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Flight to Egypt July 21, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 41:16-43:13.

Summary: In this passage, Johanan son of Kareah – and those whom he has rescued from Ishmael son of Nethaniah – flee to Egypt, as they fear reprisals following the assassination of Gedaliah.

During their journey, they beseech Jeremiah to inquire of God on their behalf; they declare that they will bind themselves to His response.

After ten days have passed, God responds to them through Jeremiah. In particular, He commands them to remain in Judah. He assures them that if they obey Him in this regard, then they will not face reprisals for the assassination of Gedaliah. If they flee to Egypt, though, then He will use the sword, famine and plague to punish them – cutting them off from their homeland.

They respond with vituperation – labeling Jeremiah as a false prophet and casting aspersions on Baruch son of Neriah. They resume their flight to Egypt,
eventually reaching Tahpanhes.

At this point, God commands Jeremiah to use several large paving stones as an object lesson for his compatriots. In particular, He asserts that Nebuchadnezzar will raze Tahpanhes and set his throne over these stones. Moreover, He will raze all of Egypt – thereby punishing His people for their disobedience in fleeing to that pagan country.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Johanan and his fellow officers lead those who had been with Gedaliah at Mizpah in an escape to Egypt, as they fear the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. Now I am curious: did Nebuchadnezzar eventually learn of the death of Gedaliah? Did the Babylonians conduct an investigation of his death? Did Nebuchadnezzar eventually learn that Ishmael struck down Gedaliah? Did he assume that Johanan and his companions were culpable for the death of Gedaliah? Did he assume that the death of Gedaliah marked the beginning of a rebellion by the Jews? Did he install another governor over Judah – and if so, did he order that leader to rule the Jews with an iron fist?

This passage includes a fascinating interaction between Jeremiah and the Jews who were fleeing to Egypt. Now I am curious: what was the mindset of those who asked Jeremiah to inquire of God on their behalf? Did they assume that God approved of their flight to Egypt and that He would enable them to avoid Babylonian troops in the process? Did Jeremiah know that his compatriots lacked a genuine desire to obey the Lord concerning their flight to Egypt? When they attacked him for his response, was he filled with exasperation? Why did they assume that Baruch was colluding with him to deliver him into the hands of the Babylonians? Did Baruch and Jeremiah attempt to escape from Johanan and return to Judah?

In verses 10-12 of chapter 42, God exhorts those who are fleeing to Egypt to place their trust in Him. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verses 11 and 12 of chapter 42:

He tells the Jews to be hopeful because as long as they rely on God’s protection, they will be safe…We should be fully convinced that God’s help is above all the aid any human beings can ever give us. So if the whole world rises up against us, we can look down on the situation from a secure height without fear. This is the summary of what is said here.

At first glance, I thought that the Jews’ decision to flee to Egypt was defensible. In particular, Nebuchadnezzar had likely crushed previous rebellions; they feared that he would crush them while ignoring the salient point that Ishmael was responsible for the death of Gedaliah. After contemplating this point for some time, I realized that God was challenging His people to place their trust in Him. He knew that the Jews wanted to place their trust in Egypt; instead, He wanted them to display their ultimate allegiance to Him. As modern-day believers, we also see that God calls us to refrain from placing our trust in the things of this world – yet this is a challenge that is almost too difficult for us, as we gravitate towards the things of this world. Indeed, we need strength from God – on a daily basis – to trust Him, displaying that trust in our words and deeds.