“Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah in Tahpanes, saying,
“Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brickkiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanes, in the sight of the men of Judah;
“And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.
“And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword.” – Jeremiah 43:8-11
When the king of Babylon took Jerusalem, he appointed Gedaliah governor over the poorer class of people who were left in the land when Judah was carried away to captivity in Babylon. Ishmael, a Jew, stealthily slew Gedaliah, and fled, taking some of the people with him, intending to join the Ammonites. Then Johanan, one of the leaders of the remaining Jews pursued Ishmael and brought back the Jews whom Ishmael had taken with him. But Johanan feared to return to Jerusalem, lest the king of Babylon should visit punishment upon Jerusalem for the killing of Gedaliah, and planned to flee to Egypt. First, however, he asked Jeremiah the prophet to consult the Lord as to where they should go. Jeremiah brought him the Lord’s answer, telling him to go to Jerusalem, where he would be protected by the Lord. But Johanan accused Jeremiah of being a false prophet plotting for his destruction. So Johanan went to Egypt, to Tahpanes the house of Pharaoh, taking with him all the remnant of Judah, including Jeremiah.
In the narrative of the text is presented a graphic picture of the destructive consequences of knowing the truth but reasoning against it and following fallacious appearances. The spiritual lesson lies near the surface. Jeremiah, because he spoke the words of Jehovah, stands for the Word of the Lord, the Divine truth, which counsels and unerringly guides. Jeremiah counseled Johanan and his company to go to Jerusalem, to dwell there, and not to fear the king of Babylon. But Johanan and those with him were afraid to do as the prophet advised, and reasoned that his counsel was false. They chose rather to go into Egypt, to the ruling city there.