Ariel Ministries New Zealand

We asked Arnold ....

The meaning of Jeremiah 31:22

Q: I would be grateful if you could shed any light on the meaning of Jeremiah 31:22: How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encompasses a man (NRSV).

A: The context of this verse begins in verse 21, stating: Set up road markers for yourself, make yourself signposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities. Jeremiah had already warned the people of Judah that they would go into a seventy-year captivity in Babylon. In verse 21, he admonishes them to note the exact road that they have to travel to go from Jerusalem to Babylon because a day would come when they would need to use the same road to get back to Judah in fulfillment of the promises made within the book of Jeremiah. Then the prophet calls upon Israel, who is pictured throughout the Hebrew Bible as the wife of Jehovah. She is now divorced from her Husband and has been sent into captivity. Nevertheless, she will be called to return as the virgin of Israel to once again indwell the cities that had been abandoned for seventy years. In verse 22, Jeremiah begins with a question as to why Israel had become the backsliding daughter. Then he makes a declaration that God has created a new thing in the earth, and this new thing is that a woman shall encompass a man. In the context of Jeremiah’s day, it would be extremely unusual and unlikely for a woman to court a man since all courtships were initiated by men. However, once Israel becomes a believing nation, this will change. When the nation accepts the Messiah (Hosea 5:15–6:3), she will encompass her Husband, the God of Israel. 

In conclusion, Israel has been the unfaithful wife for millennia, but in the future she will begin courting her Husband, the God of Israel, and bring about her own final restoration. 

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