Jeremiah 44: To the Jews in Egypt
"And King Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah." (Jer. 37) Josiah began to reign in 640, Jehoiakim in 609, Coniah or Jehoiachin in 597, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, three months afterward in 597 B.C. This was a year when the city was besieged. Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to pray for him. Then Pharaoh came. He raised the siege. Jeremiah told the king that Pharaoh would return to Egypt, and the Chaldeans would take the city, and burn it with fire. The Chaldean army dispersed through fear of the Egyptians. Jeremiah attempted to return to his home in Benjamin. He was seized in the gateway and charged with desertion to the enemy. Jeremiah denied the charge. But the princes cast him into prison. The king sent for him, hoping to hear a more promising message from the Lord. Jeremiah gave him no encouragement and demanded his release. He was consigned to the court of the prison and shown some favor. (Jer. 37) But the princes, enraged by his adverse prophecy, desired the king to grant his execution. Zedekiah did so. They therefore lowered the prophet into a dungeon where there was no water, but mire, into which he sank. There they left him to die of hunger.
An Ethiopian eunuch heard of this and pled with the king for Jeremiah's release. The king acceded. Then the Ethiopian took thirty men with him, and by means of "old cast clouts and old rotten rags" let down into the dungeon, and placed under the arms of the prophet, they drew him up thence, and saved him from a horrible death. Then the king again sought Jeremiah's counsel. But the prophet had only the same discouraging oracle: "Surrender to the king of Babylon, and all will be well; resist, and he will burn the city, and take you into captivity." Thereafter Jeremiah was consigned to the court of the prison until the day when the city was taken in 586 B.C. (Jer. 38) "In the eleventh year of Zedekiah . . . the city was broken up," after a siege of nearly two years. (Jer. 39:1-2) Zedekiah fled by night, but he was captured in the plains of Jericho, brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, deprived of his sight, bound in chains, and taken to Babylon. Jerusalem was destroyed and the people carried away captive. Nebuchadnezzar, however, gave special charge concerning Jeremiah. The prophet received his choice of going into captivity or of remaining in the land with Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had made governor over the cities of Judah at Mizpah. He chose the latter course. (Jer. 39; 40)
Soon the leaders who had escaped from Jerusalem gathered round Gedaliah at Mizpah. He counseled them to serve the king of Babylon and all would go well with them. But there were revolters in their midst. Gedaliah was warned, but refused to credit it. (Jer. 40) Then Ishmael and his confederates killed Gedaliah and the Jews that were with him. He also put to death some worshipers who came from Samaria, and then gathered the people together to join the Ammonites beyond Jordan. But Johanan and his friends went out against him. When Ishmael's followers saw Johanan, they forsook Ishmael. Thus, he was forced to escape with eight men to the land of Ammon. Then Johanan and the people went to Chimham near Bethlehem with the intention of escaping to Egypt, for they feared the Chaldeans would punish them for the death of Gedaliah. (Jer. 41) Before carrying out their intention, however, they sought advice of Jeremiah. He assured them that all would be well if they remained in the land and submitted to the king of Babylon but that destruction would overtake them in Egypt. He also reproved them for their hypocrisy in asking his advice, which they promised to follow, when yet they had determined to take their own way. (Jer. 42) In their pride, they disbelieved the prophet and carried him with the rest into Egypt. There Jeremiah prophesied the conquest of Egypt by Babylon. (Jer. 43) And there he uttered his final curses upon his wayward people. The truth of his words would be proved in the destruction of Egypt, like to the destruction of Judah. And yet—and yet—the Lord is merciful. A very small remnant shall escape, and join the remnant in Judah. (Jer. 44:14, 28)
It is a sad story. The experience depicted is no less painful. Judah has become utterly corrupt. The attempt is made to keep up the worship of the Lord in the temple, and at the same time to observe the worship of Baal and of Moloch, even to the sacrifice of their children. (Jer. 7; 32:35, etc.) This is serving God and Mammon at the same time, which is profanation. Babylon represents profanation and adulteration of the Word. (A. 1368, etc.) Therefore, Babylon besieging Jerusalem represents the state of the people there. Jeremiah advises the king of Judah to surrender to the king of Babylon and all will be well, but if he refuses, then the city will be destroyed. The advice of the Lord is to acknowledge frankly the profane state in which they are, and then the Lord can help them. But if they refuse, then the worst must come to pass to force them to recognize the nature of the evil in which they are. (E. 1029, end) The evils in the natural person, however, are too strong to admit of a spontaneous free acknowledgment of the person’s estate. Therefore, the truth is held in bondage, Jeremiah is put in prison. Nay, further, it is defiled, and the attempt made to destroy it. Jeremiah is consigned to the miry dungeon to die. He is saved through the intervention of Ebed Melech (servant of the king). A gentile love of obeying the truth preserves the Lord's message from destruction. The message, however, is powerless to influence people. (Jer. 38:28) Therefore, the end approaches. The effect of the obstinate refusal to admit that the worship of self and of God combined is profane worship is to destroy true doctrine. (Jer. 39:2) It is folly to attempt to escape this conclusion. It results in the loss of sight (the understanding of the truth, verse 7). Profane worship falsifies the truth. (Verse 8) Yet there is some "simple understanding of the Word" left, "the poor of the people, which had nothing." (Verse 10) Among these Jeremiah lived. This is unable, however, to resist contamination. (Jer. 40:7-16) It is in time rendered wholly corrupt. (Jer. 41) They who are thus affected look to the Word for advice. (Jer. 42:1-6) The Lord instructs them that "if they continue simply in their external worship, and do not consult knowledges of the natural man, they will be saved: if they consult them, all truth and good of worship will perish." (Verses 7-22; P. P.) They would not obey the Lord. They placed confidence in mere knowledge. To do this destroys the truth. Pride in what one knows falsifies the truth. (Jer. 43)
All trials are occasioned by the perversity of the natural person, which is totally opposed to the reception of the truth. The three great destructive powers in the natural person are reasoning from self (Assyria), the love of dominion (Babylon), and pride in knowledge (Egypt). The evil effects of the first are described in the destruction of Samaria and captivity of Israel. The disastrous consequences of giving rein to the second are briefly described in 44:1-6. And the fate attending the indulgence of the third is laid bare in 44:7-14. People who are overpowered by pride in what they know seek to justify themselves. (Verses 15-19) But the Word reveals the fact that such an attempt only seals their doom, and totally destroys the church in them. (Verses 20-27) If there is anything salvable in a person, the Lord will preserve it. (Verse 28) But "true knowledges are perverted by reasoning therefrom." (Verses 29-30; P. P.)
The difference in state between those taken into captivity to Babylon, and those who voluntarily went into captivity into Egypt, is strongly contrasted in Jer. 24 under the type of the good and naughty figs. (Compare Matt. 21:16-22.) For a lucid explanation of Jer. 24, see E. 403, which furnishes great enlightenment on this whole subject.