Jeremiah 31


This is one of the most significant chapters in the whole of the Old Testament. God revealed these wonders to Jeremiah. The first part of this chapter is a promise to Ephraim, in the Northern Kingdom, that they will return to the favour of the Lord. Jeremiah 31:2-22. And the next big portion of this chapter refers to the return of the Southern Kingdom to God’s favour.

Coffman says, ‘It is impossible to construe those verses, Jeremiah 31:2-26, literally, because nothing even remotely resembling these predictions ever occurred in historical racial Israel. The Northern tribe were never restored to ‘their land.’ They were never united with Southern Israel. They never repented. They never returned to the literal Jerusalem to worship God.’

We do know that a few of the people from the Northern tribe returned. Anna, for instance, in the New Testament, Luke 2:36, was of the tribe of Asher. Most scholars believe that every one of the beautiful blessings mentioned in this chapter refers to a future spiritual reality, that is, the introduction of the New Covenant.

‘At that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.’ Jeremiah 31:1

The first three words, ‘At the time’, link the promises to the remnant, and expand it. The time span will be from the return to the Redeemer.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘The people who survive the sword will find favour in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.’ Jeremiah 31:2

This is looking at the past to establish the future. They are going to another ‘Egypt’. The NIV says ‘will find’, which suggests the future. The RSV has, ‘they found’, which suggests the past.

Some scholars believe that this is a reference to the deliverance from Egypt, others believe it refers to God’s people who left Babylon after its destruction. The mention of Ephraim and Samaria, later, shows that the Northern kingdom was meant.

‘The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

God’s love never fails. This is the message that is coming again. God made His love known to Israel a long time ago. It is a far, far greater love now because of the gap between. Whatever view we have, past or future, God’s love is shown.

‘I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again, you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful.’ Jeremiah 31:4

God is looking at them as they were. They will be pure again. God is going to take them up and set them on the way again.

‘Again, you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.’ Jeremiah 31:5

It is enriching. Eating good things will become common again, so plentiful that it will become an everyday thing.

‘There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ Jeremiah 31:6-7

There will come a time when the Watchman won’t be shouting ‘here comes the enemy.’ He will be saying, ‘Come to the house of the Lord.’

They will trust in God again.

‘See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return.’ Jeremiah 31:8

Everyone from the expectant mother to those in childbirth will be happy. You will remember that before this, it wasn’t good to be in these conditions.

‘They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. Jeremiah 31:9

I will lead them. They are going to be dependent on God again. ‘To lead’ means to cause or to flow, Jeremiah 10:2324. God is determined that they will walk in the right way, He will direct their steps. Ephraim here is referred to as ‘my firstborn son’, Exodus 4:22ff and Genesis 48:8-22.

God is now classed as a father figure, in the past, it was king or ruler. Now it is a more intimate, closer relationship. God is also seen as a husband.

‘Hear the word of the LORD, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ For the LORD will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD—the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 31:10-14

God is going to gather them, redeem them. When anyone is redeemed, there is a price to pay. So praise is given for God’s blessings. He will bless them:

1. Materially.

2. Personally.

3. Socially. Their lives will be like a watered garden. They will all have joy and comfort.

4. Spiritually.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy.’ Jeremiah 31:15-16


The background of Ramah is found in Joshua 18:25-28.


Genesis 35:18ff. Her burial place was near Bethlehem. Bethlehem was allotted to Judah. Judges 17:7ff. In that sense only can Judah be classed as Rachel’s children.

Two possible interpretations:

1. Totally Messianic as explained in Matthew 2:16-18.

2. Dual fulfilment:

a. Rachel, the tribal mother, is seen weeping over her children that have been taken into captivity.

b. Rachel, the tribal mother, is weeping over the wicked killings of Herod.

‘So, there is hope for your descendants,’ declares the LORD. ‘Your children will return to their own land. ‘I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning: ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the LORD my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore, my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,’ declares the LORD. ‘Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, Virgin Israel, return to your towns.’ Jeremiah 31:17-21

The children will return to their land again. The children massacred during the birth of Jesus didn’t go anywhere. So, this seems to rule out a Messianic message. Note: Herod had all the children, boys, under two years, in Bethlehem killed, hoping to kill babe Jesus.

Whether literal or figurative, both meanings for a signpost would be needed to direct Israel home. Those who were taken in the Assyrian captivities would have been gone from the land of Palestine for almost a century and a half.

These returnees would have been several generations removed from their forefathers who were originally taken into captivity. They thus needed direction in order to return to the land possessions of their fathers. But they surely also needed spiritual direction and encouragement to make their way back to the roots of the law of the covenant and the sacrificial ceremonies of the law.

‘How long will you wander, unfaithful Daughter Israel? The LORD will create a new thing on earth—the woman will return to the man.’ This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns, will once again use these words: ‘The LORD bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.’ At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. ‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. ‘In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.’ Jeremiah 31:22-30

These verses are self-explanatory, how long will the backsliding go on?

There are three possible meanings of the woman here:

l. Simply to emphasise, Israel will cling to God as a wife clings to her husband.

2. The idea of a new thing. That the Lord has created a woman in his new plan to allow women to lead, direct or teach men. Acts 18:24-26.

3. Taking the whole concept of the promises being made here. The new thing that God will create is equality, neither male nor female, Jew or Gentile.

The land is going to be blessed again. It will be a holy land to God, the land of justice. There will come a time when each individual will be judged on his or her own merits.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’ Jeremiah 31:31-34

The prophetic utterance concerning the new covenant. Mark 1:5 / Mark 9:1 / Psalm 89:3.

It allows God to keep His promises. The first covenant God didn’t break, the people did. He was a husband to them, but they broke the bond, so God lays down the conditions of the new covenant. They will learn the law, He will put it within them. The whole gist of this is a seat of learning.

It will be written on their hearts. It will be in the emotions and affections. Not only will they learn the law, but they will love it with their whole heart. They will all know it, from the least to the greatest, from the poorest to the rich.

In contrast to the old system, which they entered into upon birth, in the new covenant they would first be taught to come to God. They would no longer be born in the flesh into the covenant.

I will forgive their wickedness. Forgive here is like lifting a great weight off of the shoulders of oxen. So, when God says I will forgive, He is saying I will take the whole weight off of them. The old law was a burden.

He will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:8-18.

‘This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the LORD, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares the LORD. ‘The days are coming,” declares the LORD, ‘when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.’ Jeremiah 31:35-40

God is saying, this is the promise of my new covenant. It will be as sure as the sun shines and the moon rises. God’s retaining of His remnant of Israel is as definite as the impossibility of man measuring the heavens.

The Kingdom

The problem with this is the kingdom. We think of the word kingdom as a land. But in Bible language, it is sovereignty, the right to rule.

You cannot get ‘territory’ out of the kingdom referred to in, Mark 1:5 / Mark 9:1 / Luke 10:1 / Daniel 2 / Isaiah 2:2ff / Micah 4:1-13 / Isaiah 11:10 / Luke 1:69 / Mark 11:10.

The territory is not in view in any of these passages. God’s kingdom is universal, Genesis 1:26, God gave man the right to rule the earth.

In Jeremiah l0:10 God is called an everlasting king; therefore, He will rule everlasting.

Psalm 24, the earth of the Lord’s etc., everything on the earth, all is God’s. There never has been nor ever will be a human being who is not under God’s rule. They are all in His kingdom, whether in his pleasure or displeasure. But man failed, and so did the old law, because of weakness.

God had two options:

1. He could wipe out the whole world and start all over again.

2. Or, he could establish a new covenant.

Abraham was chosen. God established a covenant with him before the law, of Moses. God was already their king. When they reached Sinai, God entered them into a special kingdom relationship. Now we have the kingdom to rule over Israel, so he had a kingdom within a kingdom.

