Jeremiah 37–44: Babylon Conquers Judah

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 164–165

Jeremiah 37–44 is mostly historical. This section briefly tells the story of Jeremiah during the time Judah was destroyed by Babylon and many people were taken captive.Jeremiah 37 tells that the Egyptian army marched to Judah at the time the Babylonians (sometimes called Chaldeans in these chapters) were conquering the land of Judah. When the Babylonians heard Egypt was coming, they left for a while. This withdrawal gave Judah the false hope that Egypt would save them. Jeremiah told Zedekiah this would not happen. Because of this prophecy, Jeremiah was put in a dungeon. Later, Zedekiah allowed him to be released, but he still remained under arrest.Jeremiah 38 records that the leaders in Jerusalem thought they could withstand the Babylonians. They did not like Jeremiah’s continual message that they should allow themselves to be taken into Babylon and all would be well. They thought the message was especially bad for the morale of the fighting men, so they had Jeremiah thrown into a dungeon that was worse than the first one. An Ethiopian eunuch named Ebed-melech had Jeremiah removed from the dungeon, and Jeremiah once again appeared before Zedekiah. He reminded the king that if he were obedient, all would be well. But the king did not heed the counsel.Jeremiah 39 tells about the destruction of Jerusalem, the capture of King Zedekiah, the slaying of his sons as Zedekiah looked on, and the torture Zedekiah experienced when the Babylonian invaders put his eyes out. From the Book of Mormon we learn that one of Zedekiah’s sons was saved. The group who saved him traveled to the Western Hemisphere and are commonly known as the people of Zarahemla in the Book of Mormon (see Omni 1:14–19; Helaman 8:21). The Babylonians treated Jeremiah well. At the end of chapter 39, the Lord promised to bless Ebed-melech for his kindness to Jeremiah.Jeremiah 40 records that the Babylonians completely freed Jeremiah. They suggested that he go live with Gedaliah, whom they assigned to govern the land, and Jeremiah did. Jews from surrounding lands began to gather to Mizpah, where Gedaliah dwelt. A man named Johanan found out that some Jews planned to kill Gedaliah, but Gedaliah would not let Johanan do anything to thwart the plan.Jeremiah 41 tells how a man named Ishmael killed Gedaliah. Ishmael and his men also killed all who were living with Gedaliah, whether they were Jews or Babylonians. Johanan organized an army and attacked Ishmael’s men, killing many, taking others as prisoners, and freeing prisoners taken in the attack on Gedaliah. Worried about the Babylonians’ reaction to the Jews because of what happened, all the Jews moved from Mizpah to an area close to Bethlehem called Chimham. From there they intended to go to Egypt for safety.Jeremiah 42 names Jeremiah among the group that moved to Chimham. Johanan went to Jeremiah and asked if he would inquire of the Lord concerning their plans to go to Egypt. They promised that whatever the Lord said, they would do. Jeremiah said they should not go to Egypt. He said if they stayed in the land of Judah, the Lord would protect them, but if they went to Egypt, they would die by the sword, by famine, or by some other disaster.Jeremiah 43 tells that Johanan and the other proud leaders of this group of Jews did not believe Jeremiah’s counsel. They went to Egypt anyway, and they took Jeremiah with them as a prisoner. When they got there, Jeremiah prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, would conquer Egypt as well.Jeremiah 44 records that Jeremiah told the Jews that they would be destroyed in Egypt because they continued to practice forms of idol worship and because they would not obey the Lord; only a few would survive and return to Judah as a witness that the Lord’s word was fulfilled. This prophecy was fulfilled among yet another group of Jews who could have received blessings at the Lord’s hand if they would have obeyed His prophet. But instead, they trusted in their own judgment.