The Variety of the “New”: The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 and 32 in the Book of Jeremiah

The promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31–34 is a well-known passage among Old Testament scholarship and the church. Besides Jeremiah 31:31–34, a second promise of a new (i.e., “eternal”) covenant is given in Jeremiah 32:37–41. Among scholars it is common to refer to both covenant promises of Jeremiah 31 and 32 as basically the same thing. Seeing no essential difference in content and purpose, both promises are thought to be given with the same goal and function (Gentry/Welles, Shead, most recently Krause).
This paper delivers a contextual study of the literary and rhetorical role of each covenant promise. This allows to see the various nuances of each promise in terms of their goals and expectations with respect to the coming restoration of Israel’s future. This paper argues that while the objective of the covenant promises in Jeremiah 31 and 32 is the same (“knowing God” in 31:34; “fearing God” in 32:39–40), the function of each promise within their immediate context differs. While the fulfillment of the “new” covenant in Jeremiah 31:33 is set into the eschatological future, Jeremiah 32:37–41 situates the fulfilment of the “eternal” covenant in the moment of the restoration of the land that is expected after the exile. Thus, the covenant promises of Jeremiah 31 and 32 emphasize two different aspects concerning the future restoration of Israel and Judah.
The investigation of the literary and rhetorical role of the covenant promises also has implications for the function each promises in the book of Jeremiah. While the “new” covenant of Jeremiah 31:31–34 answers Israel and Judah’s inability to return and to refrain from sin (inward change; cf. McConville), the “eternal” covenant of Jeremiah 32:37–41 reverses the loss of the land (external change) seen earlier in the book.

2 thoughts on “The Variety of the “New”: The New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 and 32 in the Book of Jeremiah”

  1. Interesting proposal for an
    Interesting proposal for an important issue, but I don’t find the distinction between “the eschatological future“ and the “moment of the restoration . . .” compelling

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