Jeremiah 44:1-30 (51:1-30, LXX)

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Jeremiah received a message from YHWH for all the Judeans who were residing in the land of Egypt. They were dwelling in Migdol (Magdolos [LXX]), possibly a site not far from Pelusium (Tel el Farame), in Tahpanhes (Taphnas [LXX]), a city in the Delta region, in Noph (Memphis), a capital of ancient Egypt that is linked to a site on the west side of the Nile and to the south of modern Cairo, and in the “land of Pathros [Pathoures (LXX)],” a region of Egypt that may have bordered on the northern boundary of ancient Cush or Ethiopia. (44:1 [51:1, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

Through Jeremiah, “YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service], the God of Israel” reminded the people that they had “seen all the evil” (or calamity) that he had “brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the [other] cities of Judah” or cities in the realm of the former kingdom of Judah. To that “day” or time, those cities had remained devastated, without any inhabitants. (44:2 [51:2, LXX])

YHWH permitted the devastation to occur on account of the wickedness of the people. They had turned their backs on him and engaged in idolatrous practices, burning incense to and serving or worshiping nonexistent gods, deities that were not known or were foreign to them and to their “fathers” or ancestors. (44:3 [51:3, LXX])

To admonish them to abandon idolatry, YHWH continued to send his prophets repeatedly (literally, “rising early and sending” [early (LXX)]) and to proclaim, “Do not do this abominable thing [the thing of this pollution (LXX)] that I hate.” (44:4 [51:4, LXX])

The people did not “hear,” listen to, or obey YHWH’s messages conveyed through his prophets. They did not incline their ear to be attentive and then turn away from their badness, ceasing to burn incense “to other gods.” (44:5 [51:5, LXX])

Through the agency of the military force under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH poured out his “wrath” and his “anger,” and his rage burned like a devastating fire “in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, reducing them to devastation and a desolate waste (“something untrodden” [LXX], a desolate region through which no one passed). This ruined state continued to exist to the “day” or the time Jeremiah spoke to the people in Egypt. (44:6 [51:6, LXX])

Despite what had happened to the land and the cities in the realm of the former kingdom of Judah, the people who had fled to Egypt did not abandon idolatry. Therefore, the message from “YHWH the God of hosts, the God of Israel [the Lord Almighty (LXX)],” was, “Why are you committing a great evil to your souls [or yourselves],” cutting off from you “man and woman, child and infant, out of the midst of Judah” and “leaving you no remnant?” (44:7 [51:7, LXX]) They were committing this evil “with the works of [their] hands” (images that represented nonexistent deities) and by burning incense to “other gods in the land of Egypt” where they had come to dwell as aliens. With their idolatry, they provoked YHWH to anger and thus acted against themselves, leading to their being cut off or perishing and becoming a “curse and a reproach” among the people of all the nations of the earth who would come to know about their fate. (44:8 [51:8, LXX])

The question is raised as to whether the men had “forgotten the evils of [their] fathers” or forefathers, “and the evils of the kings of Judah and the evils of [their] wives, and [their] own evils and the evils of [their own] wives,” the evils that they committed “in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.” A recalling of the evils committed should have reminded them of the serious consequences that resulted from disregarding YHWH’s commands. (44:9 [51:9, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

Although the people had experienced calamities in the past, they did not feel “crushed” or contrite (they did not stop [their wrongdoing] [LXX]), become afraid of meriting YHWH’s punitive judgment nor did they have a wholesome fear or reverential regard for him. They refused to “walk” or to conduct themselves according to his law and his statutes that he had set before them and their “fathers” (or ancestors). The Septuagint says that they did not adhere to his orders or ordinances. (44:10 [51:10, LXX]) Therefore, “YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service], the God of Israel [the Lord (LXX)]” declared, “Look, I will set my face against you for evil [or calamity] to cut off all Judah.” Calamity would befall the Judeans, and they would perish in the land of Egypt. (44:11 [51:11, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

YHWH would be taking the remaining ones of Judah who had set their faces [or who had determined] to enter the land of Egypt. His taking them may relate to taking them away from the land of the living or to handing them over to be punished for their unfaithfulness to him. By the calamity that YHWH would permit to befall them, they would “come to their finish” or perish in the land of Egypt, falling by the sword of warfare and dying from famine resulting from military invasion, siege, and conquest. No one would be spared. From the least or most insignificant one to the greatest or most prominent or influential one, they would all die. They would then come to be “for an execration, for a horror and for a curse and for a taunt [for a reproach and for destruction and for a curse (LXX)]. The calamity they would experience would be so great that people would be referring to them when expressing a malediction or a curse, and they themselves would have maledictions and curses directed against them. Their fate would give rise to a dreadful sense of horror among those who would come to know about it. The people would become an object of mockery or reproach because of what had happened to them. (44:12 [51:12, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

YHWH purposed to “visit” (or give attention to for the purpose of punishing) the Judeans who had taken up residence in Egypt. It would be a visitation of punishment like that which had been directed against Jerusalem and would come in the form of sword (the sword of warfare), famine (from the food shortage war created), and pestilence (“death” [LXX], the spread of infectious disease among the malnourished people living in the unsanitary conditions that resulted from siege). (44:13 [51:13, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

From among the “remnant of Judah,” the Judeans who had fled to Egypt to dwell there as aliens, there would be virtually no escapees or survivors. Only a few escaped ones would be able to return to the “land of Judah,” the former territory of the kingdom of Judah. Although many others would be “lifting up their soul,” or earnestly desiring to return and to reside in their own land, they would not be able to return. In the Septuagint, their not being able to return is made emphatic with two words for “not” and may be rendered “by no means.” (44:14 [51:14, LXX])

“All the men who knew that their wives had offered incense to other gods [foreign nonexistent deities] and all the women [or wives] who were standing there in a great assembly” or as part of a large crowd and all the people who resided in the land of Egypt,” including Pathros (possibly a region bordering on the northern boundary of ancient Cush or Ethiopia) answered Jeremiah. (44:15 [51:15, LXX]; see the Notes section.) Regarding what he had said to them “in the name of YHWH” or as a prophet whom YHWH had appointed to proclaim his word or message, they responded, “We are not listening to you.” They were determined not to heed his admonition to abandon idolatry. (44:16 [51:16, LXX]) Instead, they insisted on doing what they declared they would do (“every word” that had proceeded from their “mouth”). They would “burn incense to the queen of the heavens,” probably a fertility goddess like Ashtoreth (Ashtart) or Ishtar, and to pour out libations to her” as they did formerly and as had their “fathers” (or forefathers), their kings, and their princes “in the cities of Judah [the realm of the kingdom of Judah] and in the streets of Jerusalem [outside Jerusalem (LXX)].” They claimed that, when they engaged in these idolatrous practices, they had sufficient “bread” or plenty to eat, fared well, and did not see “evil” or calamity. (44:17 [51:17, LXX]) After they stopped “burning incense to the queen of the heavens and pouring out libations to her,” they suffered, experiencing lack of everything and being brought to a finish. Many perished as victims of the “sword” of war that was wielded against them and others died from the famine conditions that accompanied military invasion, siege, and conquest. Apparently the people, particularly the women, blamed their plight on the reforms of godly King Josiah who put a stop to the idolatrous practices but who died in battle with Pharaoh Nechoh (Necho, Neco). As the victor, Nechoh imposed a large fine on the kingdom of Judah. King Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, exacted tax from his subjects to pay the demanded amount of silver and gold. (2 Kings 23:4-35) From then onward, the people did not prosper. (44:18 [51:18, LXX])

The women who had burned incense to the queen of the heavens and poured out libations to her did so with the consent of their husbands. This is evident from their rhetorical question, “Was it without our husbands that we made cakes to her,” bearing her image, “and poured out libations to her?” A number of modern translations are more specific in their rendering than is the Hebrew text and the rendering of the Septuagint. “‘Besides,’ the women added, ‘do you suppose that we were burning incense and pouring out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and making cakes marked with her image, without our husbands knowing it and helping us? Of course not!’” (NLT) “All the time we burnt sacrifices to the queen of heaven and poured drink-offerings to her, our husbands were fully aware that we were making crescent-cakes marked with her image and pouring drink-offerings to her.” (REB) “Our husbands knew what we were doing, and they approved of it.” (CEV) (44:19 [51:19, LXX])

Jeremiah replied to “all the people who answered him with a word,” an expression of their determination not to listen to what he said and to continue with their idolatrous practices. He said to “all the people, the men [the mighty ones (LXX)] and the women [44:20 (51:20, LXX)], Did not YHWH remember and did it not come into his heart [or thought] the incense you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem [outside of Jerusalem (LXX), you and your fathers [forefathers], your kings and your princes, and the people of the land?” The implied answer is that YHWH was fully aware of what the people did and purposed to hold an accounting with them for their unfaithfulness to him. (44:21 [51:21, LXX]) “And YHWH could no longer bear the evil of the [people’s] deeds and the abominations that [they] committed.” On account of their evil deeds or corrupt actions and their abominations or disgusting idolatrous practices, he did not shield them from military invasion and conquest. Their land was then transformed into a desolation and a waste [something untrodden (LXX), a land through which no one passed] and a curse [or an object of cursing], without inhabitant.” It had remained a desolated place to the very day or time that Jeremiah spoke to the people. (44:22 [51:22, LXX])

Calamity had befallen the people and the effects thereof continued to that very day or time because they had “burned incense” (to nonexistent deities), “sinned against YHWH,” did not “hear,” listen to, or heed the “voice of YHWH” (as made known through his prophets) and did not walk or conduct themselves according to his law, his statutes, and his testimonies or his solemn charges. (44:23 [51:23, LXX]) Jeremiah called upon “all the people,” including “all the women,” to “hear” or listen to the “word of YHWH.” This word or message was for “all of Judah” or all the Judeans who were then dwelling in the “land of Egypt.” (44:24 [51:24, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

