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Haftarah Behar - Jeremiah's Assurance

Jeremiah's Assurance

Further thoughts on Parashat Behar

by John J. Parsons

[ Note: The following is related to this week's Torah (and Haftarah) reading for Behar.
Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

Our Torah portion this week (i.e., Behar) includes the requirement that someone should redeem (buy) the land of their close relative if the relative is in such financial difficulty that he is forced to sell it: 'If your brother becomes impoverished and sells some of his property, then his near redeemer (גאֲלוֹ הַקָּרב) shall and redeem (גָאַל) what his brother has sold" (Lev. 25:25). In other words, if a man was forced to sell some of his inheritance due to poverty, then one of his close relatives had the duty to acquire it so that it would not pass into the hands of strangers. This law of redemption, as supplemented with the laws of inheritance (Num. 27:8-11), becomes a focal point in the Haftarah for Behar.

In obedience to the word of the LORD, and in accordance with the the law of redemption, the prophet Jeremiah signed the deed for the purchase of land from his uncle Hanamel, just before Jerusalem was to fall to the Babylonians (Jer. 32:6-10). His land purchase seemed absurd in light of the terror of the times, especially since Nebuchadnezzar's armies were just about to breach the walls of Jerusalem and carry away the inhabitants of Judah to captivity. Under these dreadful circumstances, what possible value did land in the territory of Judah hold? Nonetheless, Jeremiah instructed his scribe Baruch to put the deed of sale in an earthenware vessel "so it would last for a long time" (Jer. 32:11-14). "For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land" (Jer. 32:15).

Jeremiah's audacious act of faith was surely impressive and testified of God's faithfulness to Israel. After he had given the deed of purchase to Baruch, Jeremiah began to pray to the LORD, saying:

אֲהָהּ אֲדנָי יְהוִה
הִנֵּה אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ
בְּכחֲךָ הַגָּדוֹל וּבִזְרעֲךָ הַנְּטוּיָה
לא־יִפָּלֵא מִמְּךָ כָּל־דָּבָר

ahah  Adonai  Elohim
hi·nei  at·tah  a·si·ta  et  ha·sha·ma·yim  v'et  ha·a·retz
be·kho·cha·kha  ha·ga·dol  u·viz·ro·a·kha  han·ne·tu·yah
lo  yi·pa·lei  mim·me·kha  kol  da·var


"Ah, Lord GOD!
It is you who have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and by your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too hard for you"
(Jer. 32:17)


During this prayer before the witnesses, Jeremiah was inwardly troubled regarding the vision to come. As he continued to pray, the absurdity of the situation perhaps began to dawn upon him, as he said: "Behold, the siege mounds have come up to the city to take it, and because of sword and famine and pestilence the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has come to pass, and behold, you see it. Yet you, O Lord God, have said to me, "Buy the field for money and get witnesses" -- even though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans" (Jer. 32:24-25). While he was praying this, however, the LORD interrupted and rhetorically quoted back the prophet's own words in the form of a question: "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jer. 32:26-27). Do you really believe this, Jeremiah? Even in light of the certainty of judgment, the LORD has promised to regather the people in genuine teshuvah and hope. Here is the vision: "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them (Jer. 32:37-42).

Later on, Jeremiah still appeared wrestle with the vision. After all, the prophet had spent years warning the people of judgment but the message went entirely unheeded. Now the collapse of the kingdom was imminent, and time had run out... The LORD therefore came to reassure his servant: "The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard. Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it -- the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known" (Jer. 33:1-3). God did not come to rebuke Jeremiah for his doubt, but to encourage him to ask him about the days to come. It is as if God said to him, "Are you are still questioning my ways in this matter? Come listen again to me and let us review the vision together..." The LORD then repeated the message he spoke earlier, but this time he focused more on its glorious goal. The destruction to come would ultimately be purifying and healing, and one day Zion would be established in great joy, praise and glory for all the earth (Jer. 33:6-9). In that day "there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: "'Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!' (הוֹדוּ אֶת־יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת כִּי־טוֹב יְהוָה כִּי־לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ). For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD" (Jer 33:11).

Ultimately this great day will come when the LORD will fulfill the promise He made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah: "In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch (צֶמַח צְדָקָה) to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it (i.e., the City, Zion) will be called: Adonai Tzidkenu: 'The LORD is our righteousness' (Jer. 33:14-16).

The word given to the prophet Jeremiah is one for our time: Despite the certainty of coming judgment, there is a future and a hope... Press on in faith, chaverim -- one day (soon) Zion will be established by the hand of Yeshua our Messiah! Meanwhile, hodu la-Adonai ki tov - "Give thanks to the LORD for He is good." As Jeremiah truly prayed, "Nothing is too hard (lit. "wonderful") for the LORD our God...

הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי־טוֹב כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ
הוֹדוּ לֵאלהֵי הָאֱלהִים כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ
הוֹדוּ לַאֲדנֵי הָאֲדנִים כִּי לְעלָם חַסְדּוֹ

ho·du  la·Adonai  ki  tov:  ki  le'o·lam  chas·do
ho·du  lei·lo·hei  ha-E·lo·him:  ki  le'o·lam  chas·do
ho·du  la·a·do·nei  ha·a·do·nim:  ki  le'o·lam  chas·do


"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever."
(Psalm 136:1-3)


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