Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Betrayal and Murder

Week 41 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 41


Known by his fellow countrymen as a wise, kind, and humble, Gedaliah is as governor by Nebuchadnezzar. Gedaliah, a righteous Jewish leader, welcomes the Jewish refugees of Jerusalem to Mizpah, the last of Judah’s people, those left after the exiles, those who had fled during the Babylonian invasion and are now seeking community and security. Keeping with Jeremiah’s prophecy, Gedaliah proclaims their loyalty to the king of Babylon. In return, they receive an abundant harvest and protection.

“From a prominent family in Jerusalem, [Gedaliah’s] grandfather was a scribe during Josiah’s rule (2 Kg. 22:3) and a member of th team sent to inquire of the prophetess Huldah (Jeremiah 22:11).”[1] In Jeremiah Chapter 26::24, he protects Jeremiah. Respected by the Jewish people, Gedaliah gives wise advice to concede to Babylonian rule.

Some commentaries suggest Gedaliah would have been a better leader if he had listened to others, like Johanan who warns the governor of Ishmael’s threats. “Being of a true and generous nature”[2]  Gedaliah does not believe the rumors. Does his sense of fairness contribute to his murder? Is Gedaliah just naïve? Maybe, wicked jealousy creates an unnecessary tragedy. Ishmael betrays and murders his own people and leader. As if the destruction and burning of Jerusalem is not problem enough, these refugees now become prisoners of one of their own countrymen. Betrayal brings multilayered consequences.

“In memory of the assassination of Gedaliah and the tragedy that it brought upon our brethren in those days, so soon after the destruction of the Holy Temple, we fast on the third day of Tishrei, the Fast of Gedaliah.”[3] Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar falls during September-October, which also includes Sukkot, and the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Fast of Gedaliah commemorates the “governor of the First Commonwealth in the Holy Land”.[4] With his death, Jewish independence comes to an end, “the last embers of Jewish sovereignty.”[5] The Hebrew letters of Gedaliah’s name mean “God is great.”



Some scholars suggest the details of Chapter 41 occur about two months after Nebuchadnezzar torches Jerusalem. Ishmael, of the royal lineage of David and one of the officers of Zedekiah, comes to Gedaliah with ten of his men to join him in a meal. During the meal, Ishmael, and the men murder Gedaliah, who the king of Babylonia appointed governor over the land. The Jews with Gedaliah are also killed, along with the Chaldean soldiers present. Ishmael’s jealousy over Gedaliah’s appointment or some political power play creates the ultimate betrayal.

A group of eighty men arrive from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, all clean-shaven with torn clothing and obvious wounds (likely self-inflicted). They come bearing offerings for Yahweh, but they do not know about the recent murders. Ishmael greets them, invites them to meet Gedaliah, and then kills them, too. Ten of these eighty men beg for mercy, offering good and goods they have hidden in a field. Ishmael spares them but fills a large cistern with the seventy slain men. Turning against the Chaldeans is contrary to Jeremiah’s message. “Without a king, with no law and no loyalty to God, Judah was subject to complete anarchy.”[6]

“The areas of Shechem, Shiloh,  and Samaria had been worship centers in the north after the northern kingdom was destroyed in 722/721 BC. Many Israelites made periodic pilgrimages to Jerusalem.”[7] The ten pilgrim survivors, as well as “the rest of the people of Mizpah, including the daughters of the king” become prisoners of Ishmael. Ishmael takes his new captives, to include some of his own people, and sets out toward the Ammonites. These eighty men are likely planning to give offerings to Yahweh. “Even though the temple itself was in ruins, the site was still considered holy.”[8]

Outraged, Johanan takes his army and marched out to find the evil Ishmael and engage him in battle. Reaching the great pool in Gideon, all the people taken prisoner by Ishmael join  with Johanan. Unfortunately, Ishmael an eight of his men escape, fleeing to the Ammonites. Leaving behind the drama, Johanan and all the “soldiers, women, children, and court officials” Ishmael had taken captive gather. They plan to head to Egypt, to escape. “The function of the assassination narrative is to set up the fateful choice that the remnant will make.”[9]



Judas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, betrays Him to authorities for thirty pieces of silver. As for the motivation of Judas, one can suppose evil ambitions or simple greed. Whatever his intention, Judas brings the authorities to the Gethsemane, as he knows this place to be somewhere Jesus and the disciples frequently gather. Usually a quiet place for prayer and reflection, Gethsemane becomes a place of betrayal.


Betrayal robs more than loyalty; it robs the soul. As life hurries along, sometimes it is easier to be lost in a moment, enticed with the crowd, and controlled by the money, safer than admitting weakness, confessing insecurity, or expressing need. Jesus, when I forget Your goodness and ignore Your peace, when I hurry pass Your joy and overlook Your Grace, I betray You again and again. You give a greater grace.



When chaos interrupts us, when betrayal weakens us, when uncertainty pauses us – we question life: what do we do, where do we go, how do we move forward? The better solution might not come in the form of a question, rather it is the “Who” we seek. Just seek God!

Remember: God is our Help, God is our Keeper, God is our Protector. Remember God, who always goes before us also walks beside us, comforts us, weeps with us. Read Psalm 121 and ponder Who God is for us!

Donna Oswalt


[1] Blackaby Study Bible, Character Study Gedaliah

[2], Gedaliah; The Fast of Gedaliah

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Chronological Living Application Study Bible notes of Jeremiah Chapter 41

[7] Archaeological Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 41

[8] Ibid

[9] ESV Literary Study Bible notes

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

The Refugees

Week 40 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 40


Mizpah, located about 4 miles NW of Jerusalem, sits “on the highest hill in the region, six hundred feet about the plain of Gideon.”[1] Old Testament people like Samuel and Saul and Nehemiah are familiar with Mizpah with recognizable stories of conquering the Philistines, placing an Ebenezer, making Saul the first king of Israel, and rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Mizpah, mentioned in Judges 20:1-3 and 1 Samuel 7:5-7, 12-14, 10:17 and other Scriptures, historically marks a place of battle and worship and protection.

“Mizpah meaning watchtower or lookout was called such because it was from that location that travelers from the north would first see Jerusalem.”[2] In 1926, Dr. William Badè begins excavations finding pottery, tombs, grain pits, and cisterns, “however the chief discovery was the city’s defenses. The ancient city had two sets of walls: a smaller inner wall and a large outer wall.”[3] This outer wall is taller and stronger and greater than any other of the military citadels. “Some of the largest stones were so heavy, three or four workmen could not budge them.”[4] This hugely critical outpost serves as a massive defense for Judah.

There is some discrepancy among researchers if modern day locations Tell en-Nasbeh or Nebi Samwil is Mizpah. While the distances of these locations are so close, the geography debate continues. “When examining the evidence from the two sites, the sheer amount of archaeological discoveries from Tell en-Nasbeh that correspond with the biblical accounts strongly suggest that Tell en-Nasbeh is Mizpah.”[5]

Centuries after this area has been a part of Judah’s history, archeologists search for evidence reveal some interesting finds. Two specific findings relate to people in Jeremiah Chapter 40. In 1935, “in the layer of ashes left by Nebuchadnezzar’s fire when he burned Lachish, a seal was among the Lachish Letters bearing this inscription: “Belonging to Gedaliah, the one who is over the house.”[6] Another seal found in 1932 mentions “Jaazaniah (also, Jezaniah, son of the Maacathite, in Jeremiah 40:8; 2 Kings 25:23) who is an army captain with Gedaliah. This seal, found “in the ruins of Mizpah, the seat of Gedaliah’s government (Jeremiah 40:6) [is] an exquisite agate seal” that is inscribed, Belonging to Jaazaniah, servant of the king.[7]

Today, research and excavation continue to search for historical artifacts. The Alexandria Archive Institute, a non-profit, digital museum (, together with Open Context is digitizing thousands of objects that are part of the Tell en-Nasbeh Collection and many other sites. Their goal is to assist research and scholarship. From the ancient Judean hills to 21st Century virtual museums, God’s story continues to be revealed and revisited.



“Chapters 40-41 record the tragic story of the first attempt a governance after the departure of Zedekiah.”[8] In the Ramah refugee camp, Jeremiah is found, waiting like the other Hebrew people for deportation. Rescued from the group being exiled to Babylon, Jeremiah’s rescuer is Nebuzaradan, captain of the Babylonian guard. With notable certainty, Nebuzaradan proclaims, “The LORD your God promised this calamity against this place, and the LORD has brought it on and done just as He promised.” (v2-3) It is possible to believe that Nebuzaradan recognizes the truth in Jeremiah’s prophecy. Freed by the captain, Jeremiah chooses to return to those “left in the land” and reunites with Gedaliah, now appointed governor.

