We let off yesterday with the remaining Judeans wanting to go to Egypt now that the Babylonian-appointed governor Gedaliah had been assassinated (41:17-18). Our reading today begins with them coming to Jeremiah to pray to God on their behalf (42:1-2) so that they might know what to do (v. 3). After Jeremiah agrees (v. 4) the people promise to abide by whatever God says (vv. 5-6).
Ten days later, Jeremiah comes back with an answer (v. 7). He tells the people that God wants them to remain in Judah (v. 10). He says He will bless them if they stay. He will protect them (vv. 11-12). But if they disobey, then they will be cursed (vv. 15-17). They will “have no remnant.” They will die like so many Jews have died at the hands of Babylon, which was also a punishment for disobedience (v. 18 – see 24:9).
Jeremiah then solemnly warns them to heed the words of God (vv. 19-20). But he knows that they will not (vv. 21-22). What is about to happen is that God will remove the physical remnant from His presence and destroy them. This is a picture of the sin of the whole nation and their punishment for disobedience. It also pictures the rejection of the physical people for the spiritual people, the true remnant that God will bring back to His presence by sending His presence through the physical people.
In chapter 43, we see much the same reaction of this remnant that we saw from everyone else. They don’t believe Jeremiah (43:2). Like so many false believers, they only seek for God’s words to confirm what they want, and will dispose of any revelation that disagrees with their program. These people even accuse Jeremiah and Baruch of a conspiracy to give the remnant over to Babylon (v. 4). So the entire remnant goes to Egypt, and they take Jeremiah and Baruch with them (vv. 5-7). We see once again that the spiritual people are not promised they won’t suffer. But God has a plan.
God now gives Jeremiah another act prophecy to carry out while in Egypt (v. 8). Jeremiah takes two large stones and places them in front of Pharaoh’s palace (v. 9), and then prophesies that the king of Babylon will sit on a throne in that very place (v. 10). The remnant disobeyed and ran because of their fear of Babylon. And because they did not fear God, He will bring that which they fear to them (v. 11). And Nebuchadnezzar will do to Egypt what he did to Judah (vv. 12-13). You can run if you want, but there is no stopping God’s plan.
Chapter 44 records another prophecy. It combines what we have seen in the last two chapters and gives a type of summary of what has happened to Judah. God has completely removed the people of Judah from His presence (44:2) because of their sin of worshiping other gods (v. 3) and their refusal to repent (vv. 4-5). So God made Judah a wasteland (v. 6). Because of their unwillingness to have faith in God, there is no physical remnant left (v. 7).
Verse 8 has a double meaning. Not only did the people make an idol of Egypt by trusting her power over God (43:2), but their idolatry continues even in their new locale. They have learned nothing from what God did to Judah (v. 9) because of their refusal to repent (v. 10). So God will cut off the physical people (v. 11), the physical remnant (v. 12). And the people still refuse to hear the words of God (vv. 15-17). We see that they blame Him for their situation, not their own sin (vv. 17-19). There are plenty of “atheists” in our day that know full well that God is, but are angry at Him because of their circumstances, not realizing that it is because of sin that they suffer.
Jeremiah tells them that this is precisely why God has punished them (vv. 24-25). And because of their hard hearts, God will harden them even more, and they will never return to Him (v. 26). God has undone the Exodus. His people returned to Egypt, and this time, He will leave them there. Yet there is hope. There will be a remnant (a spiritual remnant) that will return (v. 28). But this time, instead of God punishing Egypt to prove to Israel that He is God (like at the Exodus), He will punish Judah so they know that He is God (v. 29). And He will do to Egypt what He did to Judah (v. 30).