New English Translation
33 “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel[a] after I plant them back in the land,”[b] says the Lord.[c] “I will[d] put my law within them[e] and write it on their hearts and minds.[f] I will be their God and they will be my people.[g]
34 “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me.[h] For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,”[i] says the Lord. “For[j] I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”
The Lord Guarantees Israel’s Continuance
35 The Lord has made a promise to Israel.
He promises it as the one who fixed the sun to give light by day
and the moon and stars to give light by night.
He promises it as the one who stirs up the sea so that its waves roll.
His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.[k]
- Jeremiah 31:33 tn Heb “with the house of Israel.” All commentators agree that the term here refers to both the whole nation, which was divided into the house of Israel and the house of Judah in v. 30.
- Jeremiah 31:33 tn Heb “after those days.” Commentators are generally agreed that this refers to the return from exile and the repopulation of the land referred to in vv. 27-28 and not to something subsequent to the time mentioned in v. 30. This is the sequencing that is also presupposed in other new covenant passages such as Deut 30:1-6; Ezek 11:17-20; 36:24-28.
- Jeremiah 31:33 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
- Jeremiah 31:33 tn Heb “‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after these days:’ says the Lord, ‘I will….’” The sentence has been reworded and restructured to avoid the awkwardness of the original style.
- Jeremiah 31:33 tn Heb “in their inward parts.” The Hebrew word here refers to the seat of the thoughts, emotions, and decisions (Jer 9:8 [9:7 HT]). It is essentially synonymous with “heart” in Hebrew psychological terms.
- Jeremiah 31:33 tn The words “and minds” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to bring the English psychology more into line with the Hebrew, where the “heart” is the center both of knowing/thinking/reflecting and deciding/willing.sn Two contexts are relevant for understanding this statement. The first context is the Mosaic covenant, which was characterized by a law written on stone tablets (e.g., Exod 32:15-16; 34:1, 28; Deut 4:13; 5:22; 9:10) or in a “book” or “scroll” (Deut 31:9-13). This material could be lost (cf. 2 Kgs 22:8), forgotten (Hos 4:6), ignored (Jer 6:19; Amos 4:2), or altered (Jer 8:8). The second context is the repeated fault that Jeremiah has found with their stubborn (3:17; 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12; 23:17), uncircumcised (4:4; 9:26), and desperately wicked hearts (4:4; 17:9). Radical changes were necessary to get the people to obey the law from the heart and not just pay superficial or lip service to it (3:10; 12:2). Deut 30:1-6 and Ezek 11:17-20 with 36:24-28 speak of these radical changes. The Lord will remove the “foreskin” of their heart and give them a circumcised heart, or take away their “stony” heart and give them a new heart. With this heart they will be able to obey his laws, statutes, ordinances, and commands (Deut 30:8; Ezek 11:20; 36:27). The new covenant does not entail a new law; it is essentially the same law that Jeremiah has repeatedly accused them of rejecting or ignoring (6:19; 9:13; 16:11; 26:4; 44:10). What does change is their inner commitment to keep it. Jeremiah has already referred to this in Jer 24:7 and will refer to it again in Jer 32:39.
- Jeremiah 31:33 sn Cf. Jer 24:7; 30:22; 31:1; see the study note on 30:2.
- Jeremiah 31:34 tn Heb “teach…, saying, ‘Know the Lord.’” The indirect quote has been chosen for stylistic reasons, i.e., to better parallel the following line.sn As mentioned in the translator’s note on 9:3 (9:2 HT), “knowing” God in covenant contexts like this involves more than just an awareness of who he is (9:23 [9:22 HT]). It involves an acknowledgment of his sovereignty and wholehearted commitment to obedience to him. This is perhaps best seen in the parallelisms in Hos 4:1 and 6:6, where “the knowledge of God” is parallel with faithfulness and steadfast love and in the context of Hos 4 refers to obedience to the Lord’s commands.
- Jeremiah 31:34 sn This statement should be understood against a broader background. In Jer 8:8-9 class distinctions were drawn, and certain people were considered to have more awareness and responsibility for knowing the law. In Jer 5:1-5 and 9:3-9 the sinfulness of Israel was seen to be universal across these class distinctions, and no trust was to be placed in friends, neighbors, or relatives because all without distinction had cast off God’s yoke (i.e., refused to submit themselves to his authority).
- Jeremiah 31:34 tn The Hebrew particle כִּי (ki) that introduces this clause refers not just to the preceding clause (i.e., that all will know the Lord) but to all of vv. 31-34a (See BDB 474 s.v. כִּי 3.c).
- Jeremiah 31:35 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies.” See the study note on 2:19 for this title. In the Hebrew text the verse reads, “Thus says the Lord, who provides the sun for light by day, the fixed ordering of the moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar, whose name is Yahweh of armies, ‘…’” (In Hebrew Lord is the same word as Yahweh.) The hymnic introduction to the quote, which does not begin until v. 36, has been broken down to avoid a long, awkward sentence in English. The word “said” has been translated “made a promise” to reflect the nature of the content in vv. 36-37. The first two lines of the Hebrew poetry are a case of complex or supplementary ellipsis, where the complete idea of “providing/establishing the fixed laws” is divided between the two lines (cf. E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 110-13). The necessity for recombining the ellipsis is obvious from reference to the fixed ordering in the next verse. (Some commentators prefer to delete the word as an erroneous glossing of the word in the following line (see, e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 277, n. y).