Bible Commentary: 2 Kings 25:22 and Related

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2 Kings 25:22 and Related

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Jeremiah Finally Freed

Jeremiah's experience provides a wonderful lesson for all Christians. No matter what we face in life, we can count on God seeing us through—sometimes in the most unexpected of ways.

After decades of living under constant threat to his life and having just spent the past two years in prison, Jeremiah is at last set free—by the Babylonians of all people. While God was ultimately behind this, it nevertheless makes sense politically on a human level. In its note on Jeremiah 39:11-14 Jeremiah 39:11-14 [11] Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, [12] Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do to him even as he shall say to you. [13] So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes; [14] Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelled among the people.
American King James Version×
The Expositor's Bible Commentary explains: "Undoubtedly the Babylonians had favorable information about Jeremiah and probably considered him a sympathizer. Besides, those who had deserted Judah in the siege gave a report of him. Jeremiah's advice about submitting to Babylon even during the siege had been proclaimed over so long a time that it could not have escaped the attention of the Babylonian authorities. They realized that he was no threat to them. Paradoxically he was treated better by foreign invaders than by his own countrymen whom he so dearly loved (v. 12)."

Moreover, "Prophets whose words were deemed verified were generally treated well by peoples of the ancient Middle East" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 40:2-3). In any case, "word was passed along (v. 13) to release Jeremiah from the courtyard of the guard and entrust him to Gedaliah, the appointed governor, with whom he was to remain (v. 14). Gedaliah was the son of Ahikam, who had been active in saving Jeremiah's life [during Jehoiakim's reign] (cf. 26:24). For three generations [Gedaliah's] family had been true to the word of the Lord that came through his prophets" (Expositor's, note on Jeremiah 39:11-14 Jeremiah 39:11-14 [11] Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, [12] Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do to him even as he shall say to you. [13] So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes; [14] Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelled among the people.
American King James Version×
). Gedaliah's father Ahikam and his father Shaphan had both served as important officials during Josiah's reign (see 2 Kings 22:12 2 Kings 22:12And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,
American King James Version×
; Chronicles 34:20).

"Since Nebuchadnezzar was fond of Jeremiah, Gedaliah's [well-known] relationship with the prophet could have influenced Nebuchadnezzar's choice of him as governor of Judah" (Mastering the Old Testament, Vol. 9: 1, 2 Kings by Russell Dilday, 1987). Moreover, "of the prominent men of Jerusalem, only Jeremiah and Gedaliah were left behind ([2 Kings 25] v. 22; cf. Jeremiah 39:11-14 Jeremiah 39:11-14 [11] Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, [12] Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do to him even as he shall say to you. [13] So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes; [14] Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelled among the people.
American King James Version×
)... Accordingly Gedaliah, who probably had the needed training, seemed the logical choice to be Babylon's governor designate over the newly formed district" (Expositor's, note on 2 Kings 25:22-24 2 Kings 25:22-24 [22] And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler. [23] And when all the captains of the armies, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, there came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Careah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men. [24] And Gedaliah swore to them, and to their men, and said to them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldees: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you.
American King James Version×
).

Remarkably, archaeology has confirmed Gedaliah's importance: "A clay seal-impression found at Lachish reads: 'Belonging to Gedaliah, who is over the house.' The title 'who is over the house' was reserved for the highest office at the royal court next to the king. In the Bible, this title was held by Shebna, under king Hezekiah, until Shebna was reduced in rank to a scribe (Isaiah 22:15-7; Isaiah 36:3 Isaiah 36:3Then came forth to him Eliakim, Hilkiah's son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph's son, the recorder.
American King James Version×
; 2 Kings 18:18 2 Kings 18:18And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.
American King James Version×
)" (Walter Kaiser Jr., A History of Israel, 1988, pp. 405-406).

Jeremiah 39:11-14 Jeremiah 39:11-14 [11] Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, [12] Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do to him even as he shall say to you. [13] So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes; [14] Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelled among the people.
American King James Version×
and Jeremiah 40:1-6 Jeremiah 40:1-6 [1] The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive to Babylon. [2] And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said to him, The LORD your God has pronounced this evil on this place. [3] Now the LORD has brought it, and done according as he has said: because you have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come on you. [4] And now, behold, I loose you this day from the chains which were on your hand. If it seem good to you to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well to you: but if it seem ill to you to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before you: where it seems good and convenient for you to go, thither go. [5] Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wherever it seems convenient to you to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go. [6] Then went Jeremiah to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelled with him among the people that were left in the land.
American King James Version×
give us two accounts of Jeremiah's release, and some have seen a contradiction between them. "But," notes Expositor's, "the passages may be harmonized in this way: (1) at the command of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah was released from prison and committed to the care of Gedaliah; (2) while captives were being transferred to Babylon, Jeremiah mingled with the people (cf. 39:14) to comfort and instruct them in their new life (3) in the confusion of the mass deportation, Jeremiah was not recognized by the soldiers who placed him in chains with the others; and (4) at Ramah [about five miles north of Jerusalem] he was recognized by officials and released (40:1)...Perhaps the situation was that those who had not borne arms, among them Jeremiah, were taken by the Babylonians to Ramah as prisoners until Nebuchadnezzar decided their fate. Later, when Nebuzaradan came to Jerusalem to carry out the king's commands regarding the city, at the special order of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan sent for Jeremiah from the prisoners taken to Ramah, freed him, and allowed him to choose his residence. In a condensed account, Jeremiah's release from his imprisonment might be spoken of as a sending for him out of prison, even though at the exact time of his liberation he was not in the courtyard of the palace guard in Jerusalem but had already been carried away to Ramah as an exile" (note on 39:11-14).

Nebuzaradan recognizes that Judah's fall is the result of the Jews' sin against their God. "Consider the irony of a foreigner stating the truth concerning the reason for Jerusalem's destruction" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 40:2-3). Releasing God's prophet, Nebuzaradan gives him the choice of where to go. Apparently God told Jeremiah what to do or the mention of the "word...from the LORD" in verse 1 seems out of context. (Perhaps verse 1 should properly read, as in the NIV, "The word came..." rather than the NKJV rendering, "The word that came...")

The prophet goes to the new provincial capital of Mizpah to serve under Gedaliah, "staying with his people not far from his hometown [of Anathoth] and the property he had purchased while in the court of the prison (Jeremiah 32:1-15 Jeremiah 32:1-15 [1] The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. [2] For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house. [3] For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Why do you prophesy, and say, Thus said the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; [4] And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; [5] And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, said the LORD: though you fight with the Chaldeans, you shall not prosper. [6] And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came to me, saying, [7] Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum your uncle shall come to you saying, Buy you my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is your to buy it. [8] So Hanameel my uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said to me, Buy my field, I pray you, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. [9] And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. [10] And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. [11] So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: [12] And I gave the evidence of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel my uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison. [13] And I charged Baruch before them, saying, [14] Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. [15] For thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.
American King James Version×
). Mizpah was about eight miles north of Jerusalem," and thus just a few miles north of Ramah (Nelson Study Bible, note on 40:6).

But before leaving, Jeremiah has a message to relay that God had given him while he was still in prison. During Jeremiah's terrible ordeal in the prison dungeon or cistern, a lone voice had cried out to rescue him—the voice of an Ethiopian eunuch for whom we don't even have a real name. He is simply referred to as Ebed-Melech, meaning "the king's servant." For reasons that are not explained, Zedekiah made an uncharacteristic decision and Jeremiah was taken out of the cistern. Notice, too, that Ebed-Melech's faith was a key element in this story (Jeremiah 39:18 Jeremiah 39:18For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but your life shall be for a prey to you: because you have put your trust in me, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
). Being a foreigner didn't exempt him from God's grace and care. As the apostle Peter would later come to understand, "God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34-35 Acts 10:34-35 [34] Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
American King James Version×
).

The contrast between most of the Jews at that time and Ebed-Melech illustrates an important principle—that loyalty to God is ultimately an individual matter, not a collective one. A Christian's salvation depends on his own dedication to, and personal reliance on, God—not a particular nationality at that time or membership in a specific church organization today (compare Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×
). God had promised the Israelites that if they obeyed Him, they would be blessed. But He also promised that foreigners who lived in Israel would share in Israel's blessings if they, too, followed Him (Exodus 12:49 Exodus 12:49One law shall be to him that is home born, and to the stranger that sojournes among you.
American King James Version×
; Leviticus 19:34 Leviticus 19:34But the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×
; 25:35). He chose Israel in the first place not to make them an exclusive race, but rather to make them into a model people whereby all nations could learn of His ways and receive His benefits.

Like Jeremiah's faith, Ebed-Melech's was rewarded by God—as our own faith will be if we put our trust in Him.

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