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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 44". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ jeremiah-44.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 44". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—A considerable interval must be placed between this chapter and the two preceding, which record their arrival in Egypt; for we here find the fugitives coming together to Pathros from their different towns, so that we have to allow time for their dispersion through Egypt and settlement in widely separated cities there. Yet the address of Jeremiah assumes that he speaks to the people of the migration who have come into Egypt, and not to a later generation born in Egypt. Dr. Payne Smith puts the incident only a year after their arrival in Egypt, but this seems too early; and it may be nearer the case to conjecture the date as being from five to ten years after the flight into Egypt, probably about 580 B.C., though Lange suggests 510 B.C. See Introduction, p. 2, V. c.
2. Contemporaneous Scriptures.—Ezekiel’s visions in Babylon are synchronous. See also Psalms 137:0. Daniel also in Babylon (see chaps. 3, 4.) Obadiah also rises at this time in prophecy, denouncing Edom for its exultation over Zion’s overthrow.
3. Geographical References.—Jeremiah 44:1. “Migdol,” meaning “a tower,” a boundary city in the north of Egypt, now Magdolum, twelve miles from Pelusium. “Tahpanhes,” note on chap. Jeremiah 43:8, and “Noph,” note on chap. Jeremiah 2:16. Pathros, i.e. Upper Egypt (see Ezekiel 29:14).
4. Personal Allusion.—Jeremiah 44:30. PHARAOH-HOPHRA, vide Contemporaneous History, note to chap. 32. Hophra, known to the Greeks as Apries, succeeded Psammis, the successor to Pharaoh-Necho, whom Nebuchadnezzar defeated at Charchemish. Vide “Extermination of Jewish Exiles in Egypt,” below, p. 620.
Jeremiah 44:19. “The Queen of Heaven.” Vide note in loc. Jeremiah 7:18.
5. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 44:9. “The wickedness of your wives.” As the Hebrew suffix is singular, נָשֳׁיו, the LXX. alter the word and give “your princes.” But Henderson, Keil, Naegelsbach, and others would retain the word as referring to the Jewish queens, who were abettors of idolatry (1 Kings 14:1-8; 1 Kings 15:13), and take the singular suffix in a collective sense.
Jeremiah 44:10. “Not humbled,” lit. “broken” (as Isaiah 19:10) or bruised” (Isaiah 53:6).
Jeremiah 44:14. “They have a desire to return,” i.e. are lifting up their souls to return to Judah. Vide Literary Criticisms, Jeremiah 22:27.
Jeremiah 44:19. “To worship her,” i.e. the Queen of Heaven. The Hiph. of עצב. In the Piel form (Job 10:8) the word is rendered by the meaning to fashion, shape. The meaning is similar here, to represent her; the cakes being made in the form of a crescent to represent the moon. “Without our men,” i.e. our husbands.
SUBJECT OF CHAPTER 44
JEWISH IDOLATRY IN EGYPT
OCCASION OF THE IDOLATROUS ASSEMBLY. There had gathered together at Pathros “a great multitude” of the Jews resident in Egypt.
I. It was a public festival in honour of Astarte, the “Queen of Heaven” (Jeremiah 44:17); and libations are being offered to her in accordance with a vow the worshippers had made, “Do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our mouth.” This is the usual phrase for a vow (Numbers 30:2; Numbers 30:12; Judges 11:36). They had, therefore, bound themselves to this public homage of the queen of heaven, and were now intent upon carrying out the special object which brought them together (see Jeremiah 44:25 : “Our vows that we have vowed,” &c.)
II. It was to an assembly of women that the prophet spake. For this “great multitude” is literally a great kahal, or congregation gathered for a religious purpose; and “except for such a purpose Jewish manners would not allow the women to be abroad in crowds” (Dr. Payne Smith). The women are now the speakers, replying to Jeremiah’s protest (see Jeremiah 44:19, “without our men,” i.e., husbands).
III. The men, however, though excluded from such an assembly, knew what their wives and daughters were doing (Jeremiah 44:15). Though they do not engage in this service of homage to the Queen of Heaven, they sympathise with and favour it; for they have come with the women to Pathros, thus sanctioning the occasion of their assembling.
IV. The festival observances consisted of fragrant incense burnt upon an altar, and libations poured out “unto her” (Jeremiah 44:17), possibly before some image or representation of Astarte, and cakes made (either to be burnt or eaten) which were shaped like the crescent of the moon. Before this altar, and perhaps also image, of the moon-goddess the women advanced and passed in regular procession, chanting as they came, and reciting the benefits they had received from the hands of the goddess they adored (Jeremiah 44:17).
V. The infatuation of these idolatrous worshippers. This adoration of Astarte was rife (Jeremiah 44:17) when Josiah ascended the throne; its suppression by Josiah was regarded with much secret ill-will. In Jehoiakim’s reign the people hastened back to their idolatry (see note, National History, to chap. 7 p. 143; and homily on Section 16–20, p. 147; also on Jeremiah 44:17-18, p. 158, 159). Zedekiah prohibited this form of worship during the miseries of his reign. The people now, from amid Egyptian scenes, look back over the history of their national misfortunes and ascribe them all to their neglect of this goddess (Jeremiah 44:18).
VI. Specious excuses offered in extenuation of their apostasy. Several pleas are urged:—1. Their vows must be fulfilled (Jeremiah 44:17); and this pledge they dare not violate, for that would entail the anger of Astarte. 2. Their idolatry had the sanction of national custom in the days gone by; for their ancestors had practised it generally and publicly with the sanction of their kings and princes (Jeremiah 44:17). 3. It had entailed no calamity (Jeremiah 44:18); for they persist in ignoring their wickedness (Jeremiah 44:9) as the cause of their distresses, and now ascribe calamity to their neglect of this goddess. 4. These female worshippers of Astarte had the authority and protection of their husbands in their idolatry (Jeremiah 44:19). Without the consent of their husbands the vows of women are not binding (Numbers 30:7-8); but as “our men” support us in these obligations to Astarte, we, their wives and daughters, are blameless and irreproachable. Thus they desire to shield themselves under the complicity of others.
AN INDIGNANT PROTEST AGAINST APOSTASY. Delivered amid the idol-scenes of Egypt, and to the assembly of Jewish apostates.
I. A bold and vehement expostulation. Jeremiah stops the procession of the women, and the festival of Astarte, to pronounce against it in the name of God. The prophet was undeterred by the violence he had endured at the hands of his nation, who had dragged him away into Egypt, but fearlessly rebuked their apostasy from God for the idolatries of Egypt (Jeremiah 44:8). In this earnest remonstrance he declares—(a.) that the existing desolation and ruin of Judea were the evil consequences of their own past wickedness in apostatising from Jehovah (Jeremiah 44:2-7); and (b.) that for them to continue such idolatries in Egypt would certainly entail destruction and ruin upon themselves (Jeremiah 44:8-14). If God had not spared “Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 44:2), the holy city, where He had made His name to dwell, and which He loved, will He, think you, spare Egypt—a scene He loathes? (Jeremiah 44:8). And he heaps maledictions upon them—(a.) for their needless and voluntary and wilful departure into Egypt (Jeremiah 44:8), “whither ye be gone to dwell”—not carried by force as your brethren in Babylon; and now (b.) for their flagrant insult of Jehovah’s honour before the very eyes of the heathen, “burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt” (Jeremiah 44:8). For this their aggravating guilt, he declares their sure and terrible extermination (Jeremiah 44:11-14).
II. Wilful refusal of the prophetic admonition. Here the men join the women in loud and obstinate rejection of God’s word (Jeremiah 44:15-16). (a.) They implicitly acknowledge that this solemn protest of the prophet is Jehovah’s word (Jeremiah 44:16); (b.) but insist that the happiest days of their nation were associated with Astarter’s worship (Jeremiah 44:17): (c.) that the favour of the Queen of Heaven guarantees more advantages than the worship of Jehovah (Jeremiah 44:18-19). It was thus a declaration of—(1.) Absolute faith in other gods; Polytheism, therefore. (2.) Preference for and a higher esteem of Astarte; which means abandonment of Jehovah as their national God. (3.) Indifference to all Jehovah’s displeasure and threatenings; they were better off, with His anger, in Astarte’s favour, for the Queen of Heaven was certainly more benign, whereas Jehovah’s protection had been of little good to them.
