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A Woman Shall Compass a Man:

Jeremiah 31:22

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Question:  Could you please explain what it means when it says in Jeremiah 31:22, "a woman will surround a man?"

Response: This is a very much disputed verse, and has been for centuries. Assuming the text is correct (and I believe that it is) "a woman will surround a man" is represented here in Jer.31:22 as "a new thing", a change in the natural order of things, at least as far as the world is now constituted. This is starting point of C.F. Keil's explanation and he gives a good parallel in Is.43:19. Keil stresses this verse in its symbolic meaning, namely, Virgin Israel (cf. v. 21) will "surround" (i.e., give loving attention to) her "husband", the Lord.

This is certainly correct as far as it goes, and does, as Keil points out, provide motivation for Israel to "return" to Him in their hearts (i.e., with the prospect of a new, closer relationship with Him than has ever existed before as an incentive). However, based on the parallel of Isaiah 43:19 and the very concrete nature of this prophecy, it seems clear that we are also (and first) to take these words to mean some clear change in the way things work at present. For women to give solicitous attention to men (in terms of protection, provision, affection, what have you), instead of the other way around, indicates a new set of circumstances in which the brutish, dangerous and materially restricted mode of living in the world has given way to one of such justice, security and plenty (as will be the case during the Messiah's reign) that traditional male protectiveness is no longer necessary.

So we are not meant to understand any change of male or female nature from these verses, but rather we are meant to recognize with this prophecy that life in the Millennium will be so serene that previous protective male behavior patterns which have been universal (if occasionally muted in highly civilized societies) will be largely unnecessary under the perfect rule of Christ. This verse, therefore, predicts the Millennium, by focusing upon the coming human security and ease of that blessed time, just as Isaiah 43:19 does, by focusing upon the ecological transformation that will also take place. Thucydides says that "war is a violent teacher", noting that human conflict makes people more brutish by taking away the ease and security of normal life. While this is a secular appraisal, it stands the test of history and is not inconsistent with the Bible.  But in the Millennium, the trend will be in the opposite direction, and so much so that presently common cultural behavior patterns of males and females will change (though not their natures), and will thus reflect the absolute security of this unprecedented time of blessing and peace.  This is certainly something to anticipate for all believers in Christ.

Please also see the following links:

A New Thing:  Jeremiah 31:22

The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ (in CT 6)

Restoration II: the Millennium (in SR 5)

The Millennial Jerusalem

Longevity in the Millennium

The New Jerusalem

Peace and grace in Jesus Christ!

Bob L.


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