Study of Jeremiah, Chapters 39-40 Consequence

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A negative consequence is hard to swallow, especially when we have been repeatedly warned that our behavior or actions would yield such an outcome.  Sometimes, pride gets in the way of listening to what God wants us to hear.  He is very patient with us, but we still refuse to listen, until we are faced with the consequence.

Jeremiah 39:1-3Jeremiah 39:1-3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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. 2 And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up. 3 And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.  

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1 In January of the ninth year of King Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar came with his army to besiege Jerusalem.  2 Two and a half years later, on July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the Babylonians broke through the wall, and the city fell.  3 All of the officers of the Babylonian army came in and sat in triumph at the Middle Gate:  Nergal-sharezer of Samgar, and Nebo-sarsekim, a chief officer, and Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser, and all the other officers.

Jerusalem finally falls in 586 B.C. after a thirty month attack by the Babylonians.  Israel was split into two regions; the Northern Region being taken by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and the Southern Region being taken by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

Jeremiah 39:4-7Jeremiah 39:4-7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, 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 he went out the way of the plain. 5 But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him. gave...: Heb. spake with him judgments 6 Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. 7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon. with...: Heb. with two brasen chains, or, fetters  

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4 When King Zedekiah and all the soldiers saw that the Babylonians had broken into the city, they fled.  They waited for nightfall and then slipped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden and headed toward the Jordan Valley.  5 But the Babylonian troops chased the king and caught him on the plains of Jericho.  They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who was at Riblah in the land of Hamath.  There the king of Babylon pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah.  6 He made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons and all the nobles of Judah.  7 Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.

Riblah was the headquarters for the Babylonians.  This is where they ruled the region from.  Zedekiah did his best to escape, but to no avail.  The troops caught him and brought him to Riblah, where his punishment, just as prophesied by Jeremiah in chapter 38, was delved out to him, his family, and his officers.

***Riblah was approximately 200 miles north of Jerusalem, and about 65 miles north of Damascus***

Jeremiah 39:8-10Jeremiah 39:8-10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained. captain...: or, chief marshal: Heb. chief of the executioners, or, slaughtermen 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. at the...: Heb. in that day  

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8 Meanwhile, the Babylonians burned Jerusalem, including the palace, and tore down the walls of the city.  9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, sent to Babylon the rest of the people who remained in the city as well as those who had defected to him.  10 But Nebuzaradan left a few of the poorest people in Judah, and he assigned them vineyards and fields to care for.

After Jerusalem is destroyed, all but just a few poor people, make their long journey to Babylon.  Babylon was where Iraq is today.  This would have been about a thousand mile hike on foot.  The few poor people that were left in the broken-down city were given what remained of the vineyards and fields.  The Babylonians had a strict policy in regards to conquering foreign lands:  they removed the rich and powerful, leaving the weak and poor.  This way, the ones that were left in charge would be forever grateful to their conquerors.  They would remain loyal, and would never have the strength to fight back against their enemy.

Jeremiah 39:11-14Jeremiah 39:11-14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, to: Heb. by the hand of 12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee. look...: Heb. set thine eyes upon him 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes; 14 Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.  

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11 King Nebuchadnezar had told Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, to find Jeremiah.  12 “See that he isn’t hurt,” he said.  “Look after him well, and give him anything he wants.” 13 So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard; Nebushazban, a chief officer; Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser; and the other officers of Babylon’s king 14 sent messengers to bring Jeremiah out of the prison.  They put him under the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, who took him back to his home.  So Jeremiah stayed in Judah among his own people.

In chapter 1, verse 8, God had promised Jeremiah that no harm would come to him; that He would always be with Jeremiah and protect him.  Babylonians put much faith in magicians and fortune-tellers.  Seeing that Jeremiah had been imprisoned by his own people, they believed that Jeremiah had predicted that his city would be conquered by the Babylonians.  Jeremiah was highly respected by the Babylonians and after he was freed, they protected him.

Jeremiah 39:15-18Jeremiah 39:15-18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

15 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, 16 Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. 17 But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. 18 For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.  

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15 The LORD had given the following message to Jeremiah while he was still in prison:  16 “Say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says:  I will do to this city everything I have threatened.  I will send disaster, not prosperity.  You will see its destruction, 17 but I will rescue you from those you fear so much.  18 Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward.  I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the LORD, have spoken!'”

Ebed-melech was one of the few that believed Jeremiah’s message.   He had risked his life to save Jeremiah as we saw in chapter 8:7-13.  He was a blessed man because he put his trust in God, and for that he would keep his life and would be safe.


truth or lie

When we are speaking with someone, how do we know that they are telling us the truth?  Aside from body language, and the verbal words we are hearing, how do we truly know if what they say is true?  What about when we hear of something that someone else has said?  When we haven’t actually talked with that person, how are we to measure their words?

Jeremiah 40:1-3Jeremiah 40:1-3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

40 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the 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. chains: or, manicles 2 And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil 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.  

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1 The LORD gave a message to Jeremiah after Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had released him at Ramah.  He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being sent to exile in Babylon.  2 The captain of the guard called for Jeremiah and said, “The LORD your God has brought this disaster on this land, 3 just as he said he would. For these people have sinned against the LORD and disobeyed him.  That is why it happened.

[The message that Jeremiah received from God is not told until chapter 42:9.  Chapters 40-45 cover the events following Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon]

It seems that Jeremiah had been put in chains by the Babylonians and put with the rest of the captives that were being prepared for exile to Babylon.  Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, acknowledged that Jeremiah’s God had done exactly as Jeremiah had been saying He would, but the captain of the guard did not know God.  In 2 Kings 18:222 Kings 18:22
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

22 But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?  

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, we see that the Assyrians made a practice of familiarizing themselves with the beliefs of their enemy nations.  This was done to provide for a strong psychological warfare against their enemies.  Although it does not mention this being done here, Nebuzaradan was apparently aware of the teachings of Jeremiah.  He would have had access to the messages sent by ambassadors, Jeremiah’s letters to those in exile, and the conversations of the deserters.  He is aware that Jeremiah’s God allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem.  Many people today know of God, see His miracles and know He exists but yet do not accept Him personally.  Knowing God is more than knowing about Him.  Make sure you know God personally.

Jeremiah 40:4-6Jeremiah 40:4-6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. were...: or, are upon thine hand I will...: Heb. I will set mine eye upon thee 5 Now while he was not yet gone back, he 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. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go. 6 Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.  

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4 But I am going to take off your chains and let you go.  If you want to come with me to Babylon, you are welcome.  I will see that you are well cared for.  But if you don’t want to come, you may stay here.  The whole land is before you – go wherever you like.  5 If you decide to stay, then return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan.  He has been appointed governor of Judah by the king of Babylon.  Stay there with the people he rules.  But it’s up to you; go wherever you like. ” Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, gave Jeremiah some food and money and let him go.  6 So Jeremiah returned to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and he lived in Judah with the few who were still left in the land.


Jeremiah was now free to go anywhere that he wanted to.  If he went to Babylon, life would be good for him.  He would have comfort and power, but would be seen as a traitor and hated by the Judean exiles.  If he remained in Judah, he would remain poor and unwanted, but the Judeans that remained would know he wasn’t a traitor.  Jeremiah makes his choice to be with Gedaliah and returned to Mizpah, which was about eight miles north of Jerusalem.  It was not completely destroyed by the Babylonians, and had served as a refuge after the destruction of Jerusalem.  Gedaliah was the new leader, or governor, of the poor people that had been left behind and the land that had been called Judah.

Jeremiah 40:7-8Jeremiah 40:7-8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Now when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, even they and their men, 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 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.  

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7 The leaders of the Judean guerrilla bands in the countryside heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor over the poor people who were left behind in Judah – the men, women, and children who hadn’t been exiled to Babylon.  8 So they went to see Gedaliah at Mizpah.  These included:  Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, and all their men.

The guerrilla bands in the countryside are groups of Jewish troops who had not yet been captured by the Babylonians.  They make their way to Mizpah to visit Gedaliah.

Jeremiah 40:9-10Jeremiah 40:9-10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. 10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken. to serve: Heb. to stand before  

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9 Gedaliah vowed to them that the Babylonians meant them no harm.  “Don’t be afraid to serve them.  Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and all will go well for you,” he promised.  10 “As for me, I will stay at Mizpah to represent you before the Babylonians who come to meet with us.  Settle in the towns you have taken, and live off the land.  Harvest the grapes and summer fruits and olives, and store them away.”

Gedaliah had made Mizpah his headquarters for representing the people.  Gedaliah assures the troops from the countryside that they will be safe.  He encourages them to stay and live off of the land.  It appears that the people are free to resume their life under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

Jeremiah 40:11-12Jeremiah 40:11-12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.  

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11 When the Judeans in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the other nearby countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a few people in Judah and that Gedaliah was the governor, 12 they began to return to Judah from the places to which they had fled.  They stopped at Mizpah to meet with Gedaliah and then went into the Judean countryside to gather a great harvest of grapes and other crops.

People from Judah who had neither been displaced by the war, nor exiled, began to hear about Gedaliah and the new community.  They knew that Gedaliah was the son and grandson of godly men who had served Josiah.  They began to return to Judah, stopping first at Mizpah to visit Gedaliah.  With the end of summer approaching, they knew that taxes were due to the Babylonians, so they went into the countryside to gather a great harvest.

Jeremiah 40:13-16Jeremiah 40:13-16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, 14 And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not. to slay...: Heb. to strike thee in soul? 15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, 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? 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.  

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13 Soon after this, Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders came to Gedaliah at Mizpah.  14 They said to him, “Did you know that Baalis, king of Ammon, has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to assassinate you?”   But Gedaliah refused to believe them.  15 Later Johanan had a private conference with Gedaliah and volunteered to kill Ishmael secretly.  “Why should we let him come and murder you?” Johanan asked.  “What will happen then to the Judeans who have returned?  Why should the few of us who are still left be scattered and lost?”  16 But Gedaliah said to Johanan, “I forbid you to do any such thing, for you are lying about Ishmael.”

The leaders of the guerilla group forewarn Gedaliah of the assassination plot against him, but Gedaliah foolishly refuses to believe what he is being told.  Sometime later, Johanan offers to kill Ishmael, but Gedaliah forbids him to do so. Gedaliah plainly did not believe what he was hearing about Ishmael.

Written by Mary Hudak-Collins

Mary Hudak-Collins

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