The object of the princes in imprisoning Jeremiah in Jonathan‘s house had been to get him out of the way, as his predictions depressed the minds of the people. This purpose was frustrated by his removal to the guard-house, where he was with the soldiery, and his friends had free access to him Jeremiah 32:12. Therefore, the princes determined upon the prophet‘s death. Zedekiah was powerless Jeremiah 38:5, and Jeremiah was thrown into a miry pit.
Had spoken - Spake; or, was speaking.
For thus - Because he makes the men of war dispirited. No doubt this was true. Jeremiah, however, did not speak as a private person, but as the representative of the government; the temporal ruler in a theocracy being responsible directly to God.
All real power was in their hands, and as they affirmed that Jeremiah‘s death was a matter of necessity, the king did not dare refuse it to them.
The dungeon - The cistern. Every house in Jerusalem was supplied with a subterranean cistern, so well constructed that the city never suffered in a siege from want of water. So large were they that when dry they seem to have been used for prisons Zechariah 9:11.
Hammelech - See Jeremiah 36:26 note.
The prison - The guard. They threw Jeremiah into the nearest cistern, intending that he should die of starvation. Some have thought that Psalm 69 was composed by Jeremiah when in this cistern.
Ebed-melech - i. e., the king‘s slave. By “Ethiopian” or Cushite is meant the Cushite of Africa, or negro. It seems (compare 2 Kings 23:11) as if such eunuchs (or, chamberlains) took their names from the king, while the royal family and the princes generally bore names compounded with the appellations of the Deity.
Thirty men - So large a number suggests that Zedekiah expected some resistance. (Some read “three” men.)
Old cast clouts - Rags of torn garments and rags of worn-out garments.
The third entry - There was probably a passage from the palace to the temple at this entry, and the meeting would take place in some private chamber close by.
Wilt thou not hearken ! - Rather, Thou wilt not hearken.
That made us this soul - This very unusual addition to the formula of an oath 1 Samuel 20:3 was intended to strengthen it. By acknowledging that his soul was God‘s workmanship Zedekiah also implied his belief in God‘s power over it.
The Jews that are fallen to the Chaldaeans - These deserters probably formed a numerous party, and now would be the more indignant with Zedekiah for having rejected their original advice to submit.
All the women that are left - Belonging to the harems of former kings (compare 1 Kings 2:22), attendants, and slaves.
Thy friends - This satirical song (compare Obadiah 1:7) should be translated as a distich:
Thy friends have urged thee on and prevailed upon thee:
Thy feet are stuck in the mire; they have turned back.
Thy friends - literally “men of thy peace,” thy acquaintance Jeremiah 20:10. They urge Zedekiah on to a hopeless struggle with the Chaldaeans, and when he gets into difficulties leave him in the lurch.
So - And. In addition to the ridicule there shall be the miseries of the capture.
Thou shalt cause this city to be burned - literally, as margin. It shall be thy own act as completely as if done with thine own hand.
And he was there when - These words are altered by some to “and it came to pass when” etc., and taken to form the opening of Jeremiah 39.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter