Jeremiah: Jeremiah Declares God’s Message to Judah

The People Decide to go to Egypt

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Jeremiah

chapters 40 to 44

Hilda Bright

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.


Chapter 40

Jeremiah decided to remain in Judah 40:1-6

v1 The *LORD gave a message to Jeremiah. This message came after Nebuzaradan, chief officer of the royal guard, had freed Jeremiah at Ramah. Nebuzaradan had found Jeremiah with chains round him. He was among all the prisoners who came from Jerusalem and Judah. The army was taking them into *exile in Babylon. v2 When the chief officer of the guard found Jeremiah, he spoke to Jeremiah. 'The *LORD your God ordered this trouble for this place. v3 And now the *LORD has made it happen. He said that this would happen. And he has done it because your people *sinned against the *LORD. You did not obey him. v4 But today I am freeing you from the chains that tie your hands together. Come with me to Babylon if you want to go. And I will look after you. But do not come if you do not want to. Look, you can choose from anywhere in the whole country. Go wherever you want to go.’ v5 But before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added this. 'Go back to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan. The king of Babylon has appointed Gedaliah to rule over the towns in Judah. Live with him among the people. Or go anywhere else you want to go.’

Then the chief officer gave Jeremiah supplies of food and a gift. Then he freed Jeremiah. v6 So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. And Jeremiah stayed with him among the people who remained in the country.

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.

Gedaliah as ruler 40:7-12

v7 Some of Judah's army officers and their men were still in the fields. They heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as the ruler over the country. The king had put Gedeliah in authority over the men, the women and the children who were still there. They were the poorest people in the country. Nebuchadnezzar's army had not taken them to Babylon. v8 When Judah's army officers and their men heard this, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, came. So did Johanan and Jonathan, the son of Kareah. Seraiah, the son of Tanhumeth, came. The sons of Ephai the Netophathite came too. And so did Jaazaniah, the son of the Maacathite. All their men came with them. v9 Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, made a serious promise to all these men. He said, 'Do not be afraid to serve the *Babylonians. Stay in Judah and serve the king of Babylon. Then your life will be good. v10 I myself will stay in Mizpah. I will speak on your behalf to the *Babylonian officials who come to us. But you must harvest the wine, the summer fruit and the oil. Put them in your jars to store them. And live in the towns that you control now.’

v11 The *Jews in Moab, Ammon and Edom and all the other countries heard what had happened. They heard that the king of Babylon had left some people behind in Judah. They also heard that the king had appointed Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as ruler over them. v12 When they heard these things, they all came back to Judah. They came from all the countries to which they had scattered. They went to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they harvested a large amount of wine and summer fruit.

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.

A plot against Gedaliah 40:13-16

v13 Johanan, the son of Kareah, came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. So did all the other army officers who were still in the fields. v14 The officers said this to Gedaliah. 'Do you know that Baalis, king of Ammon, has sent Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, to kill you?' But Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, did not believe them.

v15 Then Johanan, son of Kareah, spoke to Gedaliah in Mizpah. He spoke in secret and said this. 'Let me go and kill Ishmael, son of Nethaniah. Nobody will know about it. He should not kill you. Many *Jews have gathered round you. He should not cause them all to scatter. He should not cause the death of all the *Jews who remain in Judah.'

v16 But Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, said to Johanan, son of Kareah, 'Do not do such a thing! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true.’

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.

Chapter 41

The murder of Gedaliah 41:1-3

v1 In the 7th month, Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, came with 10 men to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. Nethaniah was the son of Elishama. Ishmael was a member of the royal family. He had been one of the king's officers. All of them were eating together at Mizpah. v2 Then Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, and the 10 men got up. And they attacked Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with their swords. They killed Gedaliah. The king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as ruler of the country. v3 Ishmael killed all the *Jews who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah. Also Ishmael killed all the *Babylonian soldiers who were there.

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.

Ishmael's further crimes 41:4-9

v4 The next day, people did not know yet about the murder of Gedaliah. v5 On that day, 80 men came from Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria. They had shaved off their beards and they had torn their clothes. Also they had cut themselves. They brought grain *offerings and *incense with them to the *LORD's house. v6 Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, went out from Mizpah to meet them. He was weeping as he went. When he met them, he said this. 'Come to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam.' v7 They went with Ishmael into the city. Then Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, and his men killed the men who came to Mizpah. And they threw the dead bodies into an empty well. v8 But 10 of the men said to Ishmael, 'Do not kill us. We have wheat and barley (grain), oil and honey. We have hidden it all in a field.' So Ishmael let them live. He did not kill them with all the other men. v9 He threwn into a well the bodies of all the men that he had killed. This included Gedaliah's body. The well was one that King Asa had made. He had made it as a part of his defence against Baasha, king of Israel. Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, filled the well with the dead bodies.

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.

The rescue of Ishmael's prisoners 41:10-18

v10 Ishmael made prisoners of all the rest of the people in Mizpah. He included the women, who were the king's daughters. And he included all the other people who remained there. Nebuzaradan, the chief officer of the royal guard, had appointed Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, to rule them. Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, took them as prisoners. He set out to go across the River Jordan. And he was going to the country of Ammon.

v11 Johanan, the son of Kareah, was with the army officers. They heard what had happened. They heard about all the crimes that Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, had done. v12 So they brought all their men together. And they went to fight Ishmael, son of Nethaniah. They caught up with him near to the large pool in Gibeon. v13 All the people whom Ishmael had with him saw Johanan, son of Kareah. And they saw the army officers with him. Then the people were glad. v14 All the people whom Ishmael had taken prisoner at Mizpah turned round. And they ran to join Johanan, son of Kareah. v15 But Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, and 8 of his men escaped from Johanan. They ran away to the country called Ammon.

v16 Then Johanan, the son of Kareah, led away from Mizpah all the people who were alive still. All the other army officers with Johanan helped him to do it. He had taken them away from Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, after he had murdered Gedaliah, son of Ahikam. The people whom Johanan had taken away included the soldiers, the women, the children and the court officials. He had brought them from Gibeon. v17 They went on their way. They stopped at Geruth Kimham near to Bethlehem on their way to Egypt. v18 They went to escape from the *Babylonians. They were afraid of them because Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, had killed Gedaliah, son of Ahikam. The king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as the ruler of Judah.

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).

Chapter 42

The request to Jeremiah 42:1-6

v1 Then all the army officers went to Jeremiah the *prophet. They included Johanan, son of Kareah, and Jezaniah, son of Hoshaiah. All the people, from the least important to the most important, came too. v2 They said to Jeremiah, 'Please listen to our request. Pray to the *LORD your God on behalf of all of us who remain here. Once, there were many of us. But now, as you can see, only a few of us remain. So pray to the *LORD your God. v3 Pray that he will tell us where to go. Pray that he will tell us what to do.'

v4 ‘I have heard you', replied Jeremiah the *prophet. 'Certainly I will pray to the *LORD your God, as you have asked. I will tell you everything that the *LORD says. I will not hide anything from you.'

v5 Then they said this to Jeremiah. 'We will do everything that the *LORD your God tells us. If we do not, let the *LORD be a true and loyal witness against us. v6 What you say may be favourable. Or it may not be favourable. But it does not matter. We will obey the *LORD our God to whom we are sending you. Then good things will happen to us because we will obey the *LORD our God.'

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.

Jeremiah's answer, 'Stay in Judah' 42:7-12

v7 10 days later, the *LORD spoke to Jeremiah. v8 So Jeremiah called together Johanan, son of Kareah, and all the army officers who were with him. Also Jeremiah called all the people, from the least important to the most important. v9 He said to them, ‘You sent me to give your request to the *LORD, the God of Israel. This is what he says. v10 "Stay in this country. Then I will build you up and I will not tear you down. I will plant you and I will not pull you up by the roots. I am very sad that I had to bring this trouble upon you. v11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon. You are afraid of him now. But do not be afraid of him because I am with you." The *LORD declares this. "I will save you. And I will rescue you from his power. v12 I will be kind to you so that he will be kind to you. And he will let you return to your country."

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.

The result if they went to Egypt 42:13-22

v13 However, suppose that you say this. "We will not stay in this country." If you say this, you will not obey the *LORD your God. v14 And suppose that you say this. "No, we will go and live in Egypt. There will not be war there. We will not hear the sound of the *trumpet in battle. And we will not be hungry." v15 Then listen. The *LORD says this to the people who remain in Judah. He is the most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel. He says this. "Suppose that you have decided already to go to Egypt. And suppose that you go there. And you settle there. v16 Then the war that you fear will catch up with you there. The hunger, of which you were afraid, will follow you into Egypt. And you will die there. v17 In fact, these things will happen to all people who go to settle in Egypt. All of them will die because of war, hunger and disease. Not one person will live. Not one person will escape from the trouble that I will bring upon them."

v18 The most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says this. "I was very angry with the people who lived in Jerusalem. In the same way, I will be very angry with you when you go to Egypt. People will want bad things to happen to you. They will think about you with shock and disgust. They will bring shame on you. You will never see this place again."

v19 The *LORD has spoken to the people who remain in Judah. He has told you, "Do not go to Egypt." You can be sure about this. I am warning you about it today. v20 You made a bad mistake when you asked me to pray to the *LORD your God. You said, "Pray to the *LORD our God on our behalf. Tell us everything that he says. And we will do what he says." v21 I have told you today what the *LORD your God wants you to do. But still you have not obeyed him. He sent me to tell you. But you have not done anything that he said. v22 So now you can be sure about this. You want to live in peace. But you will die because of war, hunger and disease.'

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.

Chapter 43

The people from Judah move to Egypt 43:1-7

v1 Jeremiah finished. He told the people everything that the *LORD their God had said. He told them everything that the *LORD had sent him to say. v2 Then Azariah, son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan, son of Kareah, spoke to Jeremiah. All the proud people joined them. They said, 'You are lying! The *LORD our God has not sent you to say these words. "You must not go to Egypt. You must not stay there." v3 But Baruch, son of Neriah, is turning you against us. He wants us to become prisoners of the *Babylonians. Then they can kill us. Or they can take us away into Babylon.'

v4 So Johanan, all the army officers and all the people did not obey the *LORD's command. They did not stay in the country called Judah. v5 Instead, Johanan, son of Kareah, and all the army officers led away the people who were left in Judah. These people had lived in many nations. They had scattered to other nations. Then they had come back to live in Judah. v6 Also Johanan and the officers led away many people. These were the people who Nebuzaradan, the chief officer of the royal guard, had left at Mizpah. He had left them with Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan. These people included men, women and children, as well as the king's daughters. Nebuzaradan took Jeremiah the *prophet and Baruch, son of Neriah, there too. v7 So the people did not obey the *LORD. They went into Egypt. They went as far as the town called Tahpanhes.

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.

Jeremiah *prophesies that Babylon would defeat Egypt 43:8-13

v8 In Tahpanhes, the *LORD gave his message to Jeremiah. v9 'While the *Jews are watching, take some large stones with you. Bury them in mud in the brick path. This is at the entrance to *Pharaoh's palace in Tahpanhes. v10 Then say this to them. "This is what the most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. I will put his royal seat over the stones that I have buried here. He will put up his royal tent over them. v11 Nebuchadnezzar will come and attack Egypt. He will kill the people that should die. He will take away as prisoners people who should go away as prisoners. And he will kill with swords people who should die by means of swords. v12 In Egypt he will burn the *temples where the people *worship the false gods. He will burn their *temples. And he will take away the images of their false gods. Nebuchadnezzar will be like a *shepherd who wraps his coat round himself. He will wrap Egypt round himself. And he will leave there without any injury. v13 In Egypt, at the city called Heliopolis, he will destroy the holy columns. And he will burn down the *temples of the false gods in Egypt.” ’

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.

Chapter 44

Jeremiah *prophesies punishment on the *Jews in Egypt 44:1-30

1. The *sins of their *ancestors 44:1-6

v1 The *LORD gave this message to Jeremiah about all the *Jews who were living in lower Egypt. They lived in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis. Also the message was about the *Jews who were living in Upper Egypt. v2 'This is what the most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says. "You saw the great trouble that I brought upon Jerusalem and all the towns in Judah. Today, nobody lives there. They are just piles of stones. v3 That is because of the evil things that their people have done. They made me very angry. They burned *incense to *worship false gods. Neither they, nor you, nor your *ancestors, knew these gods before. v4 Many times I sent my servants, the *prophets. They said: Do not do this terrible thing. The *LORD hates it. v5 But the people did not listen. They did not give any attention. They did not turn away from their wicked behaviour. They continued to burn *incense to false gods. v6 So I showed them how angry I was. I poured out my anger in the towns in Judah and the streets in Jerusalem. I made them into empty places that still are broken down today."

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.

2. The *LORD will judge the *Jews who remain 44:7-14

v7 Now this is what the most powerful *LORD God, the God of Israel, says. "Why do you want to bring all this trouble upon yourselves? You are destroying the men and the women, the children and the babies, who come from Judah. You will leave nobody to continue your families. v8 Why do you want to make me angry with the false gods that you have made for yourselves? Why do you burn *incense to false gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? You will destroy yourselves. All the nations in the world will want bad things to happen to you. They will bring shame on you. v9 Have you forgotten the evil things that your *ancestors did? The kings and the queens of Judah did these evil things. And you and your wives did these evil things too. You did them in the country of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. v10 To this day, the people from Judah have not shown me that they are sorry. They have not shown respect to me. They have not obeyed my law. They have not obeyed the orders that I gave to you and to your *ancestors."

v11 So this is what the most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says. "I have decided to bring great trouble upon you. I have decided to bring about the end of Judah. v12 I will destroy the people in Judah who remain. They had decided to go to Egypt and to settle there. All of them will die in Egypt. They will die in war. And they will die because of hunger. From the least important person to the most important person, they will die in war. And they will die because of hunger. Other people will want bad things to happen to them. Other people will show disgust at the people from Judah. People will blame them and will bring shame on them. v13 I will punish the people from Judah who live in Egypt. I will punish them with war, hunger and disease. I punished Jerusalem like this. v14 Many people from Judah have gone to live in Egypt. But none of them will escape. They will not live. They will not return to Judah. They want to go back and live there. But only a few will escape and go back.” ’

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.

3. They *worshipped the Queen of heaven 44:15-19

v15 The men knew that their wives were burning *incense to false gods. The men were there in a large crowd. There were women who were standing near to them. All the people who were living in Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt were there. They answered Jeremiah. v16 They said this. 'We will not listen to the message that you have spoken to us from the *LORD. v17 Certainly we will do everything that we said. We will burn *incense to the Queen of heaven. We will give drink to her. We will do the same as our *ancestors, our kings and officials did. All of us did this in the towns of Judah and in the streets in Jerusalem. At that time, we had plenty of food. We were happy. We did not have any trouble. v18 But then we stopped and we did not burn *incense to the Queen of heaven. We did not give drinks to her. And since then, we have lacked everything. We have died because of war. And we have starved.'

v19 The women added this. 'Our husbands knew what we were doing. We were burning *incense and giving drink *offering to the Queen of heaven. We were making cakes that looked like her. Our husbands knew what we were doing. They knew that we were giving our drink *offerings to her.'

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.

Jeremiah's final message 44:20-30

v20 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the men and women who were answering him. v21 'The *LORD knew that you were burning *incense in the towns in Judah and the streets in Jerusalem. You and your *ancestors did it. Your kings, the officials and the rest of the people in the country were doing it. The *LORD remembered this and he thought about it. v22 The *LORD could not allow your wicked actions any longer. He hated the wicked things that you did. Your country became an empty desert. Nobody lived there. Other people wanted bad things to happen to your country. And today there are still no people in the country. v23 You have burned *incense to *worship false gods. You have *sinned against the *LORD. You have not obeyed him or his law. You have not obeyed his rules. He made a *covenant with you. But you have not done what you promised. That is why all this trouble has come upon you. You can see this trouble for yourselves now.'

v24 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people. He included the women and he said this. 'Listen to the *LORD's message, all you people from Judah who are in Egypt. v25 This is what the most powerful *LORD, the God of Israel, says. "You and your wives have done what you promised. You said: We will certainly carry out the promise that we made to the Queen of heaven. We will burn *incense to *worship her. We will pour out drinks to her.” Go ahead then! Do it! You said that you would. Carry out your promises! v26 But listen to the *LORD's message, all you *Jews who live in Egypt. The *LORD says this. “I am making a serious promise as I speak my own great name. I promise this to all the people from Judah who are living anywhere in Egypt. None of them will ever speak my name when they make serious promises. None of them will say: I am sure that the *LORD God is alive. v27 I am watching them. I will not take care of them but I will hurt them. The *Jews in Egypt will die because of war and hunger. This will happen until none of them is left. v28 There will be very few people who do not die in the war. Very few people will return to Judah from Egypt. Then all the *Jews who came to live in Egypt will know the truth. They will know whether my words or their words are the truth.

v29 This will be the evidence that I will punish you in this place", declares the *LORD. “I warned you that I would punish you. And you can be sure that it will happen." v30 This is what the *LORD says. "I will hand over *Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, to his enemies. They want to kill him. In the same way, I handed over Zedekiah, king of Judah, to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He was the enemy who wanted to kill Zedekiah." '

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)

This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

February 2015

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