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JEREMIAH CHAPTER 42
Johanan and the people desire Jeremiah to inquire of God, promising obedience to his will, Jeremiah 42:1-6. Jeremiah assureth them of safety in Judea, Jeremiah 42:7-12, and destruction in Egypt, Jeremiah 42:13-18, reproveth their hypocrisy and obstinacy, Jeremiah 42:19-22.
The three following chapters give us an account of what happened to Johanan the son of Kareah, and the rest, after the slaughter of Ishmael, and their going to dwell in the habitation of Chimham, in order to their going into the land of Egypt; their coming to Jeremiah to go and inquire of the Lord for them, his inquiry of God, with the revelation of the Divine will unto him, that they should not go into Egypt, promising God’s protection of them if they did not go, threatening their destruction if they did go; their proud answer to Jeremiah, and resolution to go, which they accordingly did, and there fell in with the idolatry of the Egyptians, for which God by his prophet threateneth them with an utter ruin.
After that this captain Johanan (who now had made himself head of the Jews) had fixed their abode in the habitation of Chimham in the way to Egypt, with thoughts of going down to inhabit there, for fear of the Chaldeans coming to revenge the death of Gedaliah upon all the remainder of the Jews, both these captains and many of the people, or some of all sorts of the people, (for it cannot be imagined that every particular person came,) made their address to the prophet Jeremiah, who probably was with them, carried away by Ishmael, and rescued by this captain.
These men (though wretched hypocrites) yet come to the prophet with great respect and reverence, first desiring that he would allow them to make their request to him: probably the evidence they had had so lately of his being a prophet of the Lord, by the fulfilling of all that he had foretold against both the city and the temple, might in some measure occasion this. Their request was, that he would put up his prayer to God for the remnant, for now there was but a small remnant of Jews left, a few of many.
The thing they would have him pray to God for, was direction what they should do in this desolate state into which God had brought them. What could be more pious? a practice founded upon a Divine precept, and encouraged by a promise, Proverbs 3:6, Acknowledge him in all thy ways, and he shall direct thy steps. But we may well apply here what God had said to their forefathers, Deuteronomy 5:29, when they had so freely promised their obedience to the law of God, Oh that there were such an heart in them, &c.
I have heard you; that is, I will do for you according as you desire. And I will be faithful in giving you an account of what God shall reveal to me to be his will on your behalf. They called God Jeremiah’s God, here Jeremiah calls him their God, both to mind them of God’s relation to them, and their duty towards him.
The preceding words are a perfect oath, the form of which lies in a calling of God to witness the sincerity of the heart of those that swear, for a security to those to whom the oath is given, which also includeth a secret challenging God to take vengeance upon the persons that give that security, if they should not do accordingly as they promise; which speaketh the atheism of the heart of the false swearer; for did a man believe that there is a God, and that the Divine Being is infinite in power, and a true and faithful witness, it were impossible that he should challenge him to be revenged on him-for not doing what he never seriously intends to do, which was the case of these wicked men. The thing they promise is a perfect obedience to God’s will, whether grateful or ungrateful to them; and they further declare a conviction, that if they did it, it should be well with them, according to that, Deuteronomy 5:29; which showeth the mighty power of lusts in unregenerate hearts, and the mighty operations of the evil spirit in the children of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2; that although they be convinced that if they did obey the voice of God it would be well with them, yet they will not do it in things which they have a power to do.
The word mentioned Jeremiah 40:1; to which all that we have met with from the beginning of Jeremiah 40:0 is but an historical preface.
The prophet after ten days, all which time some (but upon what ground I know not) think he spent in prayer, receiveth an answer from God, which he presently communicates to the princes and people, with a preface that containeth in it many arguments to have induced this compliance with it:
1. Because it came from the Lord.
2. From that God who, as he was in covenant with Israel, so in all the course of his providence had so carried himself to them, as they had no just reason to suspect either his kindness or his power.
3. From their employing of him to seek God upon their behalf.
That is, if you will not go into the land of Egypt, as you are thinking, but abide where you are, or in any part of Judah, under subjection to the king of Babylon, into whose power I have given you, then I will see to your security and prosperity, and make you a happy people. The happiness and prosperity of people is in Scripture often set out under the notion of building and planting, as on the contrary their misery or destruction is expressed under the metaphorical notions of pulling down and plucking up.
For I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you; for I am satisfied with the punishment your nation hath undergone; and as to the remainder, if they do not destroy themselves by new disobedience, I will change the course of my providence.
I know whom you are afraid of; you fear that the king of Babylon will come and utterly root you out, because one of your nation hath murdered his viceroy Gedaliah: suffer not your passion of fear to rise too high in this case, and to make you flee into Egypt; for you shall have my presence with you, to preserve and deliver you from his power, it shall not be in his power to do you any harm.
We are beholden to God for all the pity and compassion which we meet with from men, God inclineth their hearts, though we receive the kindness from their hands. The mercy which God here promiseth these men is, that the king of Babylon should give them a liberty to go every one of them to their own inheritances, for at present they were banished by their own fear, from their own houses, though not from their own country.
Our translation a little darkens the sense, translating the Hebrew particle בלתי
neither, which signifies no more than not, or by no means, Numbers 14:16; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Samuel 20:26; Hosea 13:4; and it is certain here is but one thing spoken of, for the thing wherein they disobeyed the voice of the Lord was not continuing in their own land, but going into the land of Egypt.
The sense of the words is obvious, they thought that their life in the land of Judah would be at best an uneasy life, where they should be continually alarmed with the noise of war; and though they could not fear the want of bread in a land that flowed with milk and honey, yet they also considered that Egypt was a very fruitful country, by the overflowing of Nilus; and the prospect of this made them quit that usual fondness which people have of their native country. From whence appears that their great sin was unbelief; they would not take the promise of God for a security to them for a quiet and peaceable abode in Judah, but would fancy noises of drums and trumpets, and fear where no fear was. The prophet saw they were resolved into Egypt they would go, to live a more certain easy life (as they fancied); he therefore tells them, that if after their sending him to God to inquire for them, and promising a compliance with his will, and hearing now what that will was, this were their resolution, he had another word from God to them.
This verse is wholly prefatory. to what followeth. If, saith God, all your mind be upon Egypt, and you he resolved thither you will go,
In the general the prophet threateneth them, that in Egypt they should meet with the very same evils the fear of which made them flee out of their own country, the sword and famine; the sword of Nebuchadnezzar, who, after this, fully conquered Egypt; and a famine through want of bread; for although Egypt was a fruitful country, yet we know there was a famine there, against which Joseph provided; besides that scarcity of victuals commonly followeth great armies. Those who shun dangers, or think to shun them, by acts of disobedience to God, ordinarily are suffered by God to take such courses as they fall into the same or worse dangers than what they labour to avoid.
that set their faces to go, may reasonably be interpreted as a limitation of the universal particle all; for as eventually we can hardly conceive that every individual person that went into Egypt did thus perish, so it can hardly be thought that the just God should order an equal punishment to those who were the ringleaders in this design, and those who were forced or overruled by them, or perhaps knew not how to live when the rest were gone. But, saith God, for those who drive on this design, and go with their whole heart resolvedly against the contrary revelation of my will, there shall none of them escape one or other of my sore judgments, sword, pestilence, or famine; they shall not be the lot of one or two, but of all such persons.
If you would see your doom in a glass, look upon Jerusalem, which according to my word I have dealt so severely with, that amongst men it would be called fury, though in me it was but deliberate justice, that my wrath declared against it (like liquid things melted) diffused itself into all the parts of it: I will deal so with you soon after you shall have entered into that land, where you promise yourselves so much ease, rest, and prosperity; and as I threatened to make Jerusalem a curse, an astonishment, and a reproach, Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18, so I will deal with you; and in this I will (saith God) deal worse with you, that whereas those of your brethren that were carried from Jerusalem to Babylon shall some of them come back again after sixty years, you shall see this place no more. There was this aggravation of the Jews’ sin, to whom God was now by his prophet speaking, they had lately seen the words of the Lord spoken by the same prophet verified, and yet would take no warning, but ran into the same sin of unbelief.
The good prophet, knowing how much it concerned this people to listen unto him, and to believe and obey what he said, repeats again the same thing which he had said before, assuring them that it was the Lord commanded him to say this to them. Critics note that the word which we translate admonish, in this form, signifieth to admonish before witnesses.
Ye dissembled in your hearts; or, you have used deceit, either towards God, dealing falsely with him, calling him to be a witness to your sincerity in what you never intended any sincerity in; or towards me, sending me to inquire of God for you, and promising to do according to what I should reveal to you from God as his will, whenas you never intended it; or towards your own souls, as every sinner doth but deceive his own soul: you made a pretence of what was not in your hearts, when you sent me to pray God’s direction for you, and made me such a firm promise to do whatsoever I should reveal to you from God as his will in this case.
I have been faithful to you, I went according to your desire to inquire of God for you, I had his will revealed to me in your case, and now I have as faithfully told you what it is;
but ye have not obeyed. How did Jeremiah know this, for they had not yet declared their minds to him? He had either learned it from their discourses during the ten days which God had made him to wait for the revelation, or he had learned it from some contemptuous behaviour of them when he delivered it, or (which is most probable) God had aforehand told it to him.
The prophet ascertaineth that doom unto them which, Jeremiah 42:15-17, he had threatened them with, in case they were resolved to go into Egypt. We must expect nothing but utmost disappointments upon actions done in disobedience to the revealed will of God: you think to avoid death by going thither for a little time to sojourn, but you shall die there, and that by those very deaths which by going thither you seek to avoid,
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany