The People Seek Jeremiah’s Counsel
42 Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached 2 the prophet Jeremiah and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the Lord your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), 3 that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.”
4 So the prophet Jeremiah said to them, “I have heard. I will now pray to the Lord your God according to your words, and I will tell you every word that the Lord answers you; I won’t withhold a word from you.”
5 And they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we don’t act according to every word the Lord your God sends you to tell us. 6 Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you so that it may go well with us. We will certainly obey the Lord our God!”
Jeremiah’s Advice to Stay
7 At the end of ten days, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, 8 and he summoned Johanan son of Kareah, all the commanders of the armies who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest.
9 He said to them, “This is what the Lord says, the God of Israel to whom you sent me to bring your petition before him: 10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will rebuild and not demolish you, and I will plant and not uproot you, because I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought on you. 11 Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon whom you now fear; don’t be afraid of him’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘because I am with you to save you and rescue you from him. 12 I will grant you compassion, and he will have compassion on you and allow you to return to your own soil.’
13 “But if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ in order to disobey the Lord your God, 14 and if you say, ‘No, instead we’ll go to the land of Egypt where we will not see war or hear the sound of the ram’s horn or hunger for food, and we’ll live there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, remnant of Judah! This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are firmly resolved to go to Egypt and stay there for a while, 16 then the sword you fear will overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine you are worried about will follow on your heels there to Egypt, and you will die there. 17 All who resolve to go to Egypt to stay there for a while will die by the sword, famine, and plague. They will have no survivor or fugitive from the disaster I will bring on them.’
18 “For this is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Just as my anger and fury were poured out on Jerusalem’s residents, so will my fury pour out on you if you go to Egypt. You will become an example for cursing, scorn, execration, and disgrace, and you will never see this place again.’ 19 The Lord has spoken concerning you, remnant of Judah: ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Know for certain that I have warned you today! 20 You have gone astray at the cost of your lives because you are the ones who sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray to the Lord our God on our behalf, and as for all that the Lord our God says, tell it to us, and we’ll act accordingly.’ 21 For I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the Lord your God in everything he has sent me to tell you. 22 Now therefore, know for certain that by the sword, famine, and plague you will die in the place where you desired to go to stay for a while.”
Jeremiah’s Counsel Rejected
43 When Jeremiah had finished speaking to all the people all the words of the Lord their God—all these words the Lord their God had sent him to give them— 2 then Azariah son of Hoshaiah, Johanan son of Kareah, and all the other arrogant men responded to Jeremiah, “You are speaking a lie! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to stay there for a while!’ 3 Rather, Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Chaldeans to put us to death or to deport us to Babylon!”
4 So Johanan son of Kareah, all the commanders of the armies, and all the people failed to obey the Lord’s command to stay in the land of Judah. 5 Instead, Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies led away the whole remnant of Judah, those who had returned to stay in the land of Judah from all the nations where they had been banished. 6 They led away the men, women, children, king’s daughters, and everyone whom Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, had allowed to remain with Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan. They also led the prophet Jeremiah and Baruch son of Neriah away. 7 They went to the land of Egypt because they did not obey the Lord. They went as far as Tahpanhes.
God’s Sign to the People in Egypt
8 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah at Tahpanhes: 9 “Pick up some large stones and set them in the mortar of the brick pavement that is at the opening of Pharaoh’s palace at Tahpanhes. Do this in the sight of the Judean men 10 and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will place his throne on these stones that I have embedded, and he will pitch his pavilion over them. 11 He will come and strike down the land of Egypt—those destined for death, to death; those destined for captivity, to captivity; and those destined for the sword, to the sword. 12 I will kindle a fire in the temples of Egypt’s gods, and he will burn them and take them captive. He will clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd picks lice off his clothes, and he will leave there unscathed. 13 He will smash the sacred pillars of the sun temple in the land of Egypt and burn the temples of the Egyptian gods.’”
God’s Judgment against His People in Egypt
44 This is the word that came to Jeremiah for all the Jews living in the land of Egypt—at Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis, and in the land of Pathros: 2 “This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: You have seen all the disaster I brought against Jerusalem and all Judah’s cities. Look, they are a ruin today without an inhabitant in them 3 because of the evil they committed to anger me, by going and burning incense to serve other gods that they, you, and your fathers did not know. 4 So I sent you all my servants the prophets time and time again, saying, ‘Don’t commit this detestable action that I hate.’ 5 But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their evil or stop burning incense to other gods. 6 So my fierce wrath poured out and burned in Judah’s cities and Jerusalem’s streets so that they became the desolate ruin they are today.
7 “So now, this is what the Lord, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Why are you doing such terrible harm to yourselves? You are cutting off man and woman, infant and nursing baby from Judah, leaving yourselves without a remnant. 8 You are angering me by the work of your hands. You are burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to stay for a while. As a result, you will be cut off and become an example for cursing and insult among all the nations of earth. 9 Have you forgotten the evils of your fathers, the evils of Judah’s kings, the evils of their wives, your own evils, and the evils of your wives that were committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They have not become humble to this day, and they have not feared or followed my instruction or my statutes that I set before you and your ancestors.
11 “Therefore, this is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: I am about to set my face against you to bring disaster, to cut off all Judah. 12 And I will take away the remnant of Judah, those who have set their face to go to the land of Egypt to stay there. All of them will meet their end in the land of Egypt. They will fall by the sword; they will meet their end by famine. From the least to the greatest, they will die by the sword and by famine. Then they will become an example for cursing, scorn, execration, and disgrace. 13 I will punish those living in the land of Egypt just as I punished Jerusalem by sword, famine, and plague. 14 Then the remnant of Judah—those going to live for a while there in the land of Egypt—will have no fugitive or survivor to return to the land of Judah where they are longing to return to stay, for they will not return except for a few fugitives.”
The People’s Stubborn Response
15 However, all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, all the women standing by—a great assembly—and all the people who were living in the land of Egypt at Pathros answered Jeremiah, 16 “As for the word you spoke to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you! 17 Instead, we will do everything we promised: we will burn incense to the queen of heaven and offer drink offerings to her just as we, our fathers, our kings, and our officials did in Judah’s cities and in Jerusalem’s streets. Then we had enough food, we were well off, and we saw no disaster, 18 but from the time we ceased to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to offer her drink offerings, we have lacked everything, and through sword and famine we have met our end.”
19 And the women said, “When we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it apart from our husbands’ knowledge that we made sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”
20 But Jeremiah responded to all the people—the men, women, and all the people who were answering him: 21 “As for the incense you burned in Judah’s cities and in Jerusalem’s streets—you, your fathers, your kings, your officials, and the people of the land—did the Lord not remember them? He brought this to mind. 22 The Lord can no longer bear your evil deeds and the detestable acts you have committed, so your land has become a waste, a desolation, and an example for cursing, without inhabitant, as you see today. 23 Because you burned incense and sinned against the Lord and didn’t obey the Lord and didn’t follow his instruction, his statutes, and his testimonies, this disaster has come to you, as you see today.”