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Bible: What Does Jeremiah 30-31 Teach Us About the "Tribulation" and the New Covenant?

Updated on September 8, 2016



The Word of God


A Time of Trouble

No doubt for the sake of those whom He would bring back to Israel, Yahweh directs Jeremiah to record all His messages in a book.

However, the nation would first endure a time of trouble before their salvation (vv. 1-3).

It is a unique "day" of judgment; none is like it (vv. 4-7; cf. Dan. 12:1).

Yet it will also have a Messianic/salvific aspect to it, since verse nine records that "David" comes back to life for the people.

[Verse 8 affords some personal pronouns that provoke a question.

Whose yoke does the LORD promise to break? He switches from “your neck” to “them.”

The second person must refer to Israel's release from captivity; perhaps the reference to "whose" is Cyrus.

The third person plural has an eschatological ring to it; Israelites will one day serve God and David in Messiah's kingdom (See Ezek. 37:24ff].

The LORD is the Disciplinarian, the ever-present Savior of Israel, and the righteous Judge of the nations, to boot (vv. 10-11).

He teaches the nation

(1) not to be afraid,

(2) that He has not forgotten His people, and

(3) that He will bring them back and give them rest.

Yet at present, He must chasten them severely because of their sins; no remedy exists for their affliction (vv. 12-15).

Israel's enemies shall one day experience the same sufferings as God's people now endure, but the LORD will heal the latter (vv. 16-17).

God's healing of the nation results in their return to a rebuilt Jerusalem (v. 18), great joy and giving of thanks (v. 19), growing numbers (vv. 19-20), and a more intimate relation to their covenant LORD (vv. 21-22).

His inevitable judgment upon the wicked will become a "hot topic" in Israel in the "latter days" (vv. 23-24).



Jeremiah 31

Concurrent with the judgment on the wicked will be the salvation of "all the families of Israel" (v. 1).

Note the Mosaic phraseology ("I will be the God . . . , and they shall be My people"; cf. Jer. 30:22; Ex. 6:7); God restores the covenant relationship.

Israel will weather a horrific storm of persecution, and then the LORD, in grace, will give him rest (v. 2).

By exercising His chesed, Yahweh rebuilds lives (and cities); Israel's exuberance for life amply proves his regeneration (vv. 3-4).

The mention of both Samaria and Mt. Ephraim in connection with Zion suggests a future peace between the two kingdoms; however, Jerusalem is still the centerpiece of the nation because the LORD will abide there (vv. 5-6).

Yahweh exhorts some unidentified group to rejoice and pray to Him for Israel's salvation (v. 7).

The nation will return from “the north country” and “the ends of the earth” (v. 8).

[Are these phrases parallel terms of intensification, or do they represent two different regions of the world?]

No infirmity or hardship will prevent their travels (v. 8b); tears (of joy, repentance?) will flow from them, and God will supply their physical needs (food, water, and protection).

He will care for Ephraim, even as a good father nurtures his first-born (v. 9).

Fulfilled Prophecy

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"Rachel" Weeping for Her Children

Then Jeremiah announces to the nations (isles) what God's intention is for gathering and governing His people (v. 10).

He speaks of Israel as already redeemed from a “stronger” one (v. 11).

People (of all times?) shall come to a Jerusalem filled with many material blessings (v. 12), resulting in great joy and satisfaction (vv. 13-14).

A loss of children during the Exile moves mothers to bitter weeping (v. 15).

The Apostle Matthew understands this verse as fulfilled in “The Massacre of the Innocents” at the time of Jesus (cf. Matt. 2:18).

Yahweh commands someone (Jeremiah?) to stop weeping for Ephraim. His work of preaching is not in vain, for the children will return to their land (vv. 16-17).

God loves His erring son, Ephraim, and will show mercy to him; after chastening him has achieved its purpose, Ephraim will repent (vv. 18-20).

[Probably only a very few in Ephraim received God's message, for that people was largely apostate].

He encourages them to return spiritually as well as physically, and to stop backsliding.

As an added incentive to change their mind, Yahweh mentions the creation of a "new thing in the earth."

[Does this phrase allude to the virgin conception/birth of the Messiah? (vv. 21-22)]

Judah's return will cause him to modify his speech in such a way that it reflects his renewed spirituality (v. 23).

Farmers and shepherds will prosper through the LORD's provision (vv. 24-25).

[Suddenly, the text returns to Jeremiah's status as a prophet.

Verse 26 suggests that he received this revelation of Israel's future glory via a dream; where and when the dream began, the text does not say].

The New Covenant

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"Behold, The Days Are Coming"

The next three sections begin with the eschatological announcement: "Behold, the days are coming" (vv. 27-30, 31-37, 38-40).

An immediate question arises from verse 27: how shall we interpret the phrases “the seed of man” and “the seed of beast”?

[Because the verses discuss the divine building and planting of lives or communities—that is to say, constructive rather than destructive activities—these statements may simply speak of prosperity and the proliferation of mankind and animal life (v. 28)].

Furthermore, strict justice and individual culpability for wrongdoing will hold sway; in other words, children will not taste death for the sins of their fathers (vv. 29-30).

The next "the days are coming" portion deals with the important teaching of the new covenant (vv. 31-37).

First, interpreters must note that Yahweh makes this covenant with the united Jewish people; no literal way exists for the Church to be involved in this covenant, at least after reading verse thirty-one (see 1 Corinthians 11 and Hebrews 10).

The new covenant is not "according to" the old Mosaic covenant; Moses' law was conditional, and Israel broke it through sin (v. 32).

This "new" one, however, is unconditional, meaning that God will fulfill it (v. 33).

[Again, note the covenant formula (cf. 30:22; 31:1)].

Israel will know God through His forgiveness and "forgetfulness" of their sin (v. 34).

[Israel has never experienced such a time as the one the LORD describes here.

Once He forgives the nation, He will never rehearse their sins again].

Jeremiah employs two illustrations—the ages-long shining of the heavenly bodies and the immeasurable dimensions of the universe—to demonstrate the unconditional nature of God's new covenant with Israel.

Just as the sun, moon, and stars will never stop shining, and humanity can never calculate the heavens' immensity, so neither will God reject Israel forever (vv. 35-37).

The final section delineates the new extensions of Zion and the renewed sacredness of once-defiled areas of the city during the days when Messiah will rule over the Earth (vv. 38-40).

© 2013 glynch1


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