Perhaps to your surprise, Jeremiah 32, in large measure, concerns the real estate purchase of a prophet. Now, to be clear, you wouldn’t expect this chapter to show up on a must read list of books for any beginning real estate investor. In fact, on the surface, this acquisition had just about all the makings of a bad deal. First, consider where Jeremiah was – in prison (Jer. 32:2-3). Not exactly the place from whence you’d expect such transactions to occur. Second, as many investors will tell you, a primary mark of a good piece of land is location. As the saying goes, ‘Location, location, location.’ Well, Jeremiah was about to buy a plot of land that was likely already invaded and overrun by the Babylonians. After all, if the Babylonians had already surrounded Jerusalem (vs.2) they likely already subdued Anathoth, which was only a few miles away from Jerusalem (vs.7). But Jeremiah didn’t make this purchase because he lacked the savvy foresight of a prudent investor or the sense to understand that captured land does not hold much value, he did it because the God who spoke through him also spoke to him. Yahweh predicted that he would have this opportunity, and Jeremiah knew that God wanted him to buy the land to make a point. But before we see the point first we ought to hear the word of LORD that came to Jeremiah (vs.6),
Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.”’ (vs.7)
So while in prison God told Jeremiah that his cousin, Hanamel, was going to come and request that he buy his field in Anathoth. Since Jeremiah was a family member, who likely was the nearest of kin with possible interest in purchasing the land, he had the opportunity to buy the land and keep it in the family (cf. Lev. 25:24-25; Ruth 4:4-6). And likewise he could have passed up this opportunity. But he didn’t. When the event came to pass just as the LORD had said (vs.8a), Jeremiah wrote how he recalled, “Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD” (vs.8b). That’s something you have to expect when it comes to the LORD – the words He has spoken will always come to pass just as He said.
What follows are details outlining the legitimacy of the financial transaction. Jeremiah “bought the field from Hanamel” (vs.9a) and “weighed out to him… seventeen shekels of silver” (vs.9b). And while do not know how much land was involved he did nonetheless buy it at what appears to be a relatively low price. After all, I’d imagine that invaded land does tend to sell at discount prices. Well, Jeremiah “signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales” (vs.10). All the litigious t’s and i’s were crossed and dotted. So, Jeremiah took the deed that was sealed, likely a measure to avoid any unauthorized altercation, as well as that which was open, likely a handy copy of the deed that was sealed up or at least a more public version, all “according to the law and custom” (vs.11b), gave it to Barurch (vs.12a), his scribe, and the witnesses signed the deed in the presence of Hanamel and “all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison” (vs.12c). All of this was done in the open, not solely for the sake of transparency, but to work a testimony. We read,
13 “Then I charged Baruch before them, saying, 14 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days.” 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”’ (vs. 13-15)
The people needed to know that this purchase was more about trusting than investing. The deeds were to be taken and put in earthen vessels (vs.14b), so that after “many days” (vs.14c) they would be preserved as a witness of God’s truthfulness. Because, although the land would be conquered, the LORD said, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (Jer. 32:15b). The people were coming back. Exile wasn’t the end. And just as Jeremiah was to be unmarried to depict that one was better off single given the severity of the judgment that was coming, similarly he was to buy a field, so as to depict the reality that captivity was temporary. Such sacrificial behavior showed that Jeremiah believed God’s Word. I don’t know how much money he had access to while in prison, but he took the seventeen pieces of silver that he did have to buy a piece of land that many would have esteemed worthless.
And in that Jeremiah reminds us that it is always right to contour life in conjunction with the commands and promises of God. Granted, the New Testament Christian does not find him or herself in the same circumstances of this Old Testament prophet but there is nonetheless the same responsibility to live in a manner that communicates the trustworthiness of Yahweh and faith in the promises we proclaim. If we proclaim forgiveness through the Gospel, we ought to reflect the peace that comes from having peace with God. If we say that God is holy, we ought to live a life of holiness. If we proclaim the storing up of treasures in heaven, let us not live in a way that looks as though we are storing them up on earth. Simply put, the prophet’s real estate purchase reminds us to believe what we proclaim so we might practice what we preach.