The people to whom Jeremiah was primarily sent, clearly identified: The Lord says, like in Jeremiah 1:17, “GO” and “CRY”, but to whom (Jer. 2:1)? Cohesively, and in concert with the aforementioned contextual scope, Jeremiah’s prophesying in Jeremiah 2:1-3:5 is directed to the King, Princes, Priests, and people during the reign of Jehoiakim. Proving this, the people of this time were “trusting in Egypt” (Jer. 2:18-19, 36-37), loving strangers (Jer. 2:25), given to idolatry (Jer. 2:27), and seared in their consciences (Jer. 2:35) in that they were full of excuses which appeared reasonable to them that they couldn’t serve the LORD (Jer. 2:31-32). This certainly describes the early part of the reign of Jehoiakim! And, completely contrary to this description, Josiah went to war against Egypt (being filled with contempt, not love!), zealously purged all idolatry from the Lands of Israel and Judah (rather than serving idols!), and was of a tender heart and sensitive conscience in the service of God without excuse (disobedience was so unreasonable to him!).
Evidently, therefore, Jeremiah 2:1-3:5 was directed to the people of Jehoiakim’s reign during the first 4 years. Why the first 4 years, you wonder? Firstly, Jehoiakim was chosen and installed as King by Pharoah-nechoh and, since then, the two peoples were in a friendly relationship concerning the tributary agreement (2 Kings 23:33-34); in this dynamic they were “trusting Egypt” rather than warring against her (Jer. 2:18-19, 36-37), but, much more, they would trust in Egypt as the power to defeat the Armies of Babylon when they arrive. Contrary to Josiah, his father, Jehoiakim was satisfied with and drawn after Egypt’s idolatrous ways, trusting in them too (Jer. 2:27). Secondarily, the bulk of Jeremiah’s early prophesying was during the early part of Jehoiakim’s reign, specifically the first 4 years of his reign while they were under Egyptian sovereignty, because a significant scroll was used in the writing of Jeremiah’s prophecy that had taken place leading up to the 4th year of Jehoiakim’s reign, at which, we are told, a scroll of the prophesying of Jeremiah was read before the King and then burned (Jer. 36:1-32).
Note: the period of time when Zedekiah trusted in Egypt and pursued their aid was over a decade later than this time, and by the latter time Jehoiakim was already set-forth as an example of God’s wrath against such actions according to the surety of the word of the LORD, which Jehoiakim burnt in a fire, thus it seems inconceivable that the prophesying of Jeremiah so early in the placement of this book would refer to Zedekiah’s comparatively transient pursuit of Egypt.
Strong appeals were made to the people that they would not trust in Egypt, and here’s the foremost reason why: Remember, Jehoahaz was taken away by the King of Egypt and Jehoiakim was installed in his place, and since then the Kingdom of Judah was a tributary to Egypt (2 Kings 23:31-37). Egypt was the presiding in power over the region and Babylon was on its way (Jer. 6:22-23), thus the eyes of Judah were soon to fasten upon the unfolding conflict: Babylon against Egypt. What was the message? DON’T TRUST IN EGYPT! Elaborate appeals were being cried in the ears of Jerusalem (Jer. 2:1-2) with repetition, urgency, and boldness because Babylon’s arrival was imminent. The Prophet was likely running to and fro to deliver the message, like former prophecies. Think of it, my reader! When the unbelieving people saw the Armies of the North, just as Jeremiah had foretold, they would have hoped that the rest of what Jeremiah had been prophesying would not come to pass with it! Babylon’s arrival was but the tip of the iceberg, truly. Before long Babylon would be in the region, surrounding Jerusalem, and fighting against Egypt (Dan. 1:1, Jer. 46:2), and then Jeremiah’s prophecies would need to be reckoned with all sobriety and fear, the impenitent people thinking, “What if…!”.
With a significant amount of time to brace themselves, the appeal was being made: DON’T TRUST IN EGYPT! With perfect articulation of what is ahead, the appeal was being made: DON’T TRUST IN EGYPT! With much affection, and as an estranged Husband, the people’s regenerated estate at the first was painfully remembered by the LORD (Jer. 2:2-3) and their recent backsliding and degeneration is rehearsed (Jer. 2:21). Shockingly, the Pastors and Priests of the people knew of no such backsliding! Meanwhile, as the Lord had utterly departed from the people… the Pastors and Priests did not even think to ask, “Where is the Lord?” (Jer. 2:6-8). They were given to idolatry and whoredom with Egypt (Jer. 2:20, 25-32). Idolatry was convenient and undemanding, you see. They were covetous and overcome with the cares of this life, they had no time for God (Jer. 2:31-32). Meanwhile, the Prophet Jeremiah watched Jerusalem burn in prophetic visions foretelling the near future (Jer. 2:15)! The main thrust of it all is: DON’T TRUST IN EGYPT!
“And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” – Jer. 2:18-19
“Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria. Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.” – Jer. 2:36-37
The Lord pointed to the recent past where, indeed, the people’s confidence in Assyria was rejected by God and they were ashamed. Bringing this to memory, the LORD attested: “thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Asssyria.” What happened with Assyria? Ahaz, King of Judah, sought their aid while being attacked by the Edomites and the Philistines, and instead of Assyria helping him he attacked and impoverished him (2 Chron. 28:16-25). Furthermore, during Hezekiah’s reign, Ahaz’s son, Assyria destroyed and scattered the nation of Israel and almost did the same to the King of Judah. Only one Defensed City of Judah remained intact before God came to Hezekiah’s aid by slaying the mighty men of Assyria’s army as they encamp around Jerusalem. In short, Israel and Judah were ashamed of their trust in Assyria! Even so, the LORD declared, they would be ashamed of their trust in Egypt. The Lord had already declared at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, speaking of Egypt and all other foreign Nations: “the Nation and Kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the King of Babylon, that nation will I punish…until I have consumed them by his hand” (Jer. 27:8).
The events leading up to this point in time were essential to understand. After Jerusalem had been searched and found without any hope of mercy (Jer. 5:1-5) and, notably, a promise of restoration was presented as a beacon of hope (Jer. 17:19-27), and, meanwhile, in the midst of delivering these two prophecies, because Jeremiah accomplished the search and didn’t find one man (Jer. 4:1-6:30 & 2:1-3:5), this prophecy would have served as the last message of this manner delivered to the common people of the City of Jerusalem.
The end of it all was clearly detailed in the prophetic declaration, “they made his Land waste: his Cities are burned without inhabitant” (Jer. 2:15), but the time was not yet. Remember, the LORD was bringing judgment with increasing increments in hopes that the people would be corrected. At the execution of each stage of chastisement, the LORD would look and listen for the people’s repentance, hoping, “It may be”, …and what happened? Prophecy revealed that at the blast of Divine Judgment the people would find their gods silent to them and unable to help… then, the LORD said that they would cry to Him, saying, “Arise and save us!”, but the LORD would respond, saying, “Wherefore will ye plead with Me? Ye all have transgressed against Me” (Jer. 2:27-29). Because of insincerity and steadfast impenitence, the people were impregnated with more woes. As time went on and trouble endured, the people would say to God: “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto Me, My Father, Thou art the guide of my youth? Will He reserve His anger for ever? Will He keep it to the end” (Jer. 3:4-5)? And, alas! What was spoken once would be reality theretofore, the LORD lamenting: “In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction…” (Jer. 2:30). The impenitent hearts would be softened, but it was too late.