Jeremiah 42

The Survivors Ask the Lord for Advice but Refuse to Follow It

Then all the army officers, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah
Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah may have been the same as the Jezaniah son of the Maacathite mentioned in 40:8. The title “the Maacathite” would identify the locality from which his father came, i.e., a region in northern Transjordan east of Lake Huleh. Many think he is also the same man who is named “Azariah” in Jer 43:2 (the Greek version has Azariah both here and in 43:2). It was not uncommon for one man to have two names, e.g., Uzziah who was also named Azariah (compare 2 Kgs 14:21 with 2 Chr 26:1).
and all the people of every class,
Or “without distinction,” or “All the people from the least important to the most important”; Heb “from the least to the greatest.” This is a figure of speech that uses polar opposites as an all-inclusive designation of everyone without exception (i.e., it included all the people from the least important or poorest to the most important or richest.)
went to the prophet Jeremiah.
They said to him, “Please grant our request
Heb “please let our petition fall before you.” For the idiom here see 37:20 and the translator’s note there.
and pray to the Lord your God for all those of us who are still left alive here.
Heb “on behalf of us, [that is] on behalf of all this remnant.”
This refers to the small remnant of people who were left of those from Mizpah who had been taken captive by Ishmael after he had killed Gedaliah and who had been rescued from him at Gibeon. There were other Judeans still left in the land of Judah who had not been killed or deported by the Babylonians.
For, as you yourself can see, there are only a few of us left out of the many there were before.
Heb “For we are left a few from the many as your eyes are seeing us.” The words “used to be” are not in the text but are implicit. These words are supplied in the translation for clarity and smoothness of English style.
Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” The prophet Jeremiah answered them, “Agreed!
Heb “I have heard” = “I agree.” For this nuance of the verb see BDB 1034 s.v. שָׁמַע Qal.1.j and compare the usage in Gen 37:27 and Judg 11:17 listed there.
I will indeed pray to the Lord your God as you have asked. I will tell you everything the Lord replies in response to you.
Heb “all the word which the Lord will answer you.
I will not keep anything back from you.”
They answered Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not do just as
Heb “do according to all the word which.”
the Lord sends you to tell us to do.
We will obey what the Lord our God to whom we are sending you tells us to do. It does not matter whether we like what he tells us or not. We will obey what he tells us to do so that things will go well for us.”
Heb “Whether good or whether evil we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you in order that it may go well for us because/when we hearken to the voice of the Lord our God.” The phrase “whether good or whether evil” is an abbreviated form of the idiomatic expressions “to be good in the eyes of” = “to be pleasing to” (BDB 374 s.v. טוֹב 2.f and see 1 Kgs 21:2) and “to be bad in the eyes of” = “to be displeasing to” (BDB 948 s.v. רַע 3 and see Num 22:34). The longer Hebrew sentence has been broken down and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style.


Ten days later the Lord spoke to Jeremiah. So Jeremiah summoned Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him and all the people of every class.
Or “without distinction,” or “All the people from the least important to the most important”; Heb “from the least to the greatest.” This is a figure of speech that uses polar opposites as an all-inclusive designation of everyone without exception (i.e., it included all the people from the least important or poorest to the most important or richest.)
Then Jeremiah said to them, “You sent me to the Lord God of Israel to make your request known to him. Here is what he says to you:
Heb “Thus says the Lord God of Israel to whom you sent me to present your petition before him, ‘…’” The sentence has been restructured to cut down on the length of the introduction leading in to the long quote.
Their “request” is that Jeremiah would tell them where to go and what to do (v. 3).
10 ‘If you will just stay
The word “just” is intended to reflect the infinitive absolute before the finite verb emphasizing here the condition rather than the verb root (see Joüon 2:423 #123.g, and compare the usage in Exod 15:26). The form looks like the infinitive absolute of the verb שׁוּב (shuv), but all the versions interpret it as though it is from יָשַׁב (yashav) which is the root of the verb that follows it. Either this is a textual error of the loss of a י (yod) or this is one of the cases that GKC 69 #19.i list as the possible loss of a weak consonant at the beginning of a word.
in this land, I will build you up. I will not tear you down. I will firmly plant you.
Or “I will firmly plant you in the land,” or “I will establish you.” This is part of the metaphor that has been used of God (re)establishing Israel in the land. See 24:6; 31:28; 32:41.
I will not uproot you. For I am filled with sorrow because of the disaster that I have brought on you.
11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon whom you now fear.
See Jer 41:18 for their reason for fear.
Do not be afraid of him because I will be with you to save you and to rescue you from his power. I, the Lord, affirm it!
Heb “oracle of the Lord.”
12 I will have compassion on you so that he in turn will have mercy on you and allow you to return to your land.’

13  “You must not disobey the Lord your God by saying, ‘We will not stay in this land.’ 14 You must not say, ‘No, we will not stay. Instead we will go and live in the land of Egypt where we will not face war,
Heb “see [or experience] war.”
or hear the enemy’s trumpet calls,
Heb “hear the sound of the trumpet.” The trumpet was used to gather the troops and to sound the alarm for battle.
or starve for lack of food.’
Jer 42:13–14 are a long complex condition (protasis) whose consequence (apodosis) does not begin until v. 15. The Hebrew text of vv. 13–14 reads: 42:13 “But if you say [or continue to say (the form is a participle)], ‘We will not stay in this land’ with the result that you do not obey [or “more literally, do not hearken to the voice of] the Lord your God, 42:14 saying, ‘No, but to the land of Egypt we will go where we…and there we will live,’ 42:15 now therefore hear the word of the Lord…” The sentence has been broken up and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style but an attempt has been made to maintain the contingencies and the qualifiers that are in the longer Hebrew original.
15 If you people who remain in Judah do that, then listen to what the Lord says. The Lord God of Israel who rules over all
Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.” See the study note on 2:19 for the translation and significance of this title.
says, ‘If you are so determined
Heb “set your face to.” See Jer 42:17; 44:11; Dan 11:17; 2 Kgs 12:17 (12:18 HT) for parallel usage.
to go to Egypt that you go and settle there,
16 the wars you fear will catch up with you there in the land of Egypt. The starvation you are worried about will follow you there to
Or “will follow you right into Egypt,” or “will dog your steps all the way to Egypt”; Heb “cling after.” This is the only case of this verb with this preposition in the Qal stem. However, it is used with this preposition several times in the Hiphil, all with the meaning of “to pursue closely.” See BDB 180 s.v. דָּבַק Hiph.2 and compare Judg 20:45; 1 Sam 14:22; 1 Chr 10:2.
Egypt. You will die there.
The repetition of the adverb “there” in the translation of vv. 14, 16 is to draw attention to the rhetorical emphasis on the locale of Egypt in the original text of both v. 14 and v. 16. In v. 14 they say, “to the land of Egypt we will go…and there we will live.” In v. 16 God says, “wars…there will catch up with you…the hunger…there will follow after you…and there you will die.” God rhetorically denies their focus on Egypt as a place of safety and of relative prosperity. That can only be found in Judah under the protective presence of the Lord (vv. 10–12).
17 All the people who are determined to go and settle in Egypt will die from war, starvation, or disease. No one will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’ 18 For
Or “Indeed.”
the Lord God of Israel who rules over all
Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.” See the study note on 2:19 for the translation and significance of this title.
says, ‘If you go to Egypt, I will pour out my wrath on you just as I poured out my anger and wrath on the citizens of Jerusalem. You will become an object of horror and ridicule, an example of those who have been cursed and that people use in pronouncing a curse.
See the study note on 24:9 and the usage in 29:22 for the meaning and significance of this last phrase.
You will never see this place again.’
Or “land.” The reference is, of course, to the land of Judah.


19  “The Lord has told you people who remain in Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Be very sure of this: I warn you
Heb “Know for certain that I warn you…” The idea of “for certain” is intended to reflect the emphatic use of the infinitive absolute before the volitive use of the imperfect (see IBHS 587–88 #35.3.1h and 509 #31.5b). The substitution “of this:” for “that” has been made to shorten the sentence in conformity with contemporary English style.
here and now.
Heb “today.”
20 You are making a fatal mistake.
Heb “you are erring at the cost of your own lives” (BDB 1073 s.v. תָּעָה Hiph.3 and HALOT 1626 s.v. תָּעָה Hif 4, and cf. BDB 90 s.v. בְּ 3 and see parallels in 1 Kgs 2:23; 2 Sam 23:17 for the nuance of “at the cost of your lives”). This fits the context better than “you are deceiving yourselves” (KBL 1035 s.v. תָּעָה Hif 4). The reading here follows the Qere הִתְעֵיתֶם (hitetem) rather than the Kethib which has a metathesis of י (yod) and ת (tav), i.e., הִתְעֵתֶים. The Greek text presupposes הֲרֵעֹתֶם (hareotem, “you have done evil”), but that reading is generally rejected as secondary.
For you sent me to the Lord your God and asked me, ‘Pray to the Lord our God for us. Tell us what the Lord our God says and we will do it.’
Heb “According to all which the Lord our God says so tell us and we will do.” The restructuring of the sentence is intended to better reflect contemporary English style.
21 This day
Or “Today.”
I have told you what he said.
The words “what he said” are not in the text but are implicit and seem necessary for clarity.
But you do not want to obey the Lord by doing what he sent me to tell you.
Heb “But you have not hearkened to the voice of [idiomatic for “obeyed” see BDB 1034 s.v. שָׁמַע Qal.1.m] the Lord your God, namely [cf. BDB 252 s.v. וְ 1.b] with respect [cf. BDB 514 s.v. לְ 5.f(c)] all which he has sent to us.” The verb is translated “don’t seem to want to obey” because they have not yet expressed their refusal or their actual disobedience. Several commentaries sensing this apparent discrepancy suggest that 42:19-22 are to be transposed after 43:1-3 (see, e.g., BHS note 18a, W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:275; J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 252, 256, 258). However, there is absolutely no textual evidence for the transposition and little reason to suspect an early scribal error (in spite of Holladay’s suggestion). It is possible that Jeremiah here anticipates this answer in 43:1-3 through the response on their faces (so Bright, 256; F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 361). G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 249) also call attention to the stated intention in 41:17 and the fact that the strong warning in 42:15–17 seems to imply that a negative response is expected). The use of the perfect here is perhaps to be related to the perfect expressing resolve or determination (see IBHS 489 #30.5.1d). It is also conceivable that these two verses are part of a conditional sentence which has no formal introduction. I.e., “And if you will not obey…then you should know for certain that…” For examples of this kind of conditional clause introduced by two vavs (ו) see Joüon 2:628–29 #167.b, and compare Jer 18:4; Judg 6:13. However, though this interpretation is within the possibilities of Hebrew grammar, I know of no translation or commentary that follows it. So it has not been followed in the translation or given as an alternate translation.
22 So now be very sure of this: You will die from war, starvation, or disease in the place where you want to go and live.”

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