Jeremiah 30

Chiasmus is a literary device where a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order.  The term comes from the Greek capital letter X.  In Jeremiah 30 there are two ideas: the promise of salvation and warnings of suffering.  If promise of salvation is labeled as “A” and the warnings of suffering are labeled as “B” were can depict this chiasmus as follows:   A(30:1-3)  Promise of Salvation         B(30:4-7)  Warning of Suffering                A(30:8-11) Promise of Salvation          B(30:12-16)  Warning of Suffering A(17-24)  Promise of Salvation    The first pericope sets up the poetic prophesies that follow.  The first verse is a formula that is common to Jeremiah and sets up the authority and importance of what follows.  The authority is not an invention of Jeremiah but it is a message from God. Jeremiah 30:1

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying

This formula, the word, comes to Jeremiah and the source in the Lord, is also in Jeremiah 7:1, 11:1, and 36:1.  This name for God is his personal name Yahweh.  The second verse is also a formula identifying the verse that follow as being a product of God of Israel.  This is to stress the personal God or Yahweh is also the God of Israel.  This sets up not only the authority of God over Israel but the personal relationship that Israel has for God.  Israel is the chosen people of God, chosen not for salvation but for a personal relationship with God.  The other nations of world do not have this special relationship.  This second formula is repeated in verses 28:2 and 29:25.

Jeremiah 30:2

“Thus speaks the Lord God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.

The title “Lord God” is repeated in the Old Testament 1582 times in New Kings James Bible.  In the Hebrew this is Yahweh Elohim.  When the word Lord is seen in the Old Testament it is in two forms.  Lord in small caps Lord   from YHWH (pronounced Yahweh) and Lord in small letters from Adonai.  The word Adonai is used more frequently in the Old Testament as the owners or masters of slaves.  It is also used of God.   When Aaron made the golden calf, a false god,  and proclaimed “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord (YHWH)” this drew an immediate response of revenge from God.  He threatened to kill the people of Israel.  This name of YHWH is the personal name of God and is not to be used lightly.  The third commandment is you shall not take the name of your God, YHWH in vain.  

The command for a prophet to “write in a book” is only given to Jeremiah, Moses (Exodus 17:14) and John (Revelation 1:11).  This is an unusual command does it indicate a special relationship Jeremiah had to God?  As it could not be emphasized enough these are the words spoken to Jeremiah from God.

For behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’ ”

This clearly a prophesy of events which are yet to come.  As this cannot be emphasized enough the refrain is repeated “says the LORD,”  God is speaking in the present.  He is not in the eternal now looking at a future event that he already has performed.  God “will bring back” .he will preform an event that has not already happened at a future time.  He does not see the event happening, he is promising the fulfillment of the event because he is powerful enough to make it happen. 

Now these are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah.

“For thus says the Lord:

It may be supposed that the redundancy of emphasizing “these are the words of the Lord” has not been sufficient these ideas are again repeated in verses 4 and 5.  There is some additional information.  The prophesy is to both Israel and Judah.  Both Israel in 722 BC and Judah in 599 BC had suffered deportation:  Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon. In verse 3 God will cause both to return to land of their fathers. This is the land of present day Israel where Jerusalem is located.  This is not a promise to a future church of Gentiles to inherit the land of Israel but it is a promise to a chosen people to possess a specific space of land in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, some present day Protestants and Catholics believe in Replacement Theology.  The present church will replace the people of Israel as the beneficiary of all the promises in the Old Testament. 

Paul is clear, the body of Christ is grafted into the vine of Israel as far as salvation.

Romans 11:11

But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 

The promise of the land and the return of Israel to the land is still a promise to the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Romans 9:3-4

my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

Israel still has the promises of the land.

Now for the poetic pericope of Jeremiah 30:5-7.

‘We have heard a voice of trembling,
[a]fear, and not of peace.
Ask now, and see,
Whether a 
[b]man is ever in [c]labor with child?
So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins
Like a woman in labor,
And all faces turned pale?
Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

In English poetry is a balance of sound and phonetic rhythm. Nursery rhymes are a simple form of this balance of sound.

Hush, little Baby, don’t say a word,
_          .  .   _   .      _      _    .   _

Mama’s gonna buy you a Mockingbird

_          .  .          _     _     .      _    .   _

Notice the variation of the stress words “_” with the non stressed words “.”.  It almost the same and the end of the syllable rhymes.

Hebrew poetry is balance of thought with logical rhythm.  The poetic form is where one line is parallel to another. 

‘We have heard a voice of trembling,
[a]fear, and not of peace.

These verses are a combination of parallelism and ellipsis.  In ellipses some words in the sentence are omitted but the reader understands what words are needed to make the grammatical sentence complete.

