Scripture reading – Jeremiah 40


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As foretold by the prophets, God’s judgment was consummated against Judah, and Jerusalem lay in ruins.  With the arrest of King Zedekiah and the slaying of his sons (Jeremiah 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 then taken to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1).

Jeremiah wrote of the great lamentation in Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15). Still, 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).


Jeremiah Set at Liberty (Jeremiah 40:1-4)

Contrary to Nebuchadnezzar’s orders (Jeremiah 39:11-14), somehow Jeremiah came to be numbered among those in chains (Jeremiah 40:1). Now, the captain of the guard named Nebuzaradan (Jeremiah 40:1) intervened and “took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place” (Jeremiah 40:2). Nebuzaradan was aware Jeremiah had warned his people their sins against the LORD would be the cause for Jerusalem’s destruction (Jeremiah 40:3).

In an extraordinary act of respect, Nebuzaradan set Jeremiah at liberty and allowed him to go to Babylon in peace and under his protection or remain in Judah and serve the remnant that would remain in the land (Jeremiah 40:4-5). Jeremiah chose to stay in his homeland with his people (Jeremiah 40:6), and Nebuzaradan gave the prophet a parting gift (Jeremiah 40:5).


Gedaliah, Governor of Judah (Jeremiah 40:5-16)

Nebuchadnezzar installed a man of Judah named Gedaliah, who was to serve the interest of Babylon and rule Judah as governor (Jeremiah 40:5). Hearing Gedaliah was governor, some of the factions that fled Judah began returning (Jeremiah 40:7), and among them were five men (Jeremiah 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 and encouraged them to lay down their weapons and harvest the land (Jeremiah 40:10). Still, other of the Jews that were scattered among the nations returned to Judah and began rebuilding their lives (Jeremiah 40:11-12).

Gedaliah, Governor of Judah

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?” (Jeremiah 40:13-14a). Gedaliah, though, refused to believe the report (Jeremiah 40:14b) and dismissed Johanan’s offer to slay Ishmael (Jeremiah 40:15). Though he feared Gedaliah’s death would give cause for the people to scatter, “and the remnant in Judah [would] perish” (Jeremiah 40:15).

Failing to foresee the evil and dismissing the men who came to him, Gedaliah accused Johanan of speaking “falsely of Ishmael” (Jeremiah 40:16).


Closing thought –

Perhaps a good way to conclude today’s brief Scripture reading is to recognize that Jeremiah had been a friend to King Zedekiah and all of Judah. God’s prophet faithfully warned the king and his countrymen that they would perish if they did not accept that the LORD had determined that Babylon would punish Judah for that nation’s sins and failure to obey God’s law and keep His commandments. Instead, they rejected the message and would have killed the messenger. Nevertheless, the LORD spared His prophet, and Jeremiah chose to remain in Judah with the remnant of the people.  

Note – The following Bible study will continue to focus on the plot to slay Gedaliah. Tragically, the governor’s failure to discern his friends from his enemies would inevitably cost him his life (Jeremiah 41).

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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