Warning Against Idolatry, and Intimation of Its Punishment
When the Jews had settled down in Egypt in different places, they betook themselves zealously to the worship of the queen of heaven; to this they were probably induced by the example of the heathen round about them, and by the vain expectation of thereby promoting their interests as members of the community (cf. Jeremiah 44:17.). Accordingly, when all the people who were living here and there through the country had assembled in Upper Egypt (Jeremiah 44:15) for the celebration of the festival, the prophet seized the opportunity of setting before them, in an earnest manner, the ruinous consequences of their doings. First of all, he reminds them of the judgments which they and their fathers, by their continued apostasy from the Lord, and by their idolatry, had brought on Jerusalem and Judah (Jeremiah 44:2-7); and he warns them not to bring destruction on the remnant of Judah still left, by continuing in their idolatry (Jeremiah 44:8-10). The threatening also is expressed, that the Lord will destroy all those who marched to Egypt with the sword, famine, and pestilence (Jeremiah 44:11-14). But the whole assembly declare to him that they will not obey his word, but persist in worshipping the queen of heaven; alleging that their fathers prospered so long as they honoured her, and war and famine had come on them only after they ceased to do so (Jeremiah 44:15-19). Jeremiah refutes this false notion (Jeremiah 44:20-23), and once more solemnly announces to them the sentence of destruction by sword and famine in Egypt. As a sign that the Lord will keep His word, he finally predicts that King Hophra shall be delivered into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
"The word that came to Jeremiah regarding all the Jews who were living in the land of Egypt, who dwelt in Migdol, in Tahpanhes, in Noph, and in the land of Pathros." From this heading we perceive that those who (according to Jeremiah 43:1-13) had gone to Egypt, had settled there in various parts of the country, and that the following denunciations, which at the same time form his last prophecy, were uttered a long time after that which is given in Jeremiah 43:8-13 as having been delivered at Tahpanhes. The date of it cannot, indeed, be determined exactly. From the threatening that King Hophra shall be delivered over to the power of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 44:24-30), only this much is clear, that Egypt was not yet occupied by the Chaldeans, which, as we have shown above (p. 353), did not take place before the year 572. But it by no means follows from this that Jeremiah did not utter these words of threatening till shortly before this event. He may have done so even five or ten years before, in the period between 585 and 580, as we have already observed on p. 12. The Jews had settled down, not merely in the two northern frontier towns, Migdol (i.e., Magdolo, Μαγδώλος, according to the Itiner. Anton., twelve Roman miles from Pelusium, Copt. Meschtôl, Egypt. Ma'ktr, the most northerly place in Egypt; see on Ezekiel 29:10) and Tahpanhes (i.e., Daphne, see on Jeremiah 43:7), but also in more inland places, in Noph (i.e., Memphis, see on Jeremiah 2:16) and the land of Pathros (lxx Παθούρης, Egypt. Petorees, i.e., Southland, viz., Upper Egypt, the Thebais of the Greeks and Romans; see on Ezekiel 29:14). The word of the Lord runs as follows: -
The warning and threatening. - "Thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Ye yourselves have been all the evil which I have brought on Jerusalem, and on all the cities of Judah; and, behold, they are a desolation this day, and there is no inhabitant in them; Jeremiah 44:3 . Because of their wickedness which they have done, by provoking me through going to burn incense, (and) to serve other gods whom they knew not, (neither) they (nor) ye, nor your fathers. Jeremiah 44:4 . And I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending (them), to say, Do not this abominable thing which I hate. Jeremiah 44:5 . But they did not hear, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, by not burning incense to other gods. Jeremiah 44:6 . Therefore my wrath and mine anger poured itself out, and burned up the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem; so that they have become a desolation and a waste, as at this day. Jeremiah 44:7 . Now therefore thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Why do ye great evil against your souls, by cutting off from yourselves man and women, child and suckling, out of the midst of Judah, so leaving no remnant for yourselves; Jeremiah 44:8 . Through provoking me by the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye have gone to sojourn, that ye might bring destruction on yourselves, and that ye might become a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth? Jeremiah 44:9 . Have ye forgotten the evil deeds of your fathers, and the evil deeds of the kings of Judah, and the evil deeds of their wives, and your own evil deeds, and the evil deeds of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and on the streets of Jerusalem? Jeremiah 44:10. They have not been contrite to this day, and are not afraid, nor do they walk in my law, and in my statutes, which I have set before you and before your fathers. Jeremiah 44:11. Therefore thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah. Jeremiah 44:12. And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go to the land of Egypt in order to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed; in the land of Egypt shall they fall, by sword and famine shall they be consumed; small and great, by sword and famine shall they die, and they shall become an execration and an astonishment, and a curse and a reproach. Jeremiah 44:13. And I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I punished Jerusalem, by sword, and famine, and pestilence. Jeremiah 44:14. There shall not be one escaped or left to the remnant of Judah that came to sojourn there in the land of Egypt, so as to return to the land of Judah, whither they long to return and dwell; for they shall not return except as escaped ones."
In order to make an impression on the people by his warning against idolatry, Jeremiah begins his address with a reference to the great calamity which the fathers have brought on the kingdom of Judah through their continued idolatry (Jeremiah 44:2-6). "Ye have seen all the evil," etc.; all the cities are laid waste and depopulated, because their inhabitants have roused the anger of the Lord, and have not let themselves be dissuaded by the admonitions of the prophets whom God has sent. "This day," i.e., now, at present. On Jeremiah 44:3, cf. Jeremiah 11:17; Jeremiah 19:4; Jeremiah 32:32, etc.; and as to the meaning of קטּר, see on Jeremiah 1:16. In Jeremiah 44:3 the address becomes more direct, through the change into the second person, "ye;" the audience then present only continue these sins of their fathers. On Jeremiah 44:4, cf. Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 25:4, etc. דּבר התּעבה הזּאת, "the thing of this abomination," which is equivalent to "this abominable idolatry." דּבר serves to render the subject more prominent, as in Judges 19:24. On Jeremiah 44:6, cf. Jeremiah 42:18; Jeremiah 7:20. The wrath of God burned in the cities, for the fire of destruction was a manifestation of the divine wrath. As to כּיום הזּה, see on Jeremiah 11:5.
In Jeremiah 44:7-10 follows the application of what has been said to those present, who are asked how they come to continue in the old sins, to their own destruction, "doing evil in regard to your souls," i.e., for the injury, destruction of your souls, yourself; cf. Jeremiah 26:19, where על־נ ' stands for אל־נ ' . This is immediately afterwards more exactly specified by ' להכרית וגו, to exterminate the whole of you, without an exception. As to the enumeration "man and woman," etc., cf. 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 22:19. The infs. להכעיסני and לקטּר are used as gerundives: "inasmuch as (through this that) ye provoke me." For the expression "the works of your hands," see on Jeremiah 1:16. In Jeremiah 44:8, an object must be supplied from Jeremiah 44:7 for the expression למען הכרית לכם ; for, to take לכם (with Hitzig) in a reflexive sense is a very harsh construction. On ' לקללה וגו, cf. Jeremiah 42:18; Jeremiah 26:6. The answer to the question now asked follows in Jeremiah 44:9 and Jeremiah 44:10, in the form of the further question, whether they have forgotten those former sins, and that these sins have been the cause of the evil which has befallen the land. The interrogation expresses the reproach that they have been able to forget both, as is evidenced by their continuance in sin. In Jeremiah 44:9, the expression "the evil deeds of his wives" ( נשׁיו ) is remarkable. Hitzig and Nägelsbach, following Kimchi, refer the suffix to the kings, since there was always but one king at a time. But this is an unnatural explanation; the suffix refers to Judah as a nation, and is used in order to comprehend the wives of the fathers and of the kings together. It is quite arbitrary in Ewald and Graf to change נשׁיו to שׂריו, following the lxx τῶν ἀρχόντων ὑμῶν ; for these translators have mutilated the text by the omission of the following ואת רעתיכם . רעות נשׁיו is not merely conserved, but even required, by ואת רעת נשׁיכם . But the prophet gives special prominence to the evil deeds of the wives, since it was they who were most zealous in worshipping the queen of heaven; cf. Jeremiah 44:15 and Jeremiah 44:19. לא דכּאוּ, "they have not been crushed," viz., by repentance and sorrow for these sins. The transition to the third person is not merely accounted for by the fact that the subject treated of is the sins of the fathers and of the present generation, - for, as is shown by the expression "till this day," the prophet has chiefly his own contemporaries in view; but he speaks of these in the third person, to signify the indignation with which he turns away from men so difficult to reform. On the expression, "they had not walked in my law," cf. Jeremiah 26:4; Jeremiah 9:12. For this the Lord will punish them severely, Jeremiah 44:11-14. All those who have fled to Egypt, with the intention of remaining there, will be quite exterminated. On "Behold, I will set my face," etc., cf. Jeremiah 21:10. "For evil" is more exactly defined by "to cut off all Judah," i.e., those of Judah who are in Egypt, not those who are in Babylon. This limitation of the words "all Judah" is necessarily required by the context, and is plainly expressed in Jeremiah 44:12, where "Judah" is specified as "the remnant of Judah that were determined to go to Egypt." לקחתּי has the meaning of taking