Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,XLII.
(1) Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah.—Possibly identical with “Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite” (Jeremiah 40:8). In Azariah the son of Hoshaiah (Jeremiah 43:2) we may recognise his brother. The LXX., indeed, reads Azariah here, and it is possibly the true reading.
And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)(2) Pray for us unto the Lord thy God.—The prophet had gone to Gedaliah at Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:6), and would seem to have been among the captives whom Ishmael was carrying off when they were rescued by Johanan at Gibeon (Jeremiah 41:13-14). The people now turn to him, acknowledging him as a true prophet, and, trusting to his patriotism. ask for his guidance. Their position was difficult and dangerous. Would he not pray to Jehovah for wisdom, that they might see their way—the way to escape from the threatening peril—clearly? He complies with their wishes, and they, on their side, promise to follow the guidance for which they ask.
Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.(5, 6) The Lord be a true and faithful witness . . .—The emphatic adjuration implies that they are ready to accept the punishment which the righteous Judge will inflict in the event of their proving unfaithful to their promise. The name of the place where they had lately been staying may have reminded them of the history of Genesis 31:49 (though that refers to another Mizpah), in which we find the same formula.
And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.(7) After ten days.—The interval is significant, as indicating that the prophet would not give an answer of his own on the spur of the moment, but waited in prayer and meditation until there came into his mind that which he could utter as an oracle of God. So Ezekiel waited for seven days among the exiles that dwelt by the river of Chebar, till the word of the Lord came to him (Ezekiel 3:16). When the hour came, the prophet preached to a multitude whose eagerness to hear him had been intensified by the suspense.
If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.(10) Then will I build you, and not pull you down . . .—We note the characteristic recurrence of the formulæ with which Jeremiah’s work as a prophet had begun (Jeremiah 1:10). The word for “repent” does not imply regret for the past, as men repent of their sin, but, as in Jeremiah 18:8; Jeremiah 26:3, a change of purpose from what had been the mind of judgment to one of mercy. The prophet’s counsel is, as it had been all along, that the people should accept the punishment which God had inflicted on them, that they should stay where they were and as they were, and not in terror or suspicion seek safety in plans of their own devising.
And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.(12) And cause you to return to your own land.—The words admit of two interpretations—(1) that they should be carried away to Babylon, as others had been, and should afterwards return to their own country; (2) that they (the remnant who had been allowed by Nebuzaradan to remain to till the soil) should at once be allowed to return each man to his own field and vineyard. The latter is clearly more in harmony with the prophet’s aim and temper, and it was probably in his purpose to intercede with their conquerors to this effect. The thought of a far-off exile as impending over them in the nearer future would hardly have induced them to remain where they were.
Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell:(14) No; but we will go into the land of Egypt.—The thoughts that were in the hearts of the applicants are stated with dramatic vividness. Egypt, then under Apries (the Pharaoh-hophra of Jeremiah 44:30), seemed to them so safe and peaceful. As of old, it was still the granary of the East, and its plenteous harvests formed a bright contrast to the famine which they had experienced during the invasion of the Chaldæans. Jeremiah, however, has simply to reject the plan, as from first to last he had resisted altogether the thought of an Egyptian alliance (Jeremiah 2:36; Jeremiah 37:7): there would be no safety nor peace nor plenty found in acting on it. Ezekiel’s prophecies as to Egypt and her king were in this respect in harmony with Jeremiah’s (Ezekiel 17:11-18; Ezekiel 29-32), and were, as nearly as possible, contemporary with them.
So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.(17) So shall it be with all the men . . .—The words possibly imply that others were taking the same course as those who had applied to Jeremiah. There was something like a “rush” from many nations—Moab, Edom, and others (Jeremiah 27:3)—of fugitives, looking to Egypt as their one hope of safety against the Chaldæans, and joining with the Jews that had sought shelter in their respective territories (Jeremiah 40:11). We note in the prophet’s warning the recurrence of the old familiar phrases, “by the sword, by the famine, by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 24:10; Ezekiel 6:11), of an “execration and an astonishment and a curse and a reproach” (Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 26:6; Jeremiah 29:18). They would involve themselves by rejecting his counsels in all the worst evils that he had prophesied before. What had been addressed to the mixed multitude is emphatically repeated in Jeremiah 42:19 to the “remnant of Judah.”
For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.(20) For ye dissembled in your hearts . . .—Looks and whispers betrayed, we may believe, the feelings of the prophet’s hearers. He saw by such outward signs, or he read, as by the intuition of inspiration, the secret counsels of their hearts (1Corinthians 14:24-25), that they had made a false profession of their readiness to obey, and really meant all along to act as they liked, with the prophet’s approval, if they could get it; if not, without. Hypocrisy such as this could not fail to draw down a righteous punishment.