This is Episode #235 and today we’ll read Jeremiah 38-41 together. And so it happened, just as God said it would.
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #235 and today we’ll read Jeremiah 38-41 together. And so it happened, just as God said it would.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Jeremiah Chapter 38
Jeremiah Thrown into a Cistern
Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchijah heard the words Jeremiah was speaking to all the people: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever surrenders to the Chaldeans will live. He will retain his life like the spoils of war and will live.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘This city will most certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon’s army, and he will capture it.’”
The officials then said to the king, “This man ought to die, because he is weakening the morale of the warriors who remain in this city and of all the people by speaking to them in this way. This man is not pursuing the welfare of this people, but their harm.”
King Zedekiah said, “Here he is; he’s in your hands since the king can’t do anything against you.” So they took Jeremiah and dropped him into the cistern of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the guard’s courtyard, lowering Jeremiah with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.
But Ebed-melech, a Cushite court official in the king’s palace, heard Jeremiah had been put into the cistern. While the king was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melech went from the king’s palace and spoke to the king: “My lord the king, these men have been evil in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah. They have dropped him into the cistern where he will die from hunger, because there is no more bread in the city.”
So the king commanded Ebed-melech, the Cushite, “Take from here thirty men under your authority and pull the prophet Jeremiah up from the cistern before he dies.”
So Ebed-melech took the men under his authority and went to the king’s palace to a place below the storehouse. From there he took old rags and worn-out clothes and lowered them by ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-melech the Cushite called down to Jeremiah, “Place these old rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did this. They pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern, but he remained in the guard’s courtyard.
Zedekiah’s Final Meeting with Jeremiah
King Zedekiah sent for the prophet Jeremiah and received him at the third entrance of the Lord’s temple. The king said to Jeremiah, “I am going to ask you something; don’t hide anything from me.”
Jeremiah replied to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, you will kill me, won’t you? Besides, if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.”
King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah in private, “As the Lord lives, who has given us this life, I will not kill you or hand you over to these men who intend to take your life.”
Jeremiah therefore said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If indeed you surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned, and you and your household will survive. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city will be handed over to the Chaldeans. They will burn it, and you yourself will not escape from them.’”
But King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am worried about the Judeans who have defected to the Chaldeans. They may hand me over to the Judeans to abuse me.”
Jeremiah Assures Zedekiah
“They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord in what I am telling you, so it may go well for you and you can live. But if you refuse to surrender, this is the verdict that the Lord has shown me: ‘All the women who remain in the palace of Judah’s king will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon and will say to you,
“Your trusted friends misled you
and overcame you.
Your feet sank into the mire,
and they deserted you.”
All your wives and children will be brought out to the Chaldeans. You yourself will not escape from them, for you will be seized by the king of Babylon and this city will burn.’”
Then Zedekiah warned Jeremiah, “Don’t let anyone know about this conversation or you will die. The officials may hear that I have spoken with you and come and demand of you, ‘Tell us what you said to the king; don’t hide anything from us and we won’t kill you. Also, what did the king say to you?’ If they do, tell them, ‘I was bringing before the king my petition that he not return me to the house of Jonathan to die there.’”
All the officials did come to Jeremiah, and they questioned him. He reported the exact words to them the king had commanded, and they quit speaking with him because the conversation had not been overheard. Jeremiah remained in the guard’s courtyard until the day Jerusalem was captured, and he was there when it happened.
Jeremiah Chapter 39
The Fall of Jerusalem to Babylon
In the ninth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem with his entire army and laid siege to it. In the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, on the ninth day of the month, the city was broken into. All the officials of the king of Babylon entered and sat at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer, Samgar, Nebusarsechim the chief of staff, Nergal-sharezer the chief soothsayer, and all the rest of the officials of Babylon’s king.
When King Zedekiah of Judah and all the fighting men saw them, they fled. They left the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the city gate between the two walls. They left along the route to the Arabah. However, the Chaldean army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They arrested him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s king, at Riblah in the land of Hamath. The king passed sentence on him there.
At Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and he also slaughtered all Judah’s nobles. Then he blinded Zedekiah and put him in bronze chains to take him to Babylon. The Chaldeans next burned down the king’s palace and the people’s houses and tore down the walls of Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, deported the rest of the people to Babylon — those who had remained in the city and those deserters who had defected to him along with the rest of the people who remained. However, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and he gave them vineyards and fields at that time.
Jeremiah Freed by Nebuchadnezzar
Speaking through Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon gave orders concerning Jeremiah: “Take him and look after him. Don’t do him any harm, but do for him whatever he says.” Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, Nebushazban the chief of staff, Nergal-sharezer the chief soothsayer, and all the captains of Babylon’s king had Jeremiah brought from the guard’s courtyard and turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, to take him home. So he settled among his own people.
Now the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah when he was confined in the guard’s courtyard: “Go tell Ebed-melech the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words for disaster and not for good against this city. They will take place before your eyes on that day. But I will rescue you on that day — this is the Lord’s declaration — and you will not be handed over to the men you dread. Indeed, I will certainly deliver you so that you do not fall by the sword. Because you have trusted in me, you will retain your life like the spoils of war. This is the Lord’s declaration.’”
Jeremiah Chapter 40
Jeremiah Stays in Judah
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, released him at Ramah.
When he found him, he was bound in chains with all the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. The captain of the guards took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster on this place, and the Lord has fulfilled it. He has done just what he decreed. Because you people have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him, this thing has happened. Now pay attention: Today I am setting you free from the chains that were on your hands. If it pleases you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take care of you. But if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, go no farther. Look — the whole land is in front of you. Wherever it seems good and right for you to go, go there.”
When Jeremiah had not yet turned to go, Nebuzaradan said to him, “Return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the cities of Judah, and stay with him among the people or go wherever it seems right for you to go.” So the captain of the guards gave him a ration and a gift and released him. Jeremiah therefore went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and he stayed with him among the people who remained in the land.
Gedaliah Advises Peace
All the commanders of the armies that were in the countryside — they and their men — heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam over the land. He had been put in charge of the men, women, and children from among the poorest of the land, who had not been deported to Babylon. So they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. The commanders included Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah son of the Maacathite — they and their men.
Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore an oath to them and their men, assuring them, “Don’t be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well for you. As for me, I am going to live in Mizpah to represent you before the Chaldeans who come to us. As for you, gather wine, summer fruit, and oil, place them in your storage jars, and live in the cities you have captured.”
When all the Judeans in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in all the other lands also heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, over them, they all returned from all the places where they had been banished and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and harvested a great amount of wine and summer fruit.
Johanan Advises Gedaliah
Meanwhile, Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies in the countryside came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and warned him, “Don’t you realize that Baalis, king of the Ammonites, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. Then Johanan son of Kareah suggested to Gedaliah in private at Mizpah, “Let me go kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah. No one will know it. Why should he kill you and allow all of Judah that has gathered around you to scatter and the remnant of Judah to perish?”
But Gedaliah son of Ahikam responded to Johanan son of Kareah, “Don’t do that! What you’re saying about Ishmael is a lie.”
Jeremiah Chapter 41
Gedaliah Assassinated by Ishmael
In the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family and one of the king’s chief officers, came with ten men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah. They ate a meal together there in Mizpah, but then Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword; he killed the one the king of Babylon had appointed in the land. Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, as well as the Chaldean soldiers who were there.
On the day after he had killed Gedaliah, when no one knew yet, eighty men came from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria who had shaved their beards, torn their clothes, and gashed themselves, and who were carrying grain and incense offerings to bring to the temple of the Lord. Ishmael son of Nethaniah came out of Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. When he encountered them, he said, “Come to Gedaliah son of Ahikam!” But when they came into the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and threw them into a cistern.
Ishmael Took Captives
However, there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Don’t kill us, for we have hidden treasure in the field — wheat, barley, oil, and honey!” So he stopped and did not kill them along with their companions. Now the cistern where Ishmael had thrown all the corpses of the men he had struck down was a large one that King Asa had made in the encounter with King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain.
Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people of Mizpah including the daughters of the king — all those who remained in Mizpah over whom Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards, had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Ishmael son of Nethaniah took them captive and set off to cross over to the Ammonites.
The Captives Rescued by Johanan
When Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael son of Nethaniah had done, they took all their men and went to fight with Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They found him by the great pool in Gibeon. When all the people held by Ishmael saw Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the army with him, they rejoiced. All the people whom Ishmael had taken captive from Mizpah turned around and rejoined Johanan son of Kareah.
But Ishmael son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men and went to the Ammonites. Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the armies with him then took from Mizpah all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael son of Nethaniah after Ishmael had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam — men, soldiers, women, children, and court officials whom he brought back from Gibeon. They left, stopping in Geruth Chimham, which is near Bethlehem, in order to make their way into Egypt, away from the Chaldeans. For they feared them because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land.
Again, Jeremiah was repeatedly treated badly. And yet we can see God sustain him. Not only did God go before him and arrange for his extraction from the well, but we see him being taken care of by Nebuchadnezzar after the invasion of Jerusalem. Yes, we will be called to suffer. But 1 Peter 4:13 tells us this: Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.
I think we probably all wish King Zedekiah hadn’t been so stubborn. No one should have to watch all of his sons be slaughtered and then have his eyes gouged out. What torture for this to have been Zedekiah’s last visual memory. I think the lesson here is not to take God too casually. We cannot be arrogant and demand our own way. God is God and He is indeed the boss of us. When He says something, there is no guesswork. When we read a promise in His Word, we can – and should – believe it that it will come to pass.
We will gain many insights into Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. For now, through Jeremiah’s firsthand account, we can experience the fallout and chaos that ensued when God gave direction to the Israelites and they did not listen. We need to be smarter.
See You Tomorrow!
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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