I have said that John, and his associates, and the whole people acted much more culpably by coming to the Prophet, than if they had not done so, and had gone directly to Egypt: for they either came dissemblingly, and thus designedly spoke what was false, or they were extremely stupid, and hypocrisy had wholly deprived them of their understanding. They came to the Prophet to ask counsel; nay, that he might be to them God’s interpreter, and that thus they might know what to do; and they promised to obey, as we shall hereafter see. However this may have been, they sought an oracle in which it was their duty to acquiesce, except they resolved openly to shake off the yoke and to show themselves to be gross and profane despisers of God. They came to the Prophet, when yet it was their fixed purpose, as we shall see, to go to Egypt.
He who asks counsel, ought first to see that he bring no prejudice, but be free and honest: but it is, however, a fault too common, that men deliberate and ask counsel, when they have already settled what to do; nay, nothing is more common than this; for those who consult do not, for the most part, wish to learn what is right, but that others should fall in with their own inclinations. He who has resolved on this or that point, pretends that he is in doubt, and held in suspense; he asks what ought to be done: if the answer be according to his wishes, he embraces what is said; but if he who is consulted, disapproves of what he has already resolved to do, he rejects the counsel given. Such was the dissimulation described by the Prophet, when the leaders of the forces and the whole people came to him.
He mentions, first, the leaders of the forces, and then John the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshiah He adds these two last; but it was to give them honor, as when the angel said, “Go and tell his disciples and Peter.” (Mar_16:7) He did not put aside Peter, as though he was inferior to all the rest; but for the sake of honor he mentions his name, after having spoken generally of them all. So also here, the Prophet names generally the leaders, but as John the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah were the chief men, he expressly gives their names. He adds, the whole people, from the least to the greatest This does not refer to age; but what he means is, that all, of every grade, came with one consent to Jeremiah. It was not then the conspiring of a few men, but all from the least to the greatest had resolved to go to Egypt; and yet they came, as though with an honest purpose, to the Prophet; wherefore? They wished their own perverse design to be approved by God, and thus to subject God to their own will and humor; for they did not suffer themselves to be ruled by his Spirit, but audaciously disregarded his word. The Prophet then shews that they were all implicated in the same sin.
Keil and Delitzsch
Of the captains, two, viz., Johanan and Jezaniah, are mentioned as the leaders of the people and the directors of the whole undertaking, who also, Jer_42:1., insolently accuse the prophet of falsehood, and carry out the proposed march to Egypt. Jezaniah is in Jer_40:8 called the Maachathite; here he is named in connection with his father, “the son of Hoshaiah;” while in Jer_43:2, in conjunction with Johanan the son of Kareah, Azariah the son of Hoshaiah is mentioned, which name the lxx also have in Jer_42:1 of this chapter. Hitzig, Ewald, etc., are consequently of the opinion that יְזַנְיָה in our verse has been written by mistake for עֲזַרְיָה. But more probable is the supposition that the error is in the עזריה of Jer_43:2, inasmuch as there is no reason to doubt the identity of Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah with the Jezaniah descended from Maacha (Jer_40:8); and the assumption that יזניה is incorrect in two passages (Jer_42:1 and Jer_40:8) is highly improbable.
Among those delivered by Johanan from Ishmael had been Jeremiah and Baruch Jer_43:6; and to them now all, without exception, come for counsel.
Jezaniah – He is called Azariah in Jer_43:2. The Septuagint, in both places, call him Azariah. Since there is little reason for identifying him with Jezaniah the Maachathite Jer_40:8, it is probable that the Septuagint is right in calling him in both places Azariah, and that the reading Jezaniah arose from some scribe assuming that his name must be found in the earlier list.
It is added, that they said, as though they were ready to obey, Let our prayer fall before thee. This, as we have said, when addressed to God, is an evidence of humility; but it is applied here to man; and when the Hebrews make a humble request, they say, “Let my prayer fall before thee,” that is, Hear what I suppliantly and humbly ask. Pray, they said, to Jehovah thy God for us They called him the God of Jeremiah, not that they intended to exempt themselves from his authority; they did not mean that they were alienated from God; but in this way they extolled Jeremiah, and acknowledged him to be God’s true and lawful Prophet. In short, this saying refers to the prophetic office, as though they had said, that Jeremiah had hitherto confirmed his vocation, so that it was clearly evident that he had been sent from above.
We hence see why they called Jehovah the God of Jeremiah, not as though they had rejected God, and as though he was not their God in common with Jeremiah, but they allowed that the Prophet possessed a higher honor, and that his faithfulness and integrity were beyond controversy.
But this admission justly recoiled on their own head; for if Jeremiah was God’s Prophet, why did they not instantly obey him, after knowing that what he faithfully told them he had received from God? and why did they insolently and ferociously resist him and accuse him of falsehood? Their own admission then was not sincere, but a fallacious flattery, as is the case with all hypocrites, who never speak in sincerity and truth.
They afterwards added, Pray for all this remnant, for we are left, a few from many This they added to produce pity, in order that they might more easily obtain from Jeremiah what they asked; nor was that difficult; but as they felt conscious of wrong, they sought the favor of the Prophet by flatteries, Had they asked him without disguise, they knew that he was of himself disposed to seek the well being of the people; but as they were of a double mind, they set before him their miserable state, which might; have roused the Prophet still more to make intercession to God for them. And for this reason they added, as thine eyes see us And they set before him this sad spectacle, to create sympathy in the Prophet. And it then follows, And may Jehovah thy God shew us the way in which we are to walk. They now explained more clearly why they wished prayer to be made for them, even that God might answer and shew what he wished them to do.
One is reminded of Jehoshaphat professedly seeking the mind of GOD after the alliance with the king of Israel had already been made and his word pledged. Alas, this is but trifling with GOD; yet, dear reader, are we altogether clear of this? How many a saint has set his heart upon a certain course without asking counsel of the Lord; and then, actuated by a feeling of unrest and anxiety, has sought to get the divine approbation for his self-concocted plans!
Notice here that the people do not say, “The Lord our God,” but “The Lord thy God.” (Jer 42:2) There is a sense of distance. They do not feel they can approach Him with confidence, hence they turn to Jeremiah, and would fain have him act the part of a go-between, or a mediator. It is always a bad sign when there is diffidence in approaching GOD; when the petitioner has more confidence in the prayers of a ministering servant than in his own.
Unmistakably, it reveals the lack of communion with GOD which inspires confidence in the hour of need. If the eye is single, the whole body is full of light, having no part dark.
If the desire to glorify GOD be supreme in the soul, one can turn to Him for guidance without fear. But when some cherished aim or selfish object is controlling the heart, there is and must be a lack of confidence towards Him.
Jamieson, fausset, and Brown
Jeremiah — He probably was one of the number carried off from Mizpah, and dwelt with Johanan (Jer_41:16). Hence the expression is, “came near” (Jer_42:1), not “sent.”
Let … supplication be accepted — literally, “fall” (see on Jer_36:7; Jer_37:20).
pray for us — (Gen_20:7; Isa_37:4; Jam_5:16).
thy God — (Jer_42:5). The Jews use this form to express their belief in the peculiar relation in which Jeremiah stood to God as His accredited prophet. Jeremiah in his reply reminds them that God is their God (“your God”) as well as his as being the covenant people (Jer_42:4). They in turn acknowledge this in Jer_42:6, “the Lord our God.”
few of many — as had been foretold (Lev_26:22).
Jeremiah 42:2 Said unto Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah, we have been already told, was one of the refugees at Mizpah, (Jer_40:6) and consequently was forced into the train of Ishmael. (Jer_41:16) Pray for us. This petition has been accused of hypocrisy, but the prophecy of Jeremiah assumes throughout that it was made in earnest (ver. 20 proven nothing to the contrary). The “captains” never supposed it possible that Jeremiah could direct them to stay in Judah; the only question with them was as to the best direction for flight.
They came then, as it has been stated, as though they were ready to obey; and then they professed humility, because they did not wish to do anything rashly, but only to follow where God called them. Had they spoken from the heart, it would have been a rare virtue thus to-have fled in perplexities to God, and to have allowed themselves to be ruled by his word; but we shall see that it was all a pre-tence. We have then here set before us the hypocrisy of that people, so that we may learn that whenever we ask what pleases God, we should bring a pure and sincere heart, so that nothing may prevent or hinder us immediately to embrace whatever God may command us. But their hypocrisy is discovered to have been still baser, when the Prophet adds,
That the Lord thy God may show us – They all thought there was no safety in Jerusalem or in Judea, and therefore determined to leave the land: but they did not know which might be the safest direction to take; for though they inclined to Egypt, yet they wished to know the mind of God on that point.
Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown
They consulted God, like many, not so much to know what was right, as wishing Him to authorize what they had already determined on, whether agreeable to His will or not. So Ahab in consulting Micaiah (1Ki_22:13). Compare Jeremiah’s answer (Jer_42:4) with Micaiah’s (1Ki_22:14).
Jeremiah 42:3 Divine guidance.
I THE NEED OF DIVINE GUIDANCE.
1. It arises out of our obligation to do the will of God. We are not left to carve out a career for ourselves, but to fulfil a Divine vocation. With this definite end before us, our life must fail unless we are directly making for it. A harmless life, following its own whims and fancies, is a wasted life. But only God knows his own will. Therefore we need that he shall reveal this to us, to show us, not only the path of safety, but the way he wills us to go. The most clear sighted need this guidance. As servants, we wait for our Master”s orders; as soldiers, we are to follow our Captain”s commands. Without these, how can we do the one thing needful?
2. It arises out of our own ignorance and blindness. We do not know all the circumstances which surround us; we cannot predict the exigencies of the future; the ultimate issue of our actions is beyond our reckoning; the limits of our powers are not known to us; our future requirements and capacities cannot now be gauged. Yet we must decide and act at once in relation to all these unknown quantities. Therefore only a higher wisdom and a larger knowledge can secure us from fatal blunders.
II THE METHOD OF DIVINE GUIDANCE. The Jews appealed to a prophet. We have no Jeremiah. Yet we have essentially the same means of guidance, now broken into two parts, for the higher education of our spiritual nature.
1. The revelation of God”s will and truth in Scripture. There we have God”s guidance in the words of the prophets, and in addition to that in the higher thought of the apostles of the New Testament and of Christianity. Above all, we have the great example, the speaking lessons, of the life and character of Christ, who is the “Light of the World.” In all this we have larger, clearer views of God”s will and of man”s duty than were given to the Jews under the earlier dispensation.
