“Anticipation of a New Future”
Adult Sunday School Lesson Summary for September 21, 2014
Lesson Text: Jeremiah 32:1-9, 14, 15
Background Scripture: Jeremiah 32
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 12
Jeremiah 32:1-9, 14, 15 (KJV)
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.
2 For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.
3 For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;
4 And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes;
5 And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the Lord: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper.
6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.
8 So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.
9 And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.
14 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.
15 For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.
TODAY’S LESSON AIMS
Learning Fact: To recognize that even when life seems bleak, God does not give up on us.
Biblical Principle: To know that God is always in control.
Daily Application: To daily trust in God’s promises.
HOW TO SAY IT
Baruch Bare-uk or Bay-ruk.
Relatives, Property, and Prison
My wife and I have moved often during our adult years, usually far from family. The result is that we are not close to our various aunts, uncles, and cousins. While there are many people like us in America and Canada, there are also many who have close ties with relatives. In Nebraska, where I now teach, I have students from small towns whose parents, siblings, cousins, etc., mostly live within a few miles of each other. For better or for worse, this has never been my experience.
Sometimes we may assume that our own experiences of family connections (or lack thereof) are pretty much everyone else’s, and we are surprised to learn otherwise. Our experiences in this regard may carry over into our study of Old Testament prophets, perhaps causing us to assume that their situations were like ours, only to discover the opposite (compare Jeremiah 16:2; Ezekiel 24:15-18; Hosea 3:1).
Other than the assistance of a certain Baruch, who appears on the scene in Jeremiah 32, the prophet Jeremiah seems to have been all alone as he confronted the sins of his people. Residents of his hometown even plotted to kill him (1:1; 11:21-23). But as these images become fixed in our minds, today’s lesson offers the surprising twist of a cousin who appeared on the scene while the prophet was imprisoned.
The astonishing reason for the visit: the cousin wanted Jeremiah to buy a piece of property that was behind enemy lines during a war! It is often said of unusual historical accounts, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Relatives, property, and prison—all are part of the extraordinary circumstances of our lesson.
LESSON BACKGROUND: Right of Redemption
Time: 587 B.C.
Today’s lesson involves “redemption” of a parcel of land, so some background on that concept is in order. The right of redemption within the Law of Moses was a provision designed to keep family properties intact. The land of Canaan, the promised land, had been given to the Israelites by the Lord. Since possession of plots of land was to be seen as a sacred trust, the law made provision for redeeming property that had been sold outside the family. This was something like the modern “right of first refusal,” but stronger.
Israelite families retained ultimate rights over land they had sold, rights set forth in Leviticus 25:23-28. If economic hardship necessitated selling a parcel of land, such land was first to be offered to other family members. There was even a sense that a relative who had the means to “redeem” this property (buy it from the distressed family member) was obligated to do so to keep the land in the family. The seller retained the right of repurchase if his finances improved, but at current market value (compare Leviticus 25:15, 16). All unredeemed land was to revert to the original family owners every 50 years, when a year of jubilee was observed.
Overall, the intended effect was to tie people to the land so that an ongoing possibility of economic prosperity could be retained for every family in Israel. From a modern perspective, it placed severe limits on land speculation practices as a means to accumulate wealth.
LESSON BACKGROUND: Anathoth
Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1) was a village in the tribal area of Benjamin, about three miles north-northeast of Jerusalem. Anathoth was a Levite town, a convenient residence for workers in the Jerusalem temple. The priestly tribe of Levi had no tribal area of its own, so its villages and pasture lands were within the territories of other tribes (see Joshua 21:1-4, 17, 18). Levites also had the right of property redemption (Leviticus 25:32, 33).
We don’t know much about Anathoth, but a close study of the Old Testament yields two facts. First, its residents were opposed to Jeremiah’s messages (Jeremiah 11:21-23). Second, people from Anathoth are named as being among those who returned from exile to reestablish their town (see Ezra 2:23; Nehemiah 11:32). That will take place in 538 B.C., some 49 years in the future as our text opens.
Living Under Siege: Jeremiah 32:1-5
1. What events led up to the siege of Jerusalem and imprisonment of Jeremiah by King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 32:1-2)?
Jeremiah 32 and 33 were written during the horrible 18-month siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar (a variant spelling is Nebuchadnezzar) (587-586 B.C.). At this time, Zedekiah was in his tenth year on the throne of Judah (32:1). As the Babylonian army tightened its grip on the city, Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah in the “court” (v. 2) adjacent to the guardhouse that was attached to the king’s “house.” Evidently, Jeremiah was a political prisoner who was permitted to receive visitors and conduct business.
