Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 44:1-30. Jeremiah’s protest against the worship of the Queen of Heaven
We may note that this is Jeremiah’s last recorded prophecy.
The exiles at Babylon before the overthrow of Jerusalem and the Temple argued that the national calamities were to be ascribed to the abolition of the forms of worship practised by their forefathers anterior to the changes introduced by Hezekiah and Josiah, and that the results shewed that Jehovah was unwilling or unable to help them in distress (see Ezekiel 8:12). The same reasoning commended itself to the refugees in Egypt, and is here rebuked by the prophet. Doubtless the ch. reproduces substantially the situation and Jeremiah’s method of dealing with it, but probably it contains a considerable amount of expansion, specially in Jeremiah 44:1-14; Jeremiah 44:20-23; Jeremiah 44:26-30.
The contents may be summarized as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 44:1-10. Jeremiah points out to his countrymen scattered through Egypt that their own land has been laid waste because, in spite of repeated warnings on the part of the prophets, they had obstinately practised idolatry. Wherefore do they continue to act thus? Have they forgotten the wickedness shared by high and low in former generations, a wickedness maintained to the present day? (ii) Jeremiah 44:11-14. Their portion shall be death by sword and famine, combined with disgrace and contumely. None of the Jews shall succeed in returning to Palestine, save fugitives. (iii) Jeremiah 44:15-19. The people reject the prophet’s exhortations, and declare that they will adhere to their present modes of worship, arguing that in past time, as long as they adopted this course, they prospered, whereas on its ceasing, national calamities succeeded. That worship, the women further plead, had the approval of their husbands. (iv) Jeremiah 44:20-30. Jeremiah replies that those calamities were Jehovah’s punishment for their idolatrous excesses. Inasmuch then as the people refuse to amend, he repeats his warning as to the results and adds that the king of Egypt shall fall before his enemies, even as did Zedekiah at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,1. The word that came to Jeremiah] Apparently some little time had elapsed since the arrival of the fugitives, so as to allow for the development of the worship here spoken of. We must remember, however, that there were colonies of Jews in Egypt already. The occasion was probably a gathering of a large number of that nation for a festival in connexion with this particular cult.
at Migdol] on the N.E. border of Egypt, a little to the E. of Tahpanhes.
at Tahpanhes, and at Noph] See on Jeremiah 2:16.
Pathros] Egyptian for “the land of the South,” Upper Egypt. See on Jeremiah 44:15.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein,
Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.3. burn incense] For this expression (and so throughout the ch.) See on Jeremiah 1:16.
Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.4. Cp. Jeremiah 7:25 and elsewhere. We should perhaps read for “you” them, although “you” implies in a significant way the continuous personality of the nation.
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.
Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.6. Cp. Jeremiah 7:20, Jeremiah 33:10, Jeremiah 42:18.
Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain;7. against your own souls] See on Jeremiah 42:20, and cp. Jeremiah 26:19.
In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?8. the works of your hands] your idols.
Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?9. their wives] rightly, by a slight deviation from MT. Cp. Jeremiah 44:17; Jeremiah 44:21 (so Gi., Du. and Co.). LXX your princes.
They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah.11. I will set my face] See on Jeremiah 21:10.
11–14. See introd. summary to the ch.
And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.12. Cp. Jeremiah 42:18.
For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence:
So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.14. have a desire] For lit. Heb. See on Jeremiah 22:27.
for none … escape] perhaps added afterwards as a correction to the earlier part of the v. on account of the actual return of certain fugitives. So Co.
Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,15. and all the women] It has been suggested that it is hardly likely that women would have come so far, and that “even … Pathros” is a gloss. Pathros was the S. part of what is now called Egypt, but was once politically separated from it, Ethiopia claiming its possession. It is identical with the Thebais of the Greeks, commencing a few miles S. of Memphis, and extending to Syene on the first cataract.
a great assembly] Du. followed by Co. reads (by a slight alteration in MT.) with a loud voice.
15–19. See introd. summary to the ch. This passage, unlike the preceding, apparently comes intact from Baruch’s memoirs.
