A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
There Comes a Point when you have no More Choices
Jeremiah 39 SCC 6/18/17
What Jeremiah had predicted for so long finally became a reality for Judah. The fall of Jerusalem is recorded three other times in the Old Testament, even noting the day of the month (2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 24:1-2). Jeremiah 39 paints the gruesome fall of Jerusalem to King Neb of Babylon in 586BC/587BC. King Zedekiah had previously been installed by the Babylonians as Judah’s puppet king after Babylon defeated Jerusalem in 597 BC. Jerusalem remained largely intact, and Judah was forced to pay an annual tribute to Babylon. However, Zedekiah, who was 21 years only when he was set up as a vassal king, eventually tired of the arrangement and rebelled against Babylon by forming an alliance with Egypt. The prophet Jeremiah who initially served as one of Zedekiah’s counselors warned against the move, but Zedekiah was by this stage doing evil in the sight of the Lord. When King Nebuchadnezzar returned a second time to bring Jerusalem back into submission, he was in a foul mood. The battle predictably turned against Judah and with Jerusalem on the brink of falling, King Zedekiah, along with his family and personal guards, fled with the Babylonian army in pursuit.
IGNORING GODS WORD LEAVES ONE GLARING AT A RECKONING FROM GOD
39:1-2 Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army captured Jerusalem and began its siege in 588 B.C. It took the Babylonians about eighteen months to breach the walls of the city, which they did in 586 B.C.
God brought about Jerusalem’s destruction, just as He had predicted it. The final conflict began in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month v 1. The siege began on January 15, 588 B.C. and lasted until the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month. After this long siege, the city wall was breached v 2.
39:3 As Jerusalem was in its death throes then all the officials of the king of Babylon came in and sat down at the Middle Gate v 3. They entered the city and eventually took their places at a gate in the middle of the city, in fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy in 21:4. The writer mentioned two, three, or four of the Babylonian officials by name They sat down to establish their control over the city and to judge those taken captive. This whole process required bureaucrats and administrators to make sure it happened properly setting themselves up to keep track of the booty the soldiers hauled out.
Nergal-sar-ezer was Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in-law. Nothing is known of the other officials. In 2007, Dr. Michael Jursa, a professor at the U of Vienna, was translating Babylonian cuneiform tablets at London’s British Museum dug in 1870’s when incredibly he found a reference to ‘Sar-sekim the chief Eunuch’ confirming the senior bureaucrat’s existence in the Babylonian Empire.
39:4-5 In the meantime, when Zedekiah...and all the men of war saw them, that they fled…toward the Arabah v 4. This would be escaping the city out the south side hoping to cross the Jordan River into the territory of their allies at this time, the Ammonites. But the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, just before the Jordan River v 5. They seized him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar, who set up headquarters at Riblah in the land of Hamath, north of Damascus. There, Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on Zedekiah for rebellion. Nebuchadnezzar evidently did not personally participate in the siege of Jerusalem; his headquarters during this campaign was at Riblah.
39:6-7 Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and he also slew all the nobles of Judah v 6. It would be the last thing he saw as Zedekiah’s eyes were then gouged out and he was marched off into captivity along with the citizens of Jerusalem. He then blinded Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in fetters of bronze to bring him to Babylon v 7. The last sight Zedekiah saw was the execution of his own children. Truly this last king of David's line was a pathetic figure. He was similar to King Saul, who also received a warning from a prophet, Samuel, but disregarded it and suffered a terrible fate. The first king of Israel and the last king both were vacillators. Both had prophets speak to them. Both refused to listen to them. These bookend kings chronicle the sorry history of Israel!
