Chapter 32 of Jeremiah describes his imprisonment. Although we do not learn of the full details of this until chapters 37-38, there is a brief synopsis in verses 1-5 to give the background of this particular oracle. It is placed here, rather than later with chapters 37-38, because the book of Jeremiah is thematically arranged instead of chronologically arranged. In chapters 30-33 we have three oracles concerning God’s future covenant plan with the nation of Israel. So the contents of Jeremiah 32 are placed here because they deal with the everlasting covenant which is directly related to the New Covenant which was described in chapters 30-31.
While Jeremiah was imprisoned, God foretold that a relative of Jeremiah’s would come to him and offer a parcel of land for sale, since he was the next relation in line to be able to purchase it, 32:6-7. This seems contrary for Jeremiah since he has been prophesying in public that the city of Jerusalem will be captured, burned, and destroyed; and further, the city was currently under siege. Why would he buy a parcel of land if what he were prophesying would actually come to pass? When his cousin came as foretold, 32:8, then Jeremiah knew that this was the word of the LORD, or perhaps more accurately, A word FROM the LORD – another oracle. After Jeremiah purchased the land, 32:9-15, his heart was torn. God was revealing to him that, in spite of the coming destruction, land would be bought and sold within the land of Israel.
This seemed to be a contradiction in the mind of Jeremiah. First, he had been prophesying of the destruction of the city, and that quite soon. It wouldn’t be during a future king’s reign, but Zedekiah would be the last king. The current siege would result in Zedekiah being taken captive to Babylon. But God was also prophesying that commerce would continue within Israel. So Jeremiah pours his heart out to God in 32:16-25. Jeremiah rehearses the great acts of God toward the nation of Israel and also recounts Israel’s repeated failures. Then at the end of his prayer, he sums up what he sees as a contradiction. Verse 24 pictures the city under siege about to be destroyed, and verse 25 describes God’s command for Jeremiah to buy the field even though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.
I think it is significant that God begins this section with a well known verse. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” The LORD affirms that Jeremiah has both oracles correct. The destruction will occur, yet God will preserve the future of the nation of Israel. It is not too hard a thing for the LORD to accomplish both of these. Because of the sinfulness of the nation of Israel, God had no choice but to punish the city for the ongoing iniquity. In 32:28-35 God sets forth His case against the nation of Israel as He had done many times in Jeremiah’s prophecies. The LORD tried to give them instruction but they would not receive it. The inhabitants of Jerusalem turned their backs to God time and again. Now they must face the punishment they deserve. Then in 32:36-41, we have the actual oracle of the everlasting covenant.
36 "Now therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
This prophecy has much in common with the oracle of the New Covenant. There is the regathering of the nation of Israel in verse 37, echoed from 31:8-10. There is the covenant relationship between God and the nation of Israel in verse 38, restated from 31:33. Then there is another aspect previously unrevealed. At this time there will be a national unity within the nation of Israel. Previously when we examined the new covenant, we saw that God would write His laws on the hearts of His people. Here it is stated that God will give them one heart and one way. There will be no more division within the nation of Israel. Instead of God working through a remnant within the nation, the entire nation will belong to Him and be completely unified in fear before the LORD. Children will continue to be born within the newly transformed nation of Israel, vs. 39. Yet as these are born, there will not arise children outside of this covenant relationship with the LORD. The nation, including all children yet to be born, will not turn from the LORD. It will be an everlasting covenant relationship between the LORD and the nation of Israel.
Notice verse 41 which ties the theme of the land of Israel back into what Jeremiah was originally praying about. Jeremiah questioned the LORD on why he was buying the parcel of land. The LORD revealed the future of the nation of Israel to Jeremiah by proclaiming a future, everlasting covenant. As that everlasting covenant is inaugurated, it will ensure that the nation of Israel will exist in the very land in which Jeremiah was buying a parcel of land. When the LORD spoke of the new covenant, He affirmed that the nation of Israel would exist before Him forever. Now with the revelation of the everlasting covenant, we see that the nation of Israel will exist before Him forever, and as this is fulfilled, they will exist in the physical land of Israel. The closing verses of 42-44 affirm that it is the physical land which is being spoken of here. When we examine the entire scope of Jeremiah’s covenant revelation, there can be no rewriting the old covenant passages (OT) from a new covenant point of view (NT) to mean only a spiritual land and spiritual people since the new covenant concerns itself with the physical land and a physical people. Sometime in the future, I intend to examine new testament passages to see if any of them warrant reinterpreting the new covenant to mean something different now that the new covenant has been inaugurated in the Messiah’s blood.
