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Jeremiah, Chapter 38
Jeremiah's Third Imprisonment??
There are some similarities between the imprisonment mentioned in the Chapter 37 and the one stated here; but there is nothing that can justify the nonsense about these two chapters giving different accounts of the same imprisonment. This was the third imprisonment of Jeremiah. The first was by Pashur (Jer.21); the second is recorded in the Chapter 37, and the third imprisonment is the one described in this Chapter.
Two Imprisonments; not one.
The great Jewish historian Josephus preserved a record of both of these imprisonments, (the two in Jeremiah 37 and Jeremiah 38) adding significant details to each, noting, for example, that, in the imprisonment given in this chapter, Jeremiah stood in the mire up to his neck, and that, The intention of the rulers was that he might be suffocated.
The following opposing differences deny that the two chapters refer to a single imprisonment:
(1). The one happened early in Nebuchadnezzar's attack on the city, during that intermission following the approach of the Egyptian army under Pharaoh-Hophra; the other took place almost at the very end of the siege, when supplies were low, the defenders were few, and the fall of the city was looming, about a year or more later than the other.
(2). The charges upon which Jeremiah was seized and imprisoned were different. In the first imprisonment, he was charged with desertion to the Chaldeans; but in the second, he was charged with treason and with damaging the morale of the people.
(3). The prisons were different. The first was in the house of Jonathan; the second was in the court of the guard and belonged to Malchijah the king's son.
(4). Jeremiah's enemies in the first imprisonment acted without the king's permission; but, in the second, they forced the king to grant permission.
(5). The reasons of the imprisonments were not the same. In the first, they simply wanted to silence Jeremiah; but in the second they intended to kill him.
(6). The length of the imprisonments were not the same. The first lasted many days; and the second lasted probably less than a single day.
(7). The first was terminated when the king sent for Jeremiah; and the second was terminated by Jeremiah's rescue at the hands of the Ethiopian eunuch Ebelmelech.
(8). There was an abundance of water available in the first imprisonment, or Jeremiah could not have survived for many days; but there was no water to drink in the miry pit of the second imprisonment.
(9). The meetings with the king that followed each imprisonment were totally different from each other. Jeremiah spoke freely with Zedekiah in the first; but in the second one Jeremiah did not respond at all until Zedekiah had sworn with an oath that he would neither put the prophet to death nor give him into the hands of those who would kill him. Considering that this oath, IF it had been in the first meeting, it would have prevented the king from giving Jeremiah into the hands of those who plotted to kill the prophet in this second imprisonment.
(10). The king's delegation leading to the first imprisonment was led by Jehucal (Jer.37:3) and the delegation seeking the life of Jeremiah was led by Shephatiah (Jer.38:1).
This clearly speaks of two events. Jeremiah 37 and Jeremiah 38 present events in sequence, not in parallel accounts.
In this chapter, just as in the one before, we see Jeremiah greatly dishonored by the princes, and yet greatly honored by the favor of the king. The ungodly princes treated him as a criminal; whereas King Zedekiah used him as a private counsellor. Here, (1). Jeremiah, for his faithfulness is put into the dungeon by the princes (vs. 1-6). (2). Ebedmelech the Ethiopian intercedes by special order of the king, Jeremiah is taken up out of the dungeon and confined to the court of the prison (vs. 7-13). (3). Jeremiah has a private conference with the king about the present state of affairs (vs. 14-23). (4). Great care is taken to keep that conference private (vs. 24-28).
As we enter Chapter 38, Jeremiah is still confined to the court of the prison, and he faithfully relays God's Word to his people even though his personal safety is in danger.
The princes of Judah consider him a traitor to his country and a discouraging influence to the people; so they get permission from the king to silence Jeremiah by putting him in the dungeon.
Jeremiah, for his faithfulness is put into the Dungeon by the princes (Jer. 38:1-6)
Jer. 38:1 Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, (KJV)
Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur . . . of these two persons we nowhere else read. Some think that Pashur, whose son Gedaliah was, is the same as is mentioned Jer.20:1; which is not likely, since he was a priest, and this was a son a prince:
And Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah . . . these had been sent by the king to Jeremiah, to ask of the LORD, and to pray for him and his people (Jer. 21:1). All four were princes, prime ministers of state, of great power and authority, and to whom the king could deny nothing (Jer.38:4); these,
Heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people . . . meaning, to as many of them as came to the court of the prison to visit him; some out of good will, and some out of ill will; and others out of curiosity. No doubt there were meddlesome persons, to carry these things to the princes.