away, as in Jeremiah 15:15. ותמּוּ are to be taken by themselves; and בּארץ מצרים, as is shown by the accents, is to be attached to what follows, on which, too, the emphasis is placed; in like manner, ' בּחרב are to be attached to the succeeding verb. The arrangement of the words, like the accumulation of sentences all expressing the same meaning, reveals the spirit of the address in which God vents His wrath. On "they shall become an execration," etc., see Jeremiah 42:18. In Jeremiah 44:13, Jeremiah 44:14, the threatened extermination is further set forth. Those who dwelling Egypt shall be punished with sword, famine, and plague, like Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Egypt generally are meant; and by the judgment which is to fall on that country, the remnant of Judah there shall be so completely destroyed, that none shall escape. The leading member of the sentence is continued by ולשׁוּב, "and that they should return to the land of Judah, after which their soul longs, that they may live there." A reason is further assigned, and with this the address, reduced within becoming limits, concludes: "for there shall return none except ( כּי אם ) fugitives," i.e., except a few individual fugitives who shall come back. This last clause shows that we are not to understand the declaration "none shall escape" in the strictest meaning of the words. Those who escape and return to Judah shall be so few, in comparison with those who shall perish in Egypt, as to be quite inconsiderable. Cf. the like instance of a seeming contradiction in Jeremiah 44:27, Jeremiah 44:28. On נשּׂא את־נפשׁם, cf. Jeremiah 22:27.
The answer of the people to this threatening address. - Jeremiah 44:15. "Then all the men who knew that their wives burned incense to other gods, and all the women standing [there], a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, Jeremiah 44:16. [As for] the word which thou hast spoken unto us in the name of Jahveh, we will not hearken unto thee: Jeremiah 44:17. But we will certainly perform every word that has proceeded out of our own mouth, by burning incense to the queen of heaven, and pouring out libations to her, just as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; and we were filled with bread, and became prosperous, and saw no evil. Jeremiah 44:18. But since we ceased to offer incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out libations to her, we have been in want of everything, and are consumed by sword and famine. Jeremiah 44:19. And when we [women] have been burning incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out libations to her, have we made cakes to her without our husbands, making an image of her, and offering libations to her?" To the word of the prophet the men and women oppose their pretended experience, that the adoration of the queen of heaven has brought them comfort and prosperity, while the neglect of this worship, on the other hand, has brought want and misfortune. No doubt they inferred this, by the argument post hoc, ergo propter hoc , from the fact that, after idolatry had been rooted out by Josiah, adversity had befallen the land of Judah; while, up till that time, the kingdom of Judah had been independent, and, for more than a century before, had been spared the suffering of misfortune. Thus, through their blindness, peculiar to the natural man, they had overlooked the minor transient evils with which the Lord visits His people when they sin. Not till near the end of Josiah's reign did misfortune fall on Judah: this was when the Egyptian army, under Pharaoh-Necho, marched through Palestine; Josiah was slain in the battle he had lost, the land was laid waste by the enemy, and its inhabitants perished by sword and famine. In Jeremiah 44:15, those who are represented speaking are all the men who knew of their wives' idolatry, i.e., who permitted it, and all the women, "a great company," i.e., gathered together in great numbers, and all the rest of the people who lived in Egypt. The specification "in Pathros" is not in apposition to the words "in the land of Egypt," but belongs to the verb ויּענוּ ; it tells where the gathering took place, viz., in a district of Upper Egypt. From the presence of a large number of women, we may conclude that the assembly was a festival in honour of the queen of heaven. The former portion of Jeremiah 44:16 forms an absolute clause, from הדּבר to בּשׁם, "as regards the word which...we will not listen to thee," i.e., with regard to this word we obey thee not. The expression, "the word which has gone forth out of our mouth," points to the uttering of vows: cf. Numbers 30:13; Deuteronomy 23:24. ' כּל־הדּבר means "all that we have uttered as a vow," every vow to offer incense, etc., i.e., to present meat and drink offerings to the queen of heaven, - that shall we keep, fulfil, as we and our fathers have done in the land of Judah. On this mode of worship, cf. Jeremiah 7:17., and the remarks there made. "And we were satisfied with bread," i.e., in consequence of this worship we had amply sufficient food. Towbiym טובים, "good," well, comfortable; cf. Jeremiah 22:16. מן אז, "from that time" = since. תּמנוּ is for תּמּנוּ, from תּמם, as in Numbers 17:1-13 :28; cf. Ewald, §197, a . To this statement on the part of the men, the women further add, Jeremiah 44:19, that they do not engage in this sacrificial worship or prepare the sacrificial cakes without their husbands, i.e., without their knowledge and approval. This is put forward by the women in the way of self-vindication; for, according to the law, Numbers 30:9., the husband could annul, i.e., declare not binding, any vow which had been made by his wife without his knowledge. Although it is women who are speaking, the masc . מקטּרים is used as being the gender which most commonly occurs; it also pretty often stands for the feminine. The inf. constr. וּלהסּך (with ל ) is here employed, in conformity with later usage, instead of the inf. abs., for the finite verb, by way of continuation; cf. Ewald, §351, c, where, however, many passages have been set down as falling under this rule that demand a different explanation. The meaning of להעצבה is disputed; the final ה is a suffix, written with Raphe, though Mappik also occurs in some MSS. The Hiphil of this verb is found elsewhere only in Psalms 78:40, and there in the signification of vexing, grieving, like the Piel in Isaiah 63:10; Psalms 66:6. Ewald translates "in order to move her," i.e., make her well-disposed, - but quite arbitrarily, for to provoke is the very opposite of rendering propitious. The verb עצּב also signifies "to form, shape," Job 10:8; and in this sense the Hiphil is used here, "in order to put them into shape," i.e., to form the moon-goddess (queen of heaven) in or on the sacrificial cakes (Kimchi, Raschi, Dahler, Maurer, Graf, etc.). The sacrificial cakes ( כּוּנים, see on Jeremiah 7:18) probably had the form of a crescent, or even of the full moon, like the σελῆναι of the Greeks, which used to be offered in Athens at the time of the full moon in the month of Munychion, to Artemis, as goddess of the moon; cf. Hermann, gottesdienstliche Alterthümer der Griechen , 2 Ausg. S. 146, Anm. 13, u. S. 414.
Refutation of these statements of the people. - Jeremiah 44:20. "And Jeremiah spake to all the people, to the men and women, and to all the people that had given him answer, saying, Jeremiah 44:21. Did not the incense-burning which he performed in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land-did not Jahveh remember them, and did it not arise in His mind? Jeremiah 44:22. And Jahveh could no longer endure it, because of the wickedness of your deeds, because of the abominations which ye committed; thus your land became a desolation, and a waste, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day. Jeremiah 44:23. Because ye burned incense and sinned against Jahveh, and did not hearken to the voice of Jahveh, and in His law, in His statutes, and in His testimonies ye walked not; therefore this evil hath befallen you, as at this day." Jeremiah answers them that their idol-worship, by which they have provoked the Lord their God, is the very cause of the misfortune that has befallen them, because God could no longer endure this abomination which they would not forsake. הקּטּר is a noun, "the burning of incense," which includes, besides, all the other elements of idolatrous worship hence the word is resumed, at the close, under the plur. אותם, "these things." ותּעלה is 3rd pers. sing. neut., lit., "it has come into His mind," i.e., He has carefully considered it, and that in the way of punishment, for He could no longer endure such abomination. The imperf. יוּכל is used for the historic tense (imperf. with ו consec.), because the ו would necessarily be separated from the verb by the לא ; and it is employed instead of the perfect, which we would be inclined to expect after the preceding זכר, since that which is treated of is something that endures for a considerable time; cf. Ewald, §346, b . On the expression "because of the evil," etc., cf. Jeremiah 21:12; Jeremiah 4:4, etc.; on the last clause in Jeremiah 44:22, cf. Jeremiah 44:6 and Jeremiah 44:12.
Jeremiah 44:23 is an emphatic and brief repetition of what has already been said. קראת is for קראה, as in Deuteronomy 31:29; cf. Gesenius, §74, note 1; Ewald, §194, b .
Announcement of the punishment for this idolatry. - Jeremiah 44:24. "And Jeremiah said unto all the people, and unto all the women, Hear the word of Jahveh, all of Judah that are in the land of Egypt; Jeremiah 44:25. Thus saith Jahve of hosts, the God of Israel: Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouth, and fulfilled it with your hands, saying, We will assuredly perform our vows which we have vowed, by burning incense to the queen of heaven, and by pouring out libations to her: ye will by all means perform your vows, and carry out your vows. Jeremiah 44:26. Therefore hear the word of Jahveh, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt: Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith Jahveh, truly my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah, saying, 'As the Lord Jahveh liveth,' in all the land of Egypt. Jeremiah 44:27. Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good; and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, till they are annihilated. Jeremiah 44:28. And those who escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, a small number; and all the remnant of Judah, that went to the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose word shall stand, mine or theirs. Jeremiah 44:29. And this shall be the sign to you, saith Jahveh, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely rise up against you for evil: Jeremiah 44:30. Thus hath Jahveh spoken, Behold, I will give Pharaoh-Hophra into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of those who seek his life, just as I have given Zedekiah the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, who was his enemy, and sought his life."
After refuting the false assertion of the people, Jeremiah once more announces to them, on behalf of God, in the most solemn manner, the punishment of extermination by sword and famine in Egypt; this he does for the purpose of giving the greatest possible emphasis to his warning against persevering in idolatry. For substance, this announcement is similar to that of Jeremiah 44:11-14, but the expression is stronger. Even in the summary account of their offences, Jeremiah 44:25, the words are so chosen and arranged as to bring out clearly the determination of the people to persevere in worshipping the queen of heaven. "As for you and your wives, ye have spoken with your mouth and fulfilled it with your hand" (on the Vav consec. attached to תּדבּרנה, cf. Ewald, §344, b ), i.e., ye have uttered vows and then carried them out; for ye say, We must keep the vows that we have vowed. It is to be observed that the verbs תּדבּרנה, and in the concluding portion תּקימנה and תּעשׂינה, are feminine, since the address chiefly applies to the wives, who clung most tenaciously to idolatry. In the clause ' הקים תּקימנה וגו, "ye will make your vows and perform them," there is unmistakeable irony, in which the reference is to the wilfulness of the people in this idolatry. This ἑθελοθρησκεία is shown by the inf. abs. הקים, which strengthens תּקימנה . "To establish vows," i.e., to make them, was not a thing commanded, but left to one's free determination. Hence, also, no appeal to the maxim that vows which have been made or uttered must be fulfilled, can justify the making of the vows. The form תּקימנה for תּקמנה is an unusual one; and the י which the Hirik takes after it is occasioned by the form הקים ; cf. Ewald, §196, c . - The announcement of the punishment is introduced by a solemn oath on the part of God. Jahveh swears by His great name, i.e., as the one who has shown Himself God by His mighty deeds - who has the power of keeping His word. The name is, of course, only a manifestation of His existence. אם as a particle used in swearing = certainly not. His name shall no more be named in the mouth of any Jew in the land of Egypt, i.e., be used in asseverations, because all the Jews in Egypt shall be exterminated. On the expression, "Behold, I will watch over them," etc., cf. Jeremiah 31:28 and Jeremiah 21:10. In Jeremiah 44:28, it is more exactly stated that only a few individuals shall escape the sword and return to Judah; thus, no one shall remain behind in Egypt. By this judgment, all the remnant of Judah that went to Egypt shall find out whose word - Jahveh's or theirs - will endure, i.e., prove true. ממּנּי properly depends on דבר, "the word from me or from them" (the people).
In confirmation of this threatening, the Lord gives them another sign which, when it is fulfilled, will let them know that the destruction announced to them shall certainly befall them. The token consists in the giving up of King Hophra into the hand of his enemies. As certainly as this shall take place, so certainly shall the extermination of the Jews in Egypt ensue. The name חפרע is rendered Οὐάφρις in Manetho, in the classical writers ̓Απρίης, Apriës, who, according to Herodotus (ii. 161), reigned twenty-five years, but nineteen according to Manetho (cf. Boeckh, Manetho, etc., p. 341ff.). His death took place in the year 570 b.c. This date is reached by a comparison of the following facts: - Cambyses conquered Egypt in the year 525; and in the preceding year Amasis had died, after a reign of forty-four years (Herod. iii. 10). Hence Amasis - who took Apriës prisoner, and gave him up to the common people, who killed him (Herod. ii. 161-163, 169) - must have commenced his reign in the year 570. On the death of Apriës, or Hophra, cf. the explanation given on p. 353f., where we have shown that the words, "I will give him into the hand of his enemies, and of those who seek his life," when compared with what is said of Zedekiah, "into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar his enemy," do not require us to assume that Hophra was killed by Nebuchadnezzar, and can very well be harmonized with the notice of Herodotus regarding the death of this king.
Hitzig and Graf have taken objection to this sign given by Jeremiah, and regard Jeremiah 44:29, Jeremiah 44:30 as a spurious vaticinium ex eventu , the work of another hand. The reasons they urge are, that it is scarcely possible Jeremiah could have lived till 570; that Jeremiah 44:29. would be the only place where Jeremiah offered such a criterion; and that, even as it is, these verses contain nothing original, but, by their stiff and lifeless parallelism, are easily seen to be an artificial conclusion. Of these three arguments, the last can prove nothing, since it is merely a subjective opinion on an aesthetic point. The second, again, rather declares for than against the genuineness. For "if it were not Jeremiah's usual, elsewhere, to offer some criterion, then such an interpolation would have been all the more carefully avoided" (Nägelsbach). Of course we do not find any other signs of this kind in Jeremiah; but it does not follow from this that he could not offer such a thing in a special case. Yet the ground taken up by Nägelsbach, as sufficient to establish this position, seems quite untenable, viz., that the announcement of the fate in store for the king must have been the answer of the true God to the presumptuous boast of Apriës, mentioned by Herodotus, "that even God could not dethrone him, so firmly did he think he was established:" this view of the matter seems too remote from the object of Jeremiah's address. And finally, the first-named objection receives importance only on the supposition that "an event which was intended to serve as אות, a sign or criterion, must be something that was to happen immediately, or within a brief appointed period of time, so that a person might be able, from the occurrence of the one, to conclude that what had been foretold about a later period would as certainly take place" (Graf). But there are no sufficient grounds for this hypothesis. If no definite time be fixed for the occurrence of this sign, then it may not appear till a considerable time afterwards, and yet be a pledge for the occurrence of what was predicted for a still later period. That Jeremiah lived till the year 570 is certainly not inconceivable, but it is not likely that he uttered the prophecy now before us at the advanced age of nearly eighty years. Now, if his address is allowed to be a real prophecy, and not a mere vaticinium ex eventu , as Hitzig, looking from his dogmatic standpoint, considers it, then it must have been uttered before the year 570; but whether this was two, or five, or ten years before, makes no material difference. The address itself contains nothing to justify the assumption of Graf, that it is closely connected with the prophecy in Jeremiah 43:8-13, and with the warning against the migration into Egypt, Jer 42. That the Jews spoken of had not been long in Egypt, cannot be inferred from Jeremiah 44:8, Jeremiah 44:12, and Jeremiah 44:18; on the contrary, the fact that they had settled down in different parts of Egypt, and had assembled at Pathros for a festival, shows that they had been living there for a considerable time before. Nor does it follow, from the statement in Jeremiah 44:14 that they longed to return to Judah, that they had gone to Egypt some months before. The desire to return into the land of their fathers remains, in a measure, in the heart of the Jew even at the present day. After all, then, no valid reason can be assigned for doubting the genuineness of these verses.
