Old Testament Survey - Lesson 30

Jeremiah's Historical Context

In studying this lesson, you will learn about the life and prophetic ministry of Jeremiah, a major prophet in the Old Testament. You will review the historical context surrounding Jeremiah's prophecies, examining his interactions with successive kings of Judah, including Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. The lesson explores the challenges faced by prophets in delivering messages of warning and hope to a rebellious nation. The structure and themes of the Book of Jeremiah are explained and key passages highlighted. Ultimately, studying Jeremiah's life and teachings offers valuable lessons on the burdens and rewards of prophetic ministry, the faithfulness of God, and the importance of genuine spiritual transformation.

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 30
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Jeremiah's Historical Context

I. Overview of Jeremiah's Prophecies

A. Introduction to Jeremiah's Ministry

B. Relationship to Successive Kings

C. Chronology of Major Events

D. Jeremiah's Personal Background

II. Jeremiah's Ministry under Josiah and Jehoahaz

A. Jeremiah's Early Ministry

B. Lack of Prophecies during Josiah's Reign

C. Lament for Josiah

D. Jehoahaz's Brief Reign

III. Jehoiakim's Reign and Jeremiah's Opposition

A. Jehoiakim's Rule and Relationship with Egypt

B. Jeremiah's Persecution and Imprisonment

C. Predictions of Jehoiakim's Capture

IV. Jehoiachin's Reign and the Exile

A. Short Reign and Exile of Jehoiachin

B. Predictions of Exile and End of Davidic Dynasty

C. Jehoiachin's Later Fate

V. Zedekiah's Rule and Jerusalem's Destruction

A. Nebuchadnezzar's Appointment of Zedekiah

B. Zedekiah's Weak Rule and Jerusalem's Fall

C. Jeremiah's Imprisonment and Rescue

VI. Aftermath of Jerusalem's Fall

A. Gedaliah's Governorship and Murder

B. Jeremiah's Forced Exile to Egypt

C. Prophecies against Egypt and Nebuchadnezzar's Conquest

VII. Themes and Literary Structure of Jeremiah

A. Themes of True Religion and New Covenant

B. Structure and Arrangement of the Book

C. Notable Sermons and Prophecies

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Jeremiah's Historical Context
Lesson Transcript


I've already commented generally on the times of Jeremiah. However, it may be helpful to chronicle his prophecies in relation to the events transpiring around him more specifically, noting especially Jeremiah's relationship to successive kings. First of all, there's King Josiah.

According to the superscription to the book that bears Jeremiah's name, this prophet was called to ministry in Josiah's 13th year, 627 B.C., about five years before they discovered the Torah document in the temple, which precipitated Josiah's main reforms. And of course, this discovery happened because Josiah, the good king, had told his people to refurbish, to clean, and to redecorate the temple, in the process of which they discovered that Torah scroll. While most maintain that Jeremiah was a mature boy, that is about 16 or 17 years old at the time of his call, and that he began prophesying almost immediately, it's difficult to identify any prophecies from the time of Josiah, which is surprising.

Jeremiah wrote the obituary, the lament for Josiah, but we have no prophecies concerning his period, though Thompson speculates 3.1 to 4.4 come from the early period. The only clear reference to this good king in this book is found in 22, 15 to 16, where Jehoiakim is contrasted with his noble father. Not only is there no direct word about Josiah's reforms in the book of Jeremiah, but the historical record makes no reference to Jeremiah in connection with those reforms.

Why is it that Huldah comes and gives the prophetic word to Josiah rather than Jeremiah? These are all questions we cannot answer. So some argue that Jeremiah was called later, but that although Jeremiah was called in 627, but he didn't actually begin prophesying professionally until much later, perhaps the time of Jehoiakim. But more likely is the view, for instance, of Lumbom that Jeremiah accepted the call after the Torah scroll was found, an event alluded to in 1516.

Jeremiah 1:13 to 17 records his divine mandate to begin preaching. Although we don't know exactly when Jeremiah began his ministry, given the reputation he gained in the Josianic court, we know that he was active in that court, perhaps even in the days of Josiah. He wrote the concluding lament.

The second character here we need to note is Jehoahaz, who reigned for only three months after the tragic death of Josiah in 609 BC. Jehoahaz reigned only three months, as we mentioned in the previous lesson. Pharaoh Necho replaced him with Eliakim, whom he renamed Jehoiakim.

He exacted heavy tribute from Judah at this time. Jeremiah laments Jehoahaz's deportation to Egypt in 2210 to 12. He's aware of that, but his reign was too short to color many other prophecies.

In Jeremiah's eyes, Jehoiakim, 609 to 597 BC, represented all that was wrong in Judah. He was installed by the king of Egypt, and to him he continually looked for support. But after Nebuchadnezzar had defeated the Egyptians and Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish in 605 BC, to resist Babylonian rule turned out not only to be folly, it was treasonous against God.

We see that perspective especially in Ezekiel chapter 17. You revolt against Nebuchadnezzar, you revolt against God. For Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar was God's agent of judgment upon a nation whose doom had been sealed, and no human was to interfere.

King Jehoiakim was not only idolatrous, he was arrogant, selfish. He exploited all his subjects. He had no respect for Jeremiah as a person or his message.

He insulted him at many turns. Jeremiah's reprimands of the king and his officials around him were sharp, and for this he was persecuted. Chapter 12 and 15, they plotted against him, they imprisoned him, and they declared him worthy of death.

Jeremiah's lot was difficult, but he persisted, interceding for Judah in chapter 11, 14, 14, 11, 17, 16. He wrestled with God, 17, 14 to 18, 18, 18 to 23, and 27 to 8, and he exposed the self-serving false prophets, 23, 9 to 40, and predicting the end of the nation and all the props on which official Jewish theology based Judah's security. Jeremiah's predictions of Jehoiakim's end were brutally fulfilled in 597, when Nebuchadnezzar captured him and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon.

That's Jehoiakim. Jehoiachin, it's usually translated, usually pronounced that way, but the Hebrew should be Jehoiakin. He's also known, especially in the book of Jeremiah, as Jeconiah, 24-1, or simply Coniah, 22, 24, and 28.

This is the same character. He ruled only three months. Because of the rebellion of the father of this immature youth of 18, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 597, captured Jerusalem, and exiled the royal family and the rest of the political, economic, and military nobility, II Kings 24.

Jeremiah had predicted Jehoiakin's fate in 22, 24 to 30, and with it, the end of the Davidic dynasty. 36 years later, Jehoiakin was released by Nebuchadnezzar's successor and mysteriously elevated in the Babylonian court. We read about this at the end of II Kings 25, 27 to 30.

And finally, we have Zedekiah, whose original name was Mataniah, 597 to 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar installed this youngest son of Josiah in his nephew's place. He should have been grateful for the honor, but despite prophetic warnings and political realities, he persisted in spiritual and political perfidy.

His weak and vacillating rule sealed the nation's doom. In 586, Nebuchadnezzar had had enough, and Jerusalem was razed. Jeremiah considered him and his cohorts as bad figs in comparison with the exiles.

He spared no effort in denouncing him for his pro-Egyptian and rebellious stance. Prior to and during the siege of the capital, Jeremiah's message was clear and univocal. Submit to Babylon and live.

Resist Babylon and die, 21, 1 to 10, chapter 34, chapter 37, and 38. For his own efforts, the prophet was arrested, charged with treason, thrown into a cistern, and only the time lay rescue by an Ethiopian, Aved-Melek, servant of the king. Only that saved him, 37, 11 to 21.

Later, Jeremiah was transferred to the royal prison, where the king, though, secretly conferred with him, but he didn't want his court to know about that. The political story of Judah ends with Gedaliah. The governor imposed on the people, or appointed for the people, after Zedekiah was deposed.

Gedaliah was the governor who ruled from Mizpah, where Jeremiah apparently joined him as a counselor, perhaps, chapter 40, verses 1 to 6. Nebuchadnezzar treated Jeremiah kindly, but when Gedaliah was murdered, he and his scribe friend, Baruch, were dragged off by the remnant to Egypt, despite his protestations. When last we hear of Jeremiah, he was in Egypt, in Tachfanis, prophesying against his hosts, the Egyptians, and predicting Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Egypt. This is 43, 8 to 13.

What can we say about the prophet, Jeremiah? The meaning of his name is uncertain. Depending upon the root, one assumes it may be interpreted either as Yahweh hurls, or Yahweh loosens, or Yahweh exalts. We don't know, and it doesn't actually matter, because in the ancient world, very seldom did names actually function as commentaries of the person's life, or did the person's life represent an exposition of the meaning of a name.

Names reflected the faith of parents, not the characteristics of the person who bore the name. But Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, a priest at Anathoth, in Benjaminite territory, not far from Shiloh. He was unmarried at the time of his call.

Later, Yahweh explicitly called him to a life of celibacy. No prophet in the First Testament is portrayed as transparently as Jeremiah. In fact, he, more than any other, shows what it means to be a true prophet, this weeping prophet.

As the spokesman for God, he bore in his body the burden of his message, note his celibacy, his sign acts. He agonized with God over the fate of his people. He contested vigorously with false prophets.

He loved his people and was a loyal patriot, but he was branded as a traitor. More than any other prophet, Jeremiah transparently let his feelings show, yielding the popular label, the weeping prophet. His passions are expressed, or shall we say reflected, in a series of texts commonly known as his confessions.

He is just spilling his heart before God. 11, 18 to 23, 12, 1 to 6, 15, 10 to 12, and 15, 15 to 21, 17, 14 to 18, 18, 18 to 23, 27 to 13, and 20, 14 to 19. Confession, though, is an unfortunate designation for these outbursts since they contain a variety of responses.

Sometimes they are simply dialogues with Yahweh. Other times they are complaints, disputes, prayers, and protestations. His frustrations with his ministry began at the time of his call when he protested Yahweh's unfairness in calling him even before he was born.

That's not fair. In his call and his appropriation of Mosaic traditions, Jeremiah seemed to understand himself as the prophet like Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18, 18, which may explain why this book, more than any other, sounds like the book of Deuteronomy in its language and its style. However, we also see echoes of Samuel in Jeremiah's life, especially his nativity, his birth in Anathoth, which is near Shiloh where Samuel served in the sanctuary, and his invectives against the temple in terms reminiscent of Shiloh's fate.

Several times he says, you know what's going to happen to Jerusalem? Look at what happened to Shiloh, or we should actually pronounce it Shiloh. Like many a pastor or missionary today, Jeremiah appears somewhat schizophrenic. In public, he was fearless, denouncing with great vigor all who stood in the way of God, regardless of their social and professional standing.

But in the closet, in private, alone with God, he aired all his tensions. Jeremiah loved his people intensely and craved their friendship, but he was keenly aware of their guilt and Yahweh's right to punish them on the one hand, and then he struggled with their rejection of him on the other. Blaming it all on God, he cried out in pain and utter loneliness.

See, especially 15, 17 to 18. Cursed is the day of my birth. He tried to keep his mouth shut, but the pressure of Yahweh's message inside him was like a volcano that had to explode.

20 verses 7 to 10. Sometimes his depression became so intense, for instance, after his encounter with Pasher and the priest, that in a manner hardly worthy of a prophet, he cursed the day of his birth, which was tantamount to cursing his call as well. And in the end, he suffered the ultimate indignity of being dragged off to Egypt.

Jeremiah teaches us that the call to ministry may be a heavy burden upon the minister's shoulders, but his prophecies also teach us that the one who calls us is faithful in providing his servant with all the resources needed to endure. God may not always answer all our questions, but his promise of his presence is constant. Now let's look at the book of Jeremiah.

