Scripture reading – Jeremiah 40
As foretold by the prophets, God’s judgment was consummated against Judah, and Jerusalem laid in ruins. With the arrest of king Zedekiah, and the slaying of his sons (39:5-7), all was lost. Only a remnant survived the fall of Jerusalem, and Babylon’s army gathered them in chains at Ramah, where they were taken to Babylon (40:1).
Jeremiah wrote of the great lamentation in Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15), but the prophetic implication of that place would later be observed by Matthew, when he wrote: “17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:17-18).
Contrary to Nebuchadnezzar’s orders (39:11-14), somehow Jeremiah came to be numbered among those in chains (40:1). Now, the captain of the guard named Nebuzaradan (40:1), intervened and “took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place” (40:2). Nebuzaradan was aware Jeremiah had warned his people their sins against the LORD would be the cause for Jerusalem’s destruction (40:3).
In an extraordinary act of respect, Nebuzaradan set Jeremiah at liberty, and gave him opportunity to go to Babylon in peace and under his protection, or remain in Judah and serve the remnant that would remain in the land (40:4-5). Jeremiah chose to remain with his people (40:6), and Nebuzaradan provided the prophet with a parting gift (40:5).
Nebuchadnezzar had installed a Jew named Gedaliah, who was to serve the interest of Babylon, and rule Judah as governor (40:5). Hearing Gedaliah was governor, some of the factions that fled Judah began returning (40:7), and among them were five men (40:8). Named among the five was Ishmael, who according to Jeremiah 41:1, was “of the seed royal” and some distant kin of David.
Gedaliah appealed to Ishmael and his companions, encouraging them to lay down their weapons, and go harvest the land (40:10). Still other of the Jews that had been scattered among the nations, returned to Judah and began rebuilding their lives (40:11-12).
Some who returned to farming, soon learned there was a plot to kill Gedaliah. Leaving their fields, they came to the governor asking, “Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee?” (40:13-14a). Gedaliah, though, refused to believe the report (40:14b), and dismissed Johanan’s offer to slay Ishmael (40:15). He feared Gedaliah’s death would give cause for the people to scatter, “and the remnant in Judah [would] perish” (40:15).
Failing to foresee the evil, and dismissing the men who came to him, Gedaliah accused Johanan of speaking “falsely of Ishmael” (40:16).
Closing thought – Our next devotional will continue the plot to slay Gedaliah. Tragically, his failure to discern his friends from his enemies would cost the governor his life (Jeremiah 41).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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