Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 185

Jeremiah 38–42, Psalm 55

Bible text(s)

Jeremiah in a Dry Well

1Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchiah heard that I was telling the people that 2the LORD had said, “Whoever stays on in the city will die in war or of starvation or disease. But those who go out and surrender to the Babylonians will not be killed; they will at least escape with their lives.” 3I was also telling them that the LORD had said, “I am going to give the city to the Babylonian army, and they will capture it.”

4Then the officials went to the king and said, “This man must be put to death. By talking like this he is making the soldiers in the city lose their courage, and he is doing the same thing to everyone else left in the city. He is not trying to help the people; he only wants to hurt them.”

5King Zedekiah answered, “Very well, then, do what you wish with him; I can't stop you.” 6So they took me and let me down by ropes into Prince Malchiah's well, which was in the palace courtyard. There was no water in the well, only mud, and I sank down in it.

7However, Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who worked in the royal palace, heard that they had put me in the well. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate. 8So Ebedmelech went there and said to the king, 9“Your Majesty, what these men have done is wrong. They have put Jeremiah in the well, where he is sure to die of starvation, since there is no more food in the city.” 10Then the king ordered Ebedmelech to take with him three men and to pull me out of the well before I died. 11So Ebedmelech went with the men to the palace storeroom and got some worn-out clothing which he let down to me by ropes. 12He told me to put the rags under my arms, so that the ropes wouldn't hurt me. I did this, 13and they pulled me up out of the well. After that I was kept in the courtyard.

Zedekiah Asks Jeremiah's Advice

14On another occasion King Zedekiah had me brought to him at the third entrance to the Temple, and he said, “I am going to ask you a question, and I want you to tell me the whole truth.”

15I answered, “If I tell you the truth, you will put me to death, and if I give you advice, you won't pay any attention.”

16So King Zedekiah promised me in secret, “I swear by the living God, the God who gave us life, that I will not put you to death or hand you over to the men who want to kill you.”

17Then I told Zedekiah that the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, had said, “If you surrender to the king of Babylonia's officers, your life will be spared, and this city will not be burnt down. Both you and your family will be spared. 18But if you do not surrender, then this city will be handed over to the Babylonians, who will burn it down, and you will not escape from them.”

19But the king answered, “I am afraid of our countrymen who have deserted to the Babylonians. I may be handed over to them and tortured.”

20I said, “You will not be handed over to them. I beg you to obey the LORD's message; then all will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21But the LORD has shown me in a vision what will happen if you refuse to surrender. 22In it I saw all the women left in Judah's royal palace being led out to the king of Babylonia's officers. Listen to what they were saying as they went:

‘The king's best friends misled him,

they overruled him.

And now that his feet have sunk in the mud,

his friends have left him.’ ”

23Then I added, “All your women and children will be taken out to the Babylonians, and you yourself will not escape from them. You will be taken prisoner by the king of Babylonia, and this city will be burnt to the ground.”

24Zedekiah replied, “Don't let anyone know about this conversation, and your life will not be in danger. 25If the officials hear that I have talked with you, they will come and ask you what we said. They will promise not to put you to death if you tell them everything. 26Just tell them you were begging me not to send you back to prison to die there.” 27Then all the officials came and questioned me, and I told them exactly what the king had told me to say. There was nothing else they could do, because no one had overheard the conversation. 28And I was kept in the palace courtyard until the day Jerusalem was captured.

Jeremiah 38GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Fall of Jerusalem

1In the tenth month of the ninth year that Zedekiah was king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia came with his whole army and attacked Jerusalem. 2On the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year as king, the city walls were broken through.

3(When Jerusalem was captured, all the high officials of the king of Babylonia came and took their places at the Middle Gate, including Nergal Sarezer, Samgar Nebo, Sarsechim, and another Nergal Sarezer.)

4When King Zedekiah and all his soldiers saw what was happening, they tried to escape from the city during the night. They left by way of the royal garden, went through the gateway connecting the two walls, and escaped in the direction of the Jordan Valley. 5But the Babylonian army pursued them and captured Zedekiah in the plains near Jericho. Then they took him to King Nebuchadnezzar, who was in the city of Riblah in the territory of Hamath, and there Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him. 6At Riblah he put Zedekiah's sons to death while Zedekiah was looking on, and he also executed the officials of Judah. 7After that, he had Zedekiah's eyes put out and had him placed in chains to be taken to Babylonia. 8Meanwhile, the Babylonians burnt down the royal palace and the houses of the people and tore down the walls of Jerusalem. 9Finally Nebuzaradan, the commanding officer, took away as prisoners to Babylonia the people who were left in the city, together with those who had deserted to him. 10He left in the land of Judah some of the poorest people, who owned no property, and he gave them vineyards and fields.

Jeremiah's Release

11But King Nebuchadnezzar commanded Nebuzaradan, the commanding officer, to give the following order: 12“Go and find Jeremiah and take good care of him. Do not harm him, but do for him whatever he wants.” 13So Nebuzaradan, together with the high officials Nebushazban and Nergal Sarezer and all the other officers of the king of Babylonia, 14brought me from the palace courtyard. They put me under the care of Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, who was to see that I got home safely. And so I stayed there among the people.

Hope for Ebedmelech

15While I was still imprisoned in the palace courtyard, the LORD told me 16to tell Ebedmelech the Ethiopian that the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, had said, “Just as I said I would, I am going to bring upon this city destruction and not prosperity. And when this happens, you will be there to see it. 17But I, the LORD, will protect you, and you will not be handed over to those you fear. 18I will keep you safe, and you will not be put to death. You will escape with your life because you have put your trust in me. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Jeremiah 39GNBOpen in Bible reader

Jeremiah Stays with Gedaliah

1The LORD spoke to me after Nebuzaradan, the commanding officer, had set me free at Ramah. I had been taken there in chains, along with all the other people from Jerusalem and Judah who were being taken away as prisoners to Babylonia.

2The commanding officer took me aside and said, “The LORD your God threatened this land with destruction, 3and now he has done what he said he would. All this happened because your people sinned against the LORD and disobeyed him. 4Now, I am taking the chains off your wrists and setting you free. If you want to go to Babylonia with me, you may do so, and I will take care of you. But if you don't want to go, you don't have to. You have the whole country to choose from, and you may go wherever you wish.”

5When I did not answer, Nebuzaradan said, “Go back to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylonia has made governor of the towns of Judah. You may stay with him and live among the people, or you may go anywhere you think you should.” Then he gave me a present and some food to take with me, and let me go on my way. 6I went to stay with Gedaliah in Mizpah and lived among the people who were left in the land.

Gedaliah, Governor of Judah

(2 Kgs 25.22–24)

7Some of the Judean officers and soldiers had not surrendered. They heard that the king of Babylonia had made Gedaliah governor of the land and had placed him in charge of all those who had not been taken away to Babylonia — the poorest people in the land. 8So Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai from Netophah, and Jezaniah from Maacah went with their men to Gedaliah at Mizpah. 9Gedaliah said to them, “I give you my word that there is no need for you to be afraid to surrender to the Babylonians. Settle down in this land, serve the king of Babylonia, and all will go well with you. 10I myself will stay in Mizpah and be your representative when the Babylonians come here. But you can gather and store up wine, fruit, and olive oil, and live in the villages you occupy.” 11Meanwhile, all the Israelites who were in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and other countries, heard that the king of Babylonia had allowed some Israelites to stay on in Judah and that he had made Gedaliah their governor. 12So they left the places where they had been scattered, and returned to Judah. They came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and there they gathered in large amounts of wine and fruit.

Gedaliah is Murdered

(2 Kgs 25.25–26)

13After this, Johanan and the leaders of the soldiers who had not surrendered came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14and said to him, “Don't you know that King Baalis of Ammon has sent Ishmael to murder you?” But Gedaliah did not believe it. 15Then Johanan said privately to him, “Let me go and kill Ishmael, and no one will know who did it. Why should he be allowed to murder you? That would cause all the Jews who have gathered round you to be scattered, and it would bring disaster on all the people who are left in Judah.”

16But Gedaliah answered, “Don't do it! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true!”

Jeremiah 40GNBOpen in Bible reader

1In the seventh month of that year, Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama, a member of the royal family and one of the king's chief officers, went to Mizpah with ten men to see Gedaliah. While they were all eating a meal together, 2Ishmael and the ten men with him pulled out their swords and killed Gedaliah. 3Ishmael also killed all the Israelites who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Babylonian soldiers who happened to be there.

4The next day, before anyone knew about Gedaliah's murder, 5eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria. They had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and gashed themselves. They were taking corn and incense to offer in the Temple. 6So Ishmael went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he came to them, he said, “Please come in to see Gedaliah.” 7As soon as they were inside the city, Ishmael and his men killed them and threw their bodies in a well.

8But there were ten men in the group who said to Ishmael, “Please don't kill us! We have wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he spared them. 9The well into which Ishmael threw the bodies of the men he had killed was the large one that King Asa had dug when he was being attacked by King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael filled the well with the bodies. 10Then he made prisoners of the king's daughters and all the rest of the people in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the commanding officer had placed under the care of Gedaliah. Ishmael took them prisoner and started off in the direction of the territory of Ammon.

11Johanan and all the army leaders with him heard of the crime that Ishmael had committed. 12So they went after him with their men and overtook him near the large pool at Gibeon. 13When Ishmael's prisoners saw Johanan and the leaders of the forces with him, they were glad, 14and turned and ran to them. 15But Ishmael and eight of his men got away from Johanan and escaped to the land of Ammon.

16Then Johanan and the leaders of the forces with him took charge of the people whom Ishmael had taken away as prisoners from Mizpah after murdering Gedaliah — soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs. 17-18They were afraid of the Babylonians because Ishmael had murdered Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylonia had made governor of the land. So they set out for Egypt, in order to get away from the Babylonians. On the way, they stopped at Chimham, near Bethlehem.

Jeremiah 41GNBOpen in Bible reader

The People Ask Jeremiah to Pray for them

1Then all the army leaders, including Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah son of Hoshaiah, came with people of every class 2and said to me, “Please do what we ask you! Pray to the LORD our God for us. Pray for all of us who have survived. Once there were many of us; but now only a few of us are left, as you can see. 3Pray that the LORD our God will show us the way we should go and what we should do.”

4I answered, “Very well, then. I will pray to the LORD our God, just as you have asked, and whatever he says, I will tell you. I will not keep back anything from you.”

5Then they said to me, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not obey all the commands that the LORD our God gives you for us. 6Whether it pleases us or not, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are asking you to pray. All will go well with us if we obey him.”

The LORD's Answer to Jeremiah's Prayer

7Ten days later the LORD spoke to me; 8so I called together Johanan, all the army leaders who were with him, and all the other people. 9I said to them, “The LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me with your request has said, 10‘If you are willing to go on living in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not pull you up. The destruction I brought on you has caused me great sorrow. 11Stop being afraid of the king of Babylonia. I am with you, and I will rescue you from his power. 12Because I am merciful, I will make him have mercy on you and let you go back home. I, the LORD, have spoken.’

13-15“But you people who are left in Judah must not disobey the LORD your God and refuse to live in this land. You must not say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we won't face war any more or hear the call to battle or go hungry.’ If you say this, then the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says, ‘If you are determined to go and live in Egypt, 16then the war that you fear will overtake you, and the hunger you dread will follow you, and you will die there in Egypt. 17All the people who are determined to go and live in Egypt will die either in war or of starvation or disease. Not one of them will survive, not one will escape the disaster that I am going to bring on them.’

18“The LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘Just as my anger and fury were poured out on the people of Jerusalem, so my fury will be poured out on you if you go to Egypt. You will be a horrifying sight; people will treat you with scorn and use your name as a curse. You will never see this place again.’ ”

19Then I continued, “The LORD has told you people who are left in Judah not to go to Egypt. And so I warn you now 20that you are making a fatal mistake. You asked me to pray to the LORD our God for you, and you promised that you would do everything that he commands. 21And now I have told you, but you are disobeying everything that the LORD our God sent me to tell you. 22So then, remember this: you will die in war or of starvation or disease in the land where you want to go and live.”

Jeremiah 42GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Prayer of Someone Betrayed by a Friend

1Hear my prayer, O God;

don't turn away from my plea!

2Listen to me and answer me;

I am worn out by my worries.

3I am terrified by the threats of my enemies,

crushed by the oppression of the wicked.

They bring trouble on me;

they are angry with me and hate me.

4I am terrified,

and the terrors of death crush me.

5I am gripped by fear and trembling;

I am overcome with horror.

6I wish I had wings, like a dove.

I would fly away and find rest.

7I would fly far away

and make my home in the desert.

8I would quickly find myself a shelter

from the raging wind and the storm.

9Confuse the speech of my enemies, O Lord!

I see violence and riots in the city,

10surrounding it day and night,

filling it with crime and trouble.

11There is destruction everywhere;

the streets are full of oppression and fraud.

12If it were an enemy that mocked me,

I could endure it;

if it were an opponent boasting over me,

I could hide myself from him.

13But it is you, my companion,

my colleague and close friend.

14We had intimate talks with each other

and worshipped together in the Temple.

15May my enemies die before their time;

may they go down alive into the world of the dead!

Evil is in their homes and in their hearts.

16But I call to the LORD God for help,

and he will save me.

17Morning, noon, and night

my complaints and groans go up to him,

and he will hear my voice.

18He will bring me safely back

from the battles that I fight

against so many enemies.

19God, who has ruled from eternity,

will hear me and defeat them;

for they refuse to change,

and they do not fear him.

20My former companion attacked his friends;

he broke his promises.

21His words were smoother than cream,

but there was hatred in his heart;

his words were as soothing as oil,

but they cut like sharp swords.

22Leave your troubles with the LORD,

and he will defend you;

he never lets honest people be defeated.

23But you, O God, will bring those murderers and liars to their graves

before half their life is over.

As for me, I will trust in you.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.16
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