In Jeremiah 43 we see a very familiar pattern unfolding once more in this book. That pattern is — the people disobeying and as a consequence, the Lord threatens to punish them.
But let’s back up and see where we’ve been and how we got to this point in the book of Jeremiah.
At the risk of glossing over so much unique material in the first 35 chapters of this book, let’s identify a few themes in that section of Jeremiah to the exclusion of others.
Jeremiah 1-35 continually sounds the requirement that God had for his Old Testament people to submit to his authority. At first the submission was to be only directly to God. But after the people constantly disobeyed, the Lord transferred some measure of that authority to Babylon. In fact, he demanded that the Jews surrender to Babylon because he had — at some point in those chapters — determined to destroy Jerusalem through that invading nation.
But of course, many of those Jews did not submit to either the Lord or to Babylon.
And so that brings us to the section we’re in right now – Jeremiah 36-45. The Bitter End of Judah.
And in this section we started by seeing king Jehoiakim refusing to tremble at God’s word. We then saw king Zedekiah wavering – wanting at one moment to maybe possibly obey the Lord – and the next moment he’s fearing men and allowing that fear to sidetrack him from doing what’s right. Then after that we saw a flashback to Ebed-Melech who was saved by faith.
Then starting in Jeremiah 40 we have presented for us what happened after Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the people. We saw that Babylon actually left some people behind. And those people were living peacefully under the Babylonian-appointed governor Gedaliah. Well, a royal descendant named Ishmael assassinated him and stole the people and was on his way to the nation of Ammon. But then a brave army general named Johanan put an end to that and brought the people near to Egypt to flee there so that they would avoid any repercussions by Babylon. And last chapter we saw the people asking for God’s guidance – should they go to Egypt or not?
And yet, Jeremiah 42 ended with the prophet scolding the people because he knew that in their heart they had already decided to enter Egypt without regard for what the Lord wanted them to do. And he let them know that he wanted them to stay in Judah.
And so now here in Jeremiah 43 we see the actual words of the people that express their thoughts concerning God’s desire for them to stay in Judah. And what we’ll see is that their words reveal disobedient hearts that have no intention of doing what God wants them to do. And therefore, we will see at the end of this chapter the Lord threatening to punish these rebels.
The People Disobey the Lord | 1-7
So, let’s start with the first section of this chapter – verses 1-7 where we see the people’s disobedience.
Intro | 1
Verse 1 gives us an introduction to the next 6 verses.
KJV Jeremiah 43:1 ¶ And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words,
Note the emphasis on “all [the/these] words.” God hasn’t been silent to these people. He made his will perfectly clear to them through words that he communicated through Jeremiah.
And you and I remember the promise the Jews made in Jeremiah 42 – let me quote verses 5 and 6 from that chapter:
KJV Jeremiah 42:5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things [dbr – “words”] for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. 6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.
Well, all the “words” have been communicated. And the people have committed themselves to obeying them.
The People Speak | 2-3
So now in verses 2-3 we hear the people’s own words. They now speak in reaction to what they heard from the Lord through Jeremiah.
2 Then spake
Azariah the son of Hoshaiah,
and Johanan the son of Kareah,
and all the [proud/insolent/arrogant] men,
So, these guys are going to say something. But look at Johanan. He’s gone from being what I have considered something of a hero to now earning this label from God – that he’s proud or insolent or arrogant. Zeyd in Hebrew which occurs 13 times. That word shows up often on the lips of the psalmist in the book of Psalms.
We’ve had a focus on God’s words so far in this lesson. The Jews promised to obey God’s words. Jeremiah 43:1 makes a point to emphasize God’s words. So, let me ask, what psalm in the Bible is most focused on God’s words? Psalm 119. And wouldn’t you know that Psalm 119 features 6 of the 13 times that this word appears in the Old Testament!
Psalm 119:21 calls these zeyd or proud men cursed and wandering from the Lord’s commands.
Verse 51 of that same Psalm says that these men deride or scoff at the godly and turn aside from God’s law.
Verse 69 says that these men lie about the godly. Verse 78 says the same thing.
Verse 85 says that proud men dig pits for the godly and that this kind of behavior is a clear violation of God’s law.
Finally, verse 122 tells us that these men oppress the godly.
So, men like Azariah and Johanan have found themselves in this group of individuals who scoff at godly men, lie about godly men, dig pits for them and oppress them. In regard to God’s commands, these people wander from them, turn aside from them, and violate them.
And we’ll actually see these men do some of these very actions as this chapter unfolds.
Let’s continue verse 2.
[these zeyd/proud men…] saying unto Jeremiah, [what do they say?…]
They Deny That Jeremiah Speaks for the Lord
First, the people deny that Jeremiah speaks for the Lord. And in this regard we see them both lying about the righteous and wandering from God’s commands just like Psalm 119 reveals that these people do.
[Thou speakest falsely/You are telling a lie!]:
the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say,
Go not into Egypt to [sojourn/live/settle] there:
Now, what we might miss at the first reading of this statement is that this is the exact phrase used by Gedaliah in Jeremiah 40:16. Sheqer attah dabar. “A lie you speak.”
Gedaliah spoke this very phrase to Johanan when he came to warn the governor of Ishmael’s assassination plans.
And now, very ironically, the very man who heard this statement spoken to him is turning around and speaking it to someone else who has a very correct and very sober warning.
Gedaliah didn’t want to hear the sober warning from Johanan. And now Johanan doesn’t want to hear this sober warning from Jeremiah.
So, Johanan and his fellow proud men assert that it was not God that sent Jeremiah to speak to them and tell them not to go to Egypt.
They Say It’s Baruch’s Message
Well, it’s pretty plain that Jeremiah is speaking a message to them. But if God isn’t the originator of that message – as the proud men are claiming – then who is the originator of Jeremiah’s words?
Well, a sober and impartial mind would never even think to guess of what these proud men are going to come up with. They surmise that Baruch gave Jeremiah this message in verse 3.
3 But Baruch the son of Neriah [setteth thee on/had set you/is stirring you up] against us,
for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans,
they might put us to death,
and carry us away captives into Babylon.
I have no idea why these men pick Baruch to accuse for giving Jeremiah this unpopular message.
We don’t have much information about Baruch.
We’ve seen him in Jeremiah 32 where he witnessed the signing of a deed by Jeremiah.
Then in Jeremiah 36 Baruch was with the prophet to record his words for the sake of Jehoiakim who then burned that scroll. After that, Baruch had to write it all down again. In fact, a good deal of what we have here in this book is a result of Baruch’s work.
And yet, Baruch’s work was not creative. It was not original. I think we might have one sentence uttered by this man recorded in the whole Bible. Baruch is always shown working at the behest of Jeremiah. And of course Jeremiah himself is always shown speaking exactly what the Lord tells him.
So, it’s ridiculous that these proud men pin the blame on Baruch for this message that they promised to obey a few days earlier.
Their actions remind me a lot of modern liberal Bible scholars who like to try to discredit the Scripture by denying that the author who authored them… really authored them.
If you want to get into the details just pick up any sort of Old or New Testament Introduction book online or at a bookstore. It will fill your head with all sorts of garbage as to why 2 Timothy 3:16 is wrong – that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
And isn’t that what being a proud man – a zeyd man – is all about? Straying from God’s commands, having no regard for them, and lying in the process to both justify one’s disobedience to God’s words and to impugn those who do have a heart to follow the God whose commands they reject?
And back to our text — it’s not just that the proud men in Jeremiah 43 assign the source of Jeremiah’s message to Baruch. But they actually assign evil motives to Baruch for doing this. Baruch – according to them – wants the people to be handed over to Babylon so that they can be killed and that the remainder of them would be exiled.
And again, bridging from ancient to modern, you have proud people today claiming that the apostle Paul gave commands in the New Testament because he was anti-woman or bigoted or something like that. These people first of all deny that God is the author breathing through the apostle. And further, they assign evil motives to the human author. And all of this is ultimately so that they can try to justify their disobedience to the Lord and his words.
The People Leave Judah | 4-6
Well, words often lead to action. And so while verses 2-3 showed us the people speaking the content of their rebellious hearts. Now verses 4-6 show them acting out that rebellion and leaving Judah – contrary to God’s words.
4 So Johanan the son of Kareah,
and all the [captains/commanders/officers] of the [forces/army],
and all the people,
obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to [dwell/remain/stay] in the land of Judah.
And that’s really what’s going on when we don’t obey the Lord’s words. We’re not disobeying merely the words of Paul or Moses or whomever else – we’re disobeying God’s words – the voice of the Lord.
And can I say too that when we today despise the true preaching of God’s words, we’re doing the exact same thing. When Pastor Fuller – for example – preaches God’s words to us, if he’s doing his job and saying what God has said – then not a single one of us has any right to ignore that. We can’t say – “Well, that’s just his opinion.” I would hope that it is his opinion, but if he’s speaking God’s word then it’s his opinion because it’s God’s opinion as well.
Let’s continue to verse 5.
5 [But/Instead] Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the [captains/commanders/officers] of the [forces/army], took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah;
6 [Even/they took] men,
and the [king’s daughters/princesses],
and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, [sounds like what Ishmael did…]
[and/also/including] Jeremiah the prophet,
and Baruch the son of Neriah.
My wife asked me if it was disobedience for Jeremiah to go to Egypt with the people. And I think the answer has to be no – that it wasn’t disobedience for Jeremiah to go to Egypt with the people. First of all, he was forced to go. And second, this was God’s calling on his life – to stay with these people. From whom else were they going to hear God’s words? – even if they ended up disobeying them at every turn…
The People Arrive in Egypt | 7
Well finally the people – including our dear friend Jeremiah and his faithful helper Baruch – arrive in Egypt in verse 7.
7 So they came into the land of Egypt:
for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD:
thus came they even to Tahpanhes.
This city called Tahpanhes no longer exists in modern Egypt. The ancient Greeks called it Daphne. The city would have been basically along the Suez Canal which is on the north east side of Egypt. The distance from Bethlehem where the Jews were staying would have been just short of 200 miles.
And now Israel has come full circle in a very bad way. They left Egypt under Moses around 1400 BC. And now around 586 BC they have returned. Still as rebellious as when they left almost 1,000 years prior to this.
What a sad ending.
God Threatens Punishment in Egypt | 8-13
And yet of course that’s not the end of the story. God will continue to pursue these people. He will not let them get away that easily.
And so in verses 8-13 to end this chapter we see the Lord threatening punishment for these people through the prophet Jeremiah.
Intro | 8
Verse 8 serves as an introduction to this second and last section of Jeremiah 43.
8 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,
Jeremiah’s Commanded Action: Bury Stones | 9
Here’s the first thing the Lord says to Jeremiah. It’s a command. The command is to bury some stones somewhere in Egypt. We see that in verse 9.
9 Take [great/large] stones in thine hand, and [hide/bury] them in the [clay/mortar] in the [brickkiln/(clay) pavement], which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s [house/palace/residence] in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah;
So apparently there was some sort of clay outside of one of Pharaoh’s palaces in Tahpanhes under which Jeremiah could burry some stones.
And that’s all Jeremiah is commanded to do. And I suppose the Jews would have seen this happen and wonder why he was doing that strange thing with the stones.
Jeremiah’s Commanded Message: Nebuchadnezzar is Coming | 10-13
Well, that’s where verses 10-13 come in. Based on the action of burying those stones, Jeremiah is to follow-up with the people and teach them what that action signified.
So, in verses 10-13 Jeremiah is to explain to the people that Babylon – whom they were trying to avoid by fleeing to Egypt – is actually going to invade and conquer Egypt.
10 And say unto 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/above/over] these stones that I have [hid/buried];
and he shall [spread/pitch] his royal [pavilion/canopy/tent] over them.
11 And when he cometh, he shall [smite/strike/attack] the land of Egypt,
such as are [doomed/destined to die…] for [death/pestilence/disease (assumed)] to [death/pestilence/disease];
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/temples] of the gods of Egypt;
and [he/Nebu.] shall burn them,
[and/or] carry them [the gods…] away captives:
Now, to the ancient mind, to defeat a city or nation was to defeat the god of that city or nation.
And by the way, that’s why it’s so significant that Nebuzaradan accurately assessed the Babylonian victory over Judah. Nebuzaradan did not say that his gods were mightier than the God of Israel and Judah. No, he said that the God of Israel and Judah had given over his people to Babylon because the people were disobedient to the Lord.
Well, the Lord continues to foretell of Babylon conquering Egypt.
and he shall [array himself with/take over/clean] the land of Egypt, as a shepherd [putteth on/cleans] his [garment/cloak] [of lice or vermin…];
and he shall go forth from thence [in peace/unharmed].
13 He shall break also the [images/obelisks/sacred pillars] of [Bethshemesh/Heliopolis/the temle of the sun], that is in the land of Egypt;
and the [houses/temples] of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.
So, because the Jews disobeyed the Lord and went to Egypt, God was going to take that occasion to punish both them and the false gods of Egypt.
The Jews left Judah to escape Babylon. But in the process they disobeyed the Lord.
Therefore, the Lord was going to punish them by bringing to them the source of their fear – Babylon.
He would have protected them in Judah if they obeyed. But he would now have to punish them in Egypt.
And in the next chapter we’ll see even more statements of punishment for the Jews’ disobedience.