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Jeremiah 31:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Is Ephraim my dear son? - It is impossible to conceive any thing more tenderly affectionate than this. Let us consider the whole account. The ten tribes, called here Ephraim, for the reason before alleged, are represented as acknowledging their sins. I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself; and in his lamentation he says,

  1. Thou hast chastised me.
  • Though he at first rebelled against the chastisement, yet at last he submitted and acknowledged his offenses.
  • He turned from all his offenses; he was converted.
  • After his conversion, (שובי shubi ), he repented; after conviction came contrition, as before stated.
  • Being in a state of godly sorrow, he was instructed, הודעי hivvadei, he got a thorough knowledge of the desperate wickedness of his heart and life.
  • Having received this instruction, he was filled with excessive grief; which is signified here by smiting on his thigh. See above.
  • He finds that from his youth up he had been sinning against God; and although his youthful sins had long passed from his memory, yet the light of God brought them back, and he was ashamed and confounded at the sight of them.
  • In this state of confusion and distress God sees him; and, commiserating his state, thus speaks: -
  • 1. Is Ephraim my dear son? Bad as he is in his own sight, and in the sight of my justice, he is now a penitent, and to me is precious.

    2. However loathsome and disfigured he may be with sin and sorrow, he is to me a pleasant child - a child of delights; one in whose conversion I delight, and my angels rejoice.

    3. I did speak against him: בו דברי מדי כי ki middey dabberi bo, for "from the abundance of my speaking in him;" accusing, threatening, promising, exhorting, encouraging; "I do still earnestly remember him." God has taken much pains with him, and is unwilling to give him up; but now that he repents, he has not received the grace of God utterly in vain.

    4. God feels a yearning desire towards him; לו מעי המו hamu meai lo, "my bowels are agitated for him." I feel nothing towards him but pity and love. When a sinner turns to God, God ceases to be angry with him.

    5. God expresses his determination to save him; ארחמנו רחם rachem arachamennu, "I will be affectionately merciful to him, with tender mercy, saith the Lord." He shall find that I treat him as a father does a returning prodigal son. So every penitent is sure to find mercy at the hand of God.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible
    Verses 15-22

    The religious character of the restoration of the ten tribes. Chastisement brought repentance, and with it forgiveness; therefore God decrees their restoration.

    Jeremiah 31:15

    Ramah, mentioned because of its nearness to Jerusalem, from which it was distant about five miles. As the mother of three tribes, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, Rachel is regarded as the mother of the whole ten. This passage is quoted by Matthew (marginal reference) as a type. In Jeremiah it is a poetical figure representing in a dramatic form the miserable condition of the kingdom of Ephraim devastated by the sword of the Assyrians.

    Jeremiah 31:16

    Rachel‘s work had been that of bearing and bringing up children, and by their death she was deprived of the joy for which she had labored: but by their being restored to her she will receive her wages.

    Jeremiah 31:17

    In thine end - i. e., for thy time to come (see the Jeremiah 29:11 note).

    Jeremiah 31:18

    As a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke - literally, like an untaught calf. Compare the Hosea 10:11 note. Ephraim, like an untrained steer, had resisted Yahweh‘s will.

    Jeremiah 31:19

    After that I was turned - i. e., after I had turned away from Thee. In Jeremiah 31:18 it has the sense of turning to God.

    Instructed - Brought to my senses by suffering. The smiting upon the thigh is a sign of sorrow. Compare Ezekiel 21:17.

    The reproach of my youth - i. e., the shame brought upon me by sins of my youth.

    Jeremiah 31:20

    Moved to compassion by Ephraim‘s lamentation, Yahweh shows Himself as tender and ready to forgive as parents are their spoiled (rather, darling) child.

    For … him - Or, “that so often as I speak concerning him,” i. e., his punishment.

    My bowels are troubled - The metaphor expresses the most tender internal emotion.

    Jeremiah 31:21

    Waymarks - See 2 Kings 23:17 note.

    High heaps - Or, signposts, pillars to point out the way.

    Set thine heart - Not set thy affection, but turn thy thoughts and attention (in Hebrew the heart is the seat of the intellect) to the highway, even the way by which thou wentest.

    Jeremiah 31:22

    Israel instead of setting itself to return hesitates, and goes here and there in a restless mood. To encourage it God gives the sign following.

    A woman shall compass a man - i. e., the female shall protect the strong man; the weaker nature that needs help will surround the stronger with loving and fostering care. This expresses a new relation of Israel to the Lord, a new covenant, which the Lord will make with His people (Jeremiah 31:31 following). The fathers saw in these words a prophecy of the miraculous conception of our Lord by the Virgin.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Ephraim (the ten tribes) is weeping for sin. He is angry at himself for his sin, and folly, and frowardness. He finds he cannot, by his own power, keep himself close with God, much less bring himself back when he is revolted. Therefore he prays, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned. His will was bowed to the will of God. When the teaching of God's Spirit went with the corrections of his providence, then the work was done. This is our comfort in affliction, that the Lord thinks upon us. God has mercy in store, rich mercy, sure mercy, suitable mercy, for all who seek him in sincerity.
    Ellen G. White
    The Publishing Ministry, 157.2

    Publishing Houses to Avoid Strife for Supremacy—In book making there is a striving for the supremacy.... God says to every soul, “Take heed.” The leaven of influence is a powerful thing. Whether good or evil, it gathers all to itself. If the leaven of selfishness, covetousness, and hardheartedness is allowed to enter, it will subdue all the properties of the body to corrupting force. There will be no bowels of mercy, no tender consideration, no fighting against objectionable traits of character, which so quickly develop into giants of evil. Unless this root of bitterness is cast out of the soul, it will continually spring up, and by it many will be defiled.—Manuscript 131, 1899. PM 157.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 276

    Though He “delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand,” yet He said, “My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail.” Psalm 78:61; 89:33. 8T 276.4

    “Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant [Authorized Version] child? for as often as I speak against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My heart yearneth for him.” Jeremiah 31:20, A. R. V. 8T 276.5

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 276

    Though He “delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy's hand,” yet He said, “My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail.” Psalm 78:61; 89:33. 8T 276.4

    “Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant [Authorized Version] child? for as often as I speak against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore My heart yearneth for him.” Jeremiah 31:20, A. R. V. 8T 276.5

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