A Surprising Real Estate DealBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
G-d spoke to Jeremiah in the tenth year of the reign of King Tzidkiyahu of Judah, which was the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylonia. Babylonia was in the midst of their siege on Jerusalem and Jeremiah was in prison. Tzidkiyahu had imprisoned Jeremiah because of his prophecies, that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians and that the king himself would become a captive. Tzidkiyahu will be a prisoner in Babylonia until G-d chooses to remember him (which Rashi says is a euphemism for until Tzidkiyahu dies). Furthermore, if Judah attempts to fight the Kasdim (Chaldeans), they will lose.
The above was not what G-d said to Jeremiah at this time; it was why Tzidkiyahu had imprisoned him. Here is the message G-d gave Jeremiah in prison: Jeremiah’s cousin Chanamel is coming to see him. He’s going to ask Jeremiah to use his right of redemption to purchase a field of his in Anasos.
Sure enough, Chanamel showed up and asked Jeremiah as his close relative to purchase the field he was selling. Jeremiah knew this was G-d’s will, so he bought the field from his cousin. He paid him and signed a bill of sale. Jeremiah took the deed and gave it to his student, the prophet Baruch. He charged Baruch in front of witnesses to take the deed, along with some other documents, and to put them in a clay jar so that they will last a long time. (The Dead Sea Scrolls were more or less preserved in pottery for almost 2,000 years, so you can see that works!) Jeremiah said in the name of G-d that the sale was not in vain because someday the Jews will return to the land of Israel and buy and sell property and build houses, as they did before their exile. (Jeremiah himself never took possession of the field; the transaction was symbolic of the Jews’ ultimate return as a people.)
Jeremiah prayed when he gave Baruch the deed saying, “G-d, You made Heaven and Earth, and nothing is hidden from You. You perform acts of kindness to multitudes and punish those who persist in their ancestors’ evil ways. G-d sees all the acts of mankind and pays each person accordingly. He performed miracles in Egypt that are still talked about today, bringing the Jewish people out with signs and wonders. G-d gave them the land of Israel and they possessed it, but they did not continue to follow His ways, so the Chaldeans are bringing their siege engines to take the land away from the Jews. The famine, plague and sword are already happening; G-d’s word is coming to pass! And yet, G-d told Jeremiah to buy a field!”
G-d spoke again to Jeremiah saying, “Is anything hidden from Me? I’m giving this city to the Chaldeans and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia. The Chaldeans will burn the city, destroying the buildings where incense was offered to Baal and sacrifices to idols. The people have angered Me since this city was built, so I’m going to remove it. The people of Israel, the people of Judah and their kings, their prophets, their priests – they all provoked Me. They turned their backs on Me. I sent prophets to correct them, but they wouldn’t listen. They put idols in the Temple and worshipped idols like Baal and Molech.” (The service of Molech involved passing children through fire, which G-d finds especially heinous.) Because of this, G-d is giving the city to the invaders. But He will ultimately have mercy on them and gather them back from the lands where they will be scattered. (This applies to both the nation of Judah and the Northern Kingdom of Israel.) They will be restored to the land, where they will then dwell securely. They will naturally defer to G-d’s will and it will be good for them. They will have an everlasting covenant with G-d, Who will rejoice over them.
G-d says that as He brought evil upon the nation, so He will bring ultimate good. Then, fields will once again be bought and sold in the land; nobody will say that the land has been laid waste by the invaders. People will write deeds and bills of sale all throughout the territories of Judah and Benjamin, mountains and plains, as G-d had Jeremiah do at the start of this chapter.
One last interesting note: Verse 35 of this chapter says that the altar of Baal was in a place called the valley of the son of Hinnom, Gei ben Hinnom in Hebrew. A shorter version of this name, Gehinnom, is used as the Jewish name for Hell.