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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 44

 

 

Verse 1

Jeremiah 44:1. The word which came to Jeremiah — The patience and goodness of God to this remnant of his ancient people are very remarkable; he leaves them not even in their rebellion, but commissions his prophet, whom he had before sent to forbid their going into this idolatrous country, to try if in Egypt they could be brought to repentance and reformation; concerning all the Jews which dwelt at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, &c. — They were now dispersed into divers parts of the country, and Jeremiah is sent with a message from God to them, which he delivered, either by going about from place to place to them; or when he had many of them together in Pathros, as is mentioned Jeremiah 44:15. We find a place termed Migdol, mentioned Exodus 14:2, as situate near the Red sea. “But I do not take this,” says Blaney, “to be here intended. Migdol properly signifies a tower, and may, in all probability, have been a name given to different cities in Egypt where there was a distinguished object of that kind. The city of Magdolus is mentioned by Herodotus, Hecatæus, and others, and placed by Antoninus at the entrance of Egypt from Palestine, about twelve miles from Pelusium. This was too far distant from the Red sea to be in the route of the Israelites; but its situation in the neighbourhood of Tahpanhes, or Daphnæ, and its distance from Judea, favour the supposition of its being the Migdol here spoken of. For then, as Bochart observes, we shall find the four places mentioned exactly in the order of their respective distances from that country; 1st, Migdol, or Magdolus; 2d, Tahpanhes, or Daphnæ; 3d, Noph, or Memphis; and lastly, the district of Pathros, or Thebais.” Near Memphis stands one of the pyramids which are yet remaining.


Verses 2-5

Jeremiah 44:2-5. Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought on Jerusalem — He refers to the late destruction of it by the king of Babylon: this remnant of the people was a brand plucked out of the burning, and their eyes had been witnesses of the desolations which God had wrought. Because of their wickedness, &c. — As they were eye-witnesses of the effect, so nothing but their unbelief made them strangers to the cause of the divine wrath manifested against them; for God, by his prophets, had continually assured them that the grand cause was their departure from him, the one living and true God, and forsaking his worship for that of idols. To serve other gods, whom they knew not — The sin of their various idolatries was aggravated by this, that they were as much strangers to the idols as to the people with whom they joined in the worship of them, neither they nor any of their fathers having had any proof that these idols had ever done, or were able to do, any thing for their worshippers: compare Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 32:17. These idols are opposed to the true God, called elsewhere the God of their fathers, who had made himself known to them by so many wonderful works and so many instances of his favour and benignity; and had promised to show the same favour to their posterity, if they continued steadfast in their obedience. I sent, &c., saying, O! do not this abominable thing that I hate — God had given them numberless admonitions and warnings by his prophets, that idolatry in all the species and instances of it was a sin which he hated above all others, and would very dreadfully punish, yet they would not hear so as to yield obedience to him; but still persisted in the commission of this most abominable and absurd iniquity. The Hebrew, אל נא תעשׂו, may be properly rendered, Do not, I pray you, this abominable thing which I hate. Thus the Vulgate, Nolite, oro, facere verbum abominationis hujuscemodi. Be unwilling, I beseech you, to practise a thing so abominable. The language is as pathetic as it is emphatical.


Verse 6-7

Jeremiah 44:6-7. Wherefore my fury, &c., was poured forth, &c. — As if he had said, For these very reasons, their idolatry and contempt of my word by my prophets, the very sins you are now committing, I gave Judah and Jerusalem into the hand of the king of Babylon, and they are, as you see this day, waste and desolate. Wherefore commit ye this great evil? &c. — What sort of prudence is it that influences you to do such actions as these, by which you cannot injure God. but yourselves only? You are now but a few of many; what love can you have for your country while you take courses which will certainly tend to the utter extirpation of those few, so that there shall be none remaining of all the Jews? God designed that this remnant should have remained in Judea, and kept possession of it, when the rest of their brethren were carried away captive, Jeremiah 42:10. But by their going into Egypt and defiling themselves with the idolatries of that nation, they provoked God to make an utter destruction of them.


Verses 8-10

Jeremiah 44:8-10. Ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands — By making and setting up idols to worship. That ye might cut yourselves off, &c. — This is not to be so taken as if they did these things with a design to cut off themselves and their posterity: but only as signifying that their utter ruin would be the certain consequence of their continuing so to act. Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers? &c. — Have you forgotten what great wickedness your fathers committed, and what great punishments were in consequence thereof inflicted upon them? We may be truly said to have forgotten that the sight of which, or reflection thereon, makes no such impression upon us as produces a suitable practice. Which they have committed in the land of Judah, &c. — To have practised these things in any place would have been to contract great guilt; but to have done them in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, in the valley of vision, and in the holy city, where there were such means of information and such helps to piety, was still more aggravated and inexcusable wickedness. They are not humbled even unto this day — Neither they nor you are yet properly humbled, and prepared for receiving mercy. Neither have they feared, nor walked in my law — Hence we learn, that reformation and obedience are the proper fruit of true contrition and humiliation; God does not account those to be humbled, but hardened, who are not reformed and made obedient, let their pretended contrition or humiliation be, in outward appearance, what it may.


Verses 11-14

Jeremiah 44:11-14. I will set my face against you for evil — See note on Jeremiah 21:10. And I will take — Or, I will take away, namely, by destruction; the remnant of Judah, &c. — The direful punishments denounced against those who went to Egypt were not denounced because it was a sin in itself for the Jews to leave their country, and seek a securer habitation in Egypt, but because, in so doing, they showed their distrust of God’s power or goodness, as if he were not able or willing to protect them in Judea, and also were guilty of disobeying his express commands, and disbelieving his faithful promises, whereby he had engaged to protect them. To which must be further added, the great danger and probability, not to say certainty, there was that they would fall into the idolatry of the Egyptians. Therefore God uttered grievous threatenings against their going thither, that they might be deterred from it. For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, &c. — See notes on Jeremiah 42:15-18. So that none of the remnant of Judah which are gone, &c. — Blaney translates this more agreeably to the Hebrew, thus: “And the remnant of Judah, those who are come into the land of Egypt, with a view to sojourn there, and to return into the land of Judah, &c., shall not have one escaper or surviver; whereas none shall return but escapers.” And he observes, “It is evident, from Jeremiah 44:28, that some Jews were to escape the general destruction in Egypt, and to return into their own country, although but a few; and the same thing is implied in the latter sentence of this verse. But the former part of this verse excludes out of the number of the escapers every individual of those that were called properly the remnant of Judah, those that had set their faces to enter Egypt to sojourn there, in opposition to the express command of God, upon a presumption that they knew better than God how to consult their own restoration. The few then who were destined to escape, and to return back to the land of Judah, were to be such as had come into the land of Egypt in a less offensive manner, and happened to be there when the storm burst upon them.”


Verse 15

Jeremiah 44:15. Then all the men and all the women that dwelt in Pathros — Which was Upper Egypt; answered Jeremiah, &c. — From this it appears with how much reason it was that God ordered Jeremiah to endeavour to prevent their going into Egypt, since the Israelitish women imitated the idolatry of the inhabitants of it, as soon as they came thither, and no people were immersed in a more absurd and shameful idolatry than the Egyptians. It is probable that when the Jewish women perceived the Egyptians to abound in riches and plenty, and to live in peace and security, they foolishly concluded that the gods which the Egyptians worshipped were more powerful, or more beneficent, than Jehovah, whom the Jews worshipped.


Verses 16-19

Jeremiah 44:16-19. As for the word thou hast spoken unto us, we will not hearken unto thee — Johanan and the rest (Jeremiah 43:5) only denied that God had said such things, and told Jeremiah he had spoken falsely: but now these people rise higher; they acknowledge Jeremiah had spoken to them in the name of the Lord, but, nevertheless, tell him in plain terms they would not obey his word, and indeed this is in the hearts of all sinners that are ruled by their lusts; though they will sometimes pretend that what they hear is not the will of God, but spoken out of malice and prejudice; yet they are pre-resolved they will not comply with it, let their understandings be never so well informed. But will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth out of our own mouth — That is, that which we have solemnly vowed to perform. Here we have the root of all the disobedience of sinners, their resolution to please themselves, and do their own will, and not in any thing to deny themselves. To burn incense to the queen of heaven — To the moon and the rest of the host of heaven: see the note on Jeremiah 7:18; and Jeremiah 19:13. As we have done, we and our fathers, &c. — Their arguments for continuing in this idolatry are, 1st, Custom and antiquity; they and their fathers had practised it. 2d, The example of their kings and princes. 3d, The plenty and prosperity they had while they did so, as if their idols and not Jehovah had been the authors of it. They compared their former condition, before the invasion of Judea and the siege of Jerusalem, with their present state, and argued from their being in prosperity at that time, that they must needs have been then in the right; not considering that it was to be ascribed to the goodness and long-suffering of God waiting for their repentance, as being unwilling to destroy them, or even to bring any great calamity upon them. Besides, though on account of the measure of their iniquity being filled up, they now suffered more grievous calamities than they had ever done before, yet, if they were at all acquainted with the history of former times, they could not but know that idolatry had always brought calamities on their fathers, and that they never were so prosperous as when they worshipped and served Jehovah only. But since we left off, &c., we have wanted all things — This is their last argument in defence of their idolatry, an argument drawn from the evils that had befallen them since they had left off to worship the host of heaven; thus making their ceasing to commit the sin of idolatry the cause of their sufferings, whereas, in truth, the commission of that and their other sins had been the cause of all the calamities to which they had been exposed. And when we burned incense, &c., did we worship her without our men? — Here the women speak, and allege that their husbands had joined with them in offering incense to the host of heaven, and that it was not done without their privity. “By the law of Moses the men had an independent power of binding themselves by any religious vow or obligation; but the vows of the women were not binding, without the knowledge and consent of their fathers and husbands; but if the father or husband knew of the vow, and did not signify his dissent at the time, his consent was presumed, and the vow stood firm and irrevocable, Numbers 30:1-16. This appeal, therefore, to the concurrence of their men must be considered as coming from the female part of the assembly only, who thereby appear to declare that since they were thus authorized by those who alone had a legal right to control them, they should not submit to any other restraint upon their inclinations.” — Blaney.


Verses 20-23

Jeremiah 44:20-23. Then Jeremiah said, The incense that ye burned, &c. — In these verses the prophet shows that they interpreted the dispensations of God’s providence toward them in a sense directly contrary to their true intent and meaning. They concluded that their omission of late to burn incense to the queen of heaven was the cause of the calamities which had befallen them; but the prophet shows them that the true cause was, not their leaving off that practice, but their being formerly guilty of it. This their idolatry, with their other sins, did indeed go unpunished a great while: for God was longsuffering toward them, and during the time of his patience it was perhaps, as they said, well with them, and they saw no evil; but at length they became so provoking that, as the prophet tells them, Jeremiah 44:22, the Lord could no longer bear, but began a controversy with them. Upon this, it seems, some of them did in a degree reform their conduct: but their old guilt being uncancelled, and their corrupt inclinations being still the same, God remembered against them the idolatries of their fathers, their kings, and their princes, which they, instead of being ashamed of, gloried in: all these, he intimates, Jeremiah 44:21, came into his mind, with all the abominations which they had committed, Jeremiah 44:22, and all their disobedience to the voice of the Lord, Jeremiah 44:23 : all was brought to account; and to punish them for these was their land made a desolation, an astonishment, and a curse, as they saw it to be. Therefore — Not for their late reformation, he assures them, but for their old transgressions, had all that evil happened to them.


Verses 24-28

Jeremiah 44:24-28. Jeremiah said, Hear all Judah that are in the land of Egypt — That is, all you men and women that belong to Judah, and are now come to dwell in Egypt; ye and your wives have spoken — The Hebrew word תדברנה, rendered have spoken, is of the feminine gender, and implies that the women were first and principally concerned in this idolatry, and that the men’s guilt lay chiefly in conniving at them, and suffering themselves to be seduced by them; saying, We will surely perform our vows, &c. — They insist on their unlawful vows as obligations in conscience, which could not be dispensed with, just as Herod did on his unlawful oath, Matthew 14:9 : as if, though to burn incense to the queen of heaven were a sin, yet their having vowed to do it were sufficient to justify them in the doing of it; whereas no man can, by his vow, make that lawful to himself, much less his duty, which God had before made sin. Ye will surely accomplish your vows, &c. — You are resolved upon it, and there is no moving you from your resolution. Therefore hear ye the word of the Lord — Hear what is God’s resolution. Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the Lord — I also have made a solemn vow, in opposition to that wicked one of yours, and have confirmed it by an oath. I have sworn and will not repent: That my name shall no more be named by any man of Judah in the land of Egypt, &c. — “These Jews seem to have joined the worship of the true God with that of idols, as the Samaritans did before them, 2 Kings 17:33. Thereupon God declares he will not receive any such polluted worship at their hands, (compare Ezekiel 20:39,) nor suffer his name to be any longer profaned by such hypocrites, but will consume them by a sudden and general destruction” — Lowth. Behold, I will watch over them for evil — God here represents himself as one who would be solicitous and industrious to bring evil upon them, as men, who are so in any business, watch all opportunities for doing it: as if he had said, No opportunity shall be let slip to bring some judgment upon them, until there be an end of them, and they be quite rooted out. Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return, &c. — A very few, next to none in comparison of the great number that shall return out of the land of the Chaldeans: see note on Jeremiah 44:14. And all the remnant of Judah shall know whose words shall stand, mine or theirs — They said they should recover themselves when they returned to worship the queen of heaven. God says they shall hereby ruin themselves: and now the event will show who was in the right. The contest between God and sinners is, whose word shall stand, whose will shall be done, who shall prevail? Sinners say, We shall have peace, though we go on in sin: God says, Ye shall have no peace. And when God judges, he will overcome: his word shall stand, and not the sinner’s.


Verse 29-30

Jeremiah 44:29-30. And this shall be a sign unto you — Signs are usually antecedent to the thing signified, as Isaiah 38:7; but here, as Exodus 3:12, Isaiah 37:30, and Luke 2:12, the word is taken, in a larger sense, for a circumstance that should attend the thing signified. It may be observed, however, that although the destruction of these Jews, and that of Pharaoh, were things immediately following each other, yet the latter was in order before the other. I will give Pharaoh-hophra into the hand of his enemies — Pharaoh was a name common, in ancient times, to all the kings of Egypt; but several of them had some additional epithet to distinguish them from the rest. Thus the predecessor of this king was called Pharaoh- nechoh, 2 Kings 23:29. This Pharaoh-hophra appears to have been the same that is called by profane authors Apries; and his unfortunate end, in exact conformity with this prediction, is particularly related by Herodotus, lib. 2. cap. 169, and by Diodorus Siculus, lib. 1. p. 43. “His subjects rebelling, he sent Amasis, one of his generals, to reduce them to their duty; but no sooner had Amasis begun to make his speech than they fixed a helmet on his head, and proclaimed him king. Amasis accepted the title, and confirmed the Egyptians in their rebellion; and the greater part of the nation declaring for him, Apries was obliged to retire into Upper Egypt; and the country, being thus weakened by intestine war, was attacked and easily overcome by Nebuchadnezzar, who, on quitting it, left Amasis his viceroy. After Nebuchadnezzar’s departure, Apries marched against Amasis, but, being defeated at Memphis, was taken prisoner, carried to Sais, and strangled in his own palace; thus verifying this prophecy.” See Rollin’s Ancient Hist., vol. 1., and Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, vol. 1. p. 362.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 44:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-44.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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