Time’s up! They were warned! Over and over again, the Israelites were warned. Unfortunately, they didn’t heed the warning. They ignored it, rejected it AND God! Too late now. In today’s chapters, we have the historical account of the Babylonians’ final attack on Jerusalem. They burned the city and the beautiful temple that Solomon built. They steal all the temple treasures that King Hezekiah so proudly showed the Babylonian visitors back in 2 Kings. What happens to our hero prophet, Jeremiah? Let’s dig in…
Jeremiah 39 – The Fall of Jerusalem
In January of the ninth year of King Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with his entire army to besiege Jerusalem. 2 Two and a half years later, on July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, a section of the city wall was broken down. 3 All the officers of the Babylonian army came in and sat in triumph at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer of Samgar, and Nebo-sarsekim, a chief officer, and Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser, and all the other officers of the king of Babylon.
4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all the soldiers saw that the Babylonians had broken into the city, they fled. They waited for nightfall and then slipped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden and headed toward the Jordan Valley.
5 But the Babylonian troops chased them and overtook Zedekiah on the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who was at Riblah in the land of Hamath. There the king of Babylon pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. 6 The king of Babylon made Zedekiah watch as he slaughtered his sons at Riblah. The king of Babylon also slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. 7 Then he gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in bronze chains to lead him away to Babylon.
8 Meanwhile, the Babylonians burned Jerusalem, including the royal palace and the houses of the people, and they tore down the walls of the city. 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took as exiles to Babylon the rest of the people who remained in the city, those who had defected to him, and everyone else who remained. 10 But Nebuzaradan allowed some of the poorest people to stay behind in the land of Judah, and he assigned them to care for the vineyards and fields.
Jeremiah Remains in Judah
11 King Nebuchadnezzar had told Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, to find Jeremiah. 12 “See that he isn’t hurt,” he said. “Look after him well, and give him anything he wants.” 13 So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard; Nebushazban, a chief officer; Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser; and the other officers of Babylon’s king 14 sent messengers to bring Jeremiah out of the prison. They put him under the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, who took him back to his home. So Jeremiah stayed in Judah among his own people.
15 The Lord had given the following message to Jeremiah while he was still in prison: 16 “Say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I will do to this city everything I have threatened. I will send disaster, not prosperity. You will see its destruction, 17 but I will rescue you from those you fear so much. 18 Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”Jeremiah 39 NLT (bold emphasis mine)
We have 2 distinct fools in these chapters. Here’s fool #1…
- The fall of Jerusalem lasted 18 agonizing months. It began on July 18, 586 BC, and it’s recorded 4 times in the Old Testament: 2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36, this chapter and again in Jeremiah 52. It is a critical turning point in Israel’s history, in God’s story and an invaluable lesson for us today.
- Zedekiah was Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet king. Zed’s mistake was rebelling against Babylon and hoping Egypt would help him. Fool #1.
- Zedekiah’s rebellion cost him the lives of his sons and the loss of his sight.
- One of God’s prophecies came true here. Zed got to meet with Nebuchadnezzar eye-to-eye in Riblah. Furthermore, there’s another prophecy in Ezekiel, which we’ll get to next, that says he’ll never “see” Babylon. He was blinded in Riblah. The death of his sons was the last thing King Zedekiah saw. What a horrible punishment for his rebellion.
- Jeremiah was finally released from prison and free to do what ever he wanted.
The Lord gave a message to Jeremiah after Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being sent to exile in Babylon.
2 The captain of the guard called for Jeremiah and said, “The Lord your God has brought this disaster on this land, 3 just as he said he would. For these people have sinned against the Lord and disobeyed him. That is why it happened. 4 But I am going to take off your chains and let you go. If you want to come with me to Babylon, you are welcome. I will see that you are well cared for. But if you don’t want to come, you may stay here. The whole land is before you—go wherever you like. 5 If you decide to stay, then return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan. He has been appointed governor of Judah by the king of Babylon. Stay there with the people he rules. But it’s up to you; go wherever you like.”
Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, gave Jeremiah some food and money and let him go. 6 So Jeremiah returned to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and he lived in Judah with the few who were still left in the land.Jeremiah 40:1-6 NLT
I’m going to pause here a minute. Wasn’t Jeremiah free to do what he pleases? How did he end up having to be released again? Apparently, there’s an interesting, extra-biblical story here. Pastor Sandy Adams explains…
There’s an emotional extra-biblical story told by the Jewish rabbis. When Jeremiah saw his fellow Jews shackled, he voluntarily chained himself to them to show love for them. He’d been bound to the Jews spiritually for forty years. He’d suffered for them, and would continue to do so as they were taken into exile. This is the kind of love that voluntarily bound Jesus to the cross. He suffered with us and ultimately for us!Sandy Adams
Jesus told us…
13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.John 15:13 NLT
Jeremiah had a choice and he chose to stay with the poorest of the poor remnant of his people. That’s love and dedication. We don’t see that much in the world today. It takes a special person to sacrifice their lives for a friend. I’ve heard stories of U.S. veterans of Afghanistan who have gone back to rescue their Afghan translators, guides and partners from the disaster that President Biden’s unbelievable pull-out of Afghanistan caused. That is heroism, valor, bravery, selflessness, and courage.
Gedaliah Governs in Judah
7 The leaders of the Judean military groups in the countryside heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor over the poor people who were left behind in Judah—the men, women, and children who hadn’t been exiled to Babylon. 8 So they went to see Gedaliah at Mizpah. These included: Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, and all their men.
