Friday, April 25, 2014

CCLVIII – Jeremiah 40-45

These six chapters tell (mostly in chronological order) of the continued ministry of Jeremiah after the captivity took place.

As we saw in chapter 39, Jerusalem has fallen at the hands of the cruel Babylonians, just like Jeremiah has been prophesying for the past twenty-five years.  These six chapters for today’s post tell the story of Jeremiah and a small group of Israelites who were left in Jerusalem after the fall, which I find to be rather interesting reading.  {I usually am more interested in a recording of Historical facts which are stated in chronological order.  Or perhaps it’s just easier for me.}

Chapter 40

The first six verses tell an interesting story.  Leading the invasion and captivity of the people of Jerusalem was the Babylonian military leader named Nebuzaradan.  Nebuzaradan seemed to take a special interest in Jeremiah.  This is not difficult to understand.  Jeremiah was imprisoned in terrible conditions when Nebuzaradan discovered him.  The Babylonian figured that if Jeremiah was so hated by Judah’s government then there must be some redeeming qualities to the man.  Also, Nebuzaradan must have held in his heart a measure of respect for Jeremiah as a man of God.  As a gesture of leniency, Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah the choice of going to Babylon with the people of Judah or remaining in Jerusalem, which would be under Babylonian rule.  Nebuzaradan also promised Jeremiah that if he chose to go to Babylon, Nebuzaradan would see to it that he would be taken good care of, rather than be treated like a slave.  The choice Jeremiah had was a difficult one.  He chose to remain in Jerusalem.

Verses 7-12 give us a brief background of a man named Gedaliah.  He was a member of a prominent Judean family and a good friend to Jeremiah.  He was generally well liked by the people of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah governor of Judah.  Before and during the invasion, many Judeans escaped and hid in the outlying areas around Judah.  Gedaliah encouraged all Judeans to return to their country, and to cooperate with the Babylonian government.  Gedaliah knew that any resistance could only result in further violence and bloodshed.

Starting in verse 13 and continuing on into through the 3rd verse in chapter 41, we see the story of a man named Ishmael plotting and assassinating Gedaliah.  It was a set-up, brought on by what I would consider a combination of jealousy toward Gedaliah and hatred for the Babylonians.  Gedaliah had served as governor for about five years, and had done what appears to have been a good job under strange and difficult circumstances. 

41:4-18  -  Violence, Anarchy, and Chaos

Following the death of Gedaliah at the hands of Ishmael, things got really bad.  Ishmael became drunk with power after he assassinated the governor.  He went on to murder seventy of the eighty religious Judeans on a pilgrimage.  Ishmael was evil and bloodthirsty.  He appointed himself as the leader to replace Gedaliah.  A man named Johanan gathered a group of Judeans to rebel against Ishmael.  Johanan’s group was successful in destroying the new evil leadership but Ishmael escaped.  So now Johanan was considered the new leader of the Judeans who were left in the Promised Land.

Chapter 42 – Johanan’s Hasty Decision

As we have just seen, a lot has happened in a very short period of time.  Babylon’s appointed governor Gedaliah has been assassinated.  Chaos has ensued.  The remaining Judeans have appointed their own leader without the approval by the Babylonians.  Johanan knew that it was just a matter of time before the Babylonians would send troops to “clean house” and reestablish order.  Johanan thought the best way to avoid what he anticipated as inevitable punishment, was to flee from Jerusalem.  And the only place that seemed safe was Egypt.  However, as this passage points out, God through Jeremiah did not want them to leave Judah.  But by the time Jeremiah could share this with them, they had already begun their trip south, in a hurry to escape before the Babylonians could get to Jerusalem.  As we see in verse 7, Jeremiah had been seeking the Lord’s guidance for ten days before he received a clear understanding of God’s will.  Even though it was late coming, it was still God’s will.  When Jeremiah tried to get the people to turn back to Judah he met with strong resistance.

Chapter 43 – Prophecy of Military Invasion of Egypt

Although the strong aggressive military powers in the region have come and gone, each wreaking their own flavor of havoc, none have really threatened to bother Egypt.  This was due to two reasons.  Firstly, Egypt was far away to the southwest and never posed serious threats to any region to the north east.  Secondly, Egypt was always known as strong military power with the most sophisticated weaponry.  Therefore most of the dominant powers left them alone.  This is probably the most compelling reason that Johanan chose Egypt as the location in which to hide from the Babylonians.  Suddenly and unexpectedly God spoke through Jeremiah that the mighty land of Egypt was going to be conquered by the Babylonians.  This came as a shock to all hearers of Jeremiah’s words.  In fact, practically nobody believed him.  I need to clear up verses 10-11.  God referred to Nebuchadnezzar as His servant.  This does not mean that the Babylonian king was a Godly man.  He certainly was not.  But he was a vessel through which God accomplished His purpose, not only for Judah, but for Egypt as well.  {I have witnessed in my life many times that God used ungodly people through which to bless His faithful servants.

Chapter 44 – Israelites Again Condemned for Idolatry

In this chapter Jeremiah’s book seems to abruptly shift as it has many times before.  He is speaking to the Jews who have been living in Egypt’s territory.  These Jews have assimilated to Egypt and their gods.  They seem to have forgotten about their Creator and their worship practices have become an abomination to the Lord.  These people made a pitiful attempt to rationalize their behavior, which only made God more determined to bring them to account, which He did.

Chapter 45 – Baruch

Remember Baruch?  We read about him in chapter 36.  He was Jeremiah’s scribe who documented in writing all of God’s prophesies during a twenty-five year period.  This very short chapter is dedicated to Baruch, who has found himself in a state of fatigue, fear, depression, and loneliness.  God loved Baruch and wanted to help him.  God encouraged Baruch to continue to run the good race.  God went on to tell Baruch that He would not only protect him from those who threatened violence, but assured him he would accomplish great things.

Next Post – Finishing Jeremiah

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