“YHWH of hosts” (the God with hosts of angels in his service), the “God of Israel,” directed his message through Jeremiah to the men and their wives. The women had spoken with their “mouth,” expressing their determination to engage in idolatrous practices. With their “hands,” they had then fulfilled or carried out their words, for they used their hands to do what was needed to adore the queen of the heavens. The women are quoted as saying, “We will indeed perform [literally, to perform, we will perform] our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of the heavens and to pour out libations to her.” The response from YHWH indicated that they might as well go ahead to confirm their vows and perform them. In the wording of a number of modern translations, this aspect is expressed more specifically than it is in the Hebrew text. “Very well! keep your vows, fulfill your vows!” (NAB, revised edition) “So go ahead and carry out your promises and vows to her!” (NLT) (44:25 [51:25, LXX])

The people’s insistence on continuing with idolatrous practices would end any relationship they may have believed they had with YHWH. He called upon all the Judeans who were then living in the “land of Egypt to hear his “word” or message. The initial “look” that introduces this message serves to focus attention on it. With a solemn oath made in his own “great name,” or as the Supreme Sovereign and only true and living God, YHWH declared, “No more will my name be invoked in all the land of Egypt by the mouth of any man of Judah, saying, As the Lord YHWH lives.” Judeans will either not survive the punitive judgment that would be expressed against them or YHWH would not recognize them as belonging to him in the event they swore in his name. (44:26 [51:26, LXX])

The initial “look” focuses attention on the seriousness of the punitive judgment the idolatrous people would experience. Through Jeremiah, YHWH declared, “I am watching over them for evil and not for good, and all the men of Judah in the land of Egypt will be consumed.” They would come to their end through the “sword” of warfare and the “famine” resulting from the food shortage that military invasion, siege, and conquest would effect. (44:27 [51:27, LXX]) Only a few would escape from the wielding of the sword and be able to return to the “land of Judah [the former territory of the kingdom of Judah] from the land of Egypt.” All the “remnant of Judah” who came to the “land of Egypt to reside there” as aliens would then come to know whether YHWH’s word or theirs would stand or be confirmed or established as true. (44:28 [51:28, LXX])

Through Jeremiah, YHWH made known a “sign” indicating that he would “visit” the people in Egypt (literally, “in this place”), giving his attention to them to punish them for their unfaithfulness to him. They would then “know” that his words that had been directed against them for “evil” or calamity would indeed “stand” (literally, “to stand, will stand”) or would come true. (44:29 [51:29, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

The “sign” was that YHWH would be giving “Pharaoh Hophra [Ouaphre (LXX); Apries (Herodotus)], the king of Egypt, into the hand [or power] of his enemies and into the hand of those seeking his soul [or life], just as he had given Zedekiah the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon who was his enemy and sought his soul” or life. In both cases, YHWH did the giving by permitting it to take place. In the case of Hophra, the enemies are not identified as King Nebuchadnezzar and the warriors under his command. The ancient historian Herodotus (fifth century BCE) wrote about the developments that led to a bad end for Apries (Hophra). (Histories, II, 161, 162, 169) He launched a major attack on Cyrene, an attack that proved to be disastrous for the Egyptian warriors. Considering Apries to have been deliberate in sending them to their death, the Egyptians rebelled against him. To pacify the rebels, Apries sent Amasis to negotiate with them. On that occasion, one of the men placed a helmet on the head of Amasis and declared that he did so as a sign of kingship for him. Amasis later led an army of Egyptians against Apries whose military force consisted of mercenaries. Apries had thought that his position was so secure that not even a god could depose him, but his mercenaries were outnumbered. Although they fought well, they were defeated, and Apries was captured and taken to Saïs to what had been his own palace but was then occupied by Amasis. Initially, Amasis treated Apries well, but the Egyptians complained, insisting it was wrong for him to look well after someone who had proved himself to be his and their bitter enemy. Therefore, Amasis handed Apries over to them. They then strangled him and buried him in his family tomb. (44:30 [51:30, LXX])


In verse 1 of chapter 51, the Septuagint does not include Memphis.

The Septuagint in verse 9 of chapter 51 mentions the “evils of the kings of Judah” and then continues, “and the evils of your rulers, and the evils of your wives, which they did in the land of Judah and outside of Jerusalem.”

The wording of verse 11 of chapter 51 in the Septuagint is shorter than is that of the Hebrew text in verse 11 of chapter 44. “Therefore, thus said the Lord, Look, I am setting my face …” The sentence is then completed in verse 12. “… to destroy all the remaining ones in Egypt, and they will fall …”

Verse 15 indicates that a crowd of Judeans was present when Jeremiah spoke to the people. This suggests that they were there for a prearranged gathering. Perhaps it was an idolatrous festival to honor the “queen of the heavens.”

The Septuagint, in verse 24 of chapter 51, does not include a reference to “all of Judah.”

Verse 29 of chapter 51 introduces the “sign” with fewer words than in the Hebrew text of verse 29 of chapter 44. “And this [will be] the sign for you that I will visit you for evil” or calamity.