Jeremiah 42–46: Defiance & Destruction

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 21: Friday

Thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, “If you really set your face to enter Egypt, and you will enter to sojourn there, then the sword, which you are afraid of, will overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, about which you are anxious, will follow closely after you there in Egypt, and you will die there. So all the men who set their face to go to Egypt to sojourn there will die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence; and they will have no survivors or any who escaped from the calamity that I am going to bring on them.”
Jeremiah 42:15b–17 LSB

In Friday’s Bible reading of Jeremiah 42–46, those left in Judah after Nebuchadnezzar’s army has deported most of the people and burned Jerusalem, are ready to flee to Egypt out of fear of the Babylonians. They seek out Jeremiah to ask the Lord what they should do, promising to obey God whatever He may say; however, they have no intention of obeying God unless the answer is what they want to hear. God knows this and has Jeremiah tell them:

Yahweh has spoken to you, O remnant of Judah, “Do not go into Egypt!” You should clearly know that today I have testified against you. For you have only led yourselves astray; for it is you who sent me to Yahweh your God, saying, “Pray for us to Yahweh our God; and according to all that Yahweh our God says, tell us so, and we will do it.”
Jeremiah 42:19–20 LSB

Upon hearing this, in chapter 43, the people accuse Jeremiah of lying. Such is the power of self-deception. They have already seen Jeremiah’s pro­phecies about the fall of Jerusalem come true, yet they persist in believing that God’s judgment will not fall on them. The people do go to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them. He prophesies to them of God’s coming judgment, and the depth of their rebellion is revealed in their reply:

“As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of Yahweh, we are not going to listen to you! But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our fathers, our kings, and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no evil. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine.”
Jeremiah 44:16–18 LSB

This statement is breathtaking in its defiance of God. They refuse to see their misfortune as God’s judgment, even though they have been plainly told that it is. Rather than admit any sin, turn back to God and ask Him to keep them safe, they are determined to persist in their idolatry. This is the last word of Yahweh given by Jeremiah to the people of Judah.

Then Jeremiah said to all the people, including all the women,
“Hear the word of Yahweh, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt, thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘As for you and your wives, you have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled it with your hands, saying, “We will certainly perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” Go ahead and establish your vows, and certainly perform your vows!’
Nevertheless, hear the word of Yahweh, all Judah who are living in the land of Egypt, ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says Yahweh, ‘never shall My name be called upon again by the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “As Lord Yahweh lives.”
Behold, I am watching over them for evil and not for good, and all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt will meet their end by the sword and by famine until they are completely consumed. Those who escape the sword will return out of the land of Egypt to the land of Judah few in number. Then all the remnant of Judah who have gone to the land of Egypt to sojourn there will know whose word will be established, Mine or theirs.
This will be the sign to you,’ declares Yahweh, ‘that I am going to punish you in this place, so that you may know that My words will surely be established against you for evil.’
Thus says Yahweh, ‘Behold, I am going to give over Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt to the hand of his enemies, to the hand of those who seek his life, just as I gave over Zedekiah king of Judah to the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy and was seeking his life.’”
Jeremiah 44:24–30 LSB

Derek Kidner writes:

“As for the earthly protector, Pharaoh Hophra (30), he would prove no more refuge thatn poor Zedekiah. He had already shown himself no match for Babylon in his attempt to relieve Jerusalem (35:5–7); and in face he would eventually lose first his throne (570) and later his life to his relative Ahmose (Amasis), in whose reign Nebuchadrezzar would invade Egypt.

“So ends this final confrontation. For the apostates in Egypt the future held nothing; but for their compatriots in Babylon who were accepting their punishment there was the hope of freedom, less than a lifetime away, and the still better prospect of chapters 30–33 to follow. Fleeing from God, the refugees had turned their backs on that future.”1

Jeremiah 45 is Jeremiah’s message to Baruch. Chapter 46 begins the “Oracles concerning the nations,”2 contains his prophecy concerning Egypt and the coming invasion of the Babylonians. At the end of the chapter, despite Judah’s rebellion against Him, once again, God promises to bring His people back to the land.

“But as for you, O Jacob My servant, do not fear,
Nor be dismayed, O Israel!
For behold, I am going to save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity;
And Jacob will return and have quiet
And be at ease, with no one making
him tremble.
O Jacob My servant, do not fear,” declares Yahweh,
“For I am with you.
For I will make a complete destruction of all the nations
Where I have banished you,
Yet I will not make a complete destruction of you;
But I will discipline you with justice
And by no means leave you unpunished.”
Jeremiah 46:27–28 LSB

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Head of Apries (Pharaoh Hophra): selbst fotografiert; selbst bearbeitet. GFDL-1.2-or-later (CC BY-SA 3.0).
1,2Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah: Against wind and tide (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1987) 134, 137.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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