Dissembling Hearts

August 12, 2019 at 10:29 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Jeremiah Chapter 40 marks the transition from the pre-exilic to the post-exilic period in Israel’s history. Nebuchadnezzar, for reasons that are not fully revealed to us, ordered that Jermiah be treated kindly. However, through some mistake, Jeremiah wound up being placed in chains with the other people who were being taken captive, and transported to Ramah, sort of a staging area for the final deportation to Babylon.

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 unto Babylon.

Jeremiah 40:1

The captain of the Babylonian guard recognized that this was contrary to Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, and gave Jeremiah a choice between going to Babylon and living a fairly comfortable life under Nebuchadnezzar’s protection, or remaining behind, trying to carve out a life in the ruins, with the people who were remaining in Jerusalem.

And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.

Jeremiah 40:4

Of course, for Jeremiah, it had never been about personal survival, nor did he really have a vested interest in making sure that Jerusalem itself remained inhabited. For him, it had always been about the people’s repentance and turning back to God. God’s people in Babylon would have other prophets, such as Ezekiel and Daniel, to minister to them. Jeremiah probably sensed that he would be more needed if he stayed in Jerusalem.

Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

Jeremiah 40:6

Gedaliah’s family had a connection with Jeremiah throughout his ministry. Nebuchadnezzar saw fit to appoint him as governor over the ruined city of Jerusalem. He seems to have been level-headed and wise concerning his counsel to the people at the outset of the Babylonian occupation. Knowing that there would be no wheat harvest, he made sure they would harvest the summer fruits and grapes.

Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.

Jeremiah 40:12

His problems started, though, when the Ammonites, one of the conspirator-nations in the old plot against Babylon, used a man name Ishmael to plot the assassination of Gedaliah. Johanan, one of his loyal officers, discovered this plot, and offered to kill Ishmael before Ishmael could kill Gedaliah.

Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

Jeremiah 40:15-16

Gedaliah did not believe him, and this ultimately would turn out to be his downfall.

Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah. Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Jeremiah 41:1-2

Johanan’s warning proved to be correct.

But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.

Jeremiah 41:11-12

Johanan rescued the captives of Ishmael, although Ishmael escaped. The people were glad not to be taken to Ammon, but there was a potential problem with going back to Jerusalem.

Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.

Jeremiah 41:18

Ishmael had killed Nebuchadnezzar’s appointed governor, Gedaliah, and some of the soldiers that were with him. Johanan feared the reprisals of the Babylonians, who might just decide that it wasn’t worth it having to deal with these Jews and their attempts at treachery, and he thought going to Egypt might be another alternative, so they decided to go see Jeremiah, and to ask him to get a word from God about what they should do.

And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.

Jeremiah 42:2-3

Jeremiah wanted to help them, so he agreed that he would talk to the Lord on their behalf, but he warned them that, whatever God gave him, that’s what they would get from him – nothing held back. In response, they made a big show out of swearing that, if God would deign to give them instructions, they would surely be faithful to follow them.

Here is what God told Jeremiah to tell them:

And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.

Jeremiah 42:9-11

Of course, God knew it was unlikely that they would do what He told them to do, so He also sent a warning about what would happen if they didn’t, and, of course (remember, these were the “bad figs”), they broke their promise, and decided they would take their chances in Egypt. God’s people, in times of trouble in the Old Testament, seemed to have a weird, almost fetishistic fascination with Egypt, which is why Egypt is a picture of what the “world” is to New Testament Christians.

For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it. And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you. Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.

Jeremiah 42:20-22

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  1. […] When something evil happens, God allows it in part to remind people of the urgency of the need for repentancerepentancerepentance. […]


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