In Jer 43:7, a group of Jews arrive in Egypt. They are a sad company. Running for their lives, they are fleeing their own country because they fear the Babylonian army will come and kill them. They have endured years of war. They have very little wealth and no power. One of the main reasons they are coming to Egypt is that they want Pharaoh and his people to take care of them. Their last king had been blinded by the Babylonians, who first killed all his children before his eyes. But that king had been an ally of Pharaoh, and these Jews are hoping that that friendship will compel the Egyptian ruler to be kind to them.
While an observer may look at such a group and feel sorry for them, it needs to be understood that they brought all of this upon themselves. Their sin was the reason their country had been overrun by the Babylonians. They had rebelled against God, and God had disciplined them. In fact, their journey to Egypt was a continuation of that sin. The Lord had told them to remain in Judah and not to go to Egypt. He told them this through Jeremiah the prophet. But this group of Jews are very blunt in their rejection of God’s word. In their arrogance, they say they will not obey what the Lord has told them to do (Jer 43:2-3). They take their wives and children and make the long trek to Egypt.
They were arrogant and thought they knew better than God what was best for them. But one must ask how proud they felt when they arrived in Egypt tired, hungry, poor, afraid, and begging for help. It is easy to picture the faces of the Egyptians as these Jews crossed their border. Those faces were saying: “What a pathetic group of people!”
But to understand just how sad a group it was, we need to remind ourselves of another time the Jews had crossed the border of Egypt. Nine hundred years earlier, the ancestors of the Jews in Jeremiah 43 had left Egypt. With a mighty arm, the Lord had humbled Egypt with plagues because of Egypt’s sin and arrogance. As the Jews left, the Egyptians had showered them with wealth after seeing what the God of Israel had done. Then, in a mighty act, God parted the Red Sea, delivering His people and–in the process–destroying the Egyptian army. He led His people to the Promised Land, providing all their needs and guiding them in various miraculous ways.
What a difference those 900 years had made. God’s people had left Egypt heading east with power and wealth. They returned to Egypt heading west in poverty and weakness, like a dog with its tail between its legs. When they left, the enemy army was destroyed. When they returned, they were fleeing from an enemy army. Before, God was guiding them. Now, they were stumbling as they entered the land.
If the Egyptians in Jeremiah 43 knew that history, what did they think? Certainly, there must have been some ridicule involved. It would have been very tempting to taunt these returning Jews, asking where their God was now.
Does Jeremiah want the reader of his book to compare how the former Jews left Egypt and how this group of Jews returned? I think he does. What a contrast between the two groups. And Jeremiah leaves no doubt about what caused the difference. Sin and arrogance were the culprits.
We are all part of different groups. Jeremiah’s message for the people of God is straightforward: If we ignore God’s Word and rebel against Him, we will become a part of a particular group–a pathetic one.