Queen of Heaven – Bible, Jeremiah, Verse, Egypt, Goddess, Old Testament

This false deity known as the Queen of Heaven is referred to only in the book of Jeremiah.

Four times her name appears in Jeremiah 44 and then once she’s spoken of in Jeremiah 7. Let’s look at Jeremiah 7:16-20 to remind us of what God has already said of her there.

KJV Jeremiah 7:16 ¶ Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.

17 Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?

18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.

19 Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?

20 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.

Alright, now back to Jeremiah 44.

Jeremiah 44 KJV Commentary Bible Summary Explanation Queen of Heaven

In Jeremiah 44 we’re going to hear the last words (chronologically in this book) of the people, of Jeremiah, and of God.

God: Jews in Egypt Will Be Punished| 1-14

To begin, in verses 1-14 the Lord has a message to his people who disobeyed him by fleeing Judah and instead going to live in Egypt.

Intro | 1

We have an introduction to this section in verse 1.

KJV Jeremiah 44:1 ¶ The word that came to Jeremiah

concerning all the Jews which [dwell/lived] in the land of Egypt,

which dwell at Migdol,
and at Tahpanhes,
and at [Noph/Memphis],
and in the [country/land/region] of [Pathros/southern Egypt],


Remember the Destruction of Jerusalem | 2-6

And now God starts his message to the rebellious Jews by telling them in verses 2-6 to remember the destruction of Jerusalem – which they had just experienced only a few months prior to this.

Note Jerusalem’s Current Condition | 3

God begins by having the people take note of Jerusalem’s current condition in verse 2.

2 Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all], the God of Israel;

Ye have seen all the [evil/disaster] that I have brought upon Jerusalem,
and upon all the cities of Judah;

and, behold, this day they are a desolation,
and no man dwelleth therein,

The Reason for the Destruction: Idolatry | 3-5

Now, why did God bring this destruction to Jerusalem? In a word, according to verses 3-5, idolatry.

3 Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger,

in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods,

whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.

4 Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets,
[rising early and sending them/persistently], saying,

Oh, do not this [abominable/disgusting] thing that I hate.

5 But they [hearkened/listened] not,
nor [inclined their ear/pay any attention]

to turn from their wickedness,
to burn no incense unto other gods.

Now, I want us to notice the structure of verses 3-5. Look at how verse 3 begins. It speaks of the people’s “wickedness” and then goes on to say that they burned incense to “other gods.”

Now, note how verse 5 ends. It again speaks of the people’s “wickedness” and then says that they burned incense to “other gods.” See the repetition there?

And in the middle we have this – verse 4 – God speaking and the result in verse 5 of the people not listening. That’s what it comes down to. Idolatry (vv. 3 and 5) was the manifestation of the people not listening to God’s word (v. 4).

  • People’s wickedness / Incense to other gods (v 3)
    • People not listening to God’s word (v 4)
  • People’s wickedness / Incense to other gods (v 5)

Idolatry is a sin which brings God great anger. But it’s just one symptom of not listening to his word.

And for you and I, this dynamic is as true of us as it was of ancient Israel. If there is a problem in our life, most likely it’s due to us not listening to God’s word – not knowing it at all, or not knowing it in its fullness, or maybe we know it but we’re not listening to it – we’re not obeying it.

The Result of Idolatry | 6

And therefore, in verse 6 God points to the result of the people’s idolatry – fueled as it was by their blatant disregard of his word.

6 Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth,
and [was kindled/burned like a fire] in the cities of Judah
and in the streets of Jerusalem;

and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.

And again the structure of verses 2-6 is interesting. We spoke of the structure of verses 3-5:

  • Wickedness/Idolatry
    • Not listening to God’s word
  • Wickedness/Idolatry

Now let’s briefly examine the structure of the broader section in verses 2-5.

Verse 2 speaks of “the cities of Judah” being desolate. Verse 6 then ends with a reminder that “the cities of Judah” are “desolate.”

Why this desolation? Verse 2 – God brought evil or disaster upon the city and nation. And verse 6 – God poured out his fury and anger on the city and nation.

So, then if we were to kind of work from the outside in, verses 2-6 go like this.

The cities of Judah are desolate. This is because God has poured out his anger on them and brought disaster upon them. That’s verse 2 and verse 6.

Why the disaster? It’s due to the people’s wickedness, especially as it related to idolatry. That’s verse 3 and verse 5.

And then at the core of the people’s wickedness and idolatry is their refusal to hear and obey God’s word. That’s verse 4 and a little bit of verse 5.

  • Judah is desolate (v 2)
    • God’s anger and wrath (v 2)
      • The people’s wickedness and idolatry (v 3)
        • The people didn’t listen to God’s word (v 4)
      • The people’s wickedness and idolatry (v 5)
    • God’s anger and wrath (v 6)
  • Judah is desolate (v 6)

And notice one thing the Lord says about the people’s refusal to hear and obey his word. Back in verse 4, the Lord says that the people refused to hear “the prophets.” So, who was speaking this message of rebuke to the people? A prophet – Jeremiah. And I think what the people should have caught is that this refusal to listen to God through ignoring his prophets was not simply a matter of historical significance. It wasn’t simply that their fathers refused to hear the prophets. But actually they themselves were following in the footsteps of their rebellious ancestors.

You Have Not Learned from Their Lesson | 7-10

And that’s the conclusion that the Lord brings to their attention in verses 7-10. He tells them that they have not learned the lesson of verses 2-6. They have not learned from the destruction of Jerusalem.

7 Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel;

Wherefore commit ye this great [evil/harm] against your souls,
to cut off from you man and woman,
child and [suckling/baby], out of Judah,

to leave you none to remain;

8 [In that ye/Why do you?/That is what will happen as you] provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands,
burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt,
whither ye be gone to dwell,

that ye might cut yourselves off,
and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?

Now, once more I think the structure of verses 7 and 8 is worth noting.

Let me make a little defense of what we’re doing. Sometimes – especially in the prophets – God says something and then he moves to something else and then he comes right back to what he previously said.

And we can think that perhaps he’s wasting space or being needlessly redundant. But God doesn’t waste anything and he’s not redundant – at least, not needlessly so.

What he does sometimes is actually structure his speech so that what he says at the beginning matches what he says at the end. Then what he says after the beginning statement matches what he said right before the last statement. And on and on until you reach the middle. And often right there in the middle is what God wants to focus on.

So, look for this kind of thing as you’re reading the prophets. When you don’t understand why God is not simply stating what he’s saying, perhaps it’s because he is encoding his message in this manner.

So, moving on to the structure of verses 7 and 8…

Verse 7 begins with God calling the Jews’ attention to the fact that they are harming themselves. They are committing great evil against their own souls.

Then to end verse 8 God again calls attention to them cutting themselves off. So, self-harm is what the Lord is telling them that they’re engaged in.

Well, what is leading to the people causing harm to themselves? The middle of those two verses and the beginning of verse 8 — Idolatry is the way in which these people are bringing about their own destruction.

And that’s interesting because I thought the issue was that they disobeyed God and went to Egypt. But what we start to get the hint of here in these verses now is that these people – yes, disobeyed God by going to Egypt. But even worse – they were actually worshiping false gods there in Egypt.

And in this way, these people who fled to Egypt are no different from their ancestors, according to verses 9 and 10.

9 Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your [fathers/anscestors],
and the wickedness of the kings of Judah,
and the wickedness of their wives,
and your own wickedness,
and the wickedness of your wives,

which they have committed in the land of Judah,
and in the streets of Jerusalem?

10 They are not humbled even unto this day,
neither have they [feared/revered me],
nor walked in my law,
nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.

And primarily, the form that their wickedness took on was idolatry. That’s clear from the great emphasis we’ve seen on that sin throughout this entire book.

So I Will Need to Punish You Like I Punished Them | 11-14

And so, because the Jews currently in Egypt were no different in their idolatrous behavior than their ancestors in Judah who ended up being punished by God, the Jews in Egypt will also meet that same fate, according to verses 11-14.

11 ¶ Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

Behold, I [will set my face against you/am determined] for [evil/harm/disaster],
and to [cut off/destroy] all Judah [here in Egypt…].

12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that [have set their faces/were determined] to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there,

In other words, God would set his face against those who set their faces against his will.

and they shall all be consumed,
and fall in the land of Egypt;

Well, how will they be consumed?

they shall even be consumed [by the sword/in battle] and by [the famine/starvation]:

And, what does it mean to be consumed by these things?

they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine:

and they shall be an [execration/oath],
and an [astonishment/horror],
and a curse,
and a [reproach/taunt].

Now, at this point, God is going to back up and restate what he just said – just in case they didn’t get it.

13 For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem,
by [the sword/war], by [the famine/starvation], and by [the pestilence/disease]:

So, the crime of the Jews in Egypt is the same as that of the Jews in Judah and therefore their punishment will be the same.

And just like there was only a tiny remnant of Jews that escaped the punishment doled out in Judah, so too there would only be a few that would escape the punishment in Egypt.

14 So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain,

[that they should/or] return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there:

for none shall return [but such as shall escape/except some fugitives].

And that ends God’s message to the Jews in Egypt. They are idolatrous and have not obeyed God’s word. Therefore, God will need to punish them just like he punished their ancestors in Judah who were themselves idolatrous and disobedient to the word.

Jews: We Will Keep Disobeying | 15-19

Well, how do the Jews respond to a message like that?

Basically, they tell Jeremiah that they intend to keep disobeying God’s word – particularly by continuing their idolatry.

Intro |15

Verse 15 sets the scene.

15 ¶ Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods,
and all [the women/their wives] that stood by,

a great [multitude/assembly], even all the people that dwelt in the land of [northern…] Egypt, in [southern…] Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,

So, there’s this great idolatrous multitude that were present and heard this message from Jeremiah. They are scattered all over Egypt – northern and southern (Pathros) Egypt – as we saw earlier in this chapter.

The idolatrous men and their idolatrous wives are there.

And here’s what they say.

We Won’t Obey | 16-17a

In a word – “We won’t obey!” verses 16-17.

16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD,
we will not hearken unto thee.

17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing [goeth forth out of our own mouth/we have vowed],
to burn incense unto the [goddess called the…] queen of heaven,
and to pour out drink offerings unto her,

as we have done,
and our [fathers/ancestors],
our kings,
and our princes,

in the cities of Judah,
and in the streets of Jerusalem:

For more information on this demon whom the people worshiped in Egypt, see my article on the Queen of Heaven.

Now, God through Jeremiah had just reminded the people of the evil they all did in the cities of Judah and streets of Jerusalem. But now these people turn around and pretend as if what they did in those cities and in those streets were a commendable thing.

What darkness. What blindness. God had just clearly told them in this chapter of their problem and the destruction that their problem caused. Back in Jeremiah 7 he warned them of what would happen as they continued to worship this idol known as the Queen of Heaven. The Jews therefore had God’s sure testimony on the matter. And yet, they turn right around and deny it. They refuse to obey.


And Here’s Why | 17b-19

They are going to tell Jeremiah why they will continue to disobey the Lord in verses 17-19.

Disobedience to God Brings Blessings | 17b-18

First, in verses 17 and 18 the people have a selective – and really warped – memory when it comes to reality. And so they declare that disobedience to God brings blessings – at least it did in the old days, they say.

for then [when they were committing idolatry…] had we plenty of [victuals/food], [I guess they forgot that whole matter of the bread running out and of the famine and such…]
and [were well/prospered/were well-off],
and saw no [evil/disaster/troubles]. [Could it be that they actually forgot that whole matter of Babylon invading them and destroying most of what they knew?…]

18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven,
and to pour out drink offerings unto her,

we have [wanted/lacked] all things,
and have been consumed by [the sword/war] and by [the famine/starvation].

This is the kind of response that at first makes me laugh. It is so utterly ridiculous that my reaction is laughter.

It’s as if I were standing here and telling you that my hair is red (it’s actually brownish/black). And I did it with a straight face. And you told me, no, your hair is brownish-black. And I just wasn’t getting it at all.

It’s just like that, only the consequences are so much higher. The offense to the God who knows reality is so much higher.

God was angry at them for their sin against him. And he’s trying to tell them what they did wrong so that they can correct their ways. But they are just at this point utterly refusing to listen to him. They don’t want to change. They want him to change.

And all of this is leading them to have a completely warped sense of reality and really what the New Testament would call “reprobate” minds. They now have minds that are incapable of telling right from wrong. And this has come because of their chronic disobedience to God.

So, they are saying “Disobedience to God Brings Blessing!” Whereas the reality that God constantly held out for them was the exact opposite – “Obedience to God Brings Blessing.

We Must Obey Men Rather Than God | 19

Then in verse 19 they continue to churn out more garbage from their reprobate minds and they say this: “We Must Obey Men Rather Than God!

19 And [the women added…] when we burned incense to the queen of heaven,
and poured out drink offerings unto her,

did we make her cakes to worship her,
and pour out drink offerings unto her,
without our [men/husbands’ full knowledge and approval]?

In other words, “Come on! We’re being submissive wives. We’re doing right. Our husbands were totally in favor of us doing this. We’ve gone through the proper channels.

As if somehow obeying men – the idolatrous husbands in this case – were more important than obeying God.

These people are showing that their priorities are all wrong. Instead of saying with the apostle Peter and the other apostles “We must obey God rather than men,” these people are demonstrating a heart that says “We must obey men rather than God.

And so, there we have it – the Jews respond to God’s warnings by digging in their heels and really doubling-down on their disobedience.

Jeremiah: Jews in Egypt Will Be Punished Like Their Ancestors | 20-30

So, you wonder, what’s left for God to do but simply repeat to them exactly what he’s said before?

It reminds me of a situation at work this week. Part of my job is to manage students’ financial accounts at Maranatha Baptist University.

And if they don’t pay when they need to then I need to follow established University policy in whatever next step there may be.

This week there was a student who was arguing with me about why a particular charge shouldn’t apply to him. Now, that charge applies to everyone in his situation, but he was trying to get out of paying it. And by the way, that student is not in our church!

And he kept offering new arguments as to why he shouldn’t pay. And then I would respond with reasons why he should pay the few hundred dollars and what that money is spent toward and such.

But finally I just said something like, “I look forward to receiving your payment” and ended it with that.

Now, I’m not saying that the student was like the rebellious Jews. I am not saying that I am perfect like God. But what I am saying is that at some point when authority makes a pronouncement and the people receiving that announcement continually and positively argue the pronouncement, eventually all that the authority can do is to restate what he’s already said.

And that’s just what we see in the rest of Jeremiah 44.

Intro | 20

Verse 20 sets the scene.

20 ¶ Then Jeremiah said unto all the people,
to the men,
and to the women,
and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,

Jeremiah: God Punished Your Ancestors for Doing What You’re Doing | 21-23

And what God does in verses 21-23 is – once again – he reiterates that the Jews’ ancestors weren’t punished for not serving the Queen of Heaven, but rather they were punished by God for that very idolatry – the exact opposite of what they were saying.

21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah,
and in the streets of Jerusalem,

and your fathers,
your kings,
and your princes,
and the people of the land,

did not the LORD remember them,
and came it not into his mind?

22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings,
and because of the [abominations/disgusting things] which ye have committed;

therefore is your land a desolation,
and an astonishment,
and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.

23 Because ye have burned incense,
and because ye have sinned against the LORD,
and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD,
nor walked in his law,
nor in his statutes,
nor in his testimonies;

therefore this [evil/disaster] is happened unto you, as at this day.

So, God here sets the record straight. Sin against God has resulted in the trouble they’re experiencing.

God (though Jeremiah): Keep Sinning, But I Will Repay | 24-30

But God knows their hard and stubborn hearts. And so the Lord ends this chapter speaking to the Jews through Jeremiah and telling them that they can keep on sinning – but that God will repay.

24 ¶ Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people,
[and/particularly] to all the women,

Hear the word of the LORD,
all Judah that are in the land of Egypt:

25 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying;

[Ye and your wives/You women] have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying,

We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her:

[ye will surely/well, then!] accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.

By the way, this is holy sarcasm.

What is sarcasm? Sarcasm is using irony to mock or convey contempt.

Well then, what is irony? Irony is expressing meaning by using language that usually signifies the opposite.

It is ironic that God is telling the people to perform their vows to the Queen of Heaven. Why? Because God certainly does not want them worshiping this false god. But God is expressing meaning by using language that conveys the opposite of what he’s actually wanting. He says in effect, “worship that false god.” But what he’s actually expressing – what he actually means – is “Don’t worship that false god!”

And it’s sarcastic because he’s using that irony but going one step beyond that in a way that conveys mockery and contempt for the people.

Maybe it bothers you that God mocks and conveys contempt for these people. But it shouldn’t. God has been very patient with these people for centuries. We have problems being patient with people for a few minutes.

But anyway, God is using holy sarcasm here. He’s telling the people to worship idols, when it’s very obvious that that is the farthest thing from what he wants. He wants them to worship him alone.

But since they’re so bent on idolatry, he goes on to tell them once more of what he’s going to have to do to them starting in verse 26.

26 [Therefore/But] hear ye the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt;

Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the LORD,

that my name shall no more be [named/invoked in oaths] in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying,

[As surely as…] The Lord GOD liveth.

So, no Jew in Egypt will ever again use the Lord’s name in an oath. Why is that? Because he will destroy them all as he says in verse 27.

27 Behold, I will watch over them for [evil/disaster], and not for [good/prosperity]:

and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.

The idea is — it’s difficult for dead men to make oaths. So, God will stop these rebels from taking his name in a vain manner by killing them.

But just like with the destruction of Jerusalem, so to in Egypt there will be a small remnant, according to verse 28.

28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah,

and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall [stand/prove true], mine, or theirs.

So, talk is cheap. There’s been talk from God and talk-back from the people. But in the end, when God would bring Babylon to invade Egypt and destroy the Jews there, then God’s words will have been backed up by his actions.

And an unmistakable sign that God’s words are absolutely true will be seen when Nebuchadnezzar comes and defeats the Pharaoh of Egypt, according to verses 29 and 30.

29 And [this shall be a sign unto you/I will make something happen to prove to you that…], saith the LORD,

that I will punish you in this place,
that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for [evil/harm]:

30 [Thus saith/I x promise] the LORD; Behold, I will give [Pharaohhophra/Pharaoh Hophra] king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life;

as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.

So, there we have it. The bitter end of the bitter end of Judah. Now, there is a brief flashback in the next chapter that we’ll deal with next time. But here in Jeremiah 44 we see the last recorded words of Jeremiah. We see the last recorded words of the people. And the last recorded words of God – if we’re speaking chronologically and limiting ourselves to this book.

Even in the section that comes after this one – where God foretells of the disaster to come upon the nations of that time, the words spoken apparently came before the events we just witnessed here. And of course, the events recorded in Jeremiah 52 are later than this time, but there are no words spoken there.

The point is that this chapter is a snap-shot frozen in time of the Jews’ awful rebellion against their God. How hopeless. What they need is what we heard about in Jeremiah’s Book of Encouragement – they need a new heart and they need a good leader – David’s son the Messiah.

But he hadn’t come yet. And this is what happens apart from Jesus – rebellion and destruction.

Next time Lord-willing we’ll hear a message given to Baruch in Jeremiah 45.

Jeremiah 43 Commentary, KJV, Summary, Explain, Sermon

In Jeremiah 43 we see a very familiar pattern unfolding once more in this book. That pattern is — the people disobeying and as a consequence, the Lord threatens to punish them.

But let’s back up and see where we’ve been and how we got to this point in the book of Jeremiah.

At the risk of glossing over so much unique material in the first 35 chapters of this book, let’s identify a few themes in that section of Jeremiah to the exclusion of others.

Jeremiah 1-35 continually sounds the requirement that God had for his Old Testament people to submit to his authority. At first the submission was to be only directly to God. But after the people constantly disobeyed, the Lord transferred some measure of that authority to Babylon. In fact, he demanded that the Jews surrender to Babylon because he had — at some point in those chapters — determined to destroy Jerusalem through that invading nation.

But of course, many of those Jews did not submit to either the Lord or to Babylon.

And so that brings us to the section we’re in right now – Jeremiah 36-45. The Bitter End of Judah.

And in this section we started by seeing king Jehoiakim refusing to tremble at God’s word. We then saw king Zedekiah wavering – wanting at one moment to maybe possibly obey the Lord – and the next moment he’s fearing men and allowing that fear to sidetrack him from doing what’s right. Then after that we saw a flashback to Ebed-Melech who was saved by faith.

Then starting in Jeremiah 40 we have presented for us what happened after Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the people. We saw that Babylon actually left some people behind. And those people were living peacefully under the Babylonian-appointed governor Gedaliah. Well, a royal descendant named Ishmael assassinated him and stole the people and was on his way to the nation of Ammon. But then a brave army general named Johanan put an end to that and brought the people near to Egypt to flee there so that they would avoid any repercussions by Babylon. And last chapter we saw the people asking for God’s guidance – should they go to Egypt or not?

And yet, Jeremiah 42 ended with the prophet scolding the people because he knew that in their heart they had already decided to enter Egypt without regard for what the Lord wanted them to do. And he let them know that he wanted them to stay in Judah.

And so now here in Jeremiah 43 we see the actual words of the people that express their thoughts concerning God’s desire for them to stay in Judah. And what we’ll see is that their words reveal disobedient hearts that have no intention of doing what God wants them to do. And therefore, we will see at the end of this chapter the Lord threatening to punish these rebels.

The People Disobey the Lord | 1-7

So, let’s start with the first section of this chapter – verses 1-7 where we see the people’s disobedience.

Intro | 1

Verse 1 gives us an introduction to the next 6 verses.

KJV Jeremiah 43:1 ¶ And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words,

Note the emphasis on “all [the/these] words.” God hasn’t been silent to these people. He made his will perfectly clear to them through words that he communicated through Jeremiah.

And you and I remember the promise the Jews made in Jeremiah 42 – let me quote verses 5 and 6 from that chapter:

KJV Jeremiah 42:5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things [dbr – “words”] for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. 6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.

Well, all the “words” have been communicated. And the people have committed themselves to obeying them.

The People Speak | 2-3

So now in verses 2-3 we hear the people’s own words. They now speak in reaction to what they heard from the Lord through Jeremiah.

2 Then spake

Azariah the son of Hoshaiah,
and Johanan the son of Kareah,
and all the [proud/insolent/arrogant] men,

So, these guys are going to say something. But look at Johanan. He’s gone from being what I have considered something of a hero to now earning this label from God – that he’s proud or insolent or arrogant. Zeyd in Hebrew which occurs 13 times. That word shows up often on the lips of the psalmist in the book of Psalms.

We’ve had a focus on God’s words so far in this lesson. The Jews promised to obey God’s words. Jeremiah 43:1 makes a point to emphasize God’s words. So, let me ask, what psalm in the Bible is most focused on God’s words? Psalm 119. And wouldn’t you know that Psalm 119 features 6 of the 13 times that this word appears in the Old Testament!

Psalm 119:21 calls these zeyd or proud men cursed and wandering from the Lord’s commands.

Verse 51 of that same Psalm says that these men deride or scoff at the godly and turn aside from God’s law.

Verse 69 says that these men lie about the godly. Verse 78 says the same thing.

Verse 85 says that proud men dig pits for the godly and that this kind of behavior is a clear violation of God’s law.

Finally, verse 122 tells us that these men oppress the godly.

So, men like Azariah and Johanan have found themselves in this group of individuals who scoff at godly men, lie about godly men, dig pits for them and oppress them. In regard to God’s commands, these people wander from them, turn aside from them, and violate them.

And we’ll actually see these men do some of these very actions as this chapter unfolds.

Let’s continue verse 2.

[these zeyd/proud men…] saying unto Jeremiah, [what do they say?…]

They Deny That Jeremiah Speaks for the Lord

First, the people deny that Jeremiah speaks for the Lord. And in this regard we see them both lying about the righteous and wandering from God’s commands just like Psalm 119 reveals that these people do.

[Thou speakest falsely/You are telling a lie!]:
the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say,

Go not into Egypt to [sojourn/live/settle] there:

Now, what we might miss at the first reading of this statement is that this is the exact phrase used by Gedaliah in Jeremiah 40:16. Sheqer attah dabar. “A lie you speak.”

Gedaliah spoke this very phrase to Johanan when he came to warn the governor of Ishmael’s assassination plans.

And now, very ironically, the very man who heard this statement spoken to him is turning around and speaking it to someone else who has a very correct and very sober warning.

Gedaliah didn’t want to hear the sober warning from Johanan. And now Johanan doesn’t want to hear this sober warning from Jeremiah.

So, Johanan and his fellow proud men assert that it was not God that sent Jeremiah to speak to them and tell them not to go to Egypt.

They Say It’s Baruch’s Message

Well, it’s pretty plain that Jeremiah is speaking a message to them. But if God isn’t the originator of that message – as the proud men are claiming – then who is the originator of Jeremiah’s words?

Well, a sober and impartial mind would never even think to guess of what these proud men are going to come up with. They surmise that Baruch gave Jeremiah this message in verse 3.

3 But Baruch the son of Neriah [setteth thee on/had set you/is stirring you up] against us,

for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans,


they might put us to death,

and carry us away captives into Babylon.

I have no idea why these men pick Baruch to accuse for giving Jeremiah this unpopular message.

We don’t have much information about Baruch.

We’ve seen him in Jeremiah 32 where he witnessed the signing of a deed by Jeremiah.

Then in Jeremiah 36 Baruch was with the prophet to record his words for the sake of Jehoiakim who then burned that scroll. After that, Baruch had to write it all down again. In fact, a good deal of what we have here in this book is a result of Baruch’s work.

And yet, Baruch’s work was not creative. It was not original. I think we might have one sentence uttered by this man recorded in the whole Bible. Baruch is always shown working at the behest of Jeremiah. And of course Jeremiah himself is always shown speaking exactly what the Lord tells him.

So, it’s ridiculous that these proud men pin the blame on Baruch for this message that they promised to obey a few days earlier.

Their actions remind me a lot of modern liberal Bible scholars who like to try to discredit the Scripture by denying that the author who authored them… really authored them.

If you want to get into the details just pick up any sort of Old or New Testament Introduction book online or at a bookstore. It will fill your head with all sorts of garbage as to why 2 Timothy 3:16 is wrong – that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

And isn’t that what being a proud man – a zeyd man – is all about? Straying from God’s commands, having no regard for them, and lying in the process to both justify one’s disobedience to God’s words and to impugn those who do have a heart to follow the God whose commands they reject?

And back to our text — it’s not just that the proud men in Jeremiah 43 assign the source of Jeremiah’s message to Baruch. But they actually assign evil motives to Baruch for doing this. Baruch – according to them – wants the people to be handed over to Babylon so that they can be killed and that the remainder of them would be exiled.

And again, bridging from ancient to modern, you have proud people today claiming that the apostle Paul gave commands in the New Testament because he was anti-woman or bigoted or something like that. These people first of all deny that God is the author breathing through the apostle. And further, they assign evil motives to the human author. And all of this is ultimately so that they can try to justify their disobedience to the Lord and his words.

The People Leave Judah | 4-6

Well, words often lead to action. And so while verses 2-3 showed us the people speaking the content of their rebellious hearts. Now verses 4-6 show them acting out that rebellion and leaving Judah – contrary to God’s words.

4 So Johanan the son of Kareah,
and all the [captains/commanders/officers] of the [forces/army],
and all the people,

obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to [dwell/remain/stay] in the land of Judah.

And that’s really what’s going on when we don’t obey the Lord’s words. We’re not disobeying merely the words of Paul or Moses or whomever else – we’re disobeying God’s words – the voice of the Lord.

And can I say too that when we today despise the true preaching of God’s words, we’re doing the exact same thing. When Pastor Fuller – for example – preaches God’s words to us, if he’s doing his job and saying what God has said – then not a single one of us has any right to ignore that. We can’t say – “Well, that’s just his opinion.” I would hope that it is his opinion, but if he’s speaking God’s word then it’s his opinion because it’s God’s opinion as well.

Let’s continue to verse 5.

5 [But/Instead] Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the [captains/commanders/officers] of the [forces/army], took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah;

6 [Even/they took] men,
and women,
and children,
and the [king’s daughters/princesses],
and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, [sounds like what Ishmael did…]
[and/also/including] Jeremiah the prophet,
and Baruch the son of Neriah.

My wife asked me if it was disobedience for Jeremiah to go to Egypt with the people. And I think the answer has to be no – that it wasn’t disobedience for Jeremiah to go to Egypt with the people. First of all, he was forced to go. And second, this was God’s calling on his life – to stay with these people. From whom else were they going to hear God’s words? – even if they ended up disobeying them at every turn…

The People Arrive in Egypt | 7

Well finally the people – including our dear friend Jeremiah and his faithful helper Baruch – arrive in Egypt in verse 7.

7 So they came into the land of Egypt:

for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD:

thus came they even to Tahpanhes.

This city called Tahpanhes no longer exists in modern Egypt. The ancient Greeks called it Daphne. The city would have been basically along the Suez Canal which is on the north east side of Egypt. The distance from Bethlehem where the Jews were staying would have been just short of 200 miles.

And now Israel has come full circle in a very bad way. They left Egypt under Moses around 1400 BC. And now around 586 BC they have returned. Still as rebellious as when they left almost 1,000 years prior to this.

What a sad ending.

God Threatens Punishment in Egypt | 8-13

And yet of course that’s not the end of the story. God will continue to pursue these people. He will not let them get away that easily.

And so in verses 8-13 to end this chapter we see the Lord threatening punishment for these people through the prophet Jeremiah.

Intro | 8

Verse 8 serves as an introduction to this second and last section of Jeremiah 43.

8 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,

Jeremiah’s Commanded Action: Bury Stones | 9

Here’s the first thing the Lord says to Jeremiah. It’s a command. The command is to bury some stones somewhere in Egypt. We see that in verse 9.

9 Take [great/large] stones in thine hand, and [hide/bury] them in the [clay/mortar] in the [brickkiln/(clay) pavement], which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s [house/palace/residence] in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah;

So apparently there was some sort of clay outside of one of Pharaoh’s palaces in Tahpanhes under which Jeremiah could burry some stones.

And that’s all Jeremiah is commanded to do. And I suppose the Jews would have seen this happen and wonder why he was doing that strange thing with the stones.

Jeremiah’s Commanded Message: Nebuchadnezzar is Coming | 10-13

Well, that’s where verses 10-13 come in. Based on the action of burying those stones, Jeremiah is to follow-up with the people and teach them what that action signified.

So, in verses 10-13 Jeremiah is to explain to the people that Babylon – whom they were trying to avoid by fleeing to Egypt – is actually going to invade and conquer Egypt.

10 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/above/over] these stones that I have [hid/buried];

and he shall [spread/pitch] his royal [pavilion/canopy/tent] over them.

11 And when he cometh, he shall [smite/strike/attack] the land of Egypt,

and deliver

such as are [doomed/destined to die…] for [death/pestilence/disease (assumed)] to [death/pestilence/disease];
and such as are for captivity to captivity;
and such as are for the sword to the sword.

12 And I will kindle a fire in the [houses/temples] of the gods of Egypt;

and [he/Nebu.] shall burn them,

[and/or] carry them [the gods…] away captives:

Now, to the ancient mind, to defeat a city or nation was to defeat the god of that city or nation.

And by the way, that’s why it’s so significant that Nebuzaradan accurately assessed the Babylonian victory over Judah. Nebuzaradan did not say that his gods were mightier than the God of Israel and Judah. No, he said that the God of Israel and Judah had given over his people to Babylon because the people were disobedient to the Lord.

Well, the Lord continues to foretell of Babylon conquering Egypt.

and he shall [array himself with/take over/clean] the land of Egypt, as a shepherd [putteth on/cleans] his [garment/cloak] [of lice or vermin…];

and he shall go forth from thence [in peace/unharmed].

13 He shall break also the [images/obelisks/sacred pillars] of [Bethshemesh/Heliopolis/the temle of the sun], that is in the land of Egypt;

and the [houses/temples] of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.

So, because the Jews disobeyed the Lord and went to Egypt, God was going to take that occasion to punish both them and the false gods of Egypt.

The Jews left Judah to escape Babylon. But in the process they disobeyed the Lord.

Therefore, the Lord was going to punish them by bringing to them the source of their fear – Babylon.

He would have protected them in Judah if they obeyed. But he would now have to punish them in Egypt.

And in the next chapter we’ll see even more statements of punishment for the Jews’ disobedience.

Jeremiah 42 Commentary

Jeremiah 42.

Here we are in the 42nd chapter of the Old Testament book of Jeremiah.

We’re in the midst of a “fiasco” – “a thing that is a complete failure, especially in a ludicrous or humiliating way.” This started in Jeremiah 40 and will end in Jeremiah 43. This fiasco — as we’ve seen so far — relates what happened after Babylon conquered Jerusalem and exiled most of its residents.

And this story from Jeremiah 40-43 fits into the broader story of Jeremiah 36-45 where Jeremiah is relating for us Judah’s bitter end. God’s judgement has finally fallen. And we’re seeing the consequences for these people who for decades had not submitted to God’s authority.

Last time we saw the Judean army captain named Johanan and his troops take back the Judeans who were stolen from Mizpah by Ishmael. Ishmael – the rogue descendant of David – then fled to Ammon and now we have the Jews residing – not in Jerusalem or Mizpah – but in a town near Bethlehem. And they’re there because they’re afraid of the Babylonians retaliating for the murder of Gedaliah – whom they appointed to govern Judah.

Now, in this chapter we see an illustration of when people pretend to want God’s will for their lives and yet they really just want their own way – but with God’s stamp of approval upon their chosen course of action.

So, let’s begin to see what it looks like when people want God to approve their premeditated plans. When they want their will to be done.

The People Ask for God’s Direction and Promise to Follow It | 1-6

To briefly summarize verses 1-6 before we get to the details – here we see the people asking God for direction for their future plans. Then the prophet Jeremiah commits to seeking the Lord to provide that direction. And then the people agree to do whatever God says.

The People Ask Jeremiah to Pray for Direction | 1-3

So, starting in verses 1-3 we have the people coming and asking Jeremiah to pray for them to God so that God can guide them with their next step.

KJV Jeremiah 42:1 ¶ Then all the [captains of the forces/army officers], [and/including] Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,

2 And said unto Jeremiah the prophet,

Let, we beseech thee, our [supplication/plea for mercy/request] be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all [this remnant/who are still alive]; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)

3 That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.

So, giving the people the benefit of the doubt, it seems that they are indeed truly seeking God’s will for their next step.

This is actually really encouraging. I mean, the Jews of this time aren’t known for their genuine seeking of God’s will. My reaction to this at first reading almost borders on shock!

And so, we see once more in this extended story this kind of hope that’s set out regarding the future of the nation. Remember – under Gedaliah we were seeing some positive and hopeful signs of reunification of all Israel. But then of course Ishmael messed that all up when he murdered Gedaliah and then fled the country.

But now here we are again. Ishmael is out of the picture for good. Johanan seems to be a good leader. At least he’s brave and seems to know what needs to be done and he does it.

The picture of getting rosier once more.

Jeremiah Commits to Seeking the Lord for Direction | 4

And so, in response to the people’s seemingly-genuine request for divine guidance, Jeremiah commits to seeking the Lord for direction for his people in verse 4.

4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them,

I have heard you;

behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your [words/request];

and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.

By the way, let’s notice that Jeremiah is still with the people. Did you think about where Jeremiah was in the last chapter when Ishmael was killing people and causing all sorts of problems? It’s very likely that Jeremiah would have been in Mizpah when Ishmael murdered Gedaliah. Jeremiah then would have been taken by Ishmael toward Ammon and then recovered by Johanan.

The People Commit to Obeying the Lord’s Revealed Direction | 5-6

Now, with Jeremiah committing to seek the Lord, the people commit to follow whatever the Lord declares to Jeremiah in verses 5-6.

5 Then they said to Jeremiah,

The LORD be a true and faithful witness [between/against] us, if we do not [,] even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.

6 Whether it be good, or whether it be [evil/bad] [in our estimation…], we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.

Again, this is pretty amazing. If the people are serious about what they’re saying, this would be the first time in a long while that God’s Old Testament people would have had this heart toward God’s word – that they would do whatever God revealed through the prophet Jeremiah.

The Jews call God to witness against them if they disobey what he tells them through Jeremiah. The people recognize that what God says might be difficult for them to hear – it might be “evil” in their initial estimation. But they commit to following God’s command. And they even recognize that obeying whatsoever the Lord commands them will result in their wellbeing.

I mean, these people have things straight. They are thinking right. At least, their words indicate that this is the case.

But as you and I all know, it’s one thing to be able to verbally acknowledge reality. It’s one thing to speak truth. But it’s oftentimes not as easy to live truth.

And the wire connecting our speech and our living is one that is often disconnected to our own detriment.

Think of the prototypical false prophet Balaam. He spoke truth. But he lived a lie.

Think of Solomon. In his wisdom he spoke much truth. He lived a good deal of it as well. But in the end, his life didn’t match the truth he’d been speaking.

Think even of Israel at the base of Mount Sinai. They spoke as if they had every intention of following the Lord’s commands. But as Moses went up on the mountain to receive God’s laws, they quickly turned to idolatry.

There are other examples of people whose life doesn’t match their noble speech.

But in this story, thus far, we don’t have any inkling that this will be the case for the Jews here. We are hoping that their behavior will match their speech. And what they are saying is very encouraging so far.

Jeremiah Receives and Relates God’s Direction | 7-18

So, then, in verses 7-18 we have Jeremiah seeking the Lord, receiving an answer from him, and then giving that answer to the people.

7 ¶ And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.

8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the [captains of the forces/army officers] which were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest,

9 And said unto them,

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your [supplication/plea for mercy] before him;

Stay in Judah and Be Blessed | 10-12

And now here’s the first of two parts of the Lord’s response. First, in verses 10-12, God tells the Jews to stay in Judah. And if they do, he will bless them.

10 If ye will [still abide/remain/stay] in this land,

then will I build you, and not pull you down,
and I will plant you, and not pluck you up:

Now, the Lord said something very similar before in the book of Jeremiah. Back in chapter 24 and verse 6, the Lord gave Jeremiah a vision of two fig baskets. One was good and one was rotten. The Lord interpreted the vision and told Jeremiah that the bad figs symbolized the Jews who stayed in Jerusalem and the good figs were the ones who obeyed the Lord and surrendered to Babylon.

But now here the situation is reversed. Now, the Lord is making clear to the Jews that obedience to him involves not leaving Judah but staying in that land.

And in both Jeremiah 24:6 and here these pictures of building and pulling and planting and plucking are used to say that blessing awaits those who will submit to God’s authority.

So, we can see that this is a reversal of the way God had been leading the people. He was previously saying that they need to leave the land. But now he’s advising the remnant there that they needed to stay.

And that’s because God was ready to change his stance toward them. He had punished them but now he was ready to end the punishment and be gracious to them – as we see at the end of verse 10, where he explains this…

for I [repent me/relent/am filled with sorrow] [of/because of] the [evil/disaster] that I have done unto you.

Scripture is clear that God’s character doesn’t change. And yet, his methods and dealings with people often do change.

God had been set on punishing his people for a while. But now that he sent the punishment in the form of a Babylonian invasion of the land and exile of most of the people, God was done with judging. He was ready to now be gracious to them.

And part of God’s graciousness with them is speaking to them on their level. He knows what they fear and so in verse 11 he tells them not to fear.

11 Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid;

be not afraid of him, saith the LORD:

for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his [hand/power].

This is a promise the Lord has made twice already in this book.

Once in Jeremiah 15:20 the Lord responds to Jeremiah’s complaint with this assurance that he was with the prophet to be with him and to save him from his own fellow-countrymen.

Then again in Jeremiah 30:11 the Lord actually promises this to all Israel in the context of the time which is yet future to us during which the Lord will judge all nations but deliver his people Israel.

So, these are gracious words that the Lord is communicating to the Jews. Promises of building and planting. Promises to be with the Jews to deliver them. Encouragements to not fear.

And here’s more reason they shouldn’t fear to stay in the land of Judah.

12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that [he/Nebu.] may have mercy upon you, and [cause/let/allow] you to [return to/remain in] your own land.

And of course the Jews were expecting that Nebuchadnezzar would be angry with them and blame them for the death of Gedaliah. But according to Proverbs 16:7 the Lord is perfectly capable of making a person’s enemies to be at peace with him. That is, when that person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord.

And in this case, the way of these people could be pleasing to him if they humbly, submissively, and in full faith stay in the land as God has gently and graciously commanded them to do.

So, God holds out blessing to the Judeans if they stay in the land. That’s what we see in verses 10-12.

Go to Egypt and be Cursed | 13-18

But if there are blessings for staying in the land – and we already know that the people want to go to Egypt – then God needs to communicate to the people the bad things that will happen to them if they disobey him and go to Egypt. We see that part of the message in verses 13-18.

13 But if ye say,

We will not [dwell/remain] in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God,

14 Saying,

No; but we will go into the land of Egypt,

where we shall see no war,
nor hear the sound of the [enemy’s…] trumpet,
nor [have hunger of/be hungry for] bread;

and there will we dwell:

What the Lord is anticipating here is that the people will let their own limited understanding guide them rather than letting God himself guide them.

They will lean on their own understanding and do what makes sense to them. They will follow the way that seems right unto a man rather than trusting the Lord with all their heart.

God anticipates that these people will want to avoid the potential of war. They will want to have enough to eat.

And whereas God just promised to take care of these matters for them if they just stay in the land, there is an alternative in their minds to achieve the same goals in a way that’s more suitable to them. They will go to Egypt.

God says “trust me and don’t fear and stay here and I will bless you.” They are saying “we have our own plans that we are sure will work and so we will go to Egypt and there we’ll be blessed.”

If they insist on that course of action – of not submitting to God’s authority – then the Lord has a different message for the people.

15 And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah;

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

If ye [wholly set your faces/are so determined] to enter into Egypt, [and/that you] go to [sojourn/live/settle] there;

16 Then it shall come to pass,

that the [sword/wars], which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt,

and the [famine/starvation], whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt;

and there ye shall die.

So, God is clear. The very thing you fear and that is influencing you to reject submitting to me – will come to you if you don’t submit to me.

You can’t win by resisting submission to God.

The people were wanting to avoid the swords of war. So they wanted to disobey God and go to Egypt. Yet, God is clear that those swords would find them there in Egypt, but would not harm them in Judah.

The people wanted to avoid starvation in Judah so they wanted to go to Egypt. But God was clear that they would surely starve in Egypt, while being well-fed in Judah.

But it would take faith on the part of the people to stay where they sense there was danger and not go to the place where they thought they’d be safe and provided for.

That’s where they as well as we need to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding. We and they need and needed to acknowledge him in all our ways. And if they would have done this then he would direct their paths.

The alternative to trusting the Lord might seem to work at first, but is ultimately not pretty.

17 So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there;

they shall die by [the sword/war], by [the famine/starvation], and by [the pestilence/disease]:

and none of them shall [remain/survive] or escape from the [evil/disaster] that I will bring upon them.

And the Lord previously stated that he was ready to be done punishing his people. And yet, if they refused to submit to him, that wrath would be kindled yet again.

18 ¶ For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

As mine anger and my [fury/wrath] hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my [fury/wrath] be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt:

And [here’s the promised result of disobedience…] ye shall be an [execration/curse], and [an astonishment/a horror], and [a curse/an example of those who have been cursed], and [a reproach/a taunt/that people use in pronouncing a curse]; and ye shall see this place no more.

So, if they disobey they will become an example of destruction to others who would disobey the Lord. And they would never again see their homeland. That’s how the Lord ends his warnings for the people to not disobey him in verses 13-18.

Jeremiah Rebukes the People for Choosing Egypt | 19-22

So, with blessings for obedience and warnings of danger for disobedience, Jeremiah rebukes the people for already having chosen to go to Egypt in verses 19-22.

19 The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah;

Go ye not into Egypt:

know certainly that I [Jeremiah…] have [admonished/warned] you this day.

20 For ye [dissembled/have gone astray/made a mistake] in your hearts, [when/for] ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying,

Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.

21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.

22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.

So, although the Lord offered both possibilities of blessing and curse to the people, Jeremiah now cuts to the chase and lets them know that they will be punished for their intent to disobey the Lord and do what’s right in their own eyes.

Jeremiah perhaps could see from their countenances as he was giving the Lord’s message that the people had no intention of staying in Judah. Maybe they were even starting to pack their bags in front of his face as he was talking. Or maybe God just revealed to him that they were going to go to Egypt no matter what the Lord or his prophet said to them.

And so next time we’ll witness the result of the people’s resolve to disobey the Lord and we’ll see them head to Egypt.

Jeremiah 41 Commentary

Jeremiah 41.

We’re in the second chapter of what I’ve labeled a “fiasco.” That fiasco started in Jeremiah 40. Gedaliah was appointed governor of Judah by Babylon. Then all the Jews who were scattered from the war started returning to Gedaliah. Things seemed to be going well. It almost seemed like maybe God was beginning to restore and bless his rebellious people – even before the promised 70-year exile was over!

But all of that will change in this chapter. Because here, we’ll see any hope for peace dashed.

KJV Jeremiah 41:1 ¶ Now it came to pass in the seventh month,

Now, let’s pause briefly and get the timeframe of this story in view.

The year we’re talking about would have been somewhere between 586 and 581 BC.

Jeremiah 39:2 tells us that the wall of Jerusalem was breached in the fourth month. Then the palace was burned and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down in the fifth month, according to Jeremiah 52:12.

And now, here we are in the seventh month. I think we can assume that this is the same year in which those previous things happened.

Between the fifth month (early August) and the seventh month (October) the Jews would have had time to gather in their summer fruit and oil like their new Governor Gedaliah ordered them to do in Jeremiah 40.

OK, now that we’ve established where we are in the timeline of events, let’s see what actually happened.

that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, [of the seed royal, and the princes of the king/who was a member of the royal family and had been one of Zedekiah’s chief officers], even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.

Well, that sounds pleasant. Doesn’t it?

Here these folks are, sharing a meal together. Ishmael, who’s the son of Nethaniah who is the son of Elishama is there. And we don’t know anything about Ishmael’s father Nethaniah. But it seems that his more distant ancestor – Elishama – is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a man born to David in Jerusalem. Elishama’s name appears in 2Sa 5:16; 1Ch 3:6,8; 14:7.

So, Ishmael – a descendant of David – comes to dine with his new Governor. And with Ishmael is this posse of ten men.

You wonder about the backstory to this gathering. Why did they get together?

Gedaliah had been warned about Ishmael in Jeremiah 40 by Johanan. Johanan told Gedaliah that Ishmael had been commissioned by a foreign king to kill Gedaliah. This warning was issued to Gedaliah twice. And both times, he rejected that message as false.

I suppose that Gedaliah is still believing the best about Ishmael. He’s willfully and blissfully ignorant as to the danger he’s in.

Perhaps this meeting was conducted under the pretense of Ishmael reporting to the Governor what was happening in the territory of Judah. Maybe Gedaliah was wanting to try to endear himself to Ishmael.

But again, Gedaliah exudes a level of naivety. OK, he was just warned about this guy by Johanan – not once, but twice. So, even if Gedaliah didn’t believe the report from Johanan, would it be wise to at least not let the ten men come along? It’s clear from later in this story that Gedaliah had several Babylonian soldiers with him. But with ten men, Ishmael would be able to overcome Gedaliah and his men.

That is, if Ishmael is as violent and malevolent as Johanan’s supposedly-false report. And yet, the report was true, as we see played out in verse 2.

2 Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Note the last phrase of that verse. This story is going to make the point several times that the king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah as governor over Judah. And this hearkens back to God’s command that had been in effect for a decade at least by this point. That command was “submit yourself to Babylon, my representative on earth.”

And we’ve seen nothing but rebellion in every area from both the people of Judah and their king especially. They especially didn’t want to obey Babylon. And yet, God commanded that they do so. And here after God had to bring extraordinary punishment on his people and on the king’s household, now we have Ishmael – a Davidic descendant – again rebelling against God’s appointed leadership of Babylon.

Rebellion after rebellion after rebellion. That’s what we see in this section that started in Jeremiah 36 and ends in Jeremiah 45. Rebellion heaped on top of rebellion. These people need help. These people need a righteous Davidic king. And equally as important, they need a new heart. That’s the message we heard in the Book of Encouragement in Jeremiah 30-34.

And yet, that encouragement was all future. At this point in Israel’s history, it’s just more rebellion. And it gets even worse.

So, Gedaliah is dead. He signed his own death certificate when he failed to investigate Johanan’s claims against Ishmael. His insistence on keeping a positive mental attitude resulted in a negative physical condition – that is, death.

This assassination of Gedaliah had serious consequences. In fact, it was such a tragedy that it became the subject of a fast in post-exilic Judah. Zechariah 7:5 mentions a fast on the seventh month that the Jews would practice after this time recorded here in Jeremiah 41. Apparently, this was a fast commemorating the assassination of Gedaliah in this timeframe of 586-581 BC.

Well, Ishmael’s murderous tendencies continue in verse 3.

3 Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans [that were found there/who happened to be there], and the men of war [i.e., the Chaldeans were “men of war” or “soldiers”].

Now, this isn’t saying that all the Jews in Mizpah were killed by Ishmael. We know from later in this chapter that Ishmael kidnaps a number of Jews and takes them elsewhere. But what verse 3 is telling us is that Ishmael killed the Jews who were with Gedaliah at this meal. He killed Gedaliah, the Jews who were eating with them, and the Babylonian soldiers who were there at the meal.

And Ishmael’s murderous escapades continue.

4 ¶ And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,

5 That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even [fourscore/eighty] men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes [rent/torn], and having [cut/gashed] themselves [i.e., to show they were mourning…], with offerings [i.e., of grain as opposed to animal] and incense in their hand, to bring them to the [house/temple] of the LORD.

Verse 5 can be a little confusing at first. Who are these people and what is the significance of them coming?

Well, each of these three cities were located in what was previously Northern Israel. They were outside of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Israel was deported in 722 BC. After that point, there were some Israelites and some from Judah that lived in these cities. According to 2 Ch 30:11 and 34:9 these people cooperated with the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah. They apparently were following the Jewish religious calendar.

And if they were following the Old Testament religious calendar and were coming to Jerusalem in the 7th month of the year, then they were probably on their way to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths/Temporary Shelters, which was held on the 15th day of the 7th month according to Leviticus 23:34.

