Jer 31.1-40 is associated with the previous chapter and also talks about when the Lord will bring the people back from Babylon, but it also applies to when the Messiah comes and is full of prophecies and promises about the future blessings, including the reassurance that the joy of the people will be restored, and the grafting in of the non-Jews into the renewed covenant. If Yehovah did not divorce Judah and Israel, there would be no need for this “new” or renewed covenant for Jews or non-Jews. This chapter is a repudiation of what is called Replacement Theology, or the belief that the “church” or any other religious system has replaced Israel or the Torah. This chapter clearly teaches that Israel and the Torah is valid for today as long as the fixed order of the universe is still in existence. Jer 31.4-19 is the Haftorah (a reading from the prophets) for Yom Teruah, or Rosh Ha Shannah. Jer 31.13-22 contains the story of the Merciful Father, also known as the “Prodigal Son.”
v 1…”At that time (when Messiah comes in the Messianic Kingdom-Jer 30.1-22),” declares the Lord (Yehovah), “I will be the God of all the families of Israel (the twelve tribes), and they shall be my people.”
v 2…Thus says the Lord, “The people who survived the sword (the birth-pains) found grace in the wilderness (fleeing from the False Messiah into the Moabite-Jordanian wilderness-Isa 16; Isa 63; Rev 12.6, 14; Dan 11.41; Mic 2.12-13), Israel, when it went to find its rest (a term for the Messianic Kingdom and rest in the Messiah-Isa 11.10; Heb 4.1-11).”
v 3…The Lord appeared to him (Israel) from afar (where Yehovah is enthroned), “I have loved you with an everlasting love (so I kept you in my grace and did not destroy you), therefore I have drawn you (kept you, to restrain anyone from destroying you-Jude 24) with lovingkindness (Hebrew Chessed or grace).
v 4…Again I will build you (raised up), and you shall be rebuilt (needing a renewed covenant), O virgin Israel (the kahal of Israel-Israel will give birth to the Messiah in the last days spiritually after Gog and Magog are defeated-Jer 39.22; Isa 66.7-9)! Again you shall take up tambourines, and go forth to the dances of the merrymakers (meaning the festivals are celebrated again. It was forbidden to use them after the Temple was destroyed-Mishnah, Sotah 9.14).
v 5…Again you shall plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the planters shall plant and apply them to common use (their own use).
v 6…For there shall be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim shall call out (to go to the festivals-Ezek 44.45; Isa 66.20-21), “Arise, and let us go to Zion, to the Lord (Yehovah) our God.'”
v 7…For thus says the Lord, “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob (Israel), and shout among the chiefs of the nations (Israel); proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.’
v 8…Behold (see for yourself), I am bringing them from the north country (Babylon, but this alludes to the latter days also -Jer 3.18, 16.15), and I will gather them from the remotest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the women with child and she who is in labor with child, together (those who would not be able to go on such a hard journey); a great company, they shall return here (the return from Babylon will be a picture of the Messianic Redemption).
v 9…With weeping (tears of joy) they shall come, and by supplication (prayers) I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters (not be thirsty in the desert-Isa 48.21), on a straight path in which they they shall not stumble (a level road); for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first born (this means the people of Israel as compared to the other nations, Ephraim is the head of the ten tribes and it refers to the return of the northern tribes, called the “M’loh Ha Goyim” or the “fullness of the Gentiles or nations”-Gen 48.19; Rom 11.25-26, and they will not be behind Judah in regards to the redemption. Keep in mind, these are the two sons in Yeshua’s parable called the Prodigal Son or the “Merciful Father” in Jewish thought-Luke 15.11-32).”
v 10…Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off (the most remote of the non-Jews were to be told that Yehovah will free his people and bless them, lest they imagine he does not have the power to do so), and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
v 11…For the Lord has ransomed (a price has been paid) Jacob (this implies something other than the return from Babylon. They were never “ransomed” from Babylon), and redeemed him (recovered ownership with the blood of Yeshua) from the hand of him who was stronger than he (this is not Nebuchadnezzar or the Medo-Persians, but Ha Satan).
v 12…And they will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion (Temple Mount), and they shall be radiant over the bounty (goodness) of the Lord over the grain and the new wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock of the herd; and their life shall be like a watered garden (like Gan Eden, moist and healthy) and they shall never languish again (which was the case after Babylon, so this alludes to the Messianic Kingdom).
Jer 31.13-22 is read on the Sabbath after Rosh Ha Shannah called “Shabbat Shuvah” or the “Sabbath of Return.” This section is also called the “Prodigal Son” or the “Merciful Father” and an “aggadah” or story in a tractate of the Talmud called Rosh Ha Shannah. This is also related to Hos 2.1-3 and Luke 15.11-32.
v 13…Then (when Messiah comes) the virgins shall rejoice in the dance (joy), and the young men and the old together; for I will turn their mourning into joy (Jer 31.1-12) and I will comfort them, and give them joy for sorrow (this is talking about the Sabbath of God, the Lord’s day, the Day of the Lord, the Atid Lavo when joy is restored (John 3.29; Jer 33.10-11).
v 14…And I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance (from the korbanot because of all the numerous offerings that will be presented in thanksgiving for all that Yehovah has done), and my people will be satisfied with my goodness,” declares the Lord.
v 15…Thus says the Lord, “A voice is heard in Ramah (heard all the way to Ramah where Rachel is buried near Bethlehem-Gen 35.19), lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel (Israel) is weeping for her children (she is buried there and the people are going into exile and passed her burial site on the way to Babylon-Gen 35.16-19); she refuses to be comforted for her children because they were no more (in Lam 1.16 Jeremiah will draw on this thought again).
v 16…Thus says the Lord, “”Restrain your voice from weeping (remove it, even though there is cause right now), and your eyes from tears, for your work (Rachel’s parental work of bringing up her children) shall be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “And they shall return from the land of the enemy.
v 17…And there is hope (tikvah-Jer 29.11, Prov 24.14; Job 14.7-22; Lam 3.21-Biblical hope is not “wishing” but is something expected to happen based on God’s promises) for your future,” declares the Lord, “and your children shall return to their own territory.
v 18…”I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, ‘Thus hast chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained calf (stiff-necked); bring me back that I may be restored, for thou art the Lord my God (see Luke 15.18-21).
v 19…For after I was instructed, I smite my thigh (took an oath); I was ashamed, and also humiliated (after my apostasy), because I bore the reproach of my youth (haunted by the past).’
v 20…”Is Ephraim (Israel, the ten tribes) my dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him (in reproof), I certainly still remember him (because God’s love is unchanging even though his conduct did not please Yehovah). Therefore (because he is my son), my heart (bowels) yearns for him (Luke 15.20-“looks”); I will surely have mercy on him (a deep sympathy),” declares the Lord
v 21…”Set up for yourself roadmarks (preparing to return), place for yourself guideposts (stones, pillars); direct your mind to the highway (remember the way home), the way by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities (the call comes from the land; repent in your heart).
v 22…How long will you go here and there (hesitate), O faithless daughter? For the Lord has created a new (chadash meaning renewed) thing in the earth-a woman shall encompass (circle) a man (this alludes to a marriage and in a Jewish wedding she circles him to make a “fence” around him for protection-Hos 2.19-20; Psa 11127.1; Jer 2.2; Deut 32.10; Psa 45.9; John 14.6).”
v 23…Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Once again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I return their fortunes (return the exiles-Isa 11.10-16), ‘The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill (Jerusalem-Zech 14.21)!
v 24…And Judah and all its cities will dwell together in it, the farmer and they who go about the flocks.
v 25…For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh every one who languishes (Matt 11.28).”
v 26…At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me (the prophecy here and in the preceding chapter came in a dream).
v 27…”Behold (see), days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast (replenish it, renew it, repopulate it to make the nation grow).
v 28…And it will come about that as I watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.
v 29…In those days (when Messiah comes) they will not say again, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge (the people misunderstood Exo 34.7. They said if we are going to be punished for what our fathers did, why repent and keep the Torah? But it says Yehovah punishes “those who hate me” in Exo 20.8. This proverb is quoted in Ezek 18.2, and in v 3-32 he gives examples).’
