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Jeremiah 42:1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near- These people appeared to have had faith and spirituality, enough to intend surrendering to the Babylonians in recognition of their sins; see on Jer. 41:11. And yet now they lost their faith in saving grace; they thought grace surely couldn't extend this far, in preserving them from the Babylonians whom Ishmael had so provoked by killing some of their soldiers along with Gedaliah, their appointed ruler of the land. This ability to believe in Divine grace only so far... is typical of our struggles too.

Jeremiah 42:2 And said to Jeremiah the prophet, Please let our supplication be presented before you, and pray for us to Yahweh your God, even for all this remnant; for we are left but a few of many, as your eyes do see us-
They asked for prayers and direction, but they were already assembled and prepared to go to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians whom Ishmael had so foolishly offended (Jer. 41:17). We too can pray and yet already have our mind made up as to what we shall do. We likewise note the human desire to ask someone else to pray for us. There is something within us which makes us shy away from the possibility of real personal engagement with God Almighty; we would prefer some system of religion, someone else to pray for me... rather than engage directly with Him.

Jeremiah 42:3 That Yahweh your God may show us the way in which we should walk, and the thing that we should do-
As noted on :2, they had already decided that the way they should walk was to Egypt. Any other possibility seemed to them to risk certain death or captivity. We too can rule out any options apart from those we see immediately before us, and faith is about accepting those other options when they are presented by the Father. "The way in which we should walk" is the repeated phrase used of Israel's exodus from Egypt (Dt. 1:31,33; 8:2 etc.). Likewise the request to be shown what they should do or "make" is framed in terms of the instructions given Israel in the desert (Ex. 18:20). But the crucial difference in their case was that they were seeking to return to Egypt; whereas the way Israel had been shown had been out of Egypt. We too can quote Biblical precedent but get it all so wrong, as we are simply using those ideas to justify our own path.

Jeremiah 42:4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray to Yahweh your God according to your words; and it shall happen that whatever thing Yahweh shall answer you, I will declare it to you; I will keep nothing back from you-
We pass through one experience to prepare us for another. He had tempted not to reveal everything to Zedekiah; but here he likewise must hide or "keep back" nothing. The message he had for them was to be directly opposed to what they were expecting and wanting to hear. Earlier he had been forbidden to pray for the people; and yet now he is confident that his prayer will be answered. But the idea may have been not to pray in an intercessory sense.

Jeremiah 42:5 Then they said to Jeremiah, Yahweh be a true and faithful witness among us, if we don’t do according to all the word with which Yahweh your God shall send you to us-
The implication was that if God was to reveal something to them through His word, then it was axiomatic that they must do accordingly. God i a witness over His word, as Jeremiah's prophecy began by pointing out. Our interaction with His word is likewise monitored; it can be no academic study or amassing of information. We are to live accordingly.

Jeremiah 42:6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of Yahweh our God to whom we send you; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of Yahweh our God-
The Jews left in the land after the Babylonian invasion begged Jeremiah to tell them God's word: "Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord" (Jer. 42:5,6). But when they heard His words, their response was: "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" (Jer. 44:16,17). Their apparent zeal for Bible study came to nothing when the results were inconvenient to them (and we can take a lesson from this). But I wonder whether they actually said "We will certainly do whatsoever goeth forth out of our mouth"? Maybe they did; but perhaps this is what their rejection of God's word was tantamount to, and therefore this is the way their words are recorded. 

Jeremiah 42:7 It happened that after ten days the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah-
God tells Jeremiah not to pray for them as He won’t hear him; but then Jeremiah does pray and God hears and changes His mind as a result of this (Jer. 42:7,10). The ten day period was perhaps to help them prepare themselves for the unpopular message. As the days went by, their natural reaction would have been to get going for Egypt as soon as possible, given their fear of Babylonian revenge for the murders committed by Ishmael. The delayed response was therefore to get them used to the idea of remaining in the land.

Jeremiah 42:8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest-
"Johanan" means 'God's grace', but he seems not to have believed that grace could extend so far as saving him from the offended Babylonians. Jeremiah called all the people, because he felt that remaining in the land was connected with their salvation; he didn't want any decisions made merely by the leadership, but for all individually to make their choices. 