With its 21,819 words in the Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah is the longest book, longer even than Isaiah, which is just under 17,000 words, Ezekiel just under 19,000, or Genesis, which is a little more than 20,000, and the Psalms, which are a little more than 19,000. Jeremiah is the longest book. It's evident from chapter 36 that the present book does not represent the first compilation of Jeremiah's prophecies.

Chapter 36, in 605 BC, his scribe Baruch transcribed Jeremiah's prophecies and read them in the temple. The scroll was read three times, but the third time it was read to King Jehoiakim, who repaid Baruch's efforts and Jeremiah's efforts by cutting it up with his penknife and throwing it in the fireplace. Later, that scroll was rewritten and with additions.

You don't want to burn the Lord's words because they'll come back to haunt you with even more power later, and that's what happens in Jeremiah. We can only speculate what that first scroll contained, but it probably had all of Jeremiah's prophecies to that date. Some suggest chapters 1 to 20.

The broad structure of the present book of Jeremiah is readily recognized, but the reasons for the arrangements within the major segments are not always clear. In fact, if you look at the Septuagint version of Jeremiah, produced in probably about the 2nd century BC, the Septuagint version has a different arrangement. The oracles of the nations come much earlier than in our English translations, which reflect the Hebrew canon.

So the form of this book was fluid, even in the centuries immediately before the coming of Christ. The broad structure of the present book we can recognize quite easily, but the reasons for the arrangements within these major sections are not always clear. We may look upon the sections as smaller books of topically arranged oracles that were then finally put together to create the present whole.

In Jeremiah, unlike Ezekiel, it's often difficult to identify the organizing principles or even to recognize the boundaries between oracles, but we recognize the following broad divisions of the book. The first section involves plucking up and tearing down. This is 2 1 to 20 verse 18, which contains two collections of oracles of judgment against Jerusalem, the temple, and the inhabitants of the city.

Within this, there are two collections of oracles, the first one 2:1 to 25, and the second collection 11 1 to the end, chapters 11 to 20, so it's almost divided in half. In chapters 21 to 24, we have Jeremiah dealing with kings and prophets, and he has specific pronouncements about the kings and the prophets with whom he related mostly in negative terms in the early part of his ministry. In 26 1 to 29, we have what we can call the book of Baruch part one.

There are two sections in this book in which Baruch is a particularly prominent figure, so we have part one in 26 to 29. Then in 30 to 33, we have what for most people is the favorite part of this book. It's what I call the book of comfort, building and planting.

To this point, he's been plucking up and tearing down, but now he builds and plants with promises of hope, promises of a new covenant, promises of the sign of a new day, and then ending with another chapter 33 on promises of hope. Then we come to a third major section, chapters 34 to 45. This is the book of Baruch, the second part of the book, what I call the book of Baruch, in which we have narratives about Jeremiah's prophetic ministry, and it ends with, in our Hebrew and English translations, it ends with oracles against the foreign nations, concluding with a reference to Saraiah.

He apparently had two scribes working for him. Baruch was the dominant one, but now we learn of Saraiah's involvement in his life, and then it concludes with a final historical appendix. There is so much we could say about the book of Jeremiah, but I want to draw attention only to two texts, because in this we see the heart of the book.

The first is Jeremiah 7 to 9, which is what some people call his temple gate sermon. He takes his stand at the gate of the temple, and he calls out to those who are coming to worship, and he not only calls out to them, he calls them out, and he has a profound sermon here on the nature of true religion. In this sermon, he makes many points, but there are four which are particularly impressive and relevant for us.

First, in chapter 7 verses 1 to 7, attendance at the house of God is no substitute for a real meeting with him. The people are walking by the temple and saying, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, and they're basing their security on the temple, but nobody's actually having a meeting with him. There's no encounter with God.

Second, religious exercises are no substitute for ethical obedience to the will of God. Going to church is not a sign of a true believer. It's the life that's transformed.