Now, the passage says that they were coming to make offerings to the Lord in the Temple. It’s not clear to me whether the Temple was still standing at this point or if it was burned down. But whatever the case, these men were under the assumption it was still standing. If it was actually burned down, then maybe news never reached them.

And I think what the reader is asked to take away from these considerations is this. Look what could have been. In Jeremiah 40 you had Israel reeling from God punishing them through Babylon. But then they were given a Governor who seemed like a good guy. He wanted them to enjoy good things in the land and not be concerned about Babylon.

Jews who had been hiding in fear started coming back to this Governor. And now here in Jeremiah 41 you have even Jews from Northern Israel coming. This is almost like what God had promised concerning his restoring Israel and Judah to their land. Wow – could it be happening now?!

Well, no, it couldn’t be happening at this point. For two reasons. First, God explicitly said that the Jews would be restored to their land after 70 years. 70 years had not passed by this point, so no, this was not the time of restoration.

The second reason that this was not God’s promised restoration of the Jews to their land is because…well, a son of David is on the loose killing people and scattering the Jews from their land as we continue reading about in verse 6.

6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them [these genuine pilgrims…], weeping [faking their religious devotion…] all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them,

Come to [meet] Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.

7 And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of [the pit/a cistern], he, and the men that were with him.

This wicked descendant of David is murdering his fellow-Jews who are humble and observing God’s law to travel to Jerusalem in the 7th month. This is outrageous.

I fear that after all the destruction and judgement from God and all the wickedness we’ve seen from the Jews in this book, we might tend to become desensitized to the sheer evil that Ishmael is.

Don’t miss it. This guy is really, really bad. And he’s a testimony to the utter corruption of Judah – that even a royal descendant is behaving so ungodly.

And not only is Ishmael murderous, but he’s also greedy as we see next in verse 8.

8 But ten men were found among them [the 80…] that said unto Ishmael,

Slay us not: for we have [treasures/stores] [i.e., hidden] in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey.

So he forbare, and slew them not [among/with] their [brethren/companions].

OK, so Ishmael is a murderer. And his blood-letting is made all the more odious because he’s not doing it for any sort of noble reason. In fact, it seems like he has no reason at all for doing what he’s doing in killing all these people. In fact, it turns out here that if you give him money, he’ll let you go. So in other words, to Ishmael, a man’s life is only about as valuable as a bit of food.

Ishmael’s lack of respect for the dignity of human life and his opportunistic greed should make us sick. We are all free to hate this man. He’s one of these men in the Bible that is characterized as a total villain. There is no nuance to his character that might make us feel sorry for him. His presence is a curse and his departure will be a cause for rejoicing.

Now, one more detail is noted that highlights the fact that this point in Judah’s history was not the time of restoration of the two kingdoms to be united as one. We see that in verse 9.

9 ¶ Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was it which Asa the king had made for [fear of/defense against] Baasha king of Israel:

and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.

Apparently, centuries before this point the king of southern Judah made a well as part of a defense against Northern Israel. This is where Ishmael threw the dead bodies of those men from Northern Israel.

I think this detail is included here to demonstrate the fact that the enmity that was present hundreds of years ago between Asa and Baasha – Southern Judah and Northern Israel – had not been overcome. But God foretold through Jeremiah in this very book that one day the rupture between these two factions of God’s people would be healed. And yet, that wouldn’t be happening any time soon. It would have to wait for at least 70 years.

So, now in verse 10 we start to see Ishmael’s main plan behind all his senseless acts of violence. He’s going to carry the people away to the neighboring country of Ammon.

10 Then Ishmael carried away captive all the [residue/rest] of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters,

and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam:

and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.

Now, at the first reading of Ishmael’s violent episode, you might wonder if there was some ulterior motive to his madness.

For example, maybe someone in his position would have been so violent because he was a nationalist at heart and wanted to free his fellow-Jews from Babylonian oppression.

Or maybe he killed those visiting Northern Israelites because he was so pro-Judah in his sentiments. He was against immigration and wanted to have only pure Judeans in Judah – or something like that.

At least having some sort of reason for doing what he was doing would indicate that the man had some tendencies that we could perhaps admire, though at the same time recognize that he was wrong.

And yet, none of that seems to be the motivating factor for Ishmael. All that motivates him is violence and greed. And now that he’s spent his violent tendencies, he’s going to go collect on his greed by bringing these people back to Ammon. No doubt, Ishmael would be rewarded by Baalis the king of Ammon.

And this is just like Johanan warned would happen in Jeremiah 40. If only Gedaliah had listened to him.

And while we’re considering Johanan’s ignored warning to Gedaliah, at this point in the story, you do kind of wonder about Johanan. Where is he? Was he taken with the other captives? Was he killed by Ishmael with the other soldiers?

What we discover in verse 11 is that he’s still alive and well. And he’s ready to save the Jews from their new violent oppressor.

11 ¶ But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the [captains of the forces/army officers] that were with him, heard of all the [evil/atrocities] that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done,

12 Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the [great/large] [waters/pool] that are in Gibeon.

What is so puzzling here is where Johanan finds Ishmael. Mizpah is where they started. Gibeon is south-west of Mizpah. Ammon is north-east of Mizpah. So, Ishmael is wanting to go north-east ultimately, but he actually goes south-west.


It could be that the Babylonians were stationed north of Mizpah – maybe between Mizpah and Ammon. And so maybe Ishmael wanted to go south around the Dead Sea and then back up north to get to Ammon.

Otherwise, I really can’t even guess as to why Ishmael went the direct opposite way of where he should have been headed if he wanted to get to Ammon from Mizpah.

It could be that this is just one more thing that is meant to make us really hate this man. He can’t even get his directions right.

So, finally the villain meets someone strong enough to resist him. And there’s great rejoicing – verse 13.

13 Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the [captains of the forces/army officers] that were with him, then they [were glad/rejoiced].

14 So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah [cast about/turned around] and [returned/came back], and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.

That’s rather anti-climactic. I was expecting a battle. But we don’t get it. The people simply turn around and go back to Johanan.

It almost gives me the impression that Ishmael didn’t really care whether he had the people or not. He just wanted to kill Gedaliah and collect the bounty from Baalis the King of Ammon.

And we have support for that kind of thinking when we see Ishmael just run away in verse 15.

15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.

And by the way, earlier this chapter we saw Ishmael with 10 men. He has only 8 now. The other two must have deserted or maybe were killed in all the fighting. Or maybe 2 of those men surrendered and were among the captives who came back to Johanan. Maybe they were sick of Ishmael’s evil and wanted to get away from him.

Well, anyway, the good guys have come! Johanan has come to liberate the captives. What a relief.

And this relief seems to continue in verse 16.

16 Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, [here’s whom they took…] all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, [here’s whom Johanan recovered and took…] even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:

Well, this sounds alright so far. Johanan and his army is taking the people from Gibeon. But, where is he taking them? Verse 17.

17 And they departed, and [dwelt/stopped] in [the habitation of/Geruth] Chimham, which is [by/near] Bethlehem,

OK, so they’re near Bethlehem… Are they going back to Jerusalem or Mizpah, though? Nope…

to go to enter into Egypt,

Well, why’s that?

18 Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.

So, Johanan is worried that Babylon will retaliate for the violence of Ishmael. And so, he’d rather flee to Egypt – Babylon’s enemy at the time – and perhaps find some safety there, so far away from Babylon.

But God’s people need to recognize over and over again that it’s not pragmatism that wins the day. It’s not “what works” that matters, but rather “what does God want?” that is the question to be answered.

So, for Johanan, the question is whether God wants them to go to Egypt. Maybe God would rather have them stay in Mizpah and would protect them there. And if God doesn’t want them to travel to Egypt, will Johanan show himself to be a true hero and listen to God’s command? Or will he and the Jews do their own thing – like they’ve been doing throughout this entire book?

That’s what we’ll discover next time, Lord-willing.

Jeremiah 40 Commentary

We’re in Jeremiah 40 today. This chapter is the start of a new story that runs to the end of Jeremiah 43. When we went through the entire book of Jeremiah in two messages I called this section the Gedaliah/Johanan Fiasco. This chapter serves as the introduction to that fiasco.

Let’s start with the first verse of the fortieth chapter of Jeremiah.

KJV Jeremiah 40:1 ¶ The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the [royal…] guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon.

Now, it’s interesting that we’re told that the following material in this chapter is “the word…from the Lord” “to Jeremiah.” Usually what follows that kind of pronouncement in this book is a message from the Lord containing directions for Jeremiah. And yet, in this chapter we’re going to see – not the Lord speaking directly to the prophet, but it seems that we’ll be seeing the Lord speaking indirectly through the means of a pagan military commander. We’ll see that played out starting in the next verse.

But before we get to that verse, let’s consider the scene set before us in verse 1 and compare it to what we saw in Jeremiah 39.

Toward the end of Jeremiah 39 we were told that Nebuchadnezzar gave orders for Jeremiah to be released from prison and to be taken care of. By the end of that chapter, we were told that Nebuzaradan told Jeremiah to go live with Gedaliah. But the text says that Jeremiah instead stayed among the people. He could have gone to live in the governor’s home – probably some distance from the normal folk of Judah. Instead, Jeremiah stayed with the people to whom God called him so many decades prior to this.

And because Jeremiah made that decision to stay with his people, we see what we just read in verse 1. He finds himself “bound in chains.” He was led from Jerusalem to this city called Ramah. This was apparently the city from which Babylon was sending the Judeans into exile from Judah to Babylon. And this is where Jeremiah finds himself – chained and on his way to Babylon with his people.

But then Nebuzaradan apparently recognizes him among those ready for deportation. And he releases the prophet.

Now, after he releases Jeremiah, he has a message that he wants to communicate to him. And really, according to verse 1 this is the Lord’s message to him. Look at verse 2.

2 And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him,

The LORD thy God hath [pronounced/threatened] this [evil/disaster] upon this place.

3 Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said:

because ye have sinned against the LORD,
and have not obeyed his voice,

therefore this thing is come upon you.

Now, let’s stop in the middle of this man’s statement and consider what he’s truly saying.

This pagan general is preaching to Jeremiah. And the message he’s preaching is really no different than what Jeremiah himself had been preaching for decades.

The representative of God’s instrument of punishment (Nebuzaradan and Babylon) is telling the man who prophesied that punishment (Jeremiah) that God had threatened the punishment and is now bringing it on his people.

We might consider this kind of thing nearly unbelievable – that a pagan could be speaking God’s truth in some way like what we see here.

But let’s remember that God spoke through the pagan prophet Balaam. For that matter, God spoke through his donkey!

Want some more examples of the Lord speaking truth through unlikely sources? He spoke through Caiaphas the High Priest when that man said that it was to the Jews’ advantage that one man – Jesus – would die for the people. Did Caiaphas truly understand the significance of what he was saying? No. Was he a godly man? No. But did God use him to speak his truth? Yes.

It’s an unfortunate reality that lost people can sometimes understand what’s happening better than God’s professing people. I’m not saying that lost people always get everything right and professing Christians always get it wrong. But sometimes the ungodly can get things right that somehow supposed Christians don’t understand.

For example, in our day you have professing Christians being deceived into believing the so-called prosperity gospel. And on the other hand you have lost people that see through that nonsense.

Or regarding ungodly music – there are many professing Christians who have convinced themselves that as long as you put Christianized lyrics to ungodly tunes the entire song is somehow made godly. On the other hand, those who make no claim to godliness can often see right through this deception.

The point is that God – both now and 2500 years ago – sometimes uses the ungodly to speak sense to those who claim to be God’s people.

The people of Judah in Jeremiah’s time were so self-deceived. They wanted to believe that they could continue sinning and that God wasn’t going to punish them. But this pagan ruler isn’t confused about the answer as to why Babylon could come and destroy Judah. It was because the people sinned against their God.

Certainly, this man Nebuzaradan would have had intelligence that let him know what Jeremiah was preaching leading up to the Babylonian invasion. And yet, Nebuzaradan sounds like he really believes Jeremiah’s message. He believes it so much that he’s preaching it back to the prophet. He’s agreeing with Jeremiah’s message. Yet, amazingly, so very few in Judah did.

Well, with that message given by Nebuzaradan, he continues and offers Jeremiah freedom to come or go wherever he wishes.

4 And now, behold, I [loose/release] thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand.

And then he gives Jeremiah two choices.

If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come;
and I will look well [unto/after] thee:

but if it seem [ill/wrong] unto thee to come with me into Babylon, [forbear/you’re not required to do so]:

behold, all the land is before thee:
whither it seemeth good and [convenient/right] for thee to go, thither go.

Now, this is a very generous offer. Either option is gracious.

Jeremiah could go with Nebuzaradan and he would take care of the prophet. And we can imagine that this would have been one of the most comfortable lives afforded in the ancient near east – to live in Babylon and be taken care of by them. After decades of hard unappreciated work, Jeremiah could have retired, as it were! I mean, this might be the closest thing to receiving a pension and living a luxurious retirement that the ancient world knew.

But if that didn’t suit Jeremiah he could go back to Judah and live freely in the land of his fathers.

He’s free to do whatever.

And we can be sure that a “hireling” would have fled to whichever comfort suited his own desires. But Jeremiah was a true shepherd who loved God and was determined to stay with his straying sheep.

And yet, that decision I’m sure was not an easy one. In a certain way there was no joy for Jeremiah in either option. Go to Babylon and be with pagans or stay in Judah and be with rebellious professing people of God.

Neither option is one he is jumping at. But he does seem to want to stay in Judah and continue his ministry there. And that’s why Nebuzaradan has to respond to his own offer in verse 5.

5 Now while [he/Jeremiah] was not yet gone back [i.e., before he turned to leave…], [he/the Capt of the Guard…] said,

Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan,
whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah,

and dwell with him among the people:

or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go.

And with that message ended, this man gives Jeremiah gifts.

So the captain of the guard gave him [victuals/food] and a [reward/present], and let him go.

And finally Jeremiah goes to live with Gedaliah.

6 Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah [on the border between Benjamin and Judah / 8 miles north of Jerusalem];
and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

Return of Jews to Judah (7-12)

And interestingly enough, Jeremiah is just the first of many Jews to return to Gedaliah. Because in verses 7 through 12 we see a mass migration of scattered Jews back to their new governor.

Military Commanders Return to Gedaliah (7-10)

The military commanders are the first to follow Jeremiah’s example in verses 7-10.

7 ¶ Now when all the [captains of the forces/officers of the Judean army] which were in the [fields/countryside], even they and their [men/troops], heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon;

8 Then [they/the following officers and their troops] came to Gedaliah to Mizpah,

even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah,
and Johanan
and Jonathan the sons of Kareah,
and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth,
and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite,
and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite,
they and their men.

So, these are military men.

It’s interesting to consider how they might have ended up in the fields or countryside. Your first thought would be that they were fighting Babylon there. But it seems that most of the people were hiding in Jerusalem when Babylon came and started attacking. And when Babylon came in to the city, the Babylonian army likely killed most if not all the enemy soldiers – except for Ebed-Melech of course.

So, what’s more likely is that these are men who fled the city – probably when Babylon entered – and then these men hid themselves in the surrounding fields.

But now they’re coming out of hiding because the enemy is gone.

9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan [sware unto them and to their men/took an oath as to give them and their troops some assurance of safety], saying,

[Fear not/Don’t be afraid] to [serve/submit to] the Chaldeans:
[dwell/settle down] in the land,
and [serve/submit to] the king of Babylon,
and it shall be well with you.

10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to [serve/represent you before] the Chaldeans, which will come unto us:

but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits [i.e., dates and figs…], and oil, and [put/store] them in your [vessels/jars], and dwell in your cities that ye have taken [over…].

So, that’s the military commanders and their return to Gedaliah.

Jews in Foreign Countries Return (11-12)

Next we have all the Jews scattered in other countries returning to Gedaliah in verses 11 and 12.

11 Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab,
and among the Ammonites,
and in Edom,
and that were in all the countries,

heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah,
and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan;

12 Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were [driven/scattered],
and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah,
and gathered wine and [summer fruits/dates and figs] [very much/in great abundance].

So, I think what we’re seeing so far is that life is good for these Jews. How merciful God is. He had to punish them. And yet – look at them now. Back in the land. Gathering oil and summer fruit. Traumatized, no doubt. And yet, still alive and receiving mercy from God.

But all of that is about to change. Because though God was now showing them more mercy, their hearts were not changed at all. The goodness of God does lead to repentance in some hearts. But others despise his mercy and continue in their sin.

The Makings of Another Calamity (13-16)

So, for the rest of this chapter the stage will be set for yet another calamity for the people of Judah. And really this is the function of Jeremiah 40. It’s setting the scene for the rest of the story that unfolds from this chapter to the end of the 43rd chapter. And that’s why we don’t see a whole lot of action in this chapter – because it’s simply introducing us to people and places and concepts that will help us understand what happens in the next three chapters of this book.

With that in mind, let’s see the makings of another calamity for Judah starting in verse 13.

