It is written in Jer 31.37: "...Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done..." (NIV). We have by no means stretched a measuring rod across the universe but in the spirit of the passage we have: (1) measured the distance to the moon with astonishing accuracy (2) determined the distances to all of the known planets (and taken pictures of them!) (3) penetrated (scarcely) Jupiter's atmosphere by means of a probe (4) stretched a measuring rod across the galaxy (5) determined the distance to Andromeda and (6) measured temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background. It appears that we have measured the heavens. With regard to the earth we have: (1) mapped the ocean floor (2) deduced the internal content of the earth from magma flows and P-waves and S-waves from earthquakes and (3) refined theories of the origin of our own solar system from observations of protostellar systems. It appears that we have searched out the foundations of the earth.
      I conclude based on the current evidence and my current understanding that we have met this challenge and therefore that God has rejected the descendants of Israel (or that the Bible is not inspired and inerrant). It is not unreasonable that such a challenge would have easily been given by a zealous Jew living in the 6th century but I doubt he could have envisioned space travel, cell phones and the internet. What is wrong with my thinking? -- Jason Bowen (U.Cal. Berkeley)

I enjoyed your analysis, even though I doubt the Lord's words through Jeremiah are meant to be taken scientifically. I think the passage is saying in effect "Only if something utterly impossible (for humans) can be done will I give up on my covenant people." Understood this way there is no problem. In addition we should also notice that this section of scripture falls in the context of the new covenant (esp. vv. 31-34, which are cited in the N.T., for example in Hebrews 8). God still has his people, even though there is a new covenant as was prophesied. So the key to understanding the problematic verse 37 is--as always--context. And the subject of Jeremiah 31 is the new covenant.

In your analysis, if human scientific accomplishments fulfilled the prophecy, Israel would have ceased to be nation only in the 20th century. I think this is unlikely. Besides, not all the descendants of Israel were rejected, as Paul argues in Romans 9-11. Just as in Elijah's day, there was a remnant chosen by grace. In my understanding, Paul believed that this Jewish remnant, the faithful Israelites (see Romans 9:1-6), would be reached in his generation. And they were! Yes, a transformation was under way and "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) now includes engrafted Gentiles, but God has always remained faithful to this people.

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