LONGER NOTE ON JEREMIAH 42–44.
Note Is From The Companion Bible
"THE JEWS WHICH DWELL IN THE LAND OF EGYPT" (Jeremiah 44:1).
As the end of the kingdom of Judah drew near, many of the Jews were determined to go into Egypt; and this in spite of the warning given by Jehovah through Jeremiah.
In Jeremiah 44 we have the latest prophecy concerning those who had gone thither; which declared that they should not escape, but should be consumed there (44:27, etc.). This prophecy must have been fulfilled concerning that generation; but their successors, or others that subsequently followed, continued there a little longer, until the time came for Egypt itself to fall into the hands of Babylon.
Recent discoveries of Papyri in the ruins of Elephantine (an island in the Nile, opposite Assouan), dating from the fifth century B.C., bear witness to two great facts:—
(1) That Jews were then dwelling there (in 424-405 B.C.).
(2) That they were observing the Feast of the Passover, "as it is written in the law of Moses".
The importance of these Papyri lies in the fact that modern critics confidently assert and assume that the greater part of the Pentateuch was not written till after the Exile; and even then neither collectively as a whole, nor separately in its distinctive books.
In Appendix 92 it is shown that all through the prophets (who lived at the time of the kings in whose reigns they prophesied) there is a constant reference to the books of the Pentateuch, which conclusively proves that their contents were well known both to the prophets themselves and those whom they addressed.
The Pentateuch, being full of legal expressions, technical ceremonial terms, and distinctive phraseology, affords abundant evidence of the above fact, and makes it easy to call continuous attention to it in the notes of The Companion Bible.
But there is further evidence found in the Papyri now discovered in the ruins at Elephantine in Upper Egypt.
They show that the Jews who dwelt there had a temple of their own and offered up sacrifices therein. That once, when this their temple was destroyed by the Egyptians, they appealed to the Persian governor of Judah, asking permission to restore it (Papyrus I).
There is a list preserved, registering the contributions towards the upkeep of the temple (containing the names of many ladies).
But the most interesting and important of these Papyri is one dated in the year 419 B.C., which is a Passover "announcement" of the approaching feast, such as were made from the earliest times to the present day (see Nehemiah 8:15), containing a brief epitome of its laws and requirements. This particular announcement shows that the following passages were well known: Exodus 12:16. Leviticus 23:7, 8. Numbers 9:1-14. Deuteronomy 16:6.
This Papyrus has been recently published by Professor Edward Sachau, of Berlin: Aramaische Papyrus und Ostraka aus einer judischen Militarkolonie zu Elephantine. Altorientalische Sprachdenkmaler des 5. Jahrhunderts vor Chr., mit 75 Lichtdrucktafalein. Leipzig, 1911. A small edition (texts only) by Professor Ungnad, of Jena, is published also under the title of Aramaische Papyrus aus Elephantine.
Nearly 2,400 years, since this announcement by Hananjah to the Jews in Egypt, have gone by. Elephantine is now a heap of ruins. The colony of Jews has passed away (unless the "Falashas" of Abyssinia are their descendants), but the Jewish nation still exists, and continues to keep the Passover, a standing witness to their truth of Holy Scripture.
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