13 ¶ Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the [captains/officers] of the [forces/troops] that were in the [fields/open country], came to Gedaliah to Mizpah,

Remember this Johanan was mentioned a few verses ago. He was one of the men hiding in the countryside. And now we’re reminded that he returned to Gedaliah.

And if you recall that list in verse 8 you remember that there were several men named there. Well, one of those men is a traitor.

14 And [Johanan…] said unto him [Gedliah…],

[Dost thou certainly know/Are you at all aware] that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to [slay thee/take your life/kill you]?

But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam [believed them not/would not believe them].

Gedaliah doesn’t buy it.

So, Johanan tries once more to convince Gedaliah of the danger he faces.

15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah [secretly/privately], saying,

Let me go, [I pray thee/please],
and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah,
and no man shall know it:

wherefore should he slay thee,
that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered,
and the remnant in Judah perish?

So, Johanan thus far is proving himself to be a man with keen insight. While Gedaliah seems to be in a fantasy world, Johanan has seen battle and he’s aware of the situation on the ground.

And yet, Gedaliah for a second time ignores Johanan’s warnings – even accusing him of lying.

16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah,

Thou shalt not do this thing:
for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

How does Gedaliah know this? How does he know that Ishmael isn’t planning to kill him? We have no information here leading us to believe that Gedaliah conducted any sort of investigation into the claims of Johanan.

So then, what we see in Gedaliah is a blissful and yet irresponsible ignorance that’s only too characteristic of God’s people today. I know in my own soul a tendency to recoil from bad news about such-and-such a ministry or this-or-that preacher. I’d rather just plug my ears and not have to exercise discernment. Instead I’d rather just ignore the warnings issued by someone more knowledgeable than I am.

And some of that makes sense. Because, after all, who wants to be dwelling on negative things constantly? Who wants to keep hearing bad news?

Gedaliah went through something like hell on earth. He didn’t want any more battles. He wanted to live peacefully in the land and ignore any reality that threatened that prospect. And some of that is commendable. But at the same time, his willful ignorance will cost him his life and will ensure that God’s people are scattered and enslaved and led by men who do not love the Lord.

We need to thank God for leaders who don’t simply believe the best of every potential enemy of the people they’re leading – whether we’re speaking of threats to the Church or even threats to our nation.

In my opinion, we’ve had 8 years of an administration in this country that has constantly given the benefit of the doubt to those who would destroy our nation. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

But in the Church we have similar things happening. And therefore we can thank God for leaders who are willing to sound the alarm when necessary. We can be thankful to and for shepherds who will let the sheep know when the wolf is near – who will even identify who the wolf is for us.

And just like the Jews suffered because of Gedaliah’s blissful ignorance, so we too will suffer if we don’t have discerning leadership. So pray for that kind of leadership and thank God when you have it in your life.

So, we end with that thought for this time. And ending in the middle of an introduction to a story is not very satisfying. The story is just getting started. But hopefully this will help us anticipate what is to come in the next few messages.

Next time, we’ll see how right Johanan was, how wrong Gedaliah was, and how truly evil Ishmael turns out to be.

Jeremiah 39 Commentary

We’re in Jeremiah 39.

Jeremiah 39 is the culmination of much of what we’ve already read throughout the first 38 chapters of this book. God has made many threats in an attempt to turn his people back to him. But they had refused over and over. So, you wonder – what will happen to those people?

On the other hand, there have been a few bright shining examples of obedience. And we all hope that whatever happens to the bad guys doesn’t happen to these who have obeyed the Lord.

Well, Jeremiah 39 is where we learn the fate of these two groups of people.

God’s judgement finally falls. And we’re going to see the repercussions in this chapter.

Babylon Captures Jerusalem (1-14)

So, to begin, in verses 1-14 we see Babylon finally capturing Jerusalem, just as God had been threatening through Jeremiah for so many years – decades, really.

Babylon Besieges Jerusalem (1)

And it all starts with Jeremiah taking a step back and recounting that Jerusalem was indeed under siege by Babylon in verse 1. We knew this already even from Jeremiah 38, but for the purpose of this chapter, Jeremiah wants to recount this fact of Babylon’s besieging Jerusalem.

KJV Jeremiah 39:1 ¶ In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.

Now, our pastor has in the last month or so commended to us laboring to understand what we read in the Bible. And one resource that I use for that purpose is the NET Bible study notes. I really used that resource heavily as I prepared for this message and so I wanted to try to avoid plagiarizing by naming a big source that I used this time – and that I have used regularly throughout the course of this series. I also of course wanted to put this resource in your mind as one that could be quite helpful for your personal Bible study.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me point out two cross-references that speak of what we just read in verse 1. Verse 1 here told us that Babylon came in Zedekiah’s 9th year and in the 10th month of that year. Both 2 Kings 25:1 and Jeremiah 52:4 give the day of the month as well. That would be the 10th day. So, 10th day of 10th month of Zedekiah’s 9th year is when Babylon came to lay their final siege to Jerusalem. This actually equates to January 15th, 588 BC. This then all happened right around 2,605 years ago.

Babylon Breaks into Jerusalem (2)

And not quite two years into that siege, Babylon finally broke into the city in verse 2.

2 And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was [broken up/breached/broken into].

This would have been July 18th, 586 BC. So, about 18 months after the siege began, Jerusalem was broken into.

Babylonian Officials Set Up Shop (3)

Well, so, now Babylon has entered the city. By virtue of that fact, they are now the de facto governing authority. And so their officials set up governmental operations in the city gate in verse 3.

3 And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and [sat/set up quarters/set up a provisional military government over the city] in the middle gate [“The identification of the location of the Middle Gate is uncertain since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT.” – NET], [see 1:15] even
Nergalsharezer, [of] [Samgarnebo/Samgar],
[Sarsechim/Nebo-Sarsechim], [the] [Rabsaris/the chief officer],
Nergalsharezer, [the] [Rabmag/a high official],
with all the [residue/rest] of the [princes/officers] of the king of Babylon.

Now, what we need to realize at this point is that this very thing was promised by God all the way back in Jeremiah 1:15. There, the Lord said…

KJV Jeremiah 1:15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, …

And so, accordingly, these people from Babylon are now setting up their thrones – they’re acting as rulers – in the gate of Jerusalem. God’s word came to pass.

Also, it’s hard to tell if there are six names in verse 3 or just three with the other three just describing the person. For example, “Rab-Saris” might be a person’s name or it might be that person’s position or title. Whatever the case, the officials of Babylon are now ruling Jerusalem.

Zedekiah Flees (4)

So, seeing that there was now “a new sheriff in town,” so to speak, Zedekiah and his officials decide that the city isn’t big enough for all of them – and he flees.

4 And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the [men of war/soldiers],

then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night,
by the way of the king’s garden,
by the gate betwixt the two walls:

And what is so sobering and sad to realize is that Zedekiah and these soldiers had multiple opportunities to “flee” when fleeing would have done them any good. They could have gone out to Babylon at any time before this and been spared. They could have been treated well. But we’ll see what their disobedience earns them later on in the story.

Now, this “king’s garden” is likely on the southern end of Jerusalem. There, the wall of the eastern hill and the western hill would have converged. Thus the reference to the “two walls.”

Continuing on…

and he went out [the way of/toward] the [plain/Arabah/Jordan Valley].

Apparently, Zedekiah and his soldiers were planning to flee to a country beyond the Jordan River – maybe Ammon or Moab.

Babylon Captures and Sentences Zedekiah (5-7)

And yet, Zedekiah can’t escape God’s punishment for his disobedience and wavering. So, as God has promised him several times already through Jeremiah, Zedekiah finally does see the king of Babylon eye-to-eye in verses 5-7. And that will be one of the last sights he sees.

5 But the Chaldeans’ army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho:

And let’s not miss the significance of where Zedekiah was caught. He was caught – and thus, the fate of Judah was sealed – in this city called Jericho. But this was the very city that marked the beginning of the conquest of Canaan by Israel almost 10 centuries before this time.

And now, because of their disobedience, the Lord finally had to bring on them what he promised at the end of the book of Deuteronomy. And instead of giving them the land and keeping them there, he was now throwing them out. Back around 1400 BC, they were invading this land and expelling the inhabitants. But now in 586 BC, the Jews themselves are being expelled by the invading Babylonians.

Let me also mention one thing that I think I’ve glossed over to this point. We’ve noticed several times that this book has referred to the Babylonians or the Chaldeans interchangeably. And that’s fine, but I wanted to add a little background to that.

The Chaldeans were originally a group that was south of Babylon proper. It was from that group that Nebuchadnezzar came. His father was the one who built that Chaldean dynasty, actually. And so, it’s that entity – the Chaldean dynasty – that is referred to as “the Babylonians” or as “the Chaldeans.” This situation also partially explains why Jeremiah 1 cites God as speaking of “the families of the north” – probably reflecting this mix of groups within this entity known as “the Chaldeans” here in verse 5.

Now, verse 5 says that these Chaldeans overtook Zedekiah. But we just heard that his soldiers went with him. So, what’s going on?

Well, according to 2 Kings 25:5 and Jeremiah 52:8, at this point in the story his soldiers scattered from him. So, now Zedekiah is all alone – abandoned by his officials, and soldiers, and supposed friends. Just like Jeremiah told him in chapter 38. Just when his feet were stuck in the proverbial mud, they turned their back on him.

On the other hand, God wouldn’t have. God never leaves not forsakes his people. If only Zedekiah would have listened to and feared God rather than men.

And this kind of thinking is how we should read narratives in the Bible. When we come across stories in Scripture, we do need to allow them to shape our morals. Now, these stories are more than just moral teachings – but they’re no less than moral teachings.

As we read this story, for example, look at what Zedekiah did. Look at what God said. And consider the results of Zedekiah’s actions and faith – or lack thereof. And in this particular story, the message is – trust and obey God even when it looks like obeying him means certain death. Because, if you don’t take God seriously, you will experience worse than you could ever imagine. Do you think Zedekiah imagined that he’d have to witness the slaying of his sons followed by his eyes being put out? I doubt it. I imagine that this is what he was trying to avoid by not obeying God. It didn’t work. And this kind of disobedience won’t work for us either.

Trust and obey God even when doing so looks like it will kill you. Because the alternative could be even worse than death.

So, let’s get back to our story. The end of verse 5 relates the beginning of the lamentable result of Zedekiah’s disobedience to God.

and when they [the Babylonian army…] had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the [land/territory] of Hamath, where he [gave judgment upon/passed sentence on] him.

Now, Riblah was a city on the western edge of what is today Syria – slash – Lebanon. It’s north of Israel and Judah, which is why the army brought Zedekiah “up.” They took him north of Jericho, where they found him.

6 Then the king of Babylon [slew/slaughtered/put to death] [used 36x in Lev. of animals…] the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah [before his eyes/while Zedekiah was forced to watch]:

also the king of Babylon [slew/slaughtered/put to death] all the nobles of Judah.

7 [Moreover/Then] he put out Zedekiah’s eyes [eyes emphasized in Heb; 32:4 and 34:3 said that Zed would see Neb with his eyes], and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.

So, that’s how things went with Zedekiah and his officials. Death, destruction, disfigurement. It had not worked out as they had planned. And that’s because they didn’t plan with any thought of what God wanted.

They all met a most bitter end.

Babylon Burns Jerusalem and Breaks Down Its Wall (8)

So, now, moving on, we’re going to see how things went for the people of Jerusalem who refused to surrender to Babylon.

To begin, Babylon starts destroying their city in verse 8.

8 And the Chaldeans burned the [king’s house/royal palace], and the houses of the people, with fire, and [brake/tore] down the walls of Jerusalem.

So, the city of these rebellious people is now in ruins – ruins that won’t be rebuilt until Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah start leading a return to the land in around 70 years from this point.

Now, 2 Kings 25:8-9 and Jeremiah 52:12-13 tell us that what we just read in verse 8 occurred almost one month after Zedekiah’s escape from Jerusalem. So, between verses 5-7 and verse 8 we have around one month passing.

Also, it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar himself who did these things to Jerusalem personally. Rather, from those passages we just referenced, we learn that a Babylonian official named Nebuzaradan carried out this destruction of Jerusalem. We’ll hear more about this man in the next verse.

Babylon Takes Most into Exile and Leaves the Poorest (9-10)

So, with the people’s houses and city in ruins, Babylon takes the rest of the people – those who hadn’t died – back to Babylon in verses 9-10, leaving once again only the poorest of the poor in the land.

9 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the [remnant/rest] of the people [that remained/who were left] in the city, and those [that fell away, that fell/who had deserted] to him, with the rest of the people that remained.

10 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

Now, remember that around 10 years prior to these events, Nebuchadnezzar came and took away most of the skilled people from Judah, leaving the new king Zedekiah with mostly unskilled ignorant folks. Well, now, to make matters even worse, the cream of that crop that was left to Zedekiah was now being taken. So that now only the poorest of the poor were left in the land.

The rest were exiled. Many before this point had died. This is what happened to these people who rebelled against the Lord.

They worshipped idols. They abused their fellow-man. And yet they would come to the temple and make themselves believe that everything would be alright. Because, after all they thought, surely a God wouldn’t destroy his own temple, let alone the city that housed it.

And yet, our God, the only true and holy God, is more concerned about his people’s hearts and corresponding behavior than he is about their external religious observances.

And this is true to this day. Now, let us be clear on this. Every one of us in here is a sinner. We all fall short of God’s glory. The way to respond to sin in our life is not to avoid meeting with the church here in this city.

On the other hand, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we can be godless Monday morning through Saturday night and then come to church on Sunday morning and harbor some hope in our heart that the simple act of attending church is going to make things right with you and the Lord.

Attending church does not extend pardon to you of your sins. Only confessing those sins to the Lord, with an attendant faith in Christ does that.

I trust we have numerous people in here today who have a real sense that they are accepted by God and that all of their sins are pardoned by him.

And yet, I hope that no one in here thinks that this pardon is achieved by doing any sort of religious ritual. Going to church, getting baptized, giving your money to good causes, whatever. External religious observance will not save you. True repentance with a genuine saving faith in Christ alone does.

Babylon Deals with Jeremiah (11-14)

Well, so, that’s how Babylon dealt with the rebellious king of Judah along with his sons, officials, and the rebellious people of Jerusalem.

So, now, starting in verse 14 we hear of how Babylon treated Jeremiah the prophet.

11 ¶ Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave [charge/command] concerning Jeremiah [to/through] Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,

12 Take him, and look [well/out] [to/after/for] him, and do him no harm; but [do unto/deal with] him [even as/whatever] he [shall say unto/tells] thee.

By the way, contrast this treatment of the prophet with the way that Jeremiah’s own people treated him! The Jews put him in jail, put him in a cistern, wanted him to die, abused him, and much more.

But this pagan army? They treat him well.

And they even know him by name! This is amazing.

What can we compare this to? I can’t think of any 100% parallel, but I’ll try to get close.

Picture the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This situation with Jeremiah would be as if – when the US army was entering the capital city of Kabul – that George W. Bush would have given command to the army to spare the life of one particular citizen of that city.

It’s totally unlikely. There would be very little reason for the ruler of the invading nation to show mercy to anyone. And in fact, when it comes to Babylon, they are going to be so cruel – even to the old and weak of Judah – that God uses that as a reason that he is going to judge them in the future.

So, despite the fact that Babylon was cruel and brutal, they show great mercy toward Jeremiah. This then is nothing other than the direct influence of God on the heart of this pagan leader. The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord – whether that king is Jewish or Babylonian or any other nationality.

So, the command was given concerning Jeremiah. Now it’s executed.

13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent,
and Nebushasban, [the] [Rabsaris/a chief officer],
and Nergalsharezer, [the] [Rabmag/a high official],
and all the king of Babylon’s [princes/chief officers];

14 Even they sent,
and took Jeremiah out of the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guard/guardhouse],
and [committed/entrusted/turned over] him unto

the son of Ahikam
the son of Shaphan,

that he should [carry/take] him [to Gedaliah’s…] home:

[so/but] [he/Jeremiah] [dwelt/stayed] among the people.

And here is the first mention of this man named Gedaliah. We’ll discover later that this man is now appointed governor of Judah by Babylon.

He has an interesting and godly lineage. His father Ahikam defended Jeremiah back in Jeremiah 26:24. And Gedaliah’s grandfather Shaphan as we’ve said before was a man who was involved in Josiah’s repentance.

Gedaliah himself seems to be a good man. But at the very least, his father and grandfather were good men.

Now, that last statement that Jeremiah stayed among the people is so significant. Do you think that Jeremiah liked these people? I mean, do you think he enjoyed being around them? Do you think they had a lot in common? Would their idolatry and abuse of others have been something Jeremiah would have been comfortable with?

No. I don’t think Jeremiah would have normally wanted to associate with these people. And yet, even when given the chance to separate himself from them, he stays among them. God had just had to punish these people for their flagrant sins. These people had abused Jeremiah and given him many reasons to hate them.

