The context for this lesson takes place immediately after the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah has been rescued by the captain of the Babylonian army, Nebuzaradan, and offered a safe haven in Babylon. Jeremiah, however, elects to stay in Judah. Meanwhile, Nebuchadnezzar has appointed Gedaliah as governor of Judah. Gedaliah fails to heed warnings and is assassinated by Ishmael, a member of the royal family, who is angry that it was Gedaliah who was appointed governor and not himself. Fearing reprisal by Nebuchadnezzar, Ishmael flees Judah taking the remnant with him, including Jeremiah. Ishmael is pursued by Johanan, one of Judah’s remaining commanders, and Ishmael, upon seeing he is greatly outnumbered, flees with his men to the Ammonites leaving the remnant and Jeremiah behind. Johanan and the remnant relocate near Bethlehem with the intent of proceeding south into Egypt because they, too, fear reprisal by Nebuchadnezzar over Gedaliah’s assassination. We pick up the story in chapter 42.
Q: What is it that Johanan and the other commanders want Jeremiah to pray about?
A: Whether or not they should remain in Judah or proceed south to relocate in Egypt (v. 3)
Q: But how did they WORD their request? What gives it a scope far beyond just seeking a way out of the present circumstances?
A: The request for the present situation is “...God may tell us...the thing that we should do...”; however, they qualified it by also requesting that God “...tell us the way in which we should walk...”. This is a lifestyle question that opens the door to seeking not just how to survive the moment but how to live their entire life in a manner worthy and approved by God. They should have expected an answer that would provide not just a temporary change in their conditions but a life-long change in their hearts.
Q: According to v.4, how will Jeremiah approach his request to God on their behalf? Is he seeking to bless or sanction their preferences?
A: Jeremiah only promises to use their exact words and reply with God’s exact words; nothing more or less.
Q: What do they promise will be their response to Jeremiah’s answer no matter what it is? From whom do they acknowledge the answer will come?
A: They promise that they will do whatever Jeremiah tells them to do, regardless of what it is. They acknowledge that the word will come from the Lord Himself (v. 6)
Q: For how long a period did Jeremiah seek the Lord’s counsel?
A: 10 days (v. 7)
Q: List the promises God has for the remnant if they choose to remain in the land of Judah.
A: Approximately 6 good things will happen to them, recorded in verses 10-12.
God will build them up. (v.10)
God will plant them (v.10)
God will ease the effects of His judgment (v.10)
God will protect them from the king of Babylon (v.11)
God will show them compassion (v.12)
God will restore the remnant to their land (v.12)
Q: List the promises God has for the remnant if they choose to seek refuge in Egypt.
A: Approximately 7 bad things will happen to them, recorded in verses 16-18.
The sword will overtake them. (v.16)
The famine will follow them there and result in death. (v.16)
Death will also come by pestilences. (v.17)
There will be no survivors or even refuges. (v.17)
God’s anger and wrath will be poured out upon them . (v.18)
They will become a curse, a reproach. (v.18)
They will never see Israel again. (v.18)
Q: Who is speaking now?
A: Jeremiah is speaking. The Lord was speaking in verses 9-18.
Q: What is Jeremiah’s appendix to the Lord’s word?
A: Essentially, “You haven’t ever listened to me before. Why would you start now? And if you don’t, these really bad things are going to happen to you.
Q: Who often had Jeremiah been correct in the past?
A: Like a true prophet, he was always correct, never wrong. Everything he had predicted before was unheeded but came true.
Q: What is so incredible about these verses? What’s the dynamic going on here? Why do you think they would proceed to Egypt in spite of Jeremiah’s prophecy?
A: The incredible thing is that, true to Jeremiah’s prediction, they didn’t listen to his counsel even though they had said that they would. The dynamic is one of self-deception. They will only follow what goes along with their own feelings/opinion of the circumstances, not God’s. In verse 2 they accuse Jeremiah of telling a lie, but who is the one lying?
Application: Can you come up with examples or parallels in your own life or in the lives of people you know where they have failed to heed counsel? What about our own approach to God’s Word? Do we heed the counsel from God’s Word? If not, why?
Q: How do these verses help explain why the remnant failed to remain in the land of Judah?
A: It boils down to economic factors. Rather than obey God they would rather sell out to other gods for the sake of the economy. What’s wrong with this picture?
Q: Who ends up blaming whom?
A: The husbands blame the wives (v. 15) and the wives turn around and blame the husbands (v. 19). It’s like the men saying, “Well, she started it” and the wives responding, “Yes, but you did it too!”
Q: What’s being said in verse 18?
A: It appears that in the two-year siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, some may have actually stopped idol worship for fear of invasion, hoping that God would grant them a reprieve. What they didn’t know (because they didn’t listen to Jeremiah) was that regardless of who they worshipped, God was intent of destroying Jerusalem because (1) the enormous sins that had gone before them culminating in the sins of Manasseh, son of Josiah, and (2) it was their hearts that weren’t right even if they temporarily stopped worshiping idols. So they have returned to idol worship in hopes of making things “prosperous” like they were before. Like many Christians today, they incorrectly assumed that prosperity and abundance was a sign that things were okay between them and God.
FYI: “…the queen of heaven…” The MacArthur Study Bible states, “The Jews were worshiping Ishtar, an Assyrian and Babylonian goddess also called Ashtoreth and Astarte, the wife of Baal or Molech. Because these deities symbolized generative power, their worship involved prostitution.” Also, “This is a title Roman Catholicism erroneously attributes to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in a blending of Christianity with paganism. The Jews’ twisted thinking credits the idol with the prosperity of pre-captivity Judah, further mocking the goodness of God.”
Q: What ever happened to this remnant and to Jeremiah?
A: What happens to the remnant is predicted in Jeremiah 43:8-13; 44:1-10; 20-30; 46:1-26. Though there is no biblical record of this, history records that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt and utterly destroyed it. Before it could rise again, the Persians maintained control of Egypt, followed by Alexander the Great. Egypt was never again a great world power. Regarding Jeremiah, Jewish tradition states that it was Jeremiah who was “sawn in two” by his own people while in Egypt.
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated”
― Hebrews 11:37
Regardless of how things might appear on the surface, what is the most important factor in life to receive God’s blessings?
Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
― 1 Samuel 15:22
Individually, have each person in the group share how he or she can better obey the Lord. Offer prayer up for the things shared. Are you or someone in the group struggling with NOT receiving an answer from God in the way hoped or desired?