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If You Weren't Going to Listen, Why'd You Ask?
The armies of Yochanan and the other officers, along with the people they had rescued, approached Jeremiah. They asked him to pray to G-d for them. They were few in number and unsure whether they should remain in Israel or flee to Egypt. Jeremiah agreed to pray to G-d and let them know whatever He replied. The people said that they would faithfully obey whatever instructions they received. Ten days later, G-d spoke to Jeremiah, who gathered Yochanan and the other officers.
G-d had said that if the people remained in the land, He would build them up. They should not fear the wrath of the Babylonians because G-d would protect them, as His wrath had been spent. G-d will have mercy on the people, as would Nebuchadnezzar, who would allow them to return to Jerusalem. But if the people choose to leave the land, fleeing to Egypt under the assumption that it would be safer, that would be against G-d's will.
Jeremiah urged the people to listen to G-d. If they went to Egypt in order to avoid the sword and famine, they would ultimately meet those fates there. This would happen to all who fled to Egypt; they would die by sword, famine or plague, without exception. If they went to Egypt, then G-d would execute the same wrath against them as He had in Jerusalem; they would never return.
Even though they asked Jeremiah to speak to G-d, it was obvious to him that they still planned on going to Egypt. Jeremiah warned the people that if they didn't listen to G-d, it would end in disaster.
Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz