Yirmiyahu 30-36

Chapters 30 through 36 can be divided into two general topics: messages of hope for the restoration of Israel and historical/biographical information about Yirmiyahu and his prophecies.

Chapters 30 and 31 both deliver messages of comfort to the Yehudim.  He discusses the return from Exile and the restoration of Beit David.  Chapter 33 extends the message to promise the reestablishment of the Levites.  The explanation is that leaving the Yehudim without the Davidic or Levitical houses would give other nations the impression that Hashem has abandoned the Yehudim.

Finally, Chapter 35 describes the clan of the Rechavim, who were instructed by their ancestor to eschew alcohol and live a nomadic lifestyle.  The descendants of this patriarch had been careful to respect his precepts, so Yirmiyahu identifies the Rechavim as an example for the Yehudim to follow.  Just as the Rechavim have followed the instructions of their forbujplefather, so should the Yehudim follow the instructions of Hashem (the Law).  Since the Rechavim have proven themselves such a good example, Yirmiyahu communicates to them Hashem’s blessing that Beit Rechav will be established forever.  It should be noted that the Rechavi patriarch, Yonadav, was one of the followers of Yehu, who exterminated the house of Ahav (2 Melechim 10:15).  The Rechavim were Kenites, who historically lived among the Midianites.  Yael was another notable Kenite.

This chapter is out of order, as its events occur during the reign of Yehoyakim, who preceded Zedekiyahu.  Zedekiyahu is named as the king in both chapters 32 and 34.

Chapters 32, 34, and 36 all take a more historical/biographical tone.  Chapter 32 is placed in the approximate year 587 BCE, Zedekiyahu’s tenth regnal year.  Yirmiyahu is under house arrest in the guard’s house in the royal compound.  Hashem tells Yirmiyahu to expect to engage in a real estate transaction with his cousin, Hanam-El.  Hanam-El is the son of Shallum, Yirmiyahu’s uncle.  Yirmiyahu’s grandfather was a man (and High Priest) named Shallum (1 Dvrei HaYomim [1 Chronicles] 6:12-13), so we may assume that he had a son whom he named after himself.  Either that, or Shallum is the keeper of the Temple wardrobe and as husband as Huldah the Prophetess in 2 Melechim (2 Kings) 22:14, making Shallum ben Tikvah a maternal uncle.  Either way, Shallum was an influential man, and his son would have been at least well-to-do.

Yirmiyahu is offered the right of first refusal on a piece of land in his ancestral home of Anathoth–the same place he has already described as being full of his enemies (11:23).  In light of the Chaldean presence in the area, and the recent instability of the government, the land offered is not worth much.  Given Hanam-El’s reference to Yirmiyahu’s right of redemption and inheritance, it may be presumed that Hanam-El has fallen on hard times  and is selling to his next of kin, as prescribed in Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:25.  Wishing to follow the Law and knowing that the Babylonian Exile will not continue forever, sees an opportunity to buy land at a good price.  On top of that, the “right of inheritance” is Yirmiyahu’s.  His purchase of the land simply speeds his acquisition of it.  Baruch ben Neriah serves as the “notary” and holds a sealed copy of the deed as evidence of the sale’s authenticity.  Beruch ben Neriah is a scribe (36:32) who will continue to play a role in Yirmiyahu’s story through the rest of the book, along with Seriah, his brother.

Later in the same year, as the final siege of Jerusalem was about to begin, Yirmiyahu instructs Zedekiyahu to order the release of all Israelite bondsmen, since the Israelites had not been observing the sabbatical year commanded in the Torah (chapter 34).

Just as chapter 35 is out of order, so is chapter 36.  Chapter 36 records how the prophecies of Yirmiyahu came to be written down.  In approximately 604 BCE, in the winter, Yirmiyahu dictated his prophecies to date to Baruch ben Neriah, the scribe, while he was under house arrest.  He then instructed Baruch ben Neriah to read those prophecies to the priests in the Temple and to the royal house.  While the ministers in the royal house are deeply impressed by the prophecies, Yehoyakim, the king, is not, and destroys the scroll.  Yirmiyahu then has Baruch ben Neriah create another scroll, which begins the book of Yirmiyahu.

Included among the royal household are Nethaniyahu ben Shelemiyahu ben Cushi, Gemariahu ben Shaphan.  Cushi was also the father of the prophet Zephaniah, and Shaphan is the scribe who delivered the Torah scroll found by Hilkiyahu to Yosiyahu.  Elishama is also named, and his grandson will ultimately be responsible for the assassination of Gedaliah described in 2 Melechim 25:25, where he is also described as a member of the royal family.

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