Go Not into Egypt
Johanan and the captains, set on going to Egypt, ask Jeremiah to enquire of Yahweh for a blessing (vv. 1-6).
From v. 18 of ch. 41, in their fear they still showed some apparent respect to Jeremiah. Agreeing to pray for them, Jeremiah says that he will tell them exactly what Yahweh's answer is, good or bad. Johanan replies: "we will obey," and in parenthesis we should put, 'as long as it is what we want.'
Notice v. 2, 'pray for us' and in v. 3, 'Yahweh thy Elohim.' Firstly these statements show they couldn't pray for themselves, and secondly that they didn't recognise Yahweh as their God.
In vv. 7-12, the answer comes from Yahweh, in which they are encouraged to continue in the land of Judah, and assured that if they did so it should be for their well-being. Contrast v. 7, when the answer came after 'ten days' (which were probably spent in meditation before Yahweh) with the instant replies to the righteous (2Kgs. 20 with Hezekiah; Neh. 2; Dan. 9; John 12).
Following this in vv. 13-18, Jeremiah, knowing their intentions, the language becomes stronger and clearer, so that they are left in no doubt as to the consequences of their actions. In vv. 19-22, the hypocrisy of the people is known unto Yahweh. They had already made up their minds to go into Egypt. The thinking of the flesh is apparent in the record, so the sentence is not only passed upon them, but also is confirmed to the statement that they would die in the place of the sojourn.
3 That Yahweh thy Elohim may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.
A member of the royal family, who had fled to a neighbouring country, hearing of a Jewish governor having been placed over Judah, evidently thought he might open the way for his own elevation by getting rid of the said governor.
So Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, slew Gedaliah, son of Ahikam. On this, a panic naturally seized the people. They imagined that Nebuchadnezzar, on hearing of the murder of his lieutenant, would be sure to return and wreak vengeance on the miserable remnant of the people that had been left in his charge.
Their plan, therefore, was to get away and go down to Egypt, which had shown friendship to them, and which they reckoned would be sure to give them a friendly welcome and a safe asylum from the distractions of war. But before carrying out their plan, they thought they would consult Jeremiah whose words had so signally come to pass. They therefore applied to him, telling him of their ideas, but professing their willingness to be guided entirely by what commands he might receive from the Lord.
12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.
Jeremiah submitted the matter to God, and in ten days he received an answer, whereupon arose a controversy in which was exemplified that curious perversity which, with the most surface show of reason, contends for an outrageous conclusion.
The message was that they were not to go down to Egypt, but to stay where they were. To this, the whole assembly demurred. They were bent on going down to Egypt.
"There," said they,
"we shall see no war nor hear the sound of the trumpet nor have hunger of bread."
It was natural for them to take this view. But then there was this plain other side: they had the divine assurance:
It was a case of natural fear against divine assurance: a case of faith versus unbelief, in which, as usual with Israel, the scale went heavily down in favour of unbelief, alias worldly wisdom. The whole congregation marched to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them.
17 So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.
When they came to the Egyptian frontier, at Tahpanhes, there was another message from the Lord of the most interesting character. Jeremiah was commanded to take large stones and bury them in the presence of the Jews under the brick-work at the entrance of Pharaoh's palace at Tahpanhes: and to say,
"Behold I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon my servant, and I will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them." [43: 10]
Tahpanhes has lately been recovered through the excavations of Mr. Petrie. Pharaoh's palace has been found, and under the paved work about the entrance has been found stones which there seems every reason to believe are the very stones that were buried there by Jeremiah. What Jeremiah said, duly came to pass. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt, encamping at Tahpanhes, and no doubt fixing headquarters on the very spot where the hidden stones lay under the ground.
Seasons 2. 60
21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh your Elohim, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.
They had learned nothing. Their approach to God was a deceit and a falsehood, and He plainly told them so through the prophet. How hateful it must be to God when we piously seek His guidance in prayer while all the time we are doing and planning to do what we know is not in harmony with His will! Yet this is a very common thing, to which we are all prone, unless we exercise great care.
Only with a pure heart and a clear conscience as to our purpose for the future dare we approach God. Communion with God, which we sometimes take so lightly, is a great and awesome responsibility.
This people had no intention of obeying. They were set in their wilfulness on going to Egypt, and they were hoping that God could be persuaded to go along and bless them in what they had themselves decided was best. What a strange outlook, but yet how common!
Surely it is obvious that there is no use praying for guidance if we do not sincerely intend seek and follow God's way, wherever it leads. There are many very plain commands in God's Word, we are not wholeheartedly trying to keep them-the ones we do know-it is hypocrisy to be pretending to seek His guidance in other problems that arise.
This people hoped that God would agree to their going to Egypt so that they could have the added pleasure of a feeling of self-righteous piety, but if He disagreed they were going anyway, though doubtless quite willing to express their "sorrow" that it was necessary to break His commands to get what they wanted.
Jeremiah was taken with them by force against his will. He was right, of course, to object and resist being taken, but we see as we look back that it was fitting that circumstances should be such that he should go with them. This was the last, forlorn remnant of the nation. His long labour of warning was nearly done.
In Egypt two more prophecies are recorded-a brief one against Pharaoh, and a long one against the idolaters of the Jewish remnant, with repeated warnings of their utter destruction.
And this is the end. We hear no more of Jeremiah. We are not told how, when, or where he died. As the curtain falls upon the last scene in his book, it is still the same picture-the prophet's voice raised in faithful warning-the people rejecting his word to the end, and clinging to their wickedness and abominations.
And so the ever-rising flood of judgment closed over this last obstinate remnant of the nation, and all was gone. The Kingdom of God had failed, and fallen. The glory was departed from Israel, and the long Gentile night had begun. But the words of the prophet still remain-
"Ye shall seek Me, and ye shall find Me-when ye shall search for Me with all your heart."
"He that scattered Israel shall gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock."
Bro Growcott - 4.17.
22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.