`146 Historical Lessons from Yirmiya - Part 5
Chananya Weissman
October 14, 2021

After murdering Gedalya and many others, Yishmael ben Nesanya took the remnant of Judea hostage and was leading them to Ammon. Yochanan ben Koreach had warned Gedalya, but was dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. When he heard what happened, he gathered the other militiamen and chased after Yishmael's group. Yochanan's men overtook Yishmael in Givon.

When the captives saw Yochanan and his men, they rejoiced and joined his camp (41:13-14). Yishmael escaped with eight men and absconded to Ammon. That is the last we hear of him.

One observation that bears mention is that the captives greatly outnumbered their captors, as is generally the case. However, they did not put up any resistance until a formidable group of fighters came to rescue them. This is understandable; it is uncertain that they would have been able to overwhelm their captors, who were armed and experienced fighters. When Yochanan arrived, the balance of power shifted, and the people immediately joined his side.

Most of humanity finds itself in a similar situation today. They are being held hostage by a ruling class that has turned totally against them, policed by heartless enforcers who display contempt for the people they are supposed to protect. Their God-given freedoms have been snatched away and held on a string before them as privileges, to be temporarily earned through obedience to their slave masters. The world has become a large prison, in which the inmates are granted time to exercise in the yard, and, if they behave, occasional parole.

It seems most unlikely that those who have seized this unfathomable control over humanity will relinquish their grip voluntarily or peacefully. One cannot expect oppressed people to free themselves of this tyranny when they lack weapons and organization. However, if and when the balance of power shifts, and there can be some semblance of a fair fight, they may well rejoice and join those who come to rescue them.


After the remnant of Judea was rescued by Yochanan ben Koreach, they faced a dilemma. They feared the Babylonians would believe they were complicit in the murder of Gedalya, whom the Babylonians had appointed as governor. Remaining in Israel was extremely dangerous. Yochanan and the remnant of Judea decided to emigrate to Egypt.

Leaving aside the biblical prohibition of Jews returning to Egypt, the parameters of which are the subject of dispute (naturally), Egypt was a dubious destination in any case. Tzidkiyahu had revolted against Nevuchadnetzar because he counted on the Egyptians to defend Israel against the Babylonians. In the moment of truth, however, the Egyptians were nowhere to be found (37:7, Rashi, Eicha Rabba 4:20).

The prophets consistently condemned Israel's reliance on foreign nations to protect it; not once was this portrayed as anything other than a grievous betrayal against Hashem. This “pragmatic” reliance on foreign nations directly led to Israel's defeat, often at the hands of these very nations. This is one more fundamental lesson that most Jews, even “religious” ones, have failed to internalize to this day.

Now Yochanan and the remnant of Judea planned on fleeing Israel for Egypt, hoping to find refuge there. The situation in Israel was extremely precarious, while Egypt had thus far been untouched by the war, famine, and plagues that had devastated Israel. Life in galus was far more attractive. It was the pragmatic choice, and surely God would support the pragmatic choice.

Before making the move, however, they sought a rabbinic stamp of approval. Yochanan, his men, and all the people approached Yirmiyahu. They begged him to pray for them and find out what Hashem wanted them to do. The people repeatedly pledged to do whatever Hashem told them, whether they liked it or not (42:1-6).

Only after ten days did Hashem give Yirmiyahu a message. Perhaps this was to give the people a chance to calm down, collect their thoughts, and allay their fears. After all, people do not make wise decisions when in a state of fear (as we see all too well).

The message was unequivocal. If the Jews remained in Israel, Hashem would build them back up, for He had enough of the evil that had befallen them. They should not fear the king of Bavel; Hashem would protect them.

If, however, the Jews moved to Egypt, thinking life there would be better, they would arouse Hashem's fury. The very sword, famine, and pestilence they thought they were escaping would find them there. They would be destroyed in Egypt, never to see Israel again. Yirmiyahu hammered this warning home several times. He concluded by saying that he knew their entreaties to him and their pledge to Hashem were insincere, and that the Jews would disregard his words (42:7-22).

The remnant of Judah, from small to great, responded to Yirmiyahu as follows: “You are speaking lies! Hashem our God did not send you to tell us not to come to Egypt to live there. Baruch ben Nerya turned you against us in order to deliver us into the hands of the Chaldeans, so they can kill us and exile us to Bavel.” (43:1-3)

This response would be comical if it weren't so tragic. Yirmiyahu had a perfect track record of unpopular prophecies coming true, and the people had unanimously pledged to heed his words no matter what. Didn't matter. Yirmiyahu told them what they didn't want to hear, so they accused him of being a false prophet who was spreading “dangerous misinformation” and conspiring to kill them.

Yochanan and his group took Yirmiyahu and Baruch captive and went to Egypt.

The Jews who lived through this ancient Holocaust might have wondered where God was in all of it. God was busy giving them yet another chance, in spite of it all.

After the remnant of Judea settled in Egypt, Hashem sent them a final warning. All they had done to this point, all the prophetic warnings they had defied, was bad enough. Not only had they moved to Egypt, they were now serving idolatry there. Yirmiyahu warned them that Hashem would utterly destroy them, save a tiny number of survivors (44:1-14).

It is not surprising at this point that the people disregarded this prophecy as well. What is surprising is the claim they made in doing so. They said they would not listen to Yirmiyahu's words, but would continue to serve idolatry in the tradition of their forefathers, kings, and leaders. While they had served idolatry, all had been well, and the problems only started when they had stopped (44:15-19). Radak notes that they had never stopped this “tradition”. He says the people rationalized that they had become lax in their idolatrous observance, angering the gods and precipitating their troubles (44:18).

After this ludicrous twisting of reality, their fate is finally sealed.

We read this story and wonder how people could be so stupid, so dense, so completely out of their minds. How could they accuse Yirmiyahu of being a false prophet? He had hit home run after home run, while all the false prophets had been thoroughly proven wrong. How could they witness all that had befallen Israel and conclude that they hadn't served idolatry enough, that that was the problem?

Then we see people all around us continuing to trust pathological liars, no matter how many times they are caught in lies or otherwise steer them wrong. The words of these false prophets directly correlate to a steady deterioration in their lives. Everything they advised people would be good for their health has only harmed it. Everything they promised would lead to a restoration of the freedom that was seized from them has only furthered the tyranny.

People all around us trust the pathological liars, the godless “experts”, the heartless monsters. They get injected with crap that is supposed to keep them healthy, but it ruins their health. Instead of drawing the obvious conclusion – the shot is crap – they conclude that their health was ruined despite the shot, not because of it. They need more shots, and more shots, an endless supply of shots to boost all the previous shots that have failed and damaged their bodies in so many ways.

They need more masks to obstruct their breathing and dehumanize them, and more lockdowns to sacrifice everyone but the rich and powerful on the altar of “public health”, and more isolation from perfectly healthy people because you can never be too afraid for your own good.

Normal religious life is over forever. The only mitzva that matters is to lower one's chance of getting the virus du jour, however slightly, no matter the sacrifice.

They haven't served idolatry enough. That's the problem.

At this point in the period of Yirmiyahu, any Jew who had any hope of waking up had already woken up. The rest had twisted reality and corrupted their minds to such an extent that nothing, but nothing would turn them around. Show them one person who died because of idolatry. Prove it! There's no evidence!

God did not destroy them. God gave them chance after chance, warning after warning. They blew every chance and defied every warning, a perfect record of poor choices. They destroyed themselves. God only took them out of their misery.

The book of Yirmiya is not widely studied, even in yeshivas and seminaries. Most rabbis are ignorant of Tanach; in-depth Talmud study is where the glory is. When I was a student I was reprimanded in two different yeshivos for “wasting my time” studying Tanach.

Clearly Chazal and the great commentators throughout Jewish history did not consider Tanach a waste of time. The book of Yirmiya and the rest of Tanach are filled with urgent lessons to guide us through these times, and all times. There is virtually nothing “original” I added to these expositions, nor anything too profound; the messages jump right out of the text.

As was historically the case, the false prophets outnumber the people of integrity, but the truth is clear for all who wish to see it. I hope this series strengthens those who are faltering and wakes up those who can still be saved.

The remnant of Judea took every booster of idolatry until the bitter end. We are the remnant of the remnant. Let us be saved.