As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.
But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.17. every word that is gone forth out of our mouth] For this phrase as employed of vows see Numbers 30:2; Numbers 30:12; Deuteronomy 23:23; Jdg 11:36; Psalm 66:13 f.
the queen of heaven] See on ch. Jeremiah 7:18.
victuals] lit. as mg. bread.
But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.18. See introd. note on Jeremiah 7:16-20. The v. alludes to the misfortunes reaching from Josiah’s death at Megiddo to the flight into Egypt. The passage is important “as shewing the view taken of these misfortunes by Jews of the average type. Jeremiah regarded the misfortunes of his country as proofs of the displeasure of Jehovah: these Jews on the other hand of His impotence.” Cheyne, ad loc. It also shews the popular opposition to Josiah’s reform and its superficiality.
And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?19. worship] The alternative in mg. suggests that her image may have been stamped upon them. For “cakes” See on Jeremiah 7:18.
without our husbands] According to Numbers 30:6 f., which in its present form doubtless represents a much older practice, the consent of the husband was necessary before the wife’s vow could be binding. The women plead that they had their husbands’ approval in this worship. Let Jeremiah therefore settle the matter with them.
Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,20–23. Du., Erbt and Co. agree in considering that these vv. are a later addition, merely reproducing the thoughts contained in Jeremiah 44:2-14.
20–30. See introd. summary of the ch.
The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?21. The incense] See on Jeremiah 44:3; also on Jeremiah 6:20.
So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.22. could no longer bear] These words contain the pith of the answer to the people’s argument that they had been more prosperous while openly practising idolatry than afterwards. Jeremiah points out that even though their national misfortunes were subsequent to Josiah’s reformation, and therefore after what they might have called the golden age of idolatry had ceased, yet it was owing to the idolatry so long rampant, and even afterwards cherished and practised as far as its votaries dared, that the overthrow came. The long-suffering of God was at last exhausted.
Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.
Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt:24. Here and in Jeremiah 44:25 we return to Baruch’s memoirs.
all Judah … Egypt] LXX, probably rightly, omit.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.25. Ye and your wives] better, with LXX, Ye women.
with your hands have fulfilled it] have carried out your determination. For the expression cp. 1 Kings 8:15; 1 Kings 8:24.
establish then, etc.] ironically spoken. If ye will persist in spite of all my warnings, then be it so.
Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD liveth.26. my name shall no more be named] The Jews in Egypt shall be exterminated.
26–28. As these vv. stand, there is, if we take them literally, a considerable amount of contradiction (cp. Jeremiah 44:14). The Egyptian Jews are (Jeremiah 44:26) to perish completely; but (Jeremiah 44:27) some are to escape into Judah, while survivors in Egypt (Jeremiah 44:28) shall know whose word shall stand. Du., Erbt and Co. consider that Jeremiah 44:26 was originally a continuation of the irony of Jeremiah 44:25 (“establish then, etc.”) and that it should accordingly read, “let my name be no more, etc.” (i.e. let my worship and with it all oaths taken in my name cease), while Jeremiah 44:27 and the first part of Jeremiah 44:28 are a subsequent addition, the second part of the latter remaining as genuine. At any rate we find from the Assuan papyri (see Introd. p. xix.) that the gloomy anticipations of the MT. were not in fact fulfilled; for the Egyptian Jews in the century following were a flourishing community and were worshippers of Jehovah and not idolaters.
Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.27. for evil, and not for good] Cp. Jeremiah 1:12, Jeremiah 31:28.
Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs.
And this shall be a sign unto you, saith the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for evil:29. And this shall be the sign] It has been inferred, but unnecessarily, from the close correspondence of these vv. with the above piece of history that these two verses are an interpolation made after the event. Pharaoh Hophra (the Greek Apries) reigned from b.c. 589 to c. 570, when he was overthrown by the troops whom he had sent against Cyrene, and who had mutinied (Herod. II. 152 ff.). Amasis succeeded him and handed him over to the Egyptians, who strangled him seven years later (Herod. II. 161–163, 169).
Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.