The Jews in Egypt persist in idolatry. (1-14) They refuse to reform. (15-19) Jeremiah then denounces destruction upon them. (20-30)
Verses 1-14 God reminds the Jews of the sins that brought desolations upon Judah. It becomes us to warn men of the danger of sin with all seriousness: Oh, do not do it! If you love God, do not, for it is provoking to him; if you love your own souls, do not, for it is destructive to them. Let conscience do this for us in the hour of temptation. The Jews whom God sent into the land of the Chaldeans, were there, by the power of God's grace, weaned from idolatry; but those who went by their own perverse will into the land of the Egyptians, were there more attached than ever to their idolatries. When we thrust ourselves without cause or call into places of temptation, it is just with God to leave us to ourselves. If we walk contrary to God, he will walk contrary to us. The most awful miseries to which men are exposed, are occasioned by the neglect of offered salvation.
Verses 15-19 These daring sinners do not attempt excuses, but declare they will do that which is forbidden. Those who disobey God, commonly grow worse and worse, and the heart is more hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Here is the real language of the rebellious heart. Even the afflictions which should have parted them from their sins, were taken so as to confirm them in their sins. It is sad when those who should quicken each other to what is good, and so help one another to heaven, harden each other in sin, and so ripen one another for hell. To mingle idolatry with Divine worship, and to reject the mediation of Christ, are provoking to God, and ruinous to men. All who worship images, or honour saints, and angels, and the queen of heaven, should recollect what came from the idolatrous practices of the Jews.
Verses 20-30 Whatever evil comes upon us, it is because we have sinned against the Lord; we should therefore stand in awe, and sin not. Since they were determined to persist in their idolatry, God would go on to punish them. What little remains of religion were among them, would be lost. The creature-comforts and confidences from which we promise ourselves most, may fail as soon as those from which we promise ourselves least; and all are what God makes them, not what we fancy them to be. Well-grounded hopes of our having a part in the Divine mercy, are always united with repentance and obedience.
Jeremiah 44:1-30 . JEREMIAH REPROVES THE JEWS FOR THEIR IDOLATRY IN EGYPT, AND DENOUNCES GOD'S JUDGMENTS ON THEM AND EGYPT ALIKE.
1. Migdol--meaning a "tower." A city east of Egypt, towards the Red Sea ( Exodus 14:2 , Numbers 33:7 ).
Noph--Memphis, now Cairo ( Jeremiah 2:16 ).
Pathros--Upper Egypt ( Isaiah 11:11 ).
2. evil . . . upon Jerusalem--If I spared not My own sacred city, much less shall ye be safe in Egypt, which I loathe.
3. they went--implying perverse assiduity: they went out of their way to burn incense (one species of idolatry put for all kinds), &c.
4. ( 2 Chronicles 36:15 ).
7. now--after so many warnings.
commit . . . this . . . evil against your souls--( Jeremiah 7:19 , Numbers 16:38 , Proverbs 8:36 ). It is not God whom you injure, but yourselves.
8. in . . . Egypt--where they polluted themselves to ingratiate themselves with the Egyptians.
ye be gone--not compelled by fear, but of your own accord, when I forbade you, and when it was free to you to stay in Judea.
that ye might cut yourselves off--They, as it were, purposely courted their own ruin.
9. Have you forgotten how the wickednesses of your fathers were the source of the greatest calamities to you?
their wives--The Jews' worldly queens were great promoters of idolatry ( 1 Kings 11:1-8 , 15:13 , 16:31 ).
the land of Judah--They defiled the land which was holy unto God.
10. They . . . you--The third person puts them to a distance from God on account of their alienating themselves from Him. The second person implies that God formerly had directly addressed them. and to cut off all Judah
humbled--literally, "contrite" ( Psalms 51:17 ).
neither . . . feared--( Proverbs 28:14 ).
--that is, all the idolaters; Jeremiah 44:28
shows that some returned to Judea (compare Jeremiah 42:17
14. none . . . shall escape . . . that they should return, &c.--The Jews had gone to Egypt with the idea that a return to Judea, which they thought hopeless to their brethren in Babylon, would be an easy matter to themselves in Egypt: the exact reverse should happen in the case of each respectively. The Jews whom God sent to Babylon were there weaned from idolatry, and were restored; those who went to Egypt by their perverse will were hardened in idolatry, and perished there.
have a desire--literally, "lift up (their) soul," that is, their hopes (compare Jeremiah 22:27 , Margin; Deuteronomy 24:15 , Margin).
none shall return but such as shall escape--namely, the "small number" ( Jeremiah 44:28 ) who were brought by force into Egypt, as Jeremiah and Baruch, and those who, in accordance with Jeremiah's advice, should flee from Egypt before the arrival of the Chaldeans CALVIN less probably refers the words to the return of the exiles in Babylon, which the Jews in Egypt regarded as hopeless.
15. their wives--The idolatry began with them ( 1 Kings 11:4 , 1 Timothy 2:14 ). Their husbands' connivance implicated them in the guilt.
16. we will not--( Jeremiah 6:16 ).
17. whatsoever . . . goeth . . . out of our . . . mouth--whatever vow we have uttered to our gods ( Jeremiah 44:25 , Deuteronomy 23:23 , Judges 11:36 ). The source of all superstitions is that men oppose their own will and fancies to God's commands.
we . . . fathers . . . king, &c.--The evil was restricted to no one class: all from the highest to the lowest shared the guilt.
then had we plenty--Fools attribute their seeming prosperity to God's connivance at their sin: but see Proverbs 1:32 , Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 . In fact, God had often chastised them for their idolatry (see Judges 2:14 ); but it is the curse of impiety not to perceive the hand of God in calamities.
victuals--Men cast away the bread of the soul for the bread that perisheth ( Deuteronomy 8:3 , John 6:27 ). So Esau ( Hebrews 12:16 ).
18. They impute their calamities to their service of God, but these are often marks of His favor, not of wrath, to do His people good at their latter end ( Deuteronomy 8:16 ).
19. make . . . cakes to worship her--MAURER translates, "to form her image." Crescent-shaped cakes were offered to the moon. Vulgate supports English Version.
without our men--The women mentioned ( Jeremiah 44:15 ); "a great multitude" here speak: we have not engaged in secret night orgies which might justly be regarded unfavorably by our husbands: our sacred rites have been open, and with their privity. They wish to show how unreasonable it is that Jeremiah should oppose himself alone to the act of all, not merely women, but men also. The guilty, like these women, desire to shield themselves under the complicity of others. Instead of helping one another towards heaven, husband and wife often ripen one another for hell.
21. The incense . . . did not the Lord remember--Jeremiah owns that they did as they said, but in retort asks, did not God repay their own evil-doing? Their very land in its present desolation attests this ( Jeremiah 44:22 ), as was foretold ( Jeremiah 25:11 Jeremiah 25:18 Jeremiah 25:38 ).
23. law--the moral precepts.
testimonies--the judicial ( Daniel 9:11 Daniel 9:12 ).
25. Ye . . . have both spoken with . . . mouths, and fulfilled with . . . hand--ironical praise. They had pleaded their obligation to fulfil their vows, in excuse for their idolatry. He answers, no one can accuse you of unsteadiness as to your idolatrous vows; but steadfastness towards God ought to have prevented you from making, or, when made, from keeping such vows.
ye will surely accomplish . . . vows--Jeremiah hereby gives them up to their own fatal obstinacy.
26. I have sworn--I, too have made a vow which I will fulfil. Since ye will not hear Me speaking and warning, hear Me swearing.
by my great name--that is, by Myself ( Genesis 22:16 ), the greatest by whom God can swear ( Hebrews 6:13 Hebrews 6:14 ).
my name shall no more be named--The Jews, heretofore, amidst all their idolatry, had retained the form of appeal to the name of God and the law, the distinctive glory of their nation; God will allow this no more ( Ezekiel 20:39 ): there shall be none left there to profane His name thus any more.
27. watch over . . . for evil--( Jeremiah 1:10 , Ezekiel 7:6 ). The God, whose providence is ever solicitously watching over His people for good, shall solicitously, as it were, watch for their hurt. Contrast Jeremiah 31:28 , 32:41 . Jeremiah 42:17
, Isaiah 27:13
); compare "all-consumed" ( Jeremiah 44:27
). A band easily counted,
whereas they were expecting to return triumphantly in large numbers. shall know
--most of them experimentally, and to their cost. whose words . . . mine, or theirs
"that from Me and them." Jehovah's words are His threats of destruction to the Jews; theirs, the assertion that they expected all goods from their gods ( Jeremiah 44:17
), &c. "Mine"; by which I predict ruin to them. "Theirs"; by which they give themselves free scope in iniquity. shall stand
--( Psalms 33:11
29. this . . . sign unto you--The calamity of Pharaoh-hophra fall before his enemy, so you shall subsequently fall before Nebuchadnezzar ( Matthew 24:8 ) [GROTIUS]. CALVIN makes the "sign" to be simultaneous with the event signified, not antecedent to it, as in Exodus 3:12 . The Jews believed Egypt impregnable, so shut in was it by natural barriers. The Jews being "punished in this place" will be a sign that their view is false, and God's threat true. He calls it "a sign unto you," because God's prediction is equivalent to the event, so that they may even now take it as a sign. When fulfilled it would cease to be a sign to them: for they would be dead.
30. Hophra--in HERODOTUS called Apries. He succeeded Psammis, the successor of Pharaoh-necho, who was beaten by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish, on the Euphrates. Amasis rebelled against, and overcame him, in the city Sais.
them that seek his life--HERODOTUS, in curious accordance with this, records that Amasis, after treating Hophra well at first, was instigated, by persons who thought they could not be safe unless he were put to death, to strangle him. "His enemies" refer to Amasis, &c.; the words are accurately chosen, so as not to refer to Nebuchadnezzar, who is not mentioned till the end of the verse, and in connection with Zedekiah ( Ezekiel 20:3 , 30:21 ). Amasis' civil war with Hophra pioneered the way for Nebuchadnezzar's invasion in the twenty-third year of his reign [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 10.11].