Nebuchadnezzar releases Jeremiah from prison, and he is given a choice of staying in Judah or going to Babylon – “The Lord your God has pronounced this doom on this place. Now the Lord has brought it, and has done just as He said. Because you people have sinned against the Lord, and not obeyed His voice, therefore this thing has come upon you. And now look, I free you this day from the chains that were on your hand. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you. But if it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here. See, all the land is before you; wherever it seems good and convenient for you to go, go there.”
Jeremiah chooses to stay back with the few people who are left in the land. So we see God’s protection over Jeremiah, who has faith in the Lord and obeys His word. The Lord also spares Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian eunuch who trusted God and risked his own life to save Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:7-13). The Lord says to Ebed-Melech, “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.”
Nebuchadnezzar makes Gedaliah the governor of Judah. He is the son of Ahikam, who at one point saved Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 26:24), and the grandson of Shaphan, the scribe who read the Book of the Law to Josiah after it was found in the temple by Hilkiah (2 Kings 22:10).
“Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive the rest of the people who remained in the city and the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, with the rest of the multitude. But the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers.” The Babylonians burn the house of the Lord and all the great houses, and break down the walls of Jerusalem. They break into pieces the bronze pillars, the carts, and the bronze Sea that was in the temple and take away the pots, shovels, spoons, bronze utensils; “the things of solid gold and solid silver, the captain of the guard took away.”
“And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”
The Lord commanded the Israelites before entering the promised land to allow the land to rest every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11). However, for the past four hundred and ninety years, the people disobeyed the Lord’s instructions for the care of the land. Therefore, the land will lie desolate for seventy years, counting from the first wave of captivity when Daniel was taken into captivity until King Cyrus of Persia will issue a decree sending the people of Judah back to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.
We end today’s reading by beginning the Book of Lamentations with Jeremiah’s mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem – “Judah has gone into captivity, under affliction and hard servitude; she dwells among the nations, she finds no rest; all her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.”
More from Lamentations tomorrow, so keep reading. (Jeremiah 39:11-18, Jeremiah 40:1-6, 2 Kings 25:8-21, Jeremiah 52:12-27, 2 Chronicles 36:15-21, Lamentations 1:1-22)