Political controversy soon shows its face among the remains soldiers in Judah. Concern rises that Gedaliah is now the governor and “in charge of the men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been exile to Babylon.” (v7) Mizpah, 4-5 miles NW of Jerusalem, becomes the location of the summit between Gedaliah and the Judean soldiers. Ishmael and Johanan, and Jonathan, and others are among these soldiers. Nothing new is offered as Jeremiah’s prophecy is simply repeated by Gedaliah. To stay and serve the Chaldeans does not satisfy these men. Nebuchadnezzar leaves behind an abundant harvest in Judah, and many of the Jews who fled or hid during the invasion return.

While in Mizpah, Johanan privately conveys to Gedaliah that Ishmael is plotting to kill him. Gedaliah does not believe Ishmael will harm him. Since Ishmael is part of David’s royal lineage, he “may have been angry that he had been passed over for leadership”[9] Political chaos reigns during this time as no one knows what to believe or who to trust.



“And the name of the city from that time on will be THE LORD IS THERE.”  Ezekiel 48:35 NIV

While living in Babylon in a refugee settlement among the exiled Israelites, the prophet Ezekiel encounters “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it I fell face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking”. Through visions to Ezekiel, God reveals His warnings to an unrepentant Jerusalem, judgments on all nations, hope for Israel, and a New Jerusalem. Most refuse to listen to Ezekiel. Forty-eight chapters and over twenty years later, Ezekiel records as the Sovereign LORD declares, ”And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.” Jehovah Shammah, Hebrew for ‘The LORD is there,” describes the New Jerusalem, the same city in Revelation 21:3 where God will dwell with His people.


Although idol-worshiping Babylon seems an unlikely place for Israel to find God, He is there. After Christ returns and all Believers live in the New Jerusalem, God will be there, too. God desires to dwell among His people. God’s presence exceeds our finite boundaries of time, location, and circumstance. Lord, I come acknowledging my infinite dependence on Christ. Whisper the hope of THE LORD IS THERE into my brokenness, into my disappointment, into my weakness, into my silence, into my vanity, into my prayers. Count me alive in Christ. Jehovah Shammah!  Amen 



In thinking about the Babylonian army captain, Nebuzaradan, and how he seemed to voice God’s truth, we do not know if he is repeating something he hears and circumstance seems to confirm, or he uses this as rhetoric since the Babylonians are obviously destroying Judah, or perhaps he is simply acknowledging that this so-called-prophecy is true. What is NOT clear, does he have faith in the One True God?

  • Some people will say that they believe God exists and even proclaim that they believe God does miracles, yet they do not have a personal relationship with Him. Knowing about God and being known by God are two different things. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Are you known by the One True God? Can others see your faith?

Donna Oswalt

[1] Blackaby Study Bible notes Jeremiah Chapter 40

[2] Uncovering the Bible’s Buried Cities: Mizpah

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Halleys Bible Handbook Archaeological note: Jeremiah Chapters 40-41

[7] Ibid

[8] Exalting Jesus in Jeremiah and Lamentations: Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary, Smith, Steven

[9] Life Application Study Bible notes on Jeremiah 40

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Fall

Week 39 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 39; 2 Kings 25


Called the Holy City and the City of David, Jerusalem rests in the mountainous region of Judah between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Considered one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is holy to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all having root in Abraham’s ancestry. God plans for Jerusalem to be a city of righteousness but many times over it becomes a city of oppression. 

Jerusalem becomes the Capital City of the Kingdom of Israel and residence of the King of Israel when David reigns. The initial inhabitants, the Jebusites, are defeated, and David captures Zion, calling it the City of David. (1 Chronicles 11:4-9) When Solomon, David’s son, is king, he would build a Temple for the Lord, which is estimated to be around 1010 BC. Soon Jerusalem becomes the central city, a place for religious festivals, a place for governmental affairs. At the end of Solomon’s reign, the kingdom divides into the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Jerusalem become the hub of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. In 586 BC, Jerusalem is conquered, destroyed, and burned by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon.

Jerusalem, known as Yerushalayim in Hebrew, is traditionally called the city of peace. Jeremiah 6:16 God says, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths. Which one is the good way? Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah brings a prophecy that a great army will destroy Jerusalem unless they turn from their wicked ways. This truth evolves, and ultimately the Hebrew people are exiled to Babylon for 70 years. Then, Jerusalem begins a period of restoration. Old Testament books Ezra and Nehemiah tell of the rebuilding of Jerusalem – the walls, the city, the Temple. From 536 BC until 70 AD, Jerusalem thrives but remains under foreign rulers, like the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The Romans destroy and burn the city, for a second time, in 70 AD.

Today, Jerusalem, after centuries of excavations of many religious sites, hosts tourists from around the world. The lines of today’s city and the ancient city vary. Only a portion of the ancient Temple’s Western Wall remains, a sacred place of prayer and meditation. Since the Arab-Israelite War in 1948, Jerusalem has been divided into West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Beginning in 1967, the ancient city of Jerusalem is officially called the capital of the state of Israel. Definitive boundaries remain in dispute between East and West Jerusalem, between Palestine and Israel. Jerusalem, destroyed twice and enduring multiple attacks and battles, still stands after some 5,000 years. With a population just under a million, it remains a city of diversity, historical significance, and religious importance.



“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 army 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 wall was breached.” This opening verse for Chapter 39 is our setting and timeline for the fall of the city. For 40 years, Jeremiah’s prophecy predicts this event, and now the truth arrives.


Officials of Babylon arrive, and Zedekiah and all his men flee, leaving the city at night, heading to Arabah, a “desert valley running south from the Sea of Galilee.”[1] However, in the plains of Jericho, Zedekiah is captured and brought to Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah’s sons are killed before his eyes. Nebuchadnezzar also slaughters “all the nobles of Judah”. (V6) Blinded and bound in bronze chains, Zedekiah is taken to Babylon.


Burning the palace and the houses of Jerusalem, the Chaldeans break down the city walls. Nebuzaradan, “commander of the imperial guard”,[2] leads the remaining Hebrew people “into exile in Babylon” (v 9). The poorest people, those who had nothing to give are left behind in Judah. “The poorer, unskilled people were left to till the land. After all, somebody had to feed the soldiers who were left behind.”[3] With its walls broken down, the city lays exposed to any threat without defense. “Babylon has a shrewd foreign policy toward conquered lands. They deported the rich and powerful, leaving only the very poor in charge, making them grateful to their captors.”[4]


Regarding Jeremiah, orders to Nebuzaradan are to protect him. The leading officers of Nebuchadnezzar take Jeremiah out of the courtyard prison and charge Gedaliah, an official of Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar named governor, to take him to the governor’s residence.


Chapter 39 ends with an account of God’s message to Jeremiah that confirms disaster for Jerusalem, but promises to rescue Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian that had helped Jeremiah, “because you have trusted in Me.” Appearing to be out of sequence, this information is likely rearranged as the “editor may have wanted to show God could allow the enemy to destroy Jerusalem and torture the king because of Judah’s disobedience, yet He could spare Jeremiah and Ebed-melech because of their trust in Him.”[5] God is sovereign!


The fall of Jerusalem does not happen because God cannot protect it. The prophet Jeremiah’s pleas for the people to return to God have been long rejected. The prophet Ezekiel (10:18-19, 11:23) records “visions that the glory of God had departed from the temple and was no longer protecting the city.”[6] Babylon conquers Judah after God leaves Jerusalem. 


Reflection – The Goodness of God


Then Moses said, "Now show me your Glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
Exodus 33:18-19 NIV


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Ten years ago, our family prayed its way through a journey of brain cancer, surgery and radiation; we asked God to heal, to strengthen, to comfort Thomas, my nephew then 9 years old. Our prayers and the countless prayers of family and friends and friends of friends also asked for encouragement and energy, for patience and peace, for calm and courage. Holy praises were offered to the Lord for joy in simple things, for small victories, and for laughter. We had not asked God like Moses, "Now show us Your Glory", but He did! God's great goodness passed in front of us! His Glory evidenced in moments and minutes and memories of His never-failing Presence during the journey.


The question of why suffering exists and who is healed or not healed will never be adequately explained or understood by earthly minds. Soon after the beginning, human weakness invited sin to stand between mankind and God. Only through Christ can we ever find a way back into a relationship with God. Even then, we will wrestle with uncertainty and chaos and questions. However, when Christ returns for His people, Certainty and Peace and Truth will reign. For now, we can find this possibility within the heavenly realms, in God, the Creator himself who has all authority. Not bound by time or distance or circumstance, God constantly remains omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God's ways will always exceed my understanding.


Neither knowing why nor understanding His Ways, I can say for certain that we felt God's mercy and compassion, that we witnessed God's mercy and compassion, that we will continue to tell of God's mercy and compassion. As every petition would rise like incense to this Holy God, each one overflowed with thanksgiving for such undeserved, unmerited mercy and compassion. Truly the Goodness of God passed in front of us, too, during this difficult time. God's goodness and glory still surrounds us - even now in the ordinary, everyday moments of doubt or minutes of disappointment or memories of difficulty. We continue to marvel that God let His goodness pass in front of us. We choose to see God's infinite goodness embracing us each day, especially when we do not understand.



God is where goodness begins! Still, we struggle with evil vs. good, wickedness vs. goodness.

  • How is God’s goodness evidenced through you and me as we strive to live a life to honor God?
  • While just doing good things is not what God desires of us, certainly demonstrating His goodness to others is most necessary. In what ways do you share God’s goodness with others?

Donna Oswalt

[1] Strong’s Dictionary

[2] Blackaby Study Bible, Jeremiah 39:13

[3] Be Decisive, Wiersbe, Warren p 151

[4] Chronological Study Bible notes on Jeremiah Chapter 39

[5] Apologetics Study Bible Jeremiah Chapter 39

[6] Ibid

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Secret Meeting

Week 38 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 38


“The semiarid climate of the Mediterranean basin made water acquisition and storage a critical issue.”[1] Similar to wells, cisterns are large container carved out of limestone bedrock that collect water runoff. The shape has a more narrow top, to prevent evaporation. “The entire interior is coated with plaster so that every drop of water is preserved.”[2] When cisterns are dry, even though the bottom would have some muddy settlement, in ancient times they are used as prisons.

In Biblical times, the word dungeon often refers to a pit or deep cell or cistern, which infers a “more severe place of punishment.”[3] Confinement in a cistern without food or water would be a slow death.


The chapter opens with unfamiliar names of four officials that are hearing Jeremiah’s words. “Shaphatiah and Gedaliah are not known to us from other texts, but Jehucal and Pashhur are (37:3, 21:1). These men seem to be a part of the pro-Egyptian party in Judah, which is no doubt tearing Zedekiah’s cabinet apart in its conflicting advice.”[4] God’s message goes something like this: Stay in the city, if you choose, and die either by war, starvation, or pandemic, Or, if you choose to leave and go to Babylon, you will save yourselves and live. Essentially, to save your life will become “a prize of war”.[5] Jerusalem will fall to Nebuchadnezzar, and he will be the winner of this war. Of course, as usual, the officials advise the king to do away with Jeremiah the prophet, as his answers are just doom and gloom. In fact, he is “discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people.” (v4) King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands” because I am tired of you all. (v5)

Jeremiah is cast into the cistern of Malchijah the king’s son, which is in the courtyard of the guardhouse. Let down by ropes, Jeremiah sinks into the residual silt at the bottom of the empty cistern. Here we meet Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch and “high-ranking African official”[6] who works in the royal palace. Defending Jeremiah’s safety and pleading for Jeremiah’s life, he asks the king for help. Zedekiah sends him and thirty men to rescue Jeremiah out of the cistern “before he dies”. (v10)

They save Jeremiah, and he remains in the court of the guardhouse. Zedekiah then calls for Jeremiah “to be brought to the third entrance of the temple of Yahweh” and asks him for the truth. (v14) Kaiser writes, “The location of this third entrance to the temple of Yahweh is unknown” but may be a “covered walkway used exclusively by royalty”.[7] This would provide a safe and secure meeting place. Jeremiah’s narrative continues to be the same. Zedekiah expresses his fear “of the Judeans who have gone over to the Chaldeans.” (v19) Pleading to listen to God’s voice, Jeremiah tries to explain the severe consequence of not complying. Forget the ones already gone; think about the women and children still here. Jeremiah gives vivid descriptions of what will happen to the women of the royal court and reminds how they will become property of the King of Babylon.

With fear of retaliation, Zedekiah demands that Jeremiah keep their conversation confidential. Jeremiah honors the King’s request, replying only that he had been pleading his own case before the King. Here, Jeremiah remains until the day Jerusalem  is captured.

Possibly Chapter 38 gives us a more detailed account of the events in Chapter 37 or another event. Some scholars believe the chronology of events “is clearly not the central purpose of these chapters.”[8] Even though Jeremiah is “confined in the courtyard of the guard, he was allowed to have visitors and to speak freely to them.”[9] Recognizing even in prison, Jeremiah continues to share the message of Yahweh. God provides for Jeremiah by sending Ebed-melech, an often-overlooked Old Testament hero of true courage and character, a person God inspires to help his faithful prophet, Jeremiah. ”Jeremiah later had the privilege of informing his Ethiopian rescuer that God would keep him safe during the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. (39:18)”[10] Fear of the people creates an impotence of leadership for King Zedekiah, who remains uncommitted and ineffectual. Jeremiah is now in his 40th year of ministry and brings the same message. God is not changing His plan.



In John 18:33-38, Pilate, the governor of Jerusalem, finds himself face to face with Jesus, face to face with Truth. Pilate asks, "What is truth?" His rhetorical cynicism does not investigate truth or even debate truth; rather, like the philosophy of the culture of Rome, Pilate suggests there is no real truth. The answer to Pilate's question sits right in front of him but goes unrecognized.

After looking at a variety of Scripture in a search for "truth", these are the truths Christians embrace: God's word is truth. Christ is truth. Scripture testifies to truth, as does the Father. Jesus is The Truth. The Helper, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Christ, called Faithful and True, will come again. Pope Francis writes, "Faith without truth is an illusion; truth without love is cold." Faith is believing God is Sovereign. Faith is believing the Gospel of Jesus is Grace. Faith is empty without truth! 

In Matthew 27:22-24, when Pilate sees that his efforts to free an innocent Jesus are “accomplishing nothing, but rather a riot was starting,” he decides to no longer be involved, to let the people choose. This fear of political suicide, this anxiety of rejection or rebellion by the people, is like Zedekiah in the Chapter 38 of Jeremiah. Neither leader seeks the truth or stands for the truth. Less than 650 years before Pilate and fearing retaliation, Zedekiah says, “Behold, [Jeremiah] is in your hands” because I am tired of you all. (Jeremiah 38:5) . Zedekiah’s failure to act rests on the precipice of Jerusalem’s fall, the temple’s destruction, and complete exile for the Hebrew people to Babylon in 586 BC.

Pontius Pilate would soon use his authority to condemn Jesus to the cross. Within less than 40 years, Rome would destroy the temple in Jerusalem. By the end of the first century AD, the Christian church will endure great turmoil and resistance. All the disciples except John will be martyred; yet, despite persecution, faithful believers will continue to spread the Good News. Before the end of the second century, the power of Rome will be threatened by many invasions and civil war, and the third century will be marked with countless wars. In 476 AD, the reign of the last Roman emperor marks the end of Roman rule and the beginning of the Middle Ages. History continues.



  • Does fear prevent you from serving God? Can you identify with Zedekiah, who fears negative remarks or even retaliation? Are you frequently swayed by public opinion?
  • Are you more like Zedekiah or Ebed-melech in your faithfulness to God? Do you allow God to use your abilities and gifts for His service? When you speak about your beliefs, are you bold? Trust can overcome fear.

[1] Archeological Study Bible, Wells, Cisterns, Aqueducts of the Ancient World

[2] Ibid

[3] Easton’s Bible Dictionary, dungeon

[4] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C, p 439

[5] New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 38

[6] Chronological Study Bible Notes, Ebed-melech

[7] Ancient Paths, Kaiser, p 442

[8] New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Chapter 38

[9] Archaeological Study Bible, notes Jeremiah Chapter 38

[10] Chronological Study Bible

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pray For Us

Week 37 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 37


Eugene Peterson writes, “In chapters 37-39 decisive historical events were taking place. World history was being shaped.”[1] In between armies and invasions, politics and prophecies, the Hebrew people and the culture they know are changing in radical ways. “Powerful theological realities were emerging, too.”[2] Religious obedience of the once faithful now disregard Yahweh, and the burdens of everyday life overwhelm the people. Drastic, radical change is happening.

World powers are rising and falling. Assyria rises to conquer the Northern Kingdom (721 BC), but slightly more than one hundred years later falls as Egypt and Babylon rise to great power. Despite Judah’s failed attempts to form an alliance with Egypt, Judah, too, will fall. Babylon is rising and will become the greatest world power, for a season! Drastic, radical change is happening!

