Summary: Jerusalem was surrounded with the army of Babylon laying siege to the city. During that time, Jeremiah's cousin came to visit Jeremiah and offer Jeremiah one of the strangest real estate deals in history!
Introduction: Jeremiah had been instructed by the LORD to make at least two unusual purchases. First, the LORD told him to buy a linen waistband (“girdle”, KJV) the wear it, and then bury the thing many miles away in a place where it was practically guaranteed to be ruined (see Jer.13:1-11for details)! Then, sometime later, he was told to buy a clay jar (“earthen bottle”, KJV), then bring it and some of the elders out to the valley of the son of Hinnom, bring God’s message—and, finally, break the jar in their presence (Jer. 19).
Now he’s about to face probably the strangest offer he could imagine. Worse, God tells him to make the purchase and, as some say, “seal the deal”! What was going to happen?
1 The revelation from the LORD
Text: Jeremiah 32:6-7 KJV: 6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.
God told Jeremiah that his cousin, Hanameel, would be coming by. In the first several verses of this chapter, Jeremiah records that first, the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem (meaning they camped around the city and waited for the people to either starve or surrender). He also mentioned that this event was taking place in the 10th year of Zedekiah’s reign. This was about one year before the city was captured and the people taken captive to Babylon. All in all, not very pleasant times for most of the Israelites!
Even worse, Jeremiah was “shut up in the court of the prison (36:2)” and didn’t have much freedom, apparently, to go anywhere or do much of anything. With this in view, buying real estate was probably not on his list of top ten things to do. After all, Jeremiah had been forbidden to marry or have children (16:1-4) so he most likely wouldn’t need a family-sized house. And he also knew that Jerusalem was headed for destruction, therefore, even if he bought a house, he wouldn’t be living in it for very long.
Now imagine the surprise of his life when the LORD tells Jeremiah that his cousin, Hanameel, was going to ask Jeremiah to buy Hanameel’s field! The field itself was located in Anathoth, the hometown of both Jeremiah and Hanammel, just a few miles north of Jerusalem. Anathoth was also one of the cities in Benjamin’s territory given to the priests and Levites (Joshua 21:18). Where Hanameel’s field was located is not certain, whether inside or outside the walls or Anathoth’s “City limits”, so to speak.
Oddly enough, the LORD explained to Jeremiah that Hanameel was offering his field to Jeremiah because of the right of redemption. We don’t know what had happened for Hanameel to invoke or “play that card” and put up some real estate for sale. We do know some things about the “right of redemption” from the story of Boaz and Ruth—the last two chapters give a classic explanation of how that process worked in Old Testament days.
The LORD had given Jeremiah a message. What would happen next?
2 The request from Hanameel
Text, Jeremiah 32:8, KJV: 8 So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
There was all the proof Jeremiah needed. The LORD had told him Hanameel would be coming with an offer to sell his own field to Jeremiah. And, sure enough, there he was.
In all fairness, Hanameel may have had a difficult time in finding Jeremiah. Hanameel either lived in Anathoth, a few miles from Jerusalem; or in Jerusalem or someplace else. This is only my opinion but I think he left Anathoth to find Jeremiah personally and offer him the field. There is a parallel in Ruth 4 when Boaz found the closer kinsman/redeemer and personally stated the situation of that time. Besides, they didn’t have virtual or electronic meeting capability in those days! If you wanted something done, you pretty much had to do it yourself!
So, here comes Hanameel, and how he was able to get past all the Babylonian soldiers camped around Jerusalem is something I’ve never understood. Maybe these men had no problem with anyone entering the city—they probably figured whoever went in would never leave nor stay there for very long! Especially galling was the message from the LORD to Jeremiah in chapter 11, when the very people of Anathoth threatened Jeremiah with death for simply preaching the word of God to them (11:21-23). His own hometown hated him. Doesn’t that remind us, by the way, of the relationship Jesus had with Nazareth? They didn’t want much to do with Him, either!