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Jeremiah 44:29-30

29. And this shall be a sign unto you, saith the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for evil:

29. Et hoc vobis signum, dicit Jehovah, quod visitabo ego super vos in hoc loco, ut sciatis quod stando stabunt sermones mei super vos in malum.

30. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuehadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.

30. Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego trado Pharaonem Ophra regem Aegypti in manum inimicorum ejus, et in manum quaerentium animam ejus; quemadmodum tradidi Zedechiam regem Jehudah in manum Nabuchadnezer regis Babylonis, inimici ejus et quaerentis animam ejus.


Jeremiah seals his prophecy by adding a sign which yet was to be coincident with it. It was not then, as they say, a premonstrative sign. And doubtless the Jews were wholly unworthy that God should shew them anything extraordinary; but this sign was only added, that they might know that they in vain trusted in the protection of Egypt, and also that every excuse might be taken away.

This brief notice may perhaps be obscure. We shall therefore refer to a distinction that exists: some signs precede the time and order of things, but others are connected with the events themselves. The signs which precede events avail to prepare the minds of the faithful, so that they may not doubt but that God will do what he has promised, as when Gideon sought a sign from God, and it was granted to him; the ground was wet with dew, while the fleece remained dry; and then the fleece remained dry when the ground was wet. (Judges 6:36-40.) By this sign Gideon was encouraged to proceed in his course, when before doubt made him inert Gideon was torpid, but when he saw by this miracle that victory would be given him, he boldly undertook the work assigned to him. The greatest portion of signs are of this kind. But there are other signs which do not precede events, but shew that when the time is fulfilled the events have been truly predicted, as when God said to Moses,

“This sign I give thee, that after ye have come out of Egypt ye shall sacrifice to me in this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12)

Neither Moses nor the people could know anything by that sign before they had departed from Egypt. But after they were delivered they there gave thanks on the third day to God their Redeemer.

Hence signs refer sometimes to past time, and sometimes to what is future. Those which refer to the future are such as we call premonstrative, as the case was with Gideon, who took up arms with alacrity, because he knew that he was fighting under God’s banner; and he was fully persuaded of a victory when he understood that God would be his leader.

This sign then had a reference to what was future. But the sign given to Moses was retrospective, for the people more clearly saw that God had been their deliverer, because it had been predicted to Moses when yet in the desert that the Israelites would come there; and that place, even Mount Sinai, had been already destined for that worship which afterwards was presented to God. The people at the time considered this, and by calling to mind what had been predicted, they were more and more confirmed as to their faith in God’s favor. Such was also the sign mentioned here, This shall be a sign, says Jeremiah, even that God would deliver ­Pharaoh-hophrah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar his enemy

Had any one then asked the Prophet why he spoke of the king of Egypt, he would have said, “Now indeed this sign remains as it were buried, its use is not seen; but God will in due time shew that I have been entrusted with his commands, for whatever I predict of the king of Egypt shall be fulfilled.” This sign was also added, for the thing seemed incredible, that is, that Egypt could be conquered, which was strongly fortified on every side. As, then, there was no entrance open for enemies, especially from Pelusium, the Jews thought that they dwelt, as they say, within the circle of the moon, and that they were placed beyond the reach of danger. Since, then, they confided in the protection of Egypt, and thought the land unassailable, this their confidence was laughed to scorn.

And the Prophet expressly mentions the surname of Pharaoh, which was Hophra, the meaning of which is not known to me; and it is probably an Egyptic word, for there is no such word in Hebrew: and it is not known whence the word Pharaoh has come. We know that all the kings of Egypt had this name, as the emperors of Rome were called Caesars, in memory of Julius Caesar. The kings of Egypt were in the same manner called Pharaohs. But each had his own name to distinguish him from the rest; and this king was called Hophra.

Now what the Prophet predicted, if we believe Josephus, was fulfilled about the fourth year after they had departed into Egypt. For Nebuchadnezzar went down again into Egypt, after having spoiled the Moabites and the Ammonites, and at length took possession of that kingdom. But it was a hateful message, when Jeremiah predicted the ruin of the kingdom. Nor is there a doubt, but that danger appeared before his eyes, when he saw that he addressed ungodly men, who a hundred times wished him to be destroyed. When therefore he dared to prophesy against the king, the whole people, and the land, we hence see how great must have been his firmness and his courage, still boldly to discharge his office; for he was not terrified by danger, but promulgated whatever God had committed to him. We then have here a singular example of magnanimity; for the Prophet hesitated not to risk his own life while obeying God.

By saying, I will deliver the king of Egypt into the hands of his enemies, and of them who seek his life, he intimates that there would be fatal enemies, though he speaks only of one enemy, but he connects the army with its head: I will deliver ­Pharaoh then into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, as I have delivered Zedekiah into the hand of his enemy and of him who sought his life; as though he had said, “The condition of the king of Egypt will not be better than that of Zedekiah.”: For Zedekiah occupied that sacred throne of which God had testified, “Here will I dwell;” and further, “On the throne of David shall one of his posterity ever continue.”

We hence see, that the Prophet reasons from the greater to the less; for if God had not spared King Zedekiah, who was, as it were, a sacred person, nothing better could be hoped for as to the king of Egypt, who reigned only in a manner usual and common. The sum of what is said then is, that the Jews had been already sufficiently taught by facts how true his prophecies were; for he had predicted what at length happened to Zedekiah; but his word was not believed. “It is now the time,” he says, “when the Jews must know that I am God’s faithful servant, as God had added a proof in the case of Zedekiah, which ought to have remained fixed in their memory.” Now, if they thought that the king of Egypt was beyond danger, they ascribed great injustice to God, who had not delivered Zedekiah, who had been anointed in his name, and by his command. This then is the import of the passage.

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