a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege


The word that came to Jeremiah from the L ord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the L ord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the L ord; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?”

6 Jeremiah said, The word of the L ord came to me: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the L ord, 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 L ord.

9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, 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. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus says the L ord 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 jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Jeremiah Prays for Understanding

16 After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the L ord, saying: 17Ah Lord G od! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation, but repay the guilt of parents into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the L ord of hosts, 19great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals, rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings. 20You showed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all humankind, and have made yourself a name that continues to this very day. 21You 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; 22and you gave them this land, which you swore to their ancestors to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23and they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or follow your law; of all you commanded them to do, they did nothing. Therefore you have made all these disasters come upon them. 24See, the siege ramps have been cast up against the city to take it, and the city, faced with sword, famine, and pestilence, has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has happened, as you yourself can see. 25Yet you, O Lord G od, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.

God’s Assurance of the People’s Return

26 The word of the L ord came to Jeremiah: 27See, I am the L ord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? 28Therefore, thus says the L ord: I am going to give this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall take it. 29The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come, set it on fire, and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and libations have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30For the people of Israel and the people of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; the people of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, says the L ord. 31This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built until this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32because of all the evil of the people of Israel and the people of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the citizens of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33They have turned their backs to me, not their faces; though I have taught them persistently, they would not listen and accept correction. 34They set up their abominations in the house that bears my name, and defiled it. 35They 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 my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin.

36 Now therefore thus says the L ord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, “It is being given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”: 37See, I am going to gather them from all the lands 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 settle them in safety. 38They shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. 41I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 For thus says the L ord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. 43Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, It is a desolation, without human beings or animals; it has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans. 44Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, of the hill country, of the Shephelah, and of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, says the L ord.

The whole of this passage ought to be read together, for the Prophet at large explains how and by what symbol this prophecy had been confirmed. Now the purpose of the whole is to shew that after a long time the Jews would return to their own country, for God would restore them, and their captivity would have an end. God’s design, then, was to give them a hope of deliverance, but yet they were admonished to wait patiently for the end of their exile.

Let us now come to the external symbol. The Prophet was commanded to buy a field of his uncle’s son. Now this appeared strange, for the enemies had taken possession of that part of the country, and none of the Jews could then venture to go out to their own fields. As then they were deprived of the very sight of their own fields, the Prophet must have appeared to have been beside himself when he bought a field in the possession of enemies. But in this way God intended to shew, that after the Jews had for a time been deprived of the possession of the land, they would again return to it, so that every one would recover his own right, and thus everything would become completely their own, that is, after God had shewed them mercy.

But in the first place, let us see whether this was, as they say, a naked vision, or a real transaction. Some think that it was exhibited to Jeremiah by the prophetic Spirit; but it may be easily gathered from the context that the field was actually bought. It is first said, that the word came to Jeremiah; but shortly after it is added, that after his uncle’s son came, Jeremiah was informed that the whole business was directed by God. God then foretold the Prophet what was to be, Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum, thine uncle, shall come to thee, and shall offer to sell his field to thee. This is what God said to the Prophet; and thus far we may say, that Jeremiah was informed of what was to be either by a dream or a vision; but when he afterwards adds, that Hanameel himself came, and that Jeremiah testifies that he now knew that it was from the Lord, there is no doubt but that it is a real narrative. God then inducedHanameel to come to Jeremiah and to offer him the field on sale, and to ask him to buy it, because he was the next heir, and therefore had the right of redemption. We then perceive that it was a communication from above, but then the reality was connected with it, for Hanameel came and sold the field before witnesses; and all this was necessary, not so much on account of Jeremiah as of the whole people, and especially of the faithful, for whom this prophecy was particularly designed; for God did not intend this to be a common treasure, but laid it up for his chosen people, as we may gather from the conclusion.

Before Hanameel then came, the Prophet was instructed that nothing was done unadvisedly, but that God had arranged and ordered the whole. He was then commanded to buy the field, and as it were to cast away his money; for who would not have said that it was the same thing as to throw it away? And then we are to notice a circumstance as to the time; for the Prophet was then in danger of his life, to what purpose then was the field to him? We have also said that he could not have a free access to it, had he not been shut up in prison; for he could not have ventured to go out of the city. It was then a most strange and ridiculous purchase according to the judgment of the flesh; for Jeremiah squandered away his money, and the possession of the field was only imaginary. But yet as God would have him to buy it, he spared not his money, but purchased the field from his uncle’s son.

He then says, that Hanameel his uncle’s son came, as Jehovah had spoken, that he came into the court of the prison, and that he spoke to him as God had foretold. As to the end of the verse, it may seem strange that the Prophet says, that he now knew that the word came from God: for if he before doubted, where would be the certainty as to the prophetic spirit? He had already received a vision; he ought to have embraced what he knew had been foretold to him from above, even without any hesitation: but it appears that he was in suspense and perplexity. It then seems an evidence of unbelief, that he did not put a full and all entire trust in God’s testimony, and was not fully persuaded as to the heavenly oracle, until he saw the whole thing really accomplished. But it is right to distinguish between the knowledge received from the revelation of the Spirit and experimental knowledge, as they say. The Prophet therefore did not then for the first time learn that God had spoken, but as he was confirmed in the certainty of his faith, and in the thing itself, there is no inconsistency; for nothing is taken away from the credit and authority of God’s word, when the reality and experience confirm us; and thus God often has a regard to the weakness of his people. Jeremiah then relied on God’s oracle, and was fully persuaded that he was directed from above to buy the field; but afterwards, when Hanameel came to him, the event was as it were the sealing of the vision: then the truth of God was more and more confirmed in the heart of the Prophet. This, as I have said, was experimental knowledge, which detracts nothing from the credibility of the word, but is rather a help and a comfort to human infirmity. In this sense it was that he said, that he now knew it; and thus he intended also to make others to believe the prophecy. For when the faithful compare a vision with its accomplishment, this consent and harmony, so to speak, avails not a little to confirm their faith, that as when in one part they hear that God had spoken, and when in another they see that what the Prophet had been taught was really fulfilled. 6060     Gataker and Venema give another view of this clause. The Lord, as we find from verse 7 (Jeremiah 32:7), did not tell him to buy the field, but only informed him of the coming and offer of Hanameel. When Hanameel came, he knew that it was God’s will that he should buy the field, and he instantly acted accordingly. He knew from the very circumstances that it was God’s message, sent to him to buy the field. — Ed.

He afterwards adds, that he bought the field of Hanameel his uncle’s son, which was in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin There is nothing superfluous in these words, for though the Prophet speaks of places well known, yet he had a regard to the time of the purchase, for the land of Benjamin was then in the power of enemies: the Jews had been reduced to such straits that they were not safe at Jerusalem. Anathoth was a village, as it was well known, exposed to the ravages of enemies, and was seized on as a prey at their first coming. And he adds, in the land of Benjamin, for it was nigh the borders of Judah, but it had been forsaken by its inhabitants, and all had fled to Jerusalem. As then the land of Benjamin had no inhabitant, it was by no means reasonable for the Prophet to pay even the smallest sum for a field there.

It may now be asked, how could Hanameel, who was of the Levitical order, sell a field, for we know that fields did not belong to the Levites, and that they had tithes for their inheritance. (Numbers 18:21) But this is to be taken for a suburban field, for they had the suburbs, and each had a meadow: they neither ploughed nor reaped, nor was it indeed lawful for them, according to the law, to labor in agriculture, but they fed cattle and sheep: and this is proved by the smallness of the sum given; for what was the field sold for? for seven shekels and ten pieces of silver. 6161     We may render the words literally thus, “And I weighed for him the money, seven shekels and ten, the money.” The word is “silver,” but it is often taken for money. The seventeen shekels, according to Lowth, were about two pounds of our money. — Ed. We hence see that it was not a large field, but only a meadow like a garden; for the price would have been larger, had it been some acres of land. Then the difficulty here is easily removed, for Hanameel sold to Jeremiah a small meadow, as every Levite had in the suburbs a meadow to feed his sheep or his cattle; at the same time none of them had large herds, but each had a cow or two. This, then, is what we are to understand by the field.

The Prophet adds, that he wrote a book, that is, the writing of the purchase; for ספר sepher, means in Hebrew, not only a volume, but what we call a document, and the Latins tablets, (tabulas) Then he says that the writing of the purchase was made, and then it was sealed, not as we do by appending a seal to it, but it was closed up, as the custom then was. He also adds, according to the law and custom; and at last he says that another writing was made which remained open; and it is thought that the open writing means what we call a copy; and so the sealed writing was deposited in a chest, and the open copy could be referred to at any time. 6262     There were no doubt two rolls or writings, as it appears clear from Jeremiah 32:14, where the two are distinctly mentioned, “Take these rolls, this roll of the purchase, even the sealed, and this open roll,” etc. The word ספר ought to be rendered throughout either a roll, or a book, or writing, when preceded by an article, and not “evidence,” as in our version.
   There seems to be an incongruity in verse the 10th (Jeremiah 32:10), as rendered by most; the roll is represented as “sealed,” before the “witnesses” are mentioned, and before the money was weighed. The rendering, I conceive, ought to be as follows, “So I wrote in a roll; and I sealed it, when I had made witnesses to witness it, and weighed the money in balances.” The ו may often be rendered “when,” and also “so,” as it is done in the next verse in our version, though there “and” would be more suitable. The “witnesses” are expressly said in ver. 12 (Jeremiah 32:12) to have subscribed, or written in, the book or roll of purchase, which was sealed. — Ed
Though the Prophet alludes to a common custom, yet I doubt not but that he wrote this prophecy on rolls, one sealed and the other open, in order that those who were then living might receive some benefit from his doctrine, and also that the authentic copy, or the original itself, might remain for posterity, as we shall hereafter see. And doubtless God not only intended to strengthen the hope of the faithful after the completed time of exile, as this prophecy would he dormant for seventy years; but he designed also that it should be then of use, so as to be a support to them in their sufferings. There was also another benefit to be derived from this prophecy, even that the Jews while in exile might begin to entertain hope, and remembering this vision, might feel assured that God would be their Deliverer, according to what he had promised.

This then was the reason why two writings of the purchase were made, the sealed and the open. 6363     The 11th verse (Jeremiah 32:11), where the two rolls are first mentioned, is difficult to be rendered. I offer the following literal version of the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th, —
   11. And I took the writing of the purchase, — it the sealed, the commandment and the conditions, — and it the open; and I gave the writing of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah,

   12. The son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel my uncle’s son, and in the sight of the witnesses who wrote in the roll of the purchase, and in sight of all the Jews who

   13. sat in the court of the prison; and I commanded Baruch in their sight,

   14. saying, “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Take these rolls, — this roll of the purchase, even it the sealed, and this open roll; and put them in au earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.’”

   The two rolls are called “the writing of the purchase” in ver. 11, but distinguished, one being “sealed,” and the other “open,” or unsealed. The sealed contained “the commandment,” that is, to purchase, and “the conditions,” literally “ordinances;” which Blayney renders, “the assignment and the limitations,” and the Vulg., “the stipulations and ratifications.” But מצוה never means anything but a precept or a commandment, and חקים are things defined, settled, or appointed, and may be rendered “stipulations.” Thus the contents of the sealed roll are specified, but those of the open roll are not expressly mentioned. — Ed.
The open had a present benefit, as it would make the faithful to go more willingly into exile, and calmly to submit to the chastisement allotted to them by God; and for this reason the Prophecy was to be open to all. It was also sealed, in order that after the lapse of seventy years it might animate the godly, and inspire them with the hope of their promised deliverance. This, therefore, is the reason, as I think, why the Prophet relates that he made a writing and sealed it, and then that he made another writing which remained open.

He afterwards adds, that he gave both to his scribe Baruch, the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the presence of Hanameel, and in the presence of the witnesses who had subscribed the writings, and in the presence of all who stood there, that is, in the court of the prison. Hence we may again plainly conclude, that he is narrating a real history, and not a vision exhibited to him: the seller, Hanameel, was present together with witnesses and other Jews; and he says that he gave up the writing with certain orders, for otherwise it would have been merely the delivering up of a book. If he had only deposited it with Baruch, the people would have learnt nothing; but the orders are added, I charged Baruch, saying, etc. We hence may also conclude, that this oracle was given to the Prophet, not only that it might continue for posterity, even after the time of exile was completed, but that it might also be then published and made known to all the Jews. He then says, Thus saith Jehovah He had not yet shewn the design of the prophecy; but when he said that the affair was carried on by the command of God, he rendered them all attentive. Take, he says, these writings, and put them in an earthen or a potter’s vessel It seems strange that he did not bid him to put them in another kind of vessel, for that vessel might become decayed, and so the writings might have perished. But we know that even the most precious treasures are deposited in earthen vessels. It is then no wonder that God commanded the prophecy to be put in an earthen vessel. Were any one disposed to understand something more refined, it might be said, that the promise, which apparently was not very firm, was an earthen vessel; for what is more frail than a voice which is dissipated into air? The Jews were driven into exile; they had heard from the mouth of Jeremiah, that the prefixed period was seventy years: but they might, in the meantime have despaired, since only the sound of the voice had reached their ears. However this may be, since the oracle, which was a pledge of deliverance, had been laid up in an earthen vessel, it remained safe and undecayed, because the treasure had been deposited there by God’s command.

He says, That they may continue for many days By these words he intimates that the prophecy would not only be profitable to the Jews, who were to be driven soon after into captivity, but also to their posterity, who were not yet born, and that they might know that this prophecy would stand valid after their death, for we ought not to measure the faithfulness of God by the extent of our life. This, then, was the reason why this clause was added: the prophecy was to be preserved in earthen vessels, that it might remain safe and secure for many days, that is, until God delivered his people.

VIEWNAME is study