Jeremiah Chapter 41

In our previous article on chapter 40, we pointed out that Gedaliah was appointed governor over the Judean area by Nebuchadnezzar after the failed revolt of King Zechariah.king Zechariah himself had been appointed king over Judah by Nebuchadnezzar but power went to his head and God was not in his heart. He had rebelled in hopes of help from Egypt. It never came.

Gedaliah became governor (not king) of the surrounding area of Judah. His capital city was Mizpah since Jerusalem itself had been mostly destroyed by Neb and his Chaldean/Babylonian army. He had a small contingency of Babylonian militia as body guards. Gedaliah was the son of Ahikam (who saved the life of the prophet Jeremiah back in Jeremiah 26) and the grandson of Shaphan. Shaphan is mentioned in relation to the discovery of the Scroll of Teaching that some scholars identify as the core of the Book of Deuteronomy. This is debated.

Ishmael (of all names to use in this pending assassination plan found in Jeremiah 41) was sent by the King of the Ammonites to assassinate Gedaliah. He wanted discord to once again fall upon what remained of the Judean people. The Ammonites, descendants of Lot, were an eternal enemy of all Israel. Using the guise of a friendly supper and drinking party, Ishmael, sent by the Ammonites and ten men with him, invited Governor Gedaliah to a small celebration. After dining and drinking they got up and slew Gedaliah and those (probably unarmed) within his company.

Once again Nebuchadnezzar was going to need a replacement as a ruler in the province of Judah. Since this area was a constant thorn in the side of the Babylonian king, the remaining Judeans feared with good reason the response by Nebuchadnezzar. They packed up and with all haste fled to Egypt. Most Judeans fled but not Ishmael and his murdering men. This was about 582 B.C.E.

Unexpectedly (Jeremiah 41:4) some 80 men from Shechem and Samaria came to Mizpah, in a sense, to welcome Gedaliah as an ally and friend and to pay tribute in the House of Jehovah. They did not know of the assassination of Gedaliah. The last thing Ishmael needed was witnesses from outside who were also under the thumb of Nebuchadnezzar.

Ishmael, was a great actor and met these men outside of the Judean province. He was weeping and look distraught; a deception not all that uncommon in the Middle East even to this day. Jeremiah 41:6 says…he (Ishmael) said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.  They were emotionally disarmed by the appearance of a great servitude of Ishmael and his men. When they entered the city (Mizpah), Ishmael and his men began another day of assassinations and murders. These visitors were slaughter; all but ten of them. These survivors (all probably without weapons) used the old bargaining chip of hidden values (Jeremiah 41:8) that would remain hidden if they were slain. Gedaliah bought their plea bargain. What happens per these “valuables” we are not told.

Jeremiah 41:9…

“And the pit into which Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men whom he had slain by the side of Gedaliah was the one which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with his slain.”

In a very real sense this also served as a visual warning to the remaining ten survivors from Samaria and Shechem that a bad move could also make this pit their final resting ground. Then Ishmael makes a retreat back to the King of Ammon. However he does not go alone. He takes the remaining Jews in Mizpah captive and herds them to Ammon.

One might call it a remaining Judean guerrilla force (v11), rose up from their hiding places outside of Judah proper. They heard of the evil deeds of Ishmael and came to their rescue before Ishmael could carrel his captives in Ammon. One might think he was going to sell them as slaves to the King of Ammon. We don’t really know but that was the culture and practice of that day. We get this idea from verse 10 where they are identified as “CAPTIVES.”

Jeremiah 41:13 tells us…

“And it came to pass when all the people that were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the (remaining Judean) forces that were with him, then they were glad.”

We can determine by close examination of Jeremiah 41:13-15 that Ishmael made a very hasty flight to Ammon leaving his captives standing in view of Johanan and his captains of what once again, we may identify as a guerrilla force of Judah. If one read the non-canonized books of the Maccabees, we see they too were a Judean guerrilla force but very successful in fighting off the Roman rule yet to come after Jeremiah’s time; albeit 300 years later.

