Bad News, Not Good News

39 1-2 In the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with his entire army and laid siege to Jerusalem. In the eleventh year and fourth month, on the ninth day of Zedekiah’s reign, they broke through into the city.

All the officers of the king of Babylon came and set themselves up as a ruling council from the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer of Simmagar, Nebushazban the Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, along with all the other officials of the king of Babylon.

4-7 When Zedekiah king of Judah and his remaining soldiers saw this, they ran for their lives. They slipped out at night on a path in the king’s garden through the gate between two walls and headed for the wilderness, toward the Jordan Valley. The Babylonian army chased them and caught Zedekiah in the wilderness of Jericho. They seized him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the country of Hamath. Nebuchadnezzar decided his fate. The king of Babylon killed all the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah right before his eyes and then killed all the nobles of Judah. After Zedekiah had seen the slaughter, Nebuchadnezzar blinded him, chained him up, and then took him off to Babylon.

8-10 Meanwhile, the Babylonians burned down the royal palace, the Temple, and all the homes of the people. They leveled the walls of Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, commander of the king’s bodyguard, rounded up everyone left in the city, along with those who had surrendered to him, and herded them off to exile in Babylon. He didn’t bother taking the few poor people who had nothing. He left them in the land of Judah to eke out a living as best they could in the vineyards and fields.

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11-12 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave Nebuzaradan captain of the king’s bodyguard special orders regarding Jeremiah: “Look out for him. Make sure nothing bad happens to him. Give him anything he wants.”

13-14 So Nebuzaradan, chief of the king’s bodyguard, along with Nebushazban the Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon, sent for Jeremiah, taking him from the courtyard of the royal guards and putting him under the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be taken home. And so he was able to live with the people.

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15-18 Earlier, while Jeremiah was still in custody in the courtyard of the royal guards, God’s Message came to him: “Go and speak with Ebed-melek the Ethiopian. Tell him, ‘God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, Listen carefully: I will do exactly what I said I would do to this city—bad news, not good news. When it happens, you will be there to see it. But I’ll deliver you on that doomsday. You won’t be handed over to those men whom you have good reason to fear. Yes, I’ll most certainly save you. You won’t be killed. You’ll walk out of there safe and sound because you trusted me.’” God’s Decree.

Go and Live Wherever You Wish

40 God’s Message to Jeremiah after Nebuzaradan captain of the bodyguard set him free at Ramah. When Nebuzaradan came upon him, he was in chains, along with all the other captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being herded off to exile in Babylon.

2-3 The captain of the bodyguard singled out Jeremiah and said to him, “Your God pronounced doom on this place. God came and did what he had warned he’d do because you all sinned against God and wouldn’t do what he told you. So now you’re all suffering the consequences.

4-5 “But today, Jeremiah, I’m setting you free, taking the chains off your hands. If you’d like to come to Babylon with me, come along. I’ll take good care of you. But if you don’t want to come to Babylon with me, that’s just fine, too. Look, the whole land stretches out before you. Do what you like. Go and live wherever you wish. If you want to stay home, go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan. The king of Babylon made him governor of the cities of Judah. Stay with him and your people. Or go wherever you’d like. It’s up to you.”

The captain of the bodyguard gave him food for the journey and a parting gift, and sent him off.

Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and made his home with him and the people who were left behind in the land.

Take Care of the Land

7-8 When the army leaders and their men, who had been hiding out in the fields, heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor of the land, putting him in charge of the men, women, and children of the poorest of the poor who hadn’t been taken off to exile in Babylon, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah: Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah son of the Maacathite, accompanied by their men.

Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, promised them and their men, “You have nothing to fear from the Chaldean officials. Stay here on the land. Be subject to the king of Babylon. You’ll get along just fine.

10 “My job is to stay here in Mizpah and be your advocate before the Chaldeans when they show up. Your job is to take care of the land: Make wine, harvest the summer fruits, press olive oil. Store it all in pottery jugs and settle into the towns that you have taken over.”

11-12 The Judeans who had escaped to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and other countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a few survivors in Judah and made Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, governor over them. They all started coming back to Judah from all the places where they’d been scattered. They came to Judah and to Gedaliah at Mizpah and went to work gathering in a huge supply of wine and summer fruits.

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13-14 One day Johanan son of Kareah and all the officers of the army who had been hiding out in the backcountry came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and told him, “You know, don’t you, that Baaliss king of Ammon has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam didn’t believe them.

15 Then Johanan son of Kareah took Gedaliah aside privately in Mizpah: “Let me go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah. No one needs to know about it. Why should we let him kill you and plunge the land into anarchy? Why let everyone you’ve taken care of be scattered and what’s left of Judah destroyed?”

16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam told Johanan son of Kareah, “Don’t do it. I forbid it. You’re spreading a false rumor about Ishmael.”

Murder

41 1-3 But in the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, came. He had royal blood in his veins and had been one of the king’s high-ranking officers. He paid a visit to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah with ten of his men. As they were eating together, Ishmael and his ten men jumped to their feet and knocked Gedaliah down and killed him, killed the man the king of Babylon had appointed governor of the land. Ishmael also killed all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah in Mizpah, as well as the Chaldean soldiers who were stationed there.

4-5 On the second day after the murder of Gedaliah—no one yet knew of it—men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, eighty of them, with their beards shaved, their clothing ripped, and gashes on their bodies. They were pilgrims carrying grain offerings and incense on their way to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Ishmael son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to welcome them, weeping ostentatiously. When he greeted them he invited them in: “Come and meet Gedaliah son of Ahikam.”

7-8 But as soon as they were inside the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and his henchmen slaughtered the pilgrims and dumped the bodies in a cistern. Ten of the men talked their way out of the massacre. They bargained with Ishmael, “Don’t kill us. We have a hidden store of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey out in the fields.” So he held back and didn’t kill them with their fellow pilgrims.

Ishmael’s reason for dumping the bodies into a cistern was to cover up the earlier murder of Gedaliah. The cistern had been built by King Asa as a defense against Baasha king of Israel. This was the cistern that Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled with the slaughtered men.

10 Ishmael then took everyone else in Mizpah, including the king’s daughters entrusted to the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam by Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, as prisoners. Rounding up the prisoners, Ishmael son of Nethaniah proceeded to take them over into the country of Ammon.

11-12 Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him heard about the atrocities committed by Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They set off at once after Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They found him at the large pool at Gibeon.

13-15 When all the prisoners from Mizpah who had been taken by Ishmael saw Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers with him, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They were so happy! They all rallied around Johanan son of Kareah and headed back home. But Ishmael son of Nethaniah got away, escaping from Johanan with eight men into the land of Ammon.

16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers with him gathered together what was left of the people whom Ishmael son of Nethaniah had taken prisoner from Mizpah after the murder of Gedaliah son of Ahikam—men, women, children, eunuchs—and brought them back from Gibeon.

17-18 They set out at once for Egypt to get away from the Chaldeans, stopping on the way at Geruth-kimham near Bethlehem. They were afraid of what the Chaldeans might do in retaliation of Ishmael son of Nethaniah’s murder of Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor of the country.

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