We have heard a voice of trembling

We have heard a voice of fear

We have not heard a voice of peace.

In the first two stiches trembling and fear have synonymous meanings.  They mean almost the same thing.  In the next two verses fear and peace are antithetic.  They have opposite meanings.  These are labeled synonymous parallelism and antithetical parallelism.  Three lines are called a tristich.  Understanding the poetry aids the reader in understanding the pericope.  The threefold emphasis on the warning contained in the voice.

Ask now, and see,
Whether a 
[b]man is ever in [c]labor with child?
So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins
Like a woman in labor,
And all faces turned pale?

This is a similitude which is an extended simile; a comparison using like or as.  If one were to label the ideas, A would be “a man in labor” the other A “is like a woman in labor.”  The B would be “the suffering of labor with hands on the loins” and the other B is “the suffering of labor of faces turned pale.”  The similitude is AB is like AB and the parallelism is ABAB. 

Is this a taunt intended to demoralize the hearing to enhance the punishment ordained for the victims?  Does there remain a chance of repentance to avoid the dire circumstances?  Or is this a form of hope?  Judah is predestined to endure a time of pain and punishment but there is hope for the one who endures.

Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

Here is the parallel A is like A is like A but then B.  There is an emphatic the day is great and the synonymous parallel is in the negative form there is none like it.  The English translation is superb it has captured the meaning and the rhythm of the Hebrew.

Day is great
None like it
Time of Jacob’s trouble
Saved out of it.

Is this a reference to the exile of the fall of Jerusalem from 586 and the return of Israel in the promised 70 years?  Or is the time of Jacob’s trouble a reference to the apocalypse; the end times?  Certainly. the fall of Jerusalem in 586 was a special event.  However, there was an event like it in 599 (first deportation to Babylon), and even 609 (fall of Jerusalem to Pharoah after Josiah’s death) that was comparable to 586.  Or is this a double prophecy; the apocalypse is like the fall of Jerusalem and the return of the captives is like the second coming?

Jeremiah 30:8-11
‘For it shall come to pass in that day,’
Says the Lord of hosts,
That I will break his yoke from your neck,
And will burst your bonds;
Foreigners shall no more enslave them.
But they shall serve the Lord their God,
And David their king,
Whom I will raise up for them.

10 ‘Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the Lord,
‘Nor be dismayed, O Israel;
For behold, I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet,
And no one shall make him afraid.

How many of these prophecies were actually fulfilled?

  1. Break his yoke from your neck
  2. Burst your bonds
  3. Foreigners no longer enslave them
  4. They will serve the Lord
  5. They will David their king
  6. Jacob shall return
  7. No one will make him afraid

Of all these prophesies almost none of them were fulfilled in the return of the captives to Jerusalem.  Cyrus may have allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from Babylon but maintained political control over Jerusalem.  Here is a summary of the control of nations over the land of Israel.

586 BC – 333 BC Ruled by Babylon and Persians
333 BC-140 BC Ruled by Grecians
140 BC-37 BC Hasmonean dynasty (Israelites ruled themselves)
37 BC-634 AD Ruled by Rome
634 AD-1917 AD  Rule by Moslems, Crusaders and Mongols
1917AD-1948 AD Rule by British
1948AD to present self rule

The yoke was not broken, the bonds were not burst, foreigners ruled over them, the history of the Bible is Israel running from God, the return of David in Jesus the Messiah did not result in a political kingdom, Judah returned but Israel did not,  and Judah lived in constant fear from their neighbors.  This is a prophecy of the apocalypse; the second coming of Jesus. 

For this pericope of Jeremiah 30:12-16, a warning of disaster, the literal context sounds like a cruel taunt.  It is vicious in parts.  God claims credit for inflicting foul wounds upon Israel.  The wounds are so cruel there is no cure for them.  The blows are delivered without mercy as from a cruel person.  This is great contrast to last pericope of hope and restoration.

An open theist would read these words as a warning with an appeal to the character of God. 

Jonah 4:2

So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

The warning given to the people of Nineveh did not contain an out.  “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  If the warning was contained in a conditional sentence like “unless you repent” then the warning would not have been as affective.
Most prophesies of God are not glimpses of an unavoidable future, but God does not want the prophesy to be fulfilled.  The prophesy is a warning “repent or be punished.” 

In the next verses the apocalyptic prophesy stops and the prophesy of the immediate future begins.  The signal of the a new type of prophesy is the repetition of the prophetic formula.  Again there is a reinforcement of the source of the prophecy “thus says the Lord.”  This is followed by the poetry of synonymous parallelism. 

12 “For thus says the Lord:
‘Your affliction is incurable,
Your wound is severe.

