Jeremiah 38-39

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 21, 2005

Jeremiah 38

:1-13 Jeremiah sinks in the cistern

:1 Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people, saying,

While Jeremiah was being held in this courtyard, he had the ability to keep speaking to the people. These four fellows were important government leaders.

Gedaliah the son of Pashhur – his dad may have been the fellow that had had Jeremiah beaten and put into stocks (Jer. 20)

Jucal the son of Shelemiah – was sent by Zedekiah to ask about a word from God concerning the siege of Jerusalem (37:3).

Pashhur the son of Malchiah – the fellow sent by Zedekiah to ask about Babylon’s initial attack on Jerusalem (21:1-2)

:2 "Thus says the LORD: 'He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be as a prize to him, and he shall live.'

:3 "Thus says the LORD: 'This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it.'"

This isn’t the politically correct thing to say at this time. He’s predicting that the home team is going to lose.

:4 Therefore the princes said to the king, "Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm."

To these fellows, Jeremiah was a traitor. He was discouraging people from fighting for Jerusalem.

:5 Then Zedekiah the king said, "Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you."

It sounds like Zedekiah was a bit intimidated by these guys.

:6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king's son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.

dungeonbowr – pit, well, cistern

Last week we read about Jeremiah being put into the prison at the house of Jonathan the scribe (37:15). Apparently Jonathan had a dried out cistern that had been converted into a prison.

Now Jeremiah is thrown into another cistern. This one is a bit more muddier. He begins to sink in the mud.

:7 Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin,

Ebed-Melech – “servant of the king”

Ethiopian – he’s a foreigner.

He’s a friend of Jeremiah, willing to put his life and reputation on the line to save his friend.

:8 Ebed-Melech went out of the king's house and spoke 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 likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city."

no more bread in the city – a sign that the siege is nearing its close. The Babylonians are getting ready to break into the city.

:10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, "Take from here thirty men with you, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies."

Thirty men not just to lift Jeremiah out of the cistern, but probably also to guard him from the other guys as well.

:11 So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there old clothes and old rags, and let them down by ropes into the dungeon to Jeremiah.

The room under the treasury was where the access was to the cistern.

The rags were used as padding to keep the ropes from cutting into Jeremiah’s arms.

:12 Then Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, "Please put these old clothes and rags under your armpits, under the ropes." And Jeremiah did so.

:13 So they pulled Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the dungeon. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

I would imagine that Jeremiah felt a little like what David wrote,

(Psa 40:1-3 NKJV) I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. {2} He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. {3} He has put a new song in my mouth; Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.

:14-28 Jeremiah tells Zed to surrender; kept in prison courtyard

:14 Then Zedekiah the king sent and had Jeremiah the prophet brought to him at the third entrance of the house of the LORD. And the king said to Jeremiah, "I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me."

:15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me."

:16 So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, "As the LORD lives, who made our very souls, I will not put you to death, nor will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life."

Somehow I have a hard time believing Zedekiah. Perhaps he means to do well, but his past actions make you wonder what will happen next.

:17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: 'If you surely surrender to the king of Babylon's princes, then your soul shall live; this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live.

:18 'But if you do not surrender to the king of Babylon's princes, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans; they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.'"

Everything will be fine if Zedekiah would just surrender.

:19 And Zedekiah the king said to Jeremiah, "I am afraid of the Jews who have defected to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they abuse me."

:20 But Jeremiah said, "They shall not deliver you. Please, obey the voice of the LORD which I speak to you. So it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live.

:21 "But if you refuse to surrender, this is the word that the LORD has shown me:

:22 'Now behold, all the women who are left in the king of Judah's house shall be surrendered to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say: "Your close friends have set upon you And prevailed against you; Your feet have sunk in the mire, And they have turned away again."

the women – the harem

(Jer 38:22 NLT) All the women left in your palace will be brought out and given to the officers of the Babylonian army. Then the women will taunt you, saying, 'What fine friends you have! They have betrayed and misled you. When your feet sank in the mud, they left you to your fate!'

When Jeremiah sank in the mud, a friend came to his rescue.

In contrast, Zedekiah would sink in the mud of Babylon and those who claimed to be his friends wouldn’t help him and in fact they are the ones who would get him into this mess in the first place.


Friends and pits

Enemies throw each other in the pit.
Joseph’s brothers threw him into the pit.
True friends help each other out of the miry clay
Do you know of a friend who is “stuck” in a pit?
A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out...

~ A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there."

~ An objective person walked by and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there."

~ A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into pits."

~ A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was.

~ A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.

~ An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.

~ A self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit."

~ A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, "You deserve your pit."

~ A psychologist noted, "Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit."

Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.

(John 13:34-35 KJV) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. {35} By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
(1 John 3:16 KJV) Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
A number of years ago, in a mental institution just outside Boston, Mass., a young girl known as “Little Annie” was locked in the dungeon. This institution was one of the more enlightened ones for the treatment of the mentally disturbed. However, the doctors felt that a dungeon was the only place for those who were “hopelessly” insane. In Little Annie’s case, they saw no hope for her, so she was confined to a living death in that small cage which received little light and even less hope.
About that time, an elderly nurse in the institution was nearing retirement. She felt there was hope for all of God’s creatures, so she started taking her lunch into the dungeon and eating outside Little Annie’s cage. She felt perhaps she could communicate some love and hope to the little girl.
In many ways, Little Annie was like an animal. On occasions, she would violently attack the person who came into her cage. At other times, she would completely ignore them. When the elderly nurse started visiting her, Little Annie gave no indication that she was even aware of her presence. One day, the elderly nurse brought some brownies to the dungeon and left them outside the cage. Little Annie gave no hint she knew they were there, but when the nurse returned the next day, the brownies were gone. From that time on, the nurse would bring brownies when she made her Thursday visit. Soon, the doctors in the institution noticed a change was taking place. After a period of time, they decided to move Little Annie upstairs. Finally, the day came when this “hopeless case” was told she could return home. But Little Annie did not wish to leave. The place had meant so much to her she felt she could make a contribution if she stayed and worked with the other patients. The elderly nurse had seen and brought out so much in her life that Little Annie felt she could see and help develop something in others.
Many years later, Queen Victoria of England, while pinning England’s highest award on a foreigner, asked Helen Keller, “How do you account for your remarkable accomplishments in life? How do you explain the fact that even though you were both blind and deaf, you were able to accomplish so much?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Helen Keller said that had it not been for Anne Sullivan (Little Annie), the name of Helen Keller would have remained unknown.
It’s not too well known, but Helen Keller was a normal, healthy baby before some mysterious disease left her almost helpless and hopeless. Anne Sullivan saw Helen Keller as one of God’s very special people—treated her as she saw her—loved her—disciplined her - - played, prayed, pushed and worked with her until the flickering candle that was her life became a beacon that helped light the pathways and lighten the burdens of people all over the world. Yes, Helen Keller influenced millions after her own life was touched by “Little Annie!”
Do you know someone in a pit? In a dungeon?

:23 'So they shall surrender all your wives and children to the Chaldeans. You shall not escape from their hand, but shall be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon. And you shall cause this city to be burned with fire.'"

:24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "Let no one know of these words, and you shall not die.

:25 "But if the princes hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you and say to you, 'Declare to us now what you have said to the king, and also what the king said to you; do not hide it from us, and we will not put you to death,'

:26 "then you shall say to them, 'I presented my request before the king, that he would not make me return to Jonathan's house to die there.'"

Zedekiah had an excuse that Jeremiah was to use if he was asked about what Zedekiah and he had talked about.

:27 Then all the princes came to Jeremiah and asked him. And he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been heard.

:28 Now Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken. And he was there when Jerusalem was taken.


Moved by fear

When I read these accounts of Zedekiah, I get this feeling like something inside of him wanted to do what was right. Why else would he keep sending messengers to Jeremiah to find out what God had to say?
Yet it seems that Zedekiah was derailed in his life because of his fear of people.
His fear of the leaders made him give in and allow Jeremiah to be thrown into a pit.
His fear of the people in captivity kept him from surrendering to Nebuchadnezzar and sparing the city.
He knew the right thing, but was too afraid to do it.
Fear can cause us to do strange things.

