20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, 21 “Did not the Lord remember and call to mind the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials and the people of the land? 22 When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. 23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him or followed his law or his decrees or his stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”
24 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, including the women, “Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah in Egypt. 25 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives have done what you said you would do when you promised, ‘We will certainly carry out the vows we made to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven.’
“Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows! 26 But hear the word of the Lord, all you Jews living in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name,’ says the Lord, ‘that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, “As surely as the Sovereign Lord lives.” 27 For I am watching over them for harm, not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. 28 Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand—mine or theirs.
29 “‘This will be the sign to you that I will punish you in this place,’ declares the Lord, ‘so that you will know that my threats of harm against you will surely stand.’ 30 This is what the Lord says: ‘I am going to deliver Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hands of his enemies who want to kill him, just as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who wanted to kill him.’”
(Jeremiah 44:20-30 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, the people responded to Jeremiah’s message from the Lord and said they would do just the opposite of what the Lord had commanded. The people were convinced that their problems stemmed from their lack of worship of the foreign gods, not because of their worship of these deities.
In today’s text, Jeremiah responds and brings another word from the Lord.
In verses 20 – 23, Jeremiah tries to show the people (both men and women) that their logic is flawed. He connects the dots and shows the Judeans that the disasters they experienced were due to the worship of foreign gods, not because they didn’t. Jeremiah acknowledged their choice to worship these foreign gods but pointed out the painful consequences of doing so; they were now living the reality of their choices.
In verses 24 – 28, Jeremiah brings another word from the Lord. The Lord told the people to go ahead and do what they promised to do (v. 25c) – to worship the Quen of Heaven, the foreign goddess. God was willing to let this play out but warned the people that their conduct would bring disaster, not prosperity. In the end, the Lord challenged the people to see whose word would stand – theirs or His (v. 28b). God’s prediction – the vast majority would die in Egpyt; only a few would survive and return to the promised land. The “very few” who will come back from Egypt to the promised land might also be translated “able to be counted”. This outcome is entirely different from the first time the Lord led His people out of Egypt, where they numbered “like the sand on the seashore” (too many to count).
Verses 29 – 30 are a final word from the Lord. As a sign of judgment against His hard-hearted, idolatrous people, the Lord told the people that He would remove the “safe haven” of protection they had sought when they went to Egypt. The Lord would do this by removing Pharoah Hophra as ruler over Egypt. This Pharoah was the same Pharoah who promised to help King Zedekiah and sent troops to push back the Babylonians (37:5).
As we already know from previous texts, the Egyptians were no match for the Babylonian army, and the Egyptians quickly retreated to their homeland. Just as the Lord predicted, history records that Pharoah Hophra was killed by one of his generals in 569 BC. Extrabiblical records from this same era record that persecution against the Jews living in Egypt was strong. God’s judgments against His people for their disobedience were being carried out, just as He promised.
May we remember that obedience to the Lord has positive consequences and disobedience has negative consequences.
May we remember that the Lord disciplines the ones He loves (Hebrews 12:4-6).
May we see our lives from God’s point of view, not our own.