In Jeremiah 44 we’re going to hear the last words (chronologically in this book) of the people, of Jeremiah, and of God.
God: Jews in Egypt Will Be Punished| 1-14
To begin, in verses 1-14 the Lord has a message to his people who disobeyed him by fleeing Judah and instead going to live in Egypt.
Intro | 1
We have an introduction to this section in verse 1.
KJV Jeremiah 44:1 ¶ The word that came to Jeremiah
concerning all the Jews which [dwell/lived] in the land of Egypt,
which dwell at Migdol,
and at Tahpanhes,
and at [Noph/Memphis],
and in the [country/land/region] of [Pathros/southern Egypt],
Remember the Destruction of Jerusalem | 2-6
And now God starts his message to the rebellious Jews by telling them in verses 2-6 to remember the destruction of Jerusalem – which they had just experienced only a few months prior to this.
Note Jerusalem’s Current Condition | 3
God begins by having the people take note of Jerusalem’s current condition in verse 2.
2 Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all], the God of Israel;
Ye have seen all the [evil/disaster] 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,
The Reason for the Destruction: Idolatry | 3-5
Now, why did God bring this destruction to Jerusalem? In a word, according to verses 3-5, idolatry.
3 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.
4 Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets,
[rising early and sending them/persistently], saying,
Oh, do not this [abominable/disgusting] thing that I hate.
5 But they [hearkened/listened] not,
nor [inclined their ear/pay any attention]
to turn from their wickedness,
to burn no incense unto other gods.
Now, I want us to notice the structure of verses 3-5. Look at how verse 3 begins. It speaks of the people’s “wickedness” and then goes on to say that they burned incense to “other gods.”
Now, note how verse 5 ends. It again speaks of the people’s “wickedness” and then says that they burned incense to “other gods.” See the repetition there?
And in the middle we have this – verse 4 – God speaking and the result in verse 5 of the people not listening. That’s what it comes down to. Idolatry (vv. 3 and 5) was the manifestation of the people not listening to God’s word (v. 4).
- People’s wickedness / Incense to other gods (v 3)
- People not listening to God’s word (v 4)
- People’s wickedness / Incense to other gods (v 5)
Idolatry is a sin which brings God great anger. But it’s just one symptom of not listening to his word.
And for you and I, this dynamic is as true of us as it was of ancient Israel. If there is a problem in our life, most likely it’s due to us not listening to God’s word – not knowing it at all, or not knowing it in its fullness, or maybe we know it but we’re not listening to it – we’re not obeying it.
The Result of Idolatry | 6
And therefore, in verse 6 God points to the result of the people’s idolatry – fueled as it was by their blatant disregard of his word.
6 Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth,
and [was kindled/burned like a fire] in the cities of Judah
and in the streets of Jerusalem;
and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.
And again the structure of verses 2-6 is interesting. We spoke of the structure of verses 3-5:
- Not listening to God’s word
Now let’s briefly examine the structure of the broader section in verses 2-5.
Verse 2 speaks of “the cities of Judah” being desolate. Verse 6 then ends with a reminder that “the cities of Judah” are “desolate.”
Why this desolation? Verse 2 – God brought evil or disaster upon the city and nation. And verse 6 – God poured out his fury and anger on the city and nation.
So, then if we were to kind of work from the outside in, verses 2-6 go like this.
The cities of Judah are desolate. This is because God has poured out his anger on them and brought disaster upon them. That’s verse 2 and verse 6.
Why the disaster? It’s due to the people’s wickedness, especially as it related to idolatry. That’s verse 3 and verse 5.
And then at the core of the people’s wickedness and idolatry is their refusal to hear and obey God’s word. That’s verse 4 and a little bit of verse 5.
- Judah is desolate (v 2)
- God’s anger and wrath (v 2)
- The people’s wickedness and idolatry (v 3)
- The people didn’t listen to God’s word (v 4)
- The people’s wickedness and idolatry (v 5)
- God’s anger and wrath (v 6)
- Judah is desolate (v 6)
And notice one thing the Lord says about the people’s refusal to hear and obey his word. Back in verse 4, the Lord says that the people refused to hear “the prophets.” So, who was speaking this message of rebuke to the people? A prophet – Jeremiah. And I think what the people should have caught is that this refusal to listen to God through ignoring his prophets was not simply a matter of historical significance. It wasn’t simply that their fathers refused to hear the prophets. But actually they themselves were following in the footsteps of their rebellious ancestors.
You Have Not Learned from Their Lesson | 7-10
And that’s the conclusion that the Lord brings to their attention in verses 7-10. He tells them that they have not learned the lesson of verses 2-6. They have not learned from the destruction of Jerusalem.
7 Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel;
Wherefore commit ye this great [evil/harm] against your souls,
to cut off from you man and woman,
child and [suckling/baby], out of Judah,
to leave you none to remain;
8 [In that ye/Why do you?/That is what will happen as you] 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?
Now, once more I think the structure of verses 7 and 8 is worth noting.
Let me make a little defense of what we’re doing. Sometimes – especially in the prophets – God says something and then he moves to something else and then he comes right back to what he previously said.
And we can think that perhaps he’s wasting space or being needlessly redundant. But God doesn’t waste anything and he’s not redundant – at least, not needlessly so.
What he does sometimes is actually structure his speech so that what he says at the beginning matches what he says at the end. Then what he says after the beginning statement matches what he said right before the last statement. And on and on until you reach the middle. And often right there in the middle is what God wants to focus on.
So, look for this kind of thing as you’re reading the prophets. When you don’t understand why God is not simply stating what he’s saying, perhaps it’s because he is encoding his message in this manner.
So, moving on to the structure of verses 7 and 8…
Verse 7 begins with God calling the Jews’ attention to the fact that they are harming themselves. They are committing great evil against their own souls.
Then to end verse 8 God again calls attention to them cutting themselves off. So, self-harm is what the Lord is telling them that they’re engaged in.
Well, what is leading to the people causing harm to themselves? The middle of those two verses and the beginning of verse 8 — Idolatry is the way in which these people are bringing about their own destruction.
And that’s interesting because I thought the issue was that they disobeyed God and went to Egypt. But what we start to get the hint of here in these verses now is that these people – yes, disobeyed God by going to Egypt. But even worse – they were actually worshiping false gods there in Egypt.
And in this way, these people who fled to Egypt are no different from their ancestors, according to verses 9 and 10.
9 Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your [fathers/anscestors],
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?
10 They are not humbled even unto this day,
neither have they [feared/revered me],
nor walked in my law,
nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.
And primarily, the form that their wickedness took on was idolatry. That’s clear from the great emphasis we’ve seen on that sin throughout this entire book.
So I Will Need to Punish You Like I Punished Them | 11-14
And so, because the Jews currently in Egypt were no different in their idolatrous behavior than their ancestors in Judah who ended up being punished by God, the Jews in Egypt will also meet that same fate, according to verses 11-14.
11 ¶ Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
Behold, I [will set my face against you/am determined] for [evil/harm/disaster],
and to [cut off/destroy] all Judah [here in Egypt…].
12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that [have set their faces/were determined] to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there,
In other words, God would set his face against those who set their faces against his will.
and they shall all be consumed,
and fall in the land of Egypt;
Well, how will they be consumed?
they shall even be consumed [by the sword/in battle] and by [the famine/starvation]:
And, what does it mean to be consumed by these things?
they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine:
and they shall be an [execration/oath],
and an [astonishment/horror],
and a curse,
and a [reproach/taunt].
Now, at this point, God is going to back up and restate what he just said – just in case they didn’t get it.
13 For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem,
by [the sword/war], by [the famine/starvation], and by [the pestilence/disease]:
So, the crime of the Jews in Egypt is the same as that of the Jews in Judah and therefore their punishment will be the same.
And just like there was only a tiny remnant of Jews that escaped the punishment doled out in Judah, so too there would only be a few that would escape the punishment in Egypt.
14 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/or] 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/except some fugitives].
And that ends God’s message to the Jews in Egypt. They are idolatrous and have not obeyed God’s word. Therefore, God will need to punish them just like he punished their ancestors in Judah who were themselves idolatrous and disobedient to the word.
Jews: We Will Keep Disobeying | 15-19
Well, how do the Jews respond to a message like that?
Basically, they tell Jeremiah that they intend to keep disobeying God’s word – particularly by continuing their idolatry.
Verse 15 sets the scene.
15 ¶ Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods,
and all [the women/their wives] that stood by,
a great [multitude/assembly], even all the people that dwelt in the land of [northern…] Egypt, in [southern…] Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,
So, there’s this great idolatrous multitude that were present and heard this message from Jeremiah. They are scattered all over Egypt – northern and southern (Pathros) Egypt – as we saw earlier in this chapter.
The idolatrous men and their idolatrous wives are there.
And here’s what they say.
We Won’t Obey | 16-17a
In a word – “We won’t obey!” verses 16-17.
16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD,
we will not hearken unto thee.
17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing [goeth forth out of our own mouth/we have vowed],
to burn incense unto the [goddess called the…] queen of heaven,
and to pour out drink offerings unto her,
as we have done,
and our [fathers/ancestors],
and our princes,
in the cities of Judah,
and in the streets of Jerusalem:
For more information on this demon whom the people worshiped in Egypt, see my article on the Queen of Heaven.
Now, God through Jeremiah had just reminded the people of the evil they all did in the cities of Judah and streets of Jerusalem. But now these people turn around and pretend as if what they did in those cities and in those streets were a commendable thing.
What darkness. What blindness. God had just clearly told them in this chapter of their problem and the destruction that their problem caused. Back in Jeremiah 7 he warned them of what would happen as they continued to worship this idol known as the Queen of Heaven. The Jews therefore had God’s sure testimony on the matter. And yet, they turn right around and deny it. They refuse to obey.
And Here’s Why | 17b-19
They are going to tell Jeremiah why they will continue to disobey the Lord in verses 17-19.
Disobedience to God Brings Blessings | 17b-18
First, in verses 17 and 18 the people have a selective – and really warped – memory when it comes to reality. And so they declare that disobedience to God brings blessings – at least it did in the old days, they say.
for then [when they were committing idolatry…] had we plenty of [victuals/food], [I guess they forgot that whole matter of the bread running out and of the famine and such…]
and [were well/prospered/were well-off],
and saw no [evil/disaster/troubles]. [Could it be that they actually forgot that whole matter of Babylon invading them and destroying most of what they knew?…]
18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven,
and to pour out drink offerings unto her,
we have [wanted/lacked] all things,
and have been consumed by [the sword/war] and by [the famine/starvation].
This is the kind of response that at first makes me laugh. It is so utterly ridiculous that my reaction is laughter.
It’s as if I were standing here and telling you that my hair is red (it’s actually brownish/black). And I did it with a straight face. And you told me, no, your hair is brownish-black. And I just wasn’t getting it at all.
It’s just like that, only the consequences are so much higher. The offense to the God who knows reality is so much higher.
God was angry at them for their sin against him. And he’s trying to tell them what they did wrong so that they can correct their ways. But they are just at this point utterly refusing to listen to him. They don’t want to change. They want him to change.
And all of this is leading them to have a completely warped sense of reality and really what the New Testament would call “reprobate” minds. They now have minds that are incapable of telling right from wrong. And this has come because of their chronic disobedience to God.
So, they are saying “Disobedience to God Brings Blessing!” Whereas the reality that God constantly held out for them was the exact opposite – “Obedience to God Brings Blessing.”
We Must Obey Men Rather Than God | 19
Then in verse 19 they continue to churn out more garbage from their reprobate minds and they say this: “We Must Obey Men Rather Than God!”
19 And [the women added…] 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/husbands’ full knowledge and approval]?
In other words, “Come on! We’re being submissive wives. We’re doing right. Our husbands were totally in favor of us doing this. We’ve gone through the proper channels.”
As if somehow obeying men – the idolatrous husbands in this case – were more important than obeying God.
These people are showing that their priorities are all wrong. Instead of saying with the apostle Peter and the other apostles “We must obey God rather than men,” these people are demonstrating a heart that says “We must obey men rather than God.”
And so, there we have it – the Jews respond to God’s warnings by digging in their heels and really doubling-down on their disobedience.
Jeremiah: Jews in Egypt Will Be Punished Like Their Ancestors | 20-30
So, you wonder, what’s left for God to do but simply repeat to them exactly what he’s said before?
It reminds me of a situation at work this week. Part of my job is to manage students’ financial accounts at Maranatha Baptist University.
And if they don’t pay when they need to then I need to follow established University policy in whatever next step there may be.
This week there was a student who was arguing with me about why a particular charge shouldn’t apply to him. Now, that charge applies to everyone in his situation, but he was trying to get out of paying it. And by the way, that student is not in our church!
And he kept offering new arguments as to why he shouldn’t pay. And then I would respond with reasons why he should pay the few hundred dollars and what that money is spent toward and such.
But finally I just said something like, “I look forward to receiving your payment” and ended it with that.
Now, I’m not saying that the student was like the rebellious Jews. I am not saying that I am perfect like God. But what I am saying is that at some point when authority makes a pronouncement and the people receiving that announcement continually and positively argue the pronouncement, eventually all that the authority can do is to restate what he’s already said.
And that’s just what we see in the rest of Jeremiah 44.
Intro | 20
Verse 20 sets the scene.
20 ¶ 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,
Jeremiah: God Punished Your Ancestors for Doing What You’re Doing | 21-23
And what God does in verses 21-23 is – once again – he reiterates that the Jews’ ancestors weren’t punished for not serving the Queen of Heaven, but rather they were punished by God for that very idolatry – the exact opposite of what they were saying.
21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah,
and in the streets of Jerusalem,
and your fathers,
and your princes,
and the people of the land,
did not the LORD remember them,
and came it not into his mind?
22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings,
and because of the [abominations/disgusting things] which ye have committed;
therefore is your land a desolation,
and an astonishment,
and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.
23 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/disaster] is happened unto you, as at this day.
So, God here sets the record straight. Sin against God has resulted in the trouble they’re experiencing.
God (though Jeremiah): Keep Sinning, But I Will Repay | 24-30
But God knows their hard and stubborn hearts. And so the Lord ends this chapter speaking to the Jews through Jeremiah and telling them that they can keep on sinning – but that God will repay.
24 ¶ Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people,
[and/particularly] to all the women,
Hear the word of the LORD,
all Judah that are in the land of Egypt:
25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying;
[Ye and your wives/You women] 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/well, then!] accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.
By the way, this is holy sarcasm.
What is sarcasm? Sarcasm is using irony to mock or convey contempt.
Well then, what is irony? Irony is expressing meaning by using language that usually signifies the opposite.
It is ironic that God is telling the people to perform their vows to the Queen of Heaven. Why? Because God certainly does not want them worshiping this false god. But God is expressing meaning by using language that conveys the opposite of what he’s actually wanting. He says in effect, “worship that false god.” But what he’s actually expressing – what he actually means – is “Don’t worship that false god!”
And it’s sarcastic because he’s using that irony but going one step beyond that in a way that conveys mockery and contempt for the people.
Maybe it bothers you that God mocks and conveys contempt for these people. But it shouldn’t. God has been very patient with these people for centuries. We have problems being patient with people for a few minutes.
But anyway, God is using holy sarcasm here. He’s telling the people to worship idols, when it’s very obvious that that is the farthest thing from what he wants. He wants them to worship him alone.
But since they’re so bent on idolatry, he goes on to tell them once more of what he’s going to have to do to them starting in verse 26.
26 [Therefore/But] 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/invoked in oaths] in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying,
[As surely as…] The Lord GOD liveth.
So, no Jew in Egypt will ever again use the Lord’s name in an oath. Why is that? Because he will destroy them all as he says in verse 27.
27 Behold, I will watch over them for [evil/disaster], and not for [good/prosperity]:
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.
The idea is — it’s difficult for dead men to make oaths. So, God will stop these rebels from taking his name in a vain manner by killing them.
But just like with the destruction of Jerusalem, so to in Egypt there will be a small remnant, according to verse 28.
28 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/prove true], mine, or theirs.
So, talk is cheap. There’s been talk from God and talk-back from the people. But in the end, when God would bring Babylon to invade Egypt and destroy the Jews there, then God’s words will have been backed up by his actions.
And an unmistakable sign that God’s words are absolutely true will be seen when Nebuchadnezzar comes and defeats the Pharaoh of Egypt, according to verses 29 and 30.
29 And [this shall be a sign unto you/I will make something happen to prove to you that…], 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/harm]:
30 [Thus saith/I x promise] the LORD; Behold, I will give [Pharaohhophra/Pharaoh Hophra] 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.
So, there we have it. The bitter end of the bitter end of Judah. Now, there is a brief flashback in the next chapter that we’ll deal with next time. But here in Jeremiah 44 we see the last recorded words of Jeremiah. We see the last recorded words of the people. And the last recorded words of God – if we’re speaking chronologically and limiting ourselves to this book.
Even in the section that comes after this one – where God foretells of the disaster to come upon the nations of that time, the words spoken apparently came before the events we just witnessed here. And of course, the events recorded in Jeremiah 52 are later than this time, but there are no words spoken there.
The point is that this chapter is a snap-shot frozen in time of the Jews’ awful rebellion against their God. How hopeless. What they need is what we heard about in Jeremiah’s Book of Encouragement – they need a new heart and they need a good leader – David’s son the Messiah.
But he hadn’t come yet. And this is what happens apart from Jesus – rebellion and destruction.
Next time Lord-willing we’ll hear a message given to Baruch in Jeremiah 45.