Jeremiah 31 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Jeremiah 31)

Verse 2

[2] Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.

To rest — In Canaan.

Verse 5

[5] Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things.

Samaria — Samaria was the metropolis of the ten tribes. Mountains are convenient for vineyards, being free from shades and exposed to the sun.

Shall plant — God promises them a liberty to plant, and that they should enjoy their plantations, eating them as common things, which they could not do 'till the fifth year.

Verse 6

[6] For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.

Arise — This was fulfilled under the gospel; for both Galilee and Samaria received the gospel.

Verse 9

[9] They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

With weeping — Some think that it had been better translated, they went weeping; for though the verb be the future tense in the Hebrew, yet that tense has often the signification of the preterperfect tense, thus it answereth, Psalms 126:5,6. He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shalt doubtless come again rejoicing. There is a weeping for joy, as well as for sorrow, and thus the text corresponds with that, Zechariah 12:10. I will pour upon them the spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn.

By rivers — And they shall have no want as they had when they came out of Egypt, through the wilderness, where they often wanted water.

Verse 11

[11] For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.

Hath redeemed — God will as certainly do it, as if he had already done it. In their deliverance as well from Babylon as Egypt, they were types of the deliverance of God's people, by Christ; as well as in their entering into Canaan, they were types of the saints, entering into heaven.

Verse 12

[12] Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.

And sing — All the phrases in this verse signify one thing, the happy state of the Jews, after their return from captivity. The height of Zion means the temple.

A watered garden — They shall be a beautiful, flourishing, and growing people. Soul seems here to be taken for the whole man.

Not sorrow — In that manner they have been. But under these expressions is also promised the spiritual joy which the true Israel of God will have under the gospel, and the eternal joy they shall have in heaven.

Verse 15

[15] Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

In Ramah — That is, in Canaan, and particularly in Ramah, where Nebuzar-adan, chap. 40:1, disposed of the prisoners he had taken, setting some at liberty, ordering others to death, and carrying the rest away to Babylon, which caused a bitter weeping and lamentation.

Rachel — Rachel is here brought in, having been buried near that place, as if she were risen up from the grave, and lamented the Jewish nation which came out of her loins (for so Benjamin did, which was one of the two tribes that made the kingdom of Judah.) Were not - Because her children either were not absolutely, being slain by the pestilence, the famine, and the sword of the king of Babylon, or were no longer her children, being transplanted into Babylon. And there was a lamentation like this, when Herod caused the infants of two years old to be slain in Bethlehem, and in the coasts round about Bethlehem, of which Ramah was one.

Verse 18

[18] I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.

I have heard — The prophet here shews the change that would be wrought in the hearts of the Israelites preceding this return from their captivity.

As a bullock — Which ordinarily are very unruly when they are first put into it.

Verse 19

[19] Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.

Surely — After God had changed our hearts, we repented.

I smote — After God had instructed us, by his prophets, by our afflictions, and by his Holy Spirit, we smote upon our thighs in testimony of our sorrow.

The reproach — The just punishment of the sins which I had long ago committed.

Verse 20

[20] Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.

For since — From the time I spake against him by my threatenings, I remember him with the affection and compassion of a father.

Verse 21

[21] Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.

Set up — Thou shalt return to these cities which thou now leavest, therefore take good notice of the way, set up marks by which thou mayest know it again, make thee pillars or some high heaps of stones in the way, mind well the way that the Assyrians and the Babylonians carried thee, for thou shalt come back the same way.

Verse 22

[22] How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.

Backsliding — Running after idols; or seeking help from foreign nations, instead of applying to God.

A woman — This seems to be a promise of the Jewish church in its time, and of the gospel-church, prevailing over all its enemies; though, considering the fewness of the church's members, with the multitude of its enemies, and their power, it seemed as strange a thing, as for a woman to prevail against a strong and mighty man.

Verse 23

[23] Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.

The Lord of hosts — These prophecies of the restoration of the Jews, are ordinarily prefaced with these two attributes of God, the one of which asserts his power to do the thing promised; the other his goodness to his people.

Verse 25

[25] For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.

For — The words are a promise, that God would give his people abundance of ease and plenty.

Verse 26

[26] Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.

Upon this I awaked — Probably this revelation was made to Jeremiah, in a dream.

Verse 27

[27] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.

I will sow — That is, I will exceedingly multiply them, both with men and with cattle.

Verse 31

[31] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Behold — And not only with the Jews, but all those who should be ingrafted into that Olive. It is not called the new covenant, because it was as to the substance new, for it was made with Abraham, Genesis 17:7, and with the Jews, Deuteronomy 26:17,18, but because it was revealed after a new manner, more fully and particularly, plainly and clearly. Nor was the ceremonial law any part of it, as it was to the Jews, a strict observance of that. It was likewise new in regard of the efficacy of the spirit attending it, in a much fuller and larger manner.

Verse 32

[32] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

Not according — The covenant which God made with the Jews when they came out of the land of Egypt, was on God's part the law which he gave them, with the promises annexed; on their part (which made it a formal covenant) their promise of obedience to it.

Verse 33

[33] But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

With — That is, with those who are Jews inwardly.

And write it — The prophet's design is here to express the difference betwixt the law and the gospel. The first shews duty, the latter brings the grace of regeneration, by which the heart is changed, and enabled for duty. All under the time of the law that came to salvation, were saved by this new covenant; but this was not evidently exhibited; neither was the regenerating grace of God so common under the time of the law, as it hath been under the gospel.

Verse 34

[34] And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

I will forgive — God makes the root of all this grace to be the free pardon, and the remission of their sins.

Verse 36

[36] If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

Those ordinances — The ordinances of nature, which are God's establishments for the working of natural causes in their order.

Verse 37

[37] Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.

I will cast off — That is, I will never cast off all the seed of Israel.

Verse 38

[38] Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner.

The city — Shall be built round, as largely as ever.

Verse 39

[39] And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.

The line — That is, it shall be built round about upon its old foundations.

Verse 40

[40] And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.

The valley — A valley, so called from the multitude of Sennacherib's army slain there.

Of the ashes — So called from the ashes of the sacrifices carried thither.

Holy — All these places shall be parts of the holy city, and God's name shall be sanctified, and he shall be worshipped in them all.

For ever — If we interpret the word for ever of a perpetuity, the church of God must here be understood, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.