Former Hearse Driver

An American is in London for the first time. He’s in a taxi on his way to an appointment for which he is afraid he may be late, given the slow speed at which the driver is proceeding. In order to ask the driver about their progress, he leans forward and taps the older gentleman on the shoulder. The driver simultaneously emits a blood curdling scream and jumps straight up in the air, yanking the wheel to one side. The cab veers sharply, jumps the curb, demolishing a beautiful old cast iron lamppost and comes to a stop mere inches from a shop window. The startled but uninjured passenger asks, “Are you all right? I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just wanted to ask a question.” “Not your fault, guv’nor,” said the driver in a Cockney lilt, “I’m bright new to this taxi drivin’ I yam, an’ I’m not used to ‘avin’ comp’ny owin’ to my previous trade.” “I see,” said the passenger. “And what did you do previously?” The driver said, “Why for the past 25 years I was the best hearse driver in London, sir.”

A counterpart to fearing people is the desire to “please people”. It’s really the same thing.  We seek to “please” people because we’re “afraid” of what will happen if we don’t.  A typical person we try and please is our boss …

My Boss' Jokes

The boss returned from lunch in a good mood and called the whole staff in to listen to a couple of jokes he had picked up. Everybody but one girl laughed uproariously. “What’s the matter?” grumbled the boss. “Haven’t you got a sense of humor??” “I don’t have to laugh,” she said. “I’m leaving Friday...”

When you’re always doing things to please other people you’re setting yourself up for trouble. 

What if the people you are trying to please want you to do the wrong thing? 

Sometimes we get so caught up in pleasing everyone else, that the people we really ought to be helping (like our family) get neglected.

How can we ever hope to get away from being afraid of people?
One approach is to remember who is really worth fearing.  Jesus said:

(Mat 10:28 KJV)  And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

God is the one who has the power to put someone in hell.  If we understand what it is to fear Him, then we can put our fear of people into perspective.  God is the one to be pleasing, not people.

Another way of approaching this is to simply keep our eyes on Jesus.

We can only do it if we are relying on Jesus to help us. By our own selves it is just too hard.

(Heb 12:1-3 NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, {2} looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Steven gave a bold witness for Jesus. He was facing a wild mob. How did he do it?

(Acts 7:55-60 NKJV) But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, {56} and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" {57} Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; {58} and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." {60} Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

He had his eyes on Jesus.

Jeremiah 39

:1-10 Jerusalem falls

The events of this chapter are also recorded in Jeremiah 52.

:1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem, and besieged it.

:2 In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the city was penetrated.

The siege would last about 30 months, from Jan. 15, 588, to July 18, 586 B.C.

This is such a hugely traumatic date in the nation’s life that it is recorded in three other places as well: 2 Kings 25:1; Jer. 52:4; Ezek. 24:1-2

Jeremiah’s ministry started in 627 BC (the 13th year of Josiah, Jer. 1:2).  For much of that time, he has been warning the people of Judah of the day of coming destruction.  He’s warned them for 41 years.  It finally happens.


Jesus is coming back

(2 Pet 3:1-12 NKJV)  Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), {2} that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, {3} knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, {4} and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." {5} For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, {6} by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. {7} But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. {8} But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. {9} The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. {10} But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. {11} Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, {12} looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
People may mock us and say that we’ve been claiming for years that Jesus would be coming back and yet things go on just like they always have been.
Peter says that this is what people said before the flood of Noah.
I’m sure this is the kind of thing that people thought in Jeremiah’s day, “Hey old man, you’ve been saying that for years …”

And then it happened.

Our part is to be “looking for and hastening” the return of Jesus to the earth.
Each year that we do our “Prophecy Update” we see that a few more pieces have fallen into place.  It will happen.
What kind of condition do you want Jesus to find you in when He comes back?
(Mat 24:45-51 NKJV)  "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? {46} "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. {47} "Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. {48} "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' {49} "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, {50} "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, {51} "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

At the Men’s Retreat I was challenging the guys not just to think about Jesus coming back tomorrow (though that’s a good thing), but also, what if we had five years left?  Are there some things you might do a little different in your life if you knew you had five years left to before you brought your life before Jesus?

:3 Then all the princes of the king of Babylon came in and sat in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer, Samgar-Nebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergal-Sarezer, Rabmag, with the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon.

Nergal-SharezerNergal Shar’etser = “prince of fire”.  This fellow was also known as Neriglissar, son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar; he would be one of the rulers in Babylon from 560-556 B.C.

Samgar-NeboCamgar [email protected] = “sword of Nebo”

Sarsechim[email protected] – “prince of the eunuchs”

Rabsaris – “great eunuch”

Nergal-SarezerNergal Shar’etser = “prince of fire”.  Two guys with the same name.

Rabmag – “great magician”

:4 So it was, when Zedekiah the king of Judah and all the men of war saw them, that they fled and went out of the city by night, by way of the king's garden, by the gate between the two walls. And he went out by way of the plain.

It has been suggested that Zedekiah was trying to get across the Jordan River to the land of the Ammonites, hopefully to find safety at Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites.

:5 But the Chaldean army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had captured him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced judgment on him.

Jericho – about fifteen miles from Jerusalem, located down in the valley of the Jordan River.  This is as far as Zedekiah got before the Babylonians caught up to him.

Riblah – “fertility”; almost 200 miles north of Jerusalem, 60 miles north of Damascus, in modern Syria close to the border of Lebanon.  It was a key city located at the crossing on the Orontes River.  A few decades earlier, this was the headquarters of Pharaoh Neco when was on his way north to battle Nebuchadnezzar.  This was where Nebuchadnezzar had his army headquarters for the region.  In a way, it would be similar to Kuwait City, where much of the staging took place prior to the Iraq war.

:6 Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes in Riblah; the king of Babylon also killed all the nobles of Judah.

:7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon.

The last thing that Zedekiah sees is the death of his sons.

Part of Zedekiah’s fears was what they would do to him if he got caught.

(Jer 38:19 NKJV)  And Zedekiah the king said to Jeremiah, "I am afraid of the Jews who have defected to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they abuse me."

This was his reason for NOT obeying the Lord.  His fears came true because he disobeyed the Lord.

:8 And the Chaldeans burned the king's house and the houses of the people with fire, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.

Breaking down a city’s walls was to keep the city defenseless.  It would keep them from being able to defend themselves from their enemies.

The city’s walls are a great picture for us in our defenses against sin.  When we give in to sin and refuse to turn from it, our “walls” are broken down and it’s more and more difficult to guard yourself from sin.

One of the defenses against sin is to not do it.

:9 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive to Babylon the remnant of the people who remained in the city and those who defected to him, with the rest of the people who remained.

:10 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah the poor people, who had nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

Only peasants are left in the land.  They are not likely to cause trouble.  They will keep the land from becoming over-run with wild animals.  Because they are given vineyards and fields, the thought is that they will now be loyal to Babylon because they’ve now hit the jackpot.

:11-14 Jeremiah rescued

:11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,

:12 "Take him and look after him, and do him no harm; but do to him just as he says to you."

Early in his ministry, God gave Jeremiah a promise:

(Jer 1:8 KJV)  Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

God had encouraged Jeremiah NOT to be afraid of people.  And God took care of Jeremiah.  Even when he was in the miry cistern.

:13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent Nebushasban, Rabsaris, Nergal-Sharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's chief officers;

:14 then they sent someone to take Jeremiah from the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he dwelt among the people.

:15-18 Ebed-Melech rewarded

:15 Meanwhile the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,

:16 "Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you.

Remember this guy?  He’s the one that rescued Jeremiah from the miry clay (Jer. 38)

:17 "But I will deliver you in that day," says the LORD, "and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.

:18 "For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me," says the LORD.'"

Ebed-Melech was another example like Jeremiah of a fellow who did not allow his fear of people to keep him from doing the right thing.

As a result, he received protection from God during the fall of Jerusalem.

(Col 3:22-25 KJV)  Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: {23} And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; {24} Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. {25} But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.