Inadequate leadership riddles Judah, but the greater failure rests in the unrepentant hearts of her people. Their failure to recognize God, their denial of God, their in-your-face worship of false gods brings final judgement. Babylon, the greatest threat and most destructive enemy, becomes God’s tool for punishing the wickedness of Judah. The social and economic decline further fragments the nation. This dark period of spiritual retreat fro God brings the nation immense loss. From exile to restoration of their God-given homeland, Hope never leaves, rather, Hope waits, waits while His people doubt, struggle, fail, adjust, recover, resume, and find spiritual restoration. Drastic, radical transformation is coming!


Keeping in mind that the texts of Jeremiah often retell events, eighteen years have passed since the events of Chapter 36, and Chapters 37-45 comprise the recorded events of “the final days of Jeremiah” before the fall of Jerusalem and “the event after resulting from the fall.”[3] Words of hope fade as judgment becomes more evident. “Chapters 37-39 treat events that lead up to the fall of Jerusalem.”[4] As chapter 37 opens, Zedekiah, twenty-one year old son of Josiah, has been selected as a vassal king by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. None in official roles pays “any attention to the words of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.” (v2)

In 588 BC, Pharaoh Hophra leads the Egyptian army into Palestine, and Nebuchadnezzar temporarily leaves Jerusalem (v5). King Zedekiah wants Jeremiah to pray on the behalf of Judah. The response to Zedekiah about the Chaldeans (Babylonian Army) is that they will return, and even if the “entire army of Chaldeans” are defeated by you, their “wounded men left” will “rise up and burn this city with fire.” There is no way out!

Since the Chaldeans left, Jeremiah plans a trip to Anathoth to “take possession of some property”. As he approaches the Gate of Benjamin, “a captain of the guard” named Irijah arrests Jeremiah, suggesting he is defecting to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah denies this, but his efforts go ignored. Taken to the officials, who are angry with Jeremiah, they beat him and “put him in jail” in the house of Jonathan the Scribe. Jeremiah is put “into a dungeon” and remains there many days. This dungeon is most likely a cistern. Zedekiah “secretly” asks Jeremiah if the LORD has a word for him. Bad news comes, “you will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon”.

Jeremiah pleads for release from prison at the house of Jonathan. Zedekiah agrees and moves Jeremiah to the “court of the guard house” then provides him a loaf of bread every day until there is no bread left in Jerusalem. Judgment is still coming!


From the beginning, humanity, created in God's image, chooses knowledge over faith, evil over good and experiences the consequences of disobedience and darkness over the blessings of obedience and light. Today people still find themselves standing outside the Garden looking at the guarded gates in desperation. Choosing to do good for it's rewards competes with avoiding evil for fear of punishment. Separated from God, imperfection creates boundaries, yet choice remains.

The world around us seems limitless, but it is restricted by many boundaries. In this world, our limitations are evidenced by time, resources, geography, education, race, gender, and social status. We are constrained by imperfections that produce fear, hate, greed, poverty, and loneliness. The only boundary-buster is True Perfection - Christ with infinite grace and limitless love. Only in Christ can one experience Perfect Love - holy and divine, heart transforming, unity building, eternal friendship. Only through Christ are fallen, flawed and finite people able to love other imperfect people with grace and healing, both now and infinitely!



Unity with God brings spiritual reconciliation which transcends boundaries. Richard Foster, a 21st century theologian, offers, "To our astonishment we find that we are walking with God, His thoughts becoming our thoughts, His desires becoming our desires."




“If we are halfhearted in our desire to hear from God, we will be unprepared to respond to what He says. God’s word to us is not always what we want to hear, but it is always what we need to know. We are wise to obey whatever God says, regardless of what others think.”[5]

  • Be honest. When have you been asking God for something but do not really want to hear the response God is giving you? It is like when God says ‘no’ to something you really desire or allows something you really do NOT want! Hard stuff!!!

  • How often do we reject God’s provision because it fails to meet our expectation?


Donna Oswalt

[1] The Message Study Bible, Notes Jeremiah Chapter 37, Peterson, Eugene

[2] Ibid

[3] Walking the Ancient Paths A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p 428

[4] Ibid

[5] Blackaby Study Bible, Encounter Notes, Jeremiah chapter 37