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42 Johanan, Jezaniah,[a] the other army officers, and everyone else in the group, came to me and said, “Please pray to the Lord your God for us. Judah used to have many people, but as you can see, only a few of us are left. Ask the Lord to tell us where he wants us to go and what he wants us to do.”

“All right,” I answered, “I will pray to the Lord your God, and I will tell you everything he says.”

They answered, “The Lord himself will be our witness that we promise to do whatever he says, even if it isn’t what we want to do. We will obey the Lord so that all will go well for us.”

Ten days later, the Lord gave me an answer for Johanan, the officers, and the other people. So I called them together and told them that the Lord God of Israel had said:

You asked Jeremiah to pray and find out what you should do. 10 I am sorry that I had to punish you, and so I now tell you to stay here in Judah, where I will plant you and build you up, instead of tearing you down and uprooting you. 11 Don’t be afraid of the King of Babylonia. I will protect you from him, 12 and I will even force him to have mercy on you and give back your farms.

13 But you might keep on saying, “We won’t stay here in Judah, and we won’t obey the Lord our God. 14 We are going to Egypt, where there is plenty of food and no danger of war.”

15 People of Judah, you survived when the Babylonian army attacked. Now you are planning to move to Egypt, and if you do go, this is what will happen. 16-17 You are afraid of war, starvation, and disease here in Judah, but they will follow you to Egypt and kill you there. None of you will survive the disasters I will send.

18 I, the Lord, was angry with the people of Jerusalem and punished them. And if you go to Egypt, I will be angry and punish you the same way. You will never again see your homeland. People will be horrified at what I do to you, and they will use the name of your city as a curse word.

Jeremiah Gives a Warning

19 I told the people:

You escaped the disaster that struck Judah, but now the Lord warns you to stay away from Egypt. 20 You asked me to pray and find out what the Lord our God wants you to do, and you promised to obey him. But that was a terrible mistake, 21 because now that I have given you the Lord’s answer, you refuse to obey him. 22 And so, you will die in Egypt from war, hunger, and disease.

The People Go to Egypt

43 I told the people everything the Lord had told me. But Azariah, Johanan[b] and some other arrogant men said to me, “You’re lying! The Lord didn’t tell you to say that we shouldn’t go to Egypt. Baruch son of Neriah must have told you to say that. He wants the Babylonians to capture us, so they can take us away to Babylonia or even kill us.”

Johanan, the other army officers, and everyone else refused to stay in Judah in spite of the Lord’s command. So Johanan and the officers led us away toward Egypt. The group that left Judah included those who had been scattered in other countries and who had then come back to live in Judah. Baruch and I and others in the group had been staying with Gedaliah, because Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian officer in charge of the guard, had ordered him to take care of the king’s daughters and quite a few men, women, and children.

The people disobeyed the Lord and went to Egypt. The group had settled in Tahpanhes, when the Lord told me:

Jeremiah, carry some large stones to the entrance of the government building in Tahpanhes. Bury the stones underneath the brick pavement[c] and be sure the Jews are watching.

10 Then tell them that I, the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, have sent for my servant, Nebuchadnezzar[d] of Babylonia. I will bring him here and have him set up his throne and his royal tent over these stones that I told you to bury. 11 He will attack Egypt and kill many of its people; others will die of disease or be dragged away as prisoners. 12-13 I will have him set Egypt’s temples on fire, and he will either burn or carry off their idols. He will destroy the sacred monuments at the temple of the sun-god.[e] Then Nebuchadnezzar will pick the land clean, just like a shepherd picking the lice off his clothes. And he will return safely home.

The Lord Will Destroy the People of Judah

44 The Lord told me to speak with the Jews who were living in the towns of Migdol, Tahpanhes, and Memphis in northern Egypt, and also to those living in southern Egypt. He told me to tell them:

I am the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel. You saw how I destroyed Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. They lie empty and in ruins today, because the people of Judah made me angry by worshiping gods that had never helped them or their ancestors.

Time after time I sent my servants the prophets to tell the people of Judah how much I hated their disgusting sins. The prophets warned them to stop sinning, but they refused to listen and would not stop worshiping other gods. Finally, my anger struck like a raging flood, and today Jerusalem and the towns of Judah are nothing but empty ruins.

