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PROPHETIC WARNING FOR ISRAEL TO STAY IN PALESTINE
The divisions of this chapter are: (1) the people request God's Word of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:1-3); (2) Jeremiah promises to pray for them, and the people promise to obey God's Word (Jeremiah 42:4-6); (3) after ten days, God replies (Jeremiah 42:7-8); (4) the command to remain in Judea (Jeremiah 42:9-12); (5) severe warning against moving to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:13-18); (6) and a prophecy of destruction for those going to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:19-22).
REQUEST FOR JEREMIAH'S PRAYERS AND PROPHECIES
Pray for us
(Jeremiah 42:2). The prophet had previously been forbidden to pray for the rebellious people (Jer. 7:17; Jer. 11:14, and Jer. 14:11); But he was now free to do so.F1 Jeremiah at once agreed to do so, but not on the basis that the God to which he prayed was any other than the God of all the people. The people said pray to thy God (Jeremiah 42:3,4); but Jeremiah said, I will pray to your God (Jeremiah 42:4).
That God may show us the way. and the thing that we should do ..
(Jeremiah 42:3). Some scholars believe that this was a hypocritical request; but it may be that the people really thought they desired to know God's will, when actually, they merely wanted God to confirm what they had already decided to do. We do not certainly know which it was.
(Jeremiah 42:1). This man's name is given as Azariah in Jer. 43:2; but, as Ash said, He may have had two names, or there may be a textual confusion.F2
JEREMIAH TO PROPHESY; PEOPLE PROMISE OBEDIENCE
This promise seems to be sincere enough, since it even calls upon God Himself to be a witness against them if they should fail to keep their vow.
AFTER TEN DAYS, GOD REPLIED
After ten days
(Jeremiah 42:7). Upon other occasions, God had replied almost at once to the prophet; but here, as in the case of the prophecy against Hananiah, the Word of God came after a delay of ten days. Why? We cannot agree with such writers as those mentioned by Keil, who thought the delay was for the purpose of allowing Jeremiah time to get further news, or for Jeremiah's own meditations to mature. As Keil noted, Such an interpretation is unscriptural and rests upon a denial of divine inspiration.F3 The basic understanding of the Bible requires absolutely that its readers understand what is written, not as the words of men, but as the Word of God through men!
Feinberg's word on this is: "The prophets never confused God's revelation with their personal desires, judgments, or conclusions. They would not announce God's will until they were certain that they knew what it was. The Scripture always distinguishes between the subjective thoughts of the prophets and the objective Word of God."F4
Two radical critics, Hitzig and Graf, stated that the ten-day delay in God's reply to Jeremiah was for the purpose of "Giving Jeremiah time to collect information and make up his mind."F5 However, as Smith observed, "That would turn Jeremiah into a wise politician instead of a divine prophet!"F6
The 10-day delay was disciplinary, giving the people time themselves to pray and await the arrival of God's Word. Instead of that, it seems that the people pushed forward their preparations for going into Egypt; for, as events proved, they were determined to do their own will in that matter, not the will of God.
ISRAEL COMMANDED TO STAY IN PALESTINE
From here through Jer. 42:22 Jeremiah revealed the prophetic word from God as doing the following things: (1) It promised them security and salvation if they would obey. (2) It warned them against disobedience. (3) It emphatically commanded them not to go down into Egypt. (4) It warned them against self-deception of a heart which asks for guidance when it has already made its decision.
The remnant who were determined to go into Egypt were afraid of the king of Babylon, who was indeed a terrible and powerful enemy; but God Himself promised to save the people from him, if they would only obey their God. "In the year 582 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar did again return to Jerusalem and take more captives (See Jer. 52:30),"F7 that event being associated (by some scholars) with the actual date of Gedaliah's assassination. But God, if the people had obeyed his word, would easily have saved everyone of them exactly as he had promised. Many of God's blessings and promises were cancelled because of the disobedience of his children.
WARNINGS AGAINST DISOBEDIENCE
In view of the long record of the prophecies of Jeremiah which the Jews had already seen fulfilled exactly, it appears almost incredible that they would have stubbornly gone right on down into Egypt after a warning like this; but they went!
No comment is appropriate here except a word of grief and disappointment that the remnant of Judah should have been so blindly disobedient to the word of the Lord.
FINAL WORD TO THOSE BOUND FOR EGYPT
"The Lord's reply to the people's request regarding God's will for them extends through this Jer. 42:18; but the last four verses of the chapter constitute an epilogue, in which Jeremiah once more pleads with the people to do God's will."F8
The summary of God's whole message was (1) remain in Judaea, and God will bless you, build you up, etc. (2) Go to Egypt, and you will incur the wrath of God; and the last one of you that go shall die there by the sword, the famine, or the pestilence. (3) Furthermore, the very things that make you afraid to remain in Judah shall befall you in Egypt.
CERTAIN DOOM AWAITS THEM IN EGYPT
Ye have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah
(Jeremiah 42:21). Some scholars object to this statement and suppose that by bringing in Jer. 43:1-3 prior to this paragraph they might improve the sense. This is not necessary at all, for two reasons: (1) these words are not simple past tense, but the prophetic tense in which the future is spoken of as having already occurred, so certain is the fulfillment of God's Word; and (2) by reason of the people's rushing headlong to get ready for their departure to Egypt during that ten days in which the prophet had waited for the word of Jehovah, Jeremiah had already learned their answer. They were fully determined to go to Egypt, no matter what the Lord might say. Jeremiah's answer here was from God, from Him who knows the hearts of men.F9 This word from the holy prophet is similar to that of Moses in his final address to Israel, who told Israel, I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck, and that you will corrupt yourselves (Deuteronomy 31:27,29).
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.