The People Decide to go to Egypt
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Jeremiah
chapters 40 to 44
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Verse 1 Jeremiah recognised that Nebuzaradan's offer at Ramah was the *LORD’s message to him. Ramah was a town about 5 miles (about 8 kilometres) to the north of Jerusalem. The area was a temporary place to stop. From there, the *Babylonians took their prisoners on to Babylon. Somehow, Jeremiah appeared with a group of other prisoners. He had chains round him. However, Nebuchadnezzar had ordered people to take care of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:12). Perhaps there was confusion when the *Babylonian soldiers defeated Jerusalem. They may have made a mistake. Perhaps they did not know who he was.
Verses 2-3 Nebuzaradan gave a brief account of Jeremiah's *prophecies. He had heard what Jeremiah had said. The *LORD would judge the people in Jerusalem. That was because they had *sinned against the *LORD. They had not obeyed him. Recent events proved that Jeremiah's message was true.
Verses 4-6 Nebuzaradan freed Jeremiah. He gave three choices to Jeremiah. He could go to Babylon, where Nebuzaradan would take care of him. Jeremiah could remain in Judah. He would be able to go wherever he wanted. Or he could join Gedaliah at Mizpah. Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Gedaliah as ruler over Judah. Mizpah was about 8 miles (about 13 kilometres) to the north of Jerusalem. It had been a political and *religious centre for hundreds of years. At Mizpah, the *Israelites chose Saul as their first king (1 Samuel 10:17-25). It seems that the *Babylonians had not destroyed the town at that time. Nebuzaradan gave supplies of food to Jeremiah. He also gave a present to Jeremiah. That showed that Nebuzaradan respected Jeremiah. Jeremiah chose to stay in Judah with the other people who remained there. He went to Gedaliah. Gedaliah belonged to a family who had been very loyal to Jeremiah.
Verses 7-8 Some army officers and their men remained in Judah. Perhaps they were hoping to make sudden attacks on any *Babylonians in the country. But they heard that Gedaliah was in authority in the country. So they came to join him at Mizpah. Among them was Ishmael, who came from the king’s family. The name 'Jaazaniah' appears on an object that people found at Mizpah. It has the words on it, 'belongs to Jaazaniah, the servant of the king.’ Perhaps it is the same man as Jaazaniah in verse 8.
Verses 9-10 Gedaliah told the people to stay. They should live in a normal way. Jeremiah had given the same advice in his letter to the *exiles (Jeremiah chapter 29). Gedaliah promised the people that he would speak on their behalf to the *Babylonian officials. It was time to harvest the *grapes and to make wine. Also the people had to harvest the fruits that came in the summer. And they made oil from fruit called olives. Nebuzaradan had arrived in August. In August and September the people usually harvested *grapes, and the fruits called *figs and olives. The *Babylonians had destroyed many towns before they attacked Jerusalem. So probably the people were living in those towns.
Verses 11-12 Many *Jews had run away to other countries to find safety. They heard that Gedaliah was the ruler. And they came back. They joined the other *Jews who had remained in Judah. There was a good harvest that year. They would think that the *LORD was being kind to them. So Gedaliah seemed to have established a good society.
Verses 13-14 Johanan, son of Kareah, led a group of officers to warn Gedaliah about a plot. The country of Ammon had been part of the group of nations who helped Zedekiah. They stopped him so that he did not obey Babylon (Jeremiah 27:3). There is evidence in Ezekiel 21:18-32 that the *Babylonians had intended to punish Ammon. Perhaps the King Baalis wanted to continue the plot to defeat the *Babylonians. Ishmael may have felt jealous that Gedaliah had become the ruler. Ishmael was from a royal family. Perhaps he wanted to cause trouble for the *Babylonians.
Verses 15-16 Johanan suggested to Gedaliah in private that he would kill Ishmael. If Ishmael killed Gedaliah, it would cause a lot of trouble. Johanan was aware of what would happen. The *Jews who had joined Gedaliah would scatter again. They would be afraid that the *Babylonians would punish them because of the crime. It would be better to kill Ishmael. They must not allow the new nation of Judah to die. But Gedaliah did not believe Johanan. Probably he had known Prince Ishmael when he was an official. Gedaliah was an honest and a generous person. He wanted to establish a safe and peaceful nation again. He could not accept that other people did not want that too.
Verses 1-2 The 7th month was October. But it does not say which year that was. It may have been the year that the *Babylonians defeated Jerusalem. But it may have been a year or more later. Ishmael was a guest at the meal and Gedaliah was his host. Ishmael broke the ancient customs of the country about how to entertain a guest. A host protected his guest. The guest respected the host. Gedaliah could never have defended himself against such a wicked attack. The *Babylonians had appointed Gedaliah as the ruler. So Ishmael was guilty because he acted against them also. Later, the *Jews had a special day every October when they did not eat any food. That showed how sad they were (Zechariah 7:5; 8:19). They remembered the murder of Gedaliah.
Verse 3 Ishmael killed *Jews in Mizpah. And he killed the *Babylonian soldiers who were there. There may not have been many soldiers, but he killed them all. The whole incident was sure to bring severe punishment from the *Babylonians.
Verses 4-5 Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria were towns in the northern *kingdom of Israel. All of them had been special places where people went to *worship. The *Assyrians destroyed the northern *kingdom in 722 *BC. After that time, many *Israelites went up to Jerusalem to *worship. It was the 7th month. During that month, the *Jews had a special *religious ceremony called the ‘feast of the Tabernacles’. They remembered that their *ancestors had lived in tents in the *desert. The *Jews had to go to Jerusalem to *worship the *LORD three times a year (Exodus 23:16). And that was one of those times. The 80 men had cut off their beards and had torn their clothes. That showed that they were very sad. Also they had cut themselves. But the law forbade it (Leviticus 19:28). They were sad because the *Babylonians had destroyed the *Temple. So the 80 men were taking *offerings to the place where the *altar in the *Temple had been. None of them had heard that Ishmael had murdered Gedaliah.
Verses 6-7 Ishmael went to meet them. He was crying and he was pretending to sympathise with them. Then he invited them into Mizpah to meet Gedaliah. There, Ishmael and his followers killed the men and they threw their bodies into an empty well. We do not know why Ishmael killed all those people. Perhaps he was afraid. The people would discover that Gedaliah was dead. Then they might attack Ishmael. He intended to escape across the River Jordan into Ammon (v10).
Verse 8 10 men saved their own lives. They promised to show Ishmael where they had hidden supplies of food. Ishmael may have wanted the food to take with him into Ammon.
Verse 9 King Baasha of Israel had tried to attack Judah in the past (1 Kings 15:22). So Asa, king of Judah, had made Mizpah a strong city. This was as a defence against King Baasha. The well would have been an extra preparation so that they could store water. Often an enemy surrounded a city for a long time. So it was essential to have a good supply of water.
Verse 10 The king's daughters may have been Zedekiah's children. But they may have been from another part of the royal family. Ishmael was afraid of punishment. He was trying to escape to Ammon.
Verses 11-12 Johanan found out what had happened. So he and his army officers chased after Ishmael. The large pool in Gibeon was like a large well. People dug it out of the rock. It was a very deep well. There are steps that went down into it. They went into a large room that contained the water. The pool at Gibeon was the place where King Saul's men fought 12 of David’s men (2 Samuel 2:12-16).
Verses 13-14 All Ishmael's prisoners were very happy when they saw Johanan and his officers. The prisoners left Ishmael. And Ishmael ran away to escape into Ammon.
