Jeremiah 43 – Jeremiah in Egypt
A. Jeremiah taken to Egypt against his will.
1. (1-3) Jeremiah accused of prophesying falsely.
Now it happened, when Jeremiah had stopped speaking to all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, all these words, that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon.”
a. Azariah… Johanan… and all the proud men spoke: There were many proud men among the leaders of those remaining in the land. They did not like being confronted with their hypocrisy as Jeremiah had done in Jeremiah 42:20.
b. You speak falsely! The LORD our God has not sent you to say: It is remarkable that these men who lived through the tragic accuracy of every word of Jeremiah regarding the sin and judgment of Judah would now say he was a false prophet. They said this despite the evidence, not because of the evidence.
i. “They had no other colour for their rebellion than flatly to deny that God had spoken what the prophet related.” (Clarke)
ii. “All along (had they realized it) they had regarded God as a power to enlist, not a lord to obey; and they still cannot believe that his will can be radically different from their own.” (Kidner)
c. Do not go to Egypt to dwell there: This was the message they plainly denied that God gave Jeremiah to deliver.
i. “In their view Yahweh had not forbidden them to go to Egypt. Here is a good example of a man who was so persuaded that his own wrong views were right that his mind was completely closed to any other possibility – an age-old phenomenon.” (Thompson)
d. Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans: They accused Jeremiah of not bringing a word from Yahweh, but from the Babylonians. They said it was all planned to bring about either their death or captivity in Babylon.
i. The charge was ridiculous. “The prophet who would not trim his message for the king would never have been manipulated by his secretary.” (Feinberg)
ii. “When men do not like the Word of God, they imagine that someone has set the speaker on against them.” (Meyer)
iii. “Just what Baruch stood to gain by exerting such influence is not clear.” (Cundall)
iv. Has set you against us: “How strange it is that ungodly men always think the Word of God is against them, whereas they are set against it!” (Meyer)
2. (4-7) Johanan and the other officers take the remnant to Egypt by force, including Jeremiah.
So Johanan the son of Kareah, all the captains of the forces, and all the people would not obey the voice of the LORD, to remain in the land of Judah. But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to dwell in the land of Judah, from all nations where they had been driven— men, women, children, the king’s daughters, and every person whom 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. So they went to the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD. And they went as far as Tahpanhes.
a. All the people would not obey the voice of the LORD, to remain in the land of Judah: They promised to do whatever God told them to do (Jeremiah 42:5-6), and God told them to trust Him and remain in the land. Johanan, the other leaders and all of the people did not keep their promise and decided to go to Egypt for protection and provision.
i. “Such is the perversity of fallen human nature; when people reach unanimity, too often they are rebels against the will of God (cf. Genesis 11:1-14).” (Feinberg)
ii. “The arm of flesh (Egypt) seemed a greater guarantee of safety than the arm of the Lord.” (Cundall)
b. Took all the remnant of Judah… men, women, children… and Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch: It wasn’t enough for Johanan and the people to disobey God. They also took by force everyone else, forcing them to come with them to Egypt.
c. So they went to the land of Egypt: There is a sense in which they took Jeremiah and his associate Baruch as hostages against God. Since the LORD promised judgment against all who went to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:17), they virtually dared God to judge His faithful prophet who went to Egypt, even if it was against his will.
i. “It must have been for him one of the most tragic events of his life, since it dashed for ever all hopes he may have had to end his days in his homeland, where Yahweh had promised one day to restore the national life of his people.” (Thompson)
ii. “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 there a defeated and hopeless remnant nearly nine hundred years later.” (Feinberg)
iii. As far as Tahpanhes: “This city was called Daphne by the Greeks, and was situated at the extremity of Lower Egypt, near to Heliopolis. It was called Daphne Pelusiaca. They halted at this place, most probably for the purpose of obtaining the king’s permission to penetrate farther into Egypt. It was at this place that, according to St. Jerome, tradition says the faithful Jeremiah was stoned to death by these rebellious wretches; for whose welfare he had watched, prayed, gone through many indignities, and suffered every kind of hardship. And now he sealed the truth of his Divine mission with his blood.” (Clarke)
B. God’s word through Jeremiah in Egypt.
1. (8-9) The sign of the hidden stones.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, “Take large stones in your hand, and hide them in the sight of the men of Judah, in the clay in the brick courtyard which is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes;”
a. The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: Jeremiah was no longer in the Promised Land, and God commanded His people who remained after the Babylonian exile to remain in that land. By force, Jeremiah was taken to Egypt – yet, the word of the LORD still came to him. He was still God’s prophet, and God did not count him as disobedient because of the unique and strange circumstances of his presence in Egypt.
i. “They ignored the word of Jehovah, and, indeed, openly and willfully refused it, consoling themselves by denying that it was the word of Jehovah. But they had not escaped from God, nor passed beyond the reach of His word.” (Morgan)
b. Take large stones in your hand, and hide them: God commanded Jeremiah to do the same kind of thing He had commanded him to do in Judah – to do something that would illustrate and memorialize a prophetic word. God commanded Jeremiah to take some large stones and hide or bury them at the entrance to Pharaoh’s house.
i. “Precisely on that spot, in front of the royal residence, Nebuchadnezzar would assert his sovereignty over Egypt, and would be doing so at God’s command.” (Kidner)
ii. “Flinders Petrie, who excavated Tahpanhes in the nineteenth century, cleared a paved area in front of the entrance to the royal dwelling, identifying it with the ‘platform’ mentioned in this verse.” (Harrison)
2. (10-13) The message of the hidden stones.
“And say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will send and bring Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden. And he will spread his royal pavilion over them. When he comes, he shall strike the land of Egypt and deliver to death those appointed for death, and to captivity those appointed for captivity, and to the sword those appointed for the sword. 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 puts on his garment, and he shall go out from there in peace. He shall also break the sacred pillars of Beth Shemesh that are in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians he shall burn with fire.”’”
a. I will send and bring Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon: God promised that He would bring Nebuchadnezzar to conquer and judge Egypt, just has He had done to Judah. Nebuchadnezzar would set his throne above these stones, in the very courtyard of the Pharaoh’s palace.
i. “Jeremiah must have buried the stones some distance away from the actual building; it seems unlikely that a refugee Judean would be allowed to disturb a laid-out pavement.” (Thompson)
ii. “The large stones were symbolic of a pedestal on which Nebuchadnezzar would set up his throne as a sign of his conquest of Egypt.” (Thompson)
iii. Royal pavilion: This word “is found nowhere else in the OT. Freedman suggests that the term derives from an Assyrian root with the sense of ‘to spread out,’ hence the variety of meanings offered by scholars.” (Feinberg)
b. I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt: God promised that the judgment coming to Egypt would be comprehensive. Through the Babylonians would come death, captivity, and the sword. They would also destroy and loot Egyptian temples. The message was clear: If they went to Egypt to escape the wrath and power of the Babylonians, it would follow them there. It was better to stay in Judea and trust God to protect and provide.
i. “A fragmentary inscription records that Nebuchadnezzar actually invaded Egypt in 568/7 BC, when Amasis (570-526 BC) was pharaoh. The attack was more of a punitive expedition than a wholesale reduction of the land.” (Harrison)
ii. As a shepherd puts on his garment: “With as much ease, and with as little opposition; and with as full a confidence that it is now his own.” (Clarke)
iii. The ESV, following some other translations, renders the line in Jeremiah 43:12 as, he shall clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin. “There is a homely picture here which is well understood by those who have travelled in some parts of the Middle East. The picking of lice from one’s clothing is used to describe Nebuchadnezzar’s plundering activities when he finally invaded Egypt.” (Thompson)