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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-22

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Chronology as in previous chapter. Observe: Jeremiah and Baruch had been among the captives of Ishmael, whom Johanan rescued (chap. Jeremiah 43:6).

State of the Nation.—The preceding chapter reveals the baseness of the “royal seed” and the infatuation of the people’s latest leader. This chapter discloses the obstinacy of the people “from the least to the greatest” in disobeying God’s purpose and in dissembling their prayers. Thus, all God’s chastisements leaves them still a rebellious nation and justifies the severity of His disciplinary punishments.

Personal Allusion.—Jeremiah 42:1. “Jezaniah:” called “Azariah” (chap. Jeremiah 43:2).

Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 42:2-3. “THE LORD THY GOD.” Some few authorities have אֱלֹהֵיֹנוּ, “our God.” But probably the form is correct, “The Lord thy God,” expressing the people’s sense of Jeremiah’s peculiar relationship to Jehovah But when the prophet replies (Jeremiah 42:4), “The Lord your God,” as if to remind them that He had not cast them off, they change the form of expression into “The Lord our God” (Jeremiah 42:6).

Jeremiah 42:12. “I will show mercies unto you, that he,” &c., i.e. I will give you compassion, or will excite pity for you; i.e. in the king of Babylon.



Jeremiah 42:2-3. Theme: PERPLEXED SUPPLIANTS. “That God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.”

If only these words had been sincere, could their request have been better, or their language more devout?

(A.) Regarding the words as IF SINCERE, they suggest—

I. Inquirers anxiously seeking the light.
II. Suppliants humbly craving God’s favour.
III. Baffled souls troubled to gain clearer leading.
IV. Obedient children eager more perfectly to do God’s will.

(B.) Regarding the words AS HYPOCRITICAL, they show—

I. Good words may be spoken by false lips.
II. Wilful inquirers mocking God with a pretence of seeking guidance.
III. Contumacious sinners assuming the disguise of piety.
IV. While in the very path of transgression
(chap. Jeremiah 41:17), rebels will dissemble and ask God’s permission.

Jeremiah 42:4. Theme: “NO CLOAK FOR THEIR SIN.”

I. Disobedience done without full knowledge is a lesser crime than when clearer light is asked and gained. Had they gone to Egypt without seeking God’s decision upon their course, their rebellion would have been less defiant and blasphemous.

1. The awful guilt of sinning against light!

2. The baseness of asking light while intending to defy it.

II. Audacity reaches its culmination when rebellion ventures to trifle with prayer. Plainly they used prayer merely to get their own way, but determined to act as they wished should God oppose them.

1. Hypocrisy flaunts its pretences in the very face of God.

2. Determined sinners sometimes use religion to gain their own ends.

III. Judgment will be weighted by the woe of slighted grace.

1. God may be sought in prayer; their conduct proves they knew this.

2. Divine guidance is granted to the perplexed; this also they knew, yet trifled with it.

3. Abuse of God’s goodness will provoke the sternest justice; and darken the soul’s doom.

Jeremiah 42:6. Theme: ABSOLUTE SUBMISSION TO GOD’S DIRECTION. Consider the state of affairs: Jerusalem overthrown; only “a few” people left in the city; internal conspiracies: Gedaliah and Ishmael; a “remnant” rescued from Ishmael by Johanan; a despondent and subdued people.

Now arose the question as to the next movement: Should they remain in their country amid disturbances, or go to Egypt and place themselves under foreign protection?

Life it full of this asking, “What next?” From that day to this.

The words “To whom we send thee” show that the people knew they had a prophet among them whom they could send to the Lord. But we have no one whom we can commission to go to God for us; we must go each one for ourselves.

Yet are we not less sure of a hearing; for we have a “Mediator between God and man,” and “Him the Father heareth always.”

I. God appealed to for direction in difficult circumstances. This was of old done by Israel as a nation habitually; they hearkened to God’s direction in their oracles. This is the instinctive act of a godly soul. Marks out whether godly or not. Should use God freely.

1. Can we as surely learn God’s voice now as when He spake by such direct communication? It was so assuring to have a personal hearing and answer. Yet if God has given counsel for every case, and given it once for all in His written Word, we can refer to that. To question that the Bible holds advice for our personal and special wants, is to doubt the wisdom of God who inspired the word for all His people, for every circumstance, for all time.

Besides which, prayer is our privileqe freely to use, as well as the Scriptures.

Do ye not also send us, God’s messengers, to Him for a word from the Lord for you? “Take heed how ye hear.”

Moreover, cannot God impress upon our minds and hearts His will? By His Holy Spirit; by “working within us to will and do of His good pleasure.”

2. Is it right to hazard ourselves when we act from the persuasion that we are doing God’s will? “Whether it be evil, we will obey.”

But that inquiry means, Shall expediency alone rule us, so that we only do what seems advantageous to us and not “evil”?

But if this were our guiding law, would missionary pioneers go with the Gospel where destruction threatened them? Would needy men, for conscience’ sake, stand aside from gain and reward? Would faithful disciples of Jesus carry their cross and endure suffering and toil in following Him? Would the Christian worker penetrate into vile courts where fever raged? Would disciples expose themselves to the ordeal of fierce mocking, &c.? Would the widow have surrendered “all her living”?

Not expediency, therefore; but implicit obedience.

3. Can God really command what seems adverse to our good? Yes; “good or evil;i.e., it may seem so to us.

Johanan thought that he and the remnant would be safest in Egypt (Jeremiah 42:14). But God refused (Jeremiah 42:19).

In asking God’s counsel they knew beforehand He might refuse their wish. Yet they promised to abide by His counsel, “whether it be good or whether it be evil.” For “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither His ways our ways.”

Surely it is only to mock God to ask Him to guide, and then only to obey when we approve! “Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not also receive evil?

II. Man’s resolve of unfaltering obedience to the voice of the Lord.

Nothing could be more unreserved than this avowal: “Whether it be good or evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord,” &c.

If He is “the Lord our God,” then such complete trust is natural and right.

1. Their acknowledgment of perplexity (Jeremiah 42:3). They could not tell what was best or wisest to do; so sought guidance. Too often pride prevents our making such an acknowledgment; and not only when baffled by life’s perplexities, but equally in spiritual quests. But we are here reminded once again that “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” We walk in darkness, stumbling; but knowing not at what we stumble. If we are thus incompetent to choose and act alone in earthly affairs, how much more in eternal matters! Baffled concerning these trifling things, how shall we direct our career towards heaven? We cannot. Acknowledge ignorance, therefore, and incompetency; and go to God.

2. Their belief in the Divine wisdom. However it may seem to us, “good or evil,” God knows best what we should do; go to Him and inquire. Even “the foolishness of God is wiser” than man’s wisdom. He is perfect in knowledge. All His people believe this. Therefore “if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” &c. Pray more when perplexed—in providence—in religion. God will then teach you, and “show you the way wherein,” &c. (Jeremiah 42:3).

3. Their intention respecting the Lord’s answer. And here we are confronted with an astonishing illustration of the influence of self-will; how blinding! (chap. Jeremiah 43:2). Did they mean to abide by the reply Jeremiah brought? They took an oath that they would (Jeremiah 42:5); but “ye dissembled in your hearts,” &c. (Jeremiah 42:20). This is very awful. Oh! let us heed lest we do the same, set aside the Divine counsels by our wilfulness. Do we not often pray for guidance, have we not also vowed obedience, did we not profess to lay ourselves out for service; and somehow there came to us a conviction of God’s will; but it was contrary to our secret inclinations, so we beguiled it away! Beware of “dissembling in your hearts” when you deal with God!

Good or evil.” Let us be honest in our resolve. Ask God, meaning to obey; and obey as if we believe God had taught us what to do. This is “faith, nothing doubting.”

III. Implicit obedience to God Involves our highest welfare. “That it may be well with us, when we obey,” &c. True, “Godliness is great gain;” always for our good to obey.

1. God will befriend those who rely upon Him (Jeremiah 42:10-11). It is an old truth, God preserveth His saints. We are His, if we trust in Him; and He is “for us.” “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalms 37:25). “According to your faith be it done unto you.”

2. He will deal most graciously with those who obey Him (Jeremiah 42:12). “Show mercies;” not only avert ill, but add blessings. Yes, and more; God would dispose the heart of the king of Babylon to their favour, “that he may have mercy upon you and cause you to return to your own land” (Jeremiah 42:12). For “when a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

3. He will gather His faithful people together, and far exceed their prayers and hopes in His dealings with them. For God would effect their ultimate restoration to their land, would raise again about them all the old joys of Jerusalem, and recover to them their lost—national and spiritual—privileges. This they desired; but it was more than they asked.

