For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

39:1.  “In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.”


Due to differences between Hebrew and Western calendars, the length of the siege differs accordingly.  By Hebrew reckoning it lasted 30 months: from January 15, 588 till July 18, 586.


39:2.  “And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.”


39:3.  “And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsechim, Rab-saris, Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.”


The middle gate is believed to have been on the north side of the city, and the assemblage of Babylonian officials was undoubtedly to decide the fate of the city and its remaining inhabitants.


39:4.  “And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king’s garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.”


“... the way of the plain” was toward the Jordan valley, and it is significant that scripturally that same valley is symbolically synonymous with death, for it proved to be indeed the way of death for Zedekiah and those who fled with him that night, he himself being about to experience a worse form of darkness as the Babylonians put out his eyes after slaying his sons, his ultimate end to be the dreadful darkness of a lost eternity, for there is nothing to indicate that he was anything but an unbeliever to the end of his days.


39:5.  “But the Chaldean army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where they gave judgment upon him.”


Riblah was in present-day Jordan.


39:6.  “Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.”


One can scarcely imagine what must have passed through Zedekiah’s mind as he saw his children being slain before his very eyes, but surely he must have bitterly regretted, too late, the evil that had brought God’s judgment upon him, with worse still to follow.

And what must have been the thoughts of the equally evil Judean princes relative to their rebellion against the words of Jeremiah, as they too stood on the brink of death, realizing that it was their own folly that had brought them there!  What may be now only imagined will be experienced in all its dreadful reality by those whose foolish rebellion against God brings them to stand at the great white throne for consignment to the eternal torment of the terrible lake of fire.


39:7.  “Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with chains to carry him to Babylon.”


That physical darkness into which Zedekiah was brought by the putting out of his eyes, was but the introduction to the eternal darkness that has enwrapped him for the past approximately twenty-four hundred years, and that will continue for ever in the dreadful lake of fire, all because he refused to heed the words of God’s spokesman Jeremiah.  His eternal fate will be experienced by every other individual who likewise refuses to obey God’s word.


39:8.  “And the Chaldeans burned the king’s house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.”


Everything the foolish king and equally foolish people had valued was suddenly reduced to ashes, while their once proud city and its magnificent religious center, the Temple, were left heaps of rubble.  So will the world of the unconverted also become a similar ruin, a testimony to the madness that led them also to ape Zedekiah’s folly in ignoring Divine warning, and continuing in rebellion against God.


39:9. “Then Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.”


Those deported to Babylon were they who had remained in the city, together with those who had earlier defected to the Babylonians, plus the few skilled craftsmen who had been left behind in the earlier deportation.


39:10.  “But Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.”


Those who remained, the very poor, were then given vineyards and fields, so that the impoverishment and captivity of the deportees became the means whereby those they may have once despised became enriched. 


There may be in this a symbolic foreshadowing of what will follow the Tribulation judgments, when the possessions of those banished into hell for their unbelief, will become the inheritance of those who had trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ in the preceding seven-year Tribulation.


39:11.  “Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard, saying,”


39:12.  “Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.”


Nebuchadnezzar probably knew of Jeremiah from the Jews who had earlier surrendered to the Babylonians.  As God took care to reward the faithfulness of His prophet who had suffered much at the hand of his countrymen because of his obedience in the Lord’s business, so will He recompense all such service, including even the giving of a cup of cold water to another for Christ’s sake.  This surely ought to encourage us in whatever service we seek to render Him today.  Everything done for Him will be amply recompensed in eternity.


39:13.  “So Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rab-saris, and Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag, and all the king of Babylon’s princes;”


39:14.  “Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedeliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.”


The chief princes of Babylon were thus employed to ensure that every wish of Jeremiah was carried out, beginning with his release from prison, and his transportation to the home of Gedaliah (some think, his own home), where he could dwell among his own people.  This seems to continue the symbolic foreshadowing of what will follow the Tribulation judgments: the believing Jews will be brought home to millennial Canaan, from all the countries among which they have been scattered since AD 70, and to which they will also have fled during the Great Tribulation.  As the unbelieving Jews were either slain or deported in 586 BC, so will all unbelieving Jews, and Gentiles, be banished into hell before the Millennium begins.


39:15.  “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,”


39:16.  “Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.”


Before the siege had ended and the outcome was unknown, God was careful to remember the one who had been kind to His servant Jeremiah at a time when that kindness could have brought reprisal from the enemies of God and His servant. 


The message went on to give the assurance that the city would be destroyed, and the rebellious people delivered into the hand of the Babylonians, but it went on to assure Ebed-melech of protection and preservation.


39:17.  “But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.”


39:18.  “For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord.”


The city would be destroyed, and the people slaughtered or taken away captive, but no harm would befall this man who had trusted God when that trust was very likely to have brought him harm from the unbelievers all around him in the palace and city.  The God Who watched over him then would watch over him still, and preserve him from hurt; and every believer has the same assurance, not necessarily of preservation from physical death, but the assurance of the eternal preservation of his soul in heaven, and the comfort relative to physical death, that, “To be absent from the body (is) to be present with the Lord .... which is far better,” 2 Cor 5:8; Php 1:23.

[Jeremiah 40]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough