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Flight to Egypt July 21, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 41:16-43:13.

Summary: In this passage, Johanan son of Kareah – and those whom he has rescued from Ishmael son of Nethaniah – flee to Egypt, as they fear reprisals following the assassination of Gedaliah.

During their journey, they beseech Jeremiah to inquire of God on their behalf; they declare that they will bind themselves to His response.

After ten days have passed, God responds to them through Jeremiah. In particular, He commands them to remain in Judah. He assures them that if they obey Him in this regard, then they will not face reprisals for the assassination of Gedaliah. If they flee to Egypt, though, then He will use the sword, famine and plague to punish them – cutting them off from their homeland.

They respond with vituperation – labeling Jeremiah as a false prophet and casting aspersions on Baruch son of Neriah. They resume their flight to Egypt,
eventually reaching Tahpanhes.

At this point, God commands Jeremiah to use several large paving stones as an object lesson for his compatriots. In particular, He asserts that Nebuchadnezzar will raze Tahpanhes and set his throne over these stones. Moreover, He will raze all of Egypt – thereby punishing His people for their disobedience in fleeing to that pagan country.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Johanan and his fellow officers lead those who had been with Gedaliah at Mizpah in an escape to Egypt, as they fear the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. Now I am curious: did Nebuchadnezzar eventually learn of the death of Gedaliah? Did the Babylonians conduct an investigation of his death? Did Nebuchadnezzar eventually learn that Ishmael struck down Gedaliah? Did he assume that Johanan and his companions were culpable for the death of Gedaliah? Did he assume that the death of Gedaliah marked the beginning of a rebellion by the Jews? Did he install another governor over Judah – and if so, did he order that leader to rule the Jews with an iron fist?

This passage includes a fascinating interaction between Jeremiah and the Jews who were fleeing to Egypt. Now I am curious: what was the mindset of those who asked Jeremiah to inquire of God on their behalf? Did they assume that God approved of their flight to Egypt and that He would enable them to avoid Babylonian troops in the process? Did Jeremiah know that his compatriots lacked a genuine desire to obey the Lord concerning their flight to Egypt? When they attacked him for his response, was he filled with exasperation? Why did they assume that Baruch was colluding with him to deliver him into the hands of the Babylonians? Did Baruch and Jeremiah attempt to escape from Johanan and return to Judah?

In verses 10-12 of chapter 42, God exhorts those who are fleeing to Egypt to place their trust in Him. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verses 11 and 12 of chapter 42:

He tells the Jews to be hopeful because as long as they rely on God’s protection, they will be safe…We should be fully convinced that God’s help is above all the aid any human beings can ever give us. So if the whole world rises up against us, we can look down on the situation from a secure height without fear. This is the summary of what is said here.

At first glance, I thought that the Jews’ decision to flee to Egypt was defensible. In particular, Nebuchadnezzar had likely crushed previous rebellions; they feared that he would crush them while ignoring the salient point that Ishmael was responsible for the death of Gedaliah. After contemplating this point for some time, I realized that God was challenging His people to place their trust in Him. He knew that the Jews wanted to place their trust in Egypt; instead, He wanted them to display their ultimate allegiance to Him. As modern-day believers, we also see that God calls us to refrain from placing our trust in the things of this world – yet this is a challenge that is almost too difficult for us, as we gravitate towards the things of this world. Indeed, we need strength from God – on a daily basis – to trust Him, displaying that trust in our words and deeds.


The Fall of Jerusalem July 13, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 39.

Summary: In this passage, King Nebuchadnezzar and his entire army return to Jerusalem and resume their siege of it.

During Jeremiah’s confinement in the courtyard of the guard, God speaks to him, commanding him to reassure Ebed-Melech of His concern for him. In particular, God asserts that although He will destroy Jerusalem – in fulfillment of His prophecies – He will spare Ebed-Melech in response to his faith.

After eighteen months, the Babylonians successfully breach the city wall. They then destroy it and torch the entire city – including the royal palace. They also capture King Zedekiah and, after executing his sons and all of the nobles of Judah, they put out his eyes.

Later, they carry most of the people of Judah into exile in Babylon – except for those who are destitute.

Nebuchadnezzar orders the commander of the imperial guard, Nebuzaradan, to spare Jeremiah. Nebuzaradan allows Jeremiah to stay with Gedaliah son of Ahikam.

Thoughts: In verses 5-7, Nebuchadnezzar inflicts a stomach-churning punishment on Zedekiah. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

The prophet now tells us how cruelly Nebuchadnezzar treated Zedekiah. It was surely a sad spectacle to see a king, who came from a noble family and who was a type of Christ, lying prostrate at the feet of a proud conqueror. But much worse than this was to see his own sons killed before his eyes. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to remove all hope by killing the royal family and the nobles.

While the brutality of this passage shocks modern-day readers, it illustrates God’s holiness. We should remember that Zedekiah repeatedly disobeyed God’s explicit instructions – through Jeremiah – to surrender to the Babylonians. At some point, God had to punish him – lest His holiness be cast in doubt. As modern-day believers, we must not forget that we worship a holy God who will not allow His name to be besmirched.

In verses 15-18, God reassures Ebed-Melech – through Jeremiah – of His care and concern for him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

The prophet says that God remembered Ebed-Melech the Cushite, by whom he was preserved, although he was a foreigner from an uncivilized nation. The prophet says that man will be rewarded for his exceptional courage and service. In his very danger he experienced God’s favor and was protected and delivered from peril.

The grim imagery of the bulk of this passage might lead the reader to assume that the fall of Jerusalem occurred outside the sovereignty of God. Of course, we know that the Babylonians were actually fulfilling the dire prophecies that He had repeatedly delivered through Jeremiah. Now these four verses drive home the reality of God’s sovereignty in this passage. Indeed, He was mindful of the faithfulness of Ebed-Melech – especially in rescuing Jeremiah from the cistern in the courtyard of the guard; thus, He promised to reward him – even in the midst of the greatest calamity in the history of Judah. As modern-day believers, we should be encouraged by the permanence of God’s sovereignty and respond to Him with the faithfulness that Ebed-Melech displayed.

Warning to Zedekiah June 11, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 34:1-7.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, pronouncing His judgment on King Zedekiah. In particular, He asserts that King Nebuchadnezzar will:

  • capture and raze Jerusalem
  • capture him and transport him to Babylon – where he will die.

Yet God declares that Zedekiah will die in peace; moreover, his subjects will mourn his passing.

Thoughts: Here, we see that God addresses King Zedekiah. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 4 and 5:

And yet if we look at all the circumstances, it would have been a lesser evil to be put to death at once than to prolong life on the condition of being doomed to pine away in constant misery. When the eyes are put out….we know that a major part of life is lost. When, therefore, this punishment was inflicted on Zedekiah, would not death be considered desirable?

Calvin makes a compelling point in this instance, as I could not imagine life without my eyesight. Yet I wonder if, in some sense, God displayed His grace to Zedekiah in sparing him a violent death. In particular, my thought is that instead of putting him to death, God granted Zedekiah an opportunity to return to a proper relationship with Him. Given that Zedekiah would be blind – and helpless – during his exile in Babylon, he would have time to contemplate his sinfulness and arrive at a state of brokenness – where he could confess his sins before God. Now that raises the following question: did he confess his sins before God in Babylon?