By Sam E. Stone
Despite all that was going on around them, the people of Israel still had reason for hope. This month’s studies in the book of Jeremiah explain why they could have such confidence that much better days were ahead.
Many years before this time, God had given the land of Canaan—the promised land—to his people. The Law of Moses contained specific provisions designed to keep family property intact. These parcels of land were intended to stay with the original family who owned the property. When hard times forced a person to sell a parcel of land, it was to be offered first to his relatives so that it could be kept in the family. This is the context in which today’s lesson is set.
Living Under Siege
Just months before the downfall of Jerusalem, King Zedekiah was still ruling. He was very unhappy with Jeremiah, since the prophet had told the people that the Babylonians were going to conquer them. Tremper Longman III explained, “The prophet was thought to be a collaborator since he advocated the view that Zedekiah ought to capitulate to Nebuchadnezzar.” Jeremiah’s strong message was not politically correct.
The king was upset because the prophet said that the city would be delivered into the hands of their enemies—not by a stronger army, but by God himself. The king couldn’t imagine such a thing. Zedekiah was told that he would be turned over to the hands of the king of Babylon and would be taken as a prisoner to that pagan land.
Through all of this, Jeremiah was kept a prisoner until Jerusalem fell (see 38:13, 28; 39:14). That event is recorded in 52:7-14. Zedekiah was taken captive to Babylon, where he eventually died (see v. 11).
Buying Distressed Property
God told Jeremiah that his uncle Hanamel would be arriving to ask that he buy his property in the nearby village of Anathoth (see 32:7). Evidently no other relative had either the means or the desire to purchase this “distressed merchandise.” The property would be useless in the near future since the country was being taken over by another nation. The purchase could become a valuable long-term investment, however, if one believed that God would eventually deliver his people from the Babylonians.
J. B. Coffman pointed out, “This indicates that the Pentateuch was well known among the Jews of this period, and that many of its provisions were still being observed. The book of Ruth tells of the marriage of Ruth the Moabitess, along with the redemption of a piece of land that had belonged to Ruth’s husband. Leviticus 25:25 records the Mosaic law that was involved in such purchases.”
The purchase of this family property is especially significant at this time. Only direct assurance from the Lord could guarantee that this investment was one that Jeremiah should make. “I knew that this was the word of the Lord,” he declared. Nothing proves the reality of faith like “putting your money where your mouth is!”
Preserving the Proof
Jeremiah 32:14, 15
Verses 10-13 (not in our printed text) outline what all took place. The deed was signed, sealed, and witnessed. Payment was made. “All the legal requirements for transfer of property were followed,” noted James E. Smith. “Payment of seventeen shekels of silver were publicly weighed out, Jeremiah signed and sealed the deed. He called in witnesses before whom he again weighed the shekels.”
The deed was given to Baruch in the presence of Hanamel and other witnesses. These important documents were then placed in a clay jar container, probably much like those used to preserve safely the Dead Sea Scrolls for more than 2,000 years. The significance of this legal transaction was made clear to the prophet: “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”
Better times are coming. You can count on God to keep his word. While Jeremiah would not personally live to see that day, he knew by faith that it was coming (29:10). The verses after our printed text include a long prayer to God (32:16-25) and both God’s first answer (vv. 26-35) and his second answer (vv. 36-44).
With each week’s Bible lesson, the quarterly includes a devotional reading. The one for today is especially appropriate—Isaiah 12. It says in part, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted” (v. 4).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.