A ROYAL REMNANT THAT ESCAPES
When Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the Chaldean guard, gave Jeremiah privilege to go where he pleased, and provided him with all that was needful for the journey, the record further declares: "Then went Jeremiah unto Gedeliah, the son of Ahikam, to Mizpah, and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land," (Jer. 40:6). The next verse of the same chapter states that the people who were still in the land were "the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon."
This Gedeliah, the son of Ahikam, was the man whom the King of Babylon had made governor of what little there was left in Judea; for he had taken the masses of the people into captivity to Babylon and made servants of them.
It seems that, since the capital city of Judea was now destroyed, Gedeliah had been compelled to set up a provincial government in some other city and had chosen Mizpah. Also, when the refugees from among the Jews who had fled into Moab, Ammon and Edom heard that the King of Babylon had left a remnant in Judea and had set a governor over them, then they returned and put themselves under him. So also did the several captains of small outlying forces until, all told, there was quite a goodly number in this remnant, as it was called.
But the little province did not prosper long, for the King of Ammon entered into a plot with Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, to assassinate its new governor. Johanan, the son of Kareah, discovered this plot and told Gedeliah. At the same time he offered to slay secretly this Ishmael, the would-be assassin; but Gedeliah would not permit it, would not believe Johanan's story, and accused him of speaking falsely concerning Ishmael.
However, it was only a short time until the plot was successfully carried out; for Ishmael and nine of his confederates slew not only the governor, but all the Chaldeans, all the men of war, and all the Jews that were with him. His object in all this was that he might easily make captives of the rest of the people, who were unarmed, and carry them away into Ammon to increase and strengthen the kingdom of the Ammonites.
To show that this was the object, we quote the full text of the tenth verse of the forty-first chapter of Jeremiah. Still it is not of any very special interest to us to know that such was his object, but there is something in that text which is of the greatest possible interest to us. The reason for Jeremiah's going to Mizpah is there. The key to the possible fulfillment of Jehovah's promise to David is there. The possibilities of the success of Jeremiah's commission are there. The Divine support to our faith and an opening door for the complete vindication of God are there.
"Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the King's Daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard, has committed to Gedeliah, the son of Ahikam; and Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, carried them away captive and departed to go over to the Ammonites."
What! "The King's daughters?" we hear you exclaim.
Yes; but wait until we shall gather into one focus a few other points, and then we can see the way perfectly clear for Jeremiah to finish completely his God-given task.
When Johanan and the other captains of the fighting forces heard what Ishmael had done they gathered themselves together, started in pursuit and overtook him at Gibeon. At this juncture the Scripture says:
"Now it came to pass that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan, the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad. So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan, the son of Kareah. But Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, escaped from Johanan with eight men and went unto the Ammonites," (Jer. 41:13,15).
After Johanan had retaken this captive company, and Ishmael, the traitor, had escaped, then he became afraid of the Chaldeans, and feared that the King of the Chaldean Empire, Nebuchadnezzar, who had placed Gedeliah over them, would, upon hearing what Ishmael had done, send his army and destroy them. So, under the distress and despair of the hour, Johanan, who was now their recognized leader, with all the captains and the people, from the least unto the greatest, made an appeal unto the prophet of God, "and said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and now pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us); that the Lord thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do."
In reply to this appeal Jeremiah told them that he would pray for them and inquire of the Lord for them, but that they must obey the Lord; for he would tell them just what the Lord said, whether it was good or bad, and that he would keep nothing back. To which they replied: "Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God." Then Jeremiah besought the Lord, and the Lord heard and gave instructions. Among other things the Lord told him to say to them, "Be not afraid of the King of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord; for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand." He also told them not to go down to Egypt, as was their intention, thinking they would be safe if they placed themselves under the protection of the King of Egypt.
Furthermore, he told them that if they did go to Egypt the very thing which they feared would come upon them, and they should be destroyed, saying: "If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there, then it shall come to pass that the sword which ye feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine whereof ye were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt, and there shall ye die.”