2. The light of the Spirit of God in our mind and conscience. It may be urged that, while the instructions of the prophets for the guidance of Israel were definite and particular, the lessons which we may gather from revelation are general; and that, though the ideas of conduct thus communicated to us are higher and larger than those of the Jewish economy, they are nevertheless so abstract that we may make great mistakes in the practical application of them. This is true; and therefore, with the less particular revelation, God gives to us more light for the interpretation of it. We live under that dispensation of the Spirit wherein all Christians are, in a measure, prophets, and God”s Spirit is poured out upon all flesh. (Act_2:17) By God”s light in our souls, interpreting God”s revelation in Christ, we may know God”s will concerning our lives; and, no longer slaves to the letter of unintelligible precepts, we may carry out the broad principles of the spiritual life by a thoughtful and conscientious application of them to the details of daily life.
III THE USE OF DIVINE GUIDANCE. God reveals the way; we must walk therein. The direction may be so clear that he who reads may run, yet he must run. The sign post is not a carriage to convey the indolent traveler to his journey”s end. God reveals his will; he leaves it to our free choice and effort to obey it. He does not guide us, like the horse or mule, with bit and bridle. We are not forced to follow the revelation, but we are bound in moral obligation to do so. The main object of the revelation of truth is to guide us in practice. God enlightens our darkness that we may gird up our loins and walk in his ways.
It hence appears that the people understood for what purpose Jeremiah, before he consulted God, assured them of his faithfulness and sincerity; for it was not without reason that they promised to be obedient to God; but as they saw that they were suspected as being not sincere by Jeremiah, and as he had promised to be a true and faithful teacher, they on the other hand declared that they would be sincere disciples, and would receive whatever God might command them. But they soon betrayed their perfidy, for when they heard that what they had resolved to do did not please God, they not only rejected the counsel of God and the Prophet, but treated him insolently, and even loaded the holy man with reproaches, as though he had told them what was false. Their hypocrisy ought at the same time to be a lesson to us, so that when God is pleased through a singular favor to shew us the way of acting rightly by faithful instructors and competent teachers, we may not be like them, but be teachable and ready to obey, and prove this not only by the mouth but also by our deeds.
The Prophet then says, that they spoke thus, Let God be a faithful and true witness between us. Being not content with a simple affirmation, they dared to interpose the name of God; and thus we see how blind is hypocrisy. For if men duly weigh what it is to profane God’s name, surely they would dread and abominate all perjury. As then they rushed on so audaciously to swear, it is evident that they were as it were stupefied; and there is no inebriety which so confuses the minds of men and all their senses as hypocrisy.
They then added, According to whatever word which Jehovah thy God shall send to us, so will we do, that is, whatever Jehovah shall command us by thee; for God is said to send to men, when he sends a messenger in his name to bring his commands. Jeremiah then was, as it were, a middle person to address the people in God’s name, as though he had been sent from heaven. They therefore said, that they would do whatever God commanded. A stronger expression follows, Whether good or evil, we will obey the voice of Jehovah our God They did not here charge God’s word with being wrong, as though it had anything unjust in it; but they used good in the sense of joyful, and evil as meaning what is sad or grievous, as though they had said, that they asked for no other thing but that God should declare what pleased him, and that they were so submissive as to refuse nothing though contrary to the flesh. Had this declaration proceeded from the heart, it would have been a testimony of true piety; for the minds of the godly ought to be so framed as to obey God without making any exception, whether he commands what is contrary to their purpose, or leads them where they do not wish to go; for they who wish to make a compact with God, that he should require nothing but what is agreeable to them, shew that they know not what it is to serve God. Hence the obedience of faith in an especial manner requires this, that man should renounce his own desires, that he should not set up his own counsels and wishes against the word of God, nor object and say, this is hard, that is not quite agreeable. Whether then it be good or evil, that is, though it may be contrary to the feelings of the flesh, we ought still to embrace what God requires and commands: this is the rule of true religion.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Lord be a true … witness — (Gen_31:50; Psa_89:37; Rev_1:5; Rev_3:14; Rev_19:11).
As the Jews spoke feignedly by assuming a character not their own, they profaned God’s name. But if we desire to prove our fidelity to God, the only way of acting is, to regard his word as binding, whether it be agreeable or otherwise, and never to murmur, as the ungodly do; for when God would have a yoke laid on them, they complain that his doctrine is too hard and burdensome. Away, then, with all those things which can render God’s word unacceptable to us, if we desire to give a sure proof of our fidelity. Hence they said, Whether it be good or evil, what God will lay down we will obey his voice.
They afterwards added, For which we send thee to him. Here they still further cast themselves into toils. Jeremiah did not in express words require them to make an oath; they yet did make an oath; and then in various ways still more bound themselves over to punishment, if they became perjurers. They now shew that it would be a two-fold crime, should they disobey God; how? Had the Prophet been sent to them, they might have made excuses; though vain, they might yet have something to allege; but when they of their own accord asked God, when they offered of themselves to do this, and promised to be obedient in all things, it is evident that unless afterwards they acted according to their pledged faith, they must have been more inexcusable, because they tempted God: for who induced them to come to the Prophet? We hence see that God extorted from them what doubled their crime. But the more hypocrites attempt by disguises to conceal their impiety, the faster they bind themselves, and the more they kindle God’s wrath against themselves.
They then added, That it may be well with us when we obey the voice of Jehovah By this circumstance also they aggravated their crime. For if the Prophet had promised them a prosperous issue, they might not have believed; in that case they would have indeed sinned; but their wicked-ness would have been more tolerable than when they themselves had spoken, as though they were the organs of the Holy Spirit; they said themselves, It shall be well with us; it will be our chief happiness to follow the voice of God and to obey him. As, then, they thus protested to God and the Prophet, that they might appear to be God’s faithful servants, the greater condemnation they brought on themselves; for if they believed that nothing would turn out happily, except according to God’s command, how was it that they did not submit to God? why did they despise what was afterwards said by the Prophet? But as we have already said, as they deceived themselves by dealing falsely with God and profaning his holy name, let us learn and know that we can in no other way expect a happy issue in all that we do, but by obeying the voice of God; for whatever men may attempt of themselves, it will be accursed before God. This, then, is our only sure hope, that when we attempt nothing but what is according to God’s word, there will be a good and happy issue, though many things may happen otherwise than we hope or think.
In the most solemn way they declare that they will abide by the Word of the Lord, whatever it may be; and no doubt, like many another in a similar place, they really thought they would. But they had settled it in their hearts to go into Egypt, and they counted upon the Lord’s endorsement of their fleshly determination. They replied, “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” (Jer 42:5). Then growing bolder, they use the term, “The Lord our God,” declaring, “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” (Jer 42:6). This certainly sounded well. Alas, that “good words and fair speeches” can be so cheap and so meaningless!
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
evil — not moral evil, which God cannot command (Jam_1:13), but what may be disagreeable and hard to us. Piety obeys God, without questioning, at all costs. See the instance defective in this, that it obeyed only so far as was agreeable to itself (1Sa_15:3, 1Sa_15:9, 1Sa_15:13-15, 1Sa_15:20-23).
He then says that he faithfully related to them what God had commanded, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me By this circumstance he shews that they were more bound to obey; for if God had sent his Prophet to them,’ they ought to have obeyed his voice; but when they of their own accord came to him and prayed for a favor, and wished God’s will to be made known to them, they became doubly culpable when they refused the answer given them in God’s name. And he adds, That I might prostrate, or make to fall, your prayer before God We have stated what is meant by this mode of speaking; but there is a difference to be noticed, for he had been requested sup-pliantly to ask God; and he says here that he had not only prayed, but had presented the prayer of the whole people, because he acted for the public; and then he was a middle person between God and the people. On this account he says, that he had been seat to present the prayer of the people to God, for he asked nothing for himself, but acted for them all, and asked God to answer the people.
The prophet after ten days, all which time some (but upon what ground I know not) think he spent in prayer, receiveth an answer from God, which he presently communicates to the princes and people, with a preface that containeth in it many arguments to have induced this compliance with it:
1. Because it came from the Lord.
2. From that God who, as he was in covenant with Israel, so in all the course of his providence had so carried himself to them, as they had no just reason to suspect either his kindness or his power.
3. From their employing of him to seek God upon their behalf.
He now adds, If remaining ye will remain in this land, I will build you up and plant you, I will not pull you down nor root you up Here the Prophet testifies that the counsel he gave them in God’s name would be for their good; and what is good or useful is deemed by men, when they theorize, as they say, to be of great value. The simple authority of God ought, indeed, to be sufficient; and had God only commanded them in one word to remain, they ought to have acquiesced. But God here accommodated himself to their infirmity, and was pleased, in a manner, to let himself down in order to promote their well being, and did not require obedience according to his authority and sovereign power, as he might have justly done. We hence see how kindly God dealt with this people, as he did not demand what he might, but gave his counsel, and testified that it would be good and useful to them.
Now when orators adduce what is useful in order to persuade, they have recourse to conjectures, they state human reasons; but the Prophet here promised in God’s name, that that if they remained it would be for their good. God’s promise, then, is brought forward here instead of conjectures and reasons. Therefore the obstinacy of the people was without excuse, when they rejected the authority of God; and then despised his counsel, and also disbelieved his promise. Then to the contempt of God was added unbelief: and we know that no greater reproach can be offered to God than when men do not believe him.
The metaphors here used occur often in Scripture. God is said to build up men when he confirms them in a settled state; and in the same sense he is said to plant them. This we have already seen, and it is especially evident from Psa_44:2, where God is said to have “planted” in the land of Canaan the people he had brought out of Egypt. He then promised that the condition of the people would be secure, and safe, and perpetual, if only they did not change their place. When he adds, I will not pull down nor pluck up, he: follows what is done commonly in Hebrew. Neither the Latins nor the Greeks speak in this manner; but negatives of this kind in Hebrew are confirmations, as though the Prophet had said, “God will so plant you that your root will remain. There will then be no danger of being plucked up when you have been planted by God’s hand; nor will he suffer you to be subverted or pulled down when he has built you up by his own hand.” What then they ought to have especially sought, God freely promised them, even to be safe and secure in the land; for this especially was what the Prophet meant.
It afterwards follows, For I repent of the evil which I have brought on you. The verb נחם, nuchem, sometimes means to repent, and often to comfort; but the former sense comports better with this passage, that God repented of the evil. If, however, we prefer this rendering, “For I have received comfort,” then the meaning would be, “I am satisfied with the punishment with which I have visited your sins;” for they to whom satisfaction is given are said to receive comfort. As then God was content with the punishment he had inflicted on the Jews, the words may be rendered thus, “For I have received satisfaction from the evil,” or, “I am satisfied with the evil,” etc. The other meaning, however, is more generally taken, that God repented of the evil. (128) But this mode of speaking is, indeed, somewhat harsh, yet it contains nothing contrary to the truth; for we know that God often transfers to himself what peculiarly belongs to man. Then repentance in God is nothing else than that having been pacified, he does not pursue men to an extremity, so as to demand the punishment which they justly deserve. Thus, then, God repented of the evil which he had brought on the people, after having sufficiently chastised their sins, according to what we read in Isaiah, when God says, that he had exacted double for their sins. (Isa_40:2.) He called the punishment he had inflicted double, not that it exceeded a just measure, but he spoke according to his paternal feeling, that he had treated his people in a harder way than he wished, as a father, who is even displeased with himself when he has been very severe towards his children.
We now, then, perceive what is meant by the reason here given, that the Jews were not to fear if they dwelt in the land, because God had sufficiently chastised them, and that he was so pacified that he would not further pursue them with severity. Jeremiah at the same time reminds us, that whatever evils happen to us, they ought to be ascribed to God’s judgment, and not to adverse fortune. We hence see that by these words the people were exhorted to repent; for as they were bidden to entertain good hope, because their safety was in God’s hand, so also the Prophet shews that as to the time past they had suffered nothing by chance, but that they had been punished because they had provoked God’s wrath. It follows, —
For I repent me of the evil – The meaning is, As I have punished you only because you continued to be rebellious, I will arrest this punishment as soon as you become obedient to my word. You need not fear the king of Babylon if you have me for your helper; and I will so show mercy to you that he shall see it, and cease from afflicting you, as he shall see that I am on your side.
That is, if you will not go into the land of Egypt, as you are thinking, but abide where you are, or in any part of Judah, under subjection to the king of Babylon, into whose power I have given you, then I will see to your security and prosperity, and make you a happy people. The happiness and prosperity of people is in Scripture often set out under the notion of building and planting, as on the contrary their misery or destruction is expressed under the metaphorical notions of pulling down and plucking up.
For I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you; for I am satisfied with the punishment your nation hath undergone; and as to the remainder, if they do not destroy themselves by new disobedience, I will change the course of my providence.
Jeremiah 42:10 Build you, and not pull you down, etc. Some of Jeremiah”s favourite phrases. (see on Jer_24:6) I repent me. And yet in 1Sa_15:29 we read that “Israel”s Trust… is not a man that he should repent.” The key to the discrepancy may be found in Psa_18:25, Psa_18:26, “With the pious thou showest thyself pious… and with the froward thou showest thyself froward.” There is no change in the nature or purpose of God, but only in his conduct towards man. The term “repent” is, therefore, only used analogically.
Here the Prophet explains more fully their sin; for their punishment might have appeared extreme, had not their impiety been more clearly unfolded. He then says that this punishment ought not to be regarded as too rigid, because God had not once only protested against the Jews and admonished them in a solemn manner and before witnesses; but they to the last not, only despised his counsel and warnings, but proudly rejected them. And he adds, that they dealt falsely and perfidiously with God, because they pretended that they would be obedient as soon as the will of God was known; but they shewed that in reality they had no such purpose; for their own vanity and deceit took full possession of them when the Prophet answered them in God’s name; nor had they a desire to obey God.
Let us now consider the words: Jehovah hath spoken against you, the remnant of Judah He again calls them a remnant, in order that they might remember that they had no reason any more to be proud. We know how the Jews while in prosperity disregarded the Prophets; for they were inebriated with their good fortune. But God had dissipated this pride, with which they were previously filled. The Prophet had also set before them the favor through which they had been liberated, that they might learn hereafter to submit to God and his word. For this reason then he called them a remnant, even to render them more attentive and teachable. But it was done without any benefit; for though their affairs were nearly hopeless, and they were reduced almost to nothing, yet they had not laid aside their high spirits. They were then still swollen with false confidence. But this warning, however, availed to render them more inexcusable.
If ye enter into Egypt, he says, knowing know ye, or, knowing ye shall know. The verb is in the future tense, though it may be taken as an imperative. But the future tense is the most suitable, knowing ye shall know, that is, the event itself will teach you, but too late, as the foolish are never wise till after the evil has taken place. Knowing ye shall know that I have protested against you this day. God says that he had left nothing undone to bring the Jews to a right mind; for a protest is usually made in a solemn manner, witnesses being called in, so that no one can plead that. he has gone astray through ignorance. To take away then every ground of excuse, witnesses were wont to be called. Hence God speaks according to the common practice and in a forensic sense, and says that he had protested against the Jews, lest they should by chance offend through want of knowledge. It then follows, that they knowingly perished, as though they had sought their own destruction.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
I have admonished — literally, “testified,” that is, solemnly admonished, having yourselves as My witnesses; so that if ye perish, ye yourselves will have to confess that it was through your own fault, not through ignorance, ye perished.
The good prophet, knowing how much it concerned this people to listen unto him, and to believe and obey what he said, repeats again the same thing which he had said before, assuring them that it was the Lord commanded him to say this to them. Critics note that the word which we translate admonish, in this form, signifieth to admonish before witnesses.
The request made in Jer_42:3 has been fulfilled: Yahweh has spoken. The prophet now adds these four verses as a sort of epilogue, in which he urges upon them the several points of the divine message. In the ten days which had intervened between the request and the answer Jeremiah had become aware that neither princes nor people were prepared to obey unless the answer was in accordance with their own wishes. He does therefore his best to convince them, but as usual it was his lot to speak the truth to willful men, and gain no hearing.
He now adds another circumstance, that they had sent him under the pretense of rare piety, as though they were in every way ready to render obedience to God. But he first says that they had deceived themselves, or had been deceived. The verb תעה, toe, from which the Hithpael comes, means to err or go astray. But interpreters do not agree; for some give this explanation, that they deceived the Prophet in their hearts, that is, that they craftily retained their perverse design of going to Egypt, and at the same time professed that they were ready to obey. But as the Prophet’s name is not mentioned here, this explanation seems unnatural. I therefore prefer the other explanation, that they deceived themselves; and ב, beth, is here redundant, as in many places: Ye deceived, then, your own souls, when ye sent me, he says, to Jehovah The Prophet intimates that when they sought to act craftily they were deceived; for God is wont to discover the astute, and when they devise this or that, they only weave snares and toils for themselves; and we see that craftiness ever brings the ungodly to ruin. The Prophet, according to this sense, derides that perverse affectation of astuteness, when the ungodly seek to deceive God; and he says that they deceived themselves, as we see also daily. Then he says that they themselves had been the authors of the evil, for they had brought themselves to ruin by their astute and crafty counsel, when they sent him to Jehovah. The כי , ki, is to be taken here as an adverb of time, When ye sent me to Jehovah your God, saying, Pray for us.
He reproves them not only for perfidy, but also for sacrilege, because they wickedly profaned the name of God. For it. was not to be endured that they should pretend a regard for religion, and testify that they would be obedient to God, and should at the same time cherish in their hearts that perverse intention which afterwards they discovered. And hence he not only relates that he had been sent, but that he had also been solicited to intercede for them. It was then a twofold sacrilege, for they had asked what would please God, and afterwards disregarded the prophecy, — and then they offered a prayer, and when God gave them an answer by his servant., they counted it as nothing! We now perceive why Jeremiah so expressly mentioned these two things.
Pray for us to our God, and according to all which Jehovah our God shall say, relate thou to us: the people seemed to act with wonderful sincerity; they exhorted the Prophet to dissemble nothing, to add nothing and to diminish nothing’. What better can be wished than that men should lay aside all ambiguity and all evasions, and not wish God’s words to be corrupted? And this the Jews expressed in high terms, Whatever Jehovah our God shall answer, declare thou to us Here they seemed to have more zeal than Jeremiah himself; for they enjoined a law, that he should add nothing and diminish nothing, but that he should be a faithful interpreter of God’s will. They seemed then to be half-angels. They afterwards testified that they would do whatever God should command them.
Jeremiah 42:20 For ye dissembled in your hearts,…. Did not honestly and faithfully declare their intentions; they said one thing with their mouths, and meant another in their minds; they pretended they would act according to the will of God, as it should be made known to them by him, when they were determined to take their own way. Some render it, “ye have deceived me in your hearts” (z); the prophet, so Kimchi; by that which was in their hearts, not declaring what was their real intention and design: or, “ye have deceived your souls” (a); you have deceived yourselves and one another; I have not deceived you, nor the Lord, but you have put a cheat upon your own souls: or, “you have used deceit against your souls” (b); to the hurt of them, to your present ruin and everlasting destruction:
when ye sent me unto the Lord your God; the prophet did not go of himself, they desired him to go:
saying, pray for us unto the Lord our God; to be directed in the way they should go; so that the prophet did nothing but what they desired him to do:
and according to all that the Lord our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it; they pressed him to a faithful declaration of the will of God to them, and promised they would act according to it. Now he had done all this; he had been wire God, prayed unto him as they requested, and had brought them his mind and will, and made a faithful relation of it, and yet they did not attend to it; so that the deceit was not in him, but in them, as follows:
(z) התעי־תאם בנפשותיכם “seduxistis me animis vestris”, so some in Vatablus; “fefellistis me”, Munster. So Ben Melech. (a) “Fecistis errare animas vestras”, Pagninus; “fefellistis”, Calvin. (b) “Seduxeritis vos contra animas vestras”, Schmidt.
Ye dissembled in your hearts; or, you have used deceit, either towards God, dealing falsely with him, calling him to be a witness to your sincerity in what you never intended any sincerity in; or towards me, sending me to inquire of God for you, and promising to do according to what I should reveal to you from God as his will, whenas you never intended it; or towards your own souls, as every sinner doth but deceive his own soul: you made a pretence of what was not in your hearts, when you sent me to pray God’s direction for you, and made me such a firm promise to do whatsoever I should reveal to you from God as his will in this case.
Jeremiah 42:20 For ye dissembled in your hearts; rather, for ye have gone astray (from the right path) at the risk of your lives; or, another possible rendering, for ye hath led yourselves astray. Hypocrisy is certainly not the accusation which Jeremiah brings against the people.
He at length adds, And I have this day declared it to you Here he sets forth his own fidelity, not for the sake of boasting, but that their impiety might be reproved, who at length despised the oracle of God, which they had boasted that they would obey. Ye have not hearkened, he says, to the voice of Jehovah your God, and according to all the things on account of which he hath sent me to you. The Prophet again confirms the truth, that it was their own fault that the Jews did not follow what was right, and also what was for their good, for he had faithfully delivered to them what God had commanded. He now adds, —
I have been faithful to you, I went according to your desire to inquire of God for you, I had his will revealed to me in your case, and now I have as faithfully told you what it is;
but ye have not obeyed. How did Jeremiah know this, for they had not yet declared their minds to him? He had either learned it from their discourses during the ten days which God had made him to wait for the revelation, or he had learned it from some contemptuous behaviour of them when he delivered it, or (which is most probable) God had aforehand told it to him.
The Prophet at length concludes his discourse, after having mentioned the reasons why God would deal so severely with them, even because their perfidy, impiety, ingratitude, and obstinate contempt were unsufferable. After having then shewn that they had no reason to expostulate as though God were extremely rigid, he at length declares what end awaited them, even that they should die by the sword, famine, or pestilence, that is, that there would be no hope of safety to them, because if they escaped from the sword, they should be beset with famine, and if they evaded the famine, they should be destroyed by pestilence. It is a common mode of speaking with the Prophets, as it is well known, that when they intimate that the ungodly in vain hope for impunity, they represent God as having at his command all kinds of punishment.
Ye shall then, he says, die in that place which ye seek for your sojourn, he again shews the object of the people, for they did not intend to dwell perpetually in Egypt, but only for a time, until there was liberty to return to their own country. In short, they wished to be restored, as it were, against God’s will; and yet they ceased not falsely to put forward the name of God, as hypocrites, who mock God, always do. Now follows, —
by the sword, &c. Reference to Pentateuch (Lev_26:6, Lev_26:25, Lev_26:33, Lev_26:36. Deu_28:22).
The prophet ascertaineth that doom unto them which, Jer_42:15-17, he had threatened them with, in case they were resolved to go into Egypt. We must expect nothing but utmost disappointments upon actions done in disobedience to the revealed will of God: you think to avoid death by going thither for a little time to sojourn, but you shall die there, and that by those very deaths which by going thither you seek to avoid,
Now he says, that when he had finished speaking to the whole people, as God had commanded, then John the son of Kareah, and Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, being the first among them, spoke against him. As to Azariah, we cannot know with any certainty what he was. But we have here in John the son of Kareah an example deserving of notice. We have seen that he was a bold, wise, and prudent man, and also of an upright mind. In short, when we consider what the Prophet has before said of him, we cannot but think he was by nature a heroic man; nay, when he is compared with Gedaliah, who, at the same time, was an excellent man, and whom the Prophet has adorned with high commendations, he yet far excelled him. Gedaliah, indeed, had a kind disposition, he was courageous in protecting the people, he was a man of integrity; and, besides, he was a father to the people, and so conducted himself when things were in a hopeless state, that, beyond the expectation of all, he gathered together the remnant of the people; and we have also seen that by his efforts the Prophet had been delivered from instant death. But John the son of Kareah had been a remarkable helper to him, having come to him of his own accord, and offered to him his assistance; and further, he faithfully and prudently warned him to beware of the perfidy of that unprincipled man, by whom he was afterwards killed. Gedaliah fell through extreme credulity. John, then, the son of Kareah, had a greater appearance of excellency than Gedaliah had exhibited. But what does the Spirit of God now declare respecting him and his associates? They are said to have been proud and obstinate. We hence see that some men excel in greatness of mind, and are yet of a refractory disposition; and this is for the most part the case during’ a disturbed state of things. For some come forth wonderfully courageous; but when things do not fall in with their wishes, they become ferocious and rebel against God and men, and besides, they will never bear to be brought under submission. Such, then, was John the son of Kareah: at one time he manifested extraordinary virtue, but at length it appeared what he really was.
The Prophet, with the authority of a judge, declares that he and his associates were proud: then Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and John the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, said, A falsehood dost thou speak. This was extremely insolent and reproachful; for they had lately testified that they regarded Jeremiah as God’s faithful servant, and that they would receive whatever he might bring as God’s true oracle; but now they charge him with falsehood! how great was this presumption! But it hence appears how deep and various, and how tortuous are the recesses which are in the hearts of men; for at one time they announce honied words, and afterwards they utter nothing’ but virulence. So from the same mouth, as it were, almost in the same moment, comes forth what is sweet; and what is bitter.
Let us hence learn that the heart of man is full of every kind of deceit, until it be cleansed by the Spirit of God. We also see, when once impiety boils up, to what extremes it will proceed; for these men were not only insolent and reproachful towards Jeremiah, but also towards God himself. And they did not now make evasions as before, nor did they raise objections; but they openly raved against the Prophet. Thus hypocrisy has indeed for a time its coverings, but when the ungodly are urged by God, then they observe no bounds: Thou speakest what is false
What God said to the builders of Babel may be truly said of this people that Jeremiah is now dealing with: Now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do, Gen_11:6. They have a fancy for Egypt, and to Egypt they will go, whatever God himself says to the contrary. Jeremiah made them hear all he had to say, though he saw them uneasy at it; it was what the Lord their God had sent him to speak to them, and they shall have it all. And now let us see what they have to say to it.
I. They deny it to be a message from God: Johanan, and all the proud men, said to Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely, Jer_43:2. See here, 1. What was the cause of their disobedience – it was pride; only by that comes contention both with God and man. They were proud men that gave the lie to the prophet. They could not bear the contradiction of their sentiments and the control of their designs, no, not by the divine wisdom, by the divine will itself. Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey him? Exo_5:2. The proud unhumbled heart of man is one of the most daring enemies God has on this side hell. 2. What was the colour for their disobedience. They would not acknowledge it to be the word of God: The Lord hath not sent thee on this errand to us. Either they were not convinced that what was said came from God or (which I rather think) though they were convinced of it they would not own it. The light shone strongly in their face, but they either shut their eyes against it or would not confess that they saw it. Note, The reason why men deny the scriptures to be the word of God is because they are resolved not to conform to scripture-rules, and so an obstinate infidelity is made the sorry subterfuge of a wilful disobedience. If God had spoken to them by an angel, or as he did from Mount Sinai, they would have said that it was a delusion. Had they not consulted Jeremiah as a prophet? Had he not waited to receive instructions from God what to say to them? Had not what he said all the usual marks of prophecy upon it? Was not the prophet himself embarked in the same bottom with them? What interests could he have separate from theirs? Had he not always approved himself an Israelite indeed? And had not God proved him a prophet indeed? Had any of his words ever fallen to the ground?
The preceding scene ended with the gravest warning to the Jews in the land who had consulted the prophet. The present chapter shows how soon it proved unavailing. Will was at work. The difficulty lay there. They trusted themselves. They did not trust God. Egypt was near, Nebuchadnezzar at a distance. He who had chastised the apostate pride of Judah was offensive to them. They refused to bow to the word, or to confide in the working of the Lord in their favour. They had nevertheless loudly proffered to obey His voice; and He forbade them by His prophet to go down into Egypt, whither they wished to betake themselves.
Unbelief may go on quietly for a while, and even put forth pious professions; but a time of trial inevitably comes, and tests whether it is God’s will, or our own, that we are really seeking. Johanan, the son of Kareah (who had so lately opposed the crafty assassin and royal plunderer, Ishmael), is one of the proud men who insult the prophet and reject the message God sent by him. Had there been a lowly and contrite spirit, he would have trembled, and been enabled to hear the voice of Jehovah. But he was Lot of God; and an unjudged will blinded his eyes and dulled his ears. Perhaps he honestly thought what he said. but if so, how did he come to think so? What’ ground had Jeremiah given to sanction or so much as to excuse a doubt of his communication as from Jehovah? His own evil heart of unbelief not only mistrusted the prophet, but gave itself loose reins in surmising a plot between Baruch and the prophet to hand the rest over to the Chaldean conquerors. The credulity of the unbeliever is proverbial; and an evil self-willed action promptly follows.
Of Johanan we have before heard, but not of
Azariah, unless under the name of Jezaniah, Jer_42:1, but that is uncertain. These men are called proud men, either because they were the great men, or because their conceit of themselves led them into this fatal error. Pride is nothing else but a man’s mind swelling in an opinion of himself, and always takes its rise from some higher ground the person possessed of it thinks he stands upon, and a very little hillock will serve the turn; those who have nothing else of pretence will make a silk coat or a piece of silver lace serve their turn. One man’s spirit swells upon account of his descent, another upon account of his riches, a third upon the account of his learning, parts, and wit, a fourth upon the account of his or her beauty. These men are called
proud men, possibly upon account of their greatness, they were captains, and the chief of the Jews now left; but chiefly upon account of the good opinion they had of their own reason and wit, by which they judged they knew better how to guide themselves for their own security than Jeremiah could teach them; which pride or good opinion men have of themselves is a great root of disobedience: all men sin either through passion or pride, or both, either to gratify their sensitive appetite, or their rational appetite, as it is in man since the fall.
Because it had been downright atheism, and a disclaiming of God, to have said they knew better what to do than God could tell them, they only tell the prophet God had not sent him. As in these times hypocrites, whose lusts will not allow them to do the will of God, think to secure themselves by denying that to be the will of God, and finding out other senses to put upon Scripture than are according to truth.
Jeremiah 43:2 All the proud men. It would seem as if the “proud men” were distinguished from others. Jeremiah had called the whole people together; (Jer_42:8) but a few domineering men assumed to represent the rest.
Ver. 2. Moral causes of unbelief.
The causes of unbelief may be either intellectual or moral. It is not just to assume that they are of the latter character. There is an honest doubt, and many a brave soul has been forced to fight its way over a wild desert of difficulties before seeing the light of Divine revelation. Nevertheless, it is necessary for our own warning and in controversy with others to remember that there are moral causes for unbelief, and that in some cases these may be much more operative than any purely intellectual consideration. Azariah and his friends have discovered no good ground for doubting the Divine authority of Jeremiah”s message. They have seen nothing to detract from the claims of the prophet and nothing to contradict what he says. Yet they reject his message and charge him with falsehood. The palpable explanation of their conduct may serve to explain the ground of much unbelief in our own day. In the main this consists in two things.
I THE UNPOPULARITY OF THE DOCTRINE. Jeremiah had run counter to the determination of the leaders of the people. Instead of modifying their conduct in obedience to the Divine message, they preferred to reject the message and deny its authority. This was most irrational, Yet it is a sample of the commonest conduct. People test their creed by their will instead of their reason and conscience and its own evidences. They say they do not like certain ideas, as though truth were a matter of taste. But truth is the statement of facts, and facts are not altered by sentiments. In the present instance the question was as to God”s will. Was it not possible from the first that this might contradict the opinions of the people? Otherwise what was the use of the prayer for direction, that these very men had asked Jeremiah to offer, and the reply to which was his unpopular message? If God”s will and truth always agreed with our private notions, what would be the good of revelation and commandment? It is in the conflict of the two that the chief value of the Divine message is to be found.
II THE PRIDE OF MAN. We are expressly told that they were “proud men” who rejected the prophet”s message. The rest of the people seem to have been willing to acquiesce in it. There is nothing so blinding as pride. Your proud man is an inevitable bigot. By undue assurance of knowledge he closes the avenues of fresh knowledge and limits his own possession of it. Thus pride cuts away the ground beneath its own feet.