Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Jeremiah 32 is a fascinating account of God’s prophet acting out an unusual testimony to the promises of God. The Babylonians have laid siege to wayward Jerusalem, and Jeremiah is under arrest for preaching judgment and counseling the people to not resist God’s punishment at the hands of the Babylonians.
Jeremiah 32:1 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.
2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah.
3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it;
4 Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye.
5 And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the LORD. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’?”
In these circumstances, God speaks to His prophet.
6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me:
7 Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’
Anathoth is already under Babylonian control and Jeremiah’s cousin is going to show up and say he needs to buy a field that belongs to the family to be sure it stays in the family. Humanly speaking, there is no promise that the field will ever benefit Jeremiah or any of his heirs. There’s good reason to think that he might have need of whatever money he has during and after the siege. Actually, this seems like a fairly rude request given the circumstances.
8 Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
Jeremiah sees the hand of the LORD in this. He’s being directed to a prophetic act, and he obeys.
9 “And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver.
10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales.
Despite the chaos of a siege and the impending exile that Jeremiah foresees, Jeremiah does this carefully and according to exact legal protocol.
11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions and the open copy.
There are two copies of the deed, a “sealed” copy and an “open” copy.
12 And I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my cousin, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard.
13 I charged Baruch in their presence, saying,
14 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.
There is something going on here that is more than for this moment. This purchase is not just for now, but for the future, one that humanly speaking there is no guarantee that Judah even has.
15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’
But the same God that promised judgment also promised restoration. This kind of real estate transaction, part of ordinary sane life in a peaceful land under the blessing of God will again be commonplace. Think how good and wholesome this prospect would seem to people in a war zone facing deportation/exile. Think how wonderful this would sound to people in our own time in refugee camps.
16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying:
17 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
18 You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts,
19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.
20 You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day.
21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror.
22 And you gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.
23 And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them.
24 Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it.
25 Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.'”
Kidner call this prayer ” … a fine example of how to pray in a desperate situation: concentrating first on the creative power (17) and perfect fidelity and justice (18-19) of God; remembering next His great redemptive acts (20-23a; to which the Christian can now add the greatest of them all) – and then with this background, laying before God the guilt of the past (23b), the hard facts of the present (24) and the riddle of the future (25).”
It is a truly lovely prayer. Exactly what is in Jeremiah’s heart as He prays is not absolutely clear. Some commentators believe that he’s having doubts and is asking for confirmation that this is all going as planned and that he’s heard right about the field. Others think that he is now asking whether perhaps there might be mercy and no judgment, whether the instruction to buy the field might mean that God will completely lift the siege and spare the nation its misery.
26 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
God answers in Jeremiah’s own words of verse 17.
27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
Indeed there is nothing that is too hard for God, but the promise of restoration doesn’t cancel the promise of judgment.
28 Therefore, thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall capture it.
God’s basic complaint with His people is and always is spiritual infidelity.
29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger.
30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. The children of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, declares the LORD.
31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built to this day, so that I will remove it from my sight
32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction.
34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it.
35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
36 “Now therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’:
There is only one God in the universe. Turn away from this single Person that is the Definition and Source of good, and only evil and misery can possibly result. Post-moderns don’t believe this. They don’t believe this to the great misery and tragedy of our time. F. Cawley commenting on this chapter wrote, “In every generation it is required that God’s men justify His ways with men. The sanity and balance of every generation rest just here.”
Jeremiah must bring the bad news to make the good news possible.
37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety.
38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
There is a “no” in God’s message, but there is too a wonderful ultimate “yes.” Jeremiah is now looking far ahead to Messiah/Christ Jesus and His permanent kingdom.
39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.
Truly, God’s intent for His people is wholly and permanently good.
40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
42 “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.
43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’
The land of Judah seemed altogether hopeless. The mess that rebellious humanity has made of the world seems altogether hopeless. But it shall not always be so. God has permanent good in store for a worshiping people.
44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD.”
Where there has been sin and rebellion, there will be restoration. Thank God. If it were not so, we would all be undone.