Jeremiah 44
Pulpit Commentary
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,
Verses 1-14. - Accusation brought against the obstinately idolatrous people. Verse 1. - Which dwell; rather, which dwelt. It appears from this verse that the Jewish fugitives had separated in Egypt, some going to the two northern frontier cities, Migdol (on which see R.S. Poole, 'The Cities of Egypt,' ch. 8.) and Tahpanhes or Daphnae, others further south to Noph, i.e. Memphis, or, less probably, Napata (see on Jeremiah 2:16), and Pathros (i.e. Upper Egypt; comp. Isaiah 11:11).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein,
Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.
Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.
Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.
Verse 6. - Was kindled in; rather, burned up.
Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain;
Verse 7. - Against your souls; i.e. against yourselves. The "soul" is the personality.
In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?
Verse 8. - That ye might cut yourselves off; rather, that ye might cut (them) off from you. Who are meant is clear from ver. 7.
Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?
Verse 9. - Have ye forgotten, etc.? The prophet wonderingly asks if they have forgotten the sins of their forefathers and the consequent calamities. No other explanation of this present idolatry seems possible; and yet how passing strange is it! Their wives. The Hebrew has "his wives," i.e. according to Kimchi and Hitzig, the wives of each of the kings (sometimes great patrons of idolatry). But it is better to adopt, with Ewald, Graf, and Dr. Payne Smith, the reading of the Septuagint, "his princes."
They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.
Verse 10. - They are not humbled; rather, not made contrite (literally, not crushed, viz. by repentance).
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah.
Verse 11. - To cut off all Judah; i.e. the Judah in Egypt, not that in Babylon. Notice the qualification of this too absolute statement in vers. 14, 28.
And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.
For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence:
So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.
Verse 14. - They have a desire; literally, they lift up their soul (comp. Jeremiah 22:27).
Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,
Verses 15-19. - The reply of the people. The special mention of the women suggests that the occasion of the gathering was a festival in honour of the Queen of Heaven. Verse 15. - Had burned incense; rather, were burning incense. The practice was still going on.
As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.
But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
Verse 17. - Whatsoever thing goeth forth; rather, the whole word which hath gone forth. A particular vow to the divinity is meant. The queen of heaven (see on Jeremiah 7:18). Then had we plenty of victuals, etc. An extremely important passage, as revealing the view taken of their misfortunes by Jews of the average type. Jeremiah regarded the misfortunes of his country as proofs of the displeasure of Jehovah; these Jews, on the other hand, of his impotence.
But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?
Verse 19. - This part of the reply belongs to the women, who declare that, their husbands' consent having been given to their vow, Jeremiah has no right to interfere (see Numbers 30:6, 7). Burned...poured, etc.; rather, burn, pour. Did we, etc.; rather, do we, etc. To worship her. The sense of the Hebrew is doubtful; but the best reading seems that of Rashi, Graf, and Dr. Payne Smith, "to make her image." Without our men; rather, without our husbands.
Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,
Verses 20-30. - Jeremiah's rejoinder.
The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?
Verse 21. - Remember them; i.e. the repeated acts of idolatry.
So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.
Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.
Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.
Verse 25. - With your hand; rather, with your hands. Ye will surely accomplish, etc.; rather, ye shall, etc., by all means perform your vows, and take the consequence. The irony of the passage is lost by the "will" of the Authorized Version.
Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD liveth.
Verse 26. - My Name shall no more be named. Because no Jews will be left alive in Egypt.
Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.
Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and 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.
Verse 28. - Yet a small number, etc. Isaiah's doctrine of the remnant. In the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy, and his ancient covenant. A remnant is saved as the nucleus of a regenerate people.
And this shall be a sign unto you, saith the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for evil:
Verse 29. - A sign; rather, the sign.
Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.
Verse 30. - I will give Pharaoh-hophra, etc. The sign consists in the capture of Hophra by his deadly enemies. Henceforth he will live in constant alarm, for he is in the hands of those "that seek his life." All that we know of the fate of Hophra (Apries) is derived from Herodotus (2:169), who states that Amssis "gave Apries over into the hands of his former subjects, to deal with as they chose. Then the Egyptians took him and strangled him" (see further on Jeremiah 46:13).

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