Why do you now insist on heading for another disaster? A disaster that will destroy not only you, but also your children and babies. You have made me angry by worshiping idols and burning incense to other gods after you came here to Egypt. You will die such a disgusting death, that other nations will use the name of Judah as a curse word. When you were living in Jerusalem and Judah, you followed the example of your ancestors in doing evil things, just like your kings and queens. 10 Even now, your pride keeps you from respecting me and obeying the laws and teachings I gave you and your ancestors.

11 I, the Lord All-Powerful, have decided to wipe you out with disasters. 12 There were only a few of you left in Judah, and you decided to go to Egypt. But you will die such horrible deaths in war or from starvation, that people of other countries will use the name of Judah as a curse word. 13 I punished Jerusalem with war, hunger, and disease, and that’s how I will punish you. 14 None of you will survive. You may hope to return to Judah someday, but only a very few of you will escape death and be able to go back.

The People Refuse To Worship the Lord

15 A large number of Jews from both northern and southern Egypt listened to me as I told them what the Lord had said. Most of the men in the crowd knew that their wives often burned incense to other gods. So they and their wives shouted:

16 Jeremiah, what do we care if you speak in the Lord’s name? We refuse to listen! 17 We have promised to worship the goddess Astarte, the Queen of Heaven,[f] and that is exactly what we are going to do. We will burn incense and offer sacrifices of wine to her, just as we, our ancestors, our kings, and our leaders did when we lived in Jerusalem and the other towns of Judah. We had plenty of food back then. We were well off, and nothing bad ever happened to us. 18 But since the time we stopped burning incense and offering wine sacrifices to her, we have been dying from war and hunger.

19 Then the women said, “When we lived in Judah, we worshiped the Queen of Heaven and offered sacrifices of wine and special loaves of bread shaped like her. Our husbands knew what we were doing, and they approved of it.”

20 Then I told the crowd:

21 Don’t you think the Lord knew that you and your ancestors, your leaders and kings, and the rest of the people were burning incense to other gods in Jerusalem and everywhere else in Judah? 22 And when he could no longer put up with your disgusting sins, he placed a curse on your land and turned it into a desert, as it is today. 23 This disaster happened because you worshiped other gods and rebelled against the Lord by refusing to obey him or follow his laws and teachings.

24-25 Then I told the men and their wives, that the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Israel, had said:

Here in Egypt you still keep your promises to burn incense and offer sacrifices of wine to the so-called Queen of Heaven. 26 Keep these promises! But let me tell you what will happen. As surely as I am the Lord God, I swear that I will never again accept any promises you make in my name. 27 Instead of watching over you, I will watch for chances to harm you. Some of you will die in war, and others will starve to death. 28 Only a few will escape and return to Judah. Then everyone who went to live in Egypt will know that when I say something will happen, it will—no matter what you say.

29 And here is how you will know that I will keep my threats to punish you in Egypt. 30 I will hand over King Hophra of Egypt to those who want to kill him,[g] just as I handed Zedekiah[h] over to Nebuchadnezzar,[i] who wanted to kill him.

The Lord Will Not Let Baruch Be Killed

45 In the fourth year that Jehoiakim[j] was king of Judah, Baruch wrote down everything I had told him.[k] Then later, the Lord God of Israel told me to say to Baruch:

You are moaning and blaming me, the Lord, for your troubles and sorrow, and for being so tired that you can’t even rest. But all over the earth I am tearing down what I built and pulling up what I planted. I am bringing disaster everywhere, so don’t even think about making any big plans for yourself. However, I promise that wherever you go, I will at least protect you from death. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Footnotes

  1. 42.1 Jezaniah: Hebrew “Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah”; one ancient translation “Azariah son of Hoshaiah” (see also 43.2 and the note there).
  2. 43.2 Azariah, Johanan: Hebrew “Azariah son of Hoshaiah, Johanan son of Kareah.”
  3. 43.9 underneath the brick pavement: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 43.10 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2.
  5. 43.12,13 at the temple of the sun-god: Or “in the city of Heliopolis.”
  6. 44.17 the goddess Astarte, the Queen of Heaven: The Hebrew text has “the queen of heaven,” which probably refers to the goddess Astarte.
  7. 44.30 King Hophra. . . kill him: Hophra, also known as Apries, ruled Egypt from 589 to 570 B.C., when he was killed by Ahmosis II, who then became king of Egypt and ruled until 526 B.C.
  8. 44.30 Zedekiah: See the note at 1.3.
  9. 44.30 Nebuchadnezzar: See the note at 21.2.
  10. 45.1 Jehoiakim: See the note at 1.3.
  11. 45.1 Baruch wrote down everything I had told him: See 36.1-32.

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