I will gather them in from the distant parts of the earth.
Blind and lame people will come with them,
so will pregnant women and women about to give birth.
A vast throng of people will come back here.
31:9 They will come back shedding tears of contrition.
I will bring them back praying prayers of repentance. 2
I will lead them besides streams of water,
along smooth paths where they will never stumble. 3
I will do this because I am Israel’s father;
Ephraim 4 is my firstborn son.’”
31:10 Hear what the Lord has to say, O nations.
Proclaim it in the faraway lands along the sea.
Say, “The one who scattered Israel will regather them.
He will watch over his people like a shepherd watches over his flock.”
31:11 For the Lord will rescue the descendants of Jacob.
3 sn Jer 31:8-9 are reminiscent of the “New Exodus” motif of Isa 40-66 which has already been referred to in Jer 16:14-15; 23:7-8. See especially Isa 35:3-10; 40:3-5, 11; 41:17-20; 42:14-17; 43:16-21; 49:9-13. As there, the New Exodus will so outstrip the old that the old will pale in comparison and be almost forgotten (see Jer 23:7-8).
4 sn Ephraim was the second son of Joseph who was elevated to a place of prominence in the family of Jacob by the patriarch’s special blessing. It was the strongest tribe in northern Israel and Samaria lay in its territory. It is often used as a poetic parallel for Israel as here. The poetry is not speaking of two separate entities here; it is a way of repeating an idea for emphasis. Moreover, there is no intent to show special preference for northern Israel over Judah. All Israel is metaphorically God’s son and the object of his special care and concern (Exod 4:22; Deut 32:6).
5 sn Two rather theologically significant metaphors are used in this verse. The Hebrew word translated “will set…free” is a word used in the legal sphere for paying a redemption price to secure the freedom of a person or thing (see, e.g., Exod 13:13, 15). It is used metaphorically and theologically to refer to Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Deut 15:15; Mic 6:4) and its deliverance from Babylonian exile (Isa 35:10). The word translated “secure their release” is a word used in the sphere of family responsibility where a person paid the price to free an indentured relative (Lev 25:48, 49) or paid the price to restore a relative’s property seized to pay a debt (Lev 25:25, 33). This word, too, was used to refer metaphorically and theologically to Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Exod 6:6) or release from Babylonian exile (Isa 43:1-4; 44:22). These words are traditionally translated “ransom” and “redeem” and are a part of traditional Jewish and Christian vocabulary for physical and spiritual deliverance.
6 tn Heb “from the hand/power of the one too strong for him.”