Hey Bro! You Been Messin’ Up! And Your Wife Too!

Hey Bro! You Been Messin’ Up! And Your Wife Too!
Jeremiah 44

In what is otherwise a most serious passage regarding a most serious national event at a most serious historical time, we find some amusement while watching our hero, Jeremiah, and what might be the bravest act by any male personality in the Bible.

The situation in Jeremiah chapter 44 is the recent end of the kingdom of Judah, and the final end of God’s nation-state of Israel. It is now about 586 BC. The final destruction and surrender of Jerusalem occurred the year prior. The kingdom of Judah has been under the thumb of the empire of Babylon since 605. The four final kings of Judah have to varying extent played dangerous international politics with their master, Babylon, and with what remains of power in Babylon’s weakened adversary, Egypt.

The worst of it is that God’s people brought this on themselves by their less than devout worship of God. God is steamed about it, and is directing the Babylonians to smash his own people.

The Babylonians have removed the extended royal families and the classes of wealthy, educated, merchants, and politically connected. They’ve be shipped east to Babylon, in modern Iraq. In effect, the Jewish “state” will spend the next 50 years setting up Jewish national culture and statehood in Babylonian exile.

Jeremiah the prophet has spent the last twenty years pleading, using God’s word, to the final few Jewish leaders to accept Babylon as God’s agent, and accept the Chaldean regime’s inevitable takeover of Israel as a land and national entity. Many Jews have already been removed from the land, as Babylon’s practice of removing conquered Jews to the environs of Babylon has been taking place since about 605. Jeremiah tells God’s people that God WANTS THEM to be exiled in Babylon, and to make the most of it.

The rural and agricultural class remains in the land. These folks will become, loosely speaking, the despised “Samaritans” of Jesus’ day. This comes after continuing to mingle and marry and adopt the idol-worshiping, multiple god-following, mixed ethnic and religious culture that has filled and continues to fill in the land following Assyria’s hegemony in the 600’s and Babylon’s hegemony recently.

In the mean time, those with the means to do so, and having not been chosen or caught up in the Babylonian exile, have continued to look to Egypt for protection and temporal salvation. They have moved to Egypt, during and after a short-lived opportunity to do so under the first Babylonian governor of Judah, Gedaliah.

Jeremiah has, against his desire, been taken to Egypt with them. And Jeremiah continues to shout God’s alarm regarding Egypt. Accept Babylonian rule, God says. God will destroy you in Egypt, Jeremiah says for God.

Jeremiah does this shouting in one of the Egyptian settling-places, Tahpanhes (later given the Greek name Daphnae, likely modern Tell al-Dafana in the Arabic). Tahpanhes is in northeastern modern Egypt, close to the Suez Canal where El-Qantara / Al Kantara straddles the shipping waterway and ancient caravan routes. Here is Jeremiah 43 at verse 8:

8 Then came the word of the LORD to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, 9 Take great stones in thy hand, and hide them in the clay in the brick-kiln, which [is] at the entry of Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; 10 And say to them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. 11 And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, [and deliver] such [as are] for death to death; and such [as are] for captivity to captivity; and such [as are] for the sword to the sword. 12 And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. 13 He shall break also the images of Beth-shemesh, that [is] in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire. (Jer 43:8-13 Websters)

God’s people have been worshiping every sort of god and every sort of idol. Unless they repent, God is absolutely going to make them pay a price and suffer and die. In Jeremiah 44 at verse 11:

11 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah. 12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, [and] fall in the land of Egypt; they shall [even] 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 execration, [and] an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach. 13 For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: 14 So that none of the remnant of Judah, who have gone into the land of Egypt, to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape. (Jer 44:11-14 Websters)

And, as with Eve, it is largely the women’s fault.

Yes indeed, here is where Jeremiah demonstrates his bravery. (Or his stupidity, depending how Biblically one looks at these things.)

Our heroic prophet Jeremiah has somehow gathered a very large assembly of Jewish expatriates from all over northern and southern Egypt. A grand crowd is assembled at Tahpanhes (assuming our location has not changed since earlier in the chapter), and Jeremiah tells them like it is:

9 Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem? (Jer 44:9 KJV)

Oh yeah. Tell a man his wife has done wrong. Heck, tell any wife to her face that she has done wrong.

The women tell Jeremiah that, sure, they burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and other gods and so forth, but their husbands knew they were doing it. They told Jeremiah that, furthermore, the Queen of Heaven brought them good fortune — uhh, why are they in Egypt? — and for him to buzz off.

Jeremiah surely had to be protected by our most powerful God with his most powerful powers at this point. Jeremiah escapes with only, it seems, a verbal rebuke by the women and their husbands. He was apparently fortunate to get away on this day.

The Bible is silent on the exact date and circumstance of Jeremiah’s death, which likely occurred in Egypt. (We can speculate on one likely scenario however, involving hair needles and rolling pins.)

Brave Jeremiah then piles on:

20 Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him [that] answer, saying, 21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it [not] into his mind? (Jer 44:20-21, KJV)

And then:

24 Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that [are] in the land of Egypt: 25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows. 26 Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD liveth. 27 Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that [are] in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them. 28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs. (Jer 44:24-28, KJV)

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Okay. Now we have had some fun with this, but God’s message to God-abandoning Israel is of utmost seriousness. Our “jeaolous” God does not tolerate either personal or national devotion to phony gods. The consequences are a matter of (eternal) life and death. In this case, it was death.

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If you haven’t plowed through the book of Jeremiah in a while (or ever), now would be a good time to read this rich statement of theological, doctrinal truth for yourself. If you are fascinated by the political and historical background of Biblical events, Jeremiah’s story of God and God’s people is likewise rich with the affairs of state actors in the era around 600 BC.

Jeremiah the book is supplemented by readings in the historical books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. AND it is likewise supplemented by Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Daniel, all of which address the Godliness misadventures of Judah’s kings. AND it is likewise accompanied by Jeremiah’s Lamentations.

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God’s blessings to you! Even though you may be exiled in Babylon or Egypt or otherwise far from your true home in God’s perfect New Jerusalem. Continue to follow God and God will follow you. When the Queen of Heaven abandons you, God will stick with you.

As always, please read the actual Bible for yourself. Do not rely on Bible Bits or any other party as your primary source of Biblical doctrine and truth.

Love and Blessings!

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