III. Refutation of popular fallacies and announcement of certain doom. Taking up the facts of their national misery and final expatriation, Jeremiah shows—(a.) That, though they played an idolatrous part in their own land, their idols had not preserved them from national destruction; for “your land is a desolation,” &c. (Jeremiah 44:22). (b.) That their deeds of flagrant apostasy went up before God as a memorial and witness against them for their ingratitude and faithlessness (Jeremiah 44:23); for He had established and honoured them as a nation by giving them “His law, His statutes, and His testimonies” (Jeremiah 44:23). (c.) That because of their “evil doings and abominations” (Jeremiah 44:22) God could no longer hold back the doom which at last overwhelmed the land and the people (Jeremiah 44:22-23).
Then GOD ABANDONS THEM FOR EVER. (1.) They had allied themselves by vows to an idol (Jeremiah 44:25), and resolutely kept their vows of allegiance though God pleaded with them (Jeremiah 44:16). (2.) The Most High therefore divorces them from Himself by solemn oath (Jeremiah 44:26), and breaks His covenant with them as His people. (3.) Declares that He will no longer extend His protection over them, but will be their enemy (Jeremiah 44:27-28); and (4.) Gives them an ominous sign (in predicting the fate of their Egyptian king) of the certainty that He will avenge on them the insult of their open rejection of Him (Jeremiah 44:29-30), and which will convince them that it is the hand of the God they have insulted which chastises them for their guilt.
THE FINAL WORD OF WOE: JEREMIAH’S FAREWELL PROPHECY
I. A long and painful ministry, closing amid saddest circumstances. See Introduction, V., Length of his Official Ministry, p. 2. Could any facts be wanting to complete the melancholy surroundings? (a.) His pleadings and warnings against a fatal national policy in trusting to Egypt, all unheeded. (b.) His nation vanquished and scattered; some in Babylon, others in Egypt. (c.) Jerusalem destroyed, God’s temple in ruins, the land given up to execration (Jeremiah 44:22). (d.) Himself, an old and forlorn prophet, amid aliens, and even more alien fellow-countrymen. (e.) His people sunk into lower depths of iniquity than during his entire career; and now at last absolutely repudiating Jehovah as the object of their worship and obedience.
II. A brave and heroic career, shining out lustrously to the end. For over fifty years he had been God’s messenger: to this hardened people. He had suffered much at their hands; yet, undaunted till the last, and now at so great an age, between seventy and eighty years old, lifting up his voice in fearless protestation and fervent pleadings amid the people whom he had sought to keep faithful to God. His last outcry is full of grand prophetic power.
III. A lifelong witness against sinners, ending amid signs of fruitlessness and defeat. Not one feature of hope illumines the dense darkness and poignant melancholy of this last sight of Jeremiah. Every view looks mournful and piteous. (a.) No good seems to have resulted from all his earnest, prolonged, faithful, and self-sacrificing work. (b.) No prospect opens as a relief to the desolate retrospect. The sun sinks before him amid portending tempests of terror and woe. The Christian tradition respecting his death is that he was stoned to death at Tahpanhes by his own countrymen! Another tradition is that he escaped to Babylon. But no star rises on the dark night. This chapter gives the farewell glance at the hoary prophet; and his last utterance is one of severest gloom.
Note.—In 2 Maccabees 1, 2, there is a most interesting story of Jeremiah hiding the sacred fire, the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Altar of incense in a cave in Mount Nebo previous to his leaving Judea, where, says the record, they remain to this day, nor will be discovered until God collects Israel together again.
EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWISH EXILES IN EGYPT
I. Of their total extinction in Egypt they had been solemnly forewarned (chap. Jeremiah 42:15-18). Their presence in Egypt, therefore, invited the punishment.
II. Their open abandonment of Jehovah now as their God added the fatal element to their rebellion (Jeremiah 44:16-17).
III. God’s awful farewell to these guilty people is taken under the solemnity of an oath, as indicating its irrevocableness (Jeremiah 44:26).
IV. Their absolute extermination, Jehovah will see to it that it is effected (Jeremiah 44:27).
THE EXTERMINATION ACCOMPLISHED. Their asylum proved no shelter from the pursuing vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar.
I. The “sign” by which they should realise God’s destructive judgments. Pharaoh-Hophra, when defeated in battle by the Cyrenians, became regarded with suspicion as having betrayed his native troops for selfish ends, and hence a revolt arose. Amasis, whom Hophra sent to treat with these mutinous troops, himself went over to the rebels. Hophra, gathering an army of foreign auxiliaries, now fought against Amasis and the Egyptian troops, but was defeated and taken captive. After treating him kindly for some years, Amasis, because the Egyptians regarded this indulgence with ill-favour, surrendered Hophra to his enemies, by whom he was strangled. He came to the throne a year before the Jewish migration to Egypt, and continued king for eighteen years after, although his last ten years were spent a prisoner in his palace at Saïr. This civil war of Amasis with Hophra opened the way for Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt in the twenty-third year of his reign.
