Jeremiah 42


A suggested outline of this chapter.

1. The people ask Jeremiah to seek God’s guidance. Jeremiah 42:1-3.

2. Jeremiah promises to pray, and the people promise to obey God. Jeremiah 42:4-6.

3. After 10 days, God replies. Jeremiah 42:7-8.

4. They are commanded to stay in Judah. Jeremiah 42:9-12.

5. The severe warning if they go to Egypt. Jeremiah 42:13-18.

6. A prophecy of destruction for those who go. Jeremiah 42:19-22.

‘Then all the army officers, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest approached Jeremiah the prophet and said to him, ‘Please hear our petition and pray to the LORD your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the LORD your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.’ ‘I have heard you,’ replied Jeremiah the prophet. ‘I will certainly pray to the LORD your God as you have requested; I will tell you everything the LORD says and will keep nothing back from you.’ Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the LORD your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favourable or unfavourable, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the LORD our God.’ Jeremiah 42:1-6

Those who are left in Judah are now afraid of Nebuchadnezzar. They believe there will be repercussions because of the death of Gedaliah. So, they approach Jeremiah and ask him to seek God’s advice on the matter. Their actions will show that they still have a lot to learn with regard to placing implicit trust in God.

Self-interest is still prevalent, they still believe that they know better than God. Basically, they are simply wanting God to approve of the plans that they have already decided upon, that is, to go to Egypt. So sure, are they that God will approve their plans that they actually take an oath to do whatever God tells them to do.

This passage confirms that Jeremiah was among those rescued by Johanan from Ishmael. They didn’t have to go to him, because he was already with them. In Jeremiah 7:16, Jeremiah 11:14 and Jeremiah 14:11, God had told Jeremiah not to pray for the well-being of His people. But now he seems free to do so. And Jeremiah was happy to do so, but on the basis, that God was a God of the people, He was not just the God of Jeremiah.

In verse 3 the people had said, ‘Pray to YOUR God.’ And in verse 4 Jeremiah says, ‘I will certainly pray to the Lord YOUR God.’ Verse 6 has the people saying, ‘Whether it is favourable or unfavourable, we will obey the Lord our God.’

And this promise seems to be very sincere. They are even calling upon God Himself, as a witness against them, if they should fail to keep their promise.

‘Ten days later the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. So, he called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him and all the people from the least to the greatest. He said to them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says: ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the LORD, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’ Jeremiah 42:7-12

Ten days later Jeremiah gives them God’s reply. They are told that they have no need to fear reprisals from Babylon. God tells them that He will prosper them, but only if they stay in their own land.

Let’s say a little bit more about this statement, ‘Ten days later’. On previous occasions, it seems that God answered Jeremiah almost immediately. But here there is a delay of 10 days. Why? One scholar believes that it was to give Jeremiah time to get more news. I can’t believe that that was the case.

I agree with other scholars who believe this was to give time to the people themselves to think about their situation, pray to God themselves, and await the arrival of God’s word. If that was the case it certainly didn’t work, because the people were busy preparing themselves to go into Egypt. They were determined to do their own will, and not God’s.

‘However, if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ and so disobey the LORD your God, and if you say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the trumpet or be hungry for bread,’ then hear the word of the LORD, you remnant of Judah. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die. Indeed, all who are determined to go to Egypt to settle there will die by the sword, famine and plague; not one of them will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’ Jeremiah 42:13-17

These people would have known that Jeremiah’s messages were from God. They would have known that everything Jeremiah had prophesied came true. The reason that they approached Jeremiah on this occasion was because they knew that God would reveal His will through Jeremiah. It, therefore, seems incredible that they would stubbornly go to Egypt after all that Jeremiah told them.

How could they be so blindly disobedient to the Word of God?

‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and wrath have been poured out on those who lived in Jerusalem, so will my wrath be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You will be a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach; you will never see this place again.’ ‘Remnant of Judah, the LORD has told you, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Be sure of this: I warn you today that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the LORD your God and said, ‘Pray to the LORD our God for us; tell us everything he says, and we will do it.’ I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the LORD your God in all he sent me to tell you. So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle.’ Jeremiah 42:18-22

Jeremiah was telling the people about the promises of God, that were for their good. They would have security and salvation If they were to obey God, he warned them of the dangers of disobeying God, he told them that going to Egypt was a complete no-no, and he warned them about deceiving themselves. God knows the hearts of His people. He, therefore, knows that they don’t intend to stay in Judah.

Notice in verse 18 that God doesn’t say ‘IF’ you decide to go to Egypt, but ‘WHEN’, when you go to Egypt.

Verse 20 says, ‘you made a fatal mistake,’ they had said, tell us everything that God says, and we will do it. And verse 21 begins, ‘I have told you today.’

This implies that it was not under Zedekiah’s ruling, it was because of their own fears. So, what comes after this is no surprise. They had been warned. Safety doesn’t come with distance. Egypt was no more immune than Judah was. If the people had obeyed God’s word God would have saved them, and protected them.

Let’s sum up this chapter. God’s message was:

1. Stay in Judah and God will bless you and look after you.

2. Go to Egypt and you will incur the wrath of God, and you will die by sword, famine and the plague, just as your brothers did at the Fall of Jerusalem.

3. The very things that make you afraid to stay in Judah, will follow you into Egypt.

Go To Jeremiah 43



"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted."