Jeremiah Is Set Free
1I was led away in chains along with the people of Judah and Jerusalem who were being taken to Babylonia. Nebuzaradan was the officer in charge of the guard, and while we were stopped at Ramah, the Lord caused him to set me free. 2Nebuzaradan said:
Jeremiah, the Lord your God warned your people that he would bring disaster on this land. 3But they continued to rebel against him, and now he has punished them just as he threatened.
4Today I am taking the chains off your wrists and setting you free! If you want to, you can come with me to Babylonia, and I will see that you are taken care of. Or if you decide to stay here, you can go wherever you wish. 5King Nebuchadnezzar has chosen Gedaliah to rule Judah. You can live near Gedaliah, and he will provide for you, or you can live anywhere else you choose.
Nebuzaradan gave me a supply of food, then let me leave. 6I decided to stay with the people of Judah, and I went to live near Gedaliah in Mizpah.
The Harvest Is Brought In
7-8 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, together with Johanan and Jonathan, the two sons of Kareah, had been officers in Judah's army. And so had Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah from Maacah. They and their troops had been stationed outside Jerusalem and had not been captured. They heard that Gedaliah had been chosen to rule Judah, and that the poorest men, women, and children had not been taken away to Babylonia. So they went to Mizpah and met with their new ruler.
9Gedaliah told them, “There's no need to be afraid of the Babylonians. Everything will be fine, if we live peacefully and obey King Nebuchadnezzar. 10I will stay here at Mizpah and meet with the Babylonian officials on each of their visits. But you must go back to your towns and bring in the harvest, then store the wine, olive oil, and dried fruit.”
11-12Earlier, when the Babylonians had invaded Judah, many of the Jews escaped to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and several other countries. But these Jews heard that the king of Babylonia had appointed Gedaliah as ruler of Judah, and that only a few people were left there. So the Jews in these other countries came back to Judah and helped with the grape and fruit harvest, which was especially large that year.
Gedaliah Is Murdered
13One day, Johanan got together with some of the other men who had been army officers, and they came to Mizpah and met with Gedaliah. 14They said, “Gedaliah, we came to warn you that King Baalis of Ammon hired Ishmael to murder you!”
Gedaliah refused to believe them, 15so Johanan went to Gedaliah privately and said, “Let me kill Ishmael. No one will find out who did it. There are only a few people left in Judah, but they are depending on you. And if you are murdered, they will be scattered or killed.”
16Gedaliah answered, “Don't kill Ishmael! What you've said about him can't be true.”
1 But in the seventh month, Ishmael came to Mizpah with ten of his soldiers. He had been one of the king's officials and was a member of the royal family. Ishmael and his men were invited to eat with Gedaliah. 2During the meal, Ishmael and his soldiers killed Gedaliah, the man chosen as ruler of Judah by the king of Babylonia. 3Then they killed the Jews who were with Gedaliah, and they also killed the Babylonian soldiers who were there.
When, finally, the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and took the Jews into exile, Jeremiah was with them, chained like the rest. It was when they stopped at Ramah (present day Ramallah) that Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, realized who he was and removed the chains. He was favourably disposed to Jeremiah. It is clear that he understood what Jeremiah had been telling the Jews in Babylon, that it would go well with them if they settled down and prayed for the good of the enemy city.
He also understood the spiritual message that Jeremiah had been repeating for so long, that it was God, not Nebuchadnezzar, that ordained their captivity. It was because of their persistent disobedience that God had decreed this for them. The exile was for their discipline. The Jews had steadfastly refused to believe this. It was an outsider who understood.
Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah the choice of continuing to Babylon, where he promised he would be well treated, or returning to join the landless in Judah. Jeremiah chose to return, and joined Gedaliah in Mizpah. His respite was short-lived, however, as Gedaliah was assassinated. A group of Jews accused Jeremiah of treason, left for Egypt, and took Jeremiah with them. That is the last we hear of him.
In all this account of the Babylonian captivity we hear no triumphant shout of “I told you so!” from Jeremiah. He did not gloat when everything he had prophesied came true. Instead, he continued to identify with his people. He loved them.
In many ways the “weeping prophet” Jeremiah foreshadowed Jesus Christ. Both foretold disaster if the Jews did not turn from their sin and return to God with all their hearts. Both were misunderstood and persecuted by the political leaders of their own day. Both preached a “new covenant.” Both loved and identified with their people until the bitter end.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the life and message of Jeremiah. Help me understand it in the context of your life and death for me. Thank you for its fulfillment in your death and resurrection, and especially for the new covenant which you sealed in your blood. Amen.