Jeremiah 37–41: Denial & Destruction

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 20: Friday

Now when Jerusalem was captured in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his military force came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it; in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the city was breached.
Jeremiah 39:1–2 LSB

Friday’s Bible reading of Jeremiah 37–41, records the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, and the burning of the city. In chapters 37–38, just prior to the fall, Jeremiah is imprisoned: in a dungeon, to the court of the guard, into the mire of a cistern, and back to the court of the guard.

The mire of the cistern (38:1–13) was an especially horrific situation. Derek Kidner explains:

“The consigning of Jeremiah to the mud pit was intended as a gradual and revolting death (see v. 4a); but the king wanted no knowledge of it; and the princes, lowering their victim by ropes, took care to let death arrive by natural causes. Such evasions, and their milder counterparts common to us all, are no true escapes…Zedekiah would find that it was he rather than the prophet whose feet were ‘sunk in the mire’, as Jeremiah pointed out (22).

“Of the friends who stood by Jeremiah, none was braver or more determined than this palace official from Ethiopia or the Sudan [Ebed-melech]. The king, he knew, was easily swayed, but would be of little help against the wrath of the princes. No matter. His urgency shows in the heightened picture he paints.”1

After being brought up from the cistern, Jeremiah continues to speak forth God’s message to Zedekiah. In his introduction in his commentary on Jeremiah, R. K. Harrison says this about Jeremiah’s character:

“…so strong was his fidelity to his prophetic mission that he pronounced impending calamity fearlessly, despite the outraged cries, the vituperation and the incessant hostility alike of the nobility and the general populace.”2

God’s judgment comes upon Judah, and the people can no longer deny that Jeremiah prophesied truly. Their imprisonment and persecution of him accomplished nothing for them except to give evidence of their continued rebellion.

Cawley and Millard write that in Jeremiah 39:

“The last hour has arrived. For some eighteen months the city has held out against the might of Babylon, but the inevitable hour could not be postponed definitely. Weakened by a long and merciless siege without and decimated by famine within, Jerusalem surrendered.”3

Only the poorest of the land are left, and Nebuchadnezzar sends orders through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, that Jeremiah is not to be harmed. The prophet is released and told to stay in Judah or go wherever he pleases. Nebuchadnezzar leaves Gedaliah in charge of Judah, and Jeremiah goes to him.

Chapters 40–41 tells the story of more treachery and murder in Judah. Cawley and Millard comment:

“The prophecies and events among the remnant left behind by the Babylonians clearly fall into two parts: those taking place in Judah (chs. 40–42) and those taking place in Egypt (chs. 43, 44).”4

The remarkable thing I noticed in these chapters is the continued denial of the truth of Jeremiah’s prophecies by Zedekiah and other leaders even as they see them being fulfilled in front of their eyes.

Denial is a such a dangerous thing. It is a façade of a thin layer of pretense covering truth. Sooner or later, the crust breaks and truth is evident. May God give us a love for His truth and give us courage not to fall into denial’s trap.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The Flight of the Prisoners: James Tissot. Public Domain.
1Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah: Against wind and tide (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1987) 124.
2R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentation (Inter-Varsity Press, London: 1973) 35–36.
3,4F. Cawley, A. R. Millard, “Jeremiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, third ed., D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, London 1970) 650, 650.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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