39:8-10 They also burned with fire the king’s palace and the houses of the people, and they broke down the walls of Jerusalem leaving the city defenseless v 8. Nebuchadnezzar ordered the city and its temple plundered and destroyed. They hauled off the temple’s furniture back to Babylon. The people were also taken into captivity. They burned the royal palace, the other houses in the city, including the temple, and broke down the city walls to make it uninhabitable and indefensible. Thus began the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24), the period in history during which Israel was under Gentile control, which will continue until Christ's second coming. And as for the rest of the people who were left in the city, and the deserters...they carried them into exile in Babylon v 9. He deported almost everyone who was left in the city, plus the Judahites who had defected to the Babylonians. But some of the poorest people who had nothing, they left behind in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields v 10. In return, Babylon would receive income in the form of taxation on the produce of the land in vineyards and fields. It was in Babylon's best interests to maintain the agricultural productivity of Canaan.
Application: There is a point when there is no more choice. Time has run out, as it did for Zedekiah. All that’s left is the expectation of judgment and destruction.
GOD LOOKS WITH FAVOR UPON THOSE WHO EXECUTE HIS WILL
Evidently, Nebuchadnezzar had heard of Jeremiah possibly through the letters the prophet had sent to Babylon or through the testimony of those who had defected to the Babylonians (21:8-9; 38:1-3). The more specific accounts of two men's deliverance follow in the rest of this chapter. In contrast to Zedekiah's horrible fate, Jeremiah enjoyed the attentive care of the Babylonians.
39:11-14 Nebuchadnezzar ... gave orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan ... saying v 11, take him and look after him, and do nothing harmful to him; but rather deal with him just as he tells you v 12. Nebuzaradan passed the king's orders along to the other Babylonian officials in Jerusalem. They released Jeremiah from his confinement in the court of the guardhouse and entrusted him to Gedaliah who took him into his home. Jeremiah stayed among the poor people who remained in Jerusalem for some time v 13-14. The passage recorded how the Lord preserved his prophet, and now it shows how He preserved the prophet's rescuer.
NB: Now keep this in perspective. Jeremiah paid a terrible price to be faithful to God. He was put in stocks, ridiculed, thrown in a sewer, then dumped in the bottom of a mud infested well. Then his life was in jeopardy as the governing officials wanted him executed. This went on for thirty years or so. The fact that God is delivering him is connected to Jeremiahs faithfulness first.
39:15-16 While Jeremiah was in the guardhouse waiting for Jerusalem to fall, God’s word came to him in a prophecy about Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian v 15-16. The Lord had said that He was about to fulfill His predictions about the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the Ethiopian would witness these events.
39:17-18 God would rescue Ebed-Melech and he would not be executed along with the other officials... because you have trusted in Me, declares the Lord, by helping Jeremiah v 17-18 (38:7-13). The Lord promised to deliver Ebed-melech from the Babylonian soldiers. They would not kill him. He had, after all, delivered Jeremiah from death. This would be his reward for trusting in the Lord. The evidence of his trust was his respect and concern for Jeremiah, who proclaimed the Lord's words.
NB: The point here is that you may sometimes be called to stand alongside someone who is proclaiming Gods Word and suffering for it. Ebed risked his life as one of the officials in the court who stood against the majority to spare Jeremiahs life. Many times you will stand alone with Gods Word against even those closest to you and face their ridicule or be mocked by others you counted as friends or family loved ones. Or you may stand your ground with another who is standing for Gods Word. Either way God takes note and has not left you alone. It was after Jeremiah and Ebed proved their faithfulness that God was moved to prophesy deliverance for them.
Application: God kept His word: (1) Jerusalem was destroyed (2) Jeremiah was saved (3) Ebed-Melech was spared. God always keeps His Word. Past fulfillment guarantees future promises too.
1. Jer 39 presents a strong contrast between faithfulness and the lack of faith. Jeremiah and Ebed-melech represent those who are faithful to the LORD and to whom the LORD is faithful in return.
2. Zedekiah represents faithlessness. His faithlessness is not rejection of the LORD but an inability to act in courage when pressures mount. Like the church at Laodicea in Rev 3:15 [which was also blind], Zedekiah was neither hot nor cold, and he paid a terrible price for his indecision.