What You Fear Will Catch Up with You
42 1-3 All the army officers, led by Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, accompanied by all the people, small and great, came to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “We have a request. Please listen. Pray to your God for us, what’s left of us. You can see for yourself how few we are! Pray that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”
4 Jeremiah the prophet said, “I hear your request. And I will pray to your God as you have asked. Whatever God says, I’ll pass on to you. I’ll tell you everything, holding nothing back.”
5-6 They said to Jeremiah, “Let God be our witness, a true and faithful witness against us, if we don’t do everything that your God directs you to tell us. Whether we like it or not, we’ll do it. We’ll obey whatever our God tells us. Yes, count on us. We’ll do it.”
7-8 Ten days later God’s Message came to Jeremiah. He called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him, including all the people, regardless of how much clout they had.
9-12 He then spoke: “This is the Message from God, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your prayer. He says, ‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down, I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed. I feel deep compassion on account of the doom I have visited on you. You don’t have to fear the king of Babylon. Your fears are for nothing. I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do. I’ll pour mercy on you. What’s more, he will show you mercy! He’ll let you come back to your very own land.’
13-17 “But do not say, ‘We’re not staying around this place,’ refusing to obey the command of your God and saying instead, ‘No! We’re off to Egypt, where things are peaceful—no wars, no attacking armies, plenty of food. We’re going to live there.’ If what’s left of Judah is headed down that road, then listen to God’s Message. This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You’ll die there! Every last one of you who is determined to go to Egypt and make it your home will either be killed, starve, or get sick and die. No survivors, not one! No one will escape the doom that I’ll bring upon you.’
18 “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘In the same way that I swept the citizens of Jerusalem away with my anger and wrath, I’ll do the same thing all over again in Egypt. You’ll end up being cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. And you’ll never see your homeland again.’
19-20 “God has plainly told you, you leftovers from Judah, ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Could anything be plainer? I warn you this day that you are living out a fantasy. You’re making a fatal mistake.
“Didn’t you just now send me to your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to our God. Tell us everything that God says and we’ll do it all’?
21-22 “Well, now I’ve told you, told you everything he said, and you haven’t obeyed a word of it, not a single word of what your God sent me to tell you. So now let me tell you what will happen next: You’ll be killed, you’ll starve to death, you’ll get sick and die in the wonderful country where you’ve determined to go and live.”
Death! Exile! Slaughter!
43 1-3 When Jeremiah finished telling all the people the whole Message that their God had sent him to give them—all these words—Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah, backed by all the self-important men, said to Jeremiah, “Liar! Our God never sent you with this message telling us not to go to Egypt and live there. Baruch son of Neriah is behind this. He has turned you against us. He’s playing into the hands of the Babylonians so we’ll either end up being killed or taken off to exile in Babylon.”
4 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers, and the people along with them, wouldn’t listen to God’s Message that they stay in the land of Judah and live there.
5-7 Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers gathered up everyone who was left from Judah, who had come back after being scattered all over the place—the men, women, and children, the king’s daughters, all the people that Nebuzaradan captain of the bodyguard had left in the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and last but not least, Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah. They entered the land of Egypt in total disobedience of God’s Message and arrived at the city of Tahpanhes.
8-9 While in Tahpanhes, God’s Word came to Jeremiah: “Pick up some large stones and cover them with mortar in the vicinity of the pavement that leads up to the building set aside for Pharaoh’s use in Tahpanhes. Make sure some of the men of Judah are watching.
10-13 “Then address them: ‘This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: Be on the lookout! I’m sending for and bringing Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon—my servant, mind you!—and he’ll set up his throne on these very stones that I’ve had buried here and he’ll spread out his canopy over them. He’ll come and absolutely smash Egypt, sending each to his assigned fate: death, exile, slaughter. He’ll burn down the temples of Egypt’s gods. He’ll either burn up the gods or haul them off as booty. Like a shepherd who picks lice from his robes, he’ll pick Egypt clean. And then he’ll walk away without a hand being laid on him. He’ll shatter the sacred obelisks at Egypt’s House of the Sun and make a huge bonfire of the temples of Egypt’s gods.’”
The Same Fate Will Fall upon All
44 1-6 The Message that Jeremiah received for all the Judeans who lived in the land of Egypt, who had their homes in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph, and the land of Pathros: “This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘You saw with your own eyes the terrible doom that I brought down on Jerusalem and the Judean cities. Look at what’s left: ghost towns of rubble and smoking ruins, and all because they took up with evil ways, making me angry by going off to offer sacrifices and worship the latest in gods—no-gods that neither they nor you nor your ancestors knew the first thing about. Morning after morning and long into the night I kept after you, sending you all those prophets, my servants, begging you, “Please, please—don’t do this, don’t fool around in this loathsome gutter of gods that I hate with a passion.” But do you think anyone paid the least bit of attention or repented of evil or quit offering sacrifices to the no-gods? Not one. So I let loose with my anger, a firestorm of wrath in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, and left them in ruins and wasted. And they’re still in ruins and wasted.’
7-8 “This is the Message of God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘So why are you ruining your lives by amputating yourselves—man, woman, child, and baby—from the life of Judah, leaving yourselves isolated, unconnected? And why do you deliberately make me angry by what you do, offering sacrifices to these no-gods in the land of Egypt where you’ve come to live? You’ll only destroy yourselves and make yourselves an example used in curses and an object of ridicule among all the nations of the earth.
9-11 “‘Have you so soon forgotten the evil lives of your ancestors, the evil lives of the kings of Judah and their wives, to say nothing of your own evil lives, you and your wives, the evil you flaunted in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem? And to this day, there’s not a trace of remorse, not a sign of reverence, nobody caring about living by what I tell them or following my instructions that I’ve set out so plainly before you and your parents! So this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies decrees:
11-14 “‘Watch out! I’ve decided to bring doom on you and get rid of everyone connected with Judah. I’m going to take what’s left of Judah, those who have decided to go to Egypt and live there, and finish them off. In Egypt they will either be killed or starve to death. The same fate will fall upon both the obscure and the important. Regardless of their status, they will either be killed or starve. You’ll end up cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. I’ll give those who are in Egypt the same medicine I gave those in Jerusalem: massacre, starvation, and disease. None of those who managed to get out of Judah alive and get away to Egypt are going to make it back to the Judah for which they’re so homesick. None will make it back, except maybe a few fugitives.’”
Making Goddess Cakes
15-18 The men who knew that their wives had been burning sacrifices to the no-gods, joined by a large crowd of women, along with virtually everyone living in Pathros of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: “We’re having nothing to do with what you tell us is God’s Message. We’re going to go right on offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, keeping up the traditions set by our ancestors, our kings and government leaders in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem in the good old days. We had a good life then—lots of food, rising standard of living, and no bad luck. But the moment we quit sacrificing to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out offerings to her, everything fell apart. We’ve had nothing but massacres and starvation ever since.”
19 And then the women chimed in: “Yes! Absolutely! We’re going to keep at it, offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out offerings to her. Aren’t our husbands behind us? They like it that we make goddess cakes and pour out our offerings to her.”
* * *
20-23 Then Jeremiah spoke up, confronting the men and the women, all the people who had answered so insolently. He said, “The sacrifices that you and your parents, your kings, your government officials, and the common people of the land offered up in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem—don’t you think God noticed? He noticed, all right. And he got fed up. Finally, he couldn’t take your evil behavior and your disgusting acts any longer. Your land became a wasteland, a death valley, a horror story, a ghost town. And it continues to be just that. This doom has come upon you because you kept offering all those sacrifices, and you sinned against God! You refused to listen to him, wouldn’t live the way he directed, ignored the covenant conditions.”
24-25 Jeremiah kept going, but now zeroed in on the women: “Listen, all you who are from Judah and living in Egypt—please, listen to God’s Word. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘You women! You said it and then you did it. You said, “We’re going to keep the vows we made to sacrifice to the Queen of Heaven and pour out offerings to her, and nobody’s going to stop us!”’
25-27 “Well, go ahead. Keep your vows. Do it up big. But also listen to what God has to say about it, all you who are from Judah but live in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name, backed by everything I am—this is God speaking!—that never again shall my name be used in vows, such as “As sure as the Master, God, lives!” by anyone in the whole country of Egypt. I’ve targeted each one of you for doom. The good is gone for good.
27-28 “‘All the Judeans in Egypt will die off by massacre or starvation until they’re wiped out. The few who get out of Egypt alive and back to Judah will be very few, hardly worth counting. Then that ragtag bunch that left Judah to live in Egypt will know who had the last word.
29-30 “‘And this will be the evidence: I will bring punishment right here, and by this you’ll know that the decrees of doom against you are the real thing. Watch for this sign of doom: I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt over to his enemies, those who are out to kill him, exactly as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah to his enemy Nebuchadnezzar, who was after him.’”
God’s Piling On the Pain
45 This is what Jeremiah told Baruch one day in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign as he was taking dictation from the prophet:
2-3 “These are the words of God, the God of Israel, to you, Baruch. You say, ‘These are bad times for me! It’s one thing after another. God is piling on the pain. I’m worn out and there’s no end in sight.’
4-5 “But God says, ‘Look around. What I’ve built I’m about to wreck, and what I’ve planted I’m about to rip up. And I’m doing it everywhere—all over the whole earth! So forget about making any big plans for yourself. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.’”