Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentJEREMIAH 32
JEREMIAH PURCHASES A FIELD IN ANATHOTH
This chapter records another historical incident in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. The time was during the final months of the siege of Jerusalem which resulted in the final capture and destruction of the city and the deportation of the population to Babylon. Zedekiah was on the throne of Judah, this being in his tenth year as king, which was the eighteenth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, that is, 588-87 B.C. There is no point whatever in complaining that, according to the Babylonian method of reckoning the reign of kings, this was only the seventeenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians did not count the year of accession to the throne; but the Hebrews did.
George DeHoff noted that the siege, "Began the year before and apparently lasted eighteen months and twenty-seven days (2 Kings 25:18)."F1
In the year preceding this chapter, "The siege had been lifted for a short while by the arrival near Jerusalem of an Egyptian army led by Pharaoh-Hophra (Jeremiah 44:30), the Apries of Herodotus, an ally of Zedekiah against Babylon (Ezekiel 17:15); but the Egyptians were either defeated quickly or decided to withdraw. In any case, the siege was promptly renewed with increased vigor";F2 and in the meanwhile, famine, and disease were daily rendering Jerusalem less and less able to defend itself.
At the time of this chapter, Jeremiah was a prisoner of Zedekiah, who, distressed by Jeremiah's prophecies concerning Jerusalem and its king, had imprisoned the prophet; but, at the time of the incident recorded here, Zedekiah had yielded to Jeremiah's request to be removed from the dungeon and had quartered him in the stockade area of the palace, where, it seems, Jeremiah enjoyed some privileges.
A broad outline of the chapter is: (1) a statement of the historical situation (Jeremiah 32:1-5); (2) Jeremiah was commanded to purchase a field in Anathoth, which he promptly did (Jeremiah 32:6-15); (3) perplexed by what God had commanded him to do, and perhaps entertaining some doubt, the prophet poured out a long prayer to God (Jeremiah 32:16-25); (4) God's first answer (Jer. 32:26-35; (5) God's second answer (Jeremiah 32:36-44).
The word that came to Jeremiah from Jehovah in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. Now at that time the king of Babylon's army was besieging Jerusalem; and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the king of Judah's house. For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; and he shall bring Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith Jehovah: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper?
Was besieging Jerusalem
(Jeremiah 32:2). The journey of Jeremiah to purchase that field in Anathoth did not take place during the brief lifting of the siege in the preceding year, but after the siege had been renewed.
Wherefore dost thou prophesy
(Jeremiah 32:3). Zedekiah here repeated the prophecies of Jeremiah for which he had retaliated by casting the prophet into prison. It seems incredible that he would still have disbelieved Jeremiah after all the fulfillments of Jeremiah's prophecies which had taken place and were still taking place before his very eyes.
There shall he be until I visit him
(Jeremiah 32:5) God's visiting a person sometimes signified his coming to bless the individual; but here it does not seem to indicate any such thing. Zedekiah's fate was much worse than that which usually befell defeated ancient kings. They slaughtered his sons before his eyes, and then put his eyes out, and carried him to Babylon where he died (1 Kings 25:2-7).
Harrison noted that this incident and others recorded here through Jer. 44 all happened during the kingship of Zedekiah.F3
And Jeremiah said, The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth; for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. So Hanamel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the guard according to the word of Jehovah, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of Jehovah. And I bought the field that was in Anathoth of Hanamel mine uncle's son, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. And I subscribed the deed, and sealed it, and called witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. So I took the deed of the purchase, both that which was sealed, [according to] the law and custom, and that which was open: and I delivered the deed of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel mine uncle's [son], and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the deed of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the guard. And I charged Baruch before them, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, this deed of the purchase which is sealed, and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel; that they may continue many days. For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land.
Then I knew that this was the word of the Jehovah
(Jeremiah 32:8). This does not mean that Jeremiah had doubted the word of Jehovah, but that now he had proof of it.
The right of inheritance
(Jeremiah 32:8). This indicates that the Pentateuch was well known among the Jews of this period, and that many of its provisions were still being observed. The Book of Ruth tells of the marriage of Ruth the Moabitess, along with the redemption of a piece of land that had belonged to Ruth's husband. Lev. 25:25 records the Mosaic law that was involved in such purchases.
(Jeremiah 32:12). This is the first mention of Baruch in Jeremiah. This man was the amanuensis of Jeremiah and was the scribe who actually wrote a great deal of the book, under the strict direction of Jeremiah.
According to law and custom
(Jeremiah 32:11). This record of a purchase in Anathoth provides a valuable example of the legal phases of land purchase in those times. It is of interest that the placement of a copy of the original purchase agreement in an earthen vessel and the sealing of it was exactly the procedure that resulted in the preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Seventeen shekels of silver
(Jeremiah 32:9). Jamieson and other writers have marveled that the price was so small.F4 Some have supposed that the shekels might have been gold instead of silver, but there is no excuse for changing the text. Despite the fact of the question's being of little importance, it should be noted that: (1) the field could have been small; (2) the year of Jubilee might have been near at hand, which, of course, would have drastically reduced the value; (3) its already being in possession of the Babylonians would have reduced the price; and (4) although the amount (17 shekels of silver) was calculated by Jamieson as about two pounds sterling (about $10.00)F5 at the time of his estimate, that sum might not have been as insignificant as it seems. David paid only fifty shekels of silver for the threshing floor of Araunah, along with the oxen and implements that went with it; and long afterward thirty shekels purchased the potter's field with Judas' price for betraying the Lord.F6
We have no patience at all with commentators who suggest that this prayer has been expanded with additions by "editors." Ridiculous! This is one of the greatest prayers ever uttered; and there is a tact and delicacy about it that are commendable beyond words!
Jeremiah simply could not understand why, under the circumstances, God had ordered him to buy the field. Therefore, he went to his knees and laid the whole problem before the Lord. Inherent in such an action was the silent pleading for God to explain to the prophet that which was utterly beyond his understanding. God answered him in detail. Jeremiah knew that God would understand, and he did not even frame his perplexity and his appeal in any formal petition.
Henderson's summary of this prayer is as follows:
"After expatiating on the Divine goodness to the Hebrew people, and contrasting therewith their ungrateful returns, he argues from the desperate condition of the circumstances, as attacked by the Chaldeans, the improbability of his ever coming to any enjoyment of his property."F7
And yet, Jeremiah did not press, by even so much as a single word, what some would have called a gross injustice to himself. Think of it. Jeremiah knew that the captivity would last seventy years, that the city would be destroyed, along with the temple, and leveled with the ground, and that there appeared to be no way whatsoever by which the commanded purchase could ever benefit him. The subtle trust of Jeremiah in Jehovah, as exhibited in this prayer, is truly a marvel.
Then came the word of Jehovah unto Jeremiah, saying, Behold, I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me? Therefore thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: and the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set this city on fire, and burn it, with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink-offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger. For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done only that which was evil in my sight from their youth; for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith Jehovah. For this city hath been to me a provocation of mine anger and of my wrath from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: and though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction. But they set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
The purpose of God's answer in this first segment of it is that of announcing his justice in the punishment coming upon Israel. Here is a shameful catalogue of their, abominations. Several things here are of particular interest.
Jerusalem a provocation to God since the day they built it
(Jeremiah 32:31). Ever diligent to find inaccuracies in the Bible, some commentators point out that the Jews did not actually build Jerusalem; David captured it. Yes, yes; but Solomon was the first king to pour vast riches into the rebuilding of the city, and that alone entitles it to be said that they built it; and from that very reign began the long road to total idolatry for Israel. Solomon's seven hundred wives all wanted temples built to their pagan gods; and Solomon accommodated them. Thus the words are strictly true as they stand in the sacred text; and there is no need to say that, The prophet means `from the earliest times.' F8 Again, we would like to protest the affinity which scholars have for telling us what the prophet meant, instead of what the prophet said! This is sometimes necessary, but the habit easily spills over into situations where it is not necessary at all.
The high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom
(Jeremiah 32:5). Note the close connection here between the high places of Baal and the horrible human sacrifices to Molech in the valley of the son of Hinnom. Baal worship is sometimes explained as being a lot more innocent than it actually was.
Which I commanded them not
(Jeremiah 32:35). Today, there are some very aggressive and strident voices proclaiming that what God has not forbidden by specific commandment is allowable, in such matters as the appointment of women deacons and in the use of mechanical instruments of music in God's worship; but a passage like this indicates that things which God has not commanded are simply not allowable under any circumstances as elements of God's worship.
And now therefore thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith Jehovah: Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe the deeds, and seal them, and call witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the hill-country, and in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith Jehovah.
These are glorious promises; but, alas, it appears that Israel never did learn the secret of Jer. 18:7-10, in which the prophet revealed that all of God's promises, whether of evil, or of good, were subject, absolutely, to the condition of whether or not Israel would truly turn to the Lord and worship him. Most of the wonderful things God promised here never occurred at all.
As outlined in the Book of Micah, the priesthood promptly corrupted the worship in the second temple, provoking even the cancellation of the covenant of Levi; and God even cursed their blessings and expressed the desire that the temple would be closed (See Mal. 2:1-9).
Furthermore, as time went on, in those long centuries before Christ was born, the whole Jewish nation fell into apostasy again, resulting in their judicial hardening, along with the hardened nations of the Gentiles; and, according to Paul, the Jews became as reprobate as the Gentiles themselves. The name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of the shameful conduct of the Jews (Romans 2:24). Their temple with its operators, the three false shepherds of Zech. 11:8, namely the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians was denominated as a "den of thieves and robbers" by the Christ himself; and the grand climax of Jewish wickedness came when they rejected the Messiah himself and manipulated his crucifixion by suborned testimony, political intimidation, and mob violence.
Therefore, history has recorded no fulfillment whatever of the prosperity of the post-exilic captives from Babylon. They deserved no prosperity, and they received none.
It is a shame that some commentators simply cannot get it out of their minds that God's promises to Israel were in some mysterious manner irrevocable and eternal. One may only wonder if they ever read Jer. 18:7-10, Note this from Feinberg. He identified the new covenant as a renewal of the old covenant, writing that, "The covenant bond between God and his people will be renewed, and they will walk in righteousness ... The covenant will never again be broken; the promise of restoration (Jeremiah 32:41) is just as certain as the prediction of punishments."F9
Of course, that is what should have happened; but it didn't!
God's punishment of Israel for the rejection of Christ was executed within a generation after the event. The nation was brutally destroyed by Vespasian and Titus in A.D. 70; 1,100,000 people were executed, and Josephus even gives the names of the towns and villages supplying the totals for that incredible destruction; thirty thousand young men were crucified upon crosses adorning the walls of Jerusalem; their temple was destroyed never to be rebuilt, the whole Mosaic system of daily sacrifices, along with the institution of the priesthood and the high priest disappeared forever.
But what about that "covenant" mentioned in Jer. 32:40? As Cheyne said, "It is the New Covenant of Jer. 31 ."F10 Payne Smith, Albert Barnes, and many others concur in this identification of the covenant here as "The New Covenant of Jer. 31 ." In truth, the very fact of its being called an "everlasting covenant," along with the declaration that it shall never be broken, either on the part of God or on the part of his people, identifies it as the New Covenant; because that first covenant was indeed violated, not by God, but by his people. The notion that Racial Israel would never break the covenant (the old one) again is foreign to everything in the entire Bible. The prophecy here (in Jer. 32:40) that God's people will not again break his covenant has been fulfilled by the continuity of the Christian faith upon earth; and, "In these two conditions, that neither God nor his people shall break the New Covenant, lies the certainty of the eternal duration of that covenant."F11
Then, what about those people on earth who do indeed violate the teachings of Christ? Nevertheless, the covenant is not broken as long as there are faithful souls in the world who cling to the truth of God and obey it. This prophecy here assures the continuity of that condition. The great improvement of this arrangement over the old covenant is at once evident. This means that there will be faithful Christians on earth till the end of time. Christ's question in Luke 18:8 does not deny this, but may indicate the scarcity of them at the time of the Second Coming.
Footnotes for Jeremiah 32
1: George DeHoff's Commentary, p. 207.
2: W. Harvey Jellie, Jeremiah, in Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company), p. 537.
3: R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 140.
4: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 540.
6: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 482.
7: E. Henderson, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Company, 1851), p. 178.
8: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 49.
9: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 587.
10: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 50.
11: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 485.