New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Jeremiah 44:1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews who lived in the land of Egypt, who lived at Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis and in the country of Pathros, saying- The Jews may well have gone to live with other Jews who had settled there previously. Most of these places [excluding Pathros] were near the border with Judah, as if they were looking to return to Judah once things had stabilized. Woe had already been declared upon these towns where the disobedient Jews went to live after the Babylonian invasion of Judah; from the prophecy of Jer. 46:14, they ought to have already been aware of what Jeremiah declared to them- that even there in Egypt, the Babylonians would come and judge them.

Jeremiah 44:2 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: You have seen all the evil that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwells therein-
That evil came because of their idolatry; and yet they had fled to Egypt and were continuing in such idolatry (:8). Their attitude was therefore that it was good fortune that they had avoided the judgments for idolatry; and they were eagerly carrying on with it. They refused to see that God's grace was trying to lead them to repentance; and that judgment for sin will fall, regardless of where on the globe one is situated.


Jeremiah 44:3 because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, to serve other gods that they didn’t know, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers-
Not only is the logic of choosing God's way so powerful, but the way of the flesh is not satisfying. Sin became a weariness to Israel even before they reaped the punishment for it (Is. 57:10); their mind was alienated from the lovers they chose; they left the one they left the God of Israel for (Ez. 23:17). They always wanted new gods; they were never satisfied with their idols. And it seems that now the same was happening; they were looking to adopt new gods they had found in Egypt.

Jeremiah 44:4 However I sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them saying, Oh, don’t do this abominable thing that I hate!-
A love as strong as God's is going to also elicit the emotion of hatred and anger when that love is rejected and abused. He "hated" (s.w.) Judah's insincere worship and relationship with Him (Is. 1:14; 61:8; Jer. 44:4). But it is hard to separate the sin from the sinner. That distinction may be helpful for us in order to avoid judging others too personally, but God it seems doesn't make that decision. He gave Israel into the hands of those who hated her (s.w. Ez. 16:27,37) and in that sense He hated her. The feelings of hatred which Hosea had for Gomer due to her abuse of His love were those of God for Israel: "There I hated them" (Hos. 9:15). God is not simply "love" in the abstract. He is love for real, with all the emotion and psychological complex which goes along with love; and this will include hatred if that love is abused.

Jeremiah 44:5 But they didn’t listen nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to other gods-
Inclining or humbling / bowing down the ear means that true response to God's word ought to be a humbling experience. We cannot come away from engagement with God's word without being humbled. And this very phrase is used of how God bows down / inclines His ear to human prayer (2 Kings 19:16; Ps. 17:6; 31:2; 71:2 and often). We see here the mutuality possible between God and man, and the interplay between Bible reading and God's response to our prayers. We speak to God in line with our understanding of His word, and He responds to our prayers. Bible reading and prayer therefore mesh together in the Christian life, as part of the upward spiral of spirituality. God is not silent to our prayers- He reveals Himself in response through His word.

Jeremiah 44:6 Therefore My wrath and My anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day- 
They had failed to recognize that God is serious about judging sin; they thought that because they had so far escaped that judgment therefore it would not come. Distance was no object to God; the fact they were in Egypt didn't mean they were hidden from Him or that judgment could only come or happen whilst they were communicant members of the temple cult in Jerusalem. Judgment will come- and resignation from a church or from God in toto , moving out of the area... will not stop judgment coming.

Jeremiah 44:7 Therefore now thus says Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel: Why do you commit great evil against your own souls, to cut off from yourselves man and woman, infant and nursing child out of the midst of Judah, to leave yourselves none remaining-
Their sin was against their own souls. Likewise the rejected are witnesses against themselves (Is. 44:9; Mt. 23:31). Herein lies the crass folly and illogicality of sin. Jeremiah pleaded with Israel: "Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls [i.e. yourselves], to cut off from you man and woman...that ye might cut yourselves off" (Jer. 44:7,8, cp. how Jerusalem cut her own hair off in Jer. 7:29). In the same passage, Yahweh is the one who does the cutting off (Jer. 44:11); but they had cut themselves off. Likewise as they had kindled fire on their roofs in offering sacrifices to Baal, so Yahweh through the Babylonians would set fire to those same houses (Jer. 32:29). Thus Israel were the ones who had kindled the fire of Yahweh's condemnation (Jer. 17:4). Both Yahweh and Israel are described as kindling the fire of judgment; He responded to what they had done (Jer. 11:16; 15:14; Lam. 4:11 cp. Jer. 17:4).

Jeremiah 44:8 in that you provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to live; that you may be cut off, and that you may be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?-
The Jews considered that they had as it were resigned from Yahweh, so they were free to worship as they wished. But this wasn't the case. We cannot resign from Him. They would become a reproach and curse for this, and thus dishonour Yahweh. We note again that the essence of idolatry is a trust in the work of our own hands. This is what makes idolatry an abiding issue in the lives of God's people.

Jeremiah 44:9 Have you forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, the wickedness of the kings of Judah, the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?-
We note the emphasis upon the sins of the women (:17,21). In those days, religion was largely a hobby for men, and the women followed their husbands' religion where and when required. But we see here that the women are held personally accountable; for God values men and women equally, desiring that each person exercise a personal conscience toward Him.

Jeremiah 44:10 They are not humbled even to this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in My law, nor in My statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers-
To walk in God's laws was to be the result of their humbled repentance. This is one reason why we have Divine laws- to provide a channel through which we can express that intangible and non-specific love of God which we feel upon repentance.

Jeremiah 44:11 Therefore thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: Behold, I will set My face against you for evil, even to cut off all Judah-
See on :7. All would be destroyed; but the same chapter speaks of a remnant that would not be (:14,28). This is the Bible paradox of God's love of Israel and desire for their redemption.

Jeremiah 44:12 I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to live there, and they shall all be consumed; in the land of Egypt shall they fall; they shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine; they shall die, from the least even to the greatest, by the sword and by the famine; and they shall be an object of horror, an astonishment, a curse and a reproach-
This is an allusion to Jer. 15:2. This is what could have happened had they received their judgment in Jerusalem. By grace they were spared that, and then by grace again, they would have been spared it at the hands of the Babylonians who were tempted to revenge the murders performed by Ishmael. But since they were ungrateful for that great grace shown, then those judgments would catch up with them. Fleeing to Egypt would not save from Divine judgment; only repentantly casting themselves in humility upon His grace would do so.

Jeremiah 44:13 For I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the plague-
As noted on :12, their attempt to avoid Divine judgment by living in Egypt was not going to work. There can be a sense that we can resign from everything to do with God's truth; and live with no sense of judgment to come. These Jews who fled to Egypt are proof that this is not the case. God's grip is strong upon us and He wishes us for His Kingdom till the day we die.

Jeremiah 44:14 so that none of the remnant of Judah, who have gone into the land of Egypt to live there, shall escape or be left to return into the land of Judah, to which they will have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return save such as shall escape-
They thought they could forget about the things of Yahweh once they were in Egypt. But they were to face condemnation there, and in their time of condemnation, they desperately wanted to return to their land [cp. the Kingdom]- but it was all too late. Cain is another type of the rejected- instead of going as far away from Divine things as possible after his condemnation, he went to live on the east of Eden- where the cherubim were, guarding the barred entry to God's paradise (Gen. 4:16). This desire to be in the Kingdom but it being too late is the 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' the Lord speaks about; a mental torment absolutely self inflicted.

Jeremiah 44:15 Then all the men who knew that their wives burned incense to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, even all the people who lived in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah saying-
Pathros was in the far south of Egypt, and may have included Jews who had been resident in Egypt for some time. Being so far south, they were confident that Jeremiah's prophecies that the Babylonians would find them even there would for sure be proved untrue.

Jeremiah 44:16 As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of Yahweh, we will not listen to you-
This is rank disobedience. But they phrase it in terms of there perhaps being a difference between the words of Yahweh and those of Jeremiah. These are the words Jeremiah "(you") had spoken, not from Yahweh but only "in the name of Yahweh". This kind of petty doubting of the process of Divine inspiration is often deployed by those who simply don't want to accept the demands of His word upon them personally. 

Jeremiah 44:17 But we will certainly perform every word that is gone forth out of our mouth, to burn incense to the queen of the sky, and to pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then had we plenty of food, and were well, and saw no evil-
See on :19; Jer. 7:18. 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 44:18 But since we left off burning incense to the queen of the sky, and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine-
As noted on Jer. 43:11, the consumption by sword and famine was because they were in Egypt. They had been spared this whilst in the land of Israel. By grace they had been spared death by sword and famine in Jerusalem, and then by grace again, they would have been spared it at the hands of the Babylonians who were tempted to revenge the murders performed by Ishmael. But since they were ungrateful for that great grace shown, then those judgments would catch up with them. Fleeing to Egypt would not save from Divine judgment; only repentantly casting themselves in humility upon His grace would do so. Their complaint that they had received those judgments, finally, in Egypt... was inappropriate in the extreme.

Jeremiah 44:19 When we burned incense to the queen of the sky, and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her, without our husbands?-
It was this very behaviour which had brought the Babylonians upon Jerusalem (Jer. 7:18). "The queen of heaven" was a Babylonian fertility god, otherwise called Ishtar, shaped like the moon or the planet Venus. It was the god of female fertility, hence the note that the women and children were a large part of its worship. Each female devotee was expected to sleep with the male cult prostitutes of this cult. And then sacrifice one of their children to it. No wonder this so upset God, seeing that He was the source of Israel's fertility, and their children were born to Him and not to the supposed queen of heaven. The women later protested that they were impenitent of this worship of the queen of heaven, and they did so with the full blessing of their husbands; this was significant, seeing that the cult involved sleeping with other men and offering their children to Ishtar.

Jeremiah 44:20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, to the men, and to the women, even to all the people who had given him an answer, saying-
It is twice emphasized that Jeremiah replied "to all the people". None could claim they had not heard God's response.

Jeremiah 44:21 The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, didn’t Yahweh remember it, and didn’t it come into His mind?-
There was the idea that God forgot their sin; that that was all back there and back then, but now they had moved to Egypt, all was different. We too can reason the same way, wrongly assuming that time and geography make a pseudo atonement for our sins. God had been hurt deeply by their idolatry, and it continued to come into His mind. Judgment was going to come for it.

Jeremiah 44:22 So that Yahweh could no longer endure you, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which you have committed; therefore your land has become a desolation, an astonishment and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day-
Yahweh had been bearing their sin ("s.w. "endure"), but there came a point where this was no longer appropriate if they were continuing in those sins.

Jeremiah 44:23 Because you have burned incense, and because you have sinned against Yahweh, and have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh, nor walked in His law, nor in His statutes, nor in His testimonies; therefore this evil has happened to you, as it is this day-
What was worse was that this group had come to Jeremiah seeking God's word, and apparently had some interest in obeying it. But there was a willfulness in their sin which made their judgment inevitable. The evil done to the land of Judah "happened to you, as it is this day"; they were wrong to think that by running away to Egypt, they had avoided Divine judgment.

Jeremiah 44:24 Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of Yahweh, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt-
There is strange emphasis on all the people being addressed, including the women. This reflects God's inclusive approach, recognizing the women as well as the men were guilty and likewise also capable of repentance. It is not God's way to punish a majority just for the sins of their leadership; the entire community were addressed and thereby were responsible.

Jeremiah 44:25 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, saying, You and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and with your hands have fulfilled it saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of the sky, and to pour out drink offerings to her-
Their hands fulfilled what their mouths spoke in that those hands formed the cakes to the queen of heaven, and performed the rituals.

Establish then your vows, and perform your vows-  God will confirm people in the path they wish to take both for good and bad, hence we are to pray "lead us not into temptation".

Jeremiah 44:26 Therefore hear the word of Yahweh, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: Behold, I have sworn by My great name, says Yahweh, that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt saying, As the Lord Yahweh lives-
This implies that every single Jew in Egypt was to be killed. Such threats of total destruction of every Jew in Judah had been made earlier by the prophets, and yet not carried out in the end because of God's way of remembering mercy in the midst of wrath. And it was to be the same here; the Assuan papyri show that the Egyptian Jews in the century following were a flourishing community and were worshippers of Yahweh and not idolaters. Perhaps it was this level of turning toward Yahweh which meant that God changed these threatened judgments.

Jeremiah 44:27 Behold, I watch over them for evil, and not for good; and all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until they are all gone-
The language of total destruction is immediately ameliorated in :28, when we read that some of them would return into Judah.

Jeremiah 44:28 Those who escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who have gone into the land of Egypt to live there, shall know whose word shall stand, Mine, or theirs-
This is proof enough that the language of total destruction of all Jews in Egypt was not going to literally happen.

Jeremiah 44:29 This shall be the sign to you, says Yahweh, that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that My words shall surely stand against you for evil-
Egypt was given into the hand of their enemies so that Judah might learn something from this. We see the condemnation of others in order to warn us. There is a gap between the statement of judgment, and its execution. In that gap we can repent and change the otherwise inevitable outcomes. The propblems of the Pharaoh Hophra (see on :30) were to be a sign to the Jews that the Babylonian judgment would surely come upon them.

Jeremiah 44:30 Thus says Yahweh, Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of those who seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy, and sought his life
- All that we know of the fate of Hophra is derived from Herodotus (2:169), who states that Amssis "gave Apries over into the hands of his former subjects, to deal with as they chose. Then the Egyptians took him and strangled him".