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The remnant’s flight to Egypt 42:1-43:7
This chapter continues the narrative begun at Jeremiah 41:4. The remnant leaders asked Jeremiah to obtain the Lord’s instructions concerning their proposed flight to Egypt (Jeremiah 42:1-6).
As soon as Jeremiah had finished telling the remnant what God’s will was, Azariah, Johanan, and other arrogant men among them accused Jeremiah of lying to them. They claimed that Baruch was the source of the advice Jeremiah had given them, rather than Yahweh. They believed that Baruch wanted the Chaldeans to slay or exile them. Baruch was Jeremiah’s scribe, and both men were loyal to Yahweh (cf. ch. 45). Perhaps these opponents felt that Baruch was unduly influencing the prophet.
"Here is a good example of a man [Azariah] 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." [Note: Thompson, p. 668.]
Johanan, the guerrilla commanders, and all the refugees did not obey Yahweh’s instruction to stay in the land. "All the people" in view here, must refer to all the people in this group of Judahites near Bethlehem, not all the people still in the land. Many Judeans remained in the land and did not go to Egypt. Here was a final moment of opportunity for the Judahites still in the land, but they continued to reject the Lord’s instructions.
These leaders took this remnant, which included Jews who had returned to the land from neighboring countries, Jews whom the Babylonians had left in the land, Jeremiah, and Baruch, and proceeded to Egypt. They stopped at Tahpanhes (Gr. Daphne; cf. Jeremiah 2:16), an Egyptian frontier town in the northeastern Nile Delta region on the road from Canaan, perhaps to obtain permission to settle in the land. [Note: See the map of the ancient Near East at the end of these notes.] They did this in disobedience to the Lord. Note the continued emphasis on the people’s disobedience throughout this whole chapter.
"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 there a defeated and hopeless remnant nearly nine hundred years later . . ." [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 637.]
It is difficult to tell whether Jeremiah went with them as a prisoner or by his own choice. It seems unlikely that this group of rebels against God’s messages through Jeremiah would have forced him (and Baruch) to accompany them, knowing that he would continue to be a thorn in their side. If Jeremiah went to Egypt by his own choice, he must have done so convinced that Yahweh wanted him to be His voice among the rebels. At the same time, he could not have gone to escape danger and still have remained completely faithful to his Lord, since he had preached cooperation and submission to the Babylonians as God’s will. Many of the commentators speculate that he did not go voluntarily (cf. Jeremiah 32:6-15; Jeremiah 40:1-6; Jeremiah 42:13-18), and I tend to agree.
Events in Egypt 43:8-45:5
As the rebellious remnant moved from Judah to Egypt, so does the narrative.
The Lord continued to give prophetic messages to Jeremiah in Egypt.
Jeremiah’s prediction of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt 43:8-13
Yahweh instructed Jeremiah to perform another symbolic act (cf. Jeremiah 13:4-7; Jeremiah 19:1-13; Jeremiah 27:1 to Jeremiah 28:16; Ezekiel 4:1-12; Ezekiel 5:1-4; Ezekiel 12:3-6; Ezekiel 12:18; Ezekiel 37:15-17). He was to hide some large stones in the mortar of the brick courtyard, in front of an official government building or royal residence in Tahpanhes, while some of the Judahites watched. Pharaoh evidently had a royal residence in Tahpanhes, as well as one at Elephantine, an island in the Nile River on the southern frontier of Egypt near modern Aswan. [Note: J. Bright, Jeremiah, p. 263.] Perhaps the large stones symbolized the foundation of Nebuchadnezzar’s future throne (Jeremiah 43:10), or the Jews over whom Nebuchadnezzar would rule.
"Sir Flinders Petrie, who excavated Tell Defenneh, found a large paved area which he believed to be the one referred to here. It was situated in front of what he identified as Pharaoh’s house, and was probably used as an unloading and storage area." [Note: Graybill, p. 686.]
Jeremiah was then to tell the Judahites that Yahweh was going to bring Nebuchadnezzar, His servant (cf. Jeremiah 27:6; 45:9; Isaiah 44:28), into Egypt. The Babylonian king would set up his throne and his royal canopy (or carpet) right over the place where Jeremiah had imbedded his stones. [Note: The Hebrew word shapriro, translated "canopy," occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and its meaning is debatable.]
Nebuchadnezzar would fight the Egyptians. Those whom the Lord appointed for death would die, those He appointed for captivity would go into captivity, and those He appointed for battle would participate in battle.
"The meaning of the parable . . . is clear. Though the Judean refugees have buried themselves in populous Egypt, they will be discovered and feel, as their compatriots had done, the weight of Babylonian might." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 165.]
Nebuchadnezzar would do to Egypt what he had done to Judah. He would burn down the Egyptian temples and take people captive. He would capture Egypt as easily as a shepherd wraps himself with a garment, and he would depart from Egypt in safety. Some translations yield the image of the shepherd picking his cloak clean of lice, which is possibly what Jeremiah intended. In this case the figure is probably of Nebuchadnezzar picking his prey clean.
Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt about 568-567 B.C. and defeated Pharaoh Ahmose (Gr. Amasis, 570-526 B.C.; cf. Ezekiel 29:17-20). [Note: See Pritchard, ed., p. 308.]
Nebuchadnezzar would also break down the obelisks that stood at On (Gr. Heliopolis), the Egyptian city of the sun about five miles northeast of modern Cairo. And he would burn the temples of the gods of Egypt. Heliopolis was the site of the famous temple of Amon-Re, the sun god, which people approached by passing between two rows of obelisks. [Note: Thompson, p. 671.] Only one of these obelisks still stands on the site. One of them is now in Central Park in New York City, and another is on the Thames Embankment in London. Both are wrongly called "Cleopatra’s Needle." [Note: Graybill, p. 686.] Egyptian obelisks were sacred monuments that honored various pagan gods. As Moses, the servant of the Lord, had humiliated the gods of Egypt at the Exodus, so Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile servant of the Lord, would humiliate them again.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 43". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26