II. The total extermination of the Jewish refugees in Egypt. A thousand years before God had led forth His people from Egypt with a mighty hand, and planted them in Zion; but Israel had failed of her mission; and now these most arrant rebels shall utterly perish in this land of Egypt, where they boasted they could find safe asylum (chap. Jeremiah 42:14), abandoned and disowned by God (chap. Jeremiah 44:26), exterminated by the rage of the king of Babylon, from whom they sought refuge in Egypt, but who avenged himself upon them there with merciless wrath (Jeremiah 44:12).
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 44
Jeremiah 44:2-13. Theme: GOD’S APPEAL AGAINST JUDAH. In this wretched “remnant” the old root of disobedience and unbelief remains still.
I. A mirror of the stubborn heart of man.
1. Unceasingly warned. For centuries (Jeremiah 44:10).
2. Faithfully and impassionedly warned (Jeremiah 44:3). By words of thunder and strokes of power. Think only of Elijah, Elisha, Hosea, Isaiah, &c.
II. The judgment of just love executed.
I. All reforming and redeeming agencies failed. Judah hardened his stubborn neck (Jeremiah 44:5; Jeremiah 44:10).
2. Long-suffering love became exhausted, and there remained nothing but the doom which outraged mercy demanded (Jeremiah 44:6-13). Compare Naegelsbach.
Jeremiah 44:4. Theme: GOD HATES SIN. “Oh, do not the abominable thing which I hate.”
God speaks these words of wickedness. All sin is in principle idolatry; the sinner leaves the true God, and pays homage to some idol.
He who searches the heart may see now that there is some “abominable thing” upon which you are intent—planned during the week, resolved upon. But the Almighty One stoops to beseech you, “Oh, do not,” &c. Do not pass this message of God on to another fellow-hearer; your sin is “the abominable thing.”
God hates sin; so hates it in all its forms—as a principle, an act, a course of life, that it is an “abominable thing.”
Why does He hate it? He hates nothing He has made. Many things you dislike He does not dislike—the reptile, &c.; but the one thing He hates is a thing He has not made; it is a thing the creature has made, not the Creator.
I. Let us inquire what sin is. Violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Doing what God forbids; or not doing what He commands. To love, both God and our neighbour, is the fulfilling of the law (Matthew 22:36-40). Right conduct, without love, is therefore sin. He hates it—
1. Because it is contrary to His own nature. “Holy is the Lord God.”
2. Because sin is unnatural in His creatures. It is no part of the human constitution, but a foreign element.
3. Because sin transgresses holy, just, and good laws. Not of some arbitrary commandment.
4. Because it defiles and injures the entire human nature. It pollutes what should be pure; blasts and blights.
5. Because it makes men curses to each other. What has changed children into profligates, mothers into brutes, fathers into beasts of prey? Do not wonder God says, “I hate it.”
6. Because it ignores, or rejects, the Divine government. And no government is so paternal, tender, and beneficent as God’s.
7. Because wherever sin exists, except it is checked by God’s mercy, it has the dominion. A cruel tyrant!
8. Because where it is introduced it spreads. In every clime; through every race; through every grade of society; a deadly pestilence.
9. Because sin requires God to inflict upon men, of every class and kind, that which He assures us upon His oath He has no pleasure in.
10. Because continuing in sin, while hearing the Gospel, tramples under foot the blood of Jesus.
II. Hear, then, God’s entreaty: “Do it not!”
1. What are you going to do? Persist in it? Think! Do you really mean to go on sinning in the face of such a message? With conscience smarting, memory weighted, remorse springing up in your soul like a tempest, with a fearful looking-for of judgment, with your miserable convictions and bitter tears, your gloomy forebodings and knowledge of penalties, are you determined to continue?
2. Then there can be but little hope, if this state of heart continue, concerning you. You may live, with a seared conscience, until you lay down on the bed of death; and there perhaps all your old fears will be awakened—when it is too late! Then, as you sink down into perdition, the millstone about your neck will be “the abominable thing which God hates.”—Rev. Samuel Martin (Westminster), 1858 A.D.
