Jeremiah 31

The Word Made Fresh

1“Then,” says the LORD, “I will be the God of all of Israel’s families, and they will be my people.”

2The LORD says, “Those who survived the battle
found grace in the wilderness
when Israel searched for a place to rest.”
3The LORD appeared from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with a love that never dies –
That is why my faithfulness to you continues.
4I will build you again and you will stand, virgin Israel.
Once again you will take up your tambourines
and dance and rejoice.
5Once again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria.
Those who plant will enjoy the fruit of their labor,
6and the day will come when it will be announced in Ephraim’s hill country,
‘Come! Let’s go up to Zion, to the LORD our God!’”

7For the LORD says, “Sing with joy for Jacob!
Raise shouts of acclaim for the most honored of the nations.
Declare and give praise, and say,
‘Save your people, LORD, those who remain of Israel.’
8Look! I am going to gather them from the north land
and from the farthest corners of the earth.
The blind and the lame will be among them,
along with those who are pregnant and those with small children.
They will come back here, a great company of people.
9They shall come, weeping,
and I will console them and lead them back.
I will let them walk beside streams of water
on a straight road where they won’t stumble;
For I have become like a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my eldest son.”

10Hear the word of the LORD, all you nations,
and pass it on to the coastlands far away.
Tell them, “The one who scattered Israel will gather them
and tend them as a shepherd tends a flock.”
11The LORD has ransomed Jacob,         
and redeemed him from hands he could not escape.
12They shall come to the Zion heights and sing aloud,
and be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
and over the grain and wine and oil,
and over the young of flock and herd.
Their lives shall be like a well-watered garden,
and they shall never again be weak.
13Then the young women will rejoice and dance,
and the men, both young and old, will be glad.
For I will turn their mourning into rejoicing.
I will comfort them with gladness instead of sorrow.
14I will provide the priests with abundance,
and my people will be satisfied.”

15The LORD proclaims,
“A voice is heard in Ramah with grief and bitter tears.
Rachel weeps for her children.
She refuses to be comforted because they are no more.”
16The LORD says, “Do not weep,  
and do not let your eyes be filled with tears,
for your work will be rewarded.
They shall return from the land of the enemy.
17There is hope for your future,” says the LORD.
“Your children will return to their own country.”

18“I heard Ephraim begging,
‘You punished me, and I was disciplined like an unruly calf.
Bring me back! Allow me to return,
for you are the LORD my God!
19After I had turned away, I repented,
and after I was found out I slapped my thigh
because I was ashamed and dismayed,
for I had bourn the disgrace of my youth.’
20But isn’t Ephraim my dear son?
Is he not the child in whom I delight?
I may often chastise him, but I still cherish him.
My heart is moved for him,
and I will certainly have mercy on him,” says the LORD.

21“Set up road markers for yourself and make guideposts.
Study the highway by which you went out.
Then return to your cities, virgin Israel.
22How long will you dilly-dally, you faithless daughter?
The LORD has done a new thing on the earth:
a woman will protect a man.”

23So, the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says this: “Once more these words will become common in Judah and its villages when I restore them:

‘The LORD bless you, righteous home, sacred hill!’ 24Judah and all its villages shall live together, along with the farmers and shepherds wandering with their flocks. 25I will strengthen the weak and refresh those who are faint.”

26I awoke then and looked around. I had enjoyed a pleasant sleep.

27“The days will certainly come,” the LORD says, “when I will sow the seed of people and animals for the house of Judah and the house of Israel. 28And just as I have watched them pulling up and breaking down, overthrowing and destroying and bringing evil, so now I will watch over them to build and plant. 29Then they will have no cause to say, ‘the parents have eaten the grapes and the children’s teeth are on edge.’ 30But everyone dies for their own sins. Everyone who eats sour grapes will have their teeth set on edge.

31“The days are approaching when I will make a new agreement with Israel and Judah. 32It will not be like the agreement I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt. They didn’t keep that agreement even though I was their master. 33But now I make this agreement with them,” says the LORD. “I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34They will no longer tell one another to know the LORD, because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. I will forgive them all their mistakes and remember their sin no more.”

35This is what the LORD Almighty, who gives us the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to guide the night, who makes the waves of the seas roar and foam, says:

36“If this fixed order of things were ever to cease from my presence, then the children of Israel would also cease to be a nation in my presence.”

37The LORD says, “If the heavens above can be measured;
if the foundations of the earth can be explored,
that is when I will reject the children of Israel
because of all they have done.”

38“The days are certainly coming,” says the LORD, “when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39The measuring line will go out even further – to Gareb hill and then turn to Goah. 40The entire valley of dead bodies and ashes and the fields as far as the Kidron creek to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall never again be damaged or defeated.”


1-6: These verses present a vision of restoration that includes all the Promised Land, both Israel and Judah. Indeed, the emphasis here is on the northern kingdom with a picture of Samaria’s vineyards being replanted and the people who live in the hill country of Ephraim (the principle one of the northern tribes) will once again travel to Jerusalem to attend the required festivals.

7-9: The northern tribes were overrun by Assyria and the people scattered around the empire rather than exiled intact, which was the fate of the southern tribes in Judah. God is specifically reclaiming them as well as the exiles from Jerusalem.

10-14: Now all the nations hear the news of what God has done, and we have a picture of the rejoicing of the people as they return to the land God promised the descendants of Abraham.

15-17: Verse 15 is quoted at Matthew 2:18 as a scriptural reference to back up the story of Herod having all the children of Bethlehem put to death. Ramah was a town about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin. Rachel, wife of Jacob, died giving birth to their youngest son, Benjamin (Genesis 35:18). Jeremiah imagines her weeping that her “children,” the tribe of Benjamin, were deported to strange lands. He tells her to rejoice, for they will return to their own country.

18-20: Jeremiah imagines a conversation between Ephraim (another of Rachel’s “children” – actually her grandchild through Joseph) and God. Ephraim accepts the punishment given and pleads to be allowed to come home. God offers mercy.

21-22: God invites them to come home. The last part of verse 22 is obscure but seems to have to do with the imagery of God being touched by Rachel’s weeping for her sons.

23-26: Turning now to the southern kingdom, Judah, Jeremiah sees them returning and rebuilding and once again worshiping God on Mt. Zion, the “holy hill.”

27-30: Israel and Judah are at last mentioned in the same breath. The saying in verse 29 essentially means “the children suffer for their parents’ mistakes,” which is the judgment God made in sending them into exile — they were being punished for sins their ancestors committed (see 7:25-26). Jeremiah says that will no longer be a rule, but that each generation will suffer their own consequences.

31-34: God is proposing a new covenant, one that is not written on tablets of stone or on scrolls, but rather is written in the hearts of God’s people, both Israel and Judah.

35-37: God says that he will never again reject the descendants of Israel (Jacob); such a thing is as unlikely as the cessation of night and day.

38-40: The boundaries of the holy city will be expanded to include the terrible “valley of dead bodies and ashes,” a reference to the Hinnom Valley where bodies of the slain inhabitants of Jerusalem were tossed by the Babylonian soldiers (see 7:32) and where the horrible ritual of child sacrifice was enacted by pagan practitioners (7:31). God will redeem all of this territory, and it will “never again be uprooted or overthrown.”


Even though Israel and Judah had turned away from God and had been taken as captives and exiled to Babylon and other places, God still claimed them. God still claims you and me as well, even when we turn away from God. God will let us go, of course, but never gives up on us.