The Israelites will return to their own land
1 The Lord says this:
‘When that time comes,
I will be the God of every family in Israel.
And they will be my people.’
2 The Lord says,
‘I was kind to the Israelites
when they travelled in the desert.
I helped those that the enemy had not killed,
as they looked for a place where they could rest.’
3 At that time long ago,
the Lord showed himself to his people.
He said, ‘I have always loved you
and I always will love you.
My faithful love for you continues for ever.
4 My special people of Israel,
I will make you strong again.
You will be so happy that you dance,
as people make music with tambourines.
5 You will again plant vines
on the hills in Samaria.
Yes, farmers will plant vines
and they will eat their fruit.
6 There will be a time when guards will call out,
as they watch for danger in the hills of Ephraim.
They will shout, “Let us go up to Zion,
to worship the Lord our God.” ’
31:6Samaria and Ephraim were in the north kingdom of the Israelites. The Assyrians had taken them away as prisoners before the Babylonians took away the people of Judah, the south kingdom.
7 The Lord says this:
‘Sing with joy for Jacob's descendants!
They are the greatest of all the nations!
Praise the Lord with loud voices!
Say, “Lord, please save your people.
Save those Israelites who are still alive.”
8 See what I will do!
I will bring them back from the land in the north.
Wherever they are, I will bring them back.
A great crowd of my people will return.
Blind people will be among them,
and people who cannot walk well.
There will be pregnant women
and some who will very soon give birth.
9 They will be weeping as they come.
They will pray for my help as I lead them.
I will lead them beside streams of fresh water,
and on flat paths where they will not fall down.
I will help them because I am a father for Israel's people.
Ephraim is like my firstborn son.’
31:9Israel and Ephraim were names for the north kingdom.
10 People of all nations,
listen to the Lord's message.
Shout it aloud for everyone to hear,
even those who live on the coasts far away.
Say, ‘The Lord chased Israel's people away,
but now he will bring them back.
He will take care of them,
like a shepherd who takes care of his sheep.’
11 Yes, the Lord will rescue Jacob's descendants.
He will pay the cost to let them be free.
They will no longer be under the power of people who were stronger than them.
12 His people will come back to Mount Zion,
and they will shout with joy.
They will be very happy
because of all the good things that the Lord gives to them.
There will be grain to make bread,
new wine and olive oil.
There will be lambs and young cows.
They will grow and be strong,
like a garden that has plenty of water.
They will not be weak or sad any more.
13 The Lord says this:
‘Young women will dance because they are happy.
The young men and the old men will also be happy.
I will cause them to laugh instead of weep.
I will comfort them,
so that they are happy instead of sad.
14 I will give the priests plenty of good things.
My people will have everything that they need,
because of all the good things that I give to them.’
15 The Lord says,
‘You can hear a sad noise in Ramah.
Someone is weeping with a loud voice.
It is Rachel, and she is weeping for her children.
Nobody can help her to stop weeping,
because her children are dead.’
31:15Ramah was about 8 kilometres north of Jerusalem. It was on the road between Bethel and Bethlehem. The grave of Jacob's wife, Rachel, was there. She was the mother of Joseph. Joseph's two children were Ephraim and Manasseh. See Genesis 41:50-51. Also see Matthew 2:17-18.
16 The Lord says,
Do not weep any more!
I will help you because of what you have done.
Your children will return from the land of their enemies.’
That is what the Lord says.
17 ‘Yes, you will have descendants in the future.
Your children will return to their own land.’
That is what the Lord says.
18 ‘I have heard Israel's people when they are sad.
They say to me, “You punished us,
and we accepted it.
You taught us to obey you,
like a farmer teaches an ox to work for him.
So let us come back to serve you.
We are ready to return to you,
because you are the Lord, our God.
19 After we turned away from you,
we were sorry that we had done that.
We understood what we had done,
and we showed that we were sad.
We were ashamed and upset,
because of the disgusting things that we did when we were young.”
20 But Israel's people are my own dear children.
I still love them,
even when I have to speak against them.
I can never forget them.
I only want to help them.
I will certainly be kind to them.’
That is what the Lord says.
21 ‘People of Israel, put up signs along the roads,
so that you know the way to go.
Remember the road that you travelled on
when you went away from your land.
Now return, my special people, Israel.
Return to your cities that you had to leave.
22 You went away from me,
like a daughter who refuses to obey her father.
Do not continue to turn away from me.
I, the Lord, promise to do a new thing.
Women will take care of men!’
The people of Judah will be strong again
23 The Lord Almighty, Israel's God, says this:
‘I will bring my people back from the land where they have been prisoners. Then the people in the towns of Judah will again say, “We pray that the Lord will bless you, Jerusalem. You are the special place where he lives on his holy mountain!”
31:23The holy mountain is the hill in Jerusalem where the temple was.
24 People will live together in the towns of Judah. Farmers and shepherds will work in the fields. 25 I will help those who feel tired. I will make those who feel weak strong again.
26 Then they will say, “When I woke from my sleep and I looked around, I was happy.” ’
27 The Lord says this:
‘The time will come when I fill the lands of Israel and Judah with people and animals. 28 In past time, I chose to pull them out of their land, like a plant with its roots. I knocked them down and I destroyed them. But now I will put them in their land again, like strong plants.’ That is what the Lord says.
29 ‘When that happens, people will not say, “The fathers have eaten bitter fruit, but it causes their children's teeth to hurt.” 30 Instead, I will punish everyone for their own sins. It will be the teeth of the person who eats bitter fruit that will hurt.’
31:29This was a proverb. It meant that children suffered because of the bad things that their parents had done.
31 The Lord says, ‘A time will soon come when I make a new covenant with Israel's people and with Judah's people. 32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors. At that time, I brought them safely out of Egypt. I took care of them, like a faithful husband who takes care of his wife. But they did not obey my covenant.’ That is what the Lord says.
33 ‘Yes, I will make a new covenant with Israel's people at that time. It will be like this: I will put my law deep inside them, in their hearts and minds. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ That is what the Lord says.
34 ‘Then people will not have to teach their friends or their family about me. They will all know me already. The important people and the ordinary people will all know me. I will forgive the wicked things that they have done. I will no longer think about their sins.’ That is what the Lord says.
35 The Lord is the one who causes the sun to shine during the day.
He causes the moon and the stars to shine at night.
He causes the waves of the sea to move around
and they make a loud noise.
He is the Lord Almighty,
and he makes this promise:
36 ‘I will always take care of Israel's people as my special nation.
I will always cause the laws that rule everything to continue.
I could never forget those laws, and I could never forget my people.’
37 The Lord says,
‘Nobody can measure the size of the sky.
Nobody can dig down to the bottom of the earth's foundations.
In the same way, I can never turn away from all Israel's people.
I will not leave them,
even though they have done wicked things.’
That is what the Lord says.
31:37Because none of these things will happen, the Lord will never leave his people.
38 The Lord says this:
‘The time will soon come when this city of Jerusalem belongs to me again. You will build it all again, from the tower of Hananel to the Corner gate. 39 The edge of the city will go straight from there to Gareb hill. Then it will turn south and go to Goah. 40 The whole area will belong to the Lord as a holy place. It will include the valley where they throw dead bodies and the ashes from sacrifices. It will include all the fields of the Kidron valley in the east, as far north as the corner of the Horse Gate. All of that will be my holy place. Nobody will ever again take the city or destroy it.’