After the Chaldeans return home for fear of the Egyptians, Jeremiah leaves Jerusalem to go claim his property in the land of Benjamin. A guard falsely accuses Jeremiah of defecting to the Chaldeans. So Jeremiah is beaten and thrown into a dungeon.
Many days later, Zedekiah secretly visits Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord. However, the Lord is consistent with His message to Zedekiah – “You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” Then Jeremiah asks not to go back to the dungeon where he will die. So Zedekiah places Jeremiah in the court of the prison and gives him a daily ration of bread.
When some of Judah’s officials hear the Lord’s message from Jeremiah, that the people should go with the Chaldeans to live or stay and die, they want Jeremiah dead. The officials say that Jeremiah’s message is bad for morale, and they accuse him of being against the people. However, Jeremiah could not have been more for the people. He was speaking hard truths from the Lord so that the people may listen and live. But Jeremiah’s message from the Lord was not a popular message because it was not what the people wanted to hear. As one commentator said, “in a time of national crisis, religious fakers always flourish because many people want to hear only comforting messages, which may often be untrue.”
The weak King Zedekiah tells the officials they can do what they want with Jeremiah. So they lower Jeremiah into a muddy dungeon with no food or water where he is left to die. However, when Ebed-Melech, an Egyptian eunuch working in the king’s house, hears about the state of Jeremiah, he pleads for Jeremiah’s life, and Zedekiah allows him to rescue Jeremiah from the dungeon.
This suffering servant, Ebed-Melech, who was taken as a slave, castrated, and forced to work in the king’s house, has more compassion on Jeremiah, a suffering servant of the Lord, than the high and mighty officials of Judah, who were going through all the religious motions with a heart of stone. Because of Ebed-Melech’s faithfulness, the Lord will later say to Ebed-Melech when Jerusalem is being besieged, “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day…and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me” (Jeremiah 39:16-18) — once again illustrating that the Lord provides salvation for the ones who trust Him.
After Jeremiah is rescued from the dungeon, he is placed in the court of the prison. Then Zedekiah secretly inquires of Jeremiah again, and again Jeremiah is consistent with the Lord’s message. He says to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘If you surely surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul shall live; this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans; they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.’”
Zedekiah is afraid to surrender because he thinks the Jews who already defected will kill him. But Jeremiah assures him that all will be ok if he will just obey the Lord! Then Jeremiah is placed in the court of the prison where he will remain until the invasion of Jerusalem. And soon we will see if Zedekiah will obey the voice of the Lord and live, or choose to ignore His word and die.
Then we meet Ezekiel who served as a priest in the temple and was taken to Babylon during the second wave of captivity in 597 BC. Four and a half years later, while by the River Chebar in the land of the Chaldeans, Ezekiel has his first vision from the Lord. Ezekiel tries to explain what he sees, but he has never seen anything quite like it before. There are four marvelous creatures and four spinning wheels and at the sound of a voice the creatures appear to submit. Ezekiel sees the throne of the Lord and a splendid being – “Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.”
The Lord tells Ezekiel to rise and while He is speaking to him, the Spirit of the Lord fills Ezekiel. God says that He is sending him to speak to rebellious people who may or may not listen, but Ezekiel’s job is to say just what the Lord has said. Ezekiel then eats a scroll that tastes like honey, “And written on it were lamentation and mourning and woe.” Then the Lord says, “But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
“Moreover He said to me: ‘Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.” However, the Lord says if Ezekiel knows God’s word and does not faithfully warn the people of the coming judgment, he would be held responsible for the bloodshed of the ones who die in their sins. But if he speaks the truth from the Lord, he will bear no guilt.
Ezekiel is now commissioned to be the voice of God to the captives. Tomorrow the Lord has Ezekiel perform some strange symbolic acts to get the attention of the people in exile. Keep reading. (Jeremiah 37:11-38:28, Ezekiel 1:1-3:15)