The arrangement of chapters in the book of Jeremiah differs between the Hebrew texts now available, which date from about the 7th century A.D., and the Greek version of the Septuagint, dated 275 B.C.
Whereas the content is relatively consistent the placement of prophecies is not. As it happens, this is not of great import, since the book of Jeremiah is a series of prophecies, made at different times, over a period of forty years.
The prophecy coming under examination here, Jeremiah 30 and 31, should therefore be considered as just one individual prophecy of many made by the prophet, all of which are gathered together into a book that we know as the Prophecies of Jeremiah. The prophecy begins with God commanding Jeremiah;
“Thus speaks the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write all the words which I have spoken to thee in a book” (Jeremiah 30:2).
Chapters 30 and 31 are the book referred to and it is interesting to observe that, in this prophecy, Jeremiah draws the attention of the gentile nations to the fact that God is going to restore His people to the Land that He gave to them; for example;
“Rejoice ye, and exult over the head of the nations: make proclamation, and praise ye: say, The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:7) and, again;
“Hear the words of the Lord, ye nations, and proclaim them to the islands afar off; say, He that scattered Israel will also gather him, and keep him as one that feeds his flock. For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, he has rescued him out of the hand of them that were stronger than he” (Jeremiah 31:10-11).
“Exult over the head of the nations” and “Hear the words of the lord ye nations”; there is a warning to the gentiles here; Jehovah stands pledged to Israel.
This speaking to the gentiles about His people within a prophecy of God, invites comparison to Paul’s epistle to the Romans, in which he expressly enlightens the gentiles regarding God’s purposes with national Israel (Chapters 9-11).
The background of this prophecy goes back to Moses who, even before the first settlement in Canaan, warned Israel that, in the event of their disobedience;
“The Lord thy God shall scatter thee among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other; and thou shalt there serve other gods, wood and stone, which thou hast not known, nor thy fathers” (Deuteronomy 28:64).
Similar prophecies in which God reminded His people of the demand for obedience and warned them of the consequences of disobedience can be found in all of the prophets, for example;
“For Lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among many nations, as corn is tossed about in a sieve” (Amos 9:9), and,
“I will give them up to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth for evil; to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places where I will drive them” (Jeremiah 24:9).
And isn’t this what happened? The prophets are not talking about being taken captive by Assyria or Babylon, as the case may be, but speaking of their total expulsion and exclusion from the Land given to them by God, and their divinely enforced dispersion among all the nations of the world. This was the most extraordinary thing ever to have happened! But even more extraordinary is what took actually place as a result.
That Israel should be cast out of their own land, or even be dispersed throughout the nations was conceivable, since God had threatened just that as far back as Moses, as we have seen. But that for nineteen centuries, a people vanquished and scattered out of their own country, instead of being assimilated and absorbed among those nations to which they were banished, and instead of taking root in the new soil in which they were transplanted, could instead retain a unique and separate cultural existence to those nations, yet a cultural existence that they shared with their kinsmen transplanted into other nations remote from each other and unknown to them; who could have imagined that?
Yet it was foretold in all of the prophetic scriptures, and was an enduring witness to the One Whose mighty hand maintained this continuing miracle.
The prophecy we are dealing with here, though, overviews Israel’s future history, part of which has already been fulfilled; the re-gathering of the “outcasts of Israel” and the “dispersed of Judah” into the Land.
“For, behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, said the Lord: and I will bring them back to the land which I gave to their fathers, and they shall be lords of it” (Jeremiah 30:3).
This is not to be confused, as it sometimes is, with the return from Babylon, for on their return they were certainly not lords of the Land, but slaves, of which we have Nehemiah’s testimony;
‘Behold, we are servants this day, and as for the Land which thou gave to our fathers to eat the fruit of it and the good things of it, behold, we are servants upon it, and its produce is abundant for the kings whom thou didst appoint over us because of our sins; and they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, as it pleases them, and we are in great affliction” (Nehemiah 9:36-37).
Moreover, it can hardly be said that, until the dispersion ordered by Titus, the Jews were “scattered”, as prophesied by Moses, above; nor were they “tossed to and from among all the kingdoms of the earth” as prophesied by Jeremiah, above. These prophecies clearly refer to a second restoration, an event that was also prophesied of by Isaiah, who said;
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea; and he shall raise up a sign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:11-12).
The places mentioned by name are all in North Africa and the Middle East and were places known at the time; but the “four corners of the earth” does not refer just to the Middle East; it means Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australasia too; and it is only after this restoration, that Israel will be “lords” of the Land God gave to them, as prophesied by Jeremiah above.
In these days, we have witnessed this miraculous re-gathering of the people from all of these continents back to the Land God gave to them so long ago, and the re-establishment of the nation, Israel. The prophecy of Jeremiah that we are examining, concludes with the most exacting description of rebuilding the city, and it closes with the emphatic declaration;
“It will not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever” (Jeremiah 31:40).
The finality of the restoration of the Jews to their land was also proclaimed emphatically by the prophet Amos;
“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them; and I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, says the LORD thy God” (Amos 9:14-15).
The fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures as they apply to Israel’s banishment from the Land, their dispersion throughout all the gentile nations, their sufferings at the hands of their gentile rulers and, finally, their re-gathering and restoration by God to the Land, constitute the most compelling testimony to the faithfulness of God and the unshakeable veracity of the Holy Scriptures.
These things have taken place before the eyes of the world but instead of the world acknowledging, with awe and fear, the sovereign power of God, and His resolute commitment to the prophetic Word, the world has instead taken the view that this was all arranged as a result of political negotiation and manipulation. It is not surprising really, for the eyes of the world, including much of the Jewish and Christian worlds, are blinded by unbelief.
The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Prophetically, “Jacob” speaks exclusively of the Jews, whereas the term Israel may, in some context, include God’s people generally. The time of Jacob’s trouble, then, is a prophetic event that refers to the nation of Israel exclusively. It is Jeremiah, writing in this “book” of prophecy, as directed by God, who uses this term in the following verses of the prophecy;
“And these are the words that Jehovah spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah. ‘For thus’ says Jehovah, ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see whether a man travails with child: wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it’” (Jeremiah 30:4-7).
After all the sufferings of Israel throughout the centuries, there is yet a future baptism of fire through which they must pass; this much is clear from this prophecy, as well as others. Hear for example, Ezekiel;
“Therefore thus says the Lord Jehovah: ‘Because you are all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in My anger and in My wrath, and I will lay you there, and melt you. Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall you be melted in the midst thereof; and you shall know that I, Jehovah, have poured out My wrath upon you’” (Ezekiel 22:19-22).
Such is God’s wrath at His people, “to whom is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever, Amen” (Romans 9:4-5). These are the chosen nation, to whom came the Lord of Glory, but not only did they “receive Him not” (John 1:11), but they betrayed Him into the hands of the gentiles, to be crucified. “We will not have this man to rule over us”, they said (Luke 19:14).
This “fiery furnace” of God’s wrath concerns Israel and prophetically follows the return of Israel to the Land, so that it will be the next prophesied event to be fulfilled in the long saga of Israel’s history. At the present time, however, the present prophetic period can be described as the “end of the times of the gentiles”, which is evident in the fact that Jerusalem is no longer under the heel of the gentiles, as Jesus prophesied;
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
These are the days in which we live; the times of the gentiles is fulfilled; Jerusalem is no longer trodden down by the gentiles; as far as Israel is concerned, they are at the threshold of the time of Jacob’s trouble, which, itself, is part of the end times events prophesied in the scriptures. For the gentiles, they have yet to see the manifestation of the “mystery of lawlessness” in a man, as prophesied by Paul (2 Thessalonians 2). This “man of lawlessness” plays a role, not just in relation to the gentiles, but to Israel as well, and it is likely, but not yet clear, that his manifestation will usher in the ”time of Jacob’s trouble”.
But let us look at what the prophets say about this time.
“Behold, a day of Jehovah cometh, when thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee; for I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zechariah 14:1-2).
This prophecy was made after the return from Babylon and refers to the “time of Jacob’s trouble”. Then also, Zechariah, a post-exilic prophet, had this to say;
“And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein; and I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God” (Zechariah 13:8-9).
This is the prospect that faces Israel the nation before long; this people, who rebelled against the Most High, rejected the Son, not just in His incarnation, but ever since, and have always resisted the Holy Spirit. It is as Amos prophesied;
“Woe unto you that desire the day of Jehovah! Wherefore would you have the day of Jehovah? It is darkness, and not light; as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of Jehovah be darkness, and not light? Even very dark, and no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20).
Poor Israel, who have suffered so much, have another trial before them; it is almost as though being God’s people has been a curse and not a blessing; yet that is not so. Rebellion, apostasy, idolatry, adultery; these are the deeds of which Israel is about to bear the fruit. But there is a prophetic dimension to their sufferings and, to those who will see and understand, the tragic history of Israel speaks of the absolute determination of God that His people will know and follow His ways. To any Christian reading the past, present and future history of Israel in the scriptures, it must be the most fearful warning against taking God casually, as could be conceived.
“Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance” (Psalm 83:4).
This speaks prophetically of the gentile world’s attitude towards Israel. It seems as though kings, popes, bishops and peoples have all been equally enraged with Israel and determined upon their extermination; to undertake this task, every expedient has been attempted.
Pharaoh, the head of the gentile world, devised a scheme whereby every son born was to be cast into the river and drowned (Exodus 1:22); Israel survived that test, both in the River Nile and the Red Sea, but God’s retributive justice fell upon Egypt; Pharaoh and his army was, itself, drowned in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:4).
Another example of God’s faithfulness to His faithful people can be seen in the casting of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace of fire; not only were the young men saved, but those who threw them in were themselves slain by the fire (Daniel 3:22)
We see faithful God saving faithful people again, when Daniel was cast into the lion’s den; not only was he spared, but his enemies themselves had their bones broken by the beasts (Daniel 6:24).
Throughout history, the oppression and persecution of the Jews has been the favourite blood sport of the gentile nations, culminating in the Holocaust initiated and undertaken in the twentieth century by Germany, a supposed Christian nation. But, after two thousand years of dispersion, unimaginable sufferings, violence, tortures, massacres and systematic oppression, the Jewish people have proved indestructible and they found their way to the Promised Land. Did not God tell them, when promising them restoration and protection:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you” (Isaiah 43:2).
And so Israel is returned and God can begin His final dealings with them.
Conversion of Israel
Apart from the time of Jacob’s trouble, there is yet something more to be accomplished in God’s plan and purpose for His first-born. The restoration already announced by Jeremiah is to be followed, not just by the time of Jacob’s trouble, but finally, by a national conversion of Israel; Israel is to enter in to the new covenant that God has already made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31), and that was announced in this very “book” of the prophecy that God told Jeremiah to write.
But is was not just to Jeremiah that God’s purposes for His beloved people were revealed;
“For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land; and I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them. And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:24-28).
There is more to it than just the conversion of Israel however. If we follow the prophecy in Jeremiah, we will find that immediately following the time of Jacob’s trouble, God had this to say;
“And it shall come to pass in that day, says Jehovah of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and will burst your bonds; and strangers shall no more make him their bondman; but they shall serve Jehovah their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them” (Jeremiah 30:8-9).
These events take place when Israel is sorely pressed and at the last gasp. The time of Jacob’s trouble consists of a great gathering of nations that will come upon Israel to destroy them utterly. These nations will be at the point of achieving their goal, when, Israel will finally turn to their God in repentance and tears and cry out for help. This mirrors Jacob’s cry to the Man with whom he was wrestling throughout the long dark night; “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” Thus Israel, too, in the last dark hour of the dark night of which we read in the prophetic scriptures, in that final sorrow and extreme tribulation which is to come upon them, will Jacob’s thigh be put out of joint, and then all they will be able to do is lean upon Him who comes to rescue them and whom they will know as their Saviour, Messiah and King.
With the yoke of the oppressor broken from Israel’s neck, their sufferings and troubles will finally be over; no more shall they be servants of strangers, but will dwell in their own land and serve, not only Jehovah, their God, but at last, David their King.
David, the King
The prophet Hosea wrote; “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king, and shall come with fear unto Jehovah and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:4-5).
So it has proved; Israel has indeed abode many centuries without king or prince and without any of those aspects of their religion that centred on the Temple. Now they have returned and, we are told, that they will seek Jehovah and David their king.
For all those centuries before Christ and the twenty centuries since, in spite of every effort and Jewish ambition, there has never been any re-establishment of the throne of David; it was overturned, just as Ezekiel prophesied.
“Remove the mitre, take off the crown; it shall not be; exalt the low, abase the high, (i.e. let anarchy and usurpation of the throne of David continue). “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; this shall be no more until He comes whose right it is; to Him it shall be given” (Ezekiel 21:26-27).
While it is true that in the second century before Christ there was a kingdom in Judea, it was established by the Romans and given to an Edomite, of the family of Esau, not Jacob. To that extent, it was not of the house of David, nor even of the tribe of Judah and such cannot be recognised as kings by God, who, by oath, appointed David and his seed to be kings of Israel. So who can this latter day king of Israel be but Jesus Christ the Messiah, of Whom it was said at His birth that “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Here then, is the One “whose right it is”, as spoken by Ezekiel; and He is going to receive the throne of His father David, as the angel told Mary. What throne is this, then? Not a throne in heaven, because David did not sit upon a throne in heaven; nor can it be any spiritual kingdom, for David’s throne was firmly established on earth. The throne intended therefore, must be the throne of the kingdom of Israel, and so it is.
This scripture, like many others, is misinterpreted by Christianity to mean the throne on which Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father, but this view is not based upon the whole word of God. Consider, for example, Revelation 3:21;
“He that overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne” (Revelation 3:21).
Here the Lord tells us that the throne on which He now sits is not His, but His Father’s, who shares it with Him as a sign of His perfect satisfaction with a job well done. But He sits there only until He takes possession of His own throne, which He will share with those who have been faithful in this world. That throne is to be established in Jerusalem. It is ironic that, had the Jews known the day of their visitation, the kingdom might, at that time, have been restored to them, but “His own received Him not” and so they have endured over two millennia “without king or prince”. Many days indeed!
Their true King, who Israel insulted and rejected and delivered over to the gentiles like His prophetic forerunner Joseph, departed for a season with this terrible announcement;
“Behold, your house is left to you desolate. For I say unto you, you shall not see Me henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:38-39).
Or, as Hosea put it; “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early” (Hosea 5:15).
The King’s departure is but for a limited time; until they say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord”; until they acknowledge their offence and seek His face. This will happen during the time of Jacob’s trouble and will signal the recognition of the Messiah and the overthrow of Israel’s enemies. They will seek His face, “which, in wrath, He hid from them for a moment’; (Isaiah 54:8), and they will look upon Him whom they have pierced. Then, ”I will return and build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up” (Amos 9:11-12).
All of this is told in the story of David, who was anointed king by Samuel as a lad; but another sat upon the throne God intended for David, a man chosen by the men of Israel, not God. David was rejected and driven away, but after years of rejection, they turned their hearts toward him, “and the men of Judah came there and anointed David king over the house of Judah” 1 Samuel 2:4). As if he hadn’t already been anointed by God!
So it will be with Christ; His people will know Him, and anoint Him as their king and He shall rule over them forever.
A Warning to the Gentiles
This prophecy of Jeremiah is principally concerned with the coming future of Jacob’s children, but it also includes a warning to the gentile nations amongst which the Jews were to be dispersed.
God will judge the nations that have accommodated His people of the Land during their long night of darkness, which is coming to an end. Soon Jacob will cease their struggling with the Man and cry out “I will not let you go unless you bless me” and they will finally know their Messiah.
Concurrently, the gentile nations are being judged for their treatment of the Jews during the course of their long sojourn during the dispersion; we see this happening today. “Christian” Europe, which treated the Jews so harshly, keeping them imprisoned in ghettos and making laws against them and, finally, endeavouring to annihilate them, is rapidly disintegrating. Humanism has long ago replaced faith in Christ as the true religion of Europe and, concurrent with the events leading to the restoration of God’s people to their Land, Europe has been involved in two devastating wars involving ”Christian” nations, which has had a calamitous impact on the preservation and propagation of the true faith.
In the present time, there is a rising tide of demonic Islam in Europe which will inevitably see the emergence of Islamic control of the continent. This will fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy;
“Therefore all they that devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that despoil you shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon you will I give for a prey” (Jeremiah 30:16).
Unbelieving Israel today is still a sick man; in fact, if you look at the prophecy of Ezekiel 37, Israel has died and, although restored to the Land, is reduced to a heap of dry bones. Paul described them as broken off branches in Romans 11, separated from the fatness of the Divine Root, and bearing no fruit.
But the dry bones can live again; “so I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).
Moreover, the broken off branches can be fitted back to the tree and made once more to live and bear fruit;
“God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree”? (Romans 11:23-24).
The long struggle is nearly over; soon God will bring to an end the great drama of His people; first the time of Jacob’s trouble in which their apostasy culminates in their acceptance of one as their Messiah who is not (See John 5:43). Then, there is great national repentance “as they look upon the One whom they have pierced”; and finally the crowning of the One who was always their King. Dispersed, demeaned and degraded no longer!
“For I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds, says Jehovah. Because they called you an outcast, saying, ‘This is Zion, who no man seeks after’” (Jeremiah 30:17).