The parallel is affliction is like wound incurable is like severe. 

The next verse is strange.  The first part “there is no one to plead your cause” is simple Hebrew. The second part is ambiguous.  It is literal a series of nouns next to each other.

To a wound,  medicines, Healing, there is not, to you

Perhaps the best translation is for a wound there are no healing medicines for you.  Not only does this break the poetical construction of the previous verses but the meaning is that there is no hope for hope.  Your wound is incurable.

13 There is no one to plead your cause,
That you may be bound up;
You have no healing medicines.

In verse 14 there is heaving poetry.  The Hebrew is literally “Your lovers have forgotten you, (you) they do not seek.  The word “you” is not repeated but forms the center the parallel construction.  Who are these lovers?  Egypt was a political ally of Judah.  She encouraged Judah to rebel against Babylon and even sent an army to meet Babylon in 588 BC.  This army was met well before Jerusalem and turned back by Nebuchadnezzar.

14 All your lovers have forgotten you;
They do not seek you;
For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy,
With the chastisement of a cruel one,
For the multitude of your iniquities,
Because your sins have increased.

Because the event is certain, God foretells the fall of Jerusalem by Babylon.  Even though Babylon would be yielding the sword, God claims credit for the wound.  God mimics the cruelty of the cruel one from Babylon inflicting the wound.

Here is the taunt that many cannot attribute to God.  God attributes this cruelty to himself.  Does the commentator misrepresent the character of God when he tries to soften this taunt?

The second part of the verse has been mistranslated.  It is literally “Because of the multitude of your iniquities, your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.”  Most translators try to make too much of the parallelism between sin and iniquities. What is probably meant is because of the iniquities committed against persons your sins against God have increased.

15Why do you cry about your affliction?
Your sorrow is incurable.
Because of the multitude of your iniquities,
Because your sins have increased,
I have done these things to you.

How often Christians imagine that God is not a God of vengeance.  He is forgiving to those who repent and turn from their sins but he takes revenge on the unrepentant who devour his chosen people.  This is not limited to the Old Testament:

2 Thessalonians 1:6

 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,

This parallelism is evident:

You who devour will be devoured
You who lead people to captivity will be made captive
You who plunder will become plunder
You who prey will become prey

16 ‘Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured;
And all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
Those who plunder you shall become plunder,
And all who prey upon you I will make a prey.

Babylon was captured by Persia in 539BC.  Assyria, Edom, Amnon, and Moab were eventually conquered and destroyed. 

For I will restore health to you
And heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord,
‘Because they called you an outcast saying:
“This is Zion;
No one seeks her.” ’

The verses of 18 to 24 is a return to narrative in contrast with the poetical forms just mentioned.  The prophesy of verse 18 is a prophesy of the immediate future.   Israel returned to Jerusalem. The temple and the palace of David were rebuilt.  Archeology confirms the city was rebuilt on the ruins of the old city. 

18 “Thus says the Lord:

‘Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents,
And have mercy on his dwelling places;
The city shall be built upon its own [d]mound,
And the palace shall remain according to its own plan.
19 Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving
And the voice of those who make merry;
I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish;
I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

Archeologist have recently discovered the remains of the palace of David in just south of the Old City Walls in Jerusalem.  Dr. Eilat Mazar found a massive building which Mazar believes is King David’s palace. One of the discoveries is a 2,600 year old clay seal with the name Gedaliah ben Pashur. This name appears in Jeremiah 38:1.  He was a minister in the court of King Zedekiah. Previously another seal was found with name of another official which was in the same verse mentioned in Jeremiah:  Jehukal son of Shelemiah

Jeremiah 38:1

38 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said,

This is the first time two clay seals were found in the same location with persons mentioned in the same verse.  In the online site Jerusalem Archeological Sites: City of David, the archeologist is quoted:

“It is not very often that such a discovery happens in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible,” Mazar noted.

She found signs of a massive structure with huge boulders.  The walls were thick about 16 feet thick. She originally thought the cite was a fortress but after finding pottery in different places it was determined this was the palace of David.

A picture containing outdoor, rock, stone

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The next verses seem to be a eschatological prophesy. 

20 Their children also shall be as before,
And their congregation shall be established before Me;
And I will punish all who oppress them.
21 Their nobles shall be from among them,
And their governor shall come from their midst;
Then I will cause him to draw near,
And he shall approach Me;
For who is this who pledged his heart to approach Me?’ says the Lord.
22 ‘You shall be My people,
And I will be your God.’ ”

23 Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord
Goes forth with fury,
[e]continuing whirlwind;
It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
24 The fierce anger of the Lord will not return until He has done it,

And until He has performed the intents of His heart.

In the latter days you will consider it.

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