May 22, 2015.
Daily Reading: Jeremiah 37-41.
Background: Jeremiah 32-36.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Jeremiah’s warning: It is interesting that this chapter begins by saying that Zedekiah and all of Judah didn’t listen to the word of the Lord through Jeremiah, but then records how Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to have him pray to God to the people. Though they weren’t listening to his words, it seems that on some level they understood that he was actually sent from God, perhaps because they had seen his words come true now. The army of Egypt had seemingly come up to aid Judah, and the army of the Babylonians had turned back at the hearing of the coming of Egypt. However, when Zedekiah sends to Jeremiah that he might pray for the people, the word of the Lord came to him that he might give a warning to Zedekiah that their coming destruction was certainly still going to happen. Though Egypt was coming up now, the would not stay for long, for they would return to their own land and the Babylonians would again come against Jerusalem to destroy it. This destruction was from the Lord, for the word that came through Jeremiah noted that even if the entire army of the Babylonians were wounded, they would still come up and destry the city, burning it with fire. The destruction from the Lord against Judah for their sins and forsaking the Lord was eminent.
2. Jeremiah’s imprisonment: After warning Zedekiah, king of Judah, of the upcoming destruction of Judah by the Chaldeans, he set out towards the land of Benjamin to take his portion of the land there. However, when people who recognized him saw him leaving for Benjamin, they thought he was deserting to the Babylonians, for his prophecy was that they should surrender to the Chaldeans if they wanted to live, for the Lord had given Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon. With this prophecy and the fact that he was headed out somewhere from Jerusalem, it is easier (though not justifying the end result) to understand why the people might have thought that Jeremiah was a traitor who was working for the king of Babylon. Though he tried to tell them what he was actually doing, they would not listen and took him to the officials, who imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary. King Zedekiah eventually called him to his own house and questioned him secretly, implying that he held a higher esteem for the prophet when compared to most other people of that day. When the king asked him if there was any word from the Lord, he tells him that he will be delivered into the hand of the Babylonians. Jeremiah asks what wrong that he has done to the king or kingdom, and wins some favor, at least enough to allow him to stay in the court of the guard rather than the dungeons of the house of Jonathan the secretary, where he thought he would die if he was returned to there.
1. Jeremiah and the cistern: The word of the Lord that came through Jeremiah was not pleasing in the eyes of many people in Judah. Those mentioned at the beginning of this chapter thought that Jeremiah was weakening the will of the people, especially those in the army, for he was telling the people that if they wanted to live, the would have to surrender to the Babylonians. If they did this, they would have their lives as a prize from war, but if they would not surrender, then they would die by sword, famine and pestilence. These men who heard these words wanted to put Jeremiah to death, and they were allowed to take him and throw him into a cistern with no food or water, basically leaving him to die. Fortunately there was a eunuch in the kings house by the name of Ebed-melech who was willing to stand up for Jeremiah, calling out the evil done by the men who took Jeremiah and through him in a cistern to die. The king told Ebed-melech to take thirty men with him to go rescue Jeremiah from the cistern, which they did. Jeremiah then returned to the court of the guard.
2. Jeremiah’s second warning to Zedekiah: After he was rescued from the cistern, Jeremiah once again gets asked by Zedekiah what the word of the Lord about the situation that Judah was in, and after he was told that he would not be delivered into the hands of the men that through him into the cistern, Jeremiah gives Zedekiah the word of the Lord, which is another warning for the king. The Lord gives Zedekiah a chance to save the city (and his own life) from fire, but to do so, he would have to surrender to the officials and king of Babylon. Notice that Jeremiah is not afraid to give Zedekiah the same warning that got him thrown into the cistern in the first place (though it was after he was assured that he wouldn’t be given back into their hands). The Lord was not changing His offer, and Zedekiah only had one option if he wanted to save the city from the fire of the Chaldeans. To prevent him from dying, the king tells him to tell no man of the words that he had told him from the Lord, but rather if anyone asked, just to tell them that he pleaded not to be sent back to the house of Jonathan where he would surely die. This is precisely what Jeremiah told the people who came to inquire of what he had told the king, and they left him alone after that. Thus, Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.
The fall of Jerusalem: Just as had been prophesied, Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah to besiege the city, a siege that would last for close to two years. Then, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, a breach was made in the wall of Jerusalem, and the city fell to the Chaldeans. Notice that Zedekiah did not surrender to the Babylonians as he was warned that he should do in the previous chapter, and thus a full destruction was carried out against the city, just as Jeremiah had said would happen. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered in his presence and then his eyes were put out, and he and many of the people that were left in the city were exiled into Babylon, just as the word of the Lord had said would happen. The only people left in the city were some of the poor people who owned nothing, to whom the caption of the Babylonian guard gave both vineyards and fields. Through the providence of God, Nebuchadnezzar the king told the captain of his guard to deal gently with Jeremiah, to look after him and do what he wanted. Thus, he was allowed to stay in the court guard. While here, the word of the Lord came to him to tell Ebed-melech that the Lord would fulfill the destruction He had set against the city, but that He would deliver Ebed-melech because he had trusted in the Lord. Trust in the Lord can go a long way.
Jeremiah given liberty: Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard for Babylon, recognized that the Lord God of Judah had brought about the destruction on this place due to their disobedience to Him, and he gave Jeremiah liberty to leave, either staying with him to come to Babylon or going back to his home to live amongst the people who were left under Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon and appointed as governor over Judah. Jeremiah chose to go to Gedaliah to live among the people, and when the people in the open country heard that Gedaliah had been set over them as governor, they all came to him. He gave them encouragement to serve the Babylonians and not be afraid, and he would be their representation. Hearing this, the Judeans indeed started gathering wine and summer fruits in excess. There was a certain man named Ishmael who came from the Ammonites that the leaders of the open forces told Gedaliah that he had come to kill him. Gedaliah did not believe the leaders, however, for he trusted that he was not there to kill him. In the next chapter we will see that this was a big mistake on the part of Gedaliah.
Ishmael: Not too long after Gedaliah had been appointed governor of Judah, Ishmael, who we met in the previous chapter, came up against Gedaliah and took ten men to go in and kill Gedaliah. It seems that Ishmael’s plan was to kill Gedaliah and take control of Judah for the Ammonites. He killed people who came to bring offerings before the Lord from Shechem and Shiloh and then began to go back over to the Ammonites. Before he could get there, however, Johanan the son of Kareah and the leaders of the open forces set out to fight against him, meeting him at the great pool in Gibeon, and the people rejoiced at the sight of Johanan the son of Kareah. Ishmael and eight men were able to escape and go to the Ammonites. Johanan the son of Kareah took all those who were recovering from Ishmael and intended to go into Egypt with them, for they were scared of what the Babylonians might do now that Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon had set over the cities of Judah as governor.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 3-4.
Be strong in the Lord.