Jeremiah 44 Commentary

Message to the Judeans in Egypt (44:1-30)

Once they had settled down in Egypt, the Judeans soon copied Egyptian religious practices. Jeremiah begins his warnings to them with the reminder of what happened to Jerusalem. The city was destroyed and the people of Judah sent into Babylonian exile because of their false religion and idolatry (44:1-6).

Yet the Judeans who escaped to Egypt have not heeded the lesson. God had promised to preserve a minority of the people taken captive to Babylon, but he will preserve none of those who have escaped to Egypt. They show no sign of repentance, but worship the gods of Egypt as they once worshipped other false gods in Jerusalem (7-10).

God announces that his judgment will follow the Judeans to Egypt till they are destroyed. Some will die through war, others through famine. The only survivors will be a few fugitives who escape back to Judah (11-14).

The people’s arrogant response to the message from God shows their rebellious spirit and their determination to continue in their idolatry. They argue that during the reign of Manasseh, when the worship of foreign gods was at its peak (cf. 2 Kings 21:3-5), there was neither war nor famine. But when Josiah removed idolatry and established the worship of Yahweh (cf. 2 Kings 23:4-5), Judah suffered from both war and famine (15-18). Moreover, the idolatry had the full approval of the heads of households all over Judah (19).

In reply Jeremiah points out that the worship of foreign gods was the reason for Judah’s calamities and ultimate downfall. The idolatrous practices of Manasseh’s time were so deeply rooted that Josiah’s reform could not remove them (20-23; cf. 2 Kings 23:26-27).

The prophet challenges the people to continue their worship of false gods and see whether or not they will be punished (24-25). But he knows the outcome: they will be destroyed, never to dishonour the holy name of God again (26-27). Only a few who escape will live to see Jeremiah’s prophecy come true (28). The Judeans in Egypt will have a sure sign of their coming doom when they see Pharaoh, in whom they have trusted, overthrown (29-30).

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