Trying to Hide in Egypt
The people of Judah were frightened. King Nebuchadnezzar would be furious when he learned that the man he had appointed to govern them was dead. Ishmael, the commander who had murdered Gedaliah, had escaped to Ammon (see #187 - Still No Peace in Judah). But they knew that the king of Babylon would have no mercy on Judah. They decided it was best to escape to Egypt while they still could. Before they left, they asked Jeremiah to pray for them. They urged him to speak to God and find out where He wanted them to go and what He wanted them to do. They promised, “Whatever He says, we will do!” Ten days later God spoke to Jeremiah. The prophet relayed this message to the people: “God says, ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down. I will plant you and not uproot you. I am no longer going to punish you for your sins. Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. I will make him have compassion on you, and I will rebuild and restore your land. But if you disobey Me and go to live in Egypt, you will not find safety—you will find disaster. All the things you fear will happen to you in Judah will be waiting for you in Egypt. There will be war, famine, and a plague. No one will survive!’” When Jeremiah finished speaking, the people started yelling at him, “You’re lying to us. God never said that. You want us to stay here in Judah so the Babylonians can kill us.” Despite God’s warning, they left Judah and headed for Egypt. They forced Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them, and they settled in the northeastern part of Egypt. When they arrived, God told Jeremiah to bury some large stones in the pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace. Then God instructed Jeremiah to tell the people, “I am sending Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He will place his throne on these stones and set up his canopy over them. He will attack Egypt and bring death and captivity to everyone. He will set fire to the false temples in Egypt and steal their gods. As a shepherd picks his coat clean of lice, he will pick Egypt clean. Then he will leave.” No one listened to Jeremiah. It didn’t take long for the Jews who had settled in Egypt to start worshiping the Egyptian gods. As Jeremiah had prophesied, God sent King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army to invade Egypt. They destroyed the Egyptian nation and killed the people of Judah who had hoped to find safety there. Before their deaths in Egypt, Jeremiah and Baruch finished the scroll for the book we call Jeremiah. Jeremiah also recorded many tearful poems in a book called Lamentations. When King Nebuchadnezzar died, his son took over the throne in Babylon. He freed King Jehoiachin from prison (see #184 - Babylon Invades Judah) and made him wealthy. This former king of Judah, who had been so wicked that God denied his offspring the right to rule in Judah (Jeremiah 22:28-30), lived comfortably in Babylon for the rest of his life.
Why would God seem to honor a wicked king more than a faithful prophet? Life often doesn’t seem fair. But we need to remember—our understanding is limited to a small sliver of time. God is weaving our lives into a huge eternal tapestry. We should not be arrogant and think that we are more capable of justice than He is. In the end, we will be so grateful that He is the One making things fair!