Reading through the Bible together
When the prophet Jeremiah finished speaking the words of God, the field captains said, “You are lying. Baruch (Jeremiah’s secretary) has plotted against us and told you to say this so that we will stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or carried off to Babylon as slaves.” Johanan and other field captains could not believe the words of Jeremiah. They admitted what Jeremiah had predicted regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Judean kingdom was fulfilled. They were forced to believe that God gave the message of destruction of Jerusalem to the prophet Jeremiah, but it was difficult for them to believe the invasion of Babylonian army into Egypt. In the history of the Ancient Near East no army from Mesopotamia ever attacked Egypt traveling more than 1600 kilometers (or 1000 miles) on foot on the Fertile Crescent. So Johanan and the other field captains took all the Judean people including Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch with them, and went to Tahpanhes in the east of the Nile Delta in Egypt. Their move to Egypt was “a memorial of the folly of turning from the counsels of Jehovah to human wisdom” (PK 461).
Then God ordered Jeremiah to prophesy against the people of Judah with a symbolic action of hiding large stones in the quadrangular brick-mould in front of the Egyptian royal house. The hidden stones in front of the Egyptian royal house symbolized the Judean field captains and the people of Judah who came to seek refuge under Egyptian king. The words God had spoken in front of all the people of Judah in there in Tahpanhes explained what Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon would do to them and to the Egyptians. God called Nebuchadnezzar “My servant,” and that was true because Nebuchadnezzar became God’s humble servant by the help of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 2:46-49; 3:28-30; 4:34-37). He would exercise his authority over the Judeans in Egypt who had come under the refuge of the Egyptian king. He would smite the land of Egypt, kill a part of them, and take some of them to Babylon for captivity. He would also break the images of the idols in Egypt.
What can we learn from this chapter? Since the time when God had made a covenant with the people of Israel, God was faithful to His people trying to bring those who were unfaithful to Himself. He did not give them up easily. He wanted to restore a good relationship with them. How thankful we are that He is the same God today.Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D., Japan