Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar [of Babylon]. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.
6 Jeremiah said, "The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, 'Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.'" 8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself." Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.
9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out the silver to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the silver on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase containing the terms and conditions and the open copy, 12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard.
13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14 "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land."
Recently in Jeremiah
• From Pentecost 10, a little about Jeremiah.
• Jeremiah on Pentecost 12.
• Pentecost 13: Jeremiah at the Potter's House.
• Pentecost 15: – 911+21; un-creation; new creation.
• Pentecost 16: Balm in Gilead.
One commentator cautioned, please don't read this passage as an entry in Jeremiah's journal! Contemporary scholars believe the book of Jeremiah and the five books of Moses that comprise the Pentateuch were compiled into the form we have today back in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, probably during the era of Ezra and Nehemiah. Though this reading is about the historical Zedekiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, and others, and it places the narrative in measurable space and time, like all inspired scripture it's theology at least as much as history.
As chapter 32 begins, Jeremiah has been confined (basically imprisoned or under house arrest) to the palace courtyard, due to his telling King Zedekiah news the king didn't like. Most likely this is the second Babylonian siege of Jerusalem; armies surround the city walls, imprisoning the city. With Jerusalem surrounded and deportation from the Promised Land imminent, Jeremiah embodies hope for a future where houses, fields, and vineyards again will flourish in Judah.
From first creation at the start of Genesis to the new creation at the end of Revelation, land anchors the people's relationship with God and with each other, Creation itself was God's first covenant.
And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." … Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. Genesis 1:9-11
God placed our first parents in a garden that properly tended would grow into a city. "Stuff happened," and with Sarai/Sara, Abram/Abraham set out in radical trust for a place God promised to show him. I often paraphrase Walter Brueggemann's "Justice is important, but food is essential." No land? No food. The future of the people and the future of the land are inextricably intertwined.
Judean leaders soon will be deported from the Land of Promise God trusted them to steward and care for. They can't see a future, probably can't imagine one (same as us when we're stuck). In a situation that looks and feels hopeless, Jeremiah embodies hope. Jeremiah shows them hope by signing a deed for a parcel of his family's land. BTW, two deeds were common in that time and place. The one in a sealed jar was an original "clean" copy for reference and safekeeping; the other could be changed or altered if necessary.
Some of the provisions for the year of Jubilee specified a way land could remain in a family in case the person who lived and farmed it couldn't afford to continue. This was possible because as the Jubilee text explains, land, earth, turf belongs to God; God is ultimate steward and caretaker—the final "sayer."
The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; you are but aliens and sojourners with me. You shall grant redemption of all the land of your possession. Leviticus 25:23-24
God is the landowner, but all creation has high stakes in the land. Without the heaven underfoot of dirt and soil…? You may know about the kinsperson-redeemer from the book of Ruth.
If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. But if there are not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of Jubilee; in the Jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned. Leviticus 25:25, 28
Jeremiah is Hanamel's next of kin with right and responsibility of go'el, protector or redeemer of land so it can stay in the family to keep them fed and sheltered. The right of redemption is possible because God owns the land and everything on the planet; therefore, land is inalienable.
In a symbolic act that's easy to interpret, Jeremiah signs the deed for property that will have fields and vineyards he likely won't live long enough to experience. Jeremiah brings the future into the present; he shows the future to everyone in the courtyard! You may remember Jeremiah is the one who famously counseled (mostly community leaders) exiled Judeans to seek the good of that strange to them place. To build houses, plant gardens, care for their neighbors. To create a literal "common wealth."
We think we know about resurrection out of ruins, new life from death, new creation from the ashes of the old, yet in the thick of loss and despair, we often cannot see it and therefore have trouble believing it.
Every time we assemble around word and sacrament, we bring a fully restored and redeemed future into our present, however broken it looks, however bleak some days may feel. Like Jeremiah with his signed property deed, in Holy Communion we see, feel, taste, hear – and sometimes smell – the reality of redemption. Jeremiah placed the deed in an earthenware jar because it needed to last a long time, into a far off future.
How about us? Do we trust God's new creation? In addition to celebrating Holy Communion, as we remember this planet's and the people's future belong to each other, what are some other ways we can embody the fullness of redemption to come, however far away it may feel and be?