Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentJEREMIAH 43
JUDAH MOVES TO EGYPT, TAKING JEREMIAH AND BARUCH
This is a tragic chapter indeed. "Think of it! Abraham's descendants returned to Egypt long after their liberation from it. With great suffering they had been delivered from their bondage in Egypt, only to return nearly nine hundred years later a defeated, hopeless remnant!"F1
There is probably nowhere to be found a better comment upon the incredible blindness of human politicians than the one afforded by this chapter.
The chapter divisions are: (1) Judah's leaders reject God's word (Jeremiah 43:1-4); (2) Jeremiah and Baruch taken to Egypt (Jeremiah 43:5-7); (3) Prophecy of conquest of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:8-11); and (4) Prophecy against the gods of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:12-13).
JUDAH'S LEADERS REJECT GOD'S WORD
And it came to pass that, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of Jehovah their God, wherewith Jehovah their God had sent him to them, even all these words, then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: Jehovah our God hath not sent thee to say, Ye shall not go into Egypt to sojourn there; but Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death, and carry us away captive to Babylon. So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of Jehovah, to dwell in the land of Judah.
And all the proud men
(Jeremiah 43:2). The two prominent leaders, Azariah and Johanan, were backed up by a group of men, called here the proud men. The versions provide further insight into the meaning of these words: the insolent men (Revised Standard Version); the arrogant men (the Good News Bible). They were the bold and confident unbelievers who constituted the vast majority of that apostate generation of the Chosen People, having no regard whatever, either for Almighty God, or God's prophets.
We do not believe that there was anything whatever in the allegations of those Jewish leaders of either truth or probability. For example, their suggestion that Baruch was the author of Jeremiah's prophecies here was an outright falsehood. What a preposterous proposition it was that, "The prophet who would not trim his message for the king himself would have allowed himself to be manipulated by his secretary!"F2
All the people obeyed not
(Jeremiah 43:4) The insolent, loud-mouthed, arrogant, and confident claims of the false leaders quickly swept away all objections to their policies; and they proceeded at once to Egypt. Jeremiah did not defend himself against the charge of prophesying a falsehood, but trusted in the future to reveal who was true and who was false.
THE RETURN OF JUDAH TO EGYPT
But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all the nations whither they had been driven, to sojourn in the land of Judah; the men, and the women, and the children, and the king's daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan; and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah; and they came into the land of Egypt; for they obeyed not the voice of Jehovah: and they came unto Tahpanhes.
Johanan... took all the remnant. and Jeremiah... and Baruch... and came into the land of Egypt ..
(Jeremiah 43:5-7). From this, it is certain that both Jeremiah and his amanuensis Baruch were unwilling participants in this migration back to Egypt.
Tragic as this pitiful maneuver actually was, "It resulted in the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy that Jerusalem would be uninhabited (Jeremiah 24:8-10). This migration to Egypt accomplished the utter de-population of the land; and the sole hope of the nation was then (and afterward) centered in the Babylonian exiles."F3 In the light of the unbelieving arrogance and conceit of that whole generation of apostates, there was nothing whatever that God could have done with them, unless it had been preceded by the sincere repentance and reformation of the people, that being, according to all indications, an utterly impossible thing to have anticipated.
(Jeremiah 43:7). This was an important fortified city on the eastern Delta of the Nile, where Pharaoh had a summer home and some kind of an administrative center. It seems to be the same place which Herodotus called Daphnai, now thought to be the modern Tell-Defenneh, some 27 miles south-southwest of Port Said.F4
The immigrants probably stopped here in order to procure permission of Pharaoh to enter Egypt, and to explore possible ways of making a living.
JEREMIAH PROPHESIES THE CONQUEST OF EGYPT
Then came the word of Jehovah unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, Take great stones in thy hand, and hide them in mortar in the brickwork, which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; and say unto them, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And he shall come, and shall smite the land of Egypt; such as are for death [shall be given] to death, and such as are for captivity to captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword.
We reject such irresponsible comment on this paragraph as that of Thompson who stated that, "Jeremiah's prophecy was not fulfilled literally."F5 On the contrary, both the Babylonian historian Berossus "confirms the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar";F6 and the Jewish historian Josephus flatly declared that, "Nebuchadnezzar fell upon Egypt to subdue it; and he slew the king that then reigned and set up another. He also took those Jews that were there captives, and led them away to Babylon."F7 In the light of both Babylonian and Jewish historians agreeing that such a conquest did indeed occur, we consider the historical evidence heavily weighted in favor of the exact and circumstantial fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy here. Yes, we are aware that there is a fad among current scholars who accept only the writings of Josephus which they think can be used to support their critical theories, rejecting all others; but we have no confidence in such rejections of the only known historian of that era among the Jews.
Herodotus contradicted some of the things that Josephus wrote; but the reverse is also true. Josephus contradicted some of the things Herodotus wrote. The ability to decide who was correct in a given matter is simply not to be found in any man living thousands of years after the events.
There is also some fragmentary archaeological evidence that Nebuchadnezzar indeed invaded Egypt. "Three of Nebuchadnezzar's inscriptions have been found near Tahpanhes."F8 "An ancient inscription confirms the fact that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt in 568 B.C, when Amasis was Pharaoh."F9
It should always be remembered in the case of deciding whether or not prophecies were fulfilled by historical events, that the fragmentary information which has drifted down through history concerning those ancient times is totally inadequate to justify the extravagant assertions of some critics denying that certain prophecies were fulfilled. As Green noted, "The paucity of knowledge concerning the period is such that it is impossible to know what happened."F10 In addition to that impediment, there is in this very chapter the question of exactly what is meant by the sacred text. For example, the word translated "obelisks" in Jer. 43:12, "pillars" in some translations, etc., actually means "images" and is so used in Isaiah.
Regarding this matter, we appreciate the words of Cheyne who stated that "some have wrongfully controverted"F11 the proposition that Jeremiah's prophecies were actually literally fulfilled.
PROPHECY AGAINST THE GODS OF EGYPT
Verses 12, 13
And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captive: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. He shall also break the pillars of Beth-shemesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of Egypt shall he burn with fire.
As a shepherd putteth on his garment
(Jeremiah 43:12). Keil gave special attention to the words thus rendered and gave as his opinion that they are properly translated thus: As easily as any shepherd in the open field wraps himself in his cloak, adding that, Other explanations of the word are far-fetched and lexically untenable.F12
We would like to call attention to the preposterous mistranslation of this passage in the Good News Bible. "As a shepherd picks his clothes clean of lice, so the king of Babylon will pick the land of Egypt clean." Such words are simply not in the text. James Moffatt's Translation of the Bible (1929) didn't do any better: "He shall scour the land of Egypt as a shepherd picks vermin out of his plaid."
(Jeremiah 43:13). The Revised Standard Version renders this place Heliopolis on the probability that they might be the same. If that identity is correct, the Egyptian temple of the Sun God was located there.
Footnotes for Jeremiah 43
1: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 637.
3: Barnes' Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), p. 248.
4: Kitchen in The New Bible Dictionary, p. 1236.
5: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 872.
6: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), p., 639.
7: Flavius Josephus' Antiquities, The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by William Whiston (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston), p. 313.
8: Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House) , p. 292.
9: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 652.
10: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 181.
11: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 180.
12: FK, p. 150.