32 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 2 The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.
3 Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, “Why do you prophesy as you do? You say, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. 4 Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape the Babylonians but will certainly be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. 5 He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the Lord. If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed.’”
6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’
8 “Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.’
“I knew that this was the word of the Lord; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy— 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard.
13 “In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: 14 ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. 15 For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’
(Jeremiah 32:1-15 NIV)
As we open Chapter 32, the Lord continues with a message of hope despite circumstances.
In verse 1, Jeremiah records a specific timeframe, marked by both Jewish time (King Zedekiah) and Babylonian time (King Nebuchadnezzar). Historians place this event in the 588 timeframe.
Verse 2 further delineates this event. The Babylonian army had started its siege against Jerusalem but pulled back temporarily when Egypt attacked Palestine (as we shall see in 37:5). The Babylonians would return and finally destroy Jerusalem, but for now, there was a reprieve. Jeremiah notes that King Zedekiah had put him under house arrest.
Verses 3 – 5 are a summary of why Jeremiah was in custody. He had prophesied against the king and also predicted Jerusalem’s fall. We will see the additional background story regarding Jeremiah’s arrest and imprisonment when we get to chapters 37-38.
In verses 6 – 16, Jeremiah responds to the king by telling a story. In verses 6-7, Jeremiah receives a word from the Lord that his cousin would come to him to redeem (buy) a piece of land that was in the family. In verse 8, Jeremiah’s dream comes to fruition – Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel shows up and wants Jeremiah to buy his land.
The text does not say why Hanamel wants to sell. He could have been in debt and needed the money, or he may have seen the inevitable end of life because of the Babylonian siege and decided to cash out before the Babylonians returned. In any case, Hanamel did have the legal right to request Jeremiah to purchase his land (see Leviticus 25:25-28).
One thing we do know – Hanamel must have been desperate to visit Jeremiah in “jail” and demand he buy his land. But Jeremiah had moved from fear (remember Jeremiah’s “woe is me” laments in 15:18 and 20:7?) to faith, and bought the land as the Lord’s sign that one day Jerusalem would be restored.
Verses 9 – 12 provide the details of the transaction, and how careful Jeremiah was to process the paperwork to record the transaction properly. Jeremiah then instructs Baruch (a trusted friend and later noted as a scribe for Jeremiah) to preserve the documents in a clay jar. The Dead Sea Scrolls were stored in this same way, kept for centuries.
Verse 15 is the Lord’s promise that He would one day restore Jerusalem. The Lord provides hope for the future and sets the tone for the remainder of Chapter 32.
May we see that the Lord often runs counter to our circumstances, asking us to step out in faith when fear is the driver of the day.
May we, like Jeremiah, wait on the Lord, then act in faith when the Lord directs our paths, even if it does not make “common sense” from a human perspective.