This is chapter 7, 21 to 34. Third, possession of the Word of God, we have the Torah, is no substitute for living the Word of God, putting its demands into practice. And four, profound understanding of theoretical truth is no substitute for knowing the one who is truth.

Let not the rich boast in their riches or the wise boast in their wisdom, but let them boast in this, that they know me. That is key. This is a powerful section in the book of Jeremiah.

The other note I would like to make is on the new Israelite covenant in chapter 31, 23 to 40. Here, Jeremiah's prophecy of hope reaches its climax, a fact reinforced by the New Testament's use of this text. Hebrews 8, 8 to 12 recognizes the significance of this passage for biblical theology by preserving the longest quotation of a First Testament text that we find in the whole New Testament.

See, days are coming, the Declaration of Yahweh, when I will make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah a new covenant, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, the Declaration of Yahweh. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, the Declaration of Yahweh. I will put my Torah within them, and on their hearts I will write it.

I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they each teach their neighbor and each their brother, saying, Know Yahweh, because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, the Declaration of Yahweh. For I will forgive their sin, their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

Thus has Yahweh declared, the one who established the sun for light by day, the laws of the moon and stars for light by night, the one who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, whose name is Yahweh of hosts. If these ordinances should ever be annulled by me, the Declaration of Yahweh, only then would the offspring of Israel cease to be a nation before me for all time. This is what Yahweh says.

Just as the heavens cannot be measured, and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I am Yahweh, I have spoken. The day is coming, says Yahweh, when all Jerusalem will be rebuilt for me, from the tower of Hananel to the corner gate.

A measuring line will be stretched out over the hill of Gerave and across to Goa, and the entire area, including the graveyard and ash dump in the valley and all the fields out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the horse gate, will be holy to Yahweh. The city will never again be captured or destroyed. Well, let's begin by giving a broad outline for this passage, Isaiah 31, 23 to 40.

He begins with the reestablishment of the blessing of Judah, the pastoral image of 31, 23 to 26. Then we have the renovation of Israel and Judah with horticultural imagery in 31, 27 to 30, and then we have the renewal of the ancient Israelite covenant. And now I use the expression Israelite covenant because in context, Jeremiah's vision here is entirely parochial.

He is talking about Israel and Judah, that is, northern and southern kingdom. At the moment, there is no hint of a concern for universalizing this. That doesn't mean it won't happen, and it will, and it doesn't mean that's out of the picture, but Jeremiah is not concerned about that one.

But there are a few other things we might say about this covenant. Look at these features. It is divine in its timing.

Days are coming. It is divine in its initiation. Thus has Yahweh declared.

It's divine in its action. I will cut a covenant, and it's divine in its description. I will make a new covenant.

Well, actually, we have to ask, what's new here? Elsewhere, this covenant is called the eternal covenant, and we can give a half a dozen references for that, or it's also called the covenant of peace. Isaiah 54 10, Ezekiel 34 25, and 37 26. But when you look at the terms of the covenant, and there are four primary terms, I will put my Torah in their hearts.

That's the internalization of the Torah. Second, I will be their God, and they will be my people. This is what we know as the covenant formula.

It will be renewed. Then you have the universal knowledge of Yahweh. They will all know me from the least to the greatest.

And finally, I will forgive their sins and take away their iniquity. These are the four terms of the covenant, and then we have in 31 35 to 37, the divine guarantee. I will do it and never retract it.

So we need to ask, what's new here? And if you look at it, the answer is nothing from God's perspective. There is nothing new. There have always been people who have had the Torah of the Lord in their hearts.

There have always been people of whom God would say, I am your God, you are mine. There have always been people who have known Yahweh. In the days of Seth already, they began calling upon the name of Yahweh.

And there have always been those who have experienced the grace of forgiveness of sin. Well, what then is new? Well, it's not what God is offering in what God is offering to the people. What's new lies in the people.

The covenant that he made with the fathers, they broke even though Yahweh had been faithful to them. Not so this one. As in verse 21 to 22, Yahweh looks forward to a day when Israel will finally embrace him

With a bond, he uses the metaphor, a woman will embrace a man. To this point, God has always been running after Israel, and she has not reciprocated by coming to him. With a bond of commitment from both sides, finally it will be indissoluble.

In this process, there is no freedom from the Torah in the new covenant. No. In fact, there is finally freedom and joy in living according to the Torah.

They will all know me. This is what's new. To this point, there have always been two Israels.

There is the Israel that claims to be the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are Israelite by virtue of genealogical connection to the ancestors, and they have their name from Jacob, who is called Israel. But the problem has been throughout their history that Israel wasn't actually the people of God.

Caleb, a non-Israelite, was a true Israelite because he had a different spirit. He followed the Lord fully, but that's always been a minority. Even the group that came out of Egypt, physically they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but it didn't take very long for them to prove who they really were.

Most of them died in the desert. Only Caleb and Joshua and their clans, this remnant, entered the promised land because they were those who were circumcised of heart. Jeremiah doesn't use that metaphor here.

He uses the expression, I will put my Torah in their hearts. But going as far back as Moses, well, God actually initiates the expression in Leviticus 26, their circumcised hearts. In Deuteronomy 10, Moses calls on the people, what now does the Lord your God require of you? We talked about that text in Deuteronomy 10.

The second answer has circumcised, therefore, your hearts. There's always been a problem in Israel, and that is that most of the people were uncircumcised of heart. They were stubborn, they were faithless, they were rebellious.

But Jeremiah anticipates a day when true Israel, the boundaries of physical Israel and the boundaries of spiritual Israel, will be coterminous. This is what Paul is expecting in Romans 9, 10, 11. He weeps for his brothers, his people, my kinsfolk according to the flesh, though he is a Benjaminite.

He says, I am a Jew, I am one of these people. But he weeps for them even though they are celebrating the Passover, which commemorates their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, even though they celebrate that day every year. He wishes that all Israel would be saved in a spiritual sense as well, and that's what he anticipates in chapters 9, 10, and 11.

We're alluding to Jeremiah 31 after declaring that we Gentiles are grafted into the grand plan of redemption by graft, but he says that at that point all Israel will be saved. This is Jeremiah's vision. One more thing we need to talk about, the significance of this new or is it renewed covenant.

There are some people who recognize that there is nothing actually new, in which case this is a renewed covenant of Israel. In my own view, this covenant began with Abraham. That's where the seed was laid.

That's when God made the covenant. It was established at Sinai, renewed and confirmed on the plains of Moab, and now it is finally realized. With this glorious utterance, at the conclusion of it, the guarantee of it, the Lord appealed to the certainty of the cosmic order as an analogical guarantee of the certainty and irrevocability of this new Israelite covenant.

That is, his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. As if he anticipated later tendencies to spiritualize and universalize the new covenant, Jeremiah explicitly linked the irrevocability of Yahweh's commitment to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with the fixed order of the universe. Let's summarize then the significance of this new covenant.

It is graciously initiated by God. The new covenant results in obedience to the will of God. The new covenant establishes a new relationship with God.

The new covenant results in the universal knowledge of God, and the new covenant results in moral cleansing. A covenant relationship without any one of these was an absurdity in the first testament, and it remains so in the New. And of course, in the light of the New Testament when Jesus institutes the Passover, or institutes the Lord's Supper at the time of the Passover, he says, this is the new covenant in my blood.

Ah, now we learn the basis of God's gracious overtures to humanity from the beginning. It is the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus is central to this whole program.

Without the sacrifice of Jesus, Abel would not have found acceptance with God. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Hannah, and Deborah, and all the other saints of the first testament would not have found their, would not have experienced the grace of God. But Jesus and his sacrifice are the basis.

Through that work, this renewed covenant, new covenant for us, and in Jeremiah's context, it's new because finally it will be fully in effect. All of that is based on the work of Christ. This is the gospel according to Jeremiah.