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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-6


Jeremiah 42:1-3


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...

(Jeremiah 42:2). 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. 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 .....

(Jeremiah 42:3). 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.


(Jeremiah 42:1). 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.

Jeremiah 42:4-6


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 voice of Jehovah our God, to whom we send thee; that it may 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.

2. The request of the prophet (Jeremiah 42:1-6)

It is while the people were encamped near Bethlehem that Jeremiah returns to the narrative. Nothing has been recorded about his activities since he chose to dwell with Gedaliah in Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:7 to Jeremiah 41:18). Since Jeremiah is with the remnant at the inn of Chimham it would seem reasonable to assume that he had been among the captives led away by Ishmael. This seems preferable to the alternative view that Jeremiah and Baruch had been absent from Mizpah during the mid of Ishmael and joined the group later by their own choice. At any rate Jeremiah now comes to the fore again as the spiritual counselor of the people. The entire group of fugitives assembled before the prophet in order to receive an oracle from the Lord. Johanan and Jezaniah acted as spokesmen for the group (Jeremiah 42:1). Another Jezaniah is mentioned in Jeremiah 40:8. Very courteously they made their request. They desire that God might direct their path (Jeremiah 42:2).

Jeremiah listened to the well-worded plea of the leaders with sympathetic ears. He still loved his people dearly and so agrees to fulfill their request. Jeremiah knew, however, that these people already had their minds made up as to what they were going to do. They had decided that it was necessary to flee into Egypt and they assumed that this decision would be indorsed and confirmed by the Lord. After all, what other alternative was there? Anticipating that God would not approve of their plan, Jeremiah warns the people that he will speak only that which the Lord reveals. He will not alter the word of God to suit the present circumstances. He would not hold back the truth (Jeremiah 42:4). Somewhat over enthusiastically the people take a vow that they will act in accordance with the word of God (Jeremiah 42:5-6). It is obvious from what follows that they were not sincere in this declaration. Like so many of God’s people, they were willing to follow His word only in so far as His word met with their approval.

Verses 7-22

Jer 42:7-22

Jeremiah 42:7-8


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...

(Jeremiah 42:7). 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. 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."

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." However, as Smith observed, "That would turn Jeremiah into a wise politician instead of a divine prophet!"

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.

Jeremiah 42:9-12


and said unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him: 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. 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)," 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.

Jeremiah 42:13-17


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 into 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.

Jeremiah 42:18


For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: As mine anger and my wrath hath 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."

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.

Jeremiah 42:19-22


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...

(Jeremiah 42:21). 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. 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).

3. The response of the Lord (Jeremiah 42:7-22)

Jeremiah waited ten days before the Lord clearly made known His will to the mind of the prophet. It seems as though God was preparing the heart of His messenger both to receive and to communicate His word to the people. No doubt the people were perturbed by the delay. They knew what the divine directive had to be, so why delay. Each day they manifested their impatience and disgust. Still Jeremiah refused to speak until he was certain that the message was from God. After ten days of prayerful wrestling with God, the answer came. Jeremiah immediately called for the entire encampment to hear God’s word. The response of the Lord contains two parts: the way of peace (Jeremiah 42:10-12), and the way to punishment (Jeremiah 42:13-18). To this is added a word of exhortation by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:19-22).

a) The way of Peace (Jeremiah 42:10-12). The word of the Lord came as a complete shock to the assembled remnant.

It was God’s will that they remain in Judah! If they chose to remain in the land, God would build them up i.e., cause them to prosper. God was not angry with them. Quite the contrary. The Lord declares: “I repent Me of the evil that I have done unto you” (Jeremiah 42:10). This is not a confession of mistake or of remorse for the disasters which He has brought upon them. Rather it means that His attitude and conduct toward His people now has changed. He is not hostile toward them any longer. Hu man reason would indicate that they flee to Egypt and place themselves under the protection of Pharaoh. To re main in the land would be an act of faith.

After the general promises of peace and prosperity, the Lord addressed Himself to the specific fears of the community. Their anxiety concerning the reaction of Nebuchadnezzar to the death of his governor were groundless. God was with them and would deliver them out of the hand of the Chaldean king (Jeremiah 42:11) and the king whom they feared would actually show mercy to them (Jeremiah 42:12). With the change of only one vowel in the Hebrew the phrase “cause you to return” can be read “cause you to dwell.” This reading is preferable in view of the circumstances here. How often in the life of a Christian the worst fears prove to be ungrounded.

b) The way of punishment (Jeremiah 42:13-18). The people as free moral agents had a choice to make. If they chose to remain in the land they would enjoy peace and prosperity. But if they chose flight to Egypt they would experience the punishment of God. The choice was up to them. God lets man choose his destiny.

Anticipating the reaction to the people to the commandment of God to remain in the land Jeremiah undercuts the major argument of the Egypt-bound remnant. In Egypt the people imagined that they would enjoy peace and plenty. They would escape, so they thought, the ravishes of war (Jeremiah 42:14). Not so, said Jeremiah. The sword will follow you to Egypt and there you will experience all the horrors of war (Jeremiah 42:16). There you will die of the sword, famine, and pestilence (Jeremiah 42:17). Just as in the past the nation had experienced the judgments of God, so would the wrath of God be poured out upon the remnant if they disobeyed this command of God. They would become an object of execration and horror; they would be accursed and derided. They would never again see their homeland (Jeremiah 42:15).

c) The prophetic exhortation (Jeremiah 42:19-22). As Jeremiah delivered the word of the Lord he could see in his audience the hardened look of rejection. Earnestly he exhorts his hearers to follow the divine directive and remain in the land. “This is not my personal opinion; the Lord has spoken concerning you O remnant. You surely know that I have admonished or testified against you this day (Jeremiah 42:19). Your guilt is all the more serious[355] in that you sent me unto the Lord to inquire concerning His will and you pledged yourselves to submit to that will (Jeremiah 42:20-21).” “You dissembled in your hearts” (KJV) i.e., you have deceived yourselves.” On this translation Jeremiah is charging them with self-deception. Another translation of the phrase is possible: “you have erred at the risk of your lives.” On this translation Jeremiah is saying that these people have put their life in jeopardy by swearing to obey God and then rejecting His commandment. This disobedience had sealed their own death warrant. Unbelief does not alter the word of God. “Be absolutely sure of this one thing,” says the prophet: “If you persist in your manifest intentions to go to Egypt you shall die of the sword, famine, and the pestilence (Jeremiah 42:22).”

The Flight to Egypt - Jeremiah 40:7 to Jeremiah 45:5

Open It

1. Whom do you know who has been too trusting and suffered because he or she refused to believe ill of another person?

2. What traditional superstitions were you taught as you were growing up?

Explore It

3. How did the governor appointed by the Babylonians reassure the small fighting force that remained in the land after the Babylonians withdrew? (Jeremiah 40:7-10)

4.How did the remnant of people in the land of Judah grow and begin to prosper? (Jeremiah 40:11-12)

5. What warning did some of the commanders give to Gedaliah, the appointed governor? (Jeremiah 40:13-14)

6. How did Johanan propose to solve the threat against Gedaliah, which he perceived as potentially disastrous to the whole remnant? (Jeremiah 40:15)

7. How did Gedaliah respond to Johanan’s desire to protect him? (Jeremiah 40:16)

8. What devious plan was carried out by Ishmael and his followers? (Jeremiah 41:1-3)

9. What evil deeds did Ishmael add to his murder of Gedaliah? (Jeremiah 41:4-10)

10. What transpired when Johanan caught up to Ishmael? (Jeremiah 41:11-15)

11. What did Johanan assume the remaining faithful people would have to do since Gedaliah had been murdered? (Jeremiah 41:16-18)

12. What request did Johanan and the people with him make of the prophet Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 42:1-3)

13. What promises did Jeremiah and the people make to one another? (Jeremiah 42:4-6)

14. What positive commands and reassuring words did Jeremiah bring from God? (Jeremiah 42:7-12)

15. What warning did God have for the people in anticipation of their intended disobedience? (Jeremiah 42:13-18)

16. Of what fatal mistake did Jeremiah accuse the remnant of Judah? (Jeremiah 42:19-22)

17. How did Johanan and the other leaders rationalize their disobedience? (Jeremiah 43:1-3)

18. Who were the people who entered Egypt, some of them against their will? (Jeremiah 43:4-7)

19. When he was at Tahpanhes with the others, what symbolic action did God tell Jeremiah to take, and what was the meaning? (Jeremiah 43:8-13)

20. For what sin did God, through Jeremiah, remind the people that He had punished Judah and Jerusalem? (Jeremiah 44:1-6)

21. Why was Jeremiah amazed that the remnant had not learned a lesson from all that had happened before? (Jeremiah 44:7-10)

22. What did God say He would do to all those determined to go to Egypt for protection? (Jeremiah 44:11-14)

23. What superstitious belief did the people cite as they defied Jeremiah openly? (Jeremiah 44:15-19)

24. How did Jeremiah proceed to correct their thinking about the real cause of their misfortune? (Jeremiah 44:20-23)

25. With what vow did God answer the people’s vow to continue worshiping the "Queen of Heaven"? (Jeremiah 44:24-28)

26. What did God promise to do to the pharaoh of Egypt, whom the Israelites considered an ally against Babylon? (Jeremiah 44:29-30)

27. Why was the scribe, Baruch, feeling sorry for himself? (Jeremiah 45:1-3)

28. How did God respond to Baruch’s self-pity? (Jeremiah 45:4-5)

Get It

29. What mistake on the part of a well-meaning governor kept the remnant of poor people and fugitive soldiers from prospering after the Babylonian conquest?

30. How did reliance on their own wisdom and preconceptions about God’s answer get Johanan and his fellow leaders into trouble?

31. What (other than fear of the Babylonians) led the people to ignore God and His prophet, Jeremiah?

32. Why did Jeremiah call the disobedience of the people who insisted on fleeing to Egypt a fatal mistake?

33. Why do people swear oaths that they don’t really intend to keep?

34. Why are some people willing to attribute their misfortune to God’s indifference or powerlessness rather than to their own sins?

35. When have you felt discouraged because of how long you have endured hardship in doing the right thing?

36. What blessings will follow if we allow God’s loving-kindness to be our reward for faithfulness?

Apply It

37. In what area of your life do you need to pray for God’s perspective on human evil?

38. What initial steps can you take to refocus on the eternal rather than the earthly rewards when you face discouragement in serving the Lord?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapters Forty-Two & Forty-Three

By Brent Kercheville

1 What do the people as Jeremiah to do (Jeremiah 42:1-6)? What do we learn from this?

2 How long do they wait for prayer to be answered?

3 What was God’s response to their prayer (Jeremiah 42:7-22)? What was the clear message to them?

4 What is the people’s response to God’s answer given through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43:1-7)? What lessons do we learn from this?

5 What is God’s message for their disobedience (Jeremiah 43:8-13)?


How does this relationship change your relationship with God? What did you learn about him? What will

you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 42". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-42.html.
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