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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)

Jeremiah - he probably was one of the number carried off from Mizpah, and dwelt with Johanan (Jeremiah 41:16). Hence, the expression is "came near" (Jeremiah 42:1), not 'sent unto Jeremiah.'

Let ... our supplication be accepted - literally, fall (note, Jeremiah 36:7; Jeremiah 37:20).

Pray for us - (Genesis 20:7; as Hezekiah and his officers of state begged Isaiah in the invasion of Sennacherib, "Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left," Isaiah 37:4; James 5:16).

Thy God - (Jeremiah 42:5). The Jews use this form to express their belief in the special relation in which Jeremiah stood to God as his accredited prophet. Jeremiah, in his reply, reminds them that God is their God as well as his ("your God"), as being the covenant people (Jeremiah 42:4). They in turn acknowledge this in Jeremiah 42:6, "The Lord our God."

We are left but a few of many - as had been foretold (Leviticus 26:22).

Verse 3

That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.

They consulted God, like many, not so much to know what was right, as wishing Him to authorize what they had already determined on, whether agreeable to His will or not. So the messenger of Ahab in consulting Micaiah (1 Kings 22:13). Compare Jeremiah's answer (Jeremiah 42:4) with Micaiah's (1 Kings 22:14).

Verse 4

Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.

I have heard you - i:e., I accede to your request.

The Lord your God. Being His by adoption, ye are not your own, and are bound to whatever He wills (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you - i:e., through me.

I will keep nothing back - (1 Samuel 3:18; Acts 20:20).

Verse 5

Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.

The Lord be a true ... witness between us - (Genesis 31:50; Psalms 89:37; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 19:11).

Verse 6

Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.

Whether it be good or ... evil - not moral evil, which God cannot command (James 1:13), but what may be disagreeable and hard to us. Piety obeys God, without questioning, at all costs. See the instance defective in this, that it obeyed only so far as was agreeable to itself (Saul in respect to God's command for the destruction of the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 15:9; 1 Samuel 15:13-15; 1 Samuel 15:20-23).

Verse 7

And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.

After ten days. Jeremiah did not speak of himself, but waited God's time and revelation, showing the reality of his inspiration. Man, left to himself, would have given an immediate response to the people, who were impatient of delay. The delay was designed to test the sincerity of their professed willingness to obey, and that they should have full time to deliberate (Deuteronomy 8:2). True obedience bows to God's time, as well as His way and will.

Verses 8-9

Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest,

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

If ye will still 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.

If ye will still abide in this land - namely, under the Babylonian authority, to which God hath appointed. that all should be subject (Daniel 2:37-38). To resist the King of Babylon was to resist God.

Then will I build ... plant you - metaphor for I will firmly establish you (Jeremiah 24:6).

I repent me of the evil - (Jeremiah 18:8; Deuteronomy 32:36, "The Lord shall repent Himself for His servants, when He seeth that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left"). I am satisfied with the punishment I have inflicted on you, if only you add not a new offence (Grotius). God said to "repent" when he alters His outward ways of dealing.

Verse 11

Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.

I will show mercies - rather, I will excite (in him) feelings of mercy toward you (Calvin).

That he may ... cause you to return - permit you to return to the peaceable enjoyment of the possessions from which you are wishing to withdraw through fear of the Chaldeans. By departing in disobedience they should incur the very evils they wished thereby to escape; and by staying they should gain the blessings which they feared to lose by doing so.

Verse 13

But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God,

But if ye say ... Avowed rebellion against God, who had often (Deuteronomy 17:16), as now, forbidden their going to Egypt, lest they should be entangled in its idolatry.

Verse 14

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:

We will go into ... Egypt, where we shall see no war. Here they betray their impiety in not believing God's promise (Jeremiah 42:10-11), as if He were a liar. (1 John 5:10).

Verse 15

And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there;

If ye wholly set your faces - firmly resolve (Luke 9:51), in spite of all warnings (Jeremiah 44:12).

Verse 16

Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.

The sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you. The very evils we think to escape by sin we bring on ourselves thereby. What our hearts are most set on often prove fatal to us. Those who think to escape troubles by changing their place will find them wherever they go (Ezekiel 11:8). The "sword" here is that of Nebuchadnezzar, who fulfilled the prediction in his expedition to Africa (according to Megasthenes, a pagan writer, 300 BC)

Verse 17

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.

All the men - excepting the "small number" mentioned (Jeremiah 44:14; Jeremiah 44:28) - namely, those who were forced into Egypt against their will, as Jeremiah, Baruch, etc., and those who took Jeremiah's advice, fled from Egypt before the arrival of the Chaldeans.

Verse 18

For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury 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.

As mine anger ... hath been poured forth upon ... Jerusalem. As ye have already to your sorrow, found me true to my word, so shall ye again (Jeremiah 7:20; Jeremiah 18:16).

Ye shall see this place no more - ye shah not return to Judea, as those shall who have been removed to Babylon.

Verse 19

The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.

I had admonished you - literally, testified; i:e., solemnly admonished, having yourselves as my witnesses; so that, if ye perish, ye yourselves will have to confess that it was through your own fault, not through ignorance, ye perished.

Verse 20

For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.

Ye dissembled in your hearts - rather, 'ye have used deceit against your (own) souls.' It is not God, but yourselves, whom ye deceive, to your own ruin, by your dissimulation (Galatians 6:7). (Calvin) But the words following accord best with the English version, ye have dissembled in your hearts (Jeremiah 42:3, note) toward me when ye sent me to consult God for you.

Verse 21

And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God nor And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.

I have this day declared it - namely, the divine will.

I ... but ye. I have done my part, but ye do not yours. It is no fault of mine that ye act not rightly.

Verse 22

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 and to sojourn.

In the place where ye desire to go and to sojourn - for a time, until they could return to their country. They expected, therefore, to be restored, in spite of God's prediction to the contrary.


(1) Johanan and the Jews consulted God through Jeremiah, asking Him to show them "the way wherein they should walk, and the thing that they should do" (Jeremiah 42:3). Doubtless many, if not all of them, thought themselves sincere in their request, and that they really purposed to adopt whatever course God should command. But, such is the self-deceit of the human heart, many, in consulting God, desire not so much to know His will as to get His sanction to their own will, upon which they have already made up their minds.

(2) The minister of God, however, serves a God who is not to be deceived as to men's motives when professing to seek Him. Jeremiah reminds them that his God (Jeremiah 42:2) is also their God, whom they are as much bound to obey as he is (Jeremiah 42:4), and that he can only "declare to them whatever God shall answer," whether the divine reply accords with their wishes or not. The conscientious minister must not shun to declare to men the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20), whether men will hearken or disregard it.

(3) The Jews, in their ignorance of their own hearts, appealed to the Lord to be "a faithful and true witness" that they engaged to do whatever God should direct, whether it should be agreeable to them or otherwise (Jeremiah 42:5-6). They recognized, as a theory, the sound principle that true piety obeys the clearly-revealed will of God at all costs, and that without questionings or complainings. Saul had lost his kingdom because, in the case of God's command to destroy the Amalekites, he had only obeyed in so far as was agreeable to his own wishes and those of his people. Johanan and the Jews admitted that they were bound to obey in "all things" that God should require. But to admit a principle in theory, and to act upon it in practice, are two very distinct things.

(4) A ten days' interval was allowed to elapse before God's answer came, in order to test their sincerity in professing themselves willing to obey, and to give them full time for deliberation. The ardour of hasty professions, made under the impulse o f the moment, soon cools down when tested by time. So it proved in this case. Jeremiah, in the nine of God, faithfully told them God's will concerning them, as they had wished. If they would abide in the land, God engaged to establish them in it safely, nor need they fear the Babylonian king, as they are inclined to do, for God, who even already repents Him of the evil that He had done unto them (Jeremiah 42:10), will save them out of his hand (Jeremiah 42:11), and show mercies unto them. (5) The prophet soon saw, when they were put to the test, marks in their countenance and manner, of disinclination to keep to their solemn engagement to obedience (Jeremiah 42:13). God looks to our acts, and not merely to our professions. Many promise to do what the Lord requires, hoping thereby to have the reputation of piety, and to retain all the while their favourite lusts.

(6) Yet how blind are sinners to their true interests! God will never let those really lose by it who trust in and act on His promises. He has revealed enough to silence the cause less fears which discourage us in the discharge of duty. But, the very evils which we fear by obeying God's will, and which we think to escape by disobedience, we surely bring on ourselves by rebellion and self-will. Change of place will bring no exemption from troubles, as restless sinners fancy; the true and only path to peace is the path of faith and obedience. Just as the Jews by fleeing to Egypt, in opposition to God's command, brought on themselves the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, which they thought to escape thereby (Jeremiah 42:13-17).

(7) How amazing also is the self-destroying infatuation of sinners! One would have thought that, after the fearful lesson just given in the destruction of Jerusalem, according to the word of the Lord, the Jews would have never more doubted that He is a God faithful to His threats as He is to His promises (Jeremiah 42:18). Yet practically they treated God's message as an empty denunciation, and that after having, with such marvelous hypocrisy, professed their sincere desire for Jeremiah's intercessions, as though their sole wish was to know God's will in order that they might do it (Jeremiah 42:20-21). They paid a fearful penalty of their hypocrisy and disobedience. May God tear off from each of us the mask of hypocrisy, self-deceit, self-will, and self-ignorance, which are so natural to us, and guide us always by His Spirit in the ways that are pleasing to Him!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-42.html. 1871-8.
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