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"I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast."—Jer. xxxi. 27.

In his prophecies of restoration, Jeremiah continually couples together Judah and Israel.392392   xxxiii., 7, etc. Israel, it is true, often stands for the whole elect nation, and is so used by Jeremiah. After the disappearance of the Ten Tribes, the Jewish community is spoken of as Israel. But Israel, in contrast to Judah, will naturally mean the Northern Kingdom or its exiled inhabitants. In this chapter Jeremiah clearly refers to this Israel; he speaks of it under its distinctive title of Ephraim, and promises that vineyards shall again be planted on the mountains of Samaria. Jehovah had declared that He would cast Judah out of His sight, as He had cast out the whole seed of Ephraim.393393   vii. 15. In the days to come Jehovah would make His new covenant with the House of Israel, as well as with the House of Judah. Amos,394394   Amos ix. 14. who was sent to declare the captivity of Israel, also prophesied its return; and similar promises are found in Micah and Isaiah.395395   Micah ii. 12; Isa. xi. 10-16. But, in his attitude towards Ephraim, Jeremiah, as in so much330 else, is a disciple of Hosea. Both prophets have the same tender, affectionate interest in this wayward child of God. Hosea mourns over Ephraim's sin and punishment: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee to thine enemies, O Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim?"396396   Hosea xi. 8. Jeremiah exults in the glory of Ephraim's restoration. Hosea barely attains to the hope that Israel will return from captivity, or possibly that its doom may yet be averted. "Mine heart is turned within Me, My compassions are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not again any more destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee."397397   Hosea xi. 9. But Jehovah rather longs to pardon than finds any sign of the repentance that makes pardon possible; and similarly the promise—"I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon"—is conditioned upon the very doubtful response to the appeal "O Israel, return unto Jehovah thy God."398398   Hosea xiv. But Jeremiah's confidence in the glorious future of Ephraim is dimmed by no shade of misgiving. "They shall be My people, and I will be their God," is the refrain of Jeremiah's prophecies of restoration; this chapter opens with a special modification of the formula, which emphatically and expressly includes both Ephraim and Judah—"I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people."

The Assyrian and Chaldean captivities carried men's331 thoughts back to the bondage in Egypt; and the experiences of the Exodus provided phrases and figures to describe the expected Return. The judges had delivered individual tribes or groups of tribes. Jeroboam II. had been the saviour of Samaria; and the overthrow of Sennacherib had rescued Jerusalem. But the Exodus stood out from all later deliverances as the birth of the whole people. Hence the prophets often speak of the Return as a New Exodus.

This prophecy takes the form of a dialogue between Jehovah and the Virgin of Israel, i.e. the nation personified. Jehovah announces that the Israelite exiles, the remnant left by the sword of Shalmaneser and Sargon, were to be more highly favoured than the fugitives from the sword of Pharaoh, of whom Jehovah sware in His wrath "that they should not enter into My rest; whose carcases fell in the wilderness." "A people that hath survived the sword hath found favour in the wilderness; Israel hath entered into his rest,"399399   So Giesebrecht, reading with Jerome and Targum l'margô'ô for the obscure and obviously corrupt l'hargî'ô. The other versions vary widely in their readings.hath found favour—hath entered—because Jehovah regards His purpose as already accomplished.

Jehovah speaks from his ancient dwelling-place in Jerusalem, and, when the Virgin of Israel hears Him in her distant exile, she answers:—

"From afar hath Jehovah appeared unto me (saying),

With My ancient love do I love thee;

Therefore My lovingkindness is enduring toward thee."400400   R.V. "with lovingkindness have I drawn thee," R.V. margin "have I continued lovingkindness unto thee"; the word for "drawn" occurs also in Hosea xi. 4, "I drew them ... with bands of love."

His love is as old as the Exodus, His mercy has332 endured all through the long, weary ages of Israel's sin and suffering.

Then Jehovah replies:—

"Again will I build thee, and thou shalt be built, O Virgin of Israel;

Again shalt thou take thy tabrets, and go forth in the dances of them that make merry;

Again shalt thou plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria, while they that plant shall enjoy the fruit."

This contrasts with the times of invasion when the vintage was destroyed or carried off by the enemy. Then follows the Divine purpose, the crowning mercy of Israel's renewed prosperity:—

"For the day cometh when the vintagers401401   So Giesebrecht's conjecture of bocerim (vintages), for the nocerim (watchmen, R.V.). The latter is usually explained of the watcher who looked for the appearance of the new moon, in order to determine the time of the feasts. The practice is stated on negative grounds to be post-exilic, but seems likely to be ancient. On the other hand "vintagers" seems a natural sequel to the preceding clauses. shall cry in the hill-country of Ephraim,

Arise, let us go up to Zion, to Jehovah our God."

Israel will no longer keep her vintage feasts in schism at Samaria and Bethel and her countless high places, but will join with Judah in the worship of the Temple, which Josiah's covenant had accepted as the one sanctuary of Jehovah.

The exultant strain continues stanza after stanza:—

"Thus saith Jehovah:

Exult joyously for Jacob, and shout for the chief of the nations;333

Make your praises heard, and say, Jehovah hath saved His people,402402   According to the reading of the LXX. and the Targum, the Hebrew Text has (as R.V.) "O Jehovah, save Thy people." even the remnant of Israel.

Behold, I bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the uttermost ends of the earth;

Among them blind and lame, pregnant women and women in travail together."

None are left behind, not even those least fit for the journey.

"A great company shall return hither.

They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them."

Of old, weeping and supplication had been heard upon the heights of Israel because of her waywardness and apostasy;403403   iii. 21. but now the returning exiles offer prayers and thanksgiving mingled with tears, weeping partly for joy, partly for pathetic memories.

"I will bring them to streams of water, by a plain path, wherein they cannot stumble:

For I am become once more a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My first-born son."

Of the two Israelite states, Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, had long been superior in power, wealth, and religion. Judah was often little more than a vassal of Samaria, and owed her prosperity and even her existence to the barrier which Samaria interposed between Jerusalem and invaders from Assyria or Damascus. Until the latter days of Samaria, Judah had no prophets that could compare with Elijah and Elisha. The Jewish prophet is tenacious of the rights of Zion, but he does not base any claim for the ascendency of Judah on the geographical position of the Temple; he does not even mention the sacerdotal tribe of Levi. Jew and priest as he was, he acknowledges the political and religious hegemony of Ephraim. The fact is a334 striking illustration of the stress laid by the prophets on the unity of Israel, to which all sectional interests were to be sacrificed. If Ephraim was required to forsake his ancient shrines, Jeremiah was equally ready to forego any pride of tribe or caste. Did we, in all our different Churches, possess the same generous spirit, Christian reunion would no longer be a vain and distant dream. But, passing on to the next stanza,—

"Hear the word of Jehovah, O ye nations, and make it known in the distant islands.

Say, He that scattered Israel doth gather him, and watcheth over him as a shepherd over his flock.

For Jehovah hath ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him that was too strong for him.

They shall come and sing for joy in the height of Zion;

They shall come in streams to the bounty of Jehovah, for corn and new wine and oil and lambs and calves."

Jeremiah does not dwell, in any grasping sacerdotal spirit, on the contributions which these reconciled schismatics would pay to the Temple revenues, but rather delights to make mention of their share in the common blessings of God's obedient children.

"They shall be like a well-watered garden; they shall no more be faint and weary:

Then shall they rejoice—the damsels in the dance—the young men and the old together.

I will turn their mourning into gladness, and will comfort them, and will bring joy out of their wretchedness.

I will fill the priests with plenty, and My people shall be satisfied with My bounty—

It is the utterance of Jehovah."

It is not quite clear how far, in this chapter, Israel is to be understood exclusively of Ephraim. If the foregoing stanza is, as it seems, perfectly general, the priests are simply those of the restored community, ministering at the Temple; but if the reference is335 specially to Ephraim, the priests belong to families involved in the captivity of the ten tribes, and we have further evidence of the catholic spirit of the Jewish prophet.

Another stanza:—

"Thus saith Jehovah:

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children.

She refuseth to be comforted for her children, for they are not."

Rachel, as the mother of Benjamin and Joseph, claimed an interest in both the Israelite kingdoms. Jeremiah shows special concern for Benjamin, in whose territory his native Anathoth was situated.404404   Isaiah does not mention Benjamin.

"Her children" would be chiefly the Ephraimites and Manassites, who formed the bulk of the Northern Kingdom; but the phrase was doubtless intended to include other Jews, that Rachel might be a symbol of national unity.

The connection of Rachel with Ramah is not obvious; there is no precedent for it. Possibly Ramah is not intended for a proper name, and we might translate "A voice is heard upon the heights." In Gen. xxxv. 19, Rachel's grave is placed between Bethel and Ephrath,405405   "Which is Bethlehem," in Genesis, is probably a later explanatory addition; and the explanation is not necessarily a mistake. Cf. Matt. ii. 18. and in 1 Sam. x. 2, in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; only here has Rachel anything to do with Ramah. The name, however, in its various forms, was not uncommon. Ramah, to the north of Jerusalem, seems to have been a frontier town, and debatable territory406406   1 Kings xv. 17. between the two kingdoms; and Rachel's appearance there might symbolise her relation to both.336 This Ramah was also a slave depot for the Chaldeans407407   xl. 1. after the fall of Jerusalem, and Rachel might well revisit the glimpses of the moon at a spot where her descendants had drunk the first bitter draught of the cup of exile. In any case, the lines are a fresh appeal to the spirit of national unity. The prophet seems to say: "Children of the same mother, sharers in the same fate, whether of ruin or restoration, remember the ties that bind you and forget your ancient feuds." Rachel, wailing in ghostly fashion, was yet a name to conjure with, and the prophet hoped that her symbolic tears could water the renewed growth of Israel's national life. Christ, present in His living Spirit, lacerated at heart by the bitter feuds of those who call Him Lord, should temper the harsh judgments that Christians pass on servants of their One Master. The Jewish prophet lamenting the miseries of schismatic Israel contrasts with the Pope singing Te Deums over the massacre of St. Bartholomew.

Then comes the answer:—

"Thus saith Jehovah:

Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears.

Thou shalt have wages for thy labour—it is the utterance of Jehovah—they shall return from the enemy's land.

There is hope for thee in the days to come—it is the utterance of Jehovah—thy children shall return to their own border."408408   LXX. omits verse 17 b, i.e. from "Jehovah" to "border."

The Niobe of the nation is comforted, but now is heard another voice:—

"Surely I hear Ephraim bemoaning himself: Thou hast chastised me; I am chastised like a calf not yet broken to the yoke.337

Restore me to Thy favour, that I may return unto Thee, for Thou art Jehovah my God.

In returning unto Thee, I repent; when I come to myself, I smite upon my thigh in penitence."409409   Slightly paraphrased.

The image of the calf is another reminiscence of Hosea, with whom Israel figures as a "backsliding heifer" and Ephraim as a "heifer that has been broken in and loveth to tread out the corn"; though apparently in Hosea Ephraim is broken in to wickedness. Possibly this figure was suggested by the calves at Bethel and Dan.

The moaning of Ephraim, like the wailing of Rachel, is met and answered by the Divine compassion. By a bold and touching figure, Jehovah is represented as surprised at the depth of His passionate affection for His prodigal son:—

"Can it be that Ephraim is indeed a son that is precious to Me? is he indeed a darling child?

As often as I speak against him, I cannot cease to remember him,410410   More literally as R.V., "I do earnestly remember him still."

Wherefore My tender compassion is moved towards him: verily I will have mercy on him—

It is the utterance of Jehovah."

As with Hosea, Israel is still the child whom Jehovah loved, the son whom He called out of Egypt. But now Israel is called with a more effectual calling:—

"Set thee up pillars of stone,411411   The Hebrew Text has the same word, "tamrurim," here that is used in verse 15 in the phrase "bekhi tamrurim," "weeping of bitternesses" or "bitter weeping." It is difficult to believe that the coincidence is accidental, and Hebrew literature is given to paronomasia; at the same time the distance of the words and the complete absence of point in this particular instance are remarkable. The LXX., not understanding the word, represented it more suo by the similar Greek word τιμωρίαν, which may indicate that the original reading was "timorim," and the assimilation to "tamrurim" may be a scribe's caprice. In any case, the word here connects with "tamar," a palm, the post being made of or like a palm tree. Cf. Giesebrecht, Orelli, Cheyne, etc. to mark the way; make thee guide-posts: set thy heart toward the highway whereby thou wentest.

Return, O Virgin of Israel, return unto these thy cities."


The following verse strikes a note of discord, that suggests the revulsion of feeling, the sudden access of doubt, that sometimes follows the most ecstatic moods:—

"How long wilt thou wander to and fro, O backsliding daughter?

Jehovah hath created a new thing in the earth—a woman shall compass a man."

It is just possible that this verse is not intended to express doubt of Israel's cordial response, but is merely an affectionate urgency that presses the immediate appropriation of the promised blessings. But such an exegesis seems forced, and the verse is a strange termination to the glowing stanzas that precede. It may have been added when all hope of the return of the ten tribes was over.412412   Giesebrecht treats verses 21-26 as a later addition, but this seems unnecessary.

