JEREMIAH CHAPTER 44.
Jeremiah Reproves the Idolatry of the Jews.
JEREMIAH’S FIRST WARNING. — V. 1. The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, where they had settled in spite of the earnest remonstrances of Jeremiah, which dwell at Migdol, on the northeastern boundary of Egypt, and at Tahpanhes, in the delta of the Nile, and at Noph, or Memphis, the capital of Lower Egypt, and in the country of Pathros, that is, Upper Egypt, - for in the intervening years the Jews had selected different parts of Egypt for temporary homes, but Jeremiah was still the faithful messenger of God and here addressed them in a large assembly, possibly upon the occasion of some great festival, - saying, v. 2. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah, most of the Jews addressed having been witnesses of the terrible catastrophe which brought destruction to the southern kingdom; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein, the entire land, formerly so rich, fruitful, and populous, had become an uninhabited desert, v. 3. because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went, leaving the path of right and duty set before them by the Word of God, to burn incense and to serve other gods, by such act of worship, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers. That was the first cause of the calamity which came upon Jerusalem. V. 4. Howbeit, I sent unto you all My servants, the prophets, rising early and sending them, full of merciful eagerness to prevent the threatened catastrophe, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate, which filled Him with loathing. V. 5. But they hearkened not nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, they paid not the slightest attention to Jehovah's admonitions and warnings, to burn no incense unto other gods. V. 6. Wherefore My fury and Mine anger was poured forth, like an overturned vessel spilling all its contents at once, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, for the fire of destruction was a manifestation of the divine anger; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day, their ruin being entirely the fault of the stubbornness of the rebellious Jews, and the consequences were still evident. V. 7. Therefore, now, thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to the destruction of their own lives, for they were not injuring the Lord, but merely themselves, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, in a judgment of complete extermination, to leave you none to remain, v. 8. in that ye provoke Me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, having profited nothing by the example of Jerusalem's destruction, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth? V. 9. Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, their manifold evil doings, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The queens of Judah, together with the women throughout the country, had been the chief promoters of idolatry; for just as women may be the chief upholders of virtue, they may also be the chief agents for the spreading of wickedness. V. 10. They are not humbled, even unto this day, they had not yet learned to turn to the Lord with contrite hearts, neither have they feared, nor walked in, My Law nor in My statutes that I set before you and before your fathers. They had deliberately ignored the norm and rule which the Lord had given them to follow, and the Lord speaks of them partly in the third person to give expression to the supreme disgust which filled His heart at their behavior. V. 11. Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will set My face against you for evil and to cut off all Judah, namely, those who had gone to Egypt against His will. The Lord was absolutely determined to carry out His plans in this instance, to exterminate the rebels who had been so flagrantly disobedient to His will. V. 12. And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed and fall in the land of Egypt, in a total destruction; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine, they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine, and they shall be an execration, an object of cursing, and an astonishment, an object of surprise, and a curse, and a reproach. V. 13. For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, v. 14. so that none of the remnant of Judah which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there shall escape or remain that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there, they were literally, "lifting up their souls with eagerness" and hoped to make Judea their home once more; for none shall return but such as shall escape. Since the Lord was speaking in general terms. He pictured the destruction as so universal that practically no one would escape, and the heaping of similar expressions heightens the impression of grim determination on His part. He is a jealous God, who visits the iniquity of sinners upon them with all the sternness which His justice demands.
THE ANSWER OF THE JEWS AND THE LORD’S PROPHECY OF PUNISHMENT. — V. 15. Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, the female contingent apparently being in the majority, from which many have concluded that the festival was one in honor of the Queen of Heaven herself, in whose service the women were very zealous, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, where this meeting was held, answered Jeremiah, saying, v. 16. As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee, they flatly refused to obey. V. 17. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, the vows which they had made when they embraced idolatry, to burn incense unto the Queen of Heaven, that is, Ashtaroth, or Astarte, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, this statement amounting to the worst form of self-accusation, with a tinge of revolting boastfulness; for then had we plenty of victuals, literally, "we were satisfied with bread," having food of every kind in sufficient amounts, and were well and saw no evil, they enjoyed good fortune and happiness, as they believed. Fools attribute what they consider prosperity to the fact that God connives at their sin, so that they finally deny His very existence. V. 18. But since we left off to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, very likely due to the reformation under Josiah, 2 Kings 23, 4-20, we have wanted all things, they had lacked those things which they had enumerated, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. V. 19. And when we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink-offerings unto her, did we make her cakes, the customary cakes used with sacrifices, chap. 7, 18, to worship her and pour out drink-offerings unto her without our men? So the women, who made up the majority of the assembly, boldly stated that their husbands had not only connived at their idolatry, cp. Num. 30, 9ff., but had even become guilty with them. The reference seems to be to the custom of giving their sacrificial cakes the form of a half-moon or even of the full moon, after the manner of other heathen cults. In this manner the demands of the Lord were met by a flat refusal on the part of the Jews. V. 20. Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people "which had given him that answer, saying, v. 21. The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, of which they, in their wickedness, now presumed to boast, did not the Lord remember them, and came it not into His mind? Did not the present desolation of their homeland testify to the fact that the Lord was very well aware of their wickedness, and that He had repaid their evil-doing? V. 22. So that the Lord could no longer bear because of the evil of your doing's and because of the abominations which ye have committed, with all His long-suffering He could no longer endure it; therefore is your land a desolation and an astonishment and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day. The evidences of His wrath upon the Land of Promise were still evident, and all on account of their idolatry, as the prophet now repeats once more, for the sake of emphasis. V. 23. Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the Lord, chiefly in the customs connected with their idolatry, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord nor walked in His Law, in following the precepts of the Moral Law, nor in His statutes, the ordinances of the Ceremonial Law, nor in His testimonies, the judicial sayings of the Lord throughout His Word, therefore this evil is happened unto you as at this day. V. 24. Moreover, Jeremiah said unto all the people and to all the women, Hear the word of the Lord, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt, whom he now proceeds to admonish in a most solemn manner, v. 25. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her; ye will surely accomplish your vows and surely perform your vows. Here is a bit of holy irony; for, as Jeremiah states, no one could accuse them of unsteadiness in keeping their idolatrous promises. If they had only been as steadfast toward Jehovah, the God of the covenant! V. 20. Therefore hear ye the word of the Lord, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt, Behold, I have sworn by My great name, saith the Lord, by Himself as He has revealed Himself in His great and mighty acts, the most solemn oath which He could swear, that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord God liveth. Since they had rejected Him, He would also reject them, He would bring about their destruction. V. 27. Behold, I will watch over them for evil and not for good, the same God whose tender solicitude watches over His children to do them good would in this instance just as solicitously bring evil upon the rebellious Jews; and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine until there be an end of them. This is true in general; it presents the fulfillment of His threat. V. 28. Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, a band readily counted on account of its smallness, whereas the entire contingent had planned to return to their former homeland; and all the remnant of Judah that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there shall know whose words shall stand, Mine or theirs, literally, "the word from Me or that from them," that by which the Lord had predicted ruin to them or that by which they had predicted good fortune to themselves. V. 29. And this shall be a sign unto you, saith the Lord, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that My words shall surely stand against you for evil: v. 30. thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give Pharaoh-hophra, king of Egypt, into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of them that seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah, king of Judah, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life. Pharaoh-hophra lost his life in consequence of a revolt of the Egyptians, who caused him to be executed by strangulation about 570 B. C. If people persist in their opposition to God, He gives them up to the powers of evil to their complete destruction.