Johanan desires Jeremiah to ask counsel of God. (1-6) They are assured of safety in Judea, but of destruction in Egypt. (7-22)
Verses 1-6 To serve a turn, Jeremiah is sought out, and the captains ask for his assistance. In every difficult, doubtful case, we must look to God for direction; and we may still, in faith, pray to be guided by a spirit of wisdom in our hearts, and the leadings of Providence. We do not truly desire to know the mind of God, if we do not fully resolve to comply with it when we know it. Many promise to do what the Lord requires, while they hope to have their pride flattered, and their favourite lusts spared. Yet something betrays the state of their hearts.
Verses 7-22 If we would know the mind of the Lord in doubtful cases, we must wait as well as pray. God is ever ready to return in mercy to those he has afflicted; and he never rejects any who rely on his promises. He has declared enough to silence even the causeless fears of his people, which discourge them in the way of duty. Whatever loss or suffering we may fear from obedience, is provided against in God's word; and he will protect and deliver all who trust in him and serve him. It is folly to quit our place, especially to quit a holy land, because we meet with trouble in it. And the evils we think to escape by sin, we certainly bring upon ourselves. We may apply this to the common troubles of life; and those who think to avoid them by changing their place, will find that the grievances common to men will meet them wherever they go. Sinners who dissemble with God in solemn professions especially should be rebuked with sharpness; for their actions speak more plainly than words. We know not what is good for ourselves; and what we are most fond of, and have our hearts most set upon, often proves hurtful, and sometimes fatal.
Jeremiah 42:1-22 . THE JEWS AND JOHANAN INQUIRE OF GOD, THROUGH JEREMIAH, AS TO GOING TO EGYPT, PROMISING OBEDIENCE TO HIS WILL. THEIR SAFETY ON CONDITION OF STAYING IN JUDEA, AND THEIR DESTRUCTION IN THE EVENT OF GOING TO EGYPT, ARE FORETOLD. THEM HYPOCRISY IN ASKING FOR COUNSEL WHICH THEY MEANT NOT TO FOLLOW, IF CONTRARY TO THEIR OWN DETERMINATION, IS REPROVED.
2. Jeremiah--He probably was one of the number carried off from Mizpah, and dwelt with Johanan ( Jeremiah 41:16 ). Hence the expression is, "came near" ( Jeremiah 42:1 ), not "sent."
Let . . . supplication be accepted--literally, "fall" Jeremiah 37:20 ).
pray for us--( Genesis 20:7 , Isaiah 37:4 , 5:16 ).
thy God--( Jeremiah 42:5 ). The Jews use this form to express their belief in the peculiar relation in which Jeremiah stood to God as His accredited prophet. Jeremiah in his reply reminds them that God is their God ("your God") as well as his as being the covenant people ( Jeremiah 42:4 ). They in turn acknowledge this in Jeremiah 42:6 , "the Lord our God."
few of many--as had been foretold ( Leviticus 26:22 ).
3. They consulted God, like many, not so much to know what was right, as wishing Him to authorize what they had already determined on, whether agreeable to His will or not. So Ahab in consulting Micaiah ( 1 Kings 22:13 ). Compare Jeremiah's answer ( Jeremiah 42:4 ) with Micaiah's ( 1 Kings 22:14 ).
4. I have heard--that is, I accede to your request.
your God--Being His by adoption, ye are not your own, and are bound to whatever He wills ( Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:6 1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:20 ).
answer you--that is, through me.
keep nothing back--( 1 Samuel 3:18 , Acts 20:20 ).
5. Lord be a true . . . witness--( Genesis 31:50 , Psalms 89:37 , Revelation 1:5 , 3:14 , 19:11 ).
6. evil--not moral evil, which God cannot command ( James 1:13 ), but what may be disagreeable and hard to us. Piety obeys God, without questioning, at all costs. See the instance defective in this, that it obeyed only so far as was agreeable to itself ( 1 Samuel 15:3 1 Samuel 15:9 1 Samuel 15:13-15 1 Samuel 15:20-23 ).
7. ten days--Jeremiah did not speak of himself, but waited God's time and revelation, showing the reality of his inspiration. Man left to himself would have given an immediate response to the people, who were impatient of delay. The delay was designed to test the sincerity of their professed willingness to obey, and that they should have full time to deliberate ( Deuteronomy 8:2 ). True obedience bows to God's time, as well as His way and will.
10. If ye . . . abide--namely, under the Babylonian authority, to which God hath appointed that all should be subject ( Daniel 2:37 Daniel 2:38 ). To resist was to resist God.
build . . . plant--metaphor for, I will firmly establish you ( Jeremiah 24:6 ).
I repent . . . of the evil--( Jeremiah 18:8 , Deuteronomy 32:36 ). I am satisfied with the punishment I have inflicted on you, if only you add not a new offense [GROTIUS]. God is said to "repent," when He alters His outward ways of dealing.
12. show mercies--rather, I will excite (in him) feelings of mercy towards you [CALVIN].
cause you to return--permit you to return to the peaceable enjoyment of the possessions from which you are wishing to withdraw through fear of the Chaldeans. By departing in disobedience they should incur the very evils they wished thereby to escape; and by staying they should gain the blessings which they feared to lose by doing so.
13. if ye say, &c.--avowed rebellion against God, who had often ( Deuteronomy 17:16 ), as now, forbidden their going to Egypt, lest they should be entangled in its idolatry.
14. where we shall see no war--Here they betray their impiety in not believing God's promise ( Jeremiah 42:10 Jeremiah 42:11 ), as if He were a liar ( 1 John 5:10 ).
15. wholly set your faces--firmly resolve ( Luke 9:51 ) in spite of all warnings ( Jeremiah 44:12 ).
16. sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you--The very evils we think to escape by sin, we bring on ourselves thereby. What our hearts are most set on often proves fatal to us. Those who think to escape troubles by changing their place will find them wherever they go ( Ezekiel 11:8 ). The "sword" here is that of Nebuchadnezzar, who fulfilled the prediction in his expedition to Africa (according to MEGASTHENES, a heathen writer),300 B.C.
17. all the men--excepting the "small number" mentioned ( Jeremiah 44:14 Jeremiah 44:28 ); namely, those who were forced into Egypt against their will, Jeremiah, Baruch, &c., and those who took Jeremiah's advice and fled from Egypt before the arrival of the Chaldeans.
18. As mine anger, &c.--As ye have already, to your sorrow, found Me true to My word, so shall ye again ( Jeremiah 7:20 , 18:16 ).
shall see this place no more--Ye shall not return to Judea, as those shall who have been removed to Babylon.
19. I have admonished--literally, "testified," that is, solemnly admonished, having yourselves as My witnesses; so that if ye perish, ye yourselves will have to confess that it was through your own fault, not through ignorance, ye perished.
20. dissembled in your hearts--rather, "ye have used deceit against your (own) souls." It is not God, but yourselves, whom ye deceive, to your own ruin, by your own dissimulation ( Galatians 6:7 ) [CALVIN]. But the words following accord best with English Version, ye have dissembled in your hearts God for you.
21. declared it--namely, the divine will.
I . . . but ye--antithesis. I have done my part; but ye do not yours. It is no fault of mine that ye act not rightly.
22. sojourn--for a time, until they could return to their country. They expected, therefore, to be restored, in spite of God's prediction to the contrary.