Jeremiah 39


The Fall of Jerusalem is now very close. For years the sordid details of Judah’s sin have been brought out, and some have already paid the price. And for years the fall of the city was foretold. The final instalment is now due. In this chapter we have the record of the disaster itself.

There are no less than four Biblical of the Fall of Jerusalem.

1. The one in this chapter. Jeremiah 29.

2. The account in the very last chapter of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 52.

3. In 2 Kings 25.

4. In 2 Chronicles 36.

The length of the siege was just one day short of 18 months, from January 588 B.C. to July 587 B.C.

‘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. 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. 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. 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.’ Jeremiah 39:1-7

After a siege that has lasted the best part of three years the Babylonian forces eventually find a weak spot. A breech in the city wall has allowed the invaders to take the city by storm. Amidst the commotion and fear, Zedekiah and his officers try to make their escape during the night-time.

Verse 4 tells us that they left by the way of the king’s garden. This was by the Pool of Siloam, where some years later Jesus would heal the blind man. Nehemiah 3:15 tells us that the wall of the wall of the Pool of Siloam was ‘by the King’s Garden’, and talks about the steps that go down from the city of David.

This is probably where Zedekiah and his officers tried to make their escape. The gate mentioned here is probably the Fountain Gate that Nehemiah mentions in the same verse of Nehemiah 3. Look at Nehemiah 2:14 / Nehemiah 12:37 also. The ‘Arabah’ was the deep valley of the Jordan, north of the Dead Sea.

The names of these Babylonian officials aren’t of much interest to anybody. Some scholars believe that they are names of titles, not their actual names. You will notice that we have one name repeated, Nergal-Sharezer.

Does that mean that there were two generals of the same name? What difference does it make?

Zedekiah is captured $whilst trying to escape. So, all that was prophesied about him came to pass. Jeremiah 32:4-5 / Jeremiah 34:4-5 / Nehemiah 12:12-13.

Verse 5 tells us that Zedekiah was taken to Riblah. This was about 200 miles north-east of Jerusalem. This is evidently where Nebuchadnezzar remained whilst he entrusted the siege of Jerusalem to his army. It was here at Riblah that Nebuchadnezzar had his headquarters where he was fully equipped to destroy his enemies, and where he pronounced sentence on Zedekiah.

Versa 7 tells us that they ‘put out Zedekiah’s eye.’

Ancient kings liked to perform such acts of cruelty, and often did so with their own hands. I won’t go through the details of how they executed this punishment, other than to tell you it was quite gory. Sometimes they did this by putting a red-hot iron against the eyes.

What was so bad about this was, he had to witness the execution of his sons before receiving his own punishment. The last thing he ever saw in his life time was his sons being put to death.

‘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. 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.’ Jeremiah 39:8-10

It seems strange that the destruction of the temple is not included in verse 8. We know from the last chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 52:13, that ‘they set fire to the temple of the Lord.’ This is a good lesson for us here. We must learn to read all that the Bible says and not question every little detail. We know from the Gospels that each writer wrote what he saw and thus did not include all the details that other writers used.

If you were to ask four witnesses to say what they saw in a road accident, their stories would not be word-for-word identical. In fact, if they were, the police would believe that they had got together beforehand to concoct their evidence.

‘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.’ Jeremiah 39:11-14

Here we have a great example of God’s providence. Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar must have been told about Jeremiah’s work, and his messages of surrender, which is why he treated him so well. How ironic it is that his own people imprisoned him, and his enemy set him free.

Notice that Jeremiah is entrusted to Gedaliah, who was the son of the man who earlier had saved Jeremiah’s life, Jeremiah 26:24.

Some scholars say that it cannot be true that Jeremiah was taken from the courtyard of the guard when Jeremiah 40:1 the next chapter we will be studying says, that he was bound in chains and, with other captives, taken to Ramah.

Once again, we should remember that we are here dealing with a brief summary of events, and we don’t have detailed reports of every activity. Jeremiah’s book would be as big as the Bible itself if we had every little detail.

To answer such questions, we would need details like, when did Nebuchadnezzar’s orders reach his commander in the field? Had Zedekiah’s house already been burnt? Where exactly was Jeremiah when the general got his orders?

Was Jeremiah released twice, once from the courtyard and once from Ramah? Was Jeremiah’s release from the courtyard an official release? Or did he and the other prisoners escape when the palace was destroyed?

We cannot answer these questions, neither do we need such details to understand the story.

Why should men living 25 centuries after the event want detailed applications of all the mysteries in the Bible?

I believe that we should enjoy studying God’s word, having full confidence that His word is true, and every man a liar.

Jeremiah was handed over to Gedaliah. This man was appointed as governor of defeated Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. He was to govern the poor people who remained in Judah, the people that the Babylonians had left to look after the fields and vineyards. Jeremiah was safe in his hands, it is believed that Gedaliah had control as governor for the next five years.

‘While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfil my words against this city—words concerning 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 given into the hands of 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.’ Jeremiah 39:15-18

We read ‘you will not be handed over to those you fear.’ The evil officials would have murdered Ebed-Melech if they had had the opportunity, but they themselves were destroyed at the command of Nebuchadnezzar.

Many scholars believe that this section should have coma at the end of chapter 38, but I don’t think it matters whether-or-not this is in chronological order. After all, much of Jeremiah is not in chronological order. It is, however, important for us to know that, because this man believed in Jeremiah, he is classed as putting his trust in God.

And what was his reward?

When the city eventually falls, his life will be rewarded. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’

I suppose we could apply Ebed-Melech’s life to this, his life was saved because he was willing to lose it.

This chapter, and chapter 52, give some details of the Fall of Jerusalem. Chapter 52 is regarded as the historical chapter that was added some years after Jeremiah died.

Before we move on, let me remind you if you I would like to get a better picture of what happened, a more detailed picture of the Fall. To do that, you need to read the Book of Lamentations.

This book is also believed to be written by Jeremiah, who was an eyewitness to the actual Fall. Lamentations pictures Jeremiah sitting on a hill, opposite Jerusalem, and giving us all the sad details of the Fall. I suppose you could call it sad and gory details.

Go To Jeremiah 40



"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Matthew 11:28