Saying . . . as follows:
Jer. 38:2 Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live. (KJV)
Thus saith the LORD, he that remaineth in this city . . . those that stay in Jerusalem; that do not go out of it, and surrender himself to the Chaldeans; but continues in it fighting against them:
Shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence . . . shall die by one or the other of these:
But he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live . . . he that goes out of the city, throws down his arms, delivers himself to the Chaldean army, and submits to their mercy, shall have his life spared.
For he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live . . . or, he shall live in safety; he shall escape with his life, and shall be kept from the sword, famine and pestilence.
Jer. 38:3 Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it. (KJV)
Thus saith the LORD, this city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army . . . those found in the city would be killed or carried captive . . . this Jeremiah states with great certainty; and what he had often stated for twenty years, now again stands firm to it, having had fresh words from the LORD that it would be so; and which he faithfully published. Even though he had received some favors from the court, had his liberty and was now eating the king's bread, he could not to be bribed by these things to hold his peace. The closer the ruin of the city was, the more confident Jeremiah was of its destruction.
Which shall take it . . . or that it may take it, being delivered into its hands by the LORD, without whose permission the Chaldean army could never have taken it.
Jer. 38:4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt. (KJV)
Therefore the princes said unto the king . . . the four princes mentioned in verse1, having heard what Jeremiah said to the people, brought the case before the king, and addressed him in the following manner:
We beseech thee, let this man be put to death . . . they speak disrespectfully of the prophet, this man, and with great authority, because the king, being in distress, was in their hands; he stood in fear of them, and would do nothing against their will. They wanted Jeremiah to die promptly; they were for taking away Jeremiah’s life at once. The reason they give follows:
For thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them . . . discouraged the soldiers who were set for the defense of the city, such of them as were left, who were not killed by the sword, famine or pestilence; since, IF what Jeremiah said were true, all attempts to defend the city must be in vain; and the people were without any hope of being delivered out of the hands of the enemy.
For this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt . . . nothing was more false; for the prophet foreseeing that their lives were in danger, through the sword, famine, or pestilence, by staying in the city, advised them to go out of it, and surrender to the Chaldeans, where they would be preserved.
Jer. 38:5 Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you. (KJV)
Then Zedekiah the king said, behold, he is in your hand . . . the king told the princes that Jeremiah was in their power, to do with him as they please. This is either a grant of the king, allowing them to do as they thought fit; or a declaration of their power.
For the king is not he that can do any thing against you . . . which is said either in a flattering way, that such was their interest in him, and so great his regard for them, that he could not deny them anything . . . or else in a complaining way, suggesting that, he was a king, and no king; that he had no power to oppose them; they would do as they pleased; and therefore he should not say anything against it; they would do as they pleased.
Jer. 38:6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. (KJV)
Then took they Jeremiah . . . having no ban from the king; they went with proper attendants to the court of the prison, and took Jeremiah from there.
And cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison . . . this was a dungeon that belonged to the prison which Malchiah took care of, which belonged to his house, which was adjoining to the court of the prison. It was here the princes cast the prophet, so that he would perish, either with famine or suffocation, or the offensive smell of the place. They did not care that they were taking away the life of God’s prophet, this being a more slow and private way of getting rid of him, they chose it; for they planned nothing less than death.
And they let down Jeremiah with cords . . . there being no steps to go down into it; so that nobody could come to him when in it, or release him.
And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire . . . so Jeremiah sunk in the mire; up to the neck, as Josephus says. Some think that it was at this time, and in this place, that Jeremiah put up the petitions to the LORD, which he heard, recorded in Lamentations 3:55; and that that whole chapter was composed by Jeremiah in this time of his distress.
Lam. 3:55-57 I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. 56 Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. 57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. (KJV)
*****Dungeon, house of the pit). The word pit suggests that a dungeon was a sunken room, perhaps a dry well. Joseph was placed in one in Egypt (Gen 40:15; 41:14), and Jeremiah was thrown into one in Israel (Jer. 38:6-7, 9-10, 11, 13; Lam 3:53, 55).
