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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The divisions of this chapter are: (1) the people request God’s Word of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:1-3); (2) Jeremiah promises to pray for them, and the people promise to obey God’s Word (Jeremiah 42:4-6); (3) after ten days, God replies (Jeremiah 42:7-8); (4) the command to remain in Judea (Jeremiah 42:9-12); (5) severe warning against moving to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:13-18); (6) and a prophecy of destruction for those going to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:19-22).

Verses 1-3


“Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least even unto the greatest, came near, and said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we pray thee, our supplication be presented before thee, and pray for us unto Jehovah thy God, even for all this remnant (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us), that Jehovah thy God may show us the way wherein we should walk, and the thing that we should do.”

This passage confirms the presence of the prophet as being a part of the company rescued by Johanan from Ishmael. It was not necessary to “go to him,” for he was already among them. hence the words, “all the people… came near” (Jeremiah 42:1).

“Pray for us” The prophet had previously been forbidden to pray for the rebellious people (Jeremiah 7:17; Jeremiah 11:14, and Jeremiah 14:11); “But he was now free to do so.”(F1) Jeremiah at once agreed to do so, but not on the basis that the God to which he prayed was any other than the God of all the people. The people said “pray to thy God (Jeremiah 42:3-4); but Jeremiah said, “I will pray to your God (Jeremiah 42:4).

“That God may show us the way… and the thing that we should do” Some scholars believe that this was a hypocritical request; but it may be that the people really thought they desired to know God’s will, when actually, they merely wanted God to confirm what they had already decided to do. We do not certainly know which it was.

“Jezaniah” This man’s name is given as Azariah in Jeremiah 43:2; but, as Ash said, “He may have had two names, or there may be a textual confusion.”(F2)

Verses 4-6


“Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto Jehovah your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass that whatsoever thing Jehovah shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. Then they said to Jeremiah, Jehovah be a true and faithful witness amongst us, if we do not according to all the word wherewith Jehovah thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the word of Jehovah our God, to whom we send thee; that it many be well with us, when we obey the voice of Jehovah our God.”

This promise seems to be sincere enough, since it even calls upon God Himself to be a witness against them if they should fail to keep their vow.

Verses 7-8


“And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of Jehovah came unto Jeremiah. Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest.”

“After ten days” Upon other occasions, God had replied almost at once to the prophet; but here, as in the case of the prophecy against Hananiah, the Word of God came after a delay of ten days. Why? We cannot agree with such writers as those mentioned by Keil, who thought the delay was for the purpose of allowing Jeremiah time to “get further news,” or for Jeremiah’s own “meditations to mature.” As Keil noted, “Such an interpretation is unscriptural and rests upon a denial of divine inspiration.”(F3) The basic understanding of the Bible requires absolutely that its readers understand what is written, not as the words of men, but as the “Word of God through men!”

Feinberg’s word on this is: “The prophets never confused God’s revelation with their personal desires, judgments, or conclusions. They would not announce God’s will until they were certain that they knew what it was. The Scripture always distinguishes between the subjective thoughts of the prophets and the objective Word of God.”(F4)

Two radical critics, Hitzig and Graf, stated that the ten-day delay in God’s reply to Jeremiah was for the purpose of “Giving Jeremiah time to collect information and make up his mind.”(F5) However, as Smith observed, “That would turn Jeremiah into a wise politician instead of a divine prophet!”(F6)

The 10-day delay was disciplinary, giving the people time themselves to pray and await the arrival of God’s Word. Instead of that, it seems that the people pushed forward their preparations for going into Egypt; for, as events proved, they were determined to do their own will in that matter, not the will of God.

Verses 9-12


“And (Jeremiah) said unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him: If ye will abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid,; be not afraid of him, saith Jehovah: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.”

From here through Jeremiah 42:22 Jeremiah revealed the prophetic word from God as doing the following things: (1) It promised them security and salvation if they would obey. (2) It warned them against disobedience. (3) It emphatically commanded them not to go down into Egypt. (4) It warned them against self-deception of a heart which asks for guidance when it has already made its decision.

The remnant who were determined to go into Egypt were afraid of the king of Babylon, who was indeed a terrible and powerful enemy; but God Himself promised to save the people from him, if they would only obey their God. “In the year 582 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar did again return to Jerusalem and take more captives (See Jeremiah 52:30),”(F7) that event being associated (by some scholars) with the actual date of Gedaliah’s assassination. But God, if the people had obeyed his word, would easily have saved everyone of them exactly as he had promised. Many of God’s blessings and promises were cancelled because of the disobedience of his children.

Verses 13-17


“But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land; so that ye obey not the voice of Jehovah your God. saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: now therefore hear ye the word of Jehovah, O remnant of Judah: Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, if ye indeed set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to sojourn there; then it shall come to pass, that the sword which ye fear, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine whereof ye are afraid, shall follow hard after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there: they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence; and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.”

In view of the long record of the prophecies of Jeremiah which the Jews had already seen fulfilled exactly, it appears almost incredible that they would have stubbornly gone right on down into Egypt after a warning like this; but they went!

No comment is appropriate here except a word of grief and disappointment that the remnant of Judah should have been so blindly disobedient to the word of the Lord.

Verse 18


“For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: As mine anger and my wrath have been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so shall my wrath be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt; and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more.”

“The Lord’s reply to the people’s request regarding God’s will for them extends through this Jeremiah 42:18; but the last four verses of the chapter constitute an epilogue, in which Jeremiah once more pleads with the people to do God’s will.”(F8)

The summary of God’s whole message was (1) remain in Judaea, and God will bless you, build you up, etc. (2) Go to Egypt, and you will incur the wrath of God; and the last one of you that go shall die there by the sword, the famine, or the pestilence. (3) Furthermore, the very things that make you afraid to remain in Judah shall befall you in Egypt.

Verses 19-22


“Jehovah hath spoken concerning you, O remnant of Judah, Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have testified unto you this day. For ye have dealt deceitfully against your own souls; for ye sent me unto Jehovah your God, saying, Pray for us unto Jehovah our God; and according unto all that Jehovah our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it. And I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah your God in anything for which he hath sent me unto you. Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go to sojourn there.”

“Ye have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah” Some scholars object to this statement and suppose that by bringing in Jeremiah 43:1-3 prior to this paragraph they might improve the sense. This is not necessary at all, for two reasons: (1) these words are not simple past tense, but the prophetic tense in which the future is spoken of as having already occurred, so certain is the fulfillment of God’s Word; and (2) by reason of the people’s rushing headlong to get ready for their departure to Egypt during that ten days in which the prophet had waited for the word of Jehovah, Jeremiah had already learned their answer. They were fully determined to go to Egypt, no matter what the Lord might say. “Jeremiah’s answer here was from God, “from Him who knows the hearts of men.”(F9) This word from the holy prophet is similar to that of Moses in his final address to Israel, who told Israel, “I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck, and that you will corrupt yourselves” (Deuteronomy 31:27; Deuteronomy 31:29).

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/jeremiah-42.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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