The Jews in Egypt were now dispersed into various parts of the country, into Migdol, and Noph, and other places, and Jeremiah was sent on an errand from God to them, which he delivered either when he had the most of them together in Pathros (Jer. 44:15) or going about from place to place preaching to this purport. He delivered this message in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, and in it,
I. God puts them in mind of the desolations of Judah and Jerusalem, which, though the captives by the rivers of Babylon were daily mindful of (Ps. 137:1), the fugitives in the cities of Egypt seem to have forgotten and needed to be put in mind of, though, one would have thought, they had not been so long out of sight as to become out of mind (Jer. 44:2): You have seen what a deplorable condition Judah and Jerusalem are brought into; now will you consider whence those desolations came? From the wrath of God; it was his fury and his anger that kindled the fire which made Jerusalem and the cities of Judah waste and desolate (Jer. 44:6); whoever were the instruments of the destruction, they were but instruments: it was a destruction from the Almighty.
II. He puts them in mind of the sins that brought those desolations upon Judah and Jerusalem. It was for their wickedness. It was this that provoked God to anger, and especially their idolatry, their serving other gods (Jer. 44:3) and giving that honour to counterfeit deities, the creatures of their own fancy and the work of their own hands, which should have been given to the true God only. They forsook the God who was known among them, and whose name was great, for gods that they knew not, upstart deities, whose original was obscure and not worth taking notice of: “Neither they nor you, nor your fathers, could give any rational account why the God of Israel was exchanged for such impostors.” They knew not that they were gods; nay, they could not but know that they were no gods.
III. He puts them in mind of the frequent and fair warnings he had given them by his word not to serve other gods, the contempt of which warnings was a great aggravation of their idolatry, Jer. 44:4. The prophets were sent with a great deal of care to call to them, saying, Oh! do not this abominable thing that I hate. It becomes us to speak of sin with the utmost dread and detestation as an abominable thing; it is certainly so, for it is that which God hates, and we are sure that hid judgment is according to truth. Call it grievous, call it odious, that we may by all means possible put ourselves and others out of love with it. It becomes us to give warning of the danger of sin, and the fatal consequences of it, with all seriousness and earnestness: “Oh! do not do it. If you love God, do not, for it is provoking to him; if you love your own souls do not, for it is destructive to them.” Let conscience do this for us in an hour of temptation, when we are ready to yield. O take heed! do not this abominable thing which the Lord hates; for, if God hates it, though shouldst hate it. But did they regard what God said to them? No: “They hearkened not, nor inclined their ear (Jer. 44:5); they still persisted in their idolatries; and you see what came of it, therefore God’s anger was poured out upon them, as at this day. Now this was intended for warning to you, who have not only heard the judgments of God’s mouth, as they did, but have likewise seen the judgments of his hand, by which you should be startled and awakened, for they were inflicted in terrorem, that others might hear and fear and do no more as they did, lest they should fare as they fared.”
IV. He reproves them for, and upbraids them with, their continued idolatries, now that they had come into Egypt (Jer. 44:8): You burn incense to other gods in the land of Egypt. Therefore God forbade them to go into Egypt, because he knew it would be a snare to them. Those whom God sent into the land of the Chaldeans, though that was an idolatrous country, were there, by the power of God’s grace, weaned from idolatry; but those who went against God’s mind into the land of the Egyptians were there, by the power of their own corruptions, more wedded than ever to their idolatries; for, when we thrust ourselves without cause or call into places of temptation, it is just with God to leave us to ourselves. In doing this, 1. They did a great deal of injury to themselves and their families: “You commit this great evil against your souls (Jer. 44:7), you wrong them, you deceive them with that which is false, you destroy them, for it will be fatal to them.” Note, In sinning against God we sin against our own souls. “It is the ready way to cut yourselves off from all comfort and hope (Jer. 44:8), to cut off your name and honour; so that you will, both by your sin and by your misery, become a curse and a reproach among all nations. It will become a proverb, As wretched as a Jew. It is the ready way to cut off from you all your relations, all that you shave have joy of and have your families built up in, man and woman, child and suckling, so that Judah shall be a land lost for want of heirs.” 2. They filled up the measure of the iniquity of their fathers, and, as if that had been too little for them, added to it (Jer. 44:9): “Have you forgotten the wickedness of those who are gone before you, that you are not humbled for it as you ought to be, and afraid of the consequences of it?” Have you forgotten the punishments of your fathers? so some read it. “Do you not know how dear their idolatry cost them? And yet dare you continue in that vain conversation received by tradition from you fathers, though you received the curse with it?” He reminds them of the sins and punishments of the kings of Judah, who, great as they were, escaped not the judgments of God for their idolatry; yea, and they should have taken warning by the wickedness of their wives, who had seduced them to idolatry. In the original it is, And of his wives, which, Dr. Lightfoot thinks, tacitly reflects upon Solomon’s wives, particularly his Egyptian wives, to whom the idolatry of the kings of Judah owed its original. “Have you forgotten this, and what came of it, that you dare venture upon the same wicked courses?” See Neh. 13:18, 26. “Nay, to come to your own times, Have you forgotten your own wickedness and the wickedness of your wives, when you lived in prosperity in Jerusalem, and what ruin it brought upon you? But, alas! to what purpose do I speak to them?” (says God to the prophet, Jer. 44:10) “they are not humbled unto this day, by all the humbling providences that they have been under. They have not feared, nor walked in my law.” Note, Those that walk not in the law of God do thereby show that they are destitute of the fear of God.
V. He threatens their utter ruin for their persisting in their idolatry now that they were in Egypt. Judgment is given against them, as before (Jer. 42:22), that they shall perish in Egypt; the decree has gone forth, and shall not be called back. They set their faces to go into the land of Egypt (Jer. 44:12), were resolute in their purpose against God, and now God is resolute in his purpose against them: I will set my face to cut off all Judah, Jer. 44:11. Those that think not only to affront, but to confront, God Almighty, will find themselves outfaced; for the face of the Lord is against those that do evil, Ps. 34:16. It is here threatened concerning these idolatrous Jews in Egypt, 1. That they shall all be consumed, without exception; no degree nor order among them shall escape: They shall fall, from the least to the greatest (Jer. 44:12), high and low, rich and poor. 2. That they shall be consumed by the very same judgments which God made use of for the punishment of Jerusalem, the sword, famine, and pestilence, Jer. 44:12, 13. They shall not be wasted by natural deaths, as Israel in the wilderness, but by these sore judgments, which, by flying into Egypt, they thought to get out of the reach of. 3. That none (except a very few that will narrowly escape) shall ever return to the land of Judah again, Jer. 44:14. They thought, being nearer, that they stood fairer for a return to their own land than those that were carried to Babylon; yet those shall return, and these shall not; for the way in which God has promised us any comfort is much surer than that in which we have projected it for ourselves. Observe, Those that are fretful and discontented will be uneasy and fond of change wherever they are. The Israelites, when they were in the land of Judah, desired to go into Egypt (Jer. 42:22), but when they were in Egypt they desired to return to the land of Judah again; they lifted up their soul to it (so it is in the margin), which denotes an earnest desire. But, because they would not dwell there when God commanded it, they shall not dwell they were they desire it. If we walk contrary to God, he will walk contrary to us. How can those expect to be well off who would not know when they were so, though God himself told them?