Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Things were pretty bad in the kingdom of Israel in Judah. To catch us up, we can read about the situation in Jeremiah 32:1-2,
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.
It was the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel had long since been captured by Assyria and was only still a nation in history books. Judah had been progressively losing land to their enemies, especially Babylon. Now Nebuchadnezzar was breathing down Zedekiah’s neck and had the capital city of Jerusalem surrounded and completely shut up. If that wasn’t enough, Jeremiah (the prophet of the Lord) said that things were going to get worse. Scripture records as Zedekiah recalls the prophecies coming from Jeremiah,
Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, “Why do you prophesy as you do? You say, ‘this is what the Lord says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the Lord. If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed’” (Jeremiah 32:3-5).
It was indeed a dark time for Judah. However, the Lord had more important matters to attend to. We read,
Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’
“Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.’
“I knew that this was the word of the Lord; so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver” (Jeremiah 32:6-9).
That’s right; amidst all the disaster and gloom God had a highly important real-estate mission for his prophet to conduct.
Wait, what? Yeah, Judah is about to be completely lost to Babylon (which Jeremiah had already been prophesying) and God wants him to buy land…in Judah…which is about to be captured. Even Jeremiah was confused by this one. You can imagine his face as he talks back to the Lord,
See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, “But the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed” (Jeremiah 32:24-25).
If this were modern-day, Jeremiah would probably be looking to the heavens with his head cocked asking, “Is this some sort of joke?” The Lord understands Jeremiah’s confusion, so he begins to explain everything. First of all, Judah has been bad. The Lord speaks,
From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they had done-they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline (Jeremiah 32:31-33).
Actually, bad doesn’t describe it very well; maybe…very bad? God continues,
They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin (Jeremiah 32:34-35).
Yeah, God says detestable. That’s pretty fitting, Judah had become pretty detestable. The Lord was pretty upset, and earlier he had already made his opinion known,
Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! And if they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ tell them, ‘This is what the Lord says:
Those destined for death, to death;
Those for the sword, to the sword;
Those for starvation, to starvation;
Those for captivity, to captivity’” (Jeremiah 15:1-2).
God was angry with his people, and their punishment was coming soon. However, while at the same time preparing to inflict his people, the Lord already had a plan set up for the restoration of his people and his land. Scripture records,
You are saying about this city, “By the sword, famine and plague it will be handed over to the king of Babylon”; but this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God (Jeremiah 32:36-38).
So part of God’s plan of exile included the plan for his people to return to their land, once again restoring value to the properties. The Lord continues,
Once more fields will be bought in this land of which you say, “It is a desolate waste, without men or animals, for it has been handed over to the Babylonians.” Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 32:43-44).
So let’s take this all in for a moment. Judah sinned against God, so he has scheduled a very strong punishment for them. However, he has also promised that after exiling his people, he’d bring them back and restore their land to them. And to show this he’s giving Jeremiah the inside edge of the real-estate market.
So the question begs to be asked: “Then why destroy Israel to begin with?” Our Lord prides himself on justice; in fact I’m pretty sure that he can’t act without justice being properly served. The destruction of Israel is a part of God’s forgiveness system. He notes,
I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it (Jeremiah 33:8-9).
The Lord’s goal was to clean up Jerusalem and get rid of all of that sin that seemed to be sticking to the walls of the city. Then the people would be able to start on a clean slate and be wonderfully blessed by the Lord. You have to understand; Judah had false idols set up EVERYWHERE. God notes in Jeremiah 11:13, “You have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.” This problem was eventually solved through the capture of Jerusalem; because after the siege, Babylon set the city on fire. History records,
On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down (Jeremiah 52:12-13).
Nothing says “clean slate” quite like fire. And so upon the destruction of Jerusalem, idol worship was wiped out in Judah. Now, there was also another benefit to driving the Israelites out of the land. You see, God wanted to heal the soil. The Lord notes,
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In this place, desolate and without men or animals- in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord (Jeremiah 33:12-13).
For most of their time in the Promised Land, the Israelites hadn’t been following the laws God laid down for giving the lands a Sabbath rest. Since the land wasn’t getting rested, but rather was being used year after year, it became infertile (and likely contributed to Judah’s declining economy). God saw this coming way back when Israel had first left Egypt. Back then he prophesied what he’d do,
I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it (Leviticus 26:33-35).
And sure enough, when Jerusalem was finally captured and the people exiled, this word for the Lord came to pass. We read,
He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
So the worthless and besieged land that Jeremiah bought was restored, as was the rest of Judah, full and fertile.
During his real-estate adventure, the Lord made an amazing promise through Jeremiah. God promises,
I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul (Jeremiah 32:40-41).
The Lord promised that he would never stop doing good to his people…whom he was about to have fall to the sword and exiled. He also noted in Jeremiah 32:39, “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.” So it seems that after all of what was about to take place took place, the Lord would completely restore his people: their land, their relationship to God, and even their hearts.
…But how? We’ve already established that justice must be served when a person or nation sins. How then will the Lord be able to bless people and never stop loving them when they are still sinning from time to time (as we all do)? God is sure of his promise though in Jeremiah 33:14, “’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.’” But how, God? How can you love a sinful people without divine justice and retribution repeatedly taking place? To this question, the Lord answers,
In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
He will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
And Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 33:15-16).
When the Lord fulfills his great promise, he states that he will do it through one man. -A man from the line of David. He fulfilled this through the man, Jesus Christ. If you check out Matthew 1 or Luke 3, you’ll find that Jesus is of the house and line of David (through two parts of it actually). However, there’s more. The prophecy continues,
For this is what the lord says: “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices (Jeremiah 33:17-18).
Jesus completely fulfills this part of the prophecy by himself. For we learn from his return in Revelation that he is not only in the line of David, but Christ is also a king. For it is written, “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). Jesus is also a priest as well. For we read,
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:14-15).
Jesus is the great High Priest, and although he lives in heaven, he does not shirk his duties. Rather, just as the prophecy says, Christ continues to pray and intercede for us. The Holy Spirit conveys,
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:23-25).
How can God keep his promise of always doing good for us? He can because his Son never stops interceding on our behalf, while his death on a cross paid for our sins with one big God-sized sacrifice. Justice has been served through the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ! Furthermore, we’re told that we’ll receive a new heart from God that will change our ways and help us to serve the Lord. This is achieved through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, who was given to believers after Christ ascended to heaven. Of this, Christ says, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord is able to guide us and lead us into a right way of living. Therefore the prophecy is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.
Never forget that God’s promises through Christ will stand forever. He tells us,
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant- and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me- can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne’ (Jeremiah 33:19-21).
To this day we’ve been unable to stop the passage of time. Therefore, Christ (as king, priest, and savior) will continue to reign and be available to us for forgiveness and restoration. God continues,
This is what the Lord says: “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes, and have compassion on them” (Jeremiah 33:25-26).
The great promise of restoration and salvation through his son Jesus Christ is written in the heavens and the laws of nature. Because of this we can be confident that the Lord will help us through all things when we come to him.
There’s a lot of Israel-specific language in the promises through Jeremiah. However, you too are an inheritor to these promises of restoration and blessing when Christ is in your life. For it is written,
You are all sons of god through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).
This is what the Word of God tells us; if you accept Christ, you will find salvation and inherit all of the promises given to the children of Abraham (the Israelites). Check it out, we’re told in John 3:16-18,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Believe in Jesus and not only will you be saved, but the Lord’s promise to Israel that he will never stop doing good to you will extend into your life. Sure, God had to purify Israel with some hard times, but it was for the greater blessing after the land was restored. However, those in Christ will find blessings even during hardship. No matter what, God will bless you, in one way or another when you have Jesus in your life. How cool is that?
Praise the Lord.
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
Both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
The name of the Lord is to be praised (Psalms 113:1-3).