But if you say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God,…
How solemn and urgent this warning! Let us ask why it was needed, why God seemed thus to cast doubt on the power of the people to obey him.
I. THE PERILOUS LAND WAS NEAR. They were right in the way to Egypt, having, indeed, moved Egyptwards rather than in any other direction (Jeremiah 41:17).
II. IT HAD OBVIOUS ATTRACTIONS.
1. It seemed to be a land of peace. Egypt had been locked to as a friend and ally. The desolation of Jerusalem had come from the north. When people have been going through a time of war and siege, peace is naturally the blessing put in front of their thoughts. And is not this a good thing, it may be asked? Yes, surely, if peace be desired on high grounds, and from a horror of discord among men. But men may seek it simply to escape from disturbance and from loss of life and property. Their seeking of peace may be a sign of cowardice and altogether grovelling aims. Danger may be escaped by the outer man, only to be concentrated more effectually on the man within.
2. It would be a land of bread. Another recommendation of a land which it was unquestionably right, for men to attend to. Egypt was one of the great granaries of the ancient world. But it did not therefore follow that it was a land to live in. Israelites, in particular, needed to recollect how their fathers, beginning by going to Egypt for bread, ended by sinking into most oppressive bondage. Besides, even the land of bread was at times a land of famine.
3. It consequently looked a land to dwell in. God is the God of his people only when they are in their proper place. He was God of the exiles in Babylon, because their going into Babylon was of his operation. But those who went to Egypt in search of mere immunity from toil and inglorious ease could not expect to have the Divine favour. They wanted to get the great ends of life without discipline, sacrifice, and endurance.
III. THE VAIN PURPOSE TO ESCAPE FROM EVIL. God tries to make the people understand that they take the germs and principles of evil with them. What we find in any place depends on what we bring; and what we bring we must, in process of time, inevitably find. What had there been to hinder the land of Israel from being a land of peace and a land of bread? Nothing but the faithlessness and general wickedness of the people. We cannot sow wickedness in one place, and then hope to go and reap only good things in some other place. God can turn any place, however fruitful, into a wilderness; and, on the other hand, we know how Jesus made a wilderness a place to feed five thousand men. Jehovah spoke with all this severity to these people to make them understand how hard a thing real obedience was. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God,