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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3416. B.C. 588.

In this chapter,

(1,) Johanan and the other captains of the poor Jews in Canaan solicit Jeremiah to pray for God’s direction, respecting the course they should take, solemnly engaging to follow it, Jeremiah 42:1-6 .

(2,) By God’s order Jeremiah encourages them to remain in Judea, assuring them that there only they would be safe and prosperous, Jeremiah 42:7-12 .

(3,) He dissuades them from going to Egypt, as what would ruin them, Jeremiah 42:13-18 .

(4,) He admonishes them that their dissimulation, in thus consulting God, when they were determined to follow their own will, would be punished with destruction by the sword, famine, and pestilence, Jeremiah 42:19-22 .

Verses 1-3

Jeremiah 42:1-3. Then all the captains, and all the people That is, both those captains, and many of the people; came near and said unto Jeremiah Who was probably carried away with the other captives by Ishmael, and rescued by Johanan; Let, we beseech thee, our supplications be accepted before thee Thus these men, though wretched hypocrites, yet address the prophet with great respect and reverence, and in words which implied that they thought themselves unworthy to be permitted to ask any favour of him. Probably the evidence they had had so lately of his being a true prophet of the Lord, by the accomplishment of all that he had foretold against both the city and temple, might in some measure occasion their showing him such respect. And pray for us, that the Lord may show us the way wherein we may walk “It is the constant method of hypocrites to pretend an absolute submission to the will of God till that will is found to run counter to their inclinations or interest.” Lowth.

Verses 4-6

Jeremiah 42:4-6. Then Jeremiah said, I have heard you, &c. That is, I will do for you what you desire. I will pray unto the Lord your God They called the Lord Jeremiah’s God: here Jeremiah calls him their God, both to remind them of God’s relation to them, and of their duty toward him. And whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer, I will declare I will be faithful in giving you an account of what God shall reveal to me to be his will concerning you. Then they said, The Lord be a true and faithful witness, &c. The words of this and the following verse imply a perfect oath, the form of which lies in appealing to God as a witness of the sincerity of the hearts of those that swear, for a security to those to whom the oath is given: which also includes a secret challenging of God to take vengeance upon those that give that security, if they should not act according to their promise. The thing these men promise is, that they would perfectly obey God’s will, whether agreeable or disagreeable to them. And they further declare they were convinced that their prosperity and happiness entirely depended upon their complying with God’s will, adding, That it may be well with us, &c.

Verses 7-10

Jeremiah 42:7-10. And it came to pass after ten days Thus long they were held in suspense, perhaps to punish them for their hypocrisy, or to show that Jeremiah did not speak of himself nor what he would; for he could not speak when he would, but was obliged to wait for instructions; the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah Namely, the word mentioned, Jeremiah 40:1, to which the contents of the last two chapters, and the preceding part of this, are but an historical preface. Then called he Johanan, and all the captains, &c. What the Lord had revealed to him he declared publicly, both to the captains and to all the people, to those in the lowest as well as to those in the highest station; and that fully and faithfully as he had received it. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel If Jeremiah had been desired to direct them by his own prudence, probably he could not have determined what to advise them to, the case being certainly difficult: but what he has to advise is, that, which the Lord God of Israel, to whom they had sent him, directed to be said. If ye will still abide in this land That is, If you will give up all thoughts of going into the land of Egypt, and abide where you are, or in any part of Judea under subjection to, and in the protection of, the king of Babylon, into whose power I have given you; then will I build you, &c. Then will I see to your security and prosperity, and make you a happy people. For I repent me of the evil, &c. I am satisfied with the punishment which your nation hath undergone, and now, if you do not destroy yourselves by new acts of disobedience, I will change the course of my providence toward you. God is said in Scripture to repent when he alters the outward methods of his providence toward any people or individual: see note on Genesis 6:6.

Verses 11-12

Jeremiah 42:11-12. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon As if he had said, I know what you are afraid of; you fear lest the king of Babylon should send a force against you and utterly root you out, because one of your nation hath murdered his viceroy Gedaliah; but suffer not your passion of fear to rise too high on this account, and make you flee into Egypt. For I am with you to save you For you shall have my presence with you, to deliver and preserve you, so that Nebuchadnezzar shall have neither inclination nor power to do you any harm. I will show mercies unto you that he may have mercy, &c. We are beholden to God for all the compassion and kindness which we meet with from men; though we may receive good from their hands, it is God who inclines their hearts to do it. And cause you to return to your own land The mercy which God here promises these men is, that the king of Babylon should give them liberty to go every one to his own inheritance; for at present they were banished by their own fears from their own houses and estates, though not from their own country.

Verses 13-18

Jeremiah 42:13-18. But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey Hebrew, לבלתי שׁמע , so as not to obey. If they did not continue in their own land, they disobeyed the voice of the Lord. Saying, No; we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, &c. Their great sin was unbelief: they would not take the promise of God as a security to them for a quiet and peaceable abode, and a supply of all their wants, in Judea: but they resolved to go into Egypt, where they expected to have a greater certainty of peace and plenty. Therefore the Lord declares by his prophet, that the evils which they feared in Canaan should overtake them with double violence in Egypt, namely, both the sword and famine, by which they should die, and that they should be an execration and an astonishment: a curse and a reproach: (Jeremiah 42:18,) as God had threatened to make the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18, where see the notes. And ye shall see this place no more And in this, saith God, will I deal worse with you than with those who were carried captive to Babylon; many of them shall return, after the time fixed for the duration of their captivity is expired, but you shall return into this land no more. There was this aggravation in the sin of those Jews to whom God was now speaking by his prophet, that they had lately seen his words, by the same prophet, fully verified; yet would not take warning, but ran into the same sin of unbelief.

Verse 19

Jeremiah 42:19. The Lord hath said, Go ye not into Egypt The good prophet, knowing how much it concerned this people to believe and obey the message God had sent to them by him, repeats again what he had urged before, assuring them it was by the command of the Lord that he said it. Know certainly that I have admonished you this day Hebrew, בכם העידתי , have testified to you, or, admonished you before witnesses. “God commanded the Jews, by Moses, not to have any commerce with Egypt, that they might not practise the idolatrous customs of that country, (Leviticus 18:3,) with whose idolatries they had been defiled during their sojourning there. Afterward he often reproved them by his prophets for making alliances with Egypt. And there were particular reasons, at this time, for so severe a prohibition, as the words here and in the context import, namely, because the Jews either learned several of their idolatrous practices from the Egyptians, or, at least were confirmed in those evil customs by their example. Besides, it was the rival kingdom that contended for empire with the Babylonians; and so the Jews going into Egypt for protection was, in effect, refusing to submit themselves to the king of Babylon, to whom God had decreed the government of Judea and all the neighbouring countries, Jeremiah 27:6.” Lowth.

Verses 20-22

Jeremiah 42:20-22. For ye dissembled in your hearts Hebrew, התעתום , have used deceit. They acted deceitfully, either toward God, calling him to bear witness to their sincerity in a matter in which they were not sincere; or toward the prophet, sending him to inquire of God for them, and promising to act according as God should direct, when they never intended it; or, toward their own souls, as the margin reads it. Thus Blaney, Surely ye have practised deceit against your own souls, following the Masoretic reading of the margin, confirmed by twenty-two MSS. and five editions. The LXX. read οτι επονηρευσασθε εν ψυχαις υμων ; for you have acted wickedly in your souls, and the Vulgate, because you have deceived your souls. Now I have this day declared it to you I went, according to your desire, to inquire of God for you; he revealed his will to me respecting you, and now I have as faithfully told you what it is. But ye have not obeyed, &c. Or, will not obey. If it be asked how Jeremiah knew they would not obey God’s will in this instance, inasmuch as they had not yet declared their minds to him, it must be answered, God had made their intentions known to him. Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, &c. You think to avoid death by going to Egypt to sojourn for a little time, but you shall perish there, and that by those very deaths which, by going thither, you seek to avoid. Observe, reader, we must expect disappointment, misery, and ruin to follow actions done in disobedience to the revealed will of God.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-42.html. 1857.
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