The Lord also told Jeremiah that these people were dissembling in their hearts, when they sent him to pray for them and to make their request. So we are not surprised that it is recorded that Johanan said unto Jeremiah: "Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there: But Baruch, the son of Neriah, setteth thee against us, for to deliver us into the hands of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captive into Babylon."
Neither are we surprised to read the result, which is recorded as follows: "But Johanan, the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces took all the remnant of Judah that were returned from all the nations whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah; even men, women and children, and the KING'S DAUGHTERS, and every person that Nebuzaradan, the captain, had left with Gedeliah, the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and JEREMIAH, the prophet, and Baruch, the son of Neriah. So they came into the land of Egypt; for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord. Thus came they even to Tahpanhes," (Jer. 43:5-8).
Baruch, the scribe, was the companion of Jeremiah in prison, when the Lord took them out and hid them. He was also his companion in persecution and affliction and accusation. Now, since we find his name mentioned as one of this company which Johanan compelled to go to Egypt against the direct command of God, there is just one prophecy concerning him which we need to mention before we proceed further. It is as follows: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land . . . but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey [booty or reward] in all places whither thou goest," (Jer. 45:2, 4, 5).
Furthermore, when that company had reached Egypt and were at Tahpanhes, the Lord again used Jeremiah to prophesy concerning their destruction, and also concerning the King of Babylon and his coming against Pharaoh-Hophra, the King of Egypt, and many other matters; but we will only give a small portion -- that which pertains to the destiny of the people whose history we are following.
The prophecy opens with these words: "The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt." Note carefully the following: "I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine; they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine; and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach," (Jer. 44:12).
The complete destruction of that company is foretold in those words; yet the Lord has in that company a few persons whose lives he has promised shall be spared. So, before the prophecy continues much further the following proviso is given: "None shall return but such as shall escape," (verse 14).
And before the prophecy is ended abundant provision is made for the very few whom God has promised shall live. Hence we find in the prophecy as it continues the following: "Behold I shall watch over them for evil, and not for good; and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them. Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt."
Remember that the masses of the house of Judah, of the Jewish people, were in captivity in Babylon, where they were to stay for seventy years. Also remember that this remnant which came into Egypt were only the ragged end of the nation, i.e., the poor of the land, and a few captains of small military forces. Now, the Lord proposes to destroy this rag-tag remnant, out of which "a small number shall escape." Now, let us take our bearings.
1. We have in this company, which has come down into Egypt from Judea, "the King's daughters." Since the plural form of speech is used there are at least two of them -- history says there were three. These are the royal seed of the house of David, who are fleeing from the slayers of their father, Zedekiah, the last King of the house of Judah, and the slayers of their brothers, the sons of Zedekiah and princes of Judah.
2. In company with these princesses is Jeremiah, their grandfather, whom also the Lord has chosen to do the work of building and planting. In the princesses the prophet has royal material with which to build and plant.
3. In company with Jeremiah and his royal charge we have Baruch, his faithful scribe, whom expert genealogists prove to have been uncle to the royal seed.
4. God has promised that the lives of this "small number," only five or six at most, shall be to them a prey (reward) in all lands whither they shall go.
5. Prior to this, at a time when Jeremiah was greatly troubled, when in his great distress and anguish of heart he cried unto the Lord, saying: "Remember me, visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors"; then the Lord said, "Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction. . . . And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not," (Jer. 15:11-14).
Note the expression "thy remnant," i.e., Jeremiah's, for it is he who must build and plant that royal seed. Understand also that Jeremiah and his little remnant were well acquainted with Egypt, and since it was well known to them it could not have been their final destination. Hence. this escaping royal remnant must journey back to Judea, and then -- whither?
"Into an unknown land!" Why? "For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion [on which were the royal dwellings]. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah [royal line] shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward," (Isa. 37:32-31).
Hear it! O hear it! Ye men of earth, HEAR IT! "Shall again take root downward" -- be planted! "and bear fruit upward" -- be builded! Where? God should tell us where in His Word, and he does.