Refusing to Take Refuge in God.

The word that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to strike the land of Egypt:

“Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol;
    proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes;
say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared,
    for the sword shall devour around you.’
Why are your mighty ones face down?
    They do not stand
    because the Lord thrust them down.
He made many stumble, and they fell,
    and they said one to another,
‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people
    and to the land of our birth,
    because of the sword of the oppressor.’
Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
    ‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’

“As I live, declares the King,
    whose name is the Lord of hosts,
like Tabor among the mountains
    and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come.
Prepare yourselves baggage for exile,
    O inhabitants of Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste,
    a ruin, without inhabitant.

“A beautiful heifer is Egypt,
    but a biting fly from the north has come upon her.
Even her hired soldiers in her midst
    are like fattened calves;
yes, they have turned and fled together;
    they did not stand,
for the day of their calamity has come upon them,
    the time of their punishment.

“She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away;
    for her enemies march in force
and come against her with axes
    like those who fell trees.
They shall cut down her forest,
declares the Lord,
    though it is impenetrable,
because they are more numerous than locusts;
    they are without number.
The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame;
    she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.” Jeremiah 46:13-24 ESV

Egypt’s defeat at battle of Carchemish would just be the beginning of her misery. Not long after his victory, Prince Nebuchadnezzar would return to Babylon, where he would receive his coronation as king. replacing his father Nabopolassar. Then, the newly crowned king of Babylon would set his sights on the land of Palestine, subduing Canaan and then moving west to once again to battle with Pharaoh, but this time Nebuchadnezzar would bring the fight to the land of Egypt. And the outcome of this conflict would be worse than the first. All of this would take place in 568-567 B.C., in exactly the manner God had prophesied.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, God had warned, But suppose a nation or a kingdom will not be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suppose it will not submit to the yoke of servitude to him. I, the Lord, affirm that I will punish that nation. I will use the king of Babylon to punish it with war, starvation, and disease until I have destroyed it.” (Jeremiah 28:8 NLT). A few verses earlier, in that same chapter, God refers to “my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon” (Jeremiah 28:6 NLT). Nebuchadnezzar was an instrument in the hand of God to accomplish His divine will concerning the nations. 

Just as God had previously warned the nations of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon; He would warn the cities of Egypt. He specifically mentions Migdol, Memphis and Tahpanhes. These happened to be major cities in Egypt and are the same cities to which the refugees from Judah had fled.

They went on to Egypt because they refused to obey the Lord, and came to Tahpanhes. – Jeremiah 43:7 NLT

The Lord spoke to Jeremiah concerning all the Judeans who were living in the land of Egypt, those in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis, and in the region of southern Egypt. – Jeremiah 44:1 NLT

Once again, these prophecies were intended as a warning to the people of Judah more than they. were for the Egyptians. Jeremiah would have shared these pronouncements from God with his own people as a reminder that their disobedience was going to have consequences. They had run away to Egypt against the will of God. They had placed their faith in a foreign land rather than listening to the words of Yahweh. And God had already warned them what was coming.

“Because of this, the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, ‘I am determined to bring disaster on you, even to the point of destroying all the Judeans here. I will see to it that all the Judean remnant that was determined to go and live in the land of Egypt will be destroyed. Here in the land of Egypt they will fall in battle or perish from starvation. People of every class will die in war or from starvation. They will become an object of horror and ridicule, an example of those who have been cursed and that people use in pronouncing a curse. I will punish those who live in the land of Egypt with war, starvation, and disease just as I punished Jerusalem.’” – Jeremiah 44:11-13 NLT

But the people had no intention of returning to the land of Judah. They were stubborn and refused to heed Jeremiah’s warning. So now, God was making it all official. He was predicting the actual events that would bring about their judgment and Egypt’s fall. And God indicates that the many gods of Egypt would be helpless and hopeless in the days ahead.

Why are your mighty ones face down?
    They do not stand
    because the Lord thrust them down… – Jeremiah 46:15 ESV

They would be exposed for what they were: lifeless, powerless fabrications of men’s minds. They were not gods at all and therefore, they would be no help at all in the day of trouble. Egypt would experience the very same fate that Judah had. Their great cities would fall. Their people would die as a result of starvation or by the sword. Their troops would flee before the Babylonians. And eventually, thousands of the Egyptians would taken back to Babylon as slaves. Even the mercenary troops that Egypt had hired to assist them would turn and run like fattened calves. Their lives would be offered like sacrifices before the Lord of Hosts.

The description is one of utter defeat and devastation. The great cities of Egypt would be looted of all treasure and then burned to the ground. Its once formidable army would fall like a house of cards. The many gods of Egypt would prove useless, becoming little more than booty for the Babylonians to haul off when they returned home. Even the forests of Egypt would be cut down to make the siege engines used to destroy the walls or its cities. Everything would be laid waste. And the people of Judah would find that their chosen place of refuge was anything but that. They had run from Judah because they feared the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. But God had told them that if they stayed in Judah, He would have protected them. It would have gone well for them. But they had chosen to ignore God’s promises. They had made the fateful decision to seek refuge somewhere else. And now, they would pay the price for the disobedience and lack of faith in God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson