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Again the Word of the Lord came to His servant "concerning all the Jews which dwelt in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros" (Jeremiah 44:1). Migdol was a royal fortress, not far from the place where the Red Sea was parted for the deliverance of the redeemed host under Moses. Noph is supposed to be the same as Memphis, the ancient capital of Upper Egypt. The general term Pathros covered a considerable district in Upper Egypt, inhabited originally by the Pathrusim. It will be seen from the mention of these various localities that the Jews had in a very short time, a few months at most, spread themselves over a large part of the country; though there may have been several earlier colonies planted there prior to the movement we have been considering.
The Lord's expostulation is recorded in Jeremiah 44:2-14. He bids them consider the evil which He brought upon Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah because of the frightful wickedness there perpetrated. "Rising early," (Jeremiah 44:4) He had sought their good, sending prophets saying, "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate!" (Jeremiah 44:4) It was idolatry that provoked His special abhorrence. But they would neither give heed to the warnings and entreaties of the prophets nor turn from their iniquitous ways. Therefore His fury had been poured forth and the land now lay waste and desolate. Their present course was but an aggravation of the evil, and would, if persisted in, result in national suicide. In Egypt they were fast relapsing into idolatry. Unless they repented, He could but cut them off from the face of the earth. Yea, by their folly, they were cutting themselves off.
How short their memory! Had they already forgotten the wickedness of their fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and their own wickedness, and the wickedness of their wives in the land of Judah, which had drawn down so awful a punishment? They were not humbled, even after all the past; nor was there any evidence of godly fear; neither had they walked in His law, nor in His statutes, which He had set before them and their fathers. Because of this persistency in wrongdoing, He would set His face against them for evil, to cut them all off. From the least to the greatest, all the men of Judah who dwelt in Egypt should be consumed - those, of course, who had gone there of their own volition. Jeremiah and Baruch, together with many of Gedaliah's former followers, were there by force, and hence could not be included with the self-willed captains and their retainers. Even should the latter desire to return, they would not be permitted so to do. "None shall return but such as shall escape" (Jeremiah 44:11-14).
Open and unblushing defiance greeted this serious warning and earnest expostulation. The true state of the people was at once made manifest, and the hypocritical nature of their former protestations became clearly apparent.
Idolatry of the most degrading character had already been secretly practiced by them; the women leading, and the men abetting, as formerly in the land (Jeremiah 44:15). The latter boldly declared, "'As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee" (Jeremiah 44:16). It was willful, deliberate, high-handed opposition to the truth!
The reasons given illustrate the grave danger of trusting in experience rather than going to the Word of GOD, in spite of all outward appearances. Walking by sight, not faith, they reasoned that when, in the cities of Judah, they ignored the Lord's word and burned incense unto the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, they had a measure of prosperity; at least they had "plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil." (Jeremiah 44:17)
On the other hand, since they had left off so to do, they "have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine" (Jeremiah 44:18-19). Therefore they argue, it is clear that the blessings of the gods of the heathen were theirs while they thus served the queen of heaven. This blessing had been withdrawn when they gave up the outward symbols of idolatry and professed to worship the Lord. How plausible and specious was their sophistry! Yet are there not many who reason in similar ways now? It was the appeal to a momentary experience, instead of to the Word of GOD - the only safe guide.
Jeremiah's answer is ready and convincing, whether they will own it or not. It was their idolatrous practices which brought down the wrath of the Lord upon them. He stood it until He could no longer bear it; then His judgment fell. For this very cause all the evil they complained of had come upon them (Jeremiah 44:20-23).
For the women He had a special word. Because they were the leaders in thus dishonoring His Name, that Holy Name should "no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord God liveth" (Jeremiah 44:26). He would give them up to destruction, watching over them for evil, and not for good, until they should all be consumed, save a small number, who, escaping the sword, should return unto the land of Judah. Thus "all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, Mine, or theirs" (Jeremiah 44:27-28).
A sign of the coming destruction was also given, that, when it came to pass, they might know the hour of their judgment was no more to be delayed. Pharaoh-hophra, the king of Egypt, was to be given into the hand of his enemies. Thus the bruised reed upon which they leaned should be broken (Jeremiah 44:29-30).
How vain the effort of man to withstand his Maker! What folly to strive with Him! Truly:
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding." (Job 28:28)
~ end of chapter 22 ~
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 44". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany