Johanan and the captains being strongly bent upon going into Egypt,
either their affections or politics advising them to take that course,
they had a great desire that God should direct them to do so too like
Balaam, who, when he was determined to go and curse Israel, asked God
leave. Here is,
I. The fair bargain that was made between Jeremiah and them about
consulting God in this matter,
II. The message at large which God sent them, in answer to their
enquiry, in which,
1. They are commanded and encouraged to continue in the land of Judah,
and assured that if they did so it should be well with them,
2. They are forbidden to go to Egypt, and are plainly told that if
they did it would be their ruin,
3. They are charged with dissimulation in their asking what God's will
was in this matter and disobedience when they were told what it was;
and sentence is accordingly passed upon them,
|Jeremiah Agrees to Consult God.
||B. C. 588.|
1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of
Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from
the least even unto the greatest, came near,
2 And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our
supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the
LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but
a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)
3 That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may
walk, and the thing that we may do.
4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you;
behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your
words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the
LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep
nothing back from you.
5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful
witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for
the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.
6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey
the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may
be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.
We have reason to wonder how Jeremiah the prophet escaped the sword of
Ishmael; it seems he did escape, and it was not the first time that the
Lord hid him. It is strange also that in these violent turns he was not
consulted before now, and his advice asked and taken. But it should
seem as if they knew not that a prophet was among them. Though this
people were as brands plucked out of the fire, yet have they not
returned to the Lord. This people has a revolting and a
rebellious heart; and contempt of God and his providence, God and
his prophets, is still the sin that most easily besets them. But
now at length, to serve a turn, Jeremiah is sought out, and all the
captains, Johanan himself not excepted, with all the people from
the least to the greatest, make him a visit; they came near
which intimates that hitherto they had kept at a distance from the
prophet and had been shy of him. Now here,
I. They desire him by prayer to ask direction from God what they should
do in the present critical juncture,
They express themselves wonderfully well.
1. With great respect to the prophet. Though he was poor and low, and
under their command, yet they apply to him with humility and
submissiveness, as petitioners for his assistance, which yet they
intimate their own unworthiness of: Let, we beseech thee, our
supplication be accepted before thee. They compliment him thus in
hopes to persuade him to say as they would have him say.
2. With a great opinion of his interest in heaven: "Pray for us,
who know not how to pray for ourselves. Pray to the Lord thy
God, for we are unworthy to call him ours, nor have we reason to
expect any favour from him."
3. With a great sense of their need of divine direction. They speak of
themselves as objects of compassion: "We are but a remnant, but a
few of many; how easily will such a remnant be swallowed up, and
yet it is a pity that it should. Thy eyes see what distress we
are in, what a plunge we are at; if thou canst do any thing, help us."
4. With desire of divine direction: "Let the Lord thy God take
this ruin into his thoughts and under his hand, and show us the way
wherein we may walk and may expect to have his presence with us,
and the thing that we may do, the course we may take for our own
safety." Note, In every difficult doubtful case our eye must be up to
God for direction. They then might expect to be directed by a spirit
of prophecy, which has now ceased; but we may still in faith pray
to be guided by a spirit of wisdom in our hearts and the hints
II. Jeremiah faithfully promises them to pray for direction for them,
and, whatever message God should send to them by him, he would deliver
it to them just as he received it without adding, altering, or
Ministers may hence learn,
1. Conscientiously to pray for those who desire their prayers: I
will pray for you according to your words. Though they had slighted
him, yet, like Samuel when he was slighted, he will not sin against
the Lord in ceasing to pray for them,
1 Samuel 12:23.
2. Conscientiously to advise those who desire their advice as near as
they can to the mind of God, not keeping back any thing that is
profitable for them, whether it be pleasing or no, but to
declare to them the whole counsel of God, that they may approve
themselves true to their trust.
III. They fairly promise that they will be governed by the will of God,
as soon as they know what it is
and they had the impudence to appeal to God concerning their sincerity
herein, though at the same time they dissembled: "The Lord be a true
and faithful witness between us; do thou in the fear of God tell us
truly what his mind is and then we will in the fear of God comply with
it, and for this the Lord the Judge be Judge between us." Note, Those
that expect to have the benefit of good ministers' prayers must
conscientiously hearken to their preaching and be governed by it, as
far as it agrees with the mind of God. Nothing could be better than
this was: Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey
the voice of the Lord our God, that it may be well with us.
1. They now call God their God, for Jeremiah had encouraged them
to call him so
I will pray to the Lord your God. He is ours, and therefore
we will obey his voice. Our relation to God strongly obliges us
2. They promise to obey his voice because they sent the prophet
to him to consult him. Note, We do not truly desire to know the mind of
God if we do not fully resolve to comply with it when we do know it.
3. It is an implicit universal obedience that they here promise. They
will do what God appoints them to do, whether it be good or whether
it be evil: "Though it may seem evil to us, yet we will believe
that if God command it it is certainly good, and we must not dispute
it, but do it. Whatever God commands, whether it be easy or difficult,
agreeable to our inclinations or contrary to them, whether it be cheap
or costly, fashionable or unfashionable, whether we get or lose by it
in our worldly interests, if it be our duty, we will do it."
4. It is upon a very good consideration that they promise this, a
reasonable and powerful one, that it may be well with us, which
intimates a conviction that they could not expect it should be well
with them upon any other terms.
|Jeremiah's Address to the People.
||B. C. 588.|
7 And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD
came unto Jeremiah.
8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the
captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people
from the least even to the greatest,
9 And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel,
unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him;
10 If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you,
and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck
you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.
11 Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid;
be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save
you, and to deliver you from his hand.
12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy
upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.
13 But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey
the voice of the LORD your God,
14 Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we
shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have
hunger of bread; and there will we dwell:
15 And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of
Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye
wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn
16 Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye
feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the
famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you
there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.
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.
18 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine
anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of
Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye
shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an
astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this
place no more.
19 The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go
ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this
20 For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the
LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and
according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare
unto us, and we will do it.
21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have
not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for
the which he hath sent me unto you.
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.
We have here the answer which Jeremiah was sent to deliver to those who
employed him to ask counsel of God.
I. It did not come immediately, not till ten days after,
They were thus long held in suspense, perhaps, to punish them for their
hypocrisy or to show that Jeremiah did not speak of himself, nor what
he would, for he could not speak when he would, but must wait for
instructions. However, it teaches us to continue waiting upon God for
direction in our way. The vision is for an appointed time, and at
the end it shall speak.
II. When it did come he delivered it publicly, both to the
captains and to all the people, from the meanest to those
in the highest station; he delivered it fully and faithfully as he
received it, as he had promised that he would keep nothing back from
them. If Jeremiah had been to direct them by his own prudence, perhaps
he could not have told what to advise them to, the case was so
difficult; but what he has to advise is what the Lord the God of
Israel saith, to whom they had sent him, and therefore they were
bound in honour and duty to observe it. And this he tells them,
1. That it is the will of God that they should stay where they are, and
his promise that, if they do so, it shall undoubtedly be well with
them he would have them still to abide in this land,
Their brethren were forced out of it into captivity, and this was their
affliction; let those therefore count it a mercy that they may stay in
it and a duty to stay in it. Let those whose lot is in Canaan never
quit it while they can keep it. It would have been enough to oblige
them if God had only said, "I charge you upon your allegiance to
abide still in the land;" but he rather persuades them to it as
a friend than commands it as a prince.
(1.) He expresses a very tender concern for them in their present
calamitous condition: It repenteth me of the evil that I have done
unto you. Though they had shown small sign of their repenting of
their sins, yet God, as one grieved for the misery of Israel
begins to repent of the judgments he had brought upon them for their
sins. Not that he changed his mind, but he was very ready to change his
way and to return in mercy to them. God's time to repent himself
concerning his servants is when he sees that, as here, their strength
is gone, and there is none shut up or left,
(2.) He answers the argument they had against abiding in this land.
They feared the king of Babylon
lest he should come and avenge the death of Gedaliah upon them, though
they were no way accessory to it, nay, had witnessed against it. The
surmise was foreign and unreasonable; but, if there had been any ground
for it, enough is here said to remove it
"Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, though he is a man of
great might and little mercy, and a very arbitrary prince, whose will
is a law, and therefore you are afraid he will upon this pretence,
though without colour of reason, take advantage against you; be not
afraid of him, for that fear will bring a snare: fear not him, for
I am with you; and, if God be for you to save you, who can be
against you to hurt you?" Thus has God provided to obviate and silence
even the causeless fears of his people, which discourage them in the
way of their duty; there is enough in the promises to encourage them.
(3.) He assures them that if they will still abide in this land they
shall not only be safe from the king of Babylon, but be made happy by
the King of kings: "I will build you and plant you; you shall
take root again, and be the new foundation of another state, a
phoenix-kingdom, rising out of the ashes of the last." It is added
I will show mercies unto you. Note, In all our comforts we may
read God's mercies. God will show them mercy in this, that not only the
king of Babylon shall not destroy them, but he shall have mercy upon
them and help to settle them. Note, Whatever kindness men do us we
must attribute it to God's kindness. He makes those whom he pities to
be pitied even by those who carried them captives,
"The king of Babylon, having now the disposal of the country, shall
cause you to return it to your own land, shall settle you again
in your own habitations and put you in possession of the lands that
formerly belonged to you." Note, God has made that our duty which is
really our privilege, and our obedience will be its own recompence.
"Abide in this land, and it shall be your own land again and you
shall continue in it. Do not quit it now that you stand so fair for the
enjoyment of it again. Be no so unwise as to forsake your own
mercies for lying vanities."
2. That as they tender the favour of God and their own happiness they
must by no means think of going into Egypt, not thither of all places,
not to that land out of which God had delivered their fathers and which
he had so often warned them not to make alliance with nor to put
confidence in. Observe here,
(1.) The sin they are supposed to be guilty of (and to him that knew
their hearts it was more than a supposition): "You begin to say, We
will not dwell in this land
we will never think that we can be safe in it, no, not though God
himself undertake our protection. We will not continue in it, no, not
in obedience to the voice of the Lord our God. He may say what
he please, but we will do what we please. We will go into the land
of Egypt, and there will we dwell, whether God give us leave
and go along with us or no,"
It is supposed that their hearts were upon it: "If you wholly set
your faces to enter into Egypt, and are obstinately resolved that
you will go and sojourn there, though God oppose you in it both
by his word and by his providence, then take what follows." Now the
reason they go upon in this resolution is that "in Egypt we shall
see no war, nor have hunger of bread,; as we have had for a long time
in this land,"
Note, It is folly to quit our place, especially to quit the holy land,
because we meet with trouble in it; but greater folly to think by
changing our place to escape the judgments of God, and that evil which
pursues sinners in every way of disobedience, and which there is no
escaping but by returning to our allegiance.
(2.) The sentence passed upon them for this sin, if they will persist
in it. It is pronounced in God's name
"Hear the word of the Lord, you remnant of Judah, who think that
because you are a remnant you must be spared of course
and indulged in your own humour."
[1.] Did the sword and famine frighten them? Those very judgments shall
pursue them into Egypt, shall overtake them, and overcome them there
"You think, because war and famine have long been raging in this land,
that they are entailed upon it; whereas, if you trust in God, he can
make even this land a land of peace to you; you think they are confined
to it, and, if you can get clear of this land, you shall get out of the
reach of them, but God will send them after you wherever you go." Note,
the evils we think to escape by sin we certainly and inevitably run
ourselves upon. The men that go to Egypt in contradiction to God's
will, to escape the sword and famine, shall die in Egypt by
sword and famine. We may apply it to the common calamities of human
life; those that are impatient of them, and think to avoid them by
changing their place, will find that they are deceived and that they do
not at all better themselves. The grievances common to men will meet
them wherever they go. All our removes in this world are but from one
wilderness to another; still we are where we were.
[2.] Did the desolations of Jerusalem frighten them? Were they willing
to get as far as they could from them? They shall meet with the second
part of them too in Egypt
As my anger and fury have been poured out here upon Jerusalem,
so they shall be poured out upon you in Egypt. Note, Those that
have by sin made God their enemy will find him a consuming fire
wherever they go. And then you shall be an execration and an
astonishment. The Hebrews were of old an abomination to the
and now they shall be made more so than ever. When God's professing
people mingle with infidels, and make their court to them, they lose
their dignity and make themselves a reproach.
3. That God knew their hypocrisy in their enquiries of him, and that
when they asked what he would have them to do they were resolved to
take their own way; and therefore the sentence which was before
pronounced conditionally is made absolute. Having set before them good
and evil, the blessing and the curse, in the close he makes application
of what he had said. And here,
(1.) He solemnly protests that he had faithfully delivered his message,
The conclusion of the whole matter is, "Go not down into Egypt;
you disobey the command of God if you do, and what I have said to you
will be a witness against you; for know certainly that,
whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, I have
plainly admonished you; you cannot now plead ignorance of the
mind of God."
(2.) He charges them with base dissimulation in the application they
made to him for divine direction
"You dissembled in your hearts; you professed one thing and
intended another, promising what you never meant to perform." You
have used deceit against your soul (so the margin reads it); for
those that think to put a cheat upon God will prove in the end to have
put a damning cheat upon themselves.
(3.) He is already aware that they are determined to go contrary to the
command of God; probably they discovered it in their countenance and
secret mutterings already, before he had finished his discourse.
However, he spoke from him who knew their hearts: "You have not
obeyed the voice of the Lord your God; you have not a disposition
to obey it." Thus Moses, in the close of his farewell sermon, had told
I know thy rebellion and thy stiff neck, and that you will
corrupt yourselves. Admire the patience of God, that he is pleased
to speak to those who, he knows, will not regard him, and deal with
those who, he knows, will deal very treacherously,
(4.) He therefore reads them their doom, ratifying what he had said
before: Know certainly that you shall die by the sword,
God's threatenings may be vilified, but cannot be nullified, by the
unbelief of man. Famine and pestilence shall pursue these
sinners; for there is no place privileged from divine arrests, nor can
any malefactors go out of God's jurisdiction. You shall die in the
place whither you desire to go. Note, We know not what is good for
ourselves; and that often proves afflictive, and sometimes fatal, which
we are most fond of and have our hearts most set upon.