9 Gedaliah vowed to them that the Babylonians meant them no harm. “Don’t be afraid to serve them. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and all will go well for you,” he promised. 10 “As for me, I will stay at Mizpah to represent you before the Babylonians who come to meet with us. Settle in the towns you have taken, and live off the land. Harvest the grapes and summer fruits and olives, and store them away.”
11 When the Judeans in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the other nearby countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a few people in Judah and that Gedaliah was the governor, 12 they began to return to Judah from the places to which they had fled. They stopped at Mizpah to meet with Gedaliah and then went into the Judean countryside to gather a great harvest of grapes and other crops.
A Plot against Gedaliah
13 Soon after this, Johanan son of Kareah and the other military leaders came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. 14 They said to him, “Did you know that Baalis, king of Ammon, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to assassinate you?” But Gedaliah refused to believe them.
15 Later Johanan had a private conference with Gedaliah and volunteered to kill Ishmael secretly. “Why should we let him come and murder you?” Johanan asked. “What will happen then to the Judeans who have returned? Why should the few of us who are still left be scattered and lost?”
16 But Gedaliah said to Johanan, “I forbid you to do any such thing, for you are lying about Ishmael.”Jeremiah 40:7-16 NLT
- Here we have fool #2. Gedaliah should have heeded this advice. We’ll see in the next chapter what happens to him.
- The Ammonites have always been enemies of Israel. King Baalish didn’t want the remnant of the Jews staying in their land.
- So he hires a hit man, Ishmael.
- Notice this king’s name “Baalis” — a derivative of the fake god they worshiped, Baal.
Jeremiah 41 – Gedaliah’s Fate
But in midautumn of that year, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama, who was a member of the royal family and had been one of the king’s high officials, went to Mizpah with ten men to meet Gedaliah. While they were eating together, 2 Ishmael and his ten men suddenly jumped up, drew their swords, and killed Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor. 3 Ishmael also killed all the Judeans and the Babylonian soldiers who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah.
4 The next day, before anyone had heard about Gedaliah’s murder, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria to worship at the Temple of the Lord. They had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and cut themselves, and had brought along grain offerings and frankincense. 6 Ishmael left Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he reached them, he said, “Oh, come and see what has happened to Gedaliah!”
7 But as soon as they were all inside the town, Ishmael and his men killed all but ten of them and threw their bodies into a cistern. 8 The other ten had talked Ishmael into letting them go by promising to bring him their stores of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey that they had hidden away. 9 The cistern where Ishmael dumped the bodies of the men he murdered was the large one dug by King Asa when he fortified Mizpah to protect himself against King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with corpses.
10 Then Ishmael made captives of the king’s daughters and the other people who had been left under Gedaliah’s care in Mizpah by Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard. Taking them with him, he started back toward the land of Ammon.
11 But when Johanan son of Kareah and the other military leaders heard about Ishmael’s crimes, 12 they took all their men and set out to stop him. They caught up with him at the large pool near Gibeon. 13 The people Ishmael had captured shouted for joy when they saw Johanan and the other military leaders. 14 And all the captives from Mizpah escaped and began to help Johanan. 15 Meanwhile, Ishmael and eight of his men escaped from Johanan into the land of Ammon.
16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and the other military leaders took all the people they had rescued in Gibeon—the soldiers, women, children, and court officials whom Ishmael had captured after he killed Gedaliah. 17 They took them all to the village of Geruth-kimham near Bethlehem, where they prepared to leave for Egypt. 18 They were afraid of what the Babylonians would do when they heard that Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, the governor appointed by the Babylonian king.Jeremiah 41 NLT
- As it turns out, this Ishmael was of King David’s royal lineage! Was this jealousy? Did he think he should have been appointed governor? Wasn’t it his right?
- The day Solomon’s temple was destroyed was the 9th of Av in the Jewish calendar.
- The day Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 AD was also the 9th of Av. Remember, there are no coincidences when it comes to God. Note, too, that the Jews were in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Numbers play a major role in Bible Prophecy.
- The Jewish pilgrims wanted to mourn at the temple ruins. Right now, the only thing left of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem, is what’s called the “Wailing Wall”. Jews today mourn the loss of the 2 temples on the 9th of Av.
- Gedaliah, like Jedekiah, didn’t heed the warnings and wise advice. Two fools.
- The remnant, planned to escape to Egypt. Exactly what God told them NOT to do! Won’t these people learn?!
What happened to Jeremiah? We’ll find out in these final chapters of his powerful book.
A few more things to think about…
- What stood out for YOU in this story?
- What do you think God is trying to say to YOU?
- How can you apply what you learned here to your life?
Some Closing Words of Wisdom
From Solomon’s Book of Proverbs
10 Pride leads to conflict;Proverbs 3:10 NLT
those who take advice are wise.
9 Don’t waste your breath on fools,Proverbs 23:9 NLT
for they will despise the wisest advice.
Had both these fools heeded God’s wisdom and advice, things would have turned out differently. Alas, we can only learn from these foolish mistakes. Sandy Adams has some great final thoughts…
Because the Jews feared a Babylonian reprisal their plan was to flee to Egypt. And here’s the irony of ironies… 860 years earlier God had delivered them from Egypt, now the Jews are back where they started… Here’s the lesson for us… Despite all God has done in us, if we don’t continue in our faith, we’ll end up back in the bondage we escaped. Let’s not just have faith, but continue in faith!Sandy Adams
Friend, we live in some trying times. If you thought things were bad, crazy and weird in 2020 and 2021, what’s ahead of us will NOT be smooth sailing! We CANNOT depend on ourselves, other humans, governments or anything to help us. ONLY GOD!
Isn’t it time that you got right with God?
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a personal Relationship with YOU!