Jeremiah 44:4. Theme: THE ABOMINABLE NATURE OF SIN. “Howbeit I sent unto you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.”
No man can think his guilt too great. We may confine our views to sin and exclude mercy, but we cannot overrate guilt. God long laboured in vain with the Jews, and at length Nebuchadnezzar carried the mass of them to Babylon. Jeremiah took the remnant to Egypt. While there he spoke to them the words of the text. The “abominable thing” was their idolatry; the same may be said of all sin. Sin is the “abominable thing” God hates. This appears—
I. From the nature of things. Sin is opposed to the wishes and designs of God. “God is love,” and His object is to raise all creatures to highest eternal happiness. They must therefore have the same love He possesses, and own Him for their Head, His law being their standard.
1. Sin sets up private interest against public good. The root of sin is self-love, and out of it arise all evil passions that hurry men and devils into evil against Heaven. Sin is the transgression of the law. And this being its nature, makes it the enemy of happiness. The Friend and Guardian of the universe hates and must punish sin. Love abominates it.
2. Sin opposes God in all good for His creatures; it resists all His loving purposes. That He does hate sin we see—
II. From His expressions of abhorrence.
1. In the penalty annexed to His law, the eternal exclusion from good, and eternal endurance of evil. This endless evil is the measure of God’s hatred of sin.
2. In His providential government. When angels sinned, not all God’s love nor their dignity could save them. When Adam and Eve sinned they were turned out of Eden. The Flood swept the world when it was filled with violence. For sin Egypt was lashed with ten plagues, and her king found a watery grave. And when Israel sinned, God brought upon them fiery serpents and fire from heaven; the ground opened and swallowed them up; and while they possessed the promised land His providence was a constant remembrancer of His hatred of sin. God’s anger against sin destroyed Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Edom, Moab, and the Philistines.
(a.) All human suffering and death express God’s anger against sin. Sinners will be punished according to their guilt.
(b.) What strength of that abhorrence of sin is uttered in the cry, “Oh, do not this abominable thing,” &c.!
(c.) Yet one exhibition of God’s anger against sin is more amazing than the rest. For us God spared not His own Son, and will He then, O sinner, spare thee?
Who are sinners? “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And, moreover, all are under the entire dominion of sin. “God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of” man’s “heart was only evil continually.” As is the fountain, so are the streams. Words and actions of the natural man are but sin.
III. Considering God’s abhorrence of sin, how astonishing His long forbearance, and how wonderful “the love of God which passeth knowledge”!
1. We have cause for humility. Self-importance and conscious worth are unbecoming. How fearful would have been our condition had not the Son of God left His glory to save us! We needed a Divine Saviour. Let us hide ourselves in His righteousness.
2. For sinners abhorred of God this is our only remedy. For many years God has pleaded, “Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate.” Do not re-enact the rebellion of the Jews. Remember it is written, “Because I called and ye refused. I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.” Seize the offered blessing now, ere God says, “Ye shall not see My rest.”—Rev. Edward Griffin, D.D.
Theme: SINNERS: A WARNING. “Have ye forgotten the wickedness,” &c.
I. Guilty careers offer a melancholy admonition to others.
II. Examples of ruin should deter us from sin.
III. Reckless indifference to the careers and penalties of sinners shows the most obdurate and hopeless impiety.
1. Beyond reformation (Proverbs 27:22).
2. Dead to all saving influences (Proverbs 25:20).
Jeremiah 44:17. Theme: SELF-VINDICATING SINNERS. No one would perhaps justify these people; yet thousands will justify themselves!
I. Criminal impiety.
1. Their voluntary engagements. Johanan had inclined to hide in Egypt from Nebuchadnezzar, but sought God’s direction; pledging themselves, from the least to the greatest, to obey His voice (chap. Jeremiah 42:1-6). Instead of fulfilling their engagements—
2. Their deliberate violation of them. God warned them (chap. Jeremiah 42:13-17); but they charge Baruch with feigning this message (chap. Jeremiah 43:1-4), and followed their own course.
3. Their self-vindicating effrontery. The people betook themselves to idolatry in Egypt. Being reproved, they boldly asserted that Jehovah’s worship had been profitless, and that the Queen of Heaven had proved their benefactress. So they would worship her, whatever God or His prophet might say (Jeremiah 44:17-19).
II. Modern repetitions.
1. The profane sinner. See his engagements in baptism and confirmation! Yet millions repudiate their engagements, and vindicate their evil ways.
2. The self-righteous formalist. Hear him joining in the liturgy as a “penitent sinner;” yet tell him in private what a sinner he is, what duties should follow from penitence, how he should cleave humbly to Jesus Christ, and he repudiates it all.
3. The hypocritical professor. He finds excuses for his sin, “turns the grace of God into lasciviousness.”
III. Certain issues. God told these Jews, who defied His judgments, that they should see whose words should stand, His or theirs (Jeremiah 44:28).
1. How did it fare with them? (Jeremiah 44:12-14; Jeremiah 44:29-30.)
2. How shall it fare with you? (Luke 19:27.) Address—
(a.) Those who disregard our testimony. “In the day that God shall visit for sin, ye shall be cast down and perish” (Jeremiah 44:15-17).
(b.) Those who tremble at the word of God. That is the state of mind becoming to every sinner (Isaiah 66:2). Cultivate it, and then pay to God your vows.—Charles Simeon, M.A., 1828.
Theme: THE ADVANTAGES OF IRRELIGION! “For then had we plenty of bread, and were well, and saw no evil.”
No doubt there are times when the wicked prosper. Because of this it is too often thought that “godliness is (not) profitable for the life which now is,” &c. It was so with these idolaters (Jeremiah 44:17-18). They argued that because they had more of this world’s comforts when living in idolatry, that therefore it was more advantageous than the worship of the true God.
I. Consider that God does not enter into judgment with wrongdoers immediately and forthwith, but reserves His displeasure. Punishment does not follow instantly upon transgression. Sinners may “see no evil” at the time of sinning; yet God’s displeasure is kindled by it, and will one day burst upon them. Sin never goes unpunished.
II. God does not connive at sin because He allows it to be committed at the time with impunity. Though they enjoyed abundance, and “saw no evil” at the time of their idolatry, yet now they were smarting under the penalties. “Because ye burned incense, and because ye sinned, therefore this evil happened unto you as at this day.”
Even though no manifestation of Divine displeasure comes during the commission of sin, God is assuredly displeased. And though during a course of iniquity there is no lack of life’s good things, yet iniquity is not profitable. The day of recompense will come.
III. As with these Jews it seemed better for them, in a worldly sense, when they lived in idolatry than when they abandoned it, so it sometimes appears to have been better with the sinner, in a worldly sense, when he lived in sin than when he became converted by God’s grace and professed Christianity. In early Christian times the profession of Christianity involved “the loss of all things,” but higher blessings more than compensated these worldly sacrifices. “No man hath left houses … for My sake, but shall receive manifold more,” &c. But though nothing was gained in this life; suppose that “since we left off” (Jeremiah 44:18) our worldly and evil ways we only suffered misfortunes, yet what an ample compensation in the life to come!
IV. But experience testifies that more is gained by religion than lost. If a Christian lose the favour of man, he wins the favour of God; if he lose the “pleasures of sin,” he gains the joys of salvation. Let not good men, however great their privations, look back on their days of sin and lament, “Then had we plenty,” &c., as if the former days were better than these. Rather rejoice that, however poor they be, they are “rich in faith, and heirs of a kingdom,” that “all things are theirs, things present and things to come.”
V. Gaze not with envious eyes on the prosperity of the wicked. O men of God, look not back on the flesh-pots of Egypt, or the rewards of sin. By a holy content and joy in God let it be seen in you that—
“The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets,
Before you reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.”
—“Walks,” &c., Rev. D. Pledge.
Jeremiah 44:25. Theme: KEEPING UNHOLY VOWS.
I. Conscientiousness in wrongdoing. Must keep vows!
II. Defiance of solemn prohibition. Idol worship!
III. Subtlety of self-delusion. Vows are too solemn to be broken!
IV. Flattery of spiritual infatuation. It is good for us to be faithful.
V. God’s law disobeyed in self-justification. Though God forbids, we are bound to “fulfil with the hand” our vows.
A SUPERSTITIOUS REGARD FOR VOWS. That they are inviolable, and should be sacredly fulfilled. But—
i. To cling to our vows when they are evidently unwise or ungodly is criminal.
ii. To fulfil our rash vows in proof that we are not fickle, is to add reckless deeds to reckless words.
iii. To persist in our vows when shown they break God’s laws is defiant obstinacy; substituting constancy to our words for obedience to God’s word.
iv. To retract wicked vows is the highest proof of wisdom and piety. Better break our words than provoke God’s wrath. Think of Herod’s vow, leading to murder!
Jeremiah 44:25. Theme: OBSTINACY. “We will surely perform our vows.”
I. Resisting admonition (Jeremiah 44:16).
II. Blinded by false judgment (Jeremiah 44:17-18).
III. Wilful persistency (Jeremiah 44:25).
IV. More obdurate as it continues.
Jeremiah 44:26. Theme: FINALLY ABANDONED BY GOD. “Since ye will not hear Me speaking and warning, hear Me swearing—‘By my great name,’ ” &c.—Jamieson.
“God will have the last word; the prophets may be run down, but God cannot.”—Henry.
This is the severest punishment, when God takes away His holy name and word.
I. In what it consists. That the Lord removes the candlestick of His word from among His people; i.e., by depriving them of the means of grace He brings Himself into forgetfulness amongst them.
II. On what it is founded. That this people, on their part, have striven to forget God.
III. What is its effect? The people given up to the powers of evil, for their complete destruction.—Naegelsbach.
Note.—“The Jews, heretofore, amidst all their idolatry, had retained the form of appeal to the name of God and the law, the distinctive glory of their nation; God will allow this no more (Exodus 9:29): there shall be left none there to profane His name thus any more.”—Jamieson.
Jeremiah 44:29. Theme: ONE SINNER “A SIGN” TO MANY. In naming to this audience the then powerful Egyptian king, “Hophra,” Jeremiah exposed himself to greatest hazards. For the audience he addressed were all hostile to the prophet and his mission. Had any of Jeremiah’s hearers reported this daring utterance to the king himself, it would have insured the prophet’s swift doom. Yet God’s messenger dares to witness even against powerful kings, unterrified by danger, content to speak what God speaks in him. God names “Hophra” in this prediction; for He deals with men individually; has the fate of each in His hands; and “none shall stay His hand.”
I. “A sign” given as a premonition of coming judgments.
1. Signs given before events were intended to prepare the mind for events hereafter, and to fortify against doubt. Thus with Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40).
2. Signs placed in the future, and to be waited for, were intended to keep the mind expectant and trustful. Thus with the sign to Moses (Exodus 3:12), the event convinced them that God’s hand had wrought it, and called up their gratitude to Him.
3. This sign was thus prospective; buried for a time, but in due course it would rise into realisation, and its value would be—
(a.) In vindicating Jeremiah as being truly God’s spokesman.
(b.) As proving that God’s Mighty Hand was working.
(c.) As refuting their boasted trust in the security of Egypt.
(d.) As an announcement of the utter ruin of this rebellious people of which that sign was the forerunner.
II. A sign fulfilled guarantees accomplishment of the truth it forewarned.
1. The event seemed unlikely of fulfilment. For Apries (Pharaoh-Hophra) now flourished in great prosperity and power (so Herodotus records). Indeed he vaunted impiously that “no God has power to dethrone me.” But he was defeated by the rebel Amasis, and strangled by his own subjects. This Hophra became (what he was afterwards titled on Egyptian monuments) “hated” by his own nation; and this was only (according to Herodotus) satiated by Amasis giving him up to the people for a violent and degrading death. Hophra’s death occurred eighteen years after the burning of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. (See “Extermination of Exiles,” p. 620.) Many of these Jews would live to see this sign fulfilled.
2. The sign pledged the fate of these exiles. They vaunted their safety, as Hophra vaunted his power. They deemed their shelter in Egypt impregnable, and the shield of Pharaoh over them a sure protection; but Hophra should be “given into the hand of them that seek his life,” and so should they also perish. His fall should announce theirs.
1. When God’s anger overtakes one man, it pledges the equal certainty of judgment on all who are alike guilty.
2. Fulfilled judgments in history, in the destruction of cities (Egypt, Nineveh, Jerusalem), and of nations (Israel, &c.), and of individuals (Nebuchadnezzar’s madness, Zedekiah’s fate), are all witnesses to the sure doom of sinners.
3. Hopeless deathbed scenes are a warning against those who neglect salvation.
4. Fatal and sudden accidents admonish those who reckon on years of opportunity.
5. The visions of torment, in Christ’s parable of the rich man and in the Revelation, warn us to “flee from the wrath to come.”
“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-6).