Jeremiah 42:9 And said to them, Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel to whom you sent me to present your supplication before Him-
The people had presented a supplication to Jeremiah (the same words are used in :2), but Jeremiah stresses that the supplication has been presented before God. They perhaps really wanted Jeremiah's blessing on their proposed migration to Egypt; whereas Jeremiah was reminding them that their requests had really been taken by him before the presence of Almighty God. The wonder of prayer can easily be lost upon us. The same term is also found in Jer. 36:7, where the hope was that the people would "present their supplication before Yahweh and repent". But they were instead asking Him if they could run away to Egypt. The personal sense of repentance and confession just wasn't there.

Jeremiah 42:10 If you will still live in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I grieve over the distress that I have brought on you-
God had promised to build and plant them in a restored, Messianic kingdom in Israel (Jer. 31:28; 42:10; Ez. 36:36). But this was all conditional upon them continuing to obey His voice, otherwise He would change His plans (Jer. 18:9,10). Jeremiah had been given the power to speak the words of both destruction and building and planting (Jer. 1:10). They who remained in the land were the "evil figs" of Jer. 24; but God was prepared to act differently, so eager was He to reestablish the Kingdom.

If Judah had remained in the land and not fled to Egypt, God would have repented of the evil He had promised, and would there and then have restored the land and rebuilt Jerusalem (Jer. 42:10 cp. Zech. 6:15); the whole restoration from Babylon would never have happened. But Israel would not. And yet the whole restoration exercise, as it happened, brought glory to God through the faith and spirituality of men like Ezra and Nehemiah. Behold once again ‘Divine ecology’. God was prepared to relent (Jer. 18:8; 26:3,13,19; 42:10), and yet He says in Jer. 4:28 that He will not. This is not self-contradiction, but rather a reflection of the depth of how God's compassion is finally greater than His judgment of sin. The whole mental and emotional trauma made God weary of all the relenting, so deeply did He feel it (Jer. 15:6).

Jeremiah 42:11 Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; don’t be afraid of him, says Yahweh: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand-
"Don't be afraid of the face of..." (Heb.) uses the very same words that were used to encourage Jeremiah to resist and not fear his opponents. As he had overcome all the faces of his opponents through obedience to God's word, so all Judah could have followed Jeremiah's personal example. This is indeed how the preacher must be; the word is to become flesh in us. As Jeremiah was not afraid before the faces of opponents, so Judah were to be like him before the Babylonians. See on Jer. 41:17,18. Although they were the "evil figs" of Jer.24, God sought to assure them of His change of plan concerning them; "I [Yahweh] am with you to save you" is very much the idea of Yehoshua, Jesus, Yahweh is our Saviour. Just as He had caused the surrounding tribes not to destroy Jacob after the pillaging of Shechem, so He would preserve Judah from the revenge of the Babylonians for the foolishness of Ishmael.

Jeremiah 42:12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you, and cause you to return to your own land-
The experience of God's grace, mercy and acceptance was to be reflected through the king of Babylon choosing likewise not to take vengeance upon them, when he legitimately could have done so, after what Ishmael had done. We see here the struggle to believe in grace and mercy which is the root reason for the Gospel's rejection by men. The king would have caused them to return from where they were then located, perhaps already well on the way to Egypt, back to their own land.

Jeremiah 42:13 But if you say, We will not dwell in this land; so that you don’t obey the voice of Yahweh your God-
Those who don't want to be in God's Kingdom won't be; and all those who love the Lord's appearing will be accepted by Him. By refusing to dwell in the land, they were disobeying God' saving purpose; and so they would not be in God's Kingdom and would be condemned (:16).

Jeremiah 42:14 Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell-
Jeremiah knew this was what they were thinking, and so did God. The choice of Egypt / the world is often made on the basis of unproven assumptions and images in the mind- e.g. that there, they would not lack bread and would not be at risk of war. These assumptions were and are so often false.

Jeremiah 42:15 Now therefore hear the word of Yahweh, O remnant of Judah: Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, If you indeed set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to live there-
They had set their faces, hardened themselves psychologically, and therefore their request for God's word of guidance about their migration was inappropriate. And worse, they had set their faces against the will and intention of God for them. This is the difficulty of being truly humble before God's word; resigning all we once had hoped or assumed to be true, all our natural value systems and assumptions... before His, as they are expressed in His word.

Jeremiah 42:16 Then it shall happen, that the sword which you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, about which you are afraid, shall follow close behind you there in Egypt; and there you shall die-
As noted on :14, they were assuming that they would be free from famine and fear of war in Egypt. But this was not at all to be the case. The sword and famine destroying them in the land of Judah had been threatened them for their sins; they were only alive by grace. And yet they thought that by fleeing to Egypt they could escape their first condemnation, and not be judged by sword or famine. The grace available to them was that they could stay in the land of Judah and not experience the promised judgments. By fleeing to another land, there was no such guarantee. The truth was that they were not truly repentant, not really awed by God's grace, and loved Egypt / the world far more than the things of God's Kingdom.

Jeremiah 42:17 So shall it be with all the men who set their faces to go into Egypt to live there: they shall die by the sword, by the famine and by the plague; and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring on them-
As explained on :16, sword, famine and plague were the judgments upon Judah for their sin. Those judgments would be lifted if they remained in the land to allow God's grace to work further and prepare them to be part of His restored Kingdom. But running off to Egypt was simply opting out of  God's program, thinking that the world / Egypt could save them from the judgments which they deserved. Egypt had been demonstrated as unable to help them during the time of the Babylonian siege; but such mental habits and tendencies to always trust in Egypt were hard to break.

Jeremiah 42:18 For thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: As My anger and My wrath has been poured forth on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so shall My wrath be poured forth on you, when you shall enter into Egypt; and you shall be an object of horror and an astonishment, a curse and a reproach; and you shall see this place no more-
They themselves had been inhabitants of Jerusalem; for the group included the eunuchs and the king's daughters. They ought to have partaken in the pouring out of wrath upon Jerusalem; they had only not experienced it by God's grace. They therefore ought to obey Him now that He tells them where to be and where to remain in order to further avoid judgment. But the grace in saving them was apparently in vain, because they still sought salvation in Egypt and not Yahweh. God's wrath was only not poured upon Jerusalem because they had shown some humility (cp. 2 Chron. 12:7); but now they were hardening themselves in their assumptions about salvation in Egypt just had to be right.

Jeremiah 42:19 Yahweh has spoken concerning you, remnant of Judah, Don’t you go into Egypt: know certainly that I have testified to you this day-
Going into Egypt has nearly always been a bad move by God's children; they were expected to perceive those precedents from history. God's plan with them was clear and not open to interpretation- they were not to go into Egypt, not to do that which was the natural reaction and which seemed the logical path.

Jeremiah 42:20 For you have dealt deceitfully against your own souls; for you sent me to Yahweh your God saying, Pray for us to Yahweh our God; and according to all that Yahweh our God shall say, so declare to us, and we will do it-
"Dealt deceitfully" is a phrase nearly always used in the prophets about the effect of false teachers and idols deceiving the people (Jer. 23:13,32; 50:6; Ez. 14:11 etc.). It could be that they had other prophets, false ones, telling them to go to Egypt; and they wished for the "OK" from Yahweh as well. Perhaps that was all their approach to Jeremiah amounted to.

Jeremiah 42:21 and I have this day declared it to you; but you have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God in anything for which He has sent me to you-
Their disobedience is not recorded here, but is found in Jer. 44.

Jeremiah 42:22 Now therefore know certainly that you shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place where you desire to go to live there
- The judgment of Jerusalem by sword, famine and plague had been ameliorated, by grace; these people had avoided it. But their refusal of grace and the Divine plan of salvation meant that they would have to experience it, and this therefore was to happen to them in Egypt. The Babylonian invasion of Egypt brought it about. The simple lesson is that no attempt to avoid God's judgments can ever work out. It is for us to repent and accept our worthiness of them, rather than cleverly seek to avoid them.