Verses 16-18 Johanan and his officers realised that the *Babylonians would find out about the murder of Gedaliah. Then the *Babylonians might attack them. So they decided to go to Egypt. Egypt was the only place in the area that the *Babylonians did not rule. So Johanan and the people went south from Gibeon. They went to a place that was about 6 miles (9½ kilometres) to the south of Jerusalem, near to Bethlehem. The place where they stopped belonged to Kimham. He was the son of Barzillai. David had rewarded Barzillai because of his loyal help. This happened when David's son, Absalom, had acted against his father. Barzillai was too old to enjoy himself in David’s lovely house. So he asked David to reward Kimham instead (2 Samuel 19:32-40).
Verses 1-3 All the officers and the former prisoners decided to go to Jeremiah. They asked him to pray for them. Probably Jeremiah was among people who came from Mizpah. They had decided to go into Egypt. The people wanted to know whether the *LORD approved of their decision. They asked that the *LORD should tell them. They wanted to know where they should go. And they wanted to know what they should do. This is a good prayer. But they spoke about 'the *LORD your God’. This suggests that they themselves did not trust the *LORD.
Verses 4-6 Jeremiah promised that he would pray to the *LORD for them. But he was cautious. He wondered whether they would accept the answer. It might not be what they wanted to do. So he said that he would tell them everything.
When the people spoke, they seemed sincere. They promised to accept the answer, whatever it might be. They called on the *LORD to be a witness. They said that they would obey him. Then good things would happen to them if they obeyed the *LORD.
Verses 7-8 Jeremiah took 10 days to pray about that request. He had not answered Hananiah immediately (Jeremiah 28:11-12). Jeremiah had to be sure that his reply was not from his own wishes. His reply had to come from the *LORD. Jeremiah called together all the officers and the people when he gave the *LORD's answer.
Verses 9-12 They had asked him to give their request to the *LORD. The *LORD told them to stay in the country of Judah. He said similar words to those words in verse 10 when he appointed Jeremiah as a *prophet (Jeremiah 1:10). If they stayed, the *LORD would build up the nation. He would establish it and he would not destroy it. The *LORD was sorry that he had to bring trouble upon them. They were afraid that the king of Babylon would punish them because of all Ishmael's crimes. But they need not be afraid. The *LORD would save them. He would rescue them from the king of Babylon. The *LORD would be kind to them. And the king of Babylon would be kind to them too. Nebuchadnezzar would allow them to return to their own homes. There is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar tried to punish the people for the murder of Gedaliah. Nebuchadnezzar took more prisoners in 582 *BC (Jeremiah 52:30), but there may have been another reason for that (see notes on Jeremiah 52:30). It was 5 years after the *Babylonians had defeated Jerusalem.
Verses 13-18 The people did not want to obey the *LORD. So Jeremiah warned the people what would happen to them. They may have persuaded themselves that they would be safe in Egypt. They could avoid the war. They would not hear the sound of the *trumpet. (Men blew *trumpets to call people to the battle.) They would not be hungry. They would not have diseases. But the people were making a serious mistake. There would be war in Egypt. And the people would have troubles as a result. They would die in the war. They would die from hunger and disease. God is the most powerful *LORD. He is more powerful than any ruler in the world. Also He was the God of Israel. So he cared about what the *Israelites did. He had punished the people when they were in Jerusalem. So he could punish them if they were in Egypt. Other people would think about the people from Judah with disgust. They would want bad things to happen to the people from Judah.
Verses 19-22 Jeremiah was aware that the people had made their decision already. They were going to Egypt. They had promised to obey the *LORD. But they had expected the *LORD to agree with their decision. The people from Judah thought that they would be safe in Egypt. But they needed to trust the *LORD. It is easy for people to make their own plans. Then they ask the *LORD to agree with their plans. Jeremiah said that the people would have troubles in Egypt. They continued to follow their own desires. Instead, they should have obeyed the *LORD. In verse 21 Jeremiah refers to ‘the *LORD your God’, not ‘our God’. Jeremiah does not have the same opinions as the people. He does not have the same attitude as them. He does not agree with the plan that they have made.
Verses 1-7 The leaders and other proud men accused Jeremiah. They said that he was lying. He had told them what they did not want to hear. They suggested that his secretary, Baruch, had persuaded Jeremiah wrongly. He persuaded Jeremiah to give the wrong message from the *LORD. Then the *Babylonians would defeat all of them. Either the *Babylonians would kill them or take them away to Babylon. Jeremiah did not reply to the leaders and the proud men when they attacked his honest answer. It would be impossible to change their attitude.
Some people had managed to leave Judah before the *Babylonians defeated Jerusalem. The group included some of those people. Then they had returned to Judah. The group also included all the people whom Nebuzaradan had left with Gedaliah at Mizpah. The princesses from the royal court, Jeremiah and Baruch were among the group too. The whole group did not obey the *LORD but they went to Egypt. The town called Tahpanhes was near to the frontier. It is not clear whether Jeremiah agreed to go with them. The leaders may have forced him to go. If he stayed in Judah, he would obey the *LORD. But he may have decided to go with the people. Then he could continue to give the *LORD's messages to them in Egypt. But even if they had made him go, he continued to work for the *LORD there.
Verses 8-10 Jeremiah had to perform a message to the *Jews. He had to bury large stones under the area in front of *Pharaoh's palace. This action would attract people’s attention. Then Jeremiah would say what it meant. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was the *LORD's servant. He would come to the place where Jeremiah had buried the stones. And Nebuchadnezzar would put his royal seat over that exact place. He would put his tent over the country. That meant that he would claim the country. It would belong to him. The people from Judah had come to Egypt to find safety. They had 'buried' (or hidden) themselves among the people in Egypt. But the people from Judah would experience Nebuchadnezzar’s power. They would be under his royal tent. This means that all of them would be under his rule.
Verses 11-13 Nebuchadnezzar would do to people what the *LORD had decided. Some people would die. Other people would become prisoners. Nebuchadnezzar would burn the Egyptian *temples. And he would carry away the images of their false gods. Nebuchadnezzar could make the whole country belong to him. It was easy for a *shepherd to wrap his coat round himself. And it would be easy for Nebuchadnezzar to control Egypt. When he left the country, he would not have any injury. That shows how easily he would take control of Egypt.
Heliopolis was a city about 5 miles (8 kilometres) to the north east of Cairo. In the *Hebrew language it is called 'On'. Heliopolis means 'the city of the sun'. It was famous for its *temple. The people *worshipped the false god of the sun, who was called Ra. People approached the *temple through two rows of columns. Only one of those columns is standing now.
Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt in 567 *BC. There is a reference to his action in Ezekiel 29:17-20. He defeated *Pharaoh Amasis. But Nebuchadnezzar allowed Amasis to remain as ruler of Egypt. Then Amasis seems to have kept good relations with Nebuchadnezzar. In the British Museum in London, there is a piece of stone on which someone had written. It states that Nebuchadnezzar fought against Egypt during the time of *Pharaoh Amasis.
Verse 1 There were *Jews who were living in Egypt. They probably lived there before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. In the 10th century *BC *Pharaoh Shishak may have taken some prisoners after he attacked Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:25). King Jehoahaz had to go to Egypt when *Pharaoh Necho ruled Egypt. Other *Jews probably had to go with Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31-34). Some *Jews may have gone into Egypt because of business or for other reasons. The cities of Migdol and Memphis were near to the mouth of the River Nile in Lower Egypt. Other places were many miles up the River Nile in Upper Egypt.
Verses 2-3 Jeremiah reminded the people why the *LORD had destroyed Jerusalem and the towns in Judah. Jeremiah may have been speaking to the*Jews who had gathered, perhaps for a special event. Their *ancestors had *worshipped false gods. And when they *worshipped they burned *incense. That was a substance that smelled sweet.
Verses 4-6 The *LORD's servants, the *prophets, had warned the people many times about their *sin. But the people took no notice. They continued to *worship false gods. Jeremiah was speaking to the *Jews. This included people who came from Mizpah. The *Jews would know that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed their towns in Judah. The *LORD's punishment on Judah should have warned the *Jews about their wicked acts. And they should not continue their *ancestor’s wicked acts.
Verses 7-8 The *LORD repeated the question 'Why?' three times. Clearly, the *LORD did not want to punish the people from Judah. But they *worshipped the false gods in Egypt. Therefore, the people would be responsible when their families died. The *LORD would destroy everyone because of their wicked actions. Nobody would be alive. Nobody would continue his or her family.
Verses 9-10 Jeremiah reminded the people from Judah about their *ancestor’s *sins. Even their kings and their queens were guilty because they failed to obey the *LORD's law. But still the people from Judah did not obey the *LORD's commands. They had not turned away from their *sins. They had not respected the *LORD.
Verses 11-14 The people may have decided to go to Egypt. But the *LORD would punish them in Egypt. In Jerusalem, the people had troubles because of war, hunger and disease. In Egypt, the people would have troubles in the same way, whether or not they were important people. They might have a strong desire to return to Judah. However, only a few would escape the *LORD's punishment. Only a few of them would return to their own country.
Verses 15-18 The whole crowd of *Jews refused to accept what Jeremiah had said. They told him what they would do. They would continue to *worship the female false god called the Queen of heaven. Probably that was the *Babylonian female false god called Ishtar. She was the same kind of false god as Astarte. The Canaanites had *worshipped the false god called Astarte. People thought that those *pagan false gods would make their crops grow. People thought that those false gods would help women to have children. People also *worshipped the stars. The name 'Queen of heaven' suggests that the female false god had a connection with this.
The people had given honour to the Queen of heaven. They said that their lives had been successful during that time. Mostly that was true during the long time that Manasseh ruled Judah. In 621 *BC, Josiah tried to make the religion pure. He wanted people to *worship only the real God. So the people stopped and they did not *worship the Queen of heaven. Then there had been a series of great troubles. Josiah had died in a battle in 608 *BC. The Egyptians had defeated the people in Judah. Then the *Babylonian had attacked them. Two of their kings had gone into *exile. Jehoahaz had gone to Egypt and Jehoiachin had gone to Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. Because of Gedaliah's murder, the people had gone to Egypt for safety.
The people did not *worship the *pagan female false god any longer. So they thought that had caused their troubles. But that was not true.
Verse 19 In the law, a husband had to agree with what his wife had promised (Numbers 30:10-15). The women said that their husbands agreed with the *sacrifices. The women made cakes and they gave them to the female false god. Probably the women made those cakes in the shape of the false god. Or perhaps the women pressed the shape of the female false god onto the cakes. The husbands knew what their wives were doing. The children collected the wood. And their fathers lit the fire. The women prepared the flour to make the cakes (Jeremiah 7:18). This activity involved the whole family, so it was popular. They would have enjoyed *worshipping the female false god, Ishtar.
Verses 20-23 The *LORD knew what the people from Judah had been doing. He knew that everyone was guilty. The ordinary people were guilty. And the important people, like their kings and the officials, were guilty too. It was for that reason that the *LORD had brought punishment on the country. The people had not obeyed the *covenant. They had failed to obey its demands. That was the reason why they had troubles. It was not because they failed to *worship the Queen of heaven (v18).
Verses 24-28 Jeremiah wanted the women to hear his words too. They had made promises to *worship the Queen of heaven (v19). Jeremiah told them to follow their own plans. Then they would discover who was speaking the truth. But the *LORD warned the *Jews who were living in Egypt. They used to speak the *LORD’s name when they made promises. But they would not be able to do that any longer. They would die in wars. And they would die because of hunger. So only a few of them would remain alive and return to Judah from Egypt.
Verses 29-30 The *LORD would give them evidence in Egypt that he would punish the people there. *Pharaoh Hophra’s enemies would take control of him. Hophra was the *Pharaoh who had promised to support Zedekiah against Babylon in 588 *BC. He sent soldiers into Judah (Jeremiah 37:5) but then he returned home. Towards the end of his rule, there was a struggle for power. As a result, *Pharaoh Hophra died and Amasis became king of Egypt.
AD ~ refers to the years after Christ was born.
altar ~ a block of wood or stone with a flat top. People gave gifts or *sacrifices on it to God or to a false god.
ancestors ~ members of your family who lived in the past.
Assyrian ~ people who live in, or come from, the country called Assyria; anything connected with Assyria.
Babylonian ~ people who live in, or come from, the country called Babylon; anything connected with Babylon.
BC ~ refers to the years before Christ was born.
covenant ~ the special promise that the *LORD made to his people, the *Israelites. The *LORD’s covenant with the *Israelites established a special relationship between him and them. But they had to obey him.
descendants ~ members of your family who live after you live.
desert ~ a wild place where there are small bushes and not much water. It has poor soil and people cannot grow crops there.
exile ~ absence from the country where usually you live. Usually somebody forces a person to go into exile.
fig ~ a small fruit with many seeds inside it; the tree that produces these fruits.
grapes ~ the fruit of a plant called a *vine. People eat grapes. Also they use grapes to make wine.
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.
Hebrew ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *Old Testament. The language that the *Israelites spoke. Another name for a *Jew or an *Israelite.
incense ~ a substance that gives a sweet smell when people burn it.
Israelites ~ people from the nation called Israel; another name for the *Jews.
Jew ~ a *descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
kingdom ~ a country where a king rules.
LORD ~ a special name for God. In the *Hebrew Bible it translates the word YHWH. Probably YHWH (Yahweh) means ‘he is always alive’.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible that the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.
offering ~ a gift to please the *LORD or a false god.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible that the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
pagan ~ a person who loves a false god or false gods; something that has a connection with a false god.
Pharaoh ~ a name for the king or the ruler in Egypt.
prophecy/prophecies ~ the words that a *prophet speaks or writes.
prophesy ~ to speak or write about things that will happen in the future; to speak on behalf of God or on behalf of a false god.
prophet ~ a person who declares God's message.
religious ~ something that has a connection with religion.
sacrifice ~ an *offering to God or to false gods. The *Israelites had to give sacrifices to the *LORD when they asked him to forgive their *sins. Usually the priest had to kill a special animal and burn it on the *altar. Sometimes *pagans killed a child as a sacrifice.
shepherd ~ a man who looks after sheep. Sometimes leaders in Israel were called shepherds.
sin ~ when a person does or says bad things against God or against other people; the bad things that a person does or says when they do not obey God.
temple ~ a building where people *worship a false god.
Temple ~ the most important building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.
trumpet ~ a musical instrument that people blow into to make a sound; men used it to sound an alarm for war.
worship ~ to show honour to God or to a false god. People may sing or pray when they worship. Or they may kneel or give a gift to God.
R.K. Harrison ~ Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Jeremiah and Lamentations ~ Tyndale Press 1973
Derek Kidner ~ The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Jeremiah ~ IVP 2003 reprint
Alan Millard ~ Discoveries from Bible Times ~ Lion Publishing 1997
J A Thompson ~ New International Commentary on the *Old Testament: The Book of Jeremiah ~ Eerdmans 1980
New International Version ~1st published 1979
New International Readers Version ~ 1998
New International Version Study Bible ~ 1987
New English Bible ~ 1970
Jerusalem Bible ~ 1974
Today's English Version ~ 1976
Concise Oxford Chambers 21st Century
Thesaurus ~ Geddes and Grosset ~ 1999
© 2014, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
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