This entourage of Judeans, probably under the leadership of Johanan, gathered near Bethlehem. They knew that Nebuchadnezzar was going to seek revenge. Since this was a common problem under the rule of Neb, this time his revenge would be brutal.

helpSo, what are their options? Like most in today’s society, deny God until one gets into a fix s/he cannot get out of unscathed. Their initial design was to flee to Egypt. However they first go to Jeremiah and beg, yes, BEG that he pray to Jehovah-God seeking guidance. The significance of the new problem they all shared, it was not a seeking of God’s forgiveness, but a seeking of safety. We see this in chapter 42; our next article. Chapter 42 is fascinating in that God regrets having sent his people into captivity in Babylon and agrees to protect them but only if they remain in Judah and worship him as their one and only God.

miniJimDr. Jstark – October 2017

Jeremiah – Chapter 4

“If thou wilt [KJV & the JPS; Jewish Publication Society]….” are the opening words of chapter 4. There is not a single covenant or promise in the bible not prefaced with something ifsimilar to “IF THOU WILT,” then the condition of what it is God expects in return for his extra blessings. If we commit, then God will commit. If we don’t commit, then God is not held to a different standard since it is HIM who sets the standards; not the other way around.

Jeremiah had the same message to both the dispersed throughout the known world Tribes of the Northern Kingdom and the still existing Kingdom of Judah. Although Jeremiah already knew the people, leaders, King and Synagogue members would not listen, he still carried the message. We are not called to save souls, but to share the Word of God and our testimony.

As the CEV translation puts it in 4:1… The LORD said: Israel, if you really want to come back to me, get rid of those disgusting idols.

The ESV translation says… “If you return, O Israel, declares the LORD, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver,…”

No matter how it is translated it boils down to If we; then HE will…! But, Jeremiah 4:2 does not stop there. He explains the credentials of the Lord: swear to the Lord who lives, is truth, is just in judgment, and righteous, [then back up to the last sentence of verse 1] then shalt thou not [be] remove[d]. Judah is facing the fact that Babylon is on the move and conquering the nation-states around them. Once they were subject to Assyria but Nabopolassar, King of a re-established Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, defeated Assyria in 609 B.C. (secular records). Nebuchadnezzar later conquered Judah in two separate stages; 597 B.C. and 587 B.C. He reduced the population of Judah each time. People like Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego went with the first deportation.

NOTE: Parts of Assyria and Babylon fall within and overlap modern day borders of Iraq. The reader should keep in mind that all Israelis are Semitic, but not all Semites are Israelis. Abraham had other sons through Keturah [Genesis 25:1] and we must not forget Ishmael. His descendants are also Semite but today we know them as Arabs.

shovel in the ground in the vegetable garden, on a background of green onions

Break up the fallow ground

Verse 3 of chapter 4 actually begins a new paragraph. Jeremiah changes thoughts. “For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”   The next several verses explain what Jeremiah is telling the leaders of Judah. At verse 7 he explains the consequences and prophecy of not “breaking up the fallow ground.” We might say in modern terminology in 7-9, the alarm clock has been set. Choice is still available for the people and leadership of the Kingdom of Judah but it is either/or and no neutral choice. In verse 7 we read that “the destroyer of the Gentiles” is about to descend upon Judah; i.e. Nebopolassar conquered the Gentile nations then his son, Nebuchadnezzar captured and deported Judea/Jerusalem.

Jeremiah, a true prophet of God, and those who called themselves prophets but were not of God and falsely tickled the ears of the king of Judah, had many run-ins and collision courses. We will learn more about these as we progress through Jeremiah. Jeremiah 4:10 sets the stage for this and is a point in history where Jeremiah himself challenges God… “LORD God. You have not told the truth to the people in Judah and in Jerusalem. You have told them, “You will have peace”. But soon the sword will kill us.’ Jeremiah is looking back at previous and historical promises (covenants) God made with His chosen people and to what the false prophets were saying (Jeremiah 6:13,14). Simply put and as already pointed out in our opening paragraph, Judah did not stay faithful to God, so God no longer was held to his promise of safety. In simple terms, it is similar to one breaking a treaty. Once an agreement is violated, then the other party is no longer held to his agreement or terms.

For the student of Middle East studies and bible history, this website gives a great brief perspective. http://www.worldology.com/Iraq/assyrian_empire.htm

The circumcision of the heart referred to in verse 4 is explained in verse 14… (ESV) “wash (circumcise) your sins from your heart.” Verse 13-18 goes back 120 years; a reminder that what God did to the Kingdom of Israel, the ten northern tribes, is about to happen to Judah and the now absorbed Tribe of Benjamin. See verse 15 for the specific identity where often the Tribe of Ephraim is synonymous with an identity of the northern tribes.

