field in Anathoth-even though the Chaldeans were ready to take Jerusalem!
Though Jeremiah did not ask for an explanation of the Lord’s directions to him, that is the point of his prayer. He wanted an explanation for this unusual command. Did he have second thoughts after purchasing the property, did his faith waver, or was his prayer an expression of his faith?
"It is a fine example of the way to pray in a desperate situation: concentrating first on the creative power (17) and perfect fidelity and justice (18-19) of God; remembering next his great redemptive acts (20-23a; to which the Christian can now add the greatest of them all)-and then with this background, laying before God the guilt of the past (23b), the hard facts of the present (24) and the riddle of the future (25)." [Note: Kidner, p. 113.]
The Lord began His reply by affirming His universal deity and the fact that indeed nothing is too difficult for Him (cf. Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37). By restating Jeremiah’s statement back to him as a question, the Lord was asking if he really believed it (Jeremiah 32:17).
Yahweh’s reply to Jeremiah’s prayer 32:26-44
The Lord’s response to the prophet’s prayer assured him that He would indeed restore Israel to her land. Jeremiah had not made a mistake in buying the property.
He explained that He was about to turn over Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, who would burn all the places where the people had practiced idolatry, namely, throughout the city.
The Lord would do this because ever since the Israelites had built Jerusalem, all of them had been practicing idolatry there. Solomon completed building the city, and he was the first of Israel’s kings to practice idolatry.
The people had turned away from the Lord rather than seeking Him.
They had defiled the temple precincts by placing images of idols there, and had built places of worship for Baal in the Hinnom Valley. They had even practiced child sacrifice there, something that Yahweh had not even imagined, let alone commanded. The Lord’s disclaimer hints that some of the people may have been claiming that child sacrifice fulfilled His law. [Note: Scalise, p. 159.]
Nevertheless the Lord promised to bring His people back into the land from which He was about to drive them. He would make them dwell securely in the same city He was about to hand over to their enemy-rebuilt.
He would reestablish a covenant relationship with them, give them all a faithful heart, and they would then always fear Him (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). The result would be blessing for them and for their descendants. His (new) covenant with them would be everlasting, a promise not mentioned in the New Covenant passage in the preceding chapter (cf. Ezekiel 36:24-32). He would always do them good, and they would always reverence Him, not just know Him (Jeremiah 31:34).
It would please Him to bless them, and He would wholeheartedly return them to the land in faithfulness to His promise.
As surely as He had brought calamity on them, He would bring this blessing.
The land that then lay desolate would again see the buying and selling of property, as Jeremiah had just done. This would be true of the whole land that was then under siege-all of Judah. Yahweh would restore the fortunes of His people.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 32". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20