Things aren’t exactly looking up for Judah or Israel yet, but they’re not getting worse anymore. The people have already been taken into captivity and this section begins the promises of restoration.
As mentioned above, this chapter sets off a series of promises for restoration when their punishment is over. Make no mistake, God asserts that a full punishment is going to happen, He just also mentions that this isn’t the end of their story.
The general theme that redemption is coming continues throughout this chapter, with some moments that are of particular interest. First of all, there’s this:
8Behold, I will bring them from the north country
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
This verse is interesting during the discussion of a return from exile because these are the groups of people most likely to be left behind in modern times during a mass migration. They are clearly not forgotten by God when thinking of the people He’ll bring home. I also appreciate that women who are pregnant and even those in active labor are specifically mentioned to be brought along.
A little while later God brings in the feeling of this mass migration back to their homeland, this time mentioning the young women:
13Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
While I could be reading into it, I feel like mentioning that these women “will rejoice” in the dance means that this dance isn’t required to be joyous so much as performed normally. It’s also written as “will dance with joy” in other translations, some calling the women “virgins” instead of mentioning gender or age group specifically.
The most confusing of the mentions of women during this time of restoration is this one:
22How long will you waver,
O faithless daughter?
For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth:
a woman encircles a man.”
I’m not sure what any of this really means, is the problem that I have with it. I get that Israel is a “faithless daughter” but what is this new thing? I don’t get it. I looked at the other translations here and it doesn’t really help. Several are given different meanings for the same word that is “encircles” here.
There’s an option on BibleHub to see the specific definition of a word and it shows other uses, so that can be found here. Of course, all the translations use some form or another of encircle but most of them make sense out of the verse. Why would it matter to “encircle” a man? Give him a hug?
Not quite. Some do have “protect” and “shelter” a man instead, which does make a little more sense. I get that a “new thing” might be for women to protect men except….. all the women before this book that do just that, like Esther and Deborah and Sarah for just a few examples off the top of my head. Each one protected or gave shelter to the men in their lives. Not a new thing. Still confusing. Moving along though.
God tells Jeremiah to buy some land. On the surface it’s a weird request. Jeremiah is immediately confused, what with all the talk he’d been instructed to do about God’s judgement and exile. Clarification is given, though.
He wants Jeremiah to invest in the land they’re in because he knew about the exile. Once they see he’s right about the exile, maybe they’ll have a little faith that they will return home if they know that he had invested in the land before they left. I found it to be an interesting touch in the way of giving encouragement to believe in future restoration, especially soon enough that anyone would be around to uphold the claim. We’re not talking about the African diaspora and that those who wanted to return to Africa after slavery was abolished in the US. The Israelites and Judeans had a place to go back to and a memory of where that place should be. My limited reading of the African diaspora and the attempt at returning to homelands has made it clear that this is not a common occurrence.
Some more promises of restoration and mentioning that God will never leave them because of covenants with those who came before them and comparing it to the covenant between the day and night.