Jeremiah stays in Judah (Jer 40:5-40:6)

“‘If you remain,

Then return to Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

The king of Babylon

Has appointed him governor

Of the towns of Judah.

Stay with him

Among the people!

Or go wherever

You think it right to go.’

So the captain of the guard

Gave him an allowance

Of food

With a present.

He let him go.

Then Jeremiah went

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

At Mizpah.

He stayed with him

Among the people

Who were left in the land.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the troops, told Jeremiah that if he stayed in Judah that he would be better off with Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. The King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the governor for the towns of Judah, since there was no longer a king. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Gedaliah’s father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah. Still Jeremiah was free to go wherever he wanted. The captain of the troops gave Jeremiah some food and a present, maybe some money. Jeremiah then went to Gedaliah, who was at Mizpah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, in the Benjamin territory. Thus Jeremiah stayed with all these people who were left in Israel. These were either the so-called poor people or collaborators with the Babylon king and his emissaries.

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Jeremiah is sent to Gedaliah (Jer 39:13-39:14)

“So Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Nebu-shazban the Rabsaris,

Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag,

With all the chief officers

Of the king of Babylon

Sent for Jeremiah.

They took him

From the court of the guard.

They entrusted him

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

They brought him home.

So he stayed

With his own people.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, and presumably the man in charge on the ground in Jerusalem, gathered the other Babylonian officials together. Two are named here. One is the same as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, who was in charge of the Assyrian priests or religious element of Babylon. On the other hand, Nebu-shazban the Rabsaris has the same title as Sarsechim, Rabsaris, earlier in this chapter. The Rabsaris was in charge of the eunuchs, but the name is different here. Are they the same people with different names or two different people? Anyway, they take Jeremiah from the royal prison, presumably before they burn the royal palace down. They hand him over to Gedaliah. His father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah.

Messengers brought the letter to Babylon (Jer 29:3-29:3)

“The letter was sent

By the hand of Elasah,

The son of Shaphan,

With Gemariah,

The son of Hilkiah,

Whom King Zedekiah

Of Judah

Sent to Babylon

To King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon.”

There two official messengers took this letter of Jeremiah from King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE) of Judah to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605-562 BCE). The two messengers were named Elasah and Gemariah. Elasah whose father was Shaphan may have been the brother of Ahikam mentioned earlier in chapter 26 who had helped Jeremiah, since they both had the same father named Shaphan. Perhaps Gemariah was the son of the high priest Hilkiah. Anyway, King Zedekiah trusted them with the letter of Jeremiah to bring to the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar. They would be well received in Babylon.

Jeremiah was protected (Jer 26:24-26:24)

“But the hand of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan,

Was with Jeremiah.

Thus he was not given over

Into the hand of the people

To be put to death.”

Based on the story of Uriah, Jeremiah was lucky to get away. Ahikam, the son of an important official and friend of Jeremiah, named Shaphan, protected Jeremiah. He then made sure that Jeremiah was not turned over to the people to be killed.

The effect of reading the book (2 Chr 34:19-34:21)

“When King Josiah heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king consulted Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micaiah, the secretary Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah. ‘Go! Inquire of Yahweh for me and for all who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. The wrath of Yahweh that is poured out on us is great. Our ancestors did not keep the word of Yahweh, to act in accordance with all that is written in this book.’”

Once again, this is practically word for word from 2 Kings, with a few minor changes. After listening to the reading of this book, King Josiah tore his clothes, the sign of anguish, being upset, or mourning. He then called and consulted with a group of people to find out more about this book from Yahweh. This group included the priest Hilkiah, the king’s secretary Shaphan, his son Ahikam, who will later be governor of Judea and a friend of Jeremiah the prophet, as well as Abdon and Asaiah. He mentioned both Israel and Judah and not just Judah as in 2 Kings. The king felt that the wrath of Yahweh was upon them because they and their ancestors had not followed what was written in this book.