The fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (Mt 2:17-2:18)

“Then was fulfilled

What had been spoken

Through the prophet Jeremiah.

‘A voice is heard

In Ramah.

Wailing

With loud lamentation.

Rachel is weeping

For her children.

She refuses to be consoled,

Because they are no more.’”

 

τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος

Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη, κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς·

Ῥαχὴλ κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν.

 

Matthew once again has a prophetic citation, but this time explicitly from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31:15. He said that the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled here (τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος). In the Jeremiah prophecy, Yahweh talked about Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. At the time of Jeremiah, Rachel had been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the former Benjamin territory. Thus, Rachel (Ῥαχὴλ) was loudly lamenting from her grave. Jeremiah said that a voice from Ramah was heard (Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη). She was weeping bitterly and mourning (κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς) for her lost children (κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς). She refused to be comforted (οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι), because they were dead and gone. They were no more (ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν). Here Matthew, used this saying to apply to the innocent male children that Herod had killed. In the follow up to the Rachel story in Jeremiah, Yahweh told her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded with descendants. There is no indication of that here in this text.

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The tribe of Reuben (Ezek 48:6-48:6)

“Adjoining the territory

Of Ephraim,

From the east side

To the west side,

Reuben was

One portion.”

Once again, in a very summary fashion of east to west, the territory of Reuben was next to Ephraim. However, in Joshua, chapter 13, Reuben was an east bank territory and had no land on the west side of the Jordan River. Somehow it would be south of Ephraim, maybe in the old Dan territory or the Benjamin territory. From this description, it is hard to tell.

Johanan goes to Gibeon (Jer 41:11-41:12)

“But Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

With all the leaders

Of the forces with him,

Heard of all the crimes

That Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Had done.

They then took

All their men.

They went to fight

Against Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah.

They came upon him

At the great pool

That is in Gibeon.”

Johanan, the son of Kareah, who had wanted to kill Ishmael before this, heard about what had happened at Mizpah. It is not clear how he found out about all the killings there. Johanan got all the open field leaders and their troops, and then he set out to fight against Ishmael. They actually found him about a couple miles outside of Mizpah, at the ancient Canaanite and Levitical city of Gibeon in the Benjamin territory, by the great pool.

Jeremiah stays in Judah (Jer 40:5-40:6)

“‘If you remain,

Then return to Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

The king of Babylon

Has appointed him governor

Of the towns of Judah.

Stay with him

Among the people!

Or go wherever

You think it right to go.’

So the captain of the guard

Gave him an allowance

Of food

With a present.

He let him go.

Then Jeremiah went

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

At Mizpah.

He stayed with him

Among the people

Who were left in the land.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the troops, told Jeremiah that if he stayed in Judah that he would be better off with Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. The King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the governor for the towns of Judah, since there was no longer a king. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Gedaliah’s father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah. Still Jeremiah was free to go wherever he wanted. The captain of the troops gave Jeremiah some food and a present, maybe some money. Jeremiah then went to Gedaliah, who was at Mizpah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, in the Benjamin territory. Thus Jeremiah stayed with all these people who were left in Israel. These were either the so-called poor people or collaborators with the Babylon king and his emissaries.

Oracle after the defeat (Jer 40:1-40:1)

“The word

That came

To Jeremiah

From Yahweh

After Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had let him go

From Ramah.

He had taken him

Bound in fetters

Along with all the captives

Of Jerusalem and Judah.

They were being exiled

To Babylon.”

According to this account, Jeremiah was sent in chains along with all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah that were about to be exiled to Babylon. While there, Jeremiah had this oracle of Yahweh about leaving Ramah, which was about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory. Apparently this Ramah camp was where they made the final disposition of the various prisoners. Perhaps it was here that the captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, made his final decision about Jeremiah. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapters 47 and 48, not chapter 40 as here.

The restoration of shepherds and flocks (Jer 33:12-33:13)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

‘In this place

That is a waste,

Without human beings

Or animals,

In all of its towns,

There shall again

Be pastures

For shepherds

Resting their flocks.

In the towns of the hill country,

Of the Shephelah,

Of the Negeb,

In the land of Benjamin,

In the places around Jerusalem,

In the towns of Judah,

Flocks shall again pass

Under the hands

Of the one

Who counts them.’

Says Yahweh.”

Despite the wasteland that did not have humans or animals in any of its towns, there would be once again pastures for shepherds to bring their flocks. As in the preceding chapter, this restoration would take place in the hill country of Judah, in the towns of the Shephelah, the old Dan territory next to Benjamin, in the Negeb, the semi arid land southeast of Jerusalem near the Dead Sea, in the Benjamin territory, around the city of Jerusalem, and in the towns of Judah. Flocks and shepherds would once again pass by with a shepherd counting them. However, there was no mention of the northern territory from the old northern Israelite kingdom and its tribes.

The restoration of good fields (Jer 32:43-32:44)

“‘Fields shall be bought

In this land

Of which you are saying.

‘It is a desolation!

It is without humans!

It is without animals!

It has been given

Into the hands

Of the Chaldeans.’

Fields shall be bought

For money.

Deeds shall be signed,

Sealed,

As well as witnessed

In the land of Benjamin,

In the places about Jerusalem,

In the towns of Judah,

In the towns of the hill country,

In the towns of the Shephelah,

In the towns of the Negeb.

I will restore their fortunes.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh said, via Jeremiah, that the time of the desolation of the land was over. Fields were going to be bought and sold. It is not clear who owned some of these fields, since they might have changed hands a few times, since the beginning of the exile. However, the land was desolate, since there were no humans or animals on them after the Chaldeans took over. Who was going to sell this land? However, there would be a legal process. Money would exchange hands with deeds signed, sealed, and witnessed. The example of Jeremiah buying a field in the preceding chapter may be an example of how things would operate. Now this restoration would take place in the Benjamin territory, around the city of Jerusalem, and the towns of Judah. However, there are places mentioned, like the towns in the hill country of Judah, the Shephelah, the old Dan territory next to Benjamin, as well as the Negeb, the semi arid land southeast of Jerusalem near the Dead Sea. There was no mention of the northern territory from the old northern Israelite kingdom and their tribal territory.