I would point out that verse 37 clearly pictures Israel dwelling safely in the promised land. This has not been fulfilled at any point in time. After the 70 year exile, the nation of Israel returned, but not dwelling securely. There was turmoil and oppression. These conditions exist even today. We must let God’s word show us the parallel passages in Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:14-16 which passages undeniably tell of the Messianic Reign. Since Jeremiah 33 is the third oracle in Jeremiah’s covenant revelation, I will be examining that passage shortly. What I point out here is that in no way can we assume that the nation of Israel is currently living under the new covenant arrangement. Jeremiah had foretold that there would be 70 years until Babylon would be punished, 25:11-14; and after the 70 years were fulfilled, then Israel would be brought back from captivity, 29:10-14. But would the new covenant arrangement be instituted at that time?
I believe this was the very issue that Daniel was wrestling with in Daniel 9. Daniel was reading the oracles of Jeremiah. He read how 70 years had to be accomplished. He saw that the Babylonian Empire had been judged**. Now he knew that Israel would return. So he petitioned the LORD for His face to shine upon the sanctuary. The LORD’s response was that 70 more sevens must transpire until all these things would be accomplished. There would be 69 sevens until the death of the Messiah; then one more seven until everlasting righteousness was brought in. The New Covenant was established at Messiah’s death, but the nation of Israel did not enter into that New Covenant relationship with the LORD; therefore the everlasting covenant remains ineffectual for the nation of Israel as a whole. For now, only a remnant participate in the new covenant.
We must remember that the sour grapes teach us individual responsibility within the nation of Israel. While the nation of Israel as a whole will one day entirely participate in the everlasting covenant, it will not be because of a majority rule. When the LORD makes the everlasting covenant with the nation of Israel, it will be because every single individual will then be amalgamated together having one national identity. This will happen at the repentance of the nation of Israel. They will have one heart and one way (one road, one journey). This will be for the good of their children yet to be born after the nation is brought under the new covenant arrangement. The nation will not turn from the LORD after the everlasting covenant is made with them. This remains somewhat of a mystery to me. It is difficult to comprehend, but that does not make it less plausible.
Thus far, I have mostly limited this study to Jeremiah 32. But I would be remiss if I were to neglect two significant references to the everlasting covenant in Isaiah. Isaiah 40-66 was most likely written during the reign of Hezekiah, some 100+ years before Jeremiah received his revelation concerning the everlasting covenant. Isaiah 55:3 and 61:8 should be read in their respective contexts. I would recommend the serious prophecy students to read 54-55 and 60-62 in order to understand the background for the everlasting covenant as found in Isaiah. Briefly summarizing, the everlasting covenant in Isaiah is the nation of Israel experiencing the sure mercies of David, the climactic fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, or the Messianic Reign. The nation of Israel is no longer forsaken and ashamed, but married to the LORD. As the nation of Israel takes that preeminent position upon the earth, the Gentile nations begin to walk in the light of a transformed Jerusalem. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the everlasting covenant of Isaiah is anything different than the everlasting covenant of Jeremiah. They must be one and the same.
Now let’s go one step further (or one step back depending on whether you are starting with new covenant or old covenant). What about the everlasting covenant that the LORD made with Abraham in Genesis 17:7? This was not simply with Abraham, but with the nation of Israel according to Psalm 105:9-10. Remember that Psalm 103-106 is one psalm documenting the covenant plan of God from creation until just before the Davidic covenant. This leads into why I view all the covenants of the Bible summarily as the Covenant Plan of God. Each covenant is related to the others since it is His everlasting covenant plan. Remember that the blood of the Messiah is the blood of the everlasting covenant, Hebrews 13:20. There is a unity in the scriptures that cannot be overlooked.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
** I follow Josephus here in that the first year of Cyrus was also the first year of Darius the Mede known by Josephus as Darius the son of Astyages. When Daniel had the vision of Daniel 9, the kingdom had just changed hands. Darius was ruling one portion in his first year, while Cyrus was ruling another portion in his first year.