Bible Study: Jeremiah 40:1-16
Jeremiah Chapter 40
Lessons from the text
A Witness to the Gentiles
Nebuzaradan was a Gentile. He was not under any covenant with God nor had he any relationship with the Lord. Yet he still told Jeremiah that “The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place… because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed his voice” (Jer. 40:2-3). Nebuzaradan, despite not knowing God, was able to recognize God’s judgment according to His laws.
Christians sometimes consider the lost to be “way out there”; that is, they are so lost that they know nothing of God. Such is actually not true. The lost often recognize God’s movements quicker than God’s own people. God, through His prophets in the past and His preachers in the present, has spread His word liberally. God does not do things in a dark corner but instead shouts aloud His intentions. And the lost listen.
When Babylon successfully conquered Jerusalem, the Babylonians and Chaldeans knew that it was at least in part because the Lord had withdrawn His protection from His people. After all, He is the same God who parted the Red Sea and conquered nations for Israel. The Babylonians could not hope to defeat Israel if such a powerful God was fighting on their behalf. Yet through the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, they suspected that God was against and not for Israel, a thought that the Jews were refusing to accept. When they were victorious, they knew that this was the case.
Like with Nebuzaradan and the fall of Jerusalem, when the lost see God’s prophecies and judgments fulfilled, they actually acknowledge it as the hand of God. They are not in a relationship with Him, but they do gain a fear and respect for His power and authority. If this fear drives them to pursue more knowledge of God, then the Holy Ghost can convict them and bring them into a relationship with Christ. In a very astounding way, God will use the chastisement of His people and His judgment on the nations to boldly announce to the world, “I am real.”
If God has been showing Himself to be real in your life, have you accepted Him? Do you find that when you think of God and who He is you have more fear and awe of Him than comfort? Are you witnessing the wonders of God on others, or are you experiencing His gentle hand in your own life?
Don’t be like Nebuzaradan who saw and recognized the works of God but went back home to live as he had always lived. Instead, be like Jeremiah who answered God when He spoke to him and had his life changed forever, for once he answered God’s calling he was blessed with the presence of God to guide and tend to him throughout his entire life.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-5 These verses expound on the account from the previous chapter. Jeremiah is retrieved from the prison, bound like every other Jew, and set out to Babylon to live in captivity. After the princes come to seek him, the captain liberates him from his bonds and gives him a choice of going to Babylon or returning to Judah. Jeremiah chooses to return, and the captain tells him with whom to stay, blesses him, and gives him provision for his journey back to Jerusalem. Noteworthy is that the Babylonian captain understands that Jeremiah’s people are enacting the judgment of God against the Jews. This heathen, at this particular moment, demonstrates more knowledge of God than God’s chosen people.
6 According to the captain’s words, Jeremiah returns to Gedaliah, the new governor over Judah. Jeremiah is there to live among the people and to encourage them with God’s words.
7a From here until chapter 44, Jeremiah elaborates on the account found in II Kings 25:22-26. As a prophet and witness to the events, Jeremiah gives not only the people’s perspective but also God’s perspective.
7b-10 Nebuchadnezzar appointed a Jewish governor over the people rather than create even more unrest with a Babylonian governor. Since Jerusalem is burnt, Gedaliah rules from Mizpah in Benjamin just north of Jerusalem. All the remnant of the military and elite families come to him. Gedaliah’s first official decree is for the people to not fear the Chaldeans but instead live in their own lands. The Chaldeans were the ones who fought on Babylon’s behalf and destroyed jerusalem, so the people are rightfully afraid of them returning to sack their lands. Gedaliah tries to calm the people of this fear. He says that he will live among the Chaldeans as proof of their peaceful intentions towards the Jews, but all the other people should enjoy the fruitfulness of the land. This decree is in order with Jeremiah’s prophecy; if the people submit to Babylonian rule, they can live peacefully in the land (Jer. 27:11).
11-12 Once word spread of the new governor and his decree, the Jews that had fled Israel for fear of the Chaldeans return to their lands. They choose to live under Gedaliah. Noteworthy is that God blesses them with plentiful crops.
13-15 Even after their defeat, the Jews still have a military in tact. The captains are concerned about Gedaliah and the remnant of the people. They accuse Ishmael of being a traitor and offer to take care of the matter privately. Interestingly, the first Ishmael in the Bible is the son of Abraham and an Egyptian bondswoman, Hagar. Instead of waiting for the promised son, Isaac, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to bear a child in her stead. Once Isaac was born, Ishmael showed his character by mocking the promised son. He and his mother were then caste out. (Gen. 16:1-16, 21:1-14) That this traitor of Jeremiah’s days is named Ishmael is no small coincidence. This Ishmael is of the royal house and, presumably, is jealous that Gedaliah is governor. Instead of being loyal to God, Ishmael is loyal to his own gain, working against God’s people to elevate himself in the eyes of Baalis king of the Ammonites.
16 Despite the captains’ warnings, Gedaliah believes Ishmael is innocent. This mistake will cost him his life (Jer 41:2).
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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