v 30…But every one will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats sour grapes his teeth will be set on edge.
v 31…Behold (see), days are coming (when Messiah comes),” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new (“chadasha” or renewed, repaired, restored) covenant (this alludes to a restoreda or a renewal of the marriage vows, etc. If God did not divorce Israel and Judah there would be no need for a renewal of the marriage) with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (this covenant is associated with the Olam Haba, or world to come. We can experience it in part in the Olam Ha Zeh, this present age, and the Atid Lavo or the coming age, but the fullness will not be realized until the Olam Haba. Israel and Judah will represent all the family of God here because the non-Jews are going to be grafted into all of this, as seen in Eph 2.11-22. God will maintain a special relationship with Israel-Jer 31.33; Ezek 37.27-28. All Israel will know the Lord-Jer 31.34; all sins are forgiven-Jer 31.34; Ezek 16.63, Heb 9.15-22; all the promised land is given to Israel-Jer 32.41-44; Ezek 37.25. God will multiply them-Ezek 37.26; the sanctuary will stand in Israel-Ezek 37.26-28,
v 32…not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (at Sinai on stone, this “new” covenant is alluded to in Deut 29.1 through 30.6), my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord (causing a divorce).
v 33…But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days (after Messiah comes),” declares the Lord, “I will put my law (the Torah) within them (not on stone tablets) and in their heart (their desires, intentions and thoughts; there will be a desire to keep the Torah. This is a true sign of one born again) I will write it (Deut 30.6-14 tells us it is the ability to walk in the Torah. This is the covenant of peace-Isa 54.9-10; Ezek 34.25, 36.24-27); I will be their God and they shall be my people (with a renewed heart).
v 34…And they shall not teach each man his neighbor (Yeshua told us who our neighbor was in Luke 10) and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord (this has not happened yet), “for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more (through what Yeshua did).”
v 35…Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day; and the fixed order (regular order) of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is his name (Yehovah tzavaot).
v 36…”If this fixed order (of the universe) departs from before me (if the entire universal order and arrangements stop, and it won’t),” declares the Lord, “then the offspring (seed) of Israel shall cease (as his chosen people. This rules out the false doctrine of Replacement Theology that says the “church’ or any other religious system has replaced Israel as his covenant people) from being a nation before me forever (and if this simile was not enough, he gives another one ).”
v 37…Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens (shamayim meaning “there is water) above can be measured (and it won’t, so NASA is wasting their time and our money), and the foundations of the earth searched out below (and it won’t), then I will cast off (reject) all the offspring (seed) of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the Lord (in other words, as long as the universe and the earth exist Yehovah will not reject Israel as his chosen and covenant people).
v 38…Behold, days are coming (an eschatological term for when Messiah comes),’ declares the Lord, “when the city shall be rebuilt (Jerusalem) for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel (northeast corner of the city wall-Neh 3.1) to the Corner Gate (on the northwest corner-2 Kings 14.13; a northern wall is discussed here).
v 39…And the measuring line shall go out farther straight ahead to the hill of Gareb (southwest corner); then it will turn to Goah (southeast corner-the city will extend beyond the area of the old Jerusalem, and include within its district areas what was outside and what may have been unclean places).
v 40…And the whole valley of the dead bodies and ashes (the Valley of Ben-hinnom-Joel 3.2, 12; Zech 14.4-12; Isa 66.8-24; Jer 7.31, 19.1-15, 33.1-26; Zeph 3.14-20) and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron (at the southeast) toward the east, shall be holy (have a kedusha) to the Lord (the south and southeastern boundaries of the city is given, and only the length of the east side wall which enclosed the Temple area on to the northeast corner is left out because the Kidron Valley was a strong border. The city will increase in size and the whole city will be holy. No unclean places anymore); it shall not be plucked up or overthrown any more forever (because it has a kedusha to Yehovah. This prophecy alludes to the “new (renewed) Jerusalem” in Revelation and is a favorable conclusion to the discussion of the renewed covenant that will be fully realized in the Olam Haba, and the fulfillment of the Messianic Redemption and restoration. Jeremiah says that the beginning of that redemption begins with the return of the exiles and be fully realized when Messiah comes-Rev 20-22).”