44:1 This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in [Jeremiah named several Jewish settlements…] Lower Egypt—in Migdol [located near the Red Sea; Hebrews camped there after leaving Egypt (cf. Num. 33:7)], Tahpanhes [located in the eastern Nile Delta region] and Memphis [located south of modern Cairo]—and in Upper Egypt:
44:2 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah [the tragic results of religious apostasy that had befallen the Judean homeland should have served as a warning to them; they should have learned from the mistakes of others]. Today they lie deserted and in ruins
44:3 because [the reason for “the great disaster” brought on Jerusalem and Judah] of the evil [idolatrous practices] they [the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah] have done. They provoked me to anger by burning incense [can also mean “to offer sacrifices of animals” (cf. Lev. 1:9; 3:11; 1 Sam. 2:16)] and by worshiping other gods [these gods had become the focal point of the people’s allegiance] that neither they nor you nor your fathers ever knew.
44:4 Again and again [literally “rising early and sending”; indicates persistence] I sent my servants the prophets, who said [note that God’s message was always unmistakably clear…], ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’
44:5 But [in spite of a clear word from God] they did not listen or pay attention [literally “incline their ear”]; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods.
44:6 Therefore [because they failed to heed God’s repeated warnings], my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.
44:7 “Now this is what the LORD God Almighty [“the God of Hosts”; emphasizes the Lord’s sovereign power and shows He controlled the armies that brought on His people the consequences of their unfaithfulness], the God of Israel, says: Why bring such great disaster on yourselves by cutting off [destruction was a consequence of persistence in idolatry] from [note description of the entire community…] Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant?
44:8 Why provoke me to anger with what your hands have made [their idols], burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? [note consequences of persisting in idolatry…] You will destroy yourselves and make yourselves an object of cursing and reproach among all the nations on earth.
44:9 Have you forgotten [a short memory can be a dangerous thing] the wickedness committed by your fathers and by the kings and queens of Judah and [the people of Judah could not blame their woes on the sins of others alone] the wickedness committed by you [personal] and your wives in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem?
44:10 To this day they [includes past generations] have not humbled themselves [literally “crushed themselves”] or shown reverence [fear], nor have they followed my law and the decrees I set before you and your fathers.
44:11 “Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster on you [literally “set my face against you”] and to destroy all Judah.
44:12 I will take away the remnant of Judah who were determined [literally “set their faces”] to go to Egypt to settle there. They will all [“from the least to the greatest”] perish in Egypt; they will fall by the sword or die from famine. From the least to the greatest, they will die by sword or famine. They will become an object of cursing and horror, of condemnation and reproach.
44:13 I will punish those who live in Egypt with the sword, famine and plague, as I punished Jerusalem.
44:14 None of the remnant of Judah who have gone to live in Egypt will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah, to which they long to return and live; none will return except a few fugitives.”
44:15 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah,
44:16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD!
44:17 [the people defended their practice of idolatry] We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will [because they were convinced that worshiping the Queen of Heaven would bring prosperity] burn incense to the Queen of Heaven [goddess of fertility, sexual love, maternity] and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers [a reminder of the fact that idolatry had been continuous among the Hebrews], our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of [indicates that shrines to Canaanite deities were situated along the streets] Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.
Note: The Queen of Heaven was known by several names:
• To the Hebrews Asherah
• To the Babylonians Ishtar
• To the Canaanites Astarte
• To the Greeks Aphrodite
• To the Romans Venus
44:18 But ever since we stopped [allusion to Josiah’s reforms (cf. 2 Kings 23:4-25)] burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, [note that the people thought their idols had done more for them than God] we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
44:19 The women added, “When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands [the women claimed to have their husbands’ permission as required by law (Num. 30:3-16)] know that we were making cakes like her image and pouring out drink offerings to her?”
44:20 Then Jeremiah said [Jeremiah told the people that God had not failed them as they supposed, but that they had failed God] to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him,
44:21 “Did not the LORD remember and think about the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your fathers, your kings and your officials and the people of the land?
44:22 When the LORD could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became an object of cursing and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today.
44:23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the LORD and have not obeyed him or followed his law or his decrees or his stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”
44:24 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, including the women, “Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah in Egypt.
44:25 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives have shown by your actions [literally “have spoken with your mouths and with your hands”] what you promised when you said, ‘We will certainly carry out the vows we made to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven.’ [note sarcasm…] “Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows!
44:26 But [there are consequences to persisting in doing wrong] hear the word of the LORD, all Jews living in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear [the people had forfeited such a right by embracing idolatry; cf. Ex. 20:3-4], “As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives.”
44:27 For I am watching over them for harm [their beliefs, choices, and conduct guaranteed disaster], not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed.
44:28 Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand—mine or theirs.
44:29 “‘This will be the sign [to emphasize the certainty of punishment of the Jews in Egypt] to you that I will punish you in this place [the place where they had sinned against God],’ declares the LORD, ‘so that you will know that my threats of harm against you will surely stand.’
44:30 This is what the LORD says: ‘I am going to hand Pharaoh Hophra [reigned from 588–569 BC; Hophra had declared “Not even a god can move me from my throne.”] king of Egypt over to his enemies who seek his life [Pharaoh Hophra was indeed overthrown as Jeremiah had prophesied, yet the Jewish settlers in Egypt still refused to heed Jeremiah’s warnings], just as I handed Zedekiah king of Judah over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who was seeking his life.’”