At verse 19 we once again get a change in Jeremiah’s topics or paragraphs. This verse is a bit like one with a bad case of the flu and one’s abdomen is telling him or her there is cause for great alarm. No time remaining to consider alternative solutions. To carry this further, verse 20 where it reads “SPOILED” one could just as easily have used the analogy from the flu and insert “SOILED.” Gross? Yes, but the truth is not to be denied. “IN A MOMENT” (4:20b) says God through Jeremiah.

At verse 23, then continuing through verse 29, Jeremiah goes back to Genesis 1:2. With this retreat, he prophecies forward to Luke 21:5-38, the book of Revelation, and the Book of Daniel when the mountains tremble, the birds flee, Jerusalem being in total chaos. God uses a vision and example of this end time event back in Jeremiah 1:13-15. It happened in 587 B.C. and will repeat itself during the Apocalypse of the Tribulation.

Verse 27 is a one-way promise from God himself. It is true of this time in scripture and of End Time as also portrayed in scripture. Similar to Daniel 11 if one wishes to do a bit of self-study.

“This is what the LORD says,

‘I will destroy the country.

But I will not destroy the whole country.”

Verse 30 of Jeremiah 4 is very pronounced and profound. Both the Northern Kingdom of Israel (sometimes referred to as Joseph; i.e. Ephraim his eldest son from Egypt) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah are referred to as the “wife of God.” The website found at http://www.hope-of-israel.org/yehovahswife.html is a good source for additional information per Israel as a whole being identified as a wife (of sorts) to God. Exodus 19:5 (through 8) is sometimes referred to as the “wedding vows between God and Israel. Exodus 19:5 is God’s vow and Exodus 19:8 is Israel’s vow.

Exodus 19:5  “…you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples,…”  (husband’s vow

Exodus 19:8 “…All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (a wife’s reply)

Also look back at Jeremiah 3:8.

We can summarize this portion of our study in Jeremiah 4 with the words of Hilda Bright, a blogger and studied individual. She uses the Easy English Bible and commentary. The following are her words commenting on verse 28 through end of this chapter (v31).

Verse 28 Jeremiah describes the earth as a person who is sad. The sky becomes black because the light has gone (verse 23).

Verses 29-31 The people in Judah heard the enemy coming nearer. So the people ran away. They were afraid of the arrows that the enemy used. The people in Judah tried to find safe places to hide. They went into the woods and into caves in the cliffs (Isaiah 2:19). Jeremiah describes how Judah tried desperately to be at peace with the enemy. He describes Judah like a prostitute. The prostitute puts on bright clothes. She paints on a black powder round her eyes. It makes her eyes look larger and more attractive. But it was no use for Judah to make herself look beautiful. Judah’s ‘lovers’ were Egypt and Assyria or Babylon. But they hated Judah and they wanted to kill her.miniJim

Rev. Dr. Jstark – December 2016

 

 

Appendix:

Source Date Events
2 Kgs 25:1; Ezek 24:1-2 10 Tebeth =
27 Jan 589 BC
Beginning of final siege.
Jer 34: 8-10 1 Tishri =
29 Sep 588
Release of Hebrew slaves at beginning of a Sabbatical year.
Jer 34:11-22; 37:5-16 Between Tishri 588 &
Nisan 587 = Oct 588 to Apr 587
Babylonians temporarily lift siege due to approach of Egyptian army. Slaves taken back. Jeremiah arrested as he attempts to go to Anathoth.
Jer 34:22; Ezek 30:20-21 7 Nisan =
29 Apr 587
Egyptians defeated. Siege resumes.
2 Kgs 25:2-4; Jer 39:2, 52:7;
Ezek 33:21, 40:1
9 Tammuz =
29 Jul 587
Wall breached. Zedekiah captured.
2 Kgs 25:8 7 Ab =
25 Aug 587
Nebuzaradan arrives at Jerusalem (cf. Jonah 3:3) from Riblah in Hamath and begins consultation with commanders in the field regarding the pillaging of the city.
2 Kgs 25:9-19; 2 Chr 36:18-19;
Jer 52:12-25
10 Ab =
28 Aug 587
Nebuzaradan leads forces into Jerusalem (cf. Jonah 3:4) to pillage, destroy, and burn the city and its temple.