On the fulfilment of these threatenings Nägelsbach remarks: "Every one must be struck on finding that, in Jer 44, the extermination of the Jews who dwelt in Egypt is predicted; while some centuries later, the Jews in Egypt were very numerous, and that country formed a central point for the Jewish exiles (cf. Herzog, Real-Encycl. xvii. S. 285). Alexander the Great found so many Jews in Egypt, that he peopled with Jews, in great measure, the city he had founded and called after himself (cf. Herzog, i. S. 235). How did these Jews get to Egypt? Whence the great number of Jews whom Alexander found already in Egypt? I am inclined to think that we must consider them, for the most part, as the descendants of those who had come into the country with Jeremiah. But, according to this view of the matter, Jeremiah's prophecy has not been fulfilled." Nägelsbach therefore thinks we must assume that idolatrous worship, through time, almost entirely ceased among the exiled Jews in Egypt as it did among those in Babylon, and that the Lord then, in return, as regards the penitents, repented of the evil which He had spoken against them (Jeremiah 26:13, Jeremiah 26:19). But this whole explanation is fundamentally wrong, since the assertion, that Alexander the Great found so many Jews in Egypt, that with them mainly he peopled the city of Alexandria which he had founded, is contrary to historic testimony. In Herzog ( Real-Encycl. i. S. 235), to which Nägelsbach refers for proof on the point, nothing of the kind is to be found, but rather the opposite, viz., the following: "Soon after the foundation of Alexandria by Alexander the Great, this city became not merely the centre of Jewish Hellenism in Egypt, but generally speaking the place of union between Oriental and Occidental Jews. The external condition of the Jews of Alexandria must, on the whole, be characterized as highly prosperous. The first Jewish settlers had, indeed, been compelled by Alexander the Great to take up their residence in the city (Josephus, Antt . xv. 3. 1); so, too, were other Jews, by Ptolemy I. or Lagi ( ibid . xii. 2. 4). But both of these monarchs granted them the same rights and privileges as the Macedonians, including Greek citizenship; and in consequence of the extremely advantageous position of the city, it speedily increased in importance. A still larger number, therefore, soon went thither of their own accord, and adopted the Greek language." In this account, the quotation from Josephus, Antt . xv. 3. 1, is certainly incorrect; for neither is there in that passage any testimony borne to the measures attributed to Alexander, nor are there any other historical testimonies given from antiquity. But as little can we find any proofs that Alexander the Great found so many Jews in Egypt that he could, to a large extent, people with them the city he had founded. It is merely testified by Josephus ( Antt . xi. 8. 5), and by Hecataeus in Josephus ( contra Ap. i. 22; p. 457, ed. Haverc.), that Alexander had Jewish soldiers in his army; it is further evident, from a notice in Josephus, de bell. Jud. ii. 18. 7, contra Ap. ii. 4) cf. Curtius Rufus, iv. 8), that the newly founded city, even under Alexander, immediately after it was commenced, and still more under Ptolemy Lagi (cf. Josephus, Antt . xii. 1, and Hecataeus in Jos. contra Ap. i. 22, p. 455), attracted a constantly increasing multitude of Jewish immigrants. This same Ptolemy, after having subdued Phoenicia and Coele-Syria in the year 320, and taken Jerusalem also, it would seem, by a stratagem on a Sabbath day, transported many captives and hostages out of the whole country into Egypt; many, too, must have been sold at that time as slaves to the inhabitants of such a wealthy country as Egypt: see a statement in the book of Aristeas, at the end of Havercamp's edition of Josephus, ii. p. 104. In the same place, and in Josephus' Antt . xii. 1, Ptolemy is said to have armed 30,000 Jewish soldiers, placed them as garrisons in the fortresses, and granted them all the rights of Macedonian citizens ( ἰσοπολιτεία ). Ewald well says, History of the People of Israel, vol. iv. of second edition, p. 254: "When we further take into consideration, that, in addition to all other similar disasters which had previously befallen them, many Jews were removed to Egypt (especially by Ochus, after Egypt had been reconquered), we can easily explain how Ptolemy Philadelphus can be said to have liberated 100,000 Egyptian Jews. Aristeas' Book, p. 105." This much, at least, is proved by these various notices, - that, in order to understand how such a vast increase took place in the number of the Jews in Egypt, we do not need to regard them as the descendants of those who removed thither with Jeremiah, and so to question the fulfilment of the prophecy now before us. Jeremiah does not, of course, threaten with destruction all those Jews who live in Egypt, but only those who at that time went thither against the divine will, and there persevered in their idolatry. We do not know how great may have been the number of these immigrants, but they could hardly exceed two thousand, - perhaps, indeed, there were not so many. All these, as had been foretold them, may have perished in the conquest of Egypt by the Chaldeans, and afterwards, through the sword, famine, and pestilence; for the myriads of Jews in Egypt at the time of Ptolemy Lagi could easily have removed thither during the period of 250 years intermediate between the immigration in Jeremiah's time and the foundation of Alexandria, partly as prisoners and slaves, partly through voluntary settlement.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah 44". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany