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The Hypocritical Inquiry
v. 1. Then, while the caravan of refugees was encamped at the khan near Bethlehem, all the captains of the forces and Johanan, the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah, the son of Hoshaiah, who was a native of Maachah, 40:8, and all the people, from the least even unto the greatest, came near
v. 2. and said unto Jeremiah, the prophet, who had been taken along from Mizpah together with the other inhabitants of the city, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, literally, "fall before thy face," as a petitioner on bended knee, and pray for us unto the Lord, thy God, even for all this remnant, the small band of refugees who remained of the former great and mighty nation, (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us,)
v. 3. that the Lord, thy God, may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do, that is, what they should do now, where they should turn in this emergency, in order to escape the certain vengeance of the Chaldeans. The expression "thy God" in this connection emphasizes the peculiar, intimate relation in which Jeremiah stood over against Jehovah, as His servant and prophet.
v. 4. Then Jeremiah, the prophet, said unto them, I have heard you, he was ready to do as they requested; behold, I will pray unto the Lord, your God, according to your words, and it shall come to pass that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. His words implied that, whether Jehovah's answer were favorable or unfavorable to their plans, he would in any event proclaim it. It seems clear from the first that the leaders of the refugees had already decided not to remain in Judea, but to go to some neighboring country. They acted just as many people do in our days, who call upon the Lord to direct them, but only along the lines which they themselves have chosen.
v. 5. Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful Witness between us if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord, thy God, shall send thee to us, apparently an unconditional yielding to the guidance of God, whether they were at this time aware of their insincerity or not.
v. 6. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord, our God, to whom we send thee, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord, our God, their obedience being the reason for the Lord's good pleasure upon them. In every true prayer it is essential that both doubt and hypocrisy be absent, lest the supplication made defeat its own ends.
The Lord's Warning Answer
v. 7. And it came to pass after ten days, during which the caravan remained encamped in the same place, since Jeremiah did not presume to speak of himself, but awaited the inspiration of the Lord, that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, by special revelation or in a vision.
v. 8. Then called he Johanan, the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people, from the least even to the greatest, the same ones who had presented their petition to him, v. 1,
v. 9. and said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, the fact that He is the Lord of His people, of His Church, being brought out here, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplications before Him:
v. 10. If ye will still abide in this land, continuing to make their home in the country of their fathers, then will I build you and not pull you down, a figure taken from the erection of buildings, and I will plant you and not pluck you up, a figure taken from the work of a gardener; for I repent Me of the evil that I have done unto you, their repentance would cause His good will to return upon them.
v. 11. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid, the fear of whose vengeance had caused them to prepare for flight; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord, for I am with you to save you and to deliver you from his hand, an assurance of safety which should have quieted all their fears.
v. 12. And I will show mercies unto you, literally, "I will give you to experience mercies," that he, the king of Babylon, may have mercy upon you and cause you to return to your own land, which they were now leaving in abject flight.
v. 13. But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the Lord, your God, thereby once more becoming guilty of open rebellion against God,
v. 14. saying, No, but we will go into the land of Egypt, a plan which they had at least been discussing, if they had not yet decided upon it, where we will see no war nor hear the sound of the trumpet, as it called the soldiers to the battle, nor have hunger of bread, in the various unfortunate conditions accompanying war with which they had become so familiar in the last year, and there will we dwell;
v. 15. and now, therefore, the direct prophecy resumed after the parenthetical remark concerning the possibility of their resuming their rebellious ways, hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, determined upon their course, no matter what the consequences would be, and go to sojourn there, to make it a place of refuge at least for the time being,
v. 16. then it shall come to pass that the sword which ye feared, contrary to the assurance of Jehovah, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine whereof ye were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt, pursuing them with unrelenting fierceness; and there ye shall die.
v. 17. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there, having definitely made up their mind to that effect: they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, which, by God's punishment, could strike them in Egypt as well as in Judea; and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.
v. 18. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, As Mine anger and My fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, resulting in the destruction which they had witnessed, so shall My fury be poured forth upon you when ye shall enter into Egypt; and ye shall be an execration, an object of cursing, and an astonishment, an object of horror, and a curse, and a reproach, an object of derision; and ye shall see this place no more.
v. 19. The Lord hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah, so the prophet now elaborates upon the direct prophecy of Jehovah, Go ye not into Egypt; know certainly that I have admonished you this day, testifying against them and warning them.
v. 20. For ye dissembled in your hearts, literally, "ye have used deceit upon your own souls," when ye sent me unto the Lord, your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord, our God, and according unto all that the Lord, our God, shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it. Cf vv. 5-6.
v. 21. And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, your God, nor anything for the which He hath sent me unto you, their very attitudes expressing their dissatisfaction with the directions transmitted to them.
v. 22. Now, therefore, know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn. It was a last solemn warning, which, however, was bound to be disregarded by the obstinate Jews, just as so many similar warnings since have been neglected to the unbelievers' hurt.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent