Jeremiah 39:1-40:16 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Through Disaster, Not Prosperity
Comments for Study 30

Jeremiah 39:1-40:16
Memory Verse: 40:2

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I. Jerusalem Taken (39:1-18)

Nebuchadnezzar Jerusalem Conquest 597 Nebuchadnezzar Jerusalem Fall 586

>1. When did Jerusalem fall? (1-2)

* Jeremiah 39:1-2 "This is how Jerusalem was taken: In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year, the city wall was broken through."

* "This is how Jerusalem was taken" -Chapter 39 is the last chapter in this section of Jeremiah that started with chapter 34. These six chapters are about the siege and fall of Jerusalem.

* Chapters 40 thru 45 concern the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem.

* Verses 1-10 is a summary of 52:4-27.

* If the book of Jeremiah was in chronological order it would be in the follow order: 34:1-7, 37:1-10, 34:8-22, 37:11-38:13, 39:15-18, 34:1-7 is a warning to Zedekiah. 34:8-22 is the event of recanting of freeing the slaves. 39:15-18 is a personal message of encouragement to Ebed-Melech the Cushite, who had risked his life to get Jeremiah out of the cistern (38:7-13).

* "In the ninth year" -Some say 589, 588 or 587 B.C. See below for more.

* "Zedekiah king of Judah" -Zedekiah reigned from 597-586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar had made him king. He was the last king of Judah. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, a puppet king of Babylon. (2 Kings 24:18-19) King Zedekiah took an oath of allegiance to the Babylonian king but soon became disloyal and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt. So Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city from 10 January 587 to 9 July 586 B.C. Jerusalem fell and approximately eighty distinguished leaders of the community were executed, the royal palace and the city were set on fire, and the survivors (except the poorest of the land) were taken into captivity. After him govenors ruled Israel/Judah on Babylon's behalf.

* 2 Kings 24:18-20 "Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence. Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon."

* 2 Chronicles 36:11-14 "Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God's name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel. Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem."

* "in the tenth month" -This is the Hebrew month. According to the modern Gregorian calendar December/January. The final siege of Jerusalem started on the tenth day of the Hebrew calendar. (52:4; 2 Kings 25:1; Ezekiel 24:1-2). (Some say the Hebrew 10th day that month and year would be January 15 on the Gregorian calendar.)

* "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon" -Nebuchadnezzar (634562 B.C.) was king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605562 B.C. The Akkadian name means "O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son". Nabu is the Babylonian deity of wisdom, and son of the god Marduk. In an inscription, Nebuchadnezzar styles himself as Nabu's "beloved" and "favourite". Nebuchadnezzar was the oldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its three centuries of vassalage to its fellow Mesopotamian state Assyria, and in alliance with the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians, laid Nineveh in ruins. During the last century of Nineveh's existence, Babylon had been greatly devastated, not only at the hands of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal, but also as a result of her ever renewed rebellions. Nebuchadnezzar, continuing his father's work of reconstruction, aimed at making his capital one of the world's wonders.

* "marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it" -Nebuchadnezzar was determined to destroy the city. He had come to what he saw as a rebelleous territory before. This time he would make sure they wouldn't revolt against him again. So he was determined to take away all their authority and leave just enough people to harvest and plant crops.

* "on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year" -July 18, 586 B.C. according to the modern Gregorian calendar. The siege lasted just over two and a half years.

* "the city wall was broken through" -Jerusalem walls were well built.

* Babylon and Judah counted king's reigns differently. According to the Babylonian system of computing the years of a king's reign, the third year of Jehoiakim would have been 605 B.C. (Daniel 1:1), since his first full year of kingship begun on New Year's Day after his ascension in 608 B.C. But according to the Judahite system, which counted the year of accension as the first year of reign, this was the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 25:1, 46:2) Also note that the Babylon and Hebrew calendars had different months and began the year at different times. Add to this mess of dates is the fact that that the modern calendar (Gregorian) is not the same as the Babylonian or the Hebrew calendar.

* The Babylonian Chronicles, which were published by Donald Wiseman in 1956, establish that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 B.C. Before Wiseman's publication, Thiele had determined from the biblical texts that Nebuchadnezzar's initial capture of Jerusalem occurred in the spring of 597 B.C, while other scholars, including Albright, more frequently dated the event to 598 B.C.

* There has been some debate as to when the second siege of Jerusalem took place. Though there is no dispute that Jerusalem fell the second time in the summer month of Tammuz, William F. Albright dates the end of Zedekiah's reign (and the fall of Jerusalem) to 587 B.C., whereas Edwin R. Thiele offers 586 B.C.

Thiele's reckoning is based on the presentation of Zedekiah's reign on an accession basis, which was used for most but not all of the kings of Judah. In that case, the year that Zedekiah came to the throne would be his zeroth year; his first full year would be 597/596 B.C., and his eleventh year, the year Jerusalem fell, would be 587/586 B.C. Since Judah's regnal years were counted from Tishri in autumn, this would place the end of his reign and the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 586 B.C.

However, the Babylonian Chronicles support the enumeration of Zedekiah's reign on a non-accession basis. Zedekiah's first year when he was installed by Nebuchadnezzar was therefore in 598/597 B.C. according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar. The fall of Jerusalem in his eleventh year would then have been in the summer of 587 B.C. The Babylonian Chronicles allow the fairly precise dating of the capture of Jehoiachin and the start of Zedekiah's reign, and also provide the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar's successor Amel-Marduk (Evil Merodach) as 562/561 B.C., which was the 37th year of Jehoiachin's captivity according to 2 Kings 25:27. These Babylonian records related to Jehoiachin's reign are consistent with the fall of the city in 587 B.C. (wikipedia.org)

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>What did Nebuchadnezzar set up at the city gate? (3)

* Jeremiah 39:3 "Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon."

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>What did Zedekiah do? (4)

* Jeremiah 39:4 "When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king's garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah."

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>2. How were the words of the Lord about Zedekiah fulfilled? (5-7; 32:4-5, 34:2-3, 38:18; Ezekiel 12:13)

* Jeremiah 39:5-7 "But the Babylonian army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon."

* Ezekiel 12:13 "I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare; I will bring him to Babylonia, the land of the Chaldeans, but he will not see it, and there he will die."

* See 52:7-11 and 2 Kings 25:4-7 for parallel passages.

* 2 Chronicles 36:15-21 "The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah."

* Jeremiah 32:4-5, 34:2-3, and 38:18 are warnings to Zedekiah. Ezekiel 12:13 predicts that Zedekiah would be brought to Babylon, but that he would not see it. Zedekiah could have spared his own life and prevented the destrucion of Jerusalem if he had listened to Jeremiah.

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Babylon reconstruction drawing

* See a drawing of Babylon to the right. Reconstruction of the prospect of ancient Babylon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, based on excavations. A solemn procession is seen making its way through the great gateway dedicated to the goddess Ishtar. As far as the eye can travel, the broad processional way bisects the vast metropolis. In the distance (right) rises the massive ziggurat, the "Tower of Babel" (Genesis 11:3-4), while more in the foreground lie the famous "Hanging Gardens" with their luxuriant palm-trees. Nearby stood the royal palace, in which later on, presumably after he had been pardoned, King Jehoiachin with his sons and personal attendants also lived. (Jeremiah 52:31-33) (The Bible as History in Pictures, Werner Keller)

>How were the words of the Lord about the city and people fulfilled? (8-9)

* Jeremiah 39:8-9 "The Babylonians set fire to the royal palace and the houses of the people and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard carried into exile to Babylon the people who remained in the city, along with those who had gone over to him, and the rest of the people."

* 52:12-16 and 2 Kings 25:8-12 are parallel passages.

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>Who were the only people left in the land? (10)

* Jeremiah 39:10 "But Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, who owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields."

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>3. How had the Lord used Nebuchadnezzar to spare Jeremiah? (11-14)

* Jeremiah 39:11-14 "Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: "Take him and look after him; don't harm him but do for him whatever he asks." So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people."

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>What words of encouragement was given the man who risked his life to help Jeremiah? (15-18)

* Jeremiah 39:15-18 "While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the LORD came to him: "Go and tell Ebed-Melech the Cushite, 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city through disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be handed over to those you fear. I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.'"

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II. Jeremiah Freed (40:1-6)

>4. How was Jeremiah found? (1)

* Jeremiah 40:1 "The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon."

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* The book is not in chronological order. If it would be chapters 40-44 would be in-between 52:1-30 and 52:31-34.

>Who did the Babylonian commander say decreed disaster for Jerusalem? (2)

* Jeremiah 40:2 "When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, "The LORD your God decreed this disaster for this place."

* Originally Nebuchadnezzar did not want to destroy the city or even remove its king and political system which makes this commander's statement a confession of faith.

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>And why? (3)

* Jeremiah 40:3 "And now the LORD has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the LORD and did not obey him."

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>5. What option was given Jeremiah? (4)

* Jeremiah 40:4 "But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don't come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please."

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>How was he honored? (5)

* Jeremiah 40:5 "However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, "Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please." Then the commander gave him provisions and a present and let him go."

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>Why might Jeremiah want to live in Judah? (6)

* Jeremiah 40:6 "So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land."

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III. Gedaliah Governor (40:7-16)

>6. Who can to the newly appointed governor of Judah? (7-8)

* Jeremiah 40:7-8 "When all the army officers and their men who were still in the open country heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor over the land and had put him in charge of the men, women and children who were the poorest in the land and who had not been carried into exile to Babylon, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah--Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, and their men."

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Jaazaniah Mizpah seal

* See a clay seal to the right. Seal of "Jaazaniah, servant of the king", which was found at Mizpah and which also takes us back to the time immediately after the fall of Jerusalem. Above a fighting cock is inscribed the name of the official of the royal household of Judah who is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:23, "And when all the captains of the armies, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, there came to Gedaliah to Mizpah... Jaazaniah the son of a Maachathite..." (also Jeremiah 40:8). (The Bible as History in Pictures, Werner Keller)

>What were they told to do? (9)

* Jeremiah 40:9 "Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, took an oath to reassure them and their men. "Do not be afraid to serve the Babylonians," he said. "Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you."

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>What were they to do? (10)

* Jeremiah 40:10 "I myself will stay at Mizpah to represent you before the Babylonians who come to us, but you are to harvest the wine, summer fruit and oil, and put them in your storage jars, and live in the towns you have taken over."

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>7. Who were Moab, Ammon, and Edom?

* Jeremiah 40:11 "When all the Jews in Moab, Ammon, Edom and all the other countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as governor over them,"

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>What did the Jews who came from those lands back to Judah do? (12)

* Jeremiah 40:12 "they all came back to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, from all the countries where they had been scattered. And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit."

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Gedaliah Lachish seal

* See a clay seal to the right. Seal which was found in the ruins of Lachish may well serve as confirmation of what the Bible says, for the translation of the inscription runs, "Gedaliah, who is over the house." This is undoubtedly the same Gedaliah who was appointed regent by Nebuchadnezzar after the fall of Jerusalem and who was assassinated soon after," ...and (they) smote Gedaliah, that he died... at Mizpah" (2 Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:2). (The Bible as History in Pictures, Werner Keller)

>How does this harvest differ from former harvests? (14:1)

* Jeremiah 14:1 "This is the word of the LORD to Jeremiah concerning the drought"

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>8. What warning was given the governor? (13-14)

* Jeremiah 40:13-14 "Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers still in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and said to him, "Don't you know that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?" But Gedaliah son of Ahikam did not believe them."

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>Why might he not believe it?

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>9. What did an opportunist want to do? (15)

* Jeremiah 40:15 "Then Johanan son of Kareah said privately to Gedaliah in Mizpah, "Let me go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah, and no one will know it. Why should he take your life and cause all the Jews who are gathered around you to be scattered and the remnant of Judah to perish?"

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>Did the governor agree? (16)

* Jeremiah 40:16 "But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, "Don't do such a thing! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true."

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>How do the opportunist's thoughts show a lack of repentance and faith?

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