The meaning of the concluding enigma is as profound a mystery as the fate of the lost tribes, and the solutions rather more unsatisfactory. The words apparently denote that the male and the female shall interchange functions, and an explanation often given is that, in the profound peace of the New Dispensation, the women will protect the men. This portent seems to be the sign which is to win the Virgin of Israel from her vacillation and induce her to return at once to Palestine.

In Isaiah xliii. 19 the "new thing" which Jehovah339 does is to make a way in the untrodden desert and rivers in the parched wilderness. A parallel interpretation, suggested for our passage, is that women should develop manly strength and courage, as abnormal to them as roads and rivers to a wilderness. When women were thus endowed, men could not for shame shrink from the perils of the Return.

In Isaiah iv. 1 seven women court one man, and it has been suggested413413   So Kautzsch. that the sense here is "women shall court men," but it is difficult to see how this would be relevant. Another parallel has been sought for in the Immanuel and other prophecies of Isaiah, in which the birth of a child is set forth as a sign. Our passage would then assume a Messianic character; the return of the Virgin of Israel would be postponed till her doubts and difficulties should be solved by the appearance of a new Moses.414414   Cf. Streane, Cambridge Bible. This view has much to commend it, but does not very readily follow from the usage of the word translated "compass." Still less can we regard these words as a prediction of the miraculous conception of our Lord.

The next stanza connects the restoration of Judah with that of Ephraim, and, for the most part, goes over ground already traversed in our previous chapters; one or two points only need be noticed here. It is in accordance with the catholic and gracious spirit which characterises this chapter that the restoration of Judah is expressly connected with that of Ephraim. The combination of the future fortunes of both in a single prophecy emphasises their reunion. The heading of this stanza, "Thus saith Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of Israel," is different from that hitherto used, and340 has a special significance in its present context. It is "the God of Israel" to whom Ephraim is a darling child and a first-born son, the God of that Israel which for centuries stood before the world as Ephraim; it is this God who blesses and redeems Judah. Her faint and weary soul is also to be satisfied with His plenty; Zion is to be honoured as the habitation of justice and the mountain of holiness.

"Hereupon," saith the prophet, "I awaked and looked about me, and felt that my sleep had been pleasant to me." The vision had come to him, in some sense, as a dream. Zechariah415415   Zech. iv. 1. had to be aroused, like a man wakened out of his sleep, in order to receive the Divine message; and possibly Zechariah's sleep was the ecstatic trance in which he had beheld previous visions. Jeremiah, however, shows scant confidence416416   xxiii, 25-32, xxvii. 9, xxix. 8: cf. Deut. xiii. 1-5. in the inspiration of those who dream dreams, and it does not seem likely that this is a unique exception to his ordinary experience. Perhaps we may say with Orelli that the prophet had become lost in the vision of future blessedness as in some sweet dream.

In the following stanza Jehovah promises to recruit the dwindled numbers of Israel and Judah; with a sowing more gracious and fortunate than that of Cadmus, He will scatter417417   Cf. Hosea ii. 23, "I will sow her unto Me in the earth" (or land), in reference to Jezreel, understood as "Whom God soweth" (R.V. margin). over the land, not dragons' teeth, but the seed of man and beast. Recurring418418   i. 10-12. to Jeremiah's original commission, He promises that as He watched over Judah to pluck up and to break341 down, to overthrow and to destroy and to afflict, so now He will watch over them to build and to plant.

The next verse is directed against a lingering dread, by which men's minds were still possessed. More than half a century elapsed between the death of Manasseh and the fall of Jerusalem. He was succeeded by Josiah, who "turned to Jehovah with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might."419419   2 Kings xxiii. 25. Yet Jehovah declared to Jeremiah that Manasseh's sins had irrevocably fixed the doom of Judah, so that not even the intercession of Moses and Samuel could procure her pardon.420420   xv. 1-4. Men might well doubt whether the guilt of that wicked reign was even yet fully expiated, whether their teeth might not still be set on edge because of the sour grapes which Manasseh had eaten. Therefore the prophet continues: "In those days men shall no longer say, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge; but every man shall die for his own transgression, all who eat sour grapes shall have their own teeth set on edge." Or to use the explicit words of Ezekiel, in the great chapter in which he discusses this permanent theological difficulty: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."421421   Ezek. xviii. 20: cf. Cheyne, Jeremiah (Men of the Bible), p. 150. With the fall of Jerusalem, a chapter in the history of Israel was concluded for ever; Jehovah blotted out the damning record of the past, and turned over a new leaf in the annals of His people. The account342 between Jehovah and the Israel of the monarchy was finally closed, and no penal balance was carried over to stand against the restored community.

The last portion of this chapter is so important that we must reserve it for separate treatment, but we may pause for a moment to consider the prophecy of the restoration of Ephraim from two points of view—the unity of Israel and the return of the ten tribes.

In the first place, this chapter is an eirenicon, intended to consign to oblivion the divisions and feuds of the Chosen People. After the fall of Samaria, the remnant of Israel had naturally looked to Judah for support and protection, and the growing weakness of Assyria had allowed the Jewish kings to exercise a certain authority over the territory of northern tribes. The same fate—the sack of the capital and the deportation of most of the inhabitants—had successively befallen Ephraim and Judah. His sense of the unity of the race was too strong to allow the prophet to be satisfied with the return of Judah and Benjamin, apart from the other tribes. Yet it would have been monstrous to suppose that Jehovah would bring back Ephraim from Assyria, and Judah from Babylon, only that they might resume their mutual hatred and suspicion. Even wild beasts are said not to rend one another when they are driven by floods to the same hill-top.

Thus various causes contributed to produce a kindlier feeling between the survivors of the catastrophes of Samaria and Jerusalem; and from henceforth those of the ten tribes who found their way back to Palestine lived in brotherly union with the other Jews. And, on the whole, the Jews have since remained united both as a race and a religious community. It is true that the relations of the later Jews to Samaria were343 somewhat at variance both with the letter and spirit of this prophecy, but that Samaria had only the slightest claim to be included in Israel. Otherwise the divisions between Hillel and Shammai, Sadducees and Pharisees, Karaites, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Reformed and Unreformed Jews, have rather been legitimate varieties of opinion and practice within Judaism than a rending asunder of the Israel of God.

Matters stand very differently with regard to the restoration of Ephraim. We know that individual members and families of the ten tribes were included in the new Jewish community, and that the Jews reoccupied Galilee and portions of Eastern Palestine. But the husbandmen who had planted vineyards on the hills of Samaria were violently repulsed by Ezra and Nehemiah, and were denied any part or lot in the restored Israel. The tribal inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh was never reoccupied by Ephraimites and Manassites who came to worship Jehovah in His Temple at Jerusalem. There was no return of the ten tribes that in any way corresponded to the terms of this prophecy or that could rank with the return of their brethren. Our growing acquaintance with the races of the world seems likely to exclude even the possibility of any such restoration of Ephraim. Of the two divisions of Israel, so long united in common experiences of grace and chastisement, the one has been taken and the other left.

Christendom is the true heir of the ideals of Israel, but she is mostly content to inherit them as counsels of perfection. Isaiah422422   Isa. xi. 13. struck the keynote of this chapter when he prophesied that Ephraim should not344 envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim. Our prophet, in the same generous spirit, propounds a programme of reconciliation. It might serve for a model to those who construct schemes for Christian Reunion. When two denominations are able to unite on such terms that the one admits the other to be the first-born of God, His darling child and precious in His sight, and the latter is willing to accept the former's central sanctuary as the headquarters of the united body, we shall have come some way towards realising this ancient Jewish ideal. Meanwhile Ephraim remains consumed with envy of Judah; and Judah apparently considers it her most sacred duty to vex Ephraim.

Moreover the disappearance of what was at one time the most flourishing branch of the Hebrew Church has many parallels in Church History. Again and again religious dissension has been one of the causes of political ruin, and the overthrow of a Christian state has sometimes involved the extinction of its religion. Christian thought and doctrine owe an immense debt to the great Churches of Northern Africa and Egypt. But these provinces were torn by the dissensions of ecclesiastical parties; and the quarrels of Donatists, Arians, and Catholics in North Africa, the endless controversies over the Person of Christ in Egypt, left them helpless before the Saracen invader. To-day the Church of Tertullian and Augustine is blotted out, and the Church of Origen and Clement is a miserable remnant. Similarly the ecclesiastical strife between Rome and Constantinople lost to Christendom some of the fairest provinces of Europe and Asia, and placed Christian races under the rule of the Turk.

Even now the cause of Christians in heathen and Mohammedan countries suffers from the jealousy of345 Christian states, and modern Churches sometimes avail themselves of this jealousy to try and oust their rivals from promising fields for mission work.

It is a melancholy reflection that Jeremiah's effort at reconciliation came too late, when the tribes whom it sought to reunite were hopelessly set asunder. Reconciliation, which involves a kind of mutual repentance, can ill afford to be deferred to the eleventh hour. In the last agonies of the Greek Empire, there was more than one formal reconciliation between the Eastern and Western Churches; but they also came too late, and could not survive the Empire which they failed to preserve.

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