Ebedmelech intercedes, by order of the King, Jeremiah is taken up out of the dungeon and Confined to the court of the prison (Jer. 38:7-13)
Jer. 38:7 Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; (KJV)
Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian . . . the Targum renders it, a servant of King Zedekiah. A servant of the king he might be, and no doubt he was; and maybe had this name given him when he became a proselyte; for such he seems to be, and a good man; who had a great respect for the prophet, because he was one; and had more piety and humanity in him, even though an Ethiopian, than those who were Israelites by birth.
One of the eunuchs which was in the king's house . . . an officer at court; one of the men of the bedchamber. He was a man in high office, of great authority; now this man,
Heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon . . . for though the princes did it with all possible secrecy, it was known at court, and came to the ears of this good man; and since the dungeon was not far from the court; and some have thought he might have heard the groans of Jeremiah in it. He was affected by his case, and determined to save him, if possible.
The king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin . . . the same gate where the prophet was taken (Jer.37:13); here the king sat to hear and try causes, courts of judicature being held in gates of cities; or to receive petitions; or to consult about the present state of affairs, and what was best to be done in defense of the city.
Jer. 38:8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying, (KJV)
And Ebedmelech went forth out of the king's house . . . as soon as he heard of the prophet's distress, he went out from his apartments in the king's palace, where he performed his office, and his business chiefly lay, or where he dwelt, to the gate of Benjamin, where the king was; and if he was here for the administration of justice, it was a proper time and place for Ebedmelech to lay the case of Jeremiah before him:
And spake to the king . . . freely, boldly and bravely, in the presence of his nobles:
Saying . . . as follows:
Jer. 38:9 My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city. (KJV)
My lord the king . . . he addresses him as a courtier, with great reverence and submission, and yet with great boldness:
These men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet . . . meaning the princes, who might be present, and mentioned by name; which showed great courage as well as great zeal for, and affection to the prophet; to charge these persons of such great authority so publicly, and to the king, whom the king himself stood in fear of. He first brings a general charge against them that they had done wrong in everything they had done to the prophet; in their angry words to him; in smiting him, and putting him in prison in Jonathan's house; and mainly in this last example of ill will to him.
Whom they have cast into the dungeon . . . he does not say where, or describe the dungeon, because it was well known to the king, and what a miserable place it was; and indirectly suggests the cruelty and inhumanity of the princes.
And he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is, for there is no more bread in the city . . . there was no bread to be had, except with great difficulty, and therefore although the king had ordered a piece of bread to be given him daily, as long as there was any in the city; yet it being almost all consumed, and the prophet being out or sight, and completely overlooked, must be in perishing circumstances, and near death; and would certainly die, unless immediate care be taken of him.
Jer. 38:10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. (KJV)
Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian . . . being affected by the case of Jeremiah; and sorry for giving the princes the orders to do with him as they pleased, now gave orders as follows:
Saying, take from hence thirty men with thee . . . from the place where the king was, the gate of Benjamin; these thirty men were to be taken out of the king's bodyguard, he had there with him. Josephus calls them thirty of the king's servants, such as were about the king's person, or belonged to his household. But why thirty of them, when three or four would be sufficient to take one man out of a dungeon? Some think the dungeon was very deep, and Jeremiah, an old man, could not be taken out except with hard work and difficulty. The men were so weakened with the famine, that so many would be necessary to bring out one man; but it seems the true reason was, that should the princes, or any other, try to hinder this order, there would be an abundant force to accomplish it, and fend off those that might oppose it.
And take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he die . . . the king speaks honorably of Jeremiah, giving him his title as a prophet, and expresses great concern for him; and orders them to hurry taking him out, lest he should die before, which suggests would give him great concern.
Jer. 38:11 So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. (KJV)
So Ebedmelech took the men with him . . . the thirty men, as the king ordered: as soon as he had got the okay, he immediately set about the work, and lost no time to save the prophet's life.