Genesis 49:10 talks about how the sceptre will stay with Judah. David comes onto the scene. God makes a covenant with David that was specific to the house of Judah, which will be intertwined with all in the future. Psalm 89:3-37.

The other covenants were not absolved, David was still under the Mosaic covenant. God promises to keep the covenant with David. There will always be someone of his line who will have the right to rule. Punishment for sin was part and parcel of the old covenant. when God’s people are to go into captivity they say that God has broken his promise. But the punishment was allowed in the Davidic covenant. He has not taken away the right to rule, he is simply punishing.

David was king, in 1 Chronicles 29:9ff David says, ‘yours is the kingdom’. God is still king. David is only his representative. The throne of David and Solomon are often referred to as ‘the throne of God’.

David’s right to rule was because God was with him. So, God never did break the covenant, He cannot lie to himself. In 2 Samuel 8, we see that David’s rule even involved Gentiles. Psalm 18:33-35 says the same.

Whatever king reigned, if he was of David’s family and sat on David’s throne, being approved of by God, was exercising the Davidic covenant of having the right to rule.

No matter how long Judah was without a king, God would fulfil His promise.

God said that He would punish through David’s covenant, and He starts this through Solomon, 1 Kings 11:11-13, the start of the divided kingdom. But one king would survive for the sake of David. There was a split, but the right to rule was not taken away. When the 10 tribes were taken away they were not to be restored in their old way but through David’s line. Ezekiel 37:15-28 and Jeremiah 33:14ff. God says I will fulfil the promise made to Judah.

So, Judah is punished. Many Jews thought then and today, that they broke the covenant. You only have to read Daniel to see that God was still faithful, Daniel 2. God still ruled over the kingdom of Israel even though they were ruled by another nation, a kingdom within a kingdom. God allowed foreigners to rule, but they did not have the right to rule as far as the covenants were concerned.

God says that they will be returned to a former glory. So, something must have previously existed, formerly. The church is God’s kingdom. But it had not previously existed. So, it has to do with Jews. It is His people. We refuse to acknowledge that the whole of the Jewish thrust is through the Jews. Jeremiah does not include Gentiles.

Look at Isaiah 2:2ff and Micah 4:1-13, which should be taken together with Isaiah 11:10 and Isaiah 49:6. The cast-down Jew would one day be the leader of the world. They would lead the rest of the world, eventually, to Christianity. Read Amos 9:12-14. They, the Jews, will be the remnant.

Luke 1:69. We see mentioned again ‘his people’. This is speaking of the Jews. The scene is set for the Jews to be exalted by a Jew, one of David’s seeds. Mark 11:9-10. The prophetic programme of the Old Testament, whilst it included Gentiles, did so only because of the promises to the Jews.

In Matthew 8:11-12, it was the Jew who was called the sons of the kingdom. The Jews would have this taken from them, Matthew 21:43. Jesus told the 12 not to go to the Gentiles. In Matthew 10:5-7, the Gospel of the kingdom was taken to the Jews. So, the kingdom was Jewish to the roots. There was something new. The kingdom had to be taken from the Jews.

Jewish feasts were held at night. Their rooms would have been lit up. Those who were outside were in the dark. They are to be put out of fellowship. They are unbelieving Jews. They were not real Israelites, or sons, deep down. He gave those who believed the power to be sons of God.

There was a new kingdom established before the ‘church’. Christ was king even from the day He was born. He was of David’s line. The church was the new thing, the kingdom that has been restored that is to all believers, Jews and Gentiles. Matthew 1:21, He has saved his people from their sins.

Who is the angel talking about?

Everybody in Christ today are God’s, but this doesn’t mean that this verse is talking about all nations. Luke 2:32 / John 1:12-13 / Hebrews 8.

Go To Jeremiah 32