Why did Jeremiah stay with them? Here’s why. Jeremiah had come to understand that God called him to minister to these people – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What keeps the missionary ministering in the presence of abhorrent sin? What will keep you and me reaching out to obstinate family and loved ones? Remember that God has called us to be witnesses to him in this life. That’s our job. That’s our one job in this life.

And the people you and I are called to serve are not our motivation for serving. The Lord our God should be our motivation to serve sinful people made in his image. That’s the way it was for Jeremiah. It’s that way for us, too.

Flashback: Ebed-Melech Saved by Faith (15-18)

Now, for a final time, I just want to remind us that we’ve seen how several groups or individuals have fared now that God’s judgements are coming to pass.

Zedekiah, his kids, his officials, and the people over whom he ruled – all of whom were disobedient to God’s reasonable requirements – are now all dead or in captivity. God’s word has been proven true in their situations.

Jeremiah, who was not like the others – but was obedient to God’s commands – he is alive and free and after decades of dealing with these rebels, he’s still standing by God’s grace.

But now the story stops right there and takes us back a few months. Last chapter we read about a man named Ebed-Melech. He was a mercenary fighter from Ethiopia. He apparently was hired to fight for Judah against Babylon.

And yet, something happened to this man – this gentile – that moved him to be concerned for the welfare of the prophet Jeremiah.

And now, we’re going to find out why Ebed-Melech was concerned for Jeremiah. Ebed-Melech trusted the one true God while he was there in Jerusalem. And as a result, he would be delivered from the people he was fearing – the Babylonians.

And thus, here in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, we have an amazing instance of a Gentile being saved by faith.

This is how God deals with Ebed-Melech – delivering him because of his faith. Verses 15-18.

15 ¶ Now the word of the LORD [came/had come] unto Jeremiah, while he was [shut up/confined] in the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guard/guardhouse], saying,

16 Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian [recall the Ethiopian eunuch in the NT…], saying,

So, again, this was in the previous 18 months during which time at some point Jeremiah was imprisoned. Ebed-Melech would have been accessible since Jeremiah’s prison was in the guard house where soldiers like Ebed-Melech would have been housed.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts [military term…], the God of Israel;

Behold, I will [bring/fulfill] my [words/promises] [upon/against] this city for evil, and not for good;

and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.

So, that’s bad news. God’s punishment is coming and Ebed-Melech – this man hired to help these Judean soldiers – is on the losing side of things.

But now, contrast the dire situation Ebed-Melech faces as a soldier on the losing side of a battle to God’s promise to him in the midst of this catastrophe.

17 But I will [deliver/rescue] thee in that day,

[saith/affirms!] the LORD:

and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.

Now, the men whom this mercenary soldier is fearing are probably not the Judean officials who imprisoned and tried to kill Jeremiah. Rather, this is a reference to the invading Babylonians who would normally kill the soldiers that they’re fighting. But God will reverse the way things usually go and deliver Ebed-Melech.

18 For I will surely [deliver/save] thee [or “delivering I will deliver”…],
and thou shalt not fall by the sword,

but thy life shall be [for/as] a [prey/prize of war] unto thee:

Why did God determine to deliver or save this man?

because thou hast put thy trust in me,

[saith/declares/affirms!] the LORD.

Saved. By faith!

So, let’s review.

Zedekiah? His children slaughtered. His kingdom violently wrested from him. His sense of vision stolen forever.

All the people of Jerusalem? Many of them died. The rest were taken from their homes, never to return. Their homes all destroyed.

Jeremiah? Treated well – better than he’d been treated for a few decades, probably.

Ebed-Melech? Saved by his faith in the one true God. Just like we are.

And you’d like to think that this is the end. That maybe Jeremiah could live happily ever after. And yet, we’ll see from the next several chapters that the rebellion of these Jews is far from over. We’ll look forward to that next time.

Jeremiah 38 Commentary

This is the third chapter in what we’re calling the “Bitter End” of Judah. That major section of the book of Jeremiah runs from chapter 36 through chapter 45.

The first chapter we saw in this section – Jeremiah 36 had Jehoiakim burning the Lord’s written message.

The second chapter – Jeremiah 37 had God’s spoken word through Jeremiah temporarily imprisoned.

And now this third chapter – Jeremiah 38 consists of two major scenes.

The first consists of verses 1-13. In that section we’ll see Jeremiah narrowly saved from death at the hands of the evil Jewish leaders. We’ll also see an unlikely savior for Jeremiah. He’s a gentile.

Then the second section of this chapter runs from verses 14-28. There we see a very personal exchange between Jeremiah and King Zedekiah. And it seems from that conversation that there’s a chance of Zedekiah’s repenting. But alas, he stops short of the true repentance that God was looking for.

Officials, Zedekiah, Ebed-Melech, Jeremiah (1-13)

So, let’s begin explaining the first section of Jeremiah 38.

Judahite Officials Hear Jeremiah’s Message (1-3)

In verses 1-3 we see the officials of Judah hearing Jeremiah’s characteristic message of judgement – with the corollary that if people in Jerusalem surrender to Babylon, they will live. Despite the fact that they are less than two years away from total destruction, they will live if they submit to God’s authority.

KJV Jeremiah 38:1 ¶ Then

Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and
Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and
Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and [probably the Jehucal of 37:3, sent by Zedekiah…]
Pashur the son of Malchiah, [the same Pashur as in 21:1 whom Zed sent to Jer to plead to God for mercy from Babylon’s attack; not the Pashur in 20 who was a false prophet/priest…]

heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying,

2 Thus saith the LORD,

He that remaineth in this city
shall die by [the sword/battle], by [the famine/starvation], and by [the pestilence/disease]:

but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans
shall live;

for he shall have his life for a prey, and
shall live.

3 Thus saith the LORD,

This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.

Let’s just notice two things about the list of people Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah.

First, very simply, two of the four we know nothing about. Shephatiah and Gedaliah are relatively unknown to us from Scripture’s record of events of this time.

Second though, the other two have been sent to Jeremiah before by king Zedekiah. So, they’ve heard Jeremiah’s message of judgement and punishment unless the people repent. They’ve also heard before God’s merciful allowance for the people of Jerusalem to surrender to Babylon and keep their lives as a result.

Judahite Officials Seek Zedekiah’s Permission to Kill Jeremiah (4)

And you might think that the response of these officials to hearing this message would have been for them to obey. Maybe you’d expect them to surrender to Babylon. You could expect them to be thankful to God for this merciful offer.

Instead though, we see in verse 4 these four officials of Judah seeking permission from king Zedekiah to kill the prophet Jeremiah.

4 Therefore the [princes/officials] said unto the king,

We beseech thee, let this man be put to death:

for thus he [weakeneth the hands of/demoralizing] the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them:

for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.

Now, by the admission of these officials, the city of Jerusalem was already fairly devastated. They speak of “the men of war that remain in this city” as in – there are not many left. And the ones that remain are being demoralized by God’s word.

And yet, what these men count as demoralization, God intends as humbling.

And this kind of thing happen to this very day. Whenever you or I speak God’s word, there is a significant chance that we will be labeled as “bigoted.” They will view us as “homophobic” because we believe God’s testimony concerning the biblical definition of marriage. They will label us as “misogynists” because of the way that Scripture cuts cross-grain to the current ungodly feminism of this culture. In this day and age of stressing a “positive mental attitude” the Bible message of the depravity and condemnation of all men will earn us perhaps the worst label of all – we’re supposedly “negative.”

Being mislabeled is something we’ve all learned to deal with, I trust. And we’re helped in that regard by remembering that our dear friend and brother Jeremiah – one man in that great “cloud of witnesses” from Hebrews – experienced the same exact thing in his day.

Zedekiah Acquiesces to the Officials’ Request (5)

So, the officials – who, remember, were among the “losers” that Zedekiah inherited when he was installed as king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar about ten years prior to this event we’re reading about. Well, these officials come to Zedekiah and demand death for Jeremiah, because he’s supposedly demoralizing the troops with God’s infallible message.

So, how does Zedekiah respond? Well, amazingly, in verse 5 we witness Zedekiah acquiescing to the wicked request of these officials.

5 Then Zedekiah the king said,

Behold, he is in your hand:

for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.

This last statement of Zedekiah’s is yet another head-scratcher. This king tends to say some very bizarre things.

In the last chapter we saw him asking the prophet Jeremiah who had devoted decades to proclaiming God’s message – and as we’ve seen throughout this book, that message didn’t really change all that much during that time. Well, the king asked if God had a message for him. OF COURSE HE DOES – It’s been given to you and all Judah many times.

And now this. The king of Judah tells these officials – whom I would assume he himself appointed – he tells them that he can’t do anything to stop him.

Now, what’s more demoralizing? Having a prophet speaking God’s infallible word that is able to deliver those who receive it? Or a king who won’t even stand up to the men he’s appointed?

I get the feeling that this move is akin to Pontius Pilate’s hand-washing. He really doesn’t want to rouse the anger of the ruling Jews who were opposed to God’s prophet. Yet, he himself doesn’t want to kill the prophet. But he’s not going to hinder anyone who actively wants to kill the prophet.

It’s a case of deadly inactivity.

The Officials Carry Out their Desire to Kill Jeremiah (6)

Well, so, the king caves in as we just saw.

And so, with permission granted from the king, the officials carry out their plan to attempt to murder the prophet Jeremiah.

6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the [dungeon/cistern] of Malchiah the son of [Hammelech/the king] [i.e., one of the royal princes…], that was in the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guard/guardhouse]:

and they let down Jeremiah with [cords/ropes].

And in the [dungeon/cistern] there was no water [which you would expect in a cistern…], but [mire/mud only]:

so Jeremiah sunk in the [mire/mud].

And the way this is reported might not give you the sense of the danger that Jeremiah faces. And yet he is in a very dangerous position.

It’s hard to know how deep the mud was in this cistern. What kinds of creatures were in there that could be harmful? There was probably very little light. The air quality would have been very poor with probably quite a bit of mold. There was no way for Jeremiah to escape. The officials let him down and walked away, fully intending this cistern to be Jeremiah’s tomb.

Ebed-Melech Pleads for Jeremiah’s Life (7-9)

But God had other plans for his prophet.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a gentile comes to Jeremiah’s rescue in verses 7-9.

7 ¶ Now when Ebedmelech [heb. “A King’s Servant”] the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the [dungeon/cistern];

the king then [sitting/holding court] in the gate of Benjamin;

8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the [king’s house/palace], and spake to the king, saying,

9 My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the [dungeon/cistern];

and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is:

for there is no more bread in the city. [chronologically after Jeremiah 37…]

So, this man is from Ethiopia. Now, Ethiopians in the Old Testament were sometimes called upon as mercenary fighters. So, this man is in Jerusalem probably fighting alongside the Judeans. He’s on their side. He’s no traitor.

And yet, he for some reason cares about what happens to Jeremiah. And we’re going to see later in this book why this was the case. You see, this man – an African national hired to fight against Babylon for Judah – he came to trust in the God of Judah.

And this man is bold. He goes to the king in public while the king is holding court. So, this approach is very public. Those four murderous officials may have even been there.

Zedekiah Acquiesces to Ebed-Melech’s Request (10)

And just like Zedekiah unadvisedly caved in to the wicked officials, he also grants the request of this godly gentile – no questions asked – in verse 10.

10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying,

Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die.

If you’re shocked by Zedekiah’s wavering, you should be. He goes from hastily ordering the death of Jeremiah to now ordering his rescue. And he does it with zest – 30 men?! How many men do you need to get a man out of a cistern? Well, four officials did it just a few verses ago.

And so some who have studied this passage wonder if it’s a typo in the copies of the Scripture – they think maybe that number should be 3 rather than 30. And yet, there’s no textual evidence for that. And so it’s best to see this as Zedekiah’s pendulum swinging in the completely opposite direction as where it was when the officials came to him.

First it was – yeah, go ahead and kill him. I can’t do anything to stop you. Now it’s – take as many men as you need – even 30! – and go rescue that prophet before he dies!

Doesn’t the statement in James 1 about a double-minded man come to mind when you think of Zedekiah’s behavior here? A double-minded man like Zedekiah is unstable in all his ways. He wavers and such a one like a wave of the sea – driven with the wind and tossed.

Ebed-Melech Saves Jeremiah’s Life (11-13)

Well, with permission from the king, Jeremiah’s gentile deliverer executes his plan to save the prophet Jeremiah in verses 11-13.

11 So Ebedmelech took the men with him,

and went into the house of the king under the treasury,

and took thence [old cast clouts/old rags/worn-out clothes] and [old rotten rags/worn-out clothes/old rags],

and let them down by cords into the [dungeon/cistern] to Jeremiah.

12 And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah,

Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine [armholes/armpits] under [to pad…] the [cords/ropes].

And Jeremiah did so.

13 So they drew up Jeremiah with [cords/ropes],

and took him up out of the [dungeon/cistern]:

and Jeremiah remained in the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guard/guardhouse].

Ebed-Melech shows an extraordinary amount of compassion for Jeremiah. That’s why he’s in that room under the treasury looking for old rags – so that he could put them between the ropes and Jeremiah’s body so that the prophet could be as comfortable as possible as he’s lifting him out of the cistern – which just a little while ago was set to be the prophet’s grave.

And then we see the summary of Jeremiah’s status and safety in verse 13 there. The Lord got Jeremiah through this very trying time and afterwards he remained safe. And – under God – Jeremiah owed his very life to this African gentile.

So, the Lord rescued Jeremiah from this latest trial of his.

Zedekiah Approaches Jeremiah (14-28)

Now, following Jeremiah’s near-death experience, Zedekiah – who was dangerously close to killing this true prophet of the Lord – approaches Jeremiah in verses 14-28.

Zedekiah Asks Jeremiah to Answer His Question (14)

To begin, Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to answer a question he has in verse 14.

14 ¶ Then Zedekiah the king sent, and [took/had x brought] Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD:

and the king said unto Jeremiah,

I will ask thee a [thing/question];
hide nothing from me.

Jeremiah Communicates Apprehension Regarding Answering the King (15)

And as you can imagine after that last episode, Jeremiah has some apprehension about answering this king forthrightly – seeing as the king is given to imprisoning and signing off on the death of Jeremiah. So, Jeremiah communicates that apprehension to the king in verse 15.

15 Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah,

If I [declare it unto thee/tell you], wilt thou not surely put me to death?

and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?

Zedekiah Assures Jeremiah of His Safety (16)

Nevertheless, the king gives Jeremiah assurance of his safety if he answers the king’s question in verse 16.

16 So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying,

As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death,

neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.

This is the last conversation we have recorded of this king. And the words coming out of his mouth seem to be rather sober. He speaks of the Lord who created the life or soul of each individual. He’s speaking this just maybe months or even weeks before his kingdom crashes down around him. Has this double-minded man finally turned to the Lord with his whole heart?

Jeremiah Speaks God’s Counsel to Zedekiah (17-18)

Well, emboldened by the king’s assurance of safety, Jeremiah goes on to speak God’s counsel to Zedekiah in verses 17-18.

17 ¶ Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah,

Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel;

If thou wilt assuredly [go forth unto/surrender to] the king of Babylon’s [princes/officials/officers],

then thy soul shall live,
and this city shall not be burned with fire;
and thou shalt live, and thine house:

18 But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes,

then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans,
and they shall burn it with fire,
and thou shalt not escape out of their hand.

So, the word from God for Zedekiah is – surrender to Babylon and you will be rewarded with life.

It’s interesting to note that God promises Zedekiah life for obedience. And yet, he doesn’t specify death for disobedience. And we’ve seen already that God ends the so-called Book of Consolation in Jeremiah 34 with a promise to Zedekiah that he would not die. And yet, the Lord here threatens Zedekiah to such an extent that until he gets that promise that he won’t die – he wouldn’t be able to just sit back and assume things would be fine for him.

Zedekiah Expresses Fear of Men (19)

But, despite receiving God’s very message from his true prophet, Zedekiah in verse 19 expresses his fear of men, which evidently outweighs his fear of God.

19 And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah,

I am afraid of the Jews [that are fallen/who have deserted] to the Chaldeans,
lest they [Babylon] deliver me into their [Jews] hand, and they [Jews] [mock/deal cruelly with/torture] me.

And this is such a sad and pathetic statement. This king is wrestling between submitting to God’s authority and fearing his fellow-man. And what Zedekiah needed to do is what the Lord Jesus commanded his hearers – don’t fear the one who is able to destroy only the body – but rather fear him who is able to cast both body and soul into hell.

Jeremiah Assures Him that He Should Fear God More than Men (20-23)

Well, Jeremiah seeks to assure the king that he should indeed fear God rather than man in verses 20-23.

20 But Jeremiah said,

They [Babylon] shall not deliver thee.

Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee:

so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.

So, that’s blessing for obedience. But here’s the opposite side of the coin.

21 But if thou refuse to go forth,

this is the [word/vision] that the LORD hath shewed me:

22 And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon’s [princes/officers],

and those women shall say [to you, Zedekiah…],

Thy [trusted…] friends have [set thee on/deceived you/misled you],
and have [prevailed against thee/gotten the best of you]:

Maybe this is speaking of people like those four officials we saw earlier.

thy feet are sunk in the mire,
and [instead of helping you…] they are turned away back.

And that sounds a lot like what these officials did to Jeremiah earlier.

23 So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans:

and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon:

and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire.

So, that’s God’s message to Zedekiah. Submit to God’s Authority and Live. If not, he will suffer greatly.

How will he respond? We’ve seen some soberness from him. Maybe he will submit to God.

Zedekiah Ends the Conversation and Orders Jeremiah to be Silent (24-26)

And yet, after receiving God’s counsel and admonitions from the prophet Jeremiah, Zedekiah abruptly ends the conversation. Furthermore, Zedekiah orders Jeremiah to not tell anyone anything in verses 24-26 – especially those officials who sought Jeremiah’s death back in the first section of this chapter.

24 ¶ Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah,

Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.

25 But if the [princes/officials] [at least those four from earlier…] hear that I have talked with thee,
and they come unto thee,
and say unto thee,

Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king,
hide it not from us,
and we will not put thee to death;

also what the king said unto thee:

26 Then thou shalt say unto them,

I [presented my supplication/made a humble plea] before the king,
that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there.

And so the king seals his fate here. He had God’s word proclaimed clearly and pointedly to him. And he’s made his decision to fear men rather than God.

The Officials Speak with Jeremiah About His Conversation with Zedekiah (27)

Now, just as Zedekiah thought might happen, the officials do end up coming to Jeremiah and asking him about his conversation with the king in verse 27.

27 Then came all the [princes/officials] unto Jeremiah, and asked him:

and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded.

So they left off speaking with him; for the [matter/conversation] was not [perceived/overheard].

Summary of Jeremiah’s Condition Until the Destruction of Jerusalem (28)

And finally, the chapter ends with a summary of Jeremiah’s condition until the fall of Jerusalem in verse 28.

28 So Jeremiah abode in the court of the [prison/guard] until the day that Jerusalem was taken:

and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.

And next time we will see the fall of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 37 Commentary

…continuation of “the bitter end” from 36-45…

KJV Jeremiah 37:1 ¶ And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom [that is, Zed. …] Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.

Just to give us the context of what we’re seeing here, I wanted to read an extended quote from the Old Testament book of 2 Kings.

2 Kings 24:8-25:2 – …

KJV 2 Kings 24:8 ¶ Jehoiachin [a.k.a., Coniah; This is the son of Jehoiakim, whom we saw in the last chapter burn the scroll with God’s message on it…] was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father [Jehoiakim…] had done.

 10 ¶ At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. 12 And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his [Nebuchadnezzar’s…] reign. 13 And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. 14 And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land [This is what would be left to the next king of Judah…]. 15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.

And here’s where King Zedekiah comes into the picture…

 17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his [Jehoicahin’s…] father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. 18 ¶ Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20 ¶ For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

And because Zedekiah rebelled against the world power of that time…

 25:1 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. 2 And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.

We’ll stop there. That gives us a good idea of the context of this chapter. Jehoiakim – whom we saw in chapter 36 died. He was replaced by his son Jehoiachin. But Babylon apparently did not approve of that transition of power and so they attacked Jehoiachin and he surrendered. And in his place, Nebuchadnezzar installed his uncle – or Jehoiakim’s brother – or Josiah’s son – on the throne.

And you do feel bad for this man, whose name ended up being Zedekiah, because he inherits a really weakened country. Only the poorest and least skilled and capable of the land are left.

And yet, we can’t feel too badly for him, because as we’ve already seen testified to – he was evil in God’s eyes. And actually, more is said of the evil of him and his people in verse 2…

2 But neither he,
nor his servants,
nor the people of the land,

did hearken unto the words of the LORD,
which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

So, Zedekiah is a new king. But he’s only going to perpetuate what the wicked kings who preceded him committed.

And even though that was the case – even though he didn’t care at all to listen to God’s instructions and commands, we’re going to see this evil king seek God’s blessings from the prophet Jeremiah starting in verse 3…

3 ¶ And Zedekiah the king sent [21:2…]
Jehucal [38:1-4…] the son of Shelemiah and
Zephaniah [21:2; 29:25-26…] the son of Maaseiah the priest

to the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

Pray [now/please] unto the LORD our God for us.

Now, this is not the first time that Zedekiah sent a message like this to Jeremiah. Jeremiah chapter 21 starts like this:

“The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying, 2 Enquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.”

And what I pointed out when we studied that chapter is that Zedekiah sought God’s blessings, but he refused the repentance that will ensure those blessings. And so, we saw back in that chapter that God will not grant blessing apart from repentance.

But the point is that Zedekiah was apparently given to this kind of sending to Jeremiah to plead for help. In Jeremiah 21, he sent Zephaniah just like he did here. But now in Jeremiah 37, Zedekiah sent also this man named Jehucal. We’ll see his name again in the next chapter next time. This man actually ends up accusing Jeremiah and attacking him. But for now in this chapter he’s going to Jeremiah to seek God’s help at Zedekiah’s request.

OK, so far we know that Zedekiah is sending two men to ask Jeremiah to pray for Judah.

But now at this point in the story, God wants us to have a little more background for what’s to follow. That’s what takes up verses 4 and 5. Verse 4 tells us about Jeremiah’s situation. And verse 5 fills us in on a situation that affects all Judah.

4 Now Jeremiah [still…] came in and went out among the people:
for they had not put him into prison.

OK, so verse 4 is written from a perspective after Jeremiah is imprisoned. But this imprisoning happens in the future from the point of view of verse 4. So, Jeremiah is free at this point. He’s going in and out among the people.

It might be helpful to collect what we know of Jeremiah’s status as either free or imprisoned as recorded throughout his book.

It’s very clear that Jeremiah was imprisoned for the last two years or so before the Babylonian exile. These would have been the last two years of Zedekiah’s reign.

Passages like Jeremiah 32 and 33, 39, and even here later on in this chapter – they all testify to the fact that Jeremiah was imprisoned in the last two years of Zedekiah’s reign.

Now, we did read something last week about Jeremiah being unable to go into the Temple. And I wanted to address that passage in greater detail for a moment.

Jeremiah 36:5 has Jeremiah saying to Baruch “I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:” That phrase “shut up” might lead someone to think that Jeremiah was imprisoned at that point. And because of that fact, that’s why he can’t go to the Temple to deliver his message.

But I’m going to give a few reasons why I think the only time that Jeremiah was imprisoned – so far as we have it recorded for us – was those last two years of Zedekiah’s reign.

First, in chapter 36 when that message of Jeremiah’s was delivered in the Temple by Baruch, the king at that time – Jehoiakim – was not happy and he sought to seize and kill Jeremiah. If Jeremiah was imprisoned – if he was even on some sort of house arrest like the Apostle Paul, where he was chained by the wrist to a guard or something like that – there’s no way that Jeremiah could have escaped and hidden himself. And yet, Jeremiah did hide himself. That’s one reason I think that Jeremiah was free to roam for most of his ministry, save the last two years of Jerusalem’s siege by Babylon.

Second, the statement we have here in Jeremiah 37:4 is pretty clear that Jeremiah was free to come and go as he pleased. Now, that will all change later in this chapter. But for now, Jeremiah is free. Not under house arrest, as far as I can tell. Free.

And those two thoughts we’ve just reviewed are helpful. But I think we might still be curious as to the meaning of Jeremiah’s being “shut up” in Jeremiah 36:5. What does that mean if it doesn’t mean that he was imprisoned?

The Hebrew word translated “shut up” in the KJV is atsar. It’s used 50 times in the Old Testament. In Genesis 16:2 it’s used of Sarah’s inability to conceive a child. In Genesis 20:18 it’s used twice to speak of the Lord closing the wombs of the household of Abimelech. Numbers 16:48 and 50 have Moses using that word to describe how he stopped a plague from attacking the people. Numbers 25:8 use it the same way. Deuteronomy 11:17 uses that word of the heavens being prevented from sending down rain.

This is a small sampling of verses. But I think it demonstrates that there is some range to the meaning of this word.

So, I think that this word in Jeremiah 36:5 is used by Jeremiah to communicate simply that he is stopped or unable or prevented from entering into the Temple to deliver his message. I think that what is likely is that Jeremiah delivered his fiery Temple sermon just shortly before this and as a result he was banned from the Temple. Not that he was under arrest or in prison or chained to a soldier – but that he was simply restrained by some sort of ordinance from entering the Temple.

In summary then, Jeremiah is in prison for the last two years of Judah’s pre-exilic existence under Zedekiah. Jeremiah was barred from the Temple for a certain amount of time under Jehoiakim. But apparently until Zedekiah’s last two years, Jeremiah was a free man.

So, that’s verse 4. It contains some background information about Jeremiah.

Now, we move on to verse 5 which contains background information concerning what was going on with all Judah at the time.

5 Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt:

By the way, this is Pharaoh Hophra, who reigned 589-570 BC. He was apparently summoned by Zedekiah so that Babylon would leave Jerusalem. The events here probably happened around 588 BC. And just to remind us, Jerusalem fell in 587/6 BC. So, these are the last two years or so of Jerusalem’s existence before the exile.

And now, we see something interesting happen as a result of Pharaoh coming out of Egypt with his army.

and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard [tidings of/new about] them,
they departed from Jerusalem.

So, Babylon hears of Egypt’s coming. And that causes their army to stop attacking Jerusalem.

So, to put things in perspective, Zedekiah asks for Jeremiah to pray for Judah because Babylon is attacking them. And then it looks like maybe God is answering Jeremiah’s prayer – at least this may have been what it looked like from Zedekiah’s perspective.

But sometimes what we can see with our human eyes is not the ultimate reality. Sometimes things can happen that can be misinterpreted by mortal man. Zedekiah probably would have been greatly encouraged that God heard and answered Jeremiah’s prayer and that the Babylonians would leave for good now.

And that’s why the Lord needs to send his word to interpret for Zedekiah what the events just recorded mean in verses 6 through 10.

6 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

7 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel;

Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me [20:2…];

Behold, Pharaoh’s army,
which is come forth to help you,
shall return to Egypt into their own land.

8 And the Chaldeans shall come again,
and fight against this city,
and [take/capture] it,
and burn it with fire.

So, that’s God’s interpretation of the fact that Babylon had left Jerusalem to fight Egypt. Egypt – in whom you’re trusting – will lose and Babylon will return and destroy your city.

But, so often the people of Judah would not hear a message from God like we just heard. In fact, that’s why they’re in the predicament they were in at this time. God was punishing them for not listening to his messages and for disobeying him.

And because that was the case, the Lord needs to really emphasize that what he just stated was really the truth.

9 Thus saith the LORD;

Deceive not yourselves, saying,

The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us:

That was their tendency – to reject God’s message. And what else can God say except what he says next?

for they shall not depart.

And then the Lord gives them a totally ridiculous scenario that is intended to get their attention and show them how serious he was about what he was saying to them.

10 For though ye had [smitten/defeated] the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you,
and there remained but wounded men among them,

So, picture a battlefield where Judah just totally defeated the Chaldeans. The only men left moving from the Babylonian side were all severely wounded and lying in their tents. God says – even if that were the case…

yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.

In other words, God had determined that this destruction of Jerusalem would happen. He would use even injured soldiers lying in their tents to accomplish that promised destruction.

And really, what Judah was experiencing at this point in the book of Jeremiah is what Jeremiah for decades had been warning them about. From the beginning, the prophet was warning them to repent of their sins. If they wouldn’t, then an army from the north was coming. And that was the message back in Josiah’s day. Now, probably around 40 years later the warnings and threats are finally coming to pass.

Note two things about God from what we just said. Note his mercy and patience. He waited forty years to bring the threats to pass. But notice also God’s justice. He won’t let sin go unpunished – not even the sin of his professing people.

So, to summarize what we’ve seen so far, Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to pray. Babylon temporarily leaves their siege of Jerusalem. God wants everyone to be clear that Babylon’s leaving is temporary. And Jeremiah is the man to deliver that disappointing message.

And yet, this is just another day for Jeremiah. Delivering unpopular messages was pretty much his occupation for four decades. And so, he gives this message and then since the Babylonians were temporarily out of town, he thought he’d take the opportunity to take care of some business back home.

11 ¶ And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans [was broken up/had withdrawn] from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army,

12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin,

to [separate/chalak/divide/distribute] [for…] himself [land…] thence in the midst of [the/his] people.

So it seems that Jeremiah went north to Anathoth to get some land for himself amongst his people. Maybe a relative died and land was up for redistribution, according to the Old Testament rules.

And this kind of event might lead your mind to Jeremiah 32. Something similar happens there. That’s where Jeremiah’s relative comes to him in prison and tells him to buy some land from him. But in the case of Jeremiah 32, that actually happens after the events in this chapter.

Now, as we’re going to see, Jeremiah never gets to go to Benjamin for his original purpose. And so it’s possible that when Jeremiah couldn’t go to his relatives in this chapter, then his relative came to him in Jeremiah 32.

At any rate, as I’ve said, Jeremiah doesn’t make it to Benjamin. Let’s see why.

13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, [on the North of the city…]
a [captain of the ward/sentry/officer in charge of the guards] was there,
whose name was Irijah, [nothing else known about him…]
the son of Shelemiah,
the son of Hananiah; [probably not the false prophet…]

and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

Thou [fallest away/are deserting] to the Chaldeans.

And by the way, that was exactly God’s command to the people of Judah in Jeremiah 21:9. But Jeremiah had a job to do in Jerusalem by God’s command. And so he wasn’t planning to go out to the Chaldeans. And so he protests the charge.

14 Then said Jeremiah,

It is [false/a lie];
I [fall not away/am not deserting] to the Chaldeans.

But [he/Irijah] hearkened not to him:

so Irijah [took/seized/arrested] Jeremiah,
and brought him to the [princes/officials].

This is not the same group of people as we saw in Jeremiah 36. In that chapter, the officials were favorably disposed to Jeremiah. Those individuals would have been exiled with Jeconiah in 597 BC. Jeremiah 37 happens around 10 years later – sometime around 588 BC.

And we see that these new officials are not very friendly to Jeremiah.

15 [Wherefore/And] the princes were [wroth with/enraged at/very angry at] Jeremiah,
and [smote/beat/flogged] him,
and put him in prison
in the house of Jonathan the [scribe/royal secretary]:

for they had made that the prison.

The Lord in the Old Testament Law really didn’t make any provisions for prisons. Each crime was met with a corresponding punishment. And the punishment was intended to be carried out fairly swiftly. The punishments ranged from fines to death and in between those two extremes.

But the fact that prisons were not really envisioned in God’s Law explains why the house of this scribe named Jonathan had to be converted into a prison.

16 ¶ When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon [“house of the pit”, Gen 40-41…], and into the [cabins/cells], and Jeremiah had remained there many days;

17 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out:

and the king asked him secretly in [his house/the palace], and said,

Is there any word from the LORD?

So, Zedekiah leaves Jeremiah in prison for “many days.” And we shouldn’t think that Zedekiah wouldn’t have had the power to release Jeremiah. I think everyone was pretty angry with him – Zedekiah, the officials, and that Irijah fellow. And yet, at least Zedekiah wasn’t willing to kill the prophet.

This again reflects the wavering of this king. He wants deliverance but won’t repent. He sort of wants Jeremiah to be silent – maybe even to die! – but he doesn’t want to be the one responsible for it. And yet, then we see him here asking if Jeremiah has a word from the Lord!

Now, recall that Jeremiah has been giving God’s word for decades by this point. Surely everyone knew what the Lord’s word was to them – surrender to Babylon! Repent! If you don’t, get ready for destruction!

So, this is without doubt one of the most ridiculous questions recorded in the Scripture. And yet, that’s the kind of behavior we see with Zedekiah.

And Jeremiah answers him with a little more than a hint of sarcasm.

And Jeremiah said,

There is:

[for/then], said he,

thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. [34:3…]

So, now that Jeremiah revealed the obvious to the king, he goes on to question why he and his officials are treating him unjustly.

18 Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah,

What have I [offended/done wrong] against thee,
or against thy servants,
or against this people,

that ye have put me in prison?

19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying,

The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?

So, the question that Jeremiah poses here is intended to force Zedekiah to acknowledge that he’s a faithful prophet. He’s the one who’s been telling the truth from the true God all along. And therefore, since Jeremiah has been giving God’s true message, it’s unjust for Zedekiah and his people to imprison him.

So based on that fact, Jeremiah says…

20 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king:
let my [supplication/humble plea], I pray thee, be accepted before thee;

that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe,

lest I die there.

So, we wouldn’t have necessarily known it from the previous verses, but the makeshift prison was a pretty dangerous place. And unless this faithful prophet is all of a sudden exaggerating, then he really did believe that much more time in that prison would have eventuated in his death.

So, we see in the last verse of this chapter, Zedekiah doing something rather noble. He sees to it that Jeremiah is taken care of.

21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guardhouse],

This was apparently the place where the royal guard was housed, so it would have been a better place than the makeshift prison.

and that they should give him daily a [piece/loaf] of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city [were spent/was gone].

Thus Jeremiah remained in the [court/courtyard] of the [prison/guardhouse].

So, Jeremiah had a place to stay and food to eat while the battle raged around him as the city of Jerusalem would eventually fall under siege once more by Babylon.

Now, in Jeremiah 36 last time we saw the futile attempt of Jehoiakim to restrict God’s written word. In this chapter we’re seeing Zedekiah’s attempt to restrict God’s spoken word.

We’re also seeing come to pass all the threats that God had made throughout this book.

And I think most uniquely we see Zedekiah’s wavering back and forth. He at first wants Jeremiah to pray for them as if he’s some pious individual concerned for God’s will. Then he goes along with Jeremiah’s imprisonment, which could have easily resulted in the death of the prophet. Then Zedekiah goes back and asks Jeremiah again for a word from God. When he receives that word, he doesn’t respond with repentance. But at least, he ends up being fairly kind to Jeremiah.

And yet, we should note that being kind to God’s people and God’s messengers really doesn’t do a person much eternal good. God isn’t looking for lost sinners to be kind to his people. He wants lost sinners to repent.

And you and I probably have a few lost people in our lives who are not maybe directly antagonistic to us. Maybe they have inquired a few times of you about the Lord. Maybe they’ve shown some interest in spiritual things. And yet, interest without repentance does not impress the Lord. This kind of man is no closer to being accepted by the Lord than is the man who is totally opposed to the Lord and his people.

And so, that’s the kind of man Zedekiah was. Interested but ultimately rebellious and disobedient. A double-minded man who was unstable in all his ways.

And we’ll hear more about him next time, Lord-willing.

Jeremiah 36 Commentary

As we enter Jeremiah 36 today we come to the third-to-last section in this great book. Let’s quickly note those three sections.

Our third-to-last section starts in Jeremiah 36:1 and ends in 45:5. I have called that section “The Bitter End.” After all the promises and warnings God has made and given, he finally brings the judgement of Babylon to Judah. This section starts with Jehoiakim’s burning God’s word. We’ll study that in a little bit. The section continues displaying the wavering of King Zedekiah. There’s then a brief flash-back about a man named Ebed-Melech. Then there’s record of the fiasco that ensues concerning the Jews that actually make it through the Babylonian attack. And those people in rebellion end up going down to Egypt, where God has a message for them. The section ends with another flashback – this time directed at Baruch, Jeremiah’s personal servant. And that just happens to be the shortest chapter in the book of Jeremiah – Jeremiah 45, with a mere 5 verses.

So, that’s the third-to-last section. And we’ll start studying that today.

After that section, there are six chapters (46-51) given to addressing the nations of the world. Remember that when God commissioned Jeremiah, he told him that he was going to be a “prophet to the nations.” And so, we see God speaking through Jeremiah concerning 8 nations. He proclaims that each one of these nations will fall at the hands of Babylon. And then finally, Jeremiah has the privilege of prophesying the fall of Babylon itself.

That’s the second-to-last section of this book.

The last section of Jeremiah – chapter 52 – consists of a rehashing of the fall of Jerusalem. But then the story goes beyond that to a time when one of the kings of Judah who obeyed God by going out to Babylon is treated well by the king of Babylon. And we’ve already stated that this is likely there to testify to everyone that God will bless those who submit to his authority.

So, that’s a run-down of what’s to come in the next several weeks. 17 chapters left. So, maybe about another four months or so and we might be done with this book. And this is our 40th message in the book, which roughly equates to 10 months. So, there are the numbers!

So, let’s begin to witness the Bitter End of Judah.

Jehoiakim’s 4th Year (36:1-8)

Background (36:1)

We begin Jeremiah 36 in verse 1 with some background information that will get us ready for the rest of this story.

KJV Jeremiah 36:1 ¶ And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah [605/4 BC], that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

So, what we’re going to be reading about from verse 1 to verse 8 all happens in Jehoiakim’s 4th year. The year was 605/4 BC. It was about this time – maybe a little bit earlier – that Babylon came and attacked Jerusalem and carried off the prophet Daniel, among other things. But Nebuchadnezzar allowed Jehoiakim to continue to reign over Judah. It seems that this was something of a power shift from Egypt to Babylon. Egypt had been the regional power until about this time in world history. Then Babylon came and defeated Egypt and asserted their control over Judah.

So, this is the timeframe we’re in here in Jeremiah 36. It’s actually about 15 years before Jerusalem was conquered and exiled to Babylon.

God’s Command to Jeremiah (36:2-3)

Within this timeframe we see God giving a command to Jeremiah in verses 2 and 3.

2 Take thee a [roll of a book/scroll], and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day

By the way, this would have represented Jeremiah’s messages from the last 18 years of Josiah, the 3 months of Shallum/Jehoahaz, and then the first 4 years of Jehoiakim.

Why did God want Jeremiah to write down a summary of his prophesies for those last 22 years and then deliver that message to Judah one more time?

3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the [evil/disaster] which I purpose to do unto them;

that they may return every man from his evil way;

that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

So, here’s God’s desire. Is his main aim to punish his people? No. He reveals his heart-desire to be their repentance. Why? So that he can forgive them.

God has not changed at all in this regard. He still demands repentance. And when a person repents – turns from his sin and turns toward the God whom he was rejecting – God will forgive that man. And this is all possible – as we learn in the New Testament – because Jesus was punished for all of those sins.

And if anyone wants to be at peace with God, he needs to repent. There is no other option – in either the Old or the New Testament. Repentance is a requirement with the Lord, always.

Now, let me just point out what you’ve already noticed. God phrases verse 3 as if he’s not quite sure what’s going to happen. Maybe the people will repent.

And this is just part of the mystery regarding how God’s sovereignty works with man’s responsibility.

On the one hand, you have God communicating here as if he’s not quite certain as to how this will all turn out.

And yet, we know that God knows the end from the beginning. He has plans. He told these people back in Josiah’s day that an army from the north was coming. He reveals in the books of Kings that he determined to destroy Judah back before Josiah to the time of Manasseh because of all the wickedness of that king. We have a God who alone knows when the Time of the Gentiles will be filled up and at that point he will bring this age to a close. He is totally sovereign.

And yet, we have statements like this. “Maybe the people will hear my words and repent.”

I think in cases like this, it’s best to take both truths and treat them as complimentary rather than as competitive or contradictory. It might not compute in a tidy neat way in our human minds. But can we be humble enough to recognize that we don’t completely understand how God works? Can we accept that all that we know is what God reveals to us? When we go beyond that, our likelihood of making up strange teachings increases exponentially. I think it’s safest to take both truths together.

So, is God in control and sovereign over all things? Yes. Is he holding out some hope that these people will repent, but at least speaking as if he doesn’t know whether they will or not? Yes.

Very good. Now we can move on. 🙂

Jeremiah’s Command to Baruch (36:4-7)

Now, what we’ve heard so far in the story is actually good news to the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s day. There’s still time to repent and be made right with God. The possibility still exists! How gracious and merciful of our God. He is so patiently holding out this offer of repentance so that he can avoid destroying these people.

And so Jeremiah is going to try to get this message of good news communicated to his people. In order to do this, he gives some orders to his personal assistant Baruch in verses 4 through 7.

4 ¶ Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah:

and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.

5 And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying,

I am [shut up/banned/no longer allowed]; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:

6 Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’S house [upon the fasting day/on a day of fasting]: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.

7 It may be they will present their [supplication/plea for mercy] before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way:

for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people.

Now, if the wording in verse 7 sounds familiar, it should. Similar words were spoken by the godly king Josiah when he was shown the recently-discovered book of the law in his day.

2 Kings 22:13 has Josiah saying “Because great is the wrath of Yahweh.”

2 Chronicles 34:21 has Josiah saying “Because great is the wrath of Yahweh.”

And here in Jeremiah 36:7 we have Jeremiah saying “Because great is the anger (aph) and the fury (chema – same as wrath in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) of Yahweh.”

And of course, we know that Josiah went on from recognizing God’s burning anger and he repented and led the nation of Judah in that repentance. And God saw fit to delay the punishment.

Here in Jeremiah, we’re witnessing Jeremiah himself recognizing the burning anger of God. And yet, we’re going to see that it’s harder for a prophet to lead a nation in repentance than it is for a king. And it’s nearly impossible for a prophet to lead a nation to repent when the king himself is directly opposed to God’s humbling message.

Baruch’s Obedience Summarized (36:8)

Next we have in verse 8 just a brief summary of Baruch’s obedience.

8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’S house.

Now, I say this is a summary. Baruch needed to do this on a fast day. Not right away. So even though it might sound like he just went out and gave the message, again this is just a summary of what Baruch eventually ended up doing – which we’ll see in the very next verse. So, let’s move on to that next verse.

Jehoiakim’s 5th Year (36:9-32)

As we pass from verse 8 in this chapter into verse 9 we have maybe a year or a little less pass before us.

Introduction (36:9)

As we’ve already seen, Jeremiah is not able to go to the Temple. So, he tells Baruch to go on a fast day – a day on which the people would all agree to fast. And such a day is recorded in verse 9.

9 ¶ And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.

Now, this was probably our December timeframe. We know from records of history that one year previous to this time, Babylon came and invaded Jerusalem. And now a year later, Nebuchadnezzar was back in the area again to attack Ashkelon, which is near Jerusalem. So, this is probably the reason for this particular fast.

And does it strike you as strange that these people who are so opposed to God are actually proclaiming a fast “before the Lord?” There’s a disconnect here. But this is exactly what we’ve seen in this book. The people live ungodly lives and then come to the Temple and pretend like all is well between them and God.

And of course, this isn’t an issue that is isolated to Jeremiah’s day. We’ve had people in our church who have come to our worship services and seemed to be very respectful and even godly. And yet, when the truth comes to light we find out that they were like decorated graves full of corruption.

So, may the Lord help that to not be the case with anyone here tonight.

And so, yes, this is a confusing reality. Ungodly people parading as godly individuals – even fasting before the Lord. And yet, it is a reality. It’s not uncommon in our day. And it wasn’t in Jeremiah’s day either.

So, here the people are – ready to fast before the Lord.

Baruch’s Obedience (36:10)

And so, Baruch obeys Jeremiah and takes God’s message to the people in the Temple in verse 10.

10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the [scribe/secretary], in the [higher/upper] court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house, in the ears of all the people.

Now, I see another sign here that God wants us to have Josiah’s repentance in mind as we read this chapter. There’s mention in verse 10 of a man who lived in the time of Josiah. His name is Shaphan and he was a scribe who was involved in the episode of Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the Law and then giving that message to Josiah – who immediately repented. I think that’s beyond coincidence. I think God is highlighting that the exact same thing could happen here as happened in Josiah’s day.

So, will it??

Michaiah (36:11-13)

Well, let’s see the reactions that God’s message receives. First of all, we see the response of a man named Michaiah in verses 11 through 13.

11 ¶ When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the [grand-…] son of Shaphan [another mention of Shaphan…], had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,

12 Then he went down into the king’s [house/palace], into the [scribe’s/secretary’s] chamber:

and, lo, all the [princes/officials/court officials] [sat/were in session] there, even
Elishama the [scribe/secretary], and
Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and
Elnathan the son of Achbor [killed a prophet, but later urges Jehoiakim to hear Jeremiah…], and
Gemariah the son of Shaphan [there he is again…], and
Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and
all the [princes/officials].

13 Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people.

So, Michaiah hears God’s message from Baruch. After all, Baruch was in the chamber of his father Gemariah when he proclaimed his message.

And then Michaiah goes to the king’s palace and finds these five royal officials involved in some official business. That’s what it means when it says that they “sat.” They “sat” just like Boaz did in the book of Ruth when he “sat” in the city gate – he was there to conduct some official business. That’s what these five are doing.

One of those five is a concern. His name is Elnathan. He’s the son of Achbor. We’re told in Jeremiah 26 that this is the man who pursued a fugitive prophet who was hiding in Egypt and brought him back to king Jehoiakim to have him killed for his prophesying. So, we might assume that this man’s reaction is not going to be positive to Jeremiah’s message.

So, Michaiah comes in to interrupt the official business of these men. And he gives them God’s message as Baruch delivered it.

The Officials (36:14-19)

How do these officials react to this news? That’s what we’ll see in verses 14 through 19.

14 Therefore all the princes sent

the son of Nethaniah,
the son of Shelemiah,
the [grand-…] son of Cushi,

unto Baruch, saying,

Take in thine hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come.

So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them.

15 And they said unto him,

Sit down now, and read it in our ears.

So Baruch read it in their ears.

16 Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words,

they [were afraid both one and other/turned to one another in fear/expressed their alarm to one another],

and said unto Baruch,

We [will surely tell/must report to] the king of all these words.

17 And they asked Baruch, saying,

Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words[?] [Was it…] at [his/Jeremiah’s] [mouth/dictation]?

18 Then Baruch answered them,

He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the [book/scroll].

19 Then said the princes unto Baruch,

Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.

So, the officials reacted with fear. They seemed to get it right. They know what’s in store for them and their nation if these words come to pass.

So they seem to get it right.

But then they need to take that news to the king, because he’s the one who would ultimately need to do something about the state of their nation. And it seems like they’re not so sure that the king will have the same reaction. That’s what we see in verse 19 where they warn Baruch to hide himself and Jeremiah. It’s like the officials are expecting a poor reaction from Jehoiakim.

King Jehoiakim (36:20-23)

And the king delivers on their expectation in verses 20-23.

20 ¶ [And/So] they went in to the king into the court, but they [laid up the roll/put the scroll] [for safekeeping…] in the [chamber/room] of Elishama the [scribe/secretary], and told all the words in the ears of the king.

21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll [seems like Jehudi is a go-for…]: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the [princes/officials] which stood beside the king.

22 Now the king sat in the winterhouse [maybe lower part of a two-story building…] in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the [hearth/firepot] burning before him.

23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four [leaves/“doors”/columns of the scroll], [he/the king] cut [it/them off] with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was [on the hearth/in the firepot], until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

So, the buck stops here, so to speak. Until now there’s been this hopeful air. God says “maybe these people will repent.” Then Baruch speaks the word and Michaiah hears and reports to the officials. The officials hear and tremble. That’s a good thing. Then they bring the word to the king – the son of Josiah, the son of the man who heard the same kind of message of judgement and he trembled and repented. But, for Jehoiakim, in the spiritual realm it was not “like father, like son.”

This was a message from the God of heaven. The God who was uniquely the God of Israel and Judah. He is all they had. And yet this proud and godless king takes that message and rips it up and burns it.

The Leadership of Judah as a Whole (36:24-26)

And the king is not alone in his hard-heartedness. He had likeminded proud men attending him that we hear about in verses 24-26. And yet, that wasn’t the whole story, according to those verses. Some were trembling at God’s word and some were not.

24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

25 [Nevertheless/Even when] Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.

26 But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of [Hammelech/The king] [Jehoiakim was 30, so maybe this was just a royal prince…], and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet:

but the LORD hid them.

So, three of the five officials we saw earlier pled with the king to humbly receive God’s word. And yet, Jehoiakim would not listen.

We see Jehoiakim here as a man who is totally proud and wicked. He hears God’s message and doesn’t tremble. He doesn’t even just quietly and politely ignore it. He actively opposed it by burning it. And not only that, but he also seeks to kill God’s mouthpiece – Jeremiah and his mouthpiece at this point – Baruch.

I get angry just reading about it.

The Lord (36:27-31)

And if I get angry about it, how much angrier do you think would the Lord be – the one whose word Jehoiakim burned? We get the answer to that question in verses 27 through 31.

27 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah,

after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the [mouth/dictation] of Jeremiah, saying,

28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.

29 And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah,

Thus saith the LORD;

Thou hast burned this roll, saying,

Why hast thou written therein, saying,

The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land,
and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? [By the way, that’s the gist of Jeremiah’s message that Jehoiakim heard…]

30 Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah;

He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David [Jehoiachin did rule but only for 3 months, then Jehoiachin was promised to have no son on the throne in 22:30]:

and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. [Jer 22]

31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity;

and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.

Jeremiah Rewrites the Book (36:32)

32 ¶ Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

So, Jehoiakim can rage all he wants against the Lord and his message. And yet, when it comes down to it, God’s word stands.

And that’s exactly the case even today in our context. We have high and mighty people in this land who oppose God’s word. They mock. They persecute. They try to fit everyone into their godless mold. They think they’re winning. And in this life, they might win. But God’s word stands. It will forever. It doesn’t matter how much anyone rages against it. It will surely stand.

Therefore, how should we respond to these realities? Read God’s word. Can I encourage us all to be daily in God’s word? It takes discipline and it’s not always easy. But it’s something we need to do if there’s any way possible.

And then we need to stand on God’s word without shame. Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of his servants who proclaim his word.

Don’t be worried. Don’t let this world shake you. God’s word will surely stand and will forever. You can count on it.