And went unto the house of the king under the treasury . . . from the gate of Benjamin, Ebedmelech went to the king's palace, and to a specific place under the treasury; by which treasury may be meant the treasury of garments, or the royal wardrobe, where worn out clothes, or cast offs were put.
And took thence old cast clouts, and old rotten rags . . . the Syriac version has it, such as cattle were wiped and cleaned with.
And let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. . . for the dungeon was so deep, that men could not reach to put them into the hands of the prophet; and, had the rags been thrown in, they might have been scattered about and be out of his reach, who being stuck in the mire, would have been in all likelihood be smeared with the mire.
Jer. 38:12 And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so. (KJV)
And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah . . . when he came to the mouth of the dungeon, he called to him in a very kind and caring way, and told him what to do to make use of the rags he let down for his comfort and benefit.
Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine arm holes under the cords . . . the cords were first put under his arms to draw him up with, and then these clouts and rags were put under the cords; so they would not cut into his flesh, nor hurt him, nor give him pain, because the whole weight of his body would rest on the rag covered cords. It may be that Jeremiah had received some hurt when he was let down into the dungeon with cords, because those mean, hateful princes were not at all careful of him when they put the prophet down in that horrible pit. All this shows what affection Ebedmelech had for the prophet and how tender he was with him.
And Jeremiah did so . . . he put the rags between the cords and his arm as he was told.
*****Old cast clouts, and old rotten rags, worn-out garments. God can make the nastiest things His instruments of good to His people (1 Cor. 1:27-29). The fact seems to be that there were several garments that had been used, and would not be used again; and there were others which had been rendered useless. These Ebedmelech took, tied to the cord, to let down to the prophet, that he might roll them round the ropes, and place them under his arms, so that in being pulled up he would not be injured from the ropes, which in this case must sustain the whole weight of his body.
Jer. 38:13 So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. (KJV)
So they drew up Jeremiah with cords . . . the men that were with Ebedmelech, as many as were needed; as he overlooked, directed and encouraged.
And he took him out of the dungeon . . . alive, according to the king's orders and plan, and in spite of the prophet's enemies. Everything succeeded according to God’s will, because the LORD ordered and prospered every single step.
And Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison . . . from where he had been taken, and where he was brought back. Ebedmelech had no permission to set him at complete liberty; nor would it have been wise to have asked for that, which might really have infuriated the princes; and besides that, here, according to the king's order, bread was to be given him, as long as there was any in the city; so that it was the most fit and proper place for him to remain in.
Jeremiah has a private conference with the King About the present state of affairs (Jer. 38:14-23)
Jer. 38:14 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me. (KJV)
Then Zedekiah the king sent and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him . . . the king had knowledge, of when the prophet was taken out of the dungeon, and brought to the court of the prison. He sent some person or persons to bring Jeremiah to him, to have a private conversation with him.
Into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD . . . what place is meant is not said,
but some guess it was the court of the Israelites; the outward court, and the court of the women, being before it. Some rightly take it to be a place through which they went from the king's house to the House of the LORD; without a doubt the same that is called the king's ascent, by which he went up, shown to, and admired by, the queen of Sheba (1 Ki. 10:5); in which there were three gates or entrances: the first, the gate of the foundation; the second, the gate behind the guard; and the third, the gate Coponius; and here the king and the prophet had their meeting.
And the king said to Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing . . . or a word of prophecy; or whether there was a word of prophecy from the LORD, concerning him, his people, and city, and what it was; and what would be the event of the present siege, whether it would end well or bring disaster.
Hide nothing from me . . . be it what it will, whether grateful or not; he had been told again and again how things would be; but still he was in hopes that something more favorable would come from the LORD to him.
Jer. 38:15 Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me? (KJV)
Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah . . . Jeremiah had good reason to be caution with the king for his life, considering the easy answer of the king to the princes, moving for his death (verses 4-5). It seems that Jeremiah at this time, was under no Divine command to reveal God's will in this case unto the king.
If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? . . . this he might fear, from past experience of the king's conduct; for, although he might not kill him with his own hands, or give orders to others to do it; yet he might deliver him up to the will and mercy of his princes, as he had done before. From what we have seen about this prophet, he was not afraid to die, nor was he discouraged through fear of death from delivering the word of the LORD, and doing His work. But it seems he thought it proper to make use of a careful and wise means to preserve his life; and besides, he had no precise order from the LORD to say anything concerning this matter at this time.
And if give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken to me? . . . you will not pay attention to me, so it was to no use to give him any advice. From this the king should understand the prophet had nothing to say that would make him happy . . . but, he was very eager to know what it was, and therefore promises protection and security, as follows:
Jer. 38:16 So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life. (KJV)
So Zedekiah the king swore secretly unto Jeremiah . . . the king not only gave Jeremiah his word, but also topped it with an oath, that his life would be in no danger, either from him or his princes. This oath was made secretly, both for the honor of the king, he swearing to a subject, and that it might not be known by the princes, and for fear of them.
Saying, as the LORD liveth, that made us this soul . . . the king swears by the Living God, by Whom only, men should swear whenever it is necessary. The only proper form of an oath, is the appeal made to the eternal God (Deu.33:27), that knows all things, the Father of spirits (Heb.12:9) the Maker of souls and Giver of the life (John 1:3-4), and who can take them away whenever He pleases.
I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of those that seek thy life . . . the king not only promises and swears to it, that he would not take the prophet’s life nor give orders to take it away; but that he would not deliver him into the hands of his princes, who were ruthless enemies, who hunted for any chance against him; but he made no promise that he would accept any counsel or advice that would be given him by Jeremiah. IF he liked it, he would follow it; if not, he would reject it.
Jer. 38:17 Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house: (KJV)
Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah . . . being thus protected and secured by the king's word and oath, the prophet proceeds freely to lay before the king the whole matter as from the LORD.
Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel . . . Jeremiah does not give the following advice in his own name, but in the Name of the Eternal God, the LORD of hosts above and below, and who had a special regard to the people of Israel, and their welfare. The LORD of hosts is found 81 times in Jeremiah, and 273 times in the Old Testament. The God of Israel is found 45 times in Jeremiah.
If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes . . . the generals of his army, whose names are mentioned (Jer.39:3); the king not being with his army at this time, but at Riblah (Jer.39:5); meaning if he would open the gates of Jerusalem, and go forth from there to the Chaldean army, and surrender himself and the city into the hands of the princes in it, and officers of it.
Then thy soul shall live . . . his soul and his body would not be separated, but live in comfort, peace and safety, although not in the splendor and glory as he had done.
And this city shall not be burned with fire . . . as had been threatened; and as the Chaldeans would be incited to do, should it hold out to the end; for the city would be preserved upon its surrender.
And thou shall live, and thine house . . . not only the king, but his wives, children and servants.
Jer. 38:18 But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. (KJV)
But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes . . . if you refuse to surrender to them:
Then shall this city be given into the hands of the Chaldeans . . . it shall be forcibly taken by the king of Babylon's army, by the permission of Almighty God; with respect to whom it is said to be given unto them, even by Him Who has control of the disposing of cities and kingdoms.
And they shall burn it with fire . . . exactly as it had been often foretold that it would be, and as it indeed was. Jer. 39:8 And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem. (KJV)
And thou shalt not escape out of their hand . . . even though the king might hope he would escape, and indeed would try to do it, he would be taken; and although he would not be killed, but he would never regain his freedom, or get out of their hands, when once in them (Jer.52:7-11).
*****As the prophet had before used appeals, urgings and promises, so here he uses threats, to persuade the king to do that which was in his power to do, but the LORD knew perfectly well that he would not do as he was told; and the result would be no other than to leave him without excuse, in refusing to obeying what God had commanded.
Jer. 38:19 And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. (KJV)
And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah . . . in answer to this advice Jeremiah gave him, persuading him to give up himself and the city into the hands of the Chaldeans:
I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans . . . those who did go out of the city, and surrendered to the Chaldeans, whom Zedekiah had cruelly and viciously used, or severely threatened.
Lest they deliver me into their hands, and they mock me . . . he was afraid the Chaldeans would deliver him into the hands of the Jews, and they should jeer and scoff at him, for doing the same thing he had forbidden them on the severest penalty; or for fear that they would put him to death in the most revengeful and contemptuous manner. All this was either an excuse, or showed great lack of courage and weakness, and being afraid where there was no fear. It was not realistic to think that the Chaldeans, when they had got such a prize as the king of the Jews that they would easily part with him, and especially deliver him into the hands of his own people.
Jer. 38:20 But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. (KJV)
But Jeremiah said, they shall not deliver thee . . . the prophet assures the king that the Chaldeans would never deliver him into the hands of the Jews; and that he could depend on it, for it would not be done.
Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee . . . the advice the prophet had given him, to surrender to the Chaldeans, was not from himself, but from the LORD: and although Jeremiah had no precise order to give it at that time, yet it was agreeable to the will of God, and with what he had urged the people to do in the beginning of this chapter. Therefore, since it came from the LORD, it should be done, so he might be assured of the divine protection, IF he would act according to it.
So it shall be well with thee, and thy soul shall live . . . it would not only be much better with the king than he feared, than it would be with him if he stubbornly held out to the last; he would have more respect and honor from the king of Babylon; and not only have his life spared, but enjoy more of the comforts of life; mainly the sight of his eyes, which he lost when taken.
*****Jer. 38:18-20. Jeremiah pleads with Zedekiah to surrender to save his own life and the life of his people. He refuses to take the course of action that Jeremiah presents, thinking it will bring doom to his nation. Zedekiah is a coward, trying to make peace with everyone and trying to please everybody. He is a typical politician. The end result, he pleases no one!
Jer. 38:21 But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me: (KJV)
But if thou refuse to go forth . . . out of Jerusalem, to the Chaldean army, and submit to them;
This is the word that the LORD hath showed me . . . the thing which shall certainly come to pass; the word of prophecy the LORD had showed to the prophet, and which he now states to the king. Zedekiah had asked the prophet for a word, was wanting to know if there was a word from the LORD, and what it was . . . and this it is what would follow, if he continued impenitent, obstinate and disobedient.
Jer. 38:22 And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back. (KJV)
And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house . . . that were left in the royal palace when Jehoiakim and Jeconiah were carried captives; or which survived the famine and pestilence in Zedekiah's house; or would be left there when he would flee and make his escape; meaning his concubines, or maids of honor, and court ladies.
Shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes . . . who shall use them as they think fit, and dispose of them at their pleasure.
And those women shall say, thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee . . . the men of thy peace; the false prophets and the princes that listened to them, and promised and flattered him with peace and prosperity, they deceived him; they wanted him to hold out against the Chaldeans, and not believe Jeremiah; and they prevailed with him to do so, although it was against his own interest.
Thy feet are sunk in the mire . . . not literally, as some Jewish writers think, that he got into a swamp when he fled . . . but it may be a hint in the expression to the miry dungeon in which he allowed the prophet to be cast; and had now gotten into one himself, in a symbolic way, being involved in troubles, out of which he could not free himself.
And they are turned away back . . . meaning either his feet, which had turned away from the right way; or now could go on no further against the enemy, but were forced to turn back and flee; or maybe the men of his peace, the false prophets and princes, who had fed him with vain hopes of safety, now had left him, with every man shifting for himself. This would be said by the women, either in a mournful manner, by way of complaint; or as scoffing at the king, as a fool, to listen to such people; and so he that was afraid of being mocked by the Jews, is now jeered at by the women of his own house.
Jer. 38:23 So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire. (KJV)
So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans . . . not the citizens of Jerusalem; but the Chaldeans that would enter the city shall bring the women to the Chaldeans without: or it may be rendered, they shall be brought out: not only the ladies at court, that waited on him and his queen, as before; but all his wives and concubines, and his children, or his sons rather; for at the taking of the city no mention is made of daughters, only of sons, who were slain before his eyes (Jer.39:6).
And thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon . . . not by him personally, for he was not present at the taking of him, but by his army, who having taken him, brought the king to him, and delivered him into his hand (Jer.39:5).
And thou shalt cause this city to be burnt with fire . . . this city will be burnt with fire; because of his sin and obstinacy, impenitence and unbelief, the burning of the city might be laid to his charge; for his sin was the cause of it; and it was as if he had burnt it with his own hands. All this is said to work upon him to pay attention to the advice given; but all was in vain.
