Jeremiah 39

The Word Made Fresh

1In the tenth month of the ninth year of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his army came against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. 2On the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year as king, the city wall was breached. 3All the officials who served under the king of Babylon entered the city and sat at the middle gate: Nergal-Sharezer, Samgar-Nebo, Sarsechim the Rabsaris, Negal-Sharezer the Rabmag, along with all the other officials of the king of Babylon. 4When King Zedekiah of Judah and his solders saw them they fled out of the city by night from the king’s garden through the gate that was between the two walls and headed towards the Arabah wilderness. 5But Babylonian soldiers pursued them and caught up with King Zedekiah on the plains of Jericho. They then took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, who passed sentence on him. 6There the king of Babylon put Zedekiah’s sons to death before his eyes. He also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7He had Zedekiah’s eyes put out and tied him in ropes to take him to Babylon.

8The Babylonians then burned the king’s palace and the houses of the people, and he had the walls of Jerusalem demolished. 9Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, exiled the rest of the people of Jerusalem to Babylon along with those who had already deserted to Nebuchadnezzar. 10He left some of the poor people who owned nothing and gave them vineyards and fields.

11King Nebuchadnezzar gave these orders concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard: 12“Take him, protect him, and do no harm to him, but give him whatever he might ask of you.” 13Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard and Nebushazban the Rabsaris and Nergal-Sharezer the Rabmag and all the highest-ranking officers of the king of Babylon 14took Jeremiah from the guard’s court. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan to be taken home. And Jeremiah stayed with his own people.

15This word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was still confined in the courtyard of the guard: 16“Go speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian. Tell him that the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says this: ‘I am going to carry out my words against this city for its wickedness, not its goodness. On the day my words are accomplished in your presence, 17I will save you,’ says the LORD, ‘and you shall not be handed over to your enemies. 18I will save you so that you will not fall by the sword. You shall have your life as a reward of this war because you have trusted in me.’ So says the LORD.”


1-10: The walls are breached in the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year as king of Judah. Zedekiah tries to escape but is captured and brought to Nebuchadnezzar whose headquarters are at Riblah, located in the region of Gilead east of the Sea of Galilee. Nebuchadnezzar’s cruelty is on display as he puts to death all Zedekiah’s sons and then blinds him and has him hauled in chains to Babylon. Jerusalem is occupied by Babylonian officials and the populace, except the poorest of the people, are sent to Babylon with their king.

11-14: It is surprising that Nebuchadnezzar arranges such kindness for Jeremiah, leaving us to speculate that somehow, he had gotten word of Jeremiah’s attempts to get Zedekiah to surrender and save Nebuchadnezzar a lot of trouble. It sort of makes you wonder if he didn’t somehow get word to Jeremiah that he would spare the city if Jeremiah could convince Zedekiah to surrender. He orders Gedaliah (the same man who tried to persuade king Zedekiah to kill Jeremiah — see 38:1-6) to protect Jeremiah.

15-18: Back up just a moment: before Jeremiah was placed under Gedaliah’s protection God tells him to tell Ebed-Melech that his life will be spared because of the kindness he had shown to God’s prophet. The one person who tried to help Jeremiah was not even an Israelite, but an Ethiopian eunuch serving in King Zedekiah’s house!


God’s presence with us and God’s plans for us are not always easy to see. We simply have to trust that God is somewhere in the background pulling the strings of our lives toward the outcome God wants for us.