Zedekiah was 21 years old, just three years older than his deposed nephew, Jehoiachin, when he became king (2 Kings 24:18). He reigned for 11 years, from 597 to 586 B.C. Like his predecessors, Zedekiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. The quality of his kingdom only validated God’s intention to remove the people of Judah from His presence in the promised land (24:19-20).
Zedekiah figures prominently in the Book of Jeremiah. The monarch consulted with the prophet (21:1-2) and even begged for Jeremiah’s help (37:3), but Zedekiah never had the courage to do what he knew was right. While the king seemed to want Jeremiah, the man of God, on his side, Zedekiah had lost his independence and much of his power to aristocrats around him. In fact, these ungodly counselors in the royal court always got their way (38: 1-5). One contingent of those advisers convinced Zedekiah that he could rebel against the Babylonians, who had put him in power (2 Kings 24:17).
Jeremiah consistently bore witness to Zedekiah that the Lord wanted Judah to submit to Babylon Ger. 27:12-14).
2. Why did the King feel threatened by Jeremiah’s prophesy? (Jeremiah 32:3-5)
We see the reason for Jeremiah’s imprisonment as King Zedekiah quotes the prophet’s inflammatory words back to him. The king has been listening, and he is not pleased. Therefore, Zedekiah censured his political prisoner for his dire, prophetic warnings (32:3). Jeremiah remained unrelenting in his assertion that the Lord would deliver Jerusalem into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. More specifically, though, the king is offended by the prophecy in three ways.
First, Jeremiah has not been saying merely that the army of Nebuchadrezzar will win, but that the city will be delivered to that pagan king by the Lord. The prophet’s clear message is that the God of Israel is now on the side of the Babylonians. Although this is not a new message (see Jeremiah 20:4), it seems to remain incomprehensible to the city residents in general and Zedekiah in particular. Will their Lord not only abandon them but actively work against them? Unthinkable!
Second, Jeremiah’s message offends King Zedekiah in predicting that the king himself will be captured and brought into the very presence of the king of Babylon (note: Chaldeans is another word for Babylonians). Zedekiah thus finds the prophet’s words threatening for him personally. We can look ahead to Jeremiah 39:5-7 and 52:1 to see how horrific this meeting will be (compare 2 Kings 25:7).
The third offensive element of the prophecy is that Zedekiah himself is to be taken to Babylon as a war prize for display. This will indeed happen (2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 52:11), the last we hear of Zedekiah. The Bible has no kind words for him (see 2 Chronicles 36:11-16).
What Do You Think?
What have you learned from the witness of godly people who remained steadfast in the face of opposition?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In use of discretion or tact (Daniel 2:14)
In knowing when or if to speak up (Amos 5:13)
In remaining focused (Nehemiah 6:3)
In understanding the nature of the opposition (Acts 23:6-8)
A Divine Directive to Buy Some Property: Jeremiah 32:6-9
3. What astonishing word did the Lord send to Jeremiah while he was imprisoned? (Jeremiah 32:6, 7)
Although King Zedekiah has turned against Jeremiah, the Lord has not abandoned him. The prophet continues to receive the word of the Lord even while imprisoned. This time it is not a word for the king or the nation, but a personal word for the prophet himself.
The Lord advises Jeremiah that he is soon to receive a visitor, a cousin named Hanameel, who was the son of Shallum, Jeremiah’s uncle (v. 7). Hanamel owned a field in Anathoth, which was located about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. Anathoth was one of the 45 cities previously allotted to the Levites from the territory belonging to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 21:18).
Hanameel is coming on a matter of family business, to request that Jeremiah purchase a piece of property in his hometown in accordance with the law concerning the right of redemption (see the Lesson Background). This is an extraordinary moment, filled with irony. Jerusalem is under siege, its very existence threatened. Nearby Anathoth will also suffer the ravages of the plundering Babylonians (if it hasn’t already). This is almost like the driver of a car asking his passenger to buy the car as they plunge off a cliff in it together!
As God had revealed, Hanameel visited Jeremiah while he was imprisoned and asked that he fulfill his obligation as the family guardian. This incident confined to the prophet that he truly had received an oracle from the Lord (Jer. 32:8). From a financial standpoint, the transaction seemed absurd. Jeremiah knows that the field is worthless in the short term, for obvious reasons. The faith question is whether Jeremiah truly believes that the Lord will bring his people back from exile to restore the land. Jeremiah already knows that this will not happen in his lifetime (see Jer. 29:10).
What Do You Think?
When responding to a challenge that involves monetary expenditure, how do you determine whether you are acting in faith or foolhardiness?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Regarding churches that incur debt for a building program
Regarding Christians who pledge monthly support for a missionary or cause
4. What was Jeremiah’s response to Hanameel’s offer to buy the property? (Jeremiah 32:9)
Yet, despite the situation, Jeremiah obeyed the Lord (v. 25) and purchased the field with “silver” and had the acquisition confirmed by witnesses. Also in obedience to God, Jeremiah paid his cousin 17 “shekels” (or about seven ounces; v. 9) of “silver” for the property.
What Do You Think?
How do you decide when faith demands immediate action or calls for careful waiting?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In a financial crisis | In a health crisis | In a church crisis | In a family crisis
Preserving the Proof (Jeremiah 32:14, 15)
5. How did the Lord instruct Jeremiah to protect the evidence of the purchase of property from Hanameel? (Jeremiah 32:14, 15)
The transfer of property is made with the proper documentation (Jeremiah 32:10-12, not in today’s text). The evidence of the purchase (what we would call a title deed) is placed in a container that is then sealed with wax. This provides a moisture-free environment that will preserve the documentation as long as the seal remains intact. The earthen vessel container (pottery) may be similar to those found containing the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which had been preserved for over 2,000 years by the time of their discovery.
The reason for the divine directive and safekeeping is that the sovereign Lord, who declared Himself to be the “God of Israel” (Jer. 32:15), promised to bring about the restoration of His chosen people from captivity. Jeremiah’s purchase symbolized the Lord’s pledge that in a future day, a righteous remnant would once again buy “houses and fields and vineyards” in their ancestral homeland.
What Do You Think?
When was a time that God’s Word helped you make a decision that went against conventional wisdom? How did things turn out?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Regarding a career decision | Regarding a relationship decision | Regarding a financial decision
POINTS TO PONDER
1. People can imprison God's workers, but God's Word is not bound. (Jeremiah 32:2-5)
2. Listen to and obey God’s instructions. (Jeremiah 32:6-9)
3. Trust in God’s promises. (Jeremiah 32:14, 15)
Faith That Overpays
Personal confession: I am an easy mark for girls selling Girl Scout cookies. If I have any cash in my wallet, I will always buy a box when I see them at a table as I leave the supermarket. I know I am overpaying, that similar cookies are available in the store for half the price. But I always buy them anyway. Why? Because I have faith in their organization and the good things it does in the lives of these youngsters. I never seek a discount. I just pay.
It would be easy to see Jeremiah’s actions as foolish. What sense did it make for an unmarried, childless man, stuck in prison and facing the calamity of war, to buy property? Even if he wanted to honor his family’s obligation to redeem the property, couldn’t he have paid much less? No one would have criticized Jeremiah for driving a hard bargain (or avoiding any bargain) in his circumstances, would they? To think this way misses the point: paying—even overpaying—is an act of faith, a testimony to the long-term commitment of the Lord to his nation.
Faith can be expensive when it comes to money. Faith impels us to send money to agencies for the relief of people we will never see. Faith brings us to give money for a building project we may never personally enjoy. Faith results in financial support of ministries at a level that may cause us to go without things that make our lives more comfortable.
Handling of money can also indicate a lack of faith. May we take heart from Jeremiah’s courageous example of faith, trusting God with our hearts and our money.
O Lord, give us hearts of faithful generosity that look beyond our own needs to the needs of others. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who gave His life for us; amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Hope acts in faith in God’s promises.
ANTICIPATING THE NEXT LESSON
Next week’s lesson is “Future Peace and Joy” where we will be reminded of God’s ability to restore Joy. Study Jeremiah 33:2-11.
LESSON SUMMARIZED BY
Horace A. Hayes
Jesus Is All Ministries
Life Application Bible—New Revised Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Scofield, C.I., ed. The New Scofield Study Bible—King James Version. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Summary and commentary derived from Standard Lesson Commentary Copyright 2014 by permission of Standard Publishing.
The KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, by Nelson Books.
The Pulpit Commentary, Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.), Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Cook