*****Jer. 38:21-23. A study of this period of Judah's history clearly reveals that women were corrupt. When women become corrupt in any nation, there is little hope for it on the good, decent, moral plane. This is the picture here. The foolish king refuses to pay attention to the warning of the LORD through Jeremiah, but stupidly continues to listen to the hopeful forecast of the false prophets. These women were of the first rank, by whom the king had children. These had no temptation to go out to the Chaldeans, nor would they have been made welcome; but the others being young, and without children, would be well received by the Chaldean princes.
Great care is taken to keep that Meeting Private (vs. 24-28).
Jer. 38:24 Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. (KJV)
Then said Zedekiah to Jeremiah . . . not one word indicating the king’s approval of the counsel given him, or that he intended to take it; his silence revealed just the opposite.
Let no man know of these words . . . the king did not want anyone to know what had passed between them. The king wants it to be concealed, pretending it for the prophet's good, although it was for his own honor and safety he wanted it. The meeting was known, as seems by what follows, that the king and prophet had talked together; and of what they talked.
And thou shall not die . . . King Zedekiah had promised the prophet would not die, and had sworn to it; but this suggests, that if he revealed the conversation, he would take upon himself to free himself from his word and oath; so that this carried something menacing in it; suggesting that if the princes came to the knowledge of what he had said, of the advice he had been given, they would surely put him to death; and therefore, for his own safety, he wants the whole of it to be kept secret.
*****These words reveal that Zedekiah stood in awe of his courtiers, and we might probably think, that had it not been for them, he would have done better. This is the righteous judgment of God; those that refuse to sanctify the LORD of hosts, and fear Him, shall instead fear men, whom to fear is much more improper and shameful.
Jer. 38:25 But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee: (KJV)
But if the princes hear that I have talked to thee . . . it seems that the king suspected they would; and maybe though that someone would see him and the prophet talking together; who would be snoopy enough to go and tell the princes about it, though he had tried to be as private as possible; but, to provide against the worst, he instructs Jeremiah what to say to them, should they hear of their being together.
And they come unto thee . . . as he no doubt thought they would, as soon as they had heard it.
And say unto thee, declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king; hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee . . . the king knew how inquisitive the princes would be, and how rigorously they would examine the prophet to know all that was said between them.
Jer. 38:26 Then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there. (KJV)
Then thou shalt say unto them . . . here the king tries to put words in the prophet's mouth, of what he should say to the princes, to put them off from inquiring further, and so keep the matter a secret.
I presented my supplication before the king . . . I delivered the words in an humble and submissive manner,
That he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there . . . this the prophet had pleaded of the king before (Jer.37:20); and now, no doubt, renewed his request, having this good chance with the king alone, to do it. It is highly possible he did it upon this suggestion of the king. This shows how much Zedekiah stood in fear of his princes in this time of his distress; and that he had only the name of a king, and did not have the courage and determination to act of himself. The king feared men more than he feared the LORD.
Jer. 38:27 Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the matter was not perceived. (KJV)
Then came all the princes to Jeremiah, and asked him . . . after he had left the king, and was back to the court of the prison. The princes came as soon as they heard of the meeting between the king and the prophet, which as soon as it came to their ears, they came to the court of the prison, where Jeremiah was, and asked him what was said between him and the king.
And he told them according to all those words that the king had commanded . . . there is NO doubt that what he told them was truth; although he did not tell them ALL the truth; which he was not obligated to do, having no command from God, and being banned by the king.
So they left off speaking with him . . . or went away silent, not being able to disprove what he had said, nor object to it, and finding they could get nothing more from him.
For the matter was not perceived . . . was not heard; even though there were people that saw the king and the prophet together, no one heard anything that passed between them; so Jeremiah could not be threatened in what he had said, nor could he be charged with concealing anything.
Jer. 38:28 So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken. (KJV)
So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison . . . where he was ordered to be by the king, before he was cast into the dungeon, and where he was replaced by Ebedmelech; and which was now confirmed by the king, and here he continued,
Until the day that Jerusalem was taken . . . how long it was from his conversation with the king, to the taking of the city, is not known for certain.
And he was there when Jerusalem was taken . . . as appears from: Jer. 39:14 Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.
Book of Jeremiah
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