To an obedient child we not only give what it requests, we draw the child to our very heart. Thus doth God. He will gather us into close and tender relationship to Himself. Yes, and in due season, to His land, where foes shall no more invade, and we shall never more be separated from “the Lord our God.” And in the spiritual blessings with which He will enrich us until the day of our “gathering together unto Him,” we shall find that “it is well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

Jeremiah 42:7. Theme: A DELAYED ANSWER TO PRAYER.

i. Revelation waited for; the prophet would not speak till he had heard.

ii. Interval for deliberation; that the people might judge of their own willingness to accept the message of God.

iii. Obedience tested; for true obedience bows to God’s time, as well as to His way and will.

Jeremiah 42:11. Theme: GOD’S REPENTANCE. “I repent Me of the evil that I have done unto you.” God is said to repent when He alters His outward methods of dealing with men (Augustine).

I am satisfied with the punishment I have inflicted on you, if only you add not a new offence” (Grotius).


I. A forbidden course. To “go into the land of Egypt.”

The reason for this prohibition was that Egypt was infamous for idolatry, full of the snares of luxury, doomed for its oppression of their ancestors. It was a standing prohibition (Deuteronomy 17:16).

II. Coveted advantages. “Where we shall see no war,” &c.

1. Sin always entices with delusive promises. But Egypt’s troubles were just setting in, and there would be only war and woe till it was destroyed.

2. Sinners show their rebellion in disbelieving God’s promises (Jeremiah 42:10-11), as if He were a liar (1 John Jeremiah 42:10).

III. Vain hopes.

1. Though they had deserved only evil, they still dreamed of peace and prosperity. So do transgressors still “deceive their own souls.”

2. Though they intended further transgression, they boasted in the prospect of comfort. But “the ways of transgressors are hard;” and “though hand join in hand, they shall not go unpunished.”

Jeremiah 42:16. Theme: CALAMITY PURSUING TRANSGRESSORS. “The sword which ye feared shall overtake you there; and the famine whereof ye were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt.”

i. Because sinners carry their own woe with them wherever they go, even into hell.

ii. Because God follows transgressors wherever they go, and His being with them makes their terror.

I. The very evils we think to escape by sin, we bring the more surely upon ourselves.

1. For the act of sinning renders punishment certain.

2. Wrong courses never can lead aright.

3. Adopting evil devices in order to avert evil results is the height of frenzy and folly.

II. What our hearts most eagerly determine often proves most fatal to us.

1. Because the heart is deceitful and wicked, and to follow its devices and desires lands us in rebellion against God and neglect of our highest spiritual good. “Whoso trusteth his own heart is a fool.”

2. Because sin blinds our perception of good and magnifies the advantages of evil.

It reverses the telescope when looking at good and minimises it; but it turns the instrument in full focus on evil, and vastly enlarges it. “The god of this world blinds the minds of them that believe not.”

3. Because the highest blessings we receive come to us through self-denial and suffering. Certainly not through indulgence! “Take up thy cross and follow Me.” “Strait it the gate that leadeth unto life.”

III. No hiding-place can be found for escape from the penalties of wrong.

1. Not on earth. “If I take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth.” See Jeremiah 42:17.

2. Not in death. “If I make my bed in Hades.”

3. Not in eternity. For judgment and doom meet the sinner there (Revelation 6:15-17. See Jeremiah 42:18.)

Jeremiah 42:18. Theme: APPEAL TO PAST JUDGMENTS—A WARNING. “As Mine anger and My fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall My fury be poured forth upon you.”

I. Predicted doom fulfilled. For what had occurred had been foretold (chap. Jeremiah 7:20; Jeremiah 18:16). God had acted true to His word.

II. Repeated guilt threatened. The arrows of the Lord are in quiver, ready!

III. Neglected warnings punished. In vain all appeals (Jeremiah 42:19); certain therefore the doom (Jeremiah 42:21-22).

Jeremiah 42:20. Theme: HYPOCRISY OF DESIRING THE PRAYERS OF OTHERS. Frequently persons desire their ministers’ prayers, yet are strangers to fear of God, and negligent of duty. Place a false and dangerous dependence on others’ prayers. “Remnant” of the Jews left from captivity entreated Jeremiah’s prayers (Jeremiah 42:2), and took oath to obey voice of Lord (Jeremiah 42:5). But they had determined to go to Egypt, and asked his prayers hypocritically. Text.

I. Consider on what principle desiring the prayers of others is grounded.

1. A persuasion that it is our duty to pray one for another. (1.) This a dictate of reason (Ezra 6:10; 1Ma. 12:11). (2.) Expressly required in the word of God (Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:16). Thus Samuel saith (1 Samuel 12:23). (3.) The pious custom of good men. Abraham for Sodom. Hezekiah sent Isaiah to pray for him and his kingdom. Christ prayed for disciples; Paul, in all his epistles, for his friends.

2. Desiring the prayers of others supposeth that God hath often answered intercessory prayers of good men. God loves good men; they have an interest in heaven; others are favoured for their sake (Genesis 20:7; Job 42:8). Moses prayed, and Amalek was vanquished, fire in camp quenched, plague stayed, destructive serpents removed, Miriam’s leprosy healed, plagues taken from Pharaoh; God so influenced by his prayers that He said, “Let Me alone,” &c. (Exodus 32:10). Hezekiah’s prayer for offenders (2 Chronicles 30:20). Same truth implied in inhibition of prayers (Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11; Jeremiah 29:7). Peter delivered from prison (Acts 12:5); Paul rescued (2 Corinthians 1:11). On this principle the intercession of Christ is founded; “Father loveth Him,” &c., “heareth Him always.”

3. It supposeth that it is very desirable, specially in some cases, to have the prayers of others for us; that we reap advantages. God heeds the pleadings of those He loves. There are special circumstances when particularly desirable; physical prostration, when cannot pray for ourselves; perplexity or distress of mind, as in Job 37:19; in cases of great importance and difficulty, as Jeremiah 42:3. Encouraged by Christ’s promise (Matthew 18:19).

II. When they who desire the prayers of others may be said to dissemble in their hearts.

1. When they desire them without sincerity; through form and custom; when a mere compliment to the piety of those they ask; when done under pretence to humility; when only desire temporal blessings, averse to spiritual (1 Kings 13:6; Acts 8:24). So also when public praise is returned for deliverances (Isaiah 26:16); yet no public glory for mercies (Luke 17:18).

2. When they will not pray for themselves; practically live without God, neglect public worship and secret devotion. Imagine that ministers’ prayers more acceptable than their own. Not use proper means to obtain what they ask: health, prosperity, self-conquest.

3. When they will not do what God by His word and ministers requireth. Jews promised (Jeremiah 42:5-6); yet were resolutely determined on their course, contrary to command of God. Pharaoh (Exodus 4:28). Men ask our prayers, but will not part with their lusts, nor practise duties as enjoined.

III. Show the hypocrisy and evil of this conduct.

1. It is a high affront to the all-seeing and holy God. It is mocking God (Jeremiah 42:20; Jeremiah 42:22).

2. It is deceiving and grieving to those friends whose prayers they desire. They hope for the best; yet if discern insincerity they will have no heart to pray for you. In affliction, prayers sought; but neglect your intercessors and religion in your prosperity.

3. Prayers offered for such persons are not likely to avail. Margin reads, “You have used deceit against your own souls.”

Servants in praying families, heed this. Weak persons who look to godly persons’ prayers in their last moments (Proverbs 28:9). Holy men’s prayers may secure a temporary good (James 5:15), but ensure no lasting advantage; no salvation of the soul.

Application.—(1.) Learn with what dispositions of mind we should desire the prayers of others: in sincerity; concurring with them; ready to obey God (Psalms 65:2). (2.) That we should be ready to pray one for another. Our intercessions may bless; and we shall be blessed in return (Psalms 35:13). (3.) It is particularly wicked to dissemble in our hearts when we profess dependence on the intercession of Christ. His intercession not intended to supersede our prayers (Revelation 8:3; Hebrews 7:25). If you neglect prayer, or pray formally, or live in violation of His teachings, you offer indignity to His holy character and office of mediator.—Abstract of Sermon by Rev. Job Orton, Kidderminster, A.D. 1775.

Jeremiah 42:21-22. Theme: ADMONISHED AND ABANDONED.

I. Wilful self-deceit. They tried to beguile themselves that they were acting religiously, and were ready to listen to God’s word, and were doing what was pleasing to Him; while all the time they were resolved to follow their own course, yet hoped that God would give approval to their rebellion.

Like instances of self-deceit, Numbers 22:5; Numbers 22:19; Matthew 23:11; Luke 18:11; and 1 Timothy 4:2.

II. Given over to delusions. All further counsels, persuasions, prayers for you are useless. You both “believe a lie,” and “will have none of My reproof.” For such obstinacy there is no cure; you must now be left to be “filled with the knowledge of your own devices.”

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/jeremiah-42.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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