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Jeremiah 38-40; Psalm 74; Psalm 79 Listen
1 Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, 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, by the famine, and by the pestilence: 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.
4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of 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.
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.
6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.
7 Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;
8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, 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; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.
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.
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 and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah.
12 And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so.
13 So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
Jerusalem was ruled by Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (II Kings 24:17-20, see notes). The king's leadership team was so steamed at Jeremiah's surrender-while-you-still-can prophecies that they just wanted him dead. Apparently they felt his message was interfering with morale and thus jeopardizing their defense of the city, Jerusalem. Jeremiah's audience consisted of the soldiers who were defending the city since he was imprisoned in the court of the guards back in Jeremiah 37 (see notes). They went to the king and sought permission to kill Jeremiah; Zedekiah took a Pilate-like approach to the situation and told them, basically, "I can't stop you!" Rather than just kill him, they tried to be too creative by lowering him down into a pit - a cistern without water, but it was full of mud. Jeremiah sank down into the mud, which is where we get the old saying, "Stuck in the mud." Okay, okay, maybe that's not where that saying came from, but he was.
When one of the king's servants (Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian) asked permission to rescue Jeremiah, the king consented and provided the resources to do so (what a confused king). Jeremiah was rescued and placed back under arrest...in the very same court of the guards where he had been doing all of the negative prophesying. It was a grueling work day for this prophet - to near death and back.
Incidentally, you will notice the reference to the lack of food in Jerusalem in verse 9. After many months of being surrounded by the Babylonian army, food supplies had become scarce. Capturing a walled city like Jerusalem was not difficult...given enough time - just starve them out!
Zedekiah seeks a more favorable prophecy (Jeremiah 38:14-28)
14 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took 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; hide nothing from me.
15 Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?
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.
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 the king of Babylon’s princes, 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.
19 And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.
20 But Jeremiah said, They 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.
21 But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word 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, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back.
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.
24 Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.
25 But if the princes 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 before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there.
27 Then came all the princes 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 was not perceived.
28 So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.
I guess Zedekiah (the last King of Judah) figures this mud bath should have served to recondition Jeremiah's prophetic thinking. He arranges a meeting with Jeremiah to get a second opinion. However, the prophecy didn't change from previously. He tells Zedekiah that if he goes ahead and surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar, he and his house will be spared, but if he resists, it'll be big trouble for Zedekiah. The meeting concludes, but some people had seen Jeremiah talking with the king. Inquiring minds wanted to know what they talked about. I find the cover story in verses 24-28 rather amusing. Any way you look at it, Zedekiah commands Jeremiah to lie about the content of their conversation...and Jeremiah does just as he is commanded.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's the big day in 586 B.C. we've been anticipating - the fall of Jerusalem. It took the Babylonians about 18 months to actually break through, but they finally did so (verses 1-2). Zedekiah and his officials fled through Jericho, but the Babylonians captured them. It was a long trip from Jericho to "Riblah in the land of Hamath" (located up in modern-day Syria well over 100 miles from Jericho) where Nebuchadnezzar had established his headquarters. Gruesome punishment for Zedekiah - he should have listened to Jeremiah. So the last thing that Zedekiah sees before having his eyes gouged out was the slaying of his family. Then blind Zedekiah was taken to Babylon just as Jeremiah had prophesied. The Babylonians then took the more influential inhabitants of Jerusalem into Babylon and gave the poor inhabitants of Judah their abandoned property. It was a good day in Jerusalem for the poor, who had just won the equivalent of the lottery.
Jeremiah is freed (Jeremiah 39:11-18)
11 Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,
12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.
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.
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.
Now that Zedekiah has left the building, Nebuchadnezzar authorizes Jeremiah's freedom and care. The Babylonians had no axe to grind with Jeremiah; he had tried to facilitate a peaceful end to Jerusalem. Then we have an addendum to this chapter regarding King Zedekiah's servant. Jeremiah prophesies concerning the king's servant, Ebedmelech, who had freed Jeremiah from the pit/cistern. Jeremiah had received this prophecy while he was still in prison, but we see it for the first time here. Jeremiah had assured Ebedmelech that his life would be spared when the Babylonians would come knocking at the doors of Jerusalem.
Incidentally, Jeremiah is entrusted to the care of Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. This is not the same man who had sought Jeremiah's death in chapter 38 (see above). This Gedaliah (a Jew) became the governor of Jerusalem after its fall, appointed by Nebuchadnezzar himself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Babylonians spring Jeremiah from jail and give him a choice of going with his people to Babylon or staying in Jerusalem under the care of the Nebuchadnezzar-appointed Jewish governor of Judah, Gedaliah. Hey! Wasn't Gedaliah one of those "princes" of Jeremiah 38:1-4 (see above) who was responsible for Jeremiah being placed in that pit/cistern to die? This is Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, NOT Gedaliah, son of Pashhur; the latter was cruel to Jeremiah. Jeremiah chooses to stay in Judah under the care of Governor Gedaliah. The captain of the guard gives Jeremiah some food and a reward. Then Gedaliah extends an invitation for those men who had dispersed leading up to the fall of Jerusalem to come home. However, there are some very bitter fighting men outside Jerusalem who are still a little upset over what has taken place. A plot is uncovered by Johanan, the son of Kareah, to assassinate Gedaliah, headed up by Ishmael the son of Nethaniah; a preemptive strike is proposed. However, Gedaliah does not believe that there is a conspiracy for his demise and forbids any action on his behalf. We'll see in Jeremiah 41 (see notes) that this turns out to be a mistake.
A prayer to God upon the destruction of the temple (Psalm 74)
Maschil of Asaph.
1 O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?
2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.
5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.
7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.
8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
9 We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?
11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.
12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.
14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.
15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.
16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.
17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.
19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.
20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.
21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.
22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.
23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.
David's music man was Asaph, but this was written around the time of the fall of Jerusalem centuries later. This is obviously a different Asaph, perhaps a descendant. For more information, see the notes below on Psalm 79.
A Psalm of Asaph.
1 O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.
2 The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
3 Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.
4 We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.
5 How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.
7 For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.
8 O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.
10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.
11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die;
12 And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.
13 So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.
The most devastating event of their lives had taken place, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Asaph is credited with this Psalm as well - undoubtedly written after the fall of Jerusalem.
Here's a note from Adam Clarke's commentary which expresses the common view regarding the setting of this Psalm based upon the superscription bearing Asaph's name:
The title, A Psalm of Asaph , must be understood as either applying to a person of the name of Asaph who lived under the captivity; or else to the family of Asaph ; or to a band of singers still bearing the name of that Asaph who flourished in the days of David ; for most undoubtedly the Psalm was composed during the Babylonian captivity, when the city of Jerusalem lay in heaps, the temple was defiled, and the people were in a state of captivity. David could not be its author. Some think it was composed by Jeremiah ; and it is certain that the sixth and seventh verses are exactly the same with Jeremiah 10:25 : "Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him; and have made his habitation desolate."
The setting is clear from verse 1, "O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps." In verse 8 he calls upon God to recognize that the they are now changed people (it's about time) when he says, "O remember not against us former iniquities." He asks for a little revenge against their enemy (the Babylonians) when he says in verse 12, "And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord." And finally, a little thankfulness is seen in verse 13, "So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations."