"The Road to Captivity", Part 9; A Study in Jeremiah, Chapters 38-41a
March 1, 2010

C. R. Oliver

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March 1, 2010

"The Road to Captivity", Part 9
A Study in Jeremiah, Chapters 38-41a

          Lying Leadership
          Last month, in the treatment of chapter 38, a leap was made over the first few verses of the chapter. This was done in order to focus on the mistreatment of Jeremiah, (when he was placed in a dungeon with horrid conditions) his relief and subsequent release after the capture of Jerusalem.
          Now it is necessary to investigate these first few verses and their relevance to paving the road to captivity.
          During a time when the nations of the earth are steadily increasing their pressure and maltreatment of the prophets set among them, it is necessary to see modern similarities to their Old Testament counterparts.
          Let us begin. Many times in Scripture a list of names appears, as in this case. The list is always with significance-never to be disregarded as historical trivia.
A list of princes:
Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people…
NKJV Jeremiah 38:1-2
          The important matter regarding these princes, as far as this study is concerned (aside from their posturing), is their heart-attitude toward the Lord (and His messenger bearing His message). They were present and listened to the words of the prophet when he spoke to the commoners.

          It is needful to look into this event with the princes from the viewpoint of their high level meeting with the King. One needs to view the lying deceit that took place. Those on the list approached the King with singularity of purpose and heart. They met behind closed doors. Their presence was a power move (giving the appearance of representing a greater number than just themselves, as well as a show of unity among the four). They made the following accusations:
Therefore the princes said to the king, 'Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.'
NKJV Jeremiah 38:4
          Silencing the opposition is always a matter for "closed door" politics. Instead of representing the people whom they were charged to protect, they measured all things with a "political stick." Political solutions to spiritual problems seem to follow certain patterns.
  1. Create a crisis (or use a crisis) which must be immediately addressed by extreme action ("We can wait no longer; this crisis must be dealt with now and swiftly.").

  2. Base the need for the solution on patriotism. ("We are waging a battle and Jeremiah's opposing rhetoric is undermining our military.")

  3. Further the base for a swift solution on nationalism. ("The general pubic does not need to be 'demoralized.'" The public needs us (the politico's), "We know what is good for them.")

  4. Strengthen the solution base by identifying specific individuals and placing the blame for all issues on them (radicalization of the opposition).

  5. Calling for surface changes, while refusing to address real issues (Kill the messenger).
          Of course, there are more methods which could be considered in such situations, but these are the ones used in this passage. Whenever governmental and religious (The two are often linked in purpose and thrust [as they are currently]) leadership is devoid of understanding and unable to handle the pressures of office, they jointly choose to fling accusations and foster investigations, forming a continual stream toward a confused public. That's what the leaders of Judah did. These were governmental advisors. Does this strategy sound familiar?

          Jeremiah's message had not changed since the days of Jehoiakim. His contact with the general public had been fairly continuous and had not been assuaged, even with his occasional imprisonment. So, why was there such a rush to criminalize him at this particular time and request his death? Could it be the politicos saw Jeremiah's word being fulfilled (while exposing their rebellion to God)? Could it be the general public was adhering to the words of the prophet more than the governmental media? Perhaps the politicians were threatened by Jeremiah's popularity and acceptance by the general population. They said, "He does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm." In other words, the nobles felt their cause was justified. Their reasoning was, "We seek the welfare of the people." (Politicians and religious leaders rarely SEEK THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE. Their proposals are more often in opposition to the word of God. Maintenance of office, flow of monies, and enhancement of prestige, always supersede other considerations among both officialdom and sacerdotalists).

          In these verses, a huge power play is described. The princes lacked the authority to order the death of Jeremiah fiatly, so they used a propaganda tool (claiming greater consensus than they possessed) in their appearance before the King. This is why King Zedekiah chose to opt out with these words:
Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you.
NKJV Jeremiah 38:5
          Zedekiah relinquished his authority at this point, but he could not relinquish his involvement. He clearly lied. (He had total authority.) He, like Pilate, was guilty by association. This is a fact which does not seem to gel in the mind of many Christians, especially Christian leaders and office holders. "Not my problem," is not an option when dealing with issues of the Lord. The King did not object to the Princes' radical "solution." He, therefore, participated with the princes' decision to murder the prophet. People need to know that who they support, and what issues they are silent on, cause them to participate in the decisions of others. Any judgment based on those decisions will fall on them!

Chapter 39
          Judgment Falls
          For one and a half years, Nebuchadnezzar hammered the city of Jerusalem (From January of Zedekiah's 9th year to June of his 11th year). The Babylonians penetrated the walls, and Zedekiah and his princes did the opposite of the word of the Lord. They fled by night to Jericho (about 15 miles).
          Having been told by the prophet that life or death was set before them, Zedekiah and his princes chose death (the King, however, was spared).
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."
NKJV Jeremiah 38:17-18
(This was a pay day. It was a day as described by the great Baptist minister, Robert G. Lee of Memphis, TN., when he preached; "Pay Day Someday." Zedekiah had his pay day!)
Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes in Riblah; the king of Babylon also killed all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon. And the Chaldeans burned the king's house and the houses of the people with fire, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.
NKJV Jeremiah 39:6-8
          Yes, the Scripture said, all the nobles (every person with leadership responsibility who called for the death of the prophet, plus all the rest of them, whether present at the meeting or not) met death! The most serious matter before world legislators THIS day is whether they will obey God or man. Their lives literally depend on their decision. Bi-partisanship may well foster associative judgment.

          Notice, the general public, whom Jeremiah was accused of causing harm, had their houses burned to the ground. An electorate shares responsibility in a most severe way with those whom they elect or acknowledge as leaders. There is such a thing as corroborative linkage! There is such as thing as "associative judgment." (It is to be observed when God brought judgment on a person in the Old Testament to slay him, God slew every member in that household, whether blood relative or servant.)

(Author's Note: Irrespective of the reader's country of origin--every soul on earth is responsible for the society in which they live. [Know the word, identify with those who honor it (Paul in Philippians 4 said he was with the saints {the one's written in the book of life} and stand to be counted with those who live by it.] )

          Please note the iron chains which were worn by Jeremiah, due to the baseness of Zedekiah, were replaced with bronze chains to be worn by the King. One perhaps might be flattered that polished bronze looks better than plain ole iron, but both are chains.

(Author's note: While visiting a dentist's office, to restore a cap, one of the personnel asked me what my pursuits were. In telling about my writings, she dismissed the religious aspect by saying, "Well, I am not very up on religious stuff." Realizing the brevity of my time, I commented, "Get a Bible, read it and do what it says… it's that simple." [At one time in man's ignorance God winked at, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.] My advice to the technician is my advice for every office holder in the world.)

          The very next items the Scripture points out are the actions of the chief military officer, who carried out the prophetic word of Jeremiah to the letter.
Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive to Babylon the remnant of the people who remained in the city and those who defected to him, with the rest of the people who remained. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah the poor people, who had nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.
NKJV Jeremiah 39:9-10
          People who defected and remained in the city prized their lives and were carried away to Babylon, just as the prophet said. Those people who were allowed to remain were the poor, un-landed population. They were given vineyards and fields. Often re-distribution of wealth is a favorite move by a conquering command. (The Babylonians had long since carried away the promising youth such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.) They also dismantled, by liquidation, the officials of the former administration.

          Nebuchadnezzar personally ordered the release and care of Jeremiah.
Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, "Take him and look after him, and do him no harm; but do to him just as he says to you."
NKJV Jeremiah 39:11-12
God's hand was in this all along. Did it mean Jeremiah would never be up to his neck in muck? Did it mean the man of God would always be treated fairly, spoken of affirmatively and provided for in wealth? Did all this deprivation mean Jeremiah was a lesser quantity than the million dollar preachers of this generation?

Jeremiah's Exoneration:
Then they sent someone to take Jeremiah from the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he dwelt among the people.
NKJV Jeremiah 39:14
Notice two things: first, Jeremiah was committed to the home of one whose house was not burned and who was of the priestly line. Second, Jeremiah got to dwell among the poor people who now owned all the vineyards and land.

          While Jeremiah was still shut up in the prison, the Lord spoke to him. (Prison walls do not hinder the word of the Lord.) The Lord wanted Jeremiah to reward Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian, who had rescued him. Assisting and helping the man of God ALWAYS pays dividends.
'Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: '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," says the LORD, "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," says the LORD.'
NKJV Jeremiah 39:16-18
          Personal attention, before, during, and after calamity, is a reward from the Lord, for being righteous. Righteousness does pay off. Holiness does bring blessing. While governments go crazy and every aspect of society is threatened by extinction, the peace of God rules because He sent His Word! Better to be Ebed-Melech than to be the King!

In the mad scramble for recognition and power, especially in the ministry, it is good to view Ebed and remember the Rechabites.

(Author's note: This picture is from the heart of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Look at the peace of God on the face of one who is clothed, fed and blessed of God in the middle of tragedy. Houston Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2010.)

Chapter 40
Jeremiah's Exoneration Continued:
          In chapter 39, the Lord pronounced His judgment using concise terms to Ebed-Melech. In chapter 40, the Lord allowed the captain of the guards to verbalize the carrying out of that prophesied judgment. Note the two passages:
  1. To Ebed: Jeremiah 39:16, 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.

  2. To the Captain: Jeremiah 40:2-4, 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.
Even the Babylonians knew they were instruments of God's judgment against Judah and ultimately Israel. Notice what the guard says is the reason for their capture.
  1. Because the people have sinned against the Lord.

  2. Because the people have not obeyed His voice.
Now, (it does not take wizardry to conclude this) if a modern nation implements points "a" and "b," should they not expect a similar result? Do moderns believe they will have a different outcome (A special dispensation)? How much sin is required to fill up God's wrath? Well, trust me, we are already there!

          Jeremiah was brought to Ramah in chains. Notice the indignity of chains. He is chained to someone else; his feet and hands are chained together. (It was said of Joseph that his feet were hurt due to the chains and irons.) In Ramah, Jeremiah was released. How important is Ramah spiritually? It is the traditional burial place of Rachael and one of the ten cities of refuge. Ramah, just a few miles from Mizpah in the land of Benjamin, was the birthplace of Samuel. How significant can Ramah and Mizpah be? Very significant!

          Mizpah was the city where the widow chased off the vultures from the rotting sons of Saul's slain sons. Mizpah was the place where the people of 11 tribes of Israel declared war on Benjamin for the desecration of the concubine of the man of Ephraim. Mizpah was a city of refuge. It was near the place where Samuel raised the stone of remembrance, his Ebenezer, the stone of help. Mizpah was the town where Samuel gathered the people of Israel together to anoint their first king, Saul.

          This area was loaded with meaning, but none so grave as the murder of the good man Gedaliah, the appointed governor of the region, friend of Jeremiah and a son of Zadok. When Jeremiah had obtained his release and received rations and a gift, he headed to Mizpah and the house of Gedaliah. Tragedy was again to strike. It would be meted by the hand of a man named, Ishmael. Is it any wonder that Ishmaelian tradition still prevails? His descendants still murder without cause and plunder with no regard to man or beast.

Chapter 41

           After the siege of Jerusalem and when the war had waned, Israelites from distances began gathering in Mizpah, a haven for the refugee and the forlorn. It was to be a safe haven city under Chaldean rule, but alas, evil plots found their way to its gates. The plot was not unknown to Gedaliah, for Johanan the son of Kareah warned him (Johanan was one of the oath takers). He even offered to assassinate Ishmael of the Ammonites. Gedaliah would not believe his report.

          Gedaliah could not believe that one of the men who took an oath with him (Ishmael) would plot against him. Alas, like David of old, he could not comprehend why his friend and bosom confident would turn against him-but he did. The great over-riding truth remains, "that man is cursed, who puts his trust in man." One thing for sure, Ishmael wanted to rule and would kill to obtain that rule. It is through this line that all of Islam flows. He even enticed treasure bearing religious travelers to their death by faining tears. This is the method of hypocrites and those spoken of by Jude and Simon (II Peter), who cautioned the end-time church about their presence. Ishmael filled trenches (pit) with the dead bodies of those he and his henchmen murdered. It meant nothing to them that human life was taken.

          Soon, however, the hunter became the hunted as Johanan, one of the field fighters for Israel, heard about the crimes. He pursued Ishmael and his gang, but by this time, God's people had been pirated away. Housed among those captives were the daughters of the King (Zedekiah), and they had to be rescued so God's great plan for future generations would be fulfilled. (The future of those daughters would determine future history.)


          The worthless followers of Ishmael fled to take refuge in Ammon when the children of the Lord left off pursuing them. The remnant of Judah turned to dwell in another place of safety along with Johanan (the place was Chimham, which is near Bethlehem). Their fear of the Chaldeans and the surrounding territories caused them to look longingly for "safety" of another kind. This was a fatal error. They looked back toward Egypt. (Once God delivers one from a place, one is never to return. Herein is the tragic error of church folks and nations!)
But it happened in the seventh month that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck and killed Gedaliah, the Jews, as well as the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah. And all the people, small and great, and the captains of the armies, arose and went to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.
2 Kings 25:25-26
          Egypt had been a great place for refuge in the past. Abraham went there due to the famine in Canaan. Even though his lie about Sarah cost him needless dismay, God prospered him greatly. (I believe it is at this juncture he acquired Hagar, the Egyptian.)
           Joseph suffered there, but rose to power under the hand of the Lord. He later brought Israel and his brethren to the land under Pharaoh's insistence.
           Moses was born there and though persecution was taking place, the children of the Lord were delivered from their rapacious host. Egypt's double mindedness hardened their hearts.
          Egypt was a repository for much treachery after the children of Israel escaped with Moses. Solomon made a treaty with Egypt and thereby married Pharaoh's daughter, making an alliance which proved to be his spiritual downfall.
          Various persons of importance fled from time to time to Egypt. Hadad, for instance, was an adversary of the King when he fled there; he wound up marrying into the royal family( I Kings 11:17) which became an unholy alliance.
          Rehoboam and Jeroboam resorted there, out of Solomon's reach (I Kings 11:40, I Kings 12:2) and it opened their knowledge of pagan deities. Hoshea got himself imprisoned in Egypt (2Kings 7:4).

After Moses' deliverance from Egypt, with the exception of Joseph and Mary's flight there (Matt 2:15 "Out of Egypt I called My Son), God's emphasis was always in coming OUT of that land. Here are some reasons why.
  1. Egypt was cursed.

    1. Ezekiel 30:6 'Those who uphold Egypt shall fall, And the pride of her power shall come down.'

    2. Zechariah 10:11 'Then the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, And the scepter of Egypt shall depart.'

    3. Joshua 5:8-9 (Dwelling in Egypt caused Israel to compromise.) So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. 9 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.' Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.

  2. Egypt was a pagan, animalist, spiritist state where witchcraft and darkness were invasive. Just living there tainted the mind.
    But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.
    Ezek 20:8

    (Ezekiel compared Jerusalem to a whore that went to Egypt to make illicit love; this was how he drove home the fact that the allurement to go to Egypt was more than a safety net against invasion or famine, it was the product of a seductive occult.)
    Speaking about Oholibah (Jerusalem/Judah) 'Yet she multiplied her harlotry In calling to remembrance the days of her youth, When she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.'
    Ezekiel 23:19
  3. Egypt was always an easy option in the mind of the rebellious.
    From the time of Israel's deliverance to the present, "going to Egypt" represented a rebellion against God, challenging His power to deliver a people.

    (When the children of Israel rebelled against Moses, Israel wanted to return to Egypt.)
    So they said to one another, 'Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.'
    Numbers 14:4
    (Then the LORD said to Moses :)
    'How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.'
    Numbers 14:11-12
    Stephen used this precept about rebellion in his mighty rebuke found in the book of Acts.
    'This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 41 And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:'
    Acts 7:38-42
  4. Egypt was forever the place FROM which God's people were to be delivered.
    The LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.
    Deuteronomy 4:20
    The world produced a movie, "Out of Africa." The church should produce one entitled, "Out of Egypt." (Alas, it would be a production about themselves.)

  5. Egypt was synonymous with death: many Egyptians died in the sea, while their firstborn were lying dead in multiple homes. Those who worshipped Osiris found themselves being punished by the Living God. To this day, they are mostly known for their Tombs and Temples.
    And Pharaoh took Jehoahaz and went to Egypt, and he died there.
    2 Kings 23:34
Bill Britton wrote in his commentary on Hebrews (3:10):
          Then, as now, the people saw the mighty works of God. Miracle-working powers were performed among them; yet, they hardened their hearts against God… .He was grieved with that generation. He says the error was in their heart, not in their head, but in their heart. It was not their understanding that was deficient; it was not that their doctrines were wrong; it was their desires, their inward life. They would not allow the Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of Christ. God says, 'They have not known my ways.'
(Britton, Bill, Hebrews, Independent Printing, Springfield, Mo., 2008, Pages71-72)

There is a desire in the hearts of men and women today to return to their Egypt.
Having seen the miracles of God, the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of thousands, they still prefer the "fellowship" of their religious and denominational Egypt. The people of God, once delivered from sin, darkness and spiritual ignorance, cannot return to either. They must not return to the Egypt of whoredom, like Oholibah. They must not return to the sweet shallowness of spiritual concupiscence either. One must never consider Egypt as an alternative in his/her life decisions. It must be the living God guiding every step out of Egypt or it surely will be spiritual death!

Egypt is any place from which a person finds himself/herself needing deliverance. How one gets to their Egypt could take volumes to explore. Sometimes it is a voluntary act based on circumstances. In those cases, Egypt looks like an inviting "way out." Sometimes difficult times drive one to take an occupational-Egypt, or relational-Egypt, or even a church-Egypt. Egypt today is always a place outside the will and purpose of God! The Bible associates Sodom with Egypt.
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
Revelation 11:7-10
Like Sodom, where righteous Lot was vexed, the only route for the saint is OUT. Judgment fell on those two places because they were the same in the mind of God. If Jerusalem could be called Egypt, what about the community you live in, the place you worship, the places you do business with, the company you work for, the home you live in?

Egypt harbored demons, so did Sodom. Egypt was bereft of truth and light, so was Sodom (not 10 righteous). The mind set of Sodom was liberal and pervasive, so was Egypt's. (Benjamin's affection for homosexuals cost them greatly, but remember they had not been in Sodom; they had been in Egypt!) Far too many